Tag Archives: Category Romance

Taming His Tutor by Natalie Anderson Will Have You Looking For Lessons

25 Aug

Taming His Tutor by Natalie Anderson (Entangled: Brazen, August 25, 2014)

As a cerebral, bookish kind of gal, I’ve a soft spot for the trope about the nerd girl who falls in mutual lust/love with the jock guy, and I don’t think I’m by myself in the romance reading demographic.

If you count yourself as my sister under the skin, then I suggest you take a close look at Natalie Anderson’s latest, Taming His Tutor, which debuted today.

Abbi Hayes has come a long way from the math Olympiad circuit she did in high school. She’s lost the braces and the boob-hiding long scarf she sported, but even with her new hairdo and clingy wardrobe, her confidence still needs a boost. Her last (and first) boyfriend called her a cold fish in bed and her one and only one-night stand was a disaster. Working as the head IT person for a posh women’s magazine, she’s working hand in hand with her best friend and the magazine’s sex editor to not only develop a fabulous new app with sexual confidence tips, but to ingrain said ideas into her daily life. Easier said than done, as she’s literally saved from death-by-audiobook by none other than former NBA star Joe Fuller.

Joe can’t believe that the curvy goddess who almost became another pedestrian fatality is none other than the blue-eyed sweetheart of a tutor who helped him get through math class back in high school. If he had known she was hiding these killer curves under that sweet smile and earnest expression, he would have pursued her, but there’s no time like the present. Recognizing that the newly blossomed Abbi is stirring up a possessiveness and hunger he’s not used to experiencing with his casual “love ’em and leave ’em” lifestyle, Joe is ready to leave her after one hot but disastrous date. The realization that the little vixen has no idea of her sex appeal AND is researching sexual attraction for her app gives him the perfect opportunity to work her out of his system while also helping her gain her confidence. The problem arises when his previously perfect paradigm of leaving before getting attached hits the fan.

Oh, wow. Joe is sex on a stick – a hard-bodied NBA star who has never been anyone’s priority and as a result has managed to feel like a failure. A hurtful mother and a series of foster homes who put him second, a sister he felt he should have protected, and a professional team he felt he let down with his career ending injury and we have a recipe for a decade of therapy. Instead, Joe channelled his energy into building a highly successful gym business and releases some of his tension through the many classes he offers. Abbi at least has let herself be open to being hurt – and she has – but her time with Joe proves to her that she needed to focus on being with someone who actually turns her on and who she can pleasure in return. She tries to protect herself around Joe but she can see his vulnerabilities. Even if he doesn’t choose her, she insists on calling him out on his imposed lone wolf status. Abbi knows that Joe doesn’t deserve to be alone, no matter what he believes.

I’ve never read any Natalie Anderson before and that is something I plan to rectify soon. This talented Kiwi writer of category romance has an excellent grasp of character psychology, one which she uses to drive the evolution of her plot. Joe and Abbi are sympathetic characters and the heat between them is incendiary. The dialogue felt natural and I like the way they were flawed characters who occasionally hurt each other, but never irreparably.

Grab Taming His Tutor for a geektastic read filled with emotion and naughty bits that will have your e-reader smoking!

Happy reading! 🙂

Friends to Lovers (Internet Start Up Style) with Joan Kilby’s Mad About You

1 Apr
Mad About You by Joan Kilby (Entangled Indulgence, March 31, 2013)

Mad About You by Joan Kilby (Entangled Indulgence, March 31, 2013)

Friends to lovers is my favorite trope – I’ll rarely ignore a book which indicates this is the romance theme – and if you throw in a geeky hero or heroine, I’m toast.

Veteran category romance writer Joan Kilby manages just this balance, giving readers in Mad About You the story of quiet accountant Cassy Morris who agrees to temporarily move to Seattle to help her best friend from grade school, the multi-millionaire Scott Thornton. Voted Seattle’s sexiest bachelor he needs her to not only fend off the women who keep throwing themselves at him but to also help him get his nanotechnology startup in financial order while vetting angel investors so he can beat a rival to the patent punch.

Complications naturally arise – both of them find the other incredibly attractive and always have – and it’s not long before they are pondering the fact that no previous girlfriend or boyfriend worked out because who they were really waiting for was each other. Yet acting on their attraction could not come at a worse time, with Scott’s estranged father attempting a reconciliation, dealing with a temperamental Australian billionaire, and juggling their fake engagement to keep vipers at bay.

Joan Kilby does an excellent job transmitting the weight of all these tensions (there were times reading I felt a physical heaviness in my chest) but she shines in her characterization. Scott is no typical geek – yes, he’s a genius, but he’s also a mountain bike enthusiast and works out constantly, hence his awesome body. No wonder the Seattle ladies go crazy for him! Yet, he’s still vulnerable at thirty to his father’s abandonment, and facing that issue is undeniably painful. He’s an introvert and it’s obvious the balance Cassy has played in his life since grade school. She’s got some risk-taking issues, making her pursuit of Scott all the more brave and gut-wrenching. Learning to stand up for herself and not settle as she has been in her career and romantic relationships is heartening to watch, particularly when Scott is busy earning the Captain Oblivious award.

I was fortunate enough to hear from Joan Kilby, who agreed to answer a few questions. Based on her cupcake answer, she’s a long lost sister of mine!

1.    Is friends to lovers a favorite theme for your writing? Why/why not?

Friends to lovers is definitely a favorite theme of mine. Maybe I’m drawn to these types of stories because that’s how my husband and I got together. We were living in a group house with mutual friends for a whole year before we got together romantically. At first I thought he didn’t like me! Later I found out he was a shy because he was attracted. Then we both went traveling, separately, and returned home within a few days of each other. I’ll never forget the first moment we saw each other again. It was like a scene from a movie. Time seemed to stop as we saw each other through new eyes. Not long after, on New Years Eve, we kissed for the first time. And the rest, as they say, is history.

In terms of writing a friends to lovers story, I enjoy exploring new aspects of the couple’s relationship and how they discover things they never knew about each other. There’s a lot of vulnerability and bravery involved in the big leap from being ‘just friends’ to admitting they’re in love. What if the romance goes bust and they lose their best friend in the process? In Mad About You, my hero, Scott, has abandonment issues so the possibility of losing Cassy from his life is really scary. As for Cassy, she can’t conceive of life without Scott.

2.    Why do you think readers can’t get enough of millionaires?

I think millionaires are the modern day equivalent of a Prince Charming. The fantasy appeal is that they have the money and the power to sweep the heroine away from her life of drudgery and into a magical new existence. Of course, a modern heroine is independent and fully able to provide for herself, but it’s still nice to know that if she needs him, the hero can protect her…and keep her in glass slippers for the rest of her days.

There’s also the underlying assumption that if he’s that rich it must mean he’s smart and has a strong character. Clearly not every rich person is nice or good but usually in a romance novel, a millionaire has done something impressive to earn his wealth. In Mad About You, the hero, Scott, has invented something with the potential to change the lives of everyone in the whole world for the better, not just the heroine.

3.    Your favorite cupcake/icing combination?

Great question! Devil’s food chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting. Yum!

Thanks, Joan! Keep in mind that Mad About You is currently at the low price of $.99 in keeping with Entangled’s fabulous new policy of an initial low pricing to reward on the ball buyers, so take advantage of this colossal bargain and pick up a great new book.

Happy reading!

 

Gone With the Wolf Delivers Strong Paranormal Romance with a Dash of Millionaire Sexy Times

24 Oct

Gone with the Wolf (Seattle Wolf Pack #1) by Kristin Miller (Entangled Publishing, April 23, 2013)

Here’s a conundrum. I love paranormal romance, but I also have a not-so-hidden fascination for those decidedly decadent millionaire-laden category romances filled with mansions and galas.

Luckily for me, Kristin Miller wrote Gone with the Wolf, the first book in her Seattle Wolf Pack series, which just happens to feature as hero one cold, logical, extremely handsome CEO of a multi-million dollar real estate holdings company, Drake Wilder. Plenty of mansions and galas here to drool over as he falls for the bartender-turned-temp.

Oh, I’m sorry…did I not mention he’s a 300 year old werewolf and she’s his destined mate?

That’s right. Miller has managed to combine two tropes I love – paranormal romances with a destined mate element and those delicious fantasy-imbued millionaire romances – into one novel. The end result is something closer to the category style of romance in tone, but with plenty of paranormal deliciousness for readers who like that but don’t want to be inundated with a ton of world-building (I for one don’t mind excessive world-building, but not everyone feels that way).

Emelia Hudson is not only a bartender but a bar-owner, that is, until she’s notified that Drake Wilder’s company has purchased her building, which means either her deed is worthless or Wilder is a ruthless shark bent on ruining the little guy. She needs money and access to figure out what’s going on, so working as a temp for his company seems like a good way to weasel her way under his defenses and challenge him with the truth.

Four Weddings and a Werewolf (Seattle Wolf Pack #2) by Kristin Miller (Entangled Publishing, October 28, 2013)

Emelia gets under Drake’s defenses all right. A couple of stolen moments at his company’s Halloween party (where she is dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, naturally, since he’s really the Big Bad Wolf) and Drake is faced with the startling conclusion that this human is his Luminary – his destined mate for whom he’s searched for centuries and given up as a myth.

There are some startling ripples in the pond from this development. Drake’s father willed the alpha slot of his pack to whichever of his sons found their destined mate first, and the stalemate has kept things calm between Drake and his unstable twin, Silas, a calm that has clearly preceded the storm that finding Emelia is about to unleash.

But she knows nothing about Drake being a werewolf, and in fact can barely stand him as a person since she’s so threatened by his company’s actions. Yet as Emelia tries to reconcile the facts with what her instincts are proclaiming – that despite her experience of one untrustworthy man after another, Drake might just be the real thing – her feelings help her fight through obstacle after obstacle to try and make their connection work for both of them.

With any other writer, I’d be scoffing at so many elements thrown together, and when I say this reminds me of a yummy category romance, I mean it. Both characters have the occasional TSTL moment, there is layer upon layer of misunderstanding, they take two steps forward and then one step back, etc., yet Miller somehow builds enough emotion and character depth that you are ready to accept it as part of the story, letting you sit back and enjoy the ride.

Since this is the start of Miller’s Seattle Wolf Pack series, I’ll be interested to read the next book in the series, Four Weddings and a Werewolf, due to come out next week. Featuring one of Emelia’s bodyguards – the cold and remote Logan – partnered with a wedding planner who hates werewolves, it’s bound to be interesting. 🙂 At a mere $2.99 a pop, these books are also priced just right for regular consumption.

Happy reading!

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

22 Sep

Upcoming Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contests and Giveaways

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

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

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

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

Fun Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Deals

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

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

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

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

What a terrific week for readers! Enjoy, everyone. 🙂

Brenda Jackson’s Latest Westmoreland Novel, Stern, Hits All the Soft Spots

26 Aug

Stern (Westmoreland #27 – Stern and JoJo’s story) by Brenda Jackson (Harlequin Desire, August 27, 2013)

I know what you are thinking. Stern? Maybe after writing no fewer than twenty-freaking-seven books in an incredibly popular series, you’ve got to pull out all the stops in the name department. After all, this guy’s brothers are Canyon and Zane! At least they are all cowboy businessmen – it’s hard to imagine someone from Minneapolis pulling Stern off.

Stern is the 27th book in the ever popular and always heart warming Westmoreland series (and is that the reason it debuts on the 27th? If so, clever, clever Harlequin!). As with so many larger series, this one is broken up into several smaller “series within a series,” usually in the form of trilogies centering around a group of siblings.

Stern Westmoreland is a self-confessed ladies man who has never been tempted to have even a long term relationship with a girlfriend, to say nothing of marriage. He’s baffled by his brothers’ and cousins’ recent rush to the altar and while he’s happy for them, he’s pretty smug in his lifestyle.

But a wrench is about to be thrown in the cogs of his life. His best friend, JoJo, has been there for him since middle school and they’ve always looked out for one another. Stern knows that she’s never been serious about anyone, preferring to learn hunting and cars at her father’s knee. She can usually outshoot Stern at the hunting lodge he bought for their regular getaways and she’s definitely kept up the thriving auto shop she inherited after her dad’s death. But JoJo is acting strange, asking Stern how to attract a man, and it’s making him damn unsettled.

Brenda Jackson with a few of her recent blockbuster novels (Zane is the same trilogy as Stern).

JoJo is feeling pretty unsettled herself. She came to the head-smacking realization a few months ago that she was actually having feelings for her best friend and she knows not only is she not his type but she doesn’t want to endanger their friendship. She has fixed the car of a handsome and dapper man who actually reminds her of Stern and her best idea is to start something up with this guy to divert herself away from the impossible. But she’s worried that her casual clothes and outdoorsy tastes are not exactly the bombshell qualities that attract most men. Who better than Stern to teach her what to do to dazzle a man’s eye?

While Stern tries to make JoJo see that any man should be more than glad to get her just as she is (he’s beaten up guys in high school for making her feel inadequate), he can’t believe he blurted out the piece about how most women do makeovers. Now he has to watch JoJo come back from a city trip with his female relatives looking absolutely edible. As relatives cast knowing glances in his direction, Stern must face the fact that the reason he’s never considered having a long-term woman in his life is that he already had one…and she’s perfect for him.

I adore “best friends to lovers” romances because of the long-standing comfort level and knowledge each character has of the other. Watching Stern absorb his brother’s comments and analyze his feelings for JoJo is priceless, as is his sneaky determination to derail any interest she might have in someone else. JoJo is a bit naive – despite her being in her late twenties – but I chose to see this as she is just so trusting of Stern’s character that even after he agrees to give her “kissing lessons” she doesn’t see his obvious physical reaction as being an expression of genuine passion.

There were a few points to this book that I thought felt the tiniest bit off. JoJo is nearing thirty and not only is she a virgin (!) but she also has never been kissed aside from some slobbering in the 10th grade. When she and Stern hook up seriously for the first time, you get the impression that she’s never even had an orgasm before him. Um, how is this possible in this day and age? I absolutely believe that Stern is her best friend, but JoJo must have women friends, a health textbook, cable tv, etc. that would convince her to do a little healthy self-exploration, right? She sounds fabulous and with her traditionally male tastes I found it highly unlikely there wouldn’t be a host of guys flocking around her grateful that she speaks their language. These are pretty small detractions to the otherwise total buy-in I gave this novel, so maybe this is just me.

Canyon is the other brother in the same trilogy, along with Zane and Stern.

The Westmoreland series has the quality that draws so many of us to family-based series, namely that in the end, you can picture yourself as part of the crowd and you care enough to want to see each and every one of them get their happy ending. Family values also manage to come across the page with a talented writer like Jackson, who readily admits that her personal attraction to family series comes from having a large family herself.

Even if the name gives you pause, it should be balanced out by the name of that wonderful author, Brenda Jackson. The year 2013 actually represents a milestone for Jackson, with her 100th book being published the year she turns 60 – an incredible personal achievement for any author, but especially one who published her first novel in 1995. Married to her husband for over forty years (she still wears the steady ring he gave her when she was 15), Jackson amazingly worked full time for State Farm Insurance until her retirement a few years ago, always declaring her romance writing a “hobby.” While many writers who have achieved her level of success might be tempted to move onto longer romance books with a different imprint, Jackson has remained faithful to Harlequin and (if rumors are true regarding her book deals) she’s been appropriately rewarded for it.

In a world where African American readers can have a hard time finding protagonists who look like them, Jackson has also accomplished something very special. While imprints like Kimani Romance specialize in multicultural characters, I haven’t seen a lot of evidence suggesting that there is a strong white readership of these books (a shame because there are a lot of great writers in that line). Because Jackson’s Westmoreland series is based off the premise of a great-grandparent who had multiple wives and kept leaving one for another as he made his way out West, the Westmoreland family is one trying to find their relatives (perhaps mirroring the recent upsurge in genealogy). What they discover are both African American and European American branches of the same family. It’s a blending that I think has lent itself to many readers dipping their toes into books they would otherwise not have picked up and finding that the water is just right!

Please do note that the August 27th release of Stern actually has the bonus story, Bachelor Untamed (which wasn’t in my ARC from NetGalley so I can’t comment on it), giving rise to the slightly higher price tag. If Stern is all you want, there is a standalone version of that book coming out on September 3rd that goes for a couple of dollars less.

I’ve loved all the Westmoreland novels I’ve read and it’s a testimony to Jackson’s writing style that I’ve never felt like I needed to read all the books in the series to understand what’s going on – they work together and as stand alone novels. Stern is a fabulous addition to the series and I dare you to stop at reading just this one. Many thanks to Brenda Jackson for all her quality writing and congratulations on hitting all her significant milestones this year!

Philadelphia Lawyers Have Never Been So Sexy: Case for Seduction by Ann Christopher

25 Oct

Case for Seduction (The Hamiltons Laws of Love #1 – Jake and Charlotte’s story) by Ann Christopher (Kimani Romance, August 21, 2012)

It seems like it’s a Harlequin phenomena to have a series of books, usually based around a family, where each book in the series is written by a different author. I don’t know how I feel about this – granted I’ve read a few series that this worked (like The Notorious Wolfes, aka Bad Blood in the U.K., which was AMAZING) but they are more the exception than the rule. The danger is that you’ll love one author and her description of the family and then have to switch to another author whose perspective isn’t nearly as compelling. Not fun.

Since it was the first in the series, I was happy to take the plunge when I saw the NetGalley notice for Case for Seduction by Ann Christopher. I hadn’t read a book in a long time where the lawyer wasn’t a villian (and certainly I haven’t read about one who was a hero for an even longer time span) and it seemed like a great angle, particularly from an author who worked as attorney before becoming a romance writer. Bracing myself against possible disappointment, I took the plunge and started reading.

I could not put this book down! From the moment when Jake Hamilton meets Charlotte Evans in his local Starbucks to the final page featuring their Happily Ever After, this was a beautifully written, emotionally compelling book. A little longer than a lot of category romance, Christopher gives us three-dimensional but lovable characters, a host of family members, and a great family law firm in 224 pages. I heart her.

And I love Jake and Charlotte. You have to cringe a little at the way attorney Jake Hamilton has been living his life. He’s totally a man-whore, sleeping with plenty of women and facing one messy situation after another as a result. Meeting Charlotte in his local Starbucks, he ignores the flirting of the barrista to try and get to know the gorgeous, gray-eyed beauty he accidentally mowed down. She’s certainly attracted to him but is trying to focus on her law books since she’s got work to do. Hearing that she’s in law school and holding down a job to boot, he’s filled with admiration – Jake is aware that his family’s wealth has given him a lot of advantages and he’s beginning to realize that he’s not given back nearly as much as he’s been given. Looking at the woman who is trying to maintain a professional distance (why?), he’s determined to get to know her better.

Evidence of Desire (The Hamiltons Laws of Love #2) by Pamela Yaye (Kimani Romance, October 1, 2012)

Charlotte realizes soon enough that Jake has no idea that she works for his law firm in the secretarial pool. She’s been more than aware of his jaw-dropping good looks for months now, but he’s never looked at her twice, so why the sudden interest? Clearly the man is used to women falling all over him, as evinced by the pissed-off Starbucks employee he rebuffed and now some woman who loudly accuses him of sleeping with her three times and then never calling her again. Charlotte’s life is complicated enough without some womanizer trying to score, so she packs up her homework and heads out, determined to never think of him again, and she doesn’t bother letting on that she works for him. In the bowels of their offices, she’s bound to go back to being anonymous once more.

All those good intentions fly out the window when the surgeon father of her little two-year-old, Harry, blithely drops her son off in the middle of day, claiming an emergency call. Arguing with him in the reception area, who walks in on them but Jake. Jake is stunned to see the woman he could not stop thinking about for the last few days and the realization that she works for him hits him like a punch in the gut. No wonder she was angry! He surprises himself with both the jealousy toward the man with whom she was clearly involved at some point and with the instant liking he has for the little tyke in the feet-in pajamas. Although Jake knows he can’t pursue a relationship with someone who works for him, a law student is being wasted in the secretarial pool. He offers her a paralegal position, which comes with a 50% pay raise, an impossible proposition to pass up when it’s so hard to make ends meet. Charlotte makes clear that nothing can ever be between them and takes the job.

Legal Attraction (The Hamiltons Laws of Love #3) by Jacquelin Thomas (Kimani Romance, October 16, 2012)

Her presence in his life begins a transformation for Jake, and really, it’s more about Jake evolving than about Charlotte, although she obviously has to begin to trust him. A nice introduction to the Hamilton family takes place, and to the rivalries and sibling tensions throughout the clan, and this sets the class tension rather well. There is a constant conflict of Jake being confronted again and again with women he slept with (and often can’t remember their name), humiliating Jake and reminding Charlotte all too well of what a bad risk he is. My only criticism is that the sex scenes, while hot, seems to be cut off abruptly in spots – I don’t know if this is a Kimani rule or if the author or editor just wanted to spend more page space on the relationship. With writing this tight, I can settle for that compromise!

I adored watching Jake take in the sudden realization of how empty his life is and how Charlotte suddenly brings light and fresh air into it. It was easy to believe his rapid fall into love because she is so worthy of it – he sees her hard work in the face of adversity and she never seems embittered by the obstacles life has thrown in her way, yet she’s no goody-two-shoes. Her son Harry was an adorable little boy (although his language skills seemed really precocious for two and half) and all the minor characters lived up to being contributors in their own right rather than being cardboard cutouts simply inserted for dialogue purposes (the hallmark of the bad Harlequin novel).

The other two books in the series aren’t rated quite as well as this book, but I still think I’ll give them a try since I liked this family and their world so well. I would suggest going to Ann Christopher’s Goodreads page since it’s easier to navigate than her personal website – I discovered she’s got a romantic suspense series I have got to try!

Many thanks to Ann Christopher for her great writing and getting this series going with such a tremendous start. 🙂

Catherine Mann Celebrates Sexy Prodigies with An Inconvenient Affair

24 Oct

An Inconvenient Affair (Alpha Brotherhood #1 – Troy and Hillary’s story) by Catherine Mann (Harlequin Desire, August 1, 2012)

Sometimes I’m browsing NetGalley to see what the various publishers are up to, and mostly I feel like I’m just skimming the book covers, reacting to the images. Every now and then, though, I catch a glimpse of an author I love and everything comes to a screeching halt as I fervently press the “Request” button and pray that I’ll get to take a look at their latest offering.

I almost broke my enter key when I spotted Catherine Mann‘s name!

And not just her name, but the fact that this book indicates a new series, one published under the Harlequin Desire line. You might remember that I adore her Elite Force series, since she writes with an amazing balance of compelling lead characters, great minor characters, and outstanding technical information that makes the plot oh-so-believable.

But how would she translate to category romance? Contemporary romance often crosses over into the category romance subgenre, which simply means that major publishers, like Harlequin and Mills & Boon, produce large numbers of shorter romance novels (this one is 190 pages), releasing a certain number of titles each month in given “categories” (like medical romance, etc.). I find myself very picky about who I read in category romance, simply because the brevity of the novels often means that the plot stays relatively superficial, with one main conflict, barely developed characters, and an unsatisfying ending.

My great news for you is that you don’t have to worry about those shortcomings with Catherine Mann. Yes, this novel is not as in depth as her other work, but in 190 pages (versus 347 pages for one of her Elite Force books), it’s understandable that we don’t have a ton of minor characters with their own plot lines and romances.

What we do enjoy are interesting, three-dimensional main characters wrestling with real issues while being swept out of their comfort zone in their reaction to one another. Troy Donovan was a hacker prodigy from rich, indolent parents and his devastating break into the Department of Defense computer system would have landed an older kid into a federal penitentiary. But Troy ends up instead in a tough military school run by the hard but fair Captain Salvatore, who doesn’t plan on letting him get away with anything. Finally finding friends among the brilliant and troubled kids in the school, Troy founds the “Alpha Brotherhood” with them, forming a club comprised of capable, damaged geniuses. As they age and meet with tremendous success financially, they are still called upon to do international spying and government work occasionally at the behest of the same former headmaster, Salvatore.

Hillary Wright is on a plane bound for Chicago to help the government identify the business partner of her former boyfriend, both of whom were responsible for embezzling thousands of dollars from scholarship funds. She’s sickened by both their behavior and her own gullibility – she thought she left the Vermont farm of her childhood long behind her, but it seems her trust in others has bit her in the butt. Again. When she feels attraction for her handsome and charming seat mate on the plane, she’s hesitant to do anything but talk, knowing how bad a judge of character she is. When he’s taken off the plane in handcuffs, she’s shocked at how nothing ever goes right for her and at the sudden recognition that the man with whom she felt such a strong connection was none other than millionaire software developer and playboy, Troy Donovan!

All or Nothing (Alpha Brotherhood #2 – Conrad and Jayne’s story) by Catherine Mann (Harlequin Desire, January 1, 2013)

But Troy outwitted Salvatore, who didn’t want Troy and Hillary to meet until the party, deliberately putting himself next to Hillary to gauge her personality. After reading her file, he had a feeling that she was an innocent in more need of protection than she was going to get and after feeling the heat between them and enjoying her refreshing skepticism and honesty, he knows he was right on the money. The handcuffs were merely a stunt for the bachelor auction for the Chicago party he and Hillary are both attending, but she feels additionally duped and lied to when she has the epiphany that Troy works for Salvatore as well and she is just a job to him. But as they trot all over the globe, falling deeper and deeper in love and lust with one another, both these damaged individuals realize they are in way over their head.

For such a brief number of pages, I was impressed at how Mann was able to compress so much character development into them. Troy’s home life is nothing short of child neglect and Hillary has run as fast as she could from her home in Vermont and from a mother in and out of rehab. Yet both are able to have close relationships – Troy with the “Alpha Brotherhood” and Hillary with her sister – so there is potential for them to love and care for another person. Mann does a good job of drawing a psychological profile, while regularly showing how Hillary can’t help being caring (no matter what her inner voice might be warning against) and Troy can’t help treasuring her and trying to make her happy. Their flaws are understandable and work well for the plot and conflict, and I found myself rooting for them to face their inner demons so they could be with each other already!

The Alpha Brotherhood series device was actually quite refreshing. Rather than the typical security company or brothers-in-arms, the idea of men who became friends while still extremely young and immature, bound together by the shared conditions of military school and their child prodigy status, is a terrific idea and one that lets Mann operate a little out of the box. We get a glimpse of Troy’s friends – Hughes, the economics genius turned Monte Carlo casino owner and the man known as “Mozart,” the music prodigy now a sexy cross between Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Buble. Both are also spies, and for Hughes, it destroyed his marriage, yet for each other, they’ll do anything.

With books this short, you basically fall in love a little with the protagonists (versus head over heels in love with the characters in Mann’s longer books) and sacrifice the fabulous technical details like those in the Elite Force series. Yet, at under $4 for the Kindle version of these books, they are a terrific value since they offer a wonderful escape to a jet-setting world (it is Harlequin, after all) with flawed heroes and heroines who nevertheless deserve to be loved.

The next book, to be published January 1st (see above book cover), is to feature Conrad Hughes and his estranged wife, Jayne, and I’m guessing that Playing for Keeps, listed on the series page on Goodreads as due out in April, will be Mozart’s love story. I’ve already pre-ordered Hughes’ book and am looking forward to enjoying the rest of the Alpha Brotherhood. Thanks, Catherine, for giving us these sexy prodigies to fall for!

%d bloggers like this: