Tag Archives: love

Modern Romance

source: Time Magazine

Every one of us engages on a journey to find love and companionship. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection and truly love. This journey seems fairly standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago…. Some of our problems are unique to our time. ‘Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?’ ‘Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos!!?’

I think most of us know Aziz Ansari from either his role as Tom Haverford on the brilliant Parks and Recreation or for his stand-up comedy. However, it is his latest project, Modern Romance, that brings us here today.

Much of his last comedy special (sadly only available on Netflix) focused on how technology has changed dating, for better or worse. During the show, he invites a brave audience member to the stage in order to share the text messages they were exchanging with someone they were interested in dating. Often, those exchanges started as flirting, fun messages but most quickly fizzled out to nothing. These interactions plus his own dating ups and downs led to this book.

He smartly paired with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, a professor at NYU, and dove into a year-long research expedition. They interviewed people around the world – New York City, Los Angeles, Wichita, Monroe (NY), Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Paris, and Doha. The participants, from young singles to residents in an assisted living apartment building, are incredibly honest about their experiences and offered glimpses into their text messages, online dating profiles, and e-mails. They also developed essentially a massive online focus groups with forums on reddit. Beyond all of these primary sources, they worked with a number of sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, and journalists (whew!) who have spent their careers studying dating and relationships.

It’s legit research. And beyond that, incredibly interesting to explore how the culture of dating has changed so much over the past forty or so years. We’ve moved from marrying the guy from across the street to hoping someone normal answers our newspaper ad to swiping left or right on phone apps. Ansari makes the information easy to digest and entirely relatable, as he offers his own experiences dating through his twenties and meeting his current girlfriend.

— Jess, modern romantic

Bonus Aziz: His interview with Freakanomics Radio about the book.

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By George: Georgian Era Historical Romance

As a student of the works and life of Jane Austen and devotee of historical romance, my favorite time period is the Regency era, which roughly falls between 1811 and 1820, when King George III’s son, the Prince of Wales, took over the throne for a time due to his father’s madness. Dubbed the Prince Regent, he was a flamboyant and gaudy personality, and thus the Regency era was born.

But to be honest, I’ll read almost any historical romance if it’s a good story, is well written, and set in England. Except medieval. I do like the etiquette, civilities, and genteel manners of a polite society.

Read on for some recommended Georgian era romances (1714-1830) that I’ve greatly enjoyed.

Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt

Set in the London neighborhood of St. Giles in the 1730s, this is a gritty, dark, and dangerous series. It’s also breathtakingly romantic. Throughout the series, there is a running thread about the Ghost of St. Giles, a sort of Batman figure who saves the good people of St. Giles from peril. Passionate, raw, and real.

Wylder Sisters series by Isabella Bradford

This is the nice and elegant side of Georgian society. Three aristocratic and very wealthy but very sheltered sisters must marry for duty but are hoping to marry for love instead. This was a period in history when romantic love was just beginning to influence the choice of a marriage partner rather than as a mere business alliance between two families. Isabella Bradford is a pseudonym for historical fiction writer Susan Holloway Scott.

A Gentleman ‘Til Midnight, A Promise by Daylight, A Wedding by Dawn by Alison DeLaine

Though these books do not have an official series name, they are all connected by recurring characters. The series features strong and independent women including a female pirate, a medic, and the female equivalent of a lady’s man; I guess that would be a gentleman’s lady?

Desperate Duchesses series by Eloisa James

This sparkling and witty series by Shakespearean professor Eloisa James–and also the daughter of poet Robert Bly–is more about social manners and mores in Georgian England rather than true historical romance. The descriptions of the intricacies of ton society, the elaborate headgear and fashions, and the daily life of privilege and wealth in the very upper class is vividly brought to life in a very snappy and snarky way.

-Maria A.

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My Favorite Romances of 2014

I’ve read so many good romance novels this year. And this time last year, I spotlighted the books I most enjoyed, so I thought I’d make it an annual post.

Read on for my favorite romance reads (and my shortest post) of 2014.

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-Maria A.

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Heart O’Scotland

As a devoted reader of historical romance and Jane Austen, I prefer to read stories set in England during the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. But with the recent news of the Scottish Independence Referendum and the overwhelming resurgence in popularity of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon on television, I’m inspired to feature some wonderful historical romances either set in Scotland or that feature Scottish protagonists during the Regency period. Read on for some that I have absolutely  loved.

The Bride Says No, The Bride Says Maybe, and The Groom Says Yes 

by Cathy Maxwell

The enchanting Brides of Wishmore series is wonderful and uplifting. The small village of Aberfeldy is the setting for the happy endings of the beautiful but very different Davidson sisters, Tara and Aileen, and their widowed cousin, Sabrina. There are lots of sticky situations to get them to their happy endings including a runaway bride, a love triangle, and a dissolute father who sells his youngest daughter to a local laird in order to settle his gambling debts. Despite the drama, these stories are joyful and fun, especially when read with a charming Scottish brogue on e-audio by Mary Jane Wells.

The Devil Wears Kilts and Rogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch

Ranulf and Arran are the eldest brothers of Clan MacLawry, desperately trying to save their changing way of life amid clan clashes and the influencing ways of the English. One will fall for an Englishwoman against his better judgment while the other will be enchanted by the daughter of a rival clan member. Though it mostly takes place in London, the unique Scottish ways of Ranulf and Arran dominate the story and it’s fascinating and fun to read. The third book in the Scandalous Highlanders series comes out next March.

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Claimed by the Laird by Nicola Cornick

The third book in British author Cornick’s Scottish Brides series is the best. Christina McMorlan is the eldest daughter of a selfish widower who has set aside her own happiness for that of her family. But when her whiskey smuggling business is threatened by Lucas Black, a stranger out for justice, she takes a chance on a different kind of fate. This is a unique and beautiful story featuring an older brave and independent heroine and the handsome and protective gentleman who unexpectedly enters her life.

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How to Marry a Highlander by Katharine Ashe

This is a truly charming and fun e-novella. Teresa Finch-Freeworth goes after the only man she has ever wanted, Duncan, the Earl of Eads, a man she once locked eyes with across a crowded ballroom. He thinks she’s daft and, besides, he has his hands full with seven sisters he must see married and settled on limited funds. But when Teresa storms into his unsuspecting path, the results are delightful and dangerous. This novella is part of Ashe’s wonderful Falcon Club series.

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The Laird by Grace Burrowes

And now for something much more serious. Husband and wife Michael and Brenna must get to know one another all over again when he returns to Scotland after nine years at war. Brenna’s painful and secret past threatens their future happiness as the menace has not gone away and is in fact very close to home. A sensitive romance that tackles abuse, love, and family written by one of the most consummate storytellers writing historical romance today. This is the third book in Burrowes’ dark and dramatic Captive Hearts series, but it can be read as a standalone.

-Maria A.

*This is the fifth in a series of recommended notable historical romances.

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Brooding Dukes and Damsels in Distress

Gothic novel: a novel in which magic, mystery, and chivalry are the chief characteristics.

A Handbook to Literature (6th edition) by C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon

Windswept moors, drafty and remote castles, stormy nights, and a dark and dangerous hero suffering lots of angst. Jane Austen spoofed it in Northanger Abbey in 1816 while the Bronte sisters epitomized it in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in the Victorian era. But what about today? Read on for some historical romances with a darker journey to happily ever after.

Máire Claremont’s Mad Passions series.

darklady

In the Victorian era, it wasn’t considered unusual for powerful men to send their troublesome women to an insane asylum for reasons such as, say, having a nervous breakdown after the death of a child (The Dark Lady) or witnessing a father murder a beloved mother (The Lady in Red). Men, however, are not immune to commitment by a parent for opium addiction (The Dark Affair).

Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed by Anna Campbell. (Sons of Sin series)

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As payment for her married sister’s gambling debts, Sidonie Forsythe agrees to replace her sister in Jonas Merrick’s bed. In doing so, she will give up her virtue to a man haunted by his past and determined to prove his parentage.

Taken by the Duke by Jess Michaels. (Pleasure Wars series)

taken

Lady Ava Windbury is kidnapped by Christian Rothcastle and taken to his estate in revenge for one sibling’s death and another’s incapacitation in this Romeo and Juliet love story.

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare. (Castles Ever After series)

duke

Take one penniless and homeless orphan, add one tormented duke, and a dash of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table and you get this charming gothic spoof.

A Duke’s Temptation by Jillian Hunter. (Bridal Pleasures series)

temptation

Lily Boscastle is the biggest fan of the mysterious and handsome Duke of Gravenhurst’s “horrid” novels. When she becomes his housekeeper at his remote estate, she discovers the real secrets behind the man. Another gothic spoof, this one is best listened to aloud on e-audio, read by the enchanting Justine Eyre.

-Maria A.

Note: This post is the fourth in a series highlighting historical romance novels I’ve greatly enjoyed.

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Amusing, Whimsical, and Diverting Historical Romance

I started reading historical romance a little over two years ago because I was sick and tired of reading sad and depressing books that were highly touted in literary circles, The New York Times Book Review, and book clubs. I once derided the entire romance genre as frivolous until I actually read one.

I now only want happy endings, sparkling dialogue, and a passionate love story; even better: a book that can make me laugh and smile.

I thoroughly enjoy the witty works of Jane Austen, so historical romance is my favorite reading pleasure. I can always count on a lovely story and, with these three authors, laugh out loud humor.

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The Wicked Wallflower (Wallflowers series) by Maya Rodale

We don’t own all of this author’s delightful books except for her Writing Girls series, about Regency era working women who write for the scandal sheet, The London Weekly–which, incidentally, makes a recurring appearance as it reports on scandals in almost all her novels.

Isn’t this a great cover?! In this story, the first in the series, Lady Emma Avery is a wallflower whose name is falsely linked with the handsome and rich Duke of Ashbrooke in The London Weekly. They decide to keep their pretend engagement so that he might redeem his debauched reputation and find investors to fund his invention and she, in turn, can raise her social standing in society. Of course, things don’t work out as planned. This book is part of an amusing concurrent historical/contemporary series–the contemporary part being a series of novellas called Bad Boyswith a similar theme of a pretend engagement–Rodale calls it a “fauxmance”–on Facebook and other social media. Fun fact: the heroine is a librarian at the New York Public Library.

“’It can’t be any more torturous than a wallflower’s fourth season on the marriage mart.’” (p52)

“It was official: she’d had more callers in this one hour than in four seasons combined. Behold: the power of Ashbrooke.” (p26)

heiress

In the Arms of the Heiress (Ladies Unlaced series) by Maggie Robinson

With her cheeky Courtesan Court series about the everyday lives of a group of mistresses on Jane Street to her London List series about a Regency-era scandal sheet of provocative personal ads spoofing today’s craigslist, to her most recent Edwardian-era series, Ladies Unlaced, which takes place around a slightly unorthodox employment agency, I can pretty much count on Maggie Robinson to always make me laugh.

A wacky, independent yet vulnerable heiress, Louisa Stratton hires Charles Cooper, a traumatized war veteran down on his luck, to pose as her fiancé on a visit home to her undeserving family. She hopes to display a veneer of successful independence with a loving, artistic husband while Charles just wants the cash.

“Louisa Stratton was a handful who would drive the average man to drink. Hemlock, if it was handy.” (p175)

”’If you were my wife, I’d rescue you. You could live just as you pleased—I wouldn’t interfere with whatever cork-brained scheme you dreamed up.’” (p240)

Any husband she’d have would risk being henpecked until he resembled a dartboard.” (p289)

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The Secret Brides series by Valerie Bowman

Bowman is a newcomer to historical romance and her lighthearted and charming Regency era Secret Brides series is wonderfully entertaining and funny. Each title represents the scandals in the books, written in pamphlets–think of today’s zines–and are the same titles as the books:

  • Secrets of a Wedding Night is about what really happens on a wedding night as written by an unhappily married young widow.
  • Secrets of a Runaway Bride depicts the adventures of a young and impetuous debutante who tries to run away with a young man who does not requite her love.
  • Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage, the last in the series, is penned by a death-row duchess accused of murdering her husband. There are also two novellas that round out the series.

From Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage:

Since coming in the back door, she was already warming up, and she hadn’t had a proper bath in over a fortnight. No doubt she smelled like a foot. A very dirty foot.” (p44)

‘If you’re going to be a scandal, darling, be a complete scandal.’” (p318)

From Secrets of a Runaway Bride:

“First of all, you should not have been eavesdropping. It’s unspeakably rude, and second, what would you know about a marital bed? You’re not married!” (p59)

“Arthur isn’t here now to see, is he? If you’re heaven’s gift to the fairer sex, why don’t you prove it?” (p61)

-Maria, who is done with sad books forever

Note: This post is the third in a series highlighting historical romance novels I’ve greatly enjoyed.

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A Love of Letters

Some of you may be aware that today is Valentine’s Day. Personally, my immediate family and I are not practitioners in the arts of giving greeting cards, flowers, stuffed animals, chocolates and whatever else might come on this particular day. In fact, when I first found out I was scheduled for today’s post, I felt that I had drawn the short straw (have I mentioned I’m not a fan of this “holiday”?), but a recent read and the fact that this month notes the 23rd anniversary of the blind date with the man who eventually became my husband, has given me some fodder for today’s post.

Our partnership which began all those years ago, was way before the age of Skype, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, and thus our long distance (he in Pittsburgh, me in Cleveland) relationship’s success relied on land lines, the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes (before EZPASS!) and the US Postal Service. Thanks to the Post Office playing the middle man, I have received some of the best gifts I could ever ask for – letters from a loved one.

I recently finished one of the best reads I’ve had in a long time – To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing by Simon Garfield. Now, I must admit that over the past two decades I have succumbed to the charms of e-mail, Twitter, and texting, and have become lazy when it comes to picking up the phone or the setting pen to paper and addressing an envelope. But reading Garfield’s work had me reminiscing of the good ‘ole days of sending postcards on vacations, writing to friends who were away for the summer or when I was away at college, and especially of those longed-for letters and cards from that man just a few hours away down Interstate.

Garfield’s work is a fantastic history of letter writing throughout the ages. Military missives, familial correspondences and various letter writing guidelines over centuries are captured in this work. He really seems to shine when focusing on the love letters between couples, some famous and some not so, throughout history – Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, The Millers and Anais Nin, Charles Schultz and his various mistresses – or maybe it’s Garfield allowing those letters to shine for themselves that makes this such a wonderful read. Two of the most captivating couples interspersed throughout Garfield’s book Abelard and Heloise (12th century monk and his student), and Chris and Bessie (WWII British soldier and girlfriend). The latter is a couple whose letters are placed intermittently throughout the book, and the reader follows along as their relationship evolves from friends to fiancés. After following along with all these couples for 400 pages, it would be hard for anyone to come away from the experience without pining for the days before 140 character limitations.

Garfield mentions the emergence of letter writing clubs (knitting clubs, book clubs, cooking clubs, why not letter writing clubs!?) and other ways lovers of letters are trying to rekindle this lost art. Right here in Pittsburgh, our cultural partner and neighbor, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, is hosting letter writing events today and tomorrow for the opening of their new exhibit XOXO: An Exhibit about Love and Forgiveness. I can’t think of a more perfect way to get into the habit of letter writing, renew old practices, fan some flames of love and create some life-long memories.

Maria J.

letter image

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