Monday, June 29, 2015

Cooking Up Romance Has Moved

Cooking Up Romance has moved to Wordpress! I just had to change my site url to get there. I'll keep the Blogger site up and running for a bit, but it won't be updated and all the old content is over at the new site anyway so please update your bookmarks and head over to:

If you subscribed via email, you will also need to resubscribe at the new site.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Blog meltdown

So...I'm just fine, but the blog is having a little bit of a meltdown. It's not entirely a bad thing because now I can fix some stuff that I didn't like, but it means that I'll probably be offline for a few days. Or a week. Ish. If you want to catch me, drop me an email or send me a DM on Twitter. And happy official summer!

See you next week!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Love Only Once by Johanna Lindsey 2015 TBR Challenge

The theme for this month's TBR Challenge was More Than One: a book by an author you have more than one of in your TBR pile. So I chose Love Only Once, the first book of Johanna Lindsey's acclaimed Malory Family series. I also have Tender Rebel (which I'm trying to read, but good grief is stupid Scottish dialect making it difficult) and Gentle Rogue, which is the one I actually wanted to read because PIRATES. But I was told I should read the Malory books in order because we meet the hero of Gentle Rogue for the first time in Love Only Once. James Malory is heroine Regina Ashton's uncle and he comes into the story the SECOND time the heroine gets kidnapped in this book. Yes, that's right. She gets kidnapped twice in the same book by two different men. It's delicious. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The basic story here is that virgin orphan Regina Ashton is kidnapped by mistake by the former lover of a woman whose carriage she borrows to do a quick errand. Nicholas Eden is a dissolute rake: a despoiler of young aristocratic maidens and drunken racer of horses. Though Regina is returned unsoiled to her family, of course the two are found out and society's rules dictate that Regina and Nicholas must marry. This is to Regina's delight (she thinks he's hot) and Nicholas's horror (he has a DARK SEKRIT that he thinks he needs to protect Regina from). Of course, all works out in the end.

For any lover of historical romance, this plot is a familiar one. That said, there are a couple differences here between Love Only Once and some, in my view, worse examples of this plot. First, I think it's poking subtle fun at the kidnapped virgin trope. Regina is kidnapped by the rake, who thinks she is his former mistress, and returned unmolested to her family. Plus she is actually attracted to the hero and not at all scared (really, really not scared, not just trying to be brave). This is reinforced by a SECOND kidnapping--this time at the hand of her own uncle. That's gotta be a joke, right? Look at The Flame and the Flower for a different example: frightened, kidnapped virgin orphan is mistaken for a prostitute and raped by her captor. Definitely not what happens here (page 64, Nicholas starts).

"I want to kiss you again before you go."


"Just a good-night kiss."


His free hand cupped her cheek. He hadn't bothered to collect his gloves or hat before they left his house, and his bare fingers were hot against her skin. She couldn't move, and she waited breathlessly for him to steal the kiss she had refused him.

He did, his lips moving in to fasten on hers for a kiss that was nothing like any kiss she'd had before. Warm and masterful, his lips tasted hers until she thought she would explode.

She waits breathlessly, his lips are warm and masterful, she thinks she's going to explode. Though she says no, she's standing on her uncle's front step at this point. She could summon help if she desired it, duck his kiss, slap him--these are options we've all exercised at some point, right? But she really wants Nicholas. Not that this isn't problematic (she still said no--he still disregarded it), but it's a pretty mild example for this point in the history of historical romance. And when they do finally get to the point of sex, the heroine is not exactly the sexual aggressor, but she is most definitely a willing participant (page 130):

Deep down Reggie knew that Nicholas was not going to be satisfied with just kissing her, not this time. But a voice inside her demanded to know why she wanted to stop him.

He was going to be her husband, wasn't he? Why should she deny him anything--especially when she didn't want to deny him anything? 

They go on to have mutually satisfying sex in the garden. Then later in the book, Nicholas "forces himself on her" which I put in quotes because it's one of the milder forced seduction scenes I've seen. Plus Reggie gets playfully chased around the bedroom and throws a book at Nicholas' head before succumbing. Then this in the aftermath (page 313):

What a marvelous way to be awakened, Reggie thought, snuggling closer to the solid length of her husband. And she wasn't tired, even though she had been loved ardently into the small hours of the night. Not tired. Feeling wonderful. She would have to insist he force himself on her more often.

It may seem like I'm going out of my way to excuse Nicholas' actions, but this book was published in 1985. During my recent Utterly Unscientific Summer Saturday Series Sex Survey, I've been exposed to many, many examples of women feeling guilty about their desires, being forced by their heroes into kisses and more, and there was very little premarital sex. By contrast, the historical romance of the period, including Love Only Once, looks almost progressive. When I expressed this opinion on Twitter this week, romance historian Kelly Faircloth confirmed that in Janice Radway's 1984 book, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature, some of the women interviewed about romance expressed a similar sentiment.

Between Regina's own self-confidence, her station in life, her financial resources, and the protection of her family, she is a formidable woman despite being a type (virgin orphan) that historical romances often portray as exceedingly vulnerable. In a society that gives very little autonomy or agency to women, Regina is constrained in a lot of ways, but she twists those constraints to get exactly what she wants (marriage to the dreamy-gorgeous Nicholas). I liked that she had everyone wrapped around her little finger, the sly little fox. Nicholas is another matter. If you're a reader who reads for heroes, you'll likely not be terribly happy with this book. Nicholas is obtuse, whiney and petulant. He eventually gets over it thankfully, but I doubt he'll ever be anyone's favorite hero.

So that's Love Only Once. My understanding is that the knowledge gained about James Malory is worth the read before getting to Gentle Rogue. And this truly wasn't a bad book. I'll admit to some trepidation going into these older romances, but this one is pretty harmless, if not necessarily brilliant or astonishingly well-written. It certainly can't hold a candle to my favorites from this period of romance and I admit to not fully getting the Johanna Lindsey hype. But I will press on with at least the next two books of the series. Because PIRATES.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Darling Beast Joint Review with Ana from Immersed in Books

Today I'm reviewing Elizabeth Hoyt's Darling Beast with Ana Coqui from Immersed in Books. This has become a regular series for us, though we're not on any specific schedule. Thus far we have reviewed Living in Sin by Anastasia Vitsky and Entreat Me and Radiance by Grace Draven. We hope you enjoy reading our chatter at each other as much as we've been enjoying writing it! And in case you missed it, my monthly column with Alexis Hall is up at All About Romance. We reviewed Ginn Hale's The Lord of White Hell and we were thrilled to be joined this month by Willaful.

Elizabeth Hoyt’s 7th Maiden Lane book, Darling Beast, features the previous heroine’s brother, Apollo Greaves, who was sprung from Bedlam by the hero of the previous book, Maximus Batten, Duke of Wakefield, and is now on the run from the law while assisting his friend in rebuilding Harte’s Folly, the pleasure garden that burned at the end of the 6th book. Lily Stump was once a sought after comedic actress employed by Harte who finds herself squatting in the ruined theater on the grounds, when she is blackballed at other theaters. When Lily’s son stumbles upon Apollo working in the garden, Apollo is unable to speak, the legacy of an attack by a guard during his incarceration. Before these two can find their happy ending, they must clear Apollo’s name and ensure Lily’s son’s safety.

Trigger warning for rape and spousal abuse. 

Elisabeth: Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series contains some really remarkable books in the early part of the series, but with Darling Beast, we seem to be starting a new story arc, so doesn’t seem like a bad place for newcomers to jump in.

Ana: I have read most of Hoyt’s Prince books but I had not kept up with the Maiden Lane series. I agree that this a great jump on point. While I missed some of the connections between the secondary characters, it was very easy to follow without having read the first 6 books.

Elisabeth: Well, you should remedy that! Thief of Shadows, the 4th book of the series is definitely one of my favorite historical romances of all time. Assuming you enjoyed this one, that is!

Ana:  I did enjoy it. It wasn’t perfect, I had some issues with a couple things, but I’m definitely planning on going back and filling in the gaps. And since I had the ARC to Dearest Rogue, book 8, I read that as soon as I finished Darling Beast.  

Elisabeth: Well, let’s start with issues then and move on to what we liked. What stood out for you as less than ideal?

Ana:  My biggest struggle with the book is that one of the major conflicts Apollo and Lily have is over his identity. First she doesn’t know who he is and that keeps them apart for a bit, but then the biggest issue is once she realizes who he is, she just can’t see them building a lasting relationship. She has a lot of reasons and evidence for that, and I felt that it was essentially set aside and glossed over in the end. Having read Dearest Rogue and having looked over some of the synopsis for the other stories, I now know cross-class romance is a recurring theme in the Maiden Lane books, but I wanted a better answer to her objections.

Elisabeth: Yes, I can see that. I guess I excused it because they both had life-altering experiences that came full circle at the end of the book. The resolution of Apollo’s inheritance issues and Lily’s concerns about the continued safety of her child were things that had been hanging over both of them for so long. I think it made sense for them to find solace in each other after going through that together. That sounds pretty thin, but I honestly didn’t think about it at the time.

Ana:  I know that I loved the Epilogue but I had been highlighting all passages where Lily worries that it surprised me when it was resolved by just saying...look my family accepts you. I had so many questions about Lily’s future and career. (Thankfully some of those were answered in Dearest Rogue).

Elisabeth: I didn’t highlight any of that stuff. I think I saw her objections as a rational reaction to trauma inflicted by a member of the aristocracy, but figured that once that trauma was resolved, her issues would be resolved. And Apollo is clearly nothing like that other aristocrat in any way.

Ana: You are totally right about that. That is a huge part of why it works. He is able to show her that he isn’t that man, and won’t behave that way.  I did love how both of them were so good at their jobs, and struggled with how limiting aristocratic views on work are. I thought that was a fantastic connection for them to have.

Elisabeth: I’m actually kind of struggling with this discussion because Elizabeth Hoyt is one of those writers that I just don’t think about very much. I mean, I’ve read all her books and she does seem to gravitate toward certain themes (finding meaningful work is definitely one, non-traditional routes to parenting is another), but I just enjoy the world she creates and so...get kind of lost in that? I feel a little guilty about it honestly because I’m consuming this series in such a mindless way. But that I suppose is a gift in itself. It’s so rare that I take off my critical hat long enough to just enjoy a romance any more so I have to give Hoyt credit for being the first writer to do that for me in a LONG time.

Ana: I think when I was reading tons and tons of historicals I had a tendency to do that too. I read so few of them now, that I can’t help but look out for some those issues. I know that when I was consuming the Prince books, I didn’t think about the class imbalances in some of those.
So did you have any issues or did it just all work for you?

Elisabeth: I think it all worked for me. I wasn’t cognizant of any points that I objected to, though I was a bit taken aback by a fairly graphic description of spousal abuse near the end of the book. It’s definitely something that people with sensitivities in that area should be aware of because it’s hinted at throughout, but it does get fairly explicitly violent at one point in flashback.

Ana: Yes, you are right. Other potentially triggering moments were when Apollo talks about how he was assaulted and how others in Bedlam were treated.

Elisabeth: Oh, here’s a question. It seemed like perhaps at one point Hoyt was implying that Apollo had been raped? Or did you not pick up that? It’s not explicitly stated, I don’t think?

Ana: Oh, I picked up on that. I think I highlighted it because it is so rare to see that come up in a book. He really struggles thinking about or describing how he was treated. But he does describe one of the guards dropping the falls of his pants while he was being held down.

Elisabeth: Yes, I wasn’t sure, but you’re right. I think we are led to understand that that he has experienced sexual abuse in addition to being beaten. I do see rape backstories more often in m/m romance and with heroines, but yeah, more rare when it’s a hero in m/f romance, especially an adult hero.

So what worked for you about Darling Beast?

Ana:  The parallel story in the epigraphs.  Hoyt starts off each chapter with piece from “The Minotaur”. I usually tend to ignore those pieces of poetry and such at the start of chapters because I just want to rush back into the main story, but as the book went on I found myself slowing down and taking the time to read the snippets.

Elisabeth: Um. I skipped them. All of them. I’m a terrible reader! Why were these more interesting than usual?

Ana: I think I was annoyed at them at the beginning, I even posted on twitter asking if anyone bothered to read them.  But I think I read one by mistake and it started alerting me that while there is a Beauty and the Beast element to the story, it was really going to focus a lot more on the question of identity, inheritance and violence.  

Elisabeth: It sounds like I should go back and read them. Maybe I will be less annoyed by them if I read them all at once.

Ana: Some of them were really long!  So what else worked for you?

Elisabeth: I don’t have a lot of historical romance series that I follow. I never got sucked into the Cynsters or Spindle Cove, for example. So my pleasure in this was seeing some familiar faces like the Duke of Wakefield, who is a fascinating character, and then being introduced to a few new faces that I’m DEEPLY curious about and will, I’m assuming, get their own book at some point.

Ana:  Are you talking about Montgomery?

Elisabeth: *bounces up and down* YES YES YES! Gosh he’s odd. Just the kind of hero I like. His actions in this book are almost inexplicable. I can’t wait to find out what drives him.

Ana: I had the same reaction to him in this book. I was really attracted to his near malevolence and manipulative dandyness.  He reminded me a lot of the Duke of Darling in Anna Cowan’s Untamed. Dangerous and easy to underestimate.  You will see a lot more of him in the next book.  But I was surprised to discover that the book after that is not his book, but it is someone connected to him.  

Elisabeth: I’ve found this series to be like that a bit. I guess until I discussed this with you, I wasn’t as attuned to how up and down it has been. The 5th book was a little more of a throwaway for me too: kind of a bridge between Thief of Shadows and Duke of Midnight. None of them have been bad, I don’t think. It’s just that some of the characters are total stand-outs and other have been less so. I think this one may be one of those “less so” ones for me.

Ana: The romance in the next book worked a lot more for me.

Elisabeth: And I have been eagerly awaiting Trevillion’s book so I’m very much looking forward to starting that one. He’s a huge character in the previous three books and he has changed a lot.

Ana: Has Harte been in a lot of the previous books? Because he is the hero of book after Trevillion’s.

Elisabeth: Oh, yeah. He was a big character in the 6th book especially when the Folly burns down so that makes sense really. Still, I’m impatient for Montgomery now!

Ana: You will have to buzz me when you read the next book. Because I have thoughts.

Elisabeth: Definitely! So any final thoughts about Darling Beast?

Ana: I think it was charming and a very enjoyable read despite the hard topics it dealt with. I am glad to have read it and reconnected with Hoyt through it. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed her books.

Elisabeth: Yes, dealing with hard topics in a way that still allows the story to work is something that I think Hoyt excels at. And I love that it happens within a story that still works as a romance. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Lily and Apollo, but I enjoyed their love story.

A lifelong genre reader, Ana grew up reading fantasy, sci-fi & mystery novels in Puerto Rico. Ana discovered comics in college before finally wandering into the Romance section a few years ago after bawling through yet another YA dystopian series. A recovering English and History double major, Ana is now a school librarian, mother of two geeky girls and a pastor's wife in Rochester, NY. When she is not reading or writing reviews, she is knitting or planning her next trip. She writes about books at her blog: Immersed in Books and on Twitter as @anacoqui.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Flame of Diablo, 1980 Harlequin Presents #2U5S

When I started this project a month or so ago, Jenny Haddon said this 1980 Sara Craven book was the first Harlequin to include "full docking procedures" (Haddon's term, which I adore). However, Possession, the 1979 Violet Winspear Harlequin Presents I reviewed two weeks ago, included married sex. Possession may have been published after this book, Flame of Diablo, by Mills & Boon (I can't figure that out) but as a Harlequin it was published a bit later--Possession is #321 and Flame of Diablo is #331. I'm not sure I care precisely which was first though. I'm more interested in the evolution of sexual contact in categories than I am in the "first" everything. Though it's possible that Flame of Diablo is actually the first Harlequin to include premarital sex because it, well, does. Because the hero and heroine aren't married at the time of sexual contact, nor do they have any plans to be. It's also fully consensual on the heroine's part. Revolutionary! But we'll get to that.

The premise of Flame of Diablo is that Rachel Crichton, a blonde, beautiful London actress, has been sent to Colombia by her sick grandfather to retrieve her brother Mark, who has gone to seek his fortune in defiance of the grandfather's wishes. When Rachel shows up in Bogota, a friend of Mark's tells her that he might be heading to Diablo to seek out a precious, but cursed emerald. Rachel attempts to hire Vitas de Mendoza to guide her into the wilderness, but of course she is afraid of her "powerful reaction to him" and sets off with a different local guide, who turns out to be not a nice guy.
Trigger warning for rape after the jump (brief, but violent).

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sirocco, 1983 Harlequin Presents #2U5S

This morning I'm thrilled to bring you a guest post by Willaful, one of my very favorite romance bloggers and a long-time category romance reader. Her post is on 1983 Harlequin Presents SIROCCO by Anne Mather. We're skipping ahead a bit in time because this post builds on some of what we discussed last week: the prevalence in older Harlequins of heroines getting physical with men not the hero. And with that I leave you in Willa's capable hands. ~ Elisabeth

I've been fascinated by the sexual, political, and historical mores of Harlequin Presents since I started reading them again, after a 30 year hiatus, so Elisabeth's summer project is right up my alley. Sirocco is noteworthy for a very early mention of oral sex, although it's not the earliest. (That is generally thought to be the rather memorably named Antigua Kiss by Anne Weale.) But it's interesting in other ways as well.

Our heroine is Rachel, a young woman who works for her living, despite having a trust fund and a wealthy father. (Or is he?!) She's happily engaged to Roger, a name that only a man who will not be the hero would ever have in a Harlequin Presents. (To give you an idea of Roger, he tries to convince Rachel that her housemate and close friend is too fat to be a bridesmaid.)

Rachel discovers that no good deed goes unpunished when she tries to help a man she sees lying unconscious in a car. That man, Alex Roche, appears to become obsessed with Rachel, and begins to insinuate himself -- sometimes by force -- into every area of her life.

In her commentary on Charlotte Lamb's Possession, Elisabeth wrote:

"First, one place where I'm starting to notice a divergence in the way physical intimacy is portrayed in these older categories is in the characters' experiences with people not their potential partners. These days, it seems like neither hero nor heroine is permitted any kind of sexual contact with a different character, while in the older books, I'm not sure I've read one yet that didn't have some element of a love triangle involving at least kissing."

I've noticed this before in older Harlequins: Janet Dailey's Sweet Promise, from 1975, opens with the heroine genuinely in love with another man, and quite interested in being physical with him. In Sirocco, Rachel is a virgin, which is pretty much de rigueur for an unmarried heroine. (Although in a very early Anne Mather Presents, The Pleasure And The Pain, the hero and heroine had been lovers in the past.) However, her fiance has "taught her ways to please him without their going to bed together." This is made slightly more explicit later in the story:

"'Oh sweetheart, I've missed you,' he murmured, drawing her reluctant hands to his body. 'Hmm, that feels good. Go on, go on: make love to me...'"

Although this example of sex with a man not the hero (in the middle of the story, even) is historically fascinating in itself, it leads to something even more noteworthy: Rachel gets fed up with not having her own needs met.

"She couldn't dispel a linger sense of dissatisfaction that had no real foundation in their association, something that had not changed over the months they had been together. It concerned the -- from her point of view -- totally unsatisfactory sexual relationship they shared, and Roger's apparent indifference to her needs."

"When Roger joined her at the breakfast table, he was looking decidedly pleased with himself, and Rachel couldn't help the uncharitable supposition that he wouldn't be feeling that way if he had had to be satisfied with her kisses."

Of course, this is at least partially attributed to Alex awakening her. Still, it's a far cry from the more modern Harlequin Presents heroine, who frequently has had no real sexual desires to speak of before meeting her hero. (And who will almost never have sex again -- especially not enjoyable sex -- if they've parted. This is just starting to change in the line, and many long-time readers absolutely hate that.)

Some of what goes on between Alex and Rachel is non-consensual, including some actual physical restraint. But by the time they have sex, she's mostly into it; consent is not crystal clear, but it's a very mild forced seduction. And even while she's being swept away by passion, Rachel is aware of her needs being considered for the first time:

"This was not at all like being with Roger, she thought hazily, as Alex's mouth beat a searing path across her breasts, then followed downward, over the quivering flatness of her diaphragm to the softness of her stomach. Roger had never given any thought to her pleasure, only his own, and while she told herself that Roger had had more respect for her, it rang a little hollowly in her ears.

Even so, she flinched in sudden panic when Alex's mouth sought a more intimate invasion, and he gave a soft laugh as he slid over her to find her mouth again. 'You have a lot to learn,' he breathed against her lips. 'But we will come to that later.'"

And the focus on Rachel's satisfaction continues:

"It was all over too soon. Rachel had scarcely begun to enjoy the pleasurable sensations Alex's thrusting body was evoking before she sensed his shuddering climax, and he slumped heavily on top of her. Not so different after all, she reflected bitterly, remembering Roger's groaning convulsions, and the artificial mood of bonhomie that always followed them."

This is unexpectedly realistic in a genre chock full of first time orgasms. But don't worry -- he makes it up to her.

The emphasis on domineering men who don't take no for an answer in older category romance is generally taken to be an expression of the shame women felt around their sexuality. It's interesting to see that in at least some respects, older category heroines may actually have been allowed a less restricted sexuality, one that isn't dependent on one specific man to awaken and fulfill it.

I should warn readers that Sirocco is a slightly disguised "Sheikh" story and sometimes gets uncomfortably racist. I'd say it was a product of its times, in which anti-Arab sentiment was prevalent -- but then lots of things haven't changed all that much in 40 years, have they?

Monday, June 1, 2015

For Real Lemon Meringue Pie

About six months ago, I got an email from romance writer Alexis Hall. He wanted to know if I'd consider developing a lemon meringue pie recipe for this kinky book he was writing about a chef and a doctor. Of course I agreed and therefore ended up helping with this book, For Real (out everywhere today), in a super small and amusing way. But since I kinda qualify as a beta reader, I'm not going to do a full review. I just want to share some personal and HELLO BIASED reflections on why I thought this was a terrific book. And also pictures of pie. You've been warned.

There are lots of things I loved about For Real, mainly the large age gap between the heroes, the realistic, engaging portrayals of BDSM within the context of a really romantic story and the dueling first person, present/past point of view which could have gone really far wrong, but didn't. Toby is a short-order cook and he's believably, adorably, relatably nineteen to Laurie's jaded, cynical, tired thirty-seven. In a quirky way, their relationship kind of works because they have such a large gap in their experience--with life, with work and yes, with kink. When I discovered that Toby is the dominant in the book, I liked it even better because it's so not the typical romance pattern. Toby is a new dominant and has lots of questions, but also lots of enthusiasm which works for Laurie as nothing else has in recent memory. If I were writing a real review, which I'm not, I'd also go into how the book makes some really insightful points about sex and kink in romance.
Laurence Dalziel is worn down and washed up, and for him, the BDSM scene is all played out. Six years on from his last relationship, he’s pushing forty and tired of going through the motions of submission.
Then he meets Toby Finch. Nineteen years old. Fearless, fierce, and vulnerable.  Everything Laurie can’t remember being.
Toby doesn’t know who he wants to be or what he wants to do. But he knows, with all the certainty of youth, that he wants Laurie. He wants him on his knees. He wants to make him hurt, he wants to make him beg, he wants to make him fall in love.
The problem is, while Laurie will surrender his body, he won’t surrender his heart. Because Toby is too young, too intense, too easy to hurt. And what they have—no matter how right it feels—can’t last. It can’t mean anything.
It can’t be real.
- See more at:
Laurence Dalziel is worn down and washed up, and for him, the BDSM scene is all played out. Six years on from his last relationship, he’s pushing forty and tired of going through the motions of submission.
Then he meets Toby Finch. Nineteen years old. Fearless, fierce, and vulnerable.  Everything Laurie can’t remember being.
Toby doesn’t know who he wants to be or what he wants to do. But he knows, with all the certainty of youth, that he wants Laurie. He wants him on his knees. He wants to make him hurt, he wants to make him beg, he wants to make him fall in love.
The problem is, while Laurie will surrender his body, he won’t surrender his heart. Because Toby is too young, too intense, too easy to hurt. And what they have—no matter how right it feels—can’t last. It can’t mean anything.
It can’t be real.
- See more at:

And scene with the lemon meringue pie recipe in it is a very kinky, very sexy scene. It's also creative, funny and tender. But it's not actually my favorite. For all that For Real is a smoking hot BDSM romance, it's also incredibly romantic. The scene that melted me was when Laurie takes Toby to a dinner at his old college and at the tail end of this slightly awkward excursion...I can't even...Toby teaches Laurie to quickstep in a courtyard. I don't think it's just because I'm a dancer that this scene put a completely silly smile on my face, but it might be. It's as sensual as any of the BDSM scenes in the book and even requires Laurie surrendering to being led--in a venue he's much less familiar with than being tied up. But mostly I thought it was a brief moment of utter loveliness--romance perfection even--that has stuck with me for months and that I now think about every time I quickstep. It's about love and trust and becoming a "we" instead of a "you" and a "me" in a way that has the potential for a healthy amount of humiliation. And that's something I love about all of Hall's books: how he fills recesses of hurt and vulnerability with things that are better. Maybe not all the way, and maybe not perfectly, but better.

For Real isn't Hall's cleverest, most daring book, with the lushest language, the starkest metaphor or the largest concept. It's just real and glorious in equal measures. I think it's his best one yet.

But hey, I'm biased.

Oh, and the recipe for the pie is in the book. So you should, ya know, get it. In fact, until June 7th, there's a giveaway going on over on my post at Read a Romance Month where you could win a copy of For Real, Rose Lerner's Sweet Disorder or any number of other fabulous foodie romance prizes.

Disclosure: In case you somehow missed it, I beta read a section of For Real, wrote the lemon meringue pie recipe in the book, have a review column once a month at All About Romance with Hall and pester him via email frequently. I also received an ARC of For Real from the publisher. So you should obviously ignore everything I have to say about this book because BIASED in all the ways.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...