Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Jackie Lau

Looking for a new author? Here’s everything you need to know about Jackie Lau, whose books include The Ultimate Pi Day Party, Her Big City Neighbor, and A Match Made for Thanksgiving.

What She Writes: 

Contemporary romances featuring Chinese-Canadian characters in Toronto. Expect frequent mentions of restaurants and the amazing food served there. 

What Makes Her Unique: 

Lau’s books generally start with a tropey premise (“I need a fake date!” “Please give me relationship lessons!” “I will befriend a grumpy person with the power of rainbow sprinkles!”), but then at the midpoint, the characters lay their cards on the table and the focus shifts to the characters and their relationship, without the trope. The relationship-building tends to be low on drama, and high on emotional vulnerability, honest conversations, meddling relatives (of all ages), and food. 

Writing Style: 

Lau uses alternating POV, so the reader gets the perspective of both the hero and the heroine. Her writing leans more expository – there’s not a ton of deep description, but there is a lot of detail about what specific streets and restaurants and shops in Toronto her characters are frequenting. The books tend to be on the shorter side, with the full-length novels clocking in at around 200 pages. Her different series are loosely interconnected, mainly because the characters go to the same places. 

Why We Love Her: 

Her books are fun. And make us hungry. 

Her Books in gif form:

She Might Not Be For You If: 

You (not so secretly) love purple prose and expect lush descriptions in your romances. Or if you thrive on drama and all the angst. 

Notable Quotation:

“Because even though I’m a grumpy bastard who stomps all over people’s dreams, sometimes I just want a cuddle, you know? Cuddling is pretty awesome, not that I would ever admit that to anyone.”

– Ice Cream Lover

Content Warnings: 

While her books are generally light-hearted, some characters are dealing with overcoming past trauma, usually surrounding family members (such as a death in the family or abusive or emotionally distant parents). 

The Bottom Line: 

Lau is great if you’re looking for low-key romance that’s not super long. She is an indie author who doesn’t use Kindle Unlimited and is probably not available at your library, but she does often promote books as freebies, so you can probably see if she’s a fit for you during one of her promos. (Or recommend her to your library!)

Start With: 

Holidays with the Wongs. Four novellas in one collection!

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!)

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Kristen Ashley

Looking for a new author? Here’s everything you need to know about Kristen Ashley, author of the Dream Man series as well as a bunch of books Erin’s been talking about for Motorcycle Mondays.

What She Writes:

Primarily contemporary romance, but also fantasy romance. Also primarily long and integrated series.

What Makes Her Unique:

Ashley writes alpha (or alpha-hole) heroes, but her protagonists tend to work through relationship hurdles with emotional maturity (mostly – there are some outliers) unusual in much contemporary romance (especially romance with alphas). This is possibly because the primary struggle of her books isn’t whether or not the protagonists can get to solid ground in their relationship, but is rather something that is happening to them.

Writing Style:

She writes in an extremely conversational style, with the heroines in 1st person POV and other perspectives she might jump to (most often the hero, but sometimes others) in 3rd person POV

Our Faces When We Read Her Books:

Why We Love Her:

Ashley is really good at characterization. Like, down to heroines swearing or referring to their private parts in different ways that make sense based on their personalities. Her protagonists’ approach to relationships is not always neat and tidy, but it emphasizes the importance of communication and openness and trust in a relationship. Also she finds ways to connect all of her series (especially the Denver books), so if you’ve read a lot of KA, you’ll get little peeks of other old friends.

Notable Quotation:

“Now, you listen to me, scary biker dude,” I snapped. “I need this job. I haven’t worked in two months and I need this job. I can’t wait two more months or longer to find another job. I need to work now.” His blue eyes burned into mine in a way that felt physical but I kept right on talking. “So you’re good-looking, have great tats and a cool goatee. So you caught my eye and I caught yours. We had sex. Lots of sex. It was good. So what? That was then, this is now. We’re not going to play, not again. We’re done playing. I’m going to come in at eight, leave at five, do my job, and you’re going to be my scary biker dude boss, sign my paychecks, do my performance evaluations and maybe, if you’re nice, I’ll make you coffee. Other than that, you don’t exist for me and I don’t exist for you. What we had, we had. It’s over. I’m moving on and how I’m moving on is, I’m… working… this… job.”

Motorcycle Man

She Might Not Be For You If:

You like your writing technically correct and polished or you dislike macho, domineering alpha-type heroes or you can’t stand toxic masculinity or you don’t care for a lot of explicit sex or you don’t enjoy working-class protagonists or you like your romances short and sweet

Content Warnings:

Ashley deals with a lot of issues, including rape and abuse, but also including poverty and power dynamics and death of family and politics and religion and so on. She also writes with a mind to diversity, but sometimes those supporting characters are stereotyped (though I think she’s evolved over time, and her more recent books tend to show more current consideration and awareness of racial and LGBTQ+ characterization).

The Bottom Line:

Kristen Ashley is definitely not going to be for everyone, but if you enjoy your heroes on the domineering end of the spectrum and you like character-driven stories that are often inter-woven, you’d probably enjoy diving into the worlds she’s created.

Start With:

The Hookup if you’re not prepared for full-blown alpha-hole, or Rock Chick if you’re thinking you might enjoy an alpha-hole that comes with comedy

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Pippa Grant

Looking for a new author? Here’s everything you need to know about Pippa Grant, author of Charming as Puck, Humbugged, and Flirting with the Frenemy. You may also recognize her style under the pen name “Jaime Farrell.”

What She Writes:

Contemporary romantic comedy with minimal angst, a heavy dose of absurdity, healthy love stories, and panty-melting love scenes.

What Makes Her Unique:

Pippa Grant weaves tight-knit communities and friend groups from which her multiple series springs with hilarity eternal. She also tends to turn macho contemporary rom-com heroes on their heads after they meet badass heroines.

Writing Style:

She primarily writes alternating 1st person POV. Characters are described through their personalities; you won’t see elaborate or superficial character descriptions.

Her Books in GIF Form:

Why We Love Her:

These books are plain fun and easy to read. Also, she doesn’t shy away from normal awkward behavior and feelings, which is funny. There are multiple entry points for her different series, but you’ll find Easter eggs and cameos from old friends if you keep reading.

She Might Not Be For You If:

You really enjoy an angsty read. Or super domineering heroes.

Notable Quotation: 

“If men are pigs, his body is the bacon, and god help me, I love a good piece of bacon.”

The Pilot and the Puck Up

Content Warnings:

There aren’t a lot of warnings with Pippa Grant, but her characters do tend to be white and privileged.

The Bottom Line:

If you’re having a bad week, read Pippa. If you need to restore your faith in humans, read Pippa. If you’re lonely and missing your friends during this insane pandemic, read Pippa. Basically, if you want to feel good…READ PIPPA.

Start With:

Flirting with the Frenemy (Bro Code #1). Check out her full suggested reading order here.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Gail Carriger

Looking for a new author? Here’s everything you need to know about Gail Carriger, whose books include Prudence, Romancing the Inventor, and The 5th Gender.

What She Writes:

As Gail Carriger: Victorian Steampunk Paranormal Adventure Stories, all set in the Parasolverse. Dirigibles abound. Love story not guaranteed, low to moderate heat.

As G. L. Carriger: M/M urban paranormal or futuristic sci-fi romances with high heat.

What Makes Her Unique:

Carriger writes exuberant prose that centers on socially unusual protagonists, including shifters and vampires, but also including characters who might engage in trades or activities that feel unusual. We have mad scientists (who are maybe less mad than they seem) and servants who moonlight as spies (and whose main job is locking up their werewolf masters on the full moon) and professors who teach aspiring young assassins the fine art of hosting a dinner party (it’s important to manage your arsenic budget properly!) and a gang of werewolf bikers (who have periodic run-ins with the selkie mob). She leans into the world-building; her imagined steampunk universe is top-notch. A thematic focus on queer acceptance features prominently.

Writing Style:

Carriger embraces a witty writing style, chock full of wry humor and droll asides. Jokes about stereotypes appear frequently; for example, a character’s actions might be explained away “because she was an Italian,” but in a very self-aware, tongue-in-cheek manner. Typically the POV focuses on one character, even though it’s written in the third person. Expect some opacity where love interests are concerned. 

How we feel when we read her books:

Why We Love Her:

Her books are just so stinking fun to read. And there are bonus points for completionists: we love that she has so many books, of various lengths and levels of sexyness, all set in the same universe, with recurring characters that pop up in unexpected places.

She Might Not Be For You If:

Twee makes you itchy.

Notable Quotation:

Then, she added, because Alexia never stayed silent when she ought, “These feelings you engender in me, my lord, are most indelicate. You should stop causing them immediately.”

Soulless

The Bottom Line:

You might pick one up as a lark, because the synopses sound totally bananas, but you’ll wind up having a great time reading if you just let go for the ride.

Start With:

Soulless