The Bookmatcher: Apocalypse and Class Lines

Time again for hand selling online, when book mastermind Billie Bloebaum from Powells books (stop by and say hi when you’re next at the Portland airport!) matches enquiring minds with required reading.

Raney writes: I recently finished an epic jag of reading exclusively graphic novels and trade paperbacks (basically trying to catch up on that entire, wonderful genre that I apparently missed when hitting the library growing up.) I was lucky enough to come across The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman. I’ve always been a fan of zombie movies, but this was my first venture into another zombie medium (oh, except for the amazing World War Z). I now think that I am drawn more to the post-apocalyptic setting than the zombies themselves. I find the idea of hearty survivors banding together against hostile forces and broken infrastructure to be quite appealing. Even the  MacGyver-ing of life-sustaining necessities (running water, food storage, etc.) is interesting to me.

A post-apocalyptic romance would be wonderful – if such a thing exists – but I’m open to any genre pairing (including more zombie fiction, if need be). I also enjoy Urban Fantasy, so if that needed to be worked in I wouldn’t be opposed. :) I’d love any help the Bookmatcher can offer me – thanks, Smart Bitches!

Billie says: Zombies! I love Zombies! ‘The Forest of Hands and Teeth’ is an excellent (YA) zombie novel with some romance. Mark Henry has a highly entertaining urban fantasy series (starting with ‘Happy Hour of the Damned’) whose protagonist is a fashion-obsessed female zombie. David Wellington’s ‘Monster Island’ is the first (and, in my opinion, best) in a trilogy about the worldwide zombie apocalypse.

Stephen King’s Under the Dome is neither strictly post-apocalyptic nor a romance, but there is a great love story between two of the central characters and the setting—a small town confined under an invisible dome—does quickly degenerate into a post-apocalyptic-style nightmare.

Richelle Mead’s ‘Thorn Queen’, the second book in her Urban Shaman series, is set largely in a bleak and quickly dying landscape. So, though it’s not really post-apocalyptic, the landscape and the inhabitants’ struggles to survive give it some of that same feel.

And, if you haven’t read it already, the graphic novel series ‘Y: The Last Man’ about a world where every mammal with a Y chromosome is killed except for Yorick and his monkey, Ampersand (where monkey is not a euphemism, but a primate) is an excellent piece of post-apocalyptic graphic storytelling.

The best post-apocalyptic stuff that I’ve read, though, seems to be getting published for the YA market. ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Gone’, ‘The Maze Runner’.

I’m at a loss for anything that would be shelved in Romance that takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape (or has zombies), but I’m sure it’s out there and that some member of the Bitchery has read it. (And, if so, I wanna know what it is so I can read it myself.)

SB Sarah adds: I haven’t read, but I know the new Joss Ware books are set in a post-apocalyptic world.

Billie adds: I completely forgot one of my favoritest p-a novels: ‘Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse’ by Victor Gischler. “What little civilization remains revolves around Joey Armageddon’s Sassy A-Go-Go strip clubs, where the beer is cold, the lap dancers are hot, and the bouncers are armed with M16s.”

Brandy writes: I am a huge fan of historical romance, mainly 19th century, and I don’t have a huge preference of Regency over Victorian or vice versa.  What I do mind is that every other person in every other book is a lord or lady or some other member of the British peerage.  I’m not looking for a Western, just some city-people who are industrialists or railroad builders or shop owners. As far as 19th century historical romance is concerned, it seems that two people can;t be in love unless one of them owns a manor or a castle.

I’ve read all the Lisa Kleypas and she does drift somewhat into non-peer heroes which is nice (especially her newest ‘Times of Day’ series [Hathaways]).  I just read a fantastic short-story in ‘The Hearts of Christmas’ collection by Courtney Milan called ‘This Wicked Gift’.  She’s a shop assistant and he’s an accountant.  It was amazing and really made me realize how sick I am of reading about Lord Hottentotten and the latest house party.

Billie says: The first two Sally Lockhart mysteries by Philip Pullman, The Ruby in the Smoke and ‘The Shadow in the North’. Neither are strictly romances and they were marketed to the YA audience, but the love story is very important to the plots, as are the careers of both the hero and heroine.

Patricia Gaffney’s Wyckerly trilogy: Okay, so the hero of ‘To Have and To Hold’ is a Viscount, but he’s flanked by a vicar (’To Love and To Cherish’) and a miner (’Forever and Ever’).

Nicola Cornick’s Desperate Duchesses trilogy—Again, with a rural setting and an occasional title does make an appearance, but ‘Confessions of a Duchess featured a non-titled (though employed by the Home Office) hero and a heroine who had been unhappily married to a Duke and came away from the marriage with nothing but the title of dowager Duchess. What I especially liked about this book was that neither character was wealthy and they both worried over how to support themselves (and the daughter from their brief affair several years earlier) if they were to marry.

The Leopard Prince’ by Elizabeth Hoyt—Harry Pye is Lady Georgiana Maitland’s land steward. ‘To Taste Temptation’ also by Elizabeth Hoyt—Samuel Hartley is a wealthy businessman from Boston intent on launching his younger sister into society.

Delicious’ by Sherry Thomas—He’s a barrister, she’s a cook to die for.

SB Sarah adds: Proof by Seduction, by Courtney Milan, continues in the cross-class-lines romance in London started with the short story “This Wicked Gift.”

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Ros says:

    I was also going to suggest Sherry Thomas.  In Private Arrangements, there’s a lovely bit where the hero and heroine are discussing engineering, and it becomes clear that he has become a self-made man in New York.  But then I remembered that he is also a peer.  Sorry.

  2. 2
    Overquoted says:

    I’m a fan of apocalyptic fiction, too. Most of what I’ve come across, though, is post-apocalyptic books. Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series is set some time after the world is reshaped by the return of magic. It’s a great series for urban fantasy lovers and has post-apocalyptic tones everywhere.

    I’d also recommend checking out cyberpunk. Marianne de Pierres’ Nylon Angel (first in a trilogy) is set mostly in a wasteland in Australia. It’s been a while since I read it, so I don’t recall why it was a wasteland, just that it was an extremely harsh place to live in.

    A new book (which is on my immediate TBR list) by Cherie Priest called Boneshaker. It’s supposed to be pretty good. A bit of steampunk with zombies.

    Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom isn’t post-apocalyptic, but has some overtones of it.

    Faith Hunter has a trilogy that starts with Bloodring. It’s set quite a long time after “angels” come to Earth and cut down the human population to a 6th or something. They establish near-absolute control for a while (after destroying entire cities across the globe) and religion begins rule again. It’s got a bit of romance.

    Lilith Saintcrow has some post-apocalyptic, urban fantasy series. She also wrote a free story called Selene, which is set within a few years of said “apocalypse.” I’m hoping she eventually writes a story set WITHIN the apocalypse, because the history hints in Selene and the Dante Valentine series are pretty intriguing. :P

    Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, again urban fantasy (and with vamps no less, gross!), is also post-apocalyptic. With the vamps being the reason for said apocalypse. Bad fangies, BAD! *snicker*

    Twist by Colby Hodge was ok. It’s from an *entire line* of apocalyptic romance (they all have anime-ish covers). Personally, I liked Driven by Eve Kenin a lot more from the same line. I have the sequel on a wishlist somewhere. :P Think it’s called the Shomi line or somesuch.

  3. 3
  4. 4

    You must add Carla Kelly to your 19th C. list.  Her books, especially the later ones, feature people who work for a living—surgeons, mill owners, farm managers, sea captains, not just lords and ladies.  Some of my favorites following this theme are The Lady’s Companion, Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind and Libby’s London Merchant.

    Kelly also wrote a wonderful collection of American Western stories called Here’s to the Ladies.

  5. 5

    @ Darlene—Carla Kelly sounds cool! The thing that bores me a bit about historicals is the endless parade of landed gentry. I usually find myself drawn more to the bawdy ladies’ maids and other staff than the incessantly proper hero and heroine. I’d love to read about some gritty working class historical folks. I’ll add her to my TBR list. Thanks!

  6. 6
    Obskuretris says:

    My post-apocalyptic fiction recommendations:
    Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler are two great sci-fi novels (they’re pretty short reads, too) but they’re not really romances; although, the female protagonist does fall in love with a much older man.

  7. 7

    Ooh! Ooh! I love apocalyptic and post-apoc. stories. My husband, my 17-y-o daughter, and I all gobbled up S.M. Stirling’s “The Change” series, which is at this point two trilogies. In the first, we follow a disparate group of people—a pilot, an SCA enthusiast, and a medieval historian—coping with the sudden and inexplicable failure of all explosives. No guns, no cars, no power plants—nothing that relies on combustion works.  In the second, the next generation in this world faces off against a fanatical anti-technological religion determined to make sure no one ever goes beyond human-powered labor again.

    Ross and I also enjoyed “One Second After” by William Forstchen. I almost didn’t pick this one up at the library because the forward is by Newt Gingrich and I thought it was going to be a right-wing screed. (I made Ross read it first.) The hero is a little Heinlein-esque, but the book lays out a very convincing account of what happens in a small NC college town after an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack wipes out America’s electric grid and computers, Forstchen doesn’t pull any punches, especially about what that would mean to our long-haul-food dependent society.

    (On a personal note, I can not use the acronym for electromagnetic pulse properly, and keep referring to this as “the book about the EMT attack.” Which has led my kids to yell, whenever we pass an ambulance, “Mom! EMTs! Watch out!”)

  8. 8
    Hydecat says:

    I initially liked the characters in Ruby in the Smoke and the working world they live in, but I ran across the same problem I have with Pullman’s other books – I don’t think he cares enough about his characters. To me, they’re always missing some kind of roundedness or reality that you need to write a great book about people, instead of a great book about the things and ideas that surround them.

    I think I need to check out Sherry Thomas and Courtney Milan.

  9. 9
    hapax says:

    Crossing threads a bit, I have to recommend a fantastic manga (Japanese graphic novels) series, EMMA by Kaoru Mori.  The main storyline features a very sweet romance between a Victorian maid and the scion of a wealthy business family with social ambitions.  There are also some lovely side stories that delve into the lives of both servants and upper-class (but not aristocrats). 

    The artwork is GORGEOUS, fantastically detailed, and very well researched.  I’d highly recommend it to any romance-lover who wanted to dip their toes into exploring manga.

  10. 10
    Erin says:

    I really really dig the whole post-apocalyptic survival thing, too.  And I WHOLEHEARTEDLY second the ‘Monster Island’ recommendation.  The ‘ick’ factor is pretty high at times, but the stories and characters are awesome.

  11. 11
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Alison Sinclair’s Darkborn is one of the best UF/post-apocalyptic books I’ve read in years. The world has been split into at least three groups (those who can’t live in darkness, those destroyed by light, and whatever is “out there” beyond the edge of their cursed land). It’s the first in a series and I’m DYING for the next one.

    Vivi Anna writes post-apocalyptic erotic romance (the first one is Hell Kat). I haven’t read her, but I’ve heard good things.

    As for historicals, I can think of a number of them that involve non-nobles:

    Tracy Grant’s Secrets of a Lady and Beneath a Silent Moon (and she has more coming from Kensington soon; I can’t wait!).

    Pam Rosenthal’s two RITA noms (one of which won!), The Slightest Provocation and The Edge of Impropriety. Her novel The Bookseller’s Daughter has a shopgirl as the heroine, but the hero is the son of a French Duc (younger son).

    Julia Ross’s The Wicked Lover. One of my all-time favorite books!!!

    And my own second book, Lord Scandal, is about a plain mister and divorcee, no titles to speak of amongst them, regardless of what the title might imply (and my entire new series is about younger sons, but it’s not starting till 2011).

    I think Mary Jo Putney has a new series coming out that’s all younger sons too (must be something in the water, LOL!).

  12. 12
    Jody W. says:

    One of the first post-apoc romances I read was Oracle by Katherine Greyle aka Jade Lee (I think?). There’s also a series I really enjoyed by Dorchester called the 2176 series with Grant, Nance, Maverick, O’Shea and Grant again contributing. It’s not as hardscrabble as something like The Postman, but I definitely kept copies of all the books.

    I think there’s an apoc. romance post over at The Galaxy Express, too.

  13. 13
    Danielle (no, not that one, the other one) says:

    Big fat YES to the Emma (for cross-class) and Y: the Last Man (post-apoc) recs.

    Raney, if Y hits the spot, you might also like DMZ: near-future graphic novel series in which the US is split by a civil war and Manhattan is a war zone.

  14. 14
    Joy says:

    For romances without titled people—I think some of them must be out of print, but I love Malcolm Macdonald’s books.  Many of them are romances, some are not.  Most of them are set in the 19th century, some are not.  Here’s a link for further exploration:

  15. 15
    Kristina says:

    OMG, I am in love with this thread!  I have loved zombie and post apoc. movies forever and have recently started looking for novels with this theme.  I have bought The Road (out in movies now) but have not read it yet and HAVE read World War Z already along with the Zombie Survival Guide by the same author.

    Keep it coming ladies, I’m making a list and I’m gonna troll the ebooks when I get home tonight and try to stock up.  Cold winter nights like this when the streets are deserted and nothing is moving except the snow drifts puts me in the perfect mind for a last-human-on-earth type story.

  16. 16
    Betsy says:

    For another non-noble hero:
    Her Man of Affairs, by Elizabeth Mansfield

  17. 17
    SheaLuna says:

    I totally dig post-apocalyptic tales.  And zombies.  Not to mention other things that go bump in the night.  While not romances by any stretch of the imagination, the Deathlands novels (one was made into a SciFi movie a few years ago) by James Axler butter my biscuit.  Stephen King’s The Stand is a total classic (and has some romantic entanglements), and The Cell (which had zombies) is pretty good, too.

    There’s a great new horror series by Abbadon books  Not .sure if they’re available in the US or not, but they’re called the Afterblight Choronicles and they are darn good reading (Everyone gets killed off by a plague except those with O neg blood.).  Each novel is written by a different well-known British horror writer.

    Those are all that come to mind at the moment. Sorry, none of them are apocalyptic romance, but it’s a darn good idea for a new genre.  Hmmm…

  18. 18
    Kristina says:

    Just thought of a good book that had an apocolyptic (sp?) feel to it.  Douglas Coupland’s

    Girlfriend In A Coma

    was a very weird but thoughtful novel that has a twist end of the world finale that I scratched my head over for a while.  The whole book had a dreamy WTF feel to it, but then I’ve found that Douglas Coupland’s writing is all that way.  I first read his

    Miss Wyoming

    and loved his sense of humor and general not-give-a-damn attitude.

  19. 19
    Lara says:

    Yay for love after the end of civilization! I second the recommendation for Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. There’s only the faintest hint of romance, but the story and the steampunk and the zombies were all awesome.

    S.M. Stirling’s Change series is all right, though I find them just a little preachy. My personal favorite of his is The Peshawar Lancers, where a comet hit the Earth in the late nineteenth century, causing severe global climate change and a mass migration to the Southern Hemisphere. Great alternate history, mixed with romance and mysticism.

    And there’s always the classics! John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids has a worldwide epidemic of blindness and wandering carnivorous plants as a special bonus.

  20. 20

    I happen to be in the middle of writing a blog post about a book on my keeper self that fits Brandy’s request.

    Thief of Hearts by Teresa Medeiros from 1994 is one of my all time favorites and it’s about an Admiral’s daughter and both a pirate and a bodyguard.

    Another one is Heather and Velvet also a Medeiros from the 90s is about the daughter of a scientist and a highwayman. It has a classic Fabio cover too.

  21. 21

    I do not read post apocalyptic stuff…but happend across this post at Book Binge after reading this one.

    Judith’s review of Spider-Touched by Jory Strong.

    In a post-Apocalyptic world where supernaturals have emerged from hiding, wealthy humans live secure while the masses struggle to survive. Civil rights belong to the powerful—and ultimate freedom to those brave enough to risk their souls by embracing ancient enemies…

    Ya’ll might want to check it out. Here is the link:

  22. 22
    darlynne says:

    A huge second for Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire. These are outstanding books for any genre, but especially for a look at what could happen after the revolution.

    Although they’re more mystery than romance (but the romance does come along) both of Anne Perry’s Victorian series feature common people. William Monk and Hester Latterly first appear in The Face of a Stranger. The other series is about Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, starting with The Cater Street Hangman.

    Even though I don’t like zombie fiction, I devoured (ha!) Max Brooks’ World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide.

  23. 23
    Karen says:

    The series by Jeri Smith-Ready starting with the prequel “The Wild’s Call” may qualify for the PA list…  It is definitely PA and has romance…  I have only read this prequel (as it is free for Kindle) and it wasn’t bad—though I can’t speak to the rest!

  24. 24

    Quick shameless friend-plug in case anyone reading is looking for a mid-apocalyptic m/m/f erotica with copious bondage—my RWA chaptermate Michelle Polaris has such an ebook out, called Bound Odyssey.

  25. 25
    Laurel says:

    Out of print now but available on Amazon is The Gandalara Cycle by Richard Garrett and Vicky Ann Heydron. Vol 1 is the first three books, vol 2 the second three, and The River Wall completes the story. It’s classic sci/fi fantasy but the setting feels apocolyptic…extreme desert with only one city that has a ready water supply (if I remember). There is some romance but mostly it’s straight up quest. Two good twists to the story, one involving the MCs and the other explaining the setting.

  26. 26
    Tami says:

    Here’s some good zombie and post-apocalyptic books. This is one of my favorite genres!

    Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne

    Razor Girl by Marianne Mancusi

    Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeiffer

    How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

    and of course, the DVD and book it’s based on, Children of Men.

  27. 27
    joykenn says:

    Science fiction is full of post-apocalypse stuff and some of it contained romance too though generally they had to “tone it down” to keep their readers.  Jacqueline Lichtenberg wrote a classic series Sime-Gen novels in the 80s.  Humans was divided into two groups, Gen who produced an energy substance needed by the Simes to survive but taking it caused the death of the Gen.  Noone knew whether a child would turn into a Sime or a Gen.  First Channel is the most overtly romantic of the series though there are some sexual overtones in earlier parts of the series as taking the energy was pleasureable for the Sime. 

    On a harser note, early SF editors were intolerant of much of the “softer” elements like romantic relationships and of women authors.  That’s why some of the best women authors chose masculine pseudonymns.  For women readers who wanted some romance or sex with the science fiction (like our doomsday reader) you had to search it out.  There was a lot of hiding of sexual elements and a lot of fade-outs and suggestiveness in science fiction.  How far we have come now!  Getting the balance between sexuality, romance, and a fast moving plot is easier when you don’t have to keep restraining the sex and/or romance or hiding it.

  28. 28
    Rachel says:

    The only romance I can remember with zombies is Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair.  I remember it being funny, but I didn’t like it as much as I love her other sci-fi romances.

    I’ve also really enjoyed Carla Kelly’s Regencies.  My favorite is The Wedding Journey which features a shy army surgeon and a daughter of a fellow soldier.  It’s set in the battlefield instead of the ballrooms.

  29. 29
    MB says:

    Tami beat me to it, but “Breather’s Lament” is extremely good for a different slant on zombies.  A unique POV and (maybe) a little more literary in scope?

    Isn’t the 3rd Jane Austen spoof going to be about zombies?  Or zombies and President Lincoln?  I can’t call the details to mind now.

    And, Sunshine by Robin McKinley as mentioned above is wonderful.

    For post-apocalyptic, there’s always Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx & Crake” and the sequel.

    I love Sheri S. Tepper’s Sci Fi which are often post-apocalyptic.  (Although not everyone likes her stuff.)  You might look at the plot of “The Companions” and see if it sounds interesting to you.  I’d try that first.

  30. 30
    MB says:

    Also, The Giver by Lois Lowry is post-apocalyptic.  Has won awards, I think.

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