Tag Archives: Jaci Burton

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, December 21, 2013

22 Dec

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Jacquelyn Frank‘s next book in the Nightwalkers series, Forsaken, will be debuting on January 7th and fans are chomping at the bit. Mercenary Leo Alvarez is dealing with his best friend now embodying an ancient pharaoh and he now needs to protect his friend from supernatural beings more dangerous than he could ever imagine. His unlikely ally is the Night Angel, a stunning creature who sets him aflame while also wielding power like he has never seen.

It’s now less than 10 days until the anthology Turn Up the Heat is published, and readers who snatch up books by Lori Foster, Christie Ridgway, and Victoria Dahl have already pre-ordered (and you should, too). Alpha males, beautiful woman and a love worth winning are a common theme of each hot, contemporary novella and I for one cannot wait. Pre-order it and have a great New Year with this book on your doorstep or delivered to your e-reader.

This past week gaslight fans all breathed a sigh of happiness as Kristen Callihan released the fourth book in her successful Darkest London series with Shadowdance. Mary Chase is happy in her work for the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals and when tasked with bringing down the vicious murderer labeled the Bishop of Charing Cross, she is determined to be successful. Her annoying rival Jack Talent also appears to be on the case and while it would make sense to work together, this lone wolf never does. Mary doesn’t realize that Jack would like to work closer…much closer…with her but the temptation she offers combined with the danger has him worried that if their killer doesn’t hurt her the ghosts from his past may.

Fun Stuff

‘Tis the season for finding awesome gifts for readers, and a truly unique gift can be found at Spineless Classics which offers the entire text of a book in a single poster with a unique design which manages to evoke the story. From children’s classics like the first Harry Potter book, James and the Giant Peach, among others, historical classics, nonfiction works like The Origin of the Species, to the New Testament, there is something for any kind of reader. At just under $70 these unframed posters are an investment but make a truly awesome gift.

I bet you have probably used the phrase “kick-ass” in reference to a strong woman (hopefully yourself!) but did you ever wonder when this phrase became part of our lexicon? The outstanding Romance Novels for Feminists blog has an outstanding analysis of when we started saying this (the late 1970s, a key time period for women) and has some great examples of which heroine it has been applied to in the post, “From Whence the Kick-Ass Heroine?”

Did you know Microsoft is working on a bra that will help read our body cues to alert us if we are going to begin eating emotionally? Prevention Magazine recently announced that the prototype, which measures heart rate, breathing rates, skin temperature and movement, still won’t be able to account for the holidays as a factor (what, they can’t add in a clock?) but should help people be more aware of their habits. So my immediate questions are 1) how to wash it and 2) what are men going to do?

Contests and Giveaways

From the Fresh Fiction blog, the author who actually invented the military romance, Lindsay McKenna, is the focus of a fantastic contest to win her entire Wyoming series, which appears to encompass both her Jackson Hole series as well as her Shadow Warriors series, in addition to others. Enter before Christmas to have a shot of getting most of this legend’s oeuvre.

Another holiday motherload of books contest can be found at The Rock Stars of Romance website which is hosting a contest to win a $100 gift card and a TON of ebooks and paperbacks from terrific authors. Hurry over there to enter, however, as this contest ends tomorrow.

The romance industry’s major publication, RT Book Reviews, is hosting a giveaway for all the books in the Baskerville Affair Trilogy, the series by Emma Jane Holloway which focuses on the niece of Sherlock Holmes and the steampunk world she inhabits as she attempts to live up to her family’s reputation for solving mysteries. The contest ends 12/27/2013, so use the Rafflecopter interface and enter to win!

Under the Covers Book Blog is giving away a copy of Jaci Burton’s Holiday Games, the wonderful holiday novella tied to her Play-by-Play series which stars the members of the incredibly talented Riley family. Enter by Christmas to see if you can win a copy of this terrific addition to the series.

Harlequin is celebrating the holidays by offering a unique bundle of historical romances (from all time periods and settings) as a giveaway and you become eligible to win by simply leaving a comment before December 29th. With authors like Nicola Cornick, Jeannie Lin, and Susan Wiggs, historical romance readers are bound to think that Harlequin headquarters is actually at the North Pole (well, they have to read something to keep warm, right?).

The blog Hesperia Loves Books is a having a wonderful giveaway for paranormal readers who love dragon shifters, offering the three current books in Jamie Rush‘s The Hidden series, but also ARCs for the next two books in the series, and a custom dog tag. Go over today and enter as the contest closes at midnight!

You’ll have to move fast but fans of Jeaniene Frost‘s Night Huntress series have a chance to win an ARC of the final Cat & Bones novel, Up From the Grave, if they send an email to Frost no later than midnight on the 23rd (tomorrow!). Details are up on her website, so get those fingers moving to let this wonderful author know you are interested in a leg up on reading this long-awaited novel.

Tawny Weber is having a great giveaway for her holiday book, Naughty Christmas Nights, and all you have to do is go use the Rafflecopter entry form by Christmas Eve to be considered. About two rival lingerie companies and the man and woman who are fighting for their future, the heat between them begins to mean more than getting the account.

Great Deals

Available for free right now is a collection of nine short stories, each from a different author, and encompassing a variety of romance genres and heat levels. Gratis: Midwinter Tales just came out on December 19th and clearly has a holiday theme, so give yourself a totally free present and see if you can find a new author to enjoy.

Also currently free is the steamy short from Alexandra Ivy and Laura Wright, Bayou Noel, about a Louisiana woman who is tired of waiting for the man she’s loved from afar to notice her. After five years, it’s clearly not going to happen, but she couldn’t possibly anticipate what a simple letter informing him that she’s leaving would unleash. This story falls between the eighth and ninth books of this shapeshifter series and as always, it’s as hot and steamy as a Louisiana swamp, so enjoy!

Elisabeth Naughton‘s first Eternal Guardians book, Marked, is currently available for free on Amazon, so snap it up. About a woman marked to die and the 200-year-old descendent of Hercules whose job it is to bring her in order to save his people, this paranormal romance has tortured alpha males and beautiful women who have the power to bring them back from the brink, all set in a political world with its own agenda.

Jennifer Skully (aka Jasmine Haynes) has reissued her book, Sex and the Serial Killer under its new title She’s Gotta Be Mine, and it’s currently free! The first of her Cottonmouth series, fans of zany romance and eccentric characters will definitely want to take a look at this story which features a divorced woman who bounces back from her husband leaving her for his high school sweetheart by undergoing a massive makeover. Not content with simply changing her appearance, she also decides to take up with the town’s sexy bad boy who is rumored to be a serial killer. Exactly. Go get it, now!

Courtney Milan‘s first novel of her The Brothers Sinister series (really a prequel), The Governess Affair, is also free right now on Amazon, and it’s a book that’s gotten kudos from historical romance readers around the world. When a hero who started off as the son of a coal miner and rose to be the right-hand man of a duke and feared throughout the country can’t get rid of a governess, well, love is clearly in the air.

One of my favorite novellas of all time is on sale for only $.99 – Laura Kaye’s Hearts in Darkness! About two people trapped in an elevator who never got a good look at one another but who are drawn together as they talk and um…do other things…it’s truly characteristic of Kaye’s hot, sweet writing style. Similarly, her fascinating stand-alone vampire tale, Forever Freed, is also only $.99, so check them both out so Laura Kaye can make your holiday a little brighter.

Suzanne Brockmann‘s novel, The Unsung Hero, the first book in her Troubleshooters series, is on sale for $.99, a great price for 416 pages of romantic suspense with a Navy SEAL hero. Lt. Tom Paoletti spots a terrorist when at home recovering from a head injury but the powers that be dismiss it as the product of his concussion. He assembles an eclectic team of his friends and experts, including Dr. Kelly Ashton, the girl-next-door who has grown into a compelling and beautiful woman. But all of them may not be enough to take down this bad guy and Tom begins to realize that protecting Kelly might be even more important than taking down this particular tango. Can he manage both?

Lynsay Sands seems to have enough Argeneau novels that one of them is always on sale (lucky for us) and this week’s deal is Immortal Ever After about a woman captured by a psychopath who seems to have fangs and the vampire savior who claims she is his mate. Only $1.99 it’s a great deal for a full-length novel from this excellent paranormal author.

Cherry Adair‘s book Hush from her wonderful Lodestone trilogy is on sale for $1.99 and has two thrill-seeking brothers who experience a kidnapping and a woman who is kidnapped along with them. When Zak and the woman’s escape reveal a new ability for him, he needs to figure out how to use it to find his missing brother. Quite a…um…large machete he’s wielding on the cover, yes?

That’s it for this week. I’ve got a review of a terrific anthology coming up this afternoon, but I hope you have a great Christmas with lots of amazing books as your present.

Happy reading!!

December Read-a-Thon: Holiday Games by Jaci Burton Is the Best Present to Fans of Her Play-by-Play Series

15 Dec

Holiday Games (Play-by-Play #6.5 – Gavin and Liz) by Jaci Burton (InterMix, November 19, 2013)

I adore a good sports romance and it’s the reason I’ve always enjoyed Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play series, which focuses on the hot and sexy Riley family, whose DNA is simply chock full of athletic awesomeness. Friends and partners enter the hero/heroine quotient as well and what you end up with is a rich mix of playful, sensual goodness bound to warm any romance reader’s heart.

It’s always a gift to fans to offer a holiday romance when you have a successful series such as this one, and Jaci Burton (bless her) has done exactly that, delivering a heartfelt, fun Christmas novella which still packs her trademark hot-sexy-times punch in its 147 pages.

Fans remember Gavin Riley from the second book of the Play-by-Play series, Changing the Game, when he was dealing with the fallout from a poor decision on the part of the hot agent he and his football star brother, Mick, shared. Liz Darnell knew that she let business get in the way of Mick’s happiness and she was sorry, even more so since it looked like she was going to lose not just Mick and the extended Riley family, but the hot first baseman she had lusted after from afar. Gavin decided to give her a chance – taking a decent amount of flak from his brother as a result – but these two started a hot affair which quickly sprang into much, much more.

Changing the Game (Play-by-Play #2 – Gavin and Liz) by Jaci Burton (Berkley, 2011)

Several books later, lots of Rileys and their friends are happily married, with Gavin’s sister Jenna about to tie the knot before Christmas with her hockey player fiancee, Ty (their story can be found in the kinkiest of all the Play-by-Play novels, Taking a Shot). Gavin and Liz decided to start trying for a baby almost a year ago and, while medically everything is fine, Liz is used to get what she wants in business and in her personal life, so she’s more than a little frustrated she’s not pregnant. She and Gavin have hot sex all the time, but it’s disappointing to not get results after they’ve decided it’s what they both want. Luckily Jenna and Ty’s wedding, as well as Liz’s decision to host the Riley family Christmas, provide welcome distractions, even if Gavin does worry that she’s going to make herself nuts worrying about every detail.

This book is a must read for anyone who has enjoyed Burton’s erotic sports romance series as you gleefully watch all these wonderful couples in the midst of their happiness. Seeing Nathan, Mick and Tara’s college-age son, all grown up with a girlfriend is the cherry on the top of the sundae, and it’s great to see the Riley parents in good health and enjoying all their new family members. Gavin and Liz are even more amazing than they were the first time around, and it’s satisfying that they are going strong after a year of marriage (and a couple years of being together). These two people are actually quite vulnerable under their tough exteriors so it’s lovely how they understand and care for one another.

Melting the Ice (Play-by-Play #7 – Drew and Carolina) by Jaci Burton (Berkley, February 4, 2014)

That Christmas turns out even better for them is a grin-worthy finish and one that has me eagerly awaiting the next installment in the Play-by-Play series, Melting the Ice, due out in February 2014. Featuring a hockey player hero (a teammate of Ty’s?) who gets an opportunity to prove to an old college flame that he’s changed, hopefully enough for her to take a second chance on him, I’ve already got this one pre-ordered. It’s going to be a great pre-Valentine’s Day present for myself.

Make sure this novella makes its way into your e-reader this holiday season since at $2.99 it’s a welcome addition to Burton’s outstanding sports series. She’s written yet another home run!

Happy reading! 🙂

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

8 Dec

Upcoming Books and Recent Releases

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

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

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

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

Contests and Giveaways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun Stuff

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

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

Great Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week and happy reading!! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of 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! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending August 4th

4 Aug

Upcoming Books

For fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, the next book, Takedown Twenty, will be available as of November 19th, so pre-order your 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.

FYI, I mentioned the other week that Jaci Burton was coming out with a new series and the first book, Hope Flames, was going to out this fall. She just announced on her website that the publisher moved the date out to January 7, 2014 *shakes fist* because they think it will be more successful in that time slot. Far be it from me to deny success to Jaci Burton, but one solace was the publisher will be offering 200 copies of the book to random readers in November. A new novella, Holiday Games, for the Play-by-Play series will also be out by November 19th, starring none other than hot baseball player Gavin Riley and his favorite agent and wife, Elizabeth, as they reflect on a year of trying to unsuccessfully make a baby. Their full story can be found in the second book of the series, Changing the Game, and visiting with the Riley clan, particularly during a holiday, is always worthwhile. I think I’ll review this novella for my December holiday-themed posts. 🙂

Fun Stuff

It’s easy to forget all the great people in the world of romance who spread the word about how awesome our genre really is. One of them is Bobbi Dumas who has designated August “National Read a Romance” Month, and WOW am I glad she did! Take a look at her Read-A-Romance website to enjoy three famous romance writers posting daily (so that’s 93 best-selling authors for the month) about why they think romance is so important, while also entering the weekly contests for amazing prices like e-readers and romance novel collections (print and electronic). If you are interested, there’s even a grand prize drawing and you just need to write a short essay about why you think romance is so important to qualify to win an iPad mini and 31 Grand Central Forever ebooks! Twitter users, follow hashtag #RomanceMatters for plenty of updates and posts from name writers.

Ever wonder at what goes into making a great historical romance cover? History Hoydens shares the process with Isobel Carr’s latest self-published work and you’ll be dazzled at the process and the options. With great resources like Seductive Designs (Take a look at some of these covers! Yowza!) and The Illustrated Romance providing base stock images for authors to play with, New York publishers are going to have self-published works give them a run for their money. Do yourself a favor and glance at Illustrated Romance’s main page where you can see their image and the final book cover design to really appreciate the process.

Regency readers and writers be aware, there were LOTS of naughty terms for sex back in 1811, when the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue came out in England. The witty magazine Mental Floss has put together seventeen terms ranging from genteel to baffling for bow-chicka-wow-ow times from this resource. I’m going to see how many I can weave into casual conversation.

Great Deals

I’m really beginning to enjoy the themes of some of these awesome ebook bundles writers and publishers are pulling together! This one, Wicked Firsts, gives you six books by six different authors with every story involving a “first” – someone one of the characters lost their virginity to, doing something sexually adventurous for the first time, a first tattoo with your lost love as the artist, etc. Available as of August 19th, these novella length stories (total page count for all six is 450 pages so we’re looking at a 75 page average length for each one) are being offered for the asking price of $.99 for all of them, but this price will only be for the first week of publication, so move quickly. Since this includes such writing powerhouses as Elisabeth Naughton, Cynthia Eden and Alexandra Ivy, you are getting a lot for under a dollar!

Did you know that Overstock.com and Amazon are having a massive book price war? Overstock is currently underselling Amazon by 10% on a huge number of titles. Take a look at the romance section and see if there’s anything on your wish list that’s currently discounted. It has to be a paper book, but this might be the time to check on those backlist items or new releases you’ve been dying to have on your shelf.

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of July 28th

28 Jul

Upcoming Books

The latest book in the steampunk series The Ether Chronicles by Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso is due out on August 6th and Skies of Gold is already getting great reviews from ARC readers. At only $1.99 for over 350 pages, steampunk readers need to be asking themselves why they haven’t pre-ordered this one already.

Jaci Burton, the author of the wonderful Play-by-Play series, now has the next book on her roster available for pre-order. Hope Flames will be the first book in her new Hope series, with a pairing between a damaged veterinarian and a K-9 cop. With a release date of September 3rd, I’ve already got this one both pre-ordered and in my calendar. Love the German Shepherd on the cover!

lethal pursuit copyKaylea Cross now has the third book in her wonderful Bagram Special Ops series available for pre-order and Lethal Pursuit looks to be another hot pairing from this military suspense maven. Coming out on September 16th, Cross is not only talented but affordable, so I’ve already ordered my copy, considering it $3.03 well spent.

 

Fun Stuff

Quirk Books has put together a pretend collection of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavors based on popular books, and it’s hilarious. You’ll find yourself wishing you could settle down with the latest release and a pint of “Berry Potter and the Container of Secrets.”

Amanda at Vampire Book Club has put together a short list of her favorite urban fantasy and paranormal beach reads that’s worth checking out if you’re wondering what goes with sunblock and your big towel this summer.

Fabulous writer Cynthia Eden is knuckling down to write a holiday themed novella and is polling her readers as to whether they want a romantic suspense story or a paranormal one. Vote on her Facebook fan page with your preference!

Romance novels are feminist works. Not sure? Listen to the podcast at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books where Sarah Wendell interviews two sociologists, Dr. Joanna Gregson and Dr. Jen Lois embarking on a research project focusing on the interactions of romance readers and writers.

One of the best parts about reading category romance is how totally ludicrous it often is. A good writer will help you suspend that disbelief, at least enough for you to immerse yourself in the the dirty goodness that is category, but occasionally you stumble across a “whaa???” novel. For a laugh out loud parsing of the missable Enemies at the Altar, take a gander at guest blogger and Ph.D. candidate Jodi from Book Thingo’s hilarious analysis. Make sure you pee first.

Did you know that Amazon sells refurbished Kindles of all types? I shouldn’t be surprised (I got my Macbook through Apple’s refurbished site and it’s wonderful and a great deal), but this is a great way for someone to afford that Paperwhite or Fire they’ve been eyeing for a while.

Great Deals

Writers and publishers are not giving up on these amazing bundles of books for a pittance (so you know they are helping sales). Loving the CEO is a great collection of five novels by different authors, all with the theme of breaking down the barriers of a business tycoon and finding love. Over 1000 pages for only $.99 and you get a romance trope in several flavors. Yum.

The always brilliant Tessa Bailey is offering the third book in her Line of Duty series, Officer Off Limits, for only $.99! You do not need to have read the other books to appreciate every word of this one, so trot over and buy this author who I cannot get enough of.

Harlequin is offering a motherload of great deals on a ton of their ebooks with participating retailers, with authors like Maureen Child, Cindy Spencer Pape, and Michelle Willingham having free or heavily discounted titles available. All of their various lines are represented, so go to their Facebook page to drool over the titles and see if there’s anything there that floats your boat. I made a note of the ones I wanted and then hustled over to Amazon to “buy” them at zero dollars. I love books like that!

Another great romance trope is the “bodyguard” idea (even that sounds sexy) and there’s now a bundle of five books covering this corner of romantic suspense. Once again, $.99 is a great deal even if you just end up enjoying one or two of them, so if you are like me and enjoy the idea of an oh-so-hot guy whose job is to…um…guard your body, you might want to check this out.

If you read this blog, you are more than aware of my love for sports books, so an ebook that contains the first book in three different trilogies is a terrific way for me to sample some new authors of the genre. V. K. Sykes, Juliana Stone and Jennifer Lyons offer both male and female (!) sports protagonists in their ebook bundle Play Hard to fulfill my need for a little healthy competition. And yes, it’s only $.99 for 550 pages.

Have a super week reading!

Thrown by a Curve by Jaci Burton Delivers a Solid Sports Romance

16 Apr

Thrown by a Curve (Play by Play #5 – Garrett and Alicia’s story) by Jaci Burton (Berkley, March 5, 2013)

Having greatly enjoyed the previous installments of Jaci Burton’s Play by Play series as excellent representations of the athletic-centered romance, I was looking forward to Thrown by a Curve. Starring Alicia, the hard working sports therapist working for the Rivers baseball team where her cousin Gavin is a player (and whose smoking hot romance with his agent, Liz, comprised the focus of the second book in the series, Changing the Game), this woman trying to make it a man’s world is assigned to rehabilitate the incredibly difficult pitcher, Garrett.

Burton has an incredible strength in the world of romance stories focusing on sports, namely, she clearly does her research. Her sports content is outstandingly accurate and you can tell that she has a host of notes about sports therapists and their actual job description in addition to her baseball knowledge. Combine this with strong plotting and the ability to weave secondary characters who have already had (or will have) their day in the sun, and you end up with a enjoyable read.

Unlike some readers who have reviewed the book’s tropes as a bit “tired”, I’m still okay with the formula of previously commitment-phobic characters who are committed to their profession and worried about the toll a relationship might bring. What I struggled with was that, unlike the first three books in the series, this one and the previous book appear to have less emotional description, particularly surrounding the sex scenes. They are still smoking hot, do not doubt that for a moment, but a really good sex scene shows the characters truly connecting and advances the plot to a bigger degree than I saw in this book.

One Sweet Ride (Play by Play #6) by Jaci Burton (Berkley, June 4, 2013)

Since I didn’t notice it in the previous books, this choice feels almost like an editing decision, as does the glaring mistake in one of the final chapters where there is a misprint and “Gavin” is requesting a trade (Gavin is Alicia’s cousin, not her love interest, Garrett, who is the one actually making the request in an effort to not violate their non-fraternization clause in the contracts which would endanger Alicia’s job).

This lack of emotional content bleeds into the reader having less of a connection to the characters, particularly after Garrett retreats into his pitcher head space (seriously, NEVER get involved with a pitcher) and ditches Alicia professionally for the head trainer who claims to be able to get him on the mound faster. Yes, Garrett apologizes and informs Alicia that he has in fact fallen in love with her – after about a week or more just working alongside her and not saying anything. She understandably believes that their “fling” is over and he’s broken up with her. WTF? I’m not saying I don’t understand where he’s coming from but it makes his character far less appealing.

In the realm of statistical improbabilty, Garrett meets up in the course of the novel with several roommates from his university in Oklahoma where he had a baseball scholarship and they all are professional athletes in various sports. (I know, right?) This is clearly Burton’s way of giving us some athletic fresh meat for future novels and it seems like Garrett’s good friend, Gray, a baseball player who switched to NASCAR racing will be the next protagonist in her upcoming book, One Sweet Ride, coming out on June 4th. Since the complication and conflict stems from Gray’s father being a prominent Senator running for the presidency, I’m interested to see if Burton’s facile handling of athletics (in this case car racing, which I know very little about) will extend to the political arena. I still have enough faith in her to try it, but I’m hoping for some stronger emotion and better editing.

Countdown to Christmas: Romancing the Holiday Will Have You Celebrating the Season With a Trio of Great Writers

3 Dec

Romancing the Holiday edited by Angela James and featuring novellas by HelenKay Dimon, Christi Barth, and Jaci Burton (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

One of my favorite things about December is that the holiday romance books come out. What is it about this season that makes us so vulnerable to reading about love? Well, whatever it is, I’m in the mood for snow, trees, and family – the kind you’re born with or the kind you create for yourself – and if there is a heart-wrenching “I love you” moment in what I’m reading, then all the better. Luckily for like-minded readers, a new anthology just came out today which will put you right in the holiday mood.

Angela James is a powerhouse editor over at Carina Press, and I’ve come to realize that any anthology she puts together is worthy of my purchasing dollars. She cultivates outstanding writers, giving the reader serious bang for their buck, and Romancing the Holiday is no exception. I think the best complement I can give is that each of these novellas (two of which were part of a series I hadn’t even read) were so rich in experience that they felt longer, as if I was reading almost a full-length novel. For $6.79, that’s a pretty terrific bargain, plus I’ve found a couple new authors to explore!

For those of you already hooked on the below series mentioned, the title link prior to the review is the direct link for that one story as is the corresponding individual book cover I’ve put right in the novella discussion. Keep in mind that both the anthology and the single titles are only available in ebook form. This alone could be a good reason to put that ereader you’ve been wanting on your holiday list – I always remind people that the original Kindles are only $69! So reasonable and it opens up a world of publications you couldn’t read otherwise, particularly in the world of romance.

We’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Holloway #3) by HelenKay Dimon

We’ll Be Home for Christmas (Holloway #3) by HelenKay Dimon (Carina Press, December 3, 2012) ebook only

Like so many romance readers, I’m a huge sucker for small town settings in romance, the kinds of places Jill Shalvis and Shannon Stacey specialize in creating where everyone knows everyone else’s business. I blame L.M. Montgomery and her Anne of Green Gables series for this; I wanted to move to Avonlea, Prince Edward Island the minute I read about it!

HelenKay Dimon, who sadly I had not heard of prior to this anthology, has written a successful series about Holloway, West Virigina, a small town of less than a thousand people. All novellas, her stories feature members of the Thomas and Anders families and good-looking males seem characteristic of this rural gene pool.

In this charming story, a bachelor hold out meets his downfall. Lilah Young, who has moved to Holloway to take over her Uncle Ned’s campground, goes to the local nursery upon his instructions to pick up an order. She’s shocked to be confronted with a man who has the same name as the hot guy she shared three passionate days and nights at a hotel a few months ago, but he’s not the guy. The more she looks at him, the more she realizes he looks a little like that sexy hunk of man who rocked her world for a long weekend, but this is all pretty creepy and the real Austin Thomas is getting upset.

Spence Thomas is sorry he used his brother’s name and not his own that weekend, but he was smarting from all the men around him finding the woman of their dreams when he firmly believes that relationships always end with the women walking away. His mom did it, after all, and that’s one of the reasons Spence keeps things light, finding women to hook up with when he travels and then never sparing them another thought. Except for Lilah, the gorgeous woman who has starred in his erotic dreams ever since he left her. Trying to ingratiate himself back into her good graces (and hopefully her bed), he’s taken on helping her repair the campground in addition to his other work. But Spence is having some difficulty keeping things light when his heart and the whole town is telling him that she’s the one.

Dimon is an outstanding writer, capable of rich characters who let you see right into their hearts. Spence, with his unbelievably high I.Q., is so laughably stupid about women in general that it’s a joy to watch him get busted by relatives and townspeople for his ignorance in matters of love. Lilah is everything a heroine should be – spunky, smart, scarred from her bad marriage, but sexy and clear about what she wants. I’m going to have to read some of the other stories in this series and was thrilled to see on Dimon’s website that Carina had accepted still single Travis’ story for publication in 2013.

Ask Her at Christmas” by Christi Barth

Ask Her at Christmas by Christi Barth (Carina Press, December 3, 2012) – ebook only

Two best friends in Chicago have a problem. Kyle needs help getting his disapproving father’s approval and the only way to do that is to propose to the blond viper daughter of the man who owns the company his father is merging with. Caitlin is trying to stamp down her traitorous heart and help her best friend find the ideal proposal, but based on the threats she’s getting from his soon-to-be fiancée, helping him will mean losing him in her life.

The only stand-alone book in the bunch, this was a lovely story (best friends to lovers is my favorite storyline) and a total homage to the city of Chicago. I was ready to buy myself a ticket and fly out there for the holiday! Christi Barth is able to draw in a minimum of pages the vivid histories and personalities of her characters, helping the reader to fall quickly in love with them, and then carrying us on the couple’s emotional journey to everlasting love. Kyle is a little on the oblivious side, but he quickly realizes that Caitlin is the most important thing in his life, and acts accordingly. I had a big, silly smile on my face during the final proposal scene. He was a quick study!

I’ve fanned Christi Barth on Goodreads and will be buying several of her works in the near future, you can bet a deep dish pizza on it!

The Best Thing” (Kent Brothers #3) by Jaci Burton

The Best Thing (Kent Brothers #3) by Jaci Burton (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

I’m a big, big fan of Jaci Burton’s Play by Play series so I was eager to sample one of her books not about professional sports to see what it tasted like. I was not disappointed – this novella was yummy!

She’s still giving her male heroes a testosterone-laden job, in this case a family-owned construction company. While his two brothers have recently found the woman of their dreams, everyone knows that Brody Kent is the resident manwhore of the family. He hasn’t brought a girl home (or even serially dated one woman) since he was seventeen. This is why office manager Tori Lewis is kicking herself for the tumultuous kiss they shared at last year’s Christmas party.

She’s had a crush on Brody since she was fifteen and he was the high school star quarterback and it’s not gone away. In fact, it’s gotten worse as she’s managed to fall in love with him. But more important than her feelings is the second family she has in the Kents who were there for her when her home life was terrible. There is no way she’s going to jeopardize that by sleeping with a man who will break her heart and have her hair whacking in the breeze as he runs out of her life.

Brody doesn’t want to do any running, except toward Tori, who has shut him out of her life for over 10 months now. At his brothers’ prompting, he talks to her about that kiss they shared and makes clear that he wants more. He knows there’s something she’s not telling him, but as he moves her more and more into his life all he can think about is how perfectly she fits there and how she’s not pushing him for more than he can give. It’s more than he can say for his family and their acquaintances who keep asking him for when he’s going to give Tori an engagement ring. Can’t everyone just leave him alone?

This was a brilliant novella that captured so perfectly how stupid people can be when they feel they are getting pushed into a situation, even if they want that situation to begin with. The final scene when Brody tells Tori what she means to him is fabulous and the Christmas theme is deftly woven into the fabric of the story. I imagine fans of this series would love to see the other happy couples, but familiarity with the previous books is absolutely not a requirement for enjoyment of this Burton gem.

Angela James has done it again with another terrific anthology that’s bound to get you in the holiday spirit pronto. Download these affordable presents to yourself as soon as you can and start enjoying the spirit of the season!

How Racy is Racy? Exploring levels of sensuality in romance novels

10 Mar

All About Labels

As a lover of romance, I rely heavily on reviews, both from blogs I follow as well as from professional sources like Romantic Times magazine. One aspect of the reviews that still confuses me is the ratings system regarding the level of sensuality or sexuality in the novel itself. While I read all kinds of romance, I have to admit to liking the more sensual ones, probably because the content doesn’t embarrass me in the slightest as well as the fact that I love authors who can show the emotional progression of a couple in the context of the physical act of sex.

But I’ve also discovered that these rating systems vary from source to source and are incredibly vague. There is always a danger with labeling, however, as bookstores and libraries know. Right around the time Tipper Gore spoke before Congress regarding a labeling system for records (and they were vinyl records and tape cassettes back then, blast from the past!), there was yet another push for the physical labeling of books by reading level, a system the American Library Association spoke out strongly against.

This really meant by content (sex, violence, language, etc.) rather than by how hard the words were in the book, and libraries and bookstores resisted (just as music sellers did Tipper’s advocacy), knowing that labels tend to push readers away from books, rather than help them select the right book for the right time in their life. Having worked in libraries for most of my professional career, I can honestly say that each reader is different – a younger teen who has been through a lot in their life or is just more mature can easily handle a book with strong, more adult language and themes, while an immature 16 year old would be repelled and horrified by the content. Luckily, readers are extremely good at finding the book they need, usually through recommendations from librarians, friends, and booksellers who already know what they enjoy reading.  In helping literally thousands of readers make connections with books, I’ve never come across one who was corrupted by a book – they simply put it down if it was not what they wanted.

Ratings and Definitions

But this brohaha was about the physical labeling of books, versus the labeling in reviews about sexual content. I imagine the romance novel sensuality ratings system was probably an effort to help readers looking for a specific kind of romance sensuality level, or to assist readers actively wishing to avoid certain types of books to avoid discomfiture or disappointment. The most commonly used ratings system is the rather vague, but still helpful, “Sensuality Ratings” system employed by Romantic Times magazine, the romance industry’s major publication.

From RT Book Reviews in the description of their ratings system:

SENSUALITY RATINGS

Beginning with September 2006 issue reviews, these are the new sensuality ratings used for Historical Romance, Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense books:

SCORCHER — Borders on erotic. Very graphic sex.

HOT — Most romance novels fall into this category. Ranges from conventional lovemaking to explicit sex.

MILD — May or may not include lovemaking. No explicit sex.

What’s interesting is the fact that the Romantic Times‘ previous sensuality ratings system had more categories, yet were just as open to interpretation.  I’m sure the editors felt the revised version was a simpler approach when they made the switch to the current system in 2006, and I prefer it, but there continue to be a few loopholes. For example, the “Hot” category – what exactly do they consider to be “conventional sex“? I’m guessing they mean a man and a woman, but are we talking about just the missionary position? Does foreplay involving oral sex lean more toward the “explicit sex” end of the rating or does “explicit” just refer to word choice or level of detail in the description of whatever sexual act in which our characters are currently engaged?

For “Scorcher”, what does “borders on erotic” mean? This probably includes maybe a little bondage (like the regency romances who have the newly deflowered heroine trusting her lover/husband to tie her hands with his cravat) but my feeling is that it probably doesn’t mean anal sex or the use of sex toys, since that never comes up in any romance not labeled erotica or erotic romance. The “Very graphic” detail (my conjecture) means the level of description and maybe the wording used to write the love scene, but does it mean something else?  I don’t know.

The contemplation of the nuances of “Scorcher” brings me to the other hurdle of understanding erotica, a term which many readers feel is interchangeable with the preferred label of “erotic romance“.  The erotica industry experienced a major infusion of cash and interest upon the advent of the ereader market, since suddenly people could buy this material in the comfort of their own living room and have it delivered instantly and wrapped simply in their standard Kindle or Nook reader.  No one would guess that the reader wasn’t reading the latest nonfiction best seller on economics unless they noticed the flush or sweating (and even then, maybe the person just REALLY likes economics!).

But erotica is still confused with pornography, and while I would imagine people who find that level of explicit sexual description or conduct against their personal morality would undoubtedly label it as such, in actuality from an industry standpoint it’s very different. According to Ellora’s Cave Publishing House, a highly respected e-publisher of erotica, they actually define the majority of their erotic offerings as “Romantica.” Here’s their take on Romantica, which seems to define rather well the industry push toward producing erotic romance meant for women.

Romantica® is the name for the line of erotic romance novels published by Ellora’s Cave Publishing. Erotic romance is defined by us as: any work of literature that is both romantic and sexually explicit in nature. Within this genre, the main protagonists develop “in love” feelings for one another that culminate in a monogamous relationship.

Romantica® doesn’t begin from the premise that women’s sexual experiences are dirty and therefore in need of being perfumed up by flowery phrases. The premise of Romantica™ is that women’s sexual experiences are legitimate, positive, and beautiful.

Ellora’s Cave Romantica® must be both erotic and romantic. (from the Ellora’s Cave website)

There’s a lot to love about this description.  First the clarification that a work can be both romantic and sexually explicit (Jaci Burton’s novels are often termed erotic romance and I think they would have an extremely broad appeal to romance readers who enjoy “Scorcher” novels), and the reassurance that these are still novels based on the premise of two people pursuing a monogamous relationship. But then the awesome addition (and let’s face it, the judgment) of the sentence regarding women’s sexuality as not being dirty? This really hit home for me, as the euphemisms often employed by romance writers can border on the ridiculous and occasionally the confusing, particularly if the reader has less sexual knowledge or experience (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books recent hymen tirade was a hilarious but totally spot on example of myths perpetuated by romance novels that do NOT accurately reflect the realities of human anatomy).

For readers interested in true erotica, which usually takes the form of an individual character interested in sexual experimentation and self-discovery, the process of which may or may not result in the main character ending up in a committed relationship, Ellora’s Cave publishes a line called EXOTIKA™ in order to distinguish it from the erotic romance novels they also sell.  But let’s get down to brass tacks regarding the sensuality levels so we can ATTEMPT to really figure out what they mean.

Levels of Sensuality in Romance Novels

Sweet Romance (Mild Sensuality)

Christie Craig and Faye Hughes in their book The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel defines a sweet romance as one that does not include “graphic depictions of sex or sexual situations.”  This could be a romance like those of the Avalon Publishing house (whose writer’s guidelines clearly state that there is no sexual content or profanity in any of their books) or an inspirational romance (which is also a sub-genre of romance) in which strong religious beliefs guide the main characters actions and usually don’t go beyond kissing without marriage.

An increasingly popular sub-sub-genre (can I say that?) of inspirational romance is the Amish romance, which naturally has a setting which subscribes to certain values.  I was interested to read that these Amish books have a strong readership in Hasidic Jewish communities along with Georgette Heyer‘s Regency romances.  It makes sense when you stop to think that the protagonists are in a culture which prescribes to strong morals regarding pre-marital sex, allowing the focus to be solely on the love and affection developing between our hero and heroine.

Some sweet romance novels have a history strongly rooted in the romance novels published decades ago in which there were sexual situations inferred but, rather than description, the author engaged in what became known in the industry as “shutting the bedroom door”.  The narrative leads up to the sexual situation with kissing, touching and conversation, and then stops, picking up again after the sex act has taken place with the reader reengaged in the narrative usually centering on the main characters’ feelings about what transpired. All About Romance.com refers type of book in their own sensuality rating chart as “subtle”.

Notice also the cover art.  Usually there is only ONE of our main characters on the cover, or if both are present, they are not kissing or embracing.  Cover art is often a terrific cue as to the sensuality content of the novel, but more on this later.

Historical RomanceContemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense books (Hot Sensuality)

Let’s first begin the non-sweet romance with a look at what makes a book fall into the “Hot” sensuality rating.  All About Romance.com actually labels this level as “Warm” and gives the following definition.

While our lovers do make love, and the reader is there with them, physical details are described, but are not graphically depicted. Much is left to the reader’s imagination and/or possibly the use of euphemistic “code words.” But what’s most important are feelings and emotions, not body parts. While there is sexual tension, there may not be more than one or two love scenes in the whole book. The vast majority of single title romances feature “Warm” sensuality. (All About Romance Sensuality Ratings Guide)

The best way to envision this description in action is to connect it with specific authors or titles.  Nora Roberts, one of the most successful romance novelists since Barbara Cartland, is probably the best example.  No reader could accuse her characters of lacking heat or sexual tension, but there are usually just a few described love scenes in her books and they conclude quickly.  When I read her recent book, Chasing Fire, about the special wildfire firefighters who parachute into locations to battle fires (it was so interesting!) our two main characters (who were wonderful) had a few love scenes where I double checked the pages, flipping back to make sure I didn’t miss something.  It was over so quickly, yet the emotion and tenderness was there.  They didn’t just have sex those couple of times, since other interludes were referred to in the narrative, but the timeframe was also compressed, so it didn’t feel like I was missing anything (other than the description I was used to from my other reading, which usually falls into the “Scorcher” category).

In terms of book cover clues, you can see from both Robert’s cover above and Mary Balogh‘s Slightly Scandalous cover that the trend is for an extremely tame cover, usually with the author name and book title in elaborate, feminine script, and maybe an image which hints at the content.  I think a big piece of the move to this kind of cover is both the fact that I can’t imagine it’s expensive to produce and the idea that it’s very tasteful.  No danger of being judged reading one of these on a plane (and airport bookstores carry a full selection of novels in this category).

This choice can also be a deliberate attempt of the publishing industry to give legitimacy to the romance novel, which, as a genre, underwent a huge public opinion downturn in the 1970s and 80s when “bodice-rippers” became the norm.  You can all imagine the kind of cover I’m talking about – some painting version of Fabio in a pirate outfit (which lacks buttons of any kind, so it’s waxed chest city) and a heroine of the heaving bosom variety (think Johanna Lindsey’s Savage Hunter).  Romance fans and publishers are still clawing our way out of this hole.  A few publishing houses and authors are moving to the “dress” book cover, which often just features a heroine (often cut off at the neck, so it’s just her body we see) in appropriate dress (perhaps with the ties in the back gaping provocatively open).  This is usually for historical romances only, but the body language still hints at sensuality.

Historical RomanceContemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense books (Scorcher Sensuality)

At the next sensuality level, we see books with more frequent, longer love scenes, often with more explicit language, or sometimes simply a higher incidence of euphemisms. As AllAboutRomance.com indicates “Both the emotions of the hero and heroine and the physical feelings of both are important during love scenes.” Stephanie Laurens, whose Cynster series I agree is one of the best Regency romance series EVER, is a master of this type of sensuality.  Her love scenes can last for seven pages easily, but the reader is gripped the whole time by both the physical orchestration of what is happening, and also the internal narrative of the character’s emotional process, as she switches deftly between the two viewpoints so we appreciate the emotion developing in our couple.

From a cover standpoint, you can see historical romances like Laurens’ still get the dress cover, but in the case of Karen Marie Moning‘s Highlander series, we begin to edge toward the what will be a determined trend in the erotic romance novel category, namely more skin on the cover and occasionally provocative poses that indicate a sexual connection. Moning is a good example for this category’s more explicit qualities.  While Stephanie Laurens got her start in writing Regency romance for traditional publishing houses (and her attachment to euphemisms continues even while what she’s describing gets hotter), Moning’s Highlander stories usually center around a modern woman zapped back into the past (medieval Scotland). This construct gives permission for the language to be more modern and explicit, shying away from the “throbbing manroot” brand of language (thank heavens!).  Other “Scorcher” authors include the ever fabulous Lisa Kleypas, paranormal princess Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jennifer Ashley’s Mackenzie series, Linda Howard, my personal favorite Nalini Singh, and Nora Robert’s mystery persona of J. D. Robb.  Publishing houses to look for are some Harlequin Blaze books, Avon’s Red imprint, and the Berkley Sensation line.

Erotic Romance Novels (Erotic Sensuality)

Welcome to the skin factory, aka erotic romance novels.  It’s of particular interest to note that Romantic Times magazine, whose sensuality ratings system we have just finished exploring, bumps erotic romance novels into the erotica category (lumping it with traditional erotica as described above). The problem with this is that erotic romance novels are often just a shade more spicy than their scorcher predecessors, and therefore have much more in common with that category than with the more explicit and hedonistic forays undertaken by characters in traditional erotica.

With such amorphous lines determining sensuality content, I guess you can’t please everyone, but I worry that there are a lot of Romantic Times readers who just skip the erotica section not realizing there might be some content that fits their taste.  While people who enjoy sweet romances might check out the Inspirational category (which is also separate, I guess making Inspirational and Erotica opposite ends of the spectrum), erotica has a somewhat dirtier or even more masculine association (with pornography) that could have women shying away from it.

It would be a shame if readers comfortable with scorcher level romance don’t try erotic romance novels, since the focus is identical to traditional romance – two people falling in love (and lust) with the goal being a committed monogamous relationship.  The Harlequin Blaze line falls into this category (and also into the Scorcher category depending on the author) as well as novels from the Berkley Heat imprint (which gives us the Jaci Burton novels pictured above).  Lisa Marie Rice‘s books are terrific erotic romance novels (she’s queen of the Alpha males) and offer commanding love scenes that make you need to dump ice in your panties!

Content usually is inventive and explicitly described lovemaking, still with a strong emotional connection. Profanity is common, so expect the occasional f-bomb or name for female and male genitalia that many people would consider vulgar or common. But, the fact is, after you read these words for a little while, they seem (at least to me) just another euphemism, albeit one you might hear more often in your daily life (particularly if you walk by construction sites or basketball courts with pick-up games in progress).

The sexual content often goes beyond what is in the “Scorcher” category, including sometimes (and I mean sometimes, not all of them have this) sex toys and anal sex and maybe some mild BDSM.  I realize this might make some people uncomfortable and I confess that my eyebrows were initially embedded in my hairline when I read my first few books which included this content, but a good author makes the sex all about trust and love with these acts placed in that context, so the reader quickly adjusts.  I think a valued part of the increasing popularity of this category is that readers have a more varied understanding of a wide range of sexual activity, maybe helping those people who interests lie in these areas understand that they are part of a normal sexual spectrum.

I confess to buying my erotic romance in ebook format both for accessibility but also for toting around with zero embarrassment (and this article in Fast Company magazine says I’m not alone).  I’m not sure I would take a print version of these books into a doctor’s office or hair salon without garnering extra attention or comments! Authors and series to look for in this category include Angela Knight, steampunk and paranormal author Meljean Brook, J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Hope Tarr, my favorite shifter writer Shelly Laurenston, Lisa Renee Jones, paranormal author Larissa Ione, and Kresley Cole.

Implications for the Romance Industry

The way we view the incidence of sensuality in romance novels can have interesting implications for the industry and for society.  Tracey Cooper Posey, erotic romance author and industry commentator, had an interesting analysis based on the trend analysis All Romance eBooks distributes to their publishers. Regarding the heat index in romance novels (which they grade by “flames”, one being the lowest level and five being the highest), they state:

Heat Rating = over 97% of sales are on books rated 3 or higher, of significance is that the 5 and 4 flame sales have see a combined drop of 4% over last year with most of the difference shifting to the 3 flame rating.

Does this mean that the reading public is moving to the tamer “mild” or “hot” books, leaving “scorcher” and erotic romance novels to gather dust?  Tracey has an interpretation I agree with, that publishers are marketing books that would have been previously considered erotic romance right alongside their “hot” and “scorcher” books.  Just like television, which used to cordon off certain sexual situations or levels of violence to prime time but that you can now watch during your dinner hour, the romance publishing industry has come to understand that reader interests (and perhaps, tolerance levels) in that hot/scorcher/erotic category are becoming more permissive and accepting.

I hope this overview has helped answer some questions or directed you to resources that can help figure out this unending puzzle.  Labels are never perfect, but with a good understanding of what they truly refer to, we can use them as a guide to find ever more new and wonderful books and authors.

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