<i>Maybe This Christmas</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Maybe This Christmas: Exclusive Excerpt Sarah Morgan "She tried to walk past him but lost her balance and fell against his chest..." <i>Treasure on Lilac Lane</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Treasure on Lilac Lane: Exclusive Excerpt Donna Alward "It had been her first kiss, and she’d looked at him with stars in her eyes..." <i>A Beaumont Christmas Wedding</i>: Excerpt A Beaumont Christmas Wedding: Excerpt Sarah M. Anderson "She stopped breathing as his hands skimmed over her..." <i>Crazy, Sexy Revenge</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Crazy, Sexy Revenge: Exclusive Excerpt J.D. Mason "'I want you so bad,' she whispered, sweeping her tongue into his mouth..."
From The Blog
October 17, 2014
Friday Beefcake: Magic Mike XXL Cast
Team H & H
October 17, 2014
H&H Debriefing: Binge Reading—Do You Do It?
Team H & H
October 16, 2014
5 Anime Series You Must Watch This Fall
Sahara Hoshi
October 15, 2014
Dysfunctional Parents in Romance
Maggie Boyd
October 15, 2014
Under the Radar: Paranormal Romance Series
Sahara Hoshi
Showing posts by: Maggie Boyd click to see Maggie Boyd's profile
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...]

Sep 18 2014 9:30am

Inspiring! Top 10 Inspirational Romances

A Girl to Come Home To by Grace Livingston HillI’ve been reading romance novels since my middle school years, but it has only been in the last five years that I’ve really become a fan of the Inspirational market. Part of that was due to changes in the market itself; the books that are coming out now in the genre have a fresher, friendlier approach that encourages entertainment along with edification. The ten books listed below are not all my personal favorites (some are) but they are all books that have had an impact on the genre.

10. Grace Livingston Hill, A Girl to Come Home To

Why? Hill has great name recognition when it comes to Inspirational romance. During her life time (1865-1947) she wrote over a hundred books, many of which are still in print. If the modern Inspirational romance novel has a starting point it is probably one of Hill’s books. I choose this particular novel because it is a personal favorite.

[We like those...]

Sep 9 2014 9:30am

Heroines to Die for from Armstrong, Howard, Robb and More!

Exit Strategy by Kelley ArmstrongFraming a love story around characters with a dark past is a challenge. The angst the character deals with internally often causes the story to take a morose twist that makes the believability of a romance impossible. The actions the character takes in the present to help them wrestle with their demons can do the same. Yet when the author can make us believe in the character and their journey enough the love story shines even brighter against this black background.

Heroines who kill have gone down the darkest path. Whether they kill to defend themselves, defend others, or just as a means of survival, the road they travel is one filled with ghosts. Not only must the author convince us that our hero or heroine can find love in spite of the horrors of their past, they also have to create a sympathetic character who can engage the reader enough to have them set aside whatever inhibitions the reader would normally feel towards someone with that behavior.

While dark pasts tend to be distributed evenly between heroes and heroines, violent reactions to such pasts tend to be far more the purview of men than women. Most kick ass heroines tend to draw the line at killing their opponent. Which ones do seek out violence as a way to lay their demons to rest? Which ladies are willing to go as far as pulling the trigger?

Nadia Stafford from Kelley Armstrong’s Exit Strategy, Made to Be Broken, and Wild Justice is the first who comes to mind. Nadia’s life took a turn for the macabre when she went from being a cop to being a gun for hire.

[That's quite a change...]

Aug 20 2014 4:30pm

First Look: Pam Jenoff’s The Winter Guest (August 26, 2014)

The Winter Guest by Pam JenoffPam Jenoff
The Winter Guest
Harlequin MIRA / August 26, 2014 / $14.95 print & digital

Life is a constant struggle for the eighteen-year-old Nowak twins as they raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation. The constant threat of arrest has made everyone in their village a spy, and turned neighbor against neighbor. Though rugged, independent Helena and pretty, gentle Ruth couldn't be more different, they are staunch allies in protecting their family from the threats the war brings closer to their doorstep with each passing day.

Then Helena discovers an American paratrooper stranded outside their small mountain village, wounded, but alive. Risking the safety of herself and her family, she hides Sam—a Jew—but Helena's concern for the American grows into something much deeper. Defying the perils that render a future together all but impossible, Sam and Helena make plans for the family to flee. But Helena is forced to contend with the jealousy her choices have sparked in Ruth, culminating in a singular act of betrayal that endangers them all—and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate across continents and decades.

Since her debut novel, 2007’s The Kommandant’s Girl, Pam Jenoff has wowed audiences with her intense and heartfelt World War II romantic fiction. In this latest release, Jenoff combines intrigue, mystery, and sibling rivalry to deliver a thrilling perspective on how the past affects the present.

[I'm intrigued already...]