Tag Archives: Romance

OH DAMN Y’ALL! Team TBR Challenge Review: Miss Mystery

“Blurb”: 18 years ago a young and innocent Xue Tong witnessed her family being brutally murdered. Since then she has hidden herself quietly and patiently, waiting for the day she could put her revenge plan into action. Well that day has come, and Xue Tong has finally returned to her hometown as Miss Lin Bao Er, the daughter of a wealthy Nanyang businessman. Now an adult, Lin Bao Er is clever, cunning, good with a gun, and skilled at understanding the depths of human nature.

When she meets the charming young master Zhu Guan Wen, the two decide to pose as couple in order to progress their own interests. Neither can help but grow feelings for each other, but will their love be their greatest strength or their downfall? [– from MDL]

You. Guys. I am giddy as I write this review. Revenge, a kickass FL, and THE most supportive ML. I was constantly *STAR-EYES* and *HEART-EYES* while watching this drama. Honestly, I think you “need” both trailers to get an idea – it’s definitely got it’s dark moments (nearly all presented in trailer two), but there’s a lot of romance too. The TBR prompt for October is “Danger Zone” and … Miss Mystery really fit the bill here because our FL (female lead) Lin Bao Er/ Xue Tong is throwing herself into unknown dangers in order to avenge her family. She’s got a plan, but in life you never quite know how things will turn out. Lucky for her she has ML (male lead) Zhu Guan Wen who could be labeled “Mr. Supportive.” (ETA: I forgot to add that as a potential bonus, each episode is only 5-10 minutes long, so it’s not a big commitment.) Continue reading

A Drama to Delight Your Cold Little Black Heart. Team TBR Challenge Review: What’s Wrong With My Princess

General Murong Qiu Yu was infatuated with the second prince Li Mo, she aided him in seizing the throne. However, she was betrayed and killed by Li Mo and her sister Murong Xin Er. After being reborn, Qiu Yu found herself back on her wedding night with the seventh prince, Li Jian. Qiuy Y decided to join forces with Li Mo’s rival, Li Jian, to ensure that Murong Xin Er and Li Mo face the punishment they deserve… – source, MDL


I followed the TBR Challenge Prompt for “once!” This is a new to me scriptwriter (Luo Man Ying) – which isn’t something I usually check, but I did here. It’s also fitting because the story is the best part of the drama. What’s Wrong With My Princess is one of the most satisfying revenge stories I’ve seen. It’s a short drama so definitely not big budget, but definitely worth watching. I think I’ve seen both lead actors in other dramas previously, but ironically the one who I’d be most interested in seeing again was a character I hated – the SFL. (I chalked it down to the directing and good acting – her character is awful.)

When it comes to Chinese dramas the way lead characters are discussed are “Female Lead (FL),” “Male Lead (ML),” “Second Female Lead (SFL),” “Second Male Lead (SML),” and occasionally there’s a third FL and ML. Although ML and FL are always the hero/heroine, it’s not the case for SML, SFL, etc. – just they also get the more developed stories and longer screen time. There are some trigger warnings needed for the beginning – although it’s so unrealistic and absurd seeing it at least for me wasn’t that big of a deal – in fact I kept thinking and even said “that’s not how this shit works” but it was so awful it’s one of those “I don’t mind it’s wrong” things. The evil characters kill FL’s child in utero… right as she’s going into labor. It’s deeply fucked but that’s the point and why she comes back so angry and determined to exact justice. There’s also the dark history (or purported history) of consorts and concubines doing this sort of thing in the palace in order to grab power for themselves or preserve power … so it’s slightly less “what the FUCK”/more common to see to a native audience than to a Western audience.
Continue reading

What if the “Villains” Were the Heroes? A belated TBR Team Challenge Review of Dong Lan Xue

“Summary”: The maid in charge, Shen Yan, has assisted the Seventh Prince Chu Ning Yuan in seizing the title of crown prince. The two, who also had tragic experiences, became cold-hearted in order to seek revenge and seize power. They are used to seeing the dark, and the little warmth is only left to each other. Chu Ning Yuan gradually fell in love with Shen Yan who was always by his side, but Shen Yan was indifferent to his love, and even took the initiative to match Chu Ning Yuan to marry the daughter of a powerful minister in order to destroy the current crown prince’s plan to stabilize his power by taking the prime minister’s daughter as a concubine. Chu Ning Yuan saw Shen Yan’s intentions and became more determined to keep Shen Yan by his side. [Lightly edited by me, initially taken from MDL]

Trailer:

Dong Lan Xue is a short webdrama that is obviously low budget but doesn’t look like it at all. The costumes are gorgeous, as are the actors, the sets are well done, the script is excellent, the acting is good, there’s great fight choreography, and even nice background music. I think it was the first super short I’ve seen – as in each episode is only 2-3 minutes, and I was impressed with not only how much gets packed in, but how well the story is told. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: The Autumn Ballad

Here are two [synopses] of the series:

The story of a witty young girl named Qiu Yan and a cold-faced duke named Liang Yi, who goes from battling each other with wits and boldness to understanding and accompanying each other.

Qiu Yan is the least favored eldest daughter of the Qiu Manor. She managed to reap happiness step by step relying on her own efforts and wisdom. (From MyDramaList)

Or

As the eldest daughter of an influential scholar and Vice Minister of Works, Qiu Yan (Qiao Xin) ought to have been highly favored within her family. Alas, as the daughter of her father’s concubine, the favor Qiu Yan should have received often went to her younger sister, Qiu Min (Kabby Hui). Often overlooked and frequently mistreated, Qiu Yan’s only chance of escape from her less-than-fortunate life comes in the form of an arranged marriage. Unfortunately even that goes awry at the last minute, leaving Qiu Yan an object of scorn and mistrust.

Determined to clear her name, Qiu Yan takes on the investigation herself; but she isn’t the only one looking into the case of her newly departed husband. As head inspector of the government’s investigative agency, Duke Liang Yi (Jeremy Tsui) is determined to uncover the truth. Often crossing paths with Qiu Yan, the two form an unlikely friendship, which works out advantageously for both, as the closing of their case gets them both what they want most. But the fates that tie Qiu Yan and Liang Yi together aren’t finished meddling just yet.

When her family is threatened by an unexpected accusation, Qiu Yan and Liang Yi must work together once more, to save her family from ultimate disgrace. As they work to clear her family’s name, the sparks that often fly between them eventually ignite a much bigger flame. But can love blossom in the midst of a major family crisis?

A fantastic story of clashing wills and melting hearts, “The Autumn Ballad” is a 2022 Chinese romance drama directed by Ding Ying Zhou. (From Rakuten Viki)

(Today was the first time I’d ever seen the trailer… anyway.) The “prompt” for the challenge this month is “Starting Over” and I’m currently having my heart ripped out by my rewatch of The Autumn Ballad … and I think it really fits well. (The book I’m reading very slowly, Kraving Tavek by Zoey Draven, would fit well too but I have a feeling even much more angst is in the second half and I fear it turning into wangst … so we’ll see.) Anyway … it’s funny because I think I actually tried watching The Autumn Ballad a while back but the opening scene turned me off – but last week I saw more of the episode when someone else turned it on and I got hooked. Hard. I literally watched all 34 episodes in two days … so there you go. (I also literally didn’t sleep the second night which is not recommended for healthy responsible adults.) 😅 It also means I’m fuzzy on some details so a piecemeal rewatch is called for, although I’m fast forwarding through all the parts that annoyed me the first go round, so there’s that too.

I don’t know if I’ll do a good job describing things/doing it justice because I’m so in it … but here we go. Continue reading

Guest Post: On Fat Heroines (in Romance) by N.R. Lines

Hi friends! So this post was inspired by just an offhand comment about how fat heroines are [rarely] actually fat in romance, or there’s something ridiculous about them – e.g. the “fat heroine” has visible ribs the hero counts or runs his fingers over. Anyway, I then asked N.R. in the spring if she wanted to write a post, this was sent to me back in June, but I’m basically awful and had to put this off because scheduling and then time got away with me, so if anything is off, this is my fault. And also, thank you N.R. for your patience! I really hope you all take the time to read this post. <3

I’d also like to note that all covers shown here are recommended romances, regardless of placement in the post. I just like pictures, ok? 😉 

On Fat Heroines (in Romance) 
By N.R. Lines

We have a problem in the romance genre. It’s been a problem for as long as I’ve been reading romance back in1981, and likely much longer than that. It’s a problem that impacts many women , whether they know it or not. And few people seem to be talking about it. The problem: Romancelandia lacks fat heroines. Or at least fat heroines who are written well.

I have divided the fat heroines I’ve seen in romance novels into the following categories:

  • The Fake Fat Heroine
  • The Confident Curvy Girl
  • The Full Figured Fat Heroine

There are three types of Fake Fat Heroines. First is the heroine who the author is authentically trying to write as fat, but uses descriptors that could never apply to a fat heroine. For example, a truly fat, or even curvy girl will never be described as having jutting hipbones. A partner would never loving run their hands down the fat heroine’s ribs and feel the outline of her rib bones. These Fake Fat Heroines make me shake my head and laugh at the absurdity of it all. To fix this we need to be better at describing a fat heroine in a manner that is both realistic and affirming. We can do this, I know we can!

The second type of Fake Fat Heroine is the heroine who describes herself as fat because she is insecure about an aspect of her body. Fat or slender, we’ve all been there. But what if we stopped doing that? What if instead of making your heroine feel and see fat when she thinks about those insecurities we give her an insecurity that she overcomes. Pick one thing about herself, not her entire body. I get it, fat is that ubiquitous descriptor that is used to describe a woman who doesn’t feel right about her body. I’m in no way minimizing the issues we have as women, but as romance writers, perhaps we can do better and can find other ways to describe these insecurities. And we can write the stories where these insecurities are overcome in positive ways that don’t inadvertently put us fat girls down.

The final type of Fake Fat Heroine is more damaging. This is the heroine an author presents as a woman who believes she is fat, who sees a big girl when she looks in the mirror, but as we get into the story we come to realize the heroine isn’t a plus sized gal at all. Maybe the heroine has been called fat by family and friends because she’s a size eight instead of a size two. Maybe she was fat at a different point in her life, but has been at a lower weight for some time and is suffering from body dysmorphia. Maybe she is a trans woman who has some dissonance between how she feels in her skin and what she sees in the mirror. All we get from the heroine’s inner dialogue, and maybe dialogue with her evil family and friends, is that she is fat. Continue reading

Guest: Hanna Martine on Castles and Whiskey

Hi friends! So Hanna Martine and I were discussing her blog post, and she sent a description of her new book. The Good Chase just came out this past Tuesday, so we’re still in release week. Whoo! Everyone remember to congratulate Hanna on her newest book! The following explains it all – so I’ll let Hanna tell you. 😀

The email communication went something like this*:

Limecello to me: OMG the heroine in your next book is a whiskey expert? I love whiskey! Especially Balvenie.

Me to Lime: Yes, she is! I And by the way, I’ve actually visited Balvenie Castle in Scotland. Hmmm, I think I have my subject for my guest post on your blog!

*paraphrased, not quoting, haha

100% True Stories of Castles I Visited in Scotland

DUNS CASTLE

Duns Castle

As you can read in my author bio, I got married in a haunted Scottish castle. In 2001 we eloped to Duns Castle in Duns, Scotland, where the ceremony was performed in the drawing room. The butler and his girlfriend were our witnesses. That night at dinner the owners (whose family had lived in the castle since the 1500s) informed us that the ghost Sebastian inhabited the halls and had tormented their daughter throughout her childhood.

The tower we stayed in was built in 1342. Knowing a ghost was lurking about was a most excellent and romantic thing to think about on your wedding night.

HUNTLY CASTLE

Huntly Castle

I was enchanted by the remaining details in this castle—the windows and fireplaces and doorways. In the basement there was the old kitchen and storerooms, empty now. I got separated from my husband and as I was walking through the halls alone I felt a distinct chill breeze and the presence of something else. I freaked out and ran to look for him, but acted all cool and calm when I found him in another room.

BALVENIE CASTLE (for you, Lime)

Balvenie Castle

We had attended the Highland Games in Dufftown, the town where Balvenie Castle and The Balvenie Distillery are located. Satiated by beer and whiskey, our ears ringing with the sound of bagpipes, we hopped on over to the ruins of the castle for a quick walk-around. As we pulled up, so did this fancy car. Out stepped the freakin’ Baron of Balvenie, dressed to the nines in his kilt and tartan. We never got a picture. Of course.

My newest release: The Good Chase, a contemporary romance with a modern Scottish flair

The Good ChaseGleann, New Hampshire’s annual Highland Games always deliver the best of Scottish culture—rowdiness, rugby, whiskey, and unexpected romance…

Even though Shea Montgomery’s swanky bar and distinguished palate have made her a highly regarded whiskey connoisseur, she’s happiest bringing her favorite spirit to various Highland Games around New England. Her demanding ex made her wary of men obsessed with money and status, and she’s now more comfortable in the country than in the city. Still, when a gorgeous rugby player straight from Wall Street barrels into her whiskey tent, she’s tempted to change her mind…

J.P. Byrne went from poor beginnings to international high roller by using his charisma and wit, and holding fast to his dreams. A strong, independent woman like Shea is exactly what he’s looking for, only he has no idea how to prove he’s more than his three-piece suits—especially when he’s spent years doing just the opposite.

But as Shea and Byrne battle old demons, they discover together that the best remedy for past pain is a good, stiff shot of pleasure in the present…

Hanna Martine has loved stories—particularly the romantic kind—since she was very young. She writes sexy, character-driven romance novels in several different sub-genres—sometimes there’s magic (paranormal); sometimes there isn’t (contemporary). After a decade working in an office, she’s since dedicated herself to writing. She’s traveled to many wonderful places around the world, including the haunted Scottish castle in which she got married. Though she lives outside of Chicago with her family, her heart will always belong to Australia.

Connect with Hanna here: Website, Newsletter, Facebook, Twitter,Goodreads.

So what do you think? Whiskey? Castles? Romance? What’s not to love right? 😀 And if you’re not tempted enough, you can read an excerpt of The Good Chase here! Or you know, buy it here 😉

Updates, Apologies, TMI, & Ramblings on Happy Endings

Really, the subject covers it all. Obviously you see updates haven’t been happening. I am sorry about that. Please accept my apologies. One reason is … well, general illness. I spent the majority of today just trying not to throw up. (There’s the TMI).

Now for the rambling. Have I ever mentioned that while I read romance exclusively, my other entertainment aspects are more varied? In fact, I don’t like the “romance movies” or “romantic comedies” generally. The sweeping romantic dramas. Generally? Bleh. I love … psychological thrillers. My new show glom is Hannibal.

But, what I want to know is – how do you feel about happy endings? As in – how far must they go, and how much do you demand them?

I have to say – I do. Definitively. I absolutely do not like “happy for now” and would argue that’s not even truly a romance novel. Romances have happily ever after. Does the author have to show it? Well, no. Not necessarily, and I get that it wouldn’t always work. I don’t want forced scenes, rushed or pat endings either. (You see I’m not a very demanding reader at all ;)) What I don’t want to read is the hero and heroine hooking up and being happy – with no true relational background or build up. If they’re just in the flush of ‘hey let’s spend some time together” instead of “I really think this is real and will last.”

In fact, a great story will pretty much be ruined in my estimation with a HFN ending.

What about you?

Guest Post: Lisa

Hi everyone! So I “met” Lisa on twitter and she was all “omg! I watch those shows too! Let’s talk!” And then I was all like “you should do a guest post for me!” *all innocence* and there you have it. 😀 This is Lisa’s first ever blog post, she tells me, so everyone please give her a warm welcome!

When and Why I First Started Reading Romance

I was about 13 or 14 years old when I first started reading romances. I was at a local bookstore in town browsing the shelves, and ended up in front of the romance section. Something made me actually stop and check out the titles instead of just walking past like I normally do. The one book that caught my eye was Nora’s The MacGregor Brides (hey, if you’re going to start, you might as well start with one of the best, right?) Back then, I still had the mentality that romances were naughty books with little to no redeeming value, and I shouldn’t be reading them. But something pushed me to take the book off the shelf and check it out. I read the back blurb about three cousins (Laura, Julia, and Gwen) who fall in love at Christmas, all due to the machinations and plotting of a larger than life, meddling, matchmaking grandfather, Daniel MacGregor, aka,“The MacGregor.”. So despite myself, I found the premise fun and intriguing enough to start thumbing through and reading a bit of the book.

I immediately fell in love with the book, and was completely swept up in Laura, Gwen, and Julia’s story. Not because of the sexy parts, though of course that played a part in it. I loved the sense of family Nora built into the story. The three cousins live together in Boston, and the friendship and bond between them immediately reminds you of hanging out with your girlfriends. Each novella also includes a scene where the whole entire family comes together that reminds you of a Norman Rockwell holiday. But instead of it being overly sappy and sentimental, it just made you want to imagine yourself right there as an honorary MacGregor celebrating Christmas with a family who loves each other and support and care for each other, no matter what. Very fitting, as the holidays are all about family togetherness right?

And the book was funny. The scene when Julia and Cullum fight at her Christmas party/housewarming party and he picks her up and throws her over his shoulder while she’s cursing and spitting mad always makes me laugh, as well as the scene when security expert Royce (hired of course by Grandpa Daniel) walks into the house and sees Laura with her head in the fridge, butt wiggling as she’s dancing to the music in her earphones.

Our heroine is no weakling naturally, and faces Royce down with a kitchen knife before he can get a word out.

Most of all, the heart and romance in the story is what won me over. Branson wins Gwen over by giving her all twelve gifts from the song “12 Days of Christmas”. I defy anyone not to be charmed by a ceramic bowl painted with eight maids a milking, or nine music boxes with dancing ladies on top. Julia is in the business of developing and rehabbing real estate properties and Cullum is the contractor who’s hired to do the work, even though they couldn’t stand each other. (Of course, we all know that it’s all the unresolved sexual tension that’s the cause of all the sniping). Julia has just bought a new house she’s rehabbing. Watching the house come together and come alive as a physical manifestation of Julia and Cullum’s growing love and relationship was lovely. You know, by the end, that this is the house they’re going to live in and raise their family.

Of course, I then went on a mission to devour any other Nora Roberts’ books I could get my hands on. I sped through the rest of the MacGregor series (Ian and Naomi’s story in The MacGregor Grooms is my favorite), and went on to her Chesapeake Bay series. By then, I was a full on convert. Because after all, even under my pragmatic exterior, I am a romantic sap who wants to believe in the true love and happily ever after of it all. Nora’s books and the other romances I read reinforce for me the idea that there is nothing more important in life than love and friends and family, and love is more than just sex. Finding the right person for you, and demanding nothing less than a relationship built on love, trust, respect, commitment, as well as passion is worth waiting for and fighting for.

So my question for you lovely people: What was the book that turned you into a romance fan? What was it about the book that won you over?