What Men Can Learn From Romance Novels

Good books are for everyone, regardless of genre. In fact, some of the most enlightening and exhilarating reading experiences can come from stepping outside of your comfort zone. Julie Ann Walker, author of Wild Ride is definitely on our wavelength. Here, Walker writes about what men who read romance novels know. Men who avoid the genre you assume it isn’t for you: You could be missing out on something great!

They say romance novels are written by women, for women. While that’s true, while the books most often feature female protagonists, cover issues women are interested in, and celebrate women’s sexuality, that doesn’t mean men shouldn’t be picking them up and reading them cover-to-cover. Why? Firstly, because so many of them are darn entertaining reads. Secondly, because romance novels are windows into women’s wants and desires. Discerning gentlemen can use them as guidebooks for how to be a better partner.

And what will they learn in these “guidebooks”, you ask? Read on!

It’s the little things
So often men fall for the fallacy that what women need are wide, sweeping gestures to make them happy, like skywriting marriage proposals by biplane, trips to exotic lands, and candlelight dinners that cost more than a month’s rent. But the truth (and what most good romance novels show) is it’s the small, everyday things that women really appreciate. A man who takes out the trash without being asked, brews the coffee so it’s waiting for her when she gets up, and volunteers to walk the dog so she can take a long, lazy bath is a god. (And just FYI, men who do these things are often invited to join their lady in the bath when they get back from walking the dog. *wink, wink*)

It’s the big things, too
But what if a man wants to bring tears to his lady’s eyes with a sweeping romantic gesture? Whether it’s Kyle Rhodes renting out the top floor of the restaurant where he first saw Rylann Pierce “nine years ago on this very day” in Julie James’ About That Night or Ian Eversea using every last dime he’d saved to buy Tansy Danforth her childhood home in Julie Anne Long’s Between the Devil and Ian Eversea, romance novels are chock-a-block full of inspiration for grand gestures.  

The difference between being an arrogant a-hole and a charismatic, confident man
Yes, it’s true. We women love a self-assured man. But there’s a difference between confidence and egotism, between tenacity and imperiousness. Good romance novels show the way to toe that line.

How to approach a woman
Forget the pickup lines. Pick up a romance if you want to learn some techniques for getting a woman to notice you. From Cole Langston standing up for a harried counter-girl in Marie Force’s Everyone Loves a Hero to Dean Robillard pulling over to give a woman in a beaver costume a ride in Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, some of the most amazing meet-cutes can be found between the covers of romance novels. Read, relate, repeat, gents.

The dos and don’ts of bedroom etiquette
Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about what women like and don’t like, from how to kiss, how to unhook a bra, how to talk dirty, and far, far more can be found in a good romance novel. Want to be stellar in the boudoir? Pick up a romance novel and take notes.

Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of award-winning romantic suspense. She has won the Book Buyers Best Award, been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award, the Bookseller’s Best Award, the Australian Romance Reader Awards, and the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award. Her books have been described as “alpha, edgy, and downright hot.” Most days you can find Julie on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.

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Exclusive Interview with Rory Harrison

We’re excited to share this special Q&A with Rory Harrison about her book, Looking for Group, and something exciting she’s doing with Quarterly:

This quarter’s box is curated by Rory Harrison, featuring an exclusive, print copy of Looking for Group and a letter from Rory herself! Also find in the box two more books, handpicked by Rory that inspired her as an author, plus awesome bookish goods — perfect for YA book lovers. (Psst: Act fast, subscribe by April 21st to get this box and use the discount mentioned below)

NetGalley Author Interview

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing?

I was a poor kid, who grew up in a lousy neighborhood, and my mom took me to the library every single Saturday. I was allowed to go anywhere in the library, pick out any book, and just be. It was my happiest place; my safest place. But sometimes the stories I loved best would run out — one book and over. I wanted more. So I started writing the more for myself. Some of my earliest works included Sarah returning to the Labyrinth when she realized that the real world was dull, and a companion novel to Lois’ Duncan’s Stranger With My Face — it turns out the twins were triplets, and I too, could astrally project!

Now I’m a grown up, in a better neighborhood, and I can take myself to my library. (Or bring the library to me — I love checking out e-books!) I live in a yellow house with a red door, with my wife and my youngest daughter. My eldest daughter is grown and lives in a town not too far from here.

I still read and write fan fiction, by the way. It’s just now I spend most of my time writing books, first. (Usually.)

What is your favorite novel of all time?

Completely impossible question to answer. But I will say that The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, IT by Stephen King and The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause were my best friends as I was growing up. And I admit, every summer, I re-read all of Harry Potter. I appreciate The Deathly Hallows a lot more each year.

In your opinion, has there ever been a movie that is better than the book?

Oh absolutely. Going way back, The Godfather was an amazing book, but the movie completed it. And I’ll probably get eviscerated for this, but I think the first Twilight movie was better than the book. Melissa Rosenberg’s screenplay cut down to the heart of what made Twilight a sensation and Catherine Hardwicke’s choices as a director were disconcerting and beautiful. (And you can check out Rosenberg’s work now in Jessica Jones. She’s just so great!)

Which three authors would you invite to a dinner party?

I’d love to have dinner with Malinda Lo, Shaun David Hutchinson and Anna-Marie McLemore. I follow them on Twitter, and I think that would be an amazing, illuminating night. And if I could cheat and invite one more, Mary Roach. She’s hilarious and has researched so many things, who knows where the conversation might go?

Your novel, Looking for Group, features two very real and relatable--though not frequently depicted in YA fiction--characters. Did you always plan on writing the characters as is? What inspired you to get them on paper?

In the beginning, I wanted to, very much. I wanted to tell stories like mine and my wife’s and my friends’, because so often, you’re allowed to be One Thing in a book. You can be poor, and that’s all Or you can be queer. Or you can be sick. Or you can be a gamer. But real life isn’t like that; a lot of times, those things stack because of each other. So I wrote the book of my heart, and made my wife cry each day, when she read my pages.

But when it was done, and it came time to do business, I was afraid that a book about a queer boy and a transgender girl wouldn’t sell. So I broke my own heart, and straightened everybody up, and sent it to my agent. He realized something was missing — I’d never told him about the original version. Finally, though, I did, and he was loving and stern and said, “I’ll worry about what sells. You worry about writing a great book.”

So I put Looking For Group back the way it was supposed to be. And now it’s a real book, in the real world, with the real characters I hoped and dreamed and wished for all along.

There is so much travel in Looking for Group. Are you yourself a traveler? How did you pick the places Dylan and Arden visit?

I love to be in new places, but I hate to travel. Ugh, getting there is awful. I hate that part the most! But I do enjoy weird roadside attractions — some of the things that Dylan and Arden see in the book are from my real life. Others, are things that I looked at online. I “drove” to the Salton Sea probably fifty times on Google Maps.

They’re all special and have stories behind them. But here’s a tiny spoiler: when I was a kid, my parents would save up all year so that we could go to King’s Island — an amusement park — in the next state. They’d pack us in the car when it was still dark, and we’d go back to sleep for the drive. Mom would wake us up when we were close. She’d say, “Watch for the Eiffel Tower,” because in the middle of King’s Island’s International Street, they have a replica of the Tower, light blinking on top and everything. Seeing it was a revelation, every single time.

It meant so much to me that I deviated Dylan and Arden’s “I-70 or bust!” driving plan, just so they could go down the right highway to see it.

If you could visit one fictional world, which would you chose?

I expect I would go to Hogwarts. Aren’t you still waiting for your letter, too?

Do you have any advice for young writers?

Read, read, read. But mostly, only listen to advice that makes you feel like a better writer. Everybody has their own process. There’s no one way to write a book. Trying to follow the wrong advice can make you feel defeated and small.

I’ve tried to follow both good and smart advice that wasn’t for me, and stupid advice that was just stupid, and none of it helped me to write a book. The advice that felt like blooming instead of burying worked for me. So read, read, read. Learn how your favorites tell a story. But only listen to advice that helps you grow.

What is your favorite thing that you have received in the mail?

This is the best question ever. When I was in high school, I had several Japanese pen pals. We’d write snail mail* to each other; we corresponded for years. And one of them, Michiko, taped several entire anime series for me on VHS tapes, as a surprise. It was this HUGE box, full of anime, turning up out of nowhere — back in the 80s. It was unexpected, and anime in the US back then was so rare, it was like getting a box full of gold.

(*Because we had to. There was no Internet yet. SpoOooOoky!)

Click here to get Rory Harrison’s YA Fiction Box, complete with an exclusive, annotated copy of Looking for Group! (Plus! As a NetGalley member, you get an exclusive 10% discount! Just enter the code: NETGALLEY10 at checkout – expires April 21st.)

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NetGalley Author Interview

Riley Callahan’s plans to reveal his secret feelings for his best friend Paige are derailed when his life is drastically altered in Afghanistan.

After an IED leaves Riley an amputee, he plans to put some distance between himself and Paige. But when he returns home, he finds his family has arranged for him to stay with her. As the weeks wear on, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into uncharted territory. Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?

Just a Kiss

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Pub Date: September 06, 2016
Romance
Published by Thomas Nelson

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Romancing the Bookstore

How two sisters are turning convention on its ear and bringing the biggest eBook category back to the shelf, to the delight of their customers.

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Sisters Bea and Leah Koch, are the adventurous proprietresses of The Ripped Bodice in Culver City, CA, a brand new store focusing on Romance. They recently sat down with Kat Meyer, the co-chair of the upcoming Nielsen Romance Book Summit being held during RWA on July 14th in San Diego. Both sisters will be joining the Summit to talk about their experiences—their first public appearance since they opened the store–and what other booksellers can learn by example.

Kat: What have you learned as a bookstore owner/bookseller that has surprised you most about romance readers (that you hadn’t known before operating the store)?

Bea: I was surprised to discover how many readers read across sub-genre. I’ve always read historical romance, and Leah has hopped around more, but I love our customer’s willingness to try something new. As one reader said to me, “I know there’s going to be a happy ending so I’ll take a chance on a new setting or characters.”

Kat: I’ve spoken to Leah over the phone while she has been working at the store, and it’s so cool to hear shoppers in the background talking about how much they love the store — what are you hearing from readers who visit the store that they love most about shopping at The Ripped Bodice?

Leah: I think the main things is that their genre is being recognized. There is something so special about walking into a store that is entirely devoted to the genre you love. There is also the beauty of knowing everyone in the store is there for the same thing. So often, we see customers peeking over each others shoulders at what people are buying and saying “I loved that one.” Practically, I think people really appreciate the way the store is laid out by sub-genre so that they can shop just for cowboys or vampires.

Kat: You’ve got a few events under your belt (or bodice?) now. Would you say that an event at your store – one devoted exclusively to romance – is different from one at say, a Barnes and Noble, or even a general indie? If so, why?

Leah: I do think it’s different because everything we do takes romance very seriously. When we do events with authors, you hear people asking really thoughtful questions about “why did you put this sex scene here?” and “how did you choose the heroine’s job?”. The space is also very woman focused which really comes through in all of our events. Our incredibly popular “Romantic Comedy” stand-up comedy night every month has really shown me how starved women are for events that cater to them. I am always delighted to hear mostly female comics talking specifically about the female experience.

Kat: What kind of response has Ripped Bodice had from publishers? Are you sensing they’re excited to have a dedicated romance bookstore? 

Bea: The response from publishers has been fantastic, and very helpful. Especially romance-specific imprints, who are just so welcoming and lovely. I think there’s a real sense of camaraderie in the romance publishing world – like we’re all in this together, and also isn’t everyone else so silly for writing us off?

Kat: You carry sidelines by and for readers of romance. Do specific non-book items help with sales of books? What advice do you have for publishers, authors and other booksellers about the importance of merchandising for romance books?

Bea: Choosing all the things that are not books is one of the more fun parts of our job. Sidelines definitely helps with our bottom line and I think often works in tandem with the books. Often someone who is picking up a book will remember they need a birthday card for next week.

We carry a lot of custom items, like bookmarks and jewelry. We find that customers love wearing something with our name on it, and we love all that free advertising.

In terms of merchandising for authors, I would say the sky is the limit. We see a lot of swag come through here, and it seems like anything that’s not a bookmark does well. Especially something with a tie-in to the story.

Kat: Indie booksellers of all sorts are often anchors of their communities. What kind of reception have you had by your neighbors in Culver City? Is the store bringing in foot traffic of non-romance readers that are converting to romance readers?

Leah: Absolutely! We really try to keep in mind that in addition to being a genre-specific bookstore we are a neighborhood bookstore. We get tons of people from Culver City who have never read romance. Some aren’t necessarily interested and are thrilled that we have cards and other gifts and some are excited to try out a new genre.

Bea: We carry historical fiction, women’s fiction, and other things we call “romance adjacent.” We consider them our gateway books. Often we’ll start someone on a romance adjacent series and see them in the next week, moving more towards traditional romance. There is such a feeling of accomplishment and pride when someone comes in to rave about the book you recommended.

Kat: How big a part does e-tailing play in the store’s concept? And, in what ways? 

Leah: It’s important and we love to be able to reach readers who are not in Los Angeles but right now we are more focused on the in person experience. There is just no way for us to compete online, especially in terms of shipping, so we really try to focus on where we can compete, which is in creating an incredible book shopping experience.

Bea and Leah Koch are sisters and the owners of The Ripped Bodice. They grew up in Chicago. Bea went on to attend Yale and NYU, where she wrote a graduate thesis titled, “Mending the Ripped Bodice.” Leah moved to Los Angeles to attend USC, graduating cum laude with a degree in visual and performing arts.

Bea specializes in Regency and other historical romance. Her favorite authors include Tessa Dare, Lisa Kleypas, Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins, and Julia Quinn.

Leah reads widely throughout the contemporary, paranormal and erotica subgenres. She especially enjoys new adult, witches and sports romance. Her favorite authors include Christina Lauren, Kristen Proby, Nora Roberts, Elle Kennedy, Julie James, and Kristen Callihan.

Love the Books Banner_NetGalley

The 2016 Nielsen Romance Book Summit is taking place on July 14th, during the Romance Writers of America convention in San Diego, CA. Click here for more information, the full schedule and tickets.

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Author Chat with Judy Duarte

Live on June 7th at 4pm EST!

Graham has always thought of Sasha as his "little sister."

Sasha has always considered the rugged rancher out of her league.

Now that Sasha is all grown up, there is nothing keeping them apart… Except she has a daughter. An ex-husband. And a very noticeable baby bump. And the always proper Graham suddenly finds himself thinking very sexy thoughts about the sweet single mom!

Perhaps Fortune is finally smiling on Graham—in the form of the true love this rich, unencumbered cowboy has always longed for!

Wed by Fortune

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Pub Date: May 24, 2016
Romance
Published by Harlequin

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Author Chat with Brenda Minton

Live on June 3rd at 4:30pm EST!

Bodyguard Boone Wilder isn't keen on his latest mission: watching over a pretty politician's daughter. Boone is from quiet Texas Hill Country, and Kayla is a showy city gal. But once safely settled at the Wilder Ranch, Boone watches Kayla enjoy cooking with his family, caring for his relatives and bottle-feeding calves. There's more to her than he ever knew. Still, the former soldier's wounds are way too deep to let Kayla close. But when he discovers that someone wants to hurt Kayla, Boone must risk his heart to protect what he cares about most.

Her Rancher Bodyguard

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Pub Date: May 24, 2016
Romance, General Fiction (Adult)
Published by Love Inspired

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Straight Shootin’ Book Reviews
Blog URL: http://www.straightshootinbookreviews.com
Your name: Mandy – Str8shooterM

Let’s begin with your blogger origin story - how long have you been blogging about books and why did you start?

I’ve been blogging for almost two and a half years, which is really hard to believe. It all started in March of 2012 when I stumbled upon Kristen Ashley and I began inhaling contemporary romance. Soon, I realized that I wanted a larger platform for my reviews and I decided to create a blog. I was also frustrated after reading several gushing reviews of a popular book on several popular blogs at the time. After reading those reviews, I wondered if I read the same book. The book was riddled with typos and even used words incorrectly. Why couldn’t they just be honest and tell it like it is? And so, “Straight Shootin” Book Reviews was born. Creating SSBR has changed my life personally and professionally in so many ways.

What genres and subgenres does your blog focus on? Are there any trends within these that you’re excited to see, or would like to see dissipate?

For almost two years I focused on contemporary romance, romantic suspense, military romance, erotic romance, some new adult… you get the picture. Earlier this year, I brought on two reviewers, Tonya and Maria Rose and they have helped SSBR branch out into historical, paranormal, M/M, sci fi romance, contemporary and women’s fiction. Bringing Tonya and Maria Rose has been one of the best moves I’ve made thanks to the diversity they bring.  As for trends, I’ve seen an increase of romantic suspense releases and I’m always happy to see that. As a football fan, I’ve really enjoyed the sports/football romances from Elle Kennedy, Jen Frederick and Kristen Callihan’s The Game Plan. As for trends I’d like to see go away? The stepbrother thing seems to be dissipating a bit, thank goodness.

Have your reading habits changed since started blogging about books?

They certainly have. Now, I have a reading schedule and while I always had a list of books to read, having access to review copies and deadlines to read them by, my reading time is much more structured. That’s not to say that I never read whatever, whenever. I’ve learned to give myself periods of time when I can pick up whatever catches my eye, or to read a book that I’ve read five times already.

On your blog, you have a tagline/motto that says “Reviews That Inspire Confidence” – can you explain the meaning of this and how you came up with it?

That’s an interesting story (at least I think it is). Last spring I had my logo redesigned. A friend sent me a tin that served as the design inspiration. It had a vintage look and was supposed to hold bullets ergo- Straight Shootin’ Bullets. We used some of the slogans on the box as inspiration and they became “Reviews That Inspire Confidence” and “Do Not Read Unless You Mean Business.”  It is my hope that when you visit SSBR and you read a review, you feel confident that we have given you our honest feelings and opinions regarding that book.

Do you have a particular approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years?

My style has pretty much stayed the same. I tend to write like I talk. When you’re reading one of my reviews, it’s like you’re in the room with me. I tend to talk about how a book made me feel and my style is pretty laid back. My approach to writing reviews has definitely evolved. I’ve always read on my Kindle, highlighted and bookmarked pages. This year, I started a journal of sorts where I keep my reading schedule, and I make notes. I record the date I started, title, author and when the review is due. Sometimes, I have lot of notes and there are also times where I get so wrapped up in a book, I forget to make notes other than “AWESOME!” I tend to jot down how a book made feel while reading it.

Do you have any advice for book bloggers who are just starting out? Perhaps advice about managing a blog with multiple contributors as well as a review schedule?

Oh wow, advice for new book bloggers. Hmmmmm. I’d say BE YOU. It’s very easy to look at what everyone else is doing and get wrapped up in a “Keeping Up With the Joneses”. Don’t worry about Facebook followers and how many times you post a day. DO NOT over-commit yourself to review copies. Read what you want when you want. Some of us do better with structure, some do not. Figure out what works best for you.

As for managing a blog with multiple contributors, I’m VERY lucky, Maria Rose and Tonya make it very easy. I also use a WordPress calendar plug in called CoSchedule and it allows me to color code my reviewers, so I can look at the schedule and see who is doing what when. We also tend to talk via email and messenger about who is reading what and if we want to write a review for it. If more than one person is reading the same book, we determine whether or not we want to do a dual or a triple review. We call that post – 1 book, 2 reviews. Those are some of my favorite reviews.

Are there any romance titles on NetGalley that you’re looking forward to reading/reviewing?

Oh gosh, I have a few on my NetGalley shelf that I’m so excited to read. Lauren Dane’s Coming Back (Book 3 in the Ink & Chrome series), Tessa Bailey’s Crashed Out (Book 1 in the Made in Jersey series) and Welcome to Forever by debut author Annie Rains (Book 1 in the Hero’s Welcome series). I’m having a hard time figuring out which one to read first!

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Lightning Round!

Your ideal reading spot:

Curled up in my big brown comfy chair in my living room. Or the beach.

Your favorite holiday reads:

This Christmas and Finding Christmas by Jeannie Moon. I also love Jill Shalvis’s Merry Christmas, Baby.

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Your blog, in 2 sentences:

Straight Shootin’ Book Reviews, giving you reviews that inspire confidence. Do not read unless you mean business!

Your favorite childhood book:

As a child, I had The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit. I still have it and have read it to my kids. I still love Benjamin Bunny, Peter Rabbit, Flopsy Rabbit, Mopsy Rabbit, Cotton-tail Rabbit, Mrs. Rabbit, and Mr. McGregor.

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

Oh my gosh, this is a very hard question! Part of me thinks that a road trip with Stephen King would certainly be VERY interesting. But in the end, I’d have to pick Cristin Harber because I know she’d be a blast to travel with thanks to those incredible Titan men she writes. Where would we go? I’m partial to the beach, so I’d pick a road trip to Destin, Florida. Drinks and reading on the beach!!

Thanks so much for spending some time with us and answering our questions Mandy!
Please make sure to check out Straight Shootin’ Book Reviews and the Romance titles now available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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Author Chat with Rachel Hauck

Live on November 16th at 4pm ET!

Rachel Hauck is an award winning, bestselling author. Her book, The Wedding Dress, was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times, and Once Upon A Prince was a Christy Award finalist.

The Wedding Chapel

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Pub Date: Nov 17, 2015
Christian, Romance
Published by Thomas Nelson Fiction

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