Apparently this month I’m all about the romance…
I honestly can’t tell you the last time I read a pure “romance” book… Urban fantasy with romance? Check. Sci fi with romance? Check. Post apocalyptic romance? Double, triple, most definitely, check. Hell, I’ve even read mysteries with romance in them this year. But romance for the sake of romance? Not really my thing. Except, then I go and read three of them back to back in the course of a week and now I don’t know what to think. Because they were good. Surprisingly good. Not formulaic bodice rippers. Not the kind of romance with long-haired, shirtless, hairy chested men on the cover, brooding beneath puffy, swirly book title fonts. So indulge me while I gush a bit about these three books (or two books and a novella, but let’s not get too technical…).
The first book I picked up after NaNoWriMo ended was Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase. I saw it listed on a book blog’s “best of 2013” list and I decided to check it out. Also, the ebook was cheap. I love finding good, cheap ebooks. Especially because I devour them… like I did with this one… Now, I will be the first to admit, this is pure, ooey gooey romance, and checks all the standard rom-com / chick lit boxes. Girl finds out she’s actually descended from royalty (in this case, she’s s duchess of some tiny European country). Girl falls in love with a Prince. Prince falls in love with the girl. Girl gets to wear lots of amazing dresses and tiaras and other “royal” nonsense. Girl ends up marrying Prince. Happily Ever After. Awwww. Except… two amazing things that blew me away and made me love this book. 1) the girl is SMART not ditzy (grad student in wilderness biology) and takes her studies / work seriously. And she doesn’t become ditzy once she finds out she’s “royal,” either. 2) the Prince loves her first and stays loving her for the entire book. He’s supportive without being smothering. He’s romantic without being creepy. He’s dependable and loving and respectful and basically the exact opposite of all those broody, self-absorbed Edward Cullen types that are so common in many of the genre fantasy books I’ve read recently. I wanted to scream “Girls! THIS! This is what boys are supposed to do when they like you!” (Except, reader beware, there are some relatively graphic sex scenes in this book… you know, graphic in a good way… just, maybe not a good choice for a less mature audience…)
Then, last night I read Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor. This novella is a little back story, or side story, or out-take, or what-have-you, from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, meant to be a little something to hold fans (like me) over until book three in the series comes out in April (I’ve already pre-ordered it and will be re-reading the first two books in the series before April in preparation). I absolutely LOVE the world and the characters that Laini Taylor has created. This story gives us an inside peak into the romance of an orchestrated “cute-meet” between two of the peripheral characters to the main story (Mik and Zuzana), told alternating between their perspectives. The romance makes you feel all warm inside, even as you are immersed in cold, snowy Prague, lined with rivers spanned by stone bridges, and peppered with hidden cafes and magic. I read it curled up in front of the fire. It was perfect.
Mik and Zuzana had my vote for sweetest romance / first meet / first kiss / first date story… until I read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Eleanor and Park’s romance takes place in high school in the mid-eighties. Ms. Rowell’s pop culture references to punk bands and comics and old TV shows made this the perfect teenage misfit love story. I didn’t stay up all night reading this (like I did with Fangirl), but I started it last night (after I finished Cake & Puppets), and spent most of today reading it, even when I knew I should be working on other things. I just couldn’t put it down. Even though I couldn’t shake the worry that something horrible would happen and ruin the sweetest love story ever (sorry, Mik and Zuzana…), I wouldn’t let myself skip to the end to find out what happened. I made myself deal with the tension and worry and, when I finally finished it, I was happy I didn’t spoil the end. I would also like to note that this story, as in the other two, featured a boy who is madly in love with the girl and, even though he is awkward and young, treats her with love and respect and doesn’t try to push her away or act all stupid and brooding… he is another anti-Edward Cullen. I am choosing to take this as evidence that we may be moving on from the creepy, bad-boy boyfriend epidemic, and maybe showing young girls that #TeamPeeta is way better than #TeamEdward any day of the week.
So, now what? Since I’m apparently on a romance kick this month, and have, so far, gone three for three with excellent examples of the genre, I guess that means the only thing left to do is finally read The Fault in Our Stars. Bring on the tissues.