Tag Archives: women’s fiction

Our Five Favourite Summer Reads

I read many fabulous books this quarter, but my five favourites are:

 DILF by Amy Andrews (contemporary)

DILF‘Serious DILF alert.’ Those are the words that warn Stefanie that her younger brother’s best friend Owen has grown up and graduated as a doctor. He’s about to start work at St Bart’s General Hospital, and she had promised her brother he could stay with her until he found his own place. But… that was when she still thought he was a skinny teenager with acne rather than the hottest doctor in town. The chemistry between them is off the charts but there are a zillion reasons why having sex with Owen is a bad idea. For starters, there’s the age. Owen doesn’t see it as a problem. He’s always had a thing for Stefanie even if she didn’t notice him before. Stefanie is ready to settle down and have babies. She reckons Owen still has to date a thousand nurses. Can he change her mind and get her to give them a chance, first in the present and then in the future? Written with Amy Andrew’s trademark wit and wickedly sexy encounters, this is a delicious romp that will have you alternatively laughing out loud and fanning yourself.

Down and Dirty (Men of Haven) by Rhenna Morgan (contemporary)Men of Haven

I’ve been waiting a long time for Axel’s story, ever since I met him in book 1 of Men of
Haven alongside his brother by choice Jace. Rhenna Morgan doesn’t disappoint. His love interest, rock lead singer Elizabeth is his perfect foil, bringing out all of Axel’s protective instincts and allowing him to engage more fully with the music world he loves and turned his back on as a young man. Elizabeth is scared of being overwhelmed. She’s been down that path once before. Axel, with his dark desires and ferocious intelligence is surprising hesitant when it comes to pursuing Elizabeth, needing a good push from his family. I adored this series and hope to see all the characters pop up again in future series from Ms Morgan.

Devil’s Daughter (The Ravenels) by Lisa Kleypas (Victorian)

Devil's DaughterThe Ravenels and the second generation of wallflowers just can’t seem to keep their hands off each while declaring they just won’t suit. This leads Sebastian, former wicked Lord St Vincent and now meddling Duke of Kingston, to pull strings in order to ensure his beloved daughter Phoebe gets her happily ever after second time around. Phoebe doesn’t want to like West Ravenel. He’s the boy who bullied her poor dead husband at school. But, her father likes him, her son adores him, and even her brother thinks men can change. West doesn’t think he’s good enough for Phoebe. Will all Sebastian’s meddling come to naught or will passion overcome Phoebe’s scruples long enough to allow her to seduce West? Lisa Kleypas once again delivers a witty, intelligent romance with a cast of memorable characters.

On Bended Knee (The Wicked Worthingtons) by Celeste Bradley (Regency)On Bended Knee

I had the great good fortune to meet Celeste Bradley as part of the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA) book signing tour of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. She is charming with a dry sense of humour that resonates through her books. If you haven’t met the quirky Worthingtons, make a date in your diary to do so. You won’t regret it. Lysander Worthington is back from the war in Spain, carrying a terrible secret that haunts him day and night. In search of his brother, he accidentally takes on a fight with a male pig who is not to be outdone on his own territory, thus introducing himself as a patient to Gemma Oakes, doctor’s widow. Gemma feels responsible for her hamlet in Yorkshire and continues to provide medical services. She accompanied her husband to the war, knows the horrors that Lysander faced, and is determined to rescue him from himself. However, he couldn’t fall in love with a patient – that would be unethical. Except no one on her side or Lysander’s agrees. Can Lysander face the horrors of his past? Will his secrets drive Gemma away? Only by confessing, can he find out. Celeste Bradley writes with compassion, humour and an understanding of human foibles. This is a delightful, amusing and heart-warming romance.

Of Sunlight and Stardust by Christina Lee and Riley Hart (contemporary dual timeline gay romance)

Tanner Rowe is livinOf Sunlight and Stardustg in the house he bought for his dead wife because that is what she wanted of him. Cole Lachlan has been released from prison and is looking for work, finding out the hard way that no one wants to give an ex-con a chance. He’s camping on Tanner’s property when they meet. Tanner, realising Cole is down on his luck, asks him to help rebuild the burnt barn. Cole knows he is gay but makes no move on Tanner. Tanner is initially confused by his feelings for Cole but comes to understand and accept them for what they are. Their story is eerily similar to that of two boys who lived and worked on the property fifty years ago in less enlightened times that ended in tragedy with Tanner’s dead wife mirroring the role of the girl who tried to help them. As Tanner and Cole seek to uncover what happened to the boys, the relationship grows. The question is, has the town grown enough to appreciate the value Tanner and Cole can add to the community, or will prejudice and fear of Cole’s past isolate and endanger the men? Of Sunlight and Stardust is the most beautiful, sensitive and heart-warming romance I read this past year, demonstrating the range and fluidity of human sexuality that psychologists now acknowledge. Contemporary romance at its finest.

The above are all five star romance reads. If you’re looking for something different, why not see what the other members of The Writers’ Dozen have been reading?

Angella Whitton

Rae Cairns

Pamela Cook

Michelle Barraclough

A Romantic Rendezvous 2019

On Sunday, I participated in the Sydney leg of the Australian Romance Readers Association’s (ARRA) Romantic Rendezvous 2019. They’ve arranged signings in Brisbane (23 March), Sydney (24 March), Melbourne (30 March) and Perth (31 March), headlined by international bestselling authors Celeste Bradley (historical romance) and Keri Arthur (urban fantasy/paranormal). I shared a table and a giveaway with witty Monique McDonell (chick lit/rom-com) which was heaps of fun. It was a wonderful day catching up with old friends and meeting new readers.

Left: with authors Michelle Montebello (romantic suspense/historical) and Monique McDonell. Right: with our giveaway winner, reader Tracey Anderson.

 

With two of my taller colleagues. Left: fabulous Regency Goddess Celeste Bradley. I will be eternally grateful to ARRA for introducing me to her witty, quirky, feel-good historical romances. Right: Shannon Curtis, author of romantic suspense and contemporary and paranormal romance.

Clockwise: Cathryn Hein (rural romance) and Jodi Perry (contemporary romance/ women’s fiction; with Bronwyn Parry (romantic suspense/historical); with rom-com author Penelope Janu; and with Jodi – she had the best banner!

If you’re in Melbourne or Sydney, you can still catch up with Celeste Bradley and Keri Arthur as well as a host of other fabulous Australian romance authors. Find out more here.

Diversity in Romance: US report finds only 7.8% of romance titles by people of colour

Diversity in romance is a hot topic at the moment. It’s fuelled by questions around cultural identity and sales.

Who has the right to create characters from different backgrounds? On the one hand, no one is better positioned to write a character with, say, an African American background than an African American. On the other hand, taken to extremes, that argument would mean no Othello, no Ophelia and no romance heroes with their own POV, at least not when written by female writers. And does this mean that a writer from an Asian background can’t write Regency Romance, even if she wants to? And what does it mean about aliens and shape-shifters? The world would be a much duller place if writers only wrote what they knew.

There is also, of course, the issue of unrepresented minorities in history. We think of medieval Britain as an island predominantly populated by white people, but what of the descendants of the African Roman soldiers stationed along Hadrian’s Wall before the collapse of the Roman Empire?

Then there is the thorny issue of sales. Which comes first, the demand or the story? I’m inclined to favour the perspective that the way forward is to ensure diversity within publishing houses. If editors and publishers have diverse interests and backgrounds, they will find those great books which have universal appeal regardless of the cultural identity, nationality or race of the characters.

The publishing industry certainly isn’t there yet. Bookseller and Publisher covered an 2rippedbodicereport2016Entertainment Weekly story on The Ripped Bodice’s report on the racial diversity of romance publishing in the US during 2016. The Ripped Bodice is a romance specialist bookstore. They found that only 7.8% of romance titles published were written by people of colour. ‘People of colour’ is a broadly descriptive term that not all writers of non-Anglo Saxon heritage will identify with. However, given that US census figures indicate that up to 28% of the American population identifies as either black or Hispanic, the diversity book is clearly not balanced.

Half of the 20 publishers surveyed had fewer than five percent of their books authored by people of colour, and only three publishers had at least 10% of their books authored by people of colour.

The report co-authors and owners of The Ripped Bodice, Leah and Bea Koch, said they were motivated to conduct the study ‘because they often found themselves short of options when customers come in looking for traditionally published books by authors of color’.

‘We have found it difficult to continue the conversation about diversity in romance without hard data,’ said the Kochs. ‘For many years the common refrain from publishers has been “we’re working on it.” Every year we will track industry growth and see if that promise rings true.’

The report notes that all of the publishers mentioned were invited to contribute statistics to the study. More than half engaged directly, with the missing data gathered from publisher and distributor websites.

I think this is an excellent initiative by The Ripped Bodice. I’m also giving a shout-out to all those publishers who participated willingly and all the indie authors who publish diverse romance but weren’t covered by this study. The more we talk, the more answers and solutions we’ll create and the more great romances we will have to read.

Australia has a very diverse, multicultural society. It would be interesting to see a similar study done here. I suspect the numbers would not look much better although I do know many publishers who actively hunt for and publish magnificent stories by individuals from marginalised or misunderstood groups, whether because of their cultural background, sexual preferences or other factors.

If you’re looking for a reading list of diverse authors and characters, try one of these four books, or have a browse on GoodReads, where there are many recommended book lists complete with comments.

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