Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sports themed romance novels- more and more popular!

I just finished reading Covering Kendall, a football themed romance novel about a woman GM of a football team.  She begins a relationship with a player from another team and all kinds of trouble occurs. The author, Julie Brannagh, has written 3 other popular books in her Love and Football series. I have really loved all of the books and actually learned quite a bit about football which was not one of my favorite sports. In this latest book, the issue of domestic violence is a part of the book which was written well before the latest NFL issues began to surface.  One thing about the romance writers, they have covered women's issues well before mainstream fiction ever did.

Sports themed romance novels are gaining in popularity. Romance novels of all types generated over 1.4 billion dollars in sales last year (the top rated fiction genre followed by Mystery/crime). As genres change in popularity, sports heroes seem to be hot right now in sales and on covers. There are series about hockey -Deirdre Martin's New York Blades, Rachel Gibson's Seattle Chinooks, Toni Aleo's Assassins etc. There are football series, Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Chicago Stars series was one of the first to hit really big. Since then, Jaci Burton, Julie Brannagh, Bella Andre and Jami Davenport all have well read series. There are writers like Lori Foster who is currently writing about MMA or Kat Latham who writes about rugby.

All of the books have a lot in common.  The heroes are usually pretty stand up guys who are loyal and committed to their teams.  Some are mansluts and some are homebodies. Some are self centered jerks and some are gentlemen. They are usually in great physical shape (see the picture above) and also financially well off. What is interesting is that in a lot of the books, the women work for the teams in some capacity or are strong fans of the featured team.  There are a lot of books with female athlete heroines but that's another blog post.  Avid female sports fans are gaining in numbers. NASCAR worked with Harlequin on a series of books a few years ago that contained a lot of information about how NASCAR worked and what the rules are.  I'm sure they gained some fans because of those books.

I guess all of these hunky athletes are today's versions of the medieval warriors, foreign billionaires, and English lords who were the norm years ago when I first started reading this genre.  Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble all have pages devoted to sports romance fiction so readers can find authors to enjoy. I know that I am certainly enjoying reading all of these books!  Maybe I'll start watching football.....or hockey.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Audiobooks- the reader will make or break them.

I have had two experiences recently that made me think about how the narrator of an audio book can improve your enjoyment of a book or ruin the book for you. I recently read that Ralph Cosham, the reader of all of the Louise Penny audio books, has passed away. I almost cried when I read that. I love the Three Pines mystery series and I own the print, eBook and audio version of all of them. I remember listening to the end of one of the books in the parking lot of the library where I work  and sobbing at the ending.

Ralph Cosham is the voice I hear in my head when I read the books. He will be very hard to replace. It has happened before. I am a long time fan of Susan Elizabeth Phillips (SEP) and she had a reader, Anna Fields, who read the majority of her books. Ms. Fields was killed in her home by a mudslide and all of the Seppies( fans of SEP) were devastated because she made the already wonderful books that much more enjoyable.  It was hard to listen to the next few books but we persevered.

Another long time reader is Susan Erickson who does the J.D. Robb series of futuristic mysteries. Again, when I read the books, I hear her voicing of the characters in my head. They have come to life for me through her.  There are lots of great readers out there who take a favored book and really make it special.

On the other hand, there are times when the reader absolutely ruins a book by their narration. I started to listen to a favorite book  in my car the other day and I had to turn it off after 10 minutes. The story takes place in France and the hero is an alpha male in a food profession. The reader had a very annoying habit of ending each sentence on an upnote so it felt like I was listening to a comedy. The worst part was her voicing of the hero was in a high pitched horrible French accent that kept making me picture a cartoon character. I had to stop listening before the book was forever ruined for me. Other books in the series were narrated by other readers and I loved those versions. I learned a lesson- LISTEN to the sample before you buy.

It will be very hard to listen to the next Louise Penny book and not hear Ralph because he is the voice of Armand Gamache to me. He will be greatly missed by all of his fans.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Heroes are my Weakness too, especially SEP's heroes!

I read my first SEP book in 2001 with This Heart of Mine. I loved it and it was like finding buried treasure when I realized there were several earlier books. Since then I am awash in anticipation when her newest book is due to come out. I can say that Heroes are My Weakness does not disappoint. It has all of the elements of an SEP book that I love. A feisty heroine who is temporarily down on her luck or in some predicament, a hero who on the surface is a jerk or a cad, and an interesting setting with other quirky characters. 

Anna is a puppeteer who has to stay on Peregrine Island for two months in order to fulfill the terms of a trusts that allows her to keep her cottage. since she needs to find a place to stay while she rebuilds her financial resources, the cottage is a godsend. Theo is the privileged and mean spirited son of the owner of Harp House, a large house on the island. Anna's cottage will revert to the Harps if she breaks the conditions of the trust. Anna and Theo were budding almost lovers until he turned on her and made her life miserable when they were teenagers. She has never forgotten his treatment of her and is dismayed to find him on the island. As they are forced to spend time together, old feelings reawaken and old secrets are revealed.

Anna discovers that there are sides to Theo that she never knew about and that he is not the man she thought he was. Yes, he is hot and broodingly handsome and he makes her  want to jump in the nearest bed with him but that is not all he is. She also finds that she has a new direction for her own life that will encompass the things she loves but  in a way that can be productive and meaningful.

I loved, loved,loved this book and hated to see it end.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Then Came You by Jill Shalvis- another great read by this author!

When Emily Stevens walks into her new veterinary internship, she thinks the worst part is going to be that she is stuck in Sunshine, Idaho instead of LA. However, she soon discovers that the bigger problem is that sexy vet Wyatt Stone, the man she had a one night fling with at a conference, is her new boss.

Emily tells herself that she can resist Wyatt and that she is just ticking off the days until she gets a big well paying job at a bigger city location. Wrong, wrong wrong!

The chemistry between these two characters is so strong that it is amazing that they aren't doing it like rabbits through the whole book. Emily has issues due to the lackadaisical way her veterinarian father handled his practice and family obligations. Wyatt has issues with being moved from pillar to post during his childhood. She is counting the days to leave Sunshine and go for financial security. He is convinced that Sunshine is the place for him to settle down. There is a big divide for them to cross if they are going to end up together.

As usual in a Shalvis book, there is a nice mix of romance, humor and even menace in this book. The secondary characters are interesting and add a lot of movement to the story. I can't wait to see what happens with Wyatt's sisters, hopefully in a future Animal Magnetism series book. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to settle for the next three Lucky Harbor books while waiting ... such a lovely dilemma.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee - A wonderful read!

 I absolutely loved this book! When Portia Cuthcart's marriage goes kaput, she takes refuge in the NYC apartment her aunt had left her. Portia had given up a lot for her marriage and her husband paid her back by cheating. Now Portia is reinventing herself and discovering a lost gift she inherited from her grandmother. Portia can whip up a meal that meets the emotional needs of a person who has yet to walk through the door. This "knowing" has caused tragedy in Portia's life so she forced it down and did her best to forget it. Now, Portia is open to the gift although she still has reservations.

Portia meets Gabriel Kane, a gazillionaire who owns the other two apartments in her aunt's building. The minute she meets him, her life changes and she feels the knowing. Gabriel has two daughters who are reeling from their mother's death and being moved to the city. Portia is poor and damaged and Gabriel is rich and damaged. They are perfect for each other!

I enjoyed reading this story and how the characters slowly interact together. Portia and her sisters work through family issues and come together to make a plan for the future. Portia finds herself getting more involved with Gabriel and his family even as she realizes it could hurt her again if things fall apart. Gabriel doesn't do love but he finds himself unable to resist Portia and all she represents. All the while there are secrets that if exposed will rip apart the fragile existence all of the characters are living. Everything is perfectly woven together in this book, good and bad, so that you just can't stop reading for even one minute. Just sit down and start reading and go til you finish, you won't regret it. 

On a side note, I am totally enamored with the glass jars on the cover too!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

It must be summer because there is a new Dorothea Benton Frank book to enjoy!

Reading a book by Dorothea Benton Frank is like sitting on your comfy couch, wearing your jammies and sipping a glass of good wine. It just feels good! in the Hurricane Sisters, we meet three generations of women all of whom are going through a crisis of one kind or another and who feels that they are the only one who is keeping it together. Liz is dealing with her semi-crazy mother, a daughter who won't listen to her and seems to be slipping away and a marriage that is not quite right for reason's she isn't totally sure of. Matriarch Maisie is living in sin with a younger man (sixties compared to her eighty), worried about her daughter and granddaughter all the while feeling put upon by their restrictions. Lastly, Ashley is living in her parent's beach house with her best friend and considering possibly illegal parties to make some money. At the same time she has met the man who might be the one except for some niggling doubts about his true character.
As in all of DBF's books. there is a rich back story that plays out in present time because of the effects the past has on every things that happens. There is a strong theme of domestic violence that slithers under the entire story and comes out in a real shocker in the end for all three women.

I loved this book and all of the twists and turns and glimpses of the everyday lives of a family of interesting folk. And there is llama drama! Great summer read that I couldn't put down until I got to the end.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Worth the wait! Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh

What a great book! Vasic is an Arrow tasked by Kaleb Krychek with finding a group of E-Psy (Empaths) in hopes that they may be the key to the infection that is coursing through the NetMind. Vasic is paired with Ivy Jane, a young woman who was damaged by a badly botched reconditioning at the age of 16. The hope is that the E-Psy can do something to combat the infection which is making the Psy go into mass killing frenzies. The episodes are happening faster and deadlier as each day passes.
Vasic, who has been the typical unfeeling automaton in previous books, begins to discover feelings he thought were gone when he is paired with Ivy. She is initially leery of Vasic but gradually discovers that she is falling in love with him. The work that the two are part of is a heavy burden and there is an added roadblock concerning a medical procedure that Vasic underwent prior to their meeting and which may cause serious problems in the near future.
The best part of this book was seeing such an emotionally damaged man learn to love another person, to forgive himself for past actions and to watch his slow change into a caring person. Once Vasic opens his heart to Ivy, he discovers multiple instances of emotional bonds he has created with others without even realizing it. Ivy feels so much for Vasic, love for him and sadness for his pain and she helps him realize that he is more than what he did in the past and that he is worthy of happiness.

The nature of the story is such that there is contact with many of the favorite characters but also the introduction of some new people. There are twists and turns with people who have been small parts of previous books but essential in this one. The suspense level is high on several levels which balances the emotional scenes between Vasic and Ivy. I got a big kick out of his inability to control his TK ability when being passionate with Ivy and having to go to Judd for advice. Let me just say that the love scenes are steamy both literally and figuratively! 

I'm hoping that Aden will have a book in the near future. He has been a big part of this wonderful series and deserves his happy ending too.