Those of you looking to enter a digital way back machine will be happy this month. A couple of very early releases from Jayne Ann Krentz under her Stephanie James pseudonym are being reissued, as is an early book from Lisa Gardner when she wrote as Alicia Scott. You'll also find an early Iris Johansen, and as with last month, I’ll tell you about the second Nikki & Michael books, Keri Arthur’s first series.
Jayne Ann Krentz: Wildest Dreams (Velvet Touch, Renaissance Man first published in 1982 under the name Stephanie James, digital reissue August 27, 2013)
Krentz’s two newly digitized reissues will be available as a two-in-one at the end of August as Wildest Dreams. Both were originally published very early on in Krentz’s career and though they are not stay away from, I beg you bad, neither are they very good. Both suffer from their age, and what the early reader Silhouette targeted at that time must have liked.
Not all of Krentz’s early books are meh. She published Whirlwind Courtship—which I read and liked a great deal when it came out in a 1996 two-in-one with Dara Joy’s High Energy—in 1980. Unfortunately, it’s not available digitally. Neither are her other early, recommended-by-me category romances, but then again, neither are her real wallbangers.
Wildest Dreams may be worth downloading nonetheless. Both feature heroes in pursuit of their heroines, a fantasy come true in a world of Mr. Never Commits. The tall, dark, and enigmatic hero in Renaissance Man offers tantalizing glimpses of the prototypical Krentz hero we’ve since come to love, and readers will recognize how he lays siege to the heroine. That both characters in RM are scholarly and collect rare books is also nothing new for fans of the author, particularly when she’s writing as Amanda Quick.
Velvet Touch is more troublesome to modern readers. The Iowa born and bred heroine who temporarily moves to Puget Sound while she finds herself isn’t dated in and of itself, but the vast cultural divide between Iowa and Washington seems manufactured even for a pre-Internet, pre-globalized era.
Still, if you are interested in fleshing out your digital backlist for Krentz, or you want to track her growth...or even if you have a thing for recent cultural anthropology...you might want to add this to your digital collection.
Lisa Gardner: Maggie’s Man (first published in 1997 under the name Alicia Scott, digital reissue August 6, 2013)
Maggie’s Man was published right as Alicia Scott transitioned into Lisa Gardner. Originally published by Silhouette, it’s a romantic suspense story about a mild-mannered court reporter kidnapped to aid in the escape of a man falsely imprisoned for murder for six years.
Gardner's book has a “ripped from the headlines” vibe. The hero comes from a family of white supremacists. He left Idaho's militias behind to become a computer programmer in Portland, only to be framed for the murder of his Jewish girlfriend by his supposedly reformed skinhead brother. Once in prison the Aryan Brotherhood try to force him into the fold, but he'll have none of it.
His mousy court reporter turns out to be not so mousy after all, with her overly active moral center forcing him to rethink right from the start, when she convinces him not to make their getaway in “some poor kid’s van” because if “you steal this, you've…you've taken someone's whole life.”
Signet kicks off the print and digital reissue of the Family Secrets trilogy with Maggie's Man. Her two brothers get their romances in reissues of MacNamara's Woman, available in October, and Brandon's Bride, which you can download in December.
Iris Johansen: York, the Renegade (first published in 1986, digital reissue August 12, 2013)
Johansen already had many books under her belt when she published York, the Renegade. It’s another category romance for its time—over-the-top and requiring suspension of disbelief. That said, it packs an emotional wallop.
Why? The heroine is the perfect romance waif, a type of heroine I didn’t even realize I loved until reading this book. She meets the hero when she practically faints in his manse. She has nary a penny to her name, no place to call home, and believes she holds little sexual attraction. He’s gorgeous, incredibly wealthy and makes it a point to never become emotionally involved with women. He has the wanderlust, you see, and cannot be tied down.
But he is also powerfully attracted to her and spends part of his time fighting it. The rest is spent giving in to it. She cannot believe the attraction is real, and feels rejected by his hot and cold running feelings. Until late in the story, that is, when she finally gets The Gumption and demands he face up to the fact that he loves her. It’s corny, yes. The sex…well, their first time is also their second (you’ll see what I mean when you read it). But it’s also romantic and lovely. Sigh.
Keri Arthur: Hearts in Darkness (first published in 2000, digital reissue August 27, 2013)
The first book in the Nikki & Michael series, Dancing with the Devil, ended with a relationship cliffhanger. Hearts in Darkness reunites them, however reluctantly on Michael’s part, when they team up as pretend newlyweds at a resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to investigate a series of disappearances.
Mixed up in the nefarious goings-on is Michael’s maker, a beautiful female vampire. His lack of judgment about her, even amidst Nikki’s warnings, really flesh out his character. Arthur tells her story well, with a good mix between suspenseful paranormal goings-on and romantic conflict. Worldbuilding continues, but at a measured pace that doesn’t add in too many new paranormal elements to grasp. The main new element is of the magical variety: the flame imp. Their involvement in Hearts in Darkness is mysterious and well-conceived, and in each of their scenes, the story becomes particularly alive.
By the end of the book, Nikki and Michael are a true couple, with one caveat. He is determined that for her safety they will not work together. Nikki has other ideas and my bet’s on her. I’ll report back next month when Chasing the Shadow comes out in ebook form.
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Keep up with her on her My Obsessions tumblr blog, Goodreads (where she spends much of her time as late), follow her on Pinterest, or on @laurie_gold, where she mostly tweets about publishing news and [probably too often] politics.