<i>Shameless</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Shameless: Exclusive Excerpt Brynley Bush “Do any of those things turn you on?” <i>Hot & Bothered</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Hot & Bothered: Exclusive Excerpt Liz Maverick Jack groaned, the passion of his kisses intensifying. <i>At His Service</i>: Exclusive Excerpt At His Service: Exclusive Excerpt Suzanne Rock She undid the top few buttons of her blouse, revealing the upper curve of her breasts. <i>Jaguar Pride</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Jaguar Pride: Exclusive Excerpt Terry Spear Seeing her super-manly partner with cubs stirs up some unexpected desires...
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Showing posts by: Evangeline Holland click to see Evangeline Holland's profile
Jun 10 2014 3:30pm

The Give and Take of Vicki Pettersson’s Celestial Blues Trilogy

The Given by Vicki PetterssonInstead of a dame walking into the office of a rumpled, cynical P.I., the rumpled, cynical P.I. drops from heaven and into the life of the dame—Kit Craig, rockabilly and Girl Friday—one evening in modern-day Las Vegas. And so begins Vicki Pettersson's Celestial Blues trilogy, which wraps up with The Given this month.

I've long been a fan of urban fantasy, though for a while there, I was burnt out on ingenue narrarators and their paranormal love triangles (or quadrangles), as well as the creatures that go bump in the night. Pettersson injects new life into the genre with her blend of mid-century cool, Las Vegas kitsch, some theology, and a shaken, not stirred, splash of pulp noir. Oh, and there's an angsty, sexy star-crossed romance between journalist Kit Craig and her angel P.I. Griffin Shaw to round out the awesomeness.

[What's not to like?...]

May 9 2014 8:30am

A Very Unusual Historical: Margeaux Otis’s 1919: After the War

1919: After the War 1 by Margeaux OtisIt's no secret that I have a love affair with the First World War. Though many view it with sorrow and horror—an image fostered by the poetry of Wilfred Owen and programmes like Blackadder Goes Forth—I find it a time of hope and courage, and yes, even romance. Margeaux Otis captures this in in her book 1919: After the War, which is actually set in post-WWI America and not Britain. This was an interesting and welcome change for me, since WWI is America's “forgotten war,” overshadowed as it is by the Civil War, WWII, and Vietnam in our modern memories.

1919 features multiple romantic strands—the eros of Rosalind and Matthew; the philia of Matthew and George; the storge of the main characters and their families—which gives dimension to the plot. Adding further depth to 1919 is its fascinating portrait of America's diversity (Matthew is Jewish). It is rare to find a U.S.-set historical that embraces the various ethnic groups that stitched together the fabric of American heritage and doesn't shy away from the conflicts these differences could create.

[Dive into the melting pot...]

Nov 2 2013 10:30am

Dancing on the Edge: Love in Black and White

Dancing on the Edge posterIn the BBC/Starz period drama, Dancing on the Edge, screenwriter and director Stephen Poliakoff chronicles the rapid ascent of a black jazz band in early 1930s British society, and the thorny issues of race and class. Romance and passion play a prominent part in this exploration, of course, and as each episode progresses, we watch how it breaks down barriers—and keeps them intact.

The Outsiders

Louis Lester, leader of the Louis Lester Band, is immediately marked as “different” by circle of aristocrats and jazz fans who boost the Louis Lester Band—he is the only British citizen in his band (thereby exempt from needing to file with the immigration offices each week). Yet, his blackness separates him from his countrymen and women. Sarah, a society photographer who is friend/companion to the aristocratic Pamela Luscombe, is also an outsider—though this is less apparent on first meeting. She is the daughter of a Russian Jewish immigrant who escaped the pogroms and is determined not to rock the boat in his new country.

[Will they find a sense of belonging in each other?...]

Oct 29 2013 4:00pm

First Look: Emma Rowley’s Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey (October 29, 2013)

Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey by Emma RowleyEmma Rowley
Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey
St. Martin's Press / October 29, 2013 / $29.99 print, $12.99 digital

Gain unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to Downton Abbey in this official Season 4 tie-in book, complete with never-before-seen photos giving fans insight into the making of the runaway hit.

Expertly crafted with generous inside knowledge and facts, this book will delve into the inspiration behind the details seen on screen, the choice of locations, the music and much more. Step inside the props cupboard or the hair and make-up truck and catch a glimpse of the secret backstage world. In-depth interviews and exclusive photos give insight into the actors’ experiences on set as well as the celebrated creative team behind the award-winning drama. Straight from the director’s chair, this is the inside track on all aspects of the making of the show.

What more can be said about Downton Abbey that has not been uttered by a variety of critics, fans, actors, and Hollywood bigwigs? Since its debut in autumn 2010, the ITV/PBS period drama has wracked up scores of prizes, broken umpteen records, and has been watched in more than 100 countries across the globe. The first two companion books, written by Jessica Fellowes, the niece of writer and creator Julian Fellowes, gave us a look at the world of the Crawley family and their servants—this time, Emma Rowley takes us behind-the-scenes of the making of Downton Abbey in a lavish book filled with photographs and tidbits.

[Peek behind the curtain...]

Aug 29 2013 8:30am

“You’re My Obsession": Best Lines in Romance Novels

Midnight Waltz by Jennifer BlakeWhile introducing her upcoming historical romance and her debut YA historical fantasy, The Burning Sky, on her blog, Sherry Thomas spoke about the description or bit of dialogue that perfectly encapsulated the emotional and romantic impact of a book. Her example was Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, whose blurb (following) “got [her] to open my wallet and buy [a] copy.”

About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

This made me think of the passages in my absolute favorite romance novels that, well, made them my absolute favorite romance novels.

First up is Jennifer Blake’s Midnight Waltz. Set in 1850s Louisiana—as per usual with Blake—and featuring a pretty scandalous arrangement involving the heroine Amalie, this line in particular, uttered by the hero, Robert, gets me every time!:

“Because — oh, because I looked at you that first day in M’mere’s sitting room, with your hair hanging in wet wisps about your face, with raindrops like tears on your cheeks and such concern in your eyes, and I knew you were mine. You were mine, and though it was too late to make you my wife, I could still have you, for I had just been told exactly that.”

[Oh, swoon!...]

Jun 21 2013 1:30pm

Letters of Love: Epistolary Romance

Letters from Skye by Jessica BrockmoleReading Jessica Brockmole's July debut, Letters from Skye, reveals that the title of the book is, er, literal! Letters from Skye is an unbashedly romantic epistolary novel following the star-crossed romance of Scottish poet Elspeth Dunn and American college student David Graham in Edwardian era Scotland & during WWI. This secret courtship is pried open in 1940 by Elspeth's daughter Margaret, who is involved in her own wartime romance, and the letters following this relationship as well as Margaret's with her mother, lend an even richer texture to the plot.

The epistolary novel is common in mainstream fiction and classic literature (Bram Stoker's Dracula!), but it's rare in the romance genre—perhaps because it risks lessening the emotional intensity? Or because it means the hero and heroine are involved in a long-distance and/or physically estranged relationship? That said, there are a few romance novels that use letters and other forms of communication to build the protagonists' relationship:

[Let the written word carry your love!...]

Dec 31 2012 10:00am

Ring in with Romance!: Best of 2012, Day 5

Touch of Crimson by Sylvia Day

May old friends be forgot? We don't think so! We're celebrating our favorite reads with five days of the Best of 2012. We asked our bloggers for their favorite recommendations of 2012, with one stipulation, they had to be new to them and not necessarily new to 2012. We know we got a few recommendations to add to our to be read piles and it's a great way to feed those readers!

Don't miss out on the shopping list for these great recommendations once you finish reading, and check out the recommendations from Day One, Day Two, Day Three, and Day Four, too! Click here to view the Day Five shopping list.

Sage Spelling:

The Renegade Angels series by Sylvia Day.
A dark and dangerous world where vampires are fallen angels, and lycans and vampires rebel against the elite Special Ops unit of the seraphim as each race struggles for power over one another.

[Struggles for power, you say? That sounds fun!]

Dec 27 2012 10:00am

First Look: Judith Kinghorn’s The Last Summer (December 31, 2012)

The Last Summer by Judith KinghornJudith Kinghorn
The Last Summer
NAL Trade / December 31, 2012 / $16.00 print, $9.99 digital

I was almost seventeen when the spell of my childhood was broken...It was the beginning of summer and, unbeknown to any of us then, the end of a belle epoque...

In July of 1914, innocent, lovely Clarissa Granville lives with her parents and three brothers in the idyllic isolation of Deyning Park, a grand English country house, where she whiles away her days enjoying house parties, country walks and tennis matches. Clarissa is drawn to Tom Cuthbert, the housekeeper's handsome son. Though her parents disapprove of their upstairs-downstairs friendship, the two are determined to see each other, and they meet in secret to share what becomes a deep and tender romance. But soon the winds of war come to Deyning, as they come to all of Europe. As Tom prepares to join the front lines, neither he nor Clarissa can envision what lies ahead of them in the dark days and years to come. Nor can they imagine how their love will be tested, or how they will treasure the memory of this last, perfect summer.

Judith Kinghorn's The Last Summer will be touted as perfect for Downton Abbey fans—the pre-war setting, the country house, the star (class)-crossed lovers—but this bittersweet tale reminds me more of Atonement than Downton's lavish soapyness. Narrated in the first person by Clarissa, who begins the story as a sheltered teenager, The Last Summer is soaked through with atmosphere and portents of what is to come. The linchpin upon which the novel turns is Clarissa's burgeoning love for Tom. He is the housekeeper's son (and is of mysterious antecedents), and despite his being permitted to socialize with the inhabitants of Deyning Park, the bounds of class still rule late Edwardian society...

[You know how it is...]

Oct 9 2012 4:30pm

History Isn’t Just the Regency: Unusual Time Periods for Historical Romance

The Bachelor List by Jane FeatherFor far too long, Beau Brummel's cravat has held a stranglehold on historical romance! Yes, we dip our toes in books set twenty or thirty years on either side of the Regency, and some even—daringly—dabble in medievals or Westerns, but when you think of Historical Romance, you tend to think of books set in that tiny sliver of a setting known as Regency England. But no more! With the successes of Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, and even Mad Men, and perhaps our march into the 21st century, readers are tentatively interested in romance novels filled with motorcars, electricity, telephones, short hemlines, and speakeasies. Granted, I do have a personal stake in this new trend, since I write 20th century-set romance novels <eg>, but I believe this setting is just as romantic as all of those books filled with Empire waists, scandalous waltzes, dandies, rum smugglers, and curricle races.

My love affair with the Edwardian Era was sparked by Jane Feather's Matchmaker's trilogy. Published back to back in 2004, the trilogy follows Constance, Prudence, and Chastity Duncan, daughters of a spendthrift viscount and a (deceased) suffragist. To resuscitate their waning income, they reinstate their mother's society newspaper and add a matchmaking service to go with it. Book one, The Bachelor List, opens in the midst of the suffragette movement, which was sparked when the Women's Social and Political Union moved their headquarters from Manchester to London. Ardent suffragist Constance Duncan meets her match in new MP and Cabinet Member, Max Ensor, whose views on votes for women are more than Neanderthal. Book two, The Bride Hunt, deals with the trouble their newspaper has caused for their father's dubious business associate, which leads Prudence to obtain the services of London's top barrister, Sir Gideon Malvern. In Book three, The Wedding Game, the youngest Duncan sister is hired to find a rich bride for Dr. Douglas Farrell, and ends up wanting him herself!

[More fun with time periods...]

Aug 8 2012 4:00pm

Genre Experiment: H&H Blogger Evangeline Holland Reads Megan Hart’s Broken

Broken by Megan HartH&H’s bloggers are all avid readers, of course, and each has their favorite genre.

So, of course, we challenged them to read outside of their favorite genre—to read a book, in fact, in a genre they never read in. And we asked another H&H blogger who does read in that genre to choose the best book for the neophyte to read.

We’ll be posting the results of the Genre Experiment as each blogger finishes—or does not finish (DNFs)—their book. Today, Evangeline Holland reads Megan Hart’s Broken from a recommendation by Tori Benson.

I sound like a broken record when I say I don’t read romance for the sex. Sure, I love a good sex scene like most of us, and I like the sound of sexy premises, but the thought of reading a book where a large majority of the plot is created to lead up to as many sex scenes as possible bores me to tears. Yet I loved the Fifty Shades trilogy, which has plenty of sex, and I’m an Emma Holly fangirl (I guess her traditional blurbs lured me in, haha), so when H&H challenged a few of us to try genres we’d never read, I decided to join in and see if my boredom was justified.

The recommendation I got was Megan Hart’s Broken, and I was  open to it since I have heard so many great things about Hart’s novels, but unfortunately, I was very disappointed. Let me explain why (be warned: There are spoilers!).

[Why didn’t you love it?...]

May 18 2012 9:30am

First Look: Jeannie Lin’s My Fair Concubine (May 22, 2012)

My Fair Concubine by Jeannie LinJeannie Lin
My Fair Concubine
Harlequin / $6.25 print, $4.79 digital  / May 22, 2012

Yan Ling tries hard to be servile—it’s what’s expected of a girl of her class. Being intelligent and strong-minded, she finds it a constant battle.

Proud Fei Long is unimpressed by her spirit—until he realizes she’s the answer to his problems. He has to deliver the emperor a “princess.” In two months can he train a tea girl to pass as a noblewoman?

Yet it’s hard to teach good etiquette when all Fei Long wants to do is break it, by taking this tea girl for his own….

Jeannie Lin continues her streak of bold, passionate, and exciting romances set during the Tang Dynasty with My Fair Concubine. Obviously by the title, this book draws its premise from Shaw’s Pygmalion, but a more apt comparison would be the Fox 1997 animated film, Anastasia, which paired a strong and dynamic heroine with an honorable rogue.

[Honorable rogues make us swoony!...]

Nov 18 2011 12:30pm

What’s Old Is New: E-book Reissues from Guhrke, Carr, and Canham

To Dream Again by Laura Lee GuhrkeThe opportunities welcomed by self-publishing e-books has opened the doors not only for authors who color just slightly beyond the lines, but for veteran authors to dust off their out-of-print (OOP) and/or hard-to-find (HTF) books, digitize them, spruce them up with a new cover, and upload them to any number of direct publishing programs. The list of authors self-publishing their backlists is substantial and growing by the day, but here is a short but sweet list of books I personally recommend you rediscover.

From the talented pen of Laura Lee Guhrke comes one of my absolute favorite romance novels, To Dream Again.

To save her London factory, widow Mara Elliot is forced into partnership with handsome inventor Nathaniel Chase, but his plans soon put everything she’s worked for at risk. Mara fights him at every turn and sparks his desire like no woman before, but Nathaniel is determined to follow his dream. Can he convince Mara to follow it, too? Or will he have to give up his dream in order to win her heart?

[Why choose?...]

Oct 21 2011 3:30pm

Fresh Meat: Beverly Jenkins’s Night Hawk (Oct. 25, 2011)

Night Hawk by Beverly JenkinsNight Hawk
Beverly Jenkins
Avon, October 25, 2011, $7.99

Outlaw. Preacher. Night Hawk. He’s had many names, but he can’t escape the past.

Since Ian Vance’s beloved wife was murdered years ago, the hardened bounty hunter knows he’ll never feel love or tenderness again, so he’s made it his mission to ensure others get their justice. But when he’s charged with delivering a sharp-eyed beauty to the law, Ian can’t help but feel he may still have something left to lose.

Orphaned at twelve, Maggie Freeman has always found her way out of trouble. But now there’s a vigilante mob at her back who would like nothing more than to see her hang for a crime she didn’t commit. Maggie may have to accept help for the first time in her life . . . even if it’s from the one man standing between her and freedom.

As the past closes in, the sassy prisoner and toughened lawman may just find a passion between them that could bring blinding happiness . . . if they’ll let it.

[Let it! Let it!...]

Sep 15 2011 12:30pm

The Down-Low on Downton Abbey: Preparing for Downton Abbey Season 2!

Lady Sybil as a Nurse in Downton AbbeyAs we gear up for Downton Abbey Season 2, starting to air in the U.K. this Sunday, we thought we’d offer some historical perspective on what the Downton Abbey community is facing with the onset of World War I. Let’s just say, it’s more than tea parties, social class scuffles, and finding the right eligible man to marry!

It is fitting that the first season of Downton Abbey was bookended with a telegram—one announcing the sinking of the Titanic, and the other announcing war. When the second series of Downton Abbey opens, it is late 1916, and the leap ahead is a compelling move, for this year marked the end of antiquated Victorian tactics and the beginning of a full-scale, modern war utilizing every technological advance of the 1890s and 1900s, the beginnings of twentieth century British politics, and the foundation for the conflict in the Middle East:

The huge volunteer army that Britain had been training and equipping for two years was at last thrown into the conflict on the Somme, and there most of a generation of young men were killed. For all of the warring powers, 1916 was a year of catastrophe. But perhaps for Britain, uninvolved in any important war for a century and unused to the collision of great armies, the hideous losses of the Somme were more of a shock. There came the realization by the end of the year that the war was no closer to decision than it had been two years earlier. —Britain Since 1918 (1967) by Bentley B. Gilbert

[Time sure does fly...]

Jul 12 2011 2:00pm

Eff You!: Romance Novels are NOT Porn for Women!

Rabbit image courtesy of picto:graphic via FlickrMost of the jabs directed at the romance genre by non-romance readers have to do with sex—romance writers are frustrated housewives, romance readers are sex-crazed, the books create unrealistic expectations, et cetera et cetera. In turn, most of us have been largely conditioned to hide our clinch covers, splay our fingers across such titles as Bedded by the Sheikh or The Prince’s Virgin Seduction, and passionately argue that the blurb focusing on the hero’s lusty ways and the heroine’s quivering loins are not the sole focus of the book—we’re reading them for, well, the romance!

The main joke at our—and the genre’s—expense is that romance novels are “porn for women,” and at that I call foul.

Everywhere we turn, sex and women’s bodies are displayed for the gratification of the male gaze. Playboy and its various entities have become embedded in pop culture, magazines like Cosmo recycle countless articles on how to become a sex goddess for your man, and visiting a strip club with your man or your girlfriends is seen as the height of sophistication.

[Fun times...]

Jun 6 2011 9:30am

In Praise of the Heroine’s Journey

Castle of Foxes by Alanna KnightOne of the elements that draws me to the romance genre is the heroine’s story. When catch my first glimpse of a new release, my interest sharpens if the cover features a woman—or if the heroine is in a prominent position—and is further piqued if the blurb promises an intriguing heroine with a meaty conflict. In turn, I give my heroines greater leeway for unsympathetic behavior than I do my heroes, and nothing turns me off a book quicker than the deterioration of a heroine’s strength, character, and story once the hero appears on the scene.

My introduction to the heroine’s story was through gothic romances. Beneath the brooding Rochester-esque heroes, the spooky castles, and the heroine’s helplessness and relative innocence lies a coming-of-age story. Some of my favorite gothic romances—The India Fan by Victoria Holt, Merlin’s Keep by Madeleine Brent, Castle of Foxes by Alanna Knight, to name a few—frequently discussed and challenged the roles of women in historical settings, and the heroine’s refusal to give into the hero’s darkness was a test of her strength and character. To focus on Victoria Holt in particular, she always began her books from a turning point in the heroine’s childhood, and though the heroines were poor or disadvantaged, they were always fiercely intelligent, resourceful, and independent.

[In a word? Awesomesauce...]