Tag Archives: romance

Fairy Tale Romance: My Passionate Love Affair With Eloisa James’s Books

Those of you who have been around a while might know that I’m on a quest of sorts to get to know the romance genre better. I was pretty sure that Eloisa James would be an author whose style I’d like, so with that in mind, I picked up some of her fairy tale-inspired romances.

Oh. My. God. I can’t get enough of them. I never used to really understand the addictive nature of the romance genre, but I get it now. So I thought I’d give some quick reviews for the three I’ve read so far. I will undoubtedly be reading more from James in the near future, and I recommend her books for anyone who is interested in the genre but isn’t exactly sure where to start. Just so you know, these are all very loose fairy tale retellings—they have a fairly whimsical tone and are not at all fantasy.

The Duke Is Mine is inspired by “The Princess and the Pea.” Just like in the original tale, the heroine arrives at a manor one stormy night soaked through to the bone. In James’s version, her destined duke greets her at the door and is immediately wildly attracted to her—a sodden gown clinging to every curve will do that. 😉 Too bad she’s engaged to a simpleton and is really only visiting the duke’s estate as her sister’s chaperone; it’s the sister who is being tested as the possible duchess-to-be.

I really liked this book; the female MC is sassy yet honorable. I’m a sucker for sister relationships in stories, and this one is really cute. It also handles neurological disorders in a sensitive, sensible matter. The duke love interest has an Asperger’s-like disorder, and the MC’s betrothed, who is mentally handicapped due to a temporary loss of oxygen at birth, is depicted respectfully. Out of the three here, I’d say this book is great for a first impression of James’s work.


Once Upon a Tower is of course inspired by the tale of Rapunzel. Of the three books of James that I’ve read, this one is the most “realistic.” The female and male MC are both quite young and sexually inexperienced. The chemistry between them is very strong, but when they get married, their inexperience in the bedroom introduces major tension into the relationship; I don’t know that I’ve ever read a more realistic and raw depiction of a young couple’s sexual struggles. I even read their first unfortunate sexcapade out loud to my husband. His response? “Oh, damn.

So this is a more serious read than the other two here, and it will really pull at your heart strings. I’d also recommend it to any classical music fans out there; the female MC is an expert cellist, and James has really done her homework in this department.


I’m not sure exactly how to put this in a blog-appropriate manner. Umm… When Beauty Tamed the Beast threw me into a strong romantic tizzy. I knew, in a clinical sort of way, that romance books had the ability to do that—but didn’t ever really expect it to happen to me.

Well, we all get proven wrong sometimes. This is a book that will please female readers and indirectly please their romantic partners. You catch my drift? ;D I’d give this ten out of five stars if I could.


Have you read any great romance books lately? Do you tend more towards contemporary, historical, or paranormal? Leave your recommendations down below!

The Highlander Who Protected Me by Vanessa Kelly

Here’s how this book came into my possession: I was relaying all my trials with romance to my husband last year, and the joker decided in his infinite wisdom that he wanted to buy me for Christmas the “best” romance he could find. To him, this meant two things: a hunky cover and a worthy blurb. Welp, there’s the cover up top, so we’ve clearly accomplished the first. As for the blurb, all he needed to see was that the male MC’s name was Royal, and that was enough to thoroughly tickle his fancy.

So here we are. (By the way, make sure to scroll to the bottom for a husband review.) I actually did enjoy this, though it was one of those on and off sort of reads that took me a couple weeks. The premise in vague, non-spoiler terms is that Ainsley, a Sassenach, needs Royal’s help to protect her from her vile betrothed. What I hadn’t realized at the outset is that while this is the first in the Clan Kendrick series, it’s actually not the first book of Kelly’s featuring these characters. Clan Kendrick is a spin-off series from another, so there were more than a few times when Kelly re-introduced a character or referenced a bit of backstory. This was a bit frustrating for me; as someone coming into a purported first in a series, the last thing I want is to feel like I have catching up to do—especially as the book is lengthy already, weighing in at more than four hundred pages.

The emphasis on protection and safety is interesting from a storytelling standpoint. If you think about it, these themes can be a little bit “anti-action”—and preventing something from happening isn’t necessarily as interesting as other kinds of plot structures. So it was a quieter sort of story overall, with more emphasis on character relationships and dialogue exchanges than actual plot points.

On a tangential note, the title of the book itself also never fails to make me laugh. It just doesn’t read at all “title-like” to me—more like description than anything else. Anyone with me here? 😛 Maybe I’m the only one…

In any case, I did enjoy the developing relationship between Ainsley and Royal, finding their chemistry quite good. The characters individually, too, feel concrete, with realistic personalities, flaws, hopes, and dreams. No caricatured characters here. Kelly’s writing in general is also pretty strong. The dialogue does get a bit samey after a while (how many times can characters say “don’t fash yourself”??), BUT it did teach me the gem of an expression “dicked in the knob.” That apparently means “crazy,” and I will be wasting no opportunity to employ it, let me tell ya.

Will I be reading the next in the series? Not sure about that, especially because I have some other romance TBR goals that are a bit more pressing. But I am definitely up for reading another book by Vanessa Kelly in the future, so am grateful to my husband for pointing me in her direction.

Husband Review

“Slick channel.”

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

I read pretty much exclusively fiction, but even so, a good majority of the books I read are for research purposes, with the aim of informing and improving my writing. I might pick up a book that I think would be a good comp title, reread a book to study an author’s voice or methods for conjuring a specific mood, or even read a new release just to stay in touch with current literary trends. All this is why I basically abandoned reading fantasy last year—I just had a lot of books to read for research, the majority of them great, but none of them fantasy.

So it was for research purposes that Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies came onto my radar. I was considering including a character with agoraphobia in my new “Beauty and the Beast and aliens” WIP, so I wanted to get a sense of how this condition is tackled in fiction, especially in YA fiction. Gornall herself drew on her own experience and struggles in writing this book, and it shows—there is nothing in this book that is not raw and authentic. I read it in less than twenty-four hours—simply could not put it down. The MC is absolutely compelling, a character you can’t help but root for as she deals with OCD, anxiety, and agoraphobia, all while building a relationship with the handsome, awkward boy next door who sees past her mental health struggles. Voice is everything in this book, and Gornall lets us stay tapped into the MC’s thoughts like we’re a neuron in her brain. She’s flawed, funny, likable, and, above all, real. You can see how she comes to have the thought patterns she does—I found this fascinating, especially because I recognized some of my own unhealthy thought patterns taken to the next level by the MC. It really gave me pause and helped me examine my own head space.

You might be wondering if a book spent pretty much entirely in the MC’s house would grow stale, but nothing here is boring. In fact, this is one of those rare reads where I finished it and felt that sad, lonely ache, where you just want to go back to page one and start the story over again. Suffice it to say that this is a five star read.

I also want to briefly laud the author’s treatment of the MC’s relationship with her mother. I adore realistic parents in YA, and the relationship here was just perfect—nothing forced or scripted.

In the end, I did make the decision that an agoraphobic character isn’t the right fit for my book. Anxiety or OCD might make an appearance, not sure yet, but definitely not agoraphobia. And I am so happy to have been able to read this book to make an informed decision about that. I will absolutely be picking up future works by this author, and I recommend Under Rose-Tainted Skies for… everyone! Everyone should read this book! Right now!

ARC: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Serious Moonlight debuts April 16th.

You know when you see a perfect cover, and you think to yourself, well, the book can’t possibly live up to THAT, could it? They’re compensating for something, right? Well, banish those fears—Serious Moonlight is a cozy contemporary that pairs an adorable romance with memorable characters and a Pacific Northwest setting. In my opinion, this book is exactly what new adult should be: kids post-high school taking their first steps into “adulting,” with sex present, but not in an erotic way. It has a YA contemporary voice, but the MCs are just a tad bit older. I also truly appreciated how Bennett placed her characters in a non-school setting. I’ve heard so many calls from people in publishing asking for manuscripts featuring MCs navigating college, and I’m just… not really interested in that?

The pitch is that the MC, Birdie, hooked up with a cute guy in his car, then totally freaked out and literally ran away from him. She’s doing her best to forget all this… but then said cute guy, Daniel, happens to work at her new job. Gotta be fate, right? But both Birdie and Daniel are going to have to work through a lot of things before they can get their happily ever after. Oh, and there’s a “mystery” in the book as well… I use quotes here because the mystery aspect really isn’t that big of a focus; we’re all just here for the developing romance between Birdie and Daniel. It’s cute, they’re cute, the setting’s cute, everything’s cute, cute, cute! Love it.

All this isn’t to say that the book is perfect. Daniel is a bit too much of a “nice guy” for my taste; he treats Birdie like gold at every opportunity, giving her all possible outs from their relationship. That didn’t come across as caring to me so much as unsexy; I was hoping he’d grow a spine. But Daniel did grow on me in time, especially as he plans one awesome date after the next. The one with a Clue focus? (Trying not to give anything away.) I was Googling if anything like that existed in my area. (Unfortunately looks like I’d have to travel to Boston, so… meh.) There was also some cringey, wooden dialogue—I could have done without the “skedaddling” scene. But these are just small quibbles; the setting, the characters, the “found family” aspect, the pitch-perfect new adult feel all added up to a thoroughly enjoyable read, so I will definitely be checking out Bennett’s other books.

Tell Me Everything by Sarah Enni

I’ve been a loyal listener of Sarah Enni’s First Draft podcast since 2014, so I was psyched to pick up a copy of her debut novel. Tell Me Everything follows Ivy, a sophomore photography nerd who’s been struggling with growing distance between her and her BFF Harold. To take her mind off her absent, over-scheduled friend, Ivy becomes engrossed with the new app VEIL, which allows users to view Instagram-style anonymous pictures local to a five-mile radius. The book follows Ivy as she attempts to uncover the secrets of the students at her school posting on VEIL.

It’s a cute, short book that I read in less than twenty-four hours. I really enjoyed the local art scene focus, and I feel that there’s a missed opportunity here for the book to include some photographs and illustrations to color the narrative, like in a Ransom Riggs book. Yet the book isn’t without its flaws; it felt plotless for a good portion of the book, like we were being treated to individual scenes that made up some sort of abstract whole. The voice, too, is a bit younger than I usually read. (More a preference thing than an actual detractor.) You know how a lot of readers (rightly) complain that a good portion of YA isn’t really YA anymore, but really just New Adult, repackaged with “eighteen-year-olds” and pretty YA covers? This isn’t that; it reads young, and Enni was clearly purposeful in the decision to make Ivy and Harold sophomores instead of upperclassmen.

I’ll admit that the tone of the book was a bit off to me. There is a lot of quirk for quirk’s sake, almost reminiscent of Katy t3h PeNgU1n oF d00m. That combined with an especially cringy (cringey?) scene between Ivy and Harold that read like progressive buzzword mad libs had me not exactly racing for the end of the book, but still edging toward eager-to-be-done territory.

***SPOILER INCOMING***

I did also feel like some questions briefly raised throughout the book weren’t explored deeply enough. In this book, online anonymity and an unmoderated user base butt heads with “safe spaces” and helicopter parents. There is a kind of resolution to this conflict in terms of the VEIL app, but not a satisfying one in my opinion, and what resolution Enni offers us doesn’t do much to address the very real debates that society is currently having about social media platforms. VEIL is deleted in the end, but let’s face it, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t about to delete Facebook, nor Jack Dorsey Twitter, so what exact lesson are we supposed to take from Tell Me Everything into the real world?

So some good, some bad. Tell Me Everything was a pleasant, quick read for a Sunday afternoon, but I wouldn’t highly recommend it for older YA readers, though a younger, less picky crowd might have some fun here.


Just a real quick reminder that Chapter Four of The Gold in the Dark will be posting this Sunday at 11 AM EST! All right, that’s all, folks. ❤

My One and Only Duke by Grace Burrowes

I thought it wasn’t possible. I thought it was simply not meant to be.

But lo and behold, despite the fact that it’s February in Connecticut and we just suffered a snowstorm, in my heart doves are cooing, angels are singing, and double rainbows wreathe the sky.

Yes, as is only fitting for my Valentine’s Day post, I am happy to report that love is finally in the air—I have found a good romance novel. Let’s give credit where it’s due; Grace Burrowes was suggested to me by my mom and sister, and they have good taste. They knew exactly what I was talking about when I moaned that all the romance I’d ever tried was crap and that the writing quality got in the way of the falling-in-love bits.

And I promise, I will still read the stupid Phillips book, and I’ll even do my damnedest to do so with an open mind. But for now… in the present moment… let’s forget about that and focus on Grace Burrowes instead.

She can write! The dialogue is excellent, the characters interesting and natural-feeling. There was no jarring head-hopping, nor any stray details that vaulted me out of the nineteenth-century London setting. The narrative voice felt perfectly suited to the story; I frequently found myself looking up words in the dictionary, since hello, nineteenth-century London, but I didn’t have to do this to a ridiculous degree—and you know, I like looking up these older words that have fallen out of favor! Learning is cool, and so are immersive books in a historical setting that’s written just. perfect.

And the story was exciting. The basic premise is that Jane, widowed and pregnant, and Quinn, slated to die by hanging, find their fortunes turning on a dime when it’s discovered that Quinn is the long-lost heir to a ducal title. I don’t want to give anything else away, but the opening first act was like watching someone tie a ribbon into a perfect, beautiful bow. Everything came together as it should, Burrowes delaying the reader’s reward until the last possible moment. You can just tell that you’re in the hands of an author who won’t let you down.

So now I feel like I’ve at last kind of joined the romance community, like a chick hammering its first chunk of the eggshell away. I’ve added I don’t know how many romances to my TBR in the last few days, all of them tangentially related to Burrowes. (Thanks, Goodreads!) Who’s next? Eloisa James? Meredith Duran? Mary Balogh? I feel like a kid in a candy shop.

Love, at last! Hurrah! ❤

An Unexpected Romance: Recommendations for Genre Fiction Fans Who Don’t Read Romance

If you’ve been around KJG Enterprises for a while, you might know that I have some struggles with the romance genre. Full disclosure: my honest, perhaps controversial opinion is that romance is most satisfying as a book sub-plot, rather than as the primary focus.

But this doesn’t mean I hate the romance genre!!! In fact, I’m eager for my aforementioned opinion to be proven wrong, which is why I’ve made it my mission this year to dive deeper into the romance genre as a whole and do my best to discover some authors whom I really connect with. I want this, truly I do, and I’ll probably have a post going up this Thursday that may surprise you! (And me!)

So in honor of fast-approaching Valentine’s Day, I offer you my top suggestions for fans of genre fiction who don’t read romance. All of these are five-star books for me, and each one is completely different from the others.


Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli

This 210-page book is perfect for anyone looking for a quick, moving read with a Greek mythology focus. It’s YA, but YA from before Twilight exploded the scene. If you’re looking for a book with a small cast and intimate atmosphere, you should definitely pick up a copy.

Plus there are beautiful mermaids. Need I say more?


Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

If you want a master class in character voice and slow burn, read this book. First published in 1975, Crocodile on the Sandbank sparked Peters’s cozy Egyptology mystery empire. It reads as an older book, but a hilarious older book. Amelia and Emerson are two of the greatest characters I have ever read, and, and, and… It’s just the best. Get it. Read it. The End.



Green Rider series by Kristen Britain

Is it too mean to include the Green Rider series in this post? It’s been a long while since I read the first book, but if memory serves correct, then heed this warning: I believe there’s hardly any hint of the true romantic pairing in the first book. If you want the slowest of burns (and I’m talking thousands of pages), then read this series.

But it’s worth it. I have never cared so much about two people ending up together so much as the MC Karigan and her beau. (Trying to avoid spoilers here.) Twilight got nothing on this. But again, it takes forever for any real pay-off, so… Yeah. You’ve been warned.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Consider this a last-minute addition to the list. Sunshine is not so much romantic as sexy, but I do think it deserves to be here.

First up, you gotta like vampires. If you are a fan of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and hilarious stream-of-consciousness 1st POV, then this is one for you. Perfect atmosphere, excellent world-building… If any of this is calling you, buy this right stat now.




So those are my unconventional Valentine’s Day picks. I’d love to hear your own unexpected romance recommendations. Slow-burn Western? Sweet and tender sci-fi? Feel free to leave a comment down below with your own romance picks.

The Queen’s Wing by Jessica Thorne

You know when you read a fantastic first chapter and you get that sinking feeling? That the rest of the book can’t possibly keep this up type of feeling? The Queen’s Wing keeps the momentum going. By the last few chapters, I was stopping every couple of pages to shake my head at my husband and mutter, “How is she doing this? This is just so good.”

He called me jealous. I’m just happy to have discovered a new favorite author.

I’ve seen some comparisons online between The Queen’s Wing and Sarah J. Maas. I actually don’t think that comparison is apropos. I’d pitch this as science-fantasy à la Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, with voice and pacing similarities to Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Don’t let the cover fool you; this book doesn’t read as over-the-top, fluffy YA. It is NOT The Selection. Sure, there’s a princess and a love triangle, but the MC has such a deep sense of duty and self-awareness that this really should be classed in that mystical “new adult” realm that never really materialized in the way we thought it would.

And the romance is perfect. If you want a love triangle done right, this is it. You won’t end up hating the MC for being a selfish asshole, and nothing feels forced.

Plus there are loads of crazy plot twists and surprises—surprises that actually surprise you. So many books like this are predictable; this one is not. Yet none of the plot twists broke my immersion.

Once again: it’s perfect. Read it. I’d be shocked if this isn’t a top book of the year for me. And by the way, Thorne is coming out with a sequel in a couple weeks, and she also writes under the names R. F. Long and Ruth Frances Long, so there’s a back list for fans of The Queen’s Wing to catch up on. Thanks to Lauregalie for turning me on to this book, and happy almost weekend, everybody!