Rock On!! is one of my favorite Bollywood films of all time, so when I heard a sequel was in the works I was thrilled. That elation turned to horror as I found myself watching 2016’s Rock On 2 on a cross-country flight. A piece of self-indulgent, masturbatory rot that nearly destroyed all of the warm fuzzies the first film instilled in me, Rock On 2 is glorified fan fiction, centering Farhan Akhtar’s character, Aditya Shroff, as an anguished, self-involved hero figure. Gone is the relatable human Adi from the first film, who sacrifices music to become a corporate drone and must find his way back to his dreams and his friends. In his place is a guy with so much manufactured manpain that he can’t be bothered to pay attention to his wife and child. Instead, he has to go work in a remote village in the far northeastern state of Meghalaya to atone for his perceived sins. Why is a businessman/rock musician opening schools and farm cooperatives and neglecting to wash his hair? Beats the hell out of me.
I feel like I didn’t read enough last month, but I think I always feel like that. So many books, so little time!
My favorite read for September was, hands down, Take the Lead by debut author Alexis Daria. I could not put it down. This electric, sexy, Dancing With the Stars-meets-Alaskan Bush People contemporary is one of the best romances of the year. I can’t wait for the next in the series!
Take the Lead by Alexis Daria (contemporary romance)
Sinful Distraction by London Hale (erotic romance)
Corrupting Chris by Santino Hassell (erotic romance, short story/bonus scene)
Sightlines by Santino Hassell (out 10/9, LGBT paranormal romance)
The Shift of the Tide by Jeffe Kennedy (fantasy romance)
My Last Love Story by Falguni Kothari (out 1/23/18, women’s fiction)
North to You by Tif Marcelo (contemporary romance)
Mischief by Tiffany Reisz (erotic BDSM romance, novella/short)
Winner Take All by Mary B. Rodgers (contemporary romance)
Acting on Impulse by Mia Sosa (contemporary romance)
Not Safe For Work by Charlotte Stein (erotic romance, ménage, novella)
In backlist adventures, I reread North and South by John Jakes after a 15 to 20-year gap, which proved to be an incredibly haunting experience given what’s going on in our country right now. I also read The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale, which featured a thoroughly unlikable heroine — and not in the fun way — and sex on horseback. Gotta love those questionable old-school romances…
With season seven of HBO’s Game of Thrones wrapped and season eight denied us until 2019, I would just like to say one thing: I told you so! Sort of. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) took their fraught political alliance to a very naked level in the season finale — but a romantic endgame isn’t necessarily in the cards! And despite the giant relationship anvils dropped over the course of a few frenetically paced episodes — with advisors Tyrion and Davos basically dragging out their ‘shipper pom-poms — many viewers are still reeling from Jon and Dany taking this highly incesty step. There’s a lot to process!
First, there’s the storyline implications of the Mother of Dragons and the King in the North doing the Westerosi Watusi. Neither has any idea they’re related, and their seafaring sexcapade was set, ominously and ickily, to Bran Stark and Samwell Tarly talking about their shared DNA. Ew. Jon, the guys revealed, is actually Aegon Targaryen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Yes, that throne that Dany has had her eye on for years. You think she’s going to let some cute curly-haired upstart steal that throne just because he bent the knee to her and then rocked her boat? These two can’t possibly have much of a honeymoon phase in their relationship with that truth-bomb ticking away — and their allies and enemies are going to be rocked to the core as well. (Except the Whitewalkers. I’m pretty sure they have no horse in this race.) Tyrion, who had the misfortune to overhear Jon and Dany’s game of moans, certainly didn’t look thrilled. Despite all of his teasing from the weeks before, he’s no doubt worried about what the hookup means for his beloved queen and the Iron Throne — and that’s without knowing that Jon Snow is Rhaegar Targaryen’s heir!
A month involving new books by Joanna Bourne, Tessa Dare and Kit Rocha is definitely a good one! I also really enjoyed Santino Hassell’s first football romance for Berkley InterMix and Tracey Livesay’s soapy amnesia love story from Avon Impulse!
Beauty Like the Night by Joanna Bourne (historical romance)
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (historical romance)
Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell (contemporary LGBT romance)
The Opposite of You by Rachel Higginson (contemporary romance)
Completely by Ruthie Knox (contemporary romance)
The House by Christina Lauren (young adult horror)
Love Will Always Remember by Tracey Livesay (contemporary romance)
His Perfect Partner by Priscilla Oliveras (contemporary romance)
Deacon by Kit Rocha (dystopian erotic romance*)
My backlist adventures were highly problematic this month. Both Sandra Brown’s French Silk and Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor proved to be really hard to get through due to the former’s racism and homophobia and the latter’s fat-shaming. Things that flew as progressive in 1989 are often woefully regressive when you look at them with older and wiser eyes. The books may be “classic” and the authors beloved, but some things just don’t stand the test of time.
*I have the toughest time categorizing these books. They’re not really erotic romance anymore, but Gideon’s Riders is the spin-off of an erotic series…and it’s almost romantic suspense? IDK! Just read them all!
August was packed so full of good books! With everything below, I still managed to fit in a reread of SEP’s Ain’t She Sweet (which is a fave) and a few Sandra Brown backlist titles (which I do not recommend — some stuff just needs to stay in the ’80s-’90s).
Sarah MacLean’s The Day of the Duchess made me cry on an airplane. Rachel Caine’s Stillhouse Lake was a thrill ride. I could not put it down and can’t wait to see what happens next. But the book that probably got to me the most was Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi. It’s the teen romance I wish I’d had in my life when I was 16. I can’t tell you how meaningful it is to finally have a funny, sexy, sweet book depicting people from my cultural experience. It resonated so much!
Rogue Desire by Adriana Anders, Emma Barry, AJ Cousins, et al (anthology, various heat levels/romance genres)
Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine (thriller)
Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton (young adult/coming-of-age, mystery/thriller)
An Unsuitable Heir by KJ Charles (LGBTQ historical romance)
The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean (historical romance)
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (young adult romance)
The Scandal of it All by Sophie Jordan (historical romance)
Fall by Claire Kent (erotic romance, novella)
The Confessions by Tiffany Reisz (erotic BDSM romance, Original Sinners series extras)
The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian (LGBTQ historical romance)
Delicious Complication by Sabrina Sol (contemporary category-length romance)
Delicious Satisfaction by Sabrina Sol (contemporary category-length romance)
Written on His Skin by Simone Stark (erotic romance, novella)
Sarah. Helena. Cosima. Alison. Krystal. Rachel. MK. Beth Childs, whose death set a stunning chain of events in motion. Any devout member of Orphan Black’s “Clone Club” knows those names by heart. For those new to the show, which is airing its fifth and final reason right now, here’s a revelation: All of those characters are played by the same person, the jaw-droppingly talented Tatiana Maslany. While they are technically genetic clones, the brilliant and mind-bending BBC America series boils the relationship down to a level more spiritual than cellular. They’re sisters. No matter what.
It’s not easy to find a show where a romantic ‘ship isn’t somehow the driving force, but Orphan Black is sublime when it comes to prioritizing family over flings. There have been memorable relationships — the scorching chemistry between Paul (Dylan Bruce) and Sarah will never be forgotten — but even if we appreciate Alison and Donnie’s quirky and steadfast marriage or Cosima and Delphine’s beautiful love story, it’s the sisters who matter the most. It’s the sisters we want to see “end up together.”
There are more dragons than there are black people in the core cast of HBO’s Game of Thrones — a show on which at least six people die before breakfast every day. So, you might understand why I’m petrified that the achingly beautiful Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) will bite the dust sometime between the current season 7 and the final season 8. If they do…? I say we riot!
On a show that prides itself on over-the-top violence, over-the-top sex, and over-the-top sexual violence, the gentle, quiet, love story of Daenerys Targaryen’s two trusted companions has been a welcome balm. Grey Worm, forcibly castrated and enslaved as a young boy, now serves as the commander of Dany’s army. Missandei, also a survivor of enslavement, is Dany’s translator and general bestie (as much as someone can be pals with the Mother of Dragons). And, frankly, most of the time I like them better than anybody in that particular story arc.