Tag Archives: Goodreads

The Top Four Reading Challenges for Romance Readers 2014: Do You Need a Nudge?

20 Jan
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Okay, I read a LOT of books in 2014. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

In previous years, my reading challenge (I do the Goodreads one that appears on your main page when you log in) is always to see if I can read more titles than I did last year.

For 2013, I set the goal of 450 books, which sounds ridiculous, but since I work in a high school, I have time off in big chunks and can really go to town reading multiple books a day at various points in the year. I actually read 455 books in 2013, and this was just on my Tori MacAllister account (meaning it was romance fiction and books related to romance topics), not on my other Goodreads account (with my actual name, not my pseudonym) which brought me closer to 500 books. If I counted re-reads (I wish that Goodreads had a better way of tracking re-reads in specific year), I would easily have been around 650.

That’s not as impressive as it sounds since a lot of romance fiction is comprised of short stories and novellas which do count as separate titles. For my romance reading, those 455 titles comprised 94,198 new pages. So if I’m managing to get through so many books, why would I consider joining a reading challenge?

Because I’m not the most balanced romance reader. It’s fine to have a speciality, but because I genuinely study the romance industry, I need to have a more balanced approach and get pushed out of my comfort zone periodically.

For me, books I classified as “erotica” comprised more than 220 of my 455 books. Since writing steamy was one of my craft goals in 2013, this was reasonable, but I need to make sure I have a good sense of other subgenres which I also am interested in writing – contemporary, romantic suspense, historical romance, etc. Contemporary was my next biggest category with 75 books (and remember that I often assign multiple shelves for each book – a slightly kinky modern romance starring a former SEAL would probably end up on my “erotica,” “contemporary,” and “military” shelves). Romantic suspense, urban fantasy, paranormal and military made a decent showing, with my Western number embarrassingly low (3! and I do like Westerns, so what’s up with that?).

The difficulty with most reading challenges is that, among the seven thousand that crop up after the New Year, very few deal with romance. Here are what I consider to be the top four sites which will appeal to romance readers bent on spurring their reading or broadening their horizons.

2014 Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge

I love the Book Vixen blog and with her 2014 Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge you can see why. It’s specific enough to kick you in the butt to get moving, but broad enough to appeal to a variety of tastes. The challenge applies to any contemporary romance you read in the 2014 calendar year (you can sign up anytime prior to September to join) and novellas over 100 pages are included. Note the broad range of what’s covered (and what’s not):

The goal is to read 10 contemporary romance novels. Books that qualify for this challenge can be young adult, new adult, or adult. Books can be M/F, M/M, or F/F. Books must be a work of fiction (sorry, nonfiction does not qualify for this challenge). Romances with the following elements do not qualify for this reading challenge: paranormal, historical, time-travel, fantasy, science fiction, or mystery/suspense/thriller. (The Book Vixen, “Contemporary Romance 2014 Reading Challenge Sign-Up”)

You can even link your website to the Book Vixen page for further impetus to stay on track and read contemporary romance. It’s like Weight Watchers for reading!

Goodreads Romance Reading Challenge

If you don’t necessarily want the commitment of a year-long challenge (although you can find those here as well), consider joining the Goodreads “Romance Readers Reading Challenge” group. This forum not only has year-long challenges (and you can start your own – Medieval Highland Romances, anyone? All Heroes Are Blond?), but you can also join monthly challenges or themed challenges like “In Uniform” for military romance, the Authors After Dark Challenge (for paranormal writers who participate in the Authors After Dark conference). There’s even “pick-it-for-me” challenges where the indecisive go to have other people help them choose their books. It’s wonderful to see people post their reactions and highlight the best of the challenge, plus you get the power of Goodreads helping you find books that fit your criteria (and at this point, I find Goodreads more accurate than Amazon in terms of recommending books for me, which I realize is ironic since they are owned by Amazon).

Erotic Romance Reading Challenge

Clearly finding time to read erotic romance is not my problem, but for those of you who would like a nudge into exploring this rapidly expanding subgenre of romance, the Herding Cats & Burning Soup blog (how awesome is that name!?) has a terrific 2014  Erotic Romance challenge. I love it that they have different levels with the lowest level simply being 12 erotic romances in 2014 (one per month, you can TOTALLY do that) and then the Level 6 for people like me who read more than 100+ novels in the category.

Herding Cats & Burning Soup’s challenge is very liberal in terms of allowing crossover books from different genres and the books merely have to be longer than 100 pages to qualify for length. I love it that they also mention audio books as qualifying as long as the print version of the book makes the length requirement, although you may want to check with your carpool before putting in the latest BDSM book!

Be sure to check out the challenge’s Facebook group if you prefer your news exchange through that social media outlet.

Push Your Boundaries

In what has to be the most thoughtful romance reading challenge, best-selling romance author Roni Loren (of the incredibly popular Loving on the Edge series) has developed the Push Your Boundaries Reading Challenge 2014.

Understanding that her reading shapes her as a writer, Loren has developed a fantastic chart (which you can download as a template from her website) of various levels of comfort and then inserted sub-genres into each category in order to understand her attitude toward each one. From there, she encourages herself and any participants to deliberately choose books from every level of comfort and subgenre in order to insure that our reading is diverse and hopefully expand our horizons a bit. Listen to her thoughtful prose:

I’m challenging myself to read outside of my boundaries in addition to my favorites. So I made a chart and listed levels of “comfort zones” then I selected genres to put in the boxes. By the end of 2014, I want to X out each of these boxes with at least one book from that particular genre.

As you can see in the chart, I have six rows of “zones”: In My Zone, Read on Occasion, A Bit of a Stretch, Pushing It, Out of Comfort Zone, and Just For Fun.

I have 36 genres listed, but feel free to make yours as big as small as you want. Maybe you just want to list one genre in each of the six categories. Or maybe you’re a power reader and want to add more than me. Also, know that everyone’s chart will look different because what’s comfort zone to me is going to be different for you. (Roni Loren, “The Push Your Boundaries Reading Challenge 2014″)

There is even a Pinterest board you can follow to watch her tackle books in each category. Who doesn’t like following a Pinterest board? Roni Loren definitely has the market cornered on helping make us all into healthy romance readers while modeling balanced reading in her own life. Wow!

So there you have it – the best romance reading challenges of 2014. Yes, I found a few others, but these are, in my opinion, the best of the best, so challenge yourself this year and spread your wings a bit in your romance reading. You definitely won’t be alone.

And as for my goals? Well, I’m actually ratcheting myself down to 350 books as my goal (spread out among the various above challenges for fun). I realize that I’ve been spending more time reading books than writing them, which was the original reason I was reading so many (to inform myself of the industry and find good quality writing from which I could learn my craft). Hopefully this will result in some actual works of fiction I can share with you, while still keeping me up to snuff when it comes to what is getting published in the market.

Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of January 5, 2014

5 Jan

Upcoming Books and New Releases

The cover for Katharine Ashe‘s newest book, I Adored a Lord, book 2 of her The Prince Catchers series, has been revealed and WOW! With a release date of July 29th and a cover endorsement by Lisa Kleypas, this book is bound to get buried in pre-orders not just for the gorgeous design but also for the description. A young woman tired of society’s vicious young women bent on husband hunting gets caught up in murder and intrigue while snowed in at a country estate where a prince’s half-brother is bored to tears. Until he steals a kiss and finds a corpse, that is – then he quickly realizes that who is the murderer isn’t the only question he wants answered.

Paranormal romance goddess Kresley Cole has released the first in her three part rapid-fire serial, The Professional, with the second installment due to come out Monday, January 6th. This story of a young woman searching for years for her birth parents, finding instead a world of intrigue in the Russian mafia, including the sexy enforcer assigned to guard her. Mrrrooowwww. It’s been receiving rave reviews, but since I despise installment writing (I’m a fast reader and I want a resolution with the final page), I’ll be buying all three of them when the third and final portion is published on January 20th.

It’s just a couple of weeks until the first book in historical romance writer Tessa Dare’s new Castles Ever After series debuts, Romancing the Duke, on January 28th. Featuring the daughter of a romantic author of fairy tales who has finally given up on having her own come true, only to inherit a castle with a disfigured duke inhabiting it. There is even a giveaway on Goodreads for the book for anyone entering prior to January 26th, so your personal fairy tale could come through when you win a copy!

In this longer novella by Entangled Covet, Ashes by Sarah Gilman, an intrepid reporter looking for the legendary phoenix ends up with a great time and pregnant…by a firebird who looks like every other guy (if that guy was devastatingly hot). But he is royalty and expected to marry a full-blooded firebird female, yet his vow to not be an absentee father means he’s spending more time with the mother of his future child, and falling fast. But a powerful grandmother is not pleased with this turn of events and she’ll do anything to tear this burgeoning love apart. This recent release also has a corresponding $25 Amazon gift card giveaway for participants using the Rafflecopter interface to earn entries prior to the January 14th deadline.

Contests and Giveaways

The often funny and always informative Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog is having a terrific contest tied into Elizabeth Boyle’s new book, If Wishes Were Earls, from her Rhymes With Love series. Just leave a comment finishing the catchphrase “If Wishes Were Earls…” before Friday, January 10th and you’ll have a chance to win a 16 GB iPad 2 with wifi or a $50 giftcard to the book retailer of your choice.

Paranormal romance fans might want to check out the contest in honor of the debut of Beg Me to Slay, a new title by Lisa Kessler featuring a young woman victimized by a heinous crime who turns to martial arts and a private investigator turned demon slayer who finds himself bound to her by mission and by something much more. With an Amazon gift card and some specialized jewelry, this unique giveaway goes until January 13th.

To celebrate Rosalie Lario‘s next book in her Demons of Infernum series, Heart of the Incubus, Entangled is doing a prize pack giveaway with the previous book in that series, Heart of the Angel, for people who enter prior to the January 20th deadline. This latest work is about a gorgeous incubus biochemist who is baffled by the lovely scientist who works alongside him. He wants her in his bed but for the first time in his experience, the woman he wants plans on having nothing to do with him. Tired of womanizers, the heroine in question has no intention of succumbing to incubus charm no matter how lickable he might be, until a dangerous stalker makes her his prey and her gorgeous colleague appoints himself her protector.

Fun Stuff

Sherlock Holmes fans everywhere will be pleased to know that the vast majority of the work associated with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s favorite character has been declared in the public domain according to U.S. Copyright Law, meaning that writers can work with impunity with these previous established characters and plots. The suit was brought about by writer Leslie Klinger who was in the process of co-authoring a book, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes (not available yet for pre-order) along with mystery writer Laurie R. King (of the Mary Russell books fame featuring the strong intellectual wife of Sherlock Holmes) when he was approached by Conan Doyle’s estate for fees associated with using the characters. Considering that there would be no fees associated with a work in the public domain, Mr. Klinger decided to bring the suit to have the Sherlock Holmes works (at least the ones published prior to 1923) declared in the public domain so authors can tinker with impunity and he was successful. Interested in this topic, I did a little searching and discovered the story of Conan Doyle’s heirs which honestly sounds like a bad Danielle Steel novel, complete with sibling bickering, money squandering, so-called princesses, and pompous lawyers. Yikes!

Category romance author (and SEAL lover) Tawny Weber is celebrating football season by allowing readers of her blog to vote for their “Hunk of the Month,” so envision some tight pants and head over to cast your vote!!

Anyone who is a psyched as I am at the next season of Downton Abbey debuting tonight (*Edwardian victory dance*) may also be interested in this excellent interview from NPR with Lucy Lethbridge, the author of Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times. Take a look and you’ll find yourself appreciating Carson all the more.

Romancing the Stone movie fans (and I realize I’m dating myself here) will be thrilled and fascinated to read Robin Covington‘s post featuring the erudite Damon Suede, “CARE PACKAGE: watching Romancing the Stone with a mindful eye with Damon Suede,” on the Romance University blog. Covington, who almost named her Corgi puppy Joan Wilder, gives a great overview of the hidden strengths of the movie as well as some of the behind the scenes chauvinism of Hollywood’s approach to the movie.

Great Deals

Shannyn Schroeder‘s contemporary romance, More Than This (the first book in her O’Leary’s series), is currently discounted to only $1.99 on Amazon. With a lonely school teacher reclaiming her life after a messy divorce and a sexy bartender intent on giving her more than just a good time, you might have found exactly the bargain to help you heat up a cold January!

Kristen Ashley‘s acclaimed book, Law Man, is currently on sale for only $3.79 for the ebook, a bargain considering this story featuring a shy girl from the wrong side of the tracks and her neighbor police detective she thinks is way out of her league totals over 500 pages!

From category romance writer Janice Maynard comes the Harlequin Desire tale, The Maid’s Daughter, about a millionaire (natch) who discovers the daughter of a maid connected to his family involved in a car accident and decides to employ her in his latest business venture. Whether it’s to alleviate some of the family guilt or keep this beautiful woman close he’s not admitting, but proximity does has its advantages. One of the advantages to you is that this novel is currently free on Amazon, so go snatch it up while you can.

Perhaps also timed to celebrate Downton Abbey’s Season 4 premiere is the nonfiction book, To Marry an English Lord (which really does sounds like a fiction book, doesn’t it?) by Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace. Two academic authors chronicle the American women who came to Britain during the Gilded Age to land a title while investing their ample dowries into the fading manor houses and lifestyles of England’s nobility (think Cora, Lady Grantham’s story and you get a sense of what this book covers). Rife with wonderful detail, this volume has received excellent reviews and it’s currently on sale for only $2.51 for the ebook version if you feel like knowing more about this time period.

Laura Kaye’s wonderful first book in her new series about a group of disgraced military men clustered around a Baltimore tattoo parlor, Hard As It Gets, is only $1.99 right now and it’s awesome, so don’t hesitate to go grab it at this price. When the daughter of the commander who sold out his men comes to him for help, this former special ops officer finds himself entangled in a woman who should be all wrong for him, but may be exactly what he needs.

That’s it for this week. Happy reading and Happy New Year!!

December Read-a-Thon: Snowbound Wedding Wishes Anthology Gives Us a Holiday Dose of Harlequin Historical

24 Dec

Snowbound Wedding Wishes by Louise Allen, Lucy Ashford, and Joanna Fulford (Harlequin Historical, November 1, 2012)

I’m really picky about my historical romance authors – REALLY picky – so much so that I often don’t try new authors until I’ve read every review on Amazon and Goodreads of a given book. The slightest whiff of something off – using language not yet invented in the time period, extremely unconventional behavior for the era or excessive dickishness of the hero – and I won’t even pick it up. I guess my paranoia stems from the fact that with a history/biology double major in college, I know enough about historical periods that it’s easy to jar me out of the story with the result that I feel like I’ve wasted my time.

With this caveat, you can imagine that I actually do like anthologies (and anyone who reads this blog knows I love them as a method of finding new authors). When I saw that Harlequin Historical had produced an anthology last year entitled Snowbound Wedding Wishes, containing stories by Louise Allen, Lucy Ashford and Joanna Fulford – all Harlequin authors I have seen receive good reviews – it occurred to me that this volume was an excellent opportunity for me to perhaps highlight a great book for the December Read-a-Thon while also dipping a toe and seeing if I would like these authors as much as everyone else.

Mission accomplished. I was impressed with not only the writing but particularly the historical detail provided in each of these stories, which all possessed accuracy in the historical representation of the Regency period, lovely heroes and heroines, and a distinct voice.

“An Earl Beneath the Mistletoe” by Louise Allen

Major Hugo Burnham can’t believe he survived the Penisular Wars to be caught on a freezing cold night a few days before Christmas so he can die of exposure in the English countryside. On his way home to his ancestral manor, circumstances detoured him from his original route until he is more than a little lost. Both he and his horse are thrilled to see a light in the distance and even more astonished when a lovely widow answers the door to the alehouse he finds tucked away in a small hamlet. Her twin boys are bright as copper pennies and the more time he spends with them, the more Hugo realizes that Emilia and the boys have him wanting – wanting a real family. Despite her having a cultured accent, it’s clear they are not nobility (if they were, they wouldn’t be in an alehouse) and any protectiveness he feels toward her must just be a result of empathy for her circumstances.

In addition to numerous historical romances, Louise Allen is also the author of the well-rated nonfiction book, Walking Jane Austen’s London, a guide I hope to one day take to heart while exploring that city with an eye to a favorite author!

Emilia Weston realizes that the handsome serious major is definitely above her station, at least her station now. Having eloped with a poor younger son from a good family earned her family’s disinheritance, leaving Emilia with few options. Now she exists in limbo in the village, politely tolerated by the villagers and given the occasional head nod from the local gentry but belonging to neither. She wants to make sure that the boys have everything they need to at least enter the law and have a chance at financial success and happiness. She’s made the best of her circumstances and she wouldn’t have given up the time with her loving husband for anything, even with her hardships – Giles was a wonderful husband who did his best for her. Some of the side benefits of that relationship are foremost in her mind as the honorable Hugo can’t seem to keep his hands and mouth off Emilia despite his best intentions and she’s frightened to discover she doesn’t want him to. As the snow deepens and this officer stays under her roof for Christmas, Emilia can’t imagine that any Christmas miracle can be forthcoming regarding her growing feelings for someone she’s sure is an aristocrat.

I adored this story! Emilia is plucky and yet real, with frustrations that make her a three-dimensional character and one easy for the reader to fall for, to say nothing of Hugo (the poor man didn’t stand a chance). Allen’s details about Emilia’s daily work with the ale were fabulous and yet never crossed into “info dump” territory – very skillful. Hugo’s character is totally understandable and coming home from the war, taking up his role as the Earl of Burnham, and then falling in love with an alewife had to equal not just a hell of week but a tough adjustment for him. Hearing about Hugo’s childhood gave further insight into his immediate understanding of Emilia’s unique and loving mothering style, and this helps him begin the mental trek to thinking about what he wants in a wife and family. The resolution was plausible and extremely emotionally satisfying, causing me to turn the final page with a huge grin on my face. I’ll be checking out other Louise Allen books for sure!

“Twelfth Night Proposal” by Lucy Ashford

Theo, Lord Dalbury has experienced a strange series of events. A former officer in Wellington’s army, he returned to England after Waterloo and was happy with his friends and a minor barony to his name. Then an elderly woman he had only met once left him a property in Derbyshire with some strange instructions and his life has taken a strange turn. His immediate goal is to simply take a look at the property while conveniently avoiding all the matchmaking mothers of the ton, but the vicious country roads and uncooperative weather is making what should be straightforward all too difficult. An odd encounter with a group of children, led by a blond beauty dressed as a lad, ends in a fall from his horse and unconsciousness – a rather ignominious introduction to Northcote Hall, his new property.

The Captain’s Courtesan by Lucy Ashford (Harlequin Historical, September 1, 2012)

What he finds is at once horrifying and mysterious. Northcote Hall is in shambles with only a flighty housekeeper and corrupt steward at the helm. After witnessing the steward sexually threatening the young blond woman he met at the scene of his accident, Theo fires him and attempts to figure out what exactly is going on. The blond, Miss Jenna Bruchs, is no peasant but neither is she gentry and she and her mother are fiercely attached to the Hall. In fact, she and many of the locals appear overly eager to see him take up residence, an attitude undoubtedly linked to the former steward’s vicious rein of terror. Theo guesses that Jenna is the natural daughter of an aristocrat stemming from when her mother worked as a housekeeper, and the more time he spends with her the more he wants her. But what kind of future can they have together, even during the twelve days of Christmas?

This was a wonderfully written story with a compelling hero and a feisty young woman trapped in almost impossible circumstances. The villain is horrible and yet more than just a two-dimensional vehicle to move the plot along. Terrific conflict and a very satisfying resolution from the unconventional Theo made me love the ending. My only criticism is how disappointed I am to find that Lucy Ashford does not appear to have any social media presence to speak of, with just a basic (if lovely) website for readers. I worry her talent is not being as showcased as it could without this way of reaching the many fans she must have. Reading hundreds of romance novels a year, I’ve seen the correlation that authors with no social media presence always have fewer reviews and, I imagine, fewer sales. My fingers are crossed that she overcomes her reticence and embraces more of a digital footprint!

“Christmas at Oakhurst Manor” by Joanna Fulford

This is a reunion romance (which normally I’m not a huge fan of) but Ms. Fulford made this quite realistic and lovely. Ten years ago Max Calderwood told the woman he loved that he was leaving her to go to India and make his fortune. Vivien was high-born and Max felt he could not give her what she deserved or even keep her in the style she was used to. Setting her free was the hardest thing he had ever done, especially after hearing her plea to take her with him while he sought his fortune, but he knew he was doing the right thing, even when he told her not to wait for him. Working hard in India, Max realized he made a huge mistake based on how he was devastated by the news of her marriage, but it was the bed he made and he resolved to lie in it.

A decade later, Max is incredibly rich and has finally made his way back to England to purchase a property and enjoy that for which he labored all those years. Startled to see Vivien at a house party for Christmas, he’s astonished not only with the realization that she is even more beautiful than he remembered, but the news that she has been a widow for 18 months and has two children. Her sadness and vulnerability call to him, but he’s unsure if she would be willing to take a chance on the man who hurt her all those years ago.

The Viking’s Defiant Bride by Joanna Fulford (Harlequin Historical, 2009)

Vivien actually knew Max was going to be at the Christmas party but she couldn’t disappoint her friend or her children and back out at the last minute. It’s unfair that he’s even more handsome than ever – and clearly the target of other women’s matrimonial designs – to say nothing of the fact that he’s wonderful with her children, something their father never was. Vivien married a much older man, convinced respect would make for a good marriage and she’s regretted the decision so much that even his death was a guilty relief. She’s glad to have her children, but with her husband a poor money manager, their future is extremely uncertain. Yet Vivien is strong enough to stand her ground and not make the mistake again of accepting marriage where there is no love. When Max attempts to convince her that his feelings are still strong even after all this time, Vivien is forced to face her demons to see if she is the still the brave woman she once was.

I enjoyed this novella very much and want to sample Joanna Fulford‘s other writing after reading it. With my recent interest in the surge of Viking romances, I was interested that Fulford, mostly a Regency historical author, has dabbled in the Viking genre to good reviews. I’m going to have to look at those and at some of her other Regency tales since this one had a sweetness to it (it was the only story of the three with no sex, just kissing) that was period appropriate and endearing. Perhaps because of that, it felt very accurate to me, with both the hero and heroine taking a while to work up to anything beyond polite pleasantries. That undercurrent of the unsaid subtext felt very Austen, which I liked. The characters are still extremely honest about their feelings to themselves which keeps the story moving.

New UK cover for the anthology

Snowbound Wedding Wishes is an anthology I can heartily recommend to historical romance authors who enjoy the Regency period, particularly when the holiday season is the focus. While I had held onto this book since last year, I’d like to point out that it’s recently been reissued by Harlequin UK with a different cover for their British audience, who I’m sure will also greatly enjoy it.

At less than $5 for almost 300 pages, the cost of this anthology feels like a good bargain to me (although you might also want to check your local library since it has been out for a year). I’m pleased to have found three authors who have published enough that I have a nice body of their work to explore and to gain further confidence in Harlequin’s Historical line to know that their editing and author choice is rock solid.

Happy reading (and Merry Christmas)!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, December 15, 2013

15 Dec

Upcoming Books and Recent Releases

It’s well known that I feel Stephanie Laurens’ Cynster series is one of the best Regency romance series out there, so I’m pleased to see that Avon Publishing is cleverly releasing the first three books of it (and they are AWESOME) as a e-bundle for people wanting to try it. Available as of December 17th, Cynsters: The Beginning includes Devil’s Bride, A Rake’s Vow and Scandal’s Bride and will cost only $13.59, a massive discount from the $7.99 for each book which is the standard retail price.

Angela Knight announced the prequel to her successful Magverse series, Wicked Games, will be released as of April 1, 2014. Containing not only the story that started this fantastic reinterpretation of Arthurian tales (think sexy vampires as knights and plenty of magic), it also bundles several previously released e-tales which have been revised and expanded for this anthology.

Vivian Arend’s next novel in her Thompson & Son series, Baby, Be Mine, will be published on February 25, 2014. This book combines a friends to lovers trope along with a surprise baby and amnesia when Gage Jenick takes advantage of long-time friend and hottie Katy Thompson kicking her boyfriend to the curb, even if his work is going to make him incommunicado for a couple of months. What he didn’t anticipate was that his girlfriend would have no memory of him or their incredible night together after she is involved in a car crash. While Katy wonders why Gage returns acting so territorial around her, she’s way more interested in how on earth she could be pregnant? In Arend’s hands, this is bound to be pure gold, so pre-order now!

Arend is going to win the busy bee award in February, considering that earlier in the month she also has the next installment of her Adrenaline Search & Rescue series, High Seduction coming out on February 4th. Armchair adrenaline junkies will definitely want to pre-order this puppy, a sexy chopper pilot looking for someone else to take control in the bedroom and the old flame paramedic who is more than happy to give her exactly what she needs.

Contests and Giveaways

Hustle over to Goodreads today for a chance to enter the historical romance anthology At the Duke’s Wedding, featuring stories by such powerhouse authors as Caroline Linden, Katharine Ashe, Miranda Neville and Maya Rodale. Enter by December 15th for a chance at these stories in print form for the first time!

Vampire Book Club, a blog whose reviews can always be counted on to inform, is offering a fabulous Urban Fantasy giveaway, with books by Adrian Phoenix, Jess Haines, Christina Henry and Eileen Rendahl to populate your bookshelves. Get over there before December 19th to enter for your chance to win!

With a mid-week deadline, another giveaway worth entering is for the first book of Emma Barron‘s Tropical Nights series, Exposed, which ends on December 18th. When a reporter is assigned the interview of a reclusive CEO, she thinks it’s a run-of-the-mill assignment not realizing her boss has led the company to believe that it’s a write up for a major economics journal and not the gossip magazine she works for. But both this sexy businessman and determined reporter have had their heart burned before, so as they realize that this interview is revealing their desire for one another as well as the facts, the question remains if they can get past their trepidation to find something real together.

Contemporary author Leah Braemel is participating in the Mistletoe Madness Blog Hop, offering a $10 Amazon or B&N card as a present to a lucky visitor who participated in her Rafflecopter giveaway by December 19th. For an even bigger prize (and a bit of guide through the Mistletoe Madness Blog Hop) head to P. J. Schnyder‘s blog and look at her giveaway which garners you entries via tweeting and commenting at the various participants blogs. In addition to Braemel and Schnyder (two excellent authors) they’re joined by such wonderful authors as Laura Kaye (of Hard As It Gets fame), Christine d’Abo, Christi Barth, Cat Johnson, and Dana Marie Bell among others. Enter before December 20th to see if Santa is going to give you something electronic under your tree via a $200 gift card to Best Buy if you manage to win this one!

Speaking of the Cynster saga (see the Upcoming Books and New Releases entry above), Goodreads is having a giveaway of one of the spin-off books from that Regency saga, Where the Heart Leads, the first in The Casebook of Barnaby Adair series. Currently the only entry in that series, Laurens recently announced she’ll be adding several books to it and I’m elated, as Barnaby, the aristocrat with a penchant for investigation via London’s burgeoning police force is a favorite of mine! This book is the one where he falls for the cerebral yet beautiful Lady Penelope Ashford, and it’s a doozy with some of my favorite characters making appearances. Enter before December 20th for your chance to win!

New York Times Best-Selling author Donna Grant is having a Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway on her Facebook page where she is posting lovely daily prizes for commenters (like $50 bookseller gift cards!), so head over there and start contributing! I imagine they’ll just keep getting better and better the closer to Christmas we get. :-)

It’s tough not to giggle at some of Harlequin’s titles and the Intrigue novels are usually the most chuckle-worthy. That does not stop this imprint from periodically hitting a home run, and I have to confess to putting Secret Agent Secretary , the second book in Melissa Cutler‘s ICE: Black Ops Defenders series, on my to-read list. When a desk jockey is catapulted into the arms of a handsome agent, they need to work together to foil a nefarious plan. Luckily for all of us, it’s also being offered in a Goodreads giveaway for people who enter prior to the end of December.

The erotic romance author group collectively known as the Smutketeers (R. G. Alexander, Eden Bradley, Rachel Grace, Eve Berlin and Robin L. Rotham) on their blog of the same name have begun their Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway with not only daily prizes and fabulous highlights of recent books you’ll want under your tree, but a cumulative prize of a $300 gift card for a dedicated reader who posts a comment on each day of the celebration. That’s a lot of books….

Fun Stuff

‘Tis the season for finding gifts for all the readers in your family, and game enthusiasts might want to take a gander at all the book-related board games out there geared toward readers. Flavorwire has a terrific list of 10 board games for book nerds (why are we always nerds?) including ones based on Pride & Prejudice and Beowulf, or you can get a classic like Bookopoly, geared toward middle school kids but great for readers of all ages.

I usually don’t post stuff about YA romance (probably because I think about it all the time in my day job as a young adult librarian) but I had to share the wonderful post by author Diana Peterfreund on the RITA awards and their perhaps misguided treatment of YA romance. Peterfreund has numerous successful books under the belt, many of which should be award-winners in multiple categories, but this thoughtful analysis of the Romance Writers’ Association and YA is worth a read and re-read.

Great Deals

The full-length erotic novel (gracious, that sounds dirty!) Sexual Persuasion by Maryn Sinclair is currently free on Amazon. When a woman is rescued from an uncomfortable encounter with an ex, she can’t deny the heat between her handsome rescuer and herself. But when that gorgeous man is revealed to be an attorney with one client (the local mob head), and she hears the rumors that this same man who is clearly interested in getting her in bed also was the lover of his male mob boss, she’s confused. Will his past come between them or can she be persuaded?

Erotic historical author Kate Pearce currently has the prequel to her Sinners Club series also available for free, The First Sinners. The series features men who belong to a private gentlemen’s club filled with men who have either sketchy pasts or specific predilictions – and the need to keep both quiet. In this novella, an Earl investigating possible treason deploys all his wiles at a house party in the hope of uncovering valuable evidence. What he is surprised to uncover is one innocent young miss determined to find a man who can teach her carnal pleasure (and his lordship knows exactly who can fulfill that role).

Following in today’s erotic historical romance bargains trend is Samantha Kane‘s Regency menage novel, The Courage to Love, the first of her Brothers in Arms series which is also available for free on Amazon as of right now. A dress shop owner is still recovering from a vicious rape but feels safe when surrounded by two men who served with her late husband on the Peninsula – two men she’s been in love with for quite some time. Shocked they feel the same toward her (and have a relationship with one another), her past nevertheless intrudes on them moving forward.

The holidays always come with bargains if you know where to look, and the A Naughty Little Christmas (Cowboys, Cops and Kilts) Bundle, featuring a smorgasbord of authors across genres (cowboy, romantic suspense, small town contemporary, paranormal, Highlander, etc.) is the ultimate bargain at $.99 for eight novellas. With authors like Paige Tyler, Ann Bruce and Dawn Halliday in this grouping, I’ve already got it sitting in my Kindle app to warm my holiday nights!

If you haven’t had a chance to run and buy The Theory of Attraction by erotic romance author Delphine Dryden, go run to Amazon and grab it while it’s free. With a slightly autistic scientist who happens to be a serious Dom (and definitely high on the hottie) scale and the next door neighbor who decides to help him get a promotion by being his girlfriend who can read departmental situations, this sexy nerd romance is simultaneously erotic and sweet. It would be worth paying full price for, but free? You don’t need a genius IQ to figure out that’s a bargain.

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, December 7, 2013

8 Dec

Upcoming Books and Recent Releases

Tracey Devlyn, whose Nexus series combines amazing historical romance AND romantic suspense, debuted the cover of the fourth book in that series, entitled Latymer. Not available until early January 2014 and worse, not available yet for pre-order (!), this volume represents Devlyn’s personal journey to continue to her series without her previous publisher of Sourcebooks, and I’m damn glad she decided to continue it (and it looks like Avon picked up the series for its digital line – woohoo!). The snippet she included in her newsletter (check out her website to subscribe to it) shows us our hero is a lord with a son he loves determined to ferret out a spy, something he should be quite good at considering his previous work for the Foreign Office. At the mercy of both French and British authorities who want him dead, I have a feeling that Nexus is going to have to help Lord Latymer and his son, and I’m guessing it might be a female spy (perhaps one he knew before?) who is going to lend a hand. Cannot wait!

Jill Shalvis is beloved by contemporary romance fans everywhere, particularly for her Lucky Harbor series. Those readers will be pleased to note that she’s just announced the 9th full-length novel, Once in a Lifetime, will be published on February 11, 2014 (oh, ho! Just in time for Valentine’s Day) and will star the tortured soldier Ben McDaniel and the “trouble with a capital T” Aubrey Wellington who is trying to set her life on the right path with Ben the perfect person to help. Okay “helping” him might involve a bit more with such a hot, brooding guy but making amends involves getting a little dirty, doesn’t it? Pre-order it for a great price ($5.40 right now for the paperback edition!) right now.

Tawny Weber just released her Christmas novel, Naughty Christmas Nights, this past week, which brings together two excellent things – Christmas and lingerie. When two people attempt to land the sexy underwear account for a major department store, rivalry is a natural outcome. But Hailey’s Merry Widow lingerie line is all about playfulness and sensuality while Gage Milano wants out of his family’s business so he needs to prove it’s all about sex, period. Is the heat between them simply lingerie induced, or is their more this holiday season? Things are certainly heating up…

Also released this week is the novella in Katherine Ashe‘s The Prince Catchers series, Kisses She Wrote, about a scandalous earl who discovers that a wallflower’s diaries are filled with the fantasies of him kissing her, and he’s damn intrigued. This holiday season might be filled with wishes granted if they both can surrender to the potential between them. At only $.99, this novella belongs in everyone’s present pile!

Contests and Giveaways

Adrianne JamesThe Enlightening (Book #2 in the Mackenzie Duncan series) is part of a package available for you to win via your Goodreads account. The Tempering (Book #1) is actually also included in paperback edition as well as some lovely Adrianne James swag to celebrate the series. Featuring a Harvard freshman, Mackenzie Duncan, who is attacked by a wolf and changed against her will, this series deals with the aftermath of her change, with book 1 showing the sinister underbelly of the pack who welcomes her with open arms and book 2 illustrating that life on the run with two werewolves who both want to win your heart can be more complicated than it sounds. Enter before December 9th for your chance to read this series for free!

S. E. Gilchrist, the science fiction romance author of Dark Warriors fame, is offering a giveaway in honor of the 1st anniversary of her first publication, including such prizes as gift cards and books from her backlist, so go check it out and join in the celebration and enter before the 23rd of December to see if you could have a little something extra in your Christmas stocking. Congratulations, S. E. Gilchrist!

Category romance fans who like their millionaires of Russian extraction and their princes remote bastards waiting to be melted by the right woman will want to be sure to enter the giveaway for Kate Hewitt‘s The Prince She Never Knew, a Harlequin Presents about an arranged marriage that could become something much more, bundled with Kholodov’s Last Mistress, about a scarred wealthy Russian completely ensnared by an innocent American tourist, so much so that he tries to push her away only to realize that he needs to get her out of his system. Submit your entry before December 11th to win.

For readers who love their small-town romances near the ocean, you’ve probably already read and loved Rachel Herron‘s Cypress Hollow Yarn novels, but in case you haven’t gotten to the fourth book of the series, Cora’s Heart, or you’ve been wanting to dip a toe into this series, it’s available via a Goodreads giveaway if you enter before December 13th. With the heroine a farmer who has lost her mother and husband to the point where she tries to plan everything in her life, a hero – her late husband’s cousin and the man she loved before – is bound to mess up her agenda, particularly when he has a plan of his own.

It’s hockey season and people know how much I love Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play series, so I’m naturally looking forward to the February release of her next novel, Melting the Ice. About a fashion designer whose brother suggests she use her college flame, now a hot NHL player, to showcase her latest creations, I’m going to enjoy seeing this successful player prove to his former girlfriend that he’s changed for the better. The best news? I might be able to win a copy early (and so could you) by entering the Goodreads giveaway before December 13th.

Another upcoming book you could win an early copy of is the eighth book in Shayla Black’s Wicked Lovers series, Theirs to Cherish, which isn’t due to be published until March 4, 2014. This BDSM romance has an element of romantic suspense threaded through its sensual tale as the heroine is an heiress who has been on the run for years, finding Club Dominion the perfect hideout. She’s fallen in love with the club’s Master but when her plan to make him jealous with a Dom who wants her submission backfires and she finds herself falling for two men, she ends up endangering her heart along with her life when a killer comes calling. Enter before December 13th to win!

Ranae Rose just published the fourth book in her Inked in the Steel City series, Abiding Ink, but fans of tattooed heroes and heroines can win a copy if they enter the giveaway before December 15th. Perfect for the holiday season, this story centers on a tattoo artist who volunteers in a hospital ward and the hot nurse who doesn’t want to fall for him, but can’t help herself, even when it makes her want to run away. Gimme!

Fun Stuff

Take a look at the great video clip from Popular Romance Project featuring an interview with Princeton postdoctoral fellow, An Goris, a wonderful Dutch woman who went from failing English as a 15 year old to writing analyses about romance fiction, a turnaround she largely credits to her love of Nora Roberts, at the time more available in English than in Dutch. Guess who is her featured author of her dissertation?

Did you know that category romance doyenne Caitlin Crews has been releasing a new Presents novel, His Wife by Christmas, chapter by chapter on Harlequin’s website…for free? That’s quite a Christmas present – use your Send to Kindle app (which can be installed in your browser’s bookmarks) to get it on your e-reader if you prefer reading on that screen.

Great Deals

Best-selling author Cynthia Eden has the first book in her Purgatory series, The Wolf Within, currently on sale for $.99 (and free for Prime members who want to have it as their loaned book for this month). FBI Agent Duncan McGuire is committed to defending the world from monsters as part of the Bureau’s Para Unit, but when he survives a werewolf’s attack only to begin to change into a monster himself, he’s more than horrified. He fights tooth and nail not to have Dr. Holly Young be the one assigned to care for him – the attraction between them is fierce and his feeling has only intensified with his body’s changes, and she’s the last person he wants to hurt. Except that Holly has been hiding her own differences, but their situation is about to get even more complicated as the monsters circle around them, and it’s unclear if their new feelings for one another can survive the onslaught.

Mary Jo Putney‘s Lost Lords series is hugely popular, so historical romance readers who would love one of her book in ebook form or who simply want to sample her writing should run and grab Loving a Lost Lord, currently only $1.99 on Amazon. This novel, the first in her series, has everything a historical romance reader could want – a duke, amnesia, a fake marriage, and two very sexy protagonists – so grab it now!

Since readers of Mary Jo Putney are often also fans of Sabrina Jeffries, cross-over readers will want to check out What the Duke Desires, the first in her new series, The Duke’s Men, currently down to $1.99 on Amazon. With the overarching theme of a disinherited younger son of a viscount who opens an investigative agency with his illegitimate half-sister Lisette, the first book focuses on a duke who receives word that his older brother, presumed dead after a kidnapping, might still be alive, and traveling with Lisette posing as his wife reveals much more than information about his long-lost sibling.

It must be the season for discounted historical romance, as Lorraine Heath‘s final installment in her Lost Lords of Pembrook trilogy, Lord of Wicked Intentions, is also on sale for $1.99. A lord who has been on the run since he was young escaping a nefarious uncle determined to rob him of his birthright and a young, innocent woman who is the illegitimate daughter of an earl is a recipe for a satisfying romance, particularly when the lord in question makes her his mistress and she’s determined to have all of his love.

In time for the holiday season is the paranormal deal of Selena Blake‘s novella, Fangs, Fur and Mistletoe, currently free on Amazon. The first in her highly rated Mystic Isle series, set on an island which is a playground for paranormal creatures wanting to relax. When a vampire meets up with the hunky werewolf who was her enemy a century ago, her sexual drought is just about to end, especially when the werewolf in question realizes he has a chance with the blue-eyed temptress he hasn’t been able to forget over the decades. It’s free, people!

Laura Griffin‘s suspense novel, Twisted, the fifth book in her Tracers series, is also only $1.99 right now and fans of romance fiction featuring police and FBI protagonists need to hustle over and grab it. A lovely rookie police officer in a small Texas town worries that the case that seems like it’s tied with a bow isn’t all that it seems, an instinct confirms when a handsome FBI profiler appears with new information. But just when it seems they are in hands distance of catching a killer, the hunters may become the hunted.

Have a great week and happy reading!! :-)

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of November 17, 2013

17 Nov

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Pamela Clare‘s latest edition to her romantic suspense/military romance I-Team series, Striking Distance, came out on November 5th and early sales show readers are snatching it up. Fans of Maya Banks and M. L. Buchman might find themselves enjoying this series which combines major romantic angst with sensual characters and adrenaline-inducing suspense. The Kindle edition is also only $4.79 right now, so this could be a good time to try Clare if you haven’t already.

Fans of Carrie Ann Ryan‘s erotic paranormal Dante’s Circle Series get more for their money with her latest installment in the anthology Ever After, published on November 9th. With the novella “His Choice” listed as #3.5 in the Dante’s Circle collection, Ryan leads off this grouping of paranormal novellas, all of which tie into other successful series by authors Marie Harte, Rebecca Royce, Lia Davis and Leia Shaw. As always, quality anthologies are a great way to see if there are other authors and series that might interest you, particularly when the book sticks within the same genre.

Historical readers who enjoy Elizabeth Boyle‘s Rhymes With Love series, need to pre-order the next book in that series, If Wishes Were Earls, since it’s not only ready to order for a December 31st delivery, but the paperback version is currently discounted to $3.77. Harriet Hathaway has always wanted the Earl of Roxley and is convinced he will propose to her after they share a passionate interlude. But all signs point to him as ready to propose to another which might break Harriet’s heart if she didn’t see the emotion in his eyes every time he looks at her.

Contests and Giveaways

I’m always a little leery of romances involving Native American elements as you know, but I’d be willing to give Genevieve Graham‘s Somewhere to Dream (the third in her McDonnells series) a try, particularly since all her books are so well rated. Luckily for me, I might actually win a copy, since this novel about a young woman adopted as a child by the Cherokee and a captured man who hates Indians looks very interesting. Enter on the book’s Goodreads giveaway page before November 20th to see if you can win a copy.

The wonderful blog Hesperia Loves Books (you’ll remember her outstanding Breast Cancer fundraiser I featured in October) is promoting several authors with yummy boxed sets with a “Hoppin’ the Boxes” terrific giveaway. Enter the contest before November 19th and you could win not just eight boxed sets but also a gift card to your favorite ebook retailer!

Paranormal romance readers love Lara Adrian‘s Midnight Breed series (and who can blame them) but do you think they know that Adrian has a terrific companion guide to the series out? The Midnight Breed Series Companion came out this summer to good reviews, but it’s now also available via a Goodreads giveaway, so head over there before November 20th to enter and see if you can win a copy. Don’t want to wait? The book’s Kindle version is only $3.99.

I loved Zoe Archer‘s first book in her Nemesis, Unlimited series, and am therefore waiting with baited breath for the next book, Dangerous Seduction, about this group of undercover agents determined to right society’s wrongs. Luckily for me, this book featuring an aristocratic agent and the working class woman fighting for the rights of copper miners is going to be out in a mere eight days. Interested readers might want to head over and also enter the Goodreads giveaway before the deadline (and publication date) of November 26th.

Fun Stuff

I’m not really sure why, but the U.S. Postal Service is issuing awesome Harry Potter stamps featuring stills from the original movie. You can order them now (and I will) because who wouldn’t love a frenetic Hermione raising her hand on their holiday card? Seriously, who?

The 21st Annual Award for Bad Sex in Literature (billed as “Britain’s Most Dreaded Prize”) will take place on December 3rd and you have got to read some of these entries! Sponsored by Literary Review magazine, these tireless men and women comb otherwise good books for really awful descriptions of sex. While I’m sure plenty of literary authors and editors disparage romance, the fact remains that writing good sex isn’t easy, even for otherwise great writers – it’s a skill that not everyone has. Please note a commonality is always that the writers who make the final cut are usually 1) men and 2) don’t seem to understand that 20 minutes of clitoral stimulation is the average for a woman to achieve orgasm. Just sayin’.

Prologue Tea Company is a line of teas based on classic literature, just perfect for your favorite book lover, English teacher or librarian. Delicious combinations along with a retro package design make this an easy and popular gift for the holidays. With the opening lines of the novel featured on the back of the canister, this could make waiting for your water to boil go a lot faster. Designed by graphic artist Flora Chan there is still no word on where to buy this beautiful product, so I’m hoping this isn’t just an intellectual exercise but an actual potential present.

Great Deals

Jennifer McQuiston (love that name) is known for her historical romances with more than a little romantic comedy in them, so fans or curious readers will be pleased to know that her book, What Happens in Scotland, is on sale for $.99 right now on Amazon. Billed by many reviewers as an 1842 version of The Hangover, the book is praised for its lighthearted banter between a beautiful widow and the second son of an Earl who wake up in small Scottish village in the same bed – and the heroine is wearing a wedding ring.

Lara Adrian’s Heart of the Hunter, previously published under her other pseudonum of Tina St. John, is now out in ebook and available for only $.99. Considering that this book is the first in her Dragon Chalice trilogy, it’s a nice way to ease into this series filled with knights and dark magic. Paranormal and/or historical romance readers may want to consider trying this collection by sampling this first book.

Paranormal suspense writer Maggie Shayne‘s short Dream of Danger is currently free on Amazon, which gives readers an opportunity to see in person the tensions between blind self-help writer Rachel De Luca and Detective Mason Brown, both brought together in Shayne’s first suspense novel, Sleep with the Lights On, when Rachel undergoes a cornea transplant and begins to see visions. When Rachel distrusts her assistant’s new boyfriend, her instincts go on high alert when the woman doesn’t show up to Thanksgiving dinner, and Rachel is forced to turn to the man who harbors secrets keeping them apart, Mason Brown. With the first book only $.99, this short free, and the second full-length novel, Wake to Darkness, due out on November 26th (and available as a giveaway on a Goodreads contest), you could be enjoying these books for a pittance while your turkey roasts in the oven.

Regency fans ready to take out their Christmas decorations will enjoy the deal they can get on the anthology, A Grosvenor Square Christmas, featuring short stories from historical romance powerhouses like Shana Galen, Anna Campbell, Vanessa Kelly and Kate Nobel. And the best part? It’s available for free right now. Happy Christmas, indeed!

We just celebrated Veteran’s Day this past week, so what better way to consider the sacrifice and work of our nation’s heroes than reading military romance? Considering that there is a fantastic new box collection, Uniform Desires, with 625 pages of stories from authors like Sharon Hamilton, Melissa Schroeder, Elle James, Delilah Devlin, J. M. Madden, and Cat Johnson for only $.99 it’s practically unpatriotic not to buy it.

Happy Reading this week!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of October 27, 2013

27 Oct

Upcoming Books and New Releases

There are a few long-awaited novels that have just had publication dates announced and, believe me, you’ll want to pre-order! First up is the next full-length novel in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series (*whimper) Shield of Winter, which will feature the story of Vasic, the Arrow who has been subversively supporting the overthrow of Silence while realizing at the same time that its demise could mean his death. A damaged woman fighting for her people as his love interest and a release date of June 3rd means that I’m getting a terrific present right around my birthday. Thank you, Nalini!

In related shifter news, those readers who adore Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series filled with sexy bears, cats and wolves will be thrilled to know that the 9th book, Bite Me, is slated to be released as of March 25, 2014. Since one side of the couple shifts into a honey badger, I’ll be very interested to see how this plays out!

The next Kate Daniels book by Ilona Andrews, Magic Breaks, doesn’t have a cover (or at least not a released one, author Ilona Andrews made clear on the blog that this writing couple doesn’t want to hear the cranky comments from so-called fans who gripe at every release – can they just not read them so we polite readers can enjoy?) but it does have a date – August 5, 2014. Kate’s back in Atlanta as consort to the Beast Lord and it’s clear that her evil father Roland will be arriving soon – and everyone needs to get ready. Unfortunately things are getting complicated with the vampires and Kate has to pitch in to clear up a delicate situation (and we know how she does with delicate). Color me there!

In addition to all the announcements about big 2014 releases, it’s getting to be that time of year – holiday book time!!! Considering that I spend all December reviewing holiday books (I save them up for you to enjoy with hot chocolate and a fire in your fireplace), this is pretty exciting for me. Since I do love anthologies, those are a favorite and just a couple weeks ago, Entangled released one of their presents for the season, A Very Scandalous Holiday featuring stories by Nancy Fraser, Sophia Garrett, Amber Lin and Crista McHugh. These historical romance writers capture the spirit of the season across the centuries, from the Regency and Victorian eras to 1920s Chicago and the turmoil of World War II, so transport yourself to a different time with this bargain at a mere $2.99.

Fans of Jeaniene Frost‘s Night Huntress series (and I consider this one of the BEST series out on the market) should be pleased to note that Frost is going to release the previously published Home for the Holidays novella starring Cat & Bones (and all her related characters) as a stand alone novella for only $1.99, starting on November 5, 2013 when it comes out. While this is technically a novella, as I reviewed it in my post on the series, it reads like a much longer work, due to Frost’s fantastic writing and the harrowing threat to the couple’s happiness contained within it.

Contests and Giveaways

Vikings seem to be a hot new subgenre of historical romance and Harlequin is offering great novels from authors like Michelle Styles for readers enjoying these fur-clad pillagers. Her latest novel, Paying the Viking’s Price, is due out on November 1st, but readers have a chance to win a copy on Goodreads if they enter prior to October 30th. When a warrior who is finally granted lands and home from the king, he is surprised to discover the beautiful former lady of manor refusing to leave her home or her people. He’s happy to allow her to stay, providing she becomes his concubine.

Fans of shifter romance will want to enter the Goodreads giveaway prior to October 31st for the three pack of Ambrielle Kirk‘s first three novels in her Caedmon Wolves series. This five volume series features dark and edgy writing and plenty of werewolves finding their mates, even if it’s not under the best circumstances. A winning extra feature is that Kirk’s characters are racially diverse – so you benefit from reading interracial (as well as interspecial) romance, which is all too hard to find even in this day and age.

Maya BanksColters’ Legacy series is one of the most emotionally packed menage series I’ve read, so it’s wonderful that the fifth book, Colter’s Gift, due out on November 5th is being offered as part of a Goodreads giveaway for readers who love the ratio of more than one man interested in loving a strong woman who has undergone some recent emotional upheaval after trusting the wrong man. Enter before November 1st to see if you can win.

Harlequin always manages to deliver heart-warming holiday romances and that’s what I expect, A Little Bit of Holiday Magic by Melissa McClone to be. Featuring a widow and her young son rescued by a hunky fireman who has sworn off dating for the season, we can all guess what Santa is going to leave under this tree. Considering that Goodreads is having a giveaway for people who enter the contest prior to November 1st, I’d hop over there and see if you can get an early holiday present delivered to your doorstep.

Cynthia Eden is celebrating the latest release in her wonderful Mine suspense series, Mine to Hold, which was published on October 21st, and I’m sorry, is there anything hotter than a gorgeous billionaire who decides a woman too damaged to trust must be won? No, unless it’s when the author is amazing enough to also offer a $50 book gift card to the seller of your choice (Amazon or Barnes & Noble) giveaway to celebrate it! Head over to Eden’s Facebook page to enter using the Rafflecopter interface before the end of the month.

Suspense fans will want to enter the giveaway for a copy of Lena Diaz‘s Undercover Twin, the second book in her Morgan Brothers series. Featuring a DEA agent who left the love of his life behind only to come back into her life when her twin sister is kidnapped, this suspenseful tale is due to be released on November 19th. Enter the contest prior to November 1st for your chance to win a copy.

To celebrate a bunch of juicy-sounding paranormal releases, the Entangled in Publishing blog is giving away a Kindle Fire this week for people who enter their Rafflecopter giveaway by promoting the contest via social media. Keep in mind that these books are going for a mere $1.99, so you might want to give yourself something less calorie laden then chocolate for the holiday (or, like me, give yourself BOTH!).

Someone needs to do a study on the birth control failure rate in Harlequin novels (or maybe they are all just swept away and forgot to don a condom), which results in all those surprise pregnancies! In Expecting a Bolton Baby by Sarah M. Anderson (the third book in her Bolton Brothers series) a businessman never expects to see the hottest one night stand he ever experienced since the lady in question revealed she was the daughter of an intense rival. Yet now he discovers she’s pregnant with his child and he wants more than nothing else to make things right and marry her, preferably without letting her know of his feelings. Enter the Goodreads giveaway before November 1st for a chance to win a copy.

The Vampire Book Club blog can always be counted on, both for in depth reviews and fun giveaways and you can imagine that October is an important month for them! To celebrate three terrific Urban Fantasy reads that they feel are going to end up on the ‘best of’ lists this year, they are having a Rafflecopter giveaway to win copies of Larissa Ione’s Bound by Night, Kelley Armstrong’s Thirteen and Karen Chance’s Tempt the Stars. Head over there before October ends to enter!

For Writers

The Popular Romance project, a fantastic source of all things related to the romance industry, released a terrific video clip of an interview with Jessica Andersen regarding what makes writing category romance so attractive to romance writers. Andersen herself is a well-regarded writer for Harlequin’s Intrigue line as well as the Nocturne line for her paranormal series like Royal House of Shadows. Like her (her Nightkeepers line is out under Signet), many writers who have made it big on the single title market continue to keep an oar in category romance, putting out a couple books a year (think Jill Shalvis and Catherine Mann) and even more best-seller authors got their start in category. Why? Watch the clip.

Writer Pat Haggerty is a whiz at Scrivener (and shared his wisdom via a well-regarded Savvy Authors class that my fellow RWA chapters members enthusiastically endorse) but in his post at Romance University, he kindly illuminates how writers can employ the “Save the Cat” screenwriting formula recommended by editors in the industry using that wonderful piece of software.

Tracey Devlynwhose latest book A Lady’s Secret Weapon I adoredwrote a post over at Romance University about how to handle it when your publishing house decides to let you go, right in the middle of your series. I’m not sure what her publisher’s (Sourcebooks) motivation was (I’m guessing the books weren’t selling the way they wanted?) but I’m grateful that we live in a day and age where a writer can continue a high quality series on her own to satisfy the numerous fans who do not want to see it end prematurely.

Fun Stuff

Do you remember those little Golden Books you read when you were little, the ones with colorful covers and gold foil spines? So does artist Ryan Jude Novelline who created a ballgown from the illustrations and spines of those iconic first reads. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Novelline got his degree in illustration, yet his work continually attempts to reinterpret established ideas and push boundaries. Take a look at the Pinterest board showing the many stages of the creation of this masterpiece.

When you are a reader, you love to snicker at clever t-shirts and I happen to love the ABC’s of Literature t-shirt on sale at Threadless. Whether it’s Ginsberg’s glasses or the Route 66 sign for Kerouac, this simple black shirt will have kindred spirits giving you the “nice one” head nod when you wear it (and help you steer clear of the “I don’t get it” people).

Similarly, readers and librarians alike will enjoy the pulp fiction-styled Attack of the 50 Foot Librarian t-shirt from Funny Baby. I don’t know what I like best, that the figure has auburn hair (ahem) or that she seems to be holding an ereader (replacing the car in the original image) with classic books and glasses strewn in panic on the highway beneath her. Whatever the reason, this must-wear item has gone into my Etsy cart!

Great Deals

You don’t get better than free and that’s exactly what Amy AndrewsGirl Least Likely to Marry – a Harlequin KISS book – is right now on Amazon! With a wealthy, football playing hero with a good sense of humor and a scientist who couldn’t care less (and probably falls on the autism spectrum with her ability to read people) reviewers are raving about this outstanding addition to Andrews’ The Wedding Season series.

Historical romance author Elizabeth Boyle has updated the covers of her Brazen series, re-releasing this mid-1990s series with a fresh new look. At the moment, Brazen Angel, the first book in the trilogy, is a mere $.99 for the ebook version, allowing fans of romance novels with strong spying/privateer themes to sigh in happiness.

Fans of Urban Fantasy might want to try the second book in the Crimson City series, A Taste of Crimson by Marjorie M. Liu, which highlights a romance between a strong vampire and a rebel werewolf who find themselves working with what would normally be a natural enemy in a fallen City of Angels. The Crimson City series is one of those put together by an editor employing different authors to write each installment and with authors like LIz Maverick, Jade Lee and Patti O’Shea, chances are these high ratings are well-earned.

Romantic suspense fans might want to take advantage of Pamela Clare‘s Breaking Point (from her I-Team series) being on sale for $1.99 right now on Amazon. Unlike the common security company trope, Clare has created a series based around a group of mostly women investigating (hence the “I” in I-Team) the shadowy corners of society where they stumble across “the alpha males of the their dreams.” Considering that this entire series of nine books and novellas consistently range above a four on Goodreads, I’d say this angle has proven darn successful for Clare (and I plan on trying it out at these prices!).

Close out Breast Cancer Awareness month by taking advantage of not only a great deal for the paranormal anthology Entangled (whose proceeds go to Breast Cancer research) but which also offers you 424 pages of stories from amazing authors like Cynthia Eden, Jennifer Estep, and Michelle Diener. At only $2.99, you’ll feel like you are giving yourself (and all women) a present for Halloween.

Fans of the sheik romance might remember my post on Sarah Morgan’s Lost to the Desert Warrior, but for readers who have not yet gotten to sample it, please be aware that not only is that title on sale for $1.99 right now, but it’s predecessor, Woman in a Sheik’s World is also available at the discounted price. Considering that books hero and heroine (living their HEA) make an appearance in Lost to the Desert Warrior, it would be fun to get both to enjoy Morgan’s excellent writing about these gripping characters.

Happy reading this week (and happy Halloween)!

When Romance Isn’t Romance at All – The Disappointment of Vristen Pierce’s Between Friends Erotic Novella

10 Oct

Between Friends by Vristen Pierce (Forever, October 1, 2013)

I’m going to try and not belabor this post. Normally, I only review books that I recommend for purchase, but in this case, I think this book makes a really important point that publishers need to listen to, particularly with the giant wave of erotica that the Big Six publishing houses have decided to surf. There is one simple rule of romance. One.

Romance novels have a happy ending between two people.

We can amend that to two or more people in the case of menage erotic romance, but it’s a hard and fast rule that you cannot break. If you do, your book isn’t romance.

Between Friends by Vristen Pierce is not romance.

Yet, Grand Central which publishes the very popular romance line of Forever, has chosen to publish this book under exactly that category, a choice that I believe has led directly to its abysmal ratings on Goodreads and Amazon. Romance readers pick up books because of this one rule (see above) and when you don’t deliver, we wind up like a Cy Young award pitcher, ready to hurl this book across the room and never, ever buy a book from the author again.

And I’m disappointed, because not only did this book have a tremendous amount of potential since there is a substantial following for menage erotic romance, but it also featured an African American heroine in an interracial relationship. That’s awesome and something we do not see enough in romance.

The novella starts off with Stacy Washington getting dumped by her boyfriend and heading out with a friend to have a good one-night stand to remember that she’s a desirable woman. In addition to the hot bartender Evan, she finds gorgeous Justin with whom she promptly fulfills her goal of the evening. The sex is great and a few days later she wants more, this time from Evan since her best friend has reminded Stacy of the rule of not going back to one-night stands (it smacks of relationship). Stacy ping-pongs between the two men (who happen to be friends) and it’s really just sex. Everyone likes each other, Stacy feels empowered at work and begins to make some changes, and before you know it, she’s headed off to England. Alone.

*needle screech* I’m sorry, what?

Yep, not only do we not see either guy develop into anything resembling a relationship (and we are told that she’s falling for each of them because they do end up hanging out but we are never shown any kind of deeper connection), but Stacy doesn’t want to choose so she figures it’s easier to just leave the country.

First of all, I get annoyed with first person erotica (it feels lazy to me and I want different perspectives) unless it’s in the hands of a maestro like Charlotte Stein, and Vristen Pierce is no maestro (and what is with her name – Vristen? If her parents named her that, it’s mean and if she chose it as a pen name, it’s weird). Because there is little to no emotional intimacy with the characters, the sex is flat (because good sex scenes are not about putting tab A in slot B), and we get zero happy ending. Second, it is not a mystery that this book is in the under 3 stars category on Goodreads, because the author and the publisher has literally betrayed its faithful romance readership by putting out this novella under their name. It’s not romance.

I’m going to stop here, but I think that Forever did Vristen Pierce a huge disservice not editing her novel differently and certainly by putting this out as a romance. I think she has succeeded in alienating readers (certainly me) when there was a terrific opportunity to put out a erotic romance novel with a fresh new perspective.

Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle Builds on Viking Interest While Adding a Great New Voice to Historical Fiction

9 Oct

Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle (Entangled, June 2013)

I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever read a Viking-themed romance before this one. Chances are it probably happened in the 80s, hardly the heyday of consensual relationships and whatever I read probably scarred me for a while. That said, I find Norse history fascinating, with their rich mythology and legends and a culture based on a combination of agriculture and carefully executed raids on neighboring lands for goods and slaves.

My great-grandfather was actually from Sweden and while family accounts have him as quite the jackass personality (“mean” and “taciturn” were words bandied about by his wife, my French great-grandmother), he was quite the personality. He immigrated a little after the turn of the twentieth century, actually rode in the U.S. Calvary against Pancho Villa in the American Southwest and then became a chauffeur during the time of World War I in New York City. My great-grandmother came to America from France in 1918 with a couple of her sisters (she was the youngest at a mere 17) trying to escape the devastation of France and got work as a nursery maid for a rich family in Manhattan. Guess who was next door? The handsome, tall, blond Swedish chauffeur, that’s who. They ended up married and with two children, yet she continued to work for the family for some time, traveling all over with them (we called her Tutu after the Hawaiian name for grandmother because her employers spent so much time there).

As Tutu used to say, luckily for her he died (not romantic, I know) because they had a terrible marriage and he was an awful husband. She followed up this disaster of a marriage by marrying the man who would be the love of her life and treated her like a princess, so she got a happy ending, but the legacy of the Swedish great-grandfather lives on in our family who you would easily mistake for Vikings. The men are extremely tall, blond or red-haired with pale blue eyes and the women are beautiful, tall and with the same coloring. I got a little more height than my Mom’s side of the family (not much) but my light eyes and high cheekbones are courtesy of Sweden (so my thanks to that country).

With the mental image of my family members it was rather easy to envision the hero of new author Gina Conkle‘s novel Norse Jewel. Hakan is a Svea chieftain close to his king who wants nothing more than to retire from raiding and work his farm and be with his son. That his king continues to make demands on his time and his grasping ex-wife will not release his son Erik to him as dictated by Norse custom continues to rankle. When he stumbles across the wounded Frankish maid at a slave auction, the last thing he wants is a young, pretty woman stirring up trouble. But it’s clear she’s in danger from the group of Danes trying to buy her, and his instincts have him purchasing her as a thrall, a slave, to work in his home.

The Viking invasion routes during this time period – rather easy to imagine a Frankish maid ending up as a slave in a chieftain’s house, isn’t it?

Helena cannot believe that she’s at the mercy of the tall Norse warrior. She was living her life in her small Frankish village as the daughter of the apothecary and betrothed to a local scholar. The wound on her face is from one of the Danes attempting to cut away the purse around her neck holding the jewel that was to be her dowry, but her intended husband ran to safety when the raiders arrived in the village and she was snatched. Her knowledge of some Norse makes her useful to this man who is clearly a chieftain, but he wants nothing to do with her, beyond mending and cooking.

While Hakan discovers quickly that she cannot cook, he also discovers that Helena is actually an incredibly intelligent woman of many talents, bringing order to his homestead and tremendous wealth to him. As their feeling for one another grows deeper, the barrier of his ex-wife’s betrayal combined with political elements around the king continue to be barriers they cannot cross. Helena has the added mental block that she is truly Hakan’s slave and while she does love him, her self-respect will not allow her to yield to him until he can show her that he truly cares for, preferably by giving her freedom to return home.

Norse mythology and culture are becoming increasingly popular as indicated by movies like Thor and the BBC drama Vikings.

I thought this was a terrific historical romance – at almost exactly 200 pages this had the feel of a category romance in terms of the romance part of the plot, yet Conkle delivers such depth of well-researched information that you feel you are reading a longer book set in the time period, complete with complex religious and cultural conflicts our hero and heroine encounter. Both characters are highly sympathetic (and stubborn) but the feeling between them is very real, and I love that the author has them becoming friends first even though the frisson of attraction is always present.

The actual sex comes pretty late in the book and it was a little bit of a closed-door scene (you only get to see the hot foreplay) which did not make me happy. Yet I was so thrilled they were finally confessing their feelings to each other that I was okay with it, which honestly indicates how great Conkle’s writing is because normally I’d be pretty pissed about being denied by detailed sexy times. This lack of explicitness nevertheless makes this novel highly appropriate for readers who like their romance a little more on the sweet side.

What I cannot figure out is if there will be a series based on some of the characters introduced in this book! *arrgggh* Considering that the political situation continues to be unresolved, and that I want to know what happens to Hakan’s best friend Sven who has seemingly betrayed him, I feel like Entangled would be crazy not to pursue at least a second related book. Yet, no indication exists on Goodreads or Conkle’s website to hint that there will be other books related to this one, so I’m going to have to keep my fingers crossed.

Erik Northman, the millenia-old vampire in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books (and in its companion TV series, True Blood) is a Viking living in modern times, but with an age-old ruthlessness

There is no denying a cultural upswing in interest around Norse culture. Thor and it’s upcoming sequel prove the box office loves Norse gods and mythology and the BBC series Vikings (a Canadian-Irish drama) was picked up by the History Channel proving so popular there is going to be a second season (it’s also on Hulu and I have it in my queue to watch). Yet Norse historical romance is still in such an early stage of development in the world of romance that there doesn’t seem to be a dedicated Goodreads list. You can find the “Best Viking Books” listing Norse Jewel alongside erotica with a Norse theme and historical fiction by Bernard Cornwell. More than a few of these books (particularly the romances) have time-travel or paranormal themes, featuring Vikings living in the present (think of Eric Northman from Charlaine HarrisSookie Stackhouse series) rather than plunging readers into the world of the past.

Gina Conkle’s Norse Jewel not only adds a wonderful novel to the world of Viking romance but it also showcases a vibrant new voice to the world of historical fiction with her layered world, well-written characters and plots that demand more than one book to flesh out. My fingers are crossed that more books will be on there way soon since I find this writer a bargain at a mere $2.99.

Happy Reading! :-)

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! :-)

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