Kissing Books

“We Are Not Potatoes” and an Interview With KJ Charles

We’re almost done with the month. How’s your 2019 going so far? I’m excited for so many more books. I already have favorites from the year, and there’s so much more time to go!

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News and Useful Links

Looking for a new book club to join in the new year? You’re in luck, cause there are lots. You can always join the When in Romance one (which we’ll be picking up again) and there’s also the Smart Podcast Trashy BookClub, which sounds delightful.

Do you or someone you know have a story to tell? Check out the Harlequin Creator’s Fund, put together to help support creatives across the board.

There was another Historical Romance Kerfuffle this weekend, as a letter to the editor for the RWA publication was shared with the greater romance world. Turns out, there were actually two letters, and they were both Not Good. One was sort of a familiar refrain about telling the stories of all of the people in historical romance, and not telling the stories for others. The phrase “moral high ground” was mentioned, but from such a misguided place. The other letter referenced historical accuracy and compared including happy queer characters to including potatoes before they were introduced to Europe. Sure, dude. Totally. (Also, Jen’s response to both of those letters in the thread linked is just great. Also, read Stamped from the Beginning.)

Here’s a good reaction.

And another one from Heidi Cullinan.

In much better news, OMG ALEXIS DARIA.

Olivia Dade had a lot to say in this thread about novellas. I’ve really come to appreciate them in this past year when I’ve had less time to dedicate to reading romance, and love the way it’s given me a look into the hearts and minds of authors whose longer works I might not have been able to pick up. And I’m excited that they’re becoming even more prominent in the romance world.


cover of my imaginary exSpeaking of novellas, My Imaginary Ex by Mina V. Esguerra is 99 cents right now, and it’s a great way to dive into the Romance Class, a group of authors writing stories that either take place in the Philippines or that centers Filipino characters in other places. This one is straight out of a movie, featuring a couple who basically went along with the story that they were dating for…well, way too long.

Another novella that reads with all the things you want in a good story (character development and growth, a compelling plot, swoonworthy love story) is Damaged Goods, and it’s 1.99 right now. Sure, I’ll definitely say it’s worth reading A Girl Like Her, which is the first Ravenswood book, before this book, but it’s totally worth it to read it on its own if you just haven’t gotten to that one yet. It features a pregnant heroine and the man who was the Boy Who Got Away, but I have to warn you: both people have had to deal with different kinds of emotional abuse. It’s a lot. But It’s so good. It’s actually one of my favorite and most recommended Talia Hibbert books, and you all know how much I love Talia Hibbert.

And Now For Something Completely Different

cover of Any Old Diamonds by KJ CharlesI’ve never done an interview for Kissing Books, and I thought 2019 was the year to change that! The fun thing about profiling romance authors is that you can ask them the same questions and get very different answers. So who better to start with than KJ Charles, whose Any Old Diamonds comes out this week (and is just as delightful as every other KJ Charles novel because they’re all amazing and if you haven’t read one you might as well start with this one!)

What was the first romance you ever read?

The first romances I ever read were Georgette Heyer, the first and greatest queen of the Regency. My mum had them all and I devoured them, rereading multiple times. I learned so much about plotting and handling secondary characters. My last book, Band Sinister, was a m/m homage to her wonderful light-hearted books. A reader described it as “Heyer but gayer” and I pretty much died of joy right there.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned from a romance novel?

The most surprising thing I’ve learned from a romance is…probably too personal to reveal, honestly. That shock of emotional recognition—the “OMG other people have these feelings”—is an aspect of romance-reading that doesn’t get as much acknowledgement as it deserves. As an author I get quite a few letters from readers saying “I saw myself” or “I didn’t realise before but this is me.”  It’s a big thing to understand yourself more because of reading, and I hear of it happening in romance far more than any other genre.

In less personal terms, the most surprising stuff comes from well-researched historical romances. The best thing I ever learned in my own work was probably that Victorian households used to keep hedgehogs in the kitchen to eat black beetles. I also know how to stuff a sparrow, in theory.

Who has been your favorite character to write?

It changes a lot! Maybe Justin Lazarus, the fraudulent Spiritualist from An Unnatural Vice. It was marvellous fun doing his fake seances and finding out about the tricks Spiritualists used, and he’s also a shameless villain for much of the book, which is gloriously freeing to write. See also Jerry Crozier the jewel thief of Any Old Diamonds, who is never sorry about anything and is basically all my worst impulses come to life (in a good way).

How do you research your time periods?

Research involves a lot of old maps, a lot of reading social history, and a lot of fiction written at the time where possible. Genre fiction is fabulous for giving you a feel of milieu and the obsessions of the day. I’m currently devouring 1920s detective fiction and calling it work.

Do you have a Swiss Army romance recommendation?

The romance that does everything? Hmm. I think the one that comes closest might be A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert. It’s sexy, big-hearted, very funny, deeply comforting, and diverse in multiple ways–it’s a book that embraces humanity. I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone.


Thanks so much to KJ Charles for being my first guinea guest!

So what do you think, are you interested in hearing from more authors? Let me know! As usual, catch me on Twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, or send me an email at if you’ve got feedback or just want to say hi!