Welcome to Smugglivus 2014! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2014, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2015, and more.
Who: Agent provocateur Justin Landon, who blogs at Tor.com and anywhere that invites him (we will always have you, Justin). He’s also the host of Rocket Talk, the Tor.com podcast. Justin was Hugo nominated for his editorial work on Speculative Fiction 2012: The Year’s Best Online Reviews, Essays, and Commentary.
Please give a warm welcome to Justin, everyone!
We need to talk. It’s been a rough year for you. Entitlement is a real pain in the ass. One day you wake up and realize the world hasn’t been handed to you on a silver platter like mom and dad said it would. Who would have thought? And you’re angry. I get it. I’d be angry too if I expected everything in my life to come up roses just because I’m a moderately affluent white guy.
My life has come up roses.
Of course, I am a moderately affluent white guy. I was even raised by moderately affluent white people. This is what we call privilege. Thankfully, I can see it! Do you want to know how I managed that?
I mean, really good news.
Damn. It sounds like I’m about to start diving into ‘Jesus is the good news!’ I’m not. But, I do have a tip for dudebros everywhere. And this tip, or good news if you don’t mind a little proselytizing, will probably save whatever is left of your shriveled soul.
What I have is a money-back guaranteed proven system to being less of a dickbag. This simple system (I know you know all about systems) isn’t guaranteed to get you laid, but it will surely help you avoid getting slapped. Because with my time honored system you will gain something I like to call “empathy”. And it’ll only cost you somewhere between $1.99 and $12.99.
Do I have your attention? I thought I might. My system, as all good systems do, has ten steps.
Are you ready? Get that high annual fee credit card I know you have ready. Out of curiosity, has a woman ever actually been impressed by it at the club? Nevermind. I’m getting off topic. Here we go!
Light a candle. Go buy a candle.
#2) Light candle with your brushed nickel lighter. Mind you, the candle isn’t necessary, and it’s a little sexist and stereotypical to suggest I admit, but I think it’s important to begin any life-changing system with an activity that’s the antithesis of what you typically do. Thus, we’re replacing Axe body spray with a scented candle. Crude yet effective.
#3) Get comfortable. I know it’s hard to do that without spreading your legs to a minimum 45 degree angle, so just this once I’ll encourage you to do so. I trust that since we’re lighting candles you’re hiding out in your own home and thus unlikely to disturb anyone with your spreading. I wouldn’t normally encourage it, but given how many hard things I’m going to ask you to do over the next five hundred words I think a little “comfort item” is necessary.
#4) Log on to your Amazon.com[1.Or your favorite retailer. I’m assuming you’re a Prime member though. What self-respecting dudebro would be caught without?] account and purchase Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War or another historical romance that catches your fancy. Refer to the comments of this post for other similar titles that might suit the system outlined herein. This is the only cost to you in my guaranteed steel trap lock system.
#5) Read it. I considered leaving step five out as it seems terribly obvious, but you and I both know that copy of the Kama Sutra has been sitting on your coffee table for six years and you’ve never had cause to open it.[2.Did you know most of the Kama Sutra is about relationships?]
#6) Actually read it. I did not consider leaving this step out. See, The Duchess War is built around the notion of mutual respect. The main character, Minnie, is a retiring sort; always off to the side attempting to go unnoticed. But, the Duke of Clermont takes notice and as much as he would like to be noticed in turn, he accepts Minnie’s reticence. The novel’s conflict isn’t about whether or not the Duke can convince Minnie to love him, or whether Minnie can escape the Duke’s unwanted gaze, but instead about overcoming all the cultural and societal detritus that stands between them. In the end, the novel is about whether or not Minnie and the Duke of Clermont can let themselves love one another.
#7) Consider what that all means. The Duke of Clermont possesses all the societal power in the relationship. As a Duke the law does not apply to him, which Milan demonstrates time and again through his non-romantic actions. He can, for all intents and purposes, force himself on Minnie. In fact, she even likes the Duke quite a bit. He could easily feel that his affections should be rewarded in kind because of their purity of purpose. But, he doesn’t. He doesn’t because he has empathy. He tries to see the world from Minnie’s perspective. He sees that her relative societal weakness imperils their relationship due to the imbalance of power. He recognizes that only through an equal distribution of power can their relationship succeed.
#8) Come to grips with the fact that this doesn’t conform. Look man, I get it. I used to only like shit that validated my world view. I only wanted to consume media that reinforced that I was a special snowflake and that women should be harvested from the field of wheat by the thresher that is my loins. You know what that made me? A narrow minded idiot. I’ve always been a smart guy. You probably are too. But even smart people can be really stupid when they only expose themselves to the things they know. Try something new. Try to see something from someone else’s perspective. You might like the results.
#9) Even if you think my system is full of shit. Even if you think that reading romance won’t make you a better person. Do it anyway. Because romance books are really fucking good. Themes and genres and relationships and empathy aside, a book like The Duchess War are chock full of tension and thrills and character and twists. Even if no one is crossing swords or stabbing each other with prison shanks, well written conflict is exciting conflict. Don’t let a period cover or long haired adonises with better bodies than you discourage you from reading some of the best stuff going.[3.The secret of step #9 is that it accomplishes steps #1-8 but the dudebro is unaware! Perfect for those of you buying my ten step program as a gift.]
#10) Send me a scented thank you note, even if it is with Axe body spray. It’s only polite.
Author’s note: This letter is addressed to dudebros for comedy’s sake. In truth, I’m fully aware that no dudebros read the Book Smugglers. I know there are a lot of people like me who do though. For years I was the guy who read only men. I was the guy who would never read a book with overtly romantic themes. I hope this post might make you reconsider that position.
I’d also love to see the comments of this post full of romances that would be a nice entry point for a new reader. I could use some more recommendations myself. Thanks to Ana and Thea for having me.
Recommend away, folks!
Jared ShurinDecember 23, 2014 at 10:26 am
(That’s the name of an awesome historical romance series by Eloisa James, not the fragrance I’m spraying on the note I’m sending you.)
Or go old school and pick up a Georgette Heyer. You can’t go wrong with a book like THE NONESUCH.
Paul WeimerDecember 23, 2014 at 10:29 am
Axe Body spray?! :Gag:
RabindranauthDecember 23, 2014 at 10:33 am
What did I just read? I’m disappointed! You cannot tell a guy to go read a romance and NOT let it be Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. If there’s any book that will kick men screaming out of their bolt hole and reduce them to an emotional puddle of acceptance, it’s THAT BOOK. Just sayin’ Also, Public Domain, so you can’t even claim you’re broke as an excuse.
AnaDecember 23, 2014 at 10:33 am
I’d recommend for a start
In for a Penny by Rose Lerner – lovely historical romance, couple falls in love slowly, have financial problems etc
Revealed by Kate Noble – one of my favourites for how lovely and funny her romances are
for fantastic fantasy worldbuilding, excellent writing and amazing hot romance, please read Meljean Brook. Start with Demon Angel (ignore the covers).
and I totally second the Desperate Duchesses series by Eloisa James
RobinDecember 23, 2014 at 10:38 am
I will second (and third and fourth) the Georgette Heyer recommendation. These Old Shades and Faro’s Daughter are my favorite.
Natalie L.December 23, 2014 at 10:41 am
I second the recs for Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses series and Rose Lerner’s In for a Penny. Cecilia Grant’s A Lady Awakened is utterly fantastic. I also love Tessa Dare and Loretta Chase (especially Chase’s Mr. Impossible). Jeannie Lin’s books are also fantastic–they’re set in historical China.
Jared ShurinDecember 23, 2014 at 10:44 am
Oh, I liked In For a Penny (a Smuggler recommendation to me) a lot.
And Tessa Dare’s Romancing the Duke is brilliant – and another good one for fantasy-loving dudebros, as it has lots of cheeky jokes about, well, fandom and conventions and whatnot.
Currently working my way through Sarah Maclean’s Rogues quartet (another recommendation) which is really good (second book, better than the first).
SL HuangDecember 23, 2014 at 10:48 am
Ooo, I feel like the perfect person to answer your question because I am not generally a romance reader but two of my favorite books from the past couple of years have been romance novellas.
I recommended this in my own Smugglivus post coming up, but, for opposite-sex romance:
THE PERILOUS LIFE OF JADE YEO
is an amaaaaaaaaaazing romance novella by Zen Cho. Free on the author’s website here: http://zencho.org/category/my-stories/the-perilous-life-of-jade-yeo/ but I can guarantee you’ll want to buy it afterwards!
Also, for a same-sex romance:
by Layla M. Wier. Full disclosure is that I am friends with the author, but I freakin’ love this book. It’s about two older men in a long-term relationship and what happens when same-sex marriage becomes legal in New York. Very wonderful & human. Highly recommended.
Charles PayseurDecember 23, 2014 at 10:55 am
Alyssa Day and Christine d’Abo are quality writers, especially if you like spec in your romance. The best is Meljean Brook, though. Iron Seas is the best steampunk I have ever read. Romance or not. Just really, really good!
Tiff @ Mostly YA LitDecember 23, 2014 at 11:24 am
Brilliant post. My first historical romance was The Governess Affair, and I never looked back after that. Courtney Milan is a genius.
For contemporary stuff, may I suggest Viv Daniels’ One and Only? Brilliantly turns the cheating trope on its head. Also, it’s about science, man. Real science.
Estara SwanbergDecember 23, 2014 at 12:26 pm
I remember that you were the one male at the table in your Hugo-nominated blogger panel before the award ceremony at Loncon who started to point out that you never had a problem with really threatening comments due to something you had written on your blog but where fairly sure the same could not be said of the fellow-nominated women. That’s made me take note of you. Kudos!
Historical romance recommendation: Loretta Chase – Lord of Scoundrels.
A side-note: I’m 47 now and grew up with having to read mostly male-written books in my favourite genres outside romance – sf&f. These days I have chosen to almost exclusively read female authors (unless a male author’s book has been recommended to me by several trusted sources), because I am less likely to find women sidelined, fridged or trophied.
However: Kudos to Janny Wurts and Raymond Feist for that trilogy, to David & Leigh Eddings (even though they also gave us X’Nedra – but even she found redemption), to Tolkien who had powerful women if not as real featured characters … and who I can still read to this day.
Can I recommend Andrea K. Höst to you, who has awesome male characters in her books^^.
Mary AnneDecember 23, 2014 at 1:28 pm
Carla Kelly for atypical historicals. Always charming, with beautiful characters. I would go for some of her older stuff – her series about sea captains/royal Marines tend to run together a bit in tone. Although she just released “Softly Falling” which is a western historical and a great winter/Christmas read.
I don’t always love Mary Jo Putney, but one of hers, “The Rake and the Reformer” – which I just saw was revised and re-released as “The Rake” in ebook form, has always stuck with me. Haven’t read it for years….maybe I’ll grab it.
AnonymousDecember 23, 2014 at 2:17 pm
This is a delightful post. I can’t believe the failure to recommend Bond No. 9’s Coney Island and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Cheshire Cat scents instead of Axe Body Spray.
Nathan (@reviewbarn)December 23, 2014 at 8:20 pm
DUDE! That is a nice post Bro.
Maureen EDecember 26, 2014 at 9:40 am
Recommendations: agreed completely on Cecilia Grant and Rose Lerner! For contemporary, Laura Florand (who I think Stephanie Burgis recommended in her post). And seconding Jeannie Lin too, though I haven’t finished reading through her backlist.
SummerDecember 27, 2014 at 8:39 pm
“Burn For Me” by Ilona Andrews! It’s a PNR rather than her Kate Daniels’ series which is UF, but it has lots of action, suspense, and funny moments. I love that the heroine is able to clearly articulate why the Hero’s sex appeal is not enough to make her overlook his possible psychopathy, and how she goes forward doing the right thing, even when it’s hard.
hapaxDecember 29, 2014 at 3:37 pm
Late to the party, but since I see that Estara has already made the recommendation of LORD OF SCOUNDRELS and Andrea K. Höst, it’s time for me to make my regular pitch for the Liaden books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. No dude could resist the secret agents, space mercenaries, knife fights, ship battles, and badass Turtles, right?
And once you’re sucked into the whole saga, you’ll find yourself conniving along with Daav to help The Caylon’s win her independence, swooning over Er Thom’s impossible courtship of the Terran Anne, and (of course) cheering on Shan and Pris as they rescue each other (and themselves)…
Oh, all right, one contemporary love story that’s guaranteed to be the complete opposite of the stereotypical “bodice ripper” — COURTING GRETA. Take a nerdy, disabled, arrogant, frankly-rather-an-a$$hole substitute teacher; add a middle-aged, prickly, not-conventionally-attractive, tough-as-nails gym coach; and get an utterly unexpectedly touching, hysterical, and poignant romance that will have even the most hardened dude (or dudette) snickering, sniffling, throwing the book across the room, and cheering enthusiastically to the perfect conclusion.