Tag Archives: bella andre

Don’t Miss It! New and Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff, and Great Deals You Might Have Missed

4 May

New and Upcoming Books

Paranormal doyenne N. J. Walters has recently published the first in her new Salvation Pack series, Wolf at the Door, about a paranormal writer who in the process of getting information about werewolves discovers that they are actually…gasp…real. When the werewolf hero realizes that this woman he’s supposed to silence is his mate, he also is aware that the head of the rival pack – who is also his father – will do anything to get rid of her.

Any reader who enjoys steamy category romance is familiar with the wonderful writing of Leslie Kelly, so they’ll be pleased to hear that she’s recently published another wonderful book under Harlequin Blaze’s “Unrated” label (mrrrroooowwww), Double Take. When a sex therapist gains way to much media attention, she retreats to an island off the coast of Michigan as a substitute teacher hoping to not even think about sex for a while. That intention is blown out of the water upon meeting former Chicago cop Mike Santori who came to this safe small island to settle down and avoid danger. Falling for a hot teacher who is more than she appears was not part of the plan, but he’ll do everything he can – and use every one of her naughty toys – at his disposal to strip her of her defenses.

Kaylea Cross is one of the best military romance writers out there, so I was elated to discover that the most recent book in her outstanding Bagram Ops series is out. Danger Close has Army nurse Lt. Erin Kelly ready for her well-deserved leave back home in Montana, but plans go awry when a strange man unintentionally puts her in the way of the American-born terrorist currently enemy number one. This places her in tremendous danger and, now that his cover has been blown, CIA Operative Wade Sandberg isn’t about to leave Erin’s safety in anyone else’s hands, particularly as the man he once guarded hunts them down.

As historical romance fans wait for Erin Knightley‘s next full-length novel to come out, they will be elated knowing that she’s given readers a terrific novella, Deceived by a Duke, as the next installment in her All’s Fair in Love series. Published this past Friday, this 97 page morsel of goodness has a responsible duke who takes his dissolute younger brother to Spain with the caveat that if he agrees to live minus their station for a month, his debts will be paid. What no one expected was the English beauty who helps them with the local language, but what will happen when she realizes that her heart which has been captured has been deceived by a duke? At only $.99, there’s no mistaking this novella as a great bargain, so grab it now while you wait for The Baron Next Door, her Prelude to a Kiss novel, to be published on June 3rd.

Harlequin is embarking on another glamorous multi-author series, this time centering on a decadent Monte Carlo hotel, The Chatsfield (the name of the series as well as the surname of the billionaire family who owns it). First up is Lucy Monroe with Sheikh’s Scandal, about a ruler who is jilted in the hotel, only to find solace in a beautiful chambermaid who he promptly whisks back to his home country when circumstances arise that their night together may result in pregnancy. Published on May 1st, the next sequel will be Playboy’s Lesson (debuting on June 1st) by Melanie Milburne and then the gothic sounding Billionaire’s Secret by Chantelle Shaw due out in August.

Everyone knows how much I adore M. L. Buchman, so I’m thrilled that his new spin-off series, Firehawks, debuts this coming Tuesday, May 6th, with Pure Heat. Fans who enjoyed his incredible Night Stalkers series know that our favorite couple in those books have taken the news of their pregnancy and decided to turn civilian, flying helicopters in dangerous fire-fighting situations. In this opening novel, an emotionally shut down forest fire specialist who has lost loved ones in the line of duty is assigned as a co-pilot to a hot former smokejumper. When they discover a terrorist threat in the wilderness, it’s hard to determine what’s hotter, they’re attraction to each other or the fire they are desperate to conquer.

If you love animals, hot men and Jill Shalvis (and who doesn’t?) you must adore this contemporary author’s Animal Magnetism series, set in a small Western town where hot vets seem to be a speciality. You can chalk up one more citizen who fits this description as her latest book, Then Came You, focuses on a veterinary intern fulfilling her vet school scholarship by serving a year in a clinic in the middle-of-nowhere Idaho, only to come face to face with her hot one night stand at the Reno veterinary conference she attended. The problem? He’s her boss. Unfortunately we’re going to have to wait until July 1st for this one, but I have a feeling the summer is going to be a little bit hotter! FYI, be sure to enter the Goodreads giveaway before May 9th to see if you can win a copy. 🙂

Lauren Dane’s long-awaited Hurley Boys series is driving the anticipation higher with both the cover release for The Best Kind of Trouble, the first book in the series, which will debut on August 26th in print and September 1st in ebook form (it’s an annoying Harlequin thing) as well as the pre-order page for the second book, Broken Open, going live despite its November 25th release date. Having met these sexy rock stars who stay close to their small-town Hood River, Oregon roots in Dane’s fabulous book Lush, we’ve been chomping at the bit waiting for all their stories. The Best Kind of Trouble focuses on the town’s librarian, a once wild girl in her youth, who has mastered self-control and now has her life going to plan…that is, until Paddy Hurley, the musician with whom she once spent two unbelievable weeks returns to tempt her.

Whether you love them for the amazing writing, Victorian Era Highlanders (who are NOT as tame as their English counterparts) or the loving mess of the Mackenzie family, any installment of Jennifer Ashley’s Highland Pleasures series is a must-read. Fans of quality historical romance will be thrilled to note the next book in the series, Rules for a Proper Governess, is available for pre-order, with a release date of October 7, 2014.  This book focuses on one of the McBride men (related to the Mackenzies via the sister who married Lord Cameron), the brilliant barrister Sinclair whose widowed status has led to an amazing career but two hellion children. When a thief manages to tame his wayward offspring, he offers her a job as their governess, but pocket watches aren’t the only thing she knows how to steal, and Sinclair begins to realize that his heart is in danger as well.

Contests and Giveaways

RT Book Reviews magazine has a terrific giveaway featuring the first novel of M. L. Buchman’s Firehawks series (his spin off from his successful – and amazing – Night Stalkers books, see above description in “Upcoming Books”), Pure Heat, as well as Julie Ann Walker‘s latest Black Knights Inc. book, Hell for Leather. That’s a lot of muscled alpha male, but I know you can handle it, so enter their Rafflecopter giveaway before May 8th for your chance to win!

Susan Mallery has an incredibly successful series with her long-running Fool’s Gold collection, and now you can win the fourteenth book, Before We Kiss, in a Goodreads giveaway. With a former pro-football player with terrible luck with woman and the one night stand he runs from when he discovers a room filled with wedding gowns, this is classic Mallery, so readers will enjoy this journey to a happily ever after. Be sure to enter by May 6th for your chance to win!

Kat Latham and Ashley LeMar are doing a wonderful giveaway for the month of May in honor of Memorial Day’s focus on our nation’s men and women in the military. Entitled 2014 Read, White and Blue, it’s goal is to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, which provides assistance to military personnel (and their families) who have have been injured or are coping with illness. It’s a great cause and helping out and promoting the giveaway enters you to win the grand prize, a Kindle, donated ebooks, custom coffee mugs, a cozy blanket and a $20 Starbucks gift card! Enter before May 31st and make your Memorial Day about more than a great cookout with friends and family.

Western romance fans instantly recognize Linda Lael Miller‘s name, so they’ll be pleased to discover that she has a new series, The Brides of Bliss County, debuting at the end of May and the first book, The Marriage Pact, is available as a prize in a Goodreads giveaway for readers who hustle over and enter before May 6th. Considering this has a best friend’s little sister, a divorced hero who once saved the heroine from making a bad marriage and heat that cannot be denied, I’ll be reading this one whether or not I win!

Fun Stuff

Anyone needing a blast from romance novels past should check out BuzzFeed’s hilarious “19 Things Fabio Is Really Thinking on Romance Novel Covers.” Readers who lived through the bodice ripper days of the 1980s will recognize more than a few of these covers!!

If you’ve got a honey bunny who needs a love card, romance enthusiasts need look no further than Meow Kapow shop on Etsy and their hilarious (to the library geeks among us) “checking you out” card. Be sure to look at their other delightfully retro and quirky offerings – there are more than few stocking stuffers and hostess gifts in this great shop!

Great Deals

Pirate fans will want to take a look at Pleasing the Pirate by Sharon Cullen which features a spunky Highland miss determined to save her brother from imprisonment so he can take over the management of their lands. Unfortunately, she has to seek help from a handsome Sassenach buccaner who has little use for her money, but plenty for her body. That her brother is exactly the person the crown has asked him to apprehend is an unexpected bonus, but his obligations prove less and less appealing the more time he spends with this Scottish beauty. Only $.99 for 261 pages on Amazon!

Shifter and romantic suspense fans will want to take note that Wolf Protector by Milly Taiden (part of her Federal Paranormal Unit series) is also currently only $.99. I enjoyed this book tremendously as it stars a psychic heroine who keeps herself tightly under control, particularly around her devastatingly handsome coworker, who she has labeled trouble of the player variety. The hero, a wolf shifter, knows this woman is who he’s been waiting for but his patience is reaching its limit as she continues to ignore him. When a gruesome serial killer has them both working together, no one is denying the fiery attraction between them. But does their love come too late? With the next book in the series, Dangerous Protector, just out this past Friday, this is a great opportunity to see if you want to commit yourself to the series (which I think you will!).

Erotic author Jasmine Haynes has the first of her Open Invitation series, Invitation to Seduction, available for free right now on Amazon. With an artist heroine low on confidence, a bachelorette party at an exclusive club and a hero whose fallen for the heroine from afar and will do anything to get her now that he’s seen her in person, we’ve reached “fan yourself” territory. Grab it now as a present to yourself.

We’ve got to feature at least one awesome book bundle, and this one is a doozy! If you haven’t yet picked up Dark and Deadly: Eight Bad Boys of Paranormal Romance, get on it, as it gives you quite a line-up of authors for only $.99! With Jennifer Ashley’s Bodyguard (a fabulous novella from her Shifters Unbound series) heading the list, the bundle also features powerhouse writers like Alyssa Day, Felicity Heaton, Erin Kellison, Laurie London, Erin Quinn, Bonnie Vanak and Caris Roane. WOW!

May means the advent of romance authors everywhere raising money for Brenda Novak’s Online Auction to benefit Diabetes Research and this amazing book bundle, A Sweet Life Boxed Set, has fourteen contemporary romances from best-selling authors with all proceeds headed straight to that charity. At only $.99 for 1500 pages of great writing, it’s not just the research that’s benefiting, particularly with authors like Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, Heather Graham, Susan Mallery, Brenda Novak (the fundraiser herself!), Susan Wiggs, and Debbie Macomber among others. Don’t let the “sweet” in the title fool you either – there’s a variety of sensuality levels from steamy to sweet between these covers.

Happy reading! 🙂

Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Sunday, March 23, 2014

23 Mar

Sorry to have been away so long. We have a lot to catch up on!

Upcoming Books and New Releases

 Anyone who reads this blog knows my undying admiration for Nalini Singh, who has captivated me with both her amazing Guild Hunter series (for urban fantasy or angel fans) as well as the fabulous Psy-Changeling series, which features the SnowDancer Wolves and DarkRiver Leopards and the humans and Psy who interact with them as the world inches closer to a major change. Now Whisper of Sin, a terrific novella that is one of the prequels in the Psy-Changeling series, is available as a stand alone novella for only $2.99 as of late February. Previously only published in the Burning Up anthology (published in 2010 and containing a great novella from Meljean Brook from her Iron Seas steampunk series), this novella tells the story of high-ranked soldier Emmett and how he helps rescue a human in San Francisco’s Chinatown only to realize that she is his mate.

Bella Andre‘s Sullivan series fans will want to make sure that the latest volume of the Sullivans series, Just To Be With You, made it to their mailbox or ereader on March 5th (and if it didn’t, get on it!). Can you believe it’s the 12th book in this hit series? These Seattle Sullivans are just as compelling as their California cousins, with the jaded, successful CEO of Sullivan Investments, Ian Sullivan, about to fall for the gorgeous actress, Tatiana Landon. She’s been waiting for a strong love like this, but with Ian’s history of failed relationships, nothing is going to be easy about this happily ever after.

Donna Grant knows her Highlanders, which is probably one of the reasons she’s begun a new novella series, Rogues of Scotland (love the name). First up is The Craving, which came out on March 6th and features a woman who retreats to her family home in order to mend a betrayed heart, only to find a man trapped by a woman and a gypsy curse in a mirror. Trusting and loving the woman who finds him will take a leap of faith he’s not sure he can give, but it might be the only way to set them both free.

Historical romance writer Katharine Ashe just came out with her first book in a new (self-published?) Regency series, My Lady, My Lord, on March 10th and it looks wonderful. When an intelligent book reading lady is forced to give the time of day to her libertine neighbor, sparks are sure to fly, particularly since he adores torturing her as much as watching fast horses at the races. At only $2.99 for over 300 pages, Ashe fans have quite a bit to rub their hands in glee about.

Kit Rocha‘s unbelievably good erotic dystopian Beyond series finally added Beyond Jealousy this week, and weren’t we all waiting with baited breath? Tattoo artist and former gigilo Ace has wanted Rachel from the moment she left her comfortable, sheltered life and became an O’Kane to settle her father’s debt, but all he’s done is hurt her, especially after he became a couple with a man she had tried a relationship with, the resident hero and former special ops soldier, Cruz. Neither Cruz nor Ace have ever stopped loving Rachel so when the opportunity presents itself for all three of them to come together, the results are combustible, particularly in trying to work through everyone’s emotional baggage while a major turf war erupts in the sector.

We all know what a fangirl I am for anything written by Jennifer Ashley and I have big circles on my calendar for every installment of her Shifters Unbound series. Well, Feral Heat, Jace and Deni’s story, came out this week and it did NOT disappoint! This novella is right between the two full-length novels, Tiger Magic and the upcoming Wild Wolf (April 1st cannot get here soon enough), and is just as phenomenal as every other book in the series. It’s a hot, sexy love story that still manages to propel her fascinating story arc of the shifters attempting to discover how to rid themselves of the collars that keep them second class citizens. This author does not know how to write a mediocre book and I for one applaud her high standards!! Did I also mention this outstanding volume is only $1.99 and it’s not a short novella, but a meaty one equaling a lot of category romance novels. Great writing and an awesome value – I heart Jennifer Ashley!

Book seven of Eloisa James‘ Desperate Duchesses series will come out on March 25th, and Three Weeks With Lady X looks like a keeper. A bastard son of a duke needs to marry a woman with a serious reputation and he turns to Lady Xenobia India, an independent woman who quickly becomes the focus of his efforts. But this woman is no wallflower to go into a marriage of convenience, and the gentleman in question finds he must give everything to get everything if she’s to agree to his terms. Keep in mind if you pre-order this puppy and provide proof of your purchase with a picture of a receipt or a screenshot of your browser screen confirming your purchase, James is having a contest for a lucky reader to get special bonus content sent directly from her!

Also out on March 25th is the next book in Nora Roberts‘ latest trilogy, The Cousins O’Dwyer, Shadow Spell. This fantastic series has a strong paranormal story arc linking an Irish brother and sister and their American cousin to their long ago Irish ancestors. With evil sorcerers, plenty of magic and an abundance of animal familiars set in the Irish countryside, Roberts’ fans get to see this writer in her element once more. Don’t worry about having to wait too long for the final volume. The third book, Blood Magick, will be out on November 4th and is already available for pre-order.

March 25th is clearly a big day for romance, since Lori Foster’s next book in her Love Undercover series, Dash of Peril, also debuts. This series is outstanding, and I for one am eager to see construction business owner Dash help his brother’s frosty lieutenant take down nefarious human traffickers with a little heat on the side. Mrrrrooowww. If you haven’t yet indulged in this series, get your butt in gear as there are sexy alpha males galore as well as beautiful woman who inspire fierce protectiveness and love in the worst of circumstances. So good!!

It’s never too early to begin looking at the spring releases (and pre-ordering them to lock in great prices). Elle Kennedy has an addition to her Killer Instincts series coming down the pike on April 1st, and fans of “mercenaries with a heart” stories will want to take note of Midnight Pursuits. The fourth in this highly rated series has a rookie to the group assigned to assist a loner deep in Eastern Europe on a mission gone horribly wrong. While she usually has no use for working with someone, this former Marine has a skill set that she can definitely use…and the heat between them seems to have the added bonus of warming her cold heart.

In addition to the Cousin’s O’Dwyer paranormal novel mentioned above, Nora Roberts also has one of her romantic suspense novels, this one entitled The Collector, due out in hardcover on April 15th. When a professional apartment sitter is the sole witness to a heinous crime, the brother of the main suspect seeks her help as he knows his sibling could not possibly be responsible. The two are drawn closer as they come closer to discovering the actual perpetrator, hopefully before it’s too late.

Historical romance author Amanda Quick announced she will be publishing a stand alone novel, Otherwise Engaged on April 22nd, featuring her usual brand of bold heroine (this one a world traveler) who finds herself the target of a madmen obsessed by her name being linked to that of a gentleman scientist. That the man in question is also a spy for the crown thickens the plot and he has no intention of her reputation suffering – or of the fiery beauty getting hurt – due to his actions.

Paranormal doyenne Christine Feehan will be publishing the third book of her Sisters of the Heart series (a spin off grouping that takes place in the same town as the Drake Sisters books), Air Boundon May 27th. Each book focuses on one of six women who have come together as part of a special grief support group for women who have lost someone to violent crime. The heroine of this book not only suffered with her paranormal ability by growing up in a special government facility, but also recently lost her mother at the hands of a murderer. Kidnapped and aboard a ship, she finds herself at the mercy of an intriguing captor, one who intended to use her for his own purposes, only to find himself drawn to her instead.

Maya Banks‘ KGI series fans need to circle June 24th on their calendar as that is the publication date for the next novel in this wildly successful series, When Day Breaks. When a wounded and scarred Afghanistan veteran is assigned to protect a stunning model with a violent stalker, no one could have predicted that these two people would find something in common. But serious heat and attraction exists and neither party is about to let a murderous stalker get in the way.

The husband-and-wife writing team of Ilona Andrews have been blogging for months about a paranormal romance they have been working on for Avon Publishing – and the link is finally live! The official name is Burn For Me and it will be the first of their Hidden Legacy trilogy which the authors have confessed is more like a paranormal political thriller versus the paranormal heroic journey/police procedural of the Kate Daniels series (which is phenomenal). As the only thing I wish for in the Kate Daniels series is a little more sexy times between Kate and Curran, I was thrilled to hear that the heat level is a bit more “fan yourself” in this upcoming work. The only bad news? We’ll have to wait until October 28th for it to come out, but with the current ebook price at a mere $4.99 for almost 400 pages, it’s worth pre-ordering now in case the price raises a little closer to the fall.

Contests and Giveaways

Paranormal author Robin D. Owens is embarking on an urban fantasy series starring a woman who can see ghosts and the sheriff who finds himself drawn into her life, all with a Western setting. The aptly named Ghost Seer (series with the same name) is debuting on April 1st and from now until March 24th, you can enter a contest on Goodreads to win a copy of the book. With the second book due out in early September, fans of instant gratification won’t have long to wait to see how this storyline develops.

You can win a signed copy of the first book in historical romance writer Elizabeth Hoyt‘s Prince series, The Raven Prince, which came out in both in 2006 and then was reissued under a new (and gorgeous) cover in 2012. When a widow in dire financial straits is almost mowed down by a aristocrat in desperate need of a secretary, problems for everyone seem solved, except that the Earl’s newest secretary takes exception at his decision to visit a brothel to assuage his “manly” needs…and so she decides to be a mystery woman who will take care of his every wish, in and out of the study. Enter before March 31st to win your autographed copy!

Category romance fans who enjoy the secret baby trope will definitely want to put Andrea Laurence‘s His Lover’s Little Secret (a Harlequin Desire novel out on April 1st) on their to-read list. When a millionaire has a chance run in with the lover he never forgot, he can do the math and realizes her little son is his child – and he’s not about to let either of them go. But while the mother of his son might be willing to let him into their life, she’s not about to give into his bossy ways and let him into her heart again. Enter by March 31st for a chance to win a copy.

Fun Stuff

If you are looking for a fun activity for a bachelorette party or your best friends’ sleepover, look no further than Pornogami: A Guide to the Ancient Art of Paper-Folding for Adults. Actually written by a master of the art of origami, this guide takes a beginner through making fun looking spermatozoa all the way to a realistic vajayjay. Do I hear a drinking game coming out of this book? You bet I do.

Allison Yates at the Kinsey Confidential blog has an intriguing post about the recent startling mannequins which appeared in the American Apparel stores on Valentine’s Day who clearly were sporting bushy pubic hair amidst all their provocative underwear. The rubbernecking by passers-by was purportedly astonishing (and these are jaded New Yorkers we are talking about) but Yates dissects some fascinating trends and insights regarding our culture’s view of sexuality and body hair.

Librarian and romance lover Amy Alessio put up a wonderful article in honor of St. Patrick’s Day on the Romance University blog featuring some perennial favorite books featuring Ireland (or sexy Irish heroes and heroines). From J. D. Robb’s Roarke to Mary Jo Putney’s Irish setting in Sometimes a Rogue, she’s picked some winners worth reading.

I’m a big fan of the Etsy shop, Spunky Fluff, who produces amazing signs with heart-inspiring sayings to adorn your walls. Whether it’s “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” or “Suck It Up Buttercup” these wall adornments always seem to contain heart and humor. With the majority of stock ranging between $40 to $60 and around 12 x 18 inches, these signs come in colors to match any decor and are truly unique items that will inspire a smile and a sigh each day.

Great Deals

There are a lot of good boxed sets and there are a LOT of “meh” boxed sets, but this one looks fabulous! Fated Mates: The Alpha Shifter Boxed Set offers readers twelve shifter books by authors such as Adriana Hunter, Georgette St. Clair and Eve Langlais among others – for only $.99! Just out on March 4th, the description page warns that the special price is for a limited time (and then it will go to $9.99, still a bargain) so get it at the special price while it lasts.

Carrie Ann Ryan has got a terrific book bundle for the first three books in her Dante’s Circle series, featuring paranormal creatures who find their future in the form of humans with a bit of the otherwordly in them. Usually these books go for $3.99 each, but you can get over 650 pages of the three novels together for only $2.99 right now. Yowza! Grab it before the fourth book, Tangled Innocence, comes out in April.

Tawny Weber‘s fun short, Rules of Engagement, is only $.99 and it’s a good example of the great brand of military hero you get when signing on board for a Weber romance. When a woman who has always crushed on her brother’s best friend finds herself being propositioned for hot sex in a moonlight garden she says, “yes!” knowing she’s not his type. While the hero has always steered clear of the feisty due to the sister card and the fact that she’s nothing like the petite, little woman types he’s preferred in the past, he’s a little astonished to discover what his “rules of engagement” have been designed to discover – the perfect woman for him – might have been all wrong all this time.

Six well-known romantic suspense authors – Elisabeth Naughton, Alexandra Ivy, Cynthia Eden, Laura Wright, Katie Reus, and Joan Swan – have banded together to produce the Sinful Seconds Boxed Set (meant to follow their other highly successful set, Wicked Firsts). Out on St. Patrick’s Day, you’re the one who will feel lucky reading quality books from these best-selling authors, it’s only $2.99 (and the preceding boxed set has been marked down to a mere $.99) so read the descriptions and see if these tempting novels should be in your ereader.

Fans of romantic suspense (particularly ones who enjoy the occasional paranormal element) will want to pre-order the great bargain, Dangerous Dozen Romantic Suspense Box Set while it’s only $.99 for twelve books by authors like Paige Tyler, Maureen Child, Tawny Weber, Nina Bruhns, and Charity Pineiro among others. Nothing like getting 3300 pages (no, that is not a typo) for this kind of bargain, right? Undercover cops, investigative reporters and determined shifters pepper these pages, but that price seems to have a deadline, so I plan on ordering this long before its April 7th release date and encourage you to do the same!

That’s it for this week. Happy reading! 🙂

Why Are Romance Writing Contests Becoming Less Popular and Can We Save Them?

27 Jan
Awards and contests have historically played a part in helping authors get noticed (and get a contract). (Image purchased with web license via Shutterstock)

Awards and contests have historically played a part in helping authors get noticed (and get a contract). (Image purchased with web license via Shutterstock)

There was a fascinating discussion on RWA (Romance Writers of America) Chapter Leadership group just a few days ago about how so many established chapters are jettisoning their long-established writing contests or have already abandoned them.

This is a bigger deal than it seems since, in the past, contests were a great way for chapters to fill their coffers, supplementing dues with entry fees that enabled its members to benefit by having the funds to get terrific speakers, which in turn attracted new membership, etc. It’s unlikely we’ll see the end of the Golden Heart (the RWA’s premier award for an unpublished romance fiction manuscript) but chapter contests? According to the listserv, there were a decent number of responses indicating they had given up their contest within the last five years.

Will chapter romance writing contests go the way of the dodo bird? (Public domain image via Wikipedia)

Like so many endangered species, the contest appears to be dying, with many RWA chapter board members saying they could no longer garner the minimum number of entries required or that well-known authors cranking out multiple books a year and the overburdened editors reading them were no longer as available to wade through submissions. So why is the demise of such a time-honored writing tradition taking place now?

I’ve got a few educated guesses, but my main reasons for the end of the chapter writing contests are improved technology, the recession, and the meteoric rise of self-publishing.

Technology

Older technology made collaboration and feedback harder. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Older technology made collaboration and feedback harder. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Technology is clearly a biggie. Even ten years ago, social media was still in its infancy (we are talking the Friendster era) and videoconferencing for people who did not work at a fancy corporation with a dedicated room didn’t really happen until 2003 when Skype was born. Even then, most people had a very variable (and slow) connection which would have made the transmission rather hiccupy, so this particular technology was reserved for a few years for loved ones thousands of miles apart (and probably phone sex).

You’re wondering what this has to do with writing contests. Since a major reason for people entering contests is for the detailed critiques often given, entering a contest in the hope you’d make the top entries and warrant detailed feedback from a knowledgeable person in the industry must have been incredibly attractive. Now, we have Harlequin contests where readers can vote on manuscripts in real time and regular writing critique groups meeting on Google Hangout where they can not only chat with each other but look at one another’s screen to see specific comments made on their story by other members. Even editors have said that the electronic revolution has made it easier to find good writers with manuscript acceptances also much faster (sadly, the rejections are faster, too).

With blogs maintained by well-known editors and even publishing imprints (Harlequin is truly a coach to fledgling writers of category romance), authors are no longer writing blind, instead inundated by the crap-ton of information that exists. While this can certainly be overwhelming, none of us lack information from expert sources, which is more than could be said even a decade ago, when would-be authors clutched a copy of The Writer’s Market in one hand, and Stephen King’s On Writing (originally published in 2000) in the other. Both are still terrific, but check out all the other books that now exist – just for romance writers!! Note the majority of them are available in ebook format only. More on that later.

The Recession

With contest fees ranging from $10 (often a member price) and up, entering a manuscript (or just the first few chapters of a hopefully completed manuscript) can get pricey.

We all need a little help getting published. But with so much technology at our fingertips, are contests the answer? (Public domain image via Pixabay)

We all need a little help getting published. But with so much technology at our fingertips, are contests the answer? (Public domain image via Pixabay)

It’s like the college application process – first the standardized testing scores, then the application fees, etc., and all sent to a person (the college admissions officer) whose job it is to tell people “no” and take only the best candidates. With most publishing houses in the “most selective” category – accepting only a tiny percentage of applicants from their slush piles or even agented manuscripts – this business of entering contests to garner attention or have a honor or two for the query letter can get expensive.

There is no writer out there not feeling the recession. Belts have been tightened and while RWA members are scrimping to pay their national dues and perhaps belong to a couple pertinent chapters, I doubt many people feel there is a lot of extra cash to spend on contest entries. The would-be or even published writer’s emphasis is instead on what can be done to bring in income while waiting on their first (or next) contract or working to add to the books or novellas they’ve put out that year. Conducting online workshops, self-publishing (see below), and adding new skills like copyediting, cover design, or helping authors with their WordPress site are frequently heard additions to many a writer’s arsenal. With an unemployment rate of 6.7% as of December 2013 in the United States (and that’s not including all the people who got kicked off the rolls because their benefits ran out – they still don’t have a job, FYI), the pressure is on to bring in income and contests are an outgoing expense with little future realization of funds. In short, they can be a bad investment.

Self-Publishing

With any luck, this fairy godmother has got a publishing contract under that cloak! (Image by Kerri Polizzi via Flickr, labeled for reuse with attribution)

But even with technology offering more options to writers for feedback and the recession putting the kibosh on non-essential expenses for would-be authors, the biggest factor in the demise of the chapter writing contest is undoubtedly self-publishing. The sole reason for entering contests has always been for professional feedback so you could get published. In the past you would hear the occasional NYT best-selling author discussing how they garnered the attention of an editor because of a couple of chapters that got in front of an editor judging a contest…and the next thing they knew they had a contract. *waving fairy godmother wand*

This is a story you rarely hear any longer, first and foremost because there are fewer editors in the world with the seemingly endless consolidation of traditional publishing houses. The ones left are also working their asses off to find fresh voices from the comfort of their offices, while their assistants read slush pile submissions and mine the web for prospects and everyone pulls a ten hour day while wearing the editor uniform of New York Black. But the real reason no one mentions contests as a stepping stone for publication is because authors can do it themselves.

We’ve all heard of the self-published writer who posted something to Amazon and ended up saving their house or the success of the outstanding hybrid author Bella Andre, who was dropped by her publisher, and decided to publish her own books (woo-hoo Sullivan series!) only to make an astronomical amount (in 2011, she reported to the Washington Post that she was topping $20,000 per month and the number was climbing). In an outstanding turn of events, she then was able to turn back around and re-sell those publishing rights to her self-pubbed work back to traditional publishing house Harlequin, who re-released them in paperback form for the readers without a Kindle or Nook on their bedside table.

The dilemma for the self-published always seems to come down to how to reach the target audience. Certainly these authors earn more per book (a LOT more) in terms of profit but move fewer books on average, so self-publishing has its pros and cons. Forbes magazine actually found the authors with the greatest income to be hybrid authors, ones who capitalize on the traditional publishing promotion yet add to their (and the publishing house’s) bottom line by keeping their audience interested with frequent novellas or short stories related to their series between full-length novels.

With authors becoming more comfortable either DIYing their own book covers or having some good friends in their chapter who are excellent copyeditors or website designers (see above recession skills section), authors are feeling like self-publishing is definitely within their grasp. I think most authors I speak to are leaving traditional publishing on the table and participating in online pitches (Twitter is a common space for this) or saving their pennies to attend RWA National or great state conferences (New Jersey’s Romance Writers conference, Put Your Heart in a Book, is popular among mid-Atlantic writers for the number of New York editors who hear pitches at it). Somehow having control over publishing a book or two, while perhaps also looking at going the traditional route, is seen as more attractive then submitting manuscripts to chapter contests, and I can understand why.

How Chapter Contests Could Evolve

Awesome chapters like mine (I had to show our killer logo designed by the ever-so-talented Vikki Jankowski, our president) are eager to combine our efforts with other chapters. Who is with us? What would that look like?

Looking at the above pressures and taking a new approach to chapter contests is the answer to save the genre. The goal is to help writers get published, right? The foremost piece to consider is that there are chapter costs to pay judges (good ones) for their time. Why are we all so separate as chapters even though each of us belongs to RWA? If several chapters in my home state of Pennsylvania could band together with some New Jersey chapters and the awesome Maryland Romance Writers, think of how much money we could offer as a prize or to pay the fee of a big name judge!

This type of contest could also garner more media coverage, giving the contest more cachet in terms of the author actually being able to use the award in a query letter or to help sell a pitch. With videoconferencing available, there are no longer the same set of excuses to not do this kind of collaboration. Let’s wake up, people, and smell the 21st century coffee! My awesome chapter, Pocono-Lehigh Romance Writers, is already reaching out to local chapters to see what cooperation potential exists – let me know if you’re interested in getting on our outreach list.

So what are our possible options for the reinvented contest?

  • Since increasing use of technology is vital for successful writers, what about a “best romance author website contest” with maybe unpublished, debut author and published author categories? The chapter can collate a rubric based on the many best practices articles out there by publishing house editors etc. and publish their criteria. Not only does this make what is being evaluated clear, but it can be used as a template for new authors when designing their site. The top 5 finalists could receive a critique and suggestions from the judge(s) with a cash prize or in kind design services (can you give a gift card for WordPress plug-ins?).
  • American Idol and Dancing with the Stars know what they are doing in terms of crowdsourcing with polls. What about a contest for “best use of social media by a romance author”? This doesn’t even have to include a fee but could simply be utilized as a method for getting some media attention to romance fiction and/or the chapter.
  • Best book cover design. There are some truly awful book covers and some that you would never know were not done by a Big Five publishing house. You could have individuals, small presses, ebooks only, and traditional publishing each have their own category in this kind of contest.
  • With academic analysis of romance fiction a growing field, a contest could be built around “best literary, historical or popular culture nonfiction work (article or book) about romance fiction”. Promoting the contest to the universities with romance writing and popular culture programs would garner a slew of entries from students perhaps looking for extra credit and you might be able to convince author/academics like Jennifer Crusie or Eloisa James to be a judge. I bet websites like Popular Romance Project and Romance University would be great partners for a contest like this.
  • Pitches are still something most writers need to do…and they are scary. What about a contest that is a “best pitch” contest with video, Twitter, and email categories? Getting name editors would be key here for cachet and for relevant feedback, but technology would make this straightforward to do.

Contests can be made relevant for the modern age, we may just have to rethink what the current demands are on writers and adjust accordingly.

Have your own thoughts on the romance writing contest? Please feel free to add to the conversation by leaving a comment. Let’s all figure out how best to help writers!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, January 19th, 2014

19 Jan

Upcoming Books and New Releases

It’s getting to be that time of year, when publishers tantalize us with novels that will be released in the late spring and summer. This always seems cruel, making me think of “beach reads” and hammocks and fruity drinks while in reality I need to put on seventeen layers before shoveling out my car. Yet, it                                                                                                                                                                                                              doesn’t stop my pre-ordering, which is I’m sure the desired result.

One book I’m looking forward to reading is Tawna Fenske‘s upcoming novel, Frisky Business, (publication date May 6th) starring a t-shirt wearing, wealthy chairman of the board and the development consultant who has sworn off wealthy men after a lifetime of pushy fiancees and fathers who do nothing but disappoint her. While working together to acquire funding for a wildlife sanctuary, our hero has to wonder what the gorgeous woman with whom he regularly butts head is hiding under her chic suit while our heroine keeps remembering her mantra that it’s working class guys only from now on. With what seems like more than a few colorful animal sidekicks, I think this is going to be a heart-warming, lusty novel. Haven’t sampled Fenske’s writing? Do yourself a favor and pick up her wonderful novella Eat, Play, Lust to get convinced she needs to be on your to-read pile!

Speaking of favorite author discoveries in 2013, Kat Latham, author of the wonderful Knowing the Score, has the next book up in her London Legends series starring uber-hot rugby players, Playing It Close, already available for pre-ordering. Coming out on April 14th, this book promises to focus on the sexy captain of the team, Liam Callaghan, who was an awesome secondary character in the first book, so I’m dying to know more about him ASAP. No cover art as of yet, but I couldn’t resist plugging this one since her first book knocked my socks off!

We all know that Jaci Burton has the oiled six-pack book cover market completely cornered, so it’s nice to see that her eighth Play-by-Play novel, Straddling the Line, which has a hero so awesome he’s both a baseball and a football star with enough heart to try and help his mentor’s daughter when her sportscasting career hits the skids after the death of her father. Naturally our hero has a few secrets he wants to keep to himself to supply the conflict, but I’m sure it will have the usually Burton brand of steamy hot love to keep us turning the pages for that bonus as well. With a July 1st publication date, this book is bound to be as hot as the temperature that time of year.

Maya Banks announced that her next KGI novel, When Day Breaks, the ninth in this incredibly successful suspense series about an independent group of former military personnel who take on the impossible jobs and bring people home safely, will be out on June 24th. This particular novel stars Swanson, who has come back from his last mission in Afghanistan wounded and scarred and the overwhelming attraction he has for a supermodel client desperately running from the evil stalking her.

UnexpectedLori Foster has a new book on the horizon with a May 6th publication date, Unexpected, which turns the typical bodyguard story around. With a hero who hires a deadly female bodyguard and gets a sexy woman when he expected a hulking guy with tattoos. She’s more confident handling a gun than handling the scorching feelings being around her client inspires, but when they give into their urges and finally connect, some startling repercussions result. But the danger hasn’t gone away…A reissue of her 2004 novel of the same name, reviewers rave about the characterization, so Foster fans who haven’t read it should definitely check out this re-release (kudos on the cover, Zebra publishing!).

Contests and Giveaways

RT Book Reviews is sponsoring several giveaways right now, including Candi Wall‘s Primitive Nightsa modern-day Tarzan story featuring a young activist whose helicopter crashes in the South American jungle while she is wearing the jumpsuit of the oil company she planned to infiltrate, only to be dragged in front of the light-eyed, lighter skinned tribal leader who speaks perfect English. Naturally, he doesn’t necessarily believe her innocence but he can’t bring himself to kill her even though he knows the safety of his people depends on eradicating the oil company’s influence on their land. The magazine is giving away five e-copies of the book to lucky winners who use the Rafflecopter interface and enter prior to January 25th.

The wonderful people over at the Vampire Book Club blog are sponsoring a lovely giveaway of When Blood Calls by J. K. Beck, Wicked As She Wants by Delilah S. Dawson, and Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady, for people who enter their Rafflecopter interface prior to January 25th.

In honor of the Katee Robert‘s latest book, In Bed with Mr. Wrong, the first book in her new Out of Uniform series, Fiction Vixen is sponsoring a giveaway of a $50 e-bookstore card for people who enter their Rafflecopter giveaway by the end of January. Featuring a sexy Air Force Pararescuer who gets sets up on a blind date with a demure librarian who fascinates him with her buttoned up looks and sassy mouth, this couple feels they have nothing in common except their off-the-charts chemistry until they get trapped in a cabin together and are forced to decide if this can work or not. Based on the numerous terrific reviews (and this book isn’t even a week old yet), it sounds like this series is going to be as successful as her Come Undone books!

The wonderful Australian Give Me Books blog is hosting a massive giveaway in conjunction with publisher Samhain books, which they are calling the Samhain Publishing International Paperback Giveaway. Including a $50 gift card to the Samhain store, a bag of swag, and over 32 of their paperbacks, this is quite the haul, so enter the Rafflecopter giveaway by January 28th to earn chances to win. With authors like N. J. Walters, Jayne Rylon, and Mari Carr in the mix, this is a quality giveaway bound to make someone very, very happy.

There is no one who writes SEALs the way Tawny Weber does, and her latest book, A SEAL’s Salvation (due out on February 1st), is currently part of a Goodread’s giveaway which is gifting 50 paper copies of the book to random lucky winners who enter the contest by February 15th. Please note that an earlier book, A SEAL’s Seduction, is currently free in ebook form on Amazon, so you can get a taste for these hard-bodied, determined heroes right now.

Fun Stuff

Are you grumpy before that first cup of coffee in the morning? If your neurons aren’t firing on all cylinders at the people busy interrupting you at the crack of dawn, consider investing in The Library Shop’s the Shakespeare insult mug, so you have some ready made (and highly colorful) epithets to throw the way of anyone coming between a coffee drinker and their morning caffeine hit.

I’m a real sucker for a funny t-shirt and Human’s latest take on reading and exercise is definitely chortle-worthy in my opinion. In addition to my claim to cardio, they have other geek-worthy lines for romance readers, like “I Don’t Want a Relationship, I Want a Starship” (complete with Enterprise) and a buff Belle powerlifting while stating, “I Only Date Beasts“.

Okay. Woman to woman, let’s talk honestly here. There is a LOT of super hot shower sex going on in romance novels today and it’s awesome, right? To read, that is. The reality is something different. If you’re not being slowly waterboarded while maintaining a certain position, you’re in danger of a date with a traction apparatus (and not the sexy BDSM kind) because you’ve lost your footing. Never fear! Sex in the Shower is an actual catalog with various implements which will make your shower sex hot and safe. While some of the items look like they could be used for handholds for granny while she bathes (and let’s not go there), other accessories are extremely racy, so please make sure you are not at work while you take a look! 🙂

Great Deals

Much of the time, the books in this section are meant to give us a sampling of the author’s writing so we’ll go back and buy more of their work, so what’s better for paranormal romance readers than a collection from Entangled’s Covet line featuring excerpts from every single one of their books since they started this imprint? Covet: Sampler 2013 is 232 pages offered at no cost, so if you do like things a little spookey-poo or with the occasional shifter or vampire, take two seconds and get this one on your ereader before the moon is full.

Many paranormal readers (not just me) have devoured Terry Spear‘s wolf shifter series, but did you know she has a young adult romance series based on the intrigue surrounding the Fae and the human world? I’m a sucker for sexy fairies (Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series is my favorite) so I’m tempted to try this one. Luckily for me, Spear owns the rights to the World of Fae, and has just released them as a The World of Fae Bundle for only $6.99, not bad price for almost 800 pages. This is probably in honor of the sixth book of the series, The Hawk Fae, which just came out this past week.

I know on my blog, any of the posts related to Bella Andre‘s The Sullivans series is an automatic hit, so please note that her book, The Way You Look Tonight, is currently free in ebook form, so this is a good time to snap it up. Starring Rafe Sullivan, one of the Northwest cousins to the California Sullivans, this private investigator doesn’t believe in true love, having caught one too many cheating spouses. He decides to take some much-needed time off by heading to the lake house that gave him many a great summer memory, only to encounter a sexy local truffle maker who decides to walk on the wild side with her favorite Sullivan. What seems like the best temporary fling becomes much more quickly, but the question remains if someone who doesn’t believe in love can recognize something worth fighting for when he sees it.

Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series is one of my absolute favorite shifter series (if you love to laugh, this is your series!), and if you haven’t had a chance to sample her sexy beasts and gritty humor, you now have a chance with the first book in the series, The Mane Event, being on sale for only $1.99 right now. A wealthy lion fresh out of the military returns to Manhattan to find the one woman who has fascinated him since he was a freshmen in high school. The half-Irish, half-Puerto Rican, double D-cup smartmouth human is all grown up with a voice that makes him instantly think of sex, and there is no way he’s letting her out of his bed or his life. But first there is the pesky detail of explaining that there is a whole world right under her nose of which she has no clue…

Acclaimed contemporary romance writer Kristen Proby is debuting a new series, Love Under the Big Sky, on January 21st and right now you can pre-order the first book, Loving Cara, for a mere $1.99 for the ebook version. When a sexy rancher and a troubled nephew who needs a tutor meets the shy girl from his past who is all grown up and sassy-mouthed, these two men discover exactly what they both need to seize their future. With two other books in the series scheduled for release this year, fans won’t have to wait very long to enjoy the setting and characters again!

Lora Leigh is best known for her Breeds series, but her Wild Ops line of books has got more than its fair share of fans. If you’d like to sample this series, start with the first book, Wild Card, featuring a Navy SEAL who was declared dead by the government three long years ago when an operation went very, very wrong, and who desperately wants his beautiful wife back. But he can’t give away who he is (or was) but can he manage to win her heart while keeping secrets? Currently on deep discount at only $2.99, this novel is rated an emotional page-turner by fans, so take a look.

Well, I’m going to go don my Cumberbitch t-shirt in honor of the American debut of Sherlock, Season 3 (thank GOD), but I hope everyone has a super week of reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of November 24, 2013

24 Nov

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Lots of good books both coming out this week as well as long awaited books with release dates announced.

I think Tessa Bailey is one of contemporary romance’s hottest new writers, so I’m excited to stay up until midnight tonight to watch the next book in her awesome Line of Duty series delivered to my Kindle (and write a review for you to be posted on Monday). We’ve already met the hero and heroine in the third book in the series, Officer Off Limits. Since Brent and Hayden’s two best friends are head over heels in love they can’t help seeing a lot of each other, even though each rubs the other the wrong way. Hayden’s got a host of trouble coming from her Park Avenue family who are looking to have her get married to a rich and influential man and the rough and tumble cop who pushes her buttons is also um…pushing her buttons. After a taste of each other, Brent is determined to not let go, but Hayden wonders how on earth this hot affair could have a happy ending?

Don’t you remember my telling you what a phenomenal author Laura Kaye is? Her latest, Hard As It Gets (OMG, the cover!), begins her Hard Ink series as of Tuesday, November 26th, so I’ll be staying up late for this delivery as well. This story, featuring a former military man turned tattoo parlor owner and the daughter of his military commander who has always been off limits, is bound to have her usual blend of heat, great characters, and an emotional story that wins your heart.

Fans of historical romance know that Sarah Maclean is one of the most talented writers of her genre, and they can finally sit back and enjoy her latest book, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, which will also be published on Tuesday, November 26th. Don’t forget to read (or re-read) the first two books in the Rules of Scoundrels series as this story, featuring the enigmatic club owner Temple, accused of murdering his young beautiful stepmother on the eve of her wedding to his father. The supposedly dead Mara has returned and what sets out to be Temple’s redemption and revenge becomes much more as he realizes that this woman and her situation is far from what he has imagined.

Bella Andre announced the latest in her Sullivan series, It Must Be Your Love, Mia Sullivan’s story. The Sullivan series is (I think) one of the best family contemporary romance series on the market, and the Northwest cousins are proving just as compelling as the original California Sullivans we all initially fell for. Successful realtor Mia Sullivan has been a huge support in her cousin and siblings’ romances, but it’s time for her to face the music – namely the man who she spent a few short days and nights with in his bed, and who she’s never been able to forget. Bumping into rock star Ford Vincent isn’t a shock at her cousin’s wedding, but there is an element of surprise when he seems interested in renewing their sexual relationship. Ford has never been able to forget Mia and despite the fact that he imagines she’s the one thing his fame can’t give him, he feels like he has to try.

It’s the holiday book season and that means there are some great deals on anthologies by terrific authors. A Christmas to Remember, due out on December 3rd, features stories by such contemporary best-sellers as Jill Shalvis, Kristen Ashley, Hope Ramsay, Molly Cannon, and Marilyn Pappano. If that’s not tempting enough, Forever Yours publishing has priced this puppy at only $1.99, so pick it up while you can at this price!

For fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet EvanovichTakedown Twenty, was published just a few days ago on November 19th, so get a hilarious dose of Lula and Bob (the golden retriever) right now. Get ready to imagine the next demise of a vehicle driven by Stephanie as she attempts to track down Morelli’s mobster godfather so he doesn’t have to, while also helping the oh-so-sexy Ranger determine who killed an important client’s mother. If you need to do some catching up (or want to fill in your collection of ebooks), you may want to note that several of the earlier books in the series are available for only $2.99 for the ebook editions.

Sophie Barnes‘ next book The Scandal in Kissing an Heir, her second installment in At the Kingsborough Ball series is coming out on December 31st. The next Marquess of Wolvington, Daniel Neville needs to find not only a bride but a woman who will accept his past and Lady Rebecca is tired of the men her greedy aunt and uncle send her way, men who only are interested in her beauty. Scandal threatens to tear these two apart, just when it seems they have the potential for something more.

Contests and Giveaways

Sara Humphreys‘ Amoveo Legends series is made up of a string of best-sellers, so I imagine fans are waiting with bated breath for the fifth book in the series, Unclaimed, to come out on December 3rd. When a spirited veternarian from the Timber Wolf clan reluctantly agrees to help doctor the Amoveo prince’s horses, she doesn’t expect the overwhelming attraction to a warrior from the Tiger Clan, but soon finds herself thrown together with him as they have to face danger together. Enter before November 30th to see if you can win a copy.

Talented debut author Kat Latham, of Knowing the Score fame, is having a Rafflecopter giveaway for not just her new Christmas story, contained in the All I’m Asking For Christmas anthology (pre-ordered!!), but also the other Carina Press contemporary holiday anthology, For My Own. Since I’ve yet to read a Carina anthology I haven’t enjoyed, these are both on my December reading (and reviewing) list, but winning them would make great gifts to the romance fiction lovers in my life. Enter before December 1st to see if you can’t win a copy and enjoy great writing with your holiday cheer.

The first in Lara Adrian‘s Midnight Breeds series, A Touch of Midnight, is currently a giveaway on Goodreads, so enter before November 30th for a chance to win. This 184 page novella jumpstarts the other thirteen books to date in the series by focusing on Savannah, a young college woman who can see the past of objects when she touches them. For a three-hundred year old vampire who must revisit painful memories of the past, Gideon finds himself needing Savannah to help him rid the world of a threat he didn’t even realize existed, even if it means shattering the world she knows. If you were smart enough to purchase The Midnight Breeds Series Companion this summer, then this novella is included within it, but otherwise, try to win or buy it on Amazon for only $2.99.

The Smutketeers & Friends (Jayne Rylon, Mari Carr, Carrie Ann Ryan, R. G. Alexander, Eden Bradley, Sidney Bristol, P. G. Forte, and Robin Rotham) have FINALLY released their long-awaited Midnight Ink box set, filled with erotic tales all centered around a New Orleans tattoo shop, and they are having a great $100 Amazon gift card giveaway to celebrate. Enter in the next week to see if you can win this wonderful prize and don’t forget to run to your nearest bookseller to buy the boxed set, which is currently only $.99 at Amazon for over 550 pages of hot romance.

Historical fiction fans light candles to Diana Gabaldon‘s image, as this author of the Outlander series has had thousands of readers fall for Claire and Jamie Fraser. In honor of the upcoming STARZ network release of Outlander as a series, two promotional copies are destined for a lucky winner of the Goodreads giveaway, so considering entering prior to November 30th if you are awaiting heartache, time-travel and kilts with baited breath.

I don’t know what it is about publishing during the holidays, but there always seems to be a few books which focus on the season and feature some adorable dogs and cats on the covers of these anthologies and stand-alones. Since my fur-covered family members are some of things in my life I’m most grateful for, these novels always hit home with me. Two such authors are Sharon Kleve and Jennifer Conner, who are currently hosting a blog tour contest where readers can enter to win copies of their books – Halo’s Wish, Brenda’s Christmas Desire, Central Bark at Christmas, and Christmas Gift that Keeps Wagging – as well as a $25 gift card, so take a look and see if someone small and furry is underneath your tree this Christmas. Head to any and all of the blogs on the tour before 11/30 for your chance to enter!

Elizabeth Hoyt’s tale of a fevered heir to an Earldom, returned from the dead, is the fourth in her Legend of the Four Soldiers series. To Desire a Devil pitches the savage man, demented from his captivity and the well-bred niece of the present (and highly suspicious Earl) as an unlikely couple, but historical romance readers can attempt to win a copy of this highly rated final book via the Goodreads giveaway closing on December 1st.

It’s always great to see historical romance that tackles a less-frequented period of time, so Bitter Spirits by paranormal/urban fantasy writer Jenn Bennett is worth a look for those readers who love the 1920s. Featuring a hexed bootlegger and a beautiful medium, this first installment in Bennett’s Roaring Twenties series is currently being offered in a Goodreads giveaway for people who enter before Saturday, November 30th. Considering this novel is not due to be published until early January 2014, this could be a great opportunity to get a preview, and the second novel, focusing on an archaeologist and museum curator looks to equally bring the period to life. Since the series is published by the Berkley Sensation line, I predict strong writing and hot love scenes to be contained within these covers. Bring it on!

Fun Stuff

I know you can tell I’ve got holiday books on the brain (I’m gearing up for my stretch where I try to review a holiday themed book for every day of December!) but I for one appreciated Harlequin’s adorable little video featuring some of their featured Christmas books for this year. You’ll definitely be seeing a few of these on this blog over the next few weeks (and who knew Gingerbread men as the various hero’s occupations would be so adorable?).

If you have a spare $1000 or so and love to show your book love via your shoes, I suggest you head straight to the Charlotte Olympia website and check out the Matilda shoes, part of the Fall 2013 collection. With stunning leather tooling covering the leather upper and a six inch heel (and one inch platform), the heels are designed to look like book spines, complete with the words “Once Upon a Time” and “Happily Ever After”. I think there are plenty of romance authors who would look great wearing these on the dais while answering panel questions!

Now that the weather is getting colder, women are interpreting “no shave November” with the advent of opaque tights, but you don’t have to settle for solid colors. Romantics and fashionistas (or fictionistas) alike can indulge their love of the written word by wearing Love Text Print Tights from TrendyLegs. For under $40, you can sport the wikipedia text for the definitions of “Love” and “Passion” around your thighs and calves (and think about who you might like to get closer and read it out loud to you)!

Great Deals

Historical fans might want to download Harlequin Historical’s An Inconvenient Duchess by Christine Merrill as it’s available for free right now. Featuring a young woman compromised and married to an enigmatic duke who then promptly abandons her, this heroine determines that she is going to make this marriage work, no matter what. The first in Merrill’s The Radwell’s series, this is a good way to sample this series.

His Wicked Games by Ember Casey (the first book in His Wicked Games series) is also available for free right now, and readers who enjoy fairy tale retellings will want to tackle this Beauty and the Beast inspired story. When a woman determined to save her arts center breaks into a cold billionaire’s estate, she gets way more than she bargained for, particularly regarding his wager on how she can save what she wants more than anything. The only problem? When what she wants begins to change…

Also currently free is Mari Carr and Lexxie Couper‘s Misplaced Princess, the first in their Foreign Affairs series about men or women who leave their country and find the love of their life. Annie Prince impetuously flew halfway around the world to Australia to meet in person a sexy cowboy she met online…only to find out he did the same thing and is now in NYC. Fortunately for her, his twin brother Hunter stayed behind, and while he thought his brother was crazy, one look at Annie and he’s finding it hard to keep his hands (and other body parts) off her.

That’s it for this week. Have a terrific Thanksgiving and happy reading!!

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

29 Sep

Upcoming and Recently Published Books

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

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

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

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

Contests and Giveaways

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

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

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

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

Fun Stuff

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

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

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

Great Deals

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

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

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

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

That’s the round up for this week, everyone. Happy Reading!! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending August 18th

18 Aug

Upcoming and New Books

Historical romance writer Katharine Ashe is publishing the first book in her new series, The Prince Catchers, on August 27th, entitled I Married the Duke. With the cover blurb from Lisa Kleypas (who specializes in perfectly written historical heroes) and involving a duke disguised as a pirate and a gypsy curse borne by three sisters, this sounds like it’s a cut above your typical Regency romance. As of now, Avon has set the price on Amazon at a mere $3.59 for the paperback edition, a 40% discount from the list price of $5.99, so you might want to preorder it while this bargain is in effect!

Tired of billionaire Doms (seriously, how many of each of those categories can there be) and eager for a good shifter romance? Vivian Arend is releasing the third book in her Takhini wolves shifter series, and this time the hero is a billionaire bear who needs a political insider helping him understand the shifter community with which he’s working a deal. Who better than the leader’s former human girlfriend, recently freed up since her no-strings boyfriend just found his mate? Published by Samhain, Diamond Dust is a full-length novel priced at only $2.75 so the warmth you feel while reading it might not just be from Arend’s steamy writing, but also from the knowledge of the great bargain you just got.

I’m still reeling from Jeaniene Frost’s announcement this week that her seventh book in the incomparable Night Huntress series, Up from the Grave, will be her last Cat and Bones novel! Originally believing that her overall story arc would take nine books, Frost said on her blog that she and her editor agreed that it would be unfair to fans to put in filler simply to keep the series going as planned. As disappointed as I am, I appreciate Frost’s obvious commitment to give readers the highest quality writing. She has never written anything that didn’t blow my socks off and it’s not like she’s going to stop writing and take up creating macrame wall hangings from a beachside hut in Hawaii. She even admits that the couple might pop up in other books in the Night Huntress world (remember we still have another book in the Night Prince series and I’ve got my fingers crossed that Ian has evolved enough to be the hero in his own novel soon). There is also the pesky matter of the fourth man in the deported Australian chain gang who we’ve never seen but to whom Bones, Spade and Ian have referred. With those possible novels on the horizon (and having the utmost confidence in the creative imagination residing in Frost’s mind), I’m happy to thank her for finally offering Cat and Bones a happily ever after since they’ve been through a lot in their time together! January 28th will be a little bittersweet, but with Frost at the helm, I’m sure to enjoy every page.

As much as it pains me to say it (I’m an educator, so the school year is here), September 10th is just around the corner, so for those of you who still haven’t ordered the next installment of Jennifer Ashley’s Highland Pleasures series, get on it! The Untamed Mackenzie e-novella is priced at only $1.99 and stars the sexy but cranky Detective Inspector Lloyd Fellows, born on the wrong side of the Mackenzie tartan and Lady Louisa Scranton who is wrongly accused of murder. I’m not only going to love revisiting my favorite Victorian romance series but it’s going to always sate me long enough to wait for the next full-length novel, The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie, which will publish just a couple weeks later on October 1st.

Fun Stuff

The British newspaper The Guardian announced this week that the queen of romance, Barbara Cartland, had 160 previously unpublished novels in her estate upon her death and that these works, and some other published books, are going to be available for readers on her website. These unpublished novels join the 490 novels she wrote in her lifetime, stopping her output only a year prior to her passing away at the age of 98. If you picture romance writers penning their novels in canopy beds wearing a silk bedjacket surrounded by little dogs, Cartland is subconsciously who you have in mind. These books are only available in print so non-UK residents would have to pay more for shipping charges.

Did you know there was something called the Good Men Project? Envisioning themselves not as a magazine, but as a social movement, the people behind the Good Men Project believe in posing and answering the question, “What does it mean to be a good man?” Blogging about sports, ethics, sex, marriage, fatherhood and current affairs, the writing is high quality and well-researched while being always appropriate. And if your dad showed any prospective boyfriend his gun collection prior to that first date, you might enjoy reading an article which has been making the rounds “Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex” by Ferrett Steinmetz, who just became my dad-hero. Steinmetz objects to the inference that he owns his daughter’s body or has the right to tell her what to do with it, particularly in the area of denying her the pleasure and intimacy which comes from sharing your body with someone you love. The article is simultaneously sweet, funny and thought-provoking and I recommend it for parents and for romance writers who would like to imagine what a positive father figure might look like in this century.

It’s rather dazzling to see the income of the top earning authors for this past year, particularly when you realize that E. L. James (author of the 50 Shades of Grey series) managed to total $95 million dollars in 2012-13 according to this Forbes magazine article. That’s a lot of handcuffs! Yet note that with the exception of nonfiction author and pundit Chris Matthews, virtually every author is either a YA powerhouse or specializes in genre fiction like romance, mystery or suspense. No wonder the literary fiction authors get so snobby – they’re cranky from eating ramen noodles.

Thinking About Publishing

This past week, Alex Crowley from Publisher’s Weekly posed the excellent question – Why Are We Still Not Bundling Ebooks? Seriously, why don’t publishers offer combination print/ebook bundles? If readers can get virtually every format, but not a discount on two types together, that seems to be denying publishers needed revenue. I know a lot of people like me who enjoy having a paper copy and an ebook copy of favorite books, so there would be some takers, for sure.

Contests and Giveaways

Fans of Jayne Ann Krentz knows she writes her awesome paranormal books as Jayne Castle, and they probably are also aware that the 10th book in the Harmony series, Deception Cove, is coming out on August 27th. There is a Goodreads giveaway with a deadline of August 19th for the lucky winner who gets an early copy, so if you’d like a modern marriage of convenience with a paranormal twist, get over there to see how lucky you are!

I’ve been spending a lot of time pondering the enduring phenomena of the Middle Eastern sheikh in category romance and erotica, and a big part of that inspiration came from reading an early copy of Sarah Morgan’s Lost to the Desert Warrior which is awesome if you love this subgenre! You can get a free copy of this Harlequin gem if you win the Goodreads giveaway, but you have to enter before August 19th (the book comes out on the 20th, as does my review).

Susan Mallery is offering readers who purchase her Fool’s Gold Cookbook (companion to her romance series of the same name) a chance to win a spanking new KitchenAid mixer (!) if they send or email her their purchase receipt prior to August 31st. Do you know how much those cost? And she’s giving away the shiny chrome one, no less! There is a way to enter via postcard if you don’t plan on getting the cookbook, so look at the link for details.

If you have a thing for ancient Celtic warriors cursed by the Fae (and I do), you might want to take a look at Storm Warrior, the first book in Dani Harper’s Grim series, which features a Welshman who transforms into a black dog to save a woman…and finds not only his enchantment broken but that he’s living in a strange world which seems magical in itself. This giveaway ends on August 21st (the book came out on the 6th). Hopefully you’ll win it!

People may have been saying that zombies are the new vampires for a while, but when you take a look at the cover of Paige Tyler’s new book, Dead Sexy, you’ll find yourself agreeing! While the book was published on July 12th, you can still catch the Goodreads giveaway for a copy as long as you enter before August 23rd. When a romance author and a gorgeous hunk who has been cursed by a vindictive Voodoo priestess hit the sheets, you’ll find yourself wondering if there’s a zombie on your block.

Everyone knows that I think Bella Andre’s Sullivan series to be one of the best contemporary romance series, ever, right? Well, with Harlequin recently buying the print rights to this original ebook series, you’ve finally got paperbacks to enjoy in the bubble bath now. A Goodreads giveaway is offering the third book in the series, Can’t Help Falling in Love, starring sexy firefighter Gabe Sullivan and the woman and child he rescues. It’s awesome and you might win it! Get over there before August 23rd and find out.

Readers who love Highlanders more than likely already have some of Amanda Scott’s book on their shelves but this historical romance writer has the second book in her Lairds of the Loch series, The Knight’s Temptress, coming out on August 27th. There is a celebratory giveaway at Goodreads you can take advantage of if you’d like to read it, too, but be sure to enter by August 25th to participate.

Great Deals

The next book in Jill Shalvis’ amazing small-town romance series Lucky Harbor, Always on My Mind, is still – inexplicably – only $2.99 for the book version (the paperback is also the nice number of $4.80). Since this one stars not only the town firefighter (and we’ve all benefited from Jill Shalvis’ thing for firefighters – thanks, Jill!) and the town baker, I sense some steamy, food-based naughtiness in the cards. Since we don’t know how long this deal will last and with the looming publication date of September 24th, I’d recommend ordering this one sooner rather than later.

Fans of Sabrina Jeffries’ Swanlea Spinsters series, need to make sure their ereader battery is charged as there is a phenomenal sale on Amazon right now. This series is filled with Earl’s daughters, highwayman, and marriages of convenience galore, with great reviews abounding for Jeffries’ excellent historical writing. Right now, A Dangerous Love (#1), A Notorious Love (#2), After the Abduction (#3), and Married to the Viscount (#5) each have their Kindle version discounted from $7.99 to $1.99. WOW! No explanation why the fourth book in the series, Dance of Seduction, isn’t going along with this amazing deal, but beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.

Have a super week reading, everyone! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, News, and Deals You Might Have Missed This Week

7 Jul

I just came back from the ALA (American Library Association) Conference in Chicago were I attended a lot of informative sessions. While most of them where geared toward my work in education, there were more than a few things that I think will help me be a better blogger for my readers. A great suggestion was having the occasional “round up” post to inform people about great links, upcoming books, and excellent blog posts you might have missed, so here are a few recent items I’ve been enjoying.

Upcoming Books

The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures #6) by Jennifer Ashley (Berkley, October 1, 2013)

Jennifer Ashley mentioned on her blog that the ARCs will be out very soon for The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie, the next book in the Highland Pleasures series (which I think is the best Victorian romance series on the market). It’s due out on October 1st, so hopefully NetGalley might have an ARC available soon! If you’ve enjoyed this series, you might also need a reminder that the next interim novella, The Untamed Mackenzie, will be out even sooner, and will finally give Inspector Lloyd Fellows, the illegitimate Mackenzie who is a reluctant member of the family at best, a happily ever after. That one is e-book only, so sorry print lovers!

On Ashley’s paranormal romance front, note that Amazon has made available Wild Wolf for preorder (even though it’s not coming out until January 2014), the next full novel in the fabulous Shifters Unbound series. Yes, I’ve preordered it and will be waiting up at midnight for it to land in my Kindle! Coming out even sooner is the next novella for that series, Feral Heat, which will be Eric’s son, Jace’s story (thank goodness!) out in November of this year.

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, July 30, 2013)

In anticipation (and God knows I’m anticipating it!) of Ilona Andrews’ next book in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Rises, due out on July 30th, Bookpushers is sponsoring a Readalong for the series. The husband and wife team of Ilona Andrews have already vetted much criticism for the cover, since the model depicting the twenty-something Kate looks waaaayyyy too young and not nearly enough of a hard ass for this alpha female. I realize I still need to do a review of this series which is tops in the urban fantasy genre for me.

In exciting news, Nalini Singh had two great announcements. The first is that she just agreed to do a Psy-Changeling series novella in 2014 which will be part of an anthology and that the hero of her next full-length novel (the 13th in the series) will be …. VASIC! This cold Arrow won my heart with his questioning of silence long ago, so I’m elated to see that he’ll be partnered with a heroine we’ve never met before. This book will be closely tied to her latest book, Heart of Obsidian which won all five stars from me, making it the fourth book (out of over the 200 books I’ve read so far this year) to be declared totally perfect.

If you’re an urban fantasy fan chances are you’ve been devouring the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones as much as I have (Reyes *fans face* is one of the hottest heroes in a loooooonnnnggg time). Keep in mind that the hardcover and Kindle editions of the next book, Fifth Grave Past the Light, will be released on July 9th (two days from today!!!) so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a copy of this book hot off the presses.

Media News

Outlander (Outlander series #1) by Diana Gabaldon (Dell, 1992)

Any fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series? If so, you’ll be either pleased or dismayed to read that the book series has been made into a TV series which will debut on the Starz network come this October. According to the excellent blog, The Good, The Bad and The Unread, Scottish actor Sam Heughan has been cast to play Jamie Fraser. Worried? Don’t be. “Sam is 33, stands 6’3″ tall, and his Scottish brogue portraying one of the most-loved characters in literature will definitely make the ladies swoon. More importantly, of course, is that he’s perfect for this part and will make Jamie come to life on the screen.”

Reader Fun

In case you were wondering, this is what a RITA award looks like. Pretty cool, yes?

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (an AMAZING blog) is still doing their RITA Reader Challenge. If you love romance (any subgenre), I’d encourage you to take a look at this challenge, which lists all the winners in various categories from the Romance Writers Association. This a great way of making sure you get a taste of all the great books published in the last year. What if you missed one? You may not agree that they deserved an award, but it’s fascinating to note what the judges (published authors as well as agents and publishers) think constitute the best of the best.

Entranced Publishing, a wonderful new ebook press, is having a Christmas in July giveaway where they are giving away one copy of every book they’ve ever published. For a new publishing house, there has been a ton of great buzz about their editing and their payment model, with the result being some stand out books in a short period of time. Fill out their entry form before July 31st for your chance to win!

Australian romance readers! You lucky down-under dogs, the Australian Romance Readers Association is having a book signing event in Freemantle on August 17th that has over 56 authors attending, including powerhouses like Julia Quinn, Nina Bruhns, and Carole Mortimer. Wow! And the signings will be held at three public libraries (further proving the connection between public librarians and supporting romance). Have I mentioned how much I’d like to visit Australia one day?

Authors After Dark are having a giveaway for tickets to their conference (in Savannah this year!) August 14th to the 18th. Anyone who enjoys paranormal romance or urban fantasy should consider following this blog and learning more about the organization. The annual conference is quite small and you get tons of author time, which would be amazing for any fan! Enter by July 11th for your chance to win.

The Romance Publishing Industry

Is historical romance on the decline? Jeez, I hope not! But with the numbers dipping slightly, The Sisterhood of the Jaunty Quills discuss if the glut of Regencies on the market are stifling the genre. I agree with them that this is probably just the usual ebb and flow experienced by so many categories of romance, but it’s worth pondering.

In an unbelievable merger, Penguin and Random House have now joined forces, making them a force to be reckoned with. In romance terms, Random House publishes authors like Danielle Steel, Sophie Kinsella, and E. L. James (yes, that E. L. James!) under their imprints of Delacorte, Dial and Vintage, and Penguin controls the romance powerhouse Berkley (Jennifer Ashley, Jaci Burton, Nalini Singh) and Jove (Nora Roberts), so I feel that Random House really boosted their piece of the romance pie with this merger. For your consideration, does anyone besides me think the company’s new name should be Random Penguin? Imagine the logo!

Great Deals

It Had to Be You (Lucky Harbor #7) by Jill Shalvis (Grand Central, May 28, 2013)

If you didn’t have a chance to enjoy the most recent Jill Shalvis Lucky Harbor novel, It Had to Be You, fear not. Ebook readers can take advantage of the $2.99 deal going on right now on Amazon (and I think other retailers).

Julie Garwood’s classic, Rebellious Desire, is on sale in Kindle format for only $.99 for those of us wanting a walk down memory lane. Not to make you feel old, but this puppy was originally published in 1991 – 23 years ago! I’m not sure how long it will be at this price, so if you’re looking to bolster your classic romance backlist, this is a nice addition.

One Perfect Night by Bella Andre is a stand alone short story/novella originally published in 2011 and just reissued with a new cover. Right now, it’s available for free. I haven’t read it but, hey, it’s Bella Andre, so it’s bound to be great! For those of you who haven’t read her Sullivan series, get the lead out. This great family is available in ebook form and now in print via Harlequin and is tops in the contemporary romance category.

Forgotten Sins (Sins Brothers #1) by Rebecca Zanetti (Forever, July 2, 2013)

Looking pretty intriguing on the paranormal romance front is Forgotten Sins, the first book in the Sins Brothers series by Rebecca Zazetti which just came out on July 2nd. A husband returns to his wife after turning up in the hospital with amnesia, yet he abandoned the love of his life two years ago. Does his amped hearing and powerful strength have something to do with his missing years? This new series is billed on Goodreads as “Romantic Suspense with a slight paranormal twist about a band of brothers who carry unnatural powers genetically engineered into them by a black ops military unit.” At only $2.99 for 384 pages, I’m excited to try it!

Zach Sullivan Gets Your Engine Running in Bella Andre’s Latest, If You Were Mine

26 May

If You Were Mine by Bella Andre (May 24, 2012)

My mother and I were chatting yesterday about our latest reads – actually having yet another “how does she do it?” discussion about Nora Roberts since we had both read and loved her latest, The Witness – when I hopped online to look at what the kindle edition would cost since I thought I’d be rereading it. That’s when I gasped and clutched my arm as if I were having a heart attack.

“Jesus, what’s wrong?” my mother asked, clearly alarmed at my Sarah Bernhardt response to looking at Amazon.com.

I pointed a finger at my MacBook screen. “Did you know that Bella Andre’s latest Sullivan book came out – YESTERDAY?!”

Cue both of us grabbing our iPads and ordering it, right then and there. My mother made some excuse to leave about two minutes later claiming she was “tired from gardening.” Uh-huh.

I was kicking myself that I had promised to attend a baseball playoff game, but sucked it up and made the trip (and actually had a great time). But baseball made me think of Ryan Sullivan (the Sullivan brother who is a major league baseball player), which made me think of Zach Sullivan, who we finally get to see fall, and fall hard, in Bella Andre’s latest installment of the Sullivan family series, If You Were Mine.

Now I haven’t been shy in my deep admiration and love for all things Bella Andre. Not long ago, I wrote a blog post on the first four books of the series, claiming that this series is one of the best values on the romance market and I stand by that statement today. When so many authors, pressured to produce multiple books per year, struggle with maintaining a consistent quality, Bella Andre channels her own inner Nora Roberts and gives us another heart-stoppingly amazing addition to this series, which is claiming the spot of favorite contemporary romance series for me.

Zach Sullivan loves working with cars and enjoys the benefits of having built his love into a chain of successful automotive stations, but he enjoys fast women as much as fast cars, sporting a serious “no commitment” policy with the opposite sex. When his firefighter brother Gabe drops off the puppy of his soon-to-be stepdaughter for Zach to dogsit, Zach figures a couple pounds of puppy can’t be too much for him handle. But it is. As he finds his life turned upside down by a Yorki named Cuddles, a friend sends him the best dog trainer in the San Francisco area, Heather Linsey.

How I picture Atlas and Cuddles (although I’m pretty sure this is a Chihuahua but you get the idea)

And that “no commitment” policy gets reevaluated. Heather is far from impressed with Zach’s yelling at the puppy but she quickly realizes that she’s the one who might be over her head. Zach is even more good looking than his movie star brother, Smith, and his sense of humor has her more worried than his chiseled features or killer body. Heather is fine with a no commitment physical relationship, but someone who makes her laugh could find their way into her heart. The fact her faithful Great Dane, Atlas, has a new best friend in Zach’s puppy charge is simply another red flag on the whole situation, one that has Heather saying, “No” firmly and repeatedly to Zach’s advances.

Zach hasn’t really heard “no” from women before and hearing it from Heather makes him realize that they time they spend together not having sex is actually more amazing than the time he has spent having sex with other women. He knows this is dangerous, but can’t stop himself from putting his heart on the line for her.

But Zach and Heather both have their own brand of damage. Heather had a terrible childhood with the discovery that her doting father, who she thought loved her mother, was a philanderer all his life – and her mother knew about it. Watching two people fake a marriage has put her off the idea that true love exists and actually led to a bout of cutting when she was younger. Working with animals, along with therapy, helped release her feelings in a more productive way, but her heart has some rather substantial walls around it and she’s unwilling to risk it, even with all the feelings Zach stirs in her.

I Only Have Eyes for You by Bella Andre (February 21, 2012) Sophie & Jake’s Story

Zach is a great tortured hero, simply because you don’t realize how damaged he is at first glance. I loved him in Sophie Sullivan’s story, when he beat the crap out of his best friend Jake for getting her pregnant, and he’s always been a great brother and good businessman. But in this book we discover that Zach’s strong resemblance to his father, who succumbed to a sudden aneurysm in his thirties leaving a wife and eight young children, has led Zach to avoid falling in love because he’s not convinced that he’ll be around for that long. The fast cars and faster women have been a natural outcome of this secret belief that his days are numbered, and he may not be able to let go of his pain to make a life with Heather.

Walk, don’t run, to your nearest ebook vendor to purchase this book. Andre has once again crafted deep characters you instantly root for, praying they will work through their emotional baggage and realize the love of lifetime is at their fingertips if they would just take a chance. The dogs are incredible minor characters and seeing our favorite Sullivans (the ones already partnered happy and healthy and the ones still single having their clock ticking) gives you the feeling that you are catching up with friends.

I’ve put an Amazon alert so I’ll be notified next time when Bella Andre publishes another book. I don’t want to miss an hour of reading when Ryan Sullivan’s book, Let Me Be the One, comes out in the fall!

Series Review: The Sullivan Series by Bella Andre

13 Mar

I stumbled across Bella Andre last year purely by accident.  I was reading an article last June about successful self-published romance authors and her name popped up.  Coincidentally it was right after she had released her first book of the Sullivan series, The Look of Love.  Be warned, these books are only available as ebooks, so print only romance readers are bound to go unsatisfied.  Maybe this is the push you need to get one of those cheapy Kindles finally?

With over 3600 Twitter followers, Bella Andre is someone who clearly understands the digital world, hence her success.  Already an established print romance novelist, she had books that weren’t being picked up that she wanted to get out there.  Starting with Amazon’s platform she got them up in ebook format, but realized if she marketed to the other ebook websites like Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc., she’d reach a larger audience.  Finding the interface accessible, she forged ahead, selling a thousand titles a day, and retaining a much larger chunk of the proceeds than with a traditional publisher.  Sounds like a savvy, experienced author knew just how to play the self-publishing game!

Bella confesses that she feels one of the key features of her success was the introduction of the Nook Color since it showcases her beautiful covers (and my Kindle iPad app agrees with that).  We know that everyone judges a book by a cover and I was no exception.  I was looking for a romance novel for under $5 that I could download that instant, and when I read all the great reviews for Bella and her books on my Goodreads account, I made the plunge.  She is, hands down, one of the best values in the romance novel world.  I can honestly say that I would pay a lot more for these books (but please don’t raise the price!) but I’m intensely grateful to never have to budget for them.

The first book begins on a rainy night on a road near the Napa Valley vineyard owned by Marcus Sullivan.  His brother, world renowned photographer Chase Sullivan, is driving back to the vineyard when he spots a broken down car driven by a despondent Chloe Peterson.  Spotting the bruise she’s sporting, he realizes this ravishing beauty not only outshines the models which surround him but she is also in serious trouble.

Chloe takes one look at gorgeous Chase and knows she’s in trouble.  Her abusive ex had caught up with her and she’s beginning to despair of ever being free of him.  Yet this handsome man looming over her in the night inspires trust rather than fear.  When he brings her back to the beautiful vineyard where he is having a fashion shoot, she finds herself opening up her body and her heart.  Oh, and the balcony and bathtub scenes. *Mrrrrrooowwww*

Chase is determined to have both those things and Andre’s talented writing breathes life into these two characters from the very first page.  The Sullivans are a family of eight children and their lovely mother who lost their father at an early age.  Each of the kids are distinct individuals and intensely devoted to family.  We’ve got a nice selection of upscale glamour (Smith is a movie star, Chase the noted photographer, Lori the renowned choreographer), a workaholic (Marcus the oldest and the vineyard owner), and the sexy professions (Gabe is a firefighter, Zach a mechanic, and Sophie the librarian).  [Okay, I know that’s seven, and I’m pretty sure there’s a younger sister I’m not thinking of right now, but she hasn’t been the in the stories so much. So sue me!  I’m sure her story will be great, too.]

You end up wanting to just BE a Sullivan!  In the first book, Marcus comes across as a little uptight, mostly due to the references to his cranky, be-yotch girlfriend in San Francisco, but you realize he’s wrestling with something bigger.  The second book, From This Moment On, picks up with Marcus finding out about said girlfriend cheating on him.  He realizes he hasn’t had feelings for her, well, forever, but is wrestling with the fact that he’s so remote and can’t open up to someone.  Is it because of his dad dying so young and leaving Marcus as the male head of the family with all the responsibility?  He decides to blow off steam and head to the nearest club to see if he can indulge in some casual sex and get his mind off his troubles.

Enter Nicola, one of the hottest performers, who is running from a relationship that should carry a scorched earth warning.  Her ex got her name in the tabloids by releasing a video with the two of them…well, you can imagine.  She decides to leave her penthouse hotel suite and head out to a club to see if she can get a little of her self-esteem back.  When she and Marcus catch sight of each other, they quickly leave the club and adjourn to his brother’s empty apartment where…she falls asleep, dead on her feet from her grueling work schedule.

And so begins an incredibly hot, tender romance.  Marcus and Nicola see something in each other, recognizing that they have a deep connection and can see beyond the surface – what everyone else sees – to each person’s real self.  The part at the end of the book where Marcus follows her concerts. *Sigh*  So romantic.

The third book, Can’t Help Falling in Love, leaves the wealthier Sullivans behind and focuses on sexy firefighter, Gabe, who is literally in the middle of battling an apartment fire, to make his way to a woman and child trapped behind a wall of flame.  It’s Megan Harris, who is busy shielding her young daughter in their bathtub, praying help comes in time. Gabe injures himself in the process, but manages to save both their lives and when she and her adorable little daughter go to thank their savior, the sparks that fly could easily cause another inferno.

But rather than elation, Megan and Gabe both feel a kind of panic.  Megan is a widow whose husband was an adrenaline junkie so she’s had her fill of men who have potentially fatal jobs and now she has a little girl to worry about hurting with a relationship that doesn’t last.  Gabe is beside himself – he falls for Megan’s daughter as hard as for her stunning mother, but he had a previous hook-up/relationship with a woman he had saved and she went Swimfan on him in a big way.  Watching the two of them work through their issues and recognize how important they are to each other is a sensual, occasionally painful joy.

Which brings us to the most recent Sullivan novel, I Only Have Eyes for You, just released February 21st.  Librarian Sophie is twin to choreographer Lori, and their respective nicknames Nice and Naughty, describe how the family sees their personalities.  In previous novels, we’ve gotten the sense of how Sophie has feelings for Jake McCann, her brother Zach’s good friend and someone the family calls “the ninth Sullivan”.

This story opens at Chase and Chloe’s wedding, which Sophie has organized.  She’s decided that no matter what (including the warnings from her twin, Lori) she is going to make Jake notice her, and her clingy pink bridesmaid’s gown and movie star hair and makeup have him picking his jaw off the floor.

Jake has actually loved Sophie from a distance since they were both little, but his crappy home life (abandoned by his mother and raised by an abusive alcoholic father) and academic shortcomings have him believing he’s not good enough for her.  Yet seeing her at the wedding and thinking of her with someone else make him mental.  Even though he knows he’s wrong for her, when she throws herself at him, he catches her with open arms, only to have the best night of both of their lives.

But the following morning, he steers clear of her like she has the plague, despite knowing that he’s hurting her, thinking it’s for the best.  Until two and a half months later when Sophie has an announcement which will change both their lives – if they let it.

Jake and Sophie are both fabulous characters and I love the way Bella Andre weaves in the previous characters seamlessly but not intrusively.  The focus is always on the couple involved but the enthusiastic reader still finds themselves wrapped in Sullivan love and affection while not feeling like the other characters are living some kind of epilogue in the middle of the current novel.  It’s a skill I wish other authors would master.

Consider the value in these books.  At $4.99 for each book, $20 for the series, you get four terrific novels about a family you simply can’t get enough of.  No editing errors, fabulous characters, and fresh, sensual plots with heart-wrenching love – this is undoubtedly one of the best values for the money.  If you have an ereader of any kind, I would strongly encourage you to give this series a chance.  You’ll be happy you did!

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