<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
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Nov 19 2017 10:00am

Helena Hunting: A Sexy, Angsty, Funny Superstar

Clipped Wings by Helena Hunting

NYT and USA Today bestselling author Helena Hunting is best known for her Pucked hockey romance series, but as advertised on her website, she also writes everything from contemporary romance to romantic comedy and angsty new adult romance. Her Clipped Wings series has been described as “twisted, dark, incredibly erotic” and enthusiastic reviewers on Amazon gush that “this book is everything!”.

With reviews like that, what romance fan could resist picking up one of her books?

It’s been a whirlwind journey for Hunting from the first draft to bestselling author. As she mentioned in one interview, the first draft of her debut novel was 400,000 words long (yikes!). Eventually, she cut hundreds of thousands of words and the original door stopper became two separate 100,000-word novels. Clipped Wings (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) was published in March 2014 and Hunting hit the NYT bestseller list with Pucked in June of 2015.

[Read more...]

Oct 28 2017 10:00am

Rooting for Queen Kalinda and Her Palace Guard’s Happy Ending in Emily R. King’s The Fire Queen

The Fire Queen by Emily R. King

The Fire Queen opens with the heroine, Kalinda, searching for the heir to the Tarachand Empire after the death of the tyrannical Rajah Tarek, who also happened to be Kalinda’s husband. Kalinda won the role of the Rajah’s hundredth wife in a tournament that left only one woman standing. Now, after swearing that she will never fight again, she is asked to compete once more, this time for Prince Ashwin’s hand. If she refuses—or loses—the prince will marry a foreign contestant and leave the kingdom vulnerable to both the warlord who terrorizes it and to political enemies outside its borders. This is the second book in the Hundredth Queen YA fantasy/romance series and can be read alone, but readers will benefit from beginning with book one.

This installment of the series continues a romance between Kalinda and Deven, a palace guard, that began in book one, but this is definitely a fantasy with romantic elements rather than a fantasy romance. The romantic tension between Kalinda and Deven is very well-written, but they spend most of the book apart, with each taking turns as narrator. In addition to being separated by circumstance, they struggle with the conflict between their desire to be together and their sense of duty and honor. Kalinda is also haunted by the memory of her brief marriage to the Rajah.

[Read more...]

Oct 4 2017 1:00pm

These Are The Best Bodyguards of Romance

The Bodyguard

You know the saying—everyone loves a man (or woman) in uniform! But is it the uniform that excites us, or is it the fantasy of a strong protector? Romance readers know that whether our heroes and heroines are undercover or in uniform, their protective instincts hold massive appeal. 

1. The Bodyguard (film)

No list of fictional bodyguards could be complete with mentioning Kevin Costner, so let’s get that out of the way first off. In the 1992 film The Bodyguard, Costner’s portrayal of Frank Farmer sets the stage for all bodyguard romances that follow. I hate that the screenwriters named an action romance hero ‘Frank Farmer’, but the plot is all kinds of catnip. The movie received poor critical reviews and with a 64% rating on rottentomatoes.com, some fans felt that the execution left something to be desired. Still, this is one of those movies I can’t help watching if I see it on TV. (Sadly, it is not on Netflix).

2.  Rock Chick by Kristen Ashley

(Amazon | B&N | Kobo)

Like many romances involving bodyguards, this one has at least a peripheral connection to the entertainment industry. The titular rock chick is Indy Savage, a cop’s daughter and used bookstore owner who has been in love with bad-boy-turned-private-eye Lee Nightingale her whole life. When Indy’s employee gets her in trouble with a group of criminals, Lee is forced to protect her. Sparks and bullets fly as Lee tries to save Indy’s life and convince her he’s one of the good guys now. Rock Chick is the first installment of a bodyguard series that pairs the rock chicks of Fortnum’s Bookstore with the ‘Hot Bunch’ of Nightingale Investigations.

[Read more...]

Sep 8 2017 12:00pm

Welcome to Beth Cato’s Alternate History San Francisco in Call of Fire

Call of Fire by Beth Cato

Alternate history with excellent world building? Check.

Tough, likable heroine? Check.

Smart, beta hero? Check.

Call of Fire will check all the most important boxes for fans of steampunk, although it isn’t a traditional romance. As the author says on her website, this series has a romantic subplot and sexual tension that runs through all three books in the trilogy and escalates as time goes on. 

Although this is the second title in Beth Cato’s Blood of Earth series, this book can be read on its own without confusion (although book one is certainly worth reading!). The second installment in the series picks up Ingrid Carmichael’s story immediately after an earthquake tears apart San Francisco in an alternate 1906. The tide of earth-based energy unleashed by the quake reveals the true extent of Ingrid’s god-like powers and she is forced to flee a centuries-old mythological creature who wants to help the United States and Japan achieve world domination.

One of the best things about the world created by Ms. Cato is the attention to detail that is clear in every word. Technology, magical creatures, and political battles all play important roles in Ingrid’s story, but each element works together so that readers are swept along by the story rather than dwelling on the (intentional) anachronisms. For those who are into such things (I am), there is even a detailed author’s note and research bibliography at the end of the book.

[Read more...]

Aug 7 2017 8:30am

First Look: Alyson Chase’s Disciplined by the Duke (August 15, 2017)

Disciplined by the Duke by Alyson Chase

Alyson Chase
Disciplined by the Duke (Lords of Discipline #1)
Swerve / August 15, 2017 / $3.99 digital

A servant. A liar. A thief. A submissive. The heroine of Alyson Chase’s sexy new Regency romance is all of these things, and more. When her sister is thrown in jail and sentenced to death, gentlewoman Elizabeth Wilcox’s only hope of saving her from the noose is to strike a deal with the odious Earl of Westmore. Her assignment? Go undercover as a maid to spy on the Duke of Montague, a notorious rake with a taste for unconventional bed sport. Disciplined by the Duke is the first installment in Chase’s Lords of Discipline series. Trigger warning—there is attempted sexual coercion by the villain, as well as a mention of past sexual abuse suffered by a secondary character.

The opening scene, when the villain is giving Elizabeth her assignment as a spy, was one of the most difficult to read in the whole book. I had a real fear that Elizabeth was going to give in to the Earl’s coercion and allow him to “take liberties” that would clearly have had devastating consequences to her emotional and mental well-being. Obviously, that doesn’t happen, or Elizabeth would never meet Marcus (the Duke), but Chase does an excellent job of creating a tense, believable opening that establishes what is at stake for our heroine.

[Read more...]

Apr 20 2017 8:30am

The Real Life of a Dominatrix in Jenny Nordbak’s The Scarlett Letters

The Scarlet Letters by Jenny Nordbak

Editor's Note: This book is a non-fiction memoir of a real-life dominatrix, and not a fictional romance novel. 

Jenny Nordbak’s debut erotic memoir is touching, funny, and fascinating. This book is heavy on graphic descriptions of life as a dominatrix in an L.A. dungeon, so beware! The kinksters and perverts among us will love the details used to describe Nordbak’s clients and their various fetishes while the author embarks on a personal journey to understand and explore her sexuality.

In the vein of 2005’s Belle de Jour: Diary of an Unlikely Call Girl, Nordbak was an “ordinary girl” until she entered the world of sex work. Although she lives an alternative lifestyle and occasionally engages in what some readers may see as self-destructive behavior (minor spoiler alert: there is recreational drug use in this book), our heroine’s adventures aren’t mere titillation. Instead, they serve the greater goal of displaying the ways in which Nordbak learns about power, compassion, and even love through her time as a dominatrix.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about this book is that it describes the author’s journey into the world of kink from the beginning. We aren’t simply plopped down in the middle with no idea how she got to the dungeon in the first place. (Maybe she got lost on the way to the grocery store?). After all, who among us hasn’t wondered how to go about becoming a professional mistress?

[Read more...]

Apr 10 2017 1:00pm

The Greatest Heists in Romance History

Everyone loves a good antihero or heroine, and after hearing about the upcoming 2018 release of the all-female heist film Ocean’s Eight, I’ve got larceny on my mind. (Reading about it, not committing it, that is!).

Homeport by Nora Roberts

1. The theft of the Renaissance bronze in Homeport by Nora Roberts

Although it has mixed reviews, this is one of my all-time favorite romances. Some readers found it took too long to get to the action, but a slow and steady build is typical of this authors’ books and shouldn’t surprise long-time romance fans. I love the heroine in this novel, a brilliant, emotionally-repressed art historian/scientist. Written in 1999, this book is a bit dated, but the travel to exotic locales and competence porn are still as satisfying as ever.

It is worth mentioning that Roberts has explored the heist subgenre in other books. Remember When is a two-story duology connected by a diamond heist, with one of the books written under Roberts’ pen name, J.D. Robb, and set in the world of her bestselling In Death series.

2.  $2 Million dollars worth of diamonds heist in Stealing Mr. Right by Tamara Morgan

Described as Ocean’s Eleven meets Mr. & Mrs. Smith (yes, there are a lot of Ocean’s Eleven references in this genre), this romantic suspense stars a jewel thief married to the FBI agent who is tasked with catching her. With two books released and a third on the horizon, the Penelope Blue series promises non-stop excitement.

Morgan also had a heist romance titled Confidence Tricks published with the now-defunct Samhain, so readers should watch her website for information about an eventual re-release. This contemporary romance had plenty of reader catnip, with a heroine who is a just-released-from-prison con artist and a rich playboy hero.

[Read more...]

Mar 16 2017 12:00pm

Party Like Miss Fisher: Dating in the Roaring ’20s

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Whether you preferred to dance the night away at a speakeasy like Phryne or accompany your beau to a church social like Dottie, dating in the 1920s offered something for everyone. Hemlines were getting shorter, the Women’s Movement was well underway, and the newfangled motor car gave daring couple a new avenue to romance. In fact, The Miami News reported in 1922 that the leading cause of car accidents in that city was “driving with one hand and holding (a) girl with the other.”

The most-well known and perhaps the most maligned trend of the Roaring '20s was the “flapper,” a young woman who could be recognized by her bobbed hair, fringed skirt, and bare knees. Like Miss Fisher, this bright young thing could often be found dancing the Charleston and sipping illegal champagne. Being called a flapper was to be named bold, daring, and young, but it also carried connotations of loose morals, especially among older generations—after all, nice girls didn’t smoke, drink, and dance provocatively!

[Read more...]

Jan 12 2017 3:00pm

8 Romances for Fans of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Flappers!

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

What romance should you turn to for Miss Fisher withdrawals?

It is a rare movie or TV show that doesn’t prompt viewers to say “the book was better,” but Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries does not disappoint. Based on the series of historical detective novels by Australian author/lawyer Kerry Greenwood, this drama left fans begging for more when it ended after only three series (or seasons, in North American terms). The romantic tension between globe-trotting heiress Phryne Fisher and the always-logical Detective Inspector Jack Robinson is evident from their first meeting and only grows stronger with time.

In November 2016, the Sydney Morning Herald announced that ABC will make a series of three action movie spin-offs starring Miss Fisher, reminiscent of the Indiana Jones films. Unfortunately for those of us desperately waiting for their release, producers must work around the busy schedule of Miss Fisher herself (actress Essie Davis), who is currently cast as Lady Crane on Game of Thrones.

Until Miss Fisher appears on the silver screen, these romance novels set in the 1920s may hold you over.

[Check out these dapper reads!]

May 12 2016 1:30pm

Why Romance is the Perfect Place to Tackle Tough Issues

Like all art, romance novels imitate life to a certain degree. They hold a mirror up to society, reflecting norms and stereotypes back to us. In the 70s, romance often featured aggressive heroes and naïve or inexperienced heroines. Nowadays, romance novels tend to be more equal in terms of gender roles, but they still reflect the trends and values that come and go in modern society. One of the most noticeable trends in romance over the past ten years has been the explosion of specific, niche subgenres (think motorcycle club romance) and increasing diversity.

Lynn Neal, an assistant professor of religion who researches Christian romance novels, explained in a recent interview that romance fiction also provides information about how women interact with society. As far back as the 1500s, women were cautioned against reading romance novels for fear that they would cause insanity or lead a woman into sexual temptation.

So if romance novels were thought to cause such harm, why were they so popular? What rational woman would expose herself to such risk?

[*Raises hand*]

May 11 2016 8:30am

Real or Not Real?: Romance Novel Titles You’ll Never Guess

Since the first Harlequin romance novel was published in the '40s (The Manatee by Nancy Bruff—and yes, that's the real title), the romance publishing giant has become known for its descriptive, humorous, and sometimes quirky titles. With hundreds of Harlequin novels published every year, even avid romance readers may be hard pressed to spot the fakes in this selection of titles.

[Can we still have the fakes on our TBR pile?]

Apr 20 2016 9:00am

First, Find a Hot Vampire: 5 Easy Ways to Save Paranormal Romance

As shown in this awesome infographic from author Kiersten Fay, paranormal romance has been around for a long time—at least since the 1700s! Since then, horror and romance have been blended to create some truly iconic characters (think Dracula, Frankenstein, and Anne Rice’s Interview with A Vampire), but it wasn’t until the 1990s that paranormal romance really came into its own.

In the mid-2000s, smell presses and e-publishers like Samhain Publishing helped paranormal romances that were a bit outside the norm find a home. Larger publishers took notice of the trend and in 2005, the Silhouette Nocturne imprint was created (now Harlequin Nocturne).

But by the 2010s, authors began to report that paranormal romance had become a tough sell with agents and publishers, the consequence of a glutted market. Romance bloggers across the vast reaches of the Internet began to wonder if paranormal romance was as dead as its protagonists, and fans started to bemoan a perceived lack of fresh plots and characters in the genre.

[The only moaning we want is on the page...]

Mar 27 2016 9:00am

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Who’s the Most Prolific Romance Novelist of Them All?

Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts

One of the first names that comes to mind is Nora Roberts (La Nora to some of her most diehard fans). She began writing when stranded at home in a snowstorm with her two young sons in 1979. By 1981, her first novel, Irish Thoroughbred, was published, and she went on to be crowned “America’s favorite novelist” by The New Yorker. With more than two hundred novels in her backlist—forty of those in her In Death romantic suspense series alone—this queen of romance is certainly a top contender for best-known romance novelist…but she’s not alone in the ranks of the two hundred-plus club—nor is she the most published romance author of all time!

That honor likely belongs to Kathleen Lindsay (1903-1973), who published 904 books under eleven pseudonyms, according to the Guinness Book of World Records (1986 edition). Unfortunately, Lindsay’s career was not without controversy—in 1961, she was accused of plagiarism by Regency romance maven Georgette Heyer. At the time, there was talk of legal action on Heyer’s part, but the case never made it to court.

Another Brit known for her staggering output is the late, great Dame Barbara Cartland, who published 723 books during her lifetime, with another 160 manuscripts being issued posthumously (Ms. Cartland passed away in 2000). In addition to her incredible literary accomplishments, Cartland was a humanitarian and wrote non-fiction about health and cookery, as well as biographies. During WWII, she was the Chief Lady Welfare Officer in Bedfordshire, England, and bought or collected thousands of secondhand wedding dresses so war brides could wear white on their wedding days. She also campaigned for Roma families’ rights to permanent accommodation and educational opportunities, and fought for better conditions and wages for midwives and nurses.

[Prolific romance novelist or not? ...]

Mar 9 2016 9:30am

Edutainment: A Beverly Jenkins Spotlight

Night Song by Beverly Jenkins

To many romance readers, Beverly Jenkins needs no introduction. The award-winning, best-selling author of historical and contemporary romance has more than thirty books to her credit, with a focus on African American characters and culture. In her twenty two-year career (and counting!), she has been named one of the top fifty African American writers of the 20th Century by the nation’s largest online African American book club.

Jenkins’ first novel, Night Song, hit shelves in 1994. The story of an independent schoolteacher who risks her reputation to find love with a cavalry sergeant, this book pulls no punches in its depiction of life for African American characters in 1880s Kansas. Fans extoll the virtues of the book’s feisty heroine, its balance of humor and drama, and Jenkins’ accurate, extensive historical research—a hallmark of her work. She has written about divorce, adoption, slavery, racism, glass ceilings, and mid-life crises—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Picking up one of her novels could mean being immersed in the life of a buffalo Soldier in Kansas or a sports agent in California, or anything in between.

As recounted in a January 2016 interview with Jezebel.com, when Jenkins started writing, she was the only romance author she knew of who wrote romance for and about people of color. Her books have played an important part in educating genre readers—and the public at large—about historic realities we don’t learn in school. As a Canadian, I found Jenkins’ novels revelatory. It wasn’t until I read her work that I learned of the all-Black towns established in America (and Canada) in the 1800s, or learned that there was a large number of Black men who served in Congress during the Reconstruction period (post-Civil War).

[Have you met Jenkins? ...]

Mar 4 2016 9:30am

The Merry Widow: Hot Romance and the Widowed Heroine

Merry Widow Christina Hendricks in Sexy Corselet

There’s a reason the term “merry widow” has become synonymous with the sexy corselet—love the second time around can be hot, hot, hot! Just like the corset/bra combination popularized in the 1950s and now a staple of (ironically) bridal lingerie, romance novels about widows who find their love of kink are far sexier than their predecessors.

For years, widows in romance novels suffered through marriages to first husbands who were terrible bores (or boors), impotent, decades older, or cruel, only to find their just desserts in a vanilla husband who would love and cherish them forever. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with a sweet romance, we can only imagine that some of those widows might long for a happy ending that’s slightly more…scandalous.

At last count, Goodreads.com features sixteen reader-curated lists of the best romance novels featuring widowed heroines, with tropes that range from virgin widows to pregnant widows and everything in between. Interested in reading about war widows? Historic widows? Widows in paranormal romance? Yep, Goodreads has them all. And happily for us, widowed heroines nowadays are free to get their freak on.

[Be a sizzling 'Merry Widow' if you want ...]

Feb 22 2016 5:30pm

Love Lost and Found: Finding Love After Losing “The One”

In the Thrill of the Night by Candice Hern

Although there’s no doubt that losing a partner is devastating, eventually widowed spouses may consider the possibility of dating again. But what are the odds of finding a new love when potential mates are measured against a lifetime of memories with someone else? And then there’s the challenging tangle of emotion that must be unknotted before moving on. We’ve all heard of the ‘stages of grief’, and after a loss, it’s perfectly natural to feel anything from anger at being left alone to guilt over wanting companionship and physical intimacy.

Unfortunately, some widows also face judgment from friends, family, in-laws, or society when they begin to test the waters of the dating pool again. In the Regency period, mourning for a deceased spouse lasted a year at minimum, and sometimes went on far longer. This was a trend that would only become more pronounced in the Western world during the Victorian era, after Queen Victoria went into mourning for her husband, Prince Albert. In deep mourning, she wore black until the end of her life—forty years later—and rarely showed her face in London. Her self-imposed isolation gave rise to her nickname, the “widow of Windsor.”

[There's love after loss ...]

Jan 21 2016 4:30pm

The Force (of Attraction) is Strong: 6 Reasons Rey/Kylo Ren Have Shipping Potential in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

(Beware: There will be spoilers below)

Although the potential for a Rey/Finn romance has the internet abuzz, the pairing is a little too obvious for my liking. And—dare I say it?—it's a little too easy. Not that there's anything especially easy about being on the run from the people who kidnapped and brainwashed you (Finn), or being abandoned to grow up alone on a planet that is little more than a desert junkyard (Rey). The problem is not with the characters' backgrounds or motivation, it's that any attraction between Rey and Finn is entirely predictable. As all romance readers know, “danger breeds desire” is a common trope.

[Why you should ship Rey and Kylo Ren too...]