Guest Author: Vanessa Riley on Gatekeepers and Who Gets to Decide

Hi friends! Please welcome Vanessa Riley to ALBTALBS!! I first began emailing with her back in early January. We were hoping for February, but she was swamped with deadlines, she sent me the post in May (APAHM!) so … here we are now! Yay!

Who Gets to Decide?

The Bittersweet Bride by Vanessa Riley Book CoverI’ve been a romance reader all my life. It’s been my refuge, my happy place. When I wanted to try my hand at putting the stories running rampant in my head on paper, I went to a Romance Writers of America conference. I saw Kristan Higgins up on stage. I was close enough to see the tremor in her cheek on the big screen when she described her readers, the love affair she has with them and how they tell her how one of her books touched their lives. The woman made me cry, right atop my half-eaten salad and rubbery chicken. I remember thinking I want to do that, write romances that matter. I’m one of those lives, one of those women who has needed romance novels to make it through the night.

You see, to keep my sanity, I’ve read romance between calculus finals. To block out the sounds of my parent’s marriage disintegrating, I read Beverly Jenkin’s stories of people, people like me, finding love, building towns and fighting to keep their unions strong. While dear hubby was deployed, I read tales of peace. When good old Dr. Fine told me to sit down and do nothing, for your health and that of your babe, I poured myself into women’s journeys who were active and kept moving, like Heyer’s who fell out of windows or dozens of others wonderful author’s like Eakes, Milan, MacLean, and Klassen who kept me swirling in ballgowns. Even in a hospice room listening to a clock tick away, my eyes drifted to my kindle app to escape. Continue reading

SHM Pride Guest: Tamsen Parker on The Power of the Female Default

Hi friends! I’m super excited to welcome our first Pride guest author of 2018, Tamsen Parker! A new friend to ALBTALBS, so please welcome another first timer with a fabulous post!

The Power of the Female Default: Why I Love F/F Sports Romance

Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker Book CoverI went to an all girls high school, and one of the best things about being at an all-female school was that all the resources were devoted to us. Classrooms and the dedication of our teachers, but also both of the gyms, the theater, all of the squash courts and tennis courts, the classrooms, and the weight room were for women. They were women’s spaces that centered women’s effort and accomplishments.

The romance genre is also a space that centers women. As a genre that is written primarily by and for women, it centers the pleasure, agency, and voices of women in a way that most genres do not.

When the worlds of sports and romance combine, it can sometimes be jarring to find most of the books in the popular subgenre of sports romance dominated by male athletes, especially those hitting the tops of the charts. Which perhaps shouldn’t be surprising. The big money sports—both professional and at the college level—feature primarily men. That’s where the money and the media and the fame are weighted. But still… Isn’t this a space for women? Why do so few sports romances feature female athletes? Continue reading

SHM: Pride!

Hello my darlings! You might have questions. Lime! WTF are these letters? And abbreviations? I hope to always have new visitors to A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet (ALBTALBS) – and of course old ones. [I SEE YOU, THE FEW LOVELY AMAZING PEOPLE WHO HAVE STUCK WITH ME, IN THIS DYING WORLD OF BLOGGING <3] … That’s literally a whole other topic though that I’m not trying to use to take over this subject.

OK! So! SHM = Smithsonian Heritage Month. Which as I addressed last year isn’t technically a Smithsonian or whatever month but, you know. When it’s important, it’s important.

It’s kind of crazy a little over a decade ago there were arguments in Romanceland whether or not M/M romances (and other LGBTQI+ stories) were romances or not. (Or whether or not erotic romance was romance … which I’m including to more show “yes it’s ridiculous people even tried to make these arguments.”)

ANYWAY! I know there is a very large and very active M/M romance community. One point I see a lot is “why say it’s LGBTQI+ romance if the only ones being discussed are M/M?” and I think that’s extremely valid, so this year I tried to focus on F/F romances, while of course also opening all of SHM to everybody. (As is how we operate.) … Am I even making sense?

I hope you also check out posts from last year, with a number of authors who not only are own voices, but also write a variety of LGBTQI+ romances.

I’m always interested in knowing also – do you have an LGBTQI+ romance authors to recommend? Have a favorite book? Is there an author I should try to have guest?

Thank you for joining us this month, and I hope you discover a number of wonderful new authors to read! <3 (As well as subjects to consider. I know so many of these SHM posts have hit me, and often made me shed a tear.)

SHM APAHM: Empresses in the Palace

This is my attempt to get you all to WATCH. THIS. SERIES!!!!!!!!! (Also for the Amazon/series image they decided to use … I kinda feel like someone there doesn’t like Betty Sun because that is like … the least flattering image I’ve ever seen of her ever. So. Empresses in the Palace. 後宮·甄嬛傳.

Empresses in the Palace PosterSet in 1722 during the Qing Dynasty, sweeping drama Empresses in the Palace is an epic tale of love, betrayal and scandal told from inside the Imperial Harem – the story of one emperor and his countless women. In a world filled with treachery and corruption, who will truly win the Emperor’s heart and reign supreme? In Mandarin with English subtitles.*

So. Empresses in the Palace. While not as big in the Western world (at least not in the states), this period drama exploded in Asia. It started out as what I’d say is original fanfic. (Remember that section of ff.net back in the day and the like?) It became a television series that first aired in November of 2011. I want to say it showed up on Amazon some time in 2016. There had been word that HBO bought the American rights and was going to distribute it in 2014, and was set to air in December of 2015. I have no idea what happened with studio drama but … here we are. You can either buy the episodes or “series” on Amazon, or watch it free if you have a Prime membership.

First of all, it’s an amazing series. The costuming, the acting, the set … it’s all gorgeous. As you can see.

SAPAHM Guest: Hudson Lin’s “Rambling Treatise on Identity, Diversity, and Why I Write East Asian Characters”

My friends. This post. Please read it – and … I don’t usually say this, but please share it. Hudson Lin is a first time guest at ALBTALBS, and (definitely) hopefully will be willing to guest again. I have nothing to say other than … please read and share

Rambling Treatise on Identity, Diversity, and Why I Write East Asian Characters

By Hudson Lin

Inside Darkness by Hudson Lin CoverI am Canadian. I am Taiwanese. I am Chinese. That’s typically the order in which I would identify myself, but that can change depending on the situation. Sometimes I’m all of them, sometimes I’m a particular combination of two to the exclusion of the third. It’s always complicated and never easy to explain.

My racial and cultural identity is something I’ve wrestled with my entire life, but it had never inserted itself into my writing. All the stories floating around in my head were about white people and I never thought there was anything wrong with that.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled my way into the writing community and realized that diversity was a thing, and not only a thing but something that was being championed. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon stories with characters who looked like me, written by authors who looked like me. Huh. That’s new.

Until recently, 100% of the romances I read were about white people, written by white people. I didn’t know romances existed that featured people of color, or that there were authors of color writing them. I didn’t know that was allowed. Continue reading

SAPAHM Guest: Nicole Flockton Discussses the Haka

Hi friends! This year’s APAHM celebration has been pretty heavily focused in the Pacific, and I’m loving it! I’m also really pleased to welcome back ALBTALBS friend Nicole Flockton – many kudos to her for stepping in on a Heritage Month post, and with this little slice of [close to] home. <3

The Haka in Sport

When you’re the youngest of four children, and with only one brother, your family tends to follow the sports said brother plays. Even though my brother never played Rugby, it’s a sport and if it was on the television, we watched it as a family. I’m going to show my age here, but this was back in the day when in Perth, Western Australia you had a choice of three television channels. Plus when what your parents wanted to watch—that’s what you watched too. No cable or second television in another room to escape into and watch what you want.

The rivalry between Australia and our cross Tasman foes New Zealand, is legendary. Google “Underarm Bowling Incident 1981” and you’ll understand. Actually, if you want to start a good argument between the Aussies and the Kiwis that’s a sure fire way to get one started. Even after all these years! Continue reading

SAPAHM Review: Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau

Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau
Contemporary romance released by Jackie Lau Books on May 22, 2018

Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau Book CoverI’m a pretty simple guy. When I’m not writing a science fiction novel, I’m watching a good movie or reading a book. Alone. I like my reclusive life. That is, until my only friend asks for a favor—pretend to be his baby sister’s boyfriend on a couples’ getaway. Her ex is going to be there and she needs me as a buffer.

I should have said no, but Naomi is bubbly, energetic, and beautiful. She also means everything to her brother. But now, our fake romance is starting to feel all too real, and I find myself stuck between the promise I made to my friend and risking my heart to the one woman who might actually get me…

I read this book very quickly, and found both Will and Naomi to be sympathetic, although after a while some of the themes became repetitive. Will is a science fiction writer with a Ph.D. in physics, who is on the extreme end of introverted, and can be a little obtuse when it comes to social interactions. Naomi is Will’s best friend’s youngest sister. She’s an event planner, and bubbly—but not in an everyone-must-be-bubbly-like-me way. This is a forced proximity kind of romance, with a mini road trip thrown in for good measure. I say mini, because in my part of the world, it might take 3 hours to get across the city, if the traffic is particularly awful. Naomi is sweet, has had a crush on Will before and still finds him attractive, but is still processing her breakup with a prior boyfriend when the book begins; Will has a history of people wanting to change his way of interacting with the world, hence the “grumpy” descriptive. And yes, a fake relationship is orchestrated. Will learns that putting himself out there a little more isn’t all bad, and both Will and Naomi learn the importance of being with someone that likes you for who you are makes you be a better person. Continue reading

Mini Interview with Courtney Milan

[Aidee here!] Courtney Milan generously answered some questions I had following the release of her most recent novel, After the Wedding. I have not yet read this book, and this mini-interview contains no spoilers. After the Wedding is the second full-length novel in the Worth Saga, which begins with Once Upon a Marquess. Milan writes historical and contemporary romances; the Worth Saga is her current historical series. What I enjoy most about Milan’s books is the humor and the way she subverts common tropes. Without further ado, here is the mini-interview!

First, I’d like to know how you think authors can change romance’s centering of England in the historical genre, aside from not setting the story in England?

Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan Book CoverHistoricals used to range the whole wide world and I think one of the reasons this stopped is because people very awkwardly realized that there were massive issues with unproblematically glamorizing certain portions of the past. Like there used to be a whole genre of southern historical romance novels that just…glossed over the issues with slavery? Yeah. Or the entire spectrum of historical titles involving stereotypical Native Americans, sometimes with racial slurs in the actual titles? Eeeeek. It seems almost horrific to me that those exist, and yet there were probably hundreds, if not thousands, published over the years. Continue reading

SAPAHM Guest: Ines Bautista-Yao on Filipino Characters in Filipino Settings

Hello friends!!! I’m thrilled to introduce another first time guest to A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet. Ines Bautista-Yao was kind enough to respond to my request for guest posts for APAHM!I know that “#ownvoices” is the “trendy thing” right now but … it’s not a trend – it’s life, and I’m so pleased we’re able to continue celebrating SHM months!

Filipino Characters in Filipino Settings
By Ines Bautista-Yao

Growing up, my favorite books were by authors Enid Blyton, Carolyn Keene, Jahnna N. Malcolm, and Sheri Cobb South. I would lose myself in the adventures, heartaches, and triumphs of the characters. That was easy. Emotions, no matter where in the world you belonged, were universal. What wasn’t so easy was trying to imagine what it would be like to see what the characters saw, and to interact with people who had blue or even green eyes, and flaming red or flaxen hair. Funnily enough, my classmates and I didn’t know what flax was, but when we read “flaxen hair” in a book, we all knew it meant blonde. So whenever my classmates and I would write stories or imagine characters, they would more often than not have blue eyes and that so-called flaxen hair. It had gotten to a point where I would stay after a movie was over so I could read the credits and file away the last names in my mind. I didn’t know enough American last names for my characters, and movie credits were a good source of information.

It had never crossed my mind to write a story about a little Filipino girl like me. Continue reading

SAPAHM Guest: Ekaterine Xia Redux The Prequel: The Flatness of [Western] Romance

Hi friends! Do you remember the first 2018 APAHM post we had? Ekaterine Xia was our guest and I talked about how I’d messed up? So I found the emails from 2014 – she agreed to let me use the first post as a comparison, since she piggybacked off of it to write the May 5th one! (Are you confused yet?) In 2014 she said she’d tell me which book covers she wanted me to use … but that didn’t happen so I’m going with my picks. 😀 The most important thing though, is of course the post. Enjoy! N.B. I came up with the ~title. Because I think it’s accurate.

The Flatness of [Western] Romance

So it all started when Limecello tweeted with:

New quest! Any African American, Asian American, Hispanic, or Native American romance readers around? 😀

So I responded with: “Chinese person who reads romance over here. …I think I qualify as As-A?”

Not Just Human by E. Xia CoverThe thing is, it isn’t that easy. It’s the short answer.

The long answer is that I’m a third-culture-kid, aka global nomad, aka syncretic mutt of a first-gen fresh off the boat kind-of Asian American.

I was born in Taiwan, but we moved to the US when I was two. So technically Mandarin Chinese is my first language, but not by much. I grew up mainly in the US and it’s where I call home, no matter how much border control seems to disagree. Continue reading