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Smut Goals: 2021 Edition

Yay! It’s 2021! We’re ready to put 2020 behind us and look forward to another year of smut adventures. (aka, year three of The Smut Report)

To get the year started with some positive energy, here are some of our goals for the next year. 

One Book I Definitely Want to Read This Year:

Erin: The Craft of Love by E.E. Ottoman

It’s been on my Kindle for months and my TBR for longer than that! 

Holly: An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole

I thought the first two books in this series were really remarkable and am curious to see what Cole does with the final installment of this trilogy about Civil War Union spies. 

Ingrid: Unmasked by Her Lover, by Mary Lancaster

The first book in this series almost broke me with the sweetness and humor. This is the fourth book, and I can’t WAIT to read it.

One Topic I Definitely Want to Write About This Year:

Erin: Well, I could finish any of the dozen pieces I’ve started (Dukes v. Billionaires, anyone?), but I’ve been thinking a great deal about “problematic content” in romance, so I think I’ll meditate on that instead.

Holly: I’ve had this post about the politics of Imaginary Benevolent Monarchies stewing in my head for literally 18 months. I think it’s about time I stopped thinking about it in vague terms and actually wrote it down. 

Ingrid: I want to write about more trends and current events. I’d love to dig in with some sweet graphs and data and really pick apart what’s going on with romance publishing.

One New Author I Definitely Want to Try This Year: 

Erin: Kate Clayborn probably writes catnip for me if I just bump her books that I’ve already acquired to the top of my TBR.

Holly: Vanessa Riley. In doing all of this reading and thinking about smut, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I just really love historical romance, but that I want books that feature people who aren’t dukes. 

Ingrid: I want to read Nalini Singh!! So many positive reviews and I’ve read nothing yet…

One Trope I Want to Discuss for a Buddy Read This Year:

Erin: I feel like a Morality Chain or redemption of the antihero discussion could be interesting. Sometimes Morality Chain can be dreadfully eye roll inducing, but the concept of redemption through love is extremely pervasive.

Holly: Bedding the Boss. There’s definite potential for serious ick-factor here, but when it works, this trope can lead to all kinds of interesting power dynamics which would be great discussion fodder. 

Ingrid: Is it a discussion if we just fangirl over how Grumpy/Sunshine is the best?

One Miscellaneous Reading-related Goal That Will Make Me Happy This Year:

Erin: I’m going to keep track of where I see books I want to read so I can remember who to thank (positive thinking!) by the time I actually read the book.

Holly: I’m working on DNFing books that don’t work for me. I have limited time to read and I want to actually enjoy the books I spend that time on. 

Ingrid: I just want to count how many books I’ve read and get caught up on Goodreads reviews.

Wrap Up

2020 Wrap Up: So Long and Thanks for All the Smut

As we say farewell to 2020 and look forward with cautious optimism to 2021, we’re looking back on our year of reading smut. There was a lot of really really good, but there was also a lot of bad and weird and good in a sexy way and good in a funny way. So instead of a best-of list, we bring you without further ado: The Inaugural Smut Report Superlatives.

Click on the book title to read our full reviews.

Book that gave me the biggest belly-laughs:

Erin: Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Just describing scenes from this book five months after reading it, I was still able to make myself laugh so hard I cried and couldn’t speak real words. 

Holly: The Gift by Julie Garwood

This book is utterly ridiculous. She destroys his big scary pirate ship with her parasol collection. By accident. It is also a tropetastic bodice ripper that doesn’t take itself seriously. I had a blast reading it. 

Ingrid: Sin and Chocolate by K.F. Breene

My post is forthcoming, but I have to say it–It’s The Demigods of San Francisco Series by K.F. Breene. I laughed, I cried, I delayed my move by at least three days because I couldn’t put it down.

Book most likely to make me ugly cry:

Erin: If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

Overcoming grief, letting go of the past, and growing with a partner who really cares is totally killer.

Holly: Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday

These characters have massive grief to deal with, but the way Holiday slowly unpacks it just had me sobbing the whole time (except when I was laughing) – and it builds to a black moment that is a doozy. 

Ingrid: Finding Joy by Adriana Herrera

The heroes in this book were so memorable and so tender and pure that my poor heart couldn’t handle it in the absolute best way.

Book most likely to make me text the other smut-reporters because “what did I just read?!?!?!”: 

Erin: Cathian by Laurann Dohner

She’s propositioned to have sex with the captain for six days because he’s IN HEAT and he needs female hormones, and HE GETS THEM BY GOING DOWN ON HER CONSTANTLY, AND HE CAN’T ORGASM UNTIL HE’S EATEN HER OUT FOR SIX DAYS, and then he orgasms for, like, 4 hours.

Holly: Forbidden Desire: Kidnapped by an Alien Sex Goddess by Robin Lovett

She has three clitorises and also heals people with her magical orgasms. But also, I did a lot of “WTF?!?!” texting because she’s polyamorous (lives on a sex planet!) until she gets with a human, and humans are by definition monogamous and…that is a choice

Ingrid: A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

All I have to say is: Vampire Blow Job.

Book that inspired the ranty-est rant:

Erin: Vitality by Crysta Levere

This is a dark “romance” that doesn’t make any sense at all and yanked me along for 400 pages only to result in…NOTHING BECAUSE THEY DON’T END UP TOGETHER.

Holly: Indian Prince’s Hidden Son by Lynne Graham

Between the constant reminders that this Indian Prince has ice blue wolf eyes and the heroine who decides that losing her virginity immediately after her father’s funeral is the most meaningful moment of her life and a phrase so bad that it inspired it’s very own post, we can safely say that this one didn’t work for me on any level. 

Ingrid: Be Your Anything by Jillian Liota

I had virtually no rants this year–but this was my only DNF. I’m all for messy characters, but messy characters should still have good values and I had a hard time seeing them in what I read of this book.

Book most likely to make me fan myself: 

Erin: Fire In His Blood by Ruby Dixon

Don’t judge me: This enormous dragon man-thing has a tongue like a cat, and he likes to use it. A lot. 

Holly: Hate Crush by Angelina M. Lopez

Look, there is emotionally complicated hate sex, but what really got me was the dirty talk. 

Ingrid: By a Thread by Lucy Score

Good lord, this grumpy sunshine makes me fan myself when I so much as read the title.

Book that gave me the biggest heart eyes:

Erin: Love Hard by Nalini Singh

Jacob is just the most perfect book boyfriend, but I couldn’t take him for myself because he and Jules are so perfect together.

Holly: Wanted, A Gentleman by KJ Charles

When I finished this book, I held it close to my chest and just sat quietly for a moment and was utterly content. 

Ingrid: Pursued by the Rake by Mary Lancaster

This was such a sweet, pure, fun read and I had to take a few days off reading afterwards because I just needed to wallow in the afterglow.

Wrap Up

December Wrap Up: All Our Favorite Smut This Month

Erin’s Choice: Spellbound by Allie Therin

Erin is here for the magic, the mayhem, and the hero’s stern daddy energy.

Holly’s Choice: To Charm a Naughty Countess by Theresa Romain

Sometimes you just need a really well-executed historical romance where the protagonists don’t know how to talk to each other at all but have ALL the feelings.

Ingrid’s Choice: Sin & Chocolate by K.F. Breene

During Fated Mates week, Ingrid dipped her toe into the waters of paranormal romance, and kinda liked it. So she read this one and laughed and cried and immediately inhaled the entire series.

Other Things We Got Up To This Month:

January Preview

Here are some of the books we’re looking forward to reading in January

We might be talking about Daddy kink in January. You have been warned.

And one more thing…

Tomorrow, we’ll be announcing our Inaugural List of Smut Report Superlatives.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Julia Quinn

Looking for a new author? Here’s everything you need to know about Julia Quinn, whose books include the now-famous Bridgerton series, as well as Splendid, How to Marry a Marquis, and The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband.


What She Writes:

Regency romance (and a few Georgians) with lots of banter and not a ton of heat. For the most part, her books are set in one interconnected world, so secondary characters appear in multiple series, and everyone in her books is reading the same (utterly ridiculous) gothic romance. 

What Makes Her Unique:

She leans into the romp without stepping too far outside generic expectations for regency romance, so it’s usually pretty fun to read her books, even when she’s working with an angstier narrative. 

Writing Style:

Did we mention the banter?

Her Books in gif Form:

Why We Love Her:

Even when she’s getting serious and angsty, her books are playful and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Plus, the callbacks are so much fun, especially for dedicated readers. (The Smith-Smythe series may not be her best work, but that Smith-Smythe Musicale sure is something else.) 

She Might Not Be For You If:

You like to mix it up with social, racial, or queer diversity. Or if an abundance of witty banter makes you want to throw books. 

Notable Quotation: 

“May I be of assistance?” he murmured. 

Grace shook her head frantically. She could not touch him. She did not know why, precisely, but she knew in her bones that it would be an utter disaster to put her hand in his.

“Very well,” he said with a small sigh. “Ladies today are so very capable. It breaks my heart, really.” He leaned in, almost as if sharing a secret. “No one likes to feel superfluous.”

Grace just stared at him. 

“Rendered mute by my grace and charm,” he said, stepping back to allow them to exit. “It happens all the time. Really, I shouldn’t be allowed near the ladies. I have such a vexing effect on you.”

He was mad. That was the only explanation. Grace didn’t care how pretty his manners were, he had to be mad. And he had a gun. 

-The Lost Duke of Wyndham

Content Warnings:

Much of Quinn’s popular backlist is around 20 years old, so there’s definitely content that doesn’t jive with modern expectations. For example, it’s hard to argue that Simon consents to sex with Daphne in The Duke and I, which probably wouldn’t fly now. 

The Bottom Line:

There is definitely a reason that Julia Quinn is a bestselling author – she tells a good story! She is remarkably consistent in style and tone, so you know pretty much exactly what to expect when you pick up one of her books. But she doesn’t push boundaries or play with tropes in unexpected ways, and is therefore probably best suited to readers who are looking for a pretty conventional historical romance narrative with relatively low heat. 

Start With:

How to Marry a Marquis (Lady Danbury 4-eva!)

Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Historical Romance Series We Want to See on TV

Whether you’ve already binged all of Bridgerton or are watching it slowly to savor every moment or are still unsure about this whole watching romance novels on TV thing, I think we can all agree: it was about damn time. In a recent interview with the NYT, Shonda Rhimes remarked that she was surprised more romance novels haven’t been adapted to television. After all, “Romance novels really lend themselves to the TV genre. They’re visual; they’re well paced; they have great plots.”

Shonda, we are right there with you. And now that Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series is getting the star treatment, let’s keep that momentum going! Here are six other historical romance series that we’d love to see adapted to television.

Note: We stuck with historical romances here to give us some parameters. And because we love costume dramas. Click the titles to go to the series’ Amazon pages.


The Brothers Sinister by Courtney Milan

This series has ALL THE DRAMA! Aristocracy! Fashion! Class conflict! Suffrage! Workers’ rights! Scientific discovery! (I mean, sexual reproduction?!?! GASP!) Uptight old men who make excellent villains because they refuse to GET WITH THE TIMES! And I know they’re not going to put in on TV, but the protagonists of the first book having awkward sex because they’re both virgins is also absolutely a draw.

The Loyal League by Alyssa Cole

Honestly, who doesn’t want to watch a TV show about Union spies during the Civil War? Even better, the books in the series are really well-paced; the tension ratchets up as the story progresses and the stakes get higher, so they would work really well in an episodic format. Bonus points for whip-smart characters who have wide-ranging conversations about things like poetry and privilege. But really: I’m in it for the spies. Kicking ass. In costume. 

Spindle Cove by Tessa Dare

On Monday… A comedy, if you please. Spindle Cove is a quiet seaside haven for women who just don’t quite fit in…until the militia moves in, and prompts a battle of the sexes. But these fierce women get up to all kinds of hijinx and take no prisoners as they seek to live their best lives. Bonus points: there’s a crossover with the Castles Ever After series, so the show need never end!

Desperate Duchesses by Eloisa James

Thanks to The Queen’s Gambit, chess is having a moment – so why not tap into the sexy side of that chess energy? But with way more elaborate costumes, because holy cow are Georgian clothes something else. Powdered wigs for days! We will admit that not all of the books in this series are created equal, and therefore propose a focus on the dueling chess matches (and the sort of but not really at all love triangle) played between Jemma, Elijah, and Villiers, as their complicated relationship grounds the rest of the series. 

Laird’s Fiancees by Julie Garwood

For the Outlander fans who are really bored now that Claire and Jamie are in North Carolina, Julie Garwood’s highlander books are excellent Ye Olde Hottie MacScottie fare. Please see: Highlanders with tree trunk thighs, enormous swords, mysterious villains, clan alliances and rivalries, and lots and lots of plaid.

The Lotus Palace Mysteries by Jeannie Lin

And something for the mystery crowd! How about some edge-of-your-seat absolutely gripping murder mystery romances? Which happen to be set in the pleasure quarter of the capital city of Tang Dynasty China. We’ve got lots of cross-class forbidden romance stuff going on as characters from all walks of life interact in the liminal space of the pleasure quarter, which you know makes for all kinds of fun possibilities.