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.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Modern Damsels in Distress

Rescue Me is a romantic suspense anthology featuring stories by Cherry Adair, Lora Leigh, and Cindy Gerard. There’s a little something for everyone here, with our heroines – a doctor, a computer whiz, and an Assistant District Attorney – being saved from a dire fate by a T-FLAC anti-terrorism operative, a Navy SEAL, and police detective respectively. There is a nice variety of settings and situations here; though all the plots revolve around a rescue scenario you don’t feel that you are reading the same story ever and over. The couples vary in age and life experience, and the fact that each writer creates vividly drawn characters in about a hundred pages is a testament to their skill. The length limitation means that secondary characters are few and far between, and the action needs to be compressed, but in spite of that each story still works. I think of this as “romantic suspense lite” – not a lot of time for bodies to really pile up, but enough action and enough romance for a fast satisfying read. This is a great way to sample the work of an author you are unfamiliar with before committing to a full length novel, or to get a quick fix of a current favorite. As a result of reading Rescue Me, I’ll be adding some titles from both Lora Leigh and Cindy Gerard. Look for them in the Romance collection next month!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Quick Looks: Hot Property

Hot Property
By Carly Phillips

Contemporary Romance

The Premise: Amy Stone flees her Florida home when a friend offers her a job as a publicist at the Hot Zone, one of New York’s premier PR agencies. Amy’s outlandish and attention seeking mother and aunt have made Amy’s life crazy, so she figures NYC is the perfect place to both blend in with the crowd and try something new. Unfortunately, her first big assignment is John Roper, a major league baseball player with a family as crazy and needy as her own. Roper had a rough season – his game was off and the press has made him the scapegoat for the team’s loss in the World Series. With a lingering shoulder injury and the relentless hounding of one of NY sports talk radio’s biggest names, Roper is having a hard time keeping his focus on rehabilitating and getting his head back in the game before spring training starts. Amy has to force Roper to take the tough love approach to his movie star mother, ne’er-do-well brother, and soon to be married baby sister. The sexy baseball player fights her on the plan to manage his family, but doesn’t try to fight the attraction he feels for her. Amy, on the other hand, is happy to deal with his family, but not to deal with her feelings for him. After all, dating a celebrity is no way to stay out of the spotlight. A little soul searching is called for on both sides if there is to be a happily ever after by the time spring training starts.

What I liked: Both the hero and heroine are likeable people, and their crazy families provide both entertainment and a reason to give them out sympathy. Seeing the flip side of celebrity is a nice change, given that it is usually shown in a much more glamorous light. Though there is a large cast of secondary characters none of them get shortchanged; they all come through loud and clear as individuals and not just stock characters.

What I didn’t like: I would have liked to see a little more about Roper’s mother Cassandra’s romance with her old friend, as it added another dimension to the story and a nice, realistic one at that. I also found the main characters a little too introspective at times; I get impatient with people agonizing over every element of a relationship.

Overall: A lot of fun; a fast read, upbeat, and with enough sizzle and humor to keep you turning pages.