Romance Reading Roundup: My Favorite Books (Thus Far) of 2015…

You know how sometimes you just can’t find any new authors you like, and every book you read leaves you vaguely dissatisfied? Other times, you stumble onto an embarrassment of literary riches? I’m happy to say that 2015 thus far has been the latter kind of year, and I’ve discovered several new authors who are must-reads for me. Foremost among them is Elle Kennedy, who blew me away with her Off Campus novels. This New Adult series deftly meshes humor and (lots of) steam. The characters are well-developed and the writing is flawless. There are currently two stand-alone (but interconnected) books in the series, THE DEAL and THE MISTAKE. This is one of my favorite excerpts from THE MISTAKE, featuring a hilarious (and clueless) minor character who dispenses relationship advice on the radio:


“Here’s what you’re gonna do. Pick up a bottle of wine, invite him over to your place, and make sure some old-school Usher is playing when he walks in. Then, you take off all your clothes and—you know what, baby girl?” Pace Dawson drawls into the microphone on Friday afternoon. “Forget the wine and Usher. Just be naked when he shows up and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be ready to go to the bone zone.”

I’m also a fan of dark romances, when they are well-done, and this spring I stumbled onto a pair of dark, angsty novels by JM Darhower that grabbed me by the throat and still haven’t let go. Published in 2014, MONSTER IN HIS EYES and TORTURE TO HER SOUL tell the story of young college student Karissa and her dangerous lover, Naz Vitale, a mobster who just may be out to get her. You may read these books and call Naz a sociopath; I just call him my all-time favorite book boyfriend. Here’s a short sample from MONSTER:

“You don’t have to be afraid,” he says. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

He kisses me then. His lips are soft—so, so soft, like velvet, a stark contrast to the roughness of the rest of him. His kiss is gentle, little more than breaths against my lips that I eagerly inhale, taking him in. I let out a soft moan, hardly catching it as he whispers, “unless you want me to.”

If you haven’t read either of these series yet, I highly recommend them. Btw, for my next blog post, I’ll be turning the topic to my own novel, which is (finally!) coming soon…

GREY Matter

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with fan fiction. To me, it is the literary equivalent of song sampling, and I think any writer who borrows characters, plot or prose from another author should cede them a cut of all royalties. (E L James is to Stephenie Meyer as Vanilla Ice is to David Bowie and Queen.) That said, anyone who knows me probably also knows that I have BIG LOVE for FIFTY SHADES OF GREY–no lie and no shame. Sure, even a rudimentary edit to shape the story and remove excess verbiage (and to edit this trilogy is one of my ongoing fantasies) would have reduced the books by 30%, and probably have saved them from much ridicule. But, even in their current form, James brought several things to the table for her story, including a charismatic hero and some clever writing–the email exchanges and Christian’s “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” line being but two examples. I would go so far as to argue that Christian Grey is a more compelling figure than TWILIGHT’s Edward Cullen and, to me, a more romantic one.


Thus, I was giddy when the publication of GREY, a FIFTY SHADES retelling from Christian’s perspective, was announced earlier this week. Never mind that the alternate POV novel  is almost de rigueur these days (not to mention that it has also already been done by Stephenie Meyer). I literally giggled at the news, because anyone who has read the trilogy will agree that the books come alive most when Christian is on the page. And on June 18, we’ll get to be inside Christian’s head for 500+ pages. I think it will be, as Ana might mutter, “teeth-clenchingly good.” It appears that fan fiction is here to stay (thanks, Internet). And while it remains to be seen what contributions, if any, fanfic may make to the canon of great literature, even if it only serves as pop culture junk food, rather than a gourmet meal, in the case of GREY, I think it will be delicious.