This month I bring you a variety of ebook reissues in terms of genre and age (the earliest was first published in 2000).
First up is the next in Keri Arthur’s Nikki & Michael series, which I’ve been writing about here as each book is digitally reissued. Next is a much, much more recent reissue from Maya Banks—a boxed set of contemporary erotic romances published individually earlier this year. Finally, I’ll tell you about a quartet of Kristin Hannah novels that straddle the line between romance and women’s fiction.
Keri Arthur: Chasing the Shadows (first published in 2000, digital reissue September 24, 2013)
When Hearts in Darkness ended, Nikki and Michael were reunited as a couple. With her boss Jake out of commission, and Michael continuing to refuse to allow her to work with him on assignments from the Damask Circle, she’s lonely, bored, and seriously reconsidering her commitment to the vampire she loves. When a friend of Jake’s wife goes missing in San Francisco, she agrees to help. Other women have already been kidnapped, drained of blood, and horribly mutilated. And when I say “horribly mutilated,” think body parts cut off and you’ll have an accurate mental picture.
Michael, of course, is not far behind. The vampire responsible for these murders is seriously twisted, and the Damask Circle wants him stopped. Then too, Nikki’s psychic powers continue to grow, and as he soon discovers, his own powers are mutating, which freaks him out.
As if all that excitement weren’t enough, Arthur kills off a character important in Nikki’s life. She is bolder in her Riley Jenson series, during which she kills off several who are more pivotal, but for a new author to do this, and to do it in 2000, seems almost revolutionary. Those familiar with her newer work will recognize Arthur’s growth as an author more in this Nikki & Michael installment than in the previous two. It’s my favorite entry in the series and I can’t wait to finish it out next month with Kiss the Night Good-bye and report back.
Maya Banks: Breathless trilogy (Rush, Fever, and Burn first published earlier this year, digital and print reissue as a set September 3, 2013)
Many readers know Banks as a mainstream romance author who writes category novels and historical romances. Others know her for her erotic romance, particularly the book that put her on the map—Colters’ Woman. If that doesn’t ring a bell, check the placement of that apostrophe, because this is not an erotic romance involving one Colter, or even two. The romance features three brothers and the woman they love, so quite frankly, all bets were off when I started this new series.
One thing I’ll say up front about each of these books: The heroes may all be Alpha Billionaire Dominants, but each hides a tender core. These are strong men, and confident enough in themselves that they are able to own up to their vulnerabilities. In many of the recent spate of Alpha Billionaire Dominant stories, this vulnerability reveals itself in scary ways. These Alpha Billionaire Dominants express their vulnerability more lovably. That sweet emotional side reveals itself most in Burn, which, primarily for other reasons, is the book I liked best in the trilogy.
Here’s why. Rush has an altogether too common erotic romance theme: A Dominant hesitates for years from acting upon his intense pull toward the younger sister of his best friend for fear of fucking up the friendship. He acts upon on it on the same night she—who has long felt the same pull—planned to force the issue. To be honest, after reading dozens of books and stories with this trope, it’s outlived its effectiveness.
Fever suffers a different, more significant problem: It’s melodramatic. Forget the de rigeuer threesome, which I almost expect by now. No, it’s the failed Pretty Woman homage. Bethany, a homeless, recovered drug addict with a still-addicted brother, and billionaire bachelor Jace have nothing on Julia Roberts, her red dress, Richard Gere, and the opera. This is never more clear than in the book’s final section, and though it brings forth Jace’s tenderness, it was impossible to overlook the blatant manipulation of emotions.
Thankfully Burn, which also features a down-on-her-luck heroine, didn’t elicit that same response. Ash is hit by the same Thunderbolt when he encounters Josie that struck Michael Coreleone when he saw Apollonia Vitelli in The Godfather. Josie is a submissive in need of a stronger, more dependable Dominant, but she fears her reaction to Ash. When he discovers how precarious is her financial situation—she’s pawned her heirloom jewelry to make ends meet—he surreptitiously begins to buy her artwork, and when the man who collared her beats her after she leaves him, he takes control.
What I liked best about this book is that Ash didn’t read like the prototypical Dominant. He’s relentless in pursuit of what he wants, but he puts Josie, her needs and desires, up front in a non-stylistic way (there’s no Signing of the Contract, for instance). I’ve read criticism of Ash in that he seems a different man in Burn than he was in the previous two books, but I like a man whose still waters run deep. About another aspect of the book, I’m not quite sure. Josie is quickly accepted by Ash’s friends, their wives, and Ash’s sister. While it makes for some light and fun scenes, and helps facilitate her reaction upon discovering his secret manipulation of her career, it reads very Romancelandish.
Kristin Hannah: Family Matters 4-Book Bundle (Angel Falls, Between Sisters, The Things We Do for Love, and Magic Hour first published between 2000 and 2006, digital reissue as a bundle September 16, 2013)
Contemporary romance comes, I think, in three categories: romance with a suspense subplot, romance/women’s fiction hybrids, and straight romance. Hannah’s first books were true romances, but she began to transition into those hybrids with Home Again, and since it was published in 1996, her books have continued to straddle the line, with some more squarely landing on one side or the other. These books illustrate that fluidity. Fantasticfiction.com places three of the four in the romance category. Other sites consider them all to be women’s fiction. Between Sisters won the RITA for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements.
I’m not sure quite why these four books were bundled together. They are not connected. Regardless, Angel Falls was my favorite. In it, Mica Campbell goes into a coma after falling from a horse. Her husband, Dr. Liam Campbell, discovers by chance the identity of her first husband: Hollywood heartthrob Julian True. Mention of his name elicits a response in his wife, so Liam contacts Julian in hopes he will visit and wake up Mica.
His dreams are realized...but also dashed. Mica indeed awakens, but doesn’t remember her marriage to Liam, or their son. She does, however, remember the vain, self-absorbed Julian, and the daughter they had together...the daughter Liam is raising. Mica’s struggles to remember her new life are stymied by her old one. Julian’s selfishness contrasts well with Liam’s steady, all-encompassing love. Liam, with his Old School steadfastness is my kind of hero. Mica, frankly, is less easy to love, but she grows and becomes more of the woman Liam deserves.
Between Sisters, Hannah’s RITA-winning book, reminded me of any number of books by Luanne Rice, and for me that’s not necessarily a compliment. If you like Rice, you may well enjoy Between Sisters. 'Nuff said.
In The Things We Do For Love, it’s not infidelity but the inability to have a child that kills a marriage. A woman badly wants to mother a child and befriends a young woman who badly wants a mother—her own is a selfish alcoholic. Their co-dependency only increases with the young woman’s pregnancy, and all of it is complicated with the possibility of a reunion with her ex-husband. Count this cross of women’s fiction with soap opera a failure.
The bundle’s fourth book is Magic Hour, in which a child psychologist with a career in ruins returns to her hometown after her estranged sister, the town’s police chief (and one-time homecoming queen), calls for help when a “wild child” is discovered. The doc desperately wants to avoid any hint of the spotlight. Naturally a media frenzy ensues. There are calls for the girl to be institutionalized, and the heroine, isolated as a result of her experiences, learns she must rely on the kindness of friends, family...and a handsome doctor with baggage of his own if she is to help young “Alice.”
Did the movie Nell inspire Hannah to write Magic Hour? I haven’t a clue, but there are similarities, which include the Dreaded Authorities, and a romance between the two docs. If you liked Nell and/or love the Quirky Small Town, this one may be a good choice.
This was not my best month for choosing digital reissues, but quite often I go into this blind, simply looking to provide variety. Be sure, though, to check back next month, when I’ll be writing about the finale in Keri Arthur’s Nikki and Michael series, All Through the Night, a favorite of mine from the '90s by Connie Brockway, and Promise Me Heaven—which I’ve not read. It was Brockway’s first published book.
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.