A friend of mine asked me recently if I knew of any feminist YA romance novels that I could suggest for her daughter. “No,” was the only answer I had but I did have an amazing tool at my disposal: a large Twitter following that includes a lot of smart, feminist romance readers and authors.

The following list (which is alphabetical by author, and I cannot speak to any of these books individually) was created by the following Tweeters: @theames, @catagator, @hannahemple, @misskubelik, @tehawesomersace@librarian_lali, @jeffdotraymond, @himissjulie, and @mhals.

Also, from Angie: “@librarian_lali worked on Amelia Bloomer List, for feminist literature for 0-18: https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com.” And there is, apparently, a Harlequin Teen imprint. These might also be useful:

My New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is similar to 2014 BUT THIS TIME I’M GOING TO STICK TO IT! I’m going to try to review more of what I read. I read so. many. books. But I almost never take the time to say anything about them. So, this year, I’m going to do better (which is the safest way for me to say this because I’ve set a super low bar in 2014).

Part of my motivation and why I believe this could actually work out is that I’ve started a regular review gig at a new site, Bitter Empire. The goal is to do one review a week there. I even did a “here are some of my favorites from 2014” post. I don’t think I’m very good at writing reviews, or, at least, that kind of writing takes a different kind of effort from the other writing I do and it’s not an effort I’m as familiar with. But once I get going, I find writing one review makes writing the next easier.

My other goal is to do a better job of updating the list I keep of my all-time favorite romance novels. The more I read, the less likely I am to add something to the list (what that says about the first books that made the list, I don’t know). But I do still actively assess whenever I finish a book if there’s a real chance I’ll ever re-read parts or even the entirety of the book, and if I at all believe that could happen, the book goes on the list.

Here’s to a new year. And more reviews. Probably. Hopefully.


Courtney Milan’s latest book – The Suffragette Scandal – is the final novel in her amazing series, The Brothers Sinister (there is one final novella that will be round out the series later this year).

Here is the description of the book from Milan’s website:

Miss Frederica “Free” Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women’s rights. Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good. Free refuses to be at the end of her rope…but she needs more rope, and she needs it now.

Edward Clark’s aristocratic family abandoned him to die in a war-torn land, so he survived the only way he could: by becoming a rogue and a first-class forger. When the same family that left him for dead vows to ruin Miss Marshall, he offers his help. So what if he has to lie to her? She’s only a pawn to use in his revenge.

But the irrepressible Miss Marshall soon enchants Edward. By the time he realizes that his cynical heart is hers, it’s too late. The only way to thwart her enemies is to reveal his scandalous past…and once the woman he loves realizes how much he’s lied to her, he’ll lose her forever.

Free is a suffragette and is, in many ways, a feminist in her own time. In the notes on the book at the end, Milan explains how she came up with the political ideology that Free follows and details in the book, writing:

Why work for a goal that will not bear fruit in over a century? Why do people work to change things today? I found the answer in Melissa McEwan’s Shakesville.

Milan goes on to quote McEwan discussing doing social justice activism and how it is like trying to empty the sea with a teaspoon.

I am so excited to say that McEwan is a friend of mine and we have now both read this book. Here is the text messaging we did as soon as we both had finished it [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT; The rest of this post will be most appreciated by people who have already read this ridiculously good book]:

MM: I finished it at about 2:30 last night.

JL (me): Did you sob? I sobbed. Like I said, it’s such a celebration of women who do progressive activist work and the people who love them, and that second part just GETS ME.

MM: I sobbed. I sobbed at Amanda and Genevieve getting together; I sobbed at Free and Edward deciding to figure shit out; I sobbed at giving women the vote at their estate.

JL: YES I loved that part! The vote. I loved the Amanda and Genevieve, too.

MM: It was SO GREAT. I loved how Free’s paper was an allegory for feminist blogging, and I loved how the aristocracy was an allegory for the patriarchy. And how Edward couldn’t step away from his privilege, but he could learn how to leverage it.

JL: YES. (is how I’m going to respond to whatever you write). I want you to read The Heiress Effect now because before this book, I thought THAT was the most feminist romance I’d ever read. It’s in this same series.

MM: I’m so gonna read that next!

JL: The whole series is stellar. I mean, Free’s parents have a novella at the beginning that kicks the whole thing off. The Heiress Effect is her brother’s story.

MM: I sobbed SO HARD when he told his shitlord brother that he didn’t marry Free to posses her himself but so that his brother couldn’t.

JL: yeessssssssss

MM: And when Free is all: Stop telling me not to trust you and make yourself trustworthy.

JL: You are making me want to go back and re-read this book right now at this very moment and I may do that.

MM: It’s so great. I’m totally gonna read it again. I told Iain he has to read it.

One of my favorite lines of the book was about how Edward could no more resist her than the moon could resist the earth. That’s just beautiful writing, right there.

I also loved the bit in her author’s note about Josephine Butler: MAY DISCORD PREVAIL FOREVER. I need to get that tattooed on MY FACE.

Also! I laughed so hard at this: “Then I’ll show him how hinges operate.”

Also: Tom Hardy is Edward. I need this movie immediately.



Second: There’s more to gush about with this novel. Exclamation points! Free openly talking about sex like it ain’t no thing. Free schooling Edward on women and class. And puppy-cannons.

Finally: Go. Read. This. Book. In ebookamazon | amazon uk | nook | iBooks | kobo | google play | all romance | smashwords. And in printamazon


I meant to post about this ages ago but, alas, that never happened. Back in late March, my debut book review at the Wonkette vertical, Happy Nice Time People, was published. And it was a gushing review of Ruthie Knox’s novella Making It Last:

It’s an emotional ride, and one that might be difficult to get through. You can likelly see yourself in both characters, recognizing the struggle to (and the messiness of) maintaining a long-term relationship. You might quit reading if you didn’t know that Knox was driving us all toward a happy ending. These are the books we read for escape, not soul-searching. Your trust in the formulaic genre allows you to push through in moments when the plot and the feelings were too close to home, too personal. You need the resolution and you need the happy ending.

Also, over at Sulia, I have a short review of her novel, Flirting With Disaster, which is cross-posted in full here:

Here’s the synopsis of Flirting With Disaster, from Knox’s website (http://www.ruthieknox.com/book/flirting-with-disaster/) :

Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother’s security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn’t want her help . . . or her company.

Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she’ll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can’t keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It’s time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie’s newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.

The genius of this book is that Sean stutters and all of those things that people carry around that impede relationships with other people, those are represented physically through Sean’s speech. But it isn’t that Knox makes it corny or that this aspect of Sean’s character is seen as a problem by any other person except for him. He is the one who must come to terms with a past that includes a harsh, not-very-motherly mother, a years-long crush on Katie, and a desire to escape the town where he grew up. His journey to find himself is not some kind of triumphal moment where he overcomes a disability and is cured. Knox is too smart for that and she knows her readers are, too.

It is a love story about acceptance, not from someone else but from yourself. This is as true for Katie as Sean, as she is dealing with the scars of a relationship that she felt had buried her own identity under that of her partner’s. Who is she? And does she like that person?

Good stuff, Ms. Knox. As always.


This is the first book in Andre’s beloved Sullivan series. I’ve read almost all of the series and then the connected series. I find them irresistible even as they often (though not always) take place in a short period of time, the two protagonists falling quickly in love and committing long-term in less time than it takes me to read a Sullivan book and write a review for it (which says as much as it does anything).

Chase, the photographer Sullivan brother, meets Chloe when he rescues her from a ditch where she has crashed her car. And he is smitten! Immediately! He is done with his womanizing ways and Chloe is it! But she has a past that is chasing her and Chase must convince her to trust him as they deal with her troubles together.

Sometimes predictable and comfortable are you want you want in a quick romance read. It’s not revolutionary in its plot and you basically can tell where it’s going long before it gets there. But damn it, Bella Andre, I can’t quit you. As true with Look Of Love as any of your many other Sullivan books.


[cross-posted from Sulia]

One of the things I like about romance novels is that it is often a space where female authors work through the issues around work-life balance. This is the main issue in Sarah Mayberry’s Her Favorite Rival.

Audrey and Zach are rivals at work and now, both up for the same big promotion, must work together on a project. With an inevitably you would expect in this genre, they find they like each other, a lot.

Zach throws down the gauntlet when, after their one night of passion, tells her he wants a relationship with her. Audrey then has an internal debate with herself:

While there was no official nonfraternization rule within the company, Makers was a conservative organization. She knew eyebrows would be raised, questions asked. After all, how could they have possibly fallen for each other when they were supposed to spend every living breathing moment working for the company’s good?

Capitalism is fun!

I love Sarah Mayberry and will forever read anything and everything she writes. I find her description of characters and their motivations to be honest and complicated in ways that rarely feel forced.

In the case of Her Favorite Rival, a main complication for Audrey is that she is not in her position at the company due to college degrees and internships.

She’d started in the warehouse at Makers when she was nineteen years old. She’d studied at night to finish high school, and she’d put her hand up for every training program the company offered.

She fears leaving the company for whatever reason could send her to the back of the line career-wise.

What I also appreciate is that Zach also struggles with replacing years of programmed ambition aside to fill space in his life with happiness. The parallel between the characters reveals the fact that work-life balance discussions are not just about women and their dream of “having it all.”

How Zach and Audrey work this out in the end isn’t for me to spoil. I suggest you read and find out yourself.

[Some words in this here post are NSFW]

Blog posts titled “Why Romance Novels Are So Popular” always say things like this:

Romance novels unlike other types offer you a chance to fall in love with the characters while they fall in love with each other. Despite whatever events occur during the novel, you the reader, know that in the end there will be a happy ending. And everyone loves a happy ending. Didn’t all of our favorite Fairy Tales end with “And They Lived Happily Ever After”. I also believe that romance novels are so spectacular and popular because there are so many types of romance novels available. Readers can find everything from sweeping historical novels, to sweet contemporaries and paranormals to steamy eroticas.

And that’s fine and good and TRUE, even.

But it would be SO refreshing and endlessly funny to click on one of these posts and it just pop up with a series of quotes like these:

From Elle Kennedy’s As Hot As It Gets:

“Why, Mia, I am a gentleman.” He peered up at her with an evil grin. “But I’m also a dirty motherfucker who wants you to rub your cunt all over his face. Got a problem with that?”

From Jaci Burton’s Melting The Ice:

“Take your bikini bottoms off and let me lick your pussy.” Shuddering at the prospect, she stood and untied the strings at her hips, then pulled away the material and tossed it to the side. “Now come sit on my chest and let me suck your clit. I want you to scream for me.”

from Rachel Gibson’s True Love And Other Disasters:

“Put your feet on my shoulders.” Then he parted her thighs and took her into his hot mouth. He didn’t show her any more gentleness now than he had to her breasts a moment ago. He ate her like she was strictly there for his pleasure alone. He ravished her with his mouth and tongue, and God help her if she didn’t love that too.


[Originally posted on Sulia]

I loved this book. I mean, LOVED. And I can’t, for my life, narrow down exactly why.

It begins with Ben Jimmer, a famous British soccer player, waking up from a night of celebrating and drinking and drinking and drinking, and apparently spending some real quality time at a gay bar and outing himself to a journalist.

His agent, also a gay man, suggests that one way to lessen the tension in the locker room is for Ben to say that he has been in a committed relationship for a while and is not interested in any of his teammates. And so he begins to pretend to date Henry Brown and to act like they are in love.

But life is complicated and, while not in first person, Zetand tells the story ONLY from Ben’s perspective (and the WAY in which it is written is just so…authentic and honest and I just love it, though I imagine not everyone will). Ben has never dated a man and is so thrilled to be able to be out in public. It also turns out, he just likes Henry. And is unsure if Henry like likes him back. And so they do this frustrating dance of kisses, misunderstandings, jealousy, and falling in love.

All of it feels real.

Here is a scene after Ben hosts a big party at his house:

The last cab with party guests leaves at around six, the sun already coming up, and Henry switches the music off just as Ben returns into the house. The silence that follows is abrupt and poignant, like a bungee jumper poised on the edge of a cliff. Which might not make any sense at all. Ben’s brain feels as if someone had crossed a couple of wires.

He enters the living room to find Henry picking up stray plastic cups from the floor, and Ben walks towards him and doesn’t stop, not until he’s up in Henry’s space.

They get each other off on the floor, in between empty bottles and crisp crumbs, with Henry’s finger forming a tight circle around the rope tattooed into Ben’s wrist, holding him down as they grind against each other.

Am I using you? Ben thinks and doesn’t ask.

He comes with his eyes shut tightly and the new day casting stripes of sunlight on the floor.

If anything is wrong with this book, it’s too long. There is so much build up. But also, damn if I didn’t want it to go on forever. So, while I was impatient for the happily ever after, I also was sad when it ended. So it goes.