When we first started The Smut Report, I had no idea that the world of romance blogging was so huge. I knew about a couple of the really big sites (like Smart Bitches), but that’s it really. Imagine my surprise when I started poking around on WordPress – look at all these other people talking about romance, from all kinds of different angles!
Ironically, since we primarily do reviews at TSR, I don’t necessarily read other blogs for the reviews. I don’t read them to find new books to read, or to find out what’s on sale, or to track new releases, or to do book tags and memes. (What can I say? I’m a grump.)
Instead, the blogs I return to again and again are the ones where I learn something new, where the authors help me broaden my thinking about romance and romance novels, where I can see romance novels in a new light.
Here are six of my favorites.
Miss Bates Reads Romance
Miss Bates was the first romance blogger who I started avidly following, and her reviews remain *chef’s kiss*. Did I say I didn’t read other blogs for the reviews? Miss Bates is an exception, because her reviews are top-notch: thoughtful, detailed, and with an eye to the transcendent. It helps that we have similar taste in books, so I trust her recommendations.
Check out: Her review of Just a Heartbeat Away by Cara Bastone, which I immediately added to my TBR.
Jeeves Reads Romance
Jeeves is a prolific reader who posts a ton of reviews, plus notes about new releases and daily deals. What I like about Jeeves is that I have never heard of 99% of the books and authors she reviews. Her reviews never get spoilery, but she’s clear about what does and doesn’t work – and has shared the juicy details of some particularly eyebrow-raising stuff when I’ve asked her in the comments section.
Check out: This recent review of The Knockout Rule.
Here we have a mix of posts – reviews, opinion pieces (think things that we would call “Smut Reporting”), and recommendation lists. She participates in readathons pretty regularly, so if you’re interested in playing along, this is a great resource.
Check out: This piece talking about third act break-ups that…don’t quite work
The Infinite Limits of Love
Nick is super-engaged with the romance community at large (she was one of the brains behind the Readers’ Choice Swoon Awards this past year) and is a great resource for things like new releases. I especially appreciate how playful Nick is in her reviews – it’s a good reminder that reading romance is a fun endeavor, and that maybe I shouldn’t take myself so seriously.
Check out: Her epic write-up on Nalini Singh’s psy-changling series, because those book cover / dessert pairing reviews are truly a thing of beauty.
Close Reading Romance
This is the most academic of the blogs I have listed here (but not the only academic romance blog I follow, because, come on, of course), and I love it. Charlotte does close readings of passages of romance novels she loves – like, really close readings. Let’s break these sentences down into their component parts and talk about what literary effect these decisions have close readings. I love that her analysis shows that romance can be taken seriously as a literary genre, and that doing so is worth the effort.
Check out: Her analysis of the pauses in Layover. OMG.
The Misadventures of Super Librarian
SuperWendy has a penchant for category romances, and reading her analysis of them is part of what convinced me to try them as well (and I am so glad I did, because sometimes a category romane is *exactly* what you need). But my absolute favorite feature is her monthly roundup of unusual historicals, where she highlights forthcoming historical romances that are NOT set in Regency England (or if they are, feature working-class characters).
Check out: Her post on the background and method behind my favorite feature.
BeWere My Heart, Book 2
Review of BeWere My Heart, Book 1
Heat Factor: Barely there (though there is some closed door hanky panky just before the end)
Character Chemistry: “I’m weirdly driven to procreate with you” + antagonism in the mode of grumpy/sunshine
Plot: Non-shifter accidentally rescues child werebear and gets roped into all the were-CPS crime-solving shenanigans
Overall: If you like your books with a healthy dose of absurdity, this checks the box
My First Smut is a recurring feature where we talk about our formative smut experiences. These short confessionals may include such details as: What book did you read? How old were you? Were there other people involved? What made the experience special? What role does smut play in your life?
This week, author Alexandra Alan talks about reading smut as a coming of age experience.
I began my smutty journey early. Officially at thirteen, unofficially much younger. Growing up, one of my aunts had an over-the-door wire bookshelf full of paperback romance novels, and as any curious pre-teen would do, I’d flip through them when no one was looking so I could read the naughty bits. I understood about half of what I read, and what I did understand was exciting.
And then, in seventh grade, the floodgates truly opened. (Maybe ‘floodgates’ isn’t the ideal metaphor, but I’m sticking with it.) One of my favorite teachers freely admitted that she was also a published romance novelist. She was not only a wonderful teacher, but also kind, hilarious, and armed with a razor-sharp wit honed by many hours of teaching middle school children.
My mother befriended her, bought some of her books, and then one day, handed me ‘Ever Yours’ (by Gabriella Anderson) with a statement of: “Uh, sure, this’ll probably be fine.”
It was so much more than fine. Yes, it had the naughty bits, but it also had love! Banter! Adventure! Thrills! I found myself getting heavily invested in the slow bloom of the relationship as it developed over the course of the novel, and really, that was almost as fun as the naughty bits.
After that, I was hooked. Every week, my mom and I would pop into the library and I’d emerge with a stack of Fabio-embellished romances that promised magic, mystery, and smut. Some were thrilling, some were titillating, and some used the phrase ‘marble-hard lingam’ and described a hero’s tongue as ‘leopard-like.’ During one single summer, I must have devoured over twenty of them. (If my mother worried about me, she never said anything.)
Up until several years ago, smut was simply a source of entertainment in my life. Romance novels were like the little meringues of the vast smorgasbord of literature: sweet, short, a nice moment that melted in your mouth and left you happier than when you’d started. I’d been writing fiction for quite some time, yet crafting explicit smut hadn’t even crossed my mind as an option.
Everything changed with a plane ride. While gliding over a mountain range, the plane hit a patch of turbulence that had the cabin jerking and roiling as if we’d been thrown into a blender. I watched the ground lurch thousands of feet below me and my one persistent, memorable thought was that if we crashed, I would die without having written anything truly smutty. Three years later, I have several contracts with a romance/erotica publisher. (So thanks, Southwest.)
Connect with Alexandra:
Thanks for sharing, Alexandra! Watch this space for our review of her book Going the Distance in early March.
Seasons of Scandal, Book 4
Heat Factor: It’s like, “electric blanket on a cold day” warm.
Character Chemistry: We have here some childhood friends turned lovers, so it’s comfortable and sweet.
Plot: Last book in a great series–childhood friends reconnect to try to save Meg’s reputation after a scandal. But Harry is all grown up…
Overall: I stalked every book in this series and loved it!!
Heat Factor: It’s sweeping and romantic
Character Chemistry: So perfect
Plot: He first saw her as a teen, on a day that changed his life forever. Sixteen years later, he meets her again – only to discover that they’re now on opposite sides of an emotional divide.
Overall: Automatic favorite. I am wrecked.