Sunday, January 13, 2019

Beverly Jenkins and Brenda Jackson Signing

Photos from Deadly Sexy Facebook Page
This event happened a few months ago, but I still wanted to write a recap.

Last year Jess and I went to the signing Beverly Jenkins and Brenda Jackson hosted during the weekend of the Deadly Sexy movie premiere. Here is a quick recap and some thoughts I had.

The event was held at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia in the historic neighborhood of Jackson Ward. This museum moved to this spot a few years ago and is in a gorgeous building that was once an armory. I'm ashamed to say I'd never visited the museum before, but I definitely plan to visit again.

I'd heard both authors on various podcasts but I  never realized Beverly Jenkins and  Brenda Jackson were such close friends who vacation together and have been supporting each other for the last 20 years. I can't remember everything they talked about but there was so much positive light coming from that stage.

The first thing I noticed is that a majority of the audience was older than what I'd seen at other romance events. Later, we found out most had come from out of state to do to the whole signing/movie premiere weekend. It was a bit overwhelming to be around so many superfans but also amazing to hear other women's stories of coming across books with black characters for the first time and falling in. There were lots of inside references and fangirling and I feel like I have a lot of reading to do.

Something else that struck me were the comments from readers about how people in their lives were dismissive and downright rude about them reading romance. It's really frustrating to me how this always comes up at romance events and that romance readers have to justify what they like.  I think there is more being done to combat this message and romance is getting a little more respect as a feminist genre but I can't imagine what it was like to read it before then.

The other thing about this event that was different from other romance events I've gone to is that is was 99% Black women and it was so cool to see so many voracious black women readers. At one point romance author Denise Jeffries talked about going to her first Romance Slam Jam and admitted that up until that point she didn't even really know Black people read. It made me think about how I knew that sure, some Black people read but it wasn't until I started blogging that I met other Black people who read voraciously and honestly it wasn't until this event that I really saw older black women who read so enthusiastically.

During the signing, the authors were so gracious while we did some general word vomiting and got a bunch of books signed. I felt weird bringing a tote bag of books but a few people had their books on wheels!

Overall it was a great event and I have so much reading to get done. While we didn't go to the film premiere, the Deadly Sexy movie is now streaming on Amazon.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Our Top 5 Favorite Romance Novels of 2018 !

This year we reviewed 51 romance novels and these are 5 of our favorites!

Shimmy Bang Sparkle by Nicola Rendell

Two jewel thieves road trip across the desert to pull the biggest con of their career in this modern-day Wild West heist. Fans of anti-heroes with hearts of gold and punchy dialogue will enjoy this show-stealing novel. - Jess

Small Town Secrets by Katrina Jackson

 Bria and Sully's small town romance feels inevitable but it could all be over before it starts when a decades-old secret threatens to pull them apart. Small Town Secrets is everything the title promises. and brims with sweetness and love in all its forms. - K.E.

Intercepted by Alexa Martin

When Marlee Harper catches her NFL wide receiver boyfriend cheating she calls it quits on the whole "football girlfriend" life to do bad all by herself.  This book skews a nice line between women’s fiction and contemporary romance. Marlee’s 1st person POV is snappy, fast-paced, cheeky and is easy to sink into. - K.E.

No Earls Allowed by Shana Galen

War hero Major Neil Wraxall is assigned the impossible task of bringing the headstrong Lady Juliana back home from the rundown Sunnybrooke Home For Wayward Boys but she isn't going anywhere.A heartwarming romance that isn't afraid to bring the heat. - Jess

Indecent Exposure by Tessa Bailey

Irish markswoman Katie McCoy is invited to teach a workshop at the NYPD Academy and falls for Jack Garrett, the charming police recruit with a dark past. Katie is an inexperienced virgin and Jack is something of a manwhore but it never felt cliched. Bailey also handled the instructor/student part of their relationship fairly well. - K.E.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Romance and Sensibility by the Numbers 2018 !

All year long we track our reviews in a spreadsheet so at the end of the year we can crunch some numbers and take a look at our stats. We track info you can't find on Goodreads like diversity, format, and retailers; then pull the most interesting stats in a handy infographic via Canva.

If you'd like a copy of our infographic template to do your own, e-mail me at ! If you are looking to track your own stats you can download a copy of our basic Romance Reader Spreadsheet. Feel free to edit and or add formulas to it, we'd love to see what you can come up with.

Publisher Breakdown

35% HarperCollins
25% Self-Published*
10% Harlequin
4% Random House
4% Kensington
4% Sourcebooks Casablanca
2% Amazon Publishing
2% Shadow Mountain
2% Simon and Schuster
2% Penguin

*Two self-published books, Permanent Ink and Coming in From The Cold, were previously traditionally published.

Retailer Breakdown

23% Avon Addicts Program
12% Fountain Bookstore
6%  Public Library
6% Review Copies
4% Kindle Unlimited
2% Audible Romance Package
2% Barnes and Noble
2% Fresh Fiction Subscription Box

Other Numbers

53% of reviews were for 2018-2019 frontlist titles

10% feature characters with a  mental illness or physical disability

K.E.'s Thoughts
I'd like to work on getting all the diversity numbers higher. The author of color and heroines of color numbers are up from last year but the heroes of color are down. I think this comes from a lot of interracial romance having White heroes. While I am conscious of reading a diverse array of authors I'm not intentional about it. I think putting it in numbers shows how easy it is for diversity to slip through the cracks even when you are thinking about it.

Last year I said I wanted to read more backlist and more of the used books from the piles in my closet.  I failed that pretty hard. I think I may have bought more used books and only read a total of one backlist book.

Other Reading Tracking Resources :

Sarah Wendell @ Smart Bitches Trashy Books Reading Spreadsheet

FryeFly's Book Blog's Reading Tracking Spreadsheet (2012)

Lose Time Reading's How To Organize Your Reviews using Excel (2013)

Monday, December 31, 2018

Black Romance Novellas

I finished off my romance reading year with these two novellas featuring Black characters. I think we can forget there is so much diversity within capital D  Diversity and these two novellas showcase the diversity in Black romance with each character being from a different part of the diaspora.

Former exotic dancer Cinnamon “Cin” Bradley danced her way through graduate school and now that she has her degree she’s ready for her second act. With her mother and infant daughter by her side, she’s got everything--including the eye of Landry Augistin, the handsome Creole landscaper working on her new house.

I just gobbled this book up! CCJ delivers another fabulous romance with a great heroine, sweet romance and just a touch of heat. I especially loved how she subverted the single mom/ stripper trope. Cin’s conflicts could easily be about her being a single mom and a former stripper but she’s proud of those things and accepts them as part of herself. There was no slut-shaming and both our hero and heroine visit a strip club together.

This novella is both the first book in the Sweet Heat novella series and a  2.5 in the Connecticut Kings series. I do feel like I was missing some background (like the details of Cin’s ex) but it worked on its own and I can’t wait to go back and read the other books. - ★★★★

I double clicked on this galley so fast when Avon included it in their Avon Addicts digital package. 

When work relocates Likotsi Adelele, Advisor Most High to the Prince of Thesolo, back to New York City the last persons she expects to run into is  Fabiola, the Instagram Instaphoto model and jewelry maker who stole her heart with one swipe and then ghosted her after their two perfect dates.

They spend the day together ticking items off Likotsi's to do list and through flashbacks, we learn that Fabiola's ghosting wasn't what Liktosi thought. I enjoyed this novella, it's filled with whimsy and romance and, like many of Cole's romances, manages to be politically salient. My only complaint is how short it was and it felt like everything had to be crammed in. I'd say this romance is perfect for beginners but I'm not sure this novella functions well on its own. It works more as a companion to A Princess in Theory than a standalone novella like Hints of Spice. If you don't understand Likotsi's backstory it's hard to fully understand a lot of the references. - ★★★+.5

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Coffee Shop Romances: Small Town Secrets and Delivered Fast

I love a good coffee shop--comfy seating, drinks in warm mugs, ambient conversation  and that lingering smell of fresh coffee. It’s the perfect setting for a romance and this week I read two novellas about coffee shop owners who fall for the person delivering their baked goods.

Lisa “Sully” “Sullivan may not have grown up in the small southern town of Sea Port but she’s made a place for herself as the owner of Sully’s, the town’s only coffee shop. She especially looks forward to her weekly deliveries from Bria, the cute baker’s assistant who always brings her something sweet. Bria’s been secretly pining for Sully too and when Sully asks her out their happily ever after feels inevitable. But it could all be over before it starts when a decades-old small town secret threatens to pull them apart.

I super enjoyed this novella. I love Jackson's small town of Sea Port , it is a majority Black small town and has everything you want in a fictional town; festivals, quirky local businesses, a gossip-y knitting club...a female-only illegal speakeasy.  As you do. But it’s not all so quaint. We check in on the characters from previous novellas who have shall we say...have other interests. Jackson is a master of blending kink with sweet.

Small Town Secrets is everything the title promises. and brimming with sweetness and love in all its forms. I can’t wait to read more from Jackson. - ★★★  

In Delivered Fast we travel across the country to Portland, Oregon where 35-year-old Chris O’Neal, the broody emotionally distant owner of the vegan coffee shop The People’s Cup, can’t stop thinking about Lance Degrassi the sunny extroverted college student who delivers his weekly baked goods.

The set up for these two novellas sound very similar but I had a completely different reaction to this one. I wanted to like this book since Albert is rec’d a lot and Jess gave a positive review to another one her books but this story just didn’t do it for me.

I found it boring and couldn’t invest in the relationship. The story is told in first person which is usually my jam but it’s only from Chris’s POV so I had no idea why Lance would be attracted to Chris or what was going on in his head. Chris spends so much of this book sad and brooding alone. Lance is shown to have a richer life with dreams and goals he is working towards. I wish we could have followed him around.

Now that I think about it, I guess this book read like a beat for beat example of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Lance was more of an idea than a person and it just didn’t work for me. -  .5

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Nuts by Alice Clayton

Rating: ★★ | Husdon Valley #1 | 308 pages | Gallery Books | Contemporary | 10/20/2015
 L.A. private chef Roxie Callahan begrudgingly returns to her Hudson Valley hometown to run the family dinner when her Mom gets accepted on The Amazing Race. Within a day she catches the eye of the hot farmer in town and decides to have a little fling, after all, it’s only for the summer. Right ? Right ?

I can’t believe how long I’ve let this book just sit on my shelf! This delightful rom-com has everything; a simmering romance, a small town with character, competency porn, the 2008 housing crisis (no seriously this comes up...and it works ?) and all of the food-related double entendres you could ever want.

This book is told from Roxie’s first person POV  and I loved her character and enjoyed being inside her head. She’s passionate, hard working, slightly facetious and yes a little messy as a character. At first, I thought she was kind of needlessly rude to her mom but it comes around. Leo was a great hero and I liked how Clayton was able to flesh him out even though he doesn’t have a POV. That’s always been the struggle for me with one-sided romances--the other person always feels half done.

Clayton must really do her research because I know a little bit about agriculture and the stuff in this book about Leo’s farming operation felt authentic. You find out pretty early Leo is from wealth and literally, the only way you can start an organic farming operation like the one described in this book is by being rich. The culinary aspect was detailed and done well too. I would have believed Clayton was a chef. I’ve read food books before but this is the one that made me the most hungry. I wanted to bake all the cakes.

Now, there is a reveal that comes out towards the end that I didn’t love. It just didn’t make sense that in a town that is described as gossip-y no one mentions this thing to Roxie. Either that or the entire town is somehow colluding to keep a secret from her.

The audiobook is read by Shayna Thibodeaux and she does such an amazing job. Her voice has a Zoey Deutch-like quality and her comedic delivery is spot on. Now, Sebastian York is also listed on the audiobook but it looks like Clayton only gives her hero’s POV in the epilogue so if you were getting this for York you will be disappointed.

Nuts is absolutely delicious in every way! If you’ve read this book and enjoyed it I really think you’ll love Intercepted by Alexa Martin.

I get the pun and all but the title of this book is not my favorite. It sounds weird out of context.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Duke That I Marry by Cathy Maxwell

Rating: ★★★ | 352 pages | Avon | Historical | Spinster Heiresses #3 |  Release Date: 11/27/2018
Miss Willa Reverly, the last spinster heiress, is tying the knot and she’s got the prize of the season--Matthew Addison, the recently named Duke of Camberly. Their arranged marriage is a solution to financial and status problems for their respective families but they aren’t sure what they mean to each other. Matt’s always believed in a love marriage and sheltered Willa isn’t sure she wants to be the next best thing to true love.

This book fell flat for me, there isn’t a whole lot of plot or external conflict and it I really felt like this could have been a better novella. It’s mostly Willa and Matt struggling to figure out how to make this marriage work and if they can fall in love….oh, and um, they solve a crime at about 80% of this book? I noticed each book in this series has a plot turn in the last 20% but this one felt abruptly out of place.

Also, Maxwell is still not great at writing marginalized characters--this time it’s sex workers. The epilogue tries to bring together a theme about female friendship and women being empowered but it doesn’t work if the only women who get to be seen as deserving of these things are wealthy married ones.

I happened to listen to part of this on audio and it is done by Mary Jane Wells--who also did the Duke Meets Girl series. I am really coming around to her voice. I was reading along with the audio to find my place and her narration just sparkles as she adds a bit of flair into every word. I see she does some Lisa Kleypas books, so maybe I’ll finally get to those on audio!