Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Wallflowers, Continued

The Devil in Winter
Evangeline Jenner has a problem: she is about to inherit an extraordinary amount of money. How is that a problem? Her dying father runs a notorious gambling hall, and her bourgeois and avaricious relatives (on her dead mother’s side) are more than a little anxious to get their hands on it. Since the shy, stuttering Evie has not managed to marry a titled man to improve the family’s social connections, they have decided that even a tainted fortune is better than none, and have determined that she shall marry her cousin. Evie may be shy, but she’s not stupid, and she figures her likelihood of surviving long after the wedding is pretty slim. So she does what any intelligent young woman in her predicament would do: she seeks out the incredibly handsome and equally notorious Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent, a rake of ancient lineage and empty bank account, and proposes marriage. Presenting herself at his door late one wintry night, she suggests that as they are both equally desperate, they immediately elope to Gretna Green, wed, consummate the marriage, and then go about living their separate lives, each of their problems solved. Sebastian is intrigued. While he has met Evie before, he saw only a shy, stuttering girl. Now confronted with the risk-taking redhead, he notes that while she may stammer, she’s no dummy and no shrinking violet. She’s got a good plan, is rather attractive, and of course, there’s all that lovely money to consider. So Sebastian agrees, and off they go. The elopement turns out to be the easy part; returning to London and dealing with the death of Evie’s father, her inheritance of his wealth and gambling establishment, and the greedy, angry relatives she left behind is more of a challenge. And then there are the newlyweds growing feelings for each other. Evie does not wish to be the devoted wife of a philandering husband, and Sebastian has no wish to be in love –ever, with anyone. The two try to come to some sort of workable compromise while someone makes every attempt to kill one or both. Can true love conquer kidnappings and gunfire?

Scandal in Spring
Daisy Bowman has had three seasons to find a titled husband. According to her father, she’s had more than enough time, and he’s spent more than enough money. If she cannot bring someone “up to scratch” by summer, Daisy will marry the man her father chooses for her. Much to Daisy’s dismay, he has chosen Matthew Swift, the second-in-command in the Bowman business dealings. Mr. Bowman loves Matthew Swift like a son, and wants nothing more than to bring him into the family fold and put him in charge of the business one day. Daisy remembers Matthew as ungainly, aloof, and boring. Boring. If only it were still so. When Daisy encounters Matthew again, he has grown into a handsome and confident man. But still, Daisy is convinced that he has hatched this plan with her father to get his hounds on the Bowman millions and she refuses to play along. Matthew, who has been in love with Daisy since the moment he met her years ago, was not part of her father’s plan, refuses to marry her with or without her consent. Both are miffed, and begin a battle of wills that turns to flirtation and eventually real affection. That’s when Daisy finds out just how not boring Matthew is, and has to decide if the secrets from his past will rule out a future.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Wallflower for All Seasons

Or more accurately, a Wallflower for each season, and there is a bonus Christmas book, to boot. This series of linked historical romances from author Lisa Kleypas follows the adventures (and misadventures) of four young ladies in search of husbands. Annabelle Peyton, Evangeline Jenner, and Lillian and Daisy Bowman all have a few things to recommend them, and a few things that keep them sitting on the sidelines, with empty dance cards and dwindling matrimonial prospects. Annabelle has no dowry, and since the death of her father a few years previously, her family is in increasingly desperate financial straits. Evangeline is the result of an elopement between a genteel young lady and Cockney prize fighter who went on to run a gaming club. Lillian and Daisy are the daughters of an incredibly wealthy American businessman; they were unable to find husbands in the upper echelons of New York society and are having no better luck in the even more gentrified world of the British peerage. After more than a season of sitting next to one another at social events, watching the rest of the world dance by, the girls decide to join forces. They reason that by taking turns helping each other find a suitable spouse, they are far more likely to be successful. They decide to start with Annabelle, who is not only the oldest, but who also has the most to lose if she does not find a well to do husband by the end of the season. Will she find a suitable husband, or will her deeply hidden desire for true love lead to –

Secrets of a Summer Night
Annabelle Peyton’s time is running out. Her father’s death has left the family finances in disarray, and her mother has been forced to form a rather unpleasant association with the loathsome Lord Hodgeham to get some of the bills paid. In her fourth season and with no dowry, Annabelle knows that without an offer of marriage before summer, she will have no option but to become a rich man’s mistress. Businessman Simon Hunt decides that he will be that man. The butcher’s son made a fortune in industry, and is now in business with some of the bluest blood in the realm. Annabelle has fascinated him for years, and he is disgusted with the way his so-called social betters are waiting for her to get desperate enough to take one of them as a lover. Simon is determined to make Annabelle his, and Annabelle is determined to marry a peer and not just sell herself. Sparks fly between them, but can they get past social snobbery and financial considerations to form a real relationship?

It Happened One Autumn
Lillian Bowman is brash, adventurous, irreverant and outspoken. In short, she is everything that Marcus, the Earl of Westcliffe, despises in a woman. The fact that she is an upstart American heiress leaves him cold. Unlike many of his peers in the peerage, Marcus has some very progressive ideas about managing the family finances, and so has no need of the Bowman millions. Doing business with the father is one thing, marrying the daughter is something else entirely. Besides, Lillian makes no secret of the fact that she finds him snobbish, autocratic, and generally obnoxious. She stands up to him like no one else dares to, which is alternately infuriating and refreshing. And there was that memorable afternoon when he found her playing a brisk game of rounders with the other Wallflowers – in her knickers. Perhaps she does have a few things to recommend her. As Marcus unbends sufficiently to reveal his kindness and humor, Lillian begins to mellow. But there those among the aristocracy who are desperate to get their hands on the Bowman fortune, and those who are horrified at the thought of Lord Westcliffe marrying a soap company heiress. Can a little conniving keep Lillian and Marcus apart?

Tomorrow: Winter (Evie) and Spring (Daisy)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On the Book Cart

There are nearly two dozen romances on the cart this week! Too many to go into detail, so I thought I would highlight a few authors that don’t get as much attention as the big names do. Christie Ridgway’s Unravel Me is the story of Juliet Weston, a young widow trying to get used to life on her own. She joins a knitting group – but an L.A. kind of young, hip knitting group, and as she starts to have fun and find herself as a single grown-up, she has to deal with the thought of new love as well. Is Juliet’s resistance to a relationship with Noah Smith really because he is a younger man, or is it because she just isn’t ready to let go of her past? This looks like a warm, funny “loved, lost, and learned to love again” kind of book. Fans of historicals get a two-for-one in Mary Blayney’s Traitor’s Kiss/Lover’s Kiss. Set at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the stories feature Lord Gabriel Pennistan and his sister Lady Olivia. Lord Gabriel is rescued from a French prison by a mysterious that later vanishes; Lady Olivia is kidnapped and rescued by a soldier lately returned from France. Both stories promise to provide a great deal of action and suspense. Dark Temptation: A Novel of Blackheath Moor by Allison Chase has all the elements of a classic gothic romance. Set in Cornwall, it features mysterious lights, ghosts, smugglers, phantom ships, and chance meetings in churchyards. Can Sophie St. Clair and the handsome Earl of Wycliffe unravel the mysteries, escape the scandals from their pasts, and find true love in the process?
These books and many more are on the spinracks near the magazines. Stop by and check them out; you can also call, email, or go to our online catalog to reserve your favorites.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Always a bridesmaid...

27 Dresses

As I’ve mentioned, I have always been a sucker for romantic comedy. Possibly this means that I am somehow completely incapable of taking love and marriage seriously, and am therefore psychologically damaged, but whatever. There it is. I prefer slapstick lovers to star crossed lovers any day of the week. So when Judie-the-Webmistress-Librarian recommended 27 Dresses, I snapped it up for weekend viewing.
The premise is this: our heroine Jane (played by Katherine Heigl) discovered at a very young age that she had a great talent for helping out brides. Brides-to-be, brides on their special day, Bridezilla – you name her, Jane could manage her, and make the whole event go off like clockwork. Thus Jane is in great demand as a bridesmaid, and in the course of following her calling has accumulated a collection of bridesmaid dresses. (Or as my friend Mary calls her own, much smaller collection, “a closetful of ugly frocks.”) Jane is a true romantic, who has only remained unwed because she is secretly in love with her boss George (Edward Burns – such a cutie!) who is unaware of her crush and thinks of her as his gal Friday and nothing more. Anyway, one night Jane is in two weddings, and must keep performing a quick change in the back seat of a taxi. She is spotted by the handsome Kevin, who writes the New York Journal Commitments column, but really wants to move into feature article territory. By the end of the evening, he not only manages to meet Jane and chat her up, he also manages to get a look at her Filofax, and discovers that she is practically a professional bridesmaid. Kevin thinks Jane’s story may be the one that will get him out of Commitments, so he pursues her without revealing his ulterior motive. Meanwhile, Jane’s younger sister Tess shows up for a visit. Tess, a veritable man-magnet, is introduced to George, who of course falls for her. And so it goes, in a comedy of errors that ranges from hilarious to poignant and back again.
This is a fun movie with a good cast. I had never seen Katherine Heigl in anything before but found her to be a very likeable lead. If you are looking for a pleasant escape from holiday madness, check out 27 Dresses. If nothing else, it will make you grateful -- grateful that you never had to don one of Jane’s ugly frocks....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

On the Book Cart

It’s been a quiet week in terms of new books, but there are a few items of interest on the cart. We have three new romantic suspense novels – perennial favorite Carla Neggers leads off with Cold Pursuit, featuring a Secret Service agent and her former flame searching the Vermont mountains for a missing teenager. In Mary Burton’s Dead Ringer, a local anchorwoman joins forces with a detective to solve a string of killings – all women who look disturbingly like her. The creepy Deadly Harvest from Heather Graham brings us another installment in the Flynn Brothers trilogy; this one features Jeremy Flynn teaming up with a local occult expert to stalk a psychopathic killer. If you would like something on a lighter note, try Good Luck by Whitney Gaskell. It’s the story of a woman who wins the lottery on what turned out to be the worst day of her life. Now that’s the kind of bad day I’d like to have!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quick Looks: A Wallflower Christmas

A Wallflower Christmas
By Lisa Kleypas

The Premise: Rafe Bowman, American millionaire, cad, and brother to Wallflower Lillian, is in England looking for a bride. Though he has no real desire to marry, his father has commanded that he make an advantageous match, and has chosen Lady Natalie Blandford for his son. For her part, Lady Natalie understands that this is as much a business arrangement as anything else, and is willing to give Rafe the benefit of the doubt, especially since he is so attractive and charming. Her companion, poor relation Hannah, is not so sure. When Lillian invites her to tea so that the Wallflowers can quiz her about Lady Natalie, she readily accepts, planning to do a little investigating herself. When Hannah and Rafe meet, she decides that he is all wrong for Natalie – he is arrogant, boorish, and ill mannered. As far as she is concerned, he has no idea how to behave in polite society. Rafe decides that Hannah is far too prim and proper, and is determined to get a reaction out of her. When he takes advantage of a private moment to kiss her, Hannah is both horrified and intrigued. But more than anything, she is convinced that this man is in no way appropriate for her elegant cousin, and devoutly hopes that Natalie will agree once they are all thrown together at Lord Westcliff’s Christmas house party.

What I Liked: I confess I am a fan of the Wallflowers, so I liked seeing them again in supporting roles. Rafe is a delightful hero, and though Hannah started off a little prissy she really grew on me quickly. As always in a Kleypas novel, the secondary characters had a lot of depth and really added something to the story.

What I Didn’t: It would have been nice to see a little more of Natalie’s other suitor; that storyline felt a bit rushed.

Overall: This was a nice, short Christmas love story, great for taking a break from the holiday madness.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Romances

When I was a little kid, there was a rule in my house that there would be no Christmas anything until the day after Thanksgiving. No talk of trees or presents, no candy cane shaped cookies, and no Christmas music being played. In the decades since, the world has started to celebrate the holiday (or at least the consumption it brings) earlier and earlier. Now it seems we start the whole process about twenty minutes after Labor Day. Although I confess I have most of my holiday shopping done, I do like to save something to mark the Thanksgiving weekend transition from one holiday to another, so I usually pick out a Christmas themed book to read. If you haven’t yet reached the point of “Bah Humbug” but would still like an escape from the mall and the traffic, try one of these romances:

Nora Roberts seems to have a book for all seasons, and over the years she has published many Christmas themed stories. The MacGregor Brides and The MacGregor Grooms all have at least one holiday story in these interrelated tales of the much loved MacGregor clan. Gabriel’s Angel and The Gift are reprints of some of the author’s most loved Silhouette romances.

Debbie Macomber always provides a heartwarming tale laced with humor. If you are in the mood for a gentle read, pick up The Christmas Letters, Glad Tidings, The Christmas Basket, or There’s Something About Christmas.

If you want to avoid even a mention of the mall, escape to Christmas Past with these historicals: Marry Christmas by Jane Goodger, Christmas Countess by Adrienne Basso, or Seduction at Christmas by Cathy Maxwell.

At busy times of year, it’s nice to be able to finish a story in one sitting, so anthologies are good to have around. Silver Bells and Santa Baby feature contemporary tales by favorite authors including Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross, Jennifer Crusie and Carly Philips. Snowy Night with a Stranger is a trio of historical romances by Jane Feather, Sabrina Jeffries, and Julia London.

And if you thought that the words “Paranormal” and “Christmas” don’t go together, pick up One Silent Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon, who proves that even Dark Hunters celebrate the holidays.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sexiest Men?

So People Magazine’s Annual Special Double Issue -- featuring this year’s Sexiest Man Alive! – arrived at the library last Friday. In need of a little lunchtime reading, I snagged a copy. This year’s winner is Hugh Jackman. No argument here; I’ve always been a fan. I began paging through it and found many of my old favorites: Pitt, Clooney, Depp, Damon, and so on. A little additional reading brought me to a photo spread called “Sexy at Every Age.” It featured guys by decade: those in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. I perused the list. I have to admit that 90% of the men in their 40’s and 50’s totally worked for me. When I got to the men in their 30’s the percent that I found appealing dropped in half. The ones in their 20’s? I took one look and said to myself “Who are these kids?!?” Though I am not old enough to be considered a Boomer, I am not young enough to appreciate these fresh faced boys. Fortunately, having a group of “pin up boys” that includes Liam Neeson, Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan is no great hardship....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

December Romantic Times on the Shelf

The December RT is all about thrillers – romantic and otherwise. The cover story is an interview with the Australian doctor turned author Kathryn Fox, and includes an excerpt from her latest book Skin and Bones. Other feature stories include a roundtable discussion with leading thriller authors, a guide by subgenre to some of the most popular thrillers, a discussion of “romantic thrillers,” and a look at what makes a thriller and how they differ from other suspense genres. In the Pros on Prose section the creator of Rambo gives us his take on thriller writing. Author spotlights include cody McFadyen, Lisa Black, Marcus Sakey, Sophie Hannah, Andrew Peterson, and James David Jordan. Rounding out the issue are the usual Fan Forum and 250 book reviews.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quick Looks: The Naked Gentleman

The Naked Gentleman
By Sally MacKenzie

Historical Romance

The Premise:
Miss Margaret Peterson would like a husband. Not that she has any romantic notions; no, she just wants a household of her own and the opportunity to pursue her horticultural interests. Any gentleman of appropriate means will do. Well, perhaps not just any gentleman, but one she finds reasonably appealing and who expects nothing more than a well bred wife who will produce an heir and then be happy to let him do as he wishes as long as she may do the same. To this end, she has spent the better part of a London season sneaking off into the gardens of whatever stately home is the scene of the evening’s social activity with potential husbands. Her only aim is a bit of conversation, a look at the gardens, and a kiss or two to see if the gentleman will suit. It never occurs to her that her reputation may be taking a bit of a beating, and that not all gentlemen are, well, gentlemen. Unfortunately, one evening she ventures into the shrubbery with a viscount who is interested in more than a chaste kiss; fortunately, she is rescued by Mr. John Parker-Roth, who is not only a gentleman, but an avid horticulturist himself. Unfortunately, once Margaret’s attacker is vanquished, she and John are discovered together with her dress in tatters and his arms around her, which results in both families decreeing that the two must marry. Fortunately, they are attracted to one another, and do share an interest in plants. Unfortunately, Margaret doesn’t want John to marry her just because he has to, and refuses to consider it. And so it goes, with many misunderstandings, several passionate kisses amidst the ton’s topiary, some completely unlikely couples rendezvousing in various gardens, and general mayhem abounding, until Margaret and John manage to clear the air and live happily ever after.

What I Liked: This is my favorite kind of madcap romantic comedy, well executed and clever. There were plenty of eccentric characters and entertaining subplots, and the hero and heroine were quite likeable.

What I Didn’t Like: Can’t find anything to complain about.

Overall: Quick, funny, and light. Perfect for a rainy weekend or a little bedside reading. I’ll be purchasing more of MacKenzie’s Naked series for the library.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On the Book Cart

Hard to believe that the holiday season is just around the corner, but those shopping days are ticking away. This week's cart is full of holiday themed romances of all types. Two new books out in hardcover reunite readers with popular characters: Linda Lael Miller invites us to A McKettrick Christmas set in 1896, and Lisa Kleypas shows us how her now happily married Wallflowers join forces to marry off a Bowman brother in A Wallflower Christmas. Other historicals include The Christmas Countess by Adrienne Basso and Marry Christmas by Jane Goodger. Two anthologies feature short stories from favorite authors; It Happened One Night and A Historical Christmas Present. Featuring authors Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D'Alessandro, Candice Hern, Lisa Kleypas, Lynsay Sands, and Leigh Greenwood, these tales of Christmas romance range from the 12th to the 19th century and are set in both Europe and the US. Contemporary titles include Sherri Erwin's Naughty or Nice, a paranormal, and Rebecca York's tale of romantic suspense,Christmas Spirit. If you can't stand to even think about shopping,wrapping and baking, pick up the historical Three Little Secrets by Liz Carlyle or the contemporary Thrill Me To Death by Roxanne St. Claire

Monday, November 3, 2008

Silhouette Now -- A Small Town Mayor Meets a Bad Boy from Her Past

The Guardian
By Linda Winstead Jones

Sara Vance, the 35 year old mayor of the little Southern town of Tillman, is the victim of a rather unusual crime: someone stole her undies. Right out of her backyard. She’s a little unnerved, so she reports the crime to the sheriff. She’s positively flustered when the newly hired officer sent to interview her about the crime is none other than Dante Mangino, with whom she had a brief, passionate (if rather innocent) fling at the age of seventeen. Nothing like standing around talking about your underwear with the man who made your heart race half a lifetime ago, especially since he doesn’t seem to remember you. Sara decides she just wants to forget the whole thing, but Dante isn’t convinced. He thinks she may have a stalker, and when an anonymous package full of sexy new underwear shows up at Sara’s door, he’s sure of it. He then becomes a one man surveillance team, keeping an eye on Her Honor the Mayor whenever he can. All in the line of duty? Not quite. It seems Dante does remember Sara, though since she has been married and widowed the name threw him at first. He also remembers that he was the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and her family made it clear she was much too good for him. He left town, she stayed, and both buried the memory of their incredible connection. Until now.

Sara and Dante can’t just pick up where they left off; they’ve both picked up some emotional baggage. Sara’s husband died young of cancer, and a woman Dante was in love with was killed. Sara is all about being responsible and staying put; Dante likes to live life to the fullest and keep moving. They’ve got quite a bit to overcome, and the relationship must form in spite of a stalker who may well be a killer. In spite of the fact that both have been through the wringer emotionally, they do manage to keep moving forward, if sometimes in fits and starts. The happy ending is a little “O. Henry” but given the stress of dealing with a murderous stalker, neither character does anything really farfetched.

Overall, this is a well paced story with a strong suspense element, featuring two believable characters. Falling in love as a grown up is tougher than falling in love as a recent college grad, but Sara and Dante manage it fairly gracefully. Both have to factor in their history, their families, and their careers in a way that they just would not have in a book written twenty years ago. Heroes and heroines grow up, and I guess category romances do too.

Friday, October 31, 2008

On the Book Cart

It’s nearly all historicals this week, with the notable exception of Nina Bangs paranormal Eternal Pleasure. Moving back in time, Sherry Thomas’ Delicious combines food and romance in a sensual love story. A family curse inspires a young lady to risk scandal in Victoria Alexander’s Seduction of a Proper Gentleman, while family secrets drive the story in The Secret to Seduction by Julie Anne Long. That’s it for this week, but the holiday romances have started to arrive, so watch this space for a list of seasonal happily-ever-afters!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Silhouette Romance Then and Now

Last Friday afternoon I was looking for something to read over the weekend. Since I had a lot to do and had to work on Sunday, I wanted something quick and light. I grabbed two Silhouette romances off of the spin racks. Navy Wife by Debbie Macomber is a reissue of a 1988 release, and
The Guardian by Linda Winstead Jones came out in May of this year. I have never read anything by Macomber and her Navy series is very popular, so I figured that would be a good place to start. I’d read Jones’ entry into the Raintree trilogy and really liked it, so I figured her romantic suspense would be good as well. What I hadn’t counted on was how glaring a difference there would be between a category romance published twenty years ago and one published a couple of months ago. Though I enjoyed both stories, I had a few frustrations with Navy Wife that I think had much more to do with the age of the book than any lack of skill on the author’s part.

Silhouette Then: Marrying a man in uniform

Macomber’s heroine, Lindy Kyle, is just about 22 years old when the story opens. Having just graduated from college, Lindy has come to live with her brother in Seattle. Armed with a degree in computer science, she is looking for a job and a place to get over being dumped by her fiancĂ©. This is the first thing that brought me up short: engaged to be married before graduating from college? What was the kid thinking? But then again, in 1988, that was a little more common. Also, heroines Lindy’s age were more common too. Nowadays I am used to seeing women who are older and have careers populating the pages of romance novels, but this is relatively new. But back to Lindy. Her brother Steve is a naval officer who shares an apartment with another naval officer. Since both are supposed to be at sea for awhile, Steve sees no problem with Lindy crashing at his place while she looks for a job and an apartment. As these things go in Romanceland, the roommate, Rush Callaghan, ends up back on land unexpectedly. He finds Lindy in her pajamas in his apartment and promptly concludes that she is some scheming hussy out to take advantage of his newly divorced friend. These wild leaps of illogic punctuate the entire novel, and are the main source of tension between Lindy and Rush. Granted, both are damaged from previous bad relationships, but at times I found myself rolling my eyes and thinking “Oh, come on, people!” Lindy often just came off as immature, but Rush, at 32, should really have known better. And that’s another throwback feature: the older more, experienced man and the younger, more innocent heroine. Fortunately, Lindy is no dummy and has plenty of backbone, so she never becomes the clichĂ©d sweet little woman letting the older wiser alpha-male run the show. Rush, while a little harder to get to know, is occasionally high-handed but not overbearing, and his actions are in keeping with his character and his life as a career naval officer.

Overall, I liked this book, even though I got hung up on some of the “old-fashioned” elements. Macomber has the ability to create believable, likeable characters; even when their behavior makes you groan, you are still rooting for them. I can understand why she has such a huge fan base. When I finished the book, I couldn’t help but think, “How cool would it be to see a new addition to this series, one set in 2008 and featuring, say, a female Annapolis grad dating a single father?” Could that scenario be made into a sweet, believable love story? One that would show the new stresses of military family life as well as Macomber demonstrated the more traditional ones in her older books? There may be some of those out there that I just haven’t found yet, but I’d still love to see Debbie Macomber tackle it, because I am sure she would do it justice.

Next up: Silhouette Now – A small town mayor meets a bad boy from her past!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On the Book Cart

Jaci Burton's Nothing Personal has arrived, bringing us a new and sexy retelling of the "marriage of convenience that ends in true love" story. Other contemporaries include Susan May Warren's thriller Wiser Than Serpents and Susan Andersen's country music themed Coming Undone. Romantic comedy fans will enjoy Big Girls Don't Cry by Cathie Linz and Addicted to Love by Lori Wilde. Two favorite paranormal series are being filled in: Kresley Cole's No Rest for the Wicked (Immortals After Dark) and Lora Leigh's Mercury's War (the Breeds). The one and only historical is The Wedding Challenge by Candace Camp, a Regency in the author's Matchmakers series.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Night Fall Falls Short

Night Fall
By Cherry Adair

I have been eagerly anticipating the back to back releases of Cherry Adair’s new “Night” trilogy. Now that I’ve read the first one, I’m thinking that the whole three-books-in-three-months thing was not such a great idea. Maybe Adair was up for it, but it clearly wore out her editor. I’ve never read such a choppy effort, and I’ve read most of the previous T-FLAC books. Many elements of this book were not up to the author’s usual standard. How did it disappoint? Let me count the ways...

*** The heroine. Kess Goodall is really annoying much of the time. There were moments when I found her likeable, but then she would do something really stupid and the moment would pass. She’s like that girl from your junior high school pep squad who does absolutelyabsolutelyabsolutely EVERYTHING with, like totaltotaltotal CONVICTION and at really, really supersupersuper HIGH VOLUME!!! And she’s just soooooo cute and sooooo gosh darn earnest! Not only that, her previous employer was a really, really bad man who totally did her wrong, but she’s still being brave and trying to redeem her reputation by working for an impoverished nation. Dare I say it? She’s positively plucky!! To which I must add – Spare me.

*** The consistency of the paranormal aspect. Or shall I say the lack of consistency? Given the fact that this is her second trilogy featuring wizards, I expected this to be better. The fact that Simon’s powers were going haywire in such a way that he couldn’t transport small objects as well he wanted, but could conjure up a beachside love nest and maintain it for hours just didn’t make sense. This kind of thing happened a lot and was distracting.

*** General cluelessness of characters. Kess doesn’t see that her new boss is up to something. Simon doesn’t see that he shouldn’t put off finding out what is wrong with his powers while other people’s lives depend upon them. Abi doesn’t see that he is being used by the bad guys. And so on...

*** Pacing and consistency. This reads like a longer book that had bits arbitrarily chopped out to conserve space. I found myself saying “What just happened?” far more often than I should have, even with the kind of fast paced plot Adair writes. This one was uneven and sometimes just plain confusing.

Because I like Adair and this is the first T-FLAC book I haven’t enjoyed, I will pick up the next one and hope that it’s better. Given all the press behind this trilogy, and the fact that the third book is being released in hardcover, expectations are high. Unfortunately, Night Fall doesn’t meet them.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Book Sale this weekend!!!

The Friends of the Library Booksale is this weekend!! This annual fundraiser allows the Friends to support library programs throughout the year. Please stop by and pick out a few books -- there are TWO FULL TABLES of Romance paperbacks to choose from!!!!
As added incentive, there will be a bake sale on Saturday. Stop by and feed your happily-ever-after-habit and support the library at the same time!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quick Looks: Wild Jinx

Wild Jinx
By Sandra Hill

The Premise: Once upon a time, journalist Celine Arseneaux had a big crush on John LeDeux, a notorious bayou bad boy. Her affections were not returned. Well, except for that one night in college when they both got really drunk and had mad, passionate sex, only to part the next morning, never to meet again. Well, maybe not never; this is a romance after all. Let’s just say that they don’t meet again for about six years, by which time Celine is an undercover journalist pursuing a very big story and John is an undercover cop pursuing a very big bust. Their touching reunion takes place in the sex club they are both investigating, ends in the two of them being hauled away in handcuffs, and through a comic series of events both end up being banished back to the bayou while the story plays out. Their enforced proximity leads to tensions that heat up very quickly. They can’t stop arguing and they can’t keep their hands off of one another. Add to the mix a slew of matchmaking relatives, led by the inimitable Tante Lulu, and things start to get really crazy. Celine is keeping a very big secret, and trying to keep her story straight around the inquisitive LeDeux clan is tough. John is desperate to hang onto his happy bachelorhood, in spite of being hit by what Tante Lulu calls “The Thunderbolt of Love.” In spite of mud, mosquitoes, treasure hunters, and general interference from the well-meaning, the two manage to not only lust after each other, but genuinely begin to like each other. It’s at this point that secrets are revealed and past hurts resurface, putting Celine and John back at square one and sending their relatives’ efforts into overdrive.

What I liked: The hero and heroine were both likeable and believable. Their love/hate relationship is well done, and as a result they have great chemistry. Tante Lulu is a gem. The bayou adds a nice dimension; I’ve lived in Louisiana and visited a few bayous, and the author does a great job of conveying the atmosphere. The historical background on Jean Lafitte is interesting and the environmental impact aspect is well done.

What I didn’t like: I found it really hard to keep track of all the characters, but to be fair I probably would not have found them as distracting if I had read any of the related books. I have also never been a fan of the “secret baby” plotline; fortunately the kid is neither alarmingly precocious nor revoltingly precious so I ended up getting past my initial negative reaction and enjoying the story.

Overall: This was fun, if sometimes confusing, and I would read more of Hill’s Cajun stories. If I had it to do over, I would have started with some of the earlier ones, but if you are willing to pay attention, this one works just fine as a stand alone.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

November Romantic Times on the Shelf

The November RT is in, with a cover story on author Sharon Page. Page, known for her erotica, is releasing her first mainstream historical title, The Club, in February. Other features stories include an interview with author M.J. Rose, who discusses her Reincarnationist series, an article on the popularity of romance in graphic novel and comic book format, and a look at the enduring fascination with Jack the Ripper in literature and film. Also included is a guide to YA fiction in various genres. Author spotlights include Lori Handeland, Michele Bardsley, Jonathan Kellerman and others. The monthly Pros on Prose features insight from both an agent and an author, and the Fan Forum features reader columns. And as always, there are 250 book reviews to help you pick your November reading materials.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

On the Book Cart

In keeping with the season, out Paranormal Romance display is set up on the table in the magazine area, and a few new titles are on the cart ready to added to the mix. Lynsay Sands’ The Rogue Hunter has arrived, as have two from Kresley Cole: A Hunger Like No Other, and Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night. Fans of historical romance will recognize a familiar plot in Lisa Kleypas’ Seduce Me At Sunrise: mysterious Gypsy child is taken in by wealthy family, only to grow up and fall in love with the daughter of the house, whose affections are in turn sought by another. Wuthering Heights, anyone? Kleypas’ book looks like a whole lot more fun. Mr. Cavendish, I Presume, Julia Quinn’s follow-up to The Lost Duke of Wyndham, tells us what happened to Thomas and Amelia after the real heir to Wyndham was determined. Contemporary romance is represented by Sandra Hill’s Wild Jinx, a hot and spicy romance set in the bayous of Louisiana. Last but not least, just in time for hockey season, Power Play by Deirdre Martin brings us the latest love story involving the tough guys of the New York Blades.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Truthiness of the Matter

The Lost Duke of Wyndham
By Julia Quinn

Historical Romance

"I would never claim that men and women are interchangeable...but in matters of truthiness, neither sex earns high marks."
She looked at him in surprise. "I don't think truthiness is a word. In fact, I'm quite certain it is not."
"No?"...his eyes postively twinkled as he said, "Well, it should be."

I make no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of Julia Quinn. Before I went on my recent paranormal binge I had worked my way through the entire Bridgerton family, as well as The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever. But after my recent dances with werewolves, I was afraid returning to the drawing room might be a bit too tame. In spite of my initial trepidation, I decided to spend this past rainy weekend with The Lost Duke of Wyndham.

I was not disappointed. Quinn delivers the strong characterization and subtle humor that I have come to expect in her books. In addition, she manages to insert the Colbertian “truthiness” in such a way that it seems quite natural. As far as I am concerned, she combines the best elements of traditional historical romance and drawing room comedy. In The Lost Duke, Quinn takes the “missing heir suddenly returned” storyline and gives it a little bit of twist. Our hero, Jack Audley, was orphaned at birth and raised by his aunt and uncle. After a relatively happy childhood, he goes off to school, which he gets through by the skin of his teeth with the help of his cousin Arthur, goes to University, where he is expelled almost immediately for his bad (though entertaining) behavior, and then joins the military and fights the French for several years. By the time we meet Jack, he has become the Robin Hood of highwaymen, robbing the rich to give to injured soldiers and military widows and orphans. In short, he is the quintessential bad boy with a heart of gold.

Meanwhile, back in Lincolnshire, Miss Grace Eversleigh is also orphaned, but at the age of seventeen. Left penniless, she narrowly escapes being married off to her odious cousin, saved only by the intervention of Augusta Cavendish, the Dowager Duchess of Wyndham, who hires Grace to be her companion. In the best tradition of dowager duchesses everywhere, Augusta is an autocratic, demanding dragon. However, Quinn does imbue her with some degree of humanity. We learn that she has outlived her husband and all of her children, and has at best a strained relationship with her only grandson, the current Duke. In fact, it is the death of her second and favorite son that drives the story. When Jack stops the Wyndham carriage late one night with the intention of robbing it, the Dowager sees in him the image of her dead son. Jack sees a sad and angry old woman with a very beautiful and compelling companion. Curiosity and his fascination with Grace lead him to investigate the Wyndham estate, where he spots Grace and is spotted in return. This little gambit leads to the Dowager deciding to kidnap (!) him in order to better explain his rights and duties as the rightful Duke. This does not sit entirely well with Thomas, the current Duke, who will be displaced if his father’s older brother’s only son is proven to be legitimate. Though the Dowager’s faith in her instincts is unshakeable, she acknowledges that there are those for whom a gut feeling is not enough and who will insist on facts of the sort found in books. Specifically, found in the parish register in Ireland at the church where Jack’s parents were married. And so, the Dowager, the current Duke, the lost Duke, the Dowager’s companion Grace, the current Duke’s betrothed, Amelia, and Amelia’s father all set off to Ireland to find the truth of the matter.

This is an enjoyable romance with a likeable heroine, a suitably flawed and attractive hero, and a nice supporting cast. There are no stock characters – everyone has a secret of some kind and a major stake in the outcome. All is not as it seems among the Wyndham clan, and there is no true good or bad but many shades of gray. The love story between Jack and Grace is wrapped up nicely, but there are a few loose ends with other characters. These will apparently be addressed in the sequel, Mr. Cavendish, I Presume, released this month. Overall, I enjoyed this book and plan to read the next, and would recommend Julia Quinn for any fan of Regency or historical romances.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Really Unusually Bad Book

Really Unusual Bad Boys
By MaryJanice Davidson

I’d say that this is one of the worst books I have ever read, but since I didn’t finish it that wouldn’t be entirely honest. I can say that this is one of the few books I have ever become so impatient with that halfway through I snorted in disgust, rolled my eyes, and pitched it into the depths of my totebag for a quick trip back to the library.

I had expected more. Davidson is the author of the very popular Queen Betsy the Vampire books, a series with many fans. I don’t have the time to commit to a new series right now, so I thought I would start with this book of three linked stories. It seemed like a safe bet: I’ve been on a paranormal roll lately and these stories feature three royal shapeshifting brothers from another world. As if that’s not enough, the heroines are all women from Earth who somehow hiccup through the space time continuum to hook up with their hunky true loves.

The princes are from a desert world called – get this—Sandlands. Inventive, no? It gets worse. The heroine of the first story, Lois, is like Stephanie Plum, only more so. More muscular, more attitudinal, more inclined to swear constantly, and so on. She is so busy being tough and bossy that she never demonstrates any really appealing characteristics. Lois is a one note song and that note is off-key. And it doesn’t get any better from there. I had hoped it would, so I started the second story. Instead of irritated, I got bored. I then skimmed the third and realized there was no hope.

So I gave up. My advice? Skip it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

On the Book Cart

There are a lot of new paperbacks of all varieties on the cart this week, and about half are romances. In addition to our ongoing mission to fill in favorite series and trilogies, we have some new titles in almost every category. In the contemporary realm, we have another hot title from Lora Leigh’s Navy SEAL collection, Hidden Agendas. For a lighter diversion, check out Sleeping with Beauty by Donna Kauffman, a story involving the real life makeover godmothers at Glass Slipper, Inc. Paranormal fans will want to take a look at Nalini Singh’s Hostage to Pleasure, which pits psychics against changelings in an alternative world where a civil war rages between those who have forsworn emotion and their exiled brethren who have not. We revisit the world of the Breeds in Lora Leigh’s Tanner’s Scheme, where the Genetics Council will stop at nothing, even using their own children as pawns, in their quest to destroy the genetically engineered humans they created. Gamblers and courtesans abound in the three historicals on the cart this week. In The Price of Desire by Jo Goodman our heroine has been promised as payment of her brother’s gambling debts. In Louise Allen’s The Shocking Lord Standon, we find a governess impersonating a courtesan to help the hero out of an unwanted engagement, and in Mistress of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle, the tables are turned on a Duke with a scandalous reputation who is stunned a young lady refuses to make an honest man of him after a very public dalliance. And be sure to check out our Paranormal Romance display near the periodicals section this weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On the Book Cart

There are two brand new entries into the paranormal romance category on the car this week: The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox and Jinx by Jennifer Estep. Both look like great romantic comedy capers with a supernatural twist. There is a reissue of Linda Francis Lee’s Sinfully Sexy for contemporary romance fans. If you prefer romantic suspense, pick up Lora Leigh’s two latest Navy SEALs novels: Wild Card and Killer Secrets. Christina Skye’s latest Draycott Abbey story, To Catch A Thief. We’ve filled in a couple of trilogies by ordering the 2007 releases Ice Blue by Anne Stuart and Dead Giveaway by Brenda Novak. Ice Blue revolves around a global chase for a priceless relic, and Dead Giveaway revives a cold case in Mississippi; both promise plenty of romance and adventure.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Weekend Reading: When He Was Bad

When He Was Bad
Miss Congeniality by Shelly Laurenston
Wicked Ways by Cynthia Eden

I had a lot on my “to do” list this weekend, and didn’t get through nearly enough of it.

Frankly, I blame Michele.

Yes, Michele Reilly, everyone’s favorite substitute librarian and FOL President. It’s all her fault, really. It began several months ago when I mentioned that while I read and enjoyed both contemporary and historical romances, I just couldn’t get into paranormals because I was not a huge vampire fan. “Ah, well,” she said, “maybe you should try some of these authors.” Then she scribbled a list of names and sent me trotting off to the spin racks in search of wizards and werewolves and other long-leggedy (and totally buff) beasties. As a former reader of fantasy, science fiction, and anything to do with ghosts, witches and wizards, I found that I really enjoyed the paranormal twist after all.

The next thing you know, I’m planning a “Paranormal Romance” display. I have been dutifully researching new releases and popular series and ordering boxloads of new paperbacks. Some would say this is symptomatic of a problem, but I like to think of it as just being really thorough in my Collection Development duties. In fact, I am so dedicated that I take it one step further and try to read at least one book by every author I order. For instance, last week when I saw that two new anthologies featuring authors I had not yet read had arrived in the library, I briefly considered the mountains of laundry in my bathroom, the list of errands in my agenda, and all the things in the yard that really needed my attention. Then I plucked both titles off of the new book cart and headed out for the weekend, vowing to read very, very quickly.

Am I a good little librarian or what?!?

When I got home I cracked open When He Was Bad, which contains stories by Cynthia Eden and Shelly Laurenston. Both feature shape shifters, with a vampire guest starring as the villain in Eden’s Wicked Ways. Though the stories differ somewhat in tone, neither disappoints.

Wicked Ways is the story of Miranda Shaw, a high school teacher looking forward to a summer vacation of relaxation and recreational dating. In a stroke of really, really bad luck, the antique loving gentleman that Miranda meets through an online dating site turns out to be a vampire. Not just your run of the mill vampire, but one who happens to be a brutal serial killer. Even in the vampire world, such behavior is considered really bad form. Fortunately, Miranda is rescued by her sexy new neighbor, Cain Lawson, who turns out to be a shapeshifter on leave from the FBI. Cain has had a little thing for Miranda since he moved in next door, and can’t believe she has had the poor taste to date a vampire. After chasing off the bad guy, Cain realizes that Miranda had no idea what she was getting involved with; she has no knowledge of the population of Other that inhabits the world right alongside her. So Cain has the unenviable task of explaining to his new love interest that he is actually a jaguar in a man’s body, and that she has now become the target of a psycho killer of the Undead variety. Not the best starting point for any relationship, but the two still manage to join forces to track down the killer and a hot love affair ensues. This is a quick, suspenseful read; a little violent, but not over the top. In spite of the short length, you do get a good sense of the characters and the emotional arc of the story is satisfying.

In Miss Congeniality Shelly Laurenston combines romance, humor and suspense as she tells the story of Dr. Irene Conridge, a brilliant, detached and relentlessly logical scientist. Irene has for many years fascinated Niles Van Holtz, of the local wealthy, influential and shapeshifting Van Holtz clan. Van, as his friends call him, is rich, handsome, and in line to be the next Alpha male of his pack. He can’t figure out why Irene won’t give him the time of day. The happy-go-lucky wolf in formal attire makes a point of chatting her up at every University event. Since the Van Holtz family are generous donors, Irene must be relatively civil to the man she finds arrogant and empty-headed. The former child prodigy is interested only in her experiments. Unfortunately for Irene, the agents of several governments are also interested in her experiments, which leads to a near death experience in the woods just outside town. Van rescues Irene, takes her back to the Van Holtz estate to heal, and a hot, if somewhat antagonistic, love affair ensues. This one is a lot of fun, as the incorrigible Van does everything possible to insinuate himself into Irene’s life, while she fights the attraction because he is disrupting her well ordered existence. The initially chilly Irene is really quite likeable, and Van is a bad boy with a heart of gold. The supporting cast is equally entertaining, making for an all around enjoyable story.

There are more books by both Eden and Laurenston on the shelf and on order. Because I am so virtuous, I will not hoard them in my To Be Read pile. You will be able to find them in the paranormal romance display any day now.
Unless I get through more of my "to do" list at home.
If I do, all bets are off...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On the Book Cart

Only a few new items this week. Debbie Macomber’s Promise, Texas is here, reissued in an easier to read trade paperback size. Author Francis Ray has a new entry in her Grayson Friends series; The Way You Love Me is former Army Ranger Shane Elliott’s story. With Halloween right around the corner, there’s no better time for a little paranormal romance. There are two new anthologies in: When He Was Bad features Miss Congeniality by Shelly Laurenston and Wicked Ways by Cynthia Eden; Everlasting Bad Boys contains stories by Laurenston (Can’t Get Enough) and Eden (Spellbound) as well as Turn Me On by Noelle Mack. I love picking up anthologies; it’s a way to try out a new author without having to commit to a full length novel. I’ve never read any of Laurenston so I am looking forward to sampling her work over the weekend. Will report back with my thoughts next week!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

October Romantic Times on the Shelf

The latest issue of RT landed on my desk and I was happy to see that the cover story is about one of my favorite romantic suspense authors – Cherry Adair. The creator of T-FLAC is back this fall with a new paranormal trilogy; titles will be released in October, November and December. Night Fall, Night Secrets, and Night Shadow feature a trio of wizards whom Adair describes as “foster brothers, of sorts” and are set in the exotic locales the author is known for. Check out her website for the “mission intel” and reserve your copies today.
Also featured is an interview with author Heather Graham, who discusses her new series and how she got started in writing. Other stories include a look at western historicals, which seem to be making a comeback; how the work of a forensic artist inspires a new novel by author Laura Griffin, and a calendar of winter book releases. In addition, you will find the usual fan forum, author clubhouse, and 250 book reviews. There’s a lot to look forward to this fall and winter; stop by the Reference Desk and make your requests!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Weekend Reading Part II: The Dream-Hunter

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series has legions of fans, and I’ve been meaning to read one for awhile now. I was finally inspired by the arrival of Acheron in hardcover; since there was a lengthy waiting list for that I grabbed The Dream-Hunter, a fairly recent release and the only Kenyon on the shelf at the time. I wasn’t really sure what to expect; I had heard something about vampires. I had heard something about demons. I had heard something about Greek mythology. The only thing I heard from pretty much everyone who had read any of the Dark-Hunter books was that they are smart and edgy and often funny. That was good enough for me, so I dove into Dream-Hunter, and found that the book lived up to its billing.

The story revolves around Arikos, a dream god who has become obsessed with Megeara, an archaeologist who is searching for the remains of Atlantis. Arikos and the other dream gods have been cursed with the inability to feel emotions unless they are actively involved in the dreams of a human. Though they can experience pain, the rest of their existence is drab and void of sensation. Megeara, who is straitlaced and focused in her waking life, is a vivid and uninhibited dreamer, and once Arikos finds her, he becomes obsessed with her. He decides that living through her dreams is not enough; he wants to meet her in the flesh, so to speak, and therefore needs to become human for a time. So he decides to make a deal with Hades. The god of the underworld is not above bargaining with lesser immortals, but proves that when dealing with someone who can determine the course of your afterlife, it behooves you to read the fine print. Arikos agrees too readily to Hades’ request for a human soul in exchange for time as a human, and is appalled to find that he will have only two weeks in human form, and at the end of it must return to the underworld with Megeara’s soul, or take her place. Megeara, meanwhile, is close to discovering Atlantis, and will stop at nothing to do so. Unfortunately, there are any number of immortal beings who don’t want the ancient city unearthed, because of a vicious goddess they imprisoned there eons ago. While Arikos tries to ingratiate himself with Megeara and she tries to get to Atlantis in spite of all the odd things that keep getting in her way, the oddest of all being the sexy guy she has previously only seen in her dreams. Throw into the mix a handmaiden of Artemis, Dream-world enforcers, angry demi-gods, and the whole dysfunctional family housed on Olympus, and it’s a wonder Arikos and Megeara manage to not only survive, but fall in love.

There are numerous plot twists and layers in this book, and I’m sure I would have appreciated some of them more if I had read the earlier books. However, Kenyon is so skilled at working in enough detail and back story that I didn’t feel out of the loop in any way. Not all authors can do this well and I am grateful that Kenyon can. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Olympians in modern times – it had an element of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Greek mythology without ever getting campy or ridiculous. In fact, the immortals’ behaviors and mannerisms all made a great deal in sense in light of their history. The entire cast of characters is great, the details of archaeology and history are interesting, and both the romance and the suspense are well done. I’ll definitely be adding the rest of the Dark-Hunter books to the collection, and working them into my “to be read” list.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend Reading Part I

My reading this past week has varied wildly; I’ve hit quite a few subgenres in my quest to read a little something by most of the authors in the collection. This past weekend I not only finished up an older Jayne Castle, I also worked my way through Sherrilyn Kenyon’s The Dream-Hunter and finally got to the last half of Jasmine Haynes The Fortune Hunter. The latter is a contemporary erotic romance and the former is paranormal crossing between modern day Greece and the Kenyon’s well established world of the Dark Hunters.

In The Fortune Hunter Haynes takes a fairly standard storyline and turns it into a very sexy love story. Faith Castle is the only child and heir apparent to Castle Heavy Mining, but the curvaceous kindergarten teacher wants nothing more than to work with children and start a family of her own. Connor Kingston is an up-by-the-bootstraps executive in search of a company to run; having been orphaned as a teenager and emotionally scarred by the foster care system, Connor views marriage as a business arrangement. Now he just has to convince Faith that by getting married, they can each provide the other with exactly what they need to get the life that they want. The insecure Faith is hesitant. After years of fending off men who professed their love for her in order to get their hands on the family company, she appreciates Connor’s honesty. She also finds him very attractive and genuinely likeable, but doesn’t want to be humiliated by a philandering spouse. Connor finds Faith absolutely delicious, and is happy to assure her of complete fidelity as long as she is willing to engage in a no holds barred sex life. The two strike a bargain, and in spite of her father’s protests, they marry. As Faith’s confidence in her own appeal grows, and as Connor learns to trust in her support, what started as a mercenary arrangement becomes a real love story. Though Faith’s father and various other characters try to break up the newlyweds, Connor and Faith manage to stick together and eventually triumph.
This story is much more than a collection of hot sex scenes strung along a tired plotline. The main characters are well drawn and truly likeable; I really felt for Faith as she worked her way through her body image issues and gained confidence. Connor is smart and sexy, and the secondary characters are vivid. The love scenes – and by midway through the book they are truly love scenes – are steamy and explicit, so if you prefer euphemisms and a discreet fade to black this is not your book. Otherwise, it’s a very satisfying twist on a tried and true plot. The follow-up, Show and Tell, is the story of Faith’s friend Trinity; it looks equally good and is also available from the library.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

On the Book Cart

More reissues and replacements this week, with a few notable exceptions. Roxanne St. Claire’s latest Bullet Catchers title is in; Now You Die is the story of Lucy Sharpe, the firm’s owner, and Jack Culver, a former lover and Bullet Catcher that she fired. This is the third in a trilogy that follows the story of a woman wrongly convicted of murder and the hunt for the daughters she gave up. I am looking forward to reading Lucy’s story; I really enjoyed the first book in the trilogy, and while the heroine in the second was so annoying I started rooting for the bad guys, the overarching story line was still compelling.
Out in hardcover are two stories of reevaluating love. Rogue by Danielle Steel tells the story of Maxine, an amicably divorced woman who is all set to remarry when her ex-husband experiences a life altering event. He needs Maxine’s help with a humanitarian project, and proximity forces the two to confront some unsettled issues between them. Cartoonist Sarah Moon sees her “perfect life” go up in smoke in Just Breathe by Susan Wiggs. She returns to her hometown and runs into the high school heart throb that she had never expected to see again, and has to rethink her definition of “perfect.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Quick Looks: Wild & Hexy

Wild & Hexy
by Vicki Lewis Thompson


Annie left Big Knob, Indiana 10 years ago with a big bang - off to a big name college, marrying the high school heartthrob, landing a great TV anchor position at a well known network in Chicago. Now, divorced and 20 pounds overweight (which resulted in her having been let go from her TV job) she’s a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Coming home to act as matron of honor for her sister's wedding couldn't have come at a worse time for Annie’s floundering self-esteem. However, the surprise is that the best man is proving to be way more of a distraction than she could have ever imagined he would be.

Jeremy Dunstan is everyone's favorite geek in the small town of Big Knob, especially since he's just opened an internet coffee house called the Click-or-Treat Cafe. He's had a big time crush on former beauty queen Annie Winston since high school and is thrilled that she's back in town for a couple weeks. However, he's still so shy and clumsy around her that he despairs of ever catching her interest romantically.
Enter Dorcas and Ambrose Lowell, a couple of wacky newcomers who have opened a matchmaking business. What isn't so well known is that they just happen to be a witch and wizard who are in the business of bringing together soul-mates. A little boost in confidence for Jeremy is just what they think is needed to push this romance along - that and maybe a close encounter with a lonely loch monster!!

This one was really fun. Some silly, some serious. I really loved Jeremy but Annie could have used a bit of a goose toward the end. I also thought the dragon with ADD and the poker playing raccoons were just a bit over the top but....ooops, did I give too much away? Hmmmm. Well, this was the second book by Lewis set in Big Knob and I liked it enough to check out the first – Over Hexed. I started it the other night and it promises to be fun as well. If you like romantic comedy with a little paranormal twist, try either of these titles!

Reviewed by Michele

Thursday, August 28, 2008

On the Book Cart

This week’s cart is full of reissues and replacements for some favorite titles that just got too old and tired to stay in the collection. Fans of Nora Roberts will be happy to know that we now have shiny new copies of all the MacGregor books, including the Brides, the Grooms, and all the other family members. There is also a reissue of Irish Hearts, a title we haven’t had in the collection in a while. Those of you who were Debbie Macomber fans before Cedar Cove will be happy to know that we now have new copies of her “Heart of Texas” novels, as well as The Manning Sisters and The Manning Brides. We’ll be replacing old copies and filling in holes in other series as well, so if you can’t find what you are looking for, just ask.

Old Story, New Format

So I was studying the "New Winter Books" calendar in the latest issue of Romantic Times when what to my wondering eyes should appear, right there at the end of December, but Jane Eyre -- The Graphic Novel. Yes indeed, a UK publisher, Classical Comics,has made it their mission to reinvent classic works of literature as graphic novels, preserving the original text and adding some beautiful art. The US release of Jane Eyre, one of the best known gothic romances of all time, is scheduled for December, with Wuthering Heights to follow in Autumn 2009. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the art for Jane Eyre, since the only visual that comes repeatedly to mind is from the 1944 movie version and features Orson Welles in drag....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New publisher site for Romance lovers!

Avon Books, a division of HarperCollins and home to such authors as Stephanie Laurens, Julia Quinn and Victoria Alexander, has recently launched a new website that is both fun and informative. In addition to information about new releases, the site also provides author bios, a news section, interesting tidbits of information about what your favorite Avon authors are doing or reading, contests, and (my favorite) a blog written by the editorial team. You can also sign up for a newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming titles from you favorite authors. So, check out the site and if you come across an author or title you would like us to add to the collection, let us know!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Love those Dust Bunnies!

Jayne Ann Krentz is a prolific author whose work under her two pen names is just as well known as her own. She writes under three names so that when people read a book of hers, they know what type of book they are going to get: she writes contemporary fiction under her own name, historical romance as Amanda Quick and fantasy/sci-fi romance as Jayne Castle. I highly recommend all three styles to any romance reader. She is very quirky and often makes me laugh out loud.

Her Jayne Castle books all take place on the planet of Harmony - a world that was colonized by humans when a vast energy curtain opened between the two planets two hundred years prior to the time of the novels. Unfortunately, the curtain closed as suddenly as it opened, cutting off the route back to Earth and forcing the colonists to make do with the resources at hand. No longer able to replenish supplies from Earth, they were forced into a dark age and had to develop new technologies and social structures to insure survival. They created settlements in the shadow of cities once inhabited by the long vanished alien race that once lived on Harmony. However, in addition to building their civilization, the people themselves started to evolve with a variety of psychic powers. At the time the stories take place, many different types of psychic abilities have been acknowledged and people are tested to see what level of ability they possess. Every so often, a person is found with psychic strength that is off the charts or a talent different enough to make most people uncomfortable. Usually these are the characters we get to know in the books.
Also playing a starring role in the Harmony novels are members of one of the planets native species, a fuzzy little predator the humans call “dust bunnies” because of their resemblance to big blue-eyed balls of dryer lint. The creatures are actually efficient omnivorous predators that form some kind of psychic bond with humans of their own choosing, only displaying their second set of eyes and their sharp little teeth when danger is near. This is pretty handy for their companion humans, who need only keep the bunnies well supplied with human snacks and some bling.
So if you’d like to indulge in a romance set in a wonderfully atmospheric alternative world setting, visit Jayne Castle’s Harmony. Just don’t step on the dust bunnies.
After all, they say by the time you see the teeth – it’s too late...

Dark Light
by Jayne Anne Krentz

Paranormal Romance

The Premise: Crystal City’s Ghost Hunter Guild has a new boss, and tabloid reporter Sierra McIntyre wants to know what he’s going to do about the retired Hunters who have been disappearing off the streets. John Fontana, the new boss, has a bigger problem: someone murdered his predecessor and he’s got a hunch that a lot of high ranking Guild members are into some pretty shady dealings. That leaves him with few in the organization he can truly trust and one very attractive reporter raising the kind of questions that could get her killed. Sierra may write for a tabloid and her editor may have an obsession with the aliens that once inhabited Harmony, but Fontana senses she is on to something big and probably drug related. She has sources on the street that he doesn’t; he has the resources to keep her safe along with some access to inside information from the Guild files. He also finds her tremendously attractive on every level – physical, mental, and psychic. So in spite of the fact that Fontana knows that Sierra considers the Ghost Hunters Guild no better than a bunch of mobsters, he makes her an offer she really can’t refuse: marry him and not only will she get an exclusive on his Guild clean-up, he’ll through his considerable power behind finding out what’s happening to the missing Hunters. Since what he’s offering is not a “til death do you part” deal, but instead a one year legally sanctioned Marriage of Convenience, Sierra takes him up on it. Seems Fontana is not the only one feeling a tug of attraction. Besides, Sierra’s companion dust bunny, Elvis, seems to like the new Guild boss, and everyone knows that dust bunnies are excellent judges of character. Now the honeymooning duo just needs to root out an intra-Guild conspiracy, convince their family and friends that they’re madly in love, figure out who is snatching retired Hunters off the streets, keep Elvis clothed and fed in the style to which he has become accustomed, find out who or what is masquerading as fish-headed aliens, and determine whether the new type of light energy whispered about in the back alleys of the Old City is for real. Piece of cake.

What I liked: Love the dust bunny – that’s a given. I also liked Sierra; she’s the kind of imperfect heroine that really appeals to me. I also got a kick out of Sierra’s alien obsessed editor. I really enjoy the setting as well. I think the author does a great job of creating a world that is fantastic in some ways yet completely believable in others. Castle remains consistent in everything from Harmony’s laws of physics to its social mores.

What I didn’t: I enjoyed the brief glimpses I got of both the main characters’ families, and would have liked to see more of them, but that would have required a much longer book.

Overall: This is fun and a really quick read. There is a nice balance of paranormal, suspense, and humor. If you enjoy the author’s Arcane Society novels (written under the names Amanda Quick and Jayne Ann Krentz) you’ll enjoy Dark Light and the other books set on Harmony.

Reviewed by Macaire and Michele

Friday, August 22, 2008

On the Book Cart

Now that the onslaught of summer paperbacks has ended, we are back to having a manageable quantity of titles on the weekly book cart. This week we have a lot of new releases for August as well as several titles that fill in series we have on hand. If you are a fan of romantic suspense, take a look at Brenda Novak’s Watch Me and Stop Me, from her Last Stand series. Colleen Thompson’s Triple Exposure follows a photographer as she tries to rebuild her life after a being forced to shoot a stalker, and there’s more than one kind of heat in Jo Davis’ Trial by Fire, when a sexy firefighter fights to protest his new flame from a ruthless arsonist. Suspense with a paranormal twist is represented by Samantha Graves’ Out of Time, which pairs a psychic with a tomb raider. Turbulent Sea, the latest in Christine Feehan’s paranormal Drake Sisters series, is on the cart, as is Nightwalker, the first in the Dark Days series by Jocelynn Drake. If you enjoy Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, you might want to check out Cry Wolf, the first in a new series set in the same world. Wanton, the follow up to Noelle Mack’s Wild, catches up with another member of the Pack of Saint James.

Falling into both the historical and paranormal categories is The Trouble with Moonlight by Donna MacMeans, in which the intrepid heroine becomes invisible in the moonlight, a handy trick if you don’t mind scampering around naked, and manage to avoid being snared by a handsome spy. Other historicals include Never Romance a Rake by Liz Carlyle, where the winner of a card game really does take all.
The Outrageous Lady Felsham is a widow in search of a romantic hero in Louise Allen’s tale. Delicious by Sherry Thomas combines both food and romance; Suzanne Enoch’s Before the Scandal provides a swashbuckling highwayman hero, and Paula Quinn’s A Highlander Never Surrenders proves that no matter the current fashion, (men in) kilts never go out of style.

Contemporary titles include two by Linda Francis Lee: Suddenly Sexy and Simply Sexy.
If you enjoyed The Ex-Debutante, you’ll want to take a look at these. Jasmine Haynes Show and Tell and The Fortune Hunter round out the contemporary assortment; her books have been described as “delightfully torrid.” That’s a phrase I’ve never used myself, but going into a lazy summer weekend, I must say it’s starting to sound rather promising....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quick Looks: I'm In No Mood For Love

I’m In No Mood For Love
By Rachel Gibson

Contemporary Romance

The Premise: The day of her friend Lucy’s wedding, Clare Wingate stops home unexpectedly and finds her fiance on the floor of her closet, doing the wild thing with the Maytag repairman. Stunned, she turns and flees, somehow getting through the wedding, dressed in pink from head to toe and wearing her best fake smile. After that it all becomes a blur, right up until she wakes up the next morning in someone else’s hotel room wearing nothing but a (pink) thong. Before she can make her escape Sebastian Vaughn, her childhood crush, emerges from the shower. He’s wearing nothing but a towel and a knowing grin, so Clare naturally presumes the worst. She vows then and there to swear off men until she figures out why she keeps picking the wrong ones. As for Sebastian, he likes his lifestyle as a footloose and fancy free globetrotting journalist, so even though the little girl with the braids and thick glasses has grown up and filled out nicely, he’s not interested. They both know that getting involved with each other in any way is a bad idea, and besides, other than a little chemistry, there’s really nothing there. Right? Right!?!

What I liked: Both Clare and Sebastian are interesting people with careers, families, and the baggage that comes with them. In the course of the book, both have to do a little soul searching in terms of the various relationships they have or have had with different people in their lives. This puts the evolution of their relationship into context, and makes the obstacles the two face very believable. The secondary characters are pretty vivid and enjoyable as well.

What I didn’t like: Can’t complain. I really enjoyed this one from beginning to end.

Overall: This is the second in Gibson’s series of stories featuring four girlfriends, and the second one I’ve read. I have really enjoyed both and intend to read the others. This is a fun contemporary romance with both chemistry and humor.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Countdown to Dark Light

Dark Light, the fifth book in Jayne Castle's Ghost Hunters series is due out on August 26th, but if you just can't wait for a peek check out this video on the author's website.
If the Dust Bunnies under my couch were this cute, I might not mind them so much....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Romantic Times on the Shelf

The September Romantic Times has arrived, with a cover story on L. L. Foster and her new urban fantasy series. Better known to romance fans as Lori Foster, the author of more than eighty books says she wanted to explore darker, edgier themes and so decided to start a series that she had been thinking about for years. The article includes an excerpt from her new book. Other features include an interview with Jasper Fforde, author of the Thursday Next novels, and articles on collaborating couples, fictional football players as heroes, and what your favorite type of romance character says about you. The issue also includes the usual fan forums, series updates, advice from agents and writers, and 250 book reviews.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Engineering the Ultimate Alpha Male

Megan’s Mark
By Lora Leigh

Paranormal Romance

The Premise: In the not too distant future, a secret government experiment is uncovered: the powerful Genetics Council has been working to create the ultimate weapon by combining human and animal DNA. The result? Men and women who appear to be normal, average people, but whose senses and abilities have been enhanced until they rival those of the predatory beasts whose genetic material helped create them. The Breeds, as they are called, were designed to serve as soldiers, bodyguards, assassins, or any other high risk profession in which their creators decided to employ them. They could be used and abused and were ultimately disposable as far as the scientists who created them were concerned. When the secret is revealed, a horrified public condemns the Genetics Council and frees the Breeds. The Council and its supporters go into hiding, and an uneasy truce develops between the general population and the newly liberated and genetically altered beings that some consider human and some consider animals. But this is a fragile balance, and the Breed leaders know that the tide of public opinion could turn against them at any time. Any incident involving a Breed precipitates a thorough investigation by one of their own, so when two Breeds take off without explanation and head for the deserts of New Mexico, Feline Breed Braden Arness is dispatched after them to see what’s going on. Unfortunately, before Braden can get to them, the two are murdered, and the bodies discovered by Sheriff’s Deputy Megan Fields. Megan’s got a few unusual skills of her own; she is a natural Empath, able to sense the emotions of those around her and pick up residual traces of emotion in places people have been recently. Since her skills developed in her late teens, Megan never properly learned to manage them, and facing the extreme emotions of others often proves to be debilitating. Only when teamed up with Braden is Megan able to exercise some control and learn to filter fact from feeling. Fortunate, since someone starts taking shots at Megan the minute she discovers the dead Breeds, and she will need all of her abilities, and Braden’s, to live long enough to unravel the mystery.

What I liked: I really like the premise behind this story. The subjects of genetic engineering and cloning, once confined to the realm of science fiction, are now everyday news. The next logical question, “If it looks human, and acts human, does that make it human?” is one that has been asked in books and movies such as Cyteen and Blade Runner. Though Megan’s Mark and the rest of the Breed novels are essentially romantic suspense stories, the conflict between the Breeds and their supporters and those who believe they are nothing more than dangerous animals is a central plot element. Breed characteristics, both physical and emotional, are well thought out and consistent. The human/Breed conflict, both within and between characters, adds an interesting dimension. All new love affairs are like embarking on a brand new adventure; throw in a little genetic engineering and both the fear and excitement really get ratcheted up. The relationship between Braden and Megan develops pretty realistically within this context: the need for trust is a central issue, the arguments are passionate, and the love scenes are really hot.

What I didn’t like: I found the reason for Megan being targeted weren’t really clear enough; while I am pretty sure I understand why Mark, Aimee, and the bad guys were looking for her, I didn’t really feel that the reason’s were compelling. Granted, I might have lost some of the nuance in all of the action scenes, which came fast and furious and kept me turning pages late into the night. I also found a couple inconsistencies of time and place that I think an editor should have caught, but these are minor.

Overall: This book does a great job of taking one of the classic themes of science fiction and working it effectively into a romantic suspense novel. Though the setting is futuristic and the science takes things beyond what we currently know, the book has a kind of gritty reality to it. This does, however, put it in the category I call “not for the faint of heart.” The violence, the sex, and some of the horrifying experiments performed on the Breeds are all pretty explicit, but this works in the context of the story. I would recommend this for fans of the more “hard-boiled” elements of science fiction, suspense, or erotic romance, but not those who are looking for a light love story.