Jay Crownover's Marked Men Series Jay Crownover <i>The Shattered Court</i>: Exclusive Excerpt The Shattered Court: Exclusive Excerpt M.J. Scott "She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth..." <i>Broken Juliet</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Broken Juliet: Exclusive Excerpt Leisa Rayven "He touches my hand, then traces down my wrist and over my forearm." <i>Court of Thorns and Roses</i>: Excerpt Court of Thorns and Roses: Excerpt Sarah J. Maas "He said my name like a caress, and his hot breath tickled my ear."
From The Blog
April 18, 2015
20 Years of Anne Rice’s Beauty Series
Jane Kriel
April 17, 2015
Friday Beefcake: Classical Musicians
Jennifer Proffitt
April 17, 2015
Scandal 4x19 Heart-to-Heart
Nicole Leapheart
April 16, 2015
Something for Every Romance Reader in Dragon Age
Elizabeth Vail
April 14, 2015
Ghosts, Poltergeists, and the Afterlife from Movies, TV...and Real Life?
Maggie Mae Gallagher
Showing posts by: Maggie Boyd click to see Maggie Boyd's profile
Feb 2 2015 2:00pm

Find a Nice Boy: 5 Heroines Deal with the Pressure to Marry

Together Tea by Marjan KamaliThe age old question of, “So when are you getting married?” is one that most single women can relate to – with sympathy. Those who live in what Ami Bera calls “hyphenated America” are no exception to this rule. Many times, for those from more traditional cultures, the pressure to marry is even greater. Modern romance authors play this for laughs while looking at the serious subject of what happens when a modern American girl meets up with her family’s traditional values.

Mina Rezayi, the heroine of Marjan Kamali’s Together Tea, wonders just what is wrong with her mother.

Darya loved to calculate the statistics of available Persian bachelors, factoring in their attributes, family histories, education, the probability for divorce. She had her very own system of assigning numbers to certain qualities. Five for good teeth. Minus 10 for having only a bachelors and no graduate degree. Plus 20 if it could be proved that they were kind to their mothers. Plus 7 if they didn’t hold their forks like shovels.

When Mina explains that she’s not interested in marriage, her mother starts talking to the bedspread.

[Mom's gone round the bend!]

Jan 31 2015 3:00pm

First Look: Liz Tolsma’s Remember the Lilies (February 3, 2015)

Remember the Lilies by Liz TolsmaLiz Tolsma
Remember the Lilies
Thomas Nelson / February 3, 2015 / $15.99 print, $9.99 digital

Interred by the Japanese, missionary Irene Reynolds comes across a mysterious note while working at the censor’s office. She memorizes the parts she must black out and delivers it to wealthy nightclub owner Rand Sterling. Before she knows what’s happening, she’s drawn into a web of secrets and danger.

Rand Sterling wants nothing more than to reopen his nightclubs once the war ends. But slimy Frank Covey wants his hand in the till—and has news that could threaten Rand’s reputation if it became public. More importantly, beautiful and intriguing Irene Reynolds cannot discover this information if he expects to persuade her to become his wife.

When Irene is attacked by a sinister Japanese guard and their secrets are exposed, they must learn the true meaning of forgiveness—if they can stave off starvation until the American troops bring freedom.

The glamour of the 1930s Champagne Crowd collides with the 1940s realities of war to create an intriguing read in Liz Tolsma’s Remember the Lilies. Hero Rand Sterling is the backbone of the Champagne Crowd in his part of the Orient. He worked hard and saw his dream become a reality, and now owns two highly successful nightclubs in the Philippines.

[Remember when?...]

Jan 29 2015 6:15pm

Matchmakers of Unusual Kinds from Macomber, Evanovich, and More!

Daddy's Little Matchmakers by Kathleen Y'BarboMost of us have heard the song “Matchmaker” from Fiddler on the Roof: Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match/Find me a find/Catch me a catch. In this heartfelt ditty, a young woman is asking for help from a professional.

Romance novels have their fair share of matchmakers—people who aren’t necessarily professionals, but who are determined to find an HEA for a loved one at whatever the cost.  Some of these matchmakers stand out from the crowd. They aren’t just an interfering mama or a buttinsky grandma but ghosts, pets and children like to get involved in playing Cupid too. And some of them use unorthodox methods.  

Such as Ella, Hailey and Brooke Wilson from Kathleen Y’Barbo’s Daddy’s Little Matchmakers.  While child matchmakers certainly abound in romance, these three bring a unique twist. They may be in elementary school, but they know a desperate case of someone in need of romance when they see it and their dad certainly fits the bill. So they take out a classified ad:

[Spunky little things, aren't they?]

Jan 21 2015 10:30am

Love, Loss, Sisterhood, and Motherhood in Kristin Hannah’s Novels

Home Front by Kristin HannahStephen King once said, “Life turns on a dime. Sometimes towards us, but more often it spins away, flirting and flashing as it goes: so long, honey, it was good while it lasted, wasn’t it?” Kristin Hannah seems to have placed this philosophy at the heart of her novels, showing us how love and loss are often two sides of the same coin. In her intense, emotional tales she focuses on strong women facing multiple challenges and realizing that the only way through their travails is to move forward and embrace love.

Such is the case for Jolene Zarkades of Hannah’s Home Front. Jolene grew up fast and hard. The daughter of two alcoholics, she was surprised at how sad it made her when a drunk driving accident took them both from her forever. She is proud that she has been able to provide a far different life for her girls than the one she had. Her husband, Michael, an attorney is a kind, if sometimes absentee, father.

She is a pilot for the National Guard, a job she is able to share with her best friend, Tami. Tami was the sister Jolene had never had. They’d been teenagers when they met—a pair of eighteen-year-old girls who had joined the army because they didn’t know what else to do with their lives. Both had qualified for the high-school-to-flight-school helicopter-pilot training program.

[Not too shabby, ladies...]

Jan 7 2015 4:00pm

Proud to be an American—With a Hyphen: Heroes and Heroines Torn Between Two Cultures from Martin, Sorenson, and More!

Ami Bera once said, “Our nation is built upon a history of immigration, dating back to our first pioneers, the Pilgrims. For more than three centuries, we have welcomed generations of immigrants to our melting pot of hyphenated America: Italian-Americans; Irish-Americans; Jewish-Americans; Mexican-Americans; Chinese-Americans; Indian-Americans.”

Unfortunately, romance bookshelves traditionally have been woefully short of characters that fit this criterion. That is changing though and these days’ romance heroes and heroines come from many different kinds of backgrounds. 

But as those characters have discovered, life on the hyphen can be anything but easy. Many times, you feel torn between two cultures, the culture you grew up in (America) and the one that your parents or grandparents remember. Finding love can be even tougher as you battle traditional styles of courtship, such as arranged marriages, in order to find true love on your own terms. Making courtship and romance even harder is the question of whether or not you must marry within your culture to find someone who understands you or if love can truly build a bridge that overcomes cultural differences.

Heroine Lindsey Owyang from Kim Wong Keltner’s funny and thought provoking The Dim Sum of All Things would love to be off the hyphen. A large part of Lindsey’s character has been built by her learning to straddle the line that keeps her from either being fully Chinese or fully American. An even larger part of it has been defined by how she responds to how it feels to be an outsider in the place where you were born and raised just because your physical ancestry makes you different.

[More than skin deep...]

Jan 1 2015 7:00pm

First Look: Robin Kaye’s A Little On the Wild Side (January 6, 2015)

A Little on the Wild Side by Robin KayeRobin Kaye
A Little on the Wild Side
Sourcebooks Casablanca / January 6, 2015 / $7.99 print & digital

A woman who gets what she wants…

Bianca Ferrari-ex-supermodel turned successful business woman-seems to have it all: beauty, brains and a career she loves. And she did it all by herself...through sheer force of will and ruthless determination. So when her life is suddenly turned upside down, it's hard for her to admit that going it alone may not be an option...

A man who knows what she needs...

Sexy, rugged and down-to-earth, Trapper Kincaid has a knack for attracting all kinds of women-mostly the wrong kind. When he finds out that the exhaustingly independent and drop-dead gorgeous Bianca is in serious need of help, he knows he's the man for the job. But Bianca isn't going to make it easy...

How long does it take to fall in love? For Trapper Kincaid and Bianca Ferrari of Robin Kaye’s A Little on the Wild Side, the key number is 72 hours.

Trapper runs his relationships on a strict series of rules:

1. Never have sex with a smart woman.
2. Never have anything but casual sex.
3. Never spend more than seventy-two hours with a woman.
4. Never see the same woman twice.
5. Never talk about family.
6. Never give a woman your number
7. Never lead a woman on.
8. Never promise more than you can deliver.
9. Never discuss anything that can be misconstrued.
10. Always wear a condom.

[Some rules are made to be broken...]

Dec 18 2014 10:30am

First Look: Elizabeth Camden’s Beyond All Dreams (December 30, 2014)

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth CamdenElizabeth Camden
Beyond All Dreams
Bethany House / December 30, 2014 / $14.99 print, digital

Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across a baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. She is thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, but her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen until his promising career became shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship.

Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglement with a member of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol, where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for themselves?

We’ve all heard before that opposites attract. That is certainly the case for Luke and Anna from Elizabeth Camden’s Beyond All Dreams. On the surface, there is nothing that should draw them together. But just beneath the surface they find that the other is everything they need in a partner.

[Dream big!]

Dec 14 2014 12:00pm

First Look: Annie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s This Shattered World (December 23, 2014)

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerAmie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
This Shattered World (Starbound #2)
Disney Hyperion / December 23, 2014 / $17.99 print, $9.99 digital

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporate conglomerate that rules Avon with an iron fist. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage against the military occupying his home, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as his prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides in a senseless war.

Johnse Hatfield and Roseanna McCoy. Romeo and Juliet. Tony and Maria from West Side Story. Rose and Jack from Titanic. Writers have adored the star-crossed lovers trope since, well, since we’ve been telling tales. Evidence of this motif goes back as far as A.D. 8, when Ovid’s Metamorphoses was published, including the fable of Pyramus and Thisbe, lovers forbidden to wed because of their parents’ rivalry. Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner revise this popular theme in their latest novel, the second book in their Starbound series.

[Oooh, let's get started then...]

Dec 11 2014 10:30am

First Look: Kayla Perrin’s Flames of Passion (December 16, 2014)

Flames of Passion by Kayla PerrinKayla Perrin
Flames of Passion (Love on Fire)
Harlequin Kimani / December 16, 2014 / $6.50 print, $5.99 digital

Their spark is burning hot…

Betrayed by love in the past, Nya Lowe has vowed to steer clear of future heartbreak. But when she sees her deceitful ex at a party, she does something totally out of character and puts the moves on sexy San Diego firefighter Tyler Johansen. Her payback plan backfires when her counterfeit “boyfriend” starts breaking down her defenses…kiss by sizzling kiss.

Tyler risks his life every day, but he isn't ready to gamble with his heart again. Yet ever since the sultry photographer kissed him, all he wants is to keep Nya in his arms. As they stoke the flames of a dangerous desire, a suspicious fire and near-fatal collision raise the stakes for them. Will they both be burned again? Or can they trust each other enough to turn their pretend romance into a forever love?

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For Nya Lowe, the heroine of Kayla Perrin’s Flames of Passion, good intentions lead her to the path of lasting love.

[Spark it up!]

Dec 1 2014 10:30am

First Look: Shiloh Walker’s Razed (December 2, 2014)

Razed by Shiloh WalkerShiloh Walker
Berkley / December 2, 2014 / $7.99 print, digital

Keelie doesn’t believe in the “perfect man.” But the men who are worth the trouble are usually taken—like her business partner Zach Barnes. After a string of bad luck and the lost chance with Zach, Keelie decides that maybe flying solo—and living with suppressed desires—is the key to happiness.

As a photographer, Zane Barnes has an eye for the human form, and his eyes can’t get enough of Keelie’s curves. Unfortunately, Keelie is like most women—always fawning over his little brother, Zach. Zane is about ready to give up, but then a few stolen moments at his brother's wedding have him thinking maybe there's a chance there after all. Now he just has to prove that the perfect man does exist...for her.

The Shoop Shoop song tells us, “If you want to know if he loves you so/It’s in his kiss/That’s where it is.” The heroine of Shiloh Walker’s Razed believes firmly in that advice and puts it into action by planting a big one on her tattoo parlor business partner/co-owner Zach Barnes. She’s had a crush on him forever and is determined to ignite the fire between them. 

[And then what?...]

Nov 23 2014 1:05pm

6 Reasons Why Mockingjay: Part 1 Belongs to Team Gale

This post contains SPOILERS for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1. Enjoy!

This is the darkest of the Hunger Games films yet, which is saying something when you consider this is a series based on teens fighting to the death.  In this film the Capitol and the Districts are at war and Katniss and company are integral parts of the battle. There are no moments devoted to mind boggling fashions, few seconds are played for laughs. However, there is a tender romantic thread that runs almost from start to finish. Fans of Gale Hawthorne, played by the wonderful Liam Hemsworth, finally get to see their boy take center stage in the Peeta/Katniss/Gale triangle. It was worth the wait. Here are the six moments I thought most memorable:

1. The Fight Sequence: Early in the film Katniss goes to District 8 to visit a hospital and see firsthand the destruction done in the area by the Capitol’s bombers. When the Capitol catches a glimpse of her through their spy cams, they send bombers into the area to target the hospital and punish those supporting the Mockingjay. Katniss, unwilling to cower with her camera crew in a bunker, rushes out to confront the ships armed with her quiver full of exploding arrows. Gale is with her every step of the way, physically shielding her from shrapnel when a bomb explodes the building in front of them and firing arrows beside her as the ships bear down on them. Their movements are so perfectly in sync, the two working marvelously together, that you can see the long years of their hunting relationship bearing fruit in this moment.

[Awww, yes!...]

Nov 21 2014 2:00pm

First Look: Julie Klassen’s The Secret of Pembrooke Park (November 25, 2014)

Julie Klassen
The Secret of Pembrooke Park
Bethany House / November 25, 2014 / $14.99 print, $14.99 digital

Abigail Foster is the practical daughter. She fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry, and the one man she thought might marry her seems to have fallen for her younger, prettier sister.

Facing financial ruin, Abigail and her father search for more affordable lodgings, until a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Foster’s journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play...

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem acquainted with the manor's past, the only information they offer is a stern warning: Beware trespassers drawn by rumors that Pembrooke Park contains a secret room filled with treasure.

This catches Abigail's attention. Hoping to restore her family's finances—and her dowry—Abigail looks for this supposed treasure. But eerie sounds at night and footprints in the dust reveal she isn't the only one secretly searching the house.

Then Abigail begins receiving anonymous letters, containing clues about the hidden room and startling discoveries about the past.

As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

One of my favorite characters in a Gothic romance novel is the house. While we typically don’t think of settings as characters, an exception must be made in the case of a Gothic romance. It is most often the house that adds the eerie ambience to the tone of the novel, the house that dictates the actions of the other players on stage, the house that most often serves as both catalyst and solution. It is at Manderley that the story of Rebecca must be told, for it is Manderley that keeps the secret. So it is with Pembrooke Park, a home shrouded in mystery in Julie Klassen's The Secret of Pembrooke Hall.

[And every mystery needs a mystery man, right?]

Nov 14 2014 10:30am

First Look: Jeffe Kennedy’s The Tears of the Rose (November 25, 2014)

The Tears of the Rose by Jeffe KennedyJeffe Kennedy
Tears of the Rose (The Twelve Kingdoms #2)
Kensington / November 25, 2014 / $15.00 print, $13.50 digital

Three sisters. Motherless daughters of the high king. The eldest is the warrior-woman heir;the middle child is shy and full of witchy intuition;and the youngest, Princess Amelia, she is as beautiful as the sun and just as generous.

Ami met her Prince Charming and went away to his castle on the stormy sea-cliffs—and that should have been her happily ever after. Instead, her husband lies dead and a war rages. Her middle sister has been taken into a demon land, turned into a stranger. The priests and her father are revealing secrets and telling lies. And a power is rising in Ami, too, a power she hardly recognizes, to wield her beauty as a weapon, and her charm as a tool to deceive…

Amelia has never had to be anything but good and sweet and kind and lovely. But the chess game for the Twelve Kingdoms has swept her up in it, and she must make a gambit of her own. Can the prettiest princess become a pawn—or a queen?

And they lived happily ever after is supposed to be the end of a fairy tale romance. Jeffe Kennedy turns that convention on its head in her latest fantasy romance novel, Tears of the Rose. This adult retelling of Beauty and the Beast shows that true love can occur more than once in an enchanted life time.

In the first novel in this series, Mark of the Tala, heroine Ami met the handsome Prince Hugh when he came to court her elder sister. The two were drawn to each other instantly and although she was the baby of the family, Ami was allowed to marry her sister’s suitor with great pomp and ceremony. Her eldest sister Ursula and older sister Andi both wished her well as she rode off to her new kingdom by the sea. Her beauty combined with his good looks and wealth had her convinced she was stepping into her happily ever after. She just knew everything would be absolutely wonderful from here on out.

[Famous last words...]

Nov 5 2014 5:45pm

Burning Love: 5 Reasons to Love Firefighters from Carr, Bernard, Shalvis, and More!

The Fireman Who Loved Me by Jennifer BernardOne of the highlights of my TV season this year is Chicago Fire. It follows the lives and loves of the sexy men and women who man Engine 51, Truck 81, Squad 3, Ambulance 61 and Battalion 25. It shows all the guts and glory involved in putting your life on the line for others every day, bringing your a-game to every event and being the kind of person who runs toward danger rather than away from it.

For those, like me, who feel an hour a week is nowhere near enough time to spend with these heroes there are some wonderful firefighter romances out there. If you’re not a fan, let me give you five reasons to become one.

They’re Comely

Looks aren’t everything—but they sure don’t hurt. The men of Jennifer Bernard’s Bachelor Firemen series don’t just put out fires for a living; they start them in the libidos of the women of San Gabriel. In The Fireman Who Loved Meheroine Melissa McGuire learns firsthand just how hot the boys in tan and yellow can be when she attends an event titled “Hot Men for a Great Cause: The San Gabriel County Firefighter and Law Enforcement Officer Fourth Annual Bachelor Auction.“ Initially, she’s opposed to the whole thing.

“Bidding on a man like some prize bull at a cattle auction? It’s ridiculous.”

Then she saw what it had to offer:

The beefcake parade of Southern California’s finest continued. All those powerful arms, those firm, flexing buttocks, those rock-hard stomachs. What about Vince from LA County Fire and Rescue, six feet seven inches of glorious sinewy coiled strength? Or Jose from Moorpark PD, with his laughing eyes and dance moves straight out of a strip show?. . . . .Number Five was perfect. And he knew it.

[We might know it too...]

Oct 21 2014 3:45pm

Boo! Here’s Your Match!: Spooktacular Matchmakers in Romance

Gorgeous by Paul RudnickThe times, they are a-changin’. But in one crucial way they are still the same—in order to reach your HEA you have to first meet your Mister or Ms. Right. In real life the most popular ways to do this are to find him/her at work or school, be introduced by mutual friends or most recently, meeting online via a dating website. Of course the romance universe works a bit differently. There are the meet cutes such as the ones Leigh Davis introduced us to in her column Meet-Cute (and Not So Cute): First Encounters in Romance from Roberts, James, and More!, the arranged marriages, purchased at auction, or even  ghostly match-makers. That’s right, sometimes it takes a ghost to lead you to your true love.

But just what leads a ghost to play matchmaker? In Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick it is to fulfill a promise. Designer Tom Kelly had fallen in love with one of his models. Tom is devastated when he finds circumstances he can’t control pulling them apart. She asks him for just one thing from him before they are separated—to help her daughter:

“You have to help her in any way you can, to make sure that she’s not like me. I don’t want her to be afraid of anything. I want her to know that she can take on the world. But most of all, I want her to fall in love, with someone wonderful, and I want that person to love her right back, no matter what she looks like. You have to guarantee that baby, once she grows up; you have to make sure that she falls in love for all the right reasons.”

[No pressure or anything...]

Oct 15 2014 3:00pm

Dysfunctional Parents in Romance Novels from Robb, Quick, Walker, and More

The Last Breath by Kimberly BellePlenty of people joke about how dysfunctional their family is. For others, it is no joke at all, but a sad reality.

Romance novels examine this issue by looking at how coming from a tough home situation influences a hero or heroine and their love story. The shelves are full of books such as Mary Balogh’s A Precious Jewel, which shows the near crippling impact of a cruel, autocratic father and a seductive step-mother on the vulnerable hero. Others examine the high cost of having an alcoholic parent, such as Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Natural Born Charmer. In Sweet Everlasting by Patricia Gaffney, the heroine’s father is physically and sexually abusive. The parents of the heroines of Jeannie Lin’s The Jade Temptress and The Lotus Palace sold them into prostitution. Even when the abuse isn’t horrific as that mentioned above a parent who is hyper-critical of their child can affect their self-confidence and ability to form strong relationships such as the parents of the heroine in Jennifer Cruise’s Bet Me.

Dysfunction isn’t always about direct abuse, though; sometimes the actions parents take against others can have a lasting impact on a child’s life. Perhaps the strongest of these impacts comes from having a parent who's killed. Whether they kill within the family, such as a dad killing a mom or step-mom or they are found guilty of killing others, the child forever wrestles with questions of tainted blood, guilt and that lost feeling of losing a parent even when they are still living. They also have to bear the shame and humiliation of being known as a murderer’s offspring.

Gia Andrew’s from Kimberly Belle’s The Last Breath has long known what the community thinks of her family.

[Not exactly held in high esteem...]

Oct 11 2014 2:00pm

First Look: Nicole Michaels’s Blame it on the Mistletoe (October 14, 2014)

Blame it on the Mistletoe by Nicole MichaelsNicole Michaels
Blame It on the Mistletoe
St. Martin’s / October 14, 2014 / $3.99 digital

Sometimes all it takes is a leap of faith…

’Tis the season for small-town Missouri boutique owner Brooke Abbott to get crafty. Much as she adores making art for art’s sake—decorating windows, designing ornaments, crafting the perfect present for under the tree—this Christmas she needs the gift of good customers. Lots of them. Sweet Opal Studios will go under if she can’t do some serious business before the New Year…and she has no time to lose. What Brooke needs is an honest-to-goodness miracle. Instead, she finds a burglar lurking in the back room of her shop. And here she thought the holidays couldn’t get any worse!

For Christmas to work its own magic…

Or maybe things just got a lot better. Turns out the burglar is none other than Alex Coleman—local bad boy slash legendary heartthrob, childhood best friend to Brooke’s older brother, and…future landlord? That is the question. He’s come home for the holidays to see his grandmother, make peace with his distant mother, and settle his grandfather’s estate, an estate that includes the building that houses Sweet Opal. What he never expected was to bump into a grown-up Brooke, whose spirit, charm, and irresistible good looks give him pause. Should he go back to Oregon as planned, or give small-town life a chance? The only thing Alex knows for sure is that before he walks out that door, he’s going to get Brooke beneath the mistletoe, where anything can happen…

Can love be found with a guy who keeps sneaking into your home? Anticipating the debut of her novel Start Me Up in March of 2015, Nicole Michaels offers this short, sweet Christmas tale that shows that Santa is not the only person who can improve the holidays through a little breaking and entering.

Brooke Abbott is living in a Christmas Card:

The entire length of Main Street was quilted in a soft white, and she was grateful she’d worn her snowboots. Brooke passed the darkened storefronts of antique shops, a knitting store, even an adorable little bakery. Preston, Missouri –her hometown- was as idyllic as a small town could be and on a peaceful night like this it was easy to imagine you were traipsing through a magical snow globe.

But that’s the only part of her life that is idyllic in Nicole Michaels's Blame It on the Mistletoe. She’d had to come home to Preston when her boyfriend of several years moved his abuse up a notch and had her fleeing the life they had built together. Now her mother is nagging for grandchildren and both parents are letting her know how crazy it is for her to have opened a retail shop in the current financial climate. She’s been able to create her dream retail space in what should be an ideal location but a hideous orange “Road Closed” signed has kept the customers from coming in and seeing all the perfection. Money is pouring out a lot faster than it is pouring in and she’s resorted to a questionable living arrangement. Hopefully the woman renting her the building won’t learn that Brooke has also helped herself to the studio apartment above her shop.

[That can't possibly go wrong—can it?]

Oct 6 2014 3:00pm

Spooky, Sexy, and Mysterious: Top 10 Gothic Romance

Gothic romance is one of the oldest styles of romance novels; the formula of girl meets enigmatic boy in spooky location equals love has been around since the 1800s, but had its heyday during the 1960s and 1970s, when they could be found just about anywhere. Their popularity waned by the early 1980s, but there have been a few books lately which lead me to hope for a rebound.

What follows is a list of books and writers that have been important to the genre. While this sub-genre tends to have a strict structure there is enough difference in writing styles and enough twists in the plot usage that it should have a little something for everyone.

10. Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho

Why? This novel, published in 1794, is among those credited with launching the genre. While it has primarily fallen into obscurity now, it was popular enough during its zenith to inspire Jane Austen to mention it in her novel Northanger Abbey.

9. V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic

Why? “At the top of the stairs there are four secrets hidden. Blond, beautiful, innocent, and struggling to stay alive…” This novel turns the secret in the attic trope completely on its head.

[Not a secret in the attic we really wanted to know, but they rarely are...]

Oct 3 2014 1:15pm

Pick Me! Auctions in Romance Novels

Courting Trouble by Deeanne GistIf you’ve ever seen the musical Oklahoma! you know that auctions can be synonymous with love play. In that story, farm owner Laurie is wooed by cowboy Curly and farmhand Jud during a day and evening surrounding a box social. The main event at this box social is an auction during which men can bid on picnic basket lunches prepared by the women of the area. The man who wins the basket will share the meal with the girl who cooked it. Since this was often seen as an ideal time to court the girl without heavy chaperonage, competition for a popular girl’s basket could be fierce, which is what happens in this tale.

That’s the dark side of the box social. This popular 1900s social convention is mostly sweet and fun. Two of my favorite romances use this scenario with heart and humor—Courting Trouble by Deeanna Gist and When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke.

Those are lighthearted auctions which are used to confirm the hero’s attraction to the heroine. The auction trope in romance can take a much darker or more sensual turn also and those are the auctions I want to take a look at in this article.

Our first novel proves this trope has been around for a long time. Kathleen Woodiwiss is often credited for launching the paperback historical romance novel market we are familiar with today. Certainly the success of her novels makes her an important figure in romance history. In her 1983 classic A Rose in Winter the lovely Erienne Fleming is auctioned off for marriage in order to raise funds to pay off her father’s gambling debts and secure the family’s future.

[To the victor goes the spoils...]

Oct 1 2014 5:15pm

Fish Out of (Historical and Fantasy) Water

The Famous Heroine by Mary BaloghAll of us have been the odd man out at some point in time. Whether it is the memory of our first day of kindergarten, or the first day at a new job, we can all relate to that weird mix of exhilaration and fear that marks starting something that is, to us at least, brand new. When it comes to literature, that emotion is often best communicated through the fish out of water trope. By placing the character in a situation that is completely alien to them, the author can use the character as a reference point through which they can introduce us to a strange new world, whether that is on an alien planet, in a time long ago or even just some place a bit off the beaten path for the average reader. As Leigh Davis alluded to in her article on the fish out of water trope, this is a writing device that is prevalent in romance novels. In her blog she covered the contemporary and comedy genres. For this piece I will be looking at how the trope works in historical romance, paranormal romance and futuristic romance novels.

The first book that comes to mind whenever this trope is mentioned to me is The Famous Heroine by Mary Balogh. In this novel Cora Downes, daughter of a wealthy merchant, finds herself being taken into society by a duchess. She finds herself in this unusual situation as a result of an even more unusual event:

The truth was—at least, it was not quite the truth but what was perceived to be the truth—that Cora had saved little Henry from drowning in the shadow of the Pulteney Bridge in Bath and that out of gratitude the duchess, little Henry’s grandmamma, had taken Cora into her own home to mingle with her daughters and to be elevated to the ranks of gentlewomanhood long enough to find an eligible gentleman.

[That's very generous...]