Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Julia Quinn writes another book that is a perfect blend of romance and humor!

This book begins with the dreaded Smythe-Smith music recital. For Sir Richard Kenworthy, one of the unfortunate musicians seems to be the answer to a problem he has. For reasons unknown, he has to get married and soon. Iris Smythe-Smith catches his eye and he determines to marry her. Iris is a smart cookie and she is rightly suspicious of Sir Richard's motives when he comes courting. But, they did have a good time talking at the recital and he doesn't seem to mind her outspokenness so Iris finds herself falling for him. When Richard compromises Iris and forces the wedding, they both hope for the best. Things seem to be working out well until Iris finds out what a big secret Richard is keeping.

This book has all of the humor and romance that one expects from a Julia Quinn story. Iris is a perfect Quinn heroine, full of spunk and very intelligent. Richard just barely keeps from falling over into the cad category with his motives for marriage but he really is a man with a good heart which redeems him. There is just the right amount of spice in the story and lots of clever conversation. One of the best parts for me is when we finally get to see a rendition of the infamous 12 act unicorn play written by Frances Pleinsworth in "A Night Like This".

This book is a wonderful addition to a great series but can be read by a new reader with no problem. But I have to say, if you can,  read all of the books in the series because you won't regret it!

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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cute read- Cooking Up Love by Amylynn Bright

A very cute love story centered around cooking obviously!  Holly Darcy is a food critic and would be romance author who can't cook and Mark Bennett is a chef who won't cook because one of Holly's reviews was the nail in the coffin for his first restaurant. They meet when Holly takes Mark's cooking class. The food isn't the only thing that is heating up- Holly and Mark generate some heat on their own. Of course, neither one knows who the other is until they already are deep into a relationship.

I enjoyed this book because it had a good plot, a nice touch of humor and enough spiciness to keep my interest. I also liked how the author resolved the major conflict between the two without making Holly totally the bad guy. Too often, these books go for the easy ending and don't recognize the faults on both sides. The ending was a perfect fit for the book and the characters.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson. The second good book in a series of reinvented classics

A cute book loosely based on the famous star crossed couple and their feuding families. Juliet Arabella works in her family's chocolate shop which is across the street from their rivals the Mezzanottes. When she is asked to go to the Mezzanotte's masked ball, she can't resist. After turning down an unwelcome proposal from one of the Arabella merchandisers, she heads outside to get some fresh air. When she meets a masked stranger, they begin a conversation and get pretty darn close. Of course, he is revealed to be Leo, one of the Mezzanotte family and it starts a big brouhaha. 

Leo and Juliet find themselves doing a complicated dance of attraction and denial because of the families antipathy but they can't fight the attraction. Chocolate competitions become the battle ground for both the families and the relationship. 

It is finally explained how the feud started with the families and as revealed later, why the betrayal was necessary. Issues that surfaced then are still affecting the families now and are finally revealed to Juliet and Leo. It was nice not to have it be the old stolen fiancee plot! The forbidden aspect of the romance makes it all the more fun to read and Juliet and Leo have great chemistry. A plot twist makes things really interesting at the end and leads to an emotional revelation for Juliet. 

This is the second book of Ms.Wilson's to revisit a famous literary character. Her first book in this series was Unleashing Mr. Darcy which was a particular favorite of mine. I will be happily waiting to read the next book she writes.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Another great trip to Eternity Springs- Dreamweaver Trail by Emily March

I am so glad to finally see Gabi Romano get her happy ever after. Gabi has had a rough time after joining the Destiny Springs PD and having to shoot and kill someone in the line of duty. When the story opens, she has been drifting, helping her mom at the Inn, house sitting, basically trying to find her niche. When she takes a job house sitting on a tropical island, she meets the one man who understands her life all too well. Flynn Brogan has lived a nightmare, having been falsely accused of his wife's murder, losing his friends and family, and being hounded by paparazzi. Gabi doesn't know about this facet of his life as he keeps it from her.

A horrible attack and resulting deaths, along with the truth of Flynn's history causes Gabi to flee the island and return home. Flynn's very existence is threatened when his tortures go from mental to physical and his life is totally changed. He ends up in Destiny Springs looking for some of it's vaunted healing nature and maybe, deep in his heart, a chance to find a way back to Gabi.

I enjoyed this book because Gabi and Flynn are such interesting characters, both scarred by love and searching for a new beginning. Just when they find some peace with each other, life intervenes and they are torn apart. I appreciated that they both had to trust their feelings and really want to make the relationship work the second time around. Flynn is always hiding who he is and doesn't get what he wants until he can open up to Gabi. Gabi needs to trust in her feelings and go for the prize wholeheartedly. 

As in all series, it is fun to see what is going on with the other characters and meeting new ones. There is an excerpt from the next book in the series and it looks like another winner in what has been an excellent series to read. When I got ready to read Dreamweaver Trail, I went back and re-read the entire series and enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

First book in a new series- The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller

Linda Lael Miller's first book in a new Brides of Bliss County series and it's a good start. Three friends have started a marriage pact to support each other while they try to make their dreams come true. Hadleigh once thought she had Mr.Right until her late brother's friend Tripp kidnapped her at the altar and ruined her wedding. Then Tripp dropped the news on her that he was married and left her to deal with the aftermath. 
Years later, the women have started the pact and learn that Tripp is back in town sans wife. Hadleigh has to reexamine her feelings about Tripp- does she or doesn't she still love him. Her friends think she needs to resolve her situation once and for all but Hadleigh isn't sure she could stand another rejection. Tripp has finally realized he has feelings for Hadleigh but isn't sure how to win her over.

It takes a while for the romance to get going in this book, but when it finally does it's pretty explosive. Hadleigh and Tripp waste a lot of time circling around each other so when they do get together it seems like you want to say Finally !!! 

The pact premise is a good one to set up future books in the series and there seems to be hints about at least one of the women and a certain town sheriff. Lael Miller is one of my favorite authors and this is a nice addition to her list. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How I started reading Romance novels...

My relationship with romance novels began as a little girl when I would go visit my grandmother in New Hampshire. I was a light sleeper and I shared the bed with her when we went to visit, so I got up and went into the living room if I couldn't sleep.  She had a set of books covered in red leather that were romance themed books. I think they might have been Faith Baldwin, but I'm not sure.  I remember that one had a character named Mimi who was nasty to the heroine and had short black hair.  Mimi got bitten by karma in the end and the heroine got her man.  I loved that book and read it many times. I would love to be able to find those books again.

A few years later, my mother introduced  me to Georgette Heyer. Ms. Heyer to this day remains one of my favorite authors who I have read again and again with total enjoyment. About 8 years ago I went on a campaign to get as many of her books as I possibly could on audio so I could listen to them in the car. Unfortunately, most were only available on cassette so I had to get a portable player to listen. I scoured the libraries in CT and MA as well as getting involved in bidding wars on eBay, but I got almost every book. Now, most of them are available to download so it's easier to find them. A true Heyer addict, I now have my mother's older books, newer versions, the audio books, and after a big sale on Barnes & Noble, pretty much her whole catalog as e books.

On an interesting note, I always pronounced her name as "higher" and it wasn't until I started to listen to the audio books that I discovered that her last name is actually pronounced "hayer".

To me, the sign of a good author is that much like Ms. Heyers books, I can read a book over and over and enjoy it just as much every time. So, I think in between reviews I am going to post my thoughts on my favorite authors and why I love them so.