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Saturday Smutty Six: Romance Remix

Romance retellings are fun and offer endless variety. The fun comes from seeing a recognizable frame—and then going along for the ride as the author takes the base story in a new direction. And there are so many ways you can take retellings! And so many stories out there to retell! We had a group chat just about Cinderella romances last fall, and even that one story offers a host of possibilities. When the original and the new material really play off each other, it’s magic. 


Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

Holly is our local Austen Retelling Expert, and Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors remains her gold standard for Pride and Prejudice retellings. Dev captures the ethos of the original in her contemporary retelling but gives Tricia and DJ depth such that their arc from antagonism to love is believable in and of itself, and not just because they are Lizzie and Darcy and have to fall in love. (Read Holly’s full review.

Content Notes: racism, medical stuff, past sexual assault (secondary character)

Ten Things I Hate About the Duke by Loretta Chase

On the surface, this Taming of the Shrew retelling follows a women’s rights activist and a buffoonish aristocrat who’s trying to do right by her after inadvertently compromising her. But Cassandra “tames” Ashmont (as it were), not vice versa, because as she explains why she won’t marry him, doesn’t respect him, and doesn’t trust him, she makes Ashmont see his privilege and how his past behavior had harmed her (and others) and made her feel invisible. Chase did some really awesome things with this retelling, and the character development was fabulous. (Read Erin’s full review.)

Content Notes: emotional abuse, misogyny

If the Boot Fits by Rebekah Weatherspoon 

This Cinderella retelling manages to evoke the Cinderella ethos without making Amanda a helpless victim. With Amanda’s employer being cast in the role of the step-sister, it’s easy to understand why Amanda chooses to tread carefully – she’s got a dream to reach for, after all! But even without meaning to, Oscar-winning actor Sam Pleasant churns up some drama when Amanda comes into his orbit. The natural tension of the Cinderella plot works for this story, so if you’re looking for a not-so-angsty read with some solid natural tension and awesome checking in and consent between the protagonists, this here’s a great retelling for you!

Content Notes: verbal/emotional abuse (in the workplace)


Avalon’s Last Knight by Jackson C. Garton

Garton’s reimagining of the Arthurian legend is set in rural Kentucky, and it is a wild ride. Lance, as a trans man dealing with some self-esteem struggles and body dysphoria and living back in his hometown where people don’t hesitate to deadname him, is working on some emotionally weighty stuff. But also he, his sister Gwen, his friends Mordy and Morgan, and his best friend–>boyfriend Arthur have to destroy the evil necromancer, save the girls/young women in their community, and pull themselves out of the eons old reincarnation loop that they’ve been dealing with since being cursed by Morgana. (Read Erin’s full review.)

Content Notes: transphobia, deadnaming, abuse, violence 

Neon Gods by Katee Robert (pub date June 1)

This super-sexy retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth leans in to the dysfunctional side of Olympus. Like, of course Persephone and Demeter have a fraught relationship! Where this book really shines, however, is in the bantery grumpy-sunshine dynamic that develops between Persephone and Hades, as they go from exhibitionist sex pact to true love. Bonus points for Hades doing that thing where he is all domineering because that’s how he shows he cares. 

Content Notes: public sex, violence

The Henchmen of Zenda by K.J. Charles

Whether or not you agree with me about including this book probably depends on how you take your happy endings, but I’m going for it because 1. It is a reimagining of the Victorian pulp romance The Prisoner of Zenda, 2. It clearly demonstrates that retellings or reimaginings are everywhere and 3. It is totally awesome. The original is OTT in true Victorian pulp fashion, but with her “let’s tell this story from the perspective of the bad guys, and also they’re totally into each other” twist, Charles makes it even better! Jasper is a cheeky anti-hero narrator, and he and Rupert are a clever team with some stellar on-page sizzle.

Content Notes: violence, homophobia, abduction, discussion of sexual assault


Honorable Mention: Peter Darling by Austin Chant

This book is the rare retelling that makes you rethink the source material—and not just because Chant reimagines Wendy/Peter as the same person, but also because of the way he portrays Neverland and the nature of reality there. Plus, everyone can agree that Captain Hook is the sexiest. So why is this incredible book listed as a bonus? Because it’s not currently available for sale anywhere. (Holly was lucky enough to find a copy at her local library; you might get lucky too!) 

Content Notes: transphobia, violence

Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Chef Heroines

To celebrate Women’s History Month, every Saturday in March we’ve prepared a Saturday Smutty Six list of some of our favorite heroines.

This week: Chefs and Bakers and purveyors of delicious things

The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher

Lesbian. Dueling. Chefs. Need I say more? 

Ok I’ll say more. This small-town Maine romance is beautifully gentle AND has great food writing.

Trouble and Strife by Lara Kinsey

Elizabeth owns a chocolate shop, where she sells handmade bonbons and other delicious confections. Yum. She also loves her body, prefers to take the lead in a relationship (both in and out of the bedroom), and shows people she cares for them by literally caring for them. Of course Sidney is absolutely smitten! Now he just needs to overcome his complex about not being good enough for her. 

Humbugged by Pippa Grant and Lili Valente

In this delicious Christmas tale, Noelle is desperate to successfully run her bakery business and ignore the endlessly funny and mouthwateringly gorgeous Marine who keeps helping her sort out these inexplicable messes she finds herself in. Instead, they attempt a little holiday friends-with-benefits scenario that is both charming and hot, hot, HOT.

A Good Man by Rosanna Leo

Emily inherits her grandmother’s old home and ends up on a fixer-upper show with the incredibly talented and very foxy Zorn brothers in an effort to turn it into a location for her new soup-making business. Michael Zorn is desperately trying to forget a traumatizing experience and is utterly failing at it. Between the two of them, they sift through experiences and memories and find a new way forward together.

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

Ashna is an extremely talented chef who can’t cook unless she’s following her father’s recipes exactly. Which is a problem, since she’s running an Indian restaurant that could really use makeover – and some new menu items. And is an even bigger problem when she gets talked into participating in a cooking competition show, where she’s paired with none other than her ex-boyfriend. Expect lots of angst and drama. 

The Ultimate Pi Day Party by Jackie Lau

Sarah owns a pie shop. Josh wants to throw a pi day party to impress his estranged father. Ok, so his motivations are a little wack, but it does mean that we get lots of scenes of Sarah developing delicious-sounding pie recipes and then eating them with Josh. Especially recommended for pie enthusiasts and math nerds. 

Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Artist Heroines

To celebrate Women’s History Month, every Saturday in March we’ve prepared a Saturday Smutty Six list of some of our favorite heroines.

This week: Artists


The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

Agatha’s primary concern is her printing business, but she’s also an engraver, and there’s nothing you can say to convince me that she’s not an artist. (We also highly recommend the first book in this series, which deals explicitly with questions about what “counts” as art as opposed to work or a hobby – and whose art is therefore celebrated.) This wonderful slow-burn epistolary romance between two middle-aged women is thought-provoking, heartfelt, and so sexy. (Full Review)

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

Vanessa monetized her artistry by setting up a business designing book covers, tattoos, and pretty much whatever else anybody wants drawn. While a lot of the story is centered on Aiden and the world of football, Van makes a place in the world that she’s always wanted for herself with her art. (Full Review)

This is Not the End by Sidney Bell

Former model turned fashion photographer Anya thinks she already has her HEA when the book opens. After all, she and Zac are happily married with a cute baby. Turns out, the HEA gets even happier *waggles eyebrows* when they invite Cal to join them. All jokes aside, while this sexy menage focuses more on Zac and Cal and their joint musical career, the group also prioritizes Anya’s ability to continue working as the mother of a young child; we desperately need more of this in romance (especially all those romances that end with a marriage and a baby). (Full Review)

Daddy Crush by A. Anders

Fiber arts! So cool! Jerusha is already selling her work for thousands of dollars per piece when she moves in next door to Karl, but she’s excited about studying for her MFA and creating new pieces that are ultimately included in a gallery showing of her work. (Full Review)

Her Pretend Christmas Date by Jackie Lau

Julie serves drinks at the cider bar to pay the bills, but she makes jewelry for happiness. Her non-traditional, non-9-to-5 lifestyle is a stressor in her life, because it’s a point of contention between her and her family, but it’s also not something she’s willing to let go of. (Full Review)

The Demon’s in the Details by Jeanne Oates Estridge

Struggling painter Keeffe comes by her artistic talent honestly: her mother was a sculptor, who was, perhaps, divinely inspired. Too bad Satan is trying to collect all of Keeffe’s mother’s sculptures, and Keeffe is the only thing standing in his way. Enter Bad, Certified Cinnamon Roll Demon, also known as the Demon of Sloth and the head of hell’s technology department. There’s some body snatching, an art commission, a beautiful date reenacting Keeffe’s favorite painting (!!!), nuanced portrayals of lay Catholicism, and lots of demonic shenanigans. (Full Review)

Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Activist Heroines

To celebrate Women’s History Month, every Saturday in March we’ve prepared a Saturday Smutty Six list of some of our favorite heroines. This list is organized in roughly chronological order.

This week: Activists

Indigo by Beverly Jenkins

TL;DR – Hester is the shit. Her home is a station on the Underground Railroad, she is an activist and leader in her community, she only buys products made by people who are anti-slavery (even though she’s on a budget and it would be cheaper not to), and she’s doing just fine

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Annabelle is sort of a reluctant activist, because she’s a suffragette primarily because she has to be in order to afford going to Oxford. On the other hand, she’s an awesome activist because she’s breaking down academic walls by attending university, proving that women are just as academic-minded as men. Enjoyed the angst and the power dynamics between Annabelle and the Duke.

Ten Things I Hate About the Duke by Loretta Chase

Cassandra is a proto-feminist who really doesn’t have time for Ashmont-the-himbo, but also social constructs are what they are and as much as we might wish it otherwise, they can’t be smashed overnight. Enjoy a thoughtful approach to the “compromised but feminist” histrom heroine in a non-obnoxious Shakespeare retelling.

Some Like It Scandalous by Maya Rodale

We recommend this book a lot, but that’s because Daisy Swann is so awesome. She’s a chemist. She’s starting a make-up empire. And she integrates her love of make-up into activism: by helping herself (and other women) feel beautiful, she develops the confidence to step into spaces previously barred to women. The scene where she and her friends crash a snooty restaurant is especially delightful.

An Irresistible Force by Rosanna Leo

Bernie is fighting to keep her family property–and Eli Zorn is preparing to help tear it down for his Fixer Upper tv show. As it turns out, Bernie has big dreams to help provide a safe space for bullied kids…and Eli is just the guy to help her realize that dream.

Here to Stay by Adriana Herrera

Julia moves to Texas to be with her boyfriend, who ends up not being her boyfriend anymore. Just when she’s pulling together a life with good friends and getting settled at her AMAZING job, everything gets put on the line when Rocco comes in to evaluate whether Julia’s organization should continue its work in the community. Loved every single character in this beautifully written book!

Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Teacher Heroines

To celebrate Women’s History Month, every Saturday in March we’ve prepared a Saturday Smutty Six list of some of our favorite heroines. 

This week: Teachers

Rebel by Beverly Jenkins

Valinda travels to NOLA to help with teaching Black people during Reconstruction. There are numerous hurdles thrown in her way (starting on, like, her first day), but Drake’s family is willing to help not only Valinda, but their greater community (by building a school, etc.), as everyone works to create a new and more equal normal after the Civil War. 

Crashing Into Her by Mia Sosa

Eva is one of the most energetic heroines I’ve ever read, which makes it fitting that she is the BEST Zumba teacher. She and Anthony have really sparkling antagonistic (turned not-so-antagonistic, heyo!) banter, and their chemistry carries the book. Plus, there are shenanigans at the drive in!

Resolutions by Lucy Eden

Jane is a Kindergarten teacher, and is therefore the cutest person on the planet. She is also extremely wholesome and feels like she’s not cool enough to be dating a former rock star, even if he’s her best friend, they have tons of stuff in common, and, oh yeah, she’s madly in love with him. (And he really really really likes her too.) 

Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West

Sex educator Leah gives her best friend BDSM lessons as a Chanukah present! But what really makes this book special is how gentle it is. Leah and Jordan are so kind to one another, and the world would be a better place if we all treated our loved ones with such thoughtfulness. 

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Dani Brown is a professor, and she’s exceptionally good at what she does, even if she doesn’t yet feel she’s at the level of her academic idol. What she is maybe not exceptionally good at is relationships, but fear not: Zaf is a book boyfriend.

My So-Called Perfect Life by K.A. Berg

(Previously released under the much more entertaining title Thank You, Chlamydia

Dani (two Danis!) is an elementary school teacher, and mostly, from an appearance and behavior standpoint (at least until she meets Ryan) acts like it. And yet she somehow ends up with Chlamydia! This is a fun book that deals with some heavy ideas about how we perceive ourselves and others.