Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Gettin' Contemporary with the Romance

(Yeah, I don't know what that means. But, hey, it could sound raunchy, if you tried.)

So, I've discovered something about myself as a writer. To wit: if I want to actually do any writing, I have to not read anything by Kristan Higgins. She makes me throw in the towel. Her books are funny, and fun without being zany, and sweet. Her characters are real, and smart, and deserving of love. She makes me cry. A lot. So whenever I finish one of her romances, I sink into a depressive state, because why bother writing when she already has it under control? Foolishly, though, I read Until There Was You this week. Many tissues - many, many tissues - later, and I am happy to recommend anything by Higgins. At least I can rest easy knowing I only have one more of her novels to pick up before I've devoured everything she's ever published. That'll be a relief; I'll pencil in drafting the rest of my novel for a couple of weeks after I've finished that. (Kristan Higgins, if you're reading this, please don't publish anything new for a few months. Thanks.)

Another who makes me giggle is Jill Shalvis - I read my first (and second) by her this month, and anticipate ending 2012 with her name prominent on my Books Read spreadsheet. Based on The Trouble with Paradise and Instant Attraction, Shalvis makes frequent use of the zany / escapist fantasy tropes so common in romance novels. So, sure, I suspend disbelief a little to imagine being a cashier suddenly on a cruise in the South Pacific, surrounded by gorgeous, rich men. But if the dark brooding doctor with the French accent wants to irritate me and rile me up, I'll know that we're destined to be together, so that's nice. Shalvis has a very crisp writing style, sharp and light at the same time, and while hardly creditable, her characters are still believable and I enjoy their journeys to happily ever after moments.

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley isn't strictly contemporary, what with the time travel and all, but much of it is set in modern Cornwall (a region I've encountered fictionally more and more lately. Cornwall is the new New England, I suppose.) I simply gobbled up Kearsley's first novel, The Winter Sea, and was hoping this would be as enchanting. It's not, quite, though it has many of the same elements: a woman searching for a place of her own, a man out of time, Jacobite plotters, and deft handling of the modern woman who finds herself in another century, I can almost hear Kearsley saying, "Why would this woman who suddenly time jumps back and forth NOT do X, Y, and Z when she was back in her own century?" and then creating a protagonist who applies logic to her freaky confusing situation. It's refreshing. (Yes, there are that many books with time travel, and yes, the modern people going back do show a surprising reluctance to Google about it.)


  1. I read the Higgins' book a couple of months ago, and while it wasn't my favorite by her, I mostly enjoyed it. Which one have you still not read? My fave of hers is All I Ever Wanted, and the two that have come after have not been as good IMO, but I will still read everything she ever puts out anyway!

    I'm going to check out Kearsley. I love a good TT book, although Diana Gabaldon may have ruined all the rest for me- I still like to read new ones!

    1. Lesley, Fools Rush In is the only Higgins I have left - it was her first, so I'm curious to see how it stands next to All I Ever Wanted, and The Next Best Thing, which is my other favorite of hers.

      Kearsley is the only TT writer I think can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Gabaldon in dealing with the subject. I read a whole slew of KMMoning last year & only because they were swift & I'm such a dang completist with series did I put up with my irritation about the idiot TT women. And the fact that when the brawny men went to the 21st century, they were all brilliant and successful and had few adaptation problems.