Tag Archives: Harlequin Enterprises

December Read-a-Thon: Mistletoe Not Required by Anne Oliver Brings a Fresh Down-Under Voice to Romance

8 Dec

Mistletoe Not Required by Anne Oliver (Harlequin KISS, November 1, 2013)

There’s always something fun about immersing yourself in a book written by an author from an English-speaking country who incorporates enough national colloquialisms that you feel like you’re on a vacation. For the Christmas holiday, a book set in Australia is even more special as their location below the equator means that December occurs in the summer, making this particular holiday startlingly outdoorsy.

But all the setting in the world wouldn’t mean much without a compelling story to keep the pages turning, and Anne Oliver, in her latest book, Mistletoe Not Required, has managed that in spades.

Olivia Wishart is her usual focused self this Christmas. She’s incredibly dedicated to her Pink Snowflake charity which is attempting to raise money to fund a retreat for women battling breast cancer and Olivia is 100% invested. Her mother (and many, many female relatives) died of breast cancer, so many that Olivia has even undergone the genetic testing to determine if she carries the marker which would necessitate her having a preventative double mastectomy. While she waits on tenterhooks for the answer, she’s determined to live life full-throttle while hopefully raising awareness for her charity.

To that end, Olivia and her best friend Breanna have headed up the all-female crew of a yacht and will be drawing great attention to Olivia’s cause while engaging in a Christmas race. But Brie needs support as well, since she is trying to reunite with the older, illegitimate brother she didn’t know she had until her father’s death – none other than wealthy playboy celebrity chef, Jett Davies. While Olivia finds a minute to herself at a gala she’s hosting, Jett spies the succulent redhead and succumbs to a moment of extreme temptation on a balcony. When they are interrupted by Olivia’s phone going off and he realizes that his mystery woman is his sister’s best friend, he backs off without filling her in.

Revenge is sweet. After Olivia relives the humiliation at facing the man who brought her to ecstasy the night before (and discovering he’s Breanna’s brother), she realizes that it would help her BFF to have a certain amount of proximity to her brother who seems less than on board with the reuniting campaign. The two women tag team him into coming on their yacht filled with bikini-clad sailors to raise the media profile of the ship and the cause. Did I mention Jett gets horribly seasick? Nevertheless, he’s a trooper and the trip convinces him that his attraction to Olivia isn’t going away.

While Olivia’s mind might be telling her ignore Jett because 1) he’s a serious player with a woman in every port, 2) he visits said ports often because he’s a “traveling” chef, and 3) he’s her best friend’s brother, so no escaping him in the future, her body isn’t on board. She decides to ring in New Year’s Day with an Eve that doesn’t quit. They agree to go their separate ways after some phenomenal sex, but when at breakfast Olivia gets the message that her childhood home has been burgled and vandalized, she’s shaken and devastated.

Jett doesn’t even think before offering to go with her and he decides to stick around and help, delaying his departure to his writing retreat. One day stretches into many, and he even takes Olivia on a Pretty Woman inspired trip of shopping and relaxation, with his growing restlessness supplanted by the rejuvenation he feels in Olivia’s presence and his work assisting her raise money for Pink Snowflake. Before too long, they both have strong feelings for each other, but Jett has to struggle with his childhood filled with rejection, while Olivia refuses to have a relationship that would come with a looming death sentence since she believes that statistically she’s likely to die from breast cancer.

Okay. This premise was fascinating – I’ve never before read a romance novel with a young heroine (with spectacular D-size breasts, no less) contemplating a double mastectomy. When combined with the yachting and celebrity chef piece, this novel had overtones of a Harlequin Presents since everyone was super wealthy, yet the tone of the story was very fresh and the characters well-fleshed out.

There were a few inconsistencies but it was the Harlequin kind which ramp up the emotional ante even while being far-fetched, so I swallowed them without a problem. While I would normally believe the plethora of sub-plots would result in a tangled mess, Anne Oliver deftly weaves them into a tale worthy of both the holiday spirit and of purchase. Did I mention the book is only $1.99? It’s a phenomenal deal.

I enjoyed this holiday romance tremendously and recommend that anyone shivering under the recent cold snap take a mini-vacation and experience Christmas, hot Australian style, with Mistletoe Not Required.

Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of October 13, 2013

13 Oct

Upcoming Books and New Releases

A new addition to the Cosmo Red Hot Reads partnership with Harlequin is Everything You Need to Know by HelenKay Dimon. Jordan McAdam is jaded enough when it comes to men to administer a DC website detailing the hottest bachelors – including rating them on the manners in and out of the bedroom. When the opportunity presents itself to get the “hands on” dirt on elusive hottie Forrest Redder, they both wonder if and when his stats will get posted, or if Jordan might finally realize that some men are worth keeping to herself. Publication date October 15th!

While we are waiting patiently for the first book in author Jaci Burton’s new Hope series to come out, she continues to tantalize by releasing the book cover for the second one, Hope Ignites, complete with a link to pre-order! This contemporary series appears to have heart-warming themes of home and family in a rural environment, but with Burton at the helm, I’m sure that there will be plenty of emotional sexy times as well.

Cara McKenna is releasing her new book, Unbound, this week on October 15th, a contemporary featuring a woman trying to find herself after some major life changes (including losing over 100 pounds) by taking a three-week hike in the Scottish Highlands. What she doesn’t plan is finding a self-imposed hermit, forced to take in an injured woman. When her flirting and upbeat attitude begin melting away his defenses, both find themselves wondering if they can face their fears and find a future…together.

The next book in paranormal doyenne Larissa Ione‘s Demonica series is going to be Reaver (the 10th book in the Demonica series and the 5th in the Lords of Deliverance), and fans will be pleased to note that Amazon has currently discounted the paperback price to $4.80 if you pre-order this book prior to its release date of December 17th.

Thea Harrison is about to release the next novel in her Elder Races series, Kinked in early November.  One of the most popular dragon series in paranormal romance (and yes, there are plenty), this novel features two Sentinels who despise one another who are thrown together on a reconnaissance mission only to find their conflict – and passion – coming to a head. They need to discover a way to resolve their differences, and quickly, as their entire kingdom is at risk. This book is down to $4.79 if you pre-order the paperback copy from Amazon.

I’m going to have to do a blog post on historical romance author Bertrice Small who is still cranking out books at 75 years old. How awesome is that? Her latest is an addition to her The Silk Merchant’s Daughters series, and Lucianna – the tale of a beautiful Italian widow who comes to the attention of an English Earl captivated by her intelligence and looks while in the country on a mission for King Henry VII – is the next novel in the series, just released on October 1st . When her well-meaning family schemes to get her to England to pursue the attraction and find some happiness, Lucianna must confront what she really wants from her life rather than hiding from it.

Contests and Giveaways

I loved Dee J. Adams’ Adrenaline Highs series, so I’m happy to see that not only did she put out another book this summer, Against the Wall, the first in her new High Stakes series, but that it also currently has a giveaway on Goodreads to boot. A wrongfully imprisoned man is out for revenge against the person who put him there and he must team with a young woman who can give him access to her employer – in exchange for the safety of her kidnapped family. Sounds like Adams is giving her usual brand of page turning suspense! Enter before October 15th to win.

Historical thriller writer Tracey Devlyn is having not one but two giveaways this month! While her web contest is giving away the three books in her Nexus series plus a custom bookmark, her no-holds-barred Rafflecopter giveaway could have you winning an iPad mini if you help her promote her latest (and totally terrific) book, A Lady’s Secret Weapon. You can earn entries toward the iPad by entering the necessary information on either the Rafflecopter link on her website or on her Facebook page. Enter before October 31st for both contests.

Suspense maven Stephanie Tyler specializes in crafting terrific military heroes and her new Section 8 series is up to her usual mark. Based around a former Navy SEAL whose father was part of a secret operation named Section 8, now the government has given the order for all operatives and their families to be eliminated and it’s a race against time to save the innocent. The second book in the series, Unbreakable, is due out in early November and there is a contest to win a copy on Goodreads if you enter prior to October 18th.

Fun Stuff

I adore the blog Book Riot, particularly for featuring all the great reading-related clothing and accessories in the world, but know this wonderful resource has their own t-shirt, emblazoned with the terrific logo of “READ HARDER”. And you should! Only $20 and you could be exhorting this message to the people in your life.

Just in time for Halloween literary style are this pair of adorable custom made Edgar Allen Poe flats from CustombyKylee on Etsy. Only $50, this will have you quoting “The Raven” whether you are thinking of your high school English teacher or The Simpsons Halloween episode version (which is also pretty fabulous).

Just when I think it’s impossible for me to drool more over Kate Spade and her wonderful offerings, she proves me wrong! Case in point, her new library-inspired bag line, including the chuckle-worthy Required Reading Bon Shopper tote bag, printed with a colorful old-fashioned card catalog. Granted, it’s Kate Spade so this puppy is going to set you back about $228, but a girl can dream, right?

Great Deals

Shifter fans who have not yet read Rhyannon Byrd’s Dark Wolf Rising will be pleased to note that it’s available for free from Amazon right now. When a powerful wolf who has always steered clear of human females and mated within his pack instead finds an irresistable woman snooping around the pack’s land in the hope of finding her kidnapped sister, all previously held ideas get examined..and are found wanting.

Historical author Julie Anne Long’s The Perils of Pleasure is discounted to only $1.99 right now, so fans of Regency rogues arrested for murder and rescued by beautiful mercenaries with their own agenda might want to run over to Amazon right now and pick it up.

Fans of BDSM queen, Joey W. Hill will be thrilled to see that her Natural Law novel is currently available for free on Amazon. When a strong detective goes undercover at a BDSM club he’s glad to discover the Dominatrix willing to help him uncover the murderer in their midst, but she might also uncover some rather disturbing revelations about this cop’s sensual desires, and what he might really want.

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

Countdown to Christmas: Let It Snow Gives You Two Stories Which Will Keep You Warm As Temperatures Drop

8 Dec
Let It Snow by Leslie Kelly and Jennifer LaBrecque (Harlequin Blaze, November 13, 2012 for print, December 8, 2012 for ebook)

Let It Snow by Leslie Kelly and Jennifer LaBrecque (Harlequin Blaze, November 13, 2012 for print, December 8, 2012 for ebook)

It makes me cranky when I overhear people disparaging Harlequin romances (or any category romance, for that matter). Yes, I’ve read the occasional shallow romance or a story that felt like it would have been stronger if the author had more pages to flesh out the plot or characters, but overwhelmingly my experience with category romance is a positive one. Practically all my favorite authors (Nalini Singh, Jill Shalvis) have published books at one time or another for Harlequin and authors like Sarah Mayberry, Rhonda Nelson, and Samantha Hunter have me wrapped around their finger. I’ll buy anything they publish!

One of my favorite authors with Harlequin is Leslie Kelly, who blends funny and sexy in every story she writes. When I saw on NetGalley that she had a story in a Christmas-themed collection, Let It Snow…, my finger automatically clicked the “Request” button. I was not disappointed! While the second story was not entirely to my liking, Harlequin Blaze has put together two stories that will make you feel nice and toasty when it gets cold outside.

“The Prince Who Stole Christmas” by Leslie Kelly

Kelly has written stories before set in the mysterious dimension of Elaytria, a kingdom harboring people and creatures upon which our own fairy tales are based, and I have loved them (sadly there is no Goodreads series numbering for this, so you have to go to Leslie Kelly’s website for the reading order). In this one, Prince Philip is feeling the pressure from his parents, the king and queen, to marry and he’s searched all Elaytria for his one true love with no luck. Taking his cousin and a servant, he decides that he’s going to search Earth for his future wife and his parents give him a month to try before he has to go home. The kingdom of New York seems to have a high concentration of women, so they decide to make that city their base while Philip searches, living as poor commoners to weed out any golddiggers.

Another great story from the Elaytria series by Leslie Kelly.

Another great story from the Elaytria series by Leslie Kelly.

When chocolatier Claire Hoffman discovers her n’er-do-well brother Freddy has rented the derelict apartments on the top floor of her building to pay his gambling debt, she’s incensed – both with the fact that he’s gambling and expecting her to help and that he’s subjected non-criminals to those living conditions. When she catches sight of one of her tenants, her heart stutters and not in indignation. He’s gorgeous and has old-world manners that can be endearing (when they aren’t a little annoying). She’s falling fast, but when he starts to drop hints that he’d like to take her away from all this, Claire has to face the idea of leaving her business, her family, and her friends for her one true love.

This Elaytria series really is fantastic – the fairy tales we know are all a little off from the reality and the character’s behavior and speech patterns in our world make for an amusing contrast right from the start. Philip’s fascination with Claire, who is nothing like the wilting, ultra-feminine women he’s been subjected to at home, is as strong as his fascination with chocolate (and he finds several creative ways of combining the two that will melt any candy bar). It doesn’t take long for him to realize she’s the one. I loved Claire, who has been the responsible one in her family for so long finally having someone helping her, and this ending was fantastic. Love you, Leslie Kelly! Keep writing!!

“My True Love Gave to Me” by Jennifer Labrecque

Trudie and Knox have been best friends since childhood, but now that the grandmother who raised him died Knox has withdrawn from everyone, everyone except Elsa, the cool blonde he’s dating. Elsa is no fan of Trudie and the friendship she offers Knox, but when Knox says he needs a break from Trudie, she’s stunned. The fact that she just underwent the realization that she’s in love with him doesn’t help the timing at all.

Another holiday themed title from Jennifer LaBrecque

Another holiday themed title from Jennifer LaBrecque

Flash forward a year and half later. It’s the “Chrismoose” celebration in the small Alaskan town where both Trudie and Knox have grown up and he’s finally come back, ready to face all his demons. Elsa is the reigning pageant supervisor of the celebration, but he broke up with her a week ago and is just escorting her as a courtesy. What he wants is to reconnect with Trudie; he’s hurt that she’s never called or kept in touch all these months. When she walks in, he’s shocked – has she always been this beautiful? Has his body always reacted on sight? Why is he seeing her as a woman suddenly when she’s been a friend all these years?

Trudie knew that she’d end up seeing Knox and he still has the ability to steal her breath away. But even with Knox acting like he suddenly wants her, Trudie is not going to let herself be emotionally shattered again. She’s barely gotten the pieces together as it is from his walking out without a backward glance 18 months ago. But Knox is determined; he’s finally figured out what makes him feel alive again and he’s not about to let it, or in this case her, go.

This felt like a story with a lot of missed opportunities to me. I loved the beginning, as painful as it was, but Elsa seemed to exist just be a bitch to Trudie and some looming presence in the background. I didn’t fall for Knox, not in the slightest. I understand his desolate grief over his grandmother’s death made him want to push away everything and everyone associated with her, but he didn’t seem apologetic in the slightest to me. Knox didn’t just ignore Trudie for 18 months, he also didn’t talk to anyone in the town, his grandmother’s friends, and Trudie’s parents, who were like a second family to him. No wonder Trudie never confessed that she was in love with him for years, and her sudden passive turn around in the end of the story was anti-climactic and seemed illogical. The story just fizzled out.

Jennifer LaBrecque’s internet presence is also less than blazing. Her site looks like it hasn’t been updated in a few years and it’s static (no blog link or regular content updates). Without a Facebook or Twitter presence, I worry that LaBrecque is hiding her writing from the larger world; we no longer live in an age where the publisher can be relied upon to promote the author and every conference clearly states that social networking and blogging is now the responsibility of authors for building their audience. I hate to think of someone as talented as LaBrecque not having the readership she deserves. Trusting Harlequin like I do, I plan to give some of LaBrecque’s other writing a try (maybe another holiday story this month) hoping this story was an aberration.

This anthology is still worth it’s under $4 cover price for the Elaytria novella by Leslie Kelly and it’s definitely put me in the holiday spirit. Thanks, Harlequin Blaze, for helping me keep a little warmer this season!

The Latest Men Out of Uniform Novel by Rhonda Nelson Proves She’s Surely “The Professional”

23 Nov

The Professional (Men Out of Uniform #13) by Rhonda Nelson (Harlequin Blaze, November 1, 2012)

Someone needs to explain to me how I have managed to be such a huge fan of romance – and of the Harlequin Blaze line, for that matter – yet prior to today, I haven’t read any Rhonda Nelson. What was I thinking? Nelson is renowned for her great sense of humor, well-paced books and a series that weaves previously loved characters right into the fabric of each new book. Her Men Out of Uniform series has been published since 2006, with this book, The Professional, being the thirteenth book in the series. That is a lot of staying power.

Her excellent reputation is well-deserved. I spent my time alternating between smiling like a lunatic at the characters’ antics and fanning myself from the outstanding sexual heat between our hero and heroine. I mean, when the first time the two main characters have sex, it’s under the desk on the floor of an office they are breaking into? That’s “I gotta have you right now” sex and I can usually turn down my thermostat when I’m reading it.

As with the whole series, our hero has recently joined the now well-established Ranger Security firm. Jeb Anderson left the Army Rangers after he ignored his instincts and obeyed his commander, resulting in everyone on the team he led being killed. His guilt over being the sole survivor when he was responsible for their lives is profound, but he’s trying to get on with his life and do right by this job.

His first assignment is an odd one. All the times he’s been undercover, it’s never been as the grandson of a Viagra-dealing womanizer at an old folks’ home, but there’s a first time for everything. Okay, so the “home” is actually a high-end retirement village that’s basically spring break for the over 60 set, but Jed’s got a mission. Discover who has been stealing the high end jewelry items from the unsuspecting residents. Initially the resident masseuse, one Sophie O’Brien, looks like a prime suspect, but one look at her chocolate brown eyes and sweet expression – to say nothing of how everyone at the home treats her like an adopted granddaughter – and Jed’s infallible gut is telling him she’s not responsible. Something lower than his gut is also clueing him into another kind of feeling, and there’s a distinct impression that – just by seeing her – his whole world has finally changed, for the better.

Sophie knows all of the residents incredibly well. Her grandmother, who raised her since she was six, movedinto the retirement home during her final years giving Sophie the farm she grew up on and a sizable inheritance, much to the annoyance of her psychopathic family. Still missing the woman who gave her the only love and stability she ever knew, Sophie has resigned herself to being surrounded by a bunch of unofficial grandparents, all of whom are inveterate matchmakers. When one of the residents mystery “grandson” turns up, Sophie is shocked and dismayed to find that her whole body reacts to sexy Jed Anderson’s mere presence. She’s had some bad experiences with men and has sworn them off for the time being, and right now she’s indignant that a mystery person is stealing from the people she loves. She vows to stay focused and figure out what’s going on, but her body, the senior citizens of the home…and fate…seem to have other plans.

His First Noelle (Men Out of Uniform #14) by Rhonda Nelson (Harlequin Blaze, December 1, 2012)

This book honestly reminded me a little of some of the paranormal romances I enjoy with the level of destiny involved with the hero and heroine. Their unbelieveably powerful physical attraction is recognized by them both as being a sign of their rightness for one another, a fact further emphasized by their profound ability to read each other in ways never before done by even the people closest in their lives. Jed is a fabulous hero, “on fire” level of hot, but also self-deprecating when appropriate and always honest about his feelings for Sophie. She combines the best of a heroine – a rough past which she has overcome and filled with caring for the people in her life along with a strong sense of duty with her life’s work. I loved them both separately but together they were downright combustible.

And the humor! My God, Nelson is a master craftsman when it comes to funny scenes. I couldn’t decide which I liked better, the scene where Jed walks in on his pretend “grandfather” in a turquoise and black zebra-stripped speedo “ready” for his date, Jed breaking into Sophie’s farm covered in goat manure and freaking out at the peacock cry, or the discovery that the retirement home director is a dominatrix who calls herself “The Whippet”! All of them had me grinning or laughing out loud and they provided a terrific contrast to the set-the-wallpaper-on-fire sex scenes, which were as charged with emotion as they were with animal sex appeal.

Since Nelson took the time in the prologue to show the connection between Jed and his twin brother Judd, it was wonderful that Judd was basically a continual presence by reference, text, or FaceTime call throughout the novel. His book, His First Noelle (#14) is available in paperback right now, with the ebook releasing December 1. I’ll definitely be reviewing it as part of my Countdown to Christmas series of blog posts because I can’t get enough of these two! Bizarrely, neither The Professional nor His First Noelle is listed on the Goodreads Men Out of Uniform series page? Why is that?

You also cannot deny the outstanding value of this purchase. For $3.82 for the Kindle edition ($5.25 for the paperback), you get both The Professional and the first book of the Men Out of Uniform series, The Player, (448 pages!) so you have a chance to see if you like the first book of the series as much as the thirteenth book (my answer was a resounding “yes”). I think that after reading both books and discovering the first one was as compelling as the latest addition, I’m on board for Rhonda Nelson and this series, since she’s clearly, hands down, a “professional.” Thanks, Rhonda!

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