The merger between Random House and Penguin sparked much speculation about what the new company’s title would be, with ‘Random Penguin’ a clear, outlying favourite. That the company opted for the less fun ‘Penguin Random’ was a slight disappointment to us all, and we’ve all continued to run with ‘Random Penguin’ instead.
Random House Australia and its romance arm have shown they have a fabulous sense of humour, though, releasing their newly created ‘Random Romance’ series (and in the nick of time for Valentine’s Day, no less). Random Romance is an all-digital list of romance titles by Australian authors. It includes some rural romance (or, as I’ve heard it dubbed, ‘ru-ro’) titles, romcoms, and two erotic novellas.
I dipped in to the two novellas, Bloom and Breaking the Rules, which are both by Melbourne-based writer Kate Belle. Though standalone stories, they feature different women whose lives are changed by one man: accomplished lover Ramon Mendez. Both books are 100-ish page novellas, so speedy reading and, thanks to digital technology that now conceals a book’s identity from the rest of the passengers on public transport, surreptitious reading too …
Part 1 of 2: Breaking the Rules
Grace Kingston is a career-driven, slightly obsessive-compulsive academic who’s closed her heart off to love. Ramon is a cocky, tardy PhD student studying contemporary female eroticism and sexuality who specifically requested Grace to be his supervisor. Cue the couple getting off to a bad start:
She was instantly suspicious. What kind of man in his early thirties would choose to student that particular topic? It was the domain of women, her domain, not something men dabbled in—unless they were perverts.
Ramon gives Grace a book to read (purportedly one that inspired his studies). It’s entitled Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy, and Ramon has been its dutiful student now turned teacher. It goes without saying that teacher–student relationships are rather frowned upon, but Grace (who’s technically the teacher but who is quickly becoming the student) finds herself falling for Ramon after their initial bad start: His handsome features were difficult to look at without feeling drawn to him, and the last thing she wanted was to be attracted to this presumptuous upstart she was to supervise.
Grace had always ‘prided herself on her immunity to attractive men. That was an affliction other women suffered from, not her.’ But, unable to offload supervision duties to her male counterparts, Grace begins to appreciate Ramon’s charms.
Breaking the Rules is the first in Belle’s novella series, and it’s an accomplished, engaging read. One gets the sense that Belle has (or still does) work in academia—the setting and the story elements ring lived-reality true. At the same time, Belle delivers a book that’s anything but focused on stuffy academia. She has a light touch and injects wit into serious moments. She also employs the word—now a new favourite of mine—‘unsnibbed’ in reference to undoing a lock.
Breaking the Rules is out now. You can find out more about Belle and her books on the Random Romance page.
Thanks to Random House for the opportunity to review this title.