YOU ASKED FOR PERFECT BY LAURA SILVERMAN (March 5, 2019)

Any perfectionist will identify with Ariel Stone, whose unwavering focus on the perfect application to Harvard begins to wobble under the weight of self-doubt, and the unrealistic expectations he places on himself to maintain a perfect grade at school, be a good son and brother, be present for his friends and support their demands on his time, and foster a blossoming romance with family friend, Amir. Reading this book may elicit stomach knots of recognition as Ariel hides the fact that he is drowning, not waving, until a near-tragedy causes a reassessment. Enjoyable for older adults, but most pertinent to its target young adult audience.

Megan Osmond

4 stars.

You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman
Sourcebooks Fire | M/M Young Adult | March 5, 2019

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AN UNCONDITIONAL FREEDOM BY ALYSSA COLE (February 26, 2019)

The third in Alyssa Cole’s pulse-pounding, soul-searing saga of the American Civil War, this entry offers a slow-burn romance, two deeply traumatized leads, and all the complexity of thought, deed and desire that Cole does so well. Forced to spy for the Confederacy, Cuban Janeta Sanchez doesn’t reckon with the undeniable attraction of Daniel Cumberland, a born-free northerner who has only recently escaped months of abuse as a captured slave. These two troubled souls find solace in each other, as lies are revealed and loyalties are tested against the backdrop of an increasingly frenetic war. Absolutely fantastic. – Maura Tan

5 stars.

An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole
The Loyal League #3
Kensington | American Historical | February 26, 2019

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THE WAYWARD BRIDE BY ANNA BRADLEY (February 26, 2019)

We first met the impetuous Isla Ramsey and the very correct Marquess of Pierce in More or Less a Temptress, the third novel in Anna Bradley’s Somerset Sisters trilogy. Here she begins a new but related series, Besotted Scots (and WHY has no one ever come up with that series title before? Genius!), and Isla is at its center, as she recovers from both scandal and heartbreak, now betrothed to her best friend.

That best friend is the eminently likable Earl of Sydney, but while he loves Isla dearly, it is another kind of affection he craves. And he finds it in his handsome, surly rescuer, farmer Lucas Dean, after a carriage accident nearly costs Sydney is life.

Willful misunderstandings and couples speaking and cross-purposes often frustrate me in a book, especially when it feels as though they are only there to act as a catalyst to angst and feel otherwise entirely out of character. That frustration is entirely absent here, as the assorted tangles of emotions, betrayals and mooted marriages of convenience are entirely justified, as are the tempestuous conversations among our four protagonists that so enjoyably address them. From the straight-laced Pierce’s muddled mind, going off the deep end due to jealousy and (he believes) unrequited adoration, to the fiery Isla’s constant need to run away, to Sydney’s dawning realization of having met his match, and to Lucas’s resentments and insecurities hiding behind his gruffness, this book is filled with points of view that you really want to know, and that you come to completely understand.

Intriguingly seeding possibilities for future Besotted Scots novels – obviously, we have to meet the woman who broke Ciaran’s heart that one time – and bringing back glimpses of some favorite Somerset characters, The Wayward Bride is a most excellent addition to Bradley’s uncommonly addictive Regency world.

– Rachel Hyland

 5 stars.

The Wayward Bride by Anna Bradley
Besotted Scots #1
Lyrical | Regency | February 26, 2019

TOP 10 SCIENCE FICTION FILM ROMANCES — #5

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:

5. JOHN SPARTAN AND LENINA HUXLEY

Demolition Man (1993)
Played by Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock
Subgenre: Dystopian

Gung-ho police officer John Spartan is sentenced to decades in cryonic suspension for the crime of being, well, gung-ho. He is awoken many years later in a brightly-colored future in which wrongdoing is anathema, and where the police are at a loss to deal with the multiple “MurderDeathKills” being perpetrated by Spartan’s recently revived nemesis (Wesley Snipes, in his best performance ever). One of his few fans in the future police department is the young and enthusiastic Lenina Huxley – note the Brave New World reference; clever, eh? – an aficionado of his more brutal century, and in between the tracking down of unrepentant serial killers and the exposure of a top level conspiracy, eventually hero worship leads to something more… even despite his new obsession with knitting and the fact that apparently in the future, all sex will be virtual. (And all restaurants Taco Bell.)

GO TO NUMBER 10

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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

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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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