Allison Temple Blog

Awkward and Thoroughly Kissable
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The Best (and Others) of 2018
So Long 2018.jpg

So Long 2018.jpg

So first off, this is being posted in error, because there is NO WAY IN HELL that 2018 is almost over. This has without a doubt been one of the most action packed years of my life...which is funny, because I spent an awful lot of it working from my couch.

I wanted to write about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 2018, but since we also all want to leave here in a good mood, I'm going to do it backwards. This is going to be like one of those food blog posts where I ramble and you keep scanning for the recipe. Bear with me. There are some good bits in here.

The Ugly

I had a publishing deal....and then I didn't. You can read a bit about it here, but let's just say I have to tell myself it was the right decision, even when everything else is uncertain.

The Bad

My grandmother passed away in October. It was quick without being sudden. We are all sad, but I can't say we were surprised.

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Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 6.03.31 PM

Her passing overlapped with the GRL Retreat. I was on the highway somewhere in Pennsylvania when she left us. My family and I had talked a lot whether or not I should go to Virginia at all, and in the end decided I should.

It's surreal to be all by yourself in a place you don't know when one of the pillars of your childhood leaves this world, but I drove 3000 km that week (see Figure 1) and had lots of time to grieve, remember, and distract myself with hours of Sam of Wilds' audiobooks shenanigans (more on that below).

Okay that that's done, let's get to the stuff you actually click the link for.

The Good

So much good. Good reads. Good friends. In no particular order these are:

I published a book!!

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Four books, actually. 2018 was the year I became an honest to god published romance author. It has been awesome and exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking, but I would do it all over again.

Three of these stories are short and can be found here for free. Going Down is brand spanking new and features the sexiest truth or dare game ever played in an elevator. It will also be moving to Amazon in the new year, so you should pick up your free copy now.

Speaking of pick ups, The Pick Up you have to pay for, but it's averaging 4.4 stars on Amazon, so I promise this small town single dad romance is worth your time. Also, it's on sale until January 5 if you use the code SALE18 when purchasing from the publisher's website. If you need more convincing, you can read about it here.

I discovered Verania.

I'm a slow reader. Super slow. A book a month is about my speed.

Last year, I was at GRL in Denver and Brandon Witt was speaking in a panel and said something like "And then I read The Lightning-Struck Heart and it had Gary the Hornless Gay Unicorn," and I had never heard of the book, but there was a ripple of . . . something in the room.

I didn't think about the book again until this past winter when Wish Upon the Stars came out and so there was a sale on The Lightning-Struck Heart and so I bought it and then whispersynced that puppy to get the audiobook and . . . is it hubris if I say my life changed?

Sam appreciates hubris. Let's go with it.

TJ Klune does not need my shout out. His fans are legion. And most of you are rolling your eyes going "Come on Allison, I knew about Verania ages ago!" But for me, as a long-time audiobook afficianado, this series is one of the best produced I've ever listened to. If you haven't done so already, give yourself the Gift Of Verania this holiday season (I capitalized it, so you know it's true).

I met some awesome people and read their awesome books.

I hesitate to write this, because just like we hope-click 'best of' lists even though we know our books won't be on them, someone is going to look at my recommendations and be disappointed that I didn't include their story.

Know that, if we are writerly friends, I appreciate every conversation we've had this year. A lot of writing is navel gazing and pep talks and it's awesome that the community is supportive enough that these can happen any time of the day.

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Craft Brew is book 2 in the Trouble Brewing series, which means you should probably read book 1. . . and that means you should probably read the Agents Irish and Whisky series to get the full impact. But if you're not down for that kind of commitment, just start with Imperial Stout and get ready for Nic's silver-fox-in-a-suit-hiding-so-many-yummy-tattoos and Cam's balls-out-Boston-but-Cam's-not-out-and-I-have-so-many-feelings-about-this. Seriously. The books are fast paced, the eye candy (even if it's in my head) is delightful, and there's still one more book in the series to go in 2019!

Life of Bliss is also a book 2 and I've been going back and forth about whether I like or its predecessor, Life on Pause, more. In the end, I picked Life of Bliss because I didn't know wake-up-married was a trope I'd be down for, but Vic and Todd are so frigging cute, the pining is so sweet and earnest, and Erin McLellan is my favourite sex toy queen, and this story is tamer than some of her others, but still doesn't disappoint.

Where Death Meets the Devil was quite possibly the best book I read in 2018 and LJ Hayward has subsequently put out a Coda, three novellas, and an excellent second novel in the Death and the Devil series, so while I still like the opening gambit (I'm just in awe of the dual timelines) the best, there are lots more words to help get you through your book hangover.

At some point, I'm going to write a 'what's up for 2019?' post. The short answer is SO MUCH! Thanks for being part of my debut year misadventures. Let's continue the journey next year!

Dinner with Friends

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Five authors (alive or dead) I'd like to meet.

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

(a note from this author: I'm treating this question as if I'm going to have dinner with these people and not just gushing all over them like the fangirl I am at a book signing...because I may have already done that)

1. Annabeth Albert

Annabeth is one of my favourite MM authors. She writes nerdy characters, tough military characters, rugged beardy characters. Her books are so easy to read. The characters always feel fresh. If you're new to MM romance, start with Annabeth.

2. Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie writes the way I can only dream about. I did get a chance to fangirl all over her (briefly) at a signing last fall, and it was magical, but also a reality check, because it turns out that I will never write like Maggie, because my brain does not work like Maggie's. The upside is that she will never write like me for the same reasons, and that's moderately comforting.

3. Bill Bryson

I have never been a big fan of non-fiction. Bill is an exception. He has a way of weaving dates and facts with narration that suddenly makes the story of the people who tried to fly across the Atlantic before Charles Lindbergh succeeded (spoiler: before Lindbergh, the results were almost always crash landing in a field moments after take off or (worse) crash landing in the ocean and never being heard from again) really compelling. Also, you'll never look at the way staircases are designed (spoiler 2: it's always poorly).

4. Erin McLellan & LJ Hayward

I'm putting these two lovely people on the same line because they're recent Riptide debuts along with yours truly and it has been awesome to get to know them this spring, and awesomer to read their amazing stories. Tragically, they both live very far away, so I'm going to have to work for it.

5. Robin McKinley

Writer of kick ass heroines, my favourite Robin Hood retelling, and so much more. She tried to break into the urban fantasy vampire market a moment too soon, and so all we have is Sunshine when there should have had a whole series of Sunshine and Constantine. I would fangirl so hard before we settled down to our dinner and writerly conversations.

That was harder than I thought. What do you think. Who are your five?

If You Liked The Pick Up...

Presenting Where's Waldo...Kyle Edition! img_0026

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Today is The Pick Up's one month anniversary! Hearing from those of you who read and loved Kyle and Adam's story was one of the best feelings ever! And then you asked when there would be more stories and...well...it's complicated. The Hook Up (a prequel short about how Kyle met Olivia) is out now, and I've got another short planned a few months from now. But, for reasons, the date of the next novel is TBD.

In the meantime, I'd like to make some recommendations. We started talking in my Facebook group this week about covers and stock photos. I like to think that The Pick Up's cover is distinctly cute but the fact remains that that smiley dude is a stock photo model and you can find him having all kinds of adventures over on DepositPhoto. My particular favourites are the ones where he can't figure out laundry, and where he makes an especially dorky face in the mirror, because spinach in your teeth is never cool.

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But even weirder than seeing Kyle in the controlled realm of stock photos is seeing him on other people's covers. He's everywhere! Literally everywhere. The Pick Up is one of seven covers I've found in the last six months with Mr. Smiley on the cover. And that's just in m/m romance! God only knows what he's up to in the heterosexual world!

So while you're waiting for my further novel-length adventures, here are six novels that feature the same guy on the cover. If you liked The Pick Up, maybe you'll like the continued antics of Smiley Stock Photo Guy! He is perpetually adorable, although I have to admit the maternal writer in me wants to tell him to put on a shirt sometimes.

Kyle Covers

Buy links are here:

The Glasshouse (Lavender Shores, book 6) by Rosalind Abel Something New (Something About Him, book 1) by Sean Ashcroft Champagne Kiss (Rose Falls, book 3) by Raleigh Ruebins Heart of Glass (Lawyers in Love, book 3) by Ari McKay Rock a Bye (Cray's Quarry, book 1) by Rachel Kane Blaze (A Masterson Novel, book 1) by Avery Ford

If you find SSPG anywhere else, maybe leave a comment so we can continue to expand our libraries? Good book recs are always appreciated.

Happy reading!

#tbt review: Wolfsong by TJ Klune

#tbt reviews is a periodic feature in which I gush about a book I finally got off my TBR pile. I don't read fast enough to review new releases. This is what you get. 29233804

I often don't realize how much enjoyment I get from a book is determined by random circumstance.

TJ Klune is new to me. I've been suffering from were- and shifter fatigue for a long (LONG) time. In many circumstances, I wouldn't have picked up Wolfsong, much less devoured it in two days. But sometimes things come together in the perfect circumstantial storm.

Circumstance 1: It was on sale on Amazon.

Circumstance 2: I couldn't sleep.

I read the first third of Wolfsong at 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I couldn't sleep after a freak storm tore up three trees in my parents' yard and made noises like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park while it tried to blow rain and wind through the seals on our door.

Turns out that shit's scary.

Wolfsong is happy and sad, lyrical and tragic, and also occasionally scary. It's a great 2 a.m. read.

What's it about?

Ox is just Ox. He's just a guy. Not very smart, not great at words or friends or (really) self-esteem.

Joe is a werewolf. Maybe that's a spoiler, but you can probably guess from the cover and the blurb. Joe loves Ox, Ox loves Joe, but it takes a long time and a lot of angst for them to get there.

Angsting gay werewolves at 2 a.m. is my jam, just so you know. Actually, it was more like 5 a.m. by the time I got to the really good angsty bits, but still...my jam. When Joe finally professed his love, I cried. Hard. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.

There's pack. There's love. There's violence and blood and heartache. It's all told from Ox's simple, honest point of view. I'm not usually one for first person narration. I usually like both my romantic leads to have a chance to tell their story too. The narrator's voice has to be really clear and grounded for a single first person POV to work, but when it works it sings.

Wolfsong sings.

If you ask Joe, Ox smells like candy canes and pine cones, and like epic and awesome. It sounds silly, but it's so right in the rhythm of the narrative that I'd get it printed on a t-shirt and wear it just to see who notices and comes to gush with me.

In the meantime, I bought the audiobook, just to double down on the experience. Kirt Graves' narration is also epic and awesome. Tragically, it has no discernible scent.

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The Book Club Experiment

29973570.jpg So...I accidentally started a book club?

It all started when I made a joke over this Amazon freebie, part of the Frisky Beavers series.

Frisky beavers? I mean, how could I not?

And then someone said they were going to download it too. And then I said maybe we should have a book club. And then a bunch of people said that was a good idea.

And then it got posted on another page?

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And that's when I looked at my husband in the car on the way to brunch and said "What even is my life?"

But you know what? I'm going to do it. I mean, if someone can name a book series the Frisky Beavers, surely anything is possible. Surely I can run a book club!

So here's what we're going to do. Prime Minister is free (the link will take you to Amazon, but I hear it's the same at Kobo et al. too), I don't know for how long. Download it. Read it. In two weeks (subject to change if I read slow), we'll swing on over to my Facebook page where I'll have thought-provoking questions throughout the weekend, or maybe we'll all just wonder how beavers can even get in that position?

Sound fun? It'll be fun, I promise! Leave a comment and let me know you're in!

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Vacation Reading List

maldives-1877897_1280 Mr. Temple and I are leaving on a cruise on Friday. We've known each other for 11 years, and we have never taken a vacation like this. We're much more of the 'go somewhere and do stuff' type of traveler. Lounging by the pool will be new for us. Given all that free time, I thought I should stock up on my reading. Thank goodness for ebooks, because my suitcase would definitely be over the weight limit if I had to bring all these in paper. Here are some of the titles I'm bringing.

Single Malt, Layla Reyne

I'm coming to the end of Ty and Zane and the withdrawal is going to be epic. Will Agents Irish and Whiskey be my new go-to crime fighting duo?

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Fast Connection, Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

I've been meaning to read this series for a while, and now Fast Connection just got nominated for a RITA (that's like the Oscars Romancelandia), how bad can it be?

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All I Am, Nicole Helm

It's a Harlequin Super Romance, which makes me think of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Super Mysteries, my pre-teen vacation reading staple. Plus, the hero is a damaged war hero who also happens to be a virgin? I'm in.

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All In Fear, Various

I won this on a Twitter giveaway. It's got some of my favourite queer romance authors. They're horror shorts. Sounds like great poolside reading.

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The Room Mate, Kendall Ryan

I mean, the cover does it for me all on its own. I may not be cover model-ready in my bathing suit, but that doesn't mean I can't bring this guy to the pool with me too.

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#tbt Reviews - Top 100 Romance Novels

book-1760998_1920 Sometimes I feel like I came to romance novels late. I didn't have an older sister who would sneak me her battered dog eared books when our mom wasn't looking. My friends were more likely to read Tolkien. I went straight from reading Nancy Drew and the Babysitters Club to epic fantasy and then I lived there for a long time.

I didn't actually pick up my first romance novel until I was probably 27 or 28. I didn't even know it was a romance novel. It promised me vampires and I was still riding the Twilight wave (I know, I know. We'll talk about that some other day. Along with the time I had to buy the complete series of 50 Shades of Grey, even though I've never read it to this day). I bought what I thought was a vampire novel, and by page 50 there were blow jobs, and by page 178 I was hooked.

All this to say that Goodreads published their list of Top 100 Romance Novels and I have read exactly 24. Not a stellar record, but not bad given my late start. If you're looking for well vetted titles, I have a few recommendations.

Twenty-four books is lot. I'm not going to review them all here. A few (like Wallbanger which I really liked) were also in this earlier post of best rom coms. Some, while I did read them, I honestly just don't remember well. But there's enough here to keep you going through the our long winter nights.

Beyond the Highland Mist, Karen Marie Moning

743599KMM is my homegirl. Okay, we don't actually know each other, but I love almost everything of hers. Her Fever series consumed my life when I read them, and if you like urban fantasy, dark broody alpha heroes, and slow burn (seriously slow. I'm still not 100% sure they're really together), read that series now.

If you like slightly more traditional romances, the highlander series is lovely. I like the later instalments with the Keltar men, but might as well start at the beginning and bask in all the tartan, no?

 

The Bride, Julie Garwood

107779This one, along with Julia Quinn's The Duke and I, is like historical romance 101. Sadly, I still haven't read The Duke and I. But I did read this one! It has all the tropes. Misunderstood youngest daughter. Highland laird. He wants her. She doesn't want to want him, but maybe she does, just a little. We all know what's going to happen, but it's all so frigging sweet I bought in before the end of chapter 3!

 

 

 

Cut and Run, Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

5199022I've already talked about Ty and Zane. I talked about this exact book in fact. But I love there are queer romances on Goodreads' list, and I'm still working through my re-read of this series. The first instalment is still problematic from a writing perspective. There are too many adverbs. Too much lip licking. The plot doesn't follow anything approaching convention. But Ty and Zane are so compelling as partners, as lovers, as men and ultimately, as characters, that I can't tell you enough to read this series.

 

 

Dark Lover, J.R. Ward

42899The Black Dagger Brotherhood were not my gateway to vampire romances, but they followed close on the heels of that initiation. Yes, the language is a little goofy (everyone talks like a gangster). The spelling is weird (there are names like Rhage, Zsadist, Tohrment and well....you get the idea). But the sex is hot, the writer is committed to her world building, and there's enough angst in later instalments to keep me engaged. Also, Dark Lover refers to its hero as being so ripped it looks like he's hiding paint rollers under his t-shirt, and I live for descriptors like that.

 

 

Fallen Too Far, Abbi Glines

16070903I'm getting older every day, and that means I struggle with NA as a genre more and more all the time. But Fallen Too Far hits all the buttons that used to keep my nerdy epic fantasy-reading teenage self awake at night thinking about boys, for better or worse. Hardworking girl with no allies left in the world catches the eye of the hot bad boy, toils away like a Disney princess until the hot bad boy is finally won over by her innate goodness, love follows. 15-year-old me is salivating. Also, just go ahead and buy the sequel up front, because this book ends on a giant cliffhanger and you're going to want to know what happens next.

 

North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell Don't read this. I mean you can. I love the story. But I can't get through it. There are just too many damn words. I feel bad as both a reader and a writer to say it, but there it is. Thank god they don't make 'em like they used to.

giphyDo, however, watch the BBC mini-series. It's 4 hours. It always seems to be on Netflix. It features Richard Armitage in a stiff collar, standing in a snowy courtyard, begging the woman he loves to look back at him as her carriage pulls away. Also, there's a young Brendan Coyle in a pre-Downton Abbey role, but we're all here for Richard Armitage.

Promises, Marie Sexton

7493186This is the first gay romance I ever read and it will be one of my favourites forever. It's contemporary romance at its best. Matt and Jared are just guys. There are no vampires. No bad boys.  No serial killers. No tartan. Just two people trying to find their way to love. I don't even know what else to say, besides read this book.

 

 

 

 

So there's seven recommendations for the next time you are looking for something old-but-new-to-you to read. Like all lists, I would debate some of the winners, and some of my favourites aren't there. What about you? How many of the hundred have you read? What's not on the list that should be?

A Tale of Three Queer Romances

wpi3sdursek-dmitry-ratushny.jpg I had Christmas lunch today with co-workers, including a new team member. After a glass (or two) of pinot gris, my straight middle aged boss says "Tell the new guy what you do in your free time!" I look at the new guy, he looks at me. I know he's trying to guess what I'm going to say, but there's no way he can. He's thinking I foster cats or arrange flowers. Maybe paint abstract watercolours. The words are still tricky to get off my tongue, but I say "I wrote a gay romance novel." I can see the new guy was not expecting that. The people around me laugh hysterically. I assume they're laughing at his expression and not my literary aspirations. New guy looks baffled.

I'm a straight female 30-something marketing manager in urban Canada. None of that precludes me from being able to appreciate queer romance novels, but apparently it's a weird fit for my co-workers. That probably says more about them then it does about me. Maybe you're in the same boat. So I thought I'd put together a rundown of why men in love is my jam.

What drives my appreciation of any romance is the story. I like familiar stories told in different ways. There will always be a part of me that wants a safe fuzzy romance where the biggest question is how many times the main characters almost kiss before I start to scream at them. But the ones that keep me coming back are the ones that make me work for it. If I can't see the twists coming six chapters out, or if I can see the work the writer puts in to making real, honest characters, then everything else is kind of secondary for me. Romance with two male protagonists makes familiar things new before a word is written, because it turns traditional romance gender roles on their heads from the get go.

I've got three different queer romances on my reading/watching pile right now. I'm actually enjoying all them, which is rare for me. So let's look at why they work.

1. Breakaway, by Avon Gale

27384973Full disclosure, I am a Canadian who does not watch hockey. It's only a matter of time before the Mounties come and revoke my citizenship. I'm trying to work on my cover story by brushing up on my hockey through Avon Gale's Scoring Chances Series, but we'll see if they believe me.

Breakaway is definitely on the light end of m/m romance. There isn't a ton of conflict. No homophobic coach screaming from the sidelines. No locker room hazing. It's partially a coming out story. Partially a sports story. Can we call it a May to December romance if the main characters are 20 and 32?

Why I love this book: First off, the main character, Lane, is from Chatham, Ontario, which is like three hours from my living room, so I kind of have to root for him. And it's just a bonus is the book is super sweet. I can't say that it's authentically Canada. We don't all babble hopelessly like Lane does, but it fits him so well. Run on sentences are like catnip to me, but it's all in the execution, and Ms. Gale does it well. The story, along with it's sweet central romance, also has an interesting subplot about bisexuality, and what that looks like for people in same-sex relationships, and also for people in heterosexual relationships. It's thought provoking in a book that's otherwise light as air.

Also, the sex is hot, but never loses the goofy feel of the rest of the novel, which is awesome to see. If these two rough and tumble hockey players were suddenly entwined in a purple love scene, I'd be less pleased, but everything about this is cute and honest. Second full disclosure, I haven't actually finished reading it yet, but I assume the final twist is going to be as delightful as the rest of it.

2. Cut and Run, by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

5199022Ty and Zane are kind of the granddaddies of my queer romance reading life. This book was published in 2008, and while I probably didn't read it until 2011 or so, it was definitely one of the early ones.

It starts out like a buddy cop comedy. Roguish slightly unhinged bad-ass. By-the-book tight-ass. They're gonna find common ground and bang, aren't they?

Well yes, but not in the way you might think.

Fair warning, the book is not without its problems, and a lot of them are mechanical things that turn readers off. Ty licks his lips so many times he better own stocks in Burt's Bees. The writers are both overly fond of superfluous dialogue adverbs (characters often growl angrily or shout loudly). But if you can stick those quirks out, there's a really interesting story buried underneath.

Why I love this book: It bucks some trends and tropes, and I love seeing how the writers work around those. It has two bisexual protagonists, which is fairly rare in the genre. It's not even really a romance per se. There's sex, there's bonding, but no one's riding off into the sunset at the end of this. Ty and Zane are one of my top 10 slow burn pairings, in that it takes them a good long time (I'm talking full novels of time, not just chapters) to finally come to a (somewhat?) loving relationship. It's ambitious to play the long game like that, and this series probably benefits from a publication date before the advent of instant gratification via Kindle Unlimited.

3. Yuri On Ice

Deep breaths, Allison. No one wants to see you working yourself into a lather over this show.

But seriously. This show.

This show!!!

I found Yuri On Ice through Heidi Cullinan (one of my other gateway drugs into queer romance, along with Ty and Zane). Heidi started gushing pretty fervently about it right after the election. It took me a few more weeks to come around to it. I have no frame of reference for anime. Before Yuri, if you said anime, I thought you were talking about Sailor Moon, or maybe Pokemon. But then I read this Medium article and saw that gif. giphy.gif Is it possible for cartoon people to smoulder? Because Yuri does it with flair!

Why do I love this show? It would be a shorter list if I told you why not. Because the answer to what I love is everything. The art (the opening sequence is breathtaking), the music (the soundtrack is my go-to playlist at work), the storytelling...well...

The storytelling!!!

In a lot of ways, this is a story about anxiety and depression. It's kind of amazing that neither of these have anything to do with the identity central romantic relationship. It's not a coming out story, even though it's never clear who's out and who's not. It's this beautiful little utopia where a same-sex romantic relationship happens without being the central conflict at any point. It's not even clear when the relationship turns romantic, but you'll find you don't even mind the lack of definition.

Heidi explains the beauty that is the ambiguity of this story much better than I ever could (warning, her article contains spoilers, click at your own risk). Suffice it to say, I've watched (repeatedly) the 10 episodes that have aired so far. There are two more to go. I have no idea what's going to happen, but just about all of the possible iterations are fine with me, because the story has been told so lovingly that I know I'm going to be a weeping mess when it's over. From Yuri and Victor's slow burn, to the shocking reveal in episode 10, no show has left me screaming "wait. what?" at the screen more. The hangover after it's over will be extreme. If you latch onto this show and are having trouble coping, let me know. We'll start a support group.

Did this post clear things up for you? Basically, if there's good storytelling, what's not to like?

Got a favourite romance, queer or otherwise? Leave a comment, tell me why it works for you.

 

Thunderclap and a Giveaway!

nov-20-promoMy friends over at the amazing Ninja Writers Facebook group are having a giveaway. There are over 40 Science Fiction and Fantasy books that are yours for the taking. Just hippity hop to the link above to claim the titles you want! After you've done that, please share the love. We're spreading the word on Wednesday using Thunderclap, and we'd love it if you signed up too. Thunderclap is this awesome platform that accesses your social media account for a one-time announcement, so that your peeps will hear about this giveaway too. This isn't a contest, everyone who wants a book (or books) gets ones. Click on the link and share the Thunder on Wednesday morning!

 

9/100 Must-Read Romantic Comedies?

There was a bit of stink lately on Twitter about whether or not Romantic Comedies were a different genre from Romance, and whether or not one had more value than the other. I didn't catch the whole debate, but I think the argument was that romantic comedies show people working through their differences to come to a happy ending, while romances are just about who can get out of their corset faster. Ah, the age old debate between plot and smut. To which I say..

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All this to say, the folks at BookRiot put together a list of the 100 Best Romantic Comedies. Whether this is part of the romance vs romantic comedy debate, or whether it's just a well timed post, is TBD.

100 books is a lot though, and maybe you're one of those people who can pin a list of 100 books and work your way diligently through it. I am not one of those people. If you suffer from a tiny attention span like yours truly, I thought I'd post a condensed and vetted list from the top 100, so you know where to focus your attention (and where not to).

51tkhnogrml-_sx319_bo1204203200_Beautiful Bastard, Christina Lauren

This book makes me a liar when I say smut and plot can co-exist. This book. What can I say? I like smut for smut's sake, but this one's just not very funny. From the moment he starts groping her in chapter one and she goes with the "I don't want him, but my nipples are hard, so let's bang anyway" trope, to the moment in chapter three where she refers to her "power panties", I was confused, then horrified, then just plain old pissed. I could write a whole rant about this book and I only read the first three chapters, but I think you get where I'm going here. Maybe it's an enjoyable read under different circumstances, but at a minimum, I can't see how it can be considered a comedy.

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Bridget Jones' Diary, Helen Fielding

I read this when it first came out. That was a while ago. I was still in high school, so I wasn't really the target demographic. I didn't much like Bridget, or either of her apparent suitors. And now that I'm a smug married, I'd probably still find it narcissistic and boring. The movie though, is still adorable. It (mostly) marks the end of Hugh Grant's era as a bumbling stammering heart throb, and of course has Colin Firth as (the other) Darcy. If you need a Bridget in your life, go for the film version.

51bn4gnyjjlLove Lessons, Heidi Cullinan

Heidi's one of the main reasons I started reading m/m romance, so her books in general have a special place in my heart. Love Lessons is definitely one of those books you should judge by its cover, mostly because the cover is gorgeous, and so are Kelly and Walter. There are Disney princes, deep dish pizza, and just enough angst to keep it all humming together nicely! I have some reservations about NA as a genre, but this is one of the exceptions where I'll overlook some of my hang ups and just enjoy the ride.

51avbg4fkwlMuch Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare

Truth, I probably haven't ever actually read Much Ado. We read mostly about dead kings (fictional and otherwise) when we did Shakespeare in high school. But the 1993 film version with Kenneth Brannagh is just about the perfect movie (the actual perfect movie shows up later in this list). The cast is impeccable. You've got Denzel Washington's swagger! Michael Keaton's Dogberry's pathetically earnest bumbling! When this first came out, I had an epic crush on Robert Sean Leonard. As an adult, Emma Thompson's "were I a man" speech is heartbreaking. At any age, the scene in the garden (you know which one) is hilarious.

northangerNorthanger Abbey, Jane Austen

This is by far Jane's (she lets me call her Jane) breeziest novel, but still one of my favourites. Catherine Morland is me and I am her, once she gets to Northanger Abbey. I am totally the girl who thinks the only reasonable explanation for why my cat is staring at nothing late at night is because he can see the ghosts I can't. Catherine and I would totally be BFFs.

 

the-duke-and-iThe Duke and I, Julia Quinn

Ok, ok. I know the Bridgertons are like Romance Novel 101, but I have never finished this book. And that's a tragedy, because the parts I have read are adorable and hilarious and I want to read so many of the others in the series, but I feel compelled to read series in order. I blame my public library for this; The Duke and I always has an extensive waiting list, which means I can only have it for three weeks at a time with no renewals and, as I've posted before, I'm not the fastest reader in the world. I've finally borrowed a friend's dog eared copy. I'm optimistic that I'll finish it this time!!

princess-brideThe Princess Bride, William Goldman

We've all seen the movie, right? If you haven't, close your browser now and go watch it. Seriously. Go!!! It is, in my mind, the Perfect Movie. Every time I watch it, I'm all "this is the best scene!!" then three minutes later I'm all "NO! This is the Best Scene!!!". Never get involved in a land war in Asia!! I'm not a witch, I'm your wife!!! MLTs!!! But the book is a masterpiece of its own. The annotations! The parentheses! This is after stew, but then again, everything is after stew. The book is satire and romance and everything else, and most people don't even know it exists. So once you're done watching the movie, read this book.

sweetest-thingThe Sweetest Thing, Jill Shalvis

Jill Shalvis's blog is a really sweet and human chronicle of day to day antics in the high Sierras. It features klutzy women, alpha men, and more than a dog or two. Her books are similar. I read a review once that said there's not much tension in the "will they or won't they" of Shalvis's main characters, but they're just so darn likeable that it really doesn't matter. I think this is a fair summation of the early Lucky Harbor books for sure. I like the third instalment (Head over Heels. Two words: shower sex) better, but they're all pretty cute.

wallbangerWallbanger, Alice Clayton

So obviously this story started out as a cute plot bunny. What if a woman with an orgasmic dry spell winds up living next to a...well...noisy neighbour? We know how this is going to end. The book is 300 pages of verbal foreplay, which is basically where I live as a writer and a human being so, yeah. It gets a big thumbs up from me, even if the writer seems a little too pleased with her banter sometimes. We all have our demons.

So there you go. The nine of the hundred best rom coms that I have read (or seen, or am currently reading, or tried to read) and can recommend to you, or caution you against.

How about you? What was missing from the big list? Any titles that should have made the cut? Of the other 91 titles that I haven't read, where should I start first?

Catholic Girls and Ballroom Dancing

My French Canadian mom always said you could tell when there were Catholic girls in the room, because they would dance with each other when there were no boys to dance with. It's a saying from a  bygone era, but then, maybe dancing with an opposite gendered partner is too.

The TED talk below made its rounds on my FB feed this week. The timing is fortuitous, because I just started reading Heidi Cullinan's Dance with Me, which also features a same sex dancing couple. In my head, they don't quite look like the two fellows in this video, but they are, as Trevor and Jeff say, learning the fine art of taking care of each other.

I think this is the thing that attracted me to M/M romance, back when I discovered it about five years ago. Heidi's books were one of the first I read. I'll post a review of this one when I finish reading it, but my thoughts in gay romance have remained the same. Books where we get to watch two men love and take care of each other are (pardon the pun) novel. Reading them, and writing them, is intoxicating sometimes, a glimpse into a secret world that I don't see in mainstream media.

I'll talk more about this a lot, I expect, as I continue to tweak and query The Pick Up, and move on to other stories, but what this video has to say about seeing what's not there is so important.

Happy weekend and happy reading everyone!!

 

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