Saturday Smutty Six: “All I remember about this book is… (group edition)” with partial covers for Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small, Potent Pleasures by Eloisa James, Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas, To Catch An Heiress by Julia Quinn, Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught, and The Raider by Jude Deveraux
Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: All I Remember Redux: Two for One

In honor of our Old School reading this month, we decided to look at our reading archives and see what turned up. Unfortunately, we read these books so long ago, we don’t remember much. Luckily, this week we found some books that at least two of us read, so you’ll have just a little more information. Maybe we can interest you in these books based on what we do remember?

All I remember about this book is…

Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

Erin: …Oh. My. God. Holly and I read this book twenty years ago and still remember all the highlights. Skye gets married and then ends up in a harem and then somehow gets back to England but then Niall is married and I have no idea how they manage to finally get married but I think Niall’s sex addict wife dies of the pox?

Holly: …there is so much sex in this book. The bit that stands out to me is Neil’s wife (who looks like Skye) (also, this is probably the only book in which I remember the MCs’ names, including books that I read last week) is a nymphomaniac who can’t get enough luvin’ from her husband so she starts working in a brothel and has a book of sex positions. Men come in, pick a position, and she’ll do them. She and another whore have a sex-off one night. She dies of syphilis. It’s very convenient because now Neil is free to finally marry Skye as husband #4. 

Also the scene where Skye’s amnesia goes away is very striking. Husband number #3 and Neil get in a fight at court and when Neil falls down she remembers *everything.* So much drama!!!!

Also also, Skye’s nails are always buffed to a beautiful pink.

Potent Pleasures by Eloisa James

Erin: …they have an interlude at a masquerade party and are parted for years. When they’re reunited, she remembers him, but he doesn’t recognize her, though they do fall in love and marry. When she says that the wedding night sex is better than before, he gets all ragey that she’s 1) not a virgin and 2) apparently had sex with his twin brother (she didn’t). Also the climactic moment is YIIIIIIKES because even though he said he was over the whole her sleeping with his brother thing (she didn’t and he wasn’t), when he gets home from a trip he finds out she’s pregnant, assumes it can’t possibly be his, and sends her off to the country where she nearly dies. It’s a lot. 

Holly: …I REMEMBER THIS ONE. Just that he gets all ragey, and then finally recognizes her when she appears at a ball in her masquerade outfit from the very beginning and he realizes it was her the whole time because of course he’s really been looking for his mystery whore for years.

Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas

Holly: …I was horrified at how *old* the heroine was (she’s 30). She hires a sex worker for a 30th birthday present to herself. (It seems, from the blurb, that there’s some mistaken identity stuff that happens, but I don’t remember that part.) She was curvy and had red hair so I pictured my high school principal and was horrified and did not enjoy the reading experience. Might like it better if I read it now that I’m not 16 anymore.

Erin: …I read this one, too! All I remember about this one was that she hired herself a delicious man treat because she was so old and things did not at all go the way either of them planned.


The Raider by Jude Deveraux

Ingrid: …he’s real hot at nighttime and during the day he’s disgusting and pompous.

Erin: …the hero returns to town and gets himself out of a pickle by pretending to be fat, stuffing his clothes with pillows, and has to keep up the charade whenever he goes out. The heroine thinks he’s ridiculous and disdains him, but he’s secretly a dashing spy attacking the British. Also something happens at a bucolic lighthouse-y spot at the dramatic climax.

Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught

Holly: …the reading experience stuck out to me more than the actual book. I distinctly remember the chair I was sitting in when I read it (the blue armchair that used to be by the fireplace). My sister got it from her sister-in-law, who was a McNaught superfan. And my reaction was: what even is this utter rapey garbage? The titular Whitney is a doormat and the hero is terrible and leaves her in his country house and then thinks she’s cheating on him but she loves him anyways. 

Erin: …OMG he’s so sexy on the stairs! OMG, she’s so daring standing on the horse! OMG, her dad is terrible. Something about chess. OMG, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS MAN?! OMG, HOW IS SHE GOING TO FORGIVE HIM? I guess the baby scene at the end was kinda sweet?

Holly: Of course she stands up on her horse. That’s like, bodice ripper heroine behavior rule #23.

To Catch an Heiress by Julia Quinn

Ingrid: …I literally only remember that he thinks she’s a spy with a name that reminded me of Carmen Sandiego.

Holly: …so I’ve read the sequel literally 86 times so I know that it’s about Caroline and Blake Ravenscroft and Caroline collects words. There’s some stuff in a tower.


Have you read any of these books? Do you remember them better than we do? Let us know in the comments!

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Back to Old School, Dueling Review, Rant, Recommended Read

Back to Old School: Devils Week

Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens (1998)

Heat Factor: Devil is going to make the molten heat inside Honoria explode. In a cataclysmic starburst. For 25 pages.

Character Chemistry: You’re my perfect match because our bloodlines make us strong enough to tame each other. But Devil never says “I love you.”

Plot: Murder most foul.

Overall: Erin was tickled. Ingrid powered through. Holly hated it.


versus


Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas (2006)

Heat Factor: Billiards and blow jobs

Character Chemistry: Sebastian is such an asshole, but he’s also so soft for Evie.

Plot: Marriage of convenience, gambling hell edition.

Overall: Erin loved it. Holly tolerated it. Ingrid can’t remember the plot.

Continue reading “Back to Old School: Devils Week”
Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Old School Romances We Barely Remember

In honor of our Old School reading this month, we decided to look at our reading archives and see what turned up. Unfortunately, we read these books so long ago, we don’t remember much. Maybe we can interest you in these books based on what we do remember?

All I remember about this book is…

The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh

Erin: …they meet when, on her first night as a (virgin) prostitute, he hires her and they have extremely uncomfortable sex in the alleyway outside a theater. Then she unexpectedly (but very luckily) gets hired as his governess. Awkwardness and angst ensues. I’m not sure if it was just the beginning, but I recall the overall mood of this one as morose.

The Pleasure Master by Nina Bangs

Holly: …it’s about a woman who gets sent back in time (by a talking toy…monkey?) to some guy who lives in a cave (not sure why) in medieval Scotland. He has sex magic. 

Prince of Dreams by Lisa Kleypas

Erin: …this exiled Russian aristocrat who is somehow related to the heroine of the first book in this duology gets the stink eye from the hero of the first book in this duology because he just knows that he’s somehow fated to be a part of that hero’s daughter’s life. Because what dad doesn’t want to hear that a grown man is fated to be with his not-yet-grown daughter? Anyway, then there’s this book where she is grown and all of that prediction of the future pulls together with, I believe I recall correctly, maximum angst. And Russian stuff.


A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey

Holly: …the “hero” tells the heroine, “Why do you keep making me rape you?” Also a bunch of pirate stuff.

Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught 

Erin: …they’re not really equals because she’s a country gentlewoman and he’s a duke, but he’s taken by her when they meet and marries her out of hand. Then on their way from the wedding to his estate, he is kidnapped and shipped off to parts unknown while she is left a naive widow at the mercy of people she doesn’t really know, unaware that they may not be acting in the best interests of either her or the lost duke. Needless to say, when the duke gets home, he’s really mad. 

A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare

Holly: …this is the first Spindle Cove book, and it’s all about a battle of the sexes. And there’s a literal battle? With cannons? 

Smut Reporting

What is the deal with the Lisa Kleypas fandom?

(An allegory for all romance fandoms?)

I, like many, many romance readers, very much enjoy a Lisa Kleypas novel. They work for me. Even when I was not awaiting each next release with bated breath and only read her books casually as I came across one, I knew they were reliably satisfying. 

Enter Holly, for whom Lisa Kleypas just does not work. You might recall that we duelled about Marrying Winterbourne, and even before that she told me that Cold-Hearted Stranger was meh (which I generally agree with, because whiney heroines are not my jam). So when I finished Kleypas’s new release, Devil in Disguise, and I was cooing over Sebastian Challon, Duke of Kingston and formerly of courtesy title St. Vincent – again – Holly asked me (paraphrasing for the sake of brevity), 

What is the deal with the LK fandom? Are her heroes* really that great?

Which, honestly, I think could translate to just about any fandom I have encountered in Romancelandia. There are authors that I personally think do not understand, like, words, but they’ve got 50,000 squeeing 5-star reviews on your friendly neighborhood Goodreads. Conversely, there are authors I totally enjoy reading who get reviews from other readers critical much like I was in that last sentence. 

So let’s examine the LK fandom as an allegory for any romance fandom. 

Certain characterizations push my buttons, and that’s just how that goes

I am not at all shy about acknowledging that I like emotionally constipated, traditionally powerful heroes and anti-heroes. Give me a morality chain romance in which the only reason protagonist 1 has any morals at all is because protagonist 2 told him to, and I will eat that up. 

I’m looking for this desperate energy.

After many, many conversations about my romance hero proclivities, our best guess is that these archetypes scratch an itch for me rather than bother me because I never went through a bad boy phase, or even a “the dating world is full of assholes” phase, and I am married to a very nice man. I can get gooey for a cinnamon roll struggling with relatable issues, sure, but my lizard brain wants more drama and less emotional astuteness. 

Enter the (sometimes problematic) hero who gets the absolute shit kicked out of him by love and pushes all my flutter buttons. And, you guessed it, most of Lisa Kleypas’s backlist is populated by these kinds of heroes. And if he’s pining but knows he’s no good for her, so much the better. (There is a reason that Derek stealing Sara’s spectacles is so affecting!)

Heroine be like

You get what you get, and you don’t get upset

Lisa Kleypas has a huge backlist and is a very consistent writer. Her storytelling doesn’t always follow the exact same formula, so it doesn’t get boring like you’re reading the same book over and over (which, I’ll admit, has its own appeal sometimes). There’s not a huge mystery as to how her characterizations will be, what the setting will evoke, and how much and what kind of sex we’ll be reading. What the reader can also expect is sweeping romance and dramatic tension because she’s also got solid plotting chops. Whether you enjoy what she’s writing or not, she is good at what she does.

Beyond that, her series are (mostly) built on an interconnected Victorian world. Some are more linked than others, but it is not at all unusual to see some character mention or crossover from series to series. (Most notably Cam Rohan is introduced as a secondary character in Devil in Winter of the Wallflowers series and then becomes a protagonist in Mine Till Midnight of the Hathaways series. And the Ravenel series is chock full of Wallflowers content.) Once the reader is immersed in this world, part of the fun of reading becomes identifying how these characters or places that appeared in other books exist in the greater Victorian Kleypas world. Writers who are able to subtly create these links are usually fun to read.

Isn’t this what it boils down to?

I love finding awesome new authors who tell great stories probably more than the next person (I know a shocking number of people who don’t read), but there’s something soothing about knowing what you’re going to get, knowing that it’s available to be gotten, and feeling immersed in a big, imaginary world that is already familiar. 

There are some books that strike a constantly resonating chord

We hesitate to talk romance canon (read what you want!), but it’s undeniable that some books are simply famous. You might notice that Kleypas’s numerous publications are variously discussed and reviewed, but the two that people go the most gaga for are Dreaming of You and Devil in Winter

Dreaming of You was written in 1994 and readers are still swooning over Derek stealing Sara’s spectacles. Even with some elements that didn’t age well over time, the romance between a modest and bookish gentlewoman novelist and a hulking former guttersnipe who rose to wealth and power was crafted so well that Fated Mates podcast managed to institute a freaking Craven Day that has been observed in Romancelandia for several years now on February 4. 

And then there’s Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent. He’s so deliciously bad. At the author talk I attended with Kleypas as a speaker, she said that the publisher couldn’t believe she was going to try to redeem St. Vincent as the hero of Devil in Winter after making him the villain of It Happened One Autumn, but his character arc and the way that shy, innocent Evie destroyed him just grab the reader by the guts. They almost never leave the gambling club for the whole book, and there are worlds in that story.

Some books just have these moments that stick in the reader’s mind for years afterward. Maybe we even forget the title of the book, but there was that one scene that was so memorable that we take it out and turn it over, examining it for a moment before tucking it away again until the next time. The one scene that might make us reread the book years later or over and over until the spine falls apart. 

Anyway, it seems to me that the fandom probably stems from a melting pot of good storytelling, narrative constructions and settings that feel comfortingly familiar, and a few books that created a tipping point so new readers can constantly get excited about both the new and old books, which creates a sense of community surrounding that author’s works (a.k.a. a fandom).


*I’m going to refer to heroes and M/F romance primarily because that’s where this dynamic tends to occur the most.

Review

Review: Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas (2021)

The Ravenels, Book #7 

(a.k.a. The Wallflowers, The Next Generation, Book #3) 

(a.k.a. The Devil in Winter Epilogues, also Book #3)

Erin’s reviewed the whole Ravenels series: Book #1 | Book #2 | Book #3 | Book #4 | Book #5 | Book #6

Heat Factor: These are some horny Victorians

Character Chemistry: It’s totally insta-love, and it was written lucidly enough that it worked for me

Plot: “We’ll never work because of an unequal match” + “Why is someone trying to murder me?”

Overall: I re-upped my membership in the Bad Decisions Book Club for this one and read it in one sitting. No regrets.

Continue reading “Review: Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas (2021)”