It’s been over a week, we’ve listened to it over a thousand times…and now the moment has come: we’re pairing up romance novels with Taylor Swift’s newest album, reputation!
“…Ready For It?”
I immediately thought of Claire and Jamie for this song, so Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is my pick! It’s fast-paced, like their adventures, but also sensual and sexy, like their relationship. “Younger than my exes but he acts like such a man” make sense since Jamie is younger than Frank (and Claire herself) in the series. And of course all the references to islands reminded me of the current Season Three (no spoilers, if you haven’t seen it!)
“End Game (featuring Ed Sheeran and Future)”
“Ahh, and I heard about you…you like the bad ones too.” This song is all about a couple whose reputation precedes them, making them probably the least likely to work. “And I bury hatchets but I keep maps of where I put ‘em” made me think of Devon Ravenel of Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas: he’s a rake who lives up to his name. But then he inherits an earldom and must step up to the plate and assume responsibiity for his status—and the honor of the late earl’s three sisters. “You’ve been calling my bluff on all my usual tricks” is what happens when he meets Kathleen, who knows better than to ever fall in love with a man like Devon…except, as the song implies, they both wind up wanting to be one another’s end game.
“I Did Something Bad”
Unclaimed by Courtney Milan is about a handsome Bachelor known for having unimpeachable character…who finds himself entangled with a secret courtesan, not the high-bred lady he assumed her to be. “I never trust a playboy, but they love me…” totally embodies Jessica’s character: she’s a woman who knows what she wants, and is willing to do “something bad” in order to get it…like team up with the bachelor’s enemies to take him down in exchange for money. But of course, doing bad things makes you feel oh so good, and Jessica and Mark are no exception to the rule.
“Don’t Blame Me”
The moody, rumbling, erotic nature of this song brought one threesome to mind: Nora, Soren, and Kingsley from Tiffany Reisz’ Original Sinners series. “For you, I would cross the line/I would waste my time/I would lose my mind/They say, “She’s gone too far this time…” are definitely words worthy of Nora, preeminent Dominatrix and submissive only to Soren, a Priest she credits with saving her life. And of course, there’s Kingsley, the owner of the BDSM club, Dominant in every way…except when it comes to Soren. “If you walk away/I’d beg you on my knees to stay…” The pulse-pounding romance between these three people over the course of the series is the perfect accompaniment to Taylor’s pining words.
Two people with broken pasts—and reputations that have never been worse, as this song croons—meet and marry for convenience in A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean. It’s just business between them: Bourne runs a casino after being stripped of all societal influence a decade ago, and Penelope is just trying to secure her future after a string of failed relationships. But eventually their boundaries start to slip. “Is it cool that I said all that?/’Cause I know that it’s delicate…” That’s contemporary speak for the passion that ignites between this regency couple when they least expect it.
“Look What You Made Me Do”
A revenge song needs a worthy book—and I can’t lie, this one made me think about one particular villainess in the 50 Shades Series…Christian Grey’s ex-girlfriend, Leila. “I don’t like your kingdom keys/they once belonged to me…” those words might as well have come out of her mouth in Fifty Shades Darker. We all know that Taylor likes to parody the “man-eater” persona the media has developed for her, but in this case, Leila’s instability was totally real. “I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams”, indeed.
“So It Goes…”
This is one of the quieter songs on the album, but with lyrics like “You know I’m not a bad girl/but I do bad things with you” and “I’m so chill, you make me jealous” the book to match needed to have the right balance of sweetness with an undercurrent of passion. Sarah MacLean’s One Good Earl Deserves a Lover totally fits! Pippa is a good girl from a good family who wants nothing more than a quiet life…and the freedom to pursue science. But before she settles down in that life, she wants one little taste of true passion. So she goes to Cross, a notorious gaming hall owner, and proposes an arrangement between them—all in the name of science. But of course, Pippa can’t stay “chill” when it comes to Cross for long.
This upbeat song is definitely worthy of a happily ever after! Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked follows the track of the song: a man and woman meet, and sparks fly…the problem—well, in the song it’s that she’s got “a boyfriend, he’s older than us…” but in this book, it’s a betrothal! And to make things worse, the guy she’s marrying is the cousin of the one she falls for. “You’ve ruined my life, by not being mine…” That’s exactly how Michael Stirling feels when she marries the guy anyway. But trust me, there’s a happily ever after waiting for this gorgeous couple.
One of my favorite songs on the album spins a story about doomed lovers caught in the aftermath of their betrayal. “Nothing good starts in a getaway car”, the song begins…and the statement rings true in Reaper’s Legacy by Joanna Wylde, except for one thing: you can swap out “car” for “motorcycle”. A love triangle winds its way through the story of Sophie, Zach, and Ruger: Sophie and Zach slept together, resulting in their baby, Noah…but Zach’s a deadbeat dad, leaving his brother Ruger to pick up the pieces. But living—and loving—a man in a motorcycle club can be dangerous, and even when he tries to provide security for Sophie and her son, the past always finds a way of catching up with a speeding bike. After all, remember what Taylor says: “Us traitors never win…”
“King of My Heart”
This song makes specific reference to the “American” identity of the heroine (and of course, there’s been rampant speculation on the British identity behind most of Taylor’s new songs) so for this one I chose Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke, a story about an American falling for a Brit! Annabel does not want true love (just like the heroine of the song, who knows she is “better off being alone,”) but still, she agrees to marry a high-born man with a British title as a way to protect her new, “Southern” estate. The problem? Christian, the Duke of Scarborough, does NOT approve of Annabel’s choice. “Change my priorities/the taste of your lips is my idea of luxury…” And that’s exactly what Christian decides to do: make Annabel fall for him, instead, and become King of Her Heart.
“Dancing With Our Hands Tied”
Mary Balogh’s Slightly Wicked is about the ramifications of one reckless, erotic night that you think no one else will ever find out about. When Judith meets Rannulf after an accident with her stagecoach, she indulges in a passion she knows she will soon have to bury. (“First sight, yeah, we love without reason…”) But when he shows up at her aunt’s house, intending to court her cousin, Judith knows her secret will not be kept in the dark for long, especially when she can’t stop her feelings from pouring out. As this song says, “I knew there was no one in the world who could stop us/I had a bad feeling”, and soon enough, Judith and Rannulf are dancing with their hands tied, too.
One of the sexiest songs on the album deserves a romance to match. A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long made me think of some of the song’s steamiest lyrics, starting with “All of this silence and patience, pining and anticipation/My hands are shaking from holding back from you (ah, ah, ah).” Evie is an ambitious actress, and has charmed all of London…until her scandalous marriage goes down in flames. (Sound at all like a familiar narrative?) She escapes the tidal wave of gossip only to find herself tempted once more…by Vicar Adam Sylvaine, a man sworn to piety and prayer. “Even in my worst lies, you saw the truth in me…” Soon enough, they can’t stop their passion from overflowing, and the costumes come off to reveal their true hearts to one another.
“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”
You can finish the title of this romance novel with the title of Taylor’s diss track: If You Deceive…this is why we can’t have nice things! Two people caught at the center of a family feud (aka, a “narrative” they’d like to be excluded from, perhaps?) in the third novel in Kresley Cole’s MacCarrick Brothers series find themselves irrevocably drawn to one another despite the pain and anguish that their families have wrought. “But then you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand…” What starts as a quest for revenge soon becomes a mission to keep the one thing they both hold dear in this Highland romance.
“Call It What You Want”
The Royal We by Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks is a sweet romance with just a tad of high-stakes drama: Bex Porter has a real-life fairytale in the form of Nick, the heir to the throne of England. But just like Taylor Swift, loving a famous person comes with consequences. “All the drama queens takin’ swings/All the jokers dressing up as kings…” is right: between the paparazzi, backstabbers, and family baggage, it’s going to take everything she has to keep their relationship together.
“New Year’s Day”
This poignant, piano-based closer is heartfelt and raw with emotion, all about what happens when the glitz and glamour fades and the reality of life sets in….and who will be by your side when it does. “I want your midnights/but I’ll be picking up bottles with you on New Year’s Day…” It’s not a New Year’s story, but that sentiment really reminded me of The Notebook: a love story all about choosing the harder road, but the one that’s ultimately true to who you are.
What do you think of our pairings?