Milla Vane photo credit Doug Crouch
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Credit: Doug Crouch

Get Rec'd with Milla Vane: Eight epic genre books for FANGRRLS readers

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Jul 21, 2020

Milla Vane is a FANGRRL's dream of an author, and we at FANGRRLS Romance especially have been eagerly anticipating the release of her latest epic fantasy romance novel, A Touch of Stone and Snowsince we devoured the first book in the Gathering of Dragons series almost as soon as we could get our hands on it — and now that day is here!

In celebration of A Touch of Stone and Snow's release, we asked Vane to recommend some of her favorite romance and SFF reads for genre fans.

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Dread Nation - Justina Ireland

Dread Nation - Justina Ireland

"I had this book sitting on my digital to-be-read pile for a while, and only finally read it in the past month, and am kicking myself that I didn’t get to it earlier. The book is set in an alternate history where the Civil War was brought to an abrupt halt by a zombie apocalypse — which by itself was enough to sell it to me. But from the very first chapter title, the heroine’s voice takes hold of the narrative and simply doesn’t let go. I absolutely loved Jane. She’s smart, funny, clear-eyed — and calls out stupidity and hypocrisy where she sees it (even if it isn’t in her best interest). Her complicated relationships with her mother and another girl at her finishing/combat school form the emotional backbone of the story, which moves along at a fast pace. I didn’t want this one to end — but lucky me, the second book, Deathless Divide, is already available. I definitely won’t be letting that one languish unread on my Kindle for very long."

Gunpowder Alchemy - Jeannie Lin

Gunpowder Alchemy - Jeannie Lin

"Basically any book by Jeannie Lin is worth recommending, but I have a soft spot for steampunk, and this series ticks all of my happy boxes. It’s another alternate history, but one that reimagines the Opium Wars. Lin weaves immersive worldbuilding, a sweetly evolving romance, and action together in a way that is simply magic. Our heroine, Jin Soling, is living a precarious existence when the story opens. But when her family and life are threatened, she grasps onto a slight chance to save them, and is thrown into a politically fraught situation where she isn’t sure who she can trust or whether anything she does will make a difference. She comes into her own over the course of the story, against a backdrop of military invasions and gunpowder engines and mechanical devices — and the second book is even better. These were originally released through a New York publisher, and then Lin self-published them a few years ago, and I am constantly crossing my fingers that one day she’ll return to this steampunk world."

His Pretend Baby - Theodora Taylor

His Pretend Baby - Theodora Taylor

"I thought about listing some of Taylor’s paranormal romances here, something more in keeping with a thread of science fiction/fantasy/horror, but this is where I started with her work. I originally picked up this book simply because it was set in Portland, Oregon — part of a '50 loving states' series, with each book set in a different state. (Harlequin fans might remember that Janet Dailey did this in the Presents line, which was awesome until Dailey plagiarized Nora effing Roberts, and then Dailey’s work fell into the not-awesome category for me.) But I had fond memories of that series, so I picked up the Oregon book… and freaking LOVED it. It’s a completely unique billionaire romance (that sounds impossible, but trust me) and Taylor’s voice is WONDERFUL. Funny, sarcastic, and then she turns around and just yanks at the heartstrings. The basic premise is that the heroine is pregnant with her dead ex-boyfriend’s baby, so the ex-boyfriend’s brother and she make an arrangement where he claims the baby is his. Everything about this book was a wonderful surprise for me, so I won’t ruin it for anyone else — but it sent me on a Taylor binge. I still haven’t read everything she’s written, but one day I will..."

His to Claim - Taylor Vaughn

His to Claim - Taylor Vaughn

"…which leads me to this book, which is also by Theodora Taylor (co-written with Eve Vaughn), though I didn’t know that at the time I read it. I just happened to see a sci-fi romance while I was browsing one day, picked it up, and enjoyed the heck out of it. Looking at the cover, you might think this runs toward Ruby Dixon-ish sci-fi romance. But if you took The Last Hour of Gann and Venomous, then shook them up and poured out some of the best bits into a pile, you’d get something like this book. I haven’t read Eve Vaughn singly but I’ll have to remedy that at some point, because their voices match so well and together they’ve written a wonderfully built world with a super-steamy romance at the center. Sensitive readers should probably seek out content warnings — humans are treated badly by the aliens, so there’s a lot of negotiation regarding consent between the hero and heroine, and the opening scene is a hard one to read. But the heroine is just wonderful, holding her own against an overbearing alien — and I’m not certain any hero would be worthy of her, but it sure was fun watching him try."

Hold - Claire Kent

Hold - Claire Kent

"And speaking of sexy sci-fi stories, another is Claire Kent’s hot and short romance set on a prison planet. I’ve been a fan of Kent’s contemporary romances for a while, and all of her trademark steam and emotion are present in this book. Unlike a lot of more recent sci-fi romances, this one doesn’t feature a human with an alien hero — instead, they’re both human. There’s not a lot of heavy worldbuilding (though what is there is done well), and so the focus remains on the situation the heroine is in and the relationship she begins developing with Cain, the hero, who she essentially sells herself to for his protection. This isn’t a long story (I think about 150 pages) — which is something I really appreciate when I’m on deadline, or desperately trying to fit an entire book into my schedule. I find myself reading a lot of shorter books and romance novellas lately, so when I come across one done so well, I’m always happy to recommend it."

Reborn Yesterday - Tessa Bailey

Reborn Yesterday - Tessa Bailey

"Like Claire Kent’s work, I mostly knew of Tessa Bailey through her hot contemporary romances (she writes some of the best dirty talk ever and many of her sex scenes read like masterclasses in a hero’s NEED, and those heroes often lean toward blue collars and rough edges, which I love). So this book was a fun surprise — and I think might be her first foray into paranormal — featuring a mortician heroine who finds a vampire on her slab one night after he was put there as a prank. This runs on the lighter side of paranormal, and still contains Bailey’s trademark steam factor, so if you’re looking for a hot and fast-paced vampire romance that doesn’t go too dark, you really can’t go wrong here."

A Dream of Stone & Shadow - Marjorie Liu

A Dream of Stone & Shadow - Marjorie Liu

"I imagine that readers here are no stranger to Liu (Monstress!!) but this is a novella that I love to recommend to those who might be familiar with her comic book work but not her paranormal romances — which are superb. Liu’s lyrical writing adds a fairy-tale quality to this story of the psychic Aggie who is trying to free the gargoyle Charlie from a witch, yet at the same time, Liu’s work is so grounded, because her characters feel so real. It’s part of the Dirk & Steele series but can stand alone, so it serves as a wonderful introduction to her paranormal romances."

Law of Attraction

Any Harlequin comic drawn by Shion Hanyu

"So I grew up reading tons of Harlequin romances, particularly the Presents line which featured arrogant rich guys and innocent secretaries. I still have a very soft spot for those books and authors —Penny Jordan, Lynne Graham, Carole Mortimer, Sara Craven, and so on — and I’m also a huge fan of comic and manga-style storytelling. Which means that I’m a complete sucker for Harlequin manga, which adapts many of those older romances for the Japanese market (but are also available in English). For the most part, I stick to adaptations of authors that are favorites… unless the book’s been drawn by Shion Hanyu, who creates absolutely gorgeous, clean artwork that distills the story into beautifully crisp notes. If you’re a fan of romance comics, you might enjoy some of these too — I only read them a couple of times a year, but when I do, I end up bingeing a dozen or more in a night. They’re just ridiculous fun."

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