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Showing posts by: AudraNorth click to see AudraNorth's profile
Wed
Mar 4 2015 5:40pm

The Je Ne Sais Quoi of Romance Novels Set in France

Recently, I read two France-set romances back to back: Laura Florand’s Once Upon a Rose and Cole McCade’s A Second Chance at Paris. Those novels got me wondering what it is about France that lends a little extra magic to love stories. Is it the language? The Eiffel Tower? The chocolate?

In Laura Florand’s books, it’s all of those things and more. Her Amour et Chocolat series is gorgeous and made me perpetually hungry. But in her latest release, Once Upon a Rose, I think it’s the sense of smell that is most associated with the je ne sais quoi of French-inspired love. Set in a rose-filled valley in Provence, scent—and the relationship between scent and the sensual in French perfumes, food, and ambience—seems to be a part of every exchange between the hero, Matthieu “Matt” Rosier, and the heroine, Layla Dubois. For example, in this scene, Matt, a rosarian descended from a long and impressive line of rosarians, and Layla, a rising star singer-songwriter, are in the car together, driving through the valley:

She took a deep breath, and that sense of nothing shimmered like a mirage before all the things that filled her lungs. An air rich with scents and with the vitality of the man beside her. Cliff-hills rose and narrowed around them as they headed into the pass that led out of the valley. All the rest of the world seemed so far away here. Songs lurked in the scents of rosemary and thyme and pine and roses in this car…

[Wine should immediately come with every book set in France...]

Mon
Feb 23 2015 4:11pm

First Look: Jenny Holiday’s Sleeping with Her Enemy (February 23, 2015)

Sleeping with Her Enemy by Jenny HolidayJenny Holiday
Sleeping with Her Enemy
Entangled / February 24, 2015 / $2.99 digital

Amy Morrison is supposed to be at her wedding. But when her husband-to-be jilts her at the altar, a distraught Amy runs to the only place she feels safe—her office. Besides, everyone who works on her floor is at her wedding...except him.
Dax Harris. Playboy, executive, and Amy's official office enemy.

While he and Amy don't see eye-to-eye on the best of days, Dax can't help but feel badly when he sees Amy mid-meltdown. Next thing he knows, he's gotten her good and drunk, and they're making out like two teenagers. And since neither of them want anything serious, why shouldn't they be frenemies-with-benefits? Because there is no possible way they could ever fall for each other...

In Jenny Holiday's Sleeping With Her Enemy, when Amy Morrison gets dumped by her fiancé on their wedding day, she decides to take refuge at work. It’s the one place where she’s guaranteed to be alone, since everyone else who works there—which means all of the employees from all the companies located on the 49th floor of her office building—is at her wedding. All of them except one: total playboy Dax Harris, the one guy she can’t stand.

So it should stand to reason that the first person she sees as soon as she steps off the elevator on her floor is him. And naturally, before he even remembers that it’s her wedding day, and before he even realizes that she’s wearing her wedding dress (in his defense, her wedding dress is a short, silver flapper dress that probably looked kickass but not traditionally wedding-y), they trade a few insults before she stalks off:

[Hit him with your best shot...]

Wed
Feb 18 2015 2:30pm

First Look: Lindsay Emory’s Know When to Hold Him (February 23, 2015)

Know When to Hold Him by Lindsay EmoryLindsay Emory
Know When to Hold Him  (Love and War in Dallas) 
Entangled / February 23, 2015 / $3.99 digital

Spencer Hightower's job is cleaning up other people's messes. And she is damn good at it. Unfortunately, being a supremely organized workaholic, she doesn’t always easily meet guys—until Liam Connelly shows up, all high-powered and really, really sexy. Sure, he makes Spencer's pulse thump...but he's also the biggest pain in her professional life.

Liam can't believe his lousy luck when he learns that Spencer is his opposition in a high-profile scandal. She’s the best at what she does and the worst possible opponent. Of course, a little professional animosity can't hurt a guy's chances for a date, can it? Even as Spencer tries to keep her distance, their attraction grows stronger...and hotter. But once they cross all kinds of professional—and personal—boundaries, the situation snowballs into a disaster that even the great Spencer Hightower can't fix...

I am a sucker for enemies-to-lovers books, so the description of Lindsay Emory’s debut, Know When to Hold Him, made it impossible for me not to read this book. But ultimately, it wasn’t the trope, or the way that Emory made pro football and crisis management collide in a sexy way, or the glitzy-modern-cool presentation of my home state of Texas that made me love the story—it was the main characters. The supporting cast was also fantastic, but Spencer Hightower and Liam Connelly really made this one.

[So they know when to hold 'em?]

Wed
Jan 21 2015 5:30pm

A Damn Fine Show: Revisiting Twin Peaks

Agent Dale Cooper in Twin PeaksYou might have already heard that there’s a limited-run Twin Peaks TV series (nine episodes) coming out in 2016, with a book in late 2015, to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary. But even if you haven’t heard that news, you’ve probably heard of the original Twin Peaks—David Lynch’s creepy-paranormal small-town-set megahit series from the early ‘90s that starred Kyle MacLachlan. My mom used to watch this show religiously. I was not allowed to see it because I was eleven. Besides, it came on past my bedtime. But after the announcement of the limited run in 2016, I glommed all thirty original episodes one weekend in a poorly-thought-out marathon of 'omg what is this fascinatingly horrifying thing but wait it’s also awesome except please make it stop but not really.'

Warning: There are spoilers in this post, so if you want to watch the original series without knowing in advance what happens, don’t read any further!

[You've been warned!]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 2:30pm

A Great Miracle: Jewish Heroes and Heroines in Contemporary Romance

December is here! The nights are getting longer, the temperature colder, and Hanukkah is fast approaching. Although there are plenty of traditional options to keep folks warm and happy during those eight nights—like candles, songs, and sufganiyot—there’s also the cozy feeling of curling up on the couch to read a good romance book by the light of the shamash.

As part of this year’s celebration, I went looking for some recent contemporary romances featuring Jewish heroes or heroines and was recommended some fabulous new-to-me authors, Emma Barry and Allison Parr. Both authors write modern, Jewish characters whose personal identities and social lives are, in some part, influenced by their faith.

In Barry’s Private Politics (The Easy Part series), the hero, Liam Nussbaum, identifies as culturally Jewish, but in his thoughts, his conversations with his mother, and later on in his relationship with WASP Alyse Philips, his cultural identity is overtly, specifically discussed in the book, and is a part of the characterization and plot as much as many of the other events that happen in the story. Political blogger Liam is a smart-but-schlubby guy whom nonprofit director Alyse hadn’t really considered before an investigation throws them together. The story is very engaging—suspenseful at times but primarily a romance about confidence, goals, and love. It’s the perfect book for holding in one hand to read while the other forks bites of latkes into your mouth.

[Food+romance novels=Perfection...]

Sun
Nov 2 2014 2:00pm

In a Class All Their Own: Christina Dodd’s Governess Series

That Scandalous Evening by Christina DoddThe Governess Brides historical romance series by Christina Dodd began nearly twenty years ago with the publication of That Scandalous Evening and now includes ten full-length novels. Although not every book features a governess in a leading role, most of the heroines have some relationship with the Distinguished Academy of Governesses and all are sharp, hard-working women. Dodd does an excellent job combining romance with intrigue, often using the backdrop of the French Revolution to introduce political subterfuge subplots involving nefarious schemes that the heroines have a hand in unraveling. That spark—the fight—in all of Dodd’s heroines is perhaps one of the characteristics that make her works uniformly enjoyable. But that isn’t to say that her heroes are not an important part of the appeal. Commanding, take-charge kind of men, they were also admirably in touch with their feelings for the historical romances of twenty years ago. At least, they managed to soften by the end of each book…with the help of the heroine, of course.

Here, we offer a brief recap of each Governess Brides book. And since this series emphasizes the brides, each summary includes a comment on what makes each heroine stand out.

That Scandalous Evening
This is not technically Book One, though it is the first book that sets up the series. At the start of the book, the heroine, Jane Higgenbothem, has just returned from ten years away from London after being humiliated in society by Lord Ransom Blackburn over a sculpture she created of him. She arrives back on the scene from exile in the country as chaperone to her niece, Adorna, and immediately Jane recaptures Blackburn’s attention. There is still animosity between the two, but there is still also a great deal of intense attraction. Add in French spies, coded messages, and a hot scene in Jane’s art studio, and the result is a great romance that sets the bar high for future Governess Brides books.

What makes Jane stand out: she’s an accomplished artist who demands that Ransom recognize that her art and development of her talent are an integral part of her self-identity.

[We like the sound of that...]

Thu
Oct 9 2014 4:30pm

Unsung Heroes: Charlie Bennett from Molly Harper’s Snow Falling on Bluegrass

Snow Falling on Bluegrass by Molly HarperI have a thing for heroes in romance novels whose only claim to heroism is being good to a woman. And by that, I mean that I love heroes like that with an unbridled passion. That’s not to say that uber-wealthy CEO heroes, Special Forces heroes, or titled rake heroes aren’t lovable. But there’s something to be said for the sexiness of a man whose fundamental appeal lies in the fact that he treats women with love and respect.

One of the more recent examples of this kind of hero can be found in Molly Harper’s Snow Falling on Bluegrass. In addition to Harper’s trademark awesome sense of humor, the book features a “statistician/math genius” hero, Charlie Bennett.

The man is into math.

Swoon.

He is also a little shy and retiring, he is prone to softer emotions, he works for the Kentucky Commission on Tourism…and he is mannerly and gallant and kind, especially toward Kelsey, the heroine. That is pretty much the sum total of heroic qualities that Charlie has going for him and it’s awesome.

[Not a bad start...]