Tag Archives: Nora Roberts

Don’t Miss It! Upcoming Books, New Releases and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, March 30, 2014

30 Mar

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Veronica Scott who wrote the fascinating paranormal/historical romance The Gods of Egypt series, released her next book, Magic of the Nile, featuring a high priestess whose life is dedicated to the Crocodile God who physically healed her from the abuse she suffered as a child. When Pharaoh sends his handsome captain to ask for her help, she could not imagine how turned upside down her life will be, as she is forced to find a dark sorcerer deep in Pharaoh’s court and the man she loves may or may not help her.

Stacy Gail has a hit series on her hands with her Earth Angels, so fans will be happy to note that the latest addition, Dangerous Angel, comes out tomorrow on March 31st. Based on the premise of the forbidden descendants of angels and humans walk among us, hiding their powers while fighting evil on behalf of unknowing humans, this fourth book in the series shows us a bounty hunter who is more than a little distracted by his rival, a sexy woman who impersonates a stripper to get close to man she needs to bring in before our hero. When the situation is complicated by something not quite human, nothing will stop this angel from having the woman who is his perfect match while also stopping a possible apocalypse.

There are just not enough Rugby heroes in the world, but thankfully we have Kat Latham to fill the gap for us with her London Legends series. I can’t say enough about her first book, Knowing the Score, and as a result I’m eager to devour the next book, Playing It Close, when it debuts on April 14th. When a famous rugby player and an unemployed office worker meet in a remote Venezuela locale, both use assumed names to avoid complications. Naturally it’s a surprise to be back in London and have our heroine end up with a job with the rugby team’s official sponsor, but that’s not going to dissuade the hero from pursuing the woman from the hottest night of his life. Thank heavens!

No cover image or ebook version as of yet, but Lauren Dane fans do have a link to the first in her The Hurley Boys series (a spin off of her Delicious series books), The Best Kind of Trouble. This series was picked up by Harlequin and I can tell you why (beyond Lauren Dane being an amazing writer). The Hurley Boys, who we met in the last Delicious book, Lush, are a highly successful rock band who retreat to their lovely family farm to record and be normal when they aren’t surrounded by adoring fans. Since this book has not only the sexy Paddy Hurley but also the naughty librarian with whom he once shared a couple blazing weeks, I am so on board. That I have to wait until August 26th seems cruel, but knowing Lauren Dane it will be totally worth it!

Contests and Giveaways

Avon Publishing (which has a terrific reader community for fans, BTW) is offering a wonderful contest for fans of historical romance. Their Historical Romance Spring Giveaway includes four of their recently released paperback books (out as of March 25, 2014): Eloisa James’ Three Weeks with Lady X Julie Anne Long’s Between the Devil and Ian Eversea, Jennifer McQuiston’s Moonlight on My Mind, and Maya Rodale’s Wallflower Gone Wild, as well as a pair of handmade Regency-inspired earrings. A $70 value and all you have to do is fill out the entry form before April 25th for a chance to win!

Fun Stuff

The Literary Gift Company is a breath of fresh air in terms of the funny (and often delicious) gifts they offer. While I wish I lived in Great Britain (for many reasons) they do ship internationally, so you may want to consider ordering one of their quotable chocolate bars as an award-winning gift (or hell, just for yourself). Whether it’s Mr. Darcy’s famous quote to your main squeeze (“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”) or Louisa May Alcott’s friendship quote given to your BFF (“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”), there are plenty of delicious options to choose from.

When readers, especially those who love used bookstores or wandering vast stacks in the library, get together, invariably one of them will mention an addiction to the smell of old books. While you can’t deliver the Bodleian Library in a jar, you can give them the next best thing. Frostbeard Studios has a soy candle entitled Old Books – Book Lovers’ Scented Soy Candle which claims to have captured an earthy, papery smell with a hint of must and newsprint. For a mere $15 for a long lasting candle, this affordable option could be what everyone needs to transport themselves for quiet reading via a little olfactory incentive. Shhhhhhhh. (BTW, they also sell Bookstore and Trashy Romance Novel candles as well – I’ll be getting a bundle!)

Great Deals

Just this week, Nora Roberts’ Mackade Brothers series (four books in all) are each on sale in ebook form for only $1.99 each. This Maryland town doesn’t seem big enough to hold four sexy brothers, all of whom are due to succumb to the one woman who can tame their wild ways, but at around 250 pages each, this is a terrific bargain and one to add to your Nora Roberts collection!

I cannot remember a time I was more excited about a $.99 bundle, but the Alphas After Dark: 9 Book Bundle of Sexy Alpha Biker Bad Boys has sent me into the stratosphere! Not only does this have the next book in Kit Rocha‘s dystopian erotic Beyond series, Beyond Solitude (*whimper*) but it also a Roxie Rivera spinoff from Her Russian Protector series (they are like crack cocaine, be warned), Rumpel’s Prize, the eighth book in Marie Hall‘s fairy tale based Kingdom Series, which I love, plus Vivian Arend‘s first book in her wildly successful Takhini Shifters series, Copper King. And that’s just four of them! While not familiar with the other five authors, any one of the above books would be worth $.99, so to get all four of them for that price – with the chance I’ll also find a new author with the other five – is a dazzling bargain.

An impressive boxed set we will have to wait a lot longer for is the Masters of Seduction: Paranormal Boxed Set, which features an actual series written by four outstanding writers – Lara Adrian (of Midnight Breed fame), Donna Grant (Highlanders, anyone?), Laura Wright (love her Bayou Heat novels) and Alexandra Ivy (co-author of those great Bayou Heat novels!). Conceived by the authors together, each book builds upon the other and features the same world populated by Incubi. None of the books have been published prior to this release, so immediate gratification junkies will get the first four books of the series in one shot. At only $.99, that seems a good gamble considering the best-selling chops of these four ladies. The only drawback? It’s not out until July 14th, but I’ve pre-ordered to lock in this amazing price.

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

Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Sunday, March 23, 2014

23 Mar

Sorry to have been away so long. We have a lot to catch up on!

Upcoming Books and New Releases

 Anyone who reads this blog knows my undying admiration for Nalini Singh, who has captivated me with both her amazing Guild Hunter series (for urban fantasy or angel fans) as well as the fabulous Psy-Changeling series, which features the SnowDancer Wolves and DarkRiver Leopards and the humans and Psy who interact with them as the world inches closer to a major change. Now Whisper of Sin, a terrific novella that is one of the prequels in the Psy-Changeling series, is available as a stand alone novella for only $2.99 as of late February. Previously only published in the Burning Up anthology (published in 2010 and containing a great novella from Meljean Brook from her Iron Seas steampunk series), this novella tells the story of high-ranked soldier Emmett and how he helps rescue a human in San Francisco’s Chinatown only to realize that she is his mate.

Bella Andre‘s Sullivan series fans will want to make sure that the latest volume of the Sullivans series, Just To Be With You, made it to their mailbox or ereader on March 5th (and if it didn’t, get on it!). Can you believe it’s the 12th book in this hit series? These Seattle Sullivans are just as compelling as their California cousins, with the jaded, successful CEO of Sullivan Investments, Ian Sullivan, about to fall for the gorgeous actress, Tatiana Landon. She’s been waiting for a strong love like this, but with Ian’s history of failed relationships, nothing is going to be easy about this happily ever after.

Donna Grant knows her Highlanders, which is probably one of the reasons she’s begun a new novella series, Rogues of Scotland (love the name). First up is The Craving, which came out on March 6th and features a woman who retreats to her family home in order to mend a betrayed heart, only to find a man trapped by a woman and a gypsy curse in a mirror. Trusting and loving the woman who finds him will take a leap of faith he’s not sure he can give, but it might be the only way to set them both free.

Historical romance writer Katharine Ashe just came out with her first book in a new (self-published?) Regency series, My Lady, My Lord, on March 10th and it looks wonderful. When an intelligent book reading lady is forced to give the time of day to her libertine neighbor, sparks are sure to fly, particularly since he adores torturing her as much as watching fast horses at the races. At only $2.99 for over 300 pages, Ashe fans have quite a bit to rub their hands in glee about.

Kit Rocha‘s unbelievably good erotic dystopian Beyond series finally added Beyond Jealousy this week, and weren’t we all waiting with baited breath? Tattoo artist and former gigilo Ace has wanted Rachel from the moment she left her comfortable, sheltered life and became an O’Kane to settle her father’s debt, but all he’s done is hurt her, especially after he became a couple with a man she had tried a relationship with, the resident hero and former special ops soldier, Cruz. Neither Cruz nor Ace have ever stopped loving Rachel so when the opportunity presents itself for all three of them to come together, the results are combustible, particularly in trying to work through everyone’s emotional baggage while a major turf war erupts in the sector.

We all know what a fangirl I am for anything written by Jennifer Ashley and I have big circles on my calendar for every installment of her Shifters Unbound series. Well, Feral Heat, Jace and Deni’s story, came out this week and it did NOT disappoint! This novella is right between the two full-length novels, Tiger Magic and the upcoming Wild Wolf (April 1st cannot get here soon enough), and is just as phenomenal as every other book in the series. It’s a hot, sexy love story that still manages to propel her fascinating story arc of the shifters attempting to discover how to rid themselves of the collars that keep them second class citizens. This author does not know how to write a mediocre book and I for one applaud her high standards!! Did I also mention this outstanding volume is only $1.99 and it’s not a short novella, but a meaty one equaling a lot of category romance novels. Great writing and an awesome value – I heart Jennifer Ashley!

Book seven of Eloisa James‘ Desperate Duchesses series will come out on March 25th, and Three Weeks With Lady X looks like a keeper. A bastard son of a duke needs to marry a woman with a serious reputation and he turns to Lady Xenobia India, an independent woman who quickly becomes the focus of his efforts. But this woman is no wallflower to go into a marriage of convenience, and the gentleman in question finds he must give everything to get everything if she’s to agree to his terms. Keep in mind if you pre-order this puppy and provide proof of your purchase with a picture of a receipt or a screenshot of your browser screen confirming your purchase, James is having a contest for a lucky reader to get special bonus content sent directly from her!

Also out on March 25th is the next book in Nora Roberts‘ latest trilogy, The Cousins O’Dwyer, Shadow Spell. This fantastic series has a strong paranormal story arc linking an Irish brother and sister and their American cousin to their long ago Irish ancestors. With evil sorcerers, plenty of magic and an abundance of animal familiars set in the Irish countryside, Roberts’ fans get to see this writer in her element once more. Don’t worry about having to wait too long for the final volume. The third book, Blood Magick, will be out on November 4th and is already available for pre-order.

March 25th is clearly a big day for romance, since Lori Foster’s next book in her Love Undercover series, Dash of Peril, also debuts. This series is outstanding, and I for one am eager to see construction business owner Dash help his brother’s frosty lieutenant take down nefarious human traffickers with a little heat on the side. Mrrrrooowww. If you haven’t yet indulged in this series, get your butt in gear as there are sexy alpha males galore as well as beautiful woman who inspire fierce protectiveness and love in the worst of circumstances. So good!!

It’s never too early to begin looking at the spring releases (and pre-ordering them to lock in great prices). Elle Kennedy has an addition to her Killer Instincts series coming down the pike on April 1st, and fans of “mercenaries with a heart” stories will want to take note of Midnight Pursuits. The fourth in this highly rated series has a rookie to the group assigned to assist a loner deep in Eastern Europe on a mission gone horribly wrong. While she usually has no use for working with someone, this former Marine has a skill set that she can definitely use…and the heat between them seems to have the added bonus of warming her cold heart.

In addition to the Cousin’s O’Dwyer paranormal novel mentioned above, Nora Roberts also has one of her romantic suspense novels, this one entitled The Collector, due out in hardcover on April 15th. When a professional apartment sitter is the sole witness to a heinous crime, the brother of the main suspect seeks her help as he knows his sibling could not possibly be responsible. The two are drawn closer as they come closer to discovering the actual perpetrator, hopefully before it’s too late.

Historical romance author Amanda Quick announced she will be publishing a stand alone novel, Otherwise Engaged on April 22nd, featuring her usual brand of bold heroine (this one a world traveler) who finds herself the target of a madmen obsessed by her name being linked to that of a gentleman scientist. That the man in question is also a spy for the crown thickens the plot and he has no intention of her reputation suffering – or of the fiery beauty getting hurt – due to his actions.

Paranormal doyenne Christine Feehan will be publishing the third book of her Sisters of the Heart series (a spin off grouping that takes place in the same town as the Drake Sisters books), Air Boundon May 27th. Each book focuses on one of six women who have come together as part of a special grief support group for women who have lost someone to violent crime. The heroine of this book not only suffered with her paranormal ability by growing up in a special government facility, but also recently lost her mother at the hands of a murderer. Kidnapped and aboard a ship, she finds herself at the mercy of an intriguing captor, one who intended to use her for his own purposes, only to find himself drawn to her instead.

Maya Banks‘ KGI series fans need to circle June 24th on their calendar as that is the publication date for the next novel in this wildly successful series, When Day Breaks. When a wounded and scarred Afghanistan veteran is assigned to protect a stunning model with a violent stalker, no one could have predicted that these two people would find something in common. But serious heat and attraction exists and neither party is about to let a murderous stalker get in the way.

The husband-and-wife writing team of Ilona Andrews have been blogging for months about a paranormal romance they have been working on for Avon Publishing – and the link is finally live! The official name is Burn For Me and it will be the first of their Hidden Legacy trilogy which the authors have confessed is more like a paranormal political thriller versus the paranormal heroic journey/police procedural of the Kate Daniels series (which is phenomenal). As the only thing I wish for in the Kate Daniels series is a little more sexy times between Kate and Curran, I was thrilled to hear that the heat level is a bit more “fan yourself” in this upcoming work. The only bad news? We’ll have to wait until October 28th for it to come out, but with the current ebook price at a mere $4.99 for almost 400 pages, it’s worth pre-ordering now in case the price raises a little closer to the fall.

Contests and Giveaways

Paranormal author Robin D. Owens is embarking on an urban fantasy series starring a woman who can see ghosts and the sheriff who finds himself drawn into her life, all with a Western setting. The aptly named Ghost Seer (series with the same name) is debuting on April 1st and from now until March 24th, you can enter a contest on Goodreads to win a copy of the book. With the second book due out in early September, fans of instant gratification won’t have long to wait to see how this storyline develops.

You can win a signed copy of the first book in historical romance writer Elizabeth Hoyt‘s Prince series, The Raven Prince, which came out in both in 2006 and then was reissued under a new (and gorgeous) cover in 2012. When a widow in dire financial straits is almost mowed down by a aristocrat in desperate need of a secretary, problems for everyone seem solved, except that the Earl’s newest secretary takes exception at his decision to visit a brothel to assuage his “manly” needs…and so she decides to be a mystery woman who will take care of his every wish, in and out of the study. Enter before March 31st to win your autographed copy!

Category romance fans who enjoy the secret baby trope will definitely want to put Andrea Laurence‘s His Lover’s Little Secret (a Harlequin Desire novel out on April 1st) on their to-read list. When a millionaire has a chance run in with the lover he never forgot, he can do the math and realizes her little son is his child – and he’s not about to let either of them go. But while the mother of his son might be willing to let him into their life, she’s not about to give into his bossy ways and let him into her heart again. Enter by March 31st for a chance to win a copy.

Fun Stuff

If you are looking for a fun activity for a bachelorette party or your best friends’ sleepover, look no further than Pornogami: A Guide to the Ancient Art of Paper-Folding for Adults. Actually written by a master of the art of origami, this guide takes a beginner through making fun looking spermatozoa all the way to a realistic vajayjay. Do I hear a drinking game coming out of this book? You bet I do.

Allison Yates at the Kinsey Confidential blog has an intriguing post about the recent startling mannequins which appeared in the American Apparel stores on Valentine’s Day who clearly were sporting bushy pubic hair amidst all their provocative underwear. The rubbernecking by passers-by was purportedly astonishing (and these are jaded New Yorkers we are talking about) but Yates dissects some fascinating trends and insights regarding our culture’s view of sexuality and body hair.

Librarian and romance lover Amy Alessio put up a wonderful article in honor of St. Patrick’s Day on the Romance University blog featuring some perennial favorite books featuring Ireland (or sexy Irish heroes and heroines). From J. D. Robb’s Roarke to Mary Jo Putney’s Irish setting in Sometimes a Rogue, she’s picked some winners worth reading.

I’m a big fan of the Etsy shop, Spunky Fluff, who produces amazing signs with heart-inspiring sayings to adorn your walls. Whether it’s “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” or “Suck It Up Buttercup” these wall adornments always seem to contain heart and humor. With the majority of stock ranging between $40 to $60 and around 12 x 18 inches, these signs come in colors to match any decor and are truly unique items that will inspire a smile and a sigh each day.

Great Deals

There are a lot of good boxed sets and there are a LOT of “meh” boxed sets, but this one looks fabulous! Fated Mates: The Alpha Shifter Boxed Set offers readers twelve shifter books by authors such as Adriana Hunter, Georgette St. Clair and Eve Langlais among others – for only $.99! Just out on March 4th, the description page warns that the special price is for a limited time (and then it will go to $9.99, still a bargain) so get it at the special price while it lasts.

Carrie Ann Ryan has got a terrific book bundle for the first three books in her Dante’s Circle series, featuring paranormal creatures who find their future in the form of humans with a bit of the otherwordly in them. Usually these books go for $3.99 each, but you can get over 650 pages of the three novels together for only $2.99 right now. Yowza! Grab it before the fourth book, Tangled Innocence, comes out in April.

Tawny Weber‘s fun short, Rules of Engagement, is only $.99 and it’s a good example of the great brand of military hero you get when signing on board for a Weber romance. When a woman who has always crushed on her brother’s best friend finds herself being propositioned for hot sex in a moonlight garden she says, “yes!” knowing she’s not his type. While the hero has always steered clear of the feisty due to the sister card and the fact that she’s nothing like the petite, little woman types he’s preferred in the past, he’s a little astonished to discover what his “rules of engagement” have been designed to discover – the perfect woman for him – might have been all wrong all this time.

Six well-known romantic suspense authors – Elisabeth Naughton, Alexandra Ivy, Cynthia Eden, Laura Wright, Katie Reus, and Joan Swan – have banded together to produce the Sinful Seconds Boxed Set (meant to follow their other highly successful set, Wicked Firsts). Out on St. Patrick’s Day, you’re the one who will feel lucky reading quality books from these best-selling authors, it’s only $2.99 (and the preceding boxed set has been marked down to a mere $.99) so read the descriptions and see if these tempting novels should be in your ereader.

Fans of romantic suspense (particularly ones who enjoy the occasional paranormal element) will want to pre-order the great bargain, Dangerous Dozen Romantic Suspense Box Set while it’s only $.99 for twelve books by authors like Paige Tyler, Maureen Child, Tawny Weber, Nina Bruhns, and Charity Pineiro among others. Nothing like getting 3300 pages (no, that is not a typo) for this kind of bargain, right? Undercover cops, investigative reporters and determined shifters pepper these pages, but that price seems to have a deadline, so I plan on ordering this long before its April 7th release date and encourage you to do the same!

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

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, December 1, 2013

1 Dec

Upcoming Books and New Releases

For romance readers who can’t get enough of hot boxers and MMA fighters, I strongly suggest you run (don’t walk) to Abby NilesLove to the Extreme series. The second book, Fighting Love, is due out on December 31st (pre-ordered, woohoo!) and features former Middleweight champion and ladies man Tommy “Lightening” Sparks who not only just lost his title, but also his home when it burned down. Forced to move in with his best friend since they were children, vet Julie Rogers, he wakes up when Julie starts sniffing around another fighter, realizing she’s actually an unbelieveably desirable woman…and he suddenly has something worth fighting for. To make this an even more delicious announcement, Abby Niles is having a terrific $100 gift card to the bookseller of your choice giveway on her blog. Enter before January 3rd.

Paula Altenburg just released the next installment of her Demon Outlaws series, Black Widow Demon, the story of a half-demon woman escaping her fundamentalist stepfather only to embark on a mission of revenge. An intense mortal stranger known as Blade is on his own path to redemption and decides to help her reach a friend who can help her, while trying to persuade her to release her vendetta, but their journey reveals that both their futures are about to change. Publisher Entangled is also running a giveaway over the next month, offering five $10 Amazon or B&N gift cards to winners, so fill out the Rafflecopter entry when adding this book to your to-read list.

It’s no secret that I adore Lauren Dane’s writing, so I was thrilled to see that she’s partnered with author Megan Hart to publish a duology (is that what you call an anthology with two stories?) on December 3rd entitled There All Along. The stories sound amazing, but even more intriguing that (despite the cover – not that I’m complaining) these stories are set in futuristic worlds. Considering Dane nailed science fiction romance in her jaw-droppingly awesome Federation Chronicles series, I feel like I’m in good hands. As usual.

Fans of the computer geek turned hunky hero will want to check out Cat Johnson‘s latest reissue from her Red, Hot & Blue series, Matt, which just came out on November 26th. The 11th book in this successful series, Matt focuses on Matt Coleman, certified genius and the dependable computer guy for Task Force Zeta. Having watched so many of team find love and happiness, he’s even more disgusted that he never goes on assignment. But when a chance comes for him to head to Dubai, and in the company of the only female agent on the task force Samantha Coleman, needed to infiltrate a modern-day harem to ferret out a terrorist. Things are going to get hot in the desert with this unlikely pairing as they discover they are more than compatible on assignment – and in the bedroom.

I adore Lisa Marie Rice and her various suspense series, so I was thrilled to see that she has packaged her Dangerous series in a boxed set. Ignore the Amazon list that says its 100 pages – that’s not even possible considering the length of each book. Three kickbutt books – one about a military operative who has dreamt of the wealthy young woman who he loved as a homeless boy, another about an agent who feigns interest in a small town librarian who is friends with a deadly target only to discover his interest is very real, and finally (my favorite) a deadly arms dealer who fall first in love with an artist’s work only to then fall for the artist herself even though he puts in her mortal danger by doing so – for $11.04 is completely worth it. If you haven’t had a chance to try this great series from Rice, take this opportunity to do so.

Jill Shalvis can always be counted upon to give us a great Christmas novella, and she’s leading off a terrific anthology – A Christmas to Remember – along with Kristen Ashley, Hope Ramsay, Molly Cannon, and Marilyn Pappano. Filled with small town goodness, sexy firefighters and doctors, war widows, and holiday magic, this 225+ page compilation by Forever Yours publishing is only $1.99 right now and will come out on December 3rd, so get your copy ASAP.

New author Jamie Wyman just debuted her newest book, Wild Card, via Entangled Publishing, this past week, and it’s got some of my favorite elements – troublesome gods and goddesses interfering in people’s lives. Catherine Sharp’s soul has been won by the Greek Goddess of Discord and while she didn’t enjoy her previous dead end job, weird tasks for her new mistress aren’t exactly a cake walk. When Coyote, the Native American trickster god claims to have won her in a poker game, Cat has enough and enlists a satryr, Marius, with his own bone to pick with the goddess. Together they might be able to reclaim their lives and destiny, if their growing feelings for one another don’t complicate the situation. Fans of Think Geek, the store that is a mecca for the unashamedly nerdy, will be thrilled to know that Entangled even has a contest over the next month for a gift card to that store and custom poker chips to celebrate this debut paranormal romance novel.

Steampunk goddess Meljean Brook just announced that her wonderful novellas, The Blushing Bounder and Wrecked, both part of her enormously successful Iron Seas series, are now available as stand alone books, for those fans who were reluctant to purchase them in anthology form bundled with the work of other authors. Gorgeous covers and the price of $.99  and $1.99 respectively make these books a steal.

Giveaways

Twins are vital to plenty of romance novels, including historical romance writer Victoria Morgan whose latest novel, The Heart of a Duke, comes out on December 3rd. Lady Julia Chandler’s patience is wearing thin as the Duke of Bedford is taking forever to propose, so she decides to take the reins in hand and corner him with a kiss to hasten things along. What she doesn’t take into account is that the Duke’s twin brother has returned after ten years due to a note that told him to come home and claim his destiny and a subsequent fire that almost took his life. Something is afoot and his evil brother might be behind it, but in addition to solving the mystery he know has to contend with a fascination with the bold woman who deserves more than the Duke of Bedford. Enter the Goodreads giveaway before December 3rd for a chance to win!

Coastal Romance blogger Jenny Schwartz (and that’s the coast of Australia, FYI) is having a Christmas Blog Hop giveaway until December 24th, where you could win a $100 gift card to the ebookseller of your choice and 26 ebooks from this writing group’s authors. Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter entry on the website and sit back with your fingers crossed that you will get an extra wonderful holiday present this season!

In what sounds like a tantalizing new science fiction/military suspense series, The D.I.R.E. Agency, new author Joni Hahn is publishing the first book, Agent I1: Tristan, a second generation Navy SEAL who just finished getting some scientific enhancements to his body (like transportation and invisibility). His ramped up ability means it’s even more important to steer clear of relationships, but he can’t help coming to the aid of one of his fellow agents when he asks him to help take out his sister’s fiancee. Rachel Monroe cannot believe that her brother has ruined her plan to help her mother when he asked his friend to transport her (seriously?!) to a remote island. Now not only is she stuck with a sexy agent when that job description is literally the last one she’d consider when falling for someone. It may be too late for both of them, however… With this book due out on December 16th, interested science fiction romance fans might want to consider entering the Goodreads giveaway before December 8th to see if they can win a copy.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Sara Ramsey added a fourth book to her Muses of Mayfair series, The Earl Who Played with Fire, and if you haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet, you can enter for a chance to win it on the Goodreads giveaway. Demure Prudence Etchingham leads quite the double life – not only is smitten with her best friend’s brother, but she’s also responsible for some of the top forgeries around London, created so she can raise enough money to avoid marriage since she can’t have the man she wants. Alex Staunton, the wealthy Earl of Staunton, has managed to hide his feelings for his sister’s best friend as his family suffers from a curse that prevents them from marrying the woman of his dreams. When an enemy takes an interest in Prudence, Alex realizes he must figure out a way to break the curse and save the woman he loves. Be sure to fill out the entry form prior to December 5th for your chance to win.

It’s impossible not to love Jill ShalvisAnimal Magnetism series (well, I guess you could not love if you disliked humor, adorable animals, brave heroines, or hot former military men, but that’s your business, you poor sap), but if for some reason you haven’t yet bought the latest book in the series, Rumor Has It, there is a Goodreads giveaway where you can win a copy if you apply prior to December 5th. You’ll want to read the story of returning soldier Griffin Reid, returning home having not told his friends and family about the career ending head injury he suffered overseas. His sister’s best friend, the quirky and gorgeous Kate Evans, not only manages to ride herd on a bunch of fourth graders each day but she takes care of her father and difficult siblings. She wants something just for her and nothing could fit that bill more than sexy times with Griffin, who she has lusted after for years. Although he knows Kate doesn’t do casual and that’s all Griffin does, he can’t help playing with fire, and soon they both realize this situation is a lot more complicated than they imagined.

Fun Stuff

Do you remember my telling you about Oyster, the Netflix-like subscription source that offers a ton of books (including romance novels) to readers? That company is offering gift subscriptions for people you love who are using Apple devices (remember they need to run OS 7 for the best clarity) in 1, 3, 6, or 12 month increments (or you can choose your own number of months). You can either have the gift notification emailed to your recipient or it looks like you can have something to put in your loved one’s stocking, but either way, you’re giving them over 100,000 books for the holiday. Pretty sweet!

As the year winds to a close, best of lists are bound to pop up. For paranormal romance lovers, I can heartily recommend taking a look at Vampire Book Club’s Best of 2013 list – they have hit every wonderful book that came out this year and would be a great guide to insure you didn’t miss something spectacular (because there’s a LOT of spectacular on there!).

Audiobooks lovers are always picky about headphones, particularly if they enjoy their recorded books while exercising. LG is coming out with a sleek set of headphones in the next couple of weeks, their Tone Ultra line, which connects to your device via Bluetooth, so no more annoying, bouncing (or too short) cable going to your phone or MP3 player. With easy to use volume controls and a microphone on the stable band that goes around your neck, you can actually switch quickly from listening to your latest romance novel to answering a phone call.

While fans of Nora Roberts have usually heard about how she wrote her first book after being snowed in with her two very young sons in 1979, it’s fascinating to hear about how her previous work and her many creative endeavors left her unsatisfied until she tried writing. Take a look at The Popular Romance Project’s 5 minute interview with this funny, prolific author and enjoy the insight into her life.

Ereader fans know that there is nothing more frustrating than being out of charge when you are right in the middle of a great book with no outlet in sight! For just those moments, Mimoco offers adorable, fun batteries which can plug in to give extra life to your smartphones or tablets (and they come with the cables you need to connect to all major devices including Apple products). Made to look like crayons, hot dogs or spray paint cans, these fun additional power sources are around 3.5 inches tall, less than an inch in diameter, and charge via your USB port. At around $30, this seems like fun added insurance against bookus interruptus and one easily carried in a purse or pocket.

Great Deals

J.D. Robb fans will want to snag the novella Midnight in Death, the eighth installment of that author’s In Death series starring Eve Dallas (and there are over thirty seven books and numerous novellas to enjoy in this hugely popular mystery/suspense series). This book not only details Eve and her husband Roarke’s rather troubled holiday (murderers do not respect Christmas) but is also currently available for free for the Kindle edition on Amazon.

Kerrelyn Sparks is universally adored for her Love at Stake series – a fifteen plus book series still going strong since its start in 2005 – and you know have a chance to see how it all began. Right now, the first book in the series, How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire, is on sale for $1.99 for the Kindle edition. A desperate vampire with a broken fang and a human dentist who is not a fan of the sight of blood is quite a pair, particularly after the dentist in question is the target of a hit by the Russian mafia for having witnessed something she shouldn’t.

In a retelling of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew (or Kiss Me Kate for you musical fans), historical romance author Liana LeFey‘s To Make a Match, the third and most recent addition to her A Scandal in London series, Lady Victoria Lennox desperately wants to have a husband and family of her own, but her difficult older sister Amelia has to marry first. Victoria decides to hasten things along but arranging a scandal with Lord Julius Cavendish but Julius is way more interested in the sister marking the arrangements rather than the stubborn older one. He arranges for his friend, Lord Withington to take on that particular dragon as a decoy suitor, but it turns out Withington actually likes the woman! This comedy of errors is going to unravel and the question is, will there be a happily ever after for these players? On sale for $1.99 at Amazon right now.

My admiration for Tessa Bailey and her Line of Duty series is well known, particularly with the incredible addition of Asking for Trouble, the fourth novel in that outstanding group of books which just came out this past Monday. If you haven’t yet sampled this hot collection (it is published by Entangled’s Brazen line after all), you have a great opportunity to try it with the first book in the series, Protecting What’s His, discounted to only $.99. A hot dominant cop and the sexy young neighbor on the run who steals his heart is worth not just a read, but a subsequent re-read (I think I’m up to about six times, now). Get it!

christmas-214228_150On a personal note, I want to let everyone know that I’m planning on doing my usual December Read-a-Thon this year where I publish a review each day on a holiday themed book or novella. I’ll still publish the occasional non-holiday book (there are some really good ones coming out after all!), but hopefully I’ll be able to give you 31 days of holiday romance goodness as my present to you.

Happy reading this week!

R. C. Ryan’s Josh Is Great Western Suspense in Her Wyoming Sky Trilogy

17 Oct

Josh (Wyoming Sky #2 – Josh and Sierra) by R. C. Ryan (Forever, 2012)

Sometimes I just wake up, look at my to-read list and think, “Today, I really need a Western romance.”

I’m not 100% sure what spurs it, but the feeling has something to do with wanting independent people working for themselves on land that speaks to them. Horses and cowboys are always great, but not required, and if the author really, truly can bring a region to life – to the point of making me practically breathe in that fresh air – then I’m happy as a clam.

R. C. Ryan is just this kind of author and Josh, the second of her Wyoming Sky trilogy about three brothers living with their father and grandfather while working the family ranch, satisfied my every craving.

Josh Conway has always loved the Teton Mountains which back up to his family’s ranch, Devil’s Wilderness, in the Big Sky country of Wyoming. Since he was a child, he has disappeared for hours on end to seek solace in the ridges and wildlife of the mountains, and even as an adult is often called upon by the Park Rangers to help find lost hikers because of his intimate knowledge with the land.

When he’s asked to find one stray wildlife photographer, Sierra Moore, he feels mostly annoyance at having to face the bad weather to hunt down yet another person who didn’t know their limits. He’s therefore shocked to discover not only is she fine in her snug tent but she’s indignant that he assumed she needed rescuing.

Sierra actually does need rescuing but not from the climb. When the handsome rancher accompanies her back to the ranger station, Sierra is dismayed to find a threatening note from the man she fled Paris to avoid. It seems he’s followed her all the way to Wyoming and is intent on making her his, no matter the cost. After a lifetime of trusting no man and not believing in love, Sierra finds herself surrounded by the loving Conway family who demonstrate daily how love can be a bedrock to build a life upon, with Josh Conway in particular indicating that his feelings for Sierra run deeper than just the fling she anticipated.

I feel so hard for both the hero and heroine of this novel! Sierra has had a crap childhood with distant, hippie parents and a series of boarding schools, yet she is so open to life personally and professionally in her photography that she spreads a brand of sunshine wherever she goes. Josh and his family respond to it, even as they circle the wagons against the threat of the wealthy European stalker she’s picked up along the way. Josh is the quiet type, but not a brooder (thank heavens) – just a man who feels nature and his mountains deeply and is thrilled to see them through Sierra’s enthusiastic eyes.

Quinn (Wyoming Sky #1 – Quinn and Cheyenne) by R. C. Ryan (Forever, February 2012)

There are several terrific elements that bind these three books together. The first is the sense of loss – grandfather Big Jim lost his beloved wife Clementine and five sons (all buried in the family graveyard and he talks to Clemmy often) and Cole’s wife, his beloved Seraphine, just disappeared one day. The family has no idea what happened to her and the pain of that mystery has been handled in different ways by the Conway men.

Of course, the minor characters of the two women who have worked at the ranch for over 20 years – Phoebe and Ela – as well as the townspeople further reinforce the sense of tight community bonds which support the Conway family. And the Conway family is exactly the type that romance readers love to read about. A tight, loving Irish family who work and play together with plenty of yelling and laughter, well, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to romance, isn’t it?

I expected the suspense plot to be an afterthought but there are really two layers here. One, the immediate danger to Sierra with her Euro-stalker in all his glory and two, the mystery of the Conway boys’ missing mother. It provides a nice juxtaposition as each of the Conway men feel almost more protective of the women in their lives after losing the grandmother and mother who meant so much to them.

It should not be shocking that R. C. Ryan does suspense well – you’ll note that the cover blurb for Josh is from none other than Nora Roberts. It turns out that R. C. Ryan is the contemporary pen name for historical and romantic suspense author Ruth Ryan Langan, who has actually published stories in multiple anthologies with Roberts when she writes as J. D. Robb. Quite an endorsement, eh? I think so, too.

I plan on devouring the other books in the Wyoming Sky series as I have found a family I’m ready to be a part of (and they have a jetted tub in the guest room – sign me up!). R. C. Ryan has crafted an emotional romance with three-dimensional characters in a setting that calls for facing fears and living life fully. Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending September 29th

29 Sep

Upcoming and Recently Published Books

Just in time for ramping up the creepy factor for Halloween is the latest in Heather Graham’s long-running Krewe of Hunters paranormal series, The Night Is Forever. Featuring an FBI paranormal investigator team (with unusual backgrounds and abilities), this installment features a woman who fears that a Civil War ghost is somehow responsible for the recent death of founder of the animal therapy facility where she works. Calling on her cousin’s team not only brings help but the possibility of something much more with one of the men trying to help her, if they can both survive the threat in the dark.

Fans of Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series (a group of novels which will appeal to fantasy, steampunk/gaslight, and historical fiction readers alike) will be elated to know that she’s publishing a short story in early November, Entwined, starring a noble roped into standing in for his good-looking brother when it comes to writing to his reluctant noble fiancee. Naturally the lovely but stubborn lady in question begins to fall for the letter-writer, but can a happily ever after magically find it’s way to them? At only $.99, this could very easily be in the “great deals” section, so pre-order your copy prior to the debut on November 5th.

Fans of Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series who were reluctant to buy the Burning Up anthology which included her fantastic novella, Here There Be Monsters, will be happy to note that it’s now available as a standalone as of October 1st, and for the bargain price of $2.99! This is one of the sweetest stories in the series, starring a red-haired blacksmith on the run from a mad pirate who would do anything to possess her, including play a very patient game until she comes to him. Hot, sexy, and oh-so-emotional, this is exactly what fans of Brooks expect (and love) about her writing!

Stephanie Laurens, the doyenne of Regency romance, has finally brought her website into the 21st century, with not only a modern look, but also an interactive Cynster family tree (hover over the marriage line of a couple and ALL the children pop up!). This is all just in time for her debut medieval novel, Desire’s Prize, coming out on October 21st, under the penname, M.S. Laurens. Despite the looming release date, the book is only as of today available for pre-order on iBooks (which seems baffling) and the book isn’t even listed on her Goodreads account yet. While we all shake our head over Laurens’ continuing struggle with social media (it’s a good thing her reputation allows for her fans seeking her out), it was wonderful to hear that she will be putting out an unrelated Regency novella in a duo anthology with Alison DeLaine, The Trouble With Virtue (December 1, 2013) as well as gearing up for the 2014 release of the next Barnaby Adair novel, The Masterful Mr. Montague. Yes, THAT Montague, the ever-elusive but capable Cynster man of business. I cannot wait to read his story (particularly if a few of my favorite Cynsters can drop in).

Contests and Giveaways

Historical Romance author Christina Brooke gives us a jaded, dissipated rake back from the dead and a schoolteacher who wants to prove to society that she can have a respectable season despite her family in the fourth book in the Ministry of Marriage series, London’s Last True Scoundrel. This book was released at the end of June, but if you’re curious enter the Goodreads giveaway by October 1st to see if you can get a copy.

In one of the most fun giveaways I’ve seen in awhile, talented romance author Tawna Fenske is promoting her upcoming novella, The Great Panty Caper, by asking people to take a picture of the panty thief in their life (my cats have so got this covered) and post it to various social media with the hashtag #pantycaper. The winner will get a $50 gift card to Victoria’s Secret (you have to replace those panties, after all!), awarded October 7th, with the novella released the following day. While you’re waiting, do yourself a favor and read Fenske’s Eat Play Lust in the meantime.

The Book Pushers blog is cleaning their shelves again and have grouped fabulous books by category. Stop over and leave a comment about which set would be your preference if your comment gets picked as a winner!

Foreplay, the first book in the Ivy Chronicles by Sophie Jordan, has the great erotic trope of an inexperienced woman who wants someone close to hear but goes out to find a sexy guy to teach her the ropes in bed – a guy she ends up falling for. If I don’t win this Goodreads giveaway ending October 1st, this one is on my “to buy” pile, for sure.

Fun Stuff

It’s not a secret how much I adore Lori Foster’s writing, but do you know about all the great free stuff she has available on her website? You can download, rippled abs wallpaper *fans self*, puzzles and crosswords based on her books (now that’s a book quiz I can recommend), send her a SASE for free bookmarks and magnets, or even arrange to have her autograph your ebook!

Fans of Bella Andre (and Lord knows I am a fan of her Sullivan series in a big way) need to check out the recent article from Publisher’s Weekly in which Andre lists her picks for the top 10 best romance books – of all time! It was no surprise to me to see my taste gelling with her, particularly with such wonderful classics as Nora Roberts’ Ardmore series, and more recent offerings like Sarah Maclean’s Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. The only thing I disagreed with was that none of her books were on this list!! Andre fans need to also make sure they’ve ordered her Sullivan Christmas novel, Kissing Under the Mistletoe, which just came out September 24th.

Pregnant women are sexy, seriously! One of my favorite new sites, Lovehoney (a British company), has a wonderful article detailing how pregnant women can enjoy flaunting their stuff with practical but pretty lingerie that flatters their expanding waistline. Forward it to the wonderful pregnant women in your life to let them know that the fun of lingerie does not have to be put aside for the next few months. (And remember that the second semester often has sex drives peaking for pregnant women!)

Great Deals

Tawny Weber’s fantastic Harlequin Blaze novel, A SEAL’s Seduction, is currently free on Amazon for the ebook version. Lovers of books with a military hero (particularly when the heroine is a brainy, red-haired scientist) will not be disappointed by this wonderful book!

Regency romance fans will want to take note that Julia Quinn’s Just Like Heaven (the first book in the Smythe-Smith Quartet) is on sale in ebook form for only $1.99. Leave it to this author to make a bad violinist with her eye set on an unattainable bachelor not realize that love comes in the form of her good-looking, twisted-ankle-prone guardian.

If you feel like some light comedy with a paranormal twist, Jana DeLeon’s Trouble in Mudbug – a tale of a Southern woman who thinks her life has just gotten better with her difficult mother-in-law’s death only to find she’s now haunting her – might be just what you need. Yes, there’s a romance element (as well as mystery) and lots of twists and turns, with plenty of laughs to boot. And it’s free in ebook form on Amazon!

Romantic Suspense readers are more then familiar with the name Maggie Shayne and her reputation for excellent, emotional books that have your heart pounding. Her 2001 release, Gingerbread Man, is now available for free on Amazon, and it’s worth a look if you haven’t get sampled Shayne’s writing. The story of a world-weary detective just off a brutal child murder and a woman who still battles her memories of her baby sister’s kidnapping will have you getting in quite the creepy October mood.

That’s the round up for this week, everyone. Happy Reading!! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending September 22nd

22 Sep

Upcoming Books

While I’m still waiting for Laura Kaye’s new book, As Hard As It Gets, to come out in late November, I’m delighted that the cover and blurb of the second book in this new series has been released. As Hard As You Can looks just as yummy not only in terms of the chiseled muscles and hot tattoo on its cover, but also for it’s plotline.

Lovers of small town romance should mark their calendar for Lizbeth Selvig’s new offering, Rescued by a Stranger, which comes out October 1st. I love a romance when one side of the couple blows into town running away from something, only to find the community tugging on his or her heartstrings. That this hero fits the bill and is driving a motorcycle only making it that much sweeter. *vroom*

It’s a rare delight when you an enjoy a historical romance involving American heiresses in London, but luckily for readers who do, Laura Lee Guhrke is planning on an entire series of them, starting with When the Marquess Met His Match, to be published on October 29th. A stone-broke Marquess gets cut off by his father for dissolute behavior, only to have to turn to the premier matchmaker in order to find a bride in a hurry – maybe one of the American heiresses shopping for a title. Only the matchmaker, who herself was one of those same Americans prior to her marriage and subsequent widowhood, won’t take him on as a client. What’s a desperate nobleman to do? Charm the matchmaker into marriage, naturally.

Kristen Ashley just announced that the latest book in her Colorado Mountain series, Jagged, is available for pre-order and the cover is definitely an improvement on past books in this series, reflecting the quality of the prose much more accurately. In this latest offering from Carnal, Colorado, a past love returns needing to convince the woman he left behind that he’s a changed man, but after his walking away and the devastation she’s recently endured, can she trust him again? With a cover blurb from Maya Banks, I think people will be lining up to order this novel long before the November 1st publication date.

Paranormal doyenne Kresley Cole announced this week that she’s jumping on the serial bandwagon with a three part erotic romance, The Professional, to be released in three parts this December. I’m sooooo not a fan of the serial (I read way too fast and don’t like to be kept waiting), but for a writer as good as Cole, I’m willing to make an exception, particularly since she’s smart enough to keep the publication dates close together, with everything coming out within a month.

Jennifer Ashley (who makes the Great Deals section with her bundled Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries) has her Shifters Unbound series fans waiting with baited breath for the upcoming books in that series, including the next full-length novel, Wild Wolf. Luckily for all of us, it’s recently been targeted by Amazon as one of the discounted paperback pre-orders, now listed at the price of $4.79. Snap it up! It will make the waiting until April 1st almost bearable knowing it was such a great deal.

Fans of J. D. Robb‘s Death series need to note (if they haven’t already) that the thirty-seventh book, Thankless in Death, just came out September 17th. Rabid fans of Eve Dallas and her sexy husband Roarke will find themselves watching their favorite couple dealing with not only his big Irish family but a family who wasn’t so lucky – they ended up murdered – and Eve must unravel the pieces before the killer strikes again.

Contests and Giveaways

I love historical romance when the hero/rake finds a beautiful woman who seems respectable on the surface, but secretly has “underground contacts” that make her far from a shrinking violet – Tracey Devlyn’s third book in her Nexus series, A Lady’s Secret Weapon, fits the bill! Lucky for me, the Goodreads giveaway ending September 27th, is giving away five copies so I have a chance to win it! If not, the book comes out October 1st.

Everyone is more than aware of my love for anything written by Lauren Dane so I’m excited that her next book in the Brown Siblings series, Drawn Together, not only is coming out October 1st, but has a Goodreads giveaway (deadline September 26th). With the complex heroine of the non-monogamous tattoo artist Raven and Jonah Warner (whose dominant brother, Levi, we’ve already fallen for in the novella Sway, found in the Cherished anthology), I know that Dane’s writing will make me fall for these two just as I do every other couple (or triad) that she writes.

The wonderful Paranormal Romance blog is giving away three copies of the recently released Twilight Hunter, the first book in Kait Ballenger’s new Execution Underground series (and it looks freakin’ awesome!). All you have to do is leave a comment on the post by September 26th, naming your favorite bad boy. Not an easy task with so many of them out there to love, but it looks like we might all have another with werewolf hunter Jace McCannon!

Category romance fans are always looking to find a new great author to follow, so if you fall into this category, you may want to try the I Heart Presents blog’s giveaway of The Divorce Party by Jennifer Hayward, last year’s winner of the So You Think You Can Write contest. Simply leave a comment on the blog post about what inspires you by October 3rd to enter.

Fun Stuff

The people behind Klever Case know what they are doing when it comes to customized Kindle covers. Whether you want your new paperwhite to look like a classic hardcover book (Dracula and The Great Gatsby are popular) or your looking for a just a generic book cover, these are your best bet. You can even customize the bookplate inside! While this is a British company, the additional two pounds for shipping for US orders is hardly prohibitive. And they make them for all major ereaders, including the iPad mini. Just be careful you don’t put your ereader on a shelf and then forget it doubles as a book now!

Gracious! It seems 3D printing has taken an understandable turn in the naughty toys department. Whether the gentlemen in your life gets laser scanned for his…um…replica, or whether you help him with the creation the old fashioned way (warning: the Clone-a-Willy kit is very messy), the end result will be an exact replica to keep you company when he isn’t able to. No, there will not be accompanying pictures for this one! ;-D

Media literacy is incredibly important, particularly when sex education is involved. As I mentioned in my post about condom use and romance novels, all too many students are leaving high school early or attending schools where abstinence education is paramount, resulting in a lack of understanding of how our bodies work and preventing diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Compounding the problem is the rampant misconception regarding sex and what a “normal” body looks like, a lack of understanding that many sexuality professors lay at the feet of easily accessed pornography. To counter it, a hilarious video using kitchen foods has been created to help people understand the realities of sexuality versus the porn version. Be warned, you will laugh out loud!

Avid readers might empathize with librarians who just love reading so much, that they choose awesome tattoos which reflect their passion. Whether it’s a tarot card, the symbol for library or just their favorite Dewey Decimal number, the quirky magazine Mental Floss has put together quite a few of them for your viewing pleasure. Not willing to make that kind of a commitment? Publisher’s Weekly reviewed a great book of temporary tattoos which might be more your speed.

I’m a gigantic fan of Nalini Singh‘s Psy-Changeling series (HUGE fan) so it was fun to see the video from her recent booksigning where she talks not only about how we are all going to have to wait for the books about the younger changelings (nertz!) but how she feels that she’ll be writing this series into her nineties. From your mouth to God’s ears, Nalini!

Anyone within travel distance of Princeton, New Jersey may want to check their calendar to see if they are free on Thursday, October 24th and Friday the 25th. Princeton University is hosting The Popular Romance Author: A Symposium on Authorship in the Popular Romance Genre, beginning with a keynote on Thursday night starring literature professor Kay Mussell and romance author Jennifer Crusie. The keynote is free and open to the public, and there is only a small fee for the various panels and presentations of the academic papers presented on Friday, so see if your calendar has an opening for what sounds like an educational couple of days. Kind of appropriate the Princeton mascot is a tiger, eh? Mrrrrrooooowwww.

I’m a huge fan of the free MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) offered through various services, and I have to say that Coursera is my favorite. For enthusiastic readers, there always seems to be a course available to take your understanding to the next level and two are starting up soon that might interest readers of this blog. The University of Michigan has a Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, The Modern World course that looks great – beginning with fairy tales and taking the reader chronologically up through 19th century horror to the modern era (Bradbury, LeGuin, Doctorow). For historical fiction readers and writers, Plagues, Witches and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction not only has a roster of great reading and analysis, but the second half of the course has award-winning historical fiction authors teaching about their techniques and methods. And it’s FREE. Both courses clearly state on the information pages how many hours per week they take and you can do the exercises or not – remember it’s free. This is no guilt learning at its finest!

Great Deals

Suspense maven Lisa Gardner’s first Family Secrets novel, Maggie’s Man, is on sale at the ebook price of only $2.99. First published in 1997 under her Alicia Scott pen name, this trilogy stars three half-siblings attempting to uncover the truth about their shadowed family. In this first installment, Maggie Ferringer gets a lot more than jury duty when she reports to the courthouse, and is instead taken hostage by Cain Cannon, who was wrongly convicted of killing his girlfriend six years ago. He wants revenge and Maggie is coming along for insurance, but soon their relationship turns a corner and it’s uncertain who is the captive.

Everyone knows my love of Jennifer Ashley, whether it’s her stellar historical romance Highland Pleasures series or her heart-pounding paranormal novels from the Shifters Unbound series, but were mystery lovers aware she has a great historical mystery series written under her other pseudonym, Ashley Gardner? The Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series now offers the first four books bundled together for only $.99 for people who would like to sample this different side of a talented author.

Shannon McKenna is a terrific suspense writer and I loved her novel, One Wrong Move, for it’s taking a highly unlikeable uber-alpha hero and revealing his internal marshmallow self when it came to a heroine with a highly scarred past. Now this well-written novel is on sale in ebook form for only $.99. While it’s book nine in McKenna’s McClouds and Friends series, you need zero acquaintance with the other books to enjoy it (although I’ll warn you that you’ll find yourself snapping the others up after this steamy adventure).

Speaking of awesome suspense, Lori Foster is going to debut her book Getting Rowdy in just a couple of weeks, and it would serve you well to nab the previous book in her Love Undercover series, Run the Risk, considering it’s reduced to $1.99 for the Kindle version. These are angsty, hot reads with plenty of danger and heroes who underestimate the sexy heroine only to realize she’s their perfect match. You will NOT be sorry you tried them – I promise!

What a terrific week for readers! Enjoy, everyone. 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending September 8th

8 Sep

Upcoming Books (and some Great Deals)

Fans of Lynsay SandsArgeaneau Vampires series should take special note that Amazon has the paper version of the next book – One Lucky Vampire – deeply discounted at only $4.79 for this pre-order which will debut on September 24th. With the Kindle price above $6 it would be well worth getting the print copy for this latest addition to the long-running paranormal series.

Also part of this discounted group of upcoming novels is Julia Quinn‘s The Sum of All Kisses, the third book in her Smythe-Smith Quartet. This tale of an estranged couple reunited through circumstances only to find that the fire between them still burns hot is already a best-seller in the historical romance category on Amazon, even though it won’t be published until October 29th. Maybe it’s not just Quinn fans but bargain hunters snapping it up since this book is also priced at $4.79 right now.

Another great writer in the paranormal romance category is Gena Showalter and her Otherworld Assassins series (which I haven’t tackled) is now added to my to-read list with the soon-to-be-published book in the series, Black and Blue. The second novel in a series focusing on a paranormal black ops group and the romantic interests who bring them into the light, this book also bears the fantastic price of $4.79 for the print version, but you won’t get it until it’s release date of October 22nd.

If you are like me, you love Nora Roberts, particularly when she crosses over to the dark side. As of October 29th and just in time for Halloween, Roberts debuts the first book in her Cousins O’Dwyer series, Dark Witch, featuring an American who finds relatives and possibly the love of her life in Ireland only to have to face sinister forces determined to undermine her chance at happiness. Sadly this book isn’t part of the discounted pre-orders, and with the Kindle version at $7.99 versus the paperback price of $9.99, e-reader owners will save a little money.

Contests and Giveaways

I’m always wistful that there aren’t more historical romances set in the early twentieth century since it’s such an interesting time period, so I was excited to see the Goodreads giveaway of Kate Furnivall‘s Shadows on the Nile combining family secrets, impoverished aristocrats and sinister Egyptian artifacts in these early decades. Enter by September 15th to see if you can win a copy before its official release date of October 1st.

Lara Adrian‘s Midnight Breed series definitely has a big following, so fans might enjoy trying to win a copy of the prequel novella, A Touch of Midnight, featuring Gideon and Savannah’s story, as well as also winning some featured swag from the author! Enter the Goodreads giveaway by September 13th. The series now also has a companion book detailing the characters and world of the series, The Midnight Breed Companion, which you can also win if you enter before September 10th.

Mary Balogh‘s The Survivors Club series partners historical romance with damaged heroes and the women who finally pull them into the world, and the second full-length book, The Arrangement, is no exception. Published on August 27th, this book features a war hero battling his demons who is moved to a marriage of convenience when a woman standing up for him has her safety and reputation threatened. Enter the Goodreads giveaway before September 10th to see if you can win this novel.

It seems to be a fact of the romance world that – like Dukes in historical romances – there can never be too many billionaires. J. S. Scott is hosting a giveaway of a collection of four novels in her self-published The Billionaire’s Obsession series. Enter by September 11th to win. This collection could easily go in the “Great Deals” section as well, since all four books can be had for a mere $.99 for the ebook collection, so if you don’t win, it’s hardly a splurge to enjoy them!

A lot of romance readers also love mystery novels, particularly those with a strong romantic element, and Tasha Alexander‘s Lady Emily series is one of my top picks in this category. With the eighth book debuting on October 1st, Behind the Shattered Glass, we have the chance to see Lady Emily and her oh-so-sexy spy husband Colin, use their sleuthing partnership to see who murdered a Marquess on the cusp of his engagement. If you can’t wait for publication (or simply want to see if you can get it earlier), do yourself a favor and enter the giveaway before September 12th. (By the way, did you ever wonder about Emily and Colin’s wedding? Enjoy the free short story online which serves as a prequel to Tears of the Pearl.)

Fun Stuff

You know how I think the Good Men Project is a gold mine of great writing, and the post I read this week – Dads and Bras by William Lucas Walker – not only had tears running down my face from laughing at how difficult it is for a wonderful dad to support his blooming daughter in selecting foundation undergarments, but it simultaneously renewed my faith in smart parents who realize that the community of adults surrounding their children will enrich that child’s life in all ways. And yes, Mr. Walker, Spanx is a bizarre name for underwear, when you really think about it!

I think the first couple who I adored seeing live happily ever after (with all the highs and lows that this involves) was Anne and Gilbert Blythe, who were clearly meant for each other the minute Gilbert teased Anne to breaking a slate over his head in the one-room schoolhouse on Prince Edward Island. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series is legendary children’s literature, and I consider her an author who taught me that good literature has plenty of detail to show that ordinary life (and love is extraordinary). Enjoy this trip down memory lane as The Hairpin blog celebrates 105 years of book covers for this iconic novel.

Author Damon Suede has a fantastic post about the history of tropes in literature which for romance readers is fascinating – how many of us skim the publisher blurb to determine if this a “secret baby” or “friends to lovers” novel before buying it? In his post at Romance University, Suede explains to us that the use of tropes to communicate with readers or listeners goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks who knew way ahead of time how things were going to end (and in their stories, it was usually badly!).

That’s it for this week (the Good Deals were laced throughout), so I hope you have a terrific week of reading! Enjoy!

Zach Sullivan Gets Your Engine Running in Bella Andre’s Latest, If You Were Mine

26 May

If You Were Mine by Bella Andre (May 24, 2012)

My mother and I were chatting yesterday about our latest reads – actually having yet another “how does she do it?” discussion about Nora Roberts since we had both read and loved her latest, The Witness – when I hopped online to look at what the kindle edition would cost since I thought I’d be rereading it. That’s when I gasped and clutched my arm as if I were having a heart attack.

“Jesus, what’s wrong?” my mother asked, clearly alarmed at my Sarah Bernhardt response to looking at Amazon.com.

I pointed a finger at my MacBook screen. “Did you know that Bella Andre’s latest Sullivan book came out – YESTERDAY?!”

Cue both of us grabbing our iPads and ordering it, right then and there. My mother made some excuse to leave about two minutes later claiming she was “tired from gardening.” Uh-huh.

I was kicking myself that I had promised to attend a baseball playoff game, but sucked it up and made the trip (and actually had a great time). But baseball made me think of Ryan Sullivan (the Sullivan brother who is a major league baseball player), which made me think of Zach Sullivan, who we finally get to see fall, and fall hard, in Bella Andre’s latest installment of the Sullivan family series, If You Were Mine.

Now I haven’t been shy in my deep admiration and love for all things Bella Andre. Not long ago, I wrote a blog post on the first four books of the series, claiming that this series is one of the best values on the romance market and I stand by that statement today. When so many authors, pressured to produce multiple books per year, struggle with maintaining a consistent quality, Bella Andre channels her own inner Nora Roberts and gives us another heart-stoppingly amazing addition to this series, which is claiming the spot of favorite contemporary romance series for me.

Zach Sullivan loves working with cars and enjoys the benefits of having built his love into a chain of successful automotive stations, but he enjoys fast women as much as fast cars, sporting a serious “no commitment” policy with the opposite sex. When his firefighter brother Gabe drops off the puppy of his soon-to-be stepdaughter for Zach to dogsit, Zach figures a couple pounds of puppy can’t be too much for him handle. But it is. As he finds his life turned upside down by a Yorki named Cuddles, a friend sends him the best dog trainer in the San Francisco area, Heather Linsey.

How I picture Atlas and Cuddles (although I’m pretty sure this is a Chihuahua but you get the idea)

And that “no commitment” policy gets reevaluated. Heather is far from impressed with Zach’s yelling at the puppy but she quickly realizes that she’s the one who might be over her head. Zach is even more good looking than his movie star brother, Smith, and his sense of humor has her more worried than his chiseled features or killer body. Heather is fine with a no commitment physical relationship, but someone who makes her laugh could find their way into her heart. The fact her faithful Great Dane, Atlas, has a new best friend in Zach’s puppy charge is simply another red flag on the whole situation, one that has Heather saying, “No” firmly and repeatedly to Zach’s advances.

Zach hasn’t really heard “no” from women before and hearing it from Heather makes him realize that they time they spend together not having sex is actually more amazing than the time he has spent having sex with other women. He knows this is dangerous, but can’t stop himself from putting his heart on the line for her.

But Zach and Heather both have their own brand of damage. Heather had a terrible childhood with the discovery that her doting father, who she thought loved her mother, was a philanderer all his life – and her mother knew about it. Watching two people fake a marriage has put her off the idea that true love exists and actually led to a bout of cutting when she was younger. Working with animals, along with therapy, helped release her feelings in a more productive way, but her heart has some rather substantial walls around it and she’s unwilling to risk it, even with all the feelings Zach stirs in her.

I Only Have Eyes for You by Bella Andre (February 21, 2012) Sophie & Jake’s Story

Zach is a great tortured hero, simply because you don’t realize how damaged he is at first glance. I loved him in Sophie Sullivan’s story, when he beat the crap out of his best friend Jake for getting her pregnant, and he’s always been a great brother and good businessman. But in this book we discover that Zach’s strong resemblance to his father, who succumbed to a sudden aneurysm in his thirties leaving a wife and eight young children, has led Zach to avoid falling in love because he’s not convinced that he’ll be around for that long. The fast cars and faster women have been a natural outcome of this secret belief that his days are numbered, and he may not be able to let go of his pain to make a life with Heather.

Walk, don’t run, to your nearest ebook vendor to purchase this book. Andre has once again crafted deep characters you instantly root for, praying they will work through their emotional baggage and realize the love of lifetime is at their fingertips if they would just take a chance. The dogs are incredible minor characters and seeing our favorite Sullivans (the ones already partnered happy and healthy and the ones still single having their clock ticking) gives you the feeling that you are catching up with friends.

I’ve put an Amazon alert so I’ll be notified next time when Bella Andre publishes another book. I don’t want to miss an hour of reading when Ryan Sullivan’s book, Let Me Be the One, comes out in the fall!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day: The Best Irish Trilogy – the Gallaghers of Ardmore by Nora Roberts

17 Mar

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s only natural that a romance reader’s fancy turns to thoughts of Ireland, specifically the spell the Emerald Isle casts on the romances set on its green shores.  When I hear “Irish romance” without a doubt my thoughts go to the best Irish romance trilogy EVER, Nora Roberts‘ The Gallaghers of Ardmore.

Originally published in 1999 and 2000 (thus earning it the label of “classic romance” for this blog), this was one of Roberts’ forays into adding a paranormal element into her plot.  I like recommending the book for people who are leery about paranormal, because it’s only a minor plot element, so it doesn’t put readers off, simply adding a tint of myth.  The Irish setting (and so many books set in Ireland do describe the environment, especially of rural or small village life as “magical”) also helps suspend disbelief and the faerie king provides a good foil for our heroes and heroines, prodding them to action because of his personal agenda, and berating them when it looks like they are going to louse everything up.  But I digress.

In Jewels of the Sun, American psychology professor Frances Jude Murray has left a painful divorce behind in Chicago, deciding to do a little research in the Irish cottage in the seaside town of Ardmore. She quickly discovers her grandmother’s cottage harbors a locally famous ghost, a sad, beautiful woman, Lady Gwen, who fell in love with Carrick, the Faerie prince. Desperate for her to run away with him, he attempted to bribe her on three occasions with diamonds, pearls, and sapphires, but each time she refused because he didn’t think to offer her his love. Gwen went on to marry and have children, but her soul still pines for him as he does for her. They are both trapped away from one another until three couples profess their true love to one another, accepting the gift they are being offered in the other person’s love and affection.

Aidan Gallagher runs his family’s tavern in Ardmore and while he did plenty of roaming (ahem) in his youth, he is content to provide food, drink and Irish music to his neighbors and the tourists of Ardmore. When this reserved beauty from America with family ties to the town enters his tavern, his body and mind go on full alert. Jude knows that she is not the type of woman to have a fling, but Aidan’s Irish charm and sexy body make this an ideal time to throw caution to the wind. They both enter into the relationship only to discover much more about themselves they thought possible, including the recognition that this passion for one another could indicate a deep and abiding love if they are willing to take the chance.

In a world of reformed man-whores, Aidan is a breath of fresh air.  It’s not that he wasn’t a little wild in his youth, but he doesn’t take an intimate relationship lightly and it’s clear he cares for Jude from the start.  Jude finds not only sexual satisfaction in Aidan but a warm friendship, friendship that extends to his brother Sean and sister Darcy and their family friends the O’Toole’s, particularly Darcy’s good friend, Brenna.  The classic repressed good girl, Jude has been living her life for other people, and it takes a good deal of bravery to cast that habit aside and begin to live for herself and what she wants.  The tavern scenes are particularly rich, and the hot scene of Jude modeling her new underwear set for Aidan at closing is quite a standout!

In Tears of the Moon, the redheaded tomboy spitfire Brenna O’Toole admits to herself that she has loved dreamy musician Shawn Gallagher from afar forever, but she’s never had the guts to show him.  Confident in her sexuality, she nevertheless has some self-esteem issues in the idea that she’s not a girly girl type to attract the men in droves.

This combination makes the two of them a clash of personalities (the central focus of the plot) as Brenna often makes quick decisions based on what she thinks is right, rather than coaxing others into her way of thinking. Her family life is both poignant and laugh out loud funny, and the way she uses the family handiman business to constantly be in the haunted cottage (now occupied by Shawn) is adorable.  Artistic Shawn needs a kick in the pants to stop hiding his talent and move past just being the cook in the Gallagher tavern and Brenna’s force of nature personality and gorgeous body have taken over his dreams, day or otherwise.

As in any good trilogy, not only do we have the window into Brenna and Shawn’s minds, but we get to see Aidan and Jude as a married couple providing secondary character depth and goodness.  This book really is more about two very different people showing each other that they can have more than just a physical relationship, but that it’s not necessarily going to come easy while they figure out how to work with each other rather than accidentally hurt their partner.  The standout scene has to be Brenna kissing Shawn for the first time “just to show him what he might be missing” in the front yard of the cottage.

But the curse for Carrick and Lady Gwen doesn’t get broken unless three couples are successful and the last Gallagher is going to be a tough nut to crack. Stunning Darcy brings men to their knees on a regular basis, a fact of which she is all too aware, but she struggles to find a man she can have an equal reaction to, particularly when she has convinced herself that she wants a rich man who can give her the travel and material goods she’s missed growing up in a working class household.  In Heart of the Sea, the Gallagher family tavern has entered into a partnership with American developer Trevor Magee, whose family has painful ties to the town of Ardmore.  Trevor and Darcy’s attraction is instant and should come with a “highly combustible” warning, but there are naturally complications.

Trevor doesn’t just look for thriving restaurant and taverns to purchase, his many companies also find musical acts and the Gallaghers, especially talented vocalist and musician Darcy, are solid gold.  When they commence their relationship, Darcy and Trevor begin to wonder how much of it is business with a little something extra and how much of it is something more?

This is the hardest of the three books for me to warm up to, mostly because while Darcy is a good friend and great sister, I find her focus on finding a rich man distasteful.  Trevor is a handsome, tortured character who saves the book for me, and it’s probably telling that the standout scene is not one between the couple, but rather the part of the book where Trevor is trapped with Jude during a storm and ends up helping her deliver her and Aidan’s daughter.

This trilogy lives in my ereader so I can have it wherever I go and it’s a rare year where I don’t reread the books a few times just to sigh over the Irish setting and enjoy the supernatural quality of love.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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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