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Jenny Hamilton

How to Keep Fighting: Romance & Rebellion in Suleikha Snyder’s Third Shift Series

Here’s where I confess my most significant shortcoming as an SFF romance critic: The only paranormal romances I had read before this year were Meljean Brook’s Guardian series. They are classics for sure, but perceptive romance readers will correctly detect that this also means I have never read not even one single shifter romance. No, I had never read the Psy-Changeling series. No, the Immortals After Dark books either. No, obviously not the books by that one lady who tried to copyright the omegaverse. Luckily, the romance genre is a welcoming one, and I anticipate with pleasing expectation that my readers will drop their paranormal recs in the comments (especially paranormals by BIPOC and other marginalized authors).

For my first! ever! shifter! novel!, I doubled up and read the first two books in Suleikha Snyder’s Third Shift series (more, hopefully, to come in the future!).

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How to (Not) Fit In: The Misfit Heroine and Olivia Atwater’s Half a Soul

The perpetual allure of the Regency era can be chalked up to many things, including its links to Jane Austen, the lengthy careers of writers like Georgette Heyer and Marion Chesney, and the inherent eroticism of absolutely nobody ever getting to bone. I believe the latter is the reason Barbara Cartland gave for writing so many Regency romances. (Do not fact-check this.) It’s a particularly elegant fit for romance, which, more than any other genre, depends upon clearly defined rules. Likewise, the Regency elite—or at least the version of them that survives in popular memory—were closely bound by rules of conduct, modesty and virtue. By dint of a book being set in the Regency, the reader already knows many of the beats it will follow; by dint of its being a romance, we know that the central characters will fall in love and live happily ever after. When the ending is a foregone conclusion, the pleasure lies in the iteration.

Romance and SFF made for uneasy bedfellows, until they didn’t. Paranormal romance has long been a robust presence in the romance genre (JD Robb’s In Death series has been cited as the longest-running current SFF series), but SFF has tended to view kissing books with gendered suspicion. We’re currently witnessing an explosion of speculative romance, as editors at major SFF publishing houses take on authors whose voracious love of both genres shines through in their work (Tasha Suri, Jessie Mihalik, Freya Marske, too many to name!), and fantasy and SF romance by both traditionally published and self-published authors flourish on BookTok.

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A Heartwarming Combo of Wholesome and Gruesome: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Pity Robin Blythe, one of two protagonists in Freya Marske’s debut fantasy novel A Marvellous Light. Not only is he stuck with a new job he doesn’t want; not only does said job land him squarely in the teeth of the Edwardian bureaucracy; but his very first day at work features the unsettling revelation—delivered by the colorless and bookish Edwin Courcey, liaison to the Magical Assembly—that magic is real, followed by a spot of abduction in the London streets. Robin’s assailants want him to find a contract hidden from them by Robin’s missing (let’s be real, dead) predecessor, and they place a curse on him to motivate him to find the contract and bring it to them.

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