The Bookmatcher: Space and Cowboys

Billie Bloebaum, romance book buyer for Powell’s in the Portland Airport, is exercising the power of her handselling abilities online, and fields requests for books to read. Kimberly writes in with a Bookmatcher request:

Hi Sarah,

I was wondering if you could help me out. I usually read urban fantasy or fantasy books with strong romance elements. I’m ready to move on and expand my horizons a little. I remember that you have done a feature called The Bookmatcher and was wondering if you would do one for me. I would love to read more space romances (think Linnea Sinclair-LOVE her books!)

I also used to love reading books about the western frontier as a kid and was hoping to find some romance books in the genre (I’m thinking Little House on the Prairie for grown-ups)-no Christian books please. I’ve read some and I liked them ok but I’d rather try some prairie/frontier books without the Christian elements. Do you think you (or the Bitchery) can help me out?

Billie says:


For Science Fiction Romance I would recommend Catherine Asaro, Elizabeth Bear (on whom I have a total stoopid fangirl author crush), Lois McMaster Bujold (though if she’s been visiting your site for any length of time that particular rec shouldn’t be necessary), Sharon Shinn, Robyn Owens, Jayne Castle (another pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz)… Some of these authors are more romance-y than others and some may be less Science Fictional than she’d like, but they’re all good to excellent writers. There’s a lot more out there, but it’s not an area I’ve read extensively in. It’s something I usually stumble across by accident because someone recommends a book or an author to me and it ends up being S-F with romance-y bits or Romance with science fictional bits.

The frontier stuff is even more of a challenge. However, I would recommend Jo Goodman’s ‘Never Love a Lawman’, which is quite good and has a nice high page count.

I’d also recommend Janet Fox’s ‘Faithful’, which is one of my favorite romances of the summer. However, it is YA, so if Kimberly’s looking for hot, steamy action, she should be warned that the only hot and steamy in this book is from geysers. (It’s set in Yellowstone, and, yeah, we could read all kinds of symbolism into the spewing that goes on, but is it really necessary? Fun, yes. Necessary, probably not.)

I hope that I’ve given Kimberly an idea of where she might start, but, honestly, I’m waiting to see what the Bitchery recommends so I can start adding to my reading list.

So, what’s on your space and frontier reading lists? Which books are your absolute faces? And come on, someone’s written space cowboys, right?

And if you’ve got a request for Billie, send it over to me at sarahATsmartbitchestrashybooksDOTcom, with “Bookmatcher” in the subject line.


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Tez Miller says:

    Hi, Kimberly. Sounds like you and I come from similar reading backgrounds. Here are some space romances that I enjoyed, and hopefully they’ll work for you, too:

    -Michele Lang’s NETHERWOOD
    -Anya Bast’s THE CHOSEN SIN
    -Lauren Dane’s UNDERCOVER
    -S. L. Viehl’s STARDOC
    -Sara Creasy’s SONG OF SCARABAEUS

    All the best, and have a lovely day! :-)

  2. 2
    ghn says:

    Now, this series isn’t really from the Western frontier – but I suspect you may come to love them all the same: The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold. Anything by her is going to be good – I guarantee it!

  3. 3
    GrowlyCub says:

    The Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller nicely combine romance with space opera and adventure.  I particularly like ‘Local Custom’ and ‘Scout’s Progress’ and it’s sequel ‘Mouse and Dragon’.

  4. 4
    Estara says:

    seconding the Liaden universe recommendation! Most of the books are romances with sf adventure space opera, only a few are space opera first with some romance (Crystal Soldier and Crystal Dragon) or have hardly any romance at all (the ya entry Balance of Trade)

  5. 5

    Depending on what you mean by the western frontier—are you searching for the “wild west” era or will the French and Indian war do?—I want to bring your attention to Pamela Clare‘s MacKinnon’s Rangers series. There are two books out, Surrender and Untamed, and a third book is in the works (release date January 2012) now that she’s found a publisher for it. I understand some of the gang at Dear Author are eagerly awaiting Defiant.

    Clare has another series of historicals, about the Blakewell/Kenleigh Family, that are set in 1730s to to 1760s, “a period of great change in the American Colonies and the American South”.

    Take a look:

    Confession: I have yet to read these myself, but I love love love Pamela Clare’s contemporary romantic suspense and I have no doubt that I will love the historicals as well.

    spamword: college74 No, I will not still be in college when I’m 74. I hope.

  6. 6
    Melissa says:

    Paranormal/Urban Fanstasy with Romance:
    Patricia Briggs – Mercy Thompson, Alpha and Omega series
    Nalini Singh – Guild Hunters series, Psy/Changling series
    C.L. Wilson – Tairen Souls series

    Space Romance:
    Sherrilyn Kenyon – Born of Night
    Allyson James – Tales of the Shareem (romantica)
    Dara Joy – Knight of a Trillion Stars, Rejar, Mine to Take

    Western Romance:
    Catherine Anderson – Comanche Moon, Keegan’s Lady
    Pamela Clare – Surrender, Untamed, Ride the Fire
    Madeline Baker – First Love Wild Love
    Jessica Wulf – Hunter’s Bride, Joseph’s Bride, Grey Eagle’s Bride
    Georgina Gentry – Cheyenne Song
    Janis Reams Hudson – Warrior’s Song
    Deborah Camp – Too Tough to Tame
    Rosanne Bittner – Prairie Embrace
    Johanna Lindsey – A Heart So Wild, Savage Thundar, Angel
    Linda Howard – The Touch of Fire

  7. 7
    Annabel says:

    One that I don’t often hear in connection with science fiction romance lists is Connie Willis. Her books aren’t romance per se but often pair off male and female protagonists and romance ensues in the end (usually while they aren’t looking because of plot distractions.) Two that spring to mind are “Bellwether” and “Promised Land” and I think maybe “To Say Nothing of the Dog” but it’s been a long time since I read that one. The romance is very sweet and old-fashioned (ie, not explicit at all) but usually feels earned to me.

  8. 8
    FD says:

    Seconding (or thirding) the Sharon Shinn, the Liaden series,  the Bujold recs and also the S.Viehl. and Catherine Asaro.  They are all fantastic.
    Would add Elizabeth Moon, Sarah A Hoyt, Vonda N. McIntyre and maybe some of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books if you haven’t read them already.

    For western frontier books I have no specific recs off the top of my head, but a good place to start looking is the old skool Harlequin Historicals / M&B Legacy of Loves.  You might like Catherine Anderson,  Cheryl St John, Pamela Morsi and also Maggie Osbourne who is mostly extremely awesome.
    La Vyrle Spencer wrote a few enjoyable settling the west type books as did Kristin James.
    Oh and Patricia C. Wrede recently wrote an enjoyable alt history fantasy west settling YA, called The Thirteenth Child.

    Wendy The Super Librarian is always a really good source of recs and particularly for historical westerns.

  9. 9
    Kristi says:

    Just last month I read Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy.  Its way more Sci Fi than romance, but there’s a definite romance-ish sub-plot going on as well. The cover copy says its a debut, and I think this one could stand alone or be part of a series (I may have to look up the author and see if she’s saying). It was good.  Really good.

    I picked it up in the Sci Fi/Fantasy aisle in B&N, but because the cover art showed the pair which hinted at a potential romance, and when I checked the spelling on the author’s name just now, it looks like there’s a Kindle edition too.

  10. 10

    For western romance, I like Linda Lael Miller. She writes both comteporaries and historicals. Other authors that write westerns are Caroline Fyffe, Elaine Levine, Leigh Greenwood, and Bobbi Smith.

    Another western series that I loved was the Wagons West series by Dana Fuller Ross. There’s a little bit of everything in the books—action, romance, and lots of stuff about the settling of America.

  11. 11
    nystacey@home says:

    I see a few names missing from the SFR rolls. Here they are:

    Ann Aguirre-  The Sirantha Jax series, starting with Grimspace
    -Isabo Kelly.  Marshall’s Guard or Siren Singing to start :)
    Gini Koch- Touched by An Alien.  First of a brand new series.  I’m definitely liking it so far.
    -Jess Grainger- Beyond the Rain and series to follow.
    -Susan Grant -look at her backlist, you won’t go wrong :) 

    I’ve heard good things about Carolyn Brown in western, but I haven’t investigated her yet.  Linda Lael Miller is SO my western-drug of choice….

    Happy reading :)

    Stacey aka @nystacey

  12. 12

    Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace begins a six-book series that she herself describes as romantic science fiction. It’s awesome.

  13. 13
    Ashley says:

    For out west, LaVyrle Spencer’s “The Gamble” is one I first read in high school, and still re read.  I’ll second (third?) the Sharing Knife series by Bujold, just perfectly written and in an alternate Western setting.  Also her Cordelia’s Honor, space romance.

  14. 14
    DS says:

    I’ve been listening to Darkship Thieves by Sarah Hoyt.  She is a Heinlein fan and this does have some of the feel of the Heinlein YA books I read avidly when I was a kid. 

    I also love Connie Willis, but you have to be a bit careful if you demand a Happy Ending.  One of her books, Passage, about death and near death experiences, has to be one of the most powerful (and disturbing) books I have ever read.  But it is not a cheerful book at all.  It was nominated for the Nebula, the Hugo and the Arthur C. Clarke award and should have won all of them, IMO.

    The Doomsday Book, which did win the Hugo and the Nebula, is about a time traveller getting stuck during the time of the Black Death.

    However To Say Nothing of the Dog is set during the Edwardian summer and draws a lot on Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing of the Dog).  It’s delightful fun. 

    I have Blackout on my ipod but haven’t listened to it yet. I am also looking forward to the October 2010 release of All Clear, another time travel sf story that I am hearing good things about.

  15. 15
    Amanda says:

    Nobody’s Darling by Teresa Medeiros?  I read that about a month ago and enjoyed it.  Not so much for the main characters, whose plotline is fairly simple, but for the secondary characters who had actual, in-the-world motivation, which I found pretty cool.  (To be perfectly honest, I picked it up because it had a pretty tame cover and I was at a library that I worked at from the ages of fourteen to eighteen, and all of the librarians still see me as a little girl with glasses.)

  16. 16
    Kristin says:

    I think you will really like the Arcane series books by Jayne Castle.  This series crosses through historical (written as Amanda Quick), contemporary (written as Jayne Anne Krentz), and futuristic (written as Jayne Castle).

  17. 17
    Jess Granger says:

    Hey!  Thanks for the shout out!  Just a correction, my last name is spelled like Hermione Granger.  :)

  18. 18
    SherylNantus says:

    If I might toot my own horn – my recently released steampunk western romance from Samhain might meet the reader’s needs!

    “Wild Cards and Iron Horses”

    Their love rides on a spring and a prayer…

    During the recent Civil War, a soldier risked his life to save Jonathan Handleston—and lost. With the help of an advanced metal brace on his crippled hand, Jon now travels from one poker tournament to the next, determined to earn enough money to repay the man’s debt.

    Prosperity Ridge is supposed to be the last stop on his quest, but his brace is broken and he needs an engineer to repair the delicate mechanisms. The only one available is Samantha Weatherly, a beautiful anomaly in a world ruled by men.

    Sam is no fool. Jon is no different from any other gambler—except for his amazing prosthetic. Despite a demanding project to win a critical contract to develop an iron horse, she succumbs to the lure of working on the delicate mechanisms. And working with the handsome Englishman.

    Like a spring being coiled, Samantha and Jon are inexorably drawn together. Sam begins to realize honor wears many faces, and she becomes the light at the end of Jon’s journey to redemption. The only monkey wrench is Victor, a rival gambler who will stop at nothing to make sure Jon misses the tournament. Even destroy Jon’s and Sam’s lives.

    The Phantom Corps series by Lauren Dane is also a faboo read!

  19. 19
    Rebecca says:

    For Western romance I’d suggest The Burning Lamp by Frances Murray.  It’s a historical, set just after the Civil War.  The heroine is an English nurse, trained by Florence Nightingale, who flees the UK to avoid being forced into marriage by her family and giving up her career.  The hero is (of course) a member of the cavalry.  No explicit sex scenes here either, but not a Christian romance.  I confess that I love this book partly because of the cameo made by the main characters in Murray’s earlier book, The Dear Colleague.

  20. 20
    Carolyn says:

    I didn’t see Kaki Warner listed for westerns.  I’m reading the second book in her Blood Rose trilogy right now, Open Country. First book is Pieces of Sky.

    I second Ann Aguirre and Elizabeth Moon.

  21. 21
    Jody W. says:

    I like Maggie Osborne for Western romance. For SFR she could visit Heather Massey’s Galaxy Express website: although I’m sure Heather will show up here eventually with a better list than something as lazy as “go look here” :)

  22. 22
    GrowlyCub says:

    I read Willis’ Doomsday Book: talk about utterly depressing!

    There’s no romance anyway, but there isn’t a happy ending for anybody in that book.  Only for people who don’t get depressed easily!

  23. 23
    Joy says:

    _All Clear_ is the conclusion to _Blackout_. I’ve read _Blackout_, but now I wish I waited to read them both together in sequence because there is no conclusion to _Blackout_; it just stops and tells you to wait for the _All Clear_.  It’s almost as if Willis wanted to give you the experience of waiting in a Tube Station for the all clear to sound…

  24. 24
    Lorelie says:

    For Western romance, I’ve absolutely got to pimp my favorite – The Outsider by Penelope Williamson. It’s old (1997) but not Old Skool. And it’s brilliant.

    How about the Envy Chronicles by Joss Ware, too? They’re post-apocalyptic, not SciFi, but the leap doesn’t feel too huge (personally, at least). Each title’s a stand alone romance, starting with Beyond the Night.

  25. 25
    Mia says:

    I’d like to recommend Stef Ann Holm’s A Bride for All Seasons series.  It starts off with Harmony and is followed by Hooked, Honey, and Hearts. They’re really good stories and I’ve always thought of them as Little House on the Prairie but sexier.  Also, I really enjoyed Linda Howard’s A Lady of the West.  Happy reading!

  26. 26
    Wendy says:

    Ooooh, yippee!  Someone looking for western recommendations!  That makes my wee lil’ librarian heart go pitter-patter.  Westerns are my fave, and here’s what I have off the top of my head. 

    Second the recommendations of Maggie Osborne, Kaki Warner and the recent Jo Goodman book.  In fact, the second book in the Goodman series is slated for a December release.  I’ve also heard really nice things about Caroline Fyffe (who has 2 books out right now) – but alas, both are still buried in my TBR :(

    I also would highly recommend Maureen McKade.  She wrote several westerns for Avon (ahhh, those were the days.  When Avon published westerns!) which are quite good, but it was her westerns for Berkley that packed a real emotional punch for me.  I highly recommend A Reason To Live, which is book one in a trilogy.

    There are a slew of authors writing westerns for Harlequin Historical.  A lot of them are sort of hit or miss for me – but the two always consistent ones (for me at any rate) are Cheryl St. John (she’s also written inspy for Love Inspired Historical – so be sure to look for her HH releases) and Jenna Kernan, who has written some fantastic frontier-style pre-Civil War stories.  Of St. John’s work – Joe’s Wife, Prairie Wife, His Secondhand Wife are favorites.  Of Kernan’s work – I would say Winter Woman and Outlaw Bride.

    And she wrote more Americana than western – but Pamela Morsi’s older historicals.  I’m still working my way through her backlist, but what I’ve read, I’ve loved.  Courting Miss Hattie, Simple Jess and Wild Oats all landed in my keeper stash.

  27. 27
    Wendy says:

    As soon as I clicked submit I realized my massive oversight.  Lorraine Heath.  Before she defected to across the pond, she wrote some wonderful westerns!  Her oldies (Always to Remember, Sweet Lullaby etc.) are pretty hard to find – but her Texas trilogy (Texas Destiny, Texas Glory, and Texas Splendor) is suberb, and shouldn’t be too difficult to scare up.

  28. 28
    Jessica says:

    I love Sf and never object to some nice romance on the side, so my suggestions are all more on the SF side. 

    Anne McCaffrey – I was so surprised no one had mentioned her yet.  As far as I am concerned she was the queen of putting romance storylines into really excellent SF.  Try Crystal Singer (first in a trilogy), Freedoms Landing (also first in a series) which has a human/alien love story or Rowan which is part of a series but the romance stands nicely alone.  Similar to Catherine Asaro’s Skolian series in the Rowan series super strong and unique telepaths hunt across the stars for a suitable partner.  Nearly all the Dragonrider of Pern books have love stories.  I prefer either Dragonrider (the very first book) or Dragonsdawn about the original settlement.

    Catherine Asaro is also excellent.  Try Primary Inversion if you’re ready for some pretty serious Sf (but also an excellent romance).  The rest of the series has some titles with romance, some without.  The SF can also get pretty hard.  One of the easier ones to deal with that also pretty much stands alone is Skyfall.  Sunrise Alley is a near future Earth set SF thriller and romance.

    Shards of Honor by Bujold is both super excellent SF and a wonderful romance.  There are several books after that are not romance (but stil excellent) until you get to Civil Campaign which has a distinct Regency flavor but won’t make a lot of sense without all the backstory from the previous books (I think)

    Bujold’s fantasy has great but some what nontraditional love stories.  Try either the first Sharing Knife book, or Paladin of Souls.

  29. 29
    Isabel C. says:

    I’m also a Bujold fan, both for SF and fantasy. And the romance in Sharing Knife is very sweet.

    I don’t read a lot of Western romances these days, but I remember Dorothy Garlock’s being quite enjoyable.

  30. 30
    Sarah says:

    I’m testing the features I’m adding – don’t mind me.

    However, Bujold rules. I started reading her books based on everyone’s recommendations a few years ago. She’s an absolutely amazing writer.

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