<i>Eleventh Grave in Moonlight</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Eleventh Grave in Moonlight: Exclusive Excerpt Darynda Jones "I wanted to study her reaction since I couldn’t feel her emotions." <i>The Turn</i>: Exclusive Excerpt The Turn: Exclusive Excerpt Kim Harrison "Love can hold the world together as a new balance is found." <i>The Room Mate</i>: Exclusive Excerpt The Room Mate: Exclusive Excerpt Kendall Ryan "My fingertips tingled with the desire to reach out and touch him." <i>The List</i>: Exclusive Excerpt The List: Exclusive Excerpt Tawna Fenske "Will Simon’s big secret make that the one fantasy that can never come true?"
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Dec 28 2016 10:00am

It Opens at the Close: 2016’s Women’s Fiction Best Bets

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

The beginning is the word and the end is silence. And in between are all the stories.
~Kate Atkinson

For some of us the end of 2016 will be in silence—as we stay at home curled up with a great book. Others will be out painting the town red. But no matter how your year ends—with a bang or quietly—there is no doubt that we all love the stories.

And in 2016 we have had some great stories. In addition to December’s Best Bets  it’s also the time of year when we talk about the best books of 2016. Each month in the blog, I've mentioned some great books. Each are memorable in their own way. Some have charmed us–some have challenged our beliefs–and some have just entertained us. But it is the books that touch our emotions that are the most memorable. We all have friends visit and peruse our bookshelves, looking for something good to read. These are the 2016 women’s fiction books that I would pull off the shelf and say to them “you must read this – it is so good!”  

2016 Women’s Fiction Best Bets:

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

Why you should read it:

This is the perfect book for those of you, who have always wanted to be a free spirit –just a little bit bad, and a lot creative. Live vicariously as heroine Olivia Rawlings makes music and bakes her way to happiness!

[Read more...]

Dec 24 2016 10:00am

First Look: Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions (December 27, 2016)

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel
Small Admissions
Atria / December 27, 2016 / $26.99 print, $13.99 digital

In the terms of writing a book that is charming, appealing, and delightful, author Amy Poeppel has hit it out of the ballpark because Small Admission, Poeppel’s first published book is all that.

When a book works, it’s difficult to pinpoint what makes it so good. And really, it’s because everything just fits together—like pieces of a puzzle.

Authors are told to write what they know...and it appears that Poeppel took that advice to heart. Per her biography, she worked in the admission department of a small independent school. I suspect that is one reason, the backdrop to this story, is so genuine and hilariously amusing—a truly tongue-in-check look at the whole process that only an insider would know about.

[Read more...]

Dec 7 2016 3:00pm

Are Romantic Comedies on Their Way Back?

Source: shutterstock

Where Have All the Romantic Comedies Gone?

Trends, they happen in everything—clothes, cars, mass media, celebrities, style...romance novels. It’s possible you grew up, or your parents grew up, in a house with a gold refrigerator, or an avocado-green bathtub or a paneled den. It's what was “in.” So while we see them often enough in culture, we can't forget there are trends in romance.

Most all of you know about the historical  romance revolution of the 1970s and 1980s that gave us books from Kathleen Woodiwiss and Judith McNaught. Contemporary books had their smaller one, too—with authors like Sidney Shelton, Judith Krantz, and Danielle Steel. These two genres battled it out like the Today Show and Good Morning America –one leading for a couple of years only to then fall behind and the other taking the lead until what seemed like a mass exodus of contemporary romance authors in the early-mid 1990s to write romantic suspense. Regency and historical books with settings in England reign supreme, but readers were lucky enough to experience a variety that hasn’t been duplicate since—with plenty of westerns, and medieval stories too. Romantic fantasy made its own little niche with angel and futuristic books in mid-1990’s and then genre imploded in the early 2000 with shift changers and vampire books. Around 2007 small-town romances boosted contemporary sales. Some mid-list fantasy authors saw the writing on the wall and start changing genres. Then in 2010 or so LGBTQ romances and erotica became more mainstream.

[Read more...]

Nov 28 2016 3:45pm

Give More: November 2016 Women’s Fiction Best Bets

The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright

Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Around the holidays we tend to think more of families, more of giving, and more of good will toward others (as long as they’re not getting the last parking space in the mall!) Wouldn't it be wonderful if this perceptive insight and feelings lasted the whole year round?

Of course, that's not a new sentiment. Be it what it may, while we do need each other—family, friends, and the kindness of strangers, it's not always easy to get along with each other, even among family.

We talked about the definition of women's fiction before—a woman on the “brink of life changes and personal growth.” And sometimes this personal growth is changing talk the talk to walk the walk.

For Women’s Fiction Best Bets this November I'm doing something a little different. Rather than talk about books released this month we are taking the opportunity to highlight books mentioned in previous columns that you might have missed—that really have the message of the holidays—even if the period they cover is not specifically during November and December.

In these books the heroines learn to forgive past mistakes; mend broken relationships, and offer the hand of friendship to others. The books also illustrate the importance of family, how they can affect us in both a positive and negative way. In no particular order, here are some great books to read over the upcoming holidays:

[Let's get this started...]

Nov 15 2016 3:00pm

Sex Doesn’t Sell? Wait...What Now?

Sex doesn’t sell.

Image result for groundhog day movie gif

In books— at least per the bestseller-ometer!

Believe it or not?

Jodie Archer, ex-research lead on literature at Apple, and Matthew L. Jockers, an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have developed an algorithm that can predict   novels chances of being a best seller.  Stephen Phillips explores their findings in his article, Can Big Data Find the Next 'Harry Potter'? published in this month’s Atlantic magazine (and brought to my attention by Virginia Kantra’s tweet!).

Per their research the indicators of a best seller are a book that has:

Authoritative “voice”; spare, plainspoken, often colloquial, prose; declarative verbs that connote action-oriented take-charge characters.

It's a given that any author would want their book to appeal to a multitude of readers, across multiple genres. Harry Potter's books are children's books, but adult readers helped propel J.K. Rowling into the elite stratosphere where only a few select authors reside. Of course being popular doesn't always translate to legitimacy, but in the publishing world it does. People who hadn’t read books in years were reading Fifty Shades of Grey , which is a good thing, as Jennifer Proffitt explains in “The Fifty Shades Revolution... Or Why I’m Thankful for E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.”

[Read more...]

Oct 28 2016 11:00am

True Friends: October 2016 Women’s Fiction Best Bets

What women's fiction should you be reading this month?

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.
-Thomas Jefferson

True friends, and friendship are rare gifts. This month fittingly focuses on friendship. Forgiving friends, understanding what makes a true friend, friends to lovers, and siblings becoming friends are just some of the themes in this month’s books.

Find yourself a quiet place, and immerse in this month’s selection of healing, and new beginnings! There is a book here for everyone!

Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman

Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman

For years, Maggie Sheets has been an invisible hand in the glittering homes of wealthy New York City clients, scrubbing, dusting, mopping, and doing all she can to keep her head above water as a single mother. Everything changes when a former employer dies leaving Maggie a staggering inheritance. A house in Sag Harbor. The catch? It comes with an inhabitant: The deceased’s eighty-two-year old mother Edith.

Edith has Alzheimer’s—or so the doctors tell her—but she remembers exactly how her daughter Liza could light up a room, or bring dark clouds in her wake. And now Liza’s gone, by her own hand, and Edith has been left—like a chaise or strand of pearls—to a poorly dressed young woman with a toddler in tow.

Maggie and Edith are both certain this arrangement will be an utter disaster. But as summer days wane, a tenuous bond forms, and Edith, who feels the urgency of her diagnosis, shares a secret that she’s held close for five decades, launching Maggie on a mission that might just lead them each to what they are looking for.

Strengths: Multi-faceted characters; Complex multi-generational relationships; Imaginative concept; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Mood: Poignant
Thoughts: This story will charm you with its quiet simplicity of two people working to make a difficult situation work! A favorite!

[Read more...]

Oct 26 2016 8:30am

Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling: Trinity Speculation: Breaking the Silence on Silver Silence

Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh

What's going to happen in Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling: Trinity series?

First off before we start—this post has spoilers for the Psy-Changeling series through Book 15, Allegiance of Honor—in fact if you haven’t read the Psy-Changeling series it won’t make sense. Don’t let this blog spoil the books for you!

When Nalini Singh made the announcement she’s moving to the next phase of the Psy-Changeling series—saying a soft goodbye to some of the characters—my heart literally stopped, especially since back in June I just talked about falling in love with this series all over again.

If you read series, especially any sequential series with open-ended story arcs, then you know that making a commitment to one is like a leap of faith—trusting that an author won’t let you down by taking the series in too uncharted territory (some is GOOD) or unshipping couples or abandoning the series—leaving some characters’ stories untold. Yes—I know it’s an author’s prerogative to do exactly that, but that doesn’t make the heartbreak any easier. We’ve all been left feeling like charred toast at one time or another.

Luckily, I’m a fast reader and discovered that a soft goodbye isn’t necessarily a final goodbye. Singh clarified that “if they have a natural part to play in a particular storyline in the future, you’ll see them again” and she will be “circling back to some previous characters who haven’t had their stories yet,” which luckily eliminated the need for a 200 joules shock to restart my heart.

[Read more...]

Oct 14 2016 8:30am

31 Years Later and We Still Love LadyHawke



  • gas cost $1.09, movie tickets $2.75,
  • New Coke would be introduced,
  •  The Unabomber kill his first victim.
  • The Food and Drug Administration would approve a test for AIDS, and insurance companies start screening for the disease.
  • Various artists, including Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nelson, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner and Stevie Wonder, record the song “We Are The World” as USA for Africa. to raise money for famine relief.
  • Michael Jackson Buys ATV Music and every Beatles Song for $47 million dollars.
  • TWA Flight 847 is hijacked by Hezbollahon on June 14 
  • Back to the Future with $210,609,762 domestic gross is the most popular film of the year.
  • Stephen King dominated the best seller list. But readers were also reading Danielle Steel, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Sidney Shelton

Many romance fans feel that Ever After may be the best fairy tale adaptationwith Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott, and Anjelica Houston.  It is cute and sweet. Drew Barrymore is a darling. But is it truly a larger than life romance?

As a counterpoint to this modern take on Cinderella, I would like to offer up a movie that is truly a majestic story of love and overcoming obstacles to happily-ever-after—LadyHawke with the hilarious Matthew Broderick, the gorgeous Rutger Hauer, and absolutely stunning Michelle Pfeiffer.

[Read more...]

Oct 9 2016 10:00am

They’ve Got Our Vote: Politics and Politicians in Romance Novels

Source: Shutterstock

It’s pretty much understood that in writing a romance novel, it is risky to include politics and political agendas because either way, it can be a lose/lose situation. You only need to check out posted reviews to discover this.  Some readers will get offended by views expressed in the novel, and the rest sometimes get upset even when they agree. Finding the right balance can be difficult, because readers don’t want to feel preached to. And then there is the fact that most readers feel like romance books are for entertainment, not education on public policies.

This might be one reason there are so few books featuring a politician as a hero or heroine—although there might be more. Even though almost every year the winner of the Gallup’s' Most Admired Man and Woman Poll is the standing President and First Lady, overall politicians have a bad reputation of not being honest, ethical and trustworthy. Check out  Most Honest and Ethical Professions.

It’s not something that has just come up with this election –although, it seems to be playing a bigger part than past years—because politicians have gotten grief for a long, long time. While Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was seen as controversial when it was released in 1939, it was also a big box office hit. Not only did it resonate with the public, it made Jimmy Stewart a star. Mark Twain put politicians in his sights when he stated “Politicians are like diapers; they need to be changed often and for the same reason.” 

[Read more...]

Oct 1 2016 10:00am

First Look: Debbie Macomber’s Twelve Days of Christmas (October 4, 2016)

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber
Twelve Days of Christmas
Ballantine / October 4, 2016 / $20.00 print, $10.99 digital

There are two types of Christmas romance novels. One has a Christmas/holiday theme, and the other just takes place around the holidays. Of course both are nice, but ones with the theme definitely put readers in a holiday mood. Debbie Macomber’s Twelve Days of Christmas explores the theme of kindness and will certainly put you in that mood.

Julia Padden is a paragon. She elected to work at Macy's and go to school part-time rather than rack up a large student loan debt. She also is very active in her church, and volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club. She is cheerful, kind and seems to be always in a good mood. She is the perfect person to rub a grinch the wrong way.

And that is exactly what she does to Cain Maddox. Julia's bubbly personality is like a screech down a blackboard to him—flashing out warning, warning, danger. He’s learned his lesson, and he’s not going to fall victim to her attractive nature or looks.  He has rebuffed her several times, but she still seems to be hitting on him.

[Read more...]

Sep 30 2016 12:00pm

September 2016 Women’s Fiction Best Bets—Dance in the Rain

What women's fiction got your heart singing this September?

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... It's about learning to dance in the rain.

The thing about storms is that they always different, as are the challenges facing our heroines from this month’s women’s fiction selection. It seems like I say this every month, doesn't it? Nevertheless, this month selection is bursting with interesting, complex women. Some are highly successful professional women; some are working for minimum wage but no matter what their socio-economic status they all discover the importance of love, friendship and family!

The Real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey

The Real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey

A witty and captivating novel about a modern-day superwoman who leans in so far she falls over

Forty-four, fit, and fabulous, Liddy James is one of New York’s top divorce attorneys, a bestselling author, and a mother of two. Armed with a ruthless reputation and a capsule wardrobe, she glides through the courtrooms and salons of the Manhattan elite with ease. What’s her secret? Liddy will tell you: “I don’t do guilt!”

This is the last thing literature professor Peter James wants to hear. Devastated by his divorce from Liddy six years earlier, the two have a tangled history his new partner, Rose, is only just sorting out. But Rose is a patient woman with faith in a well-timed miracle and she’s determined to be sympathetic to Peter’s plight. Together, Liddy, Peter, and Rose have formed a modern family to raise Liddy and Peter’s truculent teen and Liddy’s darling, if fatherless, six-year-old.

But when Rose announces she’s pregnant, Liddy’s nanny takes flight, the bill for a roof repair looms, and a high-profile divorce case becomes too personal, Liddy realizes her days as a guilt-free woman might be over. Following a catastrophic prime-time TV interview, she carts her sons back to Ireland to retrace their family’s history. But marooned in the Celtic countryside things are still far from simple, and Liddy will have to come to terms with much more than a stormy neighbor and an unorthodox wedding if she ever hopes to rediscover the real Liddy James.

Fun, fearless, and full of heart, The Real Liddy James takes a fresh look at the balancing act every family performs. With the deft characterization and sharp wit that made her first novel an international bestseller, Anne-Marie Casey invites us into the ambitions, passions, and misadventures of this extraordinary heroine.

Strengths: Multi-faceted characters; present day dilemmas; Unorthodox modern day family; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love:  More than Dash
Mood: Poignant and Upbeat
Thoughts: I loved Liddy James –flaws and all! Her compelling need to be perfect will strike a chord. Witty and Insightful—this book is a definite page turner!

[Read more...]

Sep 15 2016 2:00pm

Are Your Keepers Still Keepers?

Source: Shutterstock

Keepers—we all have them. It's a book that speaks to us —makes us rejoice in the marvel of the hero and heroine finding the one person that completes them and also in the sheer beauty of the  happily-ever-after. As readers we read a lot of books —some bad, some mediocre, some good, and then there are the few books that we think are simply wonderful.

Of course when a book is fabulous. We have to keep it. Not only do we want to re-visit the  feelings that reading it evoked, we need to have something in reserve—like when we can't find anything that appeals.

Keepers are not that big of deal now–most of us have e-readers and if we run out memory usually we can buy more. It's not like when we only had physical copies of books and ended up with shelves after shelves of books, or boxes after boxes—filling our spare rooms, closets, basements, and garages with books.

Like photo albums are the history of our life, books are our reading history. However just like the pictures of us wearing permed hair up in a scrunchie, or shoulder-pads-suit-jackets that made us look like football players in a drag show us that we’ve changed, so does re-reading older books. Are your keepers of yesterday, really your keepers of today? There are a lot of reasons why they might not be.

[Read more...]

Sep 1 2016 3:00pm

First Look: Tawna Fenske’s Now That It’s You (September 6, 2016)

Now That It's You by Tawna Fenske

Tawna Fenske
Now That It's You 
Montlake Romance / September 6, 2016 / $12.95 print, $3.99 digital

How does an author write of death, grief and infidelity and not write a depressing book? By using humor, and comedic situations, of course, and that is exactly what Tawna Fenske does in Now That It’s You.

It has been two years since Meg Delaney left her fiancé at the altar. She worked really hard at forgiving him for his infidelity. They had ten years together, and she does have some wonderful memories–and some not so wonderful ones, too. Like the fact that he told her the night before their wedding that he cheated on her. She realizes that he probably feels the same way—since she is the one who said “I can’t” in front of all the wedding guests.

When she hears that he’s in the hospital, she thinks that is the perfect time for closure. He's moved on; he already has a new fiancée.

“What sort of surgery did you say Matt’s having?” Jess asked.

“I’m not sure. His ex-golf partner’s girlfriend’s hairdresser told my mom it’s just some routine procedure. It seemed like a sign.”

“A sign that in a city of two-point-three million people, you still can’t escape weird chains of connection to an ex?”

“A sign that this would be the perfect way to extend an olive branch. He always loved it when people fussed over him when he got sick or had his tonsils out or whatever.”

[Read more...]

Aug 31 2016 8:30am

August 2016 Women’s Fiction Best Bets—“It is in Your DNA to Love a Good Story”

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

It is in your DNA to love a good story. You know, neat tales with heroes and villains and conflicts to resolve. A good story pushes our buttons, is exciting and memorable.

-Barry Ritholtz

Memorable is the buzz word for August, and this month women’s fiction releases. These books are memorable in different ways, but still you’ll close the book, and think ‘Oh, that was a good book!”


The Hating Game: A Novel by Sally Thorne

Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love.

Nemesis (n.)

1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

2) A person’s undoing

3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

Strengths: Tantalizing Tension; Brilliant comedic scenarios; Beguiling romance: HEA
Measure of Love: Tablespoon
Mood: Upbeat
Thoughts: What a fabulous first book. It starts out wonderfully comedic, and then the author reveals amazing character complexities!

[More best bets ahead!]

Aug 30 2016 12:00pm

First Look: Laura Lee Guhrke’s No Mistress of Mine (August 30, 2016)

No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke

Laura Lee Guhrke
No Mistress of Mine (An American Heiress in London)
Avon/August 30, 2016/$7.99 print, $5.99 digital

Would you believe me if I told you that I could sum up every romance booklovers’ favorite type of story no matter what genre they read, whether it be contemporary, fantasy, historical or another genre? It’s simple really–we all love an “against all odds” story. Like lovers reuniting after separating, or falling for someone outside their own their socioeconomic class—which is exactly the type of story that Laura Lee Guhrke delivers in her latest release

In Victorian England it’s understood that young men, especially young men of the nobility, need to sow their wild oats before they settle down with a woman of their own social standing. A woman that their family approves of – especially if they are heir to a title. That is exactly what Honorable Denys Somerton is doing the summer he turns 24.  When his friends Nicolas, the Marquess of Trubridge (When the Marquess Met His Match) and Jack, the Earl of Featherstone (Catch a Falling Heiress), take Denys to Lola Valentine’s cabaret show he is immediately smitten. Although both Nicolas and Jack were vying for Lola’s attention, Denys is the one who wins her interest. Part of it was his affable charm, and his dark good looks, but mainly it was his genuine tenderness—something very scarce in Lola’s hardscrabble life.

[Read more...]

Aug 25 2016 1:30pm

First Look: Rachel Lacey’s Run to You (August 30, 2016)

Run to You by Rachel Lacey

Rachel Lacey
Run to You (Risking It All #1)
Forever / August 30, 2016 / $5.99 print & digital

Rachel Lacey charmed readers with her wonderful stories about dog rescue organizations with her Love to the Rescue series. Now she’s back with a brand new series—Risking It All.  Run to You is the first full length book in the series, after the novella Rock with You.

One of the most charming tropes is the pretend relationship one, because readers know that sexual attraction, plus proximity, equals sparks. And that is exactly what happens when Ethan Hunter and Gabby Winters agree to a sham love affair for the sake of Ethan’s grandmother, Dixie Hunter:

And all that went out the window the instant her lips touched Ethan’s. His were warm, and soft, and sent a shot of sizzling heat right through her core. His eyes widened and his hands settled on her hips. He didn’t pull her closer, didn’t trap her against him. In contrast the contact felt warm and safe.

“Hey baby,“ he murmured against her lips. Then he slid an arm around her shoulders and started walking back toward the office he’d just come from. “If y’all will excuse us for a minute...”

[Read more...]

Aug 18 2016 8:30am

First Look: Linda Howard & Linda Jones’ Frost Line (August 30, 2016)

Frost Line by Linda Howard and Linda Jones

Linda Howard and Linda Jones 
Frost Line 
Avon Books / August 30, 2016 / $25.99 print, $6.99 digital

Linda Howard and Linda Jones are not new collaborators. They’ve previously written together two fantasy books, Blood Born, Warrior Rising, and a western, Running Wild. Although I’ve only read two of the four, from my perspective, their collaboration is a pretty seamless one, giving readers books full of action and romance.

Elijah Tilley is seven years old and lives with his mother, Amber. His mother doesn’t work—of course Elijah doesn’t have any concept of money and what it costs to live in the house that they do. Elijah knows that his mother has friends over–Sammy and a man he calls Uncle Bobby. Elijah likes Uncle Bobby because he gives him gifts and calls him son. Uncle Bobby is actually State Senator Robert Markham, and Elijah’s mother is his mistress. However, Amber is two-timing her sugar daddy with Sammy –a man closer to her age.

Unfortunately, Amber accidentally leaves her phone out, and Robert discovers this via a sex tape on her phone.  Amber cheating on him doesn’t push him over the edge, but her ridicule of him, recorded on the tape, does and when Amber catches him invading her privacy, she slaps him and then spits in his face. Losing control, Robert kills her, and Elijah witnesses it. Petrified, he sneaks away from the house and hides in his best friend’s house, and disturbs a secret magical set of cards which draws Lenna Frost to Elijah’s world.

[Read more...]

Aug 17 2016 12:30pm

Romance: A Light in Dark Places, When All Other Lights Go Out

Paradise Valley by Robyn Carr

A year ago, in her hard hitting article, Never Read a Romance Novel? Grow Up, Kristan Higgins talked about romance novels and the insidious lack of respect that is prevalent still, even though this industry is a billion-dollar one. She also pointed out most of the people criticizing romance novels have never read one. 

Although Higgins was preaching to the choir in my case, since I’m a long time romance reader, I still was impressed with her distinct and astute explanation of why romance book are so popular. She stated:

It exists and thrives because romance authors offer readers an emotional experience that mirrors an elemental desire in life: to find a constant and loving companion; to become our best selves; to forgive our mistakes of the past and learn from them.

Early this summer, H&H blogger Nicola R. White in her blog talked about Why Romance is the Perfect Place to Tackle Tough Issues.

These are two different articles with two different slants—but there is a commonality. Of course both are talking about romance novels, but each in their own way touched on something that is the heart of a romance novel—the emotional experience. Higgins touches on forgiveness and moving forward, and Nicola talks about tough issues with uplifting and happy endings. There is no doubt that writing about characters facing tough issues gives readers an emotional experience.

[Read more...]

Aug 15 2016 8:30am

First Look: Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ First Star I See Tonight (August 23, 2016)

First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Susan Elizabeth Phillips 
First Star I See Tonight (Chicago Stars #8)
William Morrow / August 23, 2016 / $26.99 print, $12.99 digital

There is no doubt that Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ books are a delight.  Her books are superbly imaginative and hilariously comedic.  Her heroes are every woman’s fantasy. They tend to be extremely gorgeous – beautiful eyes, chiseled face, ripped and sculpted body. Even when they might not have billboard looks, they have that undeniable aura of masculinity — oozing sex appeal out of every pore. With her heroines, Phillips relies less on looks — oh, there have been some gorgeous heroines, like Phoebe Somerville and Sugar Beth Carey, but more often than not her heroines are plain, or just can’t be bothered with how they look. No, if there are common attributes that Phillips’ heroines share, it’s their obstinate tenaciousness, their dogged determination, and an unwillingness to fall victim to the heroes’ overwhelming charms.

The last statement–the heroines’ unwillingness to fall victim to the heroes’ overwhelming charms—is something that Phillips is a master at developing. There is no doubt that Phillips is the queen of the cute meet – you only have to read Natural Born Charmer and the beaver scene to know that, but she’s also the master at what I call the cute pursuit–or the battle of the sexes.

[Read More...]

Aug 14 2016 10:00am

U.S. Authors and Their World Counterparts: “Read If You Like...” International Edition

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Imagine that you live in a city with a bakery that makes one of  Best Cheese Cakes in America.  That cheesecake is wonderfully decadent, and it is your weekly treat for all the hours you spent on your treadmill. And then you move. And worst yet, you can’t find any place that makes a cheesecake that is even comparable (you might be able to tell I have a thing for cheese cakes). How can something be so different when the ingredients have to be similar? You know that you’ll probably never find one that tastes exactly the same, but you live in hope that you’ll find one that you like just as well.

And that in a nutshell is how we feel as readers. We find an author we love. She or he has the perfect mixture—sensual romance, charming cuteness, perfect poignancy, original storylines, and flawless characterization. The trouble is that we’ve read all this author’s backlist and it will be months before she has a new book out. So just like the cheesecake addict , we search out new authors to fill the void.

If you have been reading romance for a while, then you’ve probably already checked out the popular U.S. authors. If you love books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips then you know that authors Rachel Gibson and Kristan Higgins also write laugh-out-loud books. No, their writing style is not the same, but there is still the mixture of wacky humor, original storylines and great characters. At first glance you might not think that Julie James and Susan Andersen books are that much alike. James’ s heroines are career professionals, living in the big city. Andersen’s are more small town U.S.A. But both authors write about strong heroines who show plenty of moxie when dealing with the hero and there is plenty of snappy dialogue.  In their books, Virginia Kantra and Catherine Mann sort of play around with the type of heroines they write–sometimes touchingly vulnerable, and then sometimes not. Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery specialize in creating warm communities with touches of zaniness. If you love Loretta Chase’s books than you probably love Eloisa James’s books. If you read shape-shifters than you are aware of books by Kelley Armstrong, Nalini Singh, Thea Harrison or Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews.

So, you  are thinking yeah, yeah, yeah – you haven’t told me anything I don’t know or mentioned any authors I haven’t read.  But have you looked down under, across the sea, or up north for new authors?

[A smorgasbord of recommendations...]