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.