Mala’s June 2017 Hot Reads

Believe the hype: Alisha Rai’s Hate to Want You is one of the most talked-about romances of the summer for good reason! Her Avon debut is excellent. I loved it and can’t wait for the second installment of this steamy duology. I’m also glad I picked up Charlotte Stein’s The Professor, on Sarah MacLean’s recommendation, because it might just be my favorite of her books. Hilarious, awkward, poignant, sexy…no one combines all of those things as expertly Charlotte Stein.

In His Hands by Adriana Anders (out 8/1, contemporary romance)
Blood Guard by Megan Erickson (out 9/12, paranormal romance)
Oversight by Santino Hassell (paranormal LGBT romance)
Hate To Want You by Alisha Rai (out 7/25, contemporary romance)
Love Restored by Carrie Ann Ryan (contemporary romance)
Way Down Deep by Cara McKenna & Charlotte Stein (erotic romance)
Delicious Temptation by Sabrina Sol (contemporary category length romance)
The Professor by Charlotte Stein (erotic romance)
Between Lost and Found by Shelly Stratton (women’s fiction)

Backlist adventures: I devoured Simone St. James’ excellent gothic horror novel The Haunting of Maddy Clare.

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Mala’s May 2017 Hot Reads

I think all I did in May was read. Books are really a balm when things get heavy — and who needs socialization anyway? Besides, reading Santino Hassell’s latest Five Boroughs book was just like being out in NYC for real. He so vividly captures the pulse of the diverse city I call home. As for Pintip Dunn’s breath-taking Girl on the Verge…wow. I saw so much of myself in Thai-American heroine Kanchana. Throw in Karuna Riazi and KJ Charles and I was so awash in representation and voice and just…a feeling of belonging. I think that is SO necessary in uncertain times.

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles (LGBT historical romance)
The Queen of Dauphine Street by Thea de Salle (erotic romance)
Her Secret Service Agent by Stephanie Doyle (out 7/4, category-length contemporary romance)
Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn (out 6/27, young adult thriller)
A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran (historical romance)
Concourse by Santino Hassell (LGBT contemporary romance)
Enemies With Benefits by Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers (romantic suspense/dark romance, prologue novelette)
Baby, Come Back by Molly O’Keefe (contemporary romance/dark romance)
The Debt by Molly O’Keefe (contemporary romance/dark romance, prologue novelette)
Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor (sci-fi/fantasy, novella)
The Red by Tiffany Reisz (out 7/11, erotica)
The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi (middle-grade fantasy)
Beyond Doubt by Kit Rocha (erotic romance, novella)
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay (mystery/horror)

As for backlist adventures, I read Linda Howard’s After the Night — and, hoo boy, it was problematic! Not something I would want to read from a new author and definitely a product of 1995.

Dirty Dancing’s Johnny and Baby Last Forever (Fight Me!)

Baby and Johnny live happily ever after. Sure, it’s easy to write off the events of 1987’s beloved Dirty Dancing as a beautiful summer fling set to a kickass 1960s soundtrack — most people do — but I’m here to tell you that they make it. They survive past the credits and the last strains of “The Time of My Life.”

The basic plot of the movie involves a privileged, sheltered, college-bound girl, played by Jennifer Grey, falling for Patrick Swayze’s blue-collar dance instructor. But like so many romance novels we’ve devoured and loved, the emotional core is that they connect despite their differences — and they admire each other because of them. I’ve read summaries that describe Johnny as the worldly one in the relationship — and maybe he is sexually, but in all other ways…? Baby holds the power. Yes, she’s wealthy and educated, but she’s also fearless and brave and strong in her convictions. She goes after what she wants — and who she wants. That floors Johnny. Ultimately, he’s the one seduced, not her.

Johnny: “I’ve never known anyone like you. You think you can make the world better. Somebody’s lost, you find them. Somebody’s bleeding—”

Baby: “I go get my daddy. That’s really brave, like you said.”

Johnny: “That took a lot of guts to go to him! You are not scared of anything.”

Baby learns to dance so that Penny can keep her job. She goes to her father for medical help when Penny’s back-alley abortion goes wrong. She faces down her family and the Kellermans to exonerate Johnny when he’s accused of stealing from guests. Why wouldn’t she fight for an HEA with that exact same passion?

Baby: “I hurt my family, you lost your job anyway — I did it for nothing!”

Johnny: “No, not for nothing. Nobody has ever done anything like that for me before.”

Baby: “You were right. You can’t win no matter what you do.”

Johnny: “Listen to me. I don’t want to hear that from you. You can.”

And I believe she does. Past the summer. Into fall at Mount Holyoke. Baby keeps winning — with Johnny by her side. There is nothing to suggest otherwise. In Baby’s opening voiceover, she notes that she met Johnny “before President Kennedy was shot, before the Beatles came.” Who’s to say they didn’t experience those milestones together? That they weren’t huddled in front of the TV together, stunned and clutching hands, as Walter Cronkite interrupted As the World Turns? Who’s to say they didn’t dance to “Something” at their wedding?

Let’s face it, we’ve taken bigger leaps in fiction — and in life. Opposites attracting and then making a marriage work isn’t a huge hop. And, of course, there’s fanfic that covers all those pesky little skips and jumps that end with Johnny and Baby as a long-term couple. Here are a few that stand out:

A Real Grown-Up Name, by fairy_tale_echo. (Trigger Warning: contains an antisemitic slur.)

Through Every Open Door, by mjules

Waiting Room, by Missy

by any other name, by FreshBrains

Waiting For a Voice to Come, by Arsenic

As far I’m concerned, this is what happens after that fateful, forbidden, fantastic summer at Kellerman’s: They make it. They survive. They continue to help people in need. And they keep dancing.

(And, most importantly, they aren’t remade into a soulless, money-grab TV movie by ABC.)

 

Originally published on HeroesandHeartbreakers.com

Horror’s Best Romances—Yes, You Read that Correctly

Something author Tiffany Reisz once said has always stuck with me — that, to her, the closest genre to BDSM romance is horror. Presumably because they both involve facing and conquering fear. As a horror movie junkie, I totally acknowledge that if there’s a shippable pair thrown together against the threat — or maybe it’s the protagonist and the threat — I am all for it. Because there’s nothing like the combination of passion and terror. Everything is heightened. The stakes are astronomical. It’s not just hearts on the line — it’s lives, too.

Horror also tackles so many fascinating tropes — taboo relationships, us-against-the-world, lovers-on-the-run. But, unlike most mainstream romances, horror happily exposes the creepy underbelly of those plots. Just look at 2013’s Stoker, written by Prison Breaks Wentworth Miller and gorgeously directed by Park Chan-wook. Mia Wasikowska stars as India Stoker, a young woman who develops an intense attachment to her charismatic uncle, Charlie (Matthew Goode). The incestuous elements are the least troubling bits of the film — and I could not look away! I don’t know what this says about Mia’s career choices, but she’s also in two other films I’d recommend to romance readers: 2015’s Crimson Peak and 2013’s Only Lovers Left Alive. (Both co-star Tom Hiddleston, which is a huge selling point for me). Guillermo del Toro and Jim Jarmusch’s respective aesthetics are gorgeous. Just like a good romance zeroes in on the protagonists, so does horror — to an almost claustrophobic extent. These are both films about being stuck — and, honestly, I’m never going to complain about being trapped with Tom Hiddleston, whether he’s an incestuous gold-digger or an emo vampire.

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Mala’s April 2017 Hot Reads

Maybe I should call this month’s round-up “Cold Reads,” because, damn, it was kinda chilly in April! This book-loving dispatch comes to you from beneath my ancient duvet…promptly cast off in May because things quickly heated up!

Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders (erotic romance/dark romance)
Prime Minister by Ainsley Booth & Sadie Haller (erotic romance)
Full Mountie by Ainsley Booth & Sadie Haller (erotic romance)
An Unnatural Vice by K.J. Charles (out 6/6, LGBT historical romance)
Faking It by Christine d’Abo (out 5/8, LGBT contemporary romance)
Hidden Hearts by Olivia Dade (out 6/20, contemporary romance)KatiWilde
The Dukes of Vauxhall by Shana Galen, Christi Caldwell, Theresa Romain & Vanessa Kelly (out 5/9, anthology, historical romance)
The Fireman by Joe Hill (horror)
Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain (out 7/4, historical romance)
Going Nowhere Fast by Kati Wilde (new adult contemporary romance, erotic romance)

Are Jon Snow and Daenerys Endgame on Game of Thrones?

-HBO

The seventh — and penultimate — season of Game of Thrones premieres July 16, and I’m telling you right now that the most important seats at this show’s table belong to Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. Actually, scratch the plural on those seats. It’s one big ol’ chair with Jon in Dany’s lap (or the other way around, if you prefer). Because everything in this series has been leading up to the inevitable team-up of these two characters — both on the throne and in a bed!

I know what you’re thinking: “But he’s her nephew!” Dude, Dany breastfed three dragons. I’m not all that concerned about whether her hooking up with a relative she’s never met is inappropriate. See also: Jaime and Cersei Lannister. Jon turning out to be a lost Targaryen (child of Dany’s brother Rhaegar and Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna) is nowhere near as creepy as the incestuous bone-town that is King’s Landing.

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Mala’s March 2017 Hot Reads

I made up for past reading droughts in March. I feel like all I did was hide in books — in GOOD books. I mean, Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give is one of the best novels of the year. Hands down. It is a game-changer. And Mitali Perkins’ You Bring the Distant Near spoke to me so deeply — it’s the kind of book I always wanted from Jhumpa Lahiri; it’s about the Bengali immigrant experience but still joyful. Both of these books made me laugh and cry and run the gamut of emotion by the time I hit the last page.

The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre (paranormal romance)
The Demon Prince by Ann Aguirre (paranormal romance)
Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop (urban fantasy)
A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi (young adult fantasy)
Insight by Santino Hassell (paranormal romance, LGBT romance)
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (science fiction)
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (out 9/12, young adult fiction, women’s fiction)
American Prince by Sierra Simone (erotic romance, BDSM romance)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (young adult, coming-of-age)
The Pawn by Skye Warren (erotic romance/dark romance)

Backlist adventures: Beauty by Robin McKinley. ‘Cause, seriously, who isn’t going to snag a McKinley book and glom it when they get the chance?

I also read Spectacle by Rachel Vincent, which is out 5/30, and I might have to write a separate blog post about why it did not work for me and why it makes the first book in the series, Menagerie, less compelling as a result. I don’t usually talk about my DNFs or disappointments, but this one keeps gnawing at me.