Archive | September, 2013

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance a Great Addition to the World of Gothic Romance

30 Sep

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance (Entangled: Flirt, September 30, 2013)

One area of romance I feel is horribly neglected is gothic romance. Because gothic is by its nature a subset of horror literature, not only does a reader experience chills similar to that of a mystery or thriller, but there is a looming sense of evil and death which pervades the story, often with the setting itself providing an additional character (and it’s usually the villain).

Sarah Ballance’s new novella, Ruby Hill, certainly fits the bill, with an estranged couple (both investigators in their own way) and a haunted insane asylum harboring a serial killer. Ballance gives us lovely, spooky writing – the kind where the sentences feel good in your mouth while they send shivers down your spine – making this novella the perfect way to launch a ghost-filled October. Since I read and re-read tons of paranormal to get me in the Halloween mood, I was elated to find Ruby Hill to be a great way to get me in the mood for the upcoming holiday. Move aside, Pinterest!

The story opens with the arrival of our hero, Corbin Malone, a cop whose boss, frustrated by a rash of unsolved murders centered on an abandoned Victorian lunatic asylum, has decided to let in a group of paranormal investigators to see what they could find out on the “ghost” front. The police want to prove that there isn’t a ghost killing the victims, and this seems like the best (and least confrontational) way to go about it. The two major problems for Corbin are that 1) his brother Cash died in this exact spot six months ago and 2) the lead investigator is none other than Ashley Pearce, the woman who he kicked out of his life when he lost his brother.

Ashley Pearce has built a reputation as a solid paranormal investigator who not only tracks ghosts but can speak to them as well. She knows she’s not to blame for Cash’s death, but that fact doesn’t make the rejection by the man who she loved any less. She has strong ties to Ruby Hill (her great-grandfather was one of the founders) and is dismayed that this place she loves has taken on an overtone of evil. With the death of not only Cash but two beautiful young women, the police are baffled since all victims died of cardiac arrest with not a mark on them…as if they were scared to death.

Corbin has never believed in the paranormal, a fact that was the only tension between him and Ashley while they were together. When he establishes the connection that each of the victims (including his brother) all were descended from people who worked at the asylum, Corbin knows he has to get himself and Ashley to safety as they both fall into the same category and are therefore a likely target for a serial killer. The only difference is that while he believes he’s dealing with a live person, Ashley is even more certain that they are going to confront a dead one.

Decaying, abandoned insane asylums are PERFECT locations for a gothic novella!

Ballance paints a vivid picture of the hospital as an entity out for revenge, with the characters experiencing waking nightmares and conditions that fill your nostrils with decay while you are reading. The dynamic between Ashley and Corbin is poignant and rife with the tension of the situation, particularly as he denies again and again what he sees because it doesn’t fit with his belief system. By not believing in ghosts, he shows no respect for Ashley and her work, possibly leading to a personal rift that could cost both of them their lives.

I noticed on Goodreads that there were some reviewers who believed that the story felt unfinished or that the romance wasn’t strong enough. Okay, it’s true there was nothing more than some hot reunion kissing, but quite honestly, the asylum was disgusting and I would have looked serious askance if they had gone further in such an unhygenic environment!

If it were any other subgenre but horror, I could understand the reviewer complaints better, but Ballance does a pitch perfect job of crafting a horror story in Ruby Hill. Yes, there is a romantic element between these two lovers who have really never let go of each other and Ballance’s choice was to play up the gothic piece, which she does beautifully. The author’s main goal in a gothic romance novel is to get the couple out alive and relatively unscathed so they can go off (into the sunrise, in this case) and craft a happily ever after. Done. Romance readers are all about expectations however, so it’s possible that some people expected more on the romance and less on the gothic. I’m really pleased with the gothic emphasis, personally!

Entangled’s Ever After imprint (designed to deliver short stories and novellas between 20,000 and 40,000 words) is giving away some terrific prizes in honor of these debuts. I’ve put the links to the Rafflecopter giveaways at the bottom of the post, so be sure to enter them after you take a look at the descriptions. Lots of gift cards to your preferred bookstore to win as well as some cool jewelry and yummy gifts!

Here are a few of the stories they are releasing this week, covering a variety of genres, including the one I just reviewed:

Find Your Ever After in Under An Hour

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance

From her earliest memories, Ashley Pearce has been drawn to Ruby Hill Lunatic Asylum, and she’s not the only one. Decades after the abandoned hospital ended its institutional reign of torture and neglect, something lurks in the shadows. Since she’s a paranormal investigator, it’s Ashley’s job to find out what.

Crime scene expert Corbin Malone doesn’t believe in ghosts. A born skeptic, he has no interest in entertaining the hype surrounding the mysterious deaths at Ruby Hill, but he won’t turn his back while more women die. He agrees to an overnight investigation, never expecting his first encounter would be with the woman he pushed away a year ago. But when he discovers Ashley is a target, he learns his greatest fear isn’t living with his own demons, but losing her for good.

One Thousand and One Nights by Ruth Browne

Sheri spends her days fighting zombies and her nights chained to a wall, earning her every breath by telling stories to her captor Aleksy—stories that make them both forget the ruined world. Sheri could put up with the conditions—at least she knows her sister is safe in the community Aleksy leads—until she realizes she’s falling for him…even though he wants her dead.

When Aleksy allowed Sheri and her sister into his compound, he didn’t know about the zombie bite on her back. It’s only a matter of time before she turns into one of the rising dead and threatens their existence, but Aleksy has a secret need for Sheri and her stories. For everyone’s safety, he chains her to his bedroom wall, hoping for just one more day. But how long will the community allow Aleksy to ignore his own rule: always kill the infected. Always.

Mercy by Jan Coffey

Julia Klein’s life has begun to unravel—her daughter Amy has been suspended from school, Julia is about to lose her job, and her boyfriend Garrett is being transferred thousands of miles away. Overwhelmed, she and Amy leave for a weekend at a rambling old colonial inn. Julia never suspects that Garrett, desperate to find a way to keep Julia in his life, has decided to surprise her by joining them. Nor does she expect her daughter to befriend a mischievous ghost…or that she herself would be possessed by the malevolent spirit of a long-dead mother.

As a dark secret emerges, Julia, Amy, and Garrett find themselves pitted in a fight for survival against a savage presence that intends to resurrect/repeat/relive a horrible crime committed two centuries ago. And this time, Amy and Julia will be the victims.

Haunted Chemisty by Lindsey Loucks

When bookish college co-ed Alexis heads to the laundry room in her new apartment, she runs into Ian Reese, the chem lab partner she crushed on all last semester. And the guy who stood her up on their first date. But she’s down for an awkward reunion, and no better place than her creepy laundry room.

Ian has every intention of making amends, but just when Alexis begins to trust him again, a new threat calls more than their future together into question. A ghost from the apartment’s past is hellbent on revenge, and if he wants to get his girl, he’ll have to get the ghost first.

Wish Upon a Star by Michelle McLean

Ceri McKinley never stopped wishing that her ex-fiancé Jason Crickett would come back into her life. But when he finally does, he comes with a request that puts them both—and all of humanity—into jeopardy.

Jason only wants two things: to bury his brother properly and to convince Ceri to trust him again after he jilted her. But when Ceri agrees to help him get his brother back, they end up fighting for their lives as a zombie uprising threatens them all.

Northern Light by E.J. Russell

Nothing gives art fraud investigator Luke Morganstern a bigger rush than busting forgers, the low-life criminals who dare victimize true artists. But when his latest job sends him to a remote cabin in the Oregon Coast Range, he’s stunned to discover the alleged forger is his former lover, Stefan Cobbe, the most gifted painter Luke has ever known.

Stefan, left homeless and destitute after the death of his wealthy partner, doesn’t exactly deny the forgery — he claims he doesn’t remember, an excuse Luke can’t accept.

But Luke’s elderly client suggests Stefan may be telling the truth and presents another possibility – a dark presence in the woods, a supernatural fury simmering for decades. Luke must face down his fear of the uncanny – and admit his feelings for Stefan – if either of them is to survive.

Not to Be Missed Giveaways!

A skeleton key necklace and $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble a Rafflecopter giveaway

A vintage sailing ship brooch and $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card a Rafflecopter giveaway

A $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card a Rafflecopter giveaway

A really cool looking Wish necklace and $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card a Rafflecopter giveaway

A fantastic pottery handwarmer mug with Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate mix (yum!) a Rafflecopter giveaway

I definitely felt like Ruby Hill was a terrific addition to the world of gothic romance, one so good that I’m now jonesing for other spooky-poo books to get me into the mood of gusting autumn leaves and the start of crackling fires in my living room fireplace. Thanks, Sarah Ballance, for getting me off to such a great start for the season! :-)

A Great Addition to Lovers Unmasked Anthology Is Cari Quinn’s Tempted By His Best Friend

29 Sep

Lovers Unmasked (A Brazen Anthology) by Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck and Tessa Bailey (Entangled, September 23, 2013)

I have already reviewed three of the fantastic novellas contained in Entangled’s Lovers Unmasked anthology, but since mine was one of the copies which got delivered without Cari Quinn’s story, “Tempted By His Best Friend,” I felt that I needed to also give her due diligence, particularly considering my enjoyment of her other writing to be one of the reasons I bought the book in the first place!

Stephanie Price would not be recognized by her kindergarten students as she heads to the annual Halloween party she used to love. Anytime a woman dons a short skirt, crotchless tights and a fresh Brazilian bikini wax, well, the gauntlet has been thrown and someone is looking for sex, particularly with a fox tail and mask rounding out her ensemble.

Steff knows that she’s been in love with one of her best friends, Landon Grant, for a while, but because of the dynamic between them and their other best friend, Craig Connolly, she didn’t push too much in letting know Landon know how she felt. She’s had to watch him “date” other women since college, but over the last year, it’s been awful as he has deliberately pushed her away. She knows that he sees her as just a friend and firmly believes that seducing him as a sexy mystery woman is the only way to open his eyes to what they could have together.

No Flowers Required (Love Required #2 – Alexa and Dillon) by Cari Quinn (Entangled, August 2012)

Dressed as a cheesy pirate at the party with Craig, Landon is disappointed that Steff has texted she’s not coming but knows it’s for the best. He does have feelings for her and while he’s suspected that she might feel something for him, anything more than friendship would be disaster – he just doesn’t do long-term relationships and hurting Steff would kill him. Once he spots the sexy vixen over by the bar, the chase is on, including a hold-onto-your-stiletto-boots library sex scene that will require ice water while reading it. But his mystery fox runs away with no name or conversation exchange and Landon is back to where he started, only now he’s pining for Steff and wondering who his mystery lady is.

Craig reads both of them the riot act that he’s not going to stand any longer for the weird estrangement that’s come over them in the last year, deliberately engineering that Landon would have to help Steff for her annual father/daughter event for the school. Landon insists they go out to dinner to talk, yelling a time as Steff flounces off. She must not have heard him based on what he hears her doing in the shower, but she gets pretty convinced that he might actually want her – not the sexy fox whose costume is moldering in her closet as a reminder of a very bad idea. But how can something real grow out of the lie of omission regarding their previous identity?

Cari Quinn never, ever disappoints when it comes to layered, complex characters and plots filled with emotion. Steff actually reads Landon extremely well (with the exception of not realizing that he does want her) and while her actions are desperate, they are exactly what’s needed for the situation. Knowing that doesn’t stop your heart aching while you watch everything blow up in both their faces, but it’s important to hang in there since Cari Quinn believes in the happily ever after as much as the romance reader does!

Many thanks to the staff at Entangled for being so determined to make sure I got my Cari Quinn story and profuse gratitude to Cari Quinn herself for not only her incredible PR in reaching out when I complained on Goodreads, but also for writing yet another fantastic love story. :-) Go out and buy Lovers Unmasked for all four fantastic novellas – it’s a bargain at under $4.00 for so many incredible stories!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending September 29th

29 Sep

Upcoming and Recently Published Books

Just in time for ramping up the creepy factor for Halloween is the latest in Heather Graham’s long-running Krewe of Hunters paranormal series, The Night Is Forever. Featuring an FBI paranormal investigator team (with unusual backgrounds and abilities), this installment features a woman who fears that a Civil War ghost is somehow responsible for the recent death of founder of the animal therapy facility where she works. Calling on her cousin’s team not only brings help but the possibility of something much more with one of the men trying to help her, if they can both survive the threat in the dark.

Fans of Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series (a group of novels which will appeal to fantasy, steampunk/gaslight, and historical fiction readers alike) will be elated to know that she’s publishing a short story in early November, Entwined, starring a noble roped into standing in for his good-looking brother when it comes to writing to his reluctant noble fiancee. Naturally the lovely but stubborn lady in question begins to fall for the letter-writer, but can a happily ever after magically find it’s way to them? At only $.99, this could very easily be in the “great deals” section, so pre-order your copy prior to the debut on November 5th.

Fans of Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series who were reluctant to buy the Burning Up anthology which included her fantastic novella, Here There Be Monsters, will be happy to note that it’s now available as a standalone as of October 1st, and for the bargain price of $2.99! This is one of the sweetest stories in the series, starring a red-haired blacksmith on the run from a mad pirate who would do anything to possess her, including play a very patient game until she comes to him. Hot, sexy, and oh-so-emotional, this is exactly what fans of Brooks expect (and love) about her writing!

Stephanie Laurens, the doyenne of Regency romance, has finally brought her website into the 21st century, with not only a modern look, but also an interactive Cynster family tree (hover over the marriage line of a couple and ALL the children pop up!). This is all just in time for her debut medieval novel, Desire’s Prize, coming out on October 21st, under the penname, M.S. Laurens. Despite the looming release date, the book is only as of today available for pre-order on iBooks (which seems baffling) and the book isn’t even listed on her Goodreads account yet. While we all shake our head over Laurens’ continuing struggle with social media (it’s a good thing her reputation allows for her fans seeking her out), it was wonderful to hear that she will be putting out an unrelated Regency novella in a duo anthology with Alison DeLaine, The Trouble With Virtue (December 1, 2013) as well as gearing up for the 2014 release of the next Barnaby Adair novel, The Masterful Mr. Montague. Yes, THAT Montague, the ever-elusive but capable Cynster man of business. I cannot wait to read his story (particularly if a few of my favorite Cynsters can drop in).

Contests and Giveaways

Historical Romance author Christina Brooke gives us a jaded, dissipated rake back from the dead and a schoolteacher who wants to prove to society that she can have a respectable season despite her family in the fourth book in the Ministry of Marriage series, London’s Last True Scoundrel. This book was released at the end of June, but if you’re curious enter the Goodreads giveaway by October 1st to see if you can get a copy.

In one of the most fun giveaways I’ve seen in awhile, talented romance author Tawna Fenske is promoting her upcoming novella, The Great Panty Caper, by asking people to take a picture of the panty thief in their life (my cats have so got this covered) and post it to various social media with the hashtag #pantycaper. The winner will get a $50 gift card to Victoria’s Secret (you have to replace those panties, after all!), awarded October 7th, with the novella released the following day. While you’re waiting, do yourself a favor and read Fenske’s Eat Play Lust in the meantime.

The Book Pushers blog is cleaning their shelves again and have grouped fabulous books by category. Stop over and leave a comment about which set would be your preference if your comment gets picked as a winner!

Foreplay, the first book in the Ivy Chronicles by Sophie Jordan, has the great erotic trope of an inexperienced woman who wants someone close to hear but goes out to find a sexy guy to teach her the ropes in bed – a guy she ends up falling for. If I don’t win this Goodreads giveaway ending October 1st, this one is on my “to buy” pile, for sure.

Fun Stuff

It’s not a secret how much I adore Lori Foster’s writing, but do you know about all the great free stuff she has available on her website? You can download, rippled abs wallpaper *fans self*, puzzles and crosswords based on her books (now that’s a book quiz I can recommend), send her a SASE for free bookmarks and magnets, or even arrange to have her autograph your ebook!

Fans of Bella Andre (and Lord knows I am a fan of her Sullivan series in a big way) need to check out the recent article from Publisher’s Weekly in which Andre lists her picks for the top 10 best romance books – of all time! It was no surprise to me to see my taste gelling with her, particularly with such wonderful classics as Nora Roberts’ Ardmore series, and more recent offerings like Sarah Maclean’s Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. The only thing I disagreed with was that none of her books were on this list!! Andre fans need to also make sure they’ve ordered her Sullivan Christmas novel, Kissing Under the Mistletoe, which just came out September 24th.

Pregnant women are sexy, seriously! One of my favorite new sites, Lovehoney (a British company), has a wonderful article detailing how pregnant women can enjoy flaunting their stuff with practical but pretty lingerie that flatters their expanding waistline. Forward it to the wonderful pregnant women in your life to let them know that the fun of lingerie does not have to be put aside for the next few months. (And remember that the second semester often has sex drives peaking for pregnant women!)

Great Deals

Tawny Weber’s fantastic Harlequin Blaze novel, A SEAL’s Seduction, is currently free on Amazon for the ebook version. Lovers of books with a military hero (particularly when the heroine is a brainy, red-haired scientist) will not be disappointed by this wonderful book!

Regency romance fans will want to take note that Julia Quinn’s Just Like Heaven (the first book in the Smythe-Smith Quartet) is on sale in ebook form for only $1.99. Leave it to this author to make a bad violinist with her eye set on an unattainable bachelor not realize that love comes in the form of her good-looking, twisted-ankle-prone guardian.

If you feel like some light comedy with a paranormal twist, Jana DeLeon’s Trouble in Mudbug – a tale of a Southern woman who thinks her life has just gotten better with her difficult mother-in-law’s death only to find she’s now haunting her – might be just what you need. Yes, there’s a romance element (as well as mystery) and lots of twists and turns, with plenty of laughs to boot. And it’s free in ebook form on Amazon!

Romantic Suspense readers are more then familiar with the name Maggie Shayne and her reputation for excellent, emotional books that have your heart pounding. Her 2001 release, Gingerbread Man, is now available for free on Amazon, and it’s worth a look if you haven’t get sampled Shayne’s writing. The story of a world-weary detective just off a brutal child murder and a woman who still battles her memories of her baby sister’s kidnapping will have you getting in quite the creepy October mood.

That’s the round up for this week, everyone. Happy Reading!! :-)

Despite a Major Production Gaffe, Entangled’s Unmasked Lovers Anthology Is Fantastic

25 Sep
Lovers Unmasked by Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck and Tessa Bailey (Entangled, September 23, 2013)

Lovers Unmasked by Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck and Tessa Bailey (Entangled, September 23, 2013)

Unlike the many cranky reviewers of the world who do not like anthologies, I adore them. Not only do great short stories and novellas pop up from my favorite authors and series, but I’ve noticed that great authors tend to gravitate to one another (or are brought together by good editors) so I invariably find new authors to sate my insatiable need for more good books.

Just in time for October, when we begin thinking of disguises, Entangled Publishing has come out with a doozy of an anthology entitled Lovers Unmasked, and they have not stinted on lining up some heavy-hitting authors for this collection. I was so psyched that I pre-ordered this puppy as soon as I heard it was available. I mean, Cari Quinn and Tessa Bailey? Color me there.

Except there is a pretty big problem with this anthology. Namely, Cari Quinn’s story is not in it.

I wish I was joking. Originally, the pre-order version also listed Lauren Blakely, but her story for whatever reason got cut from the final version of the anthology, leaving us with four terrific authors – Katee Robert, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck, and Tessa Bailey. Okay, fine. I’ve never read anything of Lauren Blakely, so I can forgo her story. But I was really looking forward to all four stories.

And I only got three.

This anthology possesses three fantastic, totally wonderful novellas which are without question worth the bargain price of $3.79, but I absolutely LOVE Cari Quinn and really wanted her story of a schoolteacher who decides to seduce her best friend (“Tempted by His Best Friend”). Just in case I somehow missed it (?) I went through the table of contents and then leafed through every single page on my ereader. Twice. No Cari Quinn. I was also super irritated that the future books blurbs came after EVERY novella and were the same ones. Overkill people? Did these take up the pages meant to go to Quinn’s story? This sucks Entangled, seriously. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Entangled can do that Amazon update thing and notify us that a new version of the book can be downloaded if you’ve purchased it already.

While I gave it a good rating on Goodreads, I nevertheless expressed my frustration and my hope that I’d be getting an updated version of the book so I could read Quinn’s work, and what do you know, but she posted a response to my venting review! Take a look:

Goodreads screenshot

OMG, isn’t that nice? I don’t know if Cari Quinn was busy lurking on the Goodreads page and surfing Twitter for dissatisfied fans, but I immediately sent an email to Entangled just as she suggested. Way to rock the terrific PR, Cari! Sadly, it’s been a couple of days and still no Cari Quinn file. There isn’t even a note on the Amazon page for the book, nor the Entangled page (or their blog). Cari is doing the yeoman’s work of the PR on this gaffe. I hope she’s being paid extra for it.

Anyway, the three novellas I was able to enjoy are forehead-smackingly amazing, so let me tell you about them so you can still be tempted to go out and get this anthology. Each of the novellas are clearly related to another book, yet these talented authors have managed to write stories that stand alone (and leave you wanting the other book, but not because you have to read it to understand the plot of this novella). I’ve got several new books on my to-read list now!

“Seducing Mr. Wright” by Katee Robert

Two Wrongs, One Right (Come Undone #3 – Nathan and Chelsea) by Katee Robert (Entangled, August 12, 2013)

Danielle has been chatting up the mail guy in her building for a couple of months over twice weekly coffee get-togethers, meetings that have made Tuesdays and Thursdays her favorite days of the week. While she is usually stand-offish and noncommittal around men, Grayson has a way of seeing through her, with the result that she’s opened up to him more than anyone but her best girlfriend, Chelsea. He knows about her night school ambitions, her rough relationship with her domineering military father, and that she’s historically shied away from anything smacking of a “relationship.” With their office building hosting a Halloween party for all the businesses, Danielle feels this could be her chance to make a move on Grayson, even if she’s horribly worried that sex would change the friendship she’s come to value.

Chasing Mrs. Right (Come Undone #2 – Roxanne and Ian) by Katee Robert (Entangled, March 2013)

One look at Danielle in a skin-tight leather Catwoman suit and Grayson is ready to throw his good intentions out the window. He’s actually Grayson Harper, CEO of the major corporation on the top floor of the building (which he owns), and he planned on revealing that information to Danielle tonight. He adores this gorgeous woman who has never recognized him and has no idea of his wealth. At first he was just heady at the thought someone was judging him for himself and not his black Amex card, but as they grew to know each other over the last couple of months, Grayson began to realize that Danielle equated wealthy, successful men with her distant, pushy father who was rarely around, and then only to criticize Danielle and her decisions. He knows that she will probably run in the opposite direction when he tells her, so his end game is to blind her with pleasure to the point where she recognizes what could be between them and then spring his real identity on her. To say this woman is a little gun-shy is like saying a Howitzer is a small gun.

Wrong Bed, Right Guy (Come Undone #1 – Elle and Gabe) by Katee Robert (Entangled, July 2012)

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans, right? Katee Robert is a FANTASTIC writer – just the kind of rich, emotional, H-O-T prose I love in a romance novel, and this novella (which feels longer based on how her writing is so tight that nothing feels left out) is fabulous. There are plenty of domination tones in the relationship but nothing super S&M; it’s more a matter of Grayson having a controlling personality sexually. He knows that Danielle is so feisty, her submission would be more about her trusting him enough to put herself and her pleasure in his hands which has has him utterly intoxicated. When he allows her to take the reins, it’s a real “aaawwww” moment that demonstrates how in love with her he really is. For Danielle, who has always been the one in control of her sexual encounters, it’s almost as if she doesn’t realize the depth of her feeling for Grayson as they are having a hot encounter in his office, but her body knows what’s going on. As her internal monologue states:

Who would have thought she’d feel most in control when submitting?

Probably one of the best parts of this novella is that it’s related to an extremely well-rated series, so when you are at the stage of feeling the sense of loss turning the final page of it, the good news is that you have the other books in Robert’s Come Undone series to turn to. If anything, having a few key references to Chelsea’s love story (she offers Danielle some much needed perspective) will have you ordering her book in the series, Two Wrongs, One Right (which is what I did!).

“Wicked Games” by Samanthe Beck

Lover Undercover (McCade Brothers #1 – Trevor and Kylie) by Samanthe Beck (Entangled, April 2013)

I had never read anything by Samanthe Beck before, but I was wowed by her ability to get me up to speed regarding characters and past events in this terrific novella. The heroine, Stacy Roberts, is the identical twin to Kylie, whose romance with hot cop Trevor McCade has been detailed in Lover Undercover, the first book in the McCade Brothers series. While Kylie is the “good twin,” Stacy has always been the bane of their hometown, a juvenile delinquent whose dreams of acting have come true, albeit with a stop along the way exotic dancing in a high-end gentlemen’s club for a couple of years.

While Kylie has found her happily-ever-after with her new fiancee, Stacy’s heart is broken. When she began getting letters threatening to out her stripper past to the press, she realized that she was endangering the reputation of her wonderful boyfriend, Ian Ford, Trevor’s partner. What is an upstanding cop and his nice middle-class family going to do with a stripper turned actress from the wrong side of the tracks? Since he had asked her to move in with him (not marry him) around that time, it seemed like a good excuse to cut and run before she changed her mind.

It’s been six weeks and Ian is pretty tired of playing the waiting game. Stacy is unbelievably sexy and he knows she loves him even if she can’t say the words. He understands her as well as her sister, realizing that everyone except her twin has always abandoned Stacy. He figured asking her to move in with him was a way of easing her into something more permanent. He’s only just realizing that his hands off approach while he lets her come to her senses could easily have been interpreted as backing off their relationship. When Trevor calls with the information that Stacy has gotten threatening letters and than she and Kylie are planning on going to their old strip club’s hot Halloween costume party (without bodyguards), Ian has got a makeshift costume as a cat burglar on before you can say “John Robie.”

This novella is super angsty and unbelievably hot (like habanero hot on the caliente scale) and the reader completely understands the pain both Ian and Stacy are going through. While it’s pretty easy to spot the villain, knowing who it is doesn’t make it any less scary as you wonder if Stacy is going to lose her chance to tell Ian that she loves him. May I compliment the talented Ms. Beck on a terrific epilogue? That was one of the most fun wedding scenes I’ve read it quite some time! Yes, I immediately went out and purchased Lover Undercover so I could get a close up of Kylie and Trevor’s journey to love. And Trevor has brothers? *fans self* Color me there!

“Protecting What’s Theirs” by Tessa Bailey

Protecting What’s His (Line of Duty #1 – Derek and Ginger) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled, February 2013)

Business owner and girl from the rough side of the tracks Ginger Peet just got some startling news via pregnancy test. It’s not that she doesn’t understand how or when it happened – her boyfriend of nearly a year, Lt. Derek Tyler, has always made sure the mechanics of sex is at the forefront of both their minds in the most pleasurable way – and she remembers oh-so-well the moment in Florida that they went sans condom after she forgot her birth control pills back in Chicago. But this is a BIG life change, for both of them, and she’d only moved into his apartment a few months ago after Derek inched her gradually down the road to commitment. Having reservations about motherhood is pretty natural for a woman who had to raise herself and protect her younger sister from their prostitute and drug addict mother.

His Risk to Take (Line of Duty #2 – Troy and Ruby) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled, May 2013)

Derek loves and adores Ginger, so much that it overwhelms him at times, and while he wants nothing more than to go home and be with her (and in her) an informant just blew a case wide open. His department has a chance of nailing a criminal who not only is responsible for the death of some of his officers, but whose success in his next illegal business venture would mean countless lives lost if he took over more Chicago territory. When a fellow officer mentions that the kind of operation Derek is talking about is what in police parlance is called a “widow-maker”, Derek realizes that he must protect Ginger from the knowledge he’s doing this, and that means keeping his distance. That decision not only stops Ginger from sharing her news, but dredges up all the insecurity her love for him has kept at bay, with potentially disastrous results for them both.

Officer Off Limits (Line of Duty #3 – Daniel and Story) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled, June 2013)

Oh. My. God. I have been a gigantic fan of Tessa Bailey’s Line of Duty series from the get-go, ultimately impressed with her gritty, authentic voice and characters who are often smart, working class men and women who have defied the odds to make something of themselves. Derek and Ginger shocked me in the best possible way when I first read their story in Protecting What’s His.

Derek is a dominant with a capital D, not in the leather and chains way, but rather in the possessive, ordering, super-hot kind of way. While this could potentially make me as a reader run in the other direction, Bailey succeeds in making him empathetic as he communicates to Ginger how all the power rests in her hands. His almost relentless caring for Ginger and the way he accepts the ultimate responsibility for her happiness won me lock, stock and barrel, and that has not changed in the slightest with this gut-wrenchingly, wonderful novella. I had tears in my eyes at the end of it when they both realize what happened and contemplate what the loss of their relationship would have meant. So amazing. I cannot wait for the rest of this series!

I also cannot wait to read Cari Quinn’s story “Tempted by His Best Friend” and I’ll be happy to post a review when I finally get it. Until that time, do not let it’s absence prevent you from purchasing this amazing anthology. I was astonished at not only the quality of writing, but how each novella actually was well-developed to the point that it felt like a complete story – never rushed or ending abruptly as anthology stories can sometimes do.

Celebrate your putting up your Halloween decorations by running out and purchasing Lovers Unmasked for your ereader. You’ll be thankful you did!

You’ll Find Yourself Getting Rowdy With Lori Foster’s Latest Addition to Her Love Undercover Series

24 Sep

Getting Rowdy (Love Undercover #3 – Rowdy and Avery) by Lori Foster (Harlequin, September 24, 2013) – ebook version out October 1, 2013

Oh, boy. I have been waiting for this book to come out ever since I read the first novel in Lori Foster‘s Love Undercover series, Run the Risk, starring the oh-so-sexy Logan Riske, a detective pretending to be a construction worker in order to seduce the mousy Pepper Yates into revealing her brother’s location.

Far from a wallflower (although she cultures that appearance), Pepper turns out to be a sexy firecracker and Logan falls hard and fast for her. But one of the best parts of the book is the close relationship Pepper has to her brother, Rowdy Yates (aren’t these great names?). Rowdy is an unparalleled manwhore happy to drown past demons in the women who regularly throw themselves at his feet.

Run the Risk (Love Undercover #1 – Logan and Pepper) by Lori Foster (Harlequin, October 2012)

Yet Foster’s brilliance is the slow development of Rowdy over the course of the first two books. In Run the Risk, we see Rowdy simultaneously as the police see him (through Logan’s eyes) as a smart, shady guy with a crappy childhood who has walked both sides of legality with his business dealings, but also through Pepper’s point of view, as a big brother who has literally protected and cared for his sister against the neglect of alcoholic parents since she was a child, all the way through to the threats she faces as an adult.

Rowdy’s anger at Logan’s ignorance of the actual situation (and how that lack of knowledge endangers Pepper) stems from worrying about his sister’s safety, as well as the fact that Logan is a cop. Rowdy and Pepper have had enough experience with corrupt cops and neglectful social workers to be wary of anyone claiming to be an authority. His anti-authority attitude is an important piece of Rowdy, as he’s found it far more effective to skirt the law and take matters into his own hands.

Bare It All (Love Underground #2; Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor #5 – Reese and Alice) by Lori Foster (Harlequin, May 2013)

Further character development of Rowdy takes place in the second book of the series, Bare It All, which Foster has connect to her equally as wonderful Men Who Walk The Edge of Honor series (about a private group who goes after human traffickers). Its hero, Reese Bareden, is also a good cop who is friends with Logan Riske. The one woman in his new building not throwing herself at him is the one he most wants to know, but Alice Appleton is only beginning to recover her life after being kidnapped and held for months. Reese must slowly win her trust, both physically and emotionally, and he is oh-so-patient while doing it that you can’t help but fall in love with him.

Throughout Bare It All, Rowdy is the peripheral character who not only provides comic relief (along with Reese’s dog) but also ends up – almost against his better judgement – counseling Alice through some of the sexual decisions and moves she wants to make with Reese. It’s not long before it’s incredibly obvious that this man – for all his good looks, charm, and bad boy persona – has the soul of an avenging angel when it comes to children or women who have been set up by life to be hurt. His friendship with Alice, who sees right to the heart of Rowdy, demonstrates that women can be more than relatives or booty calls for him, even if he doesn’t see that yet.

With there being so much to Rowdy in the early books of the series, fans of Love Undercover have been waiting with bated breath to see how his HEA could possibly play out. Enter Getting Rowdy, the novel devoted to Rowdy and his feisty, red-haired bartender Avery – a woman who has been resisting his advances and forced to watch him hook up night after night with the latest floozy. Once Rowdy gets it into his thick head that Avery has been refusing him because she wants to not be replaceable, that she wants him to show her that she’s worth a little bit of a wait, he’s more than willing to do it. For this woman who he thinks about all day and night, he realizes his “once and done” rule regarding women and sex is not going to apply.

When You Dare (Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor #1 – Dare and Molly) by Lori Foster (Harlequin, April 2011) – Since the second book of Love Undercover is the fifth book of Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor, readers who enjoy one will undoubtedly enjoy the other. Cross pollinate your shelves!!

I’ll admit that I was more than a little worried (Was Rowdy a sex addict? Could he be monogamous?) but it became clear that sex for him was more a confluence of learned behavior and ready accessibility with so many woman falling into his hands like ripe plums. Avery changes all Rowdy’s rules, and that’s as it should be.

Yet the beauty in this book comes primarily from Avery, who – despite her worries that a piece of her past has resurfaced at the worst time – really sees Rowdy in all his damage and takes that understanding a step further in giving him the kind of space he needs. She knows that their time together will end because he doesn’t do relationships, but she also knows that he’s special enough that she refuses to do anything but treasure their time together. She doesn’t lie to him (and we understand why she holds on as long as she can to what happened to her) or prevaricate and I love when he keeps demanding that she tell him she loves him, even when he’s incapable of saying it back.

Lori Foster has managed to push every emotional button in this novel, succeeding in living up to my extremely high expectations of this novel, which is saying something because for this character, I wanted everything. I’m interested to see the theme of love undercover continue with Logan’s brother Dash pushing his luck with Logan and Reese’s Lieutenant, Margo Petersen, in the next book of the series, Dash of Peril, due out at the end of March 2014.

This is a fantastic series worth reading (and re-reading in my case), with Getting Rowdy currently holding the “best book” title in it. Do yourself a favor and get a little rowdy while reading this series. You will not be sorry you did. :-)

Cat Johnson Shows Us How Oklahoma Nights Are Steamy in Two Times As Hot

23 Sep

Two Times As Hot (Oklahoma Nights #2 – Logan and Emma) by Cat Johnson (Kensington, September 24, 2013)

Sometimes I am just in the mood for a cowboy romance, but I happen to like the books that don’t cater to what they think a reader believes cowboys are like, instead heading straight to a more authentic view of modern life where bulls and horses are as natural as driving pickup truck. Cat Johnson is fortunately an author whose authentic voice trumpets loud and clear through her characters and in her settings, so I was eager to try her latest novel, via NetGalley.

Two Times As Hot certainly lived up to its name and to its cover (letting us know beer wasn’t going to be the only thing found in six pack form inside this novel *wink*). While it is the second book in Cat Johnson’s Oklahoma Nights series, the prologue and epilogue are so well done as to provide the reader with a seamless understanding of the other characters and storylines, allowing anyone to jump right in and enjoy the book fully.

One Night with a Cowboy (Oklahoma Nights #1 – Tuck and Becca) by Cat Johnson (Kensington, February 26, 2013)

Johnson positions a flashback right at the start (which shows the beginning of One Night with a Cowboy) to the night New York native Emma takes her sister Becca to an Oklahoma rodeo to blow off some steam and hopefully find someone for the night. Emma wants Becca to loosen up before interviewing for an English professor position at the local university and Mr. Rodeo is just what the doctor ordered (Emma being the doctor). Emma herself almost hooks up with Tuck’s friend, Jace, but he’s called away at the last minute to help his ex-girlfriend with a car problem and she never hears from him again. Oh, well.

Flash forward to a year later and Emma is arriving dressed to kill at Becca and Tuck’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Yes, she wants to rub Jace’s face in exactly what he missed out on, but a bigger fish actually bites her hook – in the form of oh-so-sexy, no-games-playing Lieutenant Colonel Logan Hunt, Tuck’s commanding officer in the military science department of the university where he and Becca teach. Logan is fast approaching forty and feeling a little wistful that his career has had him missing an opportunity to find someone who would look at him the way Becca is looking at Tuck. But all that is driven out of his mind the minute he sees Emma unfold those long legs bared by her little black dress from the family rental car.

Three Weeks with a Bull Rider (Oklahoma Nights #3 – Jace and Tara) by Cat Johnson (Kensington, March 2014)

From the minute their eyes connect, the sexual tension between Logan and Emma is so startling that even the besotted couple getting married notice it. Yet continual distractions exist, with Jace attempting to get back into Emma’s good graces (and her bed) and Tuck’s little sister Tara deciding she’s all grown up and ready to show the much older Logan that she wants to act on the feelings she’s had for him since she was a child. But Logan didn’t survive Afghanistan to have these kind of logistical problems throw him through a loop. He and Emma have a mind-blowing night (and morning) before she gets back on a plane to head home.

Yet this is when all hell breaks loose for Logan, who doesn’t even have the time to wrangle her phone number from someone so he can let her know how much he’s missing her. Emma back in the city is miserable that her sister and her new husband have dropped off the face of the earth for three weeks and the man who gave her the best sex of her life also hasn’t lifted the phone to call. She’s feeling unsettled and unhappy and life intervenes to show her that she needs to head back to Oklahoma in order to figure out exactly what Logan and she might have. Right. Now.

There were so many pieces of this book that I not only enjoyed but found downright refreshing. The dialogue and language was true to the characters while never venturing into the wince-worthy “hick” dialect that so many authors feel necessary for cowboy romance. While there was a decent amount of jealousy and tension regarding Jace and Tara, the reader was always comforted that Logan and Emma were clear on who they wanted to be with, and the little triangles made the drama seem so realistic, I felt I was at a real wedding! Can I also complement Cat Johnson on demonstrating how a hero can be a strong man while also not being an asshole? It’s a pretty key point that so many writers today seem to miss, and she demonstrates how Logan is a sexy, dominating guy while being a gentleman down to his toes.

Based on the teaser chapter at the end, it’s clear that Tara and Jace are going to have to move beyond their hang-ups and issues to grow up a little since they are clearly the next intended match in the Oklahoma Nights series, with their story, Three Weeks With a Bull Rider, projected to come out in March of 2014. I for one am looking forward to going along for the ride and seeing another Oklahoma couple steam up Stillwater. :-)

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending September 22nd

22 Sep

Upcoming Books

While I’m still waiting for Laura Kaye’s new book, As Hard As It Gets, to come out in late November, I’m delighted that the cover and blurb of the second book in this new series has been released. As Hard As You Can looks just as yummy not only in terms of the chiseled muscles and hot tattoo on its cover, but also for it’s plotline.

Lovers of small town romance should mark their calendar for Lizbeth Selvig’s new offering, Rescued by a Stranger, which comes out October 1st. I love a romance when one side of the couple blows into town running away from something, only to find the community tugging on his or her heartstrings. That this hero fits the bill and is driving a motorcycle only making it that much sweeter. *vroom*

It’s a rare delight when you an enjoy a historical romance involving American heiresses in London, but luckily for readers who do, Laura Lee Guhrke is planning on an entire series of them, starting with When the Marquess Met His Match, to be published on October 29th. A stone-broke Marquess gets cut off by his father for dissolute behavior, only to have to turn to the premier matchmaker in order to find a bride in a hurry – maybe one of the American heiresses shopping for a title. Only the matchmaker, who herself was one of those same Americans prior to her marriage and subsequent widowhood, won’t take him on as a client. What’s a desperate nobleman to do? Charm the matchmaker into marriage, naturally.

Kristen Ashley just announced that the latest book in her Colorado Mountain series, Jagged, is available for pre-order and the cover is definitely an improvement on past books in this series, reflecting the quality of the prose much more accurately. In this latest offering from Carnal, Colorado, a past love returns needing to convince the woman he left behind that he’s a changed man, but after his walking away and the devastation she’s recently endured, can she trust him again? With a cover blurb from Maya Banks, I think people will be lining up to order this novel long before the November 1st publication date.

Paranormal doyenne Kresley Cole announced this week that she’s jumping on the serial bandwagon with a three part erotic romance, The Professional, to be released in three parts this December. I’m sooooo not a fan of the serial (I read way too fast and don’t like to be kept waiting), but for a writer as good as Cole, I’m willing to make an exception, particularly since she’s smart enough to keep the publication dates close together, with everything coming out within a month.

Jennifer Ashley (who makes the Great Deals section with her bundled Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries) has her Shifters Unbound series fans waiting with baited breath for the upcoming books in that series, including the next full-length novel, Wild Wolf. Luckily for all of us, it’s recently been targeted by Amazon as one of the discounted paperback pre-orders, now listed at the price of $4.79. Snap it up! It will make the waiting until April 1st almost bearable knowing it was such a great deal.

Fans of J. D. Robb‘s Death series need to note (if they haven’t already) that the thirty-seventh book, Thankless in Death, just came out September 17th. Rabid fans of Eve Dallas and her sexy husband Roarke will find themselves watching their favorite couple dealing with not only his big Irish family but a family who wasn’t so lucky – they ended up murdered – and Eve must unravel the pieces before the killer strikes again.

Contests and Giveaways

I love historical romance when the hero/rake finds a beautiful woman who seems respectable on the surface, but secretly has “underground contacts” that make her far from a shrinking violet – Tracey Devlyn’s third book in her Nexus series, A Lady’s Secret Weapon, fits the bill! Lucky for me, the Goodreads giveaway ending September 27th, is giving away five copies so I have a chance to win it! If not, the book comes out October 1st.

Everyone is more than aware of my love for anything written by Lauren Dane so I’m excited that her next book in the Brown Siblings series, Drawn Together, not only is coming out October 1st, but has a Goodreads giveaway (deadline September 26th). With the complex heroine of the non-monogamous tattoo artist Raven and Jonah Warner (whose dominant brother, Levi, we’ve already fallen for in the novella Sway, found in the Cherished anthology), I know that Dane’s writing will make me fall for these two just as I do every other couple (or triad) that she writes.

The wonderful Paranormal Romance blog is giving away three copies of the recently released Twilight Hunter, the first book in Kait Ballenger’s new Execution Underground series (and it looks freakin’ awesome!). All you have to do is leave a comment on the post by September 26th, naming your favorite bad boy. Not an easy task with so many of them out there to love, but it looks like we might all have another with werewolf hunter Jace McCannon!

Category romance fans are always looking to find a new great author to follow, so if you fall into this category, you may want to try the I Heart Presents blog’s giveaway of The Divorce Party by Jennifer Hayward, last year’s winner of the So You Think You Can Write contest. Simply leave a comment on the blog post about what inspires you by October 3rd to enter.

Fun Stuff

The people behind Klever Case know what they are doing when it comes to customized Kindle covers. Whether you want your new paperwhite to look like a classic hardcover book (Dracula and The Great Gatsby are popular) or your looking for a just a generic book cover, these are your best bet. You can even customize the bookplate inside! While this is a British company, the additional two pounds for shipping for US orders is hardly prohibitive. And they make them for all major ereaders, including the iPad mini. Just be careful you don’t put your ereader on a shelf and then forget it doubles as a book now!

Gracious! It seems 3D printing has taken an understandable turn in the naughty toys department. Whether the gentlemen in your life gets laser scanned for his…um…replica, or whether you help him with the creation the old fashioned way (warning: the Clone-a-Willy kit is very messy), the end result will be an exact replica to keep you company when he isn’t able to. No, there will not be accompanying pictures for this one! ;-D

Media literacy is incredibly important, particularly when sex education is involved. As I mentioned in my post about condom use and romance novels, all too many students are leaving high school early or attending schools where abstinence education is paramount, resulting in a lack of understanding of how our bodies work and preventing diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Compounding the problem is the rampant misconception regarding sex and what a “normal” body looks like, a lack of understanding that many sexuality professors lay at the feet of easily accessed pornography. To counter it, a hilarious video using kitchen foods has been created to help people understand the realities of sexuality versus the porn version. Be warned, you will laugh out loud!

Avid readers might empathize with librarians who just love reading so much, that they choose awesome tattoos which reflect their passion. Whether it’s a tarot card, the symbol for library or just their favorite Dewey Decimal number, the quirky magazine Mental Floss has put together quite a few of them for your viewing pleasure. Not willing to make that kind of a commitment? Publisher’s Weekly reviewed a great book of temporary tattoos which might be more your speed.

I’m a gigantic fan of Nalini Singh‘s Psy-Changeling series (HUGE fan) so it was fun to see the video from her recent booksigning where she talks not only about how we are all going to have to wait for the books about the younger changelings (nertz!) but how she feels that she’ll be writing this series into her nineties. From your mouth to God’s ears, Nalini!

Anyone within travel distance of Princeton, New Jersey may want to check their calendar to see if they are free on Thursday, October 24th and Friday the 25th. Princeton University is hosting The Popular Romance Author: A Symposium on Authorship in the Popular Romance Genre, beginning with a keynote on Thursday night starring literature professor Kay Mussell and romance author Jennifer Crusie. The keynote is free and open to the public, and there is only a small fee for the various panels and presentations of the academic papers presented on Friday, so see if your calendar has an opening for what sounds like an educational couple of days. Kind of appropriate the Princeton mascot is a tiger, eh? Mrrrrrooooowwww.

I’m a huge fan of the free MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) offered through various services, and I have to say that Coursera is my favorite. For enthusiastic readers, there always seems to be a course available to take your understanding to the next level and two are starting up soon that might interest readers of this blog. The University of Michigan has a Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, The Modern World course that looks great – beginning with fairy tales and taking the reader chronologically up through 19th century horror to the modern era (Bradbury, LeGuin, Doctorow). For historical fiction readers and writers, Plagues, Witches and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction not only has a roster of great reading and analysis, but the second half of the course has award-winning historical fiction authors teaching about their techniques and methods. And it’s FREE. Both courses clearly state on the information pages how many hours per week they take and you can do the exercises or not – remember it’s free. This is no guilt learning at its finest!

Great Deals

Suspense maven Lisa Gardner’s first Family Secrets novel, Maggie’s Man, is on sale at the ebook price of only $2.99. First published in 1997 under her Alicia Scott pen name, this trilogy stars three half-siblings attempting to uncover the truth about their shadowed family. In this first installment, Maggie Ferringer gets a lot more than jury duty when she reports to the courthouse, and is instead taken hostage by Cain Cannon, who was wrongly convicted of killing his girlfriend six years ago. He wants revenge and Maggie is coming along for insurance, but soon their relationship turns a corner and it’s uncertain who is the captive.

Everyone knows my love of Jennifer Ashley, whether it’s her stellar historical romance Highland Pleasures series or her heart-pounding paranormal novels from the Shifters Unbound series, but were mystery lovers aware she has a great historical mystery series written under her other pseudonym, Ashley Gardner? The Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series now offers the first four books bundled together for only $.99 for people who would like to sample this different side of a talented author.

Shannon McKenna is a terrific suspense writer and I loved her novel, One Wrong Move, for it’s taking a highly unlikeable uber-alpha hero and revealing his internal marshmallow self when it came to a heroine with a highly scarred past. Now this well-written novel is on sale in ebook form for only $.99. While it’s book nine in McKenna’s McClouds and Friends series, you need zero acquaintance with the other books to enjoy it (although I’ll warn you that you’ll find yourself snapping the others up after this steamy adventure).

Speaking of awesome suspense, Lori Foster is going to debut her book Getting Rowdy in just a couple of weeks, and it would serve you well to nab the previous book in her Love Undercover series, Run the Risk, considering it’s reduced to $1.99 for the Kindle version. These are angsty, hot reads with plenty of danger and heroes who underestimate the sexy heroine only to realize she’s their perfect match. You will NOT be sorry you tried them – I promise!

What a terrific week for readers! Enjoy, everyone. :-)

People, Baby Boomer Lit Is NOT a Genre, It’s an Audience

19 Sep

Yesterday I read an article by author and baby boomer Claude Nougat entitled “Is Baby Boomer Lit the Next Hot Genre?” and I almost had a slight brain aneurism. Why? Because there is no way that Baby Boomer Lit is a genre.

Sigh. This might be very librarian of me, but I think that when you are an author (hell, when you are an educated reader) you need to know what words mean. Take “genre” for instance. It’s a French word literally meaning “a kind” and that makes sense as it refers to “a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.” (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

On the surface this sounds like you can pretty much apply this term to whatever you want, but when you are using it with literature, that’s not the case. The use of the term genre as it applies to literature is very specific. While I might tell my students that it’s not a good idea to cite Wikipedia over more specific sources, for general definitions particularly about BIG subjects (like the entirety of literature) it’s pretty spiffy, and its genre entry is dead on accurate.

A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary techniquetonecontent, or even (as in the case of fiction) length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children’s. (Wikipedia entry for genre)

With this in mind, the picture becomes a little clearer. A genre is a category of literature containing specific elements, for example, mystery, science fiction, romance (yay!), etc. and each of these genres is broken down even further into what are known as sub-genre categories (historical romance, cozy mystery, etc.). But you can never, ever label a genre by the intended age of its intended audience. Why?

Librarians and booksellers deal with many adults who are ashamed to be reading a YA book. Don’t ever be ashamed of ANY book you read. Reading is never shameful and people who want to make you feel bad are dealing with their own issues.

Because it reduces the comparison between books to the age of their protagonists which is wrong to do. You wouldn’t compare a shifter romance to a hard-core space romance to a small-town contemporary just like no one is about to argue who was a better writer, Jane Austen or Ernest Hemingway. It’s comparing apples and oranges.

Labeling an age audience merely introduces the idea of a target group who might be more predisposed to a collection of books. This type of label is a helpful way of directing interested readers toward potential books, but it in no way reveals a huge new genre. As author Claire Guyton states in her blog post, “YA is NOT a Genre!” “Thinking that all books written for one age group in various genres should be evaluated in the same way—that is simplified thinking.” For the record, Guyton published that line on Hunger Mountain, the online journal for the Vermont College of Fine Arts, which has one of the best degree programs for children and young adult authors. I think she knows what she’s talking about.

Not Everyone Who Reads YA Is A Teen, But Would Everyone Who Reads Baby Boomer Lit Be a Boomer?

A beautiful painting of a different generations reading by Finnish artist Carl Bengts. I think the title of the painting would translate to "Under the Reading Lamp".

A beautiful painting of a different generations reading by Finnish artist Carl Bengts. I think the title of the painting would translate to “Under the Reading Lamp”.

The entire point of reading is to pick up a book with the potential of experiencing something that is not currently your life or experience. Sometimes it’s an escape, sometimes it’s a deliberate journey. It can be deep or fluffy. But in the end, everyone brings who they are at that moment to the experience of reading. Writer Angela Carter was the one who stated, “Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and your read it in your own terms.” The reason so many people read YA literature is because 1) there are a lot of really well-written books in this category and 2) everyone reading them has been a young adult.

The same cannot be said of “Baby Boomer Lit.” While a rapidly growing demographic, Baby Boomers (Europeans and North Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who come of age in a time of economic prosperity) will always be smaller percentage of the population and topics that people associate with this group are not necessarily appealing to younger readers. Yet I can easily envision successful genre literature with boomer-age protagonists – a terrific mystery with an older investigator, for example – and goodness knows fantasy and paranormal are filled with older werewolves and vampires. Are they boomers? I think they might be. ;-)

Don’t let these two baby-faced models fool you – Absolution (the fifth in Kaylea Cross’ outstanding Suspense series) stars two characters in their fifties who are brought back together. The heroine has even just had a mastectomy, but you won’t find a tender, hotter romance on the market today, I promise.

Romance is a little harder as a sell for boomer literature, but it shouldn’t be. So much of romance is tied up with good-looking and sexy people, and in our ageist culture that translates to young. Even when a romance has older characters, there usually is a decent amount of reassurance about how they look younger than their chronological age, or how they still run marathons and that’s why they have a killer body. We’ve got a ways to go in this arena, just like in other areas of diversity of our characters in romance. There are a decent amount of publishing houses, especially smaller presses, that actually have put out specific calls for heroes and heroines (mostly heroines) who are over 40. Hopefully this is a good sign that things are changing.

Claude Nougat (of the original post that made my brain hurt a little) has brought up a great issue with the need for literature that address the issues and life experience of Baby Boomers. This category of literature deserves further exploration from publishers, librarians, and booksellers as these books will undoubtedly appeal to a demographic that may have gone neglected for too long. (Nougat’s even started a Goodreads group – where the description once again refers to YA as a genre – gah!)

My support for the proposed category of Boomer Lit is more an issue of desire for diversity than of tapping a market, which feels mercenary to me, no matter how true it is. Readers should always be able to easily find characters who are like them, be it racially, religiously, socio-economically, or by age or interest. They hopefully will read plenty of books where the characters are also different, but no one type of character should dominate literature.

But please keep in mind as you talk about books, that there is a difference – a big one – between a target audience and a genre. Both are worthy ways of categorizing books, but they do refer to completely different ways of doing so. Words are powerful. Please use them wisely.

Cover Release of Laura Kaye’s Latest in the Hearts of the Anemoi Series – East of Ecstasy

18 Sep
Laura Kaye, an amazing writer and just look at her - she's pretty and friendly, too!

Laura Kaye, an amazing writer and just look at her – she’s pretty and friendly, too!

Have you read Laura Kaye‘s books? As someone who has read everything she has ever written, allow me to let you know that her books are like a fresh can of Pringles. You may tell yourself you are only going to eat one, but they taste soooo good going down that before you know it, you are tapping the bottom of the container over your head and crumbs are raining on your t-shirt.

I love her Vampire King’s novella series and I believe that she writes some of the best military romance heroes on the market, but Laura Kaye first won my heart when I came across a NetGalley copy of the first book in her Hearts of the Anemoi series, North of Need. I devoured it and placed it in a review with another book about a snowbound couple, but North of Need lingered with me in a way the other novel didn’t. I purchased every other one of her books and any time another book in the Anemoi series came out, I read it before the book got cold in my Kindle.

North of Need (#1 Hearts of the Anemoi – Owen and Megan) by Laura Kaye (Entangled, May 2012)

Each book in this series stars a god who can wear human form (incredibly hot human form, in case you’re interested in that detail, ahem) who controls the weather. For those of you enjoying the fruits of a classical education, the series name might tickle your brain – the Anemoi were the minor gods in the Greek lexicon who controlled the winds. Since the Greeks firmly believed that these gods could take the form of a winged man – or a stallion, which is damn appropriate for Kaye’s brand of hot romance – these novels manage to pull off being accurate along with succeeding in a creative modernization of an ancient mythology.

West of Want (#2 Hearts of the Anemoi – Zeph and Ella’s story) by Laura Kaye (Entangled, July 2012)

In addition to the circumstances by which each individual god comes to meet the woman who is finally going to heal his wounded heart (you don’t get to be a few millennia old without a decent amount of baggage), there is a story arc across the series involving some god politics. All the wind gods have the same father, who seems to have played favorites, and one of the wind brothers, Eurus, has gone rogue and is wreaking havoc around the world as a result. Each brother, who takes seriously his role in maintaining the earth’s balance and the weather under his purview, tries to mitigate Eurus’ influence, with the range of opinion ranging from “let’s try to save him” to “he needs to be exterminated.”

South of Surrender (#3 Hearts of the Anemoi – Chrys and Laney) by Laura Kaye (Entangled, May 2013)

Every book showcases a unique couple and Kaye places the immediate obstacle to the couple’s happiness right off the bat – that gods and humans are not supposed to be together (and that the women are not supposed to know about them or receive any kind of healing power). The pairings still carry the signature mark of Laura Kaye no matter what genre she happens to be writing in – the characters are so real they step off the page, the sex is blazing hot and incredibly emotional, and the plot is well drawn, not the phoned in conflict that occasionally inhabits romance that uses supernatural beings. Each brother is so different from his siblings (largely due to the way their father has treated them) and as a result each woman who wins their heart is unique as well. While all the heroines are strong and smart, they come to the relationship with different expectations and fears, and it’s a joy seeing these gods begin to care about someone on this intimate level.

East of Ecstasy (#4 Hearts of the Anemoi - Devlin and Annalise) by Laura Kaye (Entangled, April 22, 2014)

East of Ecstasy (#4 Hearts of the Anemoi – Devlin and Annalise) by Laura Kaye (Entangled, April 22, 2014)

Here’s where we get to the big reveal! Laura Kaye sent out a call for bloggers interested in helping show the cover of the fourth book in the series, East of Ecstasy, which will be published on April 22, 2014. So here it is. YOWZA! North of Need was not only my first Laura Kaye novel, it was also the first book I read from Entangled Publishing, and when I realized who had produced the book, I truly began to believe that smaller presses could give the Big Six (now the Big Five) publishers a run for their money. Looking at these covers, I think you can see what I mean, and East of Ecstasy continues the trend of *fans self* a highly appropriate representation of our wind god heroes. Here’s the cover blurb:

Annalise Fallston made peace with postponing her big-city dreams to care for her ill father, but lately she’s been filled with a restlessness not even her beloved painting dispels. Worse, the colors don’t speak to her as they always have, and all her efforts produce dark, foreboding images of a dangerous man and a terrifying future.

Devlin Eston, black-souled son of the evil Anemoi Eurus, is the only one who can thwart his father’s plan to overthrow the Supreme God of Wind and Storms. But first, Dev must master the unstable powers he’s been given. Distrusted and shunned by his own divine family, he never expected to find kindness and passion in the arms of a mortal.

But Devlin’s love puts Annalise in the path of a catastrophic storm, and in the final Armageddon showdown between the Anemoi and Eurus, sacrifices will be made, hearts broken, and lives changed forever…or lost.

Another hot god with father issues/tentative handle on his new powers, a sensitive artist who has some psychic ability, and a “final Armageddon showdown” – are you serious?!? This has me thinking that April is waaaayyyyy too far away because I want this book yesterday! Since the characters and story arc build throughout the series, I would recommend reading these novels in order. Keep in mind though that Entangled – while it produces print books – specializes in delivering affordable ebooks to readers. None of these books are expensive in ebook form, usually falling between three and six dollars each for full-length (around 400 pages) work. With Kaye’s amazing writing and Entangled’s outstanding editing and cover designs, this series is a must-read for people who love a paranormal element in their romance.

My thanks to Laura Kaye for writing such a great series and for letting me showcase the new book cover and thanks to Entangled’s killer art department for giving me yet another amazing cover (okay, yes, the chiseled abs are fantastic, but I also love the watermark of the compass and the backdrop that fully plays into the story – these are smart, beautiful covers). So to say I’m looking forward to reading East of Ecstasy is a British-like understatement, so I’ll instead encourage anyone who hasn’t yet read these books to get on it. Run like the wind, people, and go grab them. You won’t be sorry! :-)

Cake by Lauren Dane Serves Up Her Trademark – Delicious Sensuality and Emotional Oomph

17 Sep

Cake by Lauren Dane (Cosmo Red Hot Reads from Harlequin, September 17, 2013)

I have to confess to being super impressed with Harlequin’s roster of authors for their Cosmo Red-Hot Reads partnership. I mean, Tawny Weber and now Lauren Dane? I’ve made no bones about how amazing I find Dane’s many series (the Brown Siblings series and its spin off series, Delicious, immediately come to mind as some of the best erotic romance on the market) so I was thrilled at the announcement that she was having a novella-length short published under this imprint’s umbrella.

There is no way any fan of Dane could possibly be disappointed by this wonderful story. We have all the elements of her typical romance, yet with Dane’s usual twist of piecing them together in a way that seems utterly fresh with each new partnership. (How does she do that??) A confident woman, a man with a bit of an edge, and strong friendships give not only plenty of heat in the sexy times department but an emotional layer that have you heaving a sigh at the final page.

Wren Davis is a part-time bike messenger who is blazing her own path in art school where she is studying animation and illustration while creating wonderfully crafted graphic novels. With her best friend Kelsey working as the personal assistant for famous artist Gregori Ivanov, Wren has discovered someone whose mind fascinates her as much as his body. Over the last year, Wren and Gregori have developed a kind of flirty friendship. She realizes that he comes off brusque and intimidating with his dyed mohawk and tattoos – to say nothing of his demanding tone and that killer Russian accent – but to her he’s a great artist and someone she really respects. She also sees the people fawning all over him (women included) and wants to make sure that whatever is between them is with the understanding that she doesn’t want anything from him, just whatever he can give her.

Gregori has Laduree macaroons mailed to him in Seattle. What. A. Man.

This is not to say that she doesn’t want more. The man is sex on a stick and she has caught him giving her the once over, even when he keeps their relationship to tea and the speciality cookies and cakes he gets shipped from Paris to satisfy his sweet tooth. In Gregori’s mind, Wren is much more than the women he casually sleeps with and discards and certainly more than his emotional vampire of an ex-wife. When Wren turns up dressed to kill at one of his shows, Gregori can’t help but take a kiss…and immediately wishes he hadn’t. She’s even more delicious than he imagined and soon Wren’s persistence wears down his barriers and they fall into an unbelievably hot relationship. You have to love it when Wren, draped on his lap, challenges the worried Gregori:

Question is, Gregori, do you enjoy me as much as you enjoy cake? And how can you know unless you take a taste?

And taste he does! If the relationship part doesn’t make him break out in hives, the tenderness between them is bound to since – if there’s one thing Gregori believes – it’s that he is horrible at relationships and great at casual. Yet with Wren he’s happy and productive, and totally terrified, which naturally leads to some typically y-chromosome stupid decisions. Wren’s patience and persistence are probably what make her such a talented artist and I adored seeing her understand Gregori so much that she would work past her hurt and do what she knew was right for both of them.

Remember that Dane is unique in her voice – she’s gritty and erotic (plenty of piercings and f-bombs in her writing) yet so phenomenally emotional that she writes the appearance of love in thoughts and actions better than any author I know on the market. At approximately $3.00 for this novella, you’re getting a story just as delicious as the best cake. Do yourself a favor and savor it.

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