The response to our new feature with Billie Bloebaum from Powell’s was rather huge – we have so many letters from people who’ve never been matched to a book, or been hand-sold a new read at the bookstore or library. So, this week we have two letters.
First is Rebecca:
I’ve often been asked if I “need help” at a bookstore, but I’ve never been directed toward (or steered away) from a particular book. Maybe I don’t need help, but I obviously don’t know what I’m looking for! Being hand-sold a book sounds amazing.
So, perhaps Billie can help me out, because I’ve been in a bit of a “dry-spell” lately. I haven’t read a novel in (4?) months, and I can’t take it anymore! I’d love to read something new though, and not something from the “box of keepers in the closet.” So here it goes:
I love fantasy and paranormal romance. But I am so over vampires. (Thanks “Twilight”). The last book I remember reading that kept me up all night was “Angel’s Blood” by Nalini Singh Read it twice. (But her psy-changeling series seem less appealing to me, IMPO. Perhaps I’m just too late on the band-wagon). A quick glance into the “keeper box” shows Anne Bishop’s “Black Jewels Trilogy” and Sharon Shinn’s Archangel—though as the series became more sci-fi, the series appeal grew less. I also adore Shana Abé‘s “drakon” series, The Dream Thief being my favorite.
Is that enough for Billie to go on?
If she gives me any guidance, I *PROMISE* I will walk over to my local Powell’s and buy it immediately. (And be thankful to be reading a novel once more!)
Billie says: Oh, dear, have you not yet read Jacqueline Carey’s ‘Kushiel’ novels (beginning with Kushiel’s Dart)? Or Meljean Brook? Or Richelle Mead’s ‘Succubus’ series (starting with Succubus Blues)? Also, strict fantasy here, but Jay Lake’s Green has one of the most wonderful new female protagonists I’ve read in a while (and he’s a Portland guy, which is bonus points).
And, Gail Carriger’s Soulless is a wonderful and funny mishmash of urban fantasy, steampunk, and historical/paranormal romance, which takes all of the usual tropes and exaggerates them, but never crosses into parody.
When I was a kid, my first brush with romance novels was via my Oma’s LARGE collection of Reader’s Digest Condensed books. (Are these just a Canadian thing, or do you have them in the States?) I eventually figured out what the whole ‘condensed’ thing meant and moved on to stand-alone,, ‘original-density’(ha), novels. In retrospect, those condensed books were total genius – I spent several summers reading them on family trips and whatnot, because no one could tell which story in the book you were actually reading. Genius.
Sorry – to the point. I remember reading a few stories that I really loved, and the common themes were always historical, often western, strong frontier-woman, frequently ‘schoolteachers’, always very independent and ass-kicking, with a hott neighbouring rancher, or similar, as love interest. Getting trapped in violent snowstorms featured heavily. The only example I remember the title of is Lady of No Man’s Land by Jeanne Williams, which I still re-read every time I spend time around my Oma’s house (the heroine in that one isn’t a teacher, but a seamstress).
In my romance-novel-embracing adulthood, for some reason I’ve found it very difficult to find these sorts of stories as stand-alones…and several times I’ve fallen into the trap of buying something, only to find out it’s got some sort of religious/inspirational romance thing going on (SO not what I’m interested in). I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to find more books like the one mentioned above, Billie would be doing me a huge favour.
Billie says: Willa Cather. My Antonia is one of those books that I go back and re-read every now and again. Even dissecting it in high school English wasn’t enough to make me dislike or resent it.
Maybe also Ellen Recknor whose books, like Prophet Annie, are more strictly “westerns”, but with strong heroines, humor, and romance.
And Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah Plain and Tall saga, if she’s okay with books for younger readers.
I’m tempted to recommend Leigh Greenwood, but I’ve never read his books. They are, though, traditional western-themed historical romances and were this customer to come into the store, I’d probably at least point them out to her (after I made her buy ‘My Antonia’, of course).
(Sarah adds: If I didn’t recommend Jo Goodman, and her latest, Never Love a Lawman, I’d be destined for a very hot portion of hell, instead of the mildly steamy reservation I have now.)
Note: If you’d like to request a book match, please email sarahATsmartbitchestrashybooksDOTcom with “Bookmatcher” in the subject line, and please include the last book you read that you really, truly loved – or a small selection thereof, if you’re polyamorous like some of us readers.