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 fiancé. 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 clichéd 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!