Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Tal Bauer

Looking for a new author to try? Here’s everything you need to know about Tal Bauer, whose books include You & Me, Secret Service, and The Team duology.

What He Writes:

Primarily dual POV M/M romance, especially romantic suspense and sports romance

What Makes Him Unique:

He combines a rather lyrical voice (lots of emotional drama) with intense tension, which makes the romance all heart eyes while the plot is a nail-biter. 

Writing Style:

Has shifted over time. Early books are usually though not always dual 3rd person in past tense, more recent releases are dual 1st person in present tense. He’s written a couple of single POV books as well. His books tend to be long and feature mature (40-ish) protagonists. He also typically hammers out the “I love you” component of the romance between 50-60%, so the third/fourth acts typically hinge on a different, external problem.

Why We Love Him:

There’s nothing quite like feeling all the butterflies of a beautiful romance while at the same time feeling the gut-clenching fear that they’re going to die. Or, in the case of the non-suspense books, while wondering how on earth they’re going to navigate their life problems.

Us Reading His Books:

He Might Not Be For You If:

Emotional rollercoasters stress you out, you don’t like being unsure that characters are going to live, graphic violence graphically described makes you queasy, crime dramas are not your scene, straight-forward language without dramatic flourishes and power words is your preference, long books are too much, you’re not into the idea of soulmates, cowboys and lawmen are not your fave

Notable Quotation:

What was better? Suffering in silence and hardening your heart against the world? Or owning what you wanted, what you needed? What would Wes be like if he’d turned away from Justin and said to himself, No, not him, not the guy who is my soul mate. What kind of man would he have become? 

Say yes. Don’t let go. Don’t walk away.

The Quarterback

The Bottom Line:

If you enjoy writing with intense, dramatic language and you need a bit of catharsis from second-hand stress, these books have it in spades

Content Warnings:

Homomisia and associated slurs (sometimes in non-English languages), graphic violence, extreme reactions to stress or fear such as emesis or urination, political and military conspiracies, death of or grief for a parent or spouse, a couple books deal with deadly contagious viruses, A Time to Rise is probably not technically a genre romance

Start With:

The Murder Between Us

Saturday Smutty Six Thanksgiving Banner

Saturday Smutty Six: Thanksgiving

Are you looking for the coziness of a Christmas special without the whole Christmas thing? Do you think that Thanksgiving is an under-represented romance setting? Maybe you have a secret desire to read books about as many different holidays as you possibly can? 

Whatever your reasons, if you’re like us, you’re looking for a Thanksgiving themed romance, so here are some we’ve found:

A Match Made for Thanksgiving by Jackie Lau

A Thanksgiving romance list really wouldn’t be complete without this delightful novella that kicks off the Holidays with the Wongs series. This book is great because the protagonists are sincerely going to have a one night stand and just happen to end up at Thanksgiving together because Nick’s parents decided their kids need help finding love and invited dates to their family dinner. As parents do. It’s pretty funny, and it’s even better because Lily isn’t Nick’s date—she’s being set up with his brother!

Her Naughty Holiday by Tiffany Reisz

This book has everything you could want in a Thanksgiving romance. A matchmaking, wise-cracking, nature-worshipping teenager. Gentle teasing between the main characters. A relationship that starts fake but quickly gets real (without a bunch of drama). Lots of sexy sex at a beautiful lake house. And a truly epic scene of telling off unsupportive family members on Thanksgiving day.

Mr. Right Now by Annabeth Albert

This book starts on Thanksgiving and carries on through the holidays. Russ is having a bad day on account of he’s supposed to host Thanksgiving but can’t cook when his neighbor, Esteban, finds him tossing a whole skillet in the dumpster. For his part, Esteban can’t resist the grumpy neighbor who is definitely struggling, so he offers to help cook—he just doesn’t realize he’s going to get himself roped into a fake relationship that just doesn’t seem to have a good end date. And then what’s fake becomes physical, so maybe there’s no need to end anything at all. If only their emotional hang-ups over their past didn’t get in the way…

Fakesgiving by Kat Baxter

I’m not convinced that Baxter is actually a geek, because everyone knows that people who like Star Trek don’t call themselves Trekkies, and also Seven of Nine is in no way an obscure reference, BUT if you are less of a geek than me, and you might enjoy a short, playful, fake dating, boss/assistant romance for Thanksgiving, then go for it. It’s just a fun story. My favorite part is that the adhesion plot thrust happens when Kaitlyn’s Mom calls her boss to personally invite him to Thanksgiving, which is how he finds out that Kaitlyn told her family that they’re dating. Since he’s been pining for her, maybe this is his moment.

Stuffed by Hannah Murray

Yeah so…a very nice young couple named Esme and Tucker invite four special friends over for Thanksgiving and also to bake things in Esme’s oven simultaneously. Just like, one after another. They’re all very close friends, and they each have special recipes they’re eager to share with Esme. It was very surprising how much icing was involved in these recipes. If you read this and felt a certain way, then you might really enjoy this book.

Thanksgiving by Janet Evanovitch

If you’re looking for a manic Thanksgiving comedy, this might just fit the bill. Megan and Patrick are definitely attracted to each other; the conflict comes into play when they consider commitment, and what that might look like. Readers should be aware that there is a heavy emphasis on marriage and babies as requirements for building a family. Bonus points for readers who are as excited by Colonial Williamsburg as our protagonists are.

The Great Smut Debate (with debate inked in cursive by a fountain pen)
The Great Smut Debate

Let’s Talk About Sex (Baby)

A recent Twitter interaction:

Us: Retweets promo image of a romance novel that looks intriguing

Author: Oh hey, based on your user-name, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a good amount of sex in this book!

Obviously, readers have preferences about sex in romance novels. Some people are tickled by the ridiculous sexcapades that authors dream up. Some people skim over the sex scenes to get back to the plot. Some people find mentions of genitalia off-putting. Some people roll their eyes at purple prose.

The problem comes when the dogmatism arrives. The sweeping statements that a book must have a sex scene by the halfway point, or it’s getting chucked in the Women’s Fiction bin. The assertions that a book with more than 2.5 tasteful sex scenes is not proper romance, but must be locked in the erotica dungeon.

Our goal with this series is to explore the boundaries of romance—the places where romance might transition into other genres for various reasons—and, given that sex is so intrinsically entwined with (at the very minimum) people’s perception of romance, we couldn’t omit a discussion of sex in romance, now could we?

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Sex (Baby)”
TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Lies

November’s theme prompt for Super Wendy’s #TBRChallenge 2022 was “Lies.” Here are the books we chose to tackle our TBRs this month.

Holly Read: Deception by Selena Montgomery (2009)

Faraday, Book #2

Why was this book on your TBR?

As with Reckless, which I read last month, I bought this in November of 2020 in a burst of good feelings about Stacy Abrams. 

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

Well, it’s called Deception. And I read the first book in the series last month and it ended on a total cliffhanger, so I figured I’d might as well. I was hoping it would be a celebratory read for Georgia, but alas.

What are your thoughts on the book?

I am working on aggressively DNFing books if they aren’t speaking to me, so this was a DNF. Hey, the goal was to get books off my TBR one way or another. 

So, when the first book ends, we know that there’s some mysterious conspiracy going on in rural Georgia run by an ominous group called Stark, and that’s why that guy was killed. But by the first third of Deception, most of the information about this group—what they do, what their goals are, why they killed the guy—have been revealed. There are still pieces to figure out, like who exactly pulled the trigger and why they want to control this big plot of land, but I felt like the wind was taken out of the sails of the mystery a bit. (I might have also flipped to the end and the bit I read was very anticlimactic and not a big reversal from what we’d already learned.)

I hated the hero. Specifically, I hated that he did that thing where he touched the heroine, could tell that his touch made her uncomfortable, and then doubled down by doing something like grabbing her wrist. Or her chin. This is the second time this very specific dynamic has shown up in a TBR challenge book this year, and yikes, do I hate it.

I did like the heroine. Fin is a professional gambler, which means she’s lived a…colorful…life. But even though she lies and bluffs her way through the world, I would hope that, as a reader, I would have a sense of her as a character after spending a hundred pages with her, and she still felt vague to me. So though I thought the pieces I saw were interesting, there wasn’t enough there to make her truly compelling and hold my attention.

Buy Now: Amazon

Ingrid Read: His Reluctant Lady by Aydra Richards (2020)

Why was this book on your TBR?

It honestly just looked cute? It had that classic, historical feel to it and I figured it might be fun.

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

Well, there are just LAYERS of lies here–Poppy is secretly a gothic novelist, her sisters secretly try to get her caught in flagrante delicto, and David and Poppy are BOTH recovering from years of deceiving themselves (in a way) because they’ve never really tried to get to know themselves as they really are.

What are your thoughts on the book?

It’s definitely cute! It’s traditional/old school though–she’s dowdy and transforms, he’s the one who “shows” her she’s beautiful, etc. If you’re looking for an enlightened read, it’s kind of a middle ground–he’s incredibly respectful of his intelligent wife and values her deeply for her mind and her abilities. But it’s strongly a “she don’t know she’s beautiful” type book.

Essentially, Poppy’s gambling addict father almost beggars them after his death, when she fortuitously sells a gothic manuscript–then another. The money from the sales is enough to get her two sisters launched into the Season, and pay for a chaperone. Poppy’s an innocent though, and needs material for the progression of her plot. So she follows David and a lover at a party and eavesdrops on their tryst, and uses all the material for her next installment.

David is livid, but also a little thrilled when he catches Poppy watching him. They have a big make out session, he releases her, and then learns that his tryst was published in a book and is titillating the Ton. Why at this point he didn’t connect the dots, but whatever–he does eventually figure it out and blackmails Poppy into spending more time with him, essentially.

Then stuff happens, they end up married against their will, and they have to figure out how to make it work.

I will say it’s a bit of a slow burn–they spend a lot of time kissing before anything of magnitude happens. But it’s an uncomplicated, sweet read with a lot of sizzle. 

Buy Now: Amazon

Erin Read: If You Deceive by Kresley Cole (2007)

MacCarrick Brothers, Book #3

Why was this book on your TBR? I’d read a couple IAD books and The Game Maker trilogy and this one came up for sale, and really, why would I even try to resist histrom with a Scottie MacHottie?

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge? The title says it all, right?

What are your thoughts on the book?

Okay, so I hit a slump and didn’t finish because this book has a very Kresley Cole vibe, and I needed some soft and gentle romance, but in the right mood I know I’d have fun reading it, so I’ll finish it eventually. 

Here’s the deal: there’s a double deception. As a young man, Ethan would sleep with married women, and the last time he followed one home, he decided to pull the plug on the encounter, she got mad at the rejection, the husband showed up, accusations were made, and Ethan was ruthlessly scarred, only for the husband to realize who he was. There’s a ten-year interval between the prologue and the first chapter, and we learn that Ethan is a cold, hard man, a ruthless spy, and a willingness to take justice into his own hands. Case in point: he ruined the family that ruined him. Now, the daughter of the family is an adult, and growing up in poverty in France for the past ten years has not only made her immune to the more shocking aspects of life, it’s also made her into a pickpocket and opportunistic criminal. Her hope for getting out of that life is marriage. 

The whole tone of this book is, as I said, very Kresley Cole, so I know it’s going to be drama and angst central that will keep stressing me out more and more (even when there’s a little plateau for us readers to catch our breaths, we just KNOW there’s the other shoe about to drop) until it’s resolved at the very end. So if you like that kind of tension in your reads, and you’ve been avoiding Kresley Cole because you’re not into paranormal romance, this might be a fun book for you. If you’re looking for soft stuff, probably steer clear of this one. 

Buy Now: Amazon

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? Next month’s theme is Festive.


Saturday Smutty Six: Lies

SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge prompt this month is Lies (about which more on Wednesday), and a big lie is just such a great point of tension that we thought we’d highlight some more romances that hinge on a humdinger of a lie. Or maybe just a little lie that grows and grows until it’s a big problem. Either way, a lie between the protagonists is a great reason they can’t truly be together, so without further ado, here are some liars.

How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn

Holly is on record stating that this is the first romance novel she ever loved. Yes, there is some cringey Old School nonsense going on, but the banter is just delightful. This is a classic deception plot, complete with the heroine melting down because the revealed lie means that *everything* about their relationship was a lie. (Of course it wasn’t, but that’s the trope, right there.)

A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran

“I lied and said we were married even though you’re blackmailing me because I thought you were about to die, but then you woke up and now you have amnesia but we’re still married and I’m terrified but also starting to have pants feels.”

Hexbreaker by J.L. Hawk

Tragedy forced Tom to leave his old life and start fresh, but a murder on his beat puts him perilously close to his past. He can’t do nothing if it’ll save lives, though, so he does the best he can, transferring to the witch police HQ, and hoping that he won’t have to reveal his sordid history to the prickly but lovable Cicero as they work to solve the mystery.

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Not all lies are enormous, earth-shattering, identity-threatening dealbreakers. In Bet Me, Cal initially asks Min out because of a bet (that he thinks is a joke); Min knows about the bet, and agrees to go out of spite. But because Cal doesn’t know that Min knows, the bet takes on a life of its own as it looms over their slowly deepening relationship.

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

“I think you’re wonderful and brilliant and so competent, and I shouldn’t date you, but I just can’t resist you, so it’s gonna be awkward when you find out that the only reason we’re working together is because I’m an undercover agent trying to figure out who in the office is breaking the law. (I’m pretty sure it’s not you…)”

Earl on the Run by Jane Ashford

This is a classic, low-stakes meet-cute deception. Harriet’s Grandfather has swooped in and made Harriet an heiress with a dowry. Jack is a Bostonian with traveler roots, so when he inherits the estate next to Harriet and is rudely snubbed by his grandmother, he joins a group of travelers and ends up sneaking around incognito. Harriet deceives Jack by cornering him into marriage, and Jack deceives Harriet by not telling her he’s the traveler she’s become enamored with.

Want more lies? Here are all our reviews of romances featuring lies and the lying liars who tell them.