Tuesday, March 31, 2009

May Romantic Times is on the Shelf

Quite an eclectic assortment of stories in RT this month, and not a lot of them related to traditional romance. There is apparently a new trend in the paranormal area – zombies! Read all about them in one of this month’s feature stories. The cover story is all about author Sylvia Day and her new series. Other features include an introduction to the latest Mr. Romance, Chris Winters, and an interview with famous cover illustrator Jon Paul. Lynn Kurland discusses how her world travels inspire fictional adventures. Other author spotlights include Melissa Marr, Gillian Flynn, Jilliane Hoffman, Jennifer St. Giles and Angie Fox. The monthly features Fan Forum and Pros on Prose continue, and as always there are more than 250 book reviews.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

His Gal Friday

Nothing Personal
By Jaci Burton

The Premise: Ryan McKay stands to lose the family company to his loathsome cousin if he doesn’t fulfill the terms of his grandfather’s will. It seems the old man had an end of life epiphany – he felt he had neglected the importance of family, sent the wrong message to his grandson about same, and felt the only way to straighten things out was to force Ryan to marry and have a child. Ryan looks upon the whole thing as a business transaction – after a year of marriage and the conception of a child, he will divorce and his wife will receive a five million dollar settlement and generous child support. Unfortunately, the woman he’s made a deal with to fulfill his grandfather’s terms reneges at the last minute, leaving him with a deadline measured in hours and no bride. Enter Faith Lewis, who has been his assistant for five years. She is devoted to her job and possibly the frumpiest woman ever. From Ryan’s point of view, this makes her just about perfect. There will be no possibility of emotional entanglement, she’s genuinely nice and has already demonstrated the ability to put up with him, and underneath the bad hair, bad clothes, and awful glasses, is decent looking enough. Unfortunately, Faith has always harbored a little passion for Ryan, and isn’t sure she can hide her real feelings through a fake marriage. She’s also has no confidence in her appeal as a woman, thanks to growing up with a mother who constantly put her down, and is thus still a virgin at the ripe old age of 26. But she just can’t say no to Ryan, so before you can say “I do,” she does – with one caveat. No sex for two months, unless she says it’s ok sooner.

What I liked: Let’s face it – this is a standard plot device in the romance world. My fears were that this would end up being pretty lame. However, the characters are really well drawn and very likeable, and the book is well paced. We don’t get to see a lot of the secondary characters, but the good guys are suitably charming and the bad guys are suitably loathsome.

What I didn’t like: Again, standard plot device. And this is something like the third or fourth book I’ve read in which the insecure-heroine-with-a-heart-of-gold is named Faith. Or Hope. Or something equally virtuous.

Overall: Light, fast, fun. If you are looking for something entertaining you can read in an evening, pick this one up.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Bishop's Widow

Lady Be Bad
By Candice Hern

The Premise: Grace Marlowe was married at seventeen to a famous clergyman thirty years older than she. After eleven years of marriage, Grace knows how to be a dutiful, pious and exemplary Bishop’s wife, but she knows nothing of passion. After the Bishop’s death, she becomes a dutiful, pious and exemplary Bishop’s widow, devoting herself to good works in his memory. And so she might have remained, were it not for the intervention of a few friends, other titled ladies who have lost husbands and style themselves “The Merry Widows.” They vow to avoid marriage, but take lovers so that they may experience romance and passion without sacrificing their independence. Grace is both aghast and fascinated by tales of the other women’s exploits. The Bishop had taught her that women should suppress their passionate impulses; to do otherwise was sinful. Yet she knows her friends are good people, kind and compassionate and as devoted to charitable endeavors as she. She is struggling to reconcile the two viewpoints when she meets John Grayston, Viscount Rochdale.
For his part, John has never met a wager he couldn’t win or a woman he couldn’t seduce. Though his title is inherited, his fortune is one he made – or more accurately won – on his own. Having dealt with the results of more than one love affair gone bad at an early age, John approaches love as a game of seduction, and has built for himself the reputation of notorious libertine. When fellow gambler Lord Sheane bets John that he can come up with a woman impervious to his wiles, John scoffs. Within minutes, both men have wagered the best horse in their respective stables pitting the virtue of Grace Marlowe, the Bishop’s Widow, against the seductive skills of John Grayston, Lord Rochdale the notorious rogue.

What I liked: Both the hero and heroine were likeable characters whose actions made sense in light of their personal histories. Although this is the third book in the series, it’s the first I have read, yet I was still able to follow the story easily; it could have been a stand alone novel.

What I didn’t like: I did not get as great a sense of some of the secondary characters as I would have liked, but this may be due to the fact that several of them have their own books in the Merry Widows series. I also would have liked to see Grace’s stepdaughter get some sort of comeuppance, but then I’m just mean like that…..

Overall: A very enjoyable historical with a lively premise. If you can read the Merry Widows series in order, go ahead, but if not this book is fine as a stand alone.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

2009 RITA nominees announced

The Romance Writers of America have released their list of 2009 RITA Awards. I have scrolled through the list and found we that we do have most of these titles either in the library or in the system and available through interlibrary loan. If you haven't read them yet, take a look and see if you agree with the judges when the wiinners are announced!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On the Book Cart

There are just a few new items for romance lovers on the cart this week. The Devil Who Tamed Her is available on CD; written by Johanna Lindsey and read by Laural Merlington, this historical romance has a “Taming of the Shrew” flavor. Volume One of Debbie Macomber’s Midnight Sons series is out, and contains the short novels Brides for Brothers and The Marriage Risk. You will also find Kristan Higgins contemporary Just One of the Guys, Amanda Ashley’s paranormal Dead Perfect, and JoAnn Ross’s romantic suspense Crossfire. Rounding out the offerings is a the latest Lady Julia Grey novel, Silent on the Moor. This is a cross genre book, heavy on the mystery with a strong romantic element, and a great cast of eccentric characters. I know which one will be coming home with me this weekend!

Monday, March 16, 2009

April Romantic Times on the Shelf

The new RT is here and its very eye catching cover story highlights a new mystery series from author Judi McCoy. Hounding the Pavement introduces us to NYC dogwalker Ellie Engleman, who has the ability to communicate with the animals she walks. All royalties from the first book will go to the Best Friends Animal Society, a grass roots organization dedicated to sheltering “unadoptable” animals. Other feature stories include interviews with Robyn Carr, author of the popular Virgin River series, and Carolyn Hennesy, star of General Hospital and author of a YA series based on the mythical character Pandora. There are also three articles on inspirational fiction and how it crosses over into and affects other genres. Author spotlights include Cecelia Ahern, Catherine Mann and Lorie O’Clare. And as always, there are over 250 book reviews to help you get a jump on your summer beach book list!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On the Book Cart

If you love cowboys, we have a few titles for you on the book cart this week. Rachel and the Hired Gun by Elaine Levine is an historical romance set in the Dakota Territory, and Give Me a Cowboy is an anthology of Western stories featuring work by Jodi Thomas, DeWanna Pace, Linda Broday and Phyliss Miranda. Other historicals include Madeline Hunter’s The Sins of Lord Easterbrook and Monica McCarty’s Highland Warrior. There are two paranormals: Prey by Melina Morel and Carved in Stone by Vickie Taylor. Fans of contemporary romance will want to take a look at the Harlequin anthology Winter Heat , which features stories by Jade Lee, Anna DeStefano and Vicki Lewis Thompson.

If I Won the Lottery....

Let’s be honest: we’ve all had the lottery fantasies. Every time there’s a big jackpot, even those of us who don’t ever buy a ticket start thinking about what we would do with all that money. All these happy thoughts are just that – happy. But what about the downside? What about all those stories about those lucky winners who were bankrupt within a few years, their lives, relationships, and credit scores damaged beyond quick repair? How does it happen? How can so much good luck cause so much grief? Lucy Parker, the heroine of Whitney Gaskell’s novel Good Luck, finds out firsthand just how tricky being a big winner can be.

When we meet Lucy, she is being fired from her job as a private school teacher due to some unfounded allegations by an angry student whose parents are large donors to the school. She goes to her friend Maisie for coffee and sympathy, trying to figure out how she will survive without a paycheck, and the two joke about the large lottery jackpot. Lucy leaves for home and one broken down car and one lottery ticket later, she walks into her house to find her live-in boyfriend in flagrante delicto with a silicone enhanced blonde wearing far too much jewelry and nothing else. In a state of numb disbelief, she decides both of them must go. The next morning she wakes up jobless, boyfriendless, and in possession of a lottery ticket worth $87 million, before taxes.

And then everything is just peachy, right? Well, not exactly. Still reeling from the worst day of her life, Lucy tells no one of her good fortune, hoping to remain anonymous. Unfortunately, she can’t do it for long, and within a week her life becomes a media circus. Lucy finds that her sudden good fortune is bringing out the worst in the people around her, including her family. She goes into hiding with a friend in West Palm Beach, changing her hair, her clothes, and even her name, only to find that living a lie is not an easy task. Her new financial advisor had told her to trust no one; advice Lucy follows selectively, only to find that her own prejudices are coloring her good judgment. The whole experience of sudden vast wealth teaches her a lot not only about the people around her, but about herself as well.

Overall, this book is both interesting and entertaining; it made me think about what my priorities would be if I suddenly won a jackpot, and what the likely reaction of my friends and family would be. The only issue I had was the fact that Lucy really wasn’t much of a fighter, and I didn’t have a lot of respect for her at the beginning of the book. I did get past this as I watched her struggle with her new situation and grew to like her more, but it took a bit of time. The evolution of her relationships with her family, her friends, and the new men in her life is well developed and for the most part believable. If you are looking for a little light romance and an interesting premise, this book is worth picking up.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A little romance – a lot of other stuff

I was looking for a little light viewing material this past weekend, and I found P.S. I Love You on the shelf. I’ve always had a little thing for Gerard Butler, who plays the leading man, so I decided to take it home. I have to say I was in for a bit of a surprise.

This is billed as a romantic comedy, but I wouldn’t really call it that. There is certainly a love story, and there are quite a few laughs, but it is also a bit of a tear jerker. This is the tale of a very young widow named Holly (Hilary Swank) whose husband Jerry’s (Gerard Butler) last gift to her is a series of letters sending her on adventures that pave the way to a new life without him. The letters are delivered at irregular intervals in the year after his death, and they start with a tape recording delivered on her birthday. From there she is sent out dancing with her girlfriends, and as time goes on and the letters keep coming, we follow Holly to a karaoke bar, a career change, and eventually on a trip to Ireland to revisit the place she and Jerry met, and to meet with his parents and receive another letter.
Throughout we watch Holly deal with grief and longing and the pain of watching her friend’s lives move on while she feels both stuck and alone. Eventually, Holly begins to find her way again, with new work, new romantic interests, and new and improved relationships with her friends and her mother.

I have to admit that I wasn’t all that wild about Holly at the beginning of the movie; I thought she was a bit of a brat. But as the story progressed she started to grow on me, as she stumbled forward with her life in fits and starts, dealing with a terrible loss as best she could. The supporting cast, which includes Kathy Bates, Harry Connick Jr., Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lisa Kudrow and several other well known names, rounds out the film wonderfully, adding enjoyable secondary story lines and more comic relief. And really, there’s nothing like a lot of good looking men to perk me up when a sad scene is getting me down! I also found that the soundtrack melded beautifully with the story and contained a wonderful variety or artists and songs. As soon as I can get my hands on a copy, I’ll be taking it home and giving it a listen. Another aspect of the film I really enjoyed was the scenery – both Manhattan and Ireland are wonderfully shot and provide a great sense of place.

Overall, I think this is an enjoyable film as long as you go into it knowing that it is not romantic comedy per se, but more a story of life, love, and loss that has elements many different genres rolled into an attractive package.