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LugaJetboyGirl-irra

Romance, of the Spec Fic Variety

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After all these years can it be that we don't have a dedicated thread to romance? Specifically romance that is SFF, magial realism, paranormal, etc. etc. Have you read anything good lately (please hide spoilers)?

I'll start. The year before last I read Bujold's The Sharing Knife series. I thought it was phenomenal for many reasons, particularly the world-building and magic system. And the romance element was really great. At first I was not sure how I felt about it because the age difference between Fawn and Dag was so pronounced, but it turned out to be really well done and actually not creepy (sorta like Laurie King's Russell and Holmes age difference was ok).

I also liked that pregnancy played such an important role in the series, instigating the heroine's quest and being significant with respect to magic. Bujold always does such interesting things with pregnancy and it makes sense that she would work it into the very fabric of the world's magic.

It always seemed funny to me that so many (male) readers thought 'nothing happened' in Book 1, when from a romance novel perspective, it was practically perfect. There's battles with fantasy Big Bads, the two opposing cultures are fleshed out (a la Romeo and Juliet), the lovers shack up together, and there is a major resolution with respect to the heroine's family. There is even a magical element to the marriage system.

Also, I absolutely adored what happened with Dag's last name. That made me swoon a little.

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Victor Pelevin's The Sacred Book of the Werewolf. Werefox meets Werewolf, falls in love. But it's much deeper. A commentary on post-communist Russia's embrace of capitalism and "Westernism" and their resultant exploitation of Russia in the 1990s. Highly recommended.

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1 hour ago, LugaJetboyGirl-irra said:

I'll start. The year before last I read Bujold's The Sharing Knife series. I thought it was phenomenal for many reasons, particularly the world-building and magic system. And the romance element was really great. At first I was not sure how I felt about it because the age difference between Fawn and Dag was so pronounced, but it turned out to be really well done and actually not creepy (sorta like Laurie King's Russell and Holmes age difference was ok).

The Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham has a surprising age gap romance that I really liked.  It was a sweet and hidden romance due the differences in the lover's class in the world's economic system.   The story is way more than the romance, but it does play it's part.    :love:

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My top picks?

1. Cordelia Nasmith and Count Vorkosigan in The Vorkosigan Saga: It's just too perfect and one of the few relationships I feel left both as three-dimensional characters who I would love to read more about.

2. Raistlin and Crysania in the Dragonlance Legends series: I think part of the problem is the authors disagree with me but it remains a wonderfully tragic, fascinating, and well-written piece.

3. Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade in the Star Wars Legends universe: It didn't go anywhere for a long time but the fact it just sort of happened is still one of the best and most beloved romances in fiction--right along Leia and Han Solo.

4. The Grey Warden and Leliana in Dragon Age: Origins: This is cheating since it's a video game and "You" are a participant but I liked the fact it was such a fully fleshed out and deep romance. Morrigan and Alistair also get their own kudos. Really, it was so good when Morrigan and Lelilana showed up in Inquisition, I wanted to romance them instead.

5. Jon Snow and Ygritte in A Song of Ice and Fire:  I still love these characters and hate the story ended the way it did but it ended probably the only way it could.

Edited by C.T. Phipps

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There used to be a thread around titled something similar to "urban fantasy and paranormal romance" (although that's almost certainly not the exact phrasing). Unfortunately, most stories of this nature simply aren't very good even when they're famous. If you want spec-fic romance from a Hugo-quality author, Bujold is by far your best bet. In addition to the Sharing Knife, she has also several books in the Vorkosigan universe which are more or less romance:

Cordelia's Honor (omnibus of Shards of Honor and Barrayar) : Two officers from planets which are about to go to war meet under unfortunate circumstances...

Miles in Love (omnibus of Komarr, A Civil Campaign and Winterfair Gifts) : From the same series as the above, but skips quite a few books. You may want to read the ones in between to get a sense of who Miles is.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance : More or less standalone and more or less a romantic comedy.

Furthermore, she also has several books in a completely different fantasy world:

The Curse of Chalion

Paladin of Souls

The Hallowed Hunt

The Penric and Desdemona novellas

All are fairly heavy on romantic elements, but The Hallowed Hunt is arguably closest to straight-up romance (it's also my favorite which is weird because I don't usually like those stories). There's also this recent thread of mine which might have something like what you're looking for although our tastes don't overlap perfectly. These stories aren't exactly romance, but they have a good central love story:

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis : This is a funny Victorian era story about the consequences of time travel.

The Complete Morgaine by C. J. Cherryh (omnibus of Gate of Ivrel, Well of Shiuan, Fires of Azeroth and Exile's Gate) : This is another story about the consequences of time travel, but it is pretty much the opposite of the above in tone and would be very dark if not for the romance.

The Dread Empire's Fall series by Walter Jon Williams : Space opera with two protagonists who carry on a (usually) long-distance relationship.

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7 hours ago, C.T. Phipps said:

My top picks?

2. Raistlin and Crysania in the Dragonlance Legends series: I think part of the problem is the authors disagree with me but it remains a wonderfully tragic, fascinating, and well-written piece.

I briefly thought of this in Altherion's thread but was too shy to admit that I had a soft spot for this. As far as I recall (it has been a long time since I read it) it is much better than the Tanis-Laurana-Kitiara triangle in the other Dragonlance books and overall the "Twins" trilogy is better plotted, better written and does not quite read like an RPG script.

Then there is old stuff like Dunsany's "The king of Elfland's daughter", fairy tales like "Stardust" and probably many more.

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23 hours ago, kairparavel said:

Ha! I was about to start a period/historical romance thread because I've been getting out of my reading burn out funk with Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan. The previous iteration faded and was archived. Ah well.

Ha! Sadly that thread did not come up when I searched 'romance.' But in keeping with your desire for a historical romance and mine for SFF, I figure we can merge them. I had to go back through my Kindle to see what good spec fic historical romance I've read lately.

There's Alison Goodman's Dark Days Club, which is set in 1812. Lady Helen discovers that she's from a long line of demon hunters, and she falls in love with the guy training her. There's destinies and what not. The main character is 18, and the premise is pretty YA, but I've always liked Goodman's stuff. I thought it was very much in the tradition of fluffy period romances, with balls, and ribbons, and valets. 

I read Simon St. James' stuff this year, too. Her m/f romances are mostly set at the beginning of the 1900s or around WW1. They're really fricking spooky and atmospheric ghost stories, and firmly entrenched in WWI (or post-WWI) culture and history. I got the impression that St. James had done a lot of research on the experience of soldiers coming home from the war, and the world-building was really effective. Great for those into historical chills and thrills. Also, these books are straight up romances (in contrast to MRK's Ghost Talkers, for example). I enjoyed everything she wrote enough that according to my Kindle, I bought her books one after another until I'd read them all. 

I recently went through pretty much everything KJ Charles has written. She has several m/m Regencies that are quite good. My favorite was A Seditious Affair, which was probably one of the best historicals I've encountered in years. And it had some of the hottest sex that I've read in ages. A well-researched historical (but with no spec fic). She's got a number of other historicals that have SFF elements, though. The 'Charm of Magpies' series is set in an alternative Victorian England that has magic. The MC is a lord and his love interest is basically a super powerful magician-cop. I really liked her Spectred Isle, set just after WWI. The Green Men are men (and women) who keep watch over England, but they are barely keeping their heads afloat because the war thinned the veil between the normal world and the supernatural. Its apparently the first in a new series and I really dug the premise, the magic, and the mythology. Also, more hot sex. I thought the attraction between the two main characters was pretty damn swoonworthy.

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23 hours ago, Altherion said:

If you want spec-fic romance from a Hugo-quality author, Bujold is by far your best bet. In addition to the Sharing Knife, she has also several books in the Vorkosigan universe which are more or less romance:

Cordelia's Honor (omnibus of Shards of Honor and Barrayar) : Two officers from planets which are about to go to war meet under unfortunate circumstances...

Miles in Love (omnibus of Komarr, A Civil Campaign and Winterfair Gifts) : From the same series as the above, but skips quite a few books. You may want to read the ones in between to get a sense of who Miles is.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance : More or less standalone and more or less a romantic comedy.

 

Strangely enough, only a few of the Vorkosigan love stories did much for me. While I liked the sophisticated nature of Cordelia and Aral's relationship as it progresses over the course of the series, I just never found much 'spark' in their romance. There were some cool elements to 'Miles in Love,' but I always found his love interest to be a bit of a sad sack. Don't get me wrong, A Civil Campaign is absolutely brilliant. I remember laughing so hard tears were running down my face at multiple points. I clutched the book to my chest afterwards, in awe of Bujold. As a SF twist on the traditional period romance and comedy of errors, it can't get much better than that book. But Ekaterin! Ugh. I don't know why I disliked her so much, but she had the charisma of a piece of toast. I really wanted someone more compelling for Miles (who, full disclosure, I'd had a crush on since The Warrior's Apprentice). 

Of all of them, I found the romance in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance to be the best, with a real obvious spark and zing between the H/h.Their entire arc was just right, with a satisfying HEA.

Quote

There used to be a thread around titled something similar to "urban fantasy and paranormal romance" (although that's almost certainly not the exact phrasing). Unfortunately, most stories of this nature simply aren't very good even when they're famous.

Yes, I started that thread, too. And I have to disagree with your characterization of UF/PR. Sadly, many romance genres/sub-genres get treated dismissively (despite that all classes of genre fiction have good and bad fare), kind of like the way romance is dismissed in this thread :). But debating whether the romance genres are worthwhile pretty much goes against the very purpose of this thread, so let's not.

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Part of what makes the Vorkosigan Saga romances good is the majority of them are doomed and that makes them interesting. I will say, I too find Miles' wife to be the least interesting character in the entire saga.

A few more romances which I think work well is Molly and Case in Neuromancer for a similar reasons of being a good "doomed" romance.

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36 minutes ago, LugaJetboyGirl-irra said:

But Ekaterin! Ugh. I don't know why I disliked her so much, but she had the charisma of a piece of toast. I really wanted someone more compelling for Miles (who, full disclosure, I'd had a crush on since The Warrior's Apprentice).

I think the problem is not so much with Ekaterin herself as with coming up with a suitable spouse for Miles. He was the star of the series for many books and there wasn't really anybody who can keep up with him. It seems to me that the author wanted to portray Ekaterin as such a character, but it just didn't work out.

53 minutes ago, LugaJetboyGirl-irra said:

Of all of them, I found the romance in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance to be the best, with a real obvious spark and zing between the H/h.

I agree that this is the best romance in the Vorkosigan Saga. If you haven't already read it, try the The Hallowed Hunt.

1 hour ago, LugaJetboyGirl-irra said:

Yes, I started that thread, too. And I have to disagree with your characterization of UF/PR. Sadly, many romance genres/sub-genres get treated dismissively (despite that all classes of genre fiction have good and bad fare), kind of like the way romance is dismissed in this thread :).

I was not dismissing it in that thread; I was merely clarifying what I was searching for.

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On 1/18/2018 at 6:09 PM, Astromech said:

Victor Pelevin's The Sacred Book of the Werewolf. Werefox meets Werewolf, falls in love. But it's much deeper. A commentary on post-communist Russia's embrace of capitalism and "Westernism" and their resultant exploitation of Russia in the 1990s. Highly recommended.

Well, I've started reading this and frankly am finding it a struggle. At first I thought, oh, this is really cool, she's got a magical fox tail! But then it began to get problematic. It's a 'smart' 'educated' book and it knows it; given the text's commentary on the intelligentsia and intellectuals the overwrought intellectualism of A Hu-li is obviously done on purpose. But the satire doesn't stop it from being tedious to read.

I don't know what's coming, but as of this point it doesn't seem to fit well with the romance genre or subgenres. My feminist hackles have been raised to no end. First, the main character (A Hu-li) looks 14 (even if she's thousands of years old); her commentary on Nabokov doesn't excuse the fact that Pelevin chose to make the 14ish main character a sexual object. Doing so for 'literary' reasons doesn't make it okay, and I have a hard time believing a female author would have done the same.

And then of course when the two love interests (finally) start interacting, the guy (Alexander) does a bad thing to the main character, he

Spoiler

rapes her!! WTF. And then the it turns out its 'okay' because it was a fake rape and it wasn't her real vagina? Jesus fucking Christ. And it turns out that it was only that Alexander didn't realize she didn't want it and so his raping her was due to miscommunication? Fuck that. You can couch things in allegory and satire all you want, but its not fucking funny. And I'm supposed to expect A Hu-li to fall in love with him now?

Generally romance is more sensitive to gender issues, but I am not really seeing that here. It is perfectly easy for authors to deal with these same topics in literary AND feminist ways. At this stage I am not sure that I can continue with the book.

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2 hours ago, LugaJetboyGirl-irra said:

Well, I've started reading this and frankly am finding it a struggle. At first I thought, oh, this is really cool, she's got a magical fox tail! But then it began to get problematic. It's a 'smart' 'educated' book and it knows it; given the text's commentary on the intelligentsia and intellectuals the overwrought intellectualism of A Hu-li is obviously done on purpose. But the satire doesn't stop it from being tedious to read.

I don't know what's coming, but as of this point it doesn't seem to fit well with the romance genre or subgenres. My feminist hackles have been raised to no end. First, the main character (A Hu-li) looks 14 (even if she's thousands of years old); her commentary on Nabokov doesn't excuse the fact that Pelevin chose to make the 14ish main character a sexual object. Doing so for 'literary' reasons doesn't make it okay, and I have a hard time believing a female author would have done the same.

And then of course when the two love interests (finally) start interacting, the guy (Alexander) does a bad thing to the main character, he

  Hide contents

rapes her!! WTF. And then the it turns out its 'okay' because it was a fake rape and it wasn't her real vagina? Jesus fucking Christ. And it turns out that it was only that Alexander didn't realize she didn't want it and so his raping her was due to miscommunication? Fuck that. You can couch things in allegory and satire all you want, but its not fucking funny. And I'm supposed to expect A Hu-li to fall in love with him now?

Generally romance is more sensitive to gender issues, but I am not really seeing that here. It is perfectly easy for authors to deal with these same topics in literary AND feminist ways. At this stage I am not sure that I can continue with the book.

Fair enough. I thought it was an excellent novel but it really is an allegory disguised as a love story.

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12 hours ago, Astromech said:

Fair enough. I thought it was an excellent novel but it really is an allegory disguised as a love story.

Yeah, I think it was an interesting representation of post-Soviet Russia, and worthwhile if you are into post-modern lit. And werefoxes with cool flashy tails. (But not the best if you're skeeved by detailed descriptions of a teenage prostitute interacting with her clients.) 

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