<i>Force of Attraction</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Force of Attraction: Exclusive Excerpt D.D. Ayres "Her pulse ticked up with equal amounts of excitement and anxiety." H&H Quickies #8: Lavinia Kent Presents... H&H Quickies #8: Lavinia Kent Presents... Lavinia Kent "And then the woman was naked, the robe falling in a puddle of silk behind her..." <i>Under the Lights</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Under the Lights: Exclusive Excerpt Shannon Stacey "That fruity scent of hers was the smell of forbidden fruit." <i>Instinct</i>: Excerpt Instinct: Excerpt Sherrilyn Kenyon "Nick has just embraced the one person he should never have trusted."
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March 26, 2015
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March 24, 2015
The Rise and Popularity of the Billionaire in Romance Novels
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March 23, 2015
Qualities of the Perfect Romance Hero
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H&H Is Hiring
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Poverty, Sexuality, and Male Bonding in The Truth as He Knows It
John Jacobson
Showing posts by: Kate Nagy click to see Kate Nagy's profile
Jan 11 2015 2:00pm

Aral and Cordelia Reveal Their Souls in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor

Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster BujoldCommander Cordelia Naismith of the Expeditionary Force of the cosmopolitan, highly enlightened planet Beta, has experienced a singularly eventful first command. She and her team—a scientific survey—have managed to stumble upon a war zone, where she has been taken captive by the fearsome Captain Aral Vorkosigan. Vorkosigan is from Barrayar, a planet with a reputation for backwards attitudes and occasional outright barbarism, and he is known throughout the galaxy as the Butcher of Komarr for having (allegedly) perpetrated some particularly vile war crimes. Cordelia quickly realizes, however, that Aral is in a somewhat delicate and complicated position with respect to his own troops, and as they trudge across the countryside en route to a hidden supply cache, she begins to suspect—correctly, as she will learn—that certain aspects of his legend may be, let us say, overblown.

One night at the campfire, they start to talk. Aral has been injured, and Cordelia is worried about both Aral and a gravely wounded member of her team whom they are bringing with them (against Aral’s better judgment). They’re both surprised at what they learn.

[Let's be surprised, too...]

Jan 6 2015 4:00pm

First Look: Grace Burrowes’s A Single Kiss (January 6, 2015)

A Single Kiss by Grace BurrowesGrace Burrowes
A Single Kiss (Single Hearts)
Sourcebooks Casablanca / 
January 6, 2015  / $7.99 print & digital

Hannah Stark has set her sights on corporate law to assure her a career of paperwork, predictability, and conservative suits. Contracts, finance, and the art of the deal sing to her, while the mess and misery of the courtroom do not. But her daughter needs to eat, so when Hannah is offered a temporary position in a small town firm's domestic relations department, she reluctantly accepts.

Trent Knightley is mightily drawn to his newest associate, though Hannah is as protective of her privacy as she is competent. When their friendship and attraction heat up, Hannah's secrets put her heart and Trent's hopes in double jeopardy.

Fiction writers are often admonished to “Write what you know.” Most of the time, they interpret this to refer to the inner emotional lives of our characters. After all, if they took this advice strictly literally with respect to plot, character, and setting, there would be no science fiction or fantasy; little historical fiction (barring the existence of an author with an unlimited research budget—an entity I’ve heard of, but rarely encountered); no time travelers; no vampires; and no hot billionaires under the age of thirty. And that would be no fun at all.

[A single shame, to be sure]

Dec 7 2014 11:00am

Happily Never After: Romances Without a HEA

Recently, H&H’s Jennifer Proffitt took some time to speculate upon the likely fate of The Hobbit’s Kili and Tauriel. Although the adorable, mismatched dwarf-and-elf pair are not precisely canon—Tauriel is an invention of movie director Peter Jackson and his team of scriptwriters—anyone who has read the book is aware of Kili’s fate, and, well, suffice it to say that his future does not involve a tribe of pointy-eared elf babies who are equally proficient at mining and archery. Still, true believers are continuing to hold out hope for the unlikely pair, noting that merely by creating Tauriel, Jackson has shown a refreshing (or perhaps alarming, depending upon your perspective) willingness to play fast and loose with the canon, and that marrying Kili off is hardly as egregious an offense against J.R.R. Tolkien’s oeuvre as creating a girlfriend for him to begin with.

[True, but why give us hope to begin with!]

Oct 25 2014 2:00pm

First Look: Alexis Hall’s Prosperity (October 27, 2014)

Prosperity by Alexis HallAlexis Hall
Riptide / October 27, 2014 / $16.99 print, $6.99 digital

A breathtaking tale of passion and adventure in the untamed skies!

Prosperity, 1863: a lawless skytown where varlets, chancers, and ne’er-do-wells risk everything to chase a fortune in the clouds, and where a Gaslight guttersnipe named Piccadilly is about to cheat the wrong man. This mistake will endanger his life . . . and his heart. Thrill! As our hero battles dreadful kraken above Prosperity. Gasp! As the miracles of clockwork engineering allow a dead man to wreak his vengeance upon the living. Marvel! At the aerial escapades of the aethership, Shadowless.

Beware! The licentious and unchristian example set by the opium-addled navigatress, Miss Grey. Disapprove Strongly! Of the utter moral iniquity of the dastardly crime prince, Milord. Swoon! At the dashing skycaptain, Byron Kae. Swoon Again! At the tormented clergyman, Ruben Crowe. This volume (available in print, and for the first time on mechanical book-reading devices) contains the complete original text of Piccadilly’s memoirs as first serialised in All the Year Round. Some passages may prove unsettling to unmarried gentlemen of a sensitive disposition.

The above book description, which I will forever deeply regret not being the one to have written, gives you a pretty good idea what to expect from Alexis Hall’s wildly entertaining new novel Prosperity. When the marketing team behind Prosperity’s promotional activities informs us that “some passages may prove unsettling to [whatever] of a sensitive disposition,” well, you can consider that fair warning. Part heart-pounding adventure story, part coming-of-age tale, and part unconventional romance, Prosperity is what the loquacious narrator, Piccadilly (aka Dil), might call a “ripping good yarn.” In other words, you really need to read this.

[Tell us more!]

Sep 13 2014 12:00pm

Outlander: Unpacking a Controversial Scene

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon**Spoiler Alert! If you have yet to read Outlander or are new to the show, do NOT read ahead. This post is unpacking a very controversial scene from the book. Reader beware!**

When I first picked Outlander up, nearly fifteen years ago, my love for it was immediate, overwhelming, and complete. I devoured every page—the plot, the setting, and above all the unconventional romance between Jamie and Claire, whose love story would go on to form the backbone of so many sequels. I was certain that this remarkable book was destined for a spot in my all-time Top Five…

…and then I got to the part where Jamie beats Claire.

Hello, needle-on-a-record-album screeching sound!

Now, in fairness, it’s possible that I would react to That Scene a little bit differently were I to encounter it for the first time today, when everyone has safe words and fur-lined handcuffs, while unassuming suburban split-levels are being outfitted with their very own Red Rooms of Pain. It’s possible…but it’s not likely. What Jamie does to Claire is not done in a fun, consensual, Fifty-Shades-of-Tartan kind of way. It’s done out of anger, frustration, desperation, and even in a sense necessity, as Jamie is in danger of losing the respect of his men for “allowing” Claire to behave in such an erratic and potentially dangerous manner:

[She might need to be put in her place...but this way?]

Aug 28 2014 3:00pm

First Look: Grace Burrowes’s The Laird (September 2, 2014)

The Laird by Grace BurrowesGrace Burrowes
The Laird (Captive Hearts)
Sourcebooks Casablanca
/ September 2, 2014 / $7.99 print and digital

He left his bride to go to war...
After years of soldiering, Michael Brodie returns to his Highland estate to find that the bride he left behind has become a stranger. Brenna is self-sufficient, competent, confident-and furious about Michael's prolonged absence.

Now his most important battle will be for her heart
Brenna is also hurt, bewildered, and tired of fighting for the respect of those around her. Michael left her when she needed him most, and then stayed away even after the war ended. Nonetheless, the young man who abandoned her has come home a wiser, more patient and honorable husband. But if she trusts Michael with the truths she's been guarding, he'll have to choose between his wife and everything else he holds dear.

In her most recent novel, The Traitor, Grace Burrowes accomplished the difficult challenge of rehabilitating Sebastian St. Clair, formerly a professional torturer in Napoleon’s employ.  The Laird is a book for anyone who found The Traitor too-light-hearted. The story of Sebastian’s boon companion Michael Brodie and Michael’s long-estranged wife Brenna, The Laird details sensitively yet frankly with a very dark topic indeed: the sexual abuse of a child. Although Burrowes is not gratuitous in her handling of this topic, neither does she pull any punches. This has been your trigger warning.

[We are warned...]

Aug 22 2014 2:00pm

First Look: Kristen Callihan’s Evernight (August 26, 2014)

Evernight by Kristen CallihanKristen Callihan
Evernight (Darkest London #5)
Forever / August 26, 2014 / $6.00 print, $5.99 digital

Once the night comes . . .

Will Thorne is living a nightmare, his sanity slowly being drained away by a force he can't control. His talents have made him the perfect assassin for hire. But as he loses his grip on reality, there is no calming him-until he finds his next target: the mysterious Holly Evernight.

Love must cast aside the shadows

Holly cannot fathom who would put a contract on her life, yet the moment she touches Will, the connection between them is elemental, undeniable-and she's the only one who can tame his bouts of madness. But other assassins are coming for Holly. Will must transform from killer to protector and find the man who wants Holly dead . . . or his only chance for redemption will be lost.

Ever since she burst on to the scene with the inventive and powerfully romantic Firelight back in 2012, Kristen Callihan has been turning out unique and gripping tales that put the steam in steampunk. Even beyond her dense plots and compelling love stories, she’s a master at world-building. Each of her novels is a magnificent edifice in which Victorian London, with its bustle and damp and grime and energy, forms the foundation; the supernatural, including werewolves, ghosts, and an array of other creatures, forms the walls, and the whole is topped off with clever mechanical innovation. Dirigibles float serenely across Callihan’s London sky, while on the ground ghosts with hearts that tick like clocks move with ease among the unaware populace, mingling with werewolves, fae, angels, and vampires.


Aug 7 2014 4:30pm

Dear Old Mum Taught You Better Than That: Outlander and Gender Politics

Outlander by Diana GabaldonAs pretty much everyone knows by now, Vanity Fair recently ran a short piece by one Joanna Robinson about Starz’s upcoming Outlander series. The piece was rather unwisely entitled “Does the New Outlander Series Have What It Takes to Be More than Just a Bodice-Ripper?” Ms. Robinson’s conclusion (as far as I can tell; this wasn’t VF’s finest hour by any stretch) was no, because based on a couple of clips she saw at ComiCon, it was obvious to her that the show was made for and marketed toward (gasp!) wimminz, which would perforce prevent it from being a bona fide hit.

The response was swift and merciless, even here. Last week, Megan Frampton offered up a furious but measured response; commenters were even more, let us say, passionate in their remarks. “Another idiot trying to validate her superiority by 'differentiating' herself from ‘those other females’ and putting down anything liked or valued by ‘them women,’” opined our own Bungluna. Over at Vanity Fair, responses trended positively savage: “Your sloppy, uninformed article can suck a duck,” said one. “I hope you can get a refund from whatever University doled out your degree, along with the free keychain,” said another. “How unfortunate that Vanity Fair allowed a two-penny hack to write this review.” “Too bad that Joanna Robinson was taught to string words together without actually learning to read.” “You are living proof that a horse’s arse has teeth.”

[Wee bit harsh...]

Aug 4 2014 2:00pm

Delicious Despair: A Talent for Agony in Kristen Callihan’s Shadowdance

Alert: The Spoiler Express, bound for Spoilertown, is now boarding! Seriously, I’m about to give away a pretty significant plot twist. Read on at your own risk.

In Kristen Callihan’s spooky steampunk Darkest London series, no two characters have darker histories than Jack Talent and Mary Chase. Jack may strut around town as a powerful shape-shifter and member in good standing of the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals (SOS), an organization dedicating to keeping Queen Victoria’s loyal subjects safe from the various demons and their ilk that swirl about the Sceptered Isle. But his swagger conceals a long history of physical and emotional mistreatment, most recently at the hands of a bevy of malignant demons who abused him in every possible manner until (to his complete relief and humiliation) Mary came to his rescue.

Mary, for her part, may look like a prim Victorian miss, but she’s actually a GIM – a Ghost in the Machine, a reanimated body powered by a mechanical heart, and also in the employ of the SOS. Some years back, Mary was assaulted by a group of rowdies in an alley. Afterwards, confused and distraught, she ran into the street, where she was immediately run down by a gin wagon. At the moment of her death, she was offered second life as a GIM. She eventually became the intimate friend of an enigmatic wastrel named Lucien and allowed everyone, including her SOS colleagues, to believe that she was Lucien’s doxy.

[In Mary's case, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts...]

Jul 31 2014 4:30pm

First Look: Grace Burrowes’s The Traitor (August 5, 2014)

Grace Burrowes
The Traitor
Sourcebooks Casablanca / August 5, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital

The past will overtake him...

Abandoned in France since boyhood, despite being heir to an English barony, Sebastian St. Clair makes impossible choices to survive a tour of duty in the French Army. He returns to England hoping for the peaceful life of a country gentleman, though old enemies insist on challenging him on the field of honor, one after another.

But this time, he will not fight alone...

Millicent Danforth desperately needs her position as companion to the Traitor Baron's aunt, but grieves to learn that Sebastian must continually fight a war long over. As Sebastian and Milly explore their growing passion, they uncover a plot that will cost Sebastian his life and his honor, unless he does battle once more-this time in the name of love.

I tend to think of Grace Burrowes as one of the sunniest of writers, but she actually goes to some pretty dark places in her books. After all, her assorted heroes and heroines have survived penury to various degrees, bereavement, childbirth out of wedlock (and the attendant social consequences), abusive childhoods and abusive marriages, post-traumatic stress, physical disability, and the crushing weight of parental expectations. That everything usually turns out just fine in the end proves that her books are surely optimistic, if not exactly a non-stop laugh riot.

[I'll take a happy ending, but hold the fluff...]

Jul 17 2014 9:30am

First Look: M.D. Waters’s Prototype (July 24, 2014)

Prototype by M.D. WatersM.D. Waters
Prototype (sequel to Archetype)
Dutton Adult / July 24, 2014 / $26.95 print, $12.99 digital

Emma looks forward to the day when she can let go of her past—both of them. After more than a year on the run, with clues to her parents’ whereabouts within her grasp, she may finally find a place to settle down. Start a new life. Maybe even create new memories with a new family. But the past rises to haunt her and to make sure there’s nowhere on the planet she can hide. Declan Burke wants his wife back, and with a little manipulation and a lot of reward money, he’s got the entire world on his side. Except for the one man she dreads confronting the most: Noah Tucker. Emma returns to face what she’s done but finds that the past isn’t the problem. It’s the present—and the future it represents. Noah has moved on and another woman is raising their daughter. In the shocking conclusion to M.D. Waters’s spectacular debut, Emma battles for her life and her freedom, tearing down walls and ripping off masks to reveal the truth. She’s decided to play their game and prove she isn’t the woman they thought she was. Even if it means she winds up dead. Or worse, reborn.

WARNING: M.D. WatersArchetype (the first book in this duology) is well and truly spoiled in the very first sentence of this review! If you haven’t read Archetype yet, we strongly suggest that you turn back now.

[All-righty then! Proceed at your own risk!...]

Jul 16 2014 12:00pm

Anticipating Starz’s Outlander: 5 Things the Series Shouldn’t Change

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall in OutlanderIn just a few short weeks, the long-awaited televised version of Diana Gabaldon’s genre classic Outlander will finally, finally reach the screen. Although at this writing Starz Network has selfishly held all sneak peeks and preview episodes entirely too close for our liking, early signs are encouraging: As acerbic time-traveler Claire and braw Scots outlaw Jamie, Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan certainly look their respective parts, and the first teaser trailers are appropriately action-packed and atmospheric. Starz has my attention, at any rate.

Outlander and its various sequels are scrupulously researched, densely plotted, and lushly written; to read one for the first time is to be lost in another world, probably for several days. It’s inevitable that some aspects of the novel will be lost in translation from page to screen. In some cases, that’s fine—I, for one, would be perfectly content if the showrunners were to tone the violence (especially the sexual violence) way, way down and conveniently forget about Jamie’s unfortunate tendency to address any woman with whom he finds himself in disagreement as “Whore.” But there are some things that simply must remain the same. Here are five.

[We love lists, let's begin...]

Jul 5 2014 10:00am

Falling in Love with Leslie O’Grady’s The Artist’s Daughter

The Artist's Daughter by Leslie O'GradyThe Artist’s Daughter may not have been the first romance novel I ever read, but it’s the first one I remember reading. Published when I was a wide-eyed fifth grader in 1979, this engrossing tale of a plucky Victorian-era writer whose flight from an abusive marriage plunges her into a world of danger, intrigue, and passion launched Leslie O’Grady’s career, which stretched through the '80s and '90s. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, O’Grady’s spirited heroine and brooding yet kindly hero would be characters against whom I would measure all such others, however unconsciously, over the next several decades. Many romantic heroes and heroines would fall short over the years. Many still do.

But how does the book itself hold up, some 35 years after its publication?

Our story begins in 1863 when Nora Woburn, author of scandalous novels and titular artist’s daughter, discovers that her estranged husband, Oliver, has been helping himself to the contents of her bank account and has every intention of continuing to do so. Nora’s condescending solicitor informs her that Oliver’s actions are entirely legal, and that her choices by way of response include returning to her husband or becoming a “fancy lady” on the London streets. Requesting aid from her father, a painter of some repute who mingles with the likes of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris, is out of the question; the two have not spoken since Nora defied him to marry Oliver five or six years back.

[I mean, we wouldn't approve of Oliver either!]

Jul 3 2014 9:30am

First Look: Rainbow Rowell’s Landline (July 8, 2014)

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Press / July 8, 2014 / $24.99 print / $11.99 digital

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply—but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her—Neal is always a little upset with Georgie—but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts.

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Most of romance novels I’ve been reading lately deal with—let us say—outsized problems. Dark secrets, family feuds, and supernatural complications abound as larger-than-life heroes and heroines battle tortured pasts, evil siblings, or (occasionally) Satan’s minions en route to their HEA. These are usually emotionally compelling and highly entertaining books, but I sometimes have a hard time placing myself precisely in the heroine’s shoes, if you know what I mean.

[If the shoe fits, by all means, put it on!]

Apr 17 2014 9:30am

First Look: L.G. O’Connor’s Trinity Stones (April 22, 2014)

Trinity Stones by L.G. O'ConnorL.G. O'Connor
Trinity Stones
She Writes Press / April 22, 2014 (U.S.) / $18.95 print, $4.95 digital

Between a hostile work environment and an impossible romantic situation with her longtime friend and first love, Dr. Kai Solomon, anxiety-ridden New York investment banker Cara Collins has little to smile about on her 27th birthday. But before the day ends, she learns she has inherited $50 million—a windfall that she must keep secret if she wishes to keep the lives of those close to her safe.

As Cara unravels the truth surrounding her inheritance, she makes a startling discovery: angels walk among the living, and they're getting ready to engage in a battle that will determine the future of the human race. In the midst of these revelations, she meets mysterious and sophisticated Simon Young, who offers her the promise of romance for the first time since Kai.

When Kai and his daughter are kidnapped by dark forces, Cara must choose: accept her place in a 2,000-year-old prophecy foretold in the Trinity Stones as the First of the Twelve who will lead the final battle between good and evil . . . or risk losing everything she holds dear. In doing so, she realizes that not only her heart but also her destiny is entwined with the two men in her life.

Angels! Vampires, succubi, demon kings, and other bad boys of the supernatural realm get a lot of press, but where’s the love for our winged protectors from on high? Oh, we have J.R. Ward’s irreverent Fallen Angels, who somehow manage to find themselves in a lot of decidedly wicked situations, as well as Sharon Shinn’s more PG-rated Angels of Samaria. I’m sure there are others I have missed. But for whatever reason – I suspect that many authors prefer to steer clear of the explicit religiosity implied in the term – angels have tended to get somewhat short shrift in romantic fiction.

Now, however, fans of things angelic will sing a hearty “Gloria!” to learn that Trinity Stones, the first installment in L.G. O’Connor’s Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, has arrived. O’Connor has created a complex and fascinating world full of passion, intrigue, and bravery in the eternal battle between good and evil. Fans of the “angel” subgenre will want to check it out.

[Be an angel and keep reading, won't you?...]

Feb 5 2014 5:30pm

First Look: Patience Bloom’s Romance is My Day Job (February 6, 2014)

Romance Is My Day Job by Patience BloomPatience Bloom
Romance Is My Day Job
Dutton / February 6, 2014 / $26.95 print, $10.99 digital

At some point, we’ve all wished romance could be more like fiction. Patience Bloom certainly did, many times over. As a teen she fell in love with Harlequin novels and imagined her life would turn out just like the heroines’ on the page: That shy guy she had a crush on wouldn’t just take her out—he’d sweep her off her feet with witty banter, quiet charm, and a secret life as a rock star. Not exactly her reality, but Bloom kept reading books that fed her reveries.

Years later she moved to New York and found her dream job, editing romances for Harlequin. Every day, her romantic fantasies came true—on paper. Bloom became an expert when it came to fictional love stories, editing amazing books and learning everything she could about the romance business. But her dating life remained uninspired. She nearly gave up on love.

Then one day a real-life chance at romance made her wonder if what she’d been writing and editing all those years might be true. A Facebook message from a high school friend, Sam, sparked a relationship with more promise than she’d had in years. But Sam lived thousands of miles away—they hadn’t seen each other in more than twenty years. Was it worth the risk?

Finally, Bloom learned: Love and romance can conquer all.

At some point, we’ve all wished romance could be more like fiction. Truer words were never spoken.

Patience Bloom and I are of an age, and we have a lot in common. Understand: Unlike Patience, I did not attend boarding school, matriculate at an expensive private liberal-arts college, or escape one of my more disastrous romantic relationships by removing to Paris. But emotionally? Yeah, I believed with all my heart that what I read in romance novels was absolutely true. Love would blindside me when I least expected it (and therefore, in deliberately not expecting it, I was always looking for it, if you know what I mean); sex would be transcendent—always; and I would marry the first boy I kissed, whereupon we would fade into a vaguely-defined but sure to be perfect Happily Ever After.

Then, as they say, Life Happened.

[Why you gotta be so intrusive, reality?...]

Feb 1 2014 4:00pm

First Look: M.D. Waters’s Archetype (February 6, 2014)

Archetype by M.D. WatersM.D. Waters
Dutton / February 6, 2014 / $26.95 print, $12.99 digital

Emma wakes in a hospital, with no memory of what came before. Her husband, Declan, a powerful, seductive man, provides her with new memories, but her dreams contradict his stories, showing her a past life she can’t believe possible: memories of war, of a camp where girls are trained to be wives, of love for another man. Something inside her tells her not to speak of this, but she does not know why. She only knows she is at war with herself.

Suppressing those dreams during daylight hours, Emma lets Declan mold her into a happily married woman and begins to fall in love with him. But the day Noah stands before her, the line between her reality and dreams shatters.

In a future where women are a rare commodity, Emma fights for freedom but is held captive by the love of two men—one her husband, the other her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which…

Hoo boy. I am at a loss. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed the heck out of Archetype, M.D. Waters’s twisty, imaginative debut novel. But that’s just the thing—it’s so twisty and so imaginative that I don’t want to give any of its secrets away. I can say this, though: Get your hands on a copy, clear your calendar, turn off your phone, and inform your loved ones that you’ll be taking a few hours to yourself. Once you get started, you will not want to put this book down.

[Intrigued? Read on...]

Jan 30 2014 5:30pm

First Look: Grace Burrowes’s The MacGregor’s Lady (February 4, 2014)

The MacGregor's Lady by Grace BurrowesGrace Burrowes
The MacGregor’s Lady
Sourcebooks Casablanca / February 4, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital

The last thing Asher MacGregor, newly titled Earl of Balfour, wants is a society wife, though he has agreed to squire Boston heiress Hannah Cooper about the London ballrooms. When he's met that obligation, he'll return to the Highlands, and resume the myriad responsibilities awaiting him there.

At her step-father's insistence, Hannah Cooper must endure a London season, though she has no intention of surrendering her inheritance to a fortune hunter. When she's done her duty, she'll return to Boston and the siblings who depend upon her for their safety... or will she? The taciturn Scottish earl suits her purposes admirably-until genuine liking and unexpected passion bring Asher and Hannah close. For if the Scottish earl and the American heiress fall in love, an ocean of differences threatens to keep them apart.

Torture. Torment. Delicious despair. Those words pretty much sum up The MacGregor’s Lady, the new installment in Grace Burrowes’ Victorian-set MacGregor Series. Burrowes throws obstacle after obstacle at Asher and Hannah, the long-suffering lovers at the heart of this story, until the whole thing turns into a regular old sob-fest near the end. However—without spoiling anything—I’d like to remind potentially hesitant readers that it’s always darkest just before dawn. Reading this book is ultimately a rewarding, if cathartic, experience.

[Hurts so good...]

Dec 17 2013 1:30pm

Why We Actually Love Love Actually So Much

Love Actually posterFor a lot of us, it’s not really Christmas until we’ve performed that most important of rituals: the annual viewing of Love Actually. It’s hard to believe, but it has been ten years since Richard Curtis’s ambitious movie exploded off the screen and into the hearts of millions of viewers. With its star-studded cast, multiple interconnected plot lines, and iconic scenes—Hugh Grant dancing around No. 10 Downing Street to the exuberant strains of the Pointer Sisters’ “Jump” comes to mind—the film became an instant, if controversial, classic.

Controversial? Oh, yes. For every person who actually loves Love Actually and can recite the dialogue from memory, there’s another who absolutely reviles it. I myself live in such a House Divided, as I adore the movie beyond reason while my husband rolls his eyes, observes “It should be called Love Impulsively,” and makes himself scarce for the film’s entire two-hour-and-fifteen-minute runtime whenever it’s on.

[Why DO we love it so much?...]

Nov 19 2013 10:30am

Smelling the Flowers in Debbie Macomber’s Washington-Set The Shop on Blossom Street

The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie MacomberWe’re reading our way across America…one romance at a time.

Washington: The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

The jewel in the crown of the Upper Northwest is undoubtedly Seattle, Washington, aka the Emerald City. Now, if the very name of the place evokes endless, dreary, rainy days and skinny, lank-haired hipsters in flannel shirts singing minimalist dirges about how bored they are, it shouldn’t. Seattle is a place of oceans and rainbows, a city where people can look to Mount Rainier in the south and observe “The mountain is out today.” The city is also full of landmarks, from the iconic (the Space Needle) to the whimsical (the Fremont Troll). Also, the weather isn’t that bad.

Seattle is also, of course, the setting for many of the 150+ novels of Washington-based author Debbie Macomber. In particular, it’s where she has set her enormously popular Blossom Street series, and it is to the first installment of that series, The Shop on Blossom Street, that we turn today.

[Here's hoping the story's still fresh as a daisy...]