Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Kelly Bowen

Looking for a new author to try out? Here’s everything you need to know about Kelly Bowen, whose books include I’ve Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm, Last Night with the Earl, and A Good Rogue is Hard to Find.


What She Writes: 

Regency romance, usually with some suspense elements. 

Please note: Bowen’s most recent book, The Paris Apartment, is a split-time World War II / present-day story that is firmly historical fiction, not romance. We haven’t read that one because 1) we are smut-lovers first and foremost and 2) we suspect that it differs dramatically from her other books.

What Makes Her Unique: 

Bowen writes unconventional heroines – like, really unconventional. Not like, “Oh, I like horses and the outdoors instead of embroidery.” More like, “I like horses and therefore fix horse races to fleece unscrupulous nabobs who don’t pay their tailors.” Her characters tend to be very morally upright, though they also tend to operate outside the letter of the law. 

Writing Style: 

Alternating 3rd person POV. Gritty details. (Think: children dying of poverty or horses dying on the battlefield.) Steamy sex that is well integrated into the plot and character development. Humor breaks things up so that her books aren’t overwhelmingly broody (which they *could* be, given the other content). 

Why We Love Her: 

We like that her books tend to have a strong moral center without getting preachy. We love her bad-ass heroines. And she does an excellent job writing sex scenes with good steam that’s not just there for fun, but also works to advance the characters’ relationship. 

Her Books as a Gif:

She Might Not Be For You: 

If you like your Regency romances to stick to ballrooms, Bowen is probably not the author for you. Her characters spend a lot of time in the underbelly of society, and Bowen doesn’t gloss over these bits. 

Also, if you definitely prefer your book titles and covers to be relevant to the book you’re reading, you might find Bowen’s books challenging. Two of the books with “Duke” in the title are not about dukes at all. And both of the “Rogue” books are actually about aristocrats (including one very staid, responsible duke who is not a rogue at all). 

Notable Quotation: 

“Have you given any thought to the formula you would like me to run?”

Alex nearly lost his grip on the decanter. “I beg your pardon?”

“At least a few of your patrons will need to achieve moderate success, and the occasional player will need to achieve considerable success at the vingt-et-un table if you hope to attract those individuals whose pocket books match their greed and belief that the next hand will change their fortune. I will require instruction as to how you wish me to deal in order to maximize both prophets and popularity.” She withdrew a small square of paper from a hidden pocket somewhere in the folds of her skirts and held it out to him.

“I’ve run some scenarios, allowing for a margin of error that I will not be able to avoid. It’s all basic accounting worked into a matrix of probabilities, but I thought you might want to review it.”

Alex very carefully replaced the heavy crystal on the surface of his desk struggling to draw a breath. This was not good at all. Forget his alarming charge into the fray on a white horse, he was rather afraid he had just fallen in love.

—Between the Devil and the Duke

The Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for a well-balanced historical romance that includes humor, suspense, and sex, Bowen might just be the author for you!

Content Warnings:

Books include references to extreme poverty, spousal abuse, child abuse, and deaths of family members. Usually these references are not oblique. 

Start With:

I’ve Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm. Just ignore the cover.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Sarah MacLean

Looking for a new author to try out? Here’s everything you need to know about Sarah MacLean, whose books include Brazen and the Beast, The Rogue Not Taken, and Bombshell.


What She Writes:

Historical M/F romance set in the very early Victorian period or the end of the Georgian period. Expect fast-paced, probably angsty, bananas extravaganzas. 

What Makes Her Unique:

She trends a little steamier than a lot of traditionally published historical romance, but more than that, she envisions the huge moment that the whole book (or sometimes series) will lead up to, and then travels to that moment with dramatic flair that EXPLODES when the climactic moment finally arrives. 

Writing Style:

Third-person alternating POV with intense characterizations and rich worldbuilding. 

Why We Love Her:

All. The. Drama. But in a fun way.

Her Books as a GIF:

She Might Not Be For You If:

You prefer your historical romance to hold tight to a lot of old school historical romance conventions. A reasonable amount of suspension of disbelief is a must when reading, and her protagonists are not all conventional aristocrats (at all). 

Also if you like nice heroes, most of her backlist will probably not work for you. She really likes to break heroes and make them realize how many mistakes they’ve made before they can have their forever.

Notable Quotation:

He shouldn’t be noticing the pretty softness of her face, or the fullness of her lips, stained red with paint. 

She wasn’t for noticing. 

He narrowed his gaze on her, and her eyes—was it possible they were violet? What kind of a person had violet eyes?—went wide. “Well. If that look is any indication of your temperament, it’s no wonder you are tied up.” She tilted her head. “Who tied you up?”

Whit did not reply. He did not believe she didn’t know the answer. 

Why are you tied up?”

Again, silence. 

Her lips flattened into a straight line and muttered something that sounded like “Useless.” And then, louder, firmer, “The point is, you’re very inconvenient, as I have need of this carriage tonight.”

Brazen and the Beast

The Bottom Line:

MacLean crafts dramatic historical romance that, while they have tons of delicious angst, are more playful than brooding. Great for those endorphins highs!

Content Warnings:

Class conflict and social ostracism themes are common. Violence may occur, especially with plots that include a villain. Family conflicts (including absent or emotionally distant parents) and self-esteem-related struggles also form components of many of her characterizations.

Start With:

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

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