Monthly Archives: August 2015

Romance Novel Fact of the Week

Romance Writers of America RITA Awards:

From the RWA Website:

In 1980, the newly formed Romance Writers of America identified contests and conferences as key activities to promote the romance genre. The association promptly organized contests with two major divisions: one for published books and the second for manuscripts by unpublished writers. Co-founder Rita Gallagher named the contest for unpublished authors the Golden Heart, while daughter and co-founder Rita Clay Estrada named the contest for published books the Golden Medallion.

The Golden Medallion award became the RITA award in 1990—RWA’s 10th anniversary. RWA held a contest in which members were invited to design a statuette to represent the RITA and excellence in published romantic fiction. The winning design was submitted by Marilyn Clay from the Dallas area. The contests have represented excellence in romantic fiction for nearly 30 years.

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Brown-Eyed Girl

Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas 

Brown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family, #4)Description: Wedding planner Avery Crosslin may be a rising star in Houston society, but she doesn’t believe in love–at least not for herself. When she meets wealthy bachelor Joe Travis and mistakes him for a wedding photographer, she has no intention of letting him sweep her off her feet. But Joe is a man who goes after what he wants, and Avery can’t resist the temptation of a sexy southern charmer and a hot summer evening.

After a one night stand, however, Avery is determined to keep it from happening again. A man like Joe can only mean trouble for a woman like her, and she can’t afford distractions. She’s been hired to plan the wedding of the year–a make-or-break event.

But complications start piling up fast, putting the wedding in jeopardy, especially when shocking secrets of the bride come to light. And as Joe makes it clear that he’s not going to give up easily, Avery is forced to confront the insecurities and beliefs that stem from a past she would do anything to forget.

The situation reaches a breaking point, and Avery faces the toughest choice of her life. Only by putting her career on the line and risking everything–including her well-guarded heart–will she find out what matters most.

Review: One of my favorite Lisa Kleypas books is Blue-Eyed Devil. I reread it every few months. I love the Travis family and how they support each other. When I learned that she was finally going to finish the series and give Joe a book, I was so happy! It had been years since the last Travis book and I was looking forward to revisiting the family. One of the downsides to the Travis series is that Kleypas writes them in first person POV with the heroine as the narrator. This work well for Liberty’s story and made Haven’s story even more poignant. However, for revisiting the Travis’s, not having Joe’s POV was a little disappointing.

Nevertheless, Kleypas introduces us to a whole host of secondary characters with Avery and her wedding planning business with her sister. This book delved into family dynamics from Avery and her family issues to the Travis family coping with tragedies as a unit. Avery has very clear daddy issues, her father being an unfaithful womanizer. She has learned to not trust love, despite being in the wedding planning business. Joe works to break through the shell around her heart. Even with their relationship building from a one-night stand, he is willing to take things slow. One of my favorite things about Joe is he is not the typical, womanizing-to-reformed hero. He had a wild youth but is looking for a serious relationship. Almost from the start he decides that he wants Avery and he works to convince her that a relationship between them is a good thing.

I did have a few issues with this book. Honestly, I’m biased. I went into the book thinking that this will be good but nowhere near as good as Blue-Eyed Devil. And that’s actually what I took from the book. The first person POV ended up bothering me. For most of the book it was fine. However, it bothered me during the break-up. I wanted to see Joe regret his unwillingness to have a long-distance relationship. That was really the part of the book that bothered me. To me, it seemed like Avery was forced into making a career choice based on her relationship. This wasn’t a make or break moment for the book but it certainly didn’t make it my favorite of the series.

Final note: Cutest proposal ever! Let’s just say there were puppies.

Favorite Quote:

“I needed this more than I would have believed,  latched so securely against him that his body formed the necessary margin, the boundary between me and the rest of the world.
It was more intimate than sex, to have someone hold the broken pieces of you together like that.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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The Name of the Game

The Name of the Game by Jennifer Dawson 

The Name of the Game (Something New, #3)Description: Some people follow the rules. . .

A professor of forensic anthropology, James Donovan is the reasonable sibling among the passionate, impulsive Donovans. But there’s nothing reasonable about his reaction to baker Gracie Roberts. She’s all wild curls and mouth-watering curves, as deliciously tempting as the sugary treats she’s famous for–and twice as irritating. But before long, James decides that getting a taste of her is one indulgence he can’t pass up. . .

Some people play to win. . .

Independent, smart, and sexy, Gracie’s year-long dry spell has her itching for a man. Responsible, health-obsessed James? Not in a million years! She needs a guy who knows how to let loose! But when James sets out to show her just how satisfying a disciplined man can be when pleasure is at stake, she learns just how sweet–and spicy–he really is.

Have James and Gracie found the recipe for love?

Review: I felt like I was thrown into the deep end with the start of this book. I was very confused the first few pages about who all the characters were. I quickly realized that this was not first book, and after looking it up, was actually the third book in the series. Despite that initial confusion, I quickly picked up who was who and now that I finished the book, I want to go back and read the first two!

This story follows the relationship between James and Gracie. Gracie is the best friend of both James’ sister and future sister-in-law so she is ingrained in his family circle. But, and this is probably seen in the first two books, James and Gracie are like oil and water together. It had been a while since I’ve read an enemies-to-lovers book and this is the perfect book for it! The chemistry between James and Gracie was potent and undeniable. It was clear that their dislike stemmed from a denial of their desires. Once they gave into their attraction for each other, they steamed up the pages. As a Whovian, it is now my life goal to play their alluded to Doctor Who drinking, and, *cough* other things, game. There was also a scene where they played out James’ high school fantasy of making out during a scary movie, complete with required cheerleader uniform. Their relationship even delved lightly into BDSM. James in control *shivers*. Even more so, I liked seeing James break his control at the end when he thought he lost Gracie.

I was really a fan of Gracie as a character. She was confident and flirty but had deeper layers. It’s also nice to see a poised, self-assured heroine who comfortable with her sexuality. I thought she was very well-developed. Underneath her confidence was a layer of hurt from her father’s abuse of her mother and abandonment. Gracie and James’ relationship had to move passed the hurts from their past to succeed.  They also had to move passed his tendency to try to control aspects of her life. For them, BDSM is fine in the bedroom but in the rest of their life, they need to make decisions together. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I just bought the first two in the series and can’t wait for the next book!

Rating: 4 out of 5. 

Received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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Magic Shifts

Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels, #8)Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

Description: In the latest Kate Daniels novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews, magic is coming and going in waves in post-Shift Atlanta—and each crest leaves danger in its wake…

After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Curran misses the constant challenges of leading the shapeshifters.

So when the Pack offers him its stake in the Mercenary Guild, Curran seizes the opportunity—too bad the Guild wants nothing to do with him and Kate. Luckily, as a veteran merc, Kate can take over any of the Guild’s unfinished jobs in order to bring in money and build their reputation. But what Kate and Curran don’t realize is that the odd jobs they’ve been working are all connected.

An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece…

Review: I’ve been a fan of Kate Daniels and Curran for about 4 years now. Every summer, as soon as the new book is released, I race to the bookstore and buy it. After the events in the last Kate Daniels book, Magic Breaks, I was especially excited for this book. I wanted a sense of normality and hopefully more one-on-one series with Kate and Curran. This book delivered.

Magic Breaks introduced a new arc in the Kate Daniels story, one which focused less on the Pack and more on Kate, her power and the mysterious Roland and Magic Shifts follows up with that. We are eased away from the Pack, though familiar characters do show up, such as Raphael and Andrea, Dali and Jim, etc. And the subplot of the book focus on Kate and Curran finding Eduardo, the were-bison. Eduardo and George, Mahon’s daughter, are now a couple and victims of Mahon’s crazy rules. Side-note, I’m really getting sick of Mahon and was glad that he was taken down a peg in this book.  As usual, this book was intense on mythology, delving into Arabian and Islamic myths for the creatures Kate and her gang to face.

As much as I loved Kate and Andrea running Cutting Edge, I love Curran and Kate working together even more. This book shows their relationship becoming more developed and stronger. The challenges they face are ones they face together, united. Their family, with Julie, has become cemented and centered. I especially like that Kate had discarded her whole ‘loving people means weakness and losing them’ philosophy. She has abandoned the brainwashing of her adopted father, which turned her into a killing machine whose only purpose was to one day kill Roland. Instead, she puts her skills to good use to defend her family and has realized that loving people only makes her stronger.

However, trouble, in the form of Roland, is clearly on the horizon. I really liked seeing more into the character of Roland. For so long in the series, he was the distance villain, the abstract father that Kate knew she would have to kill. However, now that he is introduced and interacting with Kate and her family, he is even more complex and intriguing. I definitely like the arc the plot is on and can’t wait for the next book!

Rating: 4 of out 5.

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Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught Romance Novels 101

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they post a new Top Ten list and everyone is welcome to join. This week’s theme is”Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught Romance Novels 101″

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Pride and Prejudice The most classic romance novel of all time and the one of the genre founders.

  2. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

    These Old Shades (Alastair, #1)
    To my everlasting shame, I’ve never read Georgette Heyer but this book of hers was recommended and her contributions to the genre are extremely important.

  3. Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small (Bodice Ripper)
    Skye O'Malley (O'Malley Saga, #1)

    I thought about going with The Flame and the Flower but I never actually got through that book. Skye O’Malley, I did read, and can serve as both a representative for old school bodice ripper romances and as a contrast to the evolution of romance novels over the last 20 years.

  4. Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained by Maya Rodale

    Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained: Expanded Edition
    This book is excellent for the history of romance novels and the negative reputation they have.

  5. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase (Historical Romance)

    Lord of Scoundrels (Scoundrels, #3)
    Often viewed as the best romance novel, this book is a must!

  6. It Had To Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Contemporary Romance)

    It Had to Be You (Chicago Stars #1)
    Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the best of the best when it comes to contemporary romance!

  7. Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (Paranormal Romance)

    Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1)
    Nalini Singh shows the beauty of paranormal romance.

  8. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (Historical Romance)

    Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Bridgertons, #4)One of the best historical romances, and one with an older heroine, that I have ever read!

  9. Magic Bites by  Ilona Andrews (Urban Fantasy)

    Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, #1)
    Nothing can beat the world-building in the Kate Daniels series!

  10. The Professional by  Kresley Cole (Erotic Romance)

    The Professional (The Game Maker, #1)
    I wanted to included a well-written erotic romance to show that not every erotica is Fifty Shades of Grey.

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Romance Novel Fact of the Week

Romance novels are 17% of the adult fiction category.

Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained: Expanded Edition

**Information from Maya Rodale’s Dangerous Books for Girls

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Marry Me at Christmas

Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery

Marry Me at Christmas (Fool's Gold, #19)Description: Wish upon a Christmas star with New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery’s sparkling Fool’s Gold romance!

To bridal boutique owner Madeline Krug, organizing a Christmas wedding sounds like a joy—until she finds out she’ll be working closely with the gorgeous brother of the bride, movie star Jonny Blaze. How will a small-town girl like her keep from falling for the world’s sexiest guy? Especially with mistletoe lurking around every corner!

Jonny came to Fool’s Gold looking for normal, not for love. Happily-ever-after only happens in the movies. Still, nothing about this quirky town is quite what he expected, and “ordinary” Madeline is the most extraordinary woman he’s ever met. Refreshingly honest, disarmingly sweet. Achingly beautiful.

Planning the perfect wedding leads to candlelit dinners and strolls through snow-covered streets. And Madeline finds Jonny in real life even more captivating than her celebrity crush. But will the action star be brave enough to risk his heart and step into the role of a lifetime?

Review: I was really excited to get an ARC of this year’s winter Fool’s Gold book. I recently went a Susan Mallery kick and I really liked her Christmas books. There’s something about a small-town, snowy setting. This was the perfect, cute winter wedding book. The basic plot of the book is Madeline, wedding store owner, gets roped into planning a small wedding for local movie star, Jonny Blaze’s younger sister. If you’ve read the previous books, you know that A. Madeline was roped in by the omnipresent Mayor Martha, and B. she has a major crush on Jonny Blaze. Side note, it seems like this year’s batch of Mallery heroes have had odd names. Kip, Zane, Dell (short for Delany) and now Jonny. It took me way too long to realize it was actually Jonny and not Johnny.

A great deal of this book focused on Jonny being a celebrity. While Madeline did have a crush on him, I liked that she got over that fast and saw him as a regular guy. There were quite a few scenes that addressed Jonny was ordinary in the eyes of the town, despite his celebrity status. I especially liked when the townspeople would step in and prevent him from being recognized. Although, I’m slightly envious of Madeline for getting snowed-in with her celebrity crush. Who wouldn’t like to be stuck in a cabin with their celebrity crush, and all the naughty things that goes along with a romance novel?

That actually brings me to a part of the book I was less happy with. The glossing over of the sex scenes. Sometimes, if I’m so caught up in the plot, I will thumb through the intimate scenes faster to get back to the storyline. But I like the flexibility to do so. Especially after reading so many Susan Mallery books recently, I was surprised that this book did not detail Madeline and Jonny’s intimate relationship. Maybe other Susan Mallery readers can help me and remind me if she only does that for the holiday books or not?

I did like that this book, though a light holiday read, addressed issues of death and the hero’s fear of love. In his life, most of the people he loved, i.e. his father and a previous girlfriend, had died. That loss, compounded with his celebrity status, made him wary of falling in love. Despite this, when he does realize he fell in love with Madeline, he doesn’t stalk off or end the relationship. In many books in the series, it is the hero who runs when the heroine confesses her love. However, of the couple, it is Madeline who flees in the face of love, not Jonny, despite the aforementioned issues.

My final note is that Gladys and Eddie are my favorite my secondary Fool’s Gold characters! They add laughter and humor to the book! And the scene where Jonny moons them…. Wow!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.

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The Prince and I

The Prince and I by Karen Hawkins

The Prince and I (The Oxenburg Princes, #2)Description: From New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins, the lively and sizzling second book in a new fairytale-based Scottish historical romance series, The Princes of Oxenburg.

Gregori Romanovin, Oxenburg’s warrior prince, is escorting his grandmother to a house party deep in the Highlands when he and his entourage are robbed at sword point by a group of ruffians led by a man the locals have dubbed “The Scottish Robin Hood.” The battle-savvy prince instantly realizes there’s something different about this thief, and it’s not just the Scottish accent—it’s the fact that “he” is really a “she.”

Lady Murian, a young widow out for revenge against the powerful earl who killed her husband and stole his birthright, is now living in the woods with her family’s banished retainers. To stay alive, she and her band of men rob rich nobles coming to visit the evil earl. But when she ambushes the Prince of Oxenburg’s golden coach, she gets far more than she expected. For when the prince uncovers her true identity, she’s afraid that he might be the real thief…of her heart.

Review: I’ve been reading Karen Hawkins books for years now. They’re the easy pick-up, quick read, just enough historical detail to laying the setting, type of book I love to read. Her second installment in the Oxenburg series, though third book dealing with the Oxenburg prince brothers, is just that book. The first book in the series, The Prince Who Loved Me was a retelling of Cinderella, set in Regency Scotland. This book, The Prince and I, is a take on the Robin Hood tale, complete with a Little John, or rather a Giant Ian, a Will Scarlet and best of all, a female Robin Hood. Who actually isn’t robbing the rich but rather asking for donations from the carriages she and band of merry, eh, widows, stops. The basic plot of the book follows Prince Max of Oxenburg who is travelling to Rowallen Castle in Scotland with his grandmother, Grand Duchess Natasha, and has his carriage held up by “Robin Hood” and her gang. Prince Max quickly realizes that Robin Hood is a woman, Lady Murian, to be exact, and that they have a common enemy, the Earl of Loudan.

While this book is mostly a light-hearted romp around the Scottish countryside, full of derelict cottages, disguises, a hunt for a tiara and journal, helpful attractive soldiers and the main couple falling in love, it does address a few serious issues amidst the brevity. The first is the tragedies of war. Max is introduced as a ‘Warrior Prince’, a general for Oxenburg during the Napoleonic Wars. His best friend had recently died in battle and the book addresses his morality as well as the fate of the loved ones soldiers leave behind. Murian, a widow, is able to address the realities of loved ones left behind and she and Max are able to overcome this in their relationship. It was also nice that Murian wasn’t the oddest of all romance tropes, the virgin widow. Murian was comfortable with her sexual desire for Max and there isn’t shame in their relationship.

Hawkins also addresses noblesse oblige (never thought I’d be using something I learned in my high school Government and Politics class for a romance novel review). Both Prince Max and Lady Murian have assumed responsibility their people, his soldiers and her former servants. Their devotion towards their ‘servants’ is refreshing and both Murian and Max treated as more than servants, as actual human beings. Not to say that this is unusual for romance novels. It just seems more present in Hawkins’ book. The ‘servants’ are more than just background, they are helpful and vocal characters who enrich the ploy.

Also, I adore Max’s grandmother. Some of my favorite secondary characters are the grouchy grandmothers or guardians who can get away with saying anything they want but still have a heart of gold. Best of scene of the book was when she’s telling the guards a bedchamber is hers (it wasn’t) and that if they kicked in the door, she’d be naked (she wasn’t). Can I be her when I grow up?

Overall, an interesting twist on Robin Hood and an enjoyable read!  Side-note, don’t you totally love the cover?

Rating: 4 out of 5. 

Received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review

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Thrill Me

Thrill Me (Fool's Gold, #18)Thrill Me by Susan Mallery 

Description: Meet the Mitchell brothers of Fool’s Gold, California—five gorgeous men who’ve left a trail of broken hearts in their wake…

Maya Farlow learned the hard way to depend only on herself, so when she fell too deeply for the bad-boy charms of Del Mitchell, she did the only thing she could—she ran. Stunned, Del left Fool’s Gold to make his name and fortune in extreme sports.

Now ten years later, Maya’s been hired to promote her hometown’s new slogan, The Destination for Romance. The celebrity spokesman is none other than Del, the man she dumped but never forgot. Awkward!

Although Del’s not the type to hold a grudge, he’s determined to avoid falling a second time for the woman who broke his heart. He’s a daredevil, not an idiot. Trouble is, in all his adventures, he never found a rush as exhilarating as Maya’s kiss. Maybe risking his heart will prove to be the biggest thrill of all…

Review: After Kiss MeI found myself missing Fool’s Gold and was glad that Maya and Dell’s book returned to small town, with all its crazy residents and omniscient mayor. This was the heartwarming, reunion story I want from Fool’s Gold. Maya and Dell did have a nasty breakup in the past. However, Maya does apologize for the breakup and they’re able to work together and rekindle their relationship like adults. It so happens that I read two reunion romances back to back (I’m reviewing Lauren Dane’s Back to You next) and I thought both books dealt with the pitfalls of a failed previous relationship very well. Yes, Maya and Dell’s high school breakup was nasty. But they were able to move on with their lives in a mature fashion. There was no desire for revenge plot. Dell didn’t plan to seduce Maya and then break her heart so she would know how he felt. They acknowledged the past and moved on.

Side note: apparently Dell stands for Delany. Thank god they call him Dell cause the name Delany has me picturing a girl. Sort of like Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind. If I hadn’t seen the movie before I attempt to read the book, I would have mental pictured Ashley as a woman and not as Leslie Howard. Romance characters do have the oddest names sometimes. Maybe I’ll do a future post on that…

The breakup in this story was a little silly. Without spoiling anything, basically Maya kept a secret about from Dell about his mother. However, Maya and his mother were really good friends and while I understood Dell being upset, Maya was just being a supportive friend. It was nice to be reunited with the Breakup party though. It’s always a good scene in Fool’s Gold books. You get to be reunited with past characters and the heroine gets support from the town as well as hope that everything will work out.

This might be a bit of a spoiler but I really liked the ending. Dell and Maya didn’t feel like they needed to stay in Fool’s Gold. Rather, they made the decision, as a couple, to travel the world together, producing school-orientated movies about different cultures. Having been bit by the wander-bug, I liked this ending and thought it was a good break from the norm of settling in a small town and having kids.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Top Ten Of Your Auto-buy Authors

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they post a new Top Ten list and everyone is welcome to join. This week’s theme is “Top Ten Of Your Auto-buy Authors”. A lot of my auto-buy authors appeared on last week’s list so I tried to include different authors for this week.

  1. Virginia Henley Enslaved

    She was the first romance novelist I ever read and 10 years later, I still head straight to the bookstore when she releases a new book.

  2. Kristan Higgins 

    Until There Was YouAny time I want to laugh, I pick up a Kristan Higgins book! 

  3. Jeaniene Frost 
    Once Burned (Night Prince, #1)

     Two words. Vlad Tepesh.

  4. Jill Shalvis 
    Head Over Heels (Lucky Harbor, #3)

    One of my absolute favorites!

  5. Kresley ColeNo Rest for the Wicked (Immortals After Dark, #3)

     I auto-buy her romance series. I haven’t read her young adult books yet. 

  6. Tessa DareA Week to Be Wicked (Spindle Cove, #2)

    She’s a relatively new discovery for me but I love her books! 

  7. Julie James A Lot Like Love (FBI/US Attorney, #2)

    I didn’t want to live in Chicago until I read Julie James’s books! Smart, successful heroines and the sexy heroes who love and respect them! 

  8. Jennifer AshleyLady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage (MacKenzies & McBrides, #2)

    She’s one of those authors who writes equally amazing paranormal and historical romances!

  9. Lorraine Heath Surrender to the Devil (Scoundrels of St. James, #3)

    I’m not sure why Lorraine Heath isn’t at the top of every romance list. I adore her Scoundrels of St. James series! 

  10. Sarah MacLean No Good Duke Goes Unpunished (The Rules of Scoundrels, #3)

    Any author who is able to create a twist like at the end of No Good Duke Goes Unpunished is an auto-buy for me!

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