<i>Prototype</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Prototype: Exclusive Excerpt M.D. Waters "Fighting Her fight lost me my husband and daughter. My memories. My entire life." <i>Hero of a Highland Wolf</i>: Excerpt Hero of a Highland Wolf: Excerpt Terry Spear Every part of him was sexy. His mouth was made for kissing... <i>Mortal Danger</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Mortal Danger: Exclusive Excerpt Ann Aguirre "I didn’t want to worry about Kian, considering how little I trusted him..." Read & Win: Daisy Goodwin's <i>The Fortune Hunter</i> Read & Win: Daisy Goodwin's The Fortune Hunter Daisy Goodwin "She smiled and put a finger against his lips..."
From The Blog
July 25, 2014
Friday Beefcake: Hero Inspiration
Team H & H
July 24, 2014
Historical Spies from Bradley, Galen, Quinn, and More!
Jennifer Proffitt
July 24, 2014
Best Reads of July 2014
Team H & H
July 23, 2014
What’s Your Grittiest Sexiest Read?
Megan Frampton
July 22, 2014
An Argument for Adam Driver's Sex Appeal
Megan Frampton
Showing posts by: Kate Nagy click to see Kate Nagy's profile
Thu
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!...]

Wed
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...]

Sat
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!]

Thu
Jul 3 2014 9:30am

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

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell
Landline
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!]

Thu
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?...]

Wed
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?...]

Sat
Feb 1 2014 4:00pm

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

Archetype by M.D. WatersM.D. Waters
Archetype
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...]

Thu
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...]

Tue
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?...]

Tue
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...]

Thu
Nov 14 2013 5:30pm

First Look: Hope Ramsay’s Last Chance Knit & Stitch (November 19, 2013)

Last Chance Knit & Stitch by Hope RamsayHope Ramsay
Last Chance Knit & Stitch
Forever / November 19, 2013  / $8.00 print, $7.99 digital

Molly Canaday wishes she could repair her life as easily as she fixes cars. She was all set to open her own body shop in Last Chance when her mother ran off and left her to manage the family yarn shop instead. Now guided by the unsolicited-though well-intended-advice of the weekly knitting club, Molly works to untangle this mess. But her plan unravels when the new landlord turns out to be difficult-as well as tall, dark, and handsome.

Simon Wolfe returns to quickly settle his father's estate and then leave Last Chance for good. Still wounded by a broken heart, Simon is surprised when the town's charming streets and gentle spirit bring back good memories. Soon the beautiful, strong-willed Molly sparks a powerful attraction that tempts him to break his iron-clad no-commitment rule. Can Simon and Molly find a way to share work space-and build a future together in Last Chance?

Hope Ramsay's Last Chance Knit & Stitch shoots out of the starting gate when the fiercely independent Molly Canaday discovers that her mother has all-caps HAD.ENOUGH. THANK.YOU. Frustrated by years of benign neglect at the hands of her husband, the much revered Coach Canaday—the anniversary gift of a brand-new washing machine and clothes dryer is only the final straw—Mrs. Pat Canaday waits until Coach is out of town on his annual two-week fishing vacation, then clandestinely books herself a long vacation to see the world. She leaves a note indicating that Molly is now in charge of the family home—“You’re going to have to learn how to cook,” she advises—and that Molly is also expected to keep her thriving yarn store, the Knit & Stitch, going.

[The journey starts here...]

Fri
Nov 8 2013 4:00pm

More Knits for Crafty Readers

The Unofficial Harry Potter KnitsIt’s finally autumn, the season of chilly breezes, changing leaves, crackling fires, and hot apple cider. It’s also prime knitting season, as any crafter can attest. “Heroines who knit” is a popular trope in romance, and if you’re a knitter with romantic temperament (or a devoted romance reader who’s into the fiber arts), you’re probably familiar with the work of knit-happy writers such as Debbie Macomber, Barbara Bretton, and Kate Jacobs. In fact, you may be planning to listen to one of these authors’ audiobooks this fall as you sit cozily next to your fireplace, sipping your beverage of choice and casting on your next project. And the project you’re planning to work on may be one of these.

The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits 2013

There’s some controversy over whether Harry Potter books can be considered romances. My feeling? It’s true that the books aren’t romance novels as the term is generally understood, but boy howdy, a lot of folks have paired off by the end of the series. Plus, you’ve got Snape, who Tragically Did It All For Love. (If you don’t yet know what Snape Tragically Did…read the books, already.) So for our purposes today…they count.

[Onto the knitting patterns!...]

Tue
Oct 15 2013 2:30pm

Maine-ly Delightful: Van Reid’s Moosepath League Novels

Cordelia Underwood, or the Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League by Van Reid

There’s no better time than autumn to kick it like Miss Josephine March in her garret and curl up with a basket of crunchy apples and a favorite book. And there’s no better time than autumn to—again, like Miss Josephine March—be in New England. If a trip to the North Country isn’t in the cards for you this year, however, we can recommend the next best thing: the cozy, charming Moosepath League novels of Maine author Van Reid.

Set in Maine in the 1890s, this unforgettable series relates the many wild and wonderful adventures of the eponymous Moosepath League, which consists of big-hearted, benevolent leader Tobias Walton, his “gentleman’s gentleman” Sundry Moss, and the hapless trio of Ephram, Eagleton, and Thump. These last three may not be the brightest bulbs in the chandelier (except where the time, the weather, and the tides are concerned), but they’re stout-hearted to a fault and game for just about anything. Proudly embodying the League motto of “Tolerance, Curiosity, Humor,” the League visits various points of interest around the Pine Tree State, righting wrongs, solving mysteries, rescuing damsels in distress (and the occasional mysterious child), and entangling themselves with a parade of characters even more eccentric than they are. These aren’t romance novels in the traditional sense of the word, but there’s a strong romantic element to each, and any reader craving a leisurely afternoon lost in a distant time and place is sure to come away satisfied.

[If you're not already convinced, keep reading...]

Sat
Sep 28 2013 12:30pm

Spending Happy Years in South Dakota: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Happy Golden Years

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls WilderWe’re reading our way across America…one romance at a time.

South Dakota: These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

These Happy Golden Years is a study in contradictions. A love story with no shy glances, no trembling lips, and no tender declarations, it’s briskly and unsentimentally told. It’s a story that has charmed generations of girls, but if you’re an adult reader, you may notice a darker tale lurking around the edges. A lot happens, but what’s really interesting is what Wilder chooses not to say.

The story begins in 1882, when the Ingalls family has staked a claim near De Smet, South Dakota. Feisty young Laura Ingalls, then fifteen (!) years old, has accepted a two-month contract as a schoolteacher in order to earn the money to help her older sister, Mary, who is attending a school for the blind in Iowa. The school is located some distance away from De Smet, and Laura will be boarding with the Brewsters, a family living near the school.

The Brewsters—taciturn husband, unfriendly wife, and grubby little boy—turn out to be deeply unhappy people; in fact, in one memorable scene, Laura awakens in the middle of the night and witnesses Mrs. Brewster standing over her husband with a knife in her hand, appearing perfectly ready to use it. (Mr. Brewster talks her down, but it’s a very tense moment.) On top of that, Laura is new to teaching and somewhat unsure of herself, particularly when she realizes that some of her male students are both older and bigger than she is.

[Sounds like a stressful time indeed...]

Mon
Sep 23 2013 2:30pm

Warmth and Love in North Dakota: LaVyrle Spencer’s Years

Years by LaVyrle SpencerWe’re reading our way across America…one romance at a time.

Years by LaVyrle Spencer

And now we come to North Dakota, and the work of LaVyrle Spencer.

What? You didn’t think we were going to read our way across America without paying our respects to the grandest dame of them all, did you? Impossible. Spencer is an icon, and her books have been wildly influential. Seriously, go google her biography—this woman is amazing. She didn’t begin writing for publication until she was in her thirties. Inspired by Kathleen E. Woodwiss’s iconic The Flame and the Flower, she decided to try her hand at a novel of her own, and when she was finished writing it, she sent it not to a publisher but to her literary idol. Woodwiss was so impressed that she promptly submitted it to her own publisher, and a new career was born.

…Sort of. More or less. Spencer, believe it or not, had trouble getting subsequent volumes published. Her heroes were nice, regular guys, not forcibly seductive alphas! She used (say it isn’t so) humor liberally and to great effect! And her challenges didn’t end when she did start publishing her books (twelve of which went on to become New York Times best sellers, four of which were filmed, starring the likes of Christopher Reeve). For example, or so the story goes, her publisher slapped some mildly racy cover art on one of her early novels—a naked man and women with mid-eighties supermodel hair, their limbs entwined, an artistically draped sheet concealing their naughty bits. Spencer kicked up a fuss, and as a result her subsequent novels were published with flowers on the cover, so they looked like tissue boxes and not like bodice-rippers.

That book was Years, which happens to represent the next stop on our literary tour.

[Do be sure to take all your belongings when you exit the train...]

Wed
Sep 18 2013 11:15am

First Look: Grace Burrowes’s Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait (September 24, 2013)

Lady Jenny's Christmas Portrait by Grace BurrowesGrace Burrowes
Lady Jenny's Christmas Portrait
Sourcebooks Casablanca / September 24, 2013 / $7.99 print & digital

What Lady Jenny wants for Christmas...

For Christmas, soft-spoken Lady Jenny Windham craves the freedom to pursue her artistic ambitions, though it will mean scandalizing her ducal parents and abandoning all hope of a family of her own. She confides her plans to successful artist Elijah Harrison when he's commissioned to paint a portrait of her small nephews, because assisting Elijah will bring Jenny that much closer to her heart's desire—won't it?

...Will break both their hearts

Elijah Harrison finds in his unlikely assistant not only an inspiring muse and unappreciated talent, but also a lovely and passionate woman. If Elijah supports Jenny's career, his own professional interests will suffer, but more significantly, he will lose Jenny forever. Both Jenny and Elijah must choose between true love and a lifelong dream.

If you’ve been following the adventures of the five daughters of Percival, Duke of Moreland in Grace Burrowes’ popular Windham series, you already know that each daughter has a Talent. Maggie is a financial genius. Sophie is a domestic goddess who makes the world’s flakiest, most buttery stollen. Louisa is a scholar and a poet. Eve is an accomplished equestrienne.

And then, of course, there’s Jenny.

[The truth about Jenny...]

Tue
Aug 13 2013 9:30am

Visiting Nebraska with Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow RowellWe’re reading our way across America…one romance at a time.

Nebraska: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

When you think about it, Omaha is just about the last place you’d expect someone to set the heartbreaking story of a skinny sixteen-year-old half-Korean proto-New-Waver and the prickly, large-boned, wild-haired social outcast he comes to adore. I mean, Omaha. Mutual of Omaha! Corn! Football! The legendary Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack, and the River City Rodeo! These kids, they belong in New York or San Francisco. Chicago, maybe. Not in the heart of the Cornhusker State.

This is, of course, part of the point.

Set in 1986, Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park is a novel that captures the ups and downs of first love in all its intensity as experienced by two of the more offbeat characters you’ll encounter in literature. Sad it surely is, but also charming and optimistic. It’s a YA novel that adults can enjoy, and I definitely recommend it.

[There's something for everyone...]

Mon
Jul 15 2013 4:30pm

Kickin’ It in Kansas: Victoria Bylin’s Kansas Courtship

Kansas Courtship by Victoria BylinWe’re reading our way across America…one romance at a time.

Kansas: Kansas Courtship by Victoria Bylin

Be honest, now. When you hear “Kansas,” the first thing you think is “OMG tornadoes,” isn’t it? Or possibly “Dorothy + Toto in The Wizard of Oz,” but in that movie/book, a, yes, tornado kicks off the story, so I rest my case.

The thing is, there’s so much more to Kansas than its weather. (And thank goodness for that.) In addition to being America’s Breadbasket (and Superman’s adopted home), the Sunflower State is known for its surprisingly rich history, second-to-none Kansas City barbecue, basketball (the game’s inventor, Dr. James Naismith, coached at the University of Kansas!), oil wells (really!), and stunning sunsets. Also, when you drive across the state on I-70 you’ll see signs that proclaim “One Kansas Farmer Feeds 128 People + YOU” with a hand-drawn steak underneath. It’s no wonder that the state tourist board’s slogan is (or at least was for a long time) “Kansas: The Land of Ahs.”

[Ahhh, yes...]

Wed
Jul 10 2013 4:30pm

The Black Dagger Brotherhood Speculation: Who Should Be Next?

The King by J.R. WardNow that we’ve all read Lover At Last and sighed over the happy conclusion to Qhuinn and Blaylock’s epic, angst-ridden courtship, J.R. Ward is ready to move on, and as her devoted readers we must move with her. Ward has already announced that the next installment, The King, will focus on Wrath and Beth as they clash over whether or not to have a child. Other pairings currently on deck in the BDB universe include Xcor and Layla (yay!), Trez and the Chosen Selena (didn’t see that coming, but okay), and Assail and Sola (who?).

It’s Ward’s world—we only live in it—but aside from Layla and Xcor, none of those stories seem all that compelling. Wrath and Beth have already had their moment in the spotlight in Dark Lover; Assail and Sola are (so far) entirely unmemorable; and as for Trez, we’ve already done the whole “Man in love with a woman above his station” thing in Lover Revealed (Butch and Marissa) and to a certain extent in Lover Avenged (Rehvenge and Ehlena—yeah, Rehv is glymera, but he’s also a symphath, which would ordinarily make him social poison in that particular circle).

More importantly, Caldwell, New York is home to several characters whose time, like Qhuay’s, has surely come—four characters whose stories simply cry out to be told. Why are we reading about Sola and Trez when these individuals are still unattached?

[Who else are you thinking about?...]

Thu
Jun 13 2013 2:30pm

Lana McGraw Boldt Heads to Oregon in Fionna’s Will

We’re reading our way across America…one romance at a time.

Oregon: Fionna’s Will by Lana McGraw Boldt

Now we turn to the very novel that inspired the entire Perfect Unions project. Here’s the story (and what a story it is): One day, I was in the basement, cleaning out the cats’ litter box (ah, the thrilling life of the freelance blogger), when my eye fell upon a bookshelf loaded with old paperbacks that hadn’t been touched in years. One of them was Lana McGraw Boldt’s wildly readable Fionna’s Will, and because thinking about this Oregon-set historical epic was considerably more pleasant than thinking about what I was doing at the time, I began to meditate upon the fact that I had absolutely loved it when I first read it back in college. And then, the light bulb: “You know, there really aren’t that many romance novels set in Oregon. Or New Mexico or Nebraska or Delaware…but I’ll bet there are some.”

Anyway, I picked up the book for a re-read, wondering how it would compare with the book I knew and loved back in the day (I was in college, let us say, several years ago). And guess what: It holds up just fine!

[What makes it so readable?...]