Saturday Smutty Six: We Really Did LOL featuring covers for I Think I Love You by Christina C. Jones, Frat Wars: King of Thieves by Saxon James, Heidi's Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt, Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson, Mrs. Martin's Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan, and Riley Thorne and the Dead Guy Next Door by Lucy Score

Saturday Smutty Six: We Really Did LOL

We’re wrapping up Rom-Com week here at The Smut Report, so we thought we’d leave you with some comedies that really did make us laugh out loud. And to help us narrow down our options, we chose some books that might be well known in their own distribution circles, but don’t necessarily have the broader distribution of larger publishing house. 

If you’re looking for some laughs with your reading this weekend, might we recommend…

I Think I Might Love You by Christina C. Jones

Look, she meets him when she’s completely wasted after destroying her surprise-married ex’s car and she’s trying to crash at her sister’s apartment, only to discover that her sister has sublet the apartment to someone else. After she’s already let herself in. And the new renter is super naked. And super mad that she just punched him in the eye. Things can only go up from there, right? 

While this book is chock full of situational humor, it’s all about the protagonists being true to themselves. 

Frat Wars: King of Thieves by Saxon James

The tag line for this book is: We’re basically Romeo and Juliet. But dudes. And without all the dying.

And if that’s not the energy of this book in a nutshell, I don’t know what to tell you. Chad and Bailey are in rival frats and, because of Reasons, can’t consort with the enemy. It’s very college-level maturity and shenanigans, but that’s in no small part because Chad is hell-bent on embracing the final throes of his youth. James intentionally wrote Chad to be “such a Chad” who still gets his own HEA with a guy who loves him, pranks and all, so it’s all meant to be fun.

Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt

When Heidi’s mom found out she was working at a studio that records erotic romance and then started taking sex tips from the erotic romance she was reading, I started choking on my own laughter. This book is Minnesota AF, and it’s hilarious. Heidi’s journey to be brave enough to ask out her neighbor—who’s totally into her, she just can’t see it—is full of embarrassing twists and turns that make Heidi want to crawl in a hole and also ultimately gives her a greater sense of community.

Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson

If unlikable heroines are your jam, I would like to introduce you to Betsy, Vampire Queen. She is selfish, vain, and very very unimpressed with her new role as ruler of the undead—especially since all the other vampires have such bad fashion sense. Think the Shopaholic books, but with vampires. Don’t go in expecting the full HEA here, as this is the first book in a long series about Betsy’s adventures. 

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan

There’s a scene where Mrs. Martin and Ms. Beauchamps hire some carol singers to follow Mrs. Martin’s Terrible Nephew down the street singing “Robby Bobkins” over and over again to the tune of the Halleleuia chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.” (You’re welcome for the earworm.) There are also shenanigans involving livestock, and a bit where the neighborhood prostitutes collectively agree to no longer service that same Terrible Nephew. Everything about this book is delightful.

Riley Thorn and the Dead Guy Next Door by Lucy Score

This is a duo so far (book 3 is in the works) about a crime fighting couple consisting of a reluctant psychic who lives with a bunch of eccentric old people and her private investigator boyfriend. It’s pretty nuts, like all of Lucy Score’s books, but it’s just a totally fresh and unique situation full of hijinks and absurdity, and if you’re looking for something with a very immersive setting and very little stress, this is just the ticket.


Saturday Smutty Six: Books That Were So Good I Couldn’t Review Them

Sometimes, when I read a book, I hold it close to my heart, and then flail around helplessly in my head trying to think of how to explain how awesome this book is.

Then I think, “I need to process this book some more. I’ll write it up later. Also I’m tired from my epic book hangover” 

And then I read something else, and the details get fuzzy, and all that’s left in my brain was “This book was so amazing.” Not so good for writing a full review, but I still want everyone to read these books. 

With no further ado, this is me flailing around helplessly, the abbreviated version.

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

I am on record stating that this is probably the best romance novel I’ve ever read. Like, in my entire life of reading romance novels. I stand by this statement. It’s sweeping and romantic and Kinsale’s use of language is just masterful. This book also raises fascinating questions about madness, class, and religion which stick with me even as I forget Jervaulx’s given name. 

For My Lady’s Heart by Laura Kinsale

Two Laura Kinsale books on the same list? Yes, you read that right. Here we have a medieval romance between Melanthe, a cold, calculating woman who above all else is scared shitless all the time, and the monkish knight who loves her. Again, Kinsale’s use of language is masterful, but in this case, it’s because of the rich, old-English-lite narration that elevates this book to pure poetry.

Big Boy by Ruthie Knox

Is this the platonic ideal of the romance novella? Perhaps. I actually started (but never finished) a review for this one. Here’s what I wrote for my overview:

Heat Factor: There’s some sexy rumpus, but the writing is economical, so there’s aren’t tons of details. 

Character Chemistry: They are perfect for each other. 

Plot: Mandy has a monthly date with a mystery man. At a train museum. Where they roleplay. And share their truest selves under cover of pretending to be someone else. 

Overall: Do yourself a favor and set aside an hour so you can read this book cover-to-cover IMMEDIATELY.

Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Book two in the London Celebrities series, which I inhaled during the stress of Christmas 2021, Pretty Face is an age-gap director-ingenue romance, but it’s so much more than that. Parker’s books are often marketed as comedies, and the dialogue is definitely sharp and sparkling, but her characters are always dealing with an undercurrent of sadness. I think I liked this one so much because the character-work here is phenomenal.

The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham

After Ingrid read The Lord I Left, also by Peckham, she texted me to say that it was a Holly book; I already had a copy of The Rakess floating around in my Kindle, so I read that instead, and holy shit, was it a Holly book. Smart, political, feminist, and sexy, all in one delicious historical bundle? Count. Me. In.

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

I read a whole bunch of Courtney Milan books when I was in graduate school (say, 2010ish), and hadn’t picked one up since. Sometimes when I revisit an author I used to love, I’m disappointed, either because I’ve grown too much or they’ve failed to, but that was not the case here. Milan skillfully plays with romance tropes in ways that were so fun for a major romance nerd like me and delivers a story featuring the injustices of the British aristocracy without performative woke-ness. 

Bonus Pick: Glitterland by Alexis Hall

Look, the only reason there’s a Glitterland review on this blog is because I made Erin and Ingrid buddy-read it with me. There’s a lesson in that, methinks.


Saturday Smutty Six: Asian (American) Romance—Identity, Race, and Culture

May is Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so this week and next week we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite romances by Asian (and Asian-American and Asian-Canadian) authors. This week, we focus on books where the emotional arc of the story is inextricably linked with questions of identity. 

My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

Winnie processes events in her life by watching Bollywood movies. So when her boyfriend—who she thinks she’s fated to be with because of a prophecy—breaks up with her, she deals with it by watching movies and having dreams where Shah Rukh Khan gives her advice. This Young Adult romance offers not only a thoughtful portrait of a young woman crying to figure out her relationship with “destiny,” but also an excellent list of films to dive into if you want to dive into Bollywood cinema. 

Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh

So, Raj and Nayna are actually Asian New Zealander, but I am of the opinion that setting anything Down Under makes it better. I kid. (Kind of.) The point is, Raj and Nayna are both from relatively traditional Indian families, and they’re both seeking their future happiness but realize they have to come to terms with how their culture plays a role in their lives and decision making. It was a bit angsty for Singh, but maybe that just made it more satisfying. 

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

Jeremy Wentworth, Duke of Lansing, is half-Chinese. And the place where he feels most at home is the town of Wedgeford, where he goes every year for the annual “trials” (kind of an epic village-wide capture the flag situation?)—and pretends to be just a regular guy. He’s been in love with Chloe for years, and swears that this year he will prove himself worthy of her. What’s great about this book is that Milan unpacks the racism faced by the characters gradually, slowly revealing how their circumstances have shaped their personalities. 

Ice Cream Lover by Jackie Lau

This light-hearted romp about an ice cream shop owner and a guy who hates ice cream is both hilarious and a thoughtful examination of identity. As a biracial woman whose (white) father “doesn’t see color”, Chloe deals with strong feelings of alienation, both from her family and from the Asian-Canadian community in Toronto. Her ice cream shop, which specializes in flavors like durian, red bean, and green tea in memory of her late mother, and her burgeoning relationship with Drew, are both avenues through which Chloe creates space for herself. 

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

In this Pride and Prejudice retelling, Ayesha and Khalid navigate the tensions between devout Muslim faith, family expectations, cultural assimilation, and their own desires. There’s a lot there, but Jalaluddin skillfully weaves together their internal conflicts and a beautiful slow burn romance. There is a lot of pining, and one of the most sexually fraught moments of fully-clothed face touching ever written. 

Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan

In this YA romance, we have a very bright young woman who desperately wants to study English while her parents insist she study pre-med. When her parents go away for a month, leaving her with her grandma and brother, she ends up agreeing to tutor the school’s bad boy (who, spoiler—is actually a very thoughtful and talented musician). Through Karina’s relationship with Ace, Karina learns to advocate for herself within the loving (but often restrictive) confines of her family.


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. 


Saturday Smutty Six: Voting Inspiration

If you’re feeling election fatigue…we get it. 2020 has lasted approximately a million years, which means that the 2020 election has lasted approximately two million years. But it’s not over til it’s over, so if you’re feeling the need for some inspiration to get more involved in participatory democracy…We made a smut list for that! 

But first, a personal note. 

Why we vote

Holly: The first election I was really aware of was 2000 – and boy, was it a doozy. So my sense with electoral politics is not only that it’s outrageously important but that you might have to fight like hell to get your voice heard. I honestly can’t imagine not voting. 

Erin: My mother taught me to take it seriously. When I was really young, I learned that my Grandfather lost a local election by a super small margin, which taught me that every vote really does matter. I also was made aware very young that there are many countries in the world where people don’t get to vote, or if they do, the government is so corrupt that it doesn’t matter. My whole family takes voting super duper seriously. So I vote because it’s my job as a citizen to do so.

Ingrid: I also have to say that my earliest memories of voting involved my Grandpa–really everyone in my extended family was raised with a strong conviction that serving the community is not an optional value and that voting is one of the best things you can do to serve your community. Also though–I vote because it feels good to do the right thing, and it’s satisfying to know you’re doing your part to help your community.

If those answers don’t sum up our personalities in a nutshell, we really don’t know what would. 

Without further ado, here are some of our favorite romances that get us in the mood to head to the ballot box. There are a lot of suffragette romances on this list. (As always, click on the titles to go to the book’s Amazon page.)

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

This is one of the most politically engaged romances Holly has ever read. Agatha and Penelope go to a peaceful protest, participate in a not-so-peaceful protest, print seditious pamphlets, and take on an anti-vice society. While also falling in love and spending a lot of time beekeeping.

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

The entire Brothers Sinister series is rooted in Victorian politics, but The Suffragette Scandal in particular is aces because Frederica Marshall (who’s been a firecracker in other books, mistake not) is a wonderfully constructed political activist heroine. She runs a political newspaper and readily engages in protests, and is marvelously fierce. Although this lands her in hot water, the relationship drama stems from the fact that the hero meets her with a deception, not from Free’s activism.

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Annabelle receives a scholarship to study at Oxford from a Suffragette society, and because of this, she’s required to participate in suffragette pamphleting and so forth. Ergo, Annabelle is an activist because she has to be, not because she’s all fired up to be, which is a fun take. Even beyond the suffrage aspect, this book is chock full of politics, and the way that Dunmore deconstructs class and feminism is also great.

Some Like it Scandalous by Maya Rodale

Ok, so this is mostly about a Gilded Age Lady Boss starting a make-up company, but there’s a thread of activism running through the novel. Daisy Swan and her suffragette friends push the boundaries of woman’s space both literally (by going to lunch without a male escort) and figuratively (by mutually supporting each other in their goals of financial independence). Bonus points for a suffrage rally where everyone wears bright red lipstick. 

Daughters of a Nation: A Black Suffragette Historical Romance Anthology

This anthology of black suffragette romance is awesome. It’s got great love stories, but it’s also really rooted in history. The authors tackle not just black women’s place in the struggle to win the vote, but also explore questions of race, passing, respectability, and intersectional politics. In a non-nerdy, absolutely swoon-worthy manner. 

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

A contemporary romance! McQuiston wrote this book after the 2016 election and filled it with people who are woefully underrepresented in our current political landscape. Alex Claremont-Diaz is the president’s son, and he plans to be elected to Congress as soon as he’s old enough. But the realities of ugly biases tarnish not only his dream, but his mother’s reelection campaign when he begins a same-sex relationship with a prince of England.