ROMANCE ARC#1: Contemporary Romance (1/25/22)

WHEN: January 25, 2022

WHERE: This was a Virtual Meeting.

Contact: Leane Ellis; rapotential@gmail.com  

We are studying Romance for the next 5 months. This month we are delved into Contemporary Romance; in March 2022 Religious/Gentle Romance, and in May Speculative Romance.

Our next topic is Romance Arc I: Contemporary

Assignment:  Everyone reads the benchmark: Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient (2018)                                                     

We also read a Choice title in this category either from the suggested list below on our blog, or one that you choose yourself, and then posted a review on our blog below.

For appeal, please focus especially on Tone, Character, and Setting.

ROMANCE: CONTEMPORARY CHOICE TITLES

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE_NOTES

NOTE: The NE RA RT did do an overview [Romance (3/23/10)] and a study of Romance through the lens of Diversity [9/24/2019]

RESOURCES

Romance/Appeal Terminology for Sex Handout

NOVELIST/LIBRARY READS Crash Course in Romance

ROMANCE RA RESOURCES: MLS—Genre Overview Romance Vimeo

Southeastern MA RA RT Contemporary Romance (10/24/15)

Metrowest MA RA RT Contemporary Romance Notes (11/20/20)

ARRT: GENRE STUDY: Romance (5/21/19)

The Ripped Bodice: The State of Racial Diversity in Romance Report 2020

AWARDS

EMMA Awards — Award for Excellence in Diversity in Romantic Literature

RWA (Romance Writers of America): The Voice of Romance Writers                                                      RITA & VIVIAN Awards

THE SWOON AWARDS (SWOONIES) is a reader-based and reader-hosted award celebrating the romance community’s favorite romance novels of the year.

Print/PDF Bibliography  (Available on Google Group) 

Bouricius, Ann. The Romance Readers’ Advisory: The Librarian’s Guide to Love in the Stacks. ALA, 2000. p.3-21; 51-57.

Higgins, Kristan.” It’s Not the Sex”. Publishers Weekly, August 17, 2015.  p.76.

Ramsdell, Kristin. Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre. LU. 1999. p. 3-15, 17-20, 23-29, 261-265, 289-292.

Rodale, Maya. Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. Maya Rodale, 2015. p. 15-31, 66-67, 82-99, 174-183 plus all tables.

Saricks, Joyce. G. with revision by Krista Biggs. “Getting Up to Speed in Romance,” NoveList. EBSCO. 2020 (10/31/21)

Wyatt, Neal & Joyce G. Saricks. “Romance.” The RA Guide to Genre Fiction. 2019. 3rd ed., ALA, p.191, 215-226.

CHOICE TITLES

Alex
Title: Red, White and Royal Blue (2019)
Author: Casey McQuiston
Appeal Factors: Character, Pace
Summary/Thoughts: Alex, the bisexual son of the president of the United States causes a diplomatic uproar when, as a guest of the British Queen at a royal wedding, he accidentally takes a tumble, crashing into the royal wedding cake and pulling the annoyingly perfect and aloof British Royal Prince down with him.  The two young men are then forced to embark on an extensive public relations scheme to assure their respective countries that nothing is amiss between their heads of state, and that the incident was merely the unfortunate result of the boyish high jinks of two best friends. Mutual annoyance soon grows into something else as the two men are forced to spend time in each others’ company and soon they have a lot more to hide from the public than a slight animosity that could affect diplomatic relations. Neither man is “out” and keeping their relationship a secret when the paparazzi lurk around every corner keeps the tension simmering.

An abundance of well-written, steamy love scenes, as well as entertaining and well-developed peripheral characters, make this LGBTQIA romance a fast-paced page-turner. Common tropes: fake relationships, secret relationships, famous protagonist, enemies to lovers. Heat factor: 3.5

Leane
Title: Gray Hair Don’t Care (2021)
Author: Karen Booth
Appeal Factors: CH/TONE/FRAME
Summary/Thoughts: As an OWB (Old White Broad), I was attracted to this title because it was touted as an over-40 Romance–which is a refreshing and unusual approach. The novel is set in a detail-rich NYC and splashed with fashion, decor, and lifestyle specifics. There was very sparse hot to steamy sex and lukewarm ST (Sexual Tension)–too much tell, less show ratio. No vulgar language, some diversity in the CH complement as well as over-40 ages for the main CHs and some supporting players, as well as LGBTQIA. Otherwise the CHS have a pretty upper/middle class Caucasian world-view but if someone wants a glamorous, contemporary romance fantasy this will fit the bill. Musical references especially to 80s plus groups added to the relationship element between main CHs Donovan and Lela. The author knows the genre and the Plotting, Pace, and Tone supports the formula making this a breezy, frothy quick read. Older readers or anyone who crave something like Elizabeth Adler’s The Last Time I Saw Paris (2001) for the Frame, Tone and setting details, or for something with more emphasis on Relationship with some Romance, Linda Holmes’ Evvie Drake Starts Over (2019) or any Phaedra Patrick.

Title: The Roommate (2020)
Author: Rosie Danan
Appeal Factors: CH/TONE/PACE
Summary/Thoughts: Borderline erotic and impossible to put down. Buttoned-down Clara moves to LA to be with Everett, her heart throb, and finds that the Craigslist guy who is renting the love of her life’s other room for the summer is a very attractive and a charming porn star. The entire trajectory of her summer changes as she and Josh circle each other. This is a stellar sex-positive, explicit, and sexy read–you buy the CHs and their burgeoning relationship, will enjoy the subversion of some tropes like Boy Next Door & Ex-Girlfriend and the multi-layered family dynamics knitted into the narrative. Good California setting with film industry particulars captured well. A fresh interpretation of the Porn Industry that I must admit made me think deeply about the economic choices some may make and the corruption and social issues in that industry.  LA’s climate adds to the steamy Tone. Hubba Hubba. Fans of O’Leary’s The Flatshare (2019) who can stand more explicit sex may like Danan, but better matches for sex level combined with comedy may be found in Camille Baker’s Have We Met? (2021) or Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient (2018), and maybe Christina Lauren.

Beth S.
Title: Evvie Drake Starts Over (2019)
Author: Linda Holmes
Appeal Factors: Authentic and likeable characters, heartwarming tone, humor, gentle romance, clever dialogue
Summary/Thoughts: Eveleth “Evvie” Drake is hiding out in her small Maine town after the death of her husband. After some persuasion by her male best friend, Andy, she agrees to take in a border: major league baseball pitcher Dean Tenney. Dean has the “yips” and is looking to hide out from publicity and critical sports fans. As they both try to make sense of their troubled pasts (Evvie is hiding a secret about her marriage and Dean can’t figure out why he suddenly couldn’t pitch), they become friends and then more. One of the book clubs I lead discussed this title, and most people enjoyed the book for its likeable characters and funny situations and conversations. They described it as a pleasant light read, good for the beach.

Jeanne
Title: Evvie Drake Starts Over (2019)
Author: Linda Holmes
Appeal Factors: Character, setting, tone
Summary/Thoughts: Evvie Drake Starts Over is a character driven novel about authentic, broken people trying to come to terms with their pasts and to move on to better lives. The plot is moved forward with a lot of dialogue. Relationships are believable, being both complicated and dependable. The setting is in rural Maine on the coast. The author sketches in the background which is very familiar to anyone who grew up in the area. I felt like I could picture the places in the book, but realized it was my own memory, not the author’s descriptions that made them real to me. The general tone is unaffected and hopeful, but has some darker segments – much like real life. The book is very much in favor of working through issues with a therapist.
I’ve read several books lately where the main character’s abusive and/or cheating husband dies and she is left trying to live with everyone else’s vision of him as a near saint. They have made me think about the pros and cons of being honest about the different aspects of a person’s character and about how we rarely know the whole person.
Read-alikes: Elizabeth Berg, Elizabeth Strout, Gil McNeil, Jackie Fraser

Beth R.
Title:  Far from home: Belladona Ink#1 (2016)
Author: Lorelie Brown
Appeal Factors: tone, characters
Summary/Thoughts:  Romance follows in the marriage of convenience trope. With a twist. This marriage is to take place between 2 women in order to provide one of the women with a green card allowing her to remain in the States. The women don’t know each other. They meet at a party. Rachel is drowning in student debt trying to make a living in LA as an assistant film producer, while Pari, an Indian immigrant is a logistics manager who wants to open her own consulting firm and doesn’t want to return to India with its strong stigma against lesbians.
Told in 1st person by Rachel. Rachel is straight? Maybe asexual, she finds herself struggling with her attraction to Pari as well as continuing to struggle with her eating disorder. Lots of angst over both of these which are dealt with well.
The relationship development is careful, emotional. They grow slowly from acquaintances to friends to lovers
This is a very steamy and heartwarming story, not terribly deep, but satisfying, like the characters. Like a light supper with red hots for dessert.
LA doesn’t play a big part, except in that there are surfers, films and warm weather.
Excellent secondary character in Pari’s charming and elegant mother.
1st in a trilogy of Belladonna Ink-jointed together because they’re lesbian romance and are, to varying degrees involve tattoo artists.
PS. According to reviews realistic, non stereotypical portrayal of Indian culture
RA: Alexandria Bellefleur, Written in the stars: lesbian fake relationship, steamy
Kristan Higgins’ The Perfect Match: Green card by straight couple

Karen
Title: The Dating Playbook: Boyfriend Project#2 (2021)
Author: Farrah Rochon
Appeal Factors: Romance (Heterosexual), Own Voices (African American), Frame (Sports and Fitness, specifically Football), Humor
Summary/Thoughts: Follows the “fake dating” story arc and involves quite a bit for sports fans chew on, including the price of injury and celebrity. The sex is described in some detail with somewhere between a soft R and R rating: some language may feel vulgar to readers of older styles of Romance. Humorous in parts. A secondary storyline about three best friends (one being Taylor the female protagonist) supporting each other in their life goals is for fans of movies like Waiting to Exhale. A little too much tell and not show in places, where character’s motivations are concerned.

Brigid
Title: The Love Hypothesis (2021)
Author: Ali Hazelwood
Appeal Factors: humorous tone, appealing characters, women in STEM,
Summary/Thoughts: Hazelwood’s appealing romantic comedy keeps a light tone while dealing with potentially difficult subjects including the difficulty of being a woman in a STEM field and some of the difficulties associated with it. Told in the third person limited perspective from the heroine’s point of view, insight into characters is limited but the author nevertheless manages to create compelling an interesting characters who will draw the reader in. From an RA perspective this book represents a potentially new kind of reader, one who is coming into the genre from reading fanfiction online and is attracted to writers (and in some cases characters) who they are already familiar with. While it’s still a “know it when I see it” category I suspect there will be a lot more of these books going forward.

Alyssa T.
Title: The Shaadi Set-Up (2021)
Author: Lillie Vale
Appeal Factors: High school sweethearts, first love/last love, strong sense of place
Summary/Thoughts: Told from the perspective of Rita, this book depicts two twenty-six-year-old North Carolina Indian-Americans who haven’t spoke since their five-year ended six years ago after Milan leaves a voicemail before their trip to Paris. But their mothers push them back together when Rita’s career as a furniture restorer could help hot-shot realty junior partner Milan finally sell a luxury house. Rita only has to realize her boyfriend is totally wrong for her and there’s a reason Milan is her only match on MyShaadi.com.

Relatively tame with the focus on Rita’s desire before the couple finally has sex off-page with only a few sentences describing the acts performed after the fact. Rita’s bisexual nonbinary best friend Raj seems more diversity for its own sake; the depiction of Rita’s mother Esha, however, is a highlight as Rita learns from her what lasting love looks like.

Tatjana
Title: Best Laid Plans: Garnet Run#2 (2021)
Author: Roan Parrish
Appeal Factors: Character (LGBTQ), Tone
Summary/Thoughts: I was a little apprehensive about reading this adult m/m romance, but wow, I’m glad I did! I was pleasantly surprised by the care and sensitivity the author took in building such a sweet and sexy relationship between the two men.

Rye Janssen is out of options and money when he drives into a rural Wyoming community to claim an inherited house as ramshackle as his life. Charlie Matheson (age 36!), has been parenting his younger brother and serving the community as the owner of the hardware store since he was a teenager.

When Charlie offers to help Rye rebuild his house, a tentative slow and sweet romance builds between these two very vulnerable men. There is sex, but as Rye assures Charlie, sex between two men can take many different forms. With natural dialogue, Parrish breaks down the stereotypes and educates the reader by showing what a loving, consensual, sexual relationship can look like between two men who have found a home within each other. When Rye brings in a notepad and pen to the bedroom to see what Charlie is comfortable doing (on a “Yes-No-Maybe, or a a 1-10 interest level scale, or just general thoughts”), my old, crusty cis-heart melted.

The tone is heartwarming, inclusive of the full LGBTQ+ range, sweet and sexy (PG-13) at the same time. The setting is in a rural Wyoming town (Garnet Run) where the curious, but accepting community gathers at a local dining spot and the Matheson hardware store.

The bonus here are the playful cat companions who add lightness with their fun antics and personalities.

Overall, a beautifully wrought romance for the general public. #2 in the “Garnet Run” series.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Statement: RART-NE encourages all library staff to use leisure reading as a way to connect with the community, with a particular focus on reaching the underserved and promoting “own voices” authors. Throughout our discussions we will explore ways in which library staff can provide services, collections, and programming that puts EDI concerns at the forefront. Examples include but are not limited to, delivering the same information in different formats, advice on how to diversify your displays, and ways to include more staff voices in basic RA service [more voices leads to more equitable, diverse, and inclusive offerings]. Library staff attending RART-NE must be interested in allowing all staff [not just professional and/or public service staff] to participate in serving all populations, not just the ones most represented by staff or as identified in a local census.

Cancellation Policy: This policy is in effect while we follow Covid-19 protocols and also for the future event that a meeting is scheduled at the physical location of a library.  There is no plan to cancel a meeting. During Covid-19 we will be meeting virtually using the Zoom platform sponsored by a member library.  When the group is able to meet in person at the physical location of a library; and if the town/city of the location of the meeting cancels public schools, and/or there is a parking ban–the meeting will be changed to a Virtual meeting using Zoom, even if the library in question remains open. Leane will broadcast the change from physical  to Virtual meeting due to inclement weather or other reason by 7:00am or before from the Google group, and post it on this website. January meetings will be Virtual Zoom meetings until further notice beginning 1/25/22. Edited 5/23/21