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Amazon.com: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, 1)  (9781619635180): Maas, Sarah J.: BooksLike the author herself, my romance-genre reviews have now graduated from the sweet YA variety to the, let's say, spicier brand of fantasy.

Let's plunge right in, shall we?

Most people know Sarah J. Maas as the breakout author of the bestselling Throne of Glass series, a Cinderella retelling which fell solidly into the teen-fiction category. She rose to prominence in the boom of YA retellings and has since become a staple of ComicCons and book festivals, especially those targeted at adolescent readers. But Maas surprised everyone with her adult debut, A Court of Thorns and Roses, continuing on her theme of fantasy retellings (Beauty and the Beast this time), but transitioning over into solidly adult territory.

The plot itself is relatively straightforward. When a mortal woman kills a wolf in the woods, she's shocked to learn that he was actually a Fae lord from beyond the wall that separates his world and hers. Soon, a terrifying beast shows up demanding retribution. She offers herself to save her family and is subsequently dragged back to his enchanted castle to live amongst the terrifying creatures she'd only ever heard about in myth and legend.

Of course there are larger pieces at play, a secret plot and eerie magic that she learns about over the course of the story. And there's some surprisingly intense action at the end of the novel that makes up for the somewhat slow lead-up to it. But all that doesn't matter very much. Maas knows what her readers are there for.

The romance.

Fantasy romance can be a lot of things, but it is almost always a relationship between a human and some kind of supernatural creature. This book is no exception. Stuck on the gorgeous grounds of a magical estate, the heroine finds herself drawn to and fascinated by the resident "beast," who is obviously sexy, charming, and good at heart. He does his best to protect her from malevolent forces, forces that (eventually)move forward and make the plot more interesting. And, in the end, the protagonist will have to fight for the love she initially thought impossible.

A Court of Thorns and Roses isn't the best thing I've ever read. It's somewhat poorly paced, flowery in language, and inconsistent in its delivery. But there's a reason that it's amaassed (see what I did there?) more than 20K reviews on Amazon. Like Twilight, Maas understands what her readers want: a lethal but soft-hearted love interest for a vulnerable human woman against a familiar-but-different backdrop. It's escapism, pure and simple. Female readers can immerse themselves in the dream of being swept off their feet by a gorgeous but cursed Fae lord who will do anything to keep them safe. They can imagine themselves as the clever heroine, besting magical obstacles and evil creatures. With the combination of the Fae mythology and the Beauty and the Beast retelling, the readers also have a gratifying sense of familiarity, which gives them even more to hold onto. Maas can still surprise in the framework she's created, of course. But her fans don't have to work so hard to get invested.

Oh, and the sex scenes help too.

If you're tempted to write fantasy romance, be sure to keep in mind what your audience is looking for. They don't want complex morality or artistic language or even clever plot-twists (although those never hurt). They want fantasy. They want romance. And they want it familiar enough that they can focus more on the experience than on trying to figure it all out.

Are you a reader or writer of this genre? Have you checked out A Court of Thorns and Roses? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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