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Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff, and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of January 26, 2014

26 Jan

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Self-publishing got a huge boost when historical powerhouse Stephanie Laurens jumped on the bandwagon and her latest novella, The Peculiar Case of Lord Finsbury’s Diamonds, came out January 6th, so go pick it up when you have a chance. Fans of her exceptional Cynster series will enjoy seeing a very pregnant Penelope Adair and her wonderful, crime-solving noble of a husband Barnaby (as well as the ubiquitous Stokes of the police force) join forces to solve a baffling mystery. That a new couple in the making is also desperate to get to the bottom of the murder forms her trademark Regency romance. Keep in mind that this book is one of her ongoing The Casebook of Barnaby Adair series featuring Barnaby and Penelope as well as new couples and I for one am interested to see the reception and type of stories which will emerge in this framework.

In just a couple of days, sensual paranormal and romantic suspense writer Cynthia Eden will be kicking off her new series, Phoenix Fire, by releasing the first novel, Burn For Me, on January 28th. Seeming to focus on paranormal creatures held against their will and the potential mates they encounter, this is a premise we’ve seen before but never with this level of sexual tension or Eden’s great writing. I was fanning myself just from the excerpts from Burn For Me and the second series book due in April, Once Bitten, Twice Burned.

Also on the 28th is the massive release of Jeaniene Frost‘s seventh book in the incomparable Night Huntress seriesUp from the Grave will be her last Cat and Bones novel and she has never written anything that didn’t blow my socks off so this one has been pre-ordered since last July. Frost admits that the couple might pop up in other books in the Night Huntress world (remember we still have another book in the Night Prince series and I’ve got my fingers crossed that Ian has evolved enough to be the hero in his own novel soon). With those possible novels on the horizon (and having the utmost confidence in the creative imagination residing in Frost’s mind), I’m happy to thank her for finally offering Cat and Bones a happily ever after since they’ve been through a lot in their time together! January 28th will be a little bittersweet, but with Frost at the helm, I’m sure to enjoy every page.

Good news for military romance lovers! The next Tawny Weber Uniformly Hot! Harlequin Blaze novel featuring her sexy SEALs will be out on March 18th. Entitled A SEAL’s Kiss, this delicious story involves a SEAL on leave who agrees to be a pretend fiancee to help a woman alleviate the worry of her ailing father. You can imagine that the “no sex” rule of the arrangement becomes increasingly harder to keep as our hero and heroine become attracted to one another! Pre-order it now from Amazon so the day after St. Patrick’s Day will be a little brighter for you.

Also due out on March 18th is Jennifer Ashley‘s latest addition to her unbelievably good paranormal series, Shifters Unbound. Feral Heat is the latest novella which focuses on Jace, the son of the leader and third in command from the Las Vegas Shiftertown who visits the Austin Shiftertown (bring on the sexy Morrisseys, thank you) to discover how to remove the crippling collars which render the shifters at the mercy of humans. When a shattered, beautiful woman, Deni, volunteers to be the test subject, Jace is moved by her circumstances and drawn to mate claim her, but it’s uncertain whether her fragile state can survive the collar removal so she can be a full mate to Jace. We met Deni, the wolf shifter in the novella featuring her brother, Lone Wolf, and this woman’s road has been a heartbreaking one. I cannot wait to see her (and Jace, who is a blisteringly hot feline if ever I saw one) get a HEA.

Erotic author Paige Tyler has succeeded in practically every subgenre of romance fiction – erotic, science fiction, romantic suspense, and paranormal – so I was thrilled to see that Sourcebooks Casablanca picked it  up and will be publishing her upcoming series, entitled X-Ops. The first book entitled Her Perfect Mate not only has a killer cover but a terrific premise. A human Special Forces hero is partnered with a diminutive, seemingly gentle covert ops partner, only to discover she can switch on her feline DNA to deadly effect when necessary – and he loves it. I’ve pre-ordered this one!

Historical romance readers always seem to like the novels of Erin Knightley, so they’ll be thrilled to see that the first book in her new series, Prelude to a Kiss, is due to be published on June 3rd. The Baron Next Door has a cranky war hero recovering from his injuries using the restorative waters at Bath consistently annoyed by the music coming from next door. Discovering the beautiful young musician creating it instills a very different feeling and it’s not long before his feelings undergo a radical change.

Contests and Giveaways

Suspense fans love Cristen Harber’s Titan series, so they will definitely want to enter the Goodreads contest to win book 4 of the series, Savage Secrets, about the firm’s new second-in-command who is on an undercover mission to nab a terrorist. Sounds like an average day at the office for this crew, but unfortunately for him he’s got some strange brain hallucinations he’s neglected to discuss with anyone and is posing as the newlywed husband to a gorgeous woman bent on revenge. Things suddenly just got a lot more complicated…

For those readers who can’t get enough MMA fighters (yes, I am one with you, sisters!) should be aware that Gina Maxwell just released her third book in her Fighting for Love series, Fighting for Irish, and it looks WONDERFUL (a hard-working waitress has to come up with thousands of dollars to cover an ex’s debt and the fighter she’s always loved from a distance steps up to offer himself as collateral *sigh*). Because it was only released on January 13th, we are still enjoying the blog tour and Entangled’s giveaway. Enter before February 6th and you’ll have a chance to win a $50 gift card to B&N or Amazon (reader’s choice). Did I mention the book is also ONLY $.99 RIGHT NOW?! Run and fight for your copy before it goes back to full retail.

Those angels over at Paranormal Romance blog have put together a book giveaway of some terrific authors (Gena Showalter, Michelle Hauf, and Maggie Shayne, for example) for readers who leave a comment on the post detailing their favorite paranormal romance author. I chickened out and revealed my tie between Jeaniene Frost, Nalini Singh and Ilona Andrews (seriously, talk about a Sophie’s Choice to choose a favorite!), but get your vote in before the January 30th deadline to see if you can win.

Fun Stuff

Who knew the Consumer Electronics show could be this exciting? The personal pleasure business OhMiBod revealed that they are offering a fabulous remote controlled vibrator, The Club Vibe 2.OH (*chuckle*). This beautifully crafted electronic device is a rechargeable vibrator which comes with a remote. While obviously a person or their lover can use the remote to activate the vibrator in a more traditional way to excite the wearer, this particular vibrator has a “club mode” which has the microphone of the remote initiate vibrations to the rhythm and intensity of the ambient music (or voice, etc.). This latest edition is a nice complement to the other company products like their Freestyle W:Wireless Music Vibrator which connects to your smartphone or MP3 player and syncs the vibrations of a rabbit style vibrator to the music you are listening to. Gives a new meaning to “beats per minute,” doesn’t it?

The Australian Romance Readers Association was kind enough to put one of their banquet’s most popular speakers, the wonderful Julia Quinn, online (in three parts) giving fans about 45 minutes of pure Julia, who has a wonderful back and forth with the moderator and fans and answers questions about her various series and characters, and her outlook on romance writing. You’ll find even more to love about her!

I know I’m not alone in freezing like a popsicle these last couple of weeks (I celebrated yesterday because it was a whole 6 degrees in my car when I got in it – and I was just ecstatic it wasn’t a negative number anymore!). What do you need to keep warm and make a fashion statement? A literary themed scarf, naturally! Those wonderful people at Book Riot have assembled a terrific list of book-related scarves, several of which look both warm and trendy, so go take a look.

A terrific article in The Atlantic details some recent research showing that regular sex actually improves brain function and long-term memory (while viewing pornographic images has the opposite effect) even making a connection that older adults with early onset Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to not have had sex recently. All the more reason to make that meaningful connection and improve your brain health!!

Great Deals

Donna Kauffman is not only a terrific author who moves the heartstrings but she also makes you hungry as delicious food (usually dessert) features prominently in her writing (thank god). Lucky for all of her devoted fans, Sugar Rush, the first book in her Cupcake Club series, is on sale for the ebook edition, currently only $2.51 on Amazon. When a baker returns to her small town is astonished that her former boss, a British powerhouse she nicknamed Chef Hot Cakes decides to film his cooking show in her storefront, she’s baffled as to why. He knows why he’s there, and it’s not to steal recipes..just her heart.

The first book in Lynda Aicher‘s well-rated Wicked Play erotic series is only $.99 right now, so BDSM fans might want to head over and pick up Bonds of Trust while it’s still at a great price to see if they want to try the other novels in the series. This first one features a heroine who ended a bad marriage and is more than ready to try out all the fantasies she was denied with her ex. Heading to the nearest sex club is naturally the next step (how many of those are there around the country, anyway?). She finds a Dom intrigued by introducing her to the lifestyle but what starts as instruction quickly becomes something much more emotional, and neither party knows if they are ready for that level of commitment.

Readers who love shifters as much as I do will want to take a look at the bundle, Shifter Seduction Box Set, which has novels by Eve Langlais, Mandy Harbin, Tressie Lockwood, S. K. Yule, Crymsyn Hart, and LeTeisha Newton. This wonderful collection definitely falls on the erotic end of the spectrum with this line-up with many of the books focusing on menage relationships that truly are unleashing the animal within. Mrrrooowwww.

Readers of this blog know how much I love the military romance chops of writer Kaylea Cross, particularly her fabulous Titanium Security series. In honor of the latest book of the series, Rekindled having been released just last week, the first book in the series, Ignited, is currently on sale for only $.99. Fans of well-written, detailed and emotional military romance will not be disappointed by Cross, so I’d recommend you pick up this book ASAP!

Happy reading this week! 🙂

Countdown to Christmas: To All a Good Night Is Sweeter Than a Cup of Hot Chocolate This Holiday Season

10 Dec

To All a Good Night by Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis, and HelenKay Dimon (Kensington Books, October 1, 2009)

We live in a great age for books. Back in the olden days before Amazon, you would have had to rely on friends or paperback exchange stores to find a holiday collection published from a few years ago. Even today, when we are fortunate to find them used, or better yet, download them instantly on an ereader, the paper versions of these books appear on supermarket and bookstore shelves in October/November and then are gone, never to be seen again in a retail store, by New Year’s Day.

Social networks geared toward reading, like Goodreads and LibraryThing, are godsends in that they offer terrific reviews and reader-generated lists of favorites. We can see what books people have loved based around themes, historical periods, or particular kinds of characters (military men, heroines with paranormal abilities, etc.). When I spotted the To All a Good Night anthology on a Goodreads list of great Christmas reads, I was elated. I mean, Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis and my recent happy find, HelenKay Dimon? Color me there.

These women do not disappoint. We have three hot, sweet stories with satisfying romantic endings, plenty of emotion, and a heated level of sensuality.

“Unleashed” by Donna Kauffman

I’m looking forward to reviewing Kauffman’s The Three Musketeers series after the holidays!

Based on the books of Donna Kauffman’s that I’ve read (and I’ve enjoyed all of them), her heroines are determined, honorable and unconventionally pretty, a combination I really like. Emma Lafferty fits this mold as a new business owner trying to get her petsitting business off the ground. She agrees to take an unusual two week job at the weekend home of an extremely wealthy older man over the holidays since she hopes it will help build up a more high-end clientele. Driving through a horrible ice storm, she barely makes it to the completely empty mansion before the roads become dangerous. Once there, she easily makes friends with the dogs and parrot in her care, but jumps out of her skin when a sexy male voice asks what she’s doing there.

Trevor Hamilton was hoping to get what he needed and be gone by the time the petsitter arrived but mother nature clearly has other plans. While he needs to get away from her and search his great-uncle’s house, he can’t help but be fascinated by Emma. This petsitter looks at him hungrily – not like the women who want his trust fund, but as if she wants him, the man. He’s trying to keep it playful and not pressure her but he makes his interest clear enough and she’s responding like a dream. One taste of her and Trevor can feel his priorities changing. What suddenly seemed important might not be in the face of finding someone who will love him for himself.

I love stories where people get trapped together due to weather, and this one (with those great dogs and the funny bird) was delightful. Seeing Trevor and Emma just click together, like pieces of puzzle they weren’t aware would fit, was downright heartwarming and I fell for them as hard as they fell for each other. The only part that confused me was the epilogue. I don’t see anything linking this story to another book or series, but the final pages of the novella clearly indicate the connection to another character. I’d love to read a connected story (particularly if I can catch a glimpse of Trevor and Emma again), so if someone knows the answer, please tell me!

“Finding Mr. Right” by Jill Shalvis

I can’t emphasize this enough – whether it’s ball players or firefighters, Jill Shalvis is consistently one of the best contemporary romance writers on the market.

I think that you’re not a true fan of contemporary romance if you don’t love Jill Shalvis. I devour her books and appreciate that she writes novellas as well as she does full-length books. Whether it’s her Lucky Harbor series or her fantastic Animal Magnetism books, Shalvis is as rock solid dependable as her strong heroes.

Her heroines are also full of quirks and that aspect always makes me like them that much more. Maggie Bell has multiple degrees under the white lab coat she wears every day and she loves puzzling out her work, which could help melanoma cancer patients and save lives. She’s aware that her research could also make the company she works for a ton of money, but it’s secondary in her mind which usually is honed like a laser on her work. Since the building is undergoing renovations, however, she finds her mind more than fixated on an extremely fine, blue jeans clad butt belonging to one Jake Wahler, her former high school crush and supervisor of the crew. When her sister tells her to stop trying for the brainiac guys who are just like her and go for someone the exact opposite, her mind naturally turns to Jake.

Jake is pushing his crew to finish this job before the holiday so they can all get their bonus and he can fly to New Orleans to meet his brother and do some serious partying. He can’t help but notice the gorgeous scientist who almost always trips on their equipment as she walks distracted through the hallways, but he’s astonished to find out that she was the 8th grade prodigy who tutored him in high school. Maggie Bell definitely did not look like this, with her killer curves, flawless skin and hair his hands beg to be buried in. She’s acting like the hot sex they had on her lab table was a one-time thing, but when it’s clear she’s getting threatened by someone who wants to hurt her, there’s no way he’s leaving her alone.

Jake was such a guy, and I loved seeing him react to Maggie’s nervous fact spouting (which is the trait of the schoolteacher friend, soon to the be the next heroine, in the Animal Magnetism series, so I’m thinking Jill Shalvis loves her trivia!). The scene with her crashing into the dishwasher was priceless, and I loved the testosterone showdown between Jake and Maggie’s boss, who briefly dated her. Macho guys falling, and admitting they are falling, are some of the sexiest heroes out there and Shalvis never, ever disappoints. I heart her.

“Can You Hand Me the Tape?” by HelenKay Dimon

HelenKay Dimon has published several romantic suspense novels with Harlequin as well.

It was just this holiday “Countdown to Christmas” series that exposed me to HelenKay Dimon with her novella in Romancing the Holiday, and I was impressed enough to get excited upon seeing her name again in this anthology.

As in that novella, this heroine is also someone recovering her self-respect after a crappy relationship. Natalie Pritchard is a tough parole officer whose always been frustrated dealing with her boyfriend’s law partner, Spencer Donovan. She doesn’t think he cares enough about the clients he represents and they’ve had a few run-ins. His partner, Charlie, may be tall and handsome but he’s been a self-absorbed manipulator, too, and she had enough a couple weeks ago when she broke up with him.

But there’s a complication. She had made a “tape” for Charlie for Christmas (uh-huh, that kind) just of herself, but she doesn’t want him or anyone seeing it now. In the hullabaloo of the breakup, he accidentally took it (without knowing what it was) and she desperately wants it back. While it kills her to do it, Spencer is the person most likely to help her. She’s disturbed to find out that Spencer is dissolving his law partnership with Charlie, but she manages to convince him to help her, even with the whole courthouse whispering about the time they are spending together.

Spencer has always hated the way Charlie spoke to his girlfriend, Nat, so much so that it was one of the reasons he’s jettisoning him as a partner. But until Nat swallowed her pride to ask for his help, he never noticed before how beautiful she is and the thought of her making this “tape” has his head spinning with images he can’t ignore. Can she get over the emotional damage Charlie has inflected on her to see what they have is special?

Dimon does a great job showing that, even if you’ve lost a lot of weight, that heavier person still lives inside your head, coloring how you think of yourself. Nat wrestles with her sense of inadequacy but watching her regain her self-respect and throw off Charlie’s past control (the elevator scene was downright triumphant) is fantastic and actually very realistically accomplished. HelenKay Dimon continues to impress me – she’s definitely getting placed on my “must-read” list.

To All a Good Night is another enjoyable anthology by three outstanding writers. One of the benefits of novellas in this format is, if you have only a limited time before bed, or the minutes are ticking by until your kids need you, you can get in a whole story from start to emotional finish and feel like you accomplished something! It’s like three novels in one, and considering the under $5.00 price tag in ebook form or even less money if you find it as a used paperback, you’re clearly getting serious value for your money.

So make that cup of hot chocolate and sit down to something else smooth and sweet with this anthology. You won’t be sorry. 🙂

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