Between Last Night’s Pages: Tessa Dare’s Say Yes to the Marquess



In Dare’s latest historical romance, the heroine has been engaged to the hero’s absentee older brother, a marquess, for eight years, but she wants to end the engagement and found a brewery in a castle she inherited. The hero, meanwhile, has renounced polite society after being disinherited for his wild ways and is the recently dethroned heavyweight boxing champ of England. If you’re sensing that this is more of a wallpaper historical than a historically authentic novel you’d be correct. In fact, this reads so much like a contemporary, occasional patchy references to breeches, the ton, and cobblestone alleys notwithstanding, I think it should be called a wall sticker historical.

I’m really enjoying it. It’s totally ridiculous as a historical, but as a romance it’s funny, sensual, and uplifting in that way a good romance can be.

In the spirit of blogging short, I wanted to mention one interesting thing Dare does. Early on, Clio and Rafe have the following conversation:

“Why do you fight?”

His answer was matter-of-fact. “I was cut off with no funds or inheritance. I needed a career.”

“I know that. But surely there are other ways to earn a living. Less violent ways.”

“Ah.” He paused. “I see where this is going. You want to know my secret pain.”

“Secret pain?”

“Oh, yes. My inner demons. The dark current of torment washing away little grains of my soul. That’s what you’re after. You think that if you keep me here in your pretty castle and cosset me with sixteen pillows, I’ll learn to love myself and cease submitting my body to such horrific abuse.”

I found this theme to be an interesting — er — meta-trope. It’s like both of these characters know the role Rafe’s boxing is supposed to play in a typical historical romance, and it’s that role, not the boxing itself, that is the issue. To make it even more obvious, later in the book, Clio refers to it as “Secret Pain”, with capital letters.

I’m only 80% finished with the book, so I can’t say how it all resolves, and I don’t want to spoil anyone who plans to read it. I’ll just say I don’t think the book ends up playing with or subverting the trope as much as it relies on it, but that early promise was fascinating.



A New Year, a New Post

bird cage cane


2014 was a year of significant events: my oldest started high school, my husband and I both became department chairs, and we did a bunch of things to the house (new bathrooms!) that we’d been meaning to do for 14 years. Then, about two weeks ago, my father died in a car accident. So, quite a year. Still processing that last one, as you can imagine.

On the bookish front, I didn’t blog here as much as I wanted to, but I did start writing for Book Riot in May, which I’ve really enjoyed. I have said this every year for the past three, but I really want to blog more in 2015. It’s just a fun thing to do, and way more nourishing than idly scrolling through Twitter.
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Great tweets from last night

This is some inside baseball for Romanceland denizens. It’s a selfish post, because I only link to one thing, SuperWendy’s erotic romance post (see her tweet below), and I’m not offering any context (although I will answer questions). It’s a collection of some witty/inspiring/funny tweets I wanted to gather in one place, accented with some appropriate gifs.


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Books I Been Readin

The Husband's Secret

I read/listened to Moriarty’s most recent book, BIG LITTLE LIES and loved it, so I’m delving in to her back list. THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is only my second Moriarty, and I am enjoying the heck out of listening to it. but I can already tell I am going to need to space these out for saminess. I’m attracted to her incisive (sometimes scathing) writing about modern middle class mothering, but her books are also very funny at times. This is women’s fiction, with overlapping stories with multiple female protagonists, a little romance, a little mystery (usually a long ago criminal event that comes back to haunt).

Here’s an example, a passage from the point of view of Tess, whose husband has recently informed her that he and her cousin had fallen in lovve. She’s taken their young son Liam and left Melbourne for her home town of Sydney:

Will had called her mobile that morning. She should have ignored it, but when she’d seen his name she’d felt an involuntary spark of hope and snatched up the phone. He was calling to tell her that this was all a mistake. Of course he was. But as soon as he spoke in that awful new, heavy, solemn voice, without a hint of laughter, the hope vanished. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked. ‘Is Liam all right?’ He was speaking as if there had been a recent tragedy in their lives that had nothing to do with him.
She was desperate to tell the real Will what this new Will, this humourless intruder, had done; how he’d crushed her heart. The real Will would want to fix things for her. The real Will would be straight on the phone, making a complaint about the way his wife had been treated, demanding recompense. The real Will would make her a cup of tea, run her a bath and, finally, make her see the funny side of what had just happened to her.


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What You Said Means A Lot To Me










I think (and wish with all my heart) that this is a one-off*. But it’s hard not to be concerned when a reviewer suffers such a violation of her privacy and her negative reviews are portrayed as trolling and bullying, as if such things justified stalking someone. Worse, no one is being held accountable, some people are praising Hale, others are saying the reviewer deserved it, the mainstream media seems to have forgotten how to research and fact-check, and the publisher remains silent. — Brie, Romance Around the Corner

Victory (to me) looks like fellow authors and publishers drowning out BBA’s in an instant chorus of disapproval. It looks like people with a financial interest in the industry protecting the people who are showing up as volunteers. Victory looks like a rejection of doxxing. It looks like creating reader spaces that young voices can use to explore their reactions to art. Victory looks like an acknowledgement that reader-reviewers are not cogs in the publishing machine but valued partners in the creation of a healthy and vibrant community of traditionally focused literacy. –Meoskop, at Love in the Margins

A review is not an invitation to an author for a discussion about the review or the reviewer’s opinion. — Sarah Wendell, Smart Bitches Trashy Books 

But for me, the lesson here is explicit: there are publishers and authors who are more than willing to exploit the value of readers to promote their books and then equally willing to participate in the ruination of that valuable resource, should it not seem valuable at the moment to them. Many of us are used to the systematic devaluation of female voices in, well, virtually every community you can name. But this feels like a sucker punch to the gut, and now that I’m getting my wind back, all I can say is congratulations to any of you who helped, supported, or cheered while Kathleen Hale — or anyone like her — lashed out at a reader-reviewer. Not only have you helped diminish the serious implications of real bullying (because wishes are not ponies and negative reviews are NOT bullying), but you are fundamentally damaging the community you simultaneously rely on for its honest, spontaneous enthusiasm about books. You are, in fact, poisoning the very well from which you’ve been drinking. — Robin, Dear Author

What have we become? And how much further will we take this? — Sparky, Fangs for the Fantasy

Miss Bates soul-searched her blogging. She takes her blog-title as a renewing point, returns to her modest roots: primarily, Miss Bates reads romance, she doesn’t review romance. She hopes to inspire fellow-readers to share in her thoughts about romance fiction, or fiction with strong romantic elements (a clunky designation, but a hybrid Miss Bates loves). She wants her blog to be an account of what she’s reading and how she responded to it and less about whether you, her reader, should, or shouldn’t read a book. She wants to, once again, engage with her reading emotionally and intellectually without worrying about spoilers and ratings and release dates. — Miss Bates, Miss Bates Reads Romance

Part of the rise in conflict is due to the way being online shapes social interactions, and part of it is because the book community is a vibrant and interesting one, which makes it profitable for a lot of people. The payoffs to getting noticed by book lovers can be very high. But that brings in the ambitious and unscrupulous (and unbalanced) participants as well. We don’t have good ways of excluding them yet. So every individual has to make her own decisions about how to manage participation. — Sunita, Vacuous Minx

Blogging has gotten me through many tough times- through long periods of unemployment, family deaths, emotional hardships, and just life in general and how it can be unfair sometimes. Blogging and reviewing helped me gain the confidence to do more than a few things I never thought I would accomplish.  –Katiebabs, Babbling About Books

I am speaking up to add my voice in saying that as a lifelong reader (and bigtime consumer of the product that we call fiction), it’s not OK with me when authors seek to control reception and interpretation of their published work. If you’re not up to the challenge of either staying away from or putting up with whatever ideas and responses your published prose generates, then you should keep your prose to yourself and not ask people to pay for it. –Pamela, Badass Romance

In the end I’m sure this blackout probably won’t make a darn bit of difference to the industry, to supporters of The Stalker etc.  But it’s a simple way for me to get right with myself again.  To realign my head space. To rediscover why I’ve been blathering on about books online for the past 15 years (other than having no life).

I like it.  It’s as simple and complex as that. — Wendy, The Misadventures of Superlibrarian

I don’t want to be an asshole by comparing this protest to something like Ferguson, where people are putting their lives on the line for justice, but I do think that, in a small way, this is an example of the less powerful asking for what they need  — which are very simple, reasonable things really, mainly assurance from publishers that they will protect our privacy and don’t support stalking or doxxing of book reviewers — and having the powers-that-be are act as if they’re the ones under attack.  — Willaful, A Willful Woman

Nobody should have to fear posting a bad review of a book. The fact that for many of us that is a daily concern is a sign that big changes need to take place. We demand the changes not just because we need them but because they’ll benefit everyone. — Ceilidh, Bibliodaze

Some of those book bloggers–and some people who don’t blog but simply leave comments on other people’s blogs–will not come back. They feel the conversation is not worth the very real risk of having an author have a fit of batshit irrationality and track them down. While it saddens me to think of those voices, silenced by fear, I understand that part of having the freedom to speak is having the freedom to choose to be silent. — Azteclady, Her Hands My Hands

My path is to sit in a room full of  women who read because they love the stories and ask them who they are and what they think. My path is to take the core message of romance, that we all deserve happy endings, and live it in my daily life. I don’t want to see your academic or social qualifications. They don’t matter to me. You do. Because you are enough, as you are, without any external validation. You spent the most precious commodity any of us have, our limited time in this life, on experiencing a piece of art. I want to know how it made you feel. The rest of it, the social structures and economic engines, none of it matters to me. — Meoskop, at Love in the Margins

We’ve met some pretty amazing people both regular readers like us and some pretty fantastic industry people as well. Book Binge has opened a lot of doors to us and we’ve met some pretty big rock stars because of this blog and those are good things. Our book blogging community is going through some rough patches right now but we’ve gotten through rough patches before. Our community is filled with some strong, intelligent and amazing women and we’re so stinkin’ proud to be apart of it too. — Rowena and Holly, Book Binge

To the people I quote here and to everyone who is speaking up for book bloggers, thank you.

My Recent Bad Luck with Books


rock addiction with shadow

This is Nalini Singh’s foray into contemporary romance, first in a series. I received my copy from Net Galley. I don’t know if it’s a DNF. I kind of hopped skipped and jumped. I certainly did not read it all cover to cover. Is there a DNRTM (Did Not Read The Middle) designation? Right now in romance, certain things seem very popular. Little sexual tension and lots of sex scenes, bad boy “bro gangs” (bikers, assassins, rockers, etc.), highly emotional protagonists with high conflict. I think to some extent the popularity of New Adult, which features some of these things, has bled over into contemporary romance. In fact, Rock Addiction reads like an NA to me. Everything is super dramatic and the heroine is youngish (twenty-four, just getting started with her career, still not really emotionally emancipated from her family of origin). To see if I was just confused (I’ve only read about a dozen NA books), I checked Goodreads and Amazon reviews, and my sense that this could be shelved in NA is shared by a lot of other readers.

I had a hard time with the book from the beginning. As in Fifty Shades of Grey, we just have to accept that a regular young woman, a librarian, walks into a room and does this to a gorgeous, rich, successful, world famous rock star:

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Quiz: Test Your Knowledge of Harlequin Medical Romance!

As folks following me on Twitter know, I’ve been working through Harlequin Medical romances published from Jan 2011-May 2014 for a research project. I haven’t read them all, by any means, but I’ve read many, and for all the rest I’ve read blurbs, samples, and reader reviews. A few things really surprised me. I thought I’d see if I could surprise a few of you.

(Answers below the cut)

1. Which plot NOT is a real one?

a) Hero and heroine both utilized IVF to conceive, but the sperm samples were mixed up, and they now have each other’s kids. They meet to fix the problem and fall in love. HEA.
b) The heroine and hero had a relationship in medical school, but it ended when she handcuffed him to a bed and stole his fellowship. They meet up again years later and fall in love. HEA.
c) The heroine agreed to serve as gestational surrogate for her friend, but after getting “weird vibes” from the bio-dad, she ran off with the baby. She meets a nice doc. They fall in love. HEA.
d) The heroine is a gestational surrogate. When the bio-mom dies and the bio-dad refuses custody, the heroine tracks down the bio-dad. They fall in love. HEA.

2. As of right now, how many Medicals are published each month?

a) 3
b) 4
c) 6
d) 8

3.The doctor (hero)/nurse (heroine) pairing was once so common in medical romance that they were called “Doctor Nurse” romances. Today, what percentage of heroines in Harlequin Medical romance are nurses?

a) 75%
b) 50%
c) 35%
d) 25%

4. Of the recent Harlequin Medical romances that feature a nurse protagonist, how many feature a nurse hero?

a) 1
b) 3
c) 5
d) 7

5. Which one is NOT a setting for a recent Harlequin Medical?

a) Cruise ship
b) Hero’s desert kingdom
c) Space station
d) Liberia
e) Orient Express

6. What percentage of protagonists start the story as a single parent?

a) 10%
b) 15%
c) 25%
d) 35%

7. How many female protagonists are POC?

a) 2
b) 4
c) 6
d) 8

8. Which ridiculous reason was NOT used to end or prevent a relationship?

a) The heroine ran off to get her child an experimental treatment for a fatal disease against the objections of the hero, her husband.
b) The hero has cancer, and leaves the pregnant heroine to spare her.
c) In Liberia, the heroine insists on setting up a plastic surgery clinic which the hero thinks is frivolous.
d) The hero dumps the heroine because he wants to dedicate his life to eradicating a measles outbreak while training as an assassin to eradicate Jenny McCarthy.

9. A Harlequin Medical opens with:

a) the heroine’s point of view most of the time
b) the hero’s point of view most of the time
c) a roughly even split between hero and heroine’s point of view

10. Which health issue is NOT faced by a protagonist in recent Harlequin medicals?

a) postpartum depression
b) elective preventative mastectomy
c) alcoholism
d) macular degeneration
e) multiple sclerosis

11. Only one of the seven continents is unrepresented as a setting for a recent Harlequin medical. Which is it?

a) Asia
b) Africa
c) North America
d) South America
e) Antarctica
f) Europe
g) Australia

12. What is the most common profession for heroines who are NOT nurses?

a) doctor
b) midwife
c) paramedic/EMT
d) unemployed

13. What surprised this post author the MOST about reviews of Harlequin Medical romances?

a) The high frequency of the sentence “I skipped the sex scenes.”
b) How uncannily the wording tracked the jacket copy.
c) How well the reviewers seemed to know the author and her work.
d) How bitterly angry the reviewers were about the similarity of the names “Caroline Anderson” and “Catherine Anderson” and their own tendency to buy the wrong author.

14. How likely is it for the heroine to be sexually inexperienced?

a) Extremely unlikely
b) Somewhat unlikely
c) Likely
d) Very likely

15. By the end of the book, or at least by the next book in a continuing series, how many of the couples are parents?

a) All
b) Most
c) About half
d) Some

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Top Ten Literary References in Friday Night Lights

I resisted Friday Night Lights for a long time. I don’t care about football, Texas, or, usually, family dramas. But I watched the pilot one night this summer when it seemed like the least terrible Netflix streaming choice. 60 minutes and a box of kleenex later, I was hooked. I watch all five seasons in one joyous-yet-weeptastic binge.

There’s not much in FNL for a book lover, but for Book Riot I dug up The Top Ten Literary References in Friday Night Lights.

PS. Update on my WordPress editor hate: It now gives me the option to toggle back to “Classic Mode.” Beep Beep Boop indeed. (And in case you are wondering what I am nattering on about, WordPress forum thread full of angry customers here.)


Prof's Progress

... on making sense, one word at a time

Bkwurm: /book*worm/ n. a person devoted to reading and study


Blog in Progress

Nyssa Harkness

Media and Cultural Studies with a focus on Genre Fiction, Gaming and Creative Society

Shelf Love

live mines and duds: the reading life

Love is the Best Medicine

Harlequin/Mills and Boon Medical Romance Authors

Blue Moon

Audiobook reviews and book reviews. Occasional opining.


reviews by a speculative fiction romantic

Centre for Medical Humanities

News, updates and insights from the Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University

Miss Bates Reads Romance

Miss Bates is the loquacious spinster from Austen's Emma. No doubt she read romances ... here's what she would have thought of them.

Badass Romance

heroes, heroines, and books that demand to be taken seriously

bad necklace: not quite pearls of wisdom

mala, media, maladies, and malapropisms

Thinking in Fragments

but making connections too

Tales from the Reading Room

A Literary Salon Where All Are Welcome


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News feminist philosophers can use

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Because it takes strong women to smash the patriarchy.

Fit Is a Feminist Issue

(previously known as "Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty," but we're not "almost fifty" anymore.)

Heloise Merlin's Weblog

Virtual people read books, too!

Victoria Janssen

Just another site

Bblog Central

Your source for book blogging.

Insta-Love Book Reviews

Deflowering romance - one book at a time

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Bookish thoughts from a woman of endless curiousity

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Another day in paradise

RR@H Novel Thoughts & Book Talk

Featuring Author Interviews and Commentaries

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my extensive reading

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a reader blog for crime fiction

The Romantic Goldfish

"Cheapest mother fucking goldfish on the planet"

Shallowreader's Blog

...barely scratching the surface of romance literature, reading and libraries

Joanna Chambers, author

Historical romance




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