Tag Archives: Sarah Morgan

Tangled Up Duology Lives Up to Its Cosmo Red Hot Read Label

11 Jun

Tangled Up (containing Crossing the Line by Megan Hart and Burned by Sarah Morgan) (Harlequin, May 27, 2014)

I’m a big fan of Harlequin’s Cosmo Red Hot Reads line – these novellas seem to take the best contemporary romance authors on the market and deliver scorching, emotional stories for an incredibly affordable price.

Tangled Up follows this tradition by housing the work of two bestselling authors, Megan Hart and Sarah Morgan, who both managed to blow me away in the course of 224 pages. Luckily for readers, you can either purchase Tangled Up in trade paperback form for around $8.00 or, if you have an ereader, get each story individually for around $3, ladies choice.

Want to hear more? (The answer is: yes, you definitely do.)

Crossing the Line by Megan Hart

Crossing the Line by Megan Hart (Harlequin: Cosmo Red Hot Reads, May 27, 2014)

Caitlyn Fox has slogged away in her new job for about eight months without her sexy boss Jamison Wolfe noticing her. He’s a testy control freak who, granted, has grown an amazing business with his best friend from high school. Together they have managed the PR for some of the most important businessmen and women in the world but are expanding to celebrities who are, let’s face it, much messier. When Jamison’s business partner experiences pregnancy complications and has to be put on bed rest, Caite knows this is the time to not only show that she can handle the new clients she’s brought in, but to show Jamison she can handle him as well. In. Every. Way.

Jamison can barely remember the last time he dated, and, quite frankly, it was barely worth it. Worrying about choosing the wrong five star restaurant, flowers when she wanted chocolates, etc., took away the fun from sex with the high maintenance women he’s chosen in the past. Yet spending time managing three high profile reality TV stars with Caite, who makes it look effortless, has him realizing that not only is she not the least bit afraid of his wounded grizzly bear attitude but that she also is comfortable ordering him around. And he likes it.

When Caite’s pushiness involves her own pleasure, Jamison is stunned to realize it delivers his as well, but taking their powerful connection and games into the office results in Jamison being humiliated in front of the people he needs to look strongest for. Can he work through his shame and reclaim Caite or will he lose her to someone not afraid to unapologetically want what she has to give?

Ah, Megan Hart. This author doesn’t know how to write a bad book (and, I’ve discovered after meeting her in person at my local Lady Jane’s Salon Wilkes-Barre Scranton, she’s also an extremely funny person who wears sexy boots and sparkle fish-net tights!). The dynamic between Jamison and Caite is demanding but incredibly tender, and I appreciated how, in a world of BDSM romances featuring Catherine wheels and violet wands, this relationship didn’t cave to the usual trappings or even wear that label despite it’s obvious power exchange. Instead, Caite’s taking control offered Jamison the chance to let go in one area of his life and minister pleasure to the woman who had become everything to him. I adored them both and found my heart in my throat for the last quarter of the book when I worried they weren’t going to make it.

Burned by Sarah Morgan

Burned by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin: Cosmo Red Hot Reads, May 27, 2014)

Okay, I raved about Sarah Morgan’s preceding Cosmo Red Hot Read, Ripped, which starred a horrifying heroine wardrobe malfunction at a critical point in her ex’s wedding. Hayley Miller had experienced a shitty childhood and an unfortunate collection of boyfriends (including the winner getting married) so having the broody, Italian Nico Rossi spring into her life ended up delivering a fabulous happy ending. The second most awesome relationship in that book however was with Hayley’s sister, Rosie, the tough talking, martial arts practicing trainer, who worked for Hayley’s happiness even while she looked for love in all the wrong places herself.

In Burned, we find out why Rosie is so bad at choosing men. In the opening scene, Rosie is out with her boyfriend, Brian, at a nice London restaurant when she realizes he’s dumping her because she’s “not feminine.” It’s humiliating enough without it happening in public, especially after she realizes that the man just seated with his gorgeous date at the adjacent table is none other than martial artist and film star, Hunter Black, her first love who brutally abandoned her when she was eighteen. Running out of the restaurant results in Hunter having to come to her rescue and take her home, but even after Rosie’s sister Hayley unloads some home truths on his very broad shoulders, Rosie can at least curl up into a ball and tell herself she’ll never have to see him again.

Until he shows up at her work the next day. As her boss.

Ripped by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin: Cosmo Red Hot Reads, December 2, 2013) – Hayley Miller and Nico Rossi’s fabulous story.

Oy. It turns out the chemistry between them is even more incendiary than it was when she was just a kid and that’s saying something because it was smokin’ hot back then. Yet, Hunter is an adult now and Rosie has changed drastically from the clingy teen she really doesn’t blame him for leaving. When Hunter makes it clear that he still wants her, Rosie decides to have a weekend of nothing but sex and let the man who no one has ever measured up to in the bedroom show her what he’s got. The problem arises when she realizes that no one has ever measured up to him outside the bedroom either, and her pesky heart is going to be just as shattered when she walks away, because there is no way she can live through Hunter moving on one more time. That Hunter and her sister might have different ideas never even factors into her thoughts until she’s confronted with what could be a spectacular chance at happiness, if Rosie is brave enough to take it.

Sarah Morgan specializes in brooding heroes whose level of sexy could induce small seismic events and Hunter Black is no exception. Like Ripped, Burned is written entirely from Rosie’s perspective, something that usually pisses me off to no end, but in the hands of a master like Morgan, I just cheerfully turn the page. Rosie is a fun badass who has been made to feel terrible that her fragile exterior doesn’t match her tough, independent interior but Hunter has always loved her for exactly who she was. The two of them rediscovering the changes each has made as an adult, and realizing their connection is stronger than ever because of their growth, is both breathtakingly sexy as well as heart-wrenching, particularly because the hurt Rosie experienced may provide the ultimate obstacle when it comes to taking a chance on lasting love. I wished I could have seen a little more Nico, so I’m going to hope that Sarah Morgan considers a holiday novella or indie short story featuring both these wonderful women getting the wedding proposals I know are in their future!

Whether you purchase Tangled Up in paperback or the ebook versions of each novella, you won’t go wrong giving yourself the gift of two phenomenal stories by gifted authors.

Happy reading! 🙂

 

December Read-a-Thon: Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan Will Insure You Have a Very Merry Christmas

25 Dec

Sleigh Bells in the Snow (The O’Neill Brothers #1 – Jackson and Kayla) by Sarah Morgan (HQN, November 1, 2013)

If I’m going to bother to write a review for Christmas morning, you can be darn sure it’s going to be a really good book that I’m recommending. Knowing that I wanted a story with serious oomph, I deliberately held off on even reading Sarah Morgan’s Sleigh Bells in the Snow – I wanted it to be like a present to myself. So one night with the snow drifting outside, the ski slope lit up in the distance (you can see one from my living room windows) and a fire crackling, I sat down and read it in one sitting.

It is always so exciting to watch a terrific category romance author take the plunge into longer length, single title books. Granted, it’s nerve-wracking – can they make it? Are they able to fill all those extra pages with solid character development and tension or will the book feel like a category romance with way too many scenes?

No one who loves Sarah Morgan has anything to worry about with the recent release of her outstanding Christmas novel, Sleigh Bells in the Snow. Not only has she graduated to writing emotional longer books with compelling characters and sniffle-inducing families, but (thank god) this book starts up a series, the O’Neill Brothers, that feels a lot like Jill Shalvis’ Animal Magnetism series or Bella Andre’s Sullivan series, so if you enjoy those two contemporary authors and their family dynamic, you probably want to take a look at the sexy, skiing O’Neills.

Jackson O’Neill has made more than a name for himself in the global skiing industry with his running some of the most successful European skiing locales. But after his father’s tragic death, he dropped it all to come home to Vermont and take over Snow Crystal Resort, the ski resort founded by his great-grandfather and handed down to each eldest son. Unfortunately for the entire O’Neil family, Jackson’s father loved the skiing but not the business side of things, meaning Jackson has inherited not only a property inches away from bankruptcy, but also a large family grieving his father’s passing while also having a noisy stake in the business. Arguing with his irascible grandfather, his concerned grandmother and mother, as well as his two brothers is the norm but it doesn’t make it any less exhausting. He knows they need serious help and Jackson has a line on a fabulous PR firm in Manhattan which supposedly has some kind of wunderkind in the ranks who can turn around businesses like his. Wasting no time, he goes to New York to take a look.

How I picture some of the O'Neill's resort. And how do I get some of that Belgian hot chocolate??

How I picture some of the O’Neill’s resort. And how do I get some of that Belgian hot chocolate??

Kayla Green was happy to leave London for New York for the plum position at Innovation PR and she’s well on her way to being the youngest vice-president in the company’s history. Right now her major problem is that she hates Christmas and yet is living in a city known for attracting tourists just to enjoy the holiday atmosphere…and it’s killing her. When she hears her workaholic boss is interested in her taking over the O’Neill account – and that doing the preliminary pitch and research would involve her being at a secluded mountain cabin with no holiday decorations – she’s all over it. That Jackson O’Neill is one of the handsomest men she’s seen in forever is just an added complication, but it’s something she’s sure she can ignore.

That is, until she gets to Vermont, and then nothing can be ignored – not the weather which she’s woefully unprepared for, or the fact that she didn’t even know what a moose looked like, or that she’s never skied. What really can’t be ignored is the tumultuous, lovable, frustrating O’Neill family who seem to live and breathe not just every aspect of the holiday but also highlight to Kayla everything that is missing in her life, bringing up the most painful memories and forcing her to face her demons. But facing all those dark fears while trying to be a professional and help Snow Crystal find its deserved place on the map is next to impossible, particularly while fighting her growing attraction to Jackson – it’s like Kayla is in the middle of an emotional blender.

The O'Neill family has a history of horse-drawn sleigh proposals. Seriously!

The O’Neill family has a history of horse-drawn sleigh proposals. Seriously!

When Jackson realizes that this vulnerable side to Kayla is even more attractive than the sexy, blonde killer with that knee-weakening British accent he saw in the Manhattan boardroom, nothing is going to stop him from getting under her skin and into her bed. O’Neills are renowned for knowing what they want and going after it with serious determination, and Jackson knows that Kayla is not only what the resort needs, she’s also precisely what’s been missing in his life as well. But getting past her icy walls is going to take some serious maneuvering and possibly the help of his whole family to win her.

Oh, wow. I defy you to not fall for each one of these frustrating, flawed, sexy, wonderful O’Neills! At just shy of 400 pages, Sleigh Bells in the Snow has ample time for character development beyond just the hero and heroine and Morgan takes advantage of the extra length, sussing out family history and conflicts and giving us a little backstory on each of the family members and secondary characters. It’s easy to see the other brothers’ future matches (and how hard it’s going to be to make those work) while being reminded that it’s often very easy to see other people’s problems while being blind to your own. Kayla’s backstory is so painful that I want her parents invited to the resort simply so the O’Neills can detonate an avalanche above them – it’s not hard to appreciate how much she has to overcome in the space of a short week to face what she could have with Jackson and his family.

Suddenly Last Summer (The O’Neill Brothers #2 – Sean and Elise) by Sarah Morgan (HQN, June 24, 2014)

Perhaps because of all this great character development, there is terrific potential for the future books in the series, and not just with the wonderful brothers. Peppy cousin Dana and the outlier sheriff Josh are ripe for their own novella(s) and I can picture a prequel or two for both the O’Neill brothers’ parents and the grandparents considering the hints dropped regarding their proposal stories which also happened at the resort. This is one romantic mountain!

The only disappointment to be had with Sleigh Bells in the Snow is that 1) these gorgeous men are sadly fictitious and 2) this mountain resort with its private cabins and hot tubs doesn’t actually exist. So, you are left with doing the next best thing and booking your time with the first of Sarah Morgan’s fabulous series. Stay tuned for the second book in the series, which focuses on the hilarious, very French chef of the resort, Elise, and Jackson’s twin brother, Boston’s top orthopedic surgeon, Sean, who are both confronted with the memory of a spectacular summer night together when he comes back for a visit. Their story, Suddenly Last Summer, will be out by the end of June 2014 and this reader has already pre-ordered it!

Many thanks to Sarah Morgan for giving me such a great book (and such a terrific family) to love this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

December Read-a-thon: You’ll Be Peeling Someone’s Clothes Off After Reading Ripped by Sarah Morgan

7 Dec

Ripped by Sarah Morgan (Cosmo Red Hot Read from Harlequin, December 1, 2013)

Because let me tell you, the “Cosmo Red Hot Read” moniker is taken damn seriously in this particular novella! So warn your significant other that his or her shirt buttons will soon be on the floor (or wear your jammies and have a cold drink of water if you are currently without company), because Sarah Morgan’s spectacular Christmas story, Ripped, is going to strip your socks off faster than Auburn can make a final touchdown against Alabama.

I’ve always adored Sarah Morgan who is probably one of the top category romance writers who I will always, ALWAYS buy if the cover has her name on it. She particularly excels in those domineering uber-hot millionaires who have rough pasts but who melt for the right woman. (I mean, Doukakis’ Apprentice, anyone? Yowza.) Our hero in Ripped, the ultra-sexy Sicilian turned British lawyer, Nico Rossi, a man whose very looks and demeanor have women shifting uncomfortably because he sets their panties on fire by simply walking past them, fits the Morgan bill beautifully.

But here’s where I have a bone to pick with this talented author – WHEN THE HELL DID SHE GET SO DAMN FUNNY?!? I’ve been enjoying Sarah Morgan’s writing for years (along with the rest of the known romance reading world) and while I have definitely enjoyed her prose and smiled at a clever quip or situation in her books, I had no idea that she was able to make me laugh out loud or gasp in horror before dissolving into giggles at an embarrassing situation. To quote my mother-in-law, Sarah Morgan has been hiding her light under a bushel.

And what a light. From the first scene we are 100% in the moment, as engineer Hayley, sitting in the front row of a tedious church wedding ponders how her pride had her agreeing to be a bridesmaid for a woman who not only slept with her ex-boyfriend but was marrying him right in front of her. Hayley didn’t want anyone to think she was moping, but her former friend has clearly used the situation as revenge, stuffing the voluptuous Hayley into a too-small, anemically colored bridesmaid dress. The only thing making this worthwhile is getting to gaze on the perpetually angry but always hot Nico Rossi, a friend of her former boyfriend and the best man. Trying to maintain her dignity, it fully flies out the window when she takes a sigh of relief…and both sides of the dress rip at the seam, exposing her large breasts to all and sundry since she had to go braless under the tight monstrosity.

Doukakis’ Apprentice by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin Presents, 2011)

Nico comes to the rescue with a rapidly thrown Tom Ford jacket and whisks her off to a side room of the church to gather the shreds of her so-called garment but Haley is not about to stand for Nico’s frustrated berating – as if she planned this wardrobe malfunction! Their glaring quickly turns into an unbelievably hot make out session well on its way to sex against the wall, except for the timing of Nico and Haley’s respective sisters butting in. Back at her Notting Hill flat with her sister, Haley cannot get the cold and controlled Nico out of her head (okay, he wasn’t that cold OR controlled when he was kissing her, but still) but she’s content to have their usual Christmas lunch for all their friends as per usual. However, Haley’s sister has a Christmas surprise, namely one sexy Italian lawyer, who has decided that Haley is his holiday present and he plans on unwrapping her again and again. Can Haley’s New Year’s resolution to not mix sex and her heart stand firm against Nico?

Holy. Shit. I’m not sure I’ve ever given a novella five stars, but this one got it. Told solely from Haley’s perspective (and usually I do not enjoy the first person perspective, but it’s vital to the humor in this particular novella), this story is an evolution of perspective as Haley clearly has one image in her head of her dealings with Nico over the last few years, a perception which unravels as she realizes that Nico has actually been the only man in her life who has seen and appreciated her for who she is – an incredibly smart satellite engineer.

Can I mention the humor again? Not only is the opening scene laugh-out-loud hilarious, but the lines just keep coming. When Haley’s sister Rosie dumps the turkey on Haley as the doorbell rings with the instruction to pluck some of the lingering poultry feathers, Haley experiences a moment of incredible empathy with the bird:

I stared gloomily at the turkey. It had dark stubble on one leg. Clearly the person who had prepared this turkey for the oven had been anxious to leave work early. I looked at the stubby ends poking out of the plump pale skin and sympathized. It wasn’t easy keeping yourself smooth.

Morgan, Sarah (2013-12-01). Ripped (Kindle Locations 496-497). Harlequin. Kindle Edition.

How she decides to pluck the feathers still has me chortling, particularly when Nico and his sweet sister come upon her doing it. Her observations regarding Nico are equally as quote-worthy, whether it’s contemplating his sexual prowess when she ponders the question was “this was sex Italian-style, (if so, I was emigrating)” or reacting to his concern to bundle her in his bed lest she catch cold. “Cold? Was he kidding? I was so hot that if he’d put a slice of bread on me I could have turned it into toast.” Gracious, that makes two of us, Haley.

It’s astonishing that this novella is right around 100 pages – I guarantee you will feel more satisfied than you do after reading a significantly longer book. The close relationship and difficult past of Haley and her sister gives tremendous depth and dimension to these two characters (and since Ripped is labeled as Miller Sisters #1, chances are terrific that we will get Haley’s sister Rosie’s story soon).

At only $3, you would be doing yourself a huge disfavor to not run out and buy this novella right this minute. Sarah Morgan has managed to write a classic for all seasons and I know for a fact that I will be re-reading this one over and over in years to come. Many thanks to a wonderful writer showing us a new facet of her talent – you’re awesome, Sarah Morgan!

Happy reading and happy holidays!

The Desert’s Heat Melts Icy Hearts in Sarah Morgan’s Lost to the Desert Warrior

20 Aug

Lost to the Desert Warrior by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin Presents, August 20, 2013)

If category romance was the horse world, Sarah Morgan would be a top flight thoroughbred, or – in the case of her latest book, Lost to the Desert Warrior – a gorgeous and swift Arabian.

I plan on outlining the cultural (and complex) phenomenon that is the Sheikh romance, but being a critical reader doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy these story lines, it just means you need to be careful to place your trust in authors whose intelligence and respect ensure they are not going to succumb to ethnic stereotypes or scathing cultural judgement.

Morgan has always been a four star author for me and I never mind plunking down my cash to get her next Harlequin romance. Lost to the Desert Warrior did not disappoint.

Layla and her sister are both princesses of Tazkhan, virtual prisoners of an uncaring father and his brutal regime. Hiding to witness their father’s death, the two young women hear his final demand that Layla marry a prominent and corrupt politician (he’s lived in the palace forever terrorizing the sisters and servants) who will only continue her father’s oppressive policies. Her sister is supposed to be shipped off the United States and never heard from again.

It’s a given that these two young women are brave enough to buck their cruel father’s last wish. They steal a fast stallion and head to the desert in the dead of night, dressed as boys, in order to find the Bedouin warrior and next-in-line ruler, Sheikh Raz Al Zahki. This is a very calculated risk as Al Zahki has every reason to despise them. Their father was responsible for the death of Raz’s father and the beautiful wife he loved. Layla, unused to riding and scared of horses, falls off and her sister, unable to control the stallion they chose for its speed careens off into the desert night, leaving Layla to face Raz and his men alone. He sees through her disguise and listens to her logical proposal, specifically that the two of them make a political marriage which would stabilize the country.

A Night of No Return by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin Presents, October 2012)

It’s easy to empathize with Raz. He naturally thinks that Layla is what my husband terms “a frontrunner” – someone who switches allegiance when the going gets tough – and while he clearly knows the marriage is the right thing to do for his people, he also feels that he’s betraying the memory of his beloved wife. They immediately marry and since neither wants to leave any loophole in the marriage, consummate it right away.

Layla is a very sheltered woman in her early twenties and a prolific reader since books have been her only way of really experiencing life outside the palace walls. While she brought a copy of the Kama Sutra with her on her escape (along with her worn copy of One Thousand and One Nights), she hasn’t had a chance to study it to know what Raz might expect from her. Cold and distant, he’s shocked to discover the amazing sexual chemistry between the two of them. After a night of incredible sexual passion (one that actually has Raz leaving the tent afterward), they set off for a safe nearby oasis and the intrigue and complications begin.

It’s impossible not to fall for the characters in this novel. Layla, while naive and inexperienced is still very intelligent, and like many abuse victims, can read people extremely well. She quiet and thoughtful but gives off a complex mixture of innocence and practicality. Her caring nature is readily apparent and being the sole caregiver for her only slightly younger sister means that she’s used to putting aside any personal needs and taking care of those around her.

Raz is not the total a-hole that you often find in sheikh romances. You get the immediate sense of a strong leader with an even stronger sense of duty to his country and people, but he’s not too high and mighty to slowly see Layla for what she is. They do some actual communicating and, even if he could be more forthcoming and says some hurtful things to her, he doesn’t wait until the last five pages until he admits he’s wrong. They are a great couple and while you can’t have very many secondary characters in a category romance novel due to the length, certain relatives and animals are nicely fleshed out and lend themselves to the character development of the hero and heroine.

Woman in a Sheikh’s World by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin Presents, December 2012)

A major frustration with Harlequin romances (and I think Harlequin Presents commits this sin far more than the Blaze line) is that they often have intertwined romances – sometimes across authors – and make zero effort to clue in the reader to what other books to read by doing something obvious, like having a series name or deliberately linking the books on Goodreads or Amazon. WTF, Harlequin?

For example, Avery and Malik, the neighboring rulers of another country on the border of Tazkhan which Layla and Raz visit,  are secondary characters in Lost to the Desert Warrior, but their rather heartbreaking story is brought to light as a small subplot in A Night of No Return and then concluded in full (with a well-deserved HEA) in Woman in a Sheik’s World. Both books are part of the Private Lives of Public Playboys series, of which Lost to the Desert Warrior is not a part. Confused yet? Me, too. You don’t need to read either of these books, but considering they are both excellent, it wouldn’t hurt you to do it!

Whether you read the associated books or not, Lost to the Desert Warrior is a fun, well-written novel of the sheikh sub-genre and I wholeheartedly endorse it. My final wish is that Sarah Morgan will next publish the book about Layla’s sister, the one who disappeared into the desert on the feisty Arabian she and Layla stole to get to Raz. Raz sends his best tracker – his taciturn brother and former special forces operator to find her – and there are several references to his search in this book. Sounds like there’s going to be a chance for more heat in the desert soon!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending August 18th

18 Aug

Upcoming and New Books

Historical romance writer Katharine Ashe is publishing the first book in her new series, The Prince Catchers, on August 27th, entitled I Married the Duke. With the cover blurb from Lisa Kleypas (who specializes in perfectly written historical heroes) and involving a duke disguised as a pirate and a gypsy curse borne by three sisters, this sounds like it’s a cut above your typical Regency romance. As of now, Avon has set the price on Amazon at a mere $3.59 for the paperback edition, a 40% discount from the list price of $5.99, so you might want to preorder it while this bargain is in effect!

Tired of billionaire Doms (seriously, how many of each of those categories can there be) and eager for a good shifter romance? Vivian Arend is releasing the third book in her Takhini wolves shifter series, and this time the hero is a billionaire bear who needs a political insider helping him understand the shifter community with which he’s working a deal. Who better than the leader’s former human girlfriend, recently freed up since her no-strings boyfriend just found his mate? Published by Samhain, Diamond Dust is a full-length novel priced at only $2.75 so the warmth you feel while reading it might not just be from Arend’s steamy writing, but also from the knowledge of the great bargain you just got.

I’m still reeling from Jeaniene Frost’s announcement this week that her seventh book in the incomparable Night Huntress series, Up from the Grave, will be her last Cat and Bones novel! Originally believing that her overall story arc would take nine books, Frost said on her blog that she and her editor agreed that it would be unfair to fans to put in filler simply to keep the series going as planned. As disappointed as I am, I appreciate Frost’s obvious commitment to give readers the highest quality writing. She has never written anything that didn’t blow my socks off and it’s not like she’s going to stop writing and take up creating macrame wall hangings from a beachside hut in Hawaii. She even 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). There is also the pesky matter of the fourth man in the deported Australian chain gang who we’ve never seen but to whom Bones, Spade and Ian have referred. 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.

As much as it pains me to say it (I’m an educator, so the school year is here), September 10th is just around the corner, so for those of you who still haven’t ordered the next installment of Jennifer Ashley’s Highland Pleasures series, get on it! The Untamed Mackenzie e-novella is priced at only $1.99 and stars the sexy but cranky Detective Inspector Lloyd Fellows, born on the wrong side of the Mackenzie tartan and Lady Louisa Scranton who is wrongly accused of murder. I’m not only going to love revisiting my favorite Victorian romance series but it’s going to always sate me long enough to wait for the next full-length novel, The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie, which will publish just a couple weeks later on October 1st.

Fun Stuff

The British newspaper The Guardian announced this week that the queen of romance, Barbara Cartland, had 160 previously unpublished novels in her estate upon her death and that these works, and some other published books, are going to be available for readers on her website. These unpublished novels join the 490 novels she wrote in her lifetime, stopping her output only a year prior to her passing away at the age of 98. If you picture romance writers penning their novels in canopy beds wearing a silk bedjacket surrounded by little dogs, Cartland is subconsciously who you have in mind. These books are only available in print so non-UK residents would have to pay more for shipping charges.

Did you know there was something called the Good Men Project? Envisioning themselves not as a magazine, but as a social movement, the people behind the Good Men Project believe in posing and answering the question, “What does it mean to be a good man?” Blogging about sports, ethics, sex, marriage, fatherhood and current affairs, the writing is high quality and well-researched while being always appropriate. And if your dad showed any prospective boyfriend his gun collection prior to that first date, you might enjoy reading an article which has been making the rounds “Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex” by Ferrett Steinmetz, who just became my dad-hero. Steinmetz objects to the inference that he owns his daughter’s body or has the right to tell her what to do with it, particularly in the area of denying her the pleasure and intimacy which comes from sharing your body with someone you love. The article is simultaneously sweet, funny and thought-provoking and I recommend it for parents and for romance writers who would like to imagine what a positive father figure might look like in this century.

It’s rather dazzling to see the income of the top earning authors for this past year, particularly when you realize that E. L. James (author of the 50 Shades of Grey series) managed to total $95 million dollars in 2012-13 according to this Forbes magazine article. That’s a lot of handcuffs! Yet note that with the exception of nonfiction author and pundit Chris Matthews, virtually every author is either a YA powerhouse or specializes in genre fiction like romance, mystery or suspense. No wonder the literary fiction authors get so snobby – they’re cranky from eating ramen noodles.

Thinking About Publishing

This past week, Alex Crowley from Publisher’s Weekly posed the excellent question – Why Are We Still Not Bundling Ebooks? Seriously, why don’t publishers offer combination print/ebook bundles? If readers can get virtually every format, but not a discount on two types together, that seems to be denying publishers needed revenue. I know a lot of people like me who enjoy having a paper copy and an ebook copy of favorite books, so there would be some takers, for sure.

Contests and Giveaways

Fans of Jayne Ann Krentz knows she writes her awesome paranormal books as Jayne Castle, and they probably are also aware that the 10th book in the Harmony series, Deception Cove, is coming out on August 27th. There is a Goodreads giveaway with a deadline of August 19th for the lucky winner who gets an early copy, so if you’d like a modern marriage of convenience with a paranormal twist, get over there to see how lucky you are!

I’ve been spending a lot of time pondering the enduring phenomena of the Middle Eastern sheikh in category romance and erotica, and a big part of that inspiration came from reading an early copy of Sarah Morgan’s Lost to the Desert Warrior which is awesome if you love this subgenre! You can get a free copy of this Harlequin gem if you win the Goodreads giveaway, but you have to enter before August 19th (the book comes out on the 20th, as does my review).

Susan Mallery is offering readers who purchase her Fool’s Gold Cookbook (companion to her romance series of the same name) a chance to win a spanking new KitchenAid mixer (!) if they send or email her their purchase receipt prior to August 31st. Do you know how much those cost? And she’s giving away the shiny chrome one, no less! There is a way to enter via postcard if you don’t plan on getting the cookbook, so look at the link for details.

If you have a thing for ancient Celtic warriors cursed by the Fae (and I do), you might want to take a look at Storm Warrior, the first book in Dani Harper’s Grim series, which features a Welshman who transforms into a black dog to save a woman…and finds not only his enchantment broken but that he’s living in a strange world which seems magical in itself. This giveaway ends on August 21st (the book came out on the 6th). Hopefully you’ll win it!

People may have been saying that zombies are the new vampires for a while, but when you take a look at the cover of Paige Tyler’s new book, Dead Sexy, you’ll find yourself agreeing! While the book was published on July 12th, you can still catch the Goodreads giveaway for a copy as long as you enter before August 23rd. When a romance author and a gorgeous hunk who has been cursed by a vindictive Voodoo priestess hit the sheets, you’ll find yourself wondering if there’s a zombie on your block.

Everyone knows that I think Bella Andre’s Sullivan series to be one of the best contemporary romance series, ever, right? Well, with Harlequin recently buying the print rights to this original ebook series, you’ve finally got paperbacks to enjoy in the bubble bath now. A Goodreads giveaway is offering the third book in the series, Can’t Help Falling in Love, starring sexy firefighter Gabe Sullivan and the woman and child he rescues. It’s awesome and you might win it! Get over there before August 23rd and find out.

Readers who love Highlanders more than likely already have some of Amanda Scott’s book on their shelves but this historical romance writer has the second book in her Lairds of the Loch series, The Knight’s Temptress, coming out on August 27th. There is a celebratory giveaway at Goodreads you can take advantage of if you’d like to read it, too, but be sure to enter by August 25th to participate.

Great Deals

The next book in Jill Shalvis’ amazing small-town romance series Lucky Harbor, Always on My Mind, is still – inexplicably – only $2.99 for the book version (the paperback is also the nice number of $4.80). Since this one stars not only the town firefighter (and we’ve all benefited from Jill Shalvis’ thing for firefighters – thanks, Jill!) and the town baker, I sense some steamy, food-based naughtiness in the cards. Since we don’t know how long this deal will last and with the looming publication date of September 24th, I’d recommend ordering this one sooner rather than later.

Fans of Sabrina Jeffries’ Swanlea Spinsters series, need to make sure their ereader battery is charged as there is a phenomenal sale on Amazon right now. This series is filled with Earl’s daughters, highwayman, and marriages of convenience galore, with great reviews abounding for Jeffries’ excellent historical writing. Right now, A Dangerous Love (#1), A Notorious Love (#2), After the Abduction (#3), and Married to the Viscount (#5) each have their Kindle version discounted from $7.99 to $1.99. WOW! No explanation why the fourth book in the series, Dance of Seduction, isn’t going along with this amazing deal, but beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.

Have a super week reading, everyone! 🙂

Sarah Morgan’s “A Night of No Return” Proves Why She Is at the Top of the Pack in Category Romance

26 Dec
A Night of No Return (The Private Lives of Public Playboys #1) by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin, November 1, 2012)

A Night of No Return (The Private Lives of Public Playboys #1) by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin, November 1, 2012)

If I was to declare a queen of the Harlequin Presents line of books, I wouldn’t have to think twice before slipping the diamond crown on the head of British writer, Sarah Morgan. With the Presents line featuring Alpha Male billionaires, playboys and sheiks (sometimes all three in the same man), lots of writers can’t help but turn these guys into total jackasses, so much so that I want to run interference with the heroine, telling her “the sex might be amazing, honey, but I’m not sure he’s worth it.”

I would never say that to a Sarah Morgan heroine, even when her hero drips with jackass-ery, and my hesitation is due to the fact that she is such an empathetic writer. Yes, her men start off cold, sexy and dominating, but Morgan peels back the layers, letting you into their tortured dark souls in such a way that while you hate the behavior, you could never, ever hate the man. I fall for her couples again and again, whether it’s in Doukakis’ Apprentice or A Night of Scandal from the fantastic Notorious Wolfes series (such a good series!).

In keeping with a winter theme (but no Christmas in this one, which is why I’m publishing the review the day after the holiday), personal assistant Emma Gray is cursing herself for being so conscientious as she drives through a snowstorm to her boss’ country estate. When she arrives, she’s shocked at the evidence that intense and highly successful architect Lucas Jackson has sent whoever was there away and is now rip-snorting drunk. Concerned since the last time she saw him drunk (and passed out) was around this time last year in the office, she refuses to leave him until she’s reassured he’s well-enough to not hurt himself. After sufficient snarling and a moment of intense sexual awareness between them, she tries to leave, only to realize that the storm as worsened and she’s snowed in.

Lucas is angry that someone is witnessing his annual meltdown and that the someone is his PA of two years, the efficient Emma Gray, is not making him feel better. The fact that his roiling emotions and bottle of whiskey have made him suddenly aware of her gorgeous hair and shapely body isn’t making this any easier. When her empathy takes him too far into feeling, he turns the tables by losing himself in her body and she doesn’t seem to be protesting. The two of them spend a decent amount of time reassuring the other that it’s a one-off (I loved her playful response that she’d make them t-shirts as a reminder) but Lucas still insists that Emma accompany him to a fabulous Middle Eastern country where his hotel project has recently been completed. One of his best friends is the sheikh there, and he could use Emma’s help with the final negotiations, etc.

Woman in a Sheikh's World (The Private Life of Public Playboys #2) by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin, December 1, 2012)

Woman in a Sheikh’s World (The Private Life of Public Playboys #2) by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin, December 1, 2012)

What makes Sarah Morgan so talented is that, with a limited number of pages at her disposal, she manages to draw the histories of two people to the point where you feel you understand their characters. Emma is a hard-working sister who shares custody of her little brother with her older sibling, and she works hard for Lucas because she needs to money to help support her family. Her mother had a disastrous relationship with her boss and it’s one of the reasons that Emma is so horrified with her behavior. Lucas’ numbness and pain comes from his feeling responsible for the loss of his little daughter and his own rotten childhood (he also had a mother pining for a man she couldn’t have). Fans of the Ferrara books will be thrilled to see more of Christiano and Laurel’s happily ever after as their tiny daughter plays a key role in Lucas’ rehabilitation.

This book is the first of a duet, The Private Lives of Public Playboys, and the second book, Woman in a Sheikh’s World, tells the story of Mal, Lucas’ sheikh friend and Avery, the party planner we meet (and adore) in this book. Mal and Avery have a serious history and are still in love with one another, but she is no blue-blooded virgin, which is what Mal’s position requires. He takes duty and responsibility to his country very seriously, even if it means putting aside his own desires and personal happiness.

If I have any complaint, it’s with Sarah Morgan’s Goodreads page and her website in that the books related to one another are not clearly listed with any series name in parenthesis or grouped together. It’s a miracle if you figure out which are related (thank heavens she stuck the name “Ferrara” in the title of those books). Harlequin always pulls nonsense like this, largely because many of their series use multiple writers. Whatever, I don’t care what the reasons, give readers a chance to find more books and they’ll buy them, particularly when the writer is as good as Sarah Morgan!

Many thanks to Sarah Morgan for breathing life and love into such wonderful characters and giving us great books like these. Polish that crown! 🙂

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