Aug 13 2012 2:00pm

A Country Boy Can Survive: The Romance Virgin Reads Ilona Andrews

Bayou Moon by Ilona AndrewsSo this time around for the Gateway Experiment I had asked for suggestions for Romance books that cross genre boundaries. You guys did not disappoint. I seriously think the H&H community members should be THE go-to place for anyone looking for a good book. You guys are awesome—better than Goodreads at finding good books that stretch a guy just far enough out of the comfort zone to discover some great books that would have been otherwise overlooked. Okay, I think I may be done gushing over y’all for now. Maybe? Yeah, I’m done.

For this installment of the Gateway Experiment I read Ilona Andrews’s Bayou Moon. What initially caught my attention with this one was the mention of a Fantasy-like Cold War; well that, and I wanted to find out just what an “action-figure army” was.  I wound up staying for the great world building and incredibly fun characters. Seriously guys, if you want to introduce someone to romance, and break them in easy, I think this is right up there with Mr. Impossible, just appeals to different tastes. Where Mr. Impossible is that classic, old-Hollywood movie type feel, Bayou Moon is certainly the more action-movie.  Seriously I could go on for a while here.

First off, I love the action-figure army. Now going in, I had thought this meant that the hero was going to be leading a team of G.I. Joe-like commandos. There may have been a ninja named Snake-Eyes, he might have been a Duke-like character, you get the big, loud, heavy-weapons like guy a la Roadblock, but no. It wasn’t that. It wasn’t that at all.  William’s “action-figure army” was just that. My man had a King Greyskull. I haven’t seen one of those since I still had my own King Greyskull. It really did a heart good.

Talking about William. He’s a great guy. He’s a shifter, and I’ve encountered my share of those since starting down this winding road, but he’s not alpha-y. He doesn’t sound like Wrath when he talks about people. He sounds like some of the Good-Ol-Boys that I grew up around and went to school with. He’s a guy who has understandable issues about his past, someone who doesn’t whine about it all the damn time and lets it stay in the past. And he takes that logic and applies it to everyone around him. It’s wonderful. Not only that, but I really can empathize with his habit of saying what he is thinking and that not always coming off as intended when talking to others. I feel ya Bill, I do.

Then there is Cerise Mar. Now Cerise didn’t win my heart quite as much as Savi or Daphne did. But she is SOOOOOO much better than Beth. She fights her own battles. She doesn’t fall for William until AFTER he proves what kind of man he is. Yeah, the two flirt, but it’s never the hard to believe instant attraction that you see in other Romances. In fact, when the two first meet each other, Cerise is dressed like a hobo and smells like sour spaghetti.

Which reminds me. Now I’m not too in the know when it comes to tropes in the genre. But I have noticed a couple of recurring images and devices while here at Heroes and Heartbreakers. If it’s a Paranormal, odds are that either the Hero or Heroine are going to be wearing leather pants at some point. When it happens in this story, William, playing the part of what I imagine is the paranormal equivalent of a yuppie, gets made fun of for wearing leather in a swamp. I love it.  It’s one of the reasons that I enjoyed this one as much as I did: The story never played into any of my pre-concieved notions of what a paranormal romance is. Or urban fantasy, for that matter.

Speaking of which. I loved that this was a rural fantasy. Is that a thing? It is now, it’s official. I never really grew up around the city. Sure, I live in The City now, but when reading things like Dresden and such, its simply a world I have mostly been unfamiliar with. But, you mention the deep woods of the south or swampy marshes and I’m instantly there.  Even the whole of the Mar family and how clannish they are reminds me of my own extended family in Mississippi. The whole set-up is great and makes me wish that more writers would go for the more rural settings when dealing with fantasy. Not everything has to be set in a city to be dark and alien. Those of us that have lived in the country know that things get just as weird.

All in all this was a really fun read. It was exactly what I was wanting in terms of something that blurs the line a bit between genres. It was a ton of fun and I will definitely be picking up another of Ilona Andrews’s books in the near future.

So, where do I go from here? I’m kind of in the mood for cowboys. Anyone got any suggestions for either  a contemporary or historical set in the west?


Christopher Morgan works for and He lives in New York City, and sometimes really misses his crazy family.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Glad you enjoyed this one! I've never read Ilona Andrews myself, but I really need to.

I wish westerns were more popular than they are right now, 'cause I really like 'em. Can't even think of one to recommend. Will have to ponder that for a while...
Pamela Webb-Elliott
2. Spaz
Hooray for Ilona Andrews!! I recommend ALL their books! Why not?
3. Torifl
So glad you liked The Edge series. As for westerns...I only read erotic ones. LOL Lorilei James rocks it in her Rough Riders series.
Brie Clementine
4. Brie.Clem
What did you think of the scene with the mother and the flower (I'm trying to be vague, don't want to spoil anyone)? That part was so disturbing, I still cringe every time I think about it. I love this series!

Can't help you with cowboys because I'm not a fan but I'm sure you'll get some great recs.
Christopher Morgan
5. cmorgan
I had know idea who Ilona Andrews was before this, so glad I found it.

@Torifl, I was so excited to see that the next book in the series was about Kaldar, Loved his luck magic thing he had going on, very Han Soloish. I'll think about the erotica, I've been down that road before with 50 Shades...

@Brie RIGHT?! So incredibly creepy. *shudders* That's one of the things I loved about it. It had an amazing villian that did legitimately bad things to people AND he didn't smell like Baby Powder. He reminded me so much of the main villian in SERENITY, which is a movie I absolutly adored. Though I will say that William was no Mal...
Victoria Janssen
6. VictoriaJanssen
Fall from Grace by Megan Chance is a bit unusual, but is my favorite Western romance novel. The heroine is exceptional.
7. Coleen K
So glad you enjoyed Ilona Andrews' book, I love all their books. If you didn't know, Ilona Andrews is actually a husband and wife team, Ilona and Gordon Andrews. Their Kate Daniels series is one of my favorites.

I know a few people who read cowboy themed books, I'll have to ask if they have any recommendations for you. Now, if you want a highlander book or a regency/historical vampire book, well then I can help you, LOL.

Love your columns, keep them coming!
Lege Artis
8. LegeArtis
I'm sooo glad you liked it, Chris! Ilona Andrews duo are always a safe bet. I myself lean more toward UF than PR (I love all creepy and carnage parts!), so this book was right in my alley. Making fun of obligatory leather pants comment put smile on my face...
Kaldar acting as advocate on trial- that was priceless!
Christopher Morgan
9. cmorgan
@Coleen K: That was actually one of the other reasons I picked this one up. I was curious that by having a male writer would the hero read a bit more friendly to a male. I've learned that the heroines in Romance tend to be a lot more devloped than my normal SciFi Fantasy, but the males are a bit flat. Was really surprised by Bill, just like I was by Rupert.

@LegeArtis: Oh I love the creep too. And it may have been because of the trial scene that I bought Kaldar's book as soon as I was done, no promises though.
10. Tonya Burrows
Kat Martin and Linda Lael Miller are two of my favorite western romance wrtiers.
11. Blonde_Betty
Vicki Lewis Thompson does great cowboys in her Sons of Chance series for Blaze.

Susan Mallery's Fools Gold books for this summer were cowboys.
12. Kareni
I enjoyed your review of Bayou Moon; I've enjoyed the two "The Edge" books that I've read and need to get around to reading the third.

Your use of the term 'rural fantasy' intrigued me so much so that I used a search engine and found that others had already coined the phrase. A couple of links:
Cristina P
13. krissapl
I frequently reread Lorraine Heath's westerns. My favorite is the Texas trilogy. Texas Destiny is the first book.

I also enjoy:
Maggie Osborne - The Promise of Jenny Jones (cussing, cigar-smoking, loyal heroine), I Do I Do I Do (3 romances for the price of one), even Silver Lining (I'm not sure the hero in this last one is the best). Her books are pretty unconventional.
Jodi Thomas - The Texan's Wager, Tall Dark and Texan
Linda Howard - Angel's Creek (LH is pretty famous in Romance, but this is the only western of hers I like - out of the 2 I think she has :) )
For a guy writing romance novels you could try Leigh Greenwood. The first in his Seven Brides series is Rose. I'm not a big fan, I've only read 2 of his, they "feel" weird.
LaVyrle Spencer also writes westerns, but there's quite a bit of angst involved if I remember correctly.
Clare 2e
14. clare2e
Okay- you got me! I've been a little weary of the same-old in paranormals and I've always been a fan of contemporary fantasy, rural or urban whatever. (Yeah, I've lived in more rural places, too, and it does get just as weird out in the sticks, or even weirder, since the remoteness means there's less chance of intervention.)

I'm hoisting this one up the mainsail, and if I don't love it, I'm gonna scuff your shitkickers something awful.
15. LynneW
Here are two I can recommend:

Alice Duncan (especially her historical ONE BRIGHT MORNING, set in New Mexico & Texas, which won the Holt Medallion when it was published)

Jodi Thomas, who writes both contemporary and historicals set in Texas - her Harmony series, starting with WELCOME TO HARMONY, is a nice look at contemporary small-town living from the viewpoint of outsiders. Her Whispering Mountain series is historical.

So glad you enjoyed Ilona Andrews, and that you are persevering in your plan to try all the rich variety offered by romance ~
Carmen Pinzon
16. bungluna
After reading this post I had to go back and re-read the courtroom scene. Then of course I had to re-read the whole book. Then I had to re-read Kaldar's book. Thanks a lot! ;-D
Christopher Morgan
17. cmorgan
@Kareni I knew there had to be more out there. And I'm glad to see Deb Coates writing about it. She has a pretty great book out that is essentially a Detective/Ghost story called WIDE OPEN set in Contemporary West. Which is a lot of fun to read.

@Clare2e I've actually also managed to convince a good friend of mine, also one that has never read romance, to pick this one up too. Though he is convinced that this article and my praise are one giant attempt at trolling...

Thanks for the reccomendations, I'm going to take a look at them. Really loving all this Texas love, makes a guy feel all nostalgic.
18. butterflybug
I'm a huge fan of Ilona Andrews. It doesn't matter whether I'm reading the Kate Daniels series (which you HAVE to check out) or the Edge series, I love them all. I even tend to re-read all the books just before the next one comes out to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. If the creepiness of Spider and the gang were up your alley then I'm sure you'll enjoy the weirdness and gore in the Kate Daniels series too. KD is half city and half country so it's a great setup with another fantastic world built for the reader. And, to be clear, there is not another author out there doing rural fantasy. There are many that touch it occassionally, but everyone else likes to stick to the city.
19. Shark with Lasers
Cowboys eh? Nora Roberts can be counted on for some good Western themed romances. I have a soft spot in my heart for Montana Sky in particular.
20. Glittergirl
I haven't been following your progress, sorry...But I did read this article and though it's not cowboys I think you should read Shelly Laurenston's Pride Series. She is SO FUNNY and I just love her shifters. Her gift for dialoge is magic :-). Her Smith family is very rural and southern and I just eat her books up. Her Dragon series is awesome too ;-)
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