Tag Archives: Leslie Kelly

Don’t Miss It! New and Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff, and Great Deals You Might Have Missed

4 May

New and Upcoming Books

Paranormal doyenne N. J. Walters has recently published the first in her new Salvation Pack series, Wolf at the Door, about a paranormal writer who in the process of getting information about werewolves discovers that they are actually…gasp…real. When the werewolf hero realizes that this woman he’s supposed to silence is his mate, he also is aware that the head of the rival pack – who is also his father – will do anything to get rid of her.

Any reader who enjoys steamy category romance is familiar with the wonderful writing of Leslie Kelly, so they’ll be pleased to hear that she’s recently published another wonderful book under Harlequin Blaze’s “Unrated” label (mrrrroooowwww), Double Take. When a sex therapist gains way to much media attention, she retreats to an island off the coast of Michigan as a substitute teacher hoping to not even think about sex for a while. That intention is blown out of the water upon meeting former Chicago cop Mike Santori who came to this safe small island to settle down and avoid danger. Falling for a hot teacher who is more than she appears was not part of the plan, but he’ll do everything he can – and use every one of her naughty toys – at his disposal to strip her of her defenses.

Kaylea Cross is one of the best military romance writers out there, so I was elated to discover that the most recent book in her outstanding Bagram Ops series is out. Danger Close has Army nurse Lt. Erin Kelly ready for her well-deserved leave back home in Montana, but plans go awry when a strange man unintentionally puts her in the way of the American-born terrorist currently enemy number one. This places her in tremendous danger and, now that his cover has been blown, CIA Operative Wade Sandberg isn’t about to leave Erin’s safety in anyone else’s hands, particularly as the man he once guarded hunts them down.

As historical romance fans wait for Erin Knightley‘s next full-length novel to come out, they will be elated knowing that she’s given readers a terrific novella, Deceived by a Duke, as the next installment in her All’s Fair in Love series. Published this past Friday, this 97 page morsel of goodness has a responsible duke who takes his dissolute younger brother to Spain with the caveat that if he agrees to live minus their station for a month, his debts will be paid. What no one expected was the English beauty who helps them with the local language, but what will happen when she realizes that her heart which has been captured has been deceived by a duke? At only $.99, there’s no mistaking this novella as a great bargain, so grab it now while you wait for The Baron Next Door, her Prelude to a Kiss novel, to be published on June 3rd.

Harlequin is embarking on another glamorous multi-author series, this time centering on a decadent Monte Carlo hotel, The Chatsfield (the name of the series as well as the surname of the billionaire family who owns it). First up is Lucy Monroe with Sheikh’s Scandal, about a ruler who is jilted in the hotel, only to find solace in a beautiful chambermaid who he promptly whisks back to his home country when circumstances arise that their night together may result in pregnancy. Published on May 1st, the next sequel will be Playboy’s Lesson (debuting on June 1st) by Melanie Milburne and then the gothic sounding Billionaire’s Secret by Chantelle Shaw due out in August.

Everyone knows how much I adore M. L. Buchman, so I’m thrilled that his new spin-off series, Firehawks, debuts this coming Tuesday, May 6th, with Pure Heat. Fans who enjoyed his incredible Night Stalkers series know that our favorite couple in those books have taken the news of their pregnancy and decided to turn civilian, flying helicopters in dangerous fire-fighting situations. In this opening novel, an emotionally shut down forest fire specialist who has lost loved ones in the line of duty is assigned as a co-pilot to a hot former smokejumper. When they discover a terrorist threat in the wilderness, it’s hard to determine what’s hotter, they’re attraction to each other or the fire they are desperate to conquer.

If you love animals, hot men and Jill Shalvis (and who doesn’t?) you must adore this contemporary author’s Animal Magnetism series, set in a small Western town where hot vets seem to be a speciality. You can chalk up one more citizen who fits this description as her latest book, Then Came You, focuses on a veterinary intern fulfilling her vet school scholarship by serving a year in a clinic in the middle-of-nowhere Idaho, only to come face to face with her hot one night stand at the Reno veterinary conference she attended. The problem? He’s her boss. Unfortunately we’re going to have to wait until July 1st for this one, but I have a feeling the summer is going to be a little bit hotter! FYI, be sure to enter the Goodreads giveaway before May 9th to see if you can win a copy. 🙂

Lauren Dane’s long-awaited Hurley Boys series is driving the anticipation higher with both the cover release for The Best Kind of Trouble, the first book in the series, which will debut on August 26th in print and September 1st in ebook form (it’s an annoying Harlequin thing) as well as the pre-order page for the second book, Broken Open, going live despite its November 25th release date. Having met these sexy rock stars who stay close to their small-town Hood River, Oregon roots in Dane’s fabulous book Lush, we’ve been chomping at the bit waiting for all their stories. The Best Kind of Trouble focuses on the town’s librarian, a once wild girl in her youth, who has mastered self-control and now has her life going to plan…that is, until Paddy Hurley, the musician with whom she once spent two unbelievable weeks returns to tempt her.

Whether you love them for the amazing writing, Victorian Era Highlanders (who are NOT as tame as their English counterparts) or the loving mess of the Mackenzie family, any installment of Jennifer Ashley’s Highland Pleasures series is a must-read. Fans of quality historical romance will be thrilled to note the next book in the series, Rules for a Proper Governess, is available for pre-order, with a release date of October 7, 2014.  This book focuses on one of the McBride men (related to the Mackenzies via the sister who married Lord Cameron), the brilliant barrister Sinclair whose widowed status has led to an amazing career but two hellion children. When a thief manages to tame his wayward offspring, he offers her a job as their governess, but pocket watches aren’t the only thing she knows how to steal, and Sinclair begins to realize that his heart is in danger as well.

Contests and Giveaways

RT Book Reviews magazine has a terrific giveaway featuring the first novel of M. L. Buchman’s Firehawks series (his spin off from his successful – and amazing – Night Stalkers books, see above description in “Upcoming Books”), Pure Heat, as well as Julie Ann Walker‘s latest Black Knights Inc. book, Hell for Leather. That’s a lot of muscled alpha male, but I know you can handle it, so enter their Rafflecopter giveaway before May 8th for your chance to win!

Susan Mallery has an incredibly successful series with her long-running Fool’s Gold collection, and now you can win the fourteenth book, Before We Kiss, in a Goodreads giveaway. With a former pro-football player with terrible luck with woman and the one night stand he runs from when he discovers a room filled with wedding gowns, this is classic Mallery, so readers will enjoy this journey to a happily ever after. Be sure to enter by May 6th for your chance to win!

Kat Latham and Ashley LeMar are doing a wonderful giveaway for the month of May in honor of Memorial Day’s focus on our nation’s men and women in the military. Entitled 2014 Read, White and Blue, it’s goal is to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, which provides assistance to military personnel (and their families) who have have been injured or are coping with illness. It’s a great cause and helping out and promoting the giveaway enters you to win the grand prize, a Kindle, donated ebooks, custom coffee mugs, a cozy blanket and a $20 Starbucks gift card! Enter before May 31st and make your Memorial Day about more than a great cookout with friends and family.

Western romance fans instantly recognize Linda Lael Miller‘s name, so they’ll be pleased to discover that she has a new series, The Brides of Bliss County, debuting at the end of May and the first book, The Marriage Pact, is available as a prize in a Goodreads giveaway for readers who hustle over and enter before May 6th. Considering this has a best friend’s little sister, a divorced hero who once saved the heroine from making a bad marriage and heat that cannot be denied, I’ll be reading this one whether or not I win!

Fun Stuff

Anyone needing a blast from romance novels past should check out BuzzFeed’s hilarious “19 Things Fabio Is Really Thinking on Romance Novel Covers.” Readers who lived through the bodice ripper days of the 1980s will recognize more than a few of these covers!!

If you’ve got a honey bunny who needs a love card, romance enthusiasts need look no further than Meow Kapow shop on Etsy and their hilarious (to the library geeks among us) “checking you out” card. Be sure to look at their other delightfully retro and quirky offerings – there are more than few stocking stuffers and hostess gifts in this great shop!

Great Deals

Pirate fans will want to take a look at Pleasing the Pirate by Sharon Cullen which features a spunky Highland miss determined to save her brother from imprisonment so he can take over the management of their lands. Unfortunately, she has to seek help from a handsome Sassenach buccaner who has little use for her money, but plenty for her body. That her brother is exactly the person the crown has asked him to apprehend is an unexpected bonus, but his obligations prove less and less appealing the more time he spends with this Scottish beauty. Only $.99 for 261 pages on Amazon!

Shifter and romantic suspense fans will want to take note that Wolf Protector by Milly Taiden (part of her Federal Paranormal Unit series) is also currently only $.99. I enjoyed this book tremendously as it stars a psychic heroine who keeps herself tightly under control, particularly around her devastatingly handsome coworker, who she has labeled trouble of the player variety. The hero, a wolf shifter, knows this woman is who he’s been waiting for but his patience is reaching its limit as she continues to ignore him. When a gruesome serial killer has them both working together, no one is denying the fiery attraction between them. But does their love come too late? With the next book in the series, Dangerous Protector, just out this past Friday, this is a great opportunity to see if you want to commit yourself to the series (which I think you will!).

Erotic author Jasmine Haynes has the first of her Open Invitation series, Invitation to Seduction, available for free right now on Amazon. With an artist heroine low on confidence, a bachelorette party at an exclusive club and a hero whose fallen for the heroine from afar and will do anything to get her now that he’s seen her in person, we’ve reached “fan yourself” territory. Grab it now as a present to yourself.

We’ve got to feature at least one awesome book bundle, and this one is a doozy! If you haven’t yet picked up Dark and Deadly: Eight Bad Boys of Paranormal Romance, get on it, as it gives you quite a line-up of authors for only $.99! With Jennifer Ashley’s Bodyguard (a fabulous novella from her Shifters Unbound series) heading the list, the bundle also features powerhouse writers like Alyssa Day, Felicity Heaton, Erin Kellison, Laurie London, Erin Quinn, Bonnie Vanak and Caris Roane. WOW!

May means the advent of romance authors everywhere raising money for Brenda Novak’s Online Auction to benefit Diabetes Research and this amazing book bundle, A Sweet Life Boxed Set, has fourteen contemporary romances from best-selling authors with all proceeds headed straight to that charity. At only $.99 for 1500 pages of great writing, it’s not just the research that’s benefiting, particularly with authors like Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, Heather Graham, Susan Mallery, Brenda Novak (the fundraiser herself!), Susan Wiggs, and Debbie Macomber among others. Don’t let the “sweet” in the title fool you either – there’s a variety of sensuality levels from steamy to sweet between these covers.

Happy reading! 🙂

December Read-a-Thon: Remind Yourself How Lucky You Are With the Military Anthology, A Soldier’s Christmas

28 Dec

A Soldier’s Christmas, featuring novellas by Leslie Kelly, Joanne Rock, and Karen Foley (Harlequin Blaze, December 1, 2013)

I’m a sucker for military romance any month out of the year, but come December, romances featuring members of our armed forces grab me by the throat as much as those damn Hallmark commercials or that Apple commercial with the kid who makes the video which induces the whole family to cry.

Fortunately the addition of hot sex and the promise of a happily ever after helps balance me out, and even luckier for me, the clever editors over at Harlequin’s Blaze line seem to know this, as based on their latest holiday anthology,  A Soldier’s Christmas.

Because it’s Blaze, readers get the perfect combination of sexy heat in these encounters balanced by the holiday “awwwww” each of them evokes. Luckily each of these three excellent writers have serious military romance chops, so you’ll be impressed by the tone and authenticity of each novella, I promise. Let’s get to the breakdown, okay?

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Leslie Kelly

Although it’s not yet listed on Leslie Kelly’s Santori series (featuring a very fun and feisty Italian American family from Chicago), this novella is actually part of that group. Ellie can’t believe that Rafe Santori has turned up at the New Year’s Eve party for a local pet rescue. This soldier broke up with her years ago after the best relationship (and sex) of her life, telling her that it was unfair to make her wait for him when he had several more years of service ahead of him in the Rangers. He seems shocked that she’s recently engaged to her good friend Dennis, but why would he be? He told her to move on and that’s exactly what this veterinary student has done. One slow dance and a New Year’s kiss that drags up old memories and he disappears. Again.

Flash forward a couple of years and Ellie is stranded in the airport in New York on Christmas Eve, desperate to get back to Chicago to be with Dennis and her family. While she didn’t marry him, he did marry her best friend – Rafe’s divebombing back in her life made Ellie realize that she didn’t have the necessary spark with Dennis (but he did with someone else). He’s a great partner with their small animal clinic and since it’s his baby’s first Christmas Ellie wants to be there. With a massive snowstorm burying the East Coast in snow, her only hope is to rent an SUV and chance the roads. Guess what soldier just got the last one?

Don’t Open Till Christmas (Santori Stories #3 – Mark and Noelle) by Leslie Kelly (Harlequin Blaze, 2005)

Yep, it’s Rafe, who seems startled to see her but hesitantly asks if Ellie wants to share his ride. She realizes that this is fate giving her the opportunity to see if the man she fell in love with seven years ago still exists under that uniform. For Rafe, he knows he’s torturing himself with a married woman but he can’t help it – the thought of Ellie is what gave him comfort during some lonely nights and if he has to live with the reminder that he was an idiot for letting her go then so be it. The news that she is not married – especially when combined with his revelation that he’s officially stateside for one more year in the Rangers and then he’s a civilian – puts a whole different tone on their trip home. A few sexy detours into questionable motels due to the weather and these two people are contemplating that a Christmas miracle may have occurred…if they can convince the other person to take a chance.

One of my favorite things about Leslie Kelly’s writing is her sense of humor and this novella is no exception, continuing the hilarious situational fun and banter that I found in another book of the series (also a Christmas themed one), Don’t Open Until Christmas, Rafe’s brother Mark and his wife Noelle’s full-length novel. The whole series is fantastic (this is one over the top Italian family I’d love to join) but both Mark Santori’s story and this novella featuring his war-weary brother, Rafe, will brighten your holiday season.

“Presents Under the Tree” by Joanne Rock

Las Vegas producer Arianna Demakis is nervous this Christmas Eve and it’s not because she’s juggling three shows tonight. No, the reason she’s on edge is because sexy Air Force Captain Dylan Rivera – a man who gave her one unforgettable night four months ago – has promised to spend the holiday with her. It’s almost midnight and Ari is worried that he’s a no show, and she’s disappointed (but not surprised) since Dylan went on a mission right after their tequila-fueled celebration. She hasn’t heard from him since and it’s not a huge shock except for the fact that they are…um…married.

Full Surrender by Joanne Rock (Harlequin Blaze, September 1, 2012)

Dylan makes it to Ari by the skin of his teeth in the parking lot outside one of her theaters and finds himself as lost in her beauty and fire as ever. He’s happy to see she’s still wearing the ring he put on her finger four months ago but he knows she’s bound to ask for a divorce. He’s loved Ari since they were friends in high school, and couldn’t believe his luck when she showed up for his thirtieth birthday celebration. They’d promised each other senior year that they’d consider getting married if they both hit the big 3-0 and weren’t hitched yet. But he knows she must be worried that their alcohol-filled night was a mistake and he’s got a limited amount of time to convince her.

Dylan was adorable in his geekiness and the fact that he’s been thinking about Ari for years. He finds her fierce independence not just sexy but also potentially exactly what they would need if she agrees to give this marriage a chance – his tech job is perfect for a former chess club leader but his work falls under the highly classified label and he’ll potentially be out of touch for weeks and months at a time. Rock does a great job sketching both characters and showing their shared history and common interests that make their sudden marriage actually believable. I did wish that there was a little more discussion for the final revelation of feelings – and a hint of exactly how their relationship would work. I also felt like I was missing if this excellent novella was connected to another story; Ari compares her marriage to her friend Krista, who is married to a Lt. Col. (Lars?) in the Air Force – is this another Uniformly Hot novel? I really wish that Blaze would make a point of just tucking in a reference for readers at the start or end of novellas when there is a connection to another story. I don’t want to miss out and I’m enough of a completionist to be irritated if there’s another book I should be reading, particularly by an an author whose work I enjoyed in another story.

This was my first Joanne Rock story and I’ll definitely be trying another. She seems to have written quite a few military romances and other Blaze novels, as well as has a few historicals under her belt and is clearly an author worth exploring!

“If Only In My Dreams” by Karen Foley

Hot-Blooded by Karen Foley (Harlequin Blaze, 2010)

Navy SEAL Aiden Cross cannot figure out why he feels so horrible or why he’s no longer with his team traipsing through the African jungle on their mission. The only silver lining about waking up in a hot tent in excruciating pain is seeing army medic, Sergeant Lily Munroe hovering over him. He’s been attracted to her since the first moment he saw her nine months ago at a joint operations center in Entebbe. Knowing that relationships in the field can be more like hook-ups and often disrespectful to the women involved, he ignored his attraction (and hers). Much to his chagrin, his team buddy Brad swooped in and got involved with her, so she’s doubly off limits now, even if Aiden wasn’t suffering from Dengue fever. The only silver lining in all this pain is the news that he’s being shipped stateside for recovery in time for Christmas with his family and that Lily is going with him since she’s rotating out.

Lily has been extremely worried about Aiden and is more than a little nervous about traveling with him. Christmas is a pretty unhappy time in her family since her mother died on Christmas Eve when Lily was still a child, so she’s in no rush to get home. Despite her being attracted to Aiden and letting him know it, he wasn’t interested, hence her childish flirting with his buddy which came to nothing. When Aiden mentions on the trip home that he only believes in serious relationships and Lily knows she only does casual – having seen how hurt people can be when someone they love dies – she thinks that’s the door closing officially on anything they might have. But a combination of getting snowed into a midwest town without hope of making it home for the holiday, and her dispelling Aiden’s misconceptions that she’s in a relationship, seems to make their dynamic take a drastic shift. Sharing the last room in town might help Lily get her Christmas wish of Aiden in her bed, but the question still remains if there can be any kind of future between them.

OMG – such a good novella. I enjoyed having a military story not set in the Middle East and especially liked the realistic feeling of the misunderstanding between Aiden and Lily regarding her “relationship” with Brad. The B&B scenes were heartwarming and did a great job demonstrating Aiden’s ability to truly understand Lily and her fears – this was one man who I bet was amazing on a mission considering how focused he was on his objective! I’ve enjoyed several of Foley’s other military romances but just went out and bought a few others based on how hot and sweet this one was. She bowled me over!

Because of the nature of a soldier’s life, it’s hard not to come away from A Soldier’s Christmas being both high on the bittersweet romance of each story as well as impressed by the writing. As a reader, you are naturally thankful both for the men and women of our armed forces but also for being at home with family during the holidays when so many other people aren’t. I think a lot of the emotion I experienced reading this anthology wasn’t just provoked by the outstanding stories told, but how fortunate I felt to have love and family this holiday season in my life after seeing each of these couples experience their emotional roller-coaster during a potentially difficult time.

This is a terrific addition by the Blaze line to both their quality holiday novellas as well as their military romance collection.

Happy reading!

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

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

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

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

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

“The Prince Who Stole Christmas” by Leslie Kelly

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

Another great story from the Elaytria series by Leslie Kelly.

Another great story from the Elaytria series by Leslie Kelly.

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

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

“My True Love Gave to Me” by Jennifer Labrecque

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

Another holiday themed title from Jennifer LaBrecque

Another holiday themed title from Jennifer LaBrecque

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

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

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

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

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

Revisiting High School Can Be Sexy with The Guy Most Likely To…Anthology

23 Jul

It’s hard not to trust the Harlequin Blaze line. Unlike some of the other Harlequin imprints which I find harbor excellent writers but are often inconsistent in their quality (to say nothing of their inordinately stupid titles like “Billionaire Doctor Prince’s Accidental Wife and Secret Baby” – a composite, I grant you, but close enough), Blaze always has a great heat level and addresses a strong emotional relationship. I’d read some holiday themed anthologies before, but wanted to try one unrelated to Valentine’s Day or Christmas to see what it was like.

Spotting this anthology, The Guy Most Likely To…, on NetGalley seemed like a great place to start. Based around the premise of high school renunions, each author has penned a story about a couple who had real heat back in high school and are now facing each other for the first time 10 years later at their reunion. Unlike many anthologies which seesaw in quality of story, these three authors, Leslie Kelly, Janelle Denison and Julie Leto, all give us characters easy to love.

This makes sense when you find out that these three ladies, along with romance author Carly Phillips, call themselves the Plotmonkeys, so they are clearly comfortable working together. I was surprised, but pleased, when the unifying element of the location – a special reunion resort outside Chicago called Celebrations – was the key point in the story. I figured it would be the same reunion, but this flexbility allowed each writer to shape the high school experience differently for their characters and it worked extremely well.

“Underneath It All” by Leslie Kelly

Ten years ago, Prom Queen Lauren was left crying and alone with her crown on the night of her senior prom, publicly humiliated by her long-term boyfriend Seth, who not only didn’t show for the dance but also withdrew from school the next day. Even more hurtful was the fact that the two of them had planned to consummate their relationship that night, a detail that has left Lauren with more than a little baggage, particularly after her fiancee broke off their engagement a couple of years ago right before the ceremony. Guaranteed that Seth isn’t attending the reunion, Lauren has come to be a support for her recently divorced best friend, only to be stopped dead in her tracks by a sexy voice from the past who greets her in the check-in line.

The only reason successful L.A. sports agent Seth Crowley is at this reunion is to find Lauren and apologize to her for that night long ago. Seth has harbored a painful secret all these years about his family and he knows that Lauren deserves the truth about what happened. He’s dated women over the past decade, but each relationship has only proven what he knew deep down – the only time he has really been in love, it was with beautiful, giving Lauren. And he wants a second chance.

LOVED this story. Lauren’s range of emotions and how she has attempted to deal with the astronomical blow of Seth’s abandonment is totally believable. Watching the two of them explain the aftermath of that night to each other is its own emotional journey, a journey continued by the long-delayed physical consummation of their relationship. Niggling insecurities continue, but the final scene, resulting in a real happily ever after, is heart-thumpingly sweet.

Can’t Get You Out of My Head” by Janelle Denison

I always fall for the geek in romances. Give me a man with brains and hidden hunkiness and I’m all in with this scintillating story being no exception.

Ali might have been the head cheerleader back in high school, but she was also smart and kind, something Will knew back when he was tutoring her in Calculus their senior year and they became good friends – friends with a lot of attraction between them. He was bullied constantly back then but Ali was a highlight in his often bleak days, with no day blazing brighter than when she agreed to go out with him. But he canceled two hours before their first date and proceeded to ignore her for the rest of year.

Will could tell she was hurt, but after a while Ali stopped trying to speak with him and moved on. Now he’s a successful internet millionaire who has lost the glasses and fulfilled his body’s buff potential, but rather than flaunt his success and good looks, all he wants during this reunion is to see Ali again and explain what happened.

Ali is still confused about what happened between her and Will. She really liked him and was hurt when he canceled their date and ended their friendship. She’s always been judged by her looks – she was voted “Most Likely to Become a Playboy Bunny” after all – and she always hated how the popular set treated Will, particularly when he was voted “Most Likely to Date a Playboy Bunny…NOT” out of spite for their almost-relationship. The new and improved Will takes her breath away and it seems like he’s still the wonderful, smart guy she fell for years ago.

Ali is a sweetheart – I loved the realism of how her agreeing to date Will was a huge danger to her popularity – and Will is my geek-ideal. His romancing Ali while coming clean about the circumstances surrounding their break-up was so achingly wonderful, I found myself shushing my poor husband while I read it. Great, fun ending for this couple’s happily ever after and it was nice to see some high school bullies get their comeuppance on the dance floor.

“A Moment Like This” by Julie Leto

Erica was the class president and all around good girl at her tony Catholic high school and she knew everyone, except elusive bad boy Scott Ripley who was usually too busy working his way through the female population to take notice of Erica. Somewhere in the midst of their senior year, he offered to tutor her in French and she was desperate enough to improve her grade to take him up on his offer. After he rejected her advances and kept their relationship on the down low, she figured that he wasn’t the slightest bit interested, a fact that has rankled for a long time. Now a successful events planner charged with the details of their class renunion at the Celebrations resort, she has an idea of how to get noticed by Rip.

Rip has more than enough memories of his bad boy reputation back in high school. He wouldn’t even be coming to the reunion except that he’s now running a foundation which could use an infusion of fresh funding, and his former wealthy classmates would be a good source of cash. When a bombshell in painted on jeans and a skimpy vest pulls up on a wicked Harley and asks him to take a ride, he’s startled to discover that its Erica, the good girl he wanted but cared about too much to have her be just another physical encounter. It seems like Erica has other ideas of what would constitute a great reunion, and what she didn’t do with Scott back in the day appears to be front and center.

This was a very well-written story and I liked the complexity of Scott’s character. Erica sometimes felt like she had a bit of a hard shell, both in the flashbacks and in the present, and at times I felt that I was wondering what the hell she was up to along with Scott, despite my insight into her point of view.

The Girl Most Likely To…

This anthology is a great value at only $2.99 for 224 pages and I was happy to see that there is a companion volume planned, The Girl Most Likely To.... Sadly, while the author websites indicate this is due to be a summer release, I can find hide nor hair of any details about the actual date its due out. I’m hoping Harlequin gets its butt in gear, particularly if the quality will be anything similar to this wonderful compilation.

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