Tag Archives: Kate Angell

December Holiday Read-a-thon: Enjoy Holiday Sugar (With More Than a Little Spice) with The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap Anthology

3 Dec

The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap by Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell, and Kimberly Kincaid (Kensington, September 24, 2013)

I can’t help but remember that last December was the first time I’d read a Donna Kauffman story, and it was another one of her wonderful holiday novellas that first brought me to appreciate her as a romance author. It only seemed fitting to read some more of her work this holiday season, and The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap anthology will satisfy the sweet tooth of readers looking for that combination of holiday spirit and romance in a contemporary setting.

Sadly for me Kauffman’s story was one I didn’t get to read as my NetGalley ARC started on page 9 of the prologue and then skipped to page 76 of Kate Angell‘s story, cutting out the beginning of that novella as well. Considering that snafu, I think it a tremendous credit to Angell and Kimberly Kincaid that their stories were so lovely that I would still heartily endorse the purchase of this book, particularly since I know what a great writer Donna Kaufmann is (which is why I’m also disappointed I didn’t get a chance to read hers).

Where There’s Smoke by Donna Kauffman

With that detail in mind, I can’t write much about this particular story, but here’s the blurb:

When flames from a recipe gone disastrously wrong send hunky fire-fighter Will Mason to pretty Clara Parker’s rescue, the sparks really begin to fly! And once Will gets a taste of Clara, he aches for more than just a little sugar from the famously single food columnist…

It’s clear from the other stories and the epilogue that despite being food editor, Clara is a disaster in the kitchen, which I expect with Kaufmann’s trademark sense of humor at play! I also loved the indication that her love interest, Will, was someone she knew back in college, clearly before he…um…came into his present physique. A naughty firefighter’s calendar is involved, so fans of Jill Shalvis and other authors who feature this profession are definitely going to want to read this story!

The Gingerbread Man by Kate Angell

I actually think that the ARC I received of this anthology had an error in it, since this story began in my copy with Lander, a handsome man injured in a car accident on a rural mountain, and Abby Denton, the young baker who rescues him, nursing their injuries and decorating her tree in a cabin without power. That said, it was easy to catch up on what happened and it didn’t stop me from getting attached to the characters.

It seems Lander had purchased a unassuming box of cookies at the Pine Mountain Cookie Exchange only to open it while driving to be startled by anatomically correct gingerbread man staring back at him. Distracted, he gets into a car accident and is dangerously cold and sluggish when lovely Abby Denton discovers him in his ravaged Mercedes. She immediately feels horribly guilty as she is the one who baked the naughty gingerbread men for her online business. Bringing him back to her cabin where she has been keenly feeling the recent loss of her grandmother, Lander helps her not only appreciate her Christmas traditions but work through some of her feelings to embrace the holiday surrounded by the things she and her grandmother loved best.

In the process of doing so Lander and Abby discover they have quite a bit in common – while she is dealing with the loss of her grandmother, he recently lost his father – and the connection between them is very strong…as is the heat of sexual awareness. Luckily for both of them, Lander travels prepared and they have a few days of strong emotional connection and sex before he needs to return to his mother and sister in Philadelphia. Lander says he wants to see her again, but Abby is skeptical about a future between them.

Despite my copy’s challenges, this was a beautiful, sweet story. I adored Tennyson, Abby’s elderly cat with his friskiness and incessant snoring and the way that Lander helps fulfill one of Abby’s dreams (while making his own come true) at the end of the novella was magical.

Sugar And Spice by Kimberly Kincaid

Turn Up the Heat (Pine Mountain #1) by Kimberly Kincaid (Kensington, March 4, 2014)

Lily Callahan has worked hard to be a successful baker and the local resort’s prestigious televised cookie contest – with the prize of $10,000 – is exactly the break she needs. If she could win that kind of cash, she could finally open her own storefront and add daily customers to her catering work. Meticulous preparation and outlining are all part of her system, but one thing she didn’t count on in her preparations was her competition, sexy chef Pete Mancuso.

Pete moved to the mountain for his younger sister who decided to make a fresh start here after graduating college. Their home life was horrifying growing up and she’s the one person he’s always put first. So what if the 90 minute commute each way to Philadelphia is a bear for his pastry chef job at one of the cities finest restaurants? When he hears about both the resort’s contest and the fact that the French pastry chef at the restaurant in the city is opening up, he knows that he’s going to bring his unorthodox approach and win this contest to snag that job.

What throws him through a loop is when the sexy blond Lily Callahan literally runs into his arms the day before. They both feel that the kitchen isn’t the only thing heating up when they are both in the room, and when their two very different styles are thrown together in the kitchen as collaborators in the early rounds, they not only make it work but advance to the next level. With PR focusing on the hits their chemistry is getting online, a lot of attention is coming their way and they use that to forward local charities since they both know from experience how important that can be. As their similarities become apparent and they give in behind close doors to the heat between them, both Lily and Pete both know that only one person can win the competition – but can they both come out as winners in the personal arena or will one achieving his or her dream stifle the other?

I defy you to not adore both Lily and Pete (and have a snack handy because the food is AMAZING that they are making and you’re going to get hungry). They have off the charts chemistry but they also are terrific people with ambition but who don’t believe in trampling someone they care about it order to get what they want. With wonderful illustrations of the local community, this story was exactly the right ending to segue into the excellent epilogue which fully wraps up the happiness of each of the three friends and the men in their lives.

I loved sampling Kimberly Kincaid‘s writing with this novella and will definitely be reading her other work after enjoying this taste of her! She has taken the setting of Pine Mountain and has publication dates lined up for two related books to date, Turn Up The Heat (cover above) featuring the big mechanic Shane Griffin who we saw in Kate Angell’s novella and Gimme Some Sugar, about a chef fleeing a failed marriage and seeking solace in this wonderful community. Turn Up the Heat has an early March 2014 publication date with Gimme Some Sugar following it in June, so I expect Kincaid will be tantalizing my tastebuds then as well.

Since (even not having read the full prologue or what I’m sure is an outstanding story by Donna Kauffman) I heartily recommend any holiday romance lover go out and buy The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap, my only criticism of this anthology was the price point Kensington has placed it at. Even though it is slightly over 400 pages (and that’s wonderful as a reader since it makes each of the novellas a nice hefty size), over $9 for the Kindle version and over $11 for the trade paperback seems high for romance readers who are used to paying around $6 or $7 for big name authors. That said, it’s worthy splurge (and tell your friends and family to get you bookseller gift cards) so be sure to purchase this wonderful anthology to live under your tree this season.

Happy reading!

Pets Make Authors Human: A Pictorial Reflection on Animals, Romance, and Writing

28 Nov

Dean Koontz with his golden retriever – yes, I’m going to admit that I bought my first Koontz book because he always has his golden in the author photo!

It’s Thanksgiving, and if there’s one part of my life I give tremendous thanks for beyond the human members of my family, it’s the four-legged creatures who fill my life with joy and laughter. Following so many author blogs and the Facebook pages of writers I admire, I can’t help but notice just how many people post regular photos and updates of their pets…and how many comments and likes they get when they do.

My Romance Writers of America chapter (go Pocono-Lehigh Romance Writers!!!) recently had the fabulous Caridad Pinerio give an incredibly informative workshop on social media for authors. One point she mentioned was that recipes and pets (with accompanying photos) are pure gold when it comes to social media. Considering what I stop to read I completely believe her, but it made me wonder, what is it about authors and their pets that we find so appealing?

Ernest Hemingway and one of his many cats

I imagine that it’s a combination of shared experience and humanization. We have something in common with even a famous writer like Lord Byron (who wrote the most heartfelt poem to his Newfoundland Dog Boatswain who he buried with a headstone that exceeds Byron’s in size) or Mark Twain. Ernest Hemingway may have been a misogynist, but I bet he had to clean up something heinous his six-toed cats horked up around his house at some point, right? So he and I would theoretically have a conversation starter if we ever met on a distant plain (and I could steer away from the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of his writing).

It’s very easy for me to believe Janet Evanovich invented the successful Stephanie Plum series when I see this shot. Anyone with such a smiley St. Bernard has to have a terrific sense of humor!

There is also the nature of writing – it’s lonely. You usually do it all by yourself, in some cramped, cluttered corner of your house while the humans around you steer clear because you are a) overcaffeinated, b) talking to people who don’t exist (i.e., your characters) and/or c) haven’t bothered to shower because you are headed to a deadline. You know who doesn’t care? Your pet. Your cat selfishly feels you are a terrific source of heat and food as you snack at your desk and your dog simply loves you so much that he or she is willing to drape themselves on your feet and let their bladder the size of Montana fill until you realize it’s been 11 hours since you’ve taken them outside to pee. You do not get that kind of devotion from a person (okay, rarely you do), which could explain writers’ propensity for animal fandom.

Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice Toklas with their poodle. Every pet owner looking at this photo just exclaimed, "A white carpet! Seriously?!"

Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas with their poodle. Every pet owner looking at this photo just exclaimed, “A white carpet! Seriously?!”

I definitely think that authors like Dean Koontz (who actually has given his late golden Trixie her own webpage while celebrating his current golden, Anna) and Janet Evanovich are onto something when it comes time for the author photo. Having a pet in the shot not only differentiates you from the pack, but instantly sends the message, “Oh, wow, this person is an approachable, nice human being” because let’s face it, animals usually only like nice people and are able to detect when some bitchy person carries a whiff of sulphur still lingering from their portal to hell transportation. In Midge Raymond’s “Tips for the Author Photo” article, Raymond emphasizes the importance of maintaining a natural look and that includes your facial expression. It’s virtually impossible to have a pet in the shot with you and not look natural, because you are busy worrying that your dog or cat is going to pee on a light or start barking at a shadow and embarrass you, rather than about how fat your upper arms might look or if you are getting a weird shadow that’s going to make you resemble Winston Churchill when you want the cool J. R. Ward badass vibe (which you probably won’t get unless you have a cool cat in the shot, like a panther).

Don’t let the gigantic dog in the center have you ignore the little King Charles spaniel in the right hand corner – both dogs carry the symbolism of wealth and protection in Anthony Van Dyck‘s Five Children of King Charles I (1637) in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Let’s not forget that the presence of animals in a portrait has always meant something (other than announcing you carry a powerful lint brush in your purse everywhere you go). In the 17th to 19th centuries, animals in a portrait, usually dogs, often indicated that the person or persons in the portrait were worthy of admiration and loyalty, or the breed of animal hinted at the intellectual refinement or wealth of the subject. One of my favorite portraits involving a dog is Anthony Van Dyck’s portrait, Five Children of King Charles I which you can visit in all its splendor in the National Portrait Gallery in London. The gigantic dog being used as an armrest by the future Charles II of England is probably an early variety of Mastiff and the bitty poindexter in the lower right hand corner looking at the chubby (and seriously underdressed) Princess Anne is an early King Charles Spaniel. Mastiffs were frequently owned by the aristocracy for protection, and the King Charles Spaniel was actually named for the young Charles pictured here since he loved toy spaniels, including the one that would eventually carry his name.

Love Bites anthology with stories by Lori Foster, Brenda Jackson, Virna DePaul, Catherine Mann and Jules Bennett (Harlequin, February 2013)

Luckily for us, we no longer look for the deep symbolism when someone takes either a formal portrait immortalizing their puppy or a selfie with their ginormous cat, but readers are still fascinated by the relationship of pets and authors. In the world of romance, we are fortunate to not just have authors who write in terrific animal characters into their books (Laura Kaye’s fabulous three-legged puppy in Hard As It Gets comes to mind, as well as all the animal characters of Jill Shalvis’ Animal Magnetism series), but who actually advocate for them. Lori Foster, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Brenda Jackson, Catherine Mann, Virna DePaulJill Shalvis, Kate Angell, Jacquelyn Frank, and Lisa Jackson are just a few of the authors who come to mind to heighten awareness of animal causes and who even create anthologies where the proceeds go to animal charities.

I’ll leave you with the poem Lord Byron wrote for his Newfoundland’s gravestone since it summarizes a lot of the relationship we have with our pets. Maybe you’d even consider making a donation to your local animal shelter in honor of your favorite romance author – I’m sure they’d be thrilled to hear about that kind of fan appreciation! Whatever your thoughts on how to honor the animals who inspire you – whether they live in your home or are online – let’s all consider ourselves fortunate to have these wonderful giving creatures in our lives and in our imaginations.

Epitaph to A Dog

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
BOATSWAIN, a DOG,
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808.

For more great pictures of writers and their pets I’d recommend the following articles:

“Animal Muses: The Pets Of Famous Writers And Artists” by Alice E. Vincent from The Huffington Post UK (June 25, 2012)

“Portraits of Writers With Pets: The Humanizing Animal Connection” by Emily Temple from The Atlantic (November 28, 2012)

“Literary Pets: The Cats, Dogs, and Birds Famous Authors Loved” by Maria Popova from Brain Pickings (April 29, 2013)

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