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April 1, 2015
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Claire Kells
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Team H & H
Showing posts by: Dolly Sickles click to see Dolly Sickles's profile
Nov 20 2012 12:15pm

First Look: Sara Fawkes’s Anything He Wants (November 27, 2012)

Anything He Wants: Dominated by the Billionaire by Sara FawkesSara Fawkes
Anything He Wants
St. Martin's Griffin / November 27, 2012 / $14.99 print, $9.99 digital

Lucy Delacourt's temp position isn't quite her dream job but it pays the bills. The highlight of her day is riding the elevator in the mornings with a handsome stranger. Tall, dark, and sexy as hell, Lucy knows he's way out of her league, but a girl can look, right? 

Everything changes the day the stranger seduces her. Completely out of character, she yields without a fight, but she has no idea her wanton acts with a man whose name she doesn't know will change her life forever. Because the sexy stranger is none other than Jeremiah Hamilton, billionaire CEO of Hamilton Industries, and one taste isn't nearly enough to satisfy his need.  As the billionaire pulls Lucy deeper into his world of high stakes business deals and ruthless takeovers, he demands nothing less than her complete surrender. But even as enemies seek deadly revenge against him, she’ll discover that her greatest threat is falling for her fiercely guarded boss…and yielding to her own darkest needs.

Releasing novels in serial form is not a new concept. It started in the 17th century, but was really at its height in the 19th century in England. Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, and Charles Dickens serialized novels during the Victorian period, as did Stephen King with The Green Mile in the 1990s. But I’m an immediate satisfaction kind of gal, so I find the serial novel to be very anxiety-inducing.

Thankfully, by the time I discovered new-to-me author Sara Fawkes and her serial erotic romance, Anything He Wants, the fifth (and final) installation was releasing so I didn’t have to wait.

[And now the full story's out in paperback for our glomming pleasure...]

Oct 23 2012 2:30pm

Short and Sweet (and Hot!): Novellas from Lori Foster, Shannon McKenna, and More!

SEAL of My Dreams AnthologyI didn’t really begin reading romances until after I’d been out of college for a few years. With my literature degree in writing and editing, I’d read my share of novels, but there’s a point during the curriculum where reading changes from pleasure to pressure. And then I discovered novellas.

In the span of my crazy, busy life, novellas gave me the passion-filled, hopeful stories I craved on my multi-tasking-addled advertising brain. When I had more time, I invested in full-length novels; but during the week when there was only time for quickies, I voraciously consumed novellas. They were a great way to introduce me to a ton of new authors.

In the years since, I’ve cultivated and expanded my tastes, and have a great method for finding new authors and titles. But I still love novellas. My favorite books to purchase for my e-reading are novellas, because the faster-paced story is the perfect match for readers on the go. Here are some great stories and authors to get you started … I’m starting with some newer authors and following it up with some oldies but goodies.

[Novella recommendations? Don't mind if I do...]

Oct 21 2012 10:30am

It’s Those Same Agents Again!: Catherine Coulter’s (Too?) Long-Running FBI Series

The Cove by Catherine CoulterIt’s a good thing there are so many subgenres of romance, because the industry certainly tailors to the notion of having something for everyone. Like many of us, I read voraciously and am in constant search of new authors. I’ve read myself out of my local library, and have to walk a fine line with my soul mate on how many books I buy each month (digitally and in print) so it won’t “put us in the poor house.” And because I read so much, I find that I really like a different storyline each time. A series is a real emotional investment that I don’t always have time to give. Short series appeal to me, and I much prefer series tie-ins that make allusion to previous characters rather than focusing so heavily on involving them, again, in another book. A great example of this tangent-style series is Avery Flynn’s Layton Family series. Love her wit and voice, and love her sparingly off-handed mentions of characters past. But Flynn’s tangent style is not necessarily the norm.

I was new to romantic suspense when I read Catherine Coulter’s The Cove, and I scooped the next book in the series, The Maze when it came out. We’re introduced to FBI agent Dillon Savich in The Cove, but he really begins to shine in the follow-up. He also bucks the system and falls in love with one of his agents, Lacey Sherlock. I can remember thinking, at the time, “Way to go, Savich… standing up for love like that.”

[Savich is the MAN...]

Sep 28 2012 4:00pm

“As You Wish”: Great Lines in Movies and Romance Novels

Jerry MaguireWhen I was a kid, my mother and I had the regular habit of going to Sunday matinees after church. Then when I was in college, I worked at a video store during summer and holiday breaks, as did my husband. Between the three of us, we can quote thousands of movie lines. My favorites are comedies from the '80s and '90s.

I can watch a good movie over and over, just as I can read a good book over and over. My paperback books are well-worn, and well loved. I’ve even had to buy second copies of some of my favorites, specifically Julie Garwood’s The Prize, Peter Mayle’s Anything Considered, and Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect. It's money well spent.

But if you’re like me, you can identify great books from a couple lines of text—or, at the very least, a couple great lines are enough to whet your appetite for more. Let’s test out that theory with a couple of movies first.

[What's in a line?...]

Aug 19 2012 1:00pm

An Author By Any Other Name: Exploring Nina Bruhns and Nikita Black’s Writing

Red Heat by Nina BruhnsBefore I became a romance and children’s book novelist, I had a long and interesting career in the arts, public relations, and as a journalist. For five of them, I was a volunteer Senior Docent at the North Carolina Museum of Art. One of my favorite galleries was the African gallery, steeped in rich history and tradition. But I was also an art patron, and at a fundraiser for the African gallery about ten years ago, I won a Pende mask. It hangs in my dining room, and serves as a reminder to me that when you don a mask, you can be anything—or anyone—you want to be.

Many authors practice the same theory, that of donning another identity—but we call them pseudonyms. Nora Roberts writes slightly futuristic tales under the pseudonym J.D. Robb; Sherrilyn Kenyon writes historic romances as Kinley MacGregor; and one of my favorite contemporary romantic suspense authors, Nina Bruhns, writes erotic romance as Nikita Black. Putting on a new name gives an author the freedom to write something totally different in genre and subject…but the underlying intelligence and sentence structure is there. A great writer and storyteller is still a great writer and storyteller regardless of which mask they don. You know what they say: an author by any other name is…well, still the same person.

[And their writing is still as good...]

May 29 2012 5:00pm

First Look: Erin Knightley’s More Than A Stranger (June 5, 2012)

More Than a Stranger by Erin KnightleyErin Knightley
More Than a Stranger
Penguin / June 5, 2012 / $7.99

When his family abandoned him at Eton, Benedict Hastings found an unexpected ally in his best friend’s sister. Her letters kept him going—until the day he had to leave everything behind. Years later, Benedict has seen his share of betrayal, but when treachery hits close to home, he turns to his old friend for safe haven….

After five torturous years on the marriage circuit, Lady Evelyn Moore is finally free to live her life as she wishes. So when her brother shows up with a dashing stranger, she finds herself torn between her dreams...and newfound desires. Despite his determination to keep Evie at a distance, Benedict cannot deny the attraction that began with a secret correspondence. Yet as they begin to discover one another, the dangers of Benedict’s world find them, threatening their lives, their love, and everything they thought they could never have…

A recent report on Mashable.com noted that, “More than 66% of adults are connected to one or more social media platforms.” On the one hand, it certainly makes maintaining a missive extremely quick and easy. On the other, it’s streamlining the process of correspondence so much that the art of letter writing is being lost.

Erin Knightley’s debut historical romance, More Than A Stranger, poses a most intriguing question that would likely be lost in our modern era of social media: If two people fell in love without ever having met, would they know each other when they finally came face to face?

[Since this is a romance, I’m guessing the answer is “yes”?...]

May 22 2012 3:00pm

First Look: Cherry Adair’s Vortex (May 22, 2012)

Vortex by Cherry AdairCherry Adair
St. Martin’s Press / May 22, 2012 / $7.99 print, $7.99 digital


Searching for a sunken ship off the coast of Peru, treasure hunter Logan Cutter manages to pull a very different kind of prize from the sea—beautiful gallery owner Daniela Rosada. Dani claims she was thrown overboard by ruthless pirates and begs for his protection. But Logan is no stranger to a woman’s lies, and something about her story doesn’t add up.


With her knowledge of Peruvian artifacts, Dani offers to help Logan translate an ancient map that will lead them to a shipwrecked treasure—and into a carefully laid trap. But the closer they get, the deeper she falls for him, not realizing that Logan is hiding a secret of his own. By the time she learns the truth about his boat, his brothers—and his blood feud with pirates—it’s too late. By falling in love, they’ve set a course for disaster…

Cherry Adair’s at it again with sexy suspense and high-seas adventure in the third installment of her Cutter Cay series, Vortex. And I must say this is my favorite!

[Obviously we must know why...]

May 5 2012 12:00pm

Authors Linda Howard and Susan Andersen Write the Upside of Abusive Stalkers

Mr. Perfect by Linda HowardIt’s strange to think there may be an upside to having an abusive stalker, but if you’re a heroine in a romance novel, you can count on it as fact. And two of the best bright-side-of-stalking stories are by two of my favorite authors: Linda Howard, and Susan Andersen.

In Mr. Perfect, Linda Howard introduces us to Jaine Bright and her three best friends. In a moment of frustration during after-work cocktails, and in the crowd-pleasing tradition of Weird Science, they create a list that defines the perfect man: Mr. Perfect.

• He’s faithful. Doesn’t cheat or lie
• Nice
• Dependable
• Steady job
• Sense of humor
• Money
• Good to look at
• Great in bed, with stamina, and “leftovers”

[Seems perfectly reasonable to me...]

Apr 28 2012 4:00pm

Catherine Coulter’s Romantic Suspense...with a Twist!

The Edge by Catherine CoulterDid you ever see Quentin Tarantino’s action movie, From Dusk to Dawn? It was Tarantino’s next movie after Pulp Fiction, and still being fairly new to Tarantino, we rented it with no knowledge of the story. Halfway through, while minding my own business, vampires shot out of their rendezvous strip joint.

That’s right, I said vampires. What does that have to do with Pulp Fiction? Absolutely nothing. Which is what makes it so awesome! I love an unexpected twist. That’s why I’ve been a fan of Catherine Coulter’s for such a long time—the suspenseful twists and turns in her stories that call to me like a Siren.

The Edge (2000) has quite the surprise twist. You might recognize Ford MacDougal from The Maze; he was (Lacey) Sherlock’s FBI partner until she met and fell in love with her alliterative husband (Dillon) Savich. When Ford’s sister, Jilly, is gravely injured after driving her Porsche off an Oregon cliff, he experiences the whole episode with her from his hospital recovery bed—in Maryland at Bethesda Naval Hospital. And since Coulter writes the story in first person through Ford’s eyes, we get to experience all the anguish and confusion and fear bombarding him throughout the whole ordeal. When he’s well enough to travel, he heads for the West Coast. But hours after Jilly comes out of her coma, she’s kidnapped. And now Ford’s on the chase.

[What a good brother...]

Mar 20 2012 5:00pm

Fresh Meat: Deb Marlowe’s Tall, Dark and Disreputable (April 1, 2012)

Tall, Dark and Disreputable by Deb MarloweDeb Marlowe
Tall, Dark and Disreputable
Harlequin/April 1, 2012/$6.25 print, $4.79 digital

Portia Tofton has always yearned for brooding Mateo Cardea. His dark good looks filled her girlish dreams—dreams that were cruelly shattered when Mateo rejected her hand in marriage.

Now Portia’s home has been gambled away, and Mateo is the only man she can turn to. This time, however, she has in her possession something he wants—and she finds herself striking a deal with the devil himself!

Danger is all around—but Portia has no choice but to trust this man who once betrayed her….

Ever wanted something (or someone) so bad that you made a deal with the devil? A couple years ago we were visiting some friends in Arizona, and they scheduled a sunset horseback ride in the Sonoran Desert’s serene Tanque Verde Valley, followed by dinner at a restaurant at the top of a mountain (with what felt like a 90 degree climb). Since I’d made it a purposeful 35 years without riding a horse, I was a nervous wreck. I chattered constantly with my horse, and dealt deals with the Devil, Fate, Krusty the Klown…just about anybody who I thought would be listening. I did NOT want to get bucked off that horse and fall into a cactus and die in the Arizona desert. Hell, no.

[Oh, geez! So what happened?...]

Mar 5 2012 3:15pm

Fresh Meat: Aimee Laine’s Hide and Seek (March 5, 2012)

Hide & Seek by Aimee LaineAimee Laine
Hide and Seek
J. Taylor/March 5, 2012/pb $14.99, digital $5.99

Lie, cheat or steal, no one can catch Tripp Fox. Except one woman.

Lexi Shepherd’s knack for finding whatever is asked of her isn’t sheer luck. It’s a gift from the Greek god Zeus.

That Lexi doesn’t use her ability to search for “Mr. Right” comes from one of many personal rules she has set for herself. Number one is not to let fate dictate her future.

Falling in love with Tripp breaks all the others....

I have always been fascinated with Greek mythology. I can trace my fascination back to childhood and reading about Atalanta in Free To Be You and Me (I had the LP, too). My fascination continued to my years as a senior docent with the North Carolina Museum of Art, and my specialty in ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. And is precisely why I love Aimee Laine’s Hide and Seek.

[So...it’s not all Greek to you?...]

Feb 28 2012 4:30pm

Fresh Meat: Katharine Ashe’s When a Scot Loves a Lady (Feb. 28, 2012)

When a Scot Loves a Lady by Katharine AsheKatharine Ashe
When a Scot Loves a Lady
Avon/Feb. 28, 2012/$7.99 pb; $4.99 digital

After years as an agent of the secret Falcon Club, Lord Leam Blackwood knows it’s time to return home to Scotland. One temptation threatens his plans—Kitty Savege, who warms his blood like a dram of fine whiskey. But a dangerous enemy stands in the way of desire, and to beat this foe Leam needs Kitty’s help . . .

Kitty never wanted to spend her holidays in a wretched country village! With snow up to the windows, escape is nowhere in sight. A roguish Scottish lord, however, is. His rough brogue sends heat from Kitty’s frigid toes to her chilled nose, but she’s confident she can withstand that. What she cannot control is the reaction of her guarded heart when she discovers this beast is no beast at all . . .

Katharine Ashe had me with the opening line of the story:

“A lady endowed with grace of person and elevation of mind ought not to stare.”

In high school I worked at a frozen yogurt shop, and this man used to come in every couple of weeks to get a cone. The first time he stepped up to the counter, my friend and I just stood there staring dumbly. I can remember it like it was yesterday; he blushed awkwardly, and looked away from us because our regard was so...invasive. But we were helpless. And surely such a good-looking guy was used to people reacting to him like that—right?

[Is it rude to stare if you’re just admiring the view?...]

Feb 7 2012 10:30am

Dangerous, Hidden, and Killer: Lora Leigh’s Tempting SEALs Series

Dangerous Games by Lora LeighMy best friend’s married to a military intelligence officer in the Army, and one thing the Major told me years ago when he was still ferrying war criminals to the Hague Tribunals as a pilot, was that anytime the Special Forces soldiers climbed aboard, everyone else puckered up.

That held true no matter where he was—those Special Forces men had an intensity and a presence that commanded respect. Now, that little truth flashes in my head with every news story that hits the wire and through every romance I read. And it makes my heart race. Talk about a temptation.

I love Lora Leigh’s Tempting SEALs series, which can roughly be broken down into a group of active duty SEALs, and a group of retired (but SO not tired) SEALs, fighting a badass formidable foe—an old-school drug cartel villain named Diego Fuentes. Let’s start with the active duty fellas.


Jan 31 2012 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: Victoria Alexander’s My Wicked Little Lies (January 31, 2012)

My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria AlexanderVictoria Alexander

My Wicked Little Lies

Zebra, $7.99/$4.96 digital, Jan. 31, 2012

Evelyn Hadley-Attwater has it all — a genteel Victorian life replete with loving husband, ball gowns and elegant parties. No one, including the man she married, suspects that she was once “Eve,” a spy for England’s most enigmatic intelligence agency. Summoned for one final assignment, the excitement of her former life and memories of her mysterious, flirtatious boss “Sir” prove too tempting... Adrian Hadley-Attwater is a respectable, dignified gentleman. But even the most proper gentlemen have secrets of their own. Secrets from the rest of the world, from their families, from their wives. Secrets that have a price. Now, as a veil of secrecy frays, a tantalizing game of cat and mouse will test the bounds of unfailing love...

As an old-fashioned letter writer, I appreciate a good epistolary relationship. One of my favorites, just for the sheer ingenuity and uniqueness of it, was Nick Bantock’s illustrated novel, Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence. And though Victoria Alexander’s new English Victorian romance, My Wicked Little Lies, is different in its execution, I found myself drawn to the similarly cultivated relationship.

[How so?...]

Dec 26 2011 5:45pm

So You Got an E-Reader for Chrismas!: What to Buy for Your E-Reader

Sizzle by Julie GarwoodAs many a bibliophile can understand, it’s a big decision to begin incorporating digital books into your library. On the one hand, a book is a book, is a book. But on the other, it’s an acknowledgement that the literary industry is, indeed, evolving and in order to adapt, you’ve got to keep up.

(The first e-book I bought when I got a Kindle for Christmas 2009 was Julie Garwood’s Sizzle. We turned on the device, plugged it in, and BAM! there it was. Now I’m hooked.)

E-books come in every genre imaginable. You can download the first chapter for free to see if you want to try something new, which is nice. My husband is an expert first chapter dude; I think he spends his days stopping at the phrase “Chapter Two,” and wondering how stories end. But in the romance industry, there’s been a surge in erotic literature. It’s much easier to read the juicier stuff when you’re not having to hide the book covers from the prying eyes of your children and strangers on public transportation. And e-books are a wonderful way to discover new authors. I read so quickly that I can work my way through an entire backlist in a matter of weeks. And then where am I?

[Where do you go from here?...]

Dec 15 2011 10:30am

Visions of Sugar Plums: The Stephanie Plum Holiday Diet

Homemade doughnuts image by D’Arcy Norman via FlickrDieting is never easy. It has the tendency to make you a little bitchy, gives you a wicked headache, and leaves you hungry and willing to cruise through the Dairy Queen just to smell the waffle cones baking because who knows—maybe you could get some contact calories to help you make it through the day.

With Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, the concept of dieting can also leave you delirious with visions of sugar Plums dancing in your head. Are you a donut diva, like Stephanie? Maybe you’re a trendy dieter like Lula, or even better, a health nut like Ranger? Or (gasp!), maybe you’re a nibbler like Rex. Thanks to the power of fat-free literature, you can live vicariously through your favorite perennial characters.

Stephanie Plum is famous for her donut binges, bucket-filled runs to the Cluck-In-A-Bucket, Tastykake fixation, Pop Tart addiction, and frozen waffle affinity. But since I’ve got the whole Plum library and we don’t have time to write out daily menus of Plum-awesomeness, I grabbed three off the shelf to find some (anti-)diet tips and menu items.

[Nothing beats eating vicariously through Stephanie Plum...]

Dec 1 2011 4:00pm

Responsible Romance: The 30th Anniversary of World AIDS Day

Any self-respecting romance reader will tell you that power is sexy.

The TrumpsHarlequin has a whole executive line of stories about the powerful, wealthy, influential chief executive officer and his mistress/secretary/secret baby. They’re tried and true motif’s that are always scandalous and shocking, and fun to read. And then there’s the mainstream media:

<< Need I say more?

But I want to talk about another kind of power today, on this 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day: knowledge is power. And that power is sexy, too.

[Powering through!...]

Nov 22 2011 10:40am

Fresh Meat: Sabrina Jeffries’s To Wed A Wild Lord (Nov. 22, 2011)

To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina JeffreisSabrina Jeffries
To Wed A Wild Lord
Pocket, $7.99, Nov. 22, 2011

Drowning in guilt over his best friend’s death seven years ago, Lord Gabriel Sharpe, the Angel of Death, knows his only hope at redemption is a race against a shocking opponent.

Shrouded in darkness for the past seven years, the infamous racer Lord Gabriel Sharpe is known to accept every challenge to race thrown at him. When his next challenge comes in the form of his late best friend’s sister, Virginia Waverly, Gabe is shocked. Yet she presents just the opportunity Gabe needs—marriage to fulfill his grandmother’s ultimatum and ensure his inheritance. What he didn’t count on was needing her love.

[Ultimatum-fulfilling and inheritance-getting!...]

Nov 5 2011 3:00pm

Time Traveling Is Not Romantic: Life Lessons from Devereaux, Niffenegger, and Gabaldon

A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude DeverauxThe very first romance I ever read was Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor. It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college (1992), and I was staying with a friend for a few days of R&R. My mother had read romances all my life, old-school styling with Fabio on the front and sweeping vistas of pirate ships and dangerous seas. I was more discerning than that. But Jude Deveraux grabbed me by the gut and held on until I got to the very end and...hated it.

Oh, my God, I have never felt such despair at the end of a book than when Nicholas had to remain in 1500s England and Douglass had to return to the present. It’s one of the few books I have ever actually cried while reading, and wound up in such a maudlin, depressing mood for days afterward. Just writing it now makes my throat close up. Because until the crappy ending, I loved it.

Talk about an indelible impression: I haven’t willingly picked up a book that I knew beforehand was about time travel in 19 years. But there are always those rope-a-dope titles that are popular and “you-have-to-read.” Two more come to mind: Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. And you can forget me including passages from any of these books; I’m in a good mood today and intend to stay that way.

[Beware of getting sucked in...]

Nov 1 2011 11:30am

Possessed by Maya Banks

Men Out of Uniform by Maya Banks, Karin Tabke, and Sylvia DayI just read a new Maya Banks erotic novella called Soul Possession, which is part of the Men Out of Uniform anthology. Talk about a scorcher; the last Banks romance I read was part of the sexy, suspenseful Kelly Series, and her latest Highlander book was just released. Both of those are sexy, but they’re not nearly as highly-charged and erotic as this novella.

One thing I’ve discovered over the years is that sometimes I’m in the mood for something…more. Sort of like when my husband and I watch NCIS with our son during the week, but catch up on Dexter by ourselves on the weekend. I’m intrigued by the imagination of an author who can spin a good yarn, yet cast it with such a wide array of intensity. Sometimes, I like a little erotic fantasy in my romance.

And I’m pretty certain I’m not alone. Let’s look at three of Ms. Banks’s other erotic stories.

[Yes, please!...]