THE SECRET OF CLOUDS BY ALYSON RICHMAN (February 19, 2019)

Poor, poor Bill. He is a kind and caring man who wants nothing more than to be comfortable with his long-time girlfriend, maybe get married and have kids with her someday. He likes to kick back with the occasional beer, maybe watch some TV. He’s a decent guy and his passive aggressive girlfriend, Maggie, does not appreciate him at all. This, by the way, is not at all the alleged point of the book. The book is about Ukrainian emigres (and their part of the story is GREAT!) whose ailing son Maggie tutors; and who along the way teaches Maggie the meaning of true happiness. There is an attractive music teacher. And there are some tears, unquestionably. But really, this is a story of how badly done by is poor, poor Bill. Sometimes, Maggie, it’s not him, it’s you. – Rachel Hyland

3 stars.

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman
Berkley | Women’s Fiction | February 19, 2019

SEE THIS REVIEW ALONG WITH ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS AND SO MUCH MORE IN ROMANTIC INTENTIONS QUARTERLY. ISSUE 4 — OUT NOW!

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY (Netflix, February 15, 2019)

Series Premiere: February 15, 2019
Netflix

Based on the Dark Horse comic series, this is the story of seven children adopted by eccentric, heartless millionaire inventor Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), six of them raised to be crime fighters and to use their extraordinary gifts, with the third, Vanya, told she is powerless and a disappointment and left alone to study the violin and be considered superfluous by everyone. When Sir Reginald dies, his surviving kids come together for his funeral, and to

Where’s the Love? “Leader” Luther (Tom Hopper) and adoptive sister Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) have a forbidden love thing going on. And love leads family muggle Vanya (Ellen Page) into some conflict with her family… and the world…

Why You Should Watch: There are some knockout performances, especially by Aidan Gallagher as the time travelling Five, an elderly man trapped in an adolescent body, and Robert Sheehan as the punk rock strung out Klaus, who sees dead people. Also, the general wackiness of this most dysfunctional of families, and its retainers, and its problems, and the time travel, and the impending apocalypse, and their childhood trauma, etc. etc. is just so bananas its hard to look away. Forbidden love is always a selling point too, isn’t it? And: AMAZING SOUNDTRACK. Like, the BEST.

Why You Shouldn’t: Some of the most ludicrous fight/action/shooting scenes ever, with bullets and punches flying but oh, darn, missed again! Also, Ellen Page’s understated Vanya is… an interesting choice, and the general ludicrousness of this alternate now, in which people can be casually sent to/from the moon but in which there are no mobile telephones (which would make most of the plot-driving difficulties of this series impossible) is hard to understand.

3 1/2 stars.

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APPETITES AND VICES BY FELICIA GROSSMAN (February 18, 2019)

A forthright Jewish heroine desperate for acceptance in 19th century Philadelphia. A well-bred scion of a respected family, determined to run from his demons. Together, they plot to get their heart’s desire – she, to enter society with grace, he to leave it forever – and as their pretend friendship turns to true kinship, they discover they have so much more in common, and need each other so much more, than they could ever have imagined. Zesty and full of spirit with leads to cheer for and no little steam (if you’re into that sort of thing), Appetites and Vices is an electrifying debut, and thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end. – Rachel Hyland

5 stars.

Appetites and Vices by Felicia Grossman
The Truitts #2
Carina | American Historical | February 18, 2019

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THE KISS QUOTIENT BY HELEN HOANG (2018)

RIQ‘s Editor in Chief, Rachel Hyland, is currently working her way through a 365-book Goodreads challenge, attempting to read a book a day from her TBR pile in 2019. Yesterday, she read and reviewed The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang over at her blog, and her thoughts seem relevant, so we’re reprinting them here…

The pre-release buzz for this book was so effervescent that I pre-ordered it just on that basis. An autistic, math-genius heroine who hires an escort to help her learn social cues and romantic interactions? Sign me up.

Then, just six months after its release, this book was acclaimed as the Best Romance of 2018 in the annual Goodreads poll, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it yet. I run a magazine called Romantic Intentions Quarterly, after all, AND THIS WAS THE BEST ROMANCE NOVEL OF LAST YEAR.

Shame on me.

So why didn’t I read it before now? The answer is, simply, sex. I am not one who likes too much steam in my romance novels, and I certainly don’t like graphic descriptions thereof interrupting my narrative. Of course, a lot of romance readers love highly-detailed sex scenes, they love the frankness and/or the euphemisms and/or the pages upon pages of painstakingly-described orgasms. I never have. To me, it feels super-voyeuristic. And it just makes me uncomfortable to be so privy to the deepest fantasies dwelling in anyone else’s mind.

I should make it very clear, here, that I am more than happy for my heroes and heroines to be having sex. And if heroes are having sex with heroes and heroines are having sex with heroines, or there is any other permutation of such going on among anyone on any part of the sexuality spectrum, yay, great, hooray. This is not, for example, a faith-based objection. There is no so-called moral imperative at play. I’m just very much a close the bedroom door, fade to black, pillow talk afterwards, let’s get back to the story kind of gal.

To each their own, right? (RIQ is almost entirely peopled with staff who strongly disagree with me on this, by the way.)

So when I started hearing about how gosh-darned sexy this book was, how hot was Stella’s education at the hands of professional lady-killer Michael, I put it aside, not sure I’d ever pick it up again. But then two of my staff writers from RIQ, the wonderful Maura Tan and Clara Shipman, separately and enthusiastically endorsed the book and all-but insisted I read it immediately, and so here we are.

I totally get it. I see what they — and most everyone else in Romancelandia — loved about it. The high functioning autistic Stella is a thoroughly unique personality, and the Pretty Woman-esque plot totally works for me–just as it did in Asking for Trouble by Elizabeth Young back in 2000, and a score of others since. I loved that Michael is mixed-race: half Vietnamese, half-Swedish and all delicious. And I especially loved that Stella’s high-powered job as a creator of delicate algorithms made her so financially independent that she was able to live her life on her own terms. I love that she uses her money not as a source of happiness, but to help her find her way there — even if it all begins mostly because her mother wants her to settle down. Also, this book is very sex worker positive, and yes, sex work is a legitimate profession for anyone who might choose it and there should not be any shame associated with it at all. (One day, we’ll live in a Firefly universe, where registered Companions have the highest of statuses in society.)

So, absolutely. A lot to like. A lot to love. But there is also A LOT of graphic sex in this book. For many, if not most, romance readers, that is no doubt among its biggest selling points. For me? No. But I can appreciate enough of what is going on around it to overlook the many, many pages I ended up having to skip — flip, flip, are they still doing it?, yep, flip, flip, ooh look dialogue, blush!, flip, flip — and remain pleased at having read it, regardless.

Especially since everyone else apparently has.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 27: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
GENRE: Romance
PUBLISHED: 2018
TIME ON THE TBR: ~ 8 months.
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.
KEEP: No.

TRUE LOVE: One Monday in Melbourne

Melbourne!

The year was 1999. Before cell phones and Facebook. Before Instagram and the recording of every minute detail of life. Certainly well before Snapchat and Tinder. Despite this lack of digital intervention or proof, that Monday night in May is etched in my memory, and changed my life forever.

I was 27, a Californian who had been traveling solo for about 5 months on a year-long backpacking tour of the world. He was 30, working in Melbourne, Australia on a six month contract that was coming to a close.

Back in those days, if you wanted to get in touch with your family from afar, you’d go to your local “internet cafe” where you could call or email, or just browse the World Wide Web for a small fee. As it happened, I had discovered a fabulous internet cafe in Melbourne, run by a vivacious and whip smart redhead, who offered free pizza on Monday nights. Being a poor backpacker, this was my kind of place!

When I arrived that particular Monday night, however, the computers and telephone booths were all full, so I chatted with my host, ate a piece of pizza, and then curled up on the couch to wait, picking up a copy of New Scientist Magazine to fill the time.

The next patron to walk in was a tall, lanky Irishman with a charming smile and a slightly mischievous twinkle in his eyes. He sat down next to me, complimented me on my choice of magazine and turned on the charm. I was completely captivated. When it was my turn to use a computer terminal, I kept half an eye on my new friend, hoping he wouldn’t leave before I was done sending my family a quick email. I needn’t have worried, as he was timing his departure to coincide with whenever I might be finished.

As we left the internet cafe that night, he suggested a bar where we might get a drink. We spent the next three hours walking around Melbourne, occasionally stopping for a refreshment (he actually had no idea what bar he was going to take me to, so he just made it up as he went along…). When I said goodnight late that night, I left him with a phone number and a smile.

We met up again a few days later, and have been inseparable ever since. He bought a car a few weeks after we met – a green Ford Falcon station wagon (the Millennium Falcon, of course), complete with red dust, a free BBQ and surfboard in the back, and a penchant for breaking down every few hundred miles. We spent the next 6 months traveling around Australia together, working on a ranch in the outback, crewing on a yacht up the barrier reef, and basically doing all of the ridiculously romantic things you do when you’re first in love and in a strange land.

This May 2nd will mark 20 years since that fateful Monday in Melbourne, and I feel lucky every day I wake up next to my husband of all of these years. My ever-charming and witty Irishman, who sports a bit more grey hair, and who, after two children, two cats, three tortoises and a very large mortgage can still captivate me on a daily basis.

– Marion B., Dublin, Ireland

Thanks, Marion, for sending in your wonderful love story! You have won a year’s subscription to Romantic Intentions Quarterly. Enjoy!

Want to share your own tale of True Romance? Send it in to editor@romanticintentionsquarterly.com, for the chance to win your own annual subscription to RIQ!

THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART (February 8, 2019)

Hey, Lego Movie Mom! If your fourteen year old kid – that kid is at least fourteen, right? – is playing with Lego instead of virtually killing other kids on his phone, don’t take away his Lego. Seriously. That is probably the most ludicrous part of this movie. And it’s a movie about talking Lego. As sequels go, this one does everything it should: expands the world, calls back to the original occasionally, and amps up the drama. There are some catchy musical numbers, some very funny throwaway lines, pop culture references (the time travel references are PERFECT) and fourth-wall breaking, and the special best friendship of Emmet (Chris Pratt) and Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) has some good lessons about relationships for the youngsters. One relationship that does not have good lessons, however, is Batman (Will Arnett) and the Queen of Systar (Tiffany Haddish), who kidnaps him and then tricks him into proposing by negging the hell out of him. Not cool, Queen of Systar! And not cool, Lego Movie. Clever satire, sure, but the junior audience of this film won’t know that. They won’t get the pointed (and, let’s face it, outdated) Twilight reference, either. It’s all pretty fun, though.

4 stars.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Story by Michelle Morgan and Dominic Russo
Written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller and Matthew Fogel and Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Directed by Mike Mitchell and Trisha Gum
Wide Release | 106 minutes | February 8, 2019

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TOP 10 SCIENCE FICTION FILM ROMANCES — #6

Much time and space have been given in the annals of film production to tales of romance that cross, well, time and space. From the early B-movies through to latter-day sci-fi extravaganzas, filmmakers and audiences alike clearly adore some inter-stellar, even occasionally inter-species lovin’. Here, ten of the best:

6. HAN SOLO AND PRINCESS LEIA

Star Wars Trilogy (1977, 1981, 1983)
Played by Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher
Subgenre: Space Opera

Few cinematic affairs encapsulate the Hating Their Way to Love motif better than that of brash, irrepressible spaceship pilot Han and poised, opinionated princess, Leia. Through the assorted perils imposed by Imperial garbage compressors, mixed up almost-incest, kidnapping and freezing in carbonite, this mismatched pair of rebels made an art out of longing looks, snide backbiting and sizzling chemistry—added to which is probably the best declaration of love scene ever:

LEIA: I love you.
HAN: [pause; significant look] I know.

And no, unsurprisingly enough, Anakin and Padme do not make it onto this list.

GO TO NUMBER 10

SEE THIS WHOLE TOP 10 LIST, ALONG WITH REVIEWS, ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS AND SO MUCH MORE IN ROMANTIC INTENTIONS QUARTERLY. ISSUE 1 — OUT NOW!

CRAZY HOT BY TARA JANZEN (2005)

BOOK REC: SUSPENSE

In Crazy Hot by Tara Janzen, old meets very, very new as a paleontologist goes missing and his daughter seeks the help of a Special Ops badass to protect her from the bad guys on her tail (for what reason, she isn’t sure) and track down her brilliant father, all while foiling a terrorist plot. With more twists and turns than the quiet roads they ride so fast – in super-hot, super-fast cars – the whole Steele Street series is thrilling, breakneck romantic suspense at its very finest.

Crazy Hot by Tara Janzen
Steele Street #1
Dell | 432 pages | September 27, 2005

LISTEN! My Dad Wrote a Porno

Now in its fourth series, My Dad Wrote a Porno is an uproarious podcast in which twenty-somethings Jamie Morton, Alice Levine and James Cooper read and discuss Jamie’s dad’s self-published (under the pseudonym “Rocky Flintstone”) attempt at “erotic literature,” Belinda Blinked. While not connoisseurs of the genre, and occasionally dismissive of it, the three are hilarious as they delve into the high-flying world of pots and pans sales and light bondage, with our heroine Belinda “up for anything” as she takes on clients, superiors and regional sales managers with equal passivity. The million-download podcast has taken the world by storm, enough that there are live shows and a book of scripts – and Belinda Blinked has actually sold pretty well, too. The full title, by the way? Belinda Blinked; 1 A modern story of sex, erotica and passion. How the sexiest sales girl in business earns her huge bonus by being the best at removing her high heels. Hot.

Find it on iTunes, GooglePlay or your favorite podcast service.

COMICS WILL BREAK YOUR HEART BY FAITH ERIN HICKS (February 12, 2019)

Their families hate each other. Mir’s grandfather drew The TomorrowMen, superheroes on their way to big screen success, but Weldon’s grandfather reaped all the profits. When Weldon is sent to stay with his aunt in small town Canada after a series of bad decisions, he and Mir meet in the comic book store where she works, and they feel an instant connection. But as old resentments stir and new ones fester, can Mir and Weldon get past the past, and heal some old wounds? Fun and funny, with a deep appreciation of comic book culture and fandom, as well as building up a cast of well-rounded secondary characters to either love or hate, Comics Will Break Your Heart is a very enjoyable YA read, especially for the comic geeks among us. – Rachel Hyland

4 1/2 stars.

Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks
Roaring Brook | YA | February 12, 2019

SEE THIS REVIEW ALONG WITH ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS AND SO MUCH MORE IN ROMANTIC INTENTIONS QUARTERLY. ISSUE 4 — OUT NOW!