Other Romance Book Club Introductions

The Sizzling Summer Book Club has been going on for a few months now, and I’m so pleased that it’s made so many of you happy to have a place to discuss romance. I’ve never been part of any book clubs in real life for very long – somehow the rest of my life interferes, or I can’t get into the books selected. I also had trouble convincing the book clubs I was part of to try a romance.

So check this awesome story from Karen, who convinced a friend of hers to try a romance, AND then convinced her friend to suggest it to her book club:

Book Cover“Here’s a bit of a long story, but I think it’s worthwhile. I convinced a dear friend to ask her book club to read a romance. They chose Lord of Scoundrels, one of about five I suggested. I also gave my friend a copy of Beyond Heaving Bosoms, which she studied like an undergrad in a really great elective class. Last Tuesday evening they sat around my friend’s pool, drinking margaritas and discussing. This is her edited report:

Of the 9 who’d read the book, 4 said they’d read another right away, and another 5 said it would take 1-5 years before they’d want to pick up another, but they suspected they would. They put the genre, in general, into the fairly predictable, formulaic novel (like mysteries) which (like mysteries) some like and some don’t. That’s to be expected.
The common comments were that the genre is like a classic story line: good hearted (though complex and somewhat difficult) woman meets messed up, but usually salvageable man, events and personalities evolve and man improves/grows. They live happily ever after. This is exactly what the flow diagram of the Old/New Skool genre showed. As women, we all identified with being taught/expecting the white knight, or at least a good match being possible in our lives. One person said she still loved this version of romance and would read another right away because of the familiarity of the story line, and general interest piqued by reading just one.

Another person said that she had had such a troubled life that she wanted to read another because of the premise that good is in each of us, and can emerge given the right circumstance. She still needs this as therapy and enjoyed reading the book a lot.
Yet another said (and we all agreed) that this genre explains a woman’s view of a sexual relationship (vs. a man’s which is visual, slam, bam, have sex and move on) which we all enjoyed. (Being licked from stem to stern as a warm up to sex! Yeah!) This then led to a discussion/listing of the first sexually explicit book we’d read: Marjorie Morningstar, The Fountainhead, The Carpetbaggers, Fanny Hill, Lolita….
The corker of the evening was from another person. She had a[n] alcoholic sister, a beaut[y] who had all men panting for her each time she entered a room. My friend chose to introduce her sister to the romance novel genre for 2 reasons: they are fairly straight forward in story telling and easy to read; and they portray strong women who find good in others and elicit growth in their and the other person’s personality. Her sister and she read these books out loud to each other. This evolved into my friend proposing they try to write a romance novel. They attended the Romance Writer’s Association conference once. They then spent 2 years trying to write one. As my friend said: “Do you know how hard it is to write a convincing sex scene? It’s hard to impossible. They all sound so hysterically funny if not done well!” Her sister [eventually] succumbed to alcoholism. This genre is bitter sweet to my friend; she will read romance novels every now and then but it brings back so much of her sister’s struggles and death it’s still hard for her. But yes, she definitely reads the genre. 
DH’s sister insists I gave them one that was too fluffy, and there are much better ones out there.   [note: I’ve suggested To Have and to Hold or Flowers From the Storm if she wants to try something truly non-fluffy.]
For now, we’re moving on to The Book Thief, a book about a little girl in Nazi Germany who steals books in order to learn to read, makes friends with an adult Jew her foster family is hiding. While redeeming in terms of the human spirit, and beautifully written and funny, it is a hard read. Maybe another Romance novel following this.

My friend was very brave to present a romance to her club (two of them were flabbergasted when they realized what their July reading was, and who had suggested it). She showered them with statistics, dropped tantalizing email comments on them in the weeks before the discussion, then offered them booze. Seems like it worked.”

Wow. Amazing how one introduction to a strong romance novel can cause such disparate reactions. Have you ever read a romance as part of your book club? Would you want to be part of a local book club that specializes in romance?



Random Musings

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  1. 1
    kimsmith says:

    My book club started because of Lord of Scoundrels—in a convoluted way.

    I was the manager of a small bookstore, and I wanted to raise awareness of various genre fiction, with the intent of giving my employees a sense of the variety of things our customers read.  First, because it was fun, I bought each of them Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  That was really an easy read, knowing my staff.

    Then I read your recommendation for Lord of Scoundrels.  I knew a couple of them wouldn’t finish it for various reasons, but I told them all they had to read was 30 pages.  If they got to thirty pages and couldn’t finish it, I’d still buy the next book based on their best effort.

    (My personal rule is, I’ll give any book 30 pages.  If it hasn’t caught my attention by then, it isn’t going to.  And I wasn’t going to turn our reading project into torture.)

    All but one of my staff was completely hooked by the thirtieth page—which was all part of my nefarious plan—bwahaha!

    The last holdout just wouldn’t start it.  Lots of excuses.  The others, desperate for their next free book, put the squeeze on.  I think they were about to resort to kidnapping, tying him down, and reading it to him when he finally broke.

    In the end, he didn’t finish it, but he had to admit, he enjoyed the opening interaction between the two main characters—so he was actually drawn past the required thirty pages of reading.  Because, let’s face it, LOS is rather captivating.

    Finances changed for me, and I couldn’t keep buying sets of books.  But the fire had caught by then, and one of my employees suggested that instead, we could start our own reading group, where everyone got their own copies.  Heck, we even picked up a couple people who didn’t work in our store.

    All because we wanted to expand our reading horizons in the bookstore, and started with your recommendation of Lord of Scoundrels.

    I guess you can attribute another reading miracle up to LOS.

  2. 2
    jami brown says:

    My book club didn’t start because of Lord of Scoundrels but it has been one of our selections and we all loved, loved, loved it.

    Actually, I was one of those literary snobs with a BA in English Lit. who would never even consider reading a romance novel until two things happened:  1.) I read the Twilight series- I know smart bitches gave it only so-so reviews, but my bookclub and I loved them.  2.) I heard about smart bitches trashy books on NPR.

    Now practically all our selections come from smart bitches trashy book recommendations.  We have also become Lisa Kleypas addicts.  Man, that woman knows how to write a good sex scene along with being an excellent story teller.  Hardy Cates has set the bar that, unfortunately, none of our husbands will live up to.

    Thanks again smart bitches.

  3. 3
    John says:

    @jami You remind me of an English teacher I had.  Lovely woman, nice writer, but she is quite the book snob.  Oh, what she would have to say about my love of romance!  xD

    This is rather exciting!  I wish there were more book clubs like this.  I’m so glad that you’re also going into YA with The Book Thief (which is so vivid and wonderful – you’ll love it).  It’s so surprising how the books some people degrade end up being great for memories and detailed conversation – and proving said degrading people wrong.  :)

  4. 4
    Kathy says:

    “Flowers from the Storm” is probably my favorite romance of all time.  I had a friend who was a Quaker and I was interested in her take on the book, so I loaned her my (hardback, plain blue cover copy) with an enthusiastic appeal to her to give it a go.  It is truly one of the best romances ever written that conforms to the genre standards but is easily accessible to anyone who likes a ripping good story.

    She was doing her PhD at the time and I thought it might be a nice change from her usual data tables/dissertation activity.  She reluctantly took the book but admitted to me later that she never even opened it.  The truth was that she thought it was beneath her—she was too smart (and she was/is VERY smart), too sophisticated, too well educated to stoop to the genre.  She told me so.

    It made me…well..think a little less of her.  She clearly felt superior to the material and it made me feel like she looked down on not only the book but on ME, as well.  Needless to say when she moved back to civilization (the East Coast, for anyone who doesn’t know) the friendship pretty much fizzled out.

    Too bad for people who can’t see beyond their own preconceptions.  They’re missing so much!

    BTW, though I love LOS, “Last Night’s Scandal” made me laugh more.

  5. 5
    Kay says:

    My 11-year-old book club is all romance, but as everyone knows, within that is the world of genres. There are 8 of us and we each have our favorite little niche, so we rotate what we read. Haven’t had a contemporary in a while, well, let’s thumb through RT and look online and see what’s available. Several of us judge national reader contests so we pick up new authors that way.

    We don’t like everything we read. We give ourselves permission to quit after 30 or 50 pages (personal standards apply). But belong to a book club which snubbed romance—and I know of a few around here—NEVER! I feel sorry for them.

  6. 6
    Vi says:

    I joined one at one the local bookstores. Unfortunately there was just me and the bookseller. The bookseller would only picked books that interested. I got bored and stopped attending. Now I use the net to discuss books.

  7. 7
    Carin says:

    I’m in a bookclub that reads romance.  It’s more of a social club, as we don’t have an assigned book, but we all share a love of romance novels and a liking for getting together.  We alternate between book discussions and HEA movies. 

    We started after a group of us got hooked on Twilight.  I’ve read romance *with sex* for a long time, but some of my Twilight friends hadn’t.  So I was nervous that my friends would think I was some kind of porno, but I gave them the Black Dagger Brotherhood books.  We’ve never looked back.  Sherrilyn Kenyon was next.  This was right about the time I found this website, so we all read Lord of Scoundrels, too.  I think it’s been 2 years now and we’ve read a LOT of books.  We’ve been known to call emergency lunch meetings when a core group has all finished a long awaited book and then we pick it to pieces.  We text each other lines from books that really grab us.  It’s awesome!

    Each of us has some kind of drama in her life (don’t we all!) and our bookclub is great escape, just like the books.

  8. 8
    Brooks*belle says:

    I’m trying to screw up my courage and introduce Flowers From the Storm to my book club.  We’ve been meeting for 11 years now and have done a little of everything.  Except romance.

    I’m afraid to come out to them—which is silly because they’re my bestest pals in all the world! They already know I’m bent.

    (Not that reading romance means you’re bent, of course.  But even if some were to think that, I already have that label, you see.)

  9. 9
    Julie says:

    I attend a romance book club at a local bookstore every Wednesday night. We discuss what everyone happens to be reading at the time. Needless to say, it can be a free-for-all. I don’t read paranormal. Most attending don’t read contemporary. We manage to have something to talk about, though.

    One of the more interesting meetings was when a guy who’d been sitting on the fringes of the area we meet in (the cafe area,) decided to join in. He reads science fiction. Imagine the fun that ensued, re: “let’s recommend some books for him to read”.

    I just finished Loretta Chase’s “Last Night’s Scandal”. It is a close second to the greatest historical ever written (IMHO,) “Lord of Scoundrels”.

  10. 10
    Maria says:

    Surprisingly, it was my dear snooty professional writer English lit. major friend who turned me on to Romance. I thought it was beneath me. She thought I should try reading something that wasn’t intense and depressing. I only wish I’d listened to her sooner.

    I read about a dozen books a month, give or take. And these days around ten of them are romances (the others are either non-fiction or “literature”).

    I’m over 50. I’ve read a ton of “classics.” I’ve paid my dues reading beautifully written tales of tragedy and woe. And I still appreciate good writing in any genre. But I want a good STORY more than I want beautiful writing. And I insist on a happy ending. Hell, as a voracious reader all these years, I feel like I’ve EARNED it.

    When I state this view publicly, I can feel the judgement. Fine. Let ‘em. There are some blessings that come with being over 50 and one of them is caring a lot less about what other people think of you.

    I’d rather be happy than superior any day. Thanks for all of the great book tips!

  11. 11
    Beth says:

    My old book club (I moved, and alas, have yet to find another) met once a month and we shared with each other what we had read for that month. We were a group of eclectic readers, but I think primarily people read romance. It was awesome.

  12. 12
    Maria says:

    Sadly, I’m not a member of a book club, and though I’ve read all the titles of the most awesome Smart Bitches Sizzling Summer Book Club, the closest I’ve come to discussing them is to read through parts of the discussion later. (I hope to get in on the next one) But I really wanted to reply because of The Book Thief. Instead of reading it, I listened to it as a book on CD (highly unusual for me). I was hooked from the opening paragraph. It was one of the most amazing “listens” I’ve read (listened to?). Loved Loved Loved it. Ok fan girl squee complete.

  13. 13
    Laura (in PA) says:

    I haven’t joined a book club because the ones I’ve heard about are all interested in only reading lit-ra-chure and I don’t have enough reading time to be forced to read something I’d rather not. I’m sure I would discover books I enjoy that I wouldn’t have read otherwise, but still. I would love to find a reading group that did romances, or better yet, romances and mysteries, which are most of what I read.

    Speaking of which, was there ever a date set for the chat about the Kristan Higgins book? Did I miss it?

  14. 14
    Karenmc says:

    I’m with Maria on what I like to read. I have a Lit. degree, taught for eight years, etc. Now that I’m on the far side of 50, I refuse to be intimidated by others’ attitudes about romance. In fact, I actually announce my love of romance to anyone and everyone. The best reaction I’ve had lately is from a male co-worker in his late 20’s whose passion is creating comic book art. After reading his blog post about his long weekend at the recent ComiCon in San Diego, I told him that the vernacular of enthusiasm used by comic book lovers is pretty much the same as that used by romance lovers. Then I listed off some romance sub-genres and when I said, “Steampunk,” he did a little double-take and said he just might have to check that out.

    Sarah, thanks for posting this, and I’m sending the link to my friend so she can see the comments regarding her foray into romance.

    Also, when is the next Sizzling Summer Book Club? I’m in the middle of re-reading LORD PERFECT in preparation for LAST NIGHT’S SCANDAL and I have to block out some time for Kristan Higgins, too.

    plans98: I have plans to read the at least 98 books in my TBR mountain.

  15. 15
    Flo says:

    My book club was forced on me due to work.  We had to read a book aimed at the Catholic priesthood.  It was… convoluted at best.  Poorly written at worst and filled with statements that only those who were IN the religious life would be content to understand.

    Needless to say, it’s put me off my feed for book clubs.  HOWEVER, if I could find one that was around my area that shuffled in an occasional romance novel and didn’t mind hysterical giggling about it I’d be all for it!

  16. 16
    sweetsiouxsie says:

    The SBTB Sizzling Summer Book Club is the only book club I have ever belonged to. I have enjoyed it so much! How about a Winter Wonderland Book Club next ???

  17. 17
    Blue Angel says:

    Having taught English for over thirty years, I know the prejudice (and that’s all it is, really) and sexism against romance novels, practiced by too many academics, including, sadly, by too many women.  I belong to a book club with wonderful women, who consistently pick dreary psychological tracts about dysfunctional, unhappy families.  To my irritation, they have consistently refused even to consider any romance.  Even though they’ve “never read one,” they know they wouldn’t like them.  Of course, if anyone used that argument against one of their socially acceptable books, they would hold that person in contempt.  I try to console myself, telling myself that they probably wouldn’t like romances because of their prejudice and because a reader has to be willing to accept its conventions.  I think they are baffled why I like them, but chalk it up to my being single.  Oh, well. . . their loss.  I suppose.

  18. 18
    Sycorax says:

    I belong to a book club with wonderful women, who consistently pick dreary psychological tracts about dysfunctional, unhappy families.

    Oh god, I can only take one or two of them a year. The Corrections had me miserable for days. How can it be fun to discuss one every month!?

    My book club has dipped into a few genres – YA, literature, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, classics – but never romance. I’m not sure how comfortable I would be with that, seeing as I’m the only romance fan. Perhaps I’m a coward, but I’d like to have one ally before suggesting a Loretta Chase or Laura Kinsale.

    Am I the only one who prefers The Last Hellion to Lord of Scoundrels? Dain’s theatrics were initially amusing, but for me they became tiresome after a while. Possibly this is heresy.

  19. 19
    Natalie Arloa says:

    Last year, I suggested M.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle to my book club (the only romance most had read before that were my mss.) and those who read it loved it. It is such a wonderful story and so surprisingly modern (if one ignores the many pages of landscape description).

  20. 20
    bookstorecat says:

    Lord of Scoundrels is my favorite Romance of all time.  Seeing it pop up here makes me want to go back and read it again. Wish I still had a good book group. Those ladies were fun, and willing to try reading a book from every section of the bookstore. Our expedition included fiction, biography, history, medicine, current affairs…unfortunately we didn’t make it to romance before I had to move. I did get to enjoy reading and discussing The Book Thief with them, though. Another book we really liked & probably the closest we got to a romance, was the awesome A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley. If you or your book groups enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend it.

  21. 21
    Mezza says:

    I am part of a very noisy group of women who meet once a month at a local bookstore to discuss romance novels, swap and buy books, eat chocolate and twisties and have a good time.  We have themes for each month.  This year we read Shakespeares ‘12th night’ as a proto-romance story and decided that the relationship between the guys was more meaningful and believeable than that between the guys and the girls.  Last month was Jude Deveraux ‘Sweet Liar’ and this month is Pirates and Princesses – we will talk about our favourite examples but focus on the ‘Princess Bride’.  The erotica story took a bit of negotiation but we got there and had an interesting discussion about trust.  We have been going for about four years now with a core of people and changing faces so we seem to sit down 15 or so women who have gained a lot of solidarity from sharing our reading

  22. 22
    J says:

    I’m in two bookclubs – we read almost anything.  However, it was when someone brought Outlander for our read (I though OMG – a historical time-travel romance – blech!) that I got turned on to romance never to look back.  We never ventured into romance again in 10 years – but that’s ok.  In the other club, we read Welcome to Temptation – again, it was received ok, but never went there again.  They all know I read romance and often tease about it – but I have passed on certain books to certain people who have enjoyed them – they just don’t want to read and discuss romance monthly – and I’m ok w/that.  Can’t imagine, however, being in a bookclub where you are forced to read dry, dull books month after month!  I don’t want to think when I read, I want to get lost in the story and the characters and the dialogue (not too much description, please!)!!

    BTW – call me crazy but I’ve never got the thrill of Lord of Scoundrels.  I read it and liked it but thought it was the same as all other historicals – read it, liked it, forgot it.  Discovered it was considered THE BEST.  Read it again – liked it again, but still didn’t get the hype, why it is any better than the million other historicals that to me, while I love them, seem interchangable.  But…that’s just me.  Meanwhile, have never read FFTS but will…one day!

  23. 23
    DianeN says:

    Add me to the no doubt very small group that doesn’t consider Lord of Scoundrels the perfect romance novel—maybe we should start our own book club?? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a very good book, but I just don’t love it to the extent that most of Romancelandia does. I even did a reread recently (and I’m so not a rereader—there are just too many books I haven’t already read!) to see if maybe I missed something vital the first time around. Once again I liked it a lot, but is it the best of the best for me? Nope.

    What romances do I love? I would rank most of Laura Kinsale’s books higher than LoS. Outlander, definitely. I have a long abiding love for The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye, a huge, juicy, amazingly romantic historical novel. I think Nora Roberts’s Blue Smoke is darn near perfect. Kristan Higgins’s Just One of the Guys hit all of my hot buttons even though I recognize its flaws, and is one of the few romances I’ve ever finished and then read again immediately. Several of Suz Brockmann’s Troubleshooters books make my personal top ten. And the list goes on and on…

  24. 24
    Bianca says:

    Sycorax: You are not the only one.  I also liked, but didn’t love, LOS; I prefer ‘Miss Wonderful’, ‘Your Scandalous Ways’ and ‘The Last Hellion’ to LOS.  If that’s heresy, I’m right there with you.  ;)

    On the book clubs…  I’m amazed and envious that so many readers are in good, romance oriented book clubs!  I wish there was one where I lived, a genre book club of any kind.  The biggest book club here is hosted by my library.  I joined up, but the first three months I participated, the books were: ‘Jude the Obscure’, ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ and ‘Les Misérables’.  All books that I read in college, all books that I never particularly wanted to read through again.  It was just like being in high school with the dry questions about themes and relevancy, and every time someone had a halfway interesting personal insight (that strayed slightly from the moderator’s script), it would get shut down.  Reminded me of being in high school, so I ditched!

    spamword: school98.  LOL!  It knows, and sympathizes.

  25. 25
    Lindsay says:

    I’ve never been in book club, but I might join one if I found one that reads romance. I’ve always been under the impression that most book clubs were more about literary fiction, and especially the depressing stuff, which I used to read, until I realized my reading had slowed to a trickle because I simply couldn’t stand to read another book that depressed me. I live in a big city though, so maybe I can find something to suit me.

    I did recently get my (very butch) friend to admit to having read and enjoyed a couple cracky Old Skool romances. I sent her home with Beyond Heaving Bosoms, Cotillion, and Friday’s Child, which while world’s away from Old Skool, are my very favourites.

  26. 26
    JudyPatooty says:

    Well you all just inspired me to go in search of a Romance Book Club in my area.  I searched on Meetup.com and found one that just happens to be meeting at a Starbucks not far from my home this Sunday!  And we’ll be discussing a book by an author I’ve never read before.  So it’s off to Amazon now to download it to my Kindle and get started. 

    Thanks, Smart Bitches!

  27. 27
    Karenmc says:

    Judy Patooty, I’m thrilled that you found a club AND you can drink an overpriced but delicious beverage, too!

    I happen to love the Carsington brothers more than Dain, but LOS is an easy book for people to buy, it’s very representative of the genre, and it isn’t too angsty. It seemed a good choice for the middle of the summer, which is why I suggested it to my friend and her club. Now I’m going to attempt a Kinsale/Gaffney/Sherry Thomas bombing, having already foisted a Meredith Duran and Julie Anne Long on her two months ago.

  28. 28
    Courtney says:

    I am in a book club that has teased me for a few years now about how many romance novels I read—all the while certain members taking me aside asking to borrow my books!
    FINALLY they have let me choose a romance novel as our book, with two qualifications: it has to be contemporary, and it has to be good!
    I chose Jennifer Cruisie’s Bet Me.  Min Dobbs is so accessable, and so cleverly funny.  I love the wide cast of characters and the quirky commentary.  I thought it would be the perfect intro to romance for the newbies.
    I get to host the meeting, so we are having an “If Dinner” of chicken marsala with Krispy Kremes for dessert.  In addition, all the girls are encouraged to wear their craziest pair of shoes (you know, the ones you buy but have nowhere to wear them and nothing to wear them with?) 
    If you’ve read the book you know all about it!
    At least if some of the gals don’t like the book, they can’t say we didn’t have an awesome dinner.
    If everyone hates it, I’ll be on Meet-up looking for a romance book club, too, Judy PaTooty!

  29. 29
    Kilian Metcalf says:

    I had to go back and look at the list of books from the book club I have belonged to for the last 9 years.  I see that we read a romance about once a year along with the heavier stuff like Guns, Germs and Steel.  There are 11 of us, and each of us chooses a book once a year.  We party in December :)  The thing I like best about this group is that everyone makes a serious attempt to read the book and comes prepared to discuss.  We have grown very close over the years, and this group of women is very important to me.  Books, whether romance or not, have a power to bring people together, even when we don’t agree on the value of a particular selection.  I couldn’t make the slog through Guns, Germs, and Steel, and my Anthony Trollope selections challenge some of the other members.  We are respectful of our choices, and I have been exposed to some great books that I would not otherwise have picked up or looked at.  Kind of like this group, now that I think of it.  Some I like, some I don’t, but none of them has been a waste of time.

    wall24 – I would walk through 24 walls to get to book group if I had to

  30. 30
    cories says:

    I’ve never joined a book club although there are a few at the local library.  Mostly, I don’t stick with a specific genre long enough.  I like mysteries, sci-fi and fantasies but I don’t want to have to read one every month.  Mostly, I stick with certain authors. I don’t think there’s a book club specifically for romance though.

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