Tag Archives: Grand Central Publishing

Here Comes Trouble by Erin Kern Delivers Small Town Romance in a Big Way

14 Oct

Here Comes Trouble (Trouble #2) by Erin Kern (Forever Romance, January 8, 2013)

Erin Kern seems to be a wonderful product of the modern age of books. As far as I can tell, she released the first two books of her Trouble series on her own in 2011, prior to them being picked up by Forever Romance, a division of Grand Central Publishing, which has re-released the first two books in January 2013. Kudos to Forever’s editors for recognizing the voice of an author who has a handle on what a small-town romance should sound like.

Here Comes Trouble stars Chase McDermott, an all-around sinful bad boy who is no stranger to the beds of women in the vicinity of Trouble, Wyoming. He’s got plenty on his mind with the rash of petty thefts at the family restaurant he manages, his six-month old niece he enjoys spoiling rotten, and one blond sassy waitress whose buttons he loves to push.

Along Came Trouble (Trouble #3) by Erin Kern (Forever Romance, November 19, 2013)

Lacy Taylor’s life has not turned out how she might have liked. A mother who abandoned her, a drug addict father who has spent more time in jail than out of it, and the recent loss of the grandfather who raised her all add up to serious trust issues when it comes to people staying in her life. That she’s inherited her rundown family home, along with her grandfather’s aging mastiff, Boris, is icing on the cake and her waitressing money isn’t exactly generous. Her art is a constant solace but something so private she only shares it with her best friend, Brody McDermott. That she might entertain some fantasies about Brody’s brother and her boss at the restaurant doesn’t matter because nothing will ever come of it. Never.

You know what they say about “never”? Uh-huh. Chase’s eyes are opened to the idea that the woman he loves sparring with has grown up from the skinny kid who hung out with his brother to an independent hottie with a streak of vulnerability that calls to Chase in a way no woman ever has. They burn up the sheets but each of them possesses strong instincts to keep people at arms length, yet they find themselves putting those aside during their uber-hot hookups. But life has a tendency of throwing curveballs, and Chase and Lacey get more than a few, putting their pseudo-relationship to an acid test it may or may not survive.

Looking for Trouble (Trouble #1) by Erin Kern (Forever Romance, January 8, 2013)

Not only did I enjoy the small town romance atmosphere of Kern’s novel, but I was incredibly impressed at her smooth juggling of several subplots. On top of Chase, Lacey is dealing with the resurfacing of her jailbird father, money trouble (the not-having it and then the having it kind), nosy neighbors, work issues, a crisis of confidence regarding her art, and eventually some pretty serious health concerns. Chase has got an overbearing father who is also his boss, a mystery employee who is stealing from him, family stuff, and a woman who he cannot get enough of but who might very well want nothing to do with him, even after he decides he wants her in his life for good. Kern also had the couple’s relationship evolving so naturally and over a reasonable amount of time (and these are two people who have known one another for years) that the feeling of the novel is one of realism without the boredom you might expect from a novel that actually reflects true life. 🙂 It takes a deft hand to manage this and I found myself impressed.

My only real criticism of the book was that the ending felt abrupt to me but it was satisfying enough that I could put that aside. I was more than tantalized with the sample chapter for the third book in the series, Along Came Trouble, which will be Brody’s book. I do feel a writer with this much talent needs to flesh out her Goodreads account and her website, both of which are rather basic and feel unpolished compared to the quality of her prose. It seems like Erin Kern spends more time on Facebook and Twitter (which is great) but I would hate to see her sacrifice fans looking for other means of connection.

A huge bonus for readers is the wonderful affordability of this series. Value for your dollar abounds with these books (each well over 350 pages) costing under $3.00 for the ebook versions and only around $5 for the paperback imprint. Well done, Forever Romance! I hope this combination of quality and value will have even more readers trying these novels on for size. I think they’ll find themselves welcoming a little Trouble into their lives and hearts in no time.

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

10 Oct

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

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

Romance novels have a happy ending between two people.

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

Between Friends by Vristen Pierce is not romance.

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

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

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

*needle screech* I’m sorry, what?

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

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

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

Small Town Goodness: Ain’t Misbehaving by Molly Cannon

7 Jul

Ain’t Misbehaving by Molly Cannon (Grand Central Publishing, June 26, 2012)

Sweet, small-town romances are a hot seller (interestingly right alongside erotica which is also reaching new heights with the ebook market). I’m sure we could analyze this to death – people want a connection with others, in a tough economy a small town represents caring for each other, the trend of returning to rural roots, etc. With all these reasons in mind, I predict audiences are going to love Ain’t Misbehaving, a sweet debut offering by new author Molly Cannon.

The book sucks you in with a great opening. Recent divorcee and hair stylist Marly Jean Bandy is in the truck of local handsome bachelor-about-town trying to work up the enthusiasm to have sex, but it’s just not happening for her. Her spirit was crushed when her husband left her, and not for the cuter, younger secretary. Oh no, he left her for the older, dowdier bookmobile-driving librarian in town and they are now passionately in love. Ouch.

Marly Jean’s self-esteem has certainly taken a hit, but even she realizes she hasn’t been in love with her husband for a while, and something more physical seems like a good way to ease back into the dating scene. But no sooner does she start telling her non-erotic partner that tonight will not be his lucky night that her brother’s best friend, Jake, practically wrenches the door off its hinges.

She’s had a crush on Jake for years, but as her brother’s best friend Marly Jean knows she’s practically radioactive to him. To say nothing of the fact that Jake’s father left him with severe emotional scars and as a result, Jake changes out bed partners like a manicurist changes nail polish. Yet all the time Marly Jean is dipping her toe in the dating waters, Jake is thwarting her at every turn. Even hot kissing doesn’t change his mind. What is up with him?

This was a delight to read. Great humor and a fresh approach to small-town romance always make for a book that puts a smile on your face while you read it. I always fall for the good friend trope and Jake is a good friend, just one with a lot of emotional baggage. The small town atmosphere is extremely well done, demonstrating how everyone knows everyone’s business, and how you end up having to live with people even after they hurt you, so respect and honesty are important. I appreciated how Cannon handled the ex-husband and his lover; no one was a villain here, just normal, basically nice people occasionally making selfish decisions for good reasons.

Even though the hero and heroine don’t have sex (making this a sweet romance), there is sexual tension like you wouldn’t believe and all that angst was very gratifying. Any author who can make a massive make out session in a bed hot while one of the characters is wearing a walking boot on their foot and on painkillers gets my hat doffed to them. *doffs hat*

If I have any complaint to make, it’s that Cannon’s website and blog mention that this book is part of a series, yet no indication of that series name or when the next book is to be published can be found on amazon or Goodreads. This is a big no-no; there are readers who won’t touch a book that’s not part of a series and I think that Molly Cannon should trumpet those facts to the hills to get a bigger readership. Ain’t Misbehaving deserves it!

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