October offers quite a variety of digital reissues. For lovers of historical romance, a classic from Connie Brockway, one of the subgenre’s masters, becomes available, along with her debut novel. For those who like romantic suspense, another of Lisa Gardner’s category romances written as Alicia Scott is an option, and for those who read paranormals, the fourth and final book in Keri Arthur’s first series will go on sale at the end of the month. Finally, the third in Tara Sue Me’s erotic romance Submissive trilogy goes mainstream after having previously been a fan fiction hit. All of this month’s books are also available in print; release dates may vary.
Connie Brockway: All Through the Night (first published in 1997) and Promise Me Heaven (first published in 1994)—digital release for both October 1, 2013
Connie Brockway has long been a romance maverick. She dared to set books outside of Europe. She dared to write a hero with a learning disability without it screaming “Issue Book!” She dared to have a hero take himself in hand before most authors touched upon masturbation. Those things, though, pale in comparison to her biggest achievement: She dared to vary the tone of her writing from book to book. Eventually this created problems with mainstream publishers and is among the reasons she turned maverick in another area: She left mainstream publishing and was the launch author for Amazon’s Montlake imprint in 2011.
Now is the perfect time to celebrate her writing, with the digital reissues this month of her first book, Promise Me Heaven (1994), and All Through the Night (1997), which is connected by a character (Giles, Lord Strand) who in December will be receiving his own book—No Place for a Dame.
In Promise Me Heaven, a young woman of the ton realizes she must marry well to save her family’s finances. She seeks out a once-notorious rake to teach her the fine art of seduction so she may obtain a proposal of marriage from the aforementioned Lord Strand. She finds it hard to believe his reputation, in part because in his old life he was a spy who often played the gigolo to obtain information. The “love lessons” premise is passé these days, but I imagine it was fairly fresh in 1994. PMH isn’t in the same class as her work just a couple of years later, but the promise is there.
Brockway published All Through the Night the year after her first smash hit, As You Desire, which featured a couple generally described as “adorable.” The tone of ATTH, on the other hand, is dark and intense, a cat and mouse story of a master spy setting out to catch a thief. Both hero and heroine are of the tortured variety and their attraction to each other is incendiary. In the same year as All Through the Night, she also published the deceptively lighter My Dearest Enemy. Both these books sit are among my absolute favorite romances.
If you’re looking to fill out your digital backlist for Brockway, now’s the time. Some of you may have an earlier digital release of ATTN, but by all means add Promise Me Heaven to your library. Read Promise Me Heaven this month, All Through the Night in November, then move on to No Place for a Dame in December. That’s my plan.
Lisa Gardner: MacNamara’s Woman (first published in 1997 under the name Alicia Scott, digital release October 1, 2013)
MacNamara’s Woman follows Maggie’s Man (which I wrote about in August) in the Family Secrets trilogy and will be followed by Brandon’s Bride in December. All three were originally published by Silhouette as suspenseful category romances.
I was not so much a fan of Maggie’s Man—escaped prisoners and ex-cons are not my thing. MacNamara’s Woman worked better for me because the heroine, very much a woman in peril, had been to hell. Her body suffered for her. Her emotions suffered for it. She more or less handled fixing her body, not so with her emotional life. She’s one of those characters who maintains rigid control at all times; even an orgasm has been out of reach for years. I liked watching the hero help her re-enter the land of the living. This is an “all-in” kind of guy, not about to be scared off by a little adversity.
Keri Arthur: Kiss the Night Goodbye (first published in 2004, digital reissue October 29, 2013)
I’ve been a Keri Arthur fangirl since 2006, when the first in her 9-book Riley Jenson series was published. She disappointed me, though, with Moon Sworn, the series wrap-up, in which Riley suffered from amnesia and thought Quinn, her vampire love, was lost to her. They are separated for much of the book.
In Kiss the Night Goodbye, the fourth and final book in the Nikki & Michael series, the two are separated for much of the book after Michael is kidnapped by the most dangerous villain of the series. His memory is tampered with and Nikki faces an uphill climb in rescuing him and preventing the villain from doing his villainy.
Because the two are separated for so much of the story, reading it felt like déjà vu all over again. Honestly, I lost interest about halfway through and skipped ahead to the final chapters to see how it all ended. So, just as with the Riley Jenson series, Arthur kept me captivated throughout the Nikki & Michael series, only to lose steam in the end.
Tara Sue Me: The Training (first [digitally] published in 2009, digital reissue October 1, 2013)
Tara Sue Me and her Submissive trilogy was one of E.L. James’ inspirations for writing BDSM/Twilight fan fiction, although James’s mainstream-published 50 Shades of Gray trilogy preceded the Submissive series by a couple of years. The first book, The Submissive (June release), tells the story of a woman seeking a dominant from the woman’s point of view. Book two, The Dominant (August release), offers the flip side. The Training alternates both points of view, often chapter by chapter.
I liked The Submissive until it is revealed near the end that the hero has been obsessed with the heroine since college. I know the author was trying for “romantic.” For me, though, it seemed a cheat. Worse, it deflated much of the dramatic tension of the story. Having a couple fall in love while enmeshed in a BDSM relationship interests me far more than one half of a couple already half-way there and angsting about it.
By the time of The Training, the two have worked out most of their issues. The story involves the hero drawing the heroine fully into a weekends-only BDSM relationship while trying to figure out how to be a regular couple during the rest of the week. What works is the author showing the difficulties in building a relationship built on love and kink. Unfortunately, the kink grows repetitive and there’s just not enough drama in the story to warrant its length.
I’m interested in hearing from those of you who are fans of any of these authors. Feel free to disagree with any of my assessments (or to lavish praise on my brilliant, cogent analysis).
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.