Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Romance Blogs I Read

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.


Firewhiskey Reader

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

Listicle

Sunday Smutty Sixteen: Books that Wrecked Me

Happy Valentine’s Day! As a special Valentine’s treat, we’ve compiled a list of books that emotionally wrecked us. The ones where, when we put the book down, we were wrung out, exhausted…and so, so satisfied.

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

When Claymore refuses to fight…


Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

When Oliver cries…


By a Thread by Lucy Score

When Ally finds out that Dominic was personally paying for a snack table in the office so that she could afford to eat…


Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

When Sara finds her spectacles in Derek’s pocket…


Finding Joy by Adriana Herrera

When Desta and Elias communicate with their eyes and understand each other perfectly…


Glitterland by Alexis Hall

When Ash gets that tattoo… 


Just Like That by Cole McCade

When Summer swims across the river…


The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

When Catherine gives Lucy the shawl…


Managed by Kristen Callihan

When Brenna tells Scottie that Sohpie slept with Jax…

And when Scottie tells Sophie “You are my warmth”…


Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas

When Winterborne loses his shit at the train station…


Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan

When they sit under the tree and talk about aging…

And also when they hire the singers to follow the Terrible Nephew around singing “Robbie Bobkins” to the tune of the Halleluia Chorus…


Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

When Rico Wentworths Ashna…


Salt + Stilettos by Janet Walden-West

When Brett tells Will that if he gains weight they can just buy him more clothes…


White Hot by Ilona Andrews

When Rogan lies to Nevada in the cistern…


The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

When Alva has the panic attack…


And last but not least…

Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday

The entire book wrecked me. I ugly cried through the entire thing. 

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. 

Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Sizzling Contemporary Smut with Relationships That Don’t Make Me Want to Scream

These books might be tropetastic, but they also handle the tropes with aplomb. And avoid ridiculous angst and miscommunication, because the characters talk to each other like adults. 

Click on the book title to go to the book’s Amazon page. Yes, these are affiliate links.

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

Let’s start with: these two protagonists have ignored each other for years and then decide to have a fake relationship, so the only way for them to go is up. What with court(ish) intrigue and a fake relationship, there’s plenty of room for these protagonists to jump to conclusions and have misunderstandings, but they don’t. They demonstrate trust and kindness all the way through. It’s heartwarming and steamy.

Break the Rules by Roxie Noir

Yes, it’s a best friend’s sibling, small town romance, but Break the Rules digs deep to take us past all the standard romance noise and get the protagonists to ask the question: Is this relationship important enough to me that I stop thinking about what’s good for “me” and start thinking about what’s good for “us”? And I mean that in a healthy, relationships-take-compromise way, not in a subjugation way. Also, the sex scratches on his back are what give it all away to his brothers. Yowza. 

Swing Batter Swing by Zaida Polanco

Age gap romance is generally an Erin thing, because she likes paternalistic heroes, but Holly really enjoyed this one – mainly because the (much younger) heroine called out the (much older and also more powerful) hero on his paternalistic bullshit all the time. Especially when he thought he was “acting in her best interest.” Watching these two fight their lust for each other, and then build a true partnership among equals despite their different socio-economic and cultural statuses was deeply satisfying. And very very sexy. 

Love Hard by Nalini Singh

These two protagonists have some not great history, but the way they get to know each other again as adults is delicious. Both protagonists have some emotional baggage, but they manage to communicate with each other and not jump to wild conclusions when the going gets tough, which was lovely to read. Also, when they finally hit the bedroom, I was DED.

First and Only by Allie Winters

Eden is extremely sheltered and has had her entire life controlled by her father. So when she trades tutoring for lessons in seduction from the steamiest guy in class, one would THINK Eden would be in for a world of trouble–and a broken heart. But no. Not from sexy, swoon-worthy, thoughtful, supportive Jake. This book is a delicate, slow burn of appreciation for unappreciated skills and open communication. You’re going to think it’s almost TOO relaxing and enjoyable, but don’t get too comfortable–these lessons will get your heart racing.

A Good Man by Rosanna Leo

Here we have a sexy and complicated book featuring a SUPER sexy reality TV show carpenter who is also trying to figure out how to deal with PTSD after a traumatic incident, and a chef who is trying to rebuild her life after getting her hiney handed to her in a break up. Sounds like a hot mess, right? Well, yeah. Kind of. They are a mess, but they’re also human beings who are thoughtful and self-aware and who melt the walls with their chemistry.

Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Halloweekend

It’s Halloweekend! We had a fun few minutes talking vampires and witches and demons (oh my!) on our text chat, so we thought we’d share some fun, possibly suspenseful, probably delightful, definitely a little bit ridiculous, but not especially spooky books today. If you’re in the mood to read for the holiday, we present The Smut Report’s 2020 Halloween recommendations without further ado.

As usual, clicking the title will take you to the Amazon page…


The Demon Always Wins by Jeanne Oates Estridge

Belial knows that he’d be a natural as the Chief Executive Demon of Hell…all he has to do to prove his worth to Satan is sway God’s chosen one to the path of darkness. Easy, right? Wrong. Dara immediately knows that Belial is not really a sexy doctor. The back and forth between Belial and Dara as they navigate the path between good and evil makes for a really satisfying romance. Bonus points for a hilarious depiction of hell as the worst corporation ever.

Necromancer Rising by Ashton Abbott

This is a classic, sexy fated mates but with lots of corpses and limbs being torn off and blood squirting and stuff. There’s a sort of mystical world being built here with plenty of interwoven backstory and darkness, but there’s also a lot of rebirth and love. If you like everything paranormal and adore your happily ever after with a side of despair and a sprinkling of neck snapping, you’ll love this spooky, sexy story.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Alexia Tarabotti’s lack of a soul has always been a real trial to her, in no small part because it keeps her under the eye of Lord Maccon, gruff and messy alpha of the local werewolf pack and head of BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry). When a vampire tries to bite her without consent, violating all the rules of appropriate vampire etiquette, Alexia finds herself in the middle of a BUR mystery. Read for the most nonsensical and entertaining voice in a steampunk Victorian world. 


The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole

If you’re curious about the Immortals After Dark series but aren’t ready to commit to a full-length book, start with this one! It’s book .5 in the series and features a vampire who really wants to find his bride (who will start his heart beating again) and a valkyrie who kills vampires as a hobby, so she’s got no problem getting all the sexytimes she needs from him and then ending him (maybe literally?) when the time comes. Things get spicy when immortal takes on immortal.

Riley Thorn and the Dead Guy Next Door by Lucy Score

So this one isn’t your usual ghosts and goblins type fare, but we do have a book packed full of absurdity and steamy scenes. Riley is divorced (and completely screwed over), living in a house with a bunch of elderly roommates. Plus, one of her elderly roommates gets murdered, and here’s where it gets absurd–she’s psychic, and because she tried to warn the guy AND the police, she’s now on the murderer’s radar. Enter Nick Santiago, private investigator. (I so want to make a joke here, but I’m a very strong woman.) Nick’s job is to solve the case, but he can’t really do it without Riley’s help–and he ONLY works solo. This book is absolutely hilarious, and so well done…it’s a completely fresh and sexy romance packed full of wild capers, perfect for a stress-free Halloween.

Tall, Dark, and Kilted by Allie Mackay

This book is utterly ridiculous. The hero is a ghost named…HARDWICK DE STUDLY. And he makes a deal with the devil that means he can finally rest from his hundreds of years of haunting the earth, if and only if he can manage to not get a single boner for a year and a day. Too bad Cilla shows up at the castle he has decided to haunt. Is this book very silly? Yes. Are there glaring plot holes and bits of complete nonsense? Yes again. Has Holly been using it as an in-joke with her husband for the past five years because it is just that delightful? Yes, yes, YES!