<i>Infamous</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Infamous: Exclusive Excerpt Jenny Holiday "Hunter is all Jesse can think about..." <i>Courtly Pleasures</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Courtly Pleasures: Exclusive Excerpt Erin Kane Spock "Can they create a second chance at love before it’s too late?" <i>Roomies</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Roomies: Exclusive Excerpt Christina Lauren "Will Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?" <i>A Duke in Shining Armor</i>: Exclusive Excerpt A Duke in Shining Armor: Exclusive Excerpt Loretta Chase "So why does Olympia have to make it so deliciously difficult for him...?"
From The Blog
November 21, 2017
From Team H&H, With Love
Team H & H
November 21, 2017
How to Advocate for Happily Ever Afters
November 20, 2017
Insight into MaryJanice Davidson’s Deja New
Lucy Dosch
November 19, 2017
Helena Hunting: A Sexy, Angsty, Funny Superstar
Nicola R. White
November 17, 2017
3 Pets from Romance We Wish Were Ours
Tara Leigh
Showing posts by: Darlene Marshall click to see Darlene Marshall's profile
Oct 20 2017 12:00pm

In Defense of the Flawed Heroine

Ain't She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

You Keep the Sweet, I’ll Take the Salty

Romancelandia seems to do fine with the bad boy in need of redemption, the rakes and rogues who are only waiting for the love of a good woman to mend their ways (Kids—don’t try this at home. In real life it seldom ends well.) But what about the bad girls, the ones who lie, cheat, steal, and stomp on the hero’s heart on their way out the door, laughing like a higher-pitched version of Snidely Whiplash? Where’s the love for them?

Give me the flawed girl, the one who’s been kicked around but comes up fighting, who uses her strengths to overcome the unlikeable characteristics that all too often are tied to her being female—her overt sexuality or manipulative ways, her gossiping or acting “unladylike”.

Some of the standout unlikeable heroines include Sugar Beth Carey in Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Ain’t She Sweet? (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) As the book notes say, Sugar Beth has “broken hearts, ruined friendships, and destroyed reputations.” She is a major league Southern belle gone bad, bless her heart. Her flaws weren’t pretend, they were very real and Sugar Beth had to work hard to redeem herself while not losing the essence of who she was, what made her strong.

[Read more...]

May 24 2017 8:30am

Will Elizabeth Swann Get the Happy Ever After She Deserves in New Pirates of the Caribbean?

Elizabeth Swann, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Will Elizabeth and Will End Up Together Forever?

It’s summer, time for another installment in the iconic Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Take your eyes off of Jack Sparrow for a moment and ponder the magnificence of the true hero of the Pirates of the Caribbean films….Elizabeth Swann. 

Ahoy! Spoilers ahead, mateys!

In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, young Elizabeth saved shipwrecked youth Will Turner by stealing the gold coin he wore so Will wouldn’t be accused of piracy. As the movie progresses, it’s Elizabeth who continues taking action to save herself and true love Will, parlaying with Barbossa, hiding her and Will’s true identity, rescuing herself and Jack Sparrow when they’re marooned on a desert island.

Following in the bootsteps of true-life pirate Mary Read, Elizabeth is all about saving her man, no matter what it takes. In the first film she was cast more-or-less as a love interest, but by the second and subsequent films, Elizabeth Swann grows into a woman of action, a pirate captain, someone who twists the plot to save the day. She chains Jack Sparrow to a mast to allow everyone else to escape in Dead Man’s Chest. She vows revenge for her father’s death and becomes Pirate Lord of the South China Sea in At World’s End, and she marries Will, but he becomes bound to the cursed Flying Dutchman and can only visit her once every ten years…or so we’re led to believe.

[Read more...]

Mar 19 2017 10:00am

Who Can You Ship in Travelers? We Have the Scoop

Travelers on Netflix

It’s been said we’re in a new Golden Age of Television, especially for fans of fantasy and science fiction. Outlander, Game of Thrones, Sense8, Orphan Black…the list goes on and on, and that’s not even including the comic book hero shows. 

Sometimes a new show will fail to click with viewers and end up being a one-season wonder. It looked like the Canadian series Travelers on Netflix was on track to be one such show, but just days ago it was announced there will be a second season.

Here’s the premise: hundreds of years from now, humans living in a disastrous dystopian society learn how to send themselves back into the bodies of 21st century people who are within moments of dying. The host’s consciousness dies and the traveler takes over the body. Teams with specific skills are formed to try and change the future, warding off the coming disasters.

[Read more...]

Aug 7 2016 12:30pm

If You Like Mary Balogh... Try Edith Layton, Jo Beverley, and More!

A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh

What should you read after you've ready every Mary Balogh? Try...

When someone asks me to recommend a Regency romance, the author I’m most likely to suggest is Mary Balogh. She’s been an autobuy for me since I first read A Precious Jewel in the early 90s. That novel broke new ground in the Regency genre, offering a hero and heroine unlike others we’d seen in a format that could be stiflingly formulaic—Jewel had a heroine who willingly prostituted herself, and a hero who wasn’t very bright or socially adroit. It was a game changer for many readers.

Balogh paints in subtle colors but the finished picture glows. Many of her books offer antagonists who turn out to be not the people the protagonists—or the reader—expect them to be. She’s also skillful at character development across a series. When readers are newly arrived to her Bedwyn books (Slightly Married, Slightly Dangerous, etc.) I tell them, “Watch Becky!” A minor secondary character travels through the series and interacts with one key character, each time revealing more about that other person. 

Over the years people ask me what I like about Balogh and there are many points that stand out: her sparing use of adjectives, her unreliable narrators who hold back information until it’s necessary for the reader to know it, her attention to detail, and her craft at not dumping too much backstory or exposition up front. 

But one cannot read a single author, no matter how talented. That would be like only eating chocolates when there are also gingersnaps and almond cakes to enjoy. So when people ask me who else I would recommend if they enjoy Balogh, a few names come to mind:

[Recommendations ahead!]

Dec 21 2015 2:00pm

H&H Bloggers Recommend: Best Reads of 2015, Part 2

Radiance by Grace Draven

Each month, we ask our bloggers to share the best thing they’ve read (or things, plural, if our bloggers declare a tie ’cause they just can’t choose). It doesn’t have to be a new book, as evidenced below; just something that made the month sparkle a bit more.

It's the end of the year now, and so we've asked them for their top three books that made the year in reading so memorable. Without further ado, here's Part 2 (of four parts) of our bloggers best reads of 2015—and don't forget to check out Part 1, and stay tuned for Part 3 and Part 4:

Maggie Boyd:

My number one pick for Best of 2015 is Radiance by Grace Draven. I've re-read this book numerous times since purchasing it and have recommended it to anyone who stands still long enough to listen. It's the story of an arranged marriage between two different species - Brishen Khaskem is a prince of the Kai, a second son whose only marital worth is to secure an allegiance. Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, is valuable only as a pawn in a strategic marriage. To the Kai, the Gauri look repellent with their round eyes, square teeth and mollusk colored skin. To the Gauri the Kai look like monsters with their razor sharp claws, fang like teeth and eel like coloring. But brave hearts and compassionate souls are the makeup of our hero and heroine and they forge a bond that transcends cultural boundaries and resonates with love.

[More greats reads for the end of the year ...]

Dec 3 2015 4:30pm

All This, and Doughnuts, Too!: Celebrate Chanukah in Burning Bright Anthology

Bruning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories by Megan Hart, KK Hendin, Stacey Agdern, and Jennifer Gracen

As much as I’ve loved the Christmas romance collections over the years, especially the Regency ones, there was always a little part of me saying, “That’s nice for you, but what about those of us who eat Chinese food and go to the movies on December 25? Where’s our happy ending?”

We can finally say, Nes Gadol Ha-ya Po, “A great miracle happened here!”, as a major publisher releases a romance anthology just in time for Chanukah 5776, beginning sundown on the 25th of Kislev (December 6).

Let’s start with the basics: Chanukah is not a major Jewish holiday, but is a post-biblical festival dating back a little more than 2,000 years. However, its proximity to another religion’s holiday has caused it to loom large in the North American consciousness. Chanukah commemorates the victories of the Jews in overthrowing their idol worshiping Greco-Syrian overlords, regaining their sovereignty, and re-dedicating the Temple in Jerusalem. The priests found one small jug of sanctified olive oil to rekindle the menorah (sacred lamp), but only enough for one day. The people had great faith and lit the flames anyway, banishing the darkness and rekindling freedom of worship. The oil miraculously burned for eight days until fresh supplies were procured, and ever since we light candles or oil each night for eight days to mark the miracle.

Chanukah is a festival with particular significance to women, so having a new romance anthology all about the Festival of Lights, a festival whose very name translates as “Dedication”, is a nice holiday treat.

[A Chanukah romance anthology to cuddle with this winter ...]

Aug 18 2015 12:00pm

The Best Authors You’ve Never Read

Nightwing by Lynn Michaels

We all have keeper shelves, but some of us have so many well-loved books they’re stacked two deep. The other day I was pulling some dusty tomes out from the back of the shelves and ran across keepers I hadn’t seen in years. Because it’s nice to share, here are some books you may not have heard of, but are worth checking out.  Some may be out of print, but that makes reading them after you track them down even more fun. Don’t forget your local public library Inter-Library Loan service. It’s a great way to get your hands on obscure books:

Nightwing by Lynn Michaels—A modest little Harlequin Temptation paranormal predating all those sparkly vampire boys. A mysterious hero who has no reflection in the mirror? A heroine inheriting a spooky house in a remote location? Oh, yes, back before the paranormal genre hit the big time, this was one for all of us who longed for romance with a little…bite.

A Man Like Mac by Fay Robinson—A Harlequin Superromance, and an early romance featuring a hero in a wheelchair. We’ve come a long way in the last 15 years in portraying heroes and heroines with disabilities, but MAC was a ground breaking novel for mainstream romance. More importantly, it was a damn fine read.

[Found some great romance novels and thought about you ...]

Jul 1 2015 10:00am

O Canada! Celebrating Canadian Romances and Writers

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freeman

O Canada!

When you think of our neighbor north of the 49th Parallel, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? 

Why, romance, of course! 

I’m not Canadian, but some of my best friends are, and I love to visit their country.  It’s the land where a Stampede is a good thing, at least in Calgary, and you buy your coffee and doughnuts at Tim Hortons with “loonies” and “toonies”.  Heck, Canadians gave the world Leonard Cohen and for that alone we should all be grateful and appreciative!

Sure, the U.S. invaded Canada once or twice, but that’s all behind us now (I hope), and in honor of Canada Day it’s time to pour yourself an ice-wine and raise a glass to The Great White North.

Canada doesn’t take a back seat to anyone in North America when it comes to romance. To readers in the United States, “Canada romance” means the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, aka The Mounties. In the early 20th C., Nelson Eddy crooning to Jeanette MacDonald in Rose-Marie made women’s hearts go pitty-pat for a man in a red coat. The RCMP, famous for always getting their man (and who doesn’t agree with that motto?), conjures images of Dudley Do-Right with his square jaw, the aforementioned baritone Nelson Eddy as Sgt. Bruce, and lovely lines of red-coated gents on parade. 

[In the mood for a little Canadian romance?]

Apr 12 2015 2:00pm

Short, Dark, and Handsome: Average Height Heroes in Romance Novels from Balogh, Bujold, and More!

Hotel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro“Tall, Dark and Handsome.”

What a cliché! How boring to always have the same old, same old in our novels and films. How do you recognize the hero? He’s the tall one! The villain or comic relief? Short. Only in Austen Powers films do we find the hero and villain to be physical equals, and who wouldn’t rather watch the more interesting Dr. Evil, anyway?

I know, I know, study after study shows taller men get paid more, have a better chance of being elected president (at least in the 21st century—let’s hear it for James Madison!) and in romance novels definitely have a better shot at getting the girl.  

Open your minds to a new definition of hero! After all, Tom Cruise and Daniel Radcliffe didn’t get to the top of the film food chain standing on the shoulders of giants. They showed that men who don’t shop in the Big & Tall department can still win the day and the girl, lead the Mission Impossible team, and even defeat He Who Must Not Be Named (who was pretty tall, I might add).

In real life, Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated combat soldiers of WWII was 5’5”. He also parlayed his fame into a modest career as a Hollywood star, and got the girl in the movies too.

[Getting the girl even when you're only a little taller than her... *gasp*]

Nov 13 2014 9:30am

Before The Flame and the Flower: Romance from Back in the Day

It is a truth pretty much universally acknowledged that the modern romance genre as we know it came into its own with the publication of The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss in 1972. The market erupted for historical romance with fairly graphic sex scenes, giving rise to all the offshoots we cherish today—paranormal, graphic Regencies, erotica and so on.

But what did romance readers read before The Flame and the Flower to satisfy their yearning for great stories leading to a Happily Ever After?

We can, of course, reference Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer and the classic Mills and Boon stories, but a lot of readers wanted something more. Here’s a highly subjective, dredged from decades old memories account of what we read before Old Skool Romance.

In the middle of the 20th century there were writers whose stories gave satisfaction both in terms of craft and in delivering the idea of a HEA. Some of these authors who were bestsellers in their day are seldom read now, others continue to be enjoyed.

[Maybe we can reinvigorate them...]

Jul 31 2014 10:10am

Get Out Your Handkerchiefs: Reviewing the Black Moment from Balogh, Howard, Phillips, and More!

Cry No More by Linda HowardAh, despair! We all love a funny romance with rakish pirates, but every now and then we want an author to rip out our heart and stomp all over it with pointy little stilettos.

When you read any other genre, the despair, the “black moment,” can be beyond painful. In romance, it can be cathartic because the reader knows when that forbidden box is opened and death, destruction, disease and despair fly out, at the end there’s a small fluttering instance of hope. It’s hope of a HEA, or at least a Happy For Now, which keeps us turning pages even as the tears roll down our faces.

The problem with discussing our favorite angsty novels is sometimes—usually—the despair moment is linked to a betrayal, or a disaster, or a Huge Reveal that would be a spoiler. I’ll discuss the black moments when I can without giving too much away, but if I just say, “Read this for a good weepfest!” you’ll have to trust me.

Linda Howard’s Cry No More begins with despair. A child is ripped from its mother’s arms and she spends the rest of the book trying to regain her lost son. This may be the ultimate despair moment. You can survive betrayal, you can survive the loss of your one true love, but can anyone survive not knowing her child’s fate? You will need your tissues. There is an amazing love story in this book, and it hits a lot of readers’ keeper lists for good reason. Even if you’ve had some less than positive experiences with this author’s novels, you’ll want to read Cry No More to experience despair.

[Grab a box of tissues now...]

Jul 3 2014 3:30pm

I Melt with You: Top 10 ’80s Romances

The Windflower by Laura LondonAh, the '80s! A decade of big hair, Miami Vice, MTV, Duran Duran, shoulders padded out to there, and an explosion of over-the-top, lush, blooming romances that came to be known as bodice rippers.

That pejorative term for a genre we love lives on well into the 21st century, but it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the novels that defined that decade of romance. After all, the '80s also ushered in some serious study of the genre, including Carol Thurston’s The Romance Revolution: Erotic Novels for Women and the Quest for a New Sexual Identity (1987).

It began, as we all know, with the publication of The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss in 1972. While the '70s saw some of the biggest authors come into their own, Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers being two notable examples, it was the '80s when iconic authors we still enjoy today made their mark in publishing. It was also an era of books featuring words like “savage, devil, splendor, surrender” in the titles, and covers designed to get truck drivers to give them prominent placement on drugstore spinner racks. It was all about the racks, in case you’ve ever wondered why books marketed to women had so many bosomy cover models falling out of their bodices. So here is a list of ten of the top romances of that era:

1. The Windflower by Laura London (a.k.a. Tom and Sharon Curtis), Historical (1984)
For some readers, this mid-decade novel is the historical romance to end all historical romances. Now that it’s back in print, a new generation is discovering what we all loved about the book. It wasn’t just that Merry and Devon’s story was so well done, the writing flowing so lyrically, but secondary characters like Cat and Rand Morgan continued to haunt us long after we’d closed the covers.

[That's the best kind of book...]

May 16 2014 8:30am

“I’m Not Bad, I’m Just Drawn That Way": Top 5 Bad Girls in Romance Novels

I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way

I read a lot of comic books when I was a youngster. While I admired Wonder Woman and thought it would be neat to be an Amazon princess and carry a sword, the person I really wanted to be, the one I thought was absolutely the coolest, was Catwoman. I didn’t identify with the 1950s bonked-on-the-head delusional stewardess Catwoman, but the real Catwoman, the Selina Kyle who saw bright, glittery things and said, “Mine!” Catwoman wasn’t like Poison Ivy, who went around killing people. Catwoman was a thief, one who happened to be so good at her profession that there was only one crimefighter capable of reining her in.

As you might imagine, when I grew up enough to realize there was a thing between naughty Catwoman and dark hero Batman…oh yeah, that just added a whole new special awesomesauce to reading about her exploits robbing jewels and antiquities and rappelling down skyscrapers and driving Batman batty! Putting an adult spin on their “catch me if you can” games was quite entertaining.

[Bad girls have the most fun...]

Apr 14 2014 9:54am

Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 2 Recap: A Wedding to Remember

Joffrey and Margaery in Game of Thrones Season 4, episode 2This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones, including last night’s Season 4, episode 2, “The Lion and the Rose.” Enjoy!

It’s official. “Rains of Castamere” is the worst earworm ever. If you hear it, grab your wine and leave the wedding at once. Also: In Westeros this season, purple is the new red for weddings.

More on this later…

We start with Ramsay Snow trying to beat out Joffrey for most disgusting human being in the kingdom. He’s hunting a servant, Tansy, who was kind to “Reek” (Theon Greyjoy) but was just following Ramsay's orders, and while the first arrow is put in the girl's leg by Ramsay’s jealous squeeze, he’s the one who releases his hunting hounds to tear Tansy to pieces.

[Charming lad, that one, isn't he?...]

Jul 19 2012 12:30pm

Author Darlene Marshall on Admirable Castaways

Castaway Dreams by Darlene MarshallToday we welcome author Darlene Marshall, whose new novel Castaway Dreams is now available, to talk about the enduring appeal of castaway stories, and some of her favorites. Welcome, Darlene!

We’ve been fascinated by stories of castaways on desert islands ever since Odysseus washed up at Calypso’s feet. The idea of being out of place, struggling to survive against the elements, reinventing yourself, is a theme explored again and again in literature from The Odyssey to The Tempest to Robinson Crusoe to Lord of the Flies. Many of us read Island of the Blue Dolphins in American schools, a somewhat unique castaway story in that its protagonist is a woman.

It’s also a theme explored on stage and in film from the earliest days of silent pictures, with too many films to mention here. From literature we have a hand-tinted film of The Tempest in 1905, the first Robinson Crusoe movie in 1926 (my personal favorite is 1964’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars with Adam West in a very small role as the hapless 2nd astronaut), and Lord of the Flies in 1963. 

[Everyone loves a good castaway story...]