books · reading · reviews · romance · writers

Yes! Some romance novel review sites I can trust!

romance novels, books, book reviews

I’m having a bit of a rant today because, quite honestly, I’m fed up with romance authors promoting their books in my face.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for writers getting together and helping each other out.  Since starting an account on Twitter (@helenafairfax, if you’d like to join us!) I’ve met up with some lovely authors and book-lovers and I’ve enjoyed hearing what they’re writing about/reading.  On the other hand, I’ve been hounded and stalked by people and organisations promoting their own stuff.  Here’s just a couple of examples which have appeared in my Twitterfeed in literally the past half hour:

“You won’t be able to put it down”-Amazon reviewer on *This Awesome Romance Book* by *@awesomeauthor *Only $3.99!

“Sat down to read this, and couldn’t put it away” says one review of *My Awesome Romance Novel*  http: myawesomebook

Do people seriously check out new authors on this basis? Maybe, but personally I find it a total turn-off.

There was a time (innocent times!  how I miss you!) when I would have read through the reviews on Amazon before buying a book.  Ha!  Does anyone still actually do this?  First of all, it started with the author’s friends and family writing 5-star reviews.  It’s kind of them, and they mean it for the best, but usually you can spot a family reviewer a mile away.  They’ll say something like “I love Paula’s book and am recommending it to all my mates!”  Note the use of the first name (Paula) and the fact that the reviewer doesn’t say anything at all about the content of the book.  Have they actually even read it?

But in recent times there have been a couple of more serious trends which make online reviews even more suspect, whether one-star or five-star.  The first is the use of sock puppets.  Up until recently I had no idea what this meant, but apparently it’s when an author sets up an account on Amazon or Goodreads under a different name, and proceeds to give his own book a glowing review and his competitor’s a terrible one, under the assumed name of his “sock puppet”.  Seriously – who would do that?  Desperate, or what.

The second is the fact that authors have apparently been paying for reviews!  There was a famous case recently involving the (best-selling) author John Locke, who, along with hundreds of other authors, paid Todd Rutherford’s website GettingBookReviews.Com to post reviews.  You can read all about this scam in this excellent New York Times article, which finishes by saying: “The system is enough to make you a little skeptical, which is where Mr. Rutherford finds himself. He is now suspicious of all online reviews — of books or anything else.”  Surprise, surprise!  Thanks, Mr Rutherford.  Thanks to you and your kind, now we’re all sceptical*!

Here’s a quote from another excellent article by  Dear Author, a romance review site I’ve grown to love:  “Readers are already skeptical of online reviews, and at some point, reviews as a whole could become so suspect that they will no longer provide the indirect marketing so many authors and publishers depend on. What then?”

Yes, as this author so rightly says, what then?  I’m a writer, but I’m also a reader and I love to read romance novels as much as the next person (in fact more than the next person, apparently, according to this recent comment on my blog!), and I especially love hearing about new books and new authors I haven’t come across that I might enjoy.

romance novels, romance, book reviewsBut what do you do if you start feeling you can’t trust a single review you read?  Well, in desperation I’ve done a lot of research until I’ve finally found three reliable romance review sites in which the reviewers give thoughtful analyses of exactly why a novel works/doesn’t work for them.  And how do I know these reviews are honest?  Well, one major factor is they don’t just say “the dialogue is brilliant” or “the characters are well-drawn” without giving examples from the novel which prove their point.  Nowadays it takes more than a “This novel is unputdownable!” for me to waste precious money on yet another badly-written book.

And the three romance novel review sites I rely on are:

  1. As previously mentioned, Dear Author.  Not only are the reviews honest and well-thought out, they are often witty to the point of being hilarious, as in this review of A Touch of Confidence. which made me laugh out loud.  (Warning:  it’s an erotic novel, so the review contains sexually explixit language.)  Every Saturday, Dear Author also does a critique of the first page of an unpublished novel.  Authors are invited to submit their first pages, and if you’re an unpublished author I can recommend it.  Even if you don’t want to submit, there’s a lot can be learned from reading these posts.  The feedback is serious, detailed and doesn’t pull any punches.
  2. Heroes and Heartbreakers.  I’ve discovered many a romance novel I would otherwise not have tried on this site.  The Windflower, by Laura London, is just one.  I’ve also saved myself a load of wasted time and money through being warned off books here that I might otherwise have bought.  I was on the verge of checking out the much talked-of Eve Dallas, for example, and starting in on the first of J.D. Robb’s Romantic Suspense In Death series, until I read this review.  I liked this review because the reviewer quotes from the text to back up her opinions, and her quotes had me convinced.  That saved me shelling out on yet another book I can’t afford.
  3. And last, but decidedly not least, Wonk-o-Mance.  The reviewers for this site are all writers themselves and, above all, avid readers.  And why do I love it so much?  Check out their Wonk-o-Manifesto, which says it all!

Another way I’ve discovered new authors is by asking my blog-readers for comments/recommendations.  Thanks to anyone who’s ever done this – I’ve gone on and tried your suggested authors and loved them!  Any more recommendations are always appreciated – and if you know of any other romance review sites I can try and trust, please let me know in the comments.  I’d love to hear from you!

* sceptical is the correct British spelling.  See my post on Britishisms and Americanisms for more on the great language divide

18 thoughts on “Yes! Some romance novel review sites I can trust!

    1. Hi – not sure if you are interested or not but I give unbiased reviews on my podcast The Romance Book review podcast available on most formats. It is not my intention to throw anything in your face either! I am really uncomfortable talking to people about my podcast. I just want it there in case it is of interest to folks. I’m just getting the ball rolling.
      I don’t interview authors in order to be able to stay neutral. I feel the same frustration that you do about unbiased reviews! I’m happy to find your page and your recommendations here!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much for dropping in, Heidi, and for your comment. I actually wrote this post quite a few years ago now, and since then I’ve found quite a few more reviewers to add to my list – and some of the ones here may be out-of-date. I’m always very glad to add to my list, though, and the more people talk about romance novels the better, in my view! I will head over to your group on FB and join it. Thank you!


  1. Hi there, enjoyed reading your post after an evening of trawling through reviews on Amazon looking for reviewers for my novel. It’s quite funny but also heartening because, lazy reviewing notwithstanding, some books can have five star reviews “Loved it, couldn’t put it down, briliant premise” followed by one or no star “so boring, full of typos, needs an editor”


    1. Hi Kathy, good to meet you! It’s great that people take the time to leave reviews on Amazon, but I agree, sometimes there seems no relation between some of the reviews, and you wonder if the readers have actually read the same book. I’ve learned not to mind if I get one or two poor reviews. If you have only four and five star reviews, it can look odd, too, as though you’ve got all your family and friends to review. The odd poor review gives some balance, and lets people know that a wide range of people are reading your book.
      Good luck with finding reviewers. It’s such a long process :( Thanks for dropping in, and for taking the time to comment!


  2. One thing to consider about reviews is whether or not that person has the same taste as you do. I’ve seen Dear Author trash some excellent books. It has made me less likely to trust reviews from them.


    1. Hi Marci, I’ve discovered a lot of great books from their positive reviews that I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up. I tend to ignore the bad reviews, so maybe I’ve missed out there on some books I might actually have liked.
      The romance book blogging community isn’t perfect but I like how pretty much every type of romance reader can find a place now to discuss books that the ordinary press ignores. This didn’t happen in the days before the internet, when a lot of readers felt embarrassed to admit they liked reading romance.
      Thanks very much for your thought-provoking comment. I might try some of their negatively reviewed books now, and see if I’ve been missing out.


  3. Thanks Helena. I too have decided to forgo reviews for the most part. I don’t read them. I don’t solicit them for my own books. Either they are glowing reviews of friends or one star reviews of enemies. Occasionally they give away huge spoilers. Mostly, I just open the book and see if the author resonates with me. Thank you, Amazon, for the Look Inside. Thanks Helena for the sites. I may check out a few of them. I just picked up Palace of Deception. I’ll try to review. :) usually under Vociferous Kindle Reader


    1. Hi Isabella, I love the Look Inside option at Amazon, too. It’s great to be able to sample part of a book before committing to buy it. If I read a great review, I quite often download the sample first.
      It’s very frustrating when a review gives away a spoiler. Even just telling a bit of the plot can spoil it for me! It’s hard to find reliable places for book recommendations. I wrote this post a long time ago and I no longer follow these sites as much as I used to, but I have found some great reads through them.
      Thank you so much for picking up Palace of Deception. I do hope you enjoy it, and it would be wonderful if you could leave a review if you have time.
      Thank you, and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!


  4. Hi – I am trying to learn to write good reviews and have them critiqued – would you or your readers be able to help me out? My reviews tend to be (to me) way to short. I am a senior who figures you are never to old to learn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lennie, thanks for dropping in. You’re definitely never too old to learn! Personally I find the short reviews are best. When I read a long review, the reviewer often gives away too much of the book. A short review can be very effective. If you’d like to send me a review to critique, please do feel free! You can contact me on my ‘Get in Touch’ page (click the tab above) or else at Thanks for taking the time to review books. Authors really appreciate it!


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