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Showing posts by: Kinsey Holley click to see Kinsey Holley's profile
Mar 8 2012 11:30am

The Great BDB Reread: J.R. Ward’s Lover Unleashed

Lover Unleashed by J.R. WardPeople who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.
—Abraham Lincoln (supposedly)

I was excited to finally read Lover Unleashed because I knew that, since it was Payne’s book, there was bound to be a lot of Vishous in it.  I’m a major Vishous fangurl. No matter how good a book in the series might be, I’m always left thinking, “Harrumph. Could’ve used more Vishous.”

I was right—Vishous is front and center in much of the book, and that’s great. But I still can’t say if I liked Lover Unleashed; I felt compelled to keep reading, because I wanted to know what happened, and that right there is the most basic test of a storyteller’s ability: do you want to know what happens next?

J.R. Ward knows how to make you keep turning the pages. Unfortunately, for the past few books—I’d say starting with Lover Unbound (which happened to be Vishous’s book)—it seems every time I turn the page, I’m going “What??” or “You did not just say that AGAIN” or “Woman, have you read any of your prior books? And if so, why can’t you remember what happened in them?”

And I did more of that in Lover Unleashed.

“Now wait,” you say. “Kinsey, how can you be a fangurl, how can you read every BDB book, when Ward’s writing drives you up the *&&%$^(@ing wall?”

[What keeps bringing you back?...]

Oct 3 2011 1:45pm

My First Time on Crahck: Reading Dark Lover

Dark Lover by J. R. WardSome people might not find the drug allusions (“My First Time on Crahck”) humorous, but if you’re a Black Dagger Brotherhood aficionado, you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about.

Dark Lover, the first book in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, comes out in hardback on October 4. Now, we all know that when a paranormal romance author is published in hardback, it means the author has already had massive paperback sales. For a paranormal romance author to have a six-year-old paperback reissued in hardback means she’s in the big leagues, and not just the genre big leagues. The BDB series is a genuine phenomenon. Whatever else one might say about Ward’s series, one thing’s indisputable—it’s not like any other vampire story.

At some point a couple of years ago, I started seeing comments about the series on romance blogs I frequent. No one ever described the books in detail— they just went on and on (and on) about how completely hooked they were and how it was the Best Vampire Series Ever. Even though I’d been burned out on vampire books for years (plus there’s my whole anti-necrophilia thing), I was intrigued. And because I’m compulsive about reading a series in order, I went out and bought Dark Lover.

[The true confessions of a BDB addict...]

Sep 27 2011 9:45am

Can’t Resist “The Zooey”: The Potential of Zooey Deschanel’s New Girl

The Cast of New GirlOne of my favorite romance novel tropes is the brainy-but-ditzy, tomboyish-but-cleans-up-good, cute-as-a-button heroine (henceforth referred to as the BBDTBCUGCAABH) who somehow doesn’t realize she’s cute as a button or that all the men she meets really do want her. She’s forever feeling like she just doesn’t do the girlie well enough and that all the guys just want to be her friend.

The problem with tropes, of course, is that they can easily become stereotypes. It’s hard not to wonder how a woman gets to her mid-twenties or early thirties without realizing that she gets hit on a lot, or that all her guy friends keep asking her out. It’s hard to come up with new, fresh ways to make a character oblivious to her own attractiveness and yet smart and self-aware in all other respects. Still, in the hands of a skilled author, the BBDTBCUGCAABH is a fun character to read.

[Is it fun to watch on TV too?...]

Sep 23 2011 11:15am

The Duke of Hawkecliffe is a Douchebag: The Angst of Gaelen Foley’s The Duke

When reading romance, I never doubt for a moment that the hero and heroine will end up together—it wouldn’t be a romance if they didn’t. No matter how emotionally invested I become in a story, I don’t let the angst get to me.

That’s not the only reason I’m a pain-in-the-ass reader, either. Because I’m very well-versed in history, I have a tough time suspending my disbelief. And let’s be honest—in order for a historical romance to be enjoyable, you have to sacrifice a certain amount of accuracy.

Still, I roll my eyes at heroines who run around getting into duels, indulging in consequence-free premarital sex, marrying stratospherically above their stations and yet being warmly welcomed into Society, etc. Not that it never happened, but it happened very, very rarely.

Then I read Gaelen Foley’s The Duke, the first book in her Knight Miscellany series. And by the end of it, I was perfectly willing to ignore the fact that a duke—a duke, mind you—would never have taken for his first wife a woman who’d been, however briefly, one of London’s most coveted courtesans.

As for the angst—it got me. It got me bad.

[Hurts so good...]

Sep 7 2011 9:30am

Rediscovering Romance: Thank You, Amanda Quick!

Ravished by Amanda QuickI started reading romance in the Old Skool days—late ’70s and early ’80s. I was in junior high and high school, and romance novels were my main source of information about sex. I learned more from Catherine Coulter, Johanna Lindsey, Rosemary Rogers, and Kathleen Woodiwiss than I ever did at school or home.

Then, somewhere around the mid ’80s, I stopped reading romance completely. It wasn’t just that I’d grown bored with the sweeping historical sagas featuring seventeen-year-old virgins who orgasmed the very first time they had sex with forty-year-old pirates or aristocrats or plantation owners or highwaymen. The main problem, as I recall, was that those books weren’t fun to read. The characters in them were fierce and brave and passionate, but they didn’t seem all that happy. Now, it’s been over thirty years since I’ve read these Old Skool romances (except for dipping into Kathleen Woodiwiss books for this column), but I still remember finding these books depressing after a while. So I went off to devour high fantasy and low science fiction for the next decade.

[What brought you back?...]

Aug 10 2011 9:30am

If He’s Hot, He’s an Anti-Hero; If He’s Not, He’s a Villain

Richard Armitage as Guy of GisbourneI love the romantic anti-hero, the hottie who starts out bad but is redeemed, or chastened, or blindsided or bludgeoned by love and winds up a hero almost in spite of himself. Villains don’t get redeemed, but the anti-hero makes you love him, or at least lust for him. Then you have to root for his redemption, because if he doesn’t turn to the Light Side, it means you’ve fallen for a villain, doesn’t it?

(Warning: this post contains spoilers for BBC’s Robin Hood as well as Lonesome Dove: The Series.)

[Bad shouldn’t look so good...]

Jul 31 2011 6:00pm

The Women of True Blood: Tara vs. Arlene

Tara and Arlene in True BloodWe’ve often focused on the men of True Blood, and for good reason—an inability to wear shirts, serious sexual charisma, and many, many abs. But what about the ladies? So we thought we’d represent them as well, and do a H & H Throwdown on which True Blood woman you like the best. First we had vampire Pam pitted against faery Sookie. Now we’ve got Merlotte’s waitresses Tara and Arlene in the ring. Let us know in comments which is your favorite, and that winner will go against the winner of the next round. 

[May the best woman win...]

May 4 2011 1:00pm

A Very Modern Regency Scandal

History buffs and hist-rom readers alike know that adultery has traditionally been an accepted, even expected, feature of aristocratic life—and not just in the distant past, either. It’s rumored that during one of Charles and Diana’s blazing rows about his relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, Charles was heard to ask in disbelief, “Am I to be the first Prince of Wales without a mistress?”

Eventually, like generations of aristocratic wives before her, Diana took lovers of her own. What made the Prince and Princess of Wales different from so many royal couples was that their various and public infidelities led to divorce. In the past, most couples just chose to lead separate lives. Indeed, that’s still the case today with many royals (see: Princess Caroline of Monaco and Prince Ernst August of Hanover).

[History is always repeating itself . . . ]

Mar 24 2011 10:30am

KhageMatchh: Vishous vs. Butch

Welcome to the second Black Dagger Brotherhood KhageMatchh! The trash-talking in the first BDB Matchh was fierce and furious...turns out, Wrath really IS king.   We expect more of the same today.  

So instead of stalking your mail carrier for J.R. Ward's Lover Unleashed, show some real Brotherly love.

Read the KhageMatchh and then tell us which Brother has won your heart by commenting below.

We're upping the stakes on the commenting prize.  To win, you have to be a registered member of the site, but this time the prize is a $5 Starbucks card and a Heroes and Heartbreakers t-shirt. (Something tells us this is just going to get even better as things progress.)

We'll randomly draw a name from the registered commenters who've got comments time-stamped by 3/24 midnight tonight (PST) and we'll send the winner a $5 Starbucks card and a Heroes and Heartbreakers t-shirt.  Not registered with the site?  Click here.

Editor's Note, 3/25/11: Congratulations to KhageMatchh winner VISHOUS and #46 SueB!  Send an email to info[at]heroesandheartbreakers[dotcom] to claim your prize.  


And if your favorite Brother still hasn't been featured, no worries; the next Matchh starts tomorrow.

Get ready to ruuuuumble!

[Butch and Vishous get down and dirty . . .]

Mar 22 2011 3:00pm

Kathleen Woodiwiss: The Beatles of Historical Romance Pt. 2

The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. WoodiwissContinuing from “Kathleen Woodiwiss: The Beatles of Historical Romance, Part 1”:

As for the rapey-rapey aspects of the story—it’s not unique to The Wolf and the Dove, or to Kathleen Woodiwiss. Lots of the Old Skool novels featured near-rape or forced seduction or dubious consent or whatever you want to call it. (Anybody remember all the books with the creams?)

I’m not judging, mind you. The whole issue of rape fantasies is a controversial one, but I firmly believe you have a right to read whatever you want and it’s no one’s business what appeals to you or turns you on. I’m just saying—there’s lots of it’s-so-close-to-rape-let’s-just-call-it-rape going on in these books. Sure, the heroine always ends up loving it, but it starts out with a terrified virgin screaming and kicking and fighting and begging. (And there’s another bit of misinformation if you got your sexual education from romance novels. What’s with all the Old Skool heroines having an orgasm their very first time out of the chute?)

[Everything I learned, I learned from romance novels . . .]

Mar 21 2011 9:00am

Kathleen Woodiwiss: The Beatles of Historical Romance Pt. 1

The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. WoodiwissKathleen Woodiwiss didn’t invent the romance novel; Harlequin and Mills and Boon were publishing romances before Woodiwiss’ first book appeared in 1972. She didn’t invent the sweeping historical melodrama; Forever Amber, published in 1944, featured a feisty heroine and, according to Wikipedia, “70 references to sexual intercourse, 39 illegitimate pregnancies, 7 abortions, and 10 descriptions of women undressing in front of men,” as well as the Plague, the Great Fire of London, and detailed depictions of life in Restoration England.

But Woodiwiss synthesized the two forms, thereby inventing the historical romance as we know it today. And she revolutionized the romance novel itself, permanently altering the market and laying the groundwork for romance to become the mainstay of mass market paperback sales and by far the largest share of the fiction market overall.

In other words, she was the Beatles.

[The rise of a romance rock star . . .]

Mar 5 2011 2:00pm

HEA or a Charles & Diana Repeat?

Wedding ringsThere’s  a phrase one of my characters uses in my latest book: consanguineous shagging. I’m pretty sure I coined it myself. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s fun to say.

Consanguineous: relating to or denoting people descended from the same ancestor. Shagging: Brit slang for sexual intercourse. In other words, cousin loving.

Consanguineous shagging, if it happens enough in one tribe or family, can lead to inbreeding. At least, if you’re in east Texas or West Virginia it’s inbreeding. If you’re in Buckingham Palace, it’s royal ancestry.

Speaking of which, do you plan to watch the wedding?

I was a teenager when Prince William’s parents married. I got up at some ungodly hour on July 29, 1981, to watch the whole thing live. None of us knew how tragically the story would end, of course, but I was never a fan of Prince Charles to begin with. I remember thinking, as Diana’s horse-drawn glass coach made its way to St. Paul’s cathedral, “Yeah, but how much of a fairy tale can it be if she has to marry him?”

[But what about Will and Kate? . . .]

Feb 22 2011 6:00pm

Fangs, Fur, Rotting Flesh: What’s Your Paranormal Pleasure?

Bela Lugosi as Dracula

My tastes in paranormal romance can be summed up as follows: Stake the vamps, burn the zombies, shag the werewolves. Shorter version: Don’t fuck dead things. (I thought about making one of those the tagline for my website, but I’m just not sure.)

[A furry heart is the best kind . . . ]

Feb 17 2011 5:30pm

Wellington, a Regency Hero (Who Made Worse Decisions off the Battlefield), Pt. 3

Kitty, wife of the Duke of WellingtonWe return to our story, where Wellington is being a stubborn ass:

(Have no clue how it's come to this? Read Wellington's Part 1 and Part 2!)

Someone had tried to tell him Kitty had changed. She wasn’t the same woman—girl, really—he’d known in 1792. No matter, Arthur replied—it was her mind he cared for, and that hadn't changed.

That’s rather romantic, isn’t it? He’d loved her for her mind, apparently—her character, her personality—and he wasn’t worried about what she might look like. But Kitty had changed utterly, inside as well as out—and so had Arthur, of course. If they’d only spent a few days in each other’s company before getting married, one or both of them might have realized it wouldn’t work.

[It's not always a fairy-tale ending . . . ]

Feb 16 2011 3:00pm

Wellington, a Regency Hero (Not to Mention a Man-Whore), Pt. 2

Maybe Wellington's nickname should've been The Wanderer instead of The Iron Duke:

(Need to catch up? Read Wellington's Part 1!)

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

Okay—this is where Arthur’s character departs from the Regency hero’s. A Regency hero might dally with married women while he’s single, but once he weds his true love, he’s faithful for life. But Arthur didn't wed his true love, and he wasn’t faithful for life, and his reputation as a swordsman stayed with him. Take a look at this cartoon by Isaac Cruikshank. It was drawn in 1819, when the duke had become Master General of the Ordnance:

[Whoa, Welly . . .]

Feb 15 2011 5:00pm

Wellington, a Regency Hero (Without, Alas, a Regency Romance), Pt. 1

I Love a Man in Uniform

This is the story of a guy who fits the classic Regency hero mold, and who could have had a classic Regency romance—if only real life worked like romance novels. But it doesn't. In real life, even the smartest, best-intentioned people make stupid, life-altering mistakes. And in real life, some promises are better broken.

I can’t recall when I first ‘met’ Arthur Wellesley, but it was long before I read my first Regency. I’ve been into British history since I was in junior high, and I’ve always been fascinated with the Napoleonic wars in general, the Peninsular War in particular, and Wellington particularly in particular.

[Who is this Wellington you speak of? . . .]