<i>Ultimate Sins</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Ultimate Sins: Exclusive Excerpt Lora Leigh "Crowe was in love with Amelia, whether he realized it or not..." Valerie Bowman Presents a Prequel Scene to <i>The Unlikely Lady</i> Valerie Bowman Presents a Prequel Scene to The Unlikely Lady Valerie Bowman Read an original Quickie scene from Valerie Bowman! <i>Magic Breaks</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Magic Breaks: Exclusive Excerpt Ilona Andrews "The feel of his mouth on mine was like coming home..." <i>My Beautiful Enemy</i>: Exclusive Excerpt My Beautiful Enemy: Exclusive Excerpt Sherry Thomas A beautiful and cunning woman meets her match...
From The Blog
July 30, 2014
Top 10 Tips to Toppling from the Top of the Ton
Sophie Jordan
July 29, 2014
J.R. Ward Announces Bourbon Kings Series
Megan Frampton
July 28, 2014
Mockingjay Part 1 Trailer!
Megan Frampton
July 27, 2014
2014 RITA and Golden Heart Winners
Team H & H
July 25, 2014
Friday Beefcake: Hero Inspiration
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Showing posts by: Leigh Davis click to see Leigh Davis's profile
Jul 29 2014 5:00pm

First Look: Shannon Stacey’s Falling for Max (July 29, 2014)

Falling for Max by Shannon StaceyShannon Stacey
Falling for Max
Carina / July 29, 2014 / $4.99, digital / $7.99, print

Max Crawford has reached the point in life where he's starting to think about settling down. Unfortunately, he's always been a little awkward when it comes to social interactions, and working from home doesn't help. He spends so much time alone, painting beautiful, historically accurate model trains that half of Whitford has begun to joke that he may be a serial killer. Not exactly prime husband material.

Tori Burns has found happiness in Maine, thanks in large part to her shifts at the Trailside Diner. She likes the work, and she loves the local gossip. When shy, geeky Max Crawford becomes a regular, she's intrigued. When she finds out he's in the market for a wife, she's fascinated…and determined to help.
Molding Max into every woman's dream turns out to be much easier than expected. But has Tori's plan worked a little too well? As she turns his comfortable life all sorts of upside down, she'll have to find a way to show just how she's fallen for him…the real him.

It is not uncommon to read a book about shy, socially awkward heroines. We love watching them blossom under the attention of the right person. Heroes for the most part are a different breed. Their vulnerabilities are hidden layers deep beneath assertive, high-handed alpha characteristics and bits of swagger. Over the book the heroine has to slowly peel back the layers, coaxing the hero into letting his guard down and admit to any type of weakness. While it is fascinating to watch this, there is a sense of uniqueness when a hero is candid and open up front. Max in Shannon Stacey's Falling for Max is one such hero.

[We wish we had more like him in real life...]

Jul 29 2014 9:20am

First Look: Pamela Morsi’s Mr. Right Goes Wrong (July 29, 2014)

Mr. Right Goes Wrong by Pamela MorsiPamela Morsi
Mr. Right Goes Wrong
Harlequin MIRA / July 29, 2014 / $7.99, print & digital

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Like a bad-choice-making boomerang, Mazy Gulliver has returned to her mom's tiny house in Brandt Mountain. But this time, she's got her teenage son, Tru, in tow and no intention of messing up ever again. Mazy’s so determined to rebuild her life she hardly minds being the new loan collector, or even working for Tad, her ex. She's not here to make friends—or fall in love.

Sweet, dependable Eli Latham has loved Mazy since they got pretend married in second grade. But after being burned by Mazy for two decades, Eli's got a new strategy. Mazy likes bad boys, so a bad boy is what he'll be. How hard can it be to act like a jerk?

Not for the first time, men are making Mazy crazy, though she's determined to do what's right for her and Tru.  But breaking old habits is hard, and if she really wants things to change she'll have to face her biggest adversary: herself.

Looking for a different type of heroine, perhaps one who is imperfect?  The heroine of Pamela Morsi's Mr. Right Goes Wrong just can’t seem to quit making the same mistake over and over again—getting involved with losers.

When Mazy was in high school she got intentionally pregnant by Tad Driscoll. Tall, dark, handsome, rich—captain of the basketball team and class president—Tad is every girl’s dream guy, except he is a first class jerk, as Mazy soon discovers. After she told him she was pregnant, he denied that the baby was his, and Mazy was left to raise her son, Tru, alone. But that one experience didn’t faze her as she bounced from one bad relationship to another.  The only time she found solace with a nice guy was when she rebounded—not once, but twice into the arms of Eli Latham.  And while she never intentionally wanted to hurt her son, her choices have done exactly that: 

[Not really anything to be proud of, until Tru...]

Jul 22 2014 4:30pm

First Look: Lauren Layne’s Only with You (July 29, 2014)

Only with You by Lauren LayneLauren Layne
Only with You (The Best Mistake)
Forever / July 29, 2014 / $6.00 print / $2.99 digital

Cocktail waitress Sophie Dalton doesn't exactly have a life plan. She's perfectly happy being everyone's favorite party girl. But when a Las Vegas bachelorette party goes awry and an uptight businessman mistakes Sophie for a prostitute . . . well, Sophie wonders if it's time to reevaluate her priorities. Swearing off her thigh-high boots for good, Sophie slinks back home with damaged pride-and a jackpot of a hangover.

Yet what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay there. On a trip to Seattle to open a new office, Grayson Wyatt meets his latest employee—who turns out to be the same woman he recently called a hooker. Wealthy and gorgeous, Gray is a man used to getting what he wants. And it doesn't take long to figure out that smart, sassy, sexy Sophie is everything he's been looking for. As their late nights at the office turn into hot morning-afters, they realize their Vegas misunderstanding may lead to the real thing . . .

One of the more critical scenes in a book is how the hero and heroine meet. Authors have free range on devising this meeting, and readers reap the benefit of authors’ fertile imagination, especially when the hero and heroine form the wrong impression. Lauren Layne definitely has a bountiful imagination:

Sophie Dalton is in Las Vegas for her cousin’s bachelorette party. Her cousin is certainly not a favorite relative, but since Sophie’s sister is in the wedding, she is obligated to attend, so when the bride-to-be declares:

I want my bachelorette party to be hella shanky and memorable. If you’re going to be on your period that weekend, fix it.

[Sounds like the beginning to an...interesting...weekend...]

Jul 17 2014 4:30pm

Travel the World Without Leaving Your Chair: Non-American Authors

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
- Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

Each month, I scrutinize the list of new releases, searching for something novel and innovative. We romance readers can be a difficult group to please—we want more of the same, but with variation. If you are fan of shape-shifters, then you want more shape-shifters books. If you love Regency historicals, then you are looking for more books in that time period. If you are a fan of erotica—ditto, you want more of the same. Of course each author has her own voice, so even if she was writing the same plot and characterization as another author there would be differences, but most of us don’t want to settle for just that.

So what is a poor author to do? One way to make a book distinctive is the setting—to leave behind the tried and true. Another is the ethnicity or culture of the hero and heroine.

I first started reading romance in my tweens and early teens. One author who quickly became a favorite was Mary Stewart. Each and every book had a new locale, such as the South of France, or Scottish Isle of Sky, or Greece, and even Lebanon and Vienna. Opening up a book by Mary Stewart was like traveling across the world. In her books, romance and exotic locales just seemed to go together like Godiva and chocolate.

[Chocolate and travel sounds like the perfect combination...]

Jul 16 2014 9:30am

First Look: Julie Garwood’s Fast Track (July 29, 2014)

Fast Track by Julie Garwood

Julie Garwood
Fast Track
Dutton Adult / July 29, 2014 / $26.95 print / $12.99 digital

Cordelia Kane has always been a daddy’s girl—her father raised her alone after her mother died in a car crash when Cordelia was just two years old. So when he has a serious heart attack, Cordelia is devastated, and the emotion is only intensified by the confusion she feels when he reveals the shocking truth about her mother.

Cordelia can’t suppress her curiosity about the woman who gave birth to her, and when she discovers the answers to her questions lie in Sydney, Australia, she travels there to get them.

Hotel magnate Aiden Madison is Cordelia’s best friend’s older brother. He’s oblivious to the fact that she’s had a crush on him for years. When he gets railroaded into taking her along to Sydney on his company jet, he’s unwittingly drawn into a volatile family drama.

Aiden wants to help Cordelia get answers about her mother, but threats from her wealthy, high-powered family are quickly becoming dangerous. Sparks are flying between Cordelia and Aiden, but after multiple attempts are made on Cordelia’s life, Aiden realizes he must put a stop to the madness before he loses the thing he values most.

Do you remember your first Julie Garwood book? I do. It was Lion’s Lady. I was captivated by the way the heroine thoroughly confused and bewildered, and just turned the hero upside down and inside out with her feistiness, independence, honesty and honor. Lion’s Lady was released in 1988, but Garwood is still charming readers with her high-handed heroes and her spirited heroines.

[A perfect combination!]

Jul 11 2014 2:00pm

First Look: Susan Andersen’s No Strings Attached (July 29, 2014)

No Strings Attached by Susan AndersenSusan Andersen
No Strings Attached
Harlequin HQN / July 29, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital

Some mistakes are worth repeating… 

Tasha Riordan's one night with Luc Bradshaw was the best of her life. The following two—when he left her to be thrown into a Bahamian jail on bogus charges—were her worst. Now, seven years later, the undercover DEA agent is back. Invading her town. Her restaurant. Her fantasies. She can't trust a man who lied to her. Yet neither can she trust herself—not when their chemistry burns even hotter than before. 

Learning he has two half-brothers shocks Luc. Discovering they live in the same town as Tasha—that's a different kind of thrill. Their mutual lust is still off the charts, but he can't get her to listen to his side of what happened on that long-ago night. Good thing he's got powers of persuasion that go deeper than words. Because nothing has ever felt this right….

When you open a Susan Andersen book you know the hero and heroine are in for a bumpy ride. First comes the animosity and the unwanted sexual attraction, then a brief sort of harmony that lulls the hero and heroine to act on their sexual attraction, then a misunderstanding and finally the happy ever after.

Except her books can’t be summarized in one paragraph. Of course there is the sizzle between the heroine and hero which is a big thing, but there is also warmth and caring—between lovers, friends, family—and those elements keep me returning to her books year after year, after year.

[There's something to be said for consistency...]

Jul 10 2014 2:15pm

First Look: Kelly Meade’s Black Rook (July 15, 2014)

Black Rook by Kelly MeadeKelly Meade
Black Rook (Cornerstone Run Trilogy #1)
InterMix / July 15, 2014 / $4.99 digital

Brynn Atwood is a low-level Magus whose unpredictable precognitive powers have made her an outcast among her people—and an embarrassment to her highly-regarded father. After a frightening vision in which her father is murdered by a loup garou man, Brynn decides to prove herself by finding the killer, and stopping them at any cost.

Her target is Rook McQueen, the son of a small-town loup garou Alpha. Despite being the youngest of three, Rook is first in line to inherit the role of Alpha, a duty he isn't sure he's capable of fulfilling. When Brynn finally meets Rook, she doesn't expect the attraction that draws her to him—and him to her.

No longer believing him a murderer, Brynn and Rook strike an alliance to find her father's real killer. But when his older brother is targeted by an unknown enemy, Rook will have to choose between his growing feelings for Brynn and his duty as the future Alpha of his community.

I am one of those people that typically has to start a series with the first book. This tends to limit my book selection, so I am always excited when I see first-in-a-series announcements. Black Rook by Kelly Meade caught my attention because Meade is a new-to-me author, and this is the first book in the series— all pluses!

[Click if you love werewolves!...]

Jul 9 2014 4:30pm

Life Changes, Motherhood, and B&Bs: Women’s Fiction Roundup July 2014

One Lavender Ribbon by Heather BurchJuly provides a wide selection of women’s fiction—with settings in the U.K, Paris, and the U.S.  Most showcase the journey of stalwart women (and a few men) as they find the courage to make changes in their lives for the better. And be sure to check out the first look of Rainbow Rowell's Landine, which gives much more detailed information than what I could include here!

One Lavender Ribbon by Heather Burch

Reeling from a bitter divorce, Adrienne Carter abandons Chicago and retreats to the sun, sand, and beauty of Southern Florida, throwing herself into the restoration of a dilapidated old Victorian beach house. Early into the renovations, she discovers a tin box hidden away in the attic that reveals the emotional letters from a WWII paratrooper to a young woman who lived in the house more than a half-century earlier.

The old letters—incredibly poetic and romantic—transcend time, and they arouse in Adrienne a curiosity that leads her to track down the writer of the letters. William “Pops” Bryant is now an old man living in a nearby town with his handsome but overprotective grandson, Will. As Adrienne begins to unravel the secrets of the letters (and the Bryants), she finds herself not yet willing to give up entirely on love.

Strengths: Touching, Inspirational, Multi-generational Story Arc, Second Chances, HEA
Measure of Love: A Tablespoon
Introspective Level:  High

[Sounds like a pretty good mix!]

Jul 1 2014 9:30am

First Look: Beth Ciotta’s In the Mood for Love (July 1, 2014)

In the Mood for Love by Beth CiottaBeth Ciotta
In the Mood for Love (Cupcake Lovers)
St. Martin's Press / July 1, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital

Sugar Creek, Vermont, is a world away from Los Angeles for high-powered, media-obsessed Harper Day. When she took the job doing publicity for the Cupcake Lovers, she never expected to be won over by the town’s old-fashioned charms. But that was before she moved into the Victorian vacation home of her dreams and fell in with a man whose good looks and irresistible ways are anything but small-town…

Sam McCloud is a widowed father of two. He and bossy, big-city Harper appear to have nothing in common… though the attraction they feel toward one another cannot be denied. But will their romance last longer than the day’s headlines? There’s more to Harper than meets the eye, and as it turns out, she needs to get married—fast. Little does Harper know that family-man Sam will do whatever it takes to keep her in Sugar Creek—even if that means taking matters into his own hands. And never letting her go…

In the Mood for Love by Beth Ciotta has all the characteristics that readers love in small town romance—interfering, wacky elderly seniors, lots of loveable, original secondary characters, and more than one heartwarming romance built around a unique theme (like yummy cupcakes). But wait, there is more!

[You had us at cupcakes!]

Jun 28 2014 10:00am

First Look: Kendra Leigh Castle’s For the Longest Time (July 1, 2014)

For the Longest Time by Kendra Leigh CastleKendra Leigh Castle
For the Longest Time (Harvest Cove Series)
Signet / July 1, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital

For Samantha Henry, it took a ten-year absence to appreciate the close-knit New England town with an appeal all its own....

After a perfect storm of events leaves Sam high, dry, and jobless, she has to head home to Harvest Cove to regroup. Growing up, she was the town misfit, and a brief high school romance that resulted in heartbreak made her realize she was never going to fit in. But now with the support of her mother and an unexpected circle of allies, Sam starts to wonder if she’s misjudged the town all these years.

Life’s been good to Jake Smith. He transitioned from popular jock to town veterinarian without any trouble. But Sam’s homecoming makes him question his choices. The sharp-tongued beauty was never a good fit for the small community, but he’s never forgotten her—or how good they were together. While she makes it clear she’s not about to repeat the past, Jake’s determined to convince her to give him—and Harvest Cove—a second chance.

Kendra Leigh Castle's For the Longest Time adeptly shows that even misfits and dreamers can go home again. Plus, she explores a not often used conflict—allegiance to old friends or new. In many romances, the new romance interest easily fits into their significant other’s life, welcomed warming by friends and family. In real life, that doesn’t happen all that easily. You’ll love this touch of realism as Sam and Jake not only have to deal with issues of trust and forgiveness, but also torn loyalties between long trusted friends, and their new burgeoning feelings.

[What's old is new again!]

Jun 24 2014 1:00pm

First Look: Sarah Morgan’s Suddenly Last Summer (June 24, 2014)

Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan

Sarah Morgan
Suddenly Last Summer
Harlequin HQN / June 24, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital

Fiery French chef Élise Philippe is having a seriously bad day. Not only have the grand opening plans for her beloved café fallen apart, but Sean O'Neil is back in town and looking more delectable than ever. Memories of the electrifying night they shared last summer leave Élise very tempted, but she knows all too well that eventually Sean will be leaving…again.

Being back in Vermont—even temporarily—is surgeon Sean O'Neil's worst nightmare. Returning home to the Snow Crystal Resort means confronting the guilt he feels about rejecting his family's lifestyle years ago. But discovering that Élise is still in Vermont and still sets his blood racing is a very welcome distraction! Remembering last summer and how good they were together is going to make walking away more difficult than he could imagine….

Looking for an engaging read with lots of simmering sexual tension? Than look no further than Suddenly Last Summer, the newest release featuring Sean, one of Sarah Morgan's sexy O’Neil brothers.

[Ooh la la!]

Jun 23 2014 5:30pm

First Look: Heather Gudenkauf’s Little Mercies (June 24, 2014)

Heather Gudenkauf
Little Mercies
Harlequin MIRA / June 24, 2014 / $15.95 print / $11.99 digital

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

Heather Gudenkauf writes compelling, affecting books. In the back of the book she talks a bit about her motivation for the story, and what she wanted to illustrate:

[Tell us more!]

Jun 23 2014 2:30pm

First Look: Robyn Carr’s The Promise (June 24, 2014)

The Promise by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr
The Promise (Thunder Point series)
Harlequin MIRA / June 24, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital

Scott Grant has a bustling family practice in the small Oregon community of Thunder Point. The town and its people have embraced the widowed doctor and father of two, his children are thriving, and Scott knows it's time to move on from his loss. But as the town's only doctor, the dating pool is limited. That is, until a stunning physician's assistant applies for a job at his clinic.

Peyton Lacoumette considers herself entirely out of the dating scene. She's already been burned by a man with kids, and she's come to Thunder Point determined not to repeat past mistakes. When Scott offers her a job, at a much lower salary than she's used to, Peyton is surprisingly eager to accept…at least for now. She's willing to stay for a three-month trial period while she explores other options.

Scott and Peyton know the arrangement is temporary—it isn't enough time to build a real relationship, never mind anything with lasting commitment. But love can blossom faster than you think when the timing is right, and this short visit just might hold the promise of forever.

Robyn Carr is a very prolific writer, putting out numerous books a year, all of which I read. I do have to admit, however, that I have a definitely preference for some of her heroines and plots over others. Some just seem more significant, maybe because of her heroine's upbringing, such as Peyton’s:

[Preparing her for her own HEA...]

Jun 21 2014 10:30am

First Look: Emilie Richards’s No River Too Wide (June 24, 2014)

No River Too Wide by Emilie RichardsEmilie Richards
No River Too Wide (Goddesses Anonymous #3)
Harlequin MIRA / June 24, 2014 / $14.95 print, $10.99 digital

Some betrayals are like rivers, so deep, so wide, they can't be crossed. But—for those with enough courage—forgiveness, redemption and love may be found on the other side.

On the night her home is consumed by fire, Janine Stoddard finally resolves to leave her abusive husband. While she is reluctant to involve her estranged daughter, she can't resist a chance to see Harmony and baby Lottie in Asheville, North Carolina, before she disappears forever.

Harmony's friend Taylor Martin realizes how much the reunited mother and daughter yearn to stay together, and she sees in Jan a chance to continue her own mother's legacy of helping women in need of a fresh start. She opens her home, even as she's opening her heart to another newcomer, Adam Pryor. But enigmatic Adam has a secret that could destroy Taylor's trust…and cost Jan her hard-won freedom.

Smart readers understand you can’t read the same type of book over and over, you have to mix it up once in a while. So like most of you, I vary my reading choices, from reading bits of fluff to books with more sexual content, to books that tug on my heartstrings, and then books that deal with real-life issues.

With Emilie Richards’s books, I get a two-for-one, since her books deal with current relevant topics, and they also tug on my heartstrings. In previous books, Richards has underscored immigration, conservation, homelessness, and even surrogate pregnancies. If it is a topic that is on our mind, then it makes its way into her books. In her newest release, No River Too Wide, she draws attention to the plight of battered women, and the toll on the victims, both the women being assaulted and their children.

[Topics don't get more important than that...]

Jun 20 2014 9:30am

First Look: Susan Wiggs’s The Beekeeper’s Ball (June 24, 2014)

The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan WiggsSusan Wiggs
The Beekeeper's Ball
Harlequin MIRA / June 24, 2014 / $21.99, print / $11.oo, digital

Isabel Johansen, a celebrated chef who grew up in the sleepy Sonoma town of Archangel, is transforming her childhood home into a destination cooking school—a unique place for other dreamers to come and learn the culinary arts. Bella Vista's rambling mission-style hacienda, with its working apple orchards, bountiful gardens and beehives, is the idyllic venue for Isabel's project…and the perfect place for her to forget the past.

But Isabel's carefully ordered plans begin to go awry when swaggering, war-torn journalist Cormac O'Neill arrives to dig up old history. He's always been better at exposing the lives of others than showing his own closely guarded heart, but the pleasures of small-town life and the searing sensuality of Isabel's kitchen coax him into revealing a few truths of his own.

The dreamy sweetness of summer is the perfect time of year for a grand family wedding and the enchanting Beekeeper's Ball, bringing emotions to a head in a story where the past and present collide to create an unexpected new future.

I love books that show characters evolving and putting the past behind them, and that is the theme of The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs

Moving forward and forgetting about the past can be extremely difficult to do; some people wear their disappointments on their sleeves for all to see, while others are like the buoyed inflatable punching bags that you hit that immediately bounce back. They hide any sign of hurt but then seem to be running in place.

But no matter what the reaction, sometimes the right person can help us put the past in perspective. Sometimes it only takes someone believing in us, to help us regain our own belief in ourselves.

[Things we learn from romance...]

Jun 19 2014 9:30am

First Look: Loretta Chase’s Vixen in Velvet (June 24, 2014)

Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase

Loretta Chase
Vixen in Velvet (The Dressmakers)
Avon / June 24, 2014 / $7.99 print, $6.99 digital

From the Diary of Leonie Noirot: The perfect corset should invite its undoing . . .

Lethally charming Simon Blair, Marquess of Lisburne, has reluctantly returned to London for one reason only: a family obligation. Still, he might make time for the seduction of a certain redheaded dressmaker—but Leonie Noirot hasn't time for him. She's obsessed with transforming his cousin, the dowdy Lady Gladys, into a swan.

Leonie's skills can coax curves—and profits—from thin air, but his criminally handsome lordship is too busy trying to seduce her to appreciate her genius. He badly needs to learn a lesson, and the wager she provokes ought to teach him, once and for all.

A great plan, in theory—but Lisburne's become a serious distraction and Leonie's usual logic is in danger of slipping away as easily as a silk chemise. Could the Season's greatest transformation be her own?

WORDSMITH : a person who works with words especially : a skillful writer—a.k.a. Loretta Chase.

Wordsmith means different things to different people. For some it is the beauty of combined words; to others it is the way the words evoke emotions. Not that I would disagree with either definition. But what truly impresses me is a writer’s ability to compose witty dialogue that not only entertains, but ingeniously builds the tension between the hero and heroine.

[Sounds delicious!...]

Jun 16 2014 1:30pm

First Look: Linda Francis Lee’s The Glass Kitchen (June 17, 2014)

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis LeeLinda Francis Lee
The Glass Kitchen
St. Martin's Press / June 17, 2014 / $25.99 print, $12.99 digital

Portia Cuthcart never intended to leave Texas. Her dream was to run the Glass Kitchen restaurant her grandmother built decades ago. But after a string of betrayals and the loss of her legacy, Portia is determined to start a new life with her sisters in Manhattan . . . and never cook again. But when she moves into a dilapidated brownstone on the Upper West Side, she meets twelve-year-old Ariel and her widowed father Gabriel, a man with his hands full trying to raise two daughters on his own. Soon, a promise made to her sisters forces Portia back into a world of magical food and swirling emotions, where she must confront everything she has been running from. What seems so simple on the surface is anything but when long-held secrets are revealed, rivalries exposed, and the promise of new love stirs to life like chocolate mixing with cream.

I love books that deal with food preparation and elements of enchantment or magic. Back in May of 2013 I talked about it in Eat it Up: Food and Magic Combine into Deliciousness. So you can imagine my delight when I read the blurb about The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee. My pleasure only intensified once I started reading the story.

The book has a delicious, tumultuous romance and quarrelsome family conflicts, along with a wonderful sixth sense sort of magic about food that coalesce in an emotional satisfying ending. In The Glass Kitchen, Lee has found the perfect recipe.

[Add a dash of romance...]

Jun 10 2014 2:00pm

Family, Romance, and Introspection: Women’s Fiction Roundup June 2014

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz WilliamsIt is no secret that I am a big fan of women’s fiction, so over the summer months I will be bringing you a roundup of the latest women’s fiction releases.

It seems especially apropos since many books in this genre end up with the classification “perfect beach read.” After the book’s blurb, in addition to the book's particular strengths, I've included two classifications: its “Measure of Love” to signal the degree of romance, and its “Introspection Level” to indicate how much of the story is dedicated to internal conflict. Enjoy!

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Madison Avenue world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.

Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate détente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold. . .

Strengths: Time period; family saga; mystery; HEA ending; romance
Measure of Love: Tablespoon
Introspection Level: Low

[Grab your sunblock and a towel and let's go...]

Jun 9 2014 4:30pm

Daddy Dearest: Supportive Fathers in Contemporary Romance from Gibson, Wiggs, and More!

The Lovesick Cure by Pamela MorsiIt is an accepted psychological truth that the lack of a positive father figure in a young girl’s life can impact her ability to trust and form healthy relationships. So having a horrid or distant father like Griffin Carey, Sugar Beth Carey’s father from Ain’t She Sweet or Burt Somerville, Phoebe Somerville’s father from It Had to Be You, both by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, is a perfect way for an author to explain a heroine’s hang-ups.

But just like the mothers from the Love the Mom You're With: Supportive Mothers in Romance Novels post, there are some great dad in romance novels, which we're highlighting just in time for Father's Day.

One of my favorite’s dads is Erwin Frederick Baxley, Jr. known as Piney from The Lovesick Cure by Pamela Morsi. Piney had big plans to be a doctor, but instead he became a young husband and father. Then when his wife became an addict, a single father. Now his son, Erwin Baxley, III, known as Tree is on the cusp of adulthood, and Piney’s job is to make sure he doesn’t make the mistakes that Piney did. What makes this book so memorial to me, is not so much an excess of emotion, but a dad doing “dad things":

[Chief among them, subjecting you to awkward convos...]

Jun 7 2014 10:00am

Returning to Home and Love in Karen White’s A Long Time Gone

Karen White's A Long Time Gone is a book full of brooding atmosphere and ambiance, set in the South. The book spotlights the generations of women who felt compelled to leave their home and leave their children behind, returning only to leave again, setting up a sense of disquiet and disruption in their daughter’s lives. Learning from their mothers' examples, the daughters repeat the pattern of leaving and returning, leaving and returning.

The ambience and disquieting atmosphere are very like the gothics of old:

We were born screaming into this world, the beginning of a lifelong quest to find what would quiet us. Our legacy was our ability to coax living things from fallow ground, along with a desperate need to see what lay beyond the delta. A need to quell a hurt whose source was as unexplainable as its force.
Whatever it was that drove us away was never stronger than the pull of what brought us back.

And then there is the skeleton, which creates more of the brooding, ominous feeling:

He stepped back, allowing my gaze to register the gaping hole in the ground that the intricate root system of the giant cypress had once inhabited. The grass around the edges was blackened, wood and bark sprinkled like confetti around the wounded earth. And there, nestled inside the dark hole like a baby in its crib were the stark white bones of a human skeleton.

[Uh, oh...]