Susan here, with "What We're Reading" for February: a variety of romances, traditional and non-traditional; mysteries, contemporary and historical; classics; post-apocalyptic; paranormal; and a dash of nonfiction. Scroll on down, friends — your wish lists and TBR stacks are about to grow exponentially!
Mary Jo here:
New Zealand contemporary romance writer Lucy Parker is a great hit with the Word Wenches. I believe it was Anne Gracie who introduced us to her with Parker's first London Celebrities book, Act Like It. The wit, banter, and intelligence of this romance between two theater actors in London's West End made the story an instant favorite of mine.
The stories work fine as standalones, but they all take place in the same general West End milieu so characters wander through each others' stories. The heroine of book #4, The Austen Playbook, was actor Freddy Carlton. Her sister, Sabrina Carlton, is the heroine of recently released book #5, Headliners, London Celebrities #5, a sparkling enemies-to-lovers story. Sabrina appeared in The Jane Austen Playbook, and she's the very successful and popular anchor of a TV evening show. Nick Davenport is host of a show on a rival network, and he brashly broadcast a Carlton family scandal, earning Sabina's red headed rage.
Then one of their networks buys the other, there isn't room for two evening shows, and Sabrina and Nick are made co-hosts of the live morning show which has terrible ratings. If they fail, they'll both be in the market for new jobs or even new careers.
Sparks and much humor ensue! Highly recommended if you like wit and banter entwined with your romance. The broadcasting world is convincing, too.
My other suggestion is something very different. There is a sizable subgenre of male/male romances, usually abbreviated as m/m and written by women. The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite is the first female/female romance I've ever read. A Regency historical, it features Lucy Muchelney, a brilliant young mathematician and astronomer who had worked closely with her father. After his death, she realizes how trapped she is by a male society that has no use for female scientists and largely refuses to admit they exist.
Lucy's clueless brother is threatening to sell her telescope when Lucy goes to the widowed Lady Moth, a countess who had supported her husband's scientific endeavors. Lucy wants to translate an important French astronomical work into English, and she persuades Catherine St. Day, the countess, to become her patron. Though Lucy has always been aware of her sexual orientation, Catherine has never considered such a thing. But as they live in the same house and work together, they are drawn together in a deeply romantic way.
The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics is not only an unusual and powerful romance, but also exploration of the obstacles and politics facing women of science. And it has a very satisfying ending! Recommended if you'd like to try something different.