<i>Laugh</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Laugh: Exclusive Excerpt Mary Ann Rivers "He wanted to take her someplace quiet and kiss her and get his hands... under that orange dress" H&H Reads <i>A Breath of Scandal</i> (6 of 6) H&H Reads A Breath of Scandal (6 of 6) Elizabeth Essex Are you ready to be reckless? Join us for the FINAL installment of the H&H Reads A Breath of Scandal <i>Uncensored Passion</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Uncensored Passion: Exclusive Excerpt Bobbi Cole Meyer "Kayla wrapped her arms around his strong neck and hugged him close." <i>Hell for Leather</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Hell for Leather: Exclusive Excerpt Julie Ann Walker "Lord almighty, how he wanted to touch her there, needed to touch her there."
From The Blog
April 22, 2014
Gena Showalter's Temptation in Shadows Novella Cover!
Team H & H
April 22, 2014
When Authors Mess with the HEA
Tori Benson
April 22, 2014
Arend and Kennedy’s DreamMakers Series
Jennifer Myers
April 22, 2014
Bound to be a Groom by Megan Mulry
Rachel Kramer Bussel
April 21, 2014
The Complications of Disguise Plots in Romance
Willa aka willaful
Showing posts by: Leigh Davis click to see Leigh Davis's profile
Apr 21 2014 9:30am

Home to Stay by Terri OsburnTerri Osburn
Home to Stay (Anchor Island)
Montlake / May 1, 2014 / $12.95 print, $4.99 digital

Willow Parsons’s two new best friends are getting married, putting her squarely on the sidelines of romance—which suits her just fine. After the nightmarish situation she escaped from, featuring the ultimate Mr. Wrong, she is more than happy to spend her days slinging drinks in Dempsey’s Bar & Grill, and her nights alone. But her Anchor Island refuge has just one catch: muscle-bound charmer Randy Navarro.

Everyone in town knows that Randy, owner of the local fitness club, is a giant teddy bear. Everyone, it seems, except for Willow. He’s convinced that her avoidance is more than just playing hard to get, and is determined to uncover the secrets that shadow her lovely eyes. But when old fears are dragged into the light, can Randy get Willow to stay and fight for their love…or will she take flight, leaving him and Anchor Island behind?

Home to Stay is a charming, romantic tale about following your heart to find where you belong.

Can I just say, I don’t think that there is a more appealing hero than the Teddy Bear type, especially if they are “large enough to deserve his own zip code” like Randy Navarro. Terri Osburn definitely got my attention when she wrote him into the story!

[Sometimes, bigger is better...]

Apr 15 2014 12:00pm

Otherwise Engaged by Amanda QuickAmanda Quick
Otherwise Engaged
Putnam Adult / April 22, 2014 / $26.95 print, $12.99 digital

One does not expect to be kidnapped on a London street in broad daylight. But Amity Doncaster barely escapes with her life after she is trapped in a carriage with a blade-wielding man in a black silk mask who whispers the most vile taunts and threats into her ear. Her quick thinking, and her secret weapon, save her . . . for now.

But the monster known in the press as the Bridegroom, who has left a trail of female victims in his wake, has survived the wounds she inflicts and will soon be on his feet again. He is unwholesomely obsessed by her scandalous connection to Benedict Stanbridge—gossip about their hours alone in a ship’s stateroom seems to have crossed the Atlantic faster than any sailing vessel could. Benedict refuses to let this resourceful, daring woman suffer for her romantic link to him—as tenuous as it may be.

For a man and woman so skilled at disappearing, so at home in the exotic reaches of the globe, escape is always an option. But each intends to end the Bridegroom’s reign of terror in London, and will join forces to do so. And as they prepare to confront an unbalanced criminal in the heart of the city they love, they must also face feelings that neither of them can run away from. . . .

Jayne Ann Krentz has been writing under the pseudonym Amanda Quick since 1998, so long-time readers know what to expect inside the covers—a unique-for-her-time heroine about to set off on an adventure of a lifetime, accompanied by an honorable, principled and dashing (at least to her) hero. And that is exactly what you will find in Ms. Quick’s latest release, Otherwise Engaged.


Apr 15 2014 9:30am

Recently in my post about family ties in romance, I talked about the impact of families, or lack thereof, on the heroine and hero. Basically, they—the hero and heroine—were either the recipient of a good or bad family situation. But what if we changed the focus a bit, and looked at how the heroine’s or hero’s actions affected their family.

Now we have all read books where the hero or heroine gives up the other for one reason or another—he thinks she hasn’t had the opportunity to experience life, or he has a wonderful career opportunity, and the heroine knows that she will tie him down. But what about the hero or heroine that makes sacrifices for a family member. Do you remember the embryotic romance between Sarah and Karl in the film Love Actually? Sarah and Karl both work at the same graphic design company and she has been in love with him for years. And it’s not like it is a secret; everyone in the office knows. But Sarah has a mentally ill brother. And just when the relationship with Karl is about to go to the next step, she picks her brother over Karl. Luckily our heroines are not like Sarah, because they do have a happy ending in their future. So who are these heroines?

[Poor Sarah was just the tip of the iceberg, but maybe an HEA to come...]

Apr 10 2014 4:30pm

Newborn Baby for Christmas by Fiona LoweIn the first pregnancy in romance novels post, I talked a little bit about unplanned pregnancy in romance, but there are so many different scenarios evolving pregnancy, such as an already pregnant by another man heroine, a heroine who is just looking for an anonymous sperm donor, or a heroine who has asked a friend to be her baby’s father.

While any type of pregnancy changes a story of boy meets girl to something so much more complex, the above scenarios can be even more complicated.
In best friends to parents together, there has to be a conflict or there is no story. So how does an author create that conflict but still have the reader believe in the strength of their friendship? Fiona Lowe took on the challenge with Newborn Baby for Christmas. Dr. Georgina Lambert wants more than anything in the world to have a baby, but her latest boyfriend bolts when she brought up having a family. Desperate, she turns one of her best mates, Dr. Hamish Pettigrew, and he is thrown for a loop to say the least:

He tried to head off this crazy request by going straight to the heart of the matter. “Georgie, something like this could ruin our friendship.”

Her straight-shooting gaze hooked him, filled with honesty. “It won’t. Another reason I’m asking you is because I know you don’t want a child.”

He had a moment of feeling like he was fighting quicksand. “I don’t understand how me not wanting a child makes you ask me.”

“You’ll leave me in peace to raise him or her alone and do things my way. This is my baby, my new-start family…”

“I’m sorry, Georgie…I don’t think I can help you.”

Her shoulders slumped for a moment and then her chocolate-brown eyes hooked his gaze, filled with everything they’d every shared. “I’ve never asked you for anything, Hamish, and I never will again, but right now I’m asking you my closest friend in the whole world, not to make a hasty decision not to say yes or no. All I’m asking is that you think about it. Sleep on it . . .”

[Friends to co-parents...]

Apr 7 2014 2:00pm

Surprise You're Pregnant image by Anthony Easton via Flickr Creative Commons

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage...

Except when it doesn’t! In the tradition of mimicking real life situations sometimes the hero and heroine face one of the consequences of having sex—a baby on the way.

For the most part, long gone are the days of eight pound preemies and fudging on the actual marriage date. Still, there is a societal expectation that a couple are together and in love, that he hasn’t just knocked her up and is now going to fly the coop. Even in liberal Hollywood, stars tend announce that they are engaged and then the baby news, as this recent Page Six article illustrated. And this social norm finds its way into the books we read.

Now rarely in romance novels are the couple in a committed relationship when the heroine discovers that she is pregnant, even though unexpected baby on the way can be a big stressor and with both concerns about parenthood and financial matters. There is just not enough uncertainty or angst. But let the line turn blue on a non-committed couple like friends with benefits, or a casual fling, or heaven forbid, a one-night stand, and watch the emotional turmoil skyrocket.

[The stakes? Yep, they just got raised...]

Apr 6 2014 4:30pm

“He wanted the word “Daddy” added to his list of names. He wanted to teach his son to skate, just as he'd been taught by Ernie. Like every other father in the world, he wanted to stay up late on Christmas Eve and put together tricycles, bicycles, and race-car sets. He wanted to dress up his son as a vampire, or a pirate, and take him trick-or-treating.”

Some tropes are polarizing among romance readers, and the secret baby trope might be the most divisive—readers either love secret babies or hate them. I'm in the loving side; maybe it's the realistic emotions like shock and anger that the hero feels upon discovering he has a child. Or the heroine's feeling of guilt and regret? Still, the secret baby books that I love are few and far between because they are not easy to write. So what makes a perfect secret baby book? Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson set the benchmark for me as the perfect one. Here is why:

1. The heroine has an acceptable reason for not telling the hero about her pregnancy. Usually I have issues with the heroine not telling the hero that he is going to be a father, but John Kowalssky treated Georgeanne so coldly it is easy to give her a pass. Sure, he never planned on getting involved with her, and she was his boss’s fiancée—a definite career killer. Plus, she did have relationship written all over her, but then he knew that before he slept with her.

[Less than an ideal start...]

Mar 26 2014 1:35pm

Coming Home by Mariah Stewart

Family: any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

For better or worse, we all have families. And this unit influences us for most of our lifetime, no matter if we rebel against it or embrace it. Likewise, characters in books have families that impact them in the same way. In novels, just like television (think of The Andy Griffith Show to Married with Children), we have a gamut of family types, from sublime families to the more dysfunctional ones. So even if you are reading a romance book, there is a huge probability that someone’s family will play a part in the book. And if the book is part of a series, then there is 99.9 percent likelihood that the books are spinoffs of a family unit.

With the Andy Griffith Mayberry scenario, you have an almost Shangri-La feel to the family and the community. Of course there is usually a Barney Fife. But overall the family unit is practically perfect in every way—loving, supportive, nurturing, and wise. Many small town romances have this type of milieu. Mariah Stewart’s Chesapeake Diaries series is set in a very idyllic community and for the most part, the families are unflawed. In her early writing, Nora Roberts wrote several series that centered about picture-perfect families, like the MacGregor family and continues that even now, with the Montgomerys from the Boonsboro Inn Trilogy. Jayne Ann Krentz’s characters might not have had a wonderful childhood, but they found someone in their life to teach them the importance of family, honor, and integrity. One of my favorite series by Ms. Krentz is the Eclipse Bay series. Barney Fife has nothing on Arizona Snow, a recurring character in all three books.

[Family is everything...]

Mar 23 2014 3:00pm

Taken with You by Shannon Stacey

Shannon Stacey
Taken with You (The Kowalskis)
Carina Press / March 25, 2014 / $7.99 print / $4.99 digital

Hailey Genest has seen most of her friends marry and have babies, and she's happy for them, but it was a lot easier before she hit forty. She's spent her entire life in Whitford, Maine, and if she hasn't found her Prince Charming by now, she has to accept she's probably not going to. When a new friend suggests they go on an adventure and embrace being single, Hailey agrees.

Surviving in the woods is game warden Matt Barnett's idea of a relaxing vacation. But when he meets two women in need of help, he leads them back to safety—a task that proves more fun than expected, thanks to a certain hot blonde. He can't resist pushing her buttons, even though she's made it clear that the rugged, outdoorsy type just isn't for her.

Hailey is glad to see the back of her tempting-tour-guide-slash-pain-in-the-ass. When he shows up in her life again, she's determined to avoid him, no matter how good he looks in his uniform. But that's easier said than done in Whitford, especially when he's renting the house right next door….

Sometimes you just need a lighthearted fun book to help you relax and leave behind your worries of the day, and Taken with You by Shannon Stacey definitely fits that bill.

The premise, two mismatched individuals falling for each other, is not unique, and there is not much conflict, but Ms. Stacey knows how to infuse her story with humor and wit. Maybe because her dialogue seems so realistic and genuine. Her characters rib and joke with each other like family and friends do.

[Sounds delightful!]

Mar 21 2014 4:00pm

Four Friends by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr
Four Friends
Harlequin MIRA / March 25, 2014 / $14.95 print, $10.99 digital

Gerri can't decide what's more devastating: learning her rock-solid marriage has big cracks, or the anger she feels as she tries to repair them. Always the anchor for friends and her three angst-ridden teenagers, it's time to look carefully at herself. The journey is more than revealing—it's transforming.

Andy doesn't have a great track record with men, and she's come to believe that a lasting love is out of reach. When she finds herself attracted to her down-to-earth contractor—a man without any of the qualities that usually appeal to her—she questions everything she thought she wanted in life.

Sonja's lifelong pursuit of balance is shattered when her husband declares he's through with her New Age nonsense and walks out. There's no herbal tonic or cleansing ritual that can restore her serenity—or her sanity.

Miraculously, it's BJ, the reserved newcomer to Mill Valley, who steps into their circle and changes everything. The woman with dark secrets opens up to her neighbors, and together they get each other back on track, stronger as individuals and unfaltering as friends.

In Four Friends, Robyn Carr explores the good, the bad and the ugly in challenging marriages, and the different way the women involved come to terms with those problematic issues. They are in for a bumpy ride, but with the support of each other, they see the light at the end of the tunnel.

[Turn headlights on!...]

Mar 19 2014 4:30pm

Her Kind of Trouble by Sarah MayberrySarah Mayberry loves to mix things up a bit from book to book. In one of her books, the physical relationship between the hero and hero might develop slowly—going from like to caring to the physical. Then you can pick up her next book, and the heroine and hero fall prey to immediate sexual attraction, which is what happens in Her Kind of Trouble, her newest release. The blurb lets you know that right away:

The moment Vivian Walker spies Seth Anderson she knows they're a match made in hedonistic pleasure.

Vivian and Seth first meet at the family dinner held the night before their older siblings’ wedding–Vivian sister, Jodie, is marrying Seth’s brother, Jason. Of course each has heard gossip about the other but still, they almost immediately recognize that they have similar attitudes toward life and relationships—like living in the moment. But both realize, with a little help from their sibling, that each is out of bounds to the other:

He bet she went off in bed—not because she was a redhead, but because of the suggestive curve to her lips. No fake orgasms and holding back for red. She’d go all the way and then some.

Someone nudged him and he turned to find his brother scowling at him.

“No.” Jason sliced a hand through the air.

“What?” Seth put on his best innocent face.

“That’s Jodie’s little sister, Vivian. She is absolutely out of bounds.”

[Some boundaries are made to be crossed...]

Mar 13 2014 4:50pm

The Lost Husband by Katherine CenterClassifying a book by its genre can be both useful and detrimental. If you have a preference for a certain type of book, then this cataloguing easily helps you find it. But it also means that certain types of books are stereotyped. Most of us have read a wonderful romance book, and then recommended it to friends. It only takes them a moment to look at the label on the book stating “Romance” for them to dismiss it.

The same thing happens within a genre. Within the romance genre itself, there are numerous sub-classifications. When I was fairly new to romance, my guilty pleasures were Cinderella-type books with the theme of unjust oppression/typecasting to triumph rewards—very similar to the movie Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts. Typically, the heroine’s beauty attracted a hero, who then solved her problems. But the longer I have read romance, the more I am drawn to women who solve their own problems, leaving me with a defined preference for Women’s Fiction.

Now, before some of you think “oh, Women’s Fiction,” like your friends think “oh, Romance,” let me tell you why reading this genre can be so empowering.

Romance books validate the quote by Walker Percy —-“We love those who know the worst of us and don’t turn their faces away,” while women’s fiction books expand on Albert Camus’s quote: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.”

Women’s Fiction books are the Rocky Balboa books of romance. Typically within the first couple of chapters, the main character has a life changing event. Life knocks her down. And she is sinking fast. She has to learn life’s important lessons, or in the words of Dory, “Just keep swimming.”

[If at first you don't succeed...]

Mar 12 2014 2:30pm

Kristan Higgins
Waiting on You (Blue Heron)
Harlequin HQN / March 25, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital

Colleen O'Rourke is in love with love…just not when it comes to herself. Most nights, she can be found behind the bar at the Manningsport, New York, tavern she owns with her twin brother, doling out romantic advice to the lovelorn, mixing martinis and staying more or less happily single. See, ten years ago, Lucas Campbell broke her heart…an experience Colleen doesn't want to have again, thanks. Since then, she's been happy with a fling here and there, some elite-level flirting and playing matchmaker to her friends.

But a family emergency has brought Lucas back to town, handsome as ever and still the only man who's ever been able to crack her defenses. Seems like maybe they've got some unfinished business waiting for them—but to find out, Colleen has to let her guard down, or risk losing a second chance with the only man she's ever loved.

Even with our favorite authors, there are books that we enjoy more than others. Kristan Higgins's Waiting on You hits on all cylinders, making this book simply irresistible.

Colleen had always been ever practical about love. In high school, she would much rather give advice to other classmates then deal with all that messy love stuff. With her twin brother, and friends like Faith and Jeremy, her life was full.

[Or is it?]

Mar 3 2014 11:54am

Carolina Man by Virginia Kantra

Virginia Kantra
Carolina Man (A Dare Island Novel)
Berkley / March 4, 2014 / $7.99 print, $5.99 digital

Carolina Man Marine Luke Fletcher is determined to do his duty—first to his country and now to his ten-year-old daughter, the unexpected legacy of a high school girlfriend. But his homecoming to Dare Island in North Carolina's Outer Banks challenges his plans for the future and forces him to face everything that's missing in his life. He wasn't prepared to lose his heart to this child he never knew. Or to fall hard for coolly reserved small town lawyer Kate Dolan.

Former military brat Kate knows Marines can make lousy fathers...and she's got the scars to prove it. Giving her heart to a man who's bent on leaving seems one sure way to have it broken.

Now, no matter what it takes, Luke must prove to Kate and to his daughter that Semper Fi is more than a motto—and to himself that there’s more than one way to be a hero.

Virginia Kantra’s Dare Island series caught my interest from the very first book, Carolina Home. The second book, Carolina Girl, was my favorite book of 2013. So as you can imagine, I was anxiously awaiting the release of Carolina Man.

[Was it worth the wait?...]

Feb 27 2014 6:30pm

Barbara O'Neal
All You Can Dream Buffet
Random House / March 4, 2014 / $15.00 print / $7.99 digital

Popular blogger and foodie queen Lavender Wills reigns over Lavender Honey Farms, a serene slice of organic heaven nestled in Oregon wine country. Lavender is determined to keep her legacy from falling into the profit-driven hands of uncaring relatives, and she wants an heir to sustain her life’s work after she’s gone. So she invites her three closest online friends—fellow food bloggers, women of varied ages and backgrounds—out to her farm. She hopes to choose one of them to inherit it—but who?

There’s Ginny, the freckle-faced Kansas cake baker whose online writing is about to lead her out of a broken marriage and into a world of sensual delights. And Ruby, young, pregnant, devoted to the organic movement, who’s looking for roots—and the perfect recipe to heal a shattered heart. Finally, Val, smart and sophisticated, a wine enthusiast who needs a fresh start for her teenage daughter after tragedy has rocked their lives. Coming together will change the Foodie Four in ways they could never have imagined, uniting them in love and a common purpose. As they realize that life doesn’t always offer a perfect recipe for happiness, they also discover that the moments worth savoring are flavored with some tears, a few surprises, and generous helping of joy.

Barbara O’Neal has a way with telling heartfelt stories, and she continues this successful trend in her newest release. Plus the women in this book are such unique individuals. But what kept me turning the pages was the need to know the rest of the story.

Lavender doesn’t feel in ill health, but she knows that there is season for everyone. But after she sees the vision of her deceased best friend she wonders if her time on earth is coming to a close:

[Don't go into the light!]

Jan 28 2014 11:00am

Shoreline Drive by Lily EverettLily Everett
Shoreline Drive
St. Martin's Press / January 28, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital

Dr. Ben Faulkner is a veterinarian on warm, welcoming Sanctuary Island, a refuge for wild horses. Though he’s dedicated his life to healing animals and rescuing the ones no one wants, Ben is nursing deep wounds of his own. After tragedy tore his family apart, he gave up his dreams of finding happiness long ago…until Merry Preston arrives on the island. Vivacious, friendly, and instantly loveable, Merry is everything Ben is not. She’s also nine months pregnant and attempting to carve out a new life for herself and her unborn child.

Though Ben tries to keep his distance, when a raging storm cuts them off from the mainland, he’s forced to help bring her new baby into the world. It’s a harrowing experience that leaves him with one great certainty: I want these two to be my family. Seeing his opportunity, he makes a dramatic proposal to the young mother: a marriage of convenience. If Merry marries him, he’ll draw up a contract naming her son as his heir and promising to provide for them both. But as they’ll learn, love is more than a business proposition…and it’ll take all the magic hidden in Sanctuary Island to turn Ben’s proposal into something real and lasting.

In Shoreline Drive, the second book in the Sanctuary Island series, Lily Everett has crafted the perfect series book. There's closure on the main romance, a modern marriage-of-convenience and opposites-attract story between Merry Preston and Ben Falkner, but with enough intrigue to motivate readers who haven't read the first book to go back and discover what they have missed, and an enticement on possible future pairings.

[So much romance goodness...]

Jan 27 2014 10:30am

At the River's Edge by Mariah StewartMariah Stewart
At the River's Edge
Ballantine / January 28, 2014 / $7.99 print, $5.99 digital

After taking stock of her life, Sophie Enright has decided it’s time for a break. Between a law career that’s become criminally dull and a two-timing boyfriend she’s done with once and for all, Sophie desperately needs some time to think and some space to breathe. The perfect place to do both is easygoing St. Dennis, Maryland, where Sophie can visit with her brother while she figures out her options. Once in St. Dennis, she discovers a shuttered restaurant and makes a bold move that is also a leap of faith. Sophie buys the fixer-upper in order to finally pursue her dream career.

But Sophie’s labor of love becomes a bone of contention for her new neighbor Jason Bowers. The local landscaper has big plans for growing his business—until Sophie scoops up the property he’s got his eye on. And no amount of buyout offers or badgering from him will get her to budge. It’s hardly the start of a beautiful friendship. But when they’re paired up to work on a community project, they agree to put their differences aside, and sparks begin to fly. Then Sophie’s cheating ex suddenly shows up, looking for a second chance—and threatening to make Jason a third wheel just when his hotheaded feelings about Sophie were turning decidedly warmhearted. All Sophie wants is a new life and a true love. But what are the odds of having both?

Although the setting sounds idyllic, it is the characters from the Chesapeake Diaries series who are really the appeal for me. From that you might expect that they are larger than life, or perfect, but you would be wrong. It is their ordinariness that is intriguing. Even though their issues or concerns are solved within the pages of their book, the characters seem like they could be a neighbor or friend or even co-worker, and it is because of that and Mariah Stewart’s writing that I keep returning again and again to this series. What I especially enjoyed about At the River’s Edge is Sophie's dilemma.

[What is the dilemma?...]

Jan 26 2014 10:09am

The Cowboy of Valentine Valley by Emma CaneEmma Cane
The Cowboy of Valentine Valley
Avon / January 28, 2014 / $5.99 print, $4.99 digital

Ever since a heated late-night kiss—that absolutely should not have happened—cowboy Josh Thalberg makes former Hollywood bad girl Whitney Winslow's pulse beat faster. But when she decides to use his gorgeous leatherwork in her new upscale lingerie shop, Leather & Lace, she's determined to keep their relationship strictly professional . . . even if she wants so much more.

Josh has never met a challenge he isn't up for. Which is probably why he allowed Whitney to persuade him to take the sexy publicity photo that went viral—and now has every woman in America knocking down his door . . . every woman except the one he can't get out of his head.

But how to convince a reformed bad girl that some rules are worth breaking?

I haven’t read any of Emma Cane’s works before, but who can resist a former bad girl or a gentle satire of today’s media world? Plus having the woman be wealthy, successful, and traveled puts a new spin on a small-town romance.

Whitney Winslow never dreamed that her father wouldn’t want her in the family business. But even after she graduated summa cum laude as a business major, and then went on to receive her MBA, she is unable to convince her father that she is capable of working in the family firm, leaving her devastated.

[Can't let 'em get you down...]

Jan 22 2014 6:25pm

In a Fix by LInda GrimesWriting a post on the most humorous characters in romance should be easy peasy, right? I thought so, since there is nothing that I love better than a book that makes me laugh. But figuring out what makes a character funny stumped me because of trying to decide which came first—the scenario (chicken) or the character’s witticism (egg).

Many of my favorite authors plop their characters in outlandish, embarrassing scenarios—usually a cute meet—and then the chaos begin. In contemporary books, authors such as Susan Andersen, Christie Craig, Rachel Gibson, Jane Graves, Kristan Higgins, Julie James, Sophie Kinsella, Jill Mansell, and Pamela Morsi  are experts at creating the cute meet. I am not as knowledgeable and current in the fantasy or historical genre but I do recall hilarious books like Maggie Osborne’s westerns and MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead books. Recently I also discovered Linda Grimes’s smart, snappy tongue-in-cheek In A Fix books and Molly Harper’s Naked Werewolf series. And last year I read the sweet and hilarious Dog Days by Elsa Watson.

Along with the cute meet, some authors have the ability to take it to the next level by adding perfect repartee. You know, the precise witticism that you and I only dream of saying. Usually we think of what we should have said, hours or days after the scenario.

[Oh, I know exactly how that is...]

Jan 19 2014 1:49pm

What Nora Knew by Linda YellinLinda Yellin
What Nora Knew
Simon and Schuster / January 21, 2014 / $16.00 print, $11.66 digital

Molly Hallberg is a thirty-nine-year-old divorced writer living in New York City who wants her own column, a Wikipedia entry, and to never end up in her family’s Long Island upholstery business. For the past four years Molly’s been on staff for an online magazine, covering all the wacky assignments. She’s snuck vibrators through security scanners, speed-dated undercover, danced with the Rockettes, and posed nude for a Soho art studio.

Fearless in everything except love, Molly is now dating a forty-four-year old chiropractor. He’s comfortable, but safe. When Molly is assigned to write a piece about New York City romance “in the style of Nora Ephron,” she flunks out big-time. She can’t recognize romance. And she can’t recognize the one man who can go one-on-one with her, the one man who gets her. But with wit, charm, whip-smart humor, and Nora Ephron’s romantic comedies, Molly learns to open her heart and suppress her cynicism in this bright, achingly funny novel.

In Linda Yellin's What Nora Knew, Molly Hallberg had doubts about her marriage ten minutes after saying “I do,” even though her then-husband was considered “quite the catch.” But you know how it goes:

And we were fabulous in the sack together. The dynamic duo. Scarlett and Rhett. Antony and Cleopatra. Tarzan and Jane. I’m sure I wasn’t the first woman to find herself wearing lace and tulle and standing with an armful of white lilies because of sex. Love may be blind, but great sex is the ultimate blindfold.

[Is that enough for a marriage?...]

Jan 17 2014 10:30am

Virgin River by Robyn CarrHeroes come in all sorts of different varieties from tortured, Alpha, Beta, wild and dangerous, to just all around nice guy. The journey of the tortured hero’s growth as the author peels back the layers to reveal a wounded soul, and then through the power of love puts him back together again, can be gut-wrenching.

Watching the Alpha hero being brought to his knees by the heroine never fails to tap into a woman’s fantasy of being both powerful and seductive. Then there is the fairytale dream of the grand gestures—the public proposal, the expensive diamond ring, or skywriting “I love you” over a tropical beach.

But for me, there is just something so appealing about the all-around nice guy. Could it be that there is more realism surrounding these type of heroes? For most of us, these are the type of men that we grew up around. Nice guys typically do things rather than buy things—giving of their time rather than money—like always making sure your gas tank is full or warming your car up when it is 9 degrees outside, or even better yet, the nice guy who drives you to work in the ice and snow.

Some authors specialize in writing about nice guys. That doesn’t mean that every hero is a doppelganger of the previous one. But the heroes do share characteristics. Jayne Ann Krentz’s heroes are nice guys with a machismo. They are all about honor, doing the right thing, and family.

The same goes for many of Robyn Carr’s heroes. There is no better example of a quintessential nice guy hero than Jack Sheridan from her Virgin River series or Hank Cooper from her Thunder Point series. Each reaches out a helping hand to others in need.

[Nice guys'll get this girl every time...]