Our Reading Lives

What Surprised Me About Joining a Read-Along

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Nikki DeMarco


The inimitable Nikki DeMarco is as well-traveled as she is well-read. Being an enneagram 3, Aries, high school librarian, makes her love for efficiency is unmatched. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is passionate about helping teens connect to books. Nikki has an MFA in creative writing, is a TBR bibliologist, and writes for Harlequin, Audible, Kobo, and MacMillan. Since that leaves her so much time, she’s currently working on writing a romance novel, too. Find her on all socials @iamnikkidemarco (Instagram, Twitter, Threads)

It wasn’t until my late 20s that romance really found me. I was at an extremely low point in my life. I didn’t have a job, had to move back in with my parents, filed for divorce, and had no community. Romance came into my life and gave me a reprieve. Like many other things that came into my life at that point, I threw myself completely into it. Found my favorite authors on twitter and started reading different sub-genres. The book that hooked me for romance was Molly Harper’s Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs. So when I heard about the Fated Mates podcast by doing a deep dive on another paranormal romance series in 2018, I was hype. I’m so glad I went along on the journey with Sarah MacLean and Jennifer Prokop as my guides to Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. Throughout all of 2018 and most of 2019, I fell in love with the IAD series. When I listened along to the final episode of the deep dive in August of 2019, I couldn’t wait for the release of book 19, Munro

In 2018 when I started, there were 18 books in the series with a tentative “spring” release for Munro. I was lucky enough to have all of the series that was published up to that point so I could marathon read it along with the podcast. Cole released all 18 over the course of 11 years. Some years had more than one book released at a time, an impressive feat. Wicked Abyss, the latest in the series to date, was published in 2017. I finished reading the series in 2019 and was antsy for more. Then I got an email update from Kresley Cole’s newsletter about how Munro was coming January 25, 2022. As soon as I saw it, I preordered it, then rushed to social media to happily squeal with all the other IAD fans out there. I have to reread them, I thought. There’s no way I remember all the nuanced details in this complicated series. This is when I saw Sarah MacLean share a story about an IAD reread-along. YES. More people who are deeply nerdy like me who want to talk about these books?? Please and thank you. 

The read-along this time was a at much faster pace, as we had to try to get through the whole series again before the end of January. Our goal was to read one book a week, sometimes two, then have a Zoom meeting for a discussion for everyone who could make it. Otherwise, it could be discussed in the Discord that Natalie set up to keep us organized. The Discord is also a place for people to put thoughts about the book throughout the week as they read. It is so well organized. You can tell that readers are using spreadsheets. We can also re-listen to the Fated Mates episode that corresponds with the current book.

This is a big task. One thing I know about myself is that I need accountability. (Thank you Gretchen Rubin and The Four Tendencies). On top of this, the challenge was intimidating. I didn’t know these women. Joining something new alone is always scary, even if you’re excited for the activity. I sent Natalie a message, asking to join, and she welcomed me to their reading challenge.

The first week was pretty easy for me because I was so excited to jump back into this series. Re-listening to the Fated Mates podcast after finishing Hunger Like No Other felt like listening for the first time with new insights. The night of the first meeting approached, and I felt both eager and anxious. Would it be awkward? Would everyone disagree with my opinions and think they were stupid or silly? Would I be the only one who showed up and then have an awkward one-on-one Zoom? Would I have to fight anyone who thought Garreth from Pleasure of a Dark Prince wasn’t swoonworthy?

Reader, it was delightful. I didn’t need to worry. Who would have thought that meeting with a bunch of women who were also passionate about a common interest would be so engaging? Everyone. Everyone would think that. Everyone but my anxiety, apparently. 

The next few weeks were just as easy for me as the first week because of the momentum of the excitement. Plus, the added push of looking forward to the discussions kept me going. I was reading the IAD books in addition to library holds that became available and book club books for work and for fun. I was demolishing every reading target. Pew! Pew! Pew!

Weeks continued passing and books were getting longer, along with outside reading and work demands. Reading for this IAD challenge started to feel more like work than like fun. I’d start pressuring myself and putting things off instead of enthusiastically diving in. Inevitably though, when it came time to meet up and consider that week’s reading, it was a delight. Group members took turns hosting the discussion. It was fun to see how each person handled the hosting duties differently and to get to know the members in a different way. After each week’s meeting, I got a new surge of excitement to start the next book.

Now I follow all the group members on Instagram and respond to their stories, and they respond to mine. Making new friends along the way wasn’t an expectation I had going into this reading challenge. I mainly went in for accountability and book discussions. Friendships and an expanded reading community are bonuses I didn’t see coming. Come join us and follow #IADBiteMe if you also want to be awesome or get a Valkyrie shirt to join the club.

As we near the release of Munro and the end of this reading challenge, I’ve been through not only 18 books with these ladies, but the whole holiday season, the beginning of a new year,  and a true test of endurance. We are all each other’s cheerleaders as much as we are our accountability partners. I’m so grateful to have found this little community. My love of paranormal romance, and my Instagram feed, is much richer for it.

Love this story? You should check out Maintaining a Book Club and Keeping it Positive and 6 Reasons Romance Novels and Readers are the Best.