My Love Affair With Romance Novels

As many of you may have surmised, I am an avid reader. I often go through periods where I tear through a book a day (sometimes more). Then I crash and burn because I have ignored my children for too many days in a row or my DVR is near to bursting or Hapa Papa can no longer stand my disappearing from the family anymore and last (and certainly least), I’m exhausted from lack of sleep.

People are often incredulous when they hear how much and how quickly I read. They ask, “How do you find the time?”

Well, the truth is, I’m a very fast reader (~80 pages/hr). However, the main reason I can read so much is because I make time. Any spare moment or second, I have my nose in a book or on my phone’s Kindle app. Of course, it is at the expense of other activities, (confer above) so every now and then, I have to resurface and take care of all the stuff I’ve pushed to the back burner in order to finish a particularly gripping series.

Now, long-time readers know from books I’ve recommended that I am a big fan of Sci-Fi/Fantasty and the YA genres (particularly SFF and the current dystopian craze). I’ve always loved fairy tales, myths and legends of King Arthur, and stories from 1,001 Arabian Nights so SFF was not really that big of a leap for me. I blame the gateway books of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. I mean, fairy tales have magic, good vs. evil, some type of quest, and lots of fantastical elements. I also loved the Chinese epic, Journey to the West and Chinese myths that my mother read to me.

Anyhow, I digress. What I meant to say is that though I often expound on my love for these genres, I rarely mention that I love Regency Romances. LOVE. They are my guilty pleasure. (Pun intended.) My Goodreads friends know I love romances because my updates are often flooded with them after I go through heavier series. When I’ve chewed through door-stopper books that are each part of a trilogy or heptalogy, I need a dose of fluff. (Heh.) Also, you can read out of order and most books are standalone and you always know how the book will end. Sometimes, all you want is a happy ending. (Heh.)

As a kid, especially in junior high, I was obsessed with romance novels. I was obsessed with sex and these novels were a gateway into understanding my body – that it was built with a capacity for physical pleasure and the romance sure didn’t hurt. When I look back on the novels I read, I wasn’t particularly discerning. In fact, the writing was quite bad. But I didn’t care. I was definitely ashamed, though. I would sneak the books out of the library versus check them out. I was afraid the librarians wouldn’t let me borrow the racy books. (For you young people, this was pre-self checkout stations.) One of the minor benefits to being an adult now, I guess.

Here’s the thing: I only like Regency romances. (I’ll allow for the occasional Georgian or Victorian period since they bookend the Regency period, but that’s just minor quibbling.) I abhor Medievals and can barely tolerate modern romances. Westerns are ok, but I really don’t find them enjoyable due to the spectre of slavery and genocide and sadly, I don’t like real history harshing my mellow. (Most often, the books don’t even allude to slavery – which is what annoys me. Or they have the hero or heroine be the one family with no slaves. In the South. You know, like Mel Gibson’s family in The Patriot. Like seriously? Please do NOT insult me or conveniently paper over an entire people’s suffering.)

Mostly, I just like Regencies because the time period is just close enough to ours such that the rumblings of women’s suffrage, industry, and class revolt are just beginning. But not so recent that sex on a first date (or dating at all) is possible. I particularly like marriages of convenience or “scandal” or spies. OKOK. I like spy stories in any time period.

Of course, the stories are 99% focused on the wealthy and peerage (ie: dukes and duchesses – you’d think they were a dime a dozen) but heck, it is a fantasy. I do find I enjoy glimpses into the lower classes as well, but as you can imagine, far fewer books on romances between the lower classes and if they’re mentioned at all, it’s a wealthy earl marrying the governess or something.

The irony is, now that I’m old enough to read these books with impunity, I don’t care about the sex scenes anymore. Incidentally, the love scenes have gotten steamier than I recall from when I was a kid. And now that I’m old enough to have sex, the sex scenes do not appeal nearly as much. In fact, I often skim the scenes or skip them entirely.

Don’t get me wrong. I still quite enjoy the love scenes. (They were quite helpful for the begetting of three children, after all.) But on the whole, I actually read the romances for the story. You know. Like you do with Playboy. 

Hey, I still enjoy PWP types (Plot, what Plot?) of books, but again, now that I can have sex, written porn has limited appeal. (Oh, come on. We all know that’s what romance novels are!)

Anyhow, this is just a long preamble to what I actually wanted to write about today: My Favorite Regency Romance Authors. So, in no particular order, here are a few of my favorites and some recommendations. (All links are affiliate links.)

My Favorite Regency Romance Authors

1) Mary Balogh – It is evident that Balogh is head and shoulders above all other romance writers. Balogh consistently writes romances that are deeply moving and I love her writing and her vividly portrayed characters. But most importantly, I love the truth that is present in her stories. Of course, all good writers tell truth via lies, (after all, isn’t that what fiction is?), but Balogh is vastly superior. Her stories are imbued with warmth, love, and sincerity. Dare I even say, even sweetness?

Bonus: Balogh has an extensive backlist. As a reader, there is nothing worse than finding a good author and then realizing they only have two books written. That makes readers have a sad.

Start With: Huxtable Quintet or Mistress TrilogyChoose anyone in any of these two series to start. No need to go in order. After all, we all know how the books end.

2) Julia Quinn – Most noted for her Bridgerton family series, Quinn is definitely the Nora Ephron of Regencies. Her books are hilarious, goofy, and a joy to read.

Bonus: Quinn quit Harvard Medical School to write romances. I heartily approve.

Start With: The Duke and I (the first of the Bridgerton series), When He Was Wicked (personal favorite of the series)

3) Eloisa James – Most known for her Desperate Duchesses series set in the Georgian period, James often has long, over-arching B-plots that span a series.

Bonus: James is a Shakespearian professor in her day job and it shows in her liberal use of Shakespeare and her excellent writing.

Start With: Once Upon A Tower (part of her fairy tale series)

4) Joanna Bourne – Bourne is the least prolific of my favorite writers and it is a crying shame. In particular, because she writes fantastic banter, sexy spies, and makes me love the French. She has a total of five books out (so consider yourself forewarned). Choose a random one and it will be excellent and funny and sly. I just finished her most recent one and I am already sad it’s over. As far as I know, Bourne was never a spy, but man, she makes you believe!

Start With: Oh, just pick a book of hers and it will be excellent. But if you must, why don’t we go in order of publication and start with The Spymaster’s Lady.

5) Courtney Milan – Milan is an author that only recently came (heh) to my attention via Bookbub (a great site for free or cheaply priced ebooks). It was a free ebook download and I’m all about free! I immediately exhausted my library and LinkPlus’s selection and broke down and spent actual money to buy her ebook novellas and the books I haven’t read. She does have a few clunkers, but for the  most part, her books are highly intelligent with a lot of detailed science that doesn’t sound dumbed down or fake.

Bonus: That’s because Milan has a graduate degree from UC Berkeley and went to law school at University of Michigan (summa cum laude). She also clerked for some SCOTUS judges and was a law professor. She quit to write romances full time. I also heartily approve of this decision.

I appreciate how Milan includes people we often don’t see included in Regencies. She also tends to have excellent stories without resorting to ridiculous tropes.

Start With: The Duchess War

Skip: Proof by Seduction (utterly abysmal)

Also, she has novellas in packs so you don’t have to buy them individually. Hey. You can save one whole dollar!

Ok. This was a super long (heh) post. I realize this may only attract a certain subset of my readers but whatever. I enjoy these authors. I hope you do, too.

What are some of your favorite romance authors?

Two Weeks Left

I can’t believe we’ve been in Taiwan for three weeks already! Two weeks of school down; two more weeks to go. Fleur and I are planning to cram in as much eating as possible in the next week for “research” purposes. That way when Hapa Papa joins us next Friday, we can take him to only the best. The sacrifices we make.

I’m sure many of you are interested in where we ate and what. I will try to cobble together a food related post later but be forewarned. I am mostly a consumer of food, not a reviewer. So this is just to say that YMMV on that post.

Here now are some more random thoughts and updates on our life in Taipei.

1) The MRT and bus here really are super convenient. Not only clean and easy to use, but also with breastfeeding rooms (so nice!) and signs in English. I couldn’t quite catch the whole breastfeeding room at the subway station, but it is part of a bigger baby changing area. There are two private rooms for nursing mothers, an attendant you speak with via intercom to let you in and out of the area, a baby changing table, hot and cold water station for formula, air conditioning, magazines, and a sink.

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2) I am surprised at how much I miss Hapa Papa. We Facetime every few days and text throughout the day, but it’s not the same. I barely know what time zone he is in due to all his traveling. At least he got to see a lot of cool sights. 🙂 The kids are counting down the days until Hapa Papa is here and are very happy about it. Of course, Facetime still can’t compete with videos, but they do clamor to tell him about their days and lives when they finally can be torn away to chat with him. Glow Worm is especially excited to talk to Hapa Papa. It’s very cute.

3) Gamera has been eating lunch at school now for a week. She even ate TWO bowls of noodles yestersday. Whoooo! She still cries at drop off, but her Chinese is improving and she seems to like her teachers and is having a good time.

4) And a miracle has happened. Cookie Monster ate a bowl of noodles (albeit plain) at school yesterday. PRAISE THE LORD JESUS. I told him for every bite of lunch he ate, he’d get a bite of cake after dinner. But that wasn’t what convinced him. Somehow, his teacher made him try one bite and since it tasted good, he ate the rest.

5) Fleur and I never manage to stay awake long enough to take out garbage. We have to chase down the garbage truck at 9pm each night if we want to throw stuff away. The streets here are too small for a garbage truck to go down every alley so they have set routes and you meet them at whichever corner is more convenient for you. Except we always fall asleep. Then one of us wakes up at midnight and does laundry and hangs it to dry. And in my case, also eats dinner.

6) When Cookie Monster was getting frustrated on a logic puzzle and wanting me to do it for him, I told him to use his brain. He said, “I can’t. I dropped it!”

7) Fyi: Gamera says her vagina castle is her favorite. When I posted that snippet on Facebook, a friend wrote that as long as she keeps her drawbridge up, all would be well. I know she meant well and was trying to be funny, but come on! Gamera is barely 2.75years old. And as much as I would like all my children to remain pure as the driven snow and make grand babies through cellular fission, I also want them to live a full and meaningful life – which includes living as sexual beings. So as long as all my children (not just Gamera, the lone girl) are physically and emotionally mature to have healthy sexual relations, I am ok with that.

Plus, what the heck is up with people telling me that Gamera needs to be sexually protected but that Cookie Monster is going to “clean up” in high school? (My friend didn’t say anything about Cookie Monster. These are just related comments.) There are just so many problems with these world views I can’t even begin to unpack it without writing a super long screed. But suffice to say, my boy doesn’t need to be encouraged to use and throw away women just like my girl doesn’t need to be locked up and guarded with a shot gun.

8) I went to go buy dinner with Cookie Monster and Fleur had the rest of the kids. Glow Worm was inconsolable. He kept thinking I was in the bathroom and kept crying for the half hour I was gone. Then the next night, I had to go to the bathroom and he thought I left again and wailed and wailed. My poor baby boy. How am I going to leave him for five days in September when I attend a blogging conference in Atlanta? I want to cry just thinking about it. I’ve already had sad dreams because of this.

9) Glow Worm and Baby Gnome, Fleur’s 3.5 month old girl, are “talking” to each other through the bedrooms. Grunting and making dinosaur noises. It is hilarious.

10) Glow Worm really does understand everything I say to him. He can’t talk yet, but he knows to follow directions and basic commands. How can he be so big already? He’s turning one in a month! (Which means my blog is also about a year old, too!)

11) It just goes to show you that my heart is a selfish and self-important beast. Since Fleur and I live together, we’ve come up with a rhythm each day. After we get home from picking up the kids each afternoon, Fleur will bathe and hose down all six kids while I prep/cook/fetch dinner. We wash dishes and clean up after our kids as if they all belonged to us. And yet, each time I do the dishes or do some normal adult thing, I expect thanks and adulation. Keep in mind, we are all very considerate and express our thanks to each other. Rather, I write this to point to my own heart and how selfish and egotistical it is. That even while doing the stuff of ordinary necessity, taking care of my kids, my heart wants to seem special and amazing. What is it Chris Rock says? “You’re supposed to, you dumb motherfucker! What kind of ignorant shit is that?”

All too true, my friends. All too true.

12) The typhoon day was seriously The Longest Day Ever. Fleur and I were exhausted trying to entertain and occupy the kids. They watched three movies, played Connect Four, Penguins on Ice, Camouflage (another puzzle type game), red light green light, dress up (my tops make awesome dresses it seems), playdough, coloring, I cut out crowns, they made puppets out of bags and stickers, we pretended to “shop” and buy things to put in those bags, statues, dancing, ipad, and I’m sure more stuff but OMG, the minutes just crawled by.

Below are pics of the kids in dress up, random pics, and one of Glow Worm pooping. 🙂

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Alright, have a great weekend every body! See you next week.