Thursday, April 30, 2009

On the Book Cart

There are some interesting items on the new book cart this week. Passion’s Blood, by Cherif Fortin and Lynn Sanders, is an illustrated novella. Billed as a “medival fairy tale” this romantic story is a hardcover with twenty-nine full color illustrations. Publisher Medallion Press is planning more of this type of book; next up is There Be Dragons authored by the well known Heather Graham and illustrated by Fortin and Sanders. I’m taking Passion's Blood home over the weekend and will render my verdict on Monday.
In other news – Nora Roberts’ Vision in White has arrived, as has the latest release from Erin McCarthy, Hard and Fast. Other contemporaries include True Love and Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson and the suspenseful One Deadly Sin by Annie Solomon. The lone paranormal is So Still the Night, a new Shadow Guard novel by Kim Lenox.
There are half a dozen historical titles as well. Sally MacKenzie continues her popular “naked” series with The Naked Baron. Elizabeth Boyle follows up her Confessions of a Little Black Gown with Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress. The Legend of the Four Soldiers series from Elizabeth Hoyt continues with To Beguile a Beast. The latest from Victoria Alexander is The Virgin’s Secret. And for those of you who simply cannot get enough of men in kilts, we have Jennifer Ahsley’s The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie and Karen Ranney’s A Scotsman in Love.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New from Nora

Just when I thought I was only going to be able to get my Nora Roberts classic romance fix by rereading some of her older titles, I found out about a new contemporary quartet in the works! Book One of the Bride Quartet is called Visions in White, and tells the story of wedding photographer Mackensie Elliot. Mac, as she is known to her friends, runs into (literally)the bride-to-be's brother right before an important rehearsal. Carter Maguire is so not Mac's type, but maybe he'll do for a casual affair. Or maybe he really is much more Mac's type than she knows...
This looks like a fun quartet, full of the romance, friendships, and strong secondary characters that Roberts is known for. Visions in White will be here in May, and the second, Bed of Roses, will be released in December.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On the Book Cart

There’s an abundance of riches on the cart this week; all the April romances have come in. In contemporary romance, there are some titles from favorite authors. Linda Lael Miller’s Montana Creeds: Tyler is in, as is Sherryl Woods The Inn at Eagle Point. Leanne Banks is back with Trouble in High Heels, HelenKay Dimon shows us why It’s Hotter in Hawaii, and Lora Leigh brings us another Special Ops bad boy in Maverick. We also have some authors that are new to our collection: Tracy Wolff’s Full Exposure is a sexy, suspenseful romance, as is Penny McCall’s Packing Heat. If you’d like something more lighthearted try LuAnn McLane’s Redneck Cinderella or Julie James’ Practice Makes Perfect. Historicals also include a nice mix of old favorites and newer names. Then Comes Seduction is the second of Mary Balogh’s Huxtable family quintet. Jane Feather’s Cavendish Square trilogy winds up with A Husband’s Wicked Ways. Elizabeth Boyle has my vote for most entertaining choice of title, Confessions of a Little Black Gown. Tempted By His Kiss is the first in the new Byrons of Braebourne series by Tracy Anne Warren. We’ve also got Liz Carlyle’s Tempted All Night, Jo Beverly’s The Secret Wedding, Barbara Metzger’s The Wicked Ways of a True Hero, and Sophia Nash’s Love with the Perfect Scoundrel. Rounding out your choices are Teresa Medeiros’ Some Like It Wild, and Charlotte Mede’s Dangerous Games. There are also three paranormals to choose from: Royal Blood by Rona Sharon, great for fans of Tudor England, Casual Hex by Vicki Lewis Thompson, and the latest Rogue Hunter novel by Lynsay Sands, The Immortal Hunter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Weekend Reading Round Up Part II

Having devoted some time to more traditional historical romance, I next turned to Madame Bliss The Erotic Adventures of a Lady by Charlotte Lovejoy. This is billed as a novel in the tradition of Tom Jones and Fanny Hill. Not a bad place to start, in my opinion, but then I was an English major in college. Anyway, the story traces the steps of the foundling Mary Wren. Abandoned as an infant, Mary is rescued by one Lady Worthy, who brings her home and raises her. Mary becomes a housemaid, and remains a virtuous and hardworking girl until the age of 16, when she is seduced (with very little effort) by John Lyon, a young and handsome gentleman visiting the manor. The two begin a passionate and joyful love affair, which is unfortunately discovered. Both are turned out by their respective patrons, with Johnny being sent off to India and Mary opting to head for London. En route, she encounters a young woman who will take her under her wing and teach her to survive on her beauty and her wits. Miss Calliope Wiles, once an innocent country girl herself, is now the comfortably maintained mistress of the Earl of Rogersme, and knows that an equally comfortable future is available to Mary if she plays her cards right. With Calliope’s help, the newly rechristened Marianna does indeed take London by storm. She is pursued by wicked and fabulously wealthy Lord Blackwood, rescued and kept by the staunch Colonel Goodleigh, and becomes the toast of the town after modeling for Signor Amoroso, whose scandalous paintings are in high demand among gentlemen of means. But through it all, Marianna remains true in her heart, if not her body, to Johnny Lyon, and is rewarded with her very own happily ever after. This is delightful contemporary take on the bawdy novel of past centuries, with a timeless heroine, subtle humor, and a wonderful cast of characters. There are plenty of erotic novels that are little more than a series of sex scenes strung together with a very thin plot; Madame Bliss rises above that and is a very clever and well told story with plenty of steamy scenes that manage to be hot without seeming crass.

The lone contemporary in the line-up is Kristin Higgin’s Too Good to be True. It’s the story of Grace Emerson, a high school history teacher. Grace was dumped by her fiancĂ© four weeks before their wedding. Which is bad. What’s worse is that he eventually started dating her younger sister Natalie. Which is fine, really, since Grace gave them permission to date. After all, there is nothing she wouldn’t do for her baby sister, and she knew in her heart that when Andrew and Natalie met they were both hit with what Grace calls “the big kablammy.” The problem is that over a year since the big break-up, Grace is attending her cousin Kitty’s (third) wedding solo, while Natalie and Andrew are attending together, and everyone is saying “How are you?” to her in tones usually reserved for someone with a terminal illness. So Grace has no choice but to make up a boyfriend. Yep, an imaginary boyfriend, one designed to salvage her pride and make her little sister feel better about dating Andrew. By the time she gets home, the faux boyfriend is fully formed in her mind. While drifting around her house, still a little tipsy, Grace spots a strange man trying to get into the empty house next door. She calls the cops and by they arrive has whacked the supposed intruder in the head with her old field hockey stick. Can true love be far behind? Well, perhaps it’s inevitable, but the road is bumpy and long. There’s the fake boyfriend for one thing, and the ex-boyfriend for another, and of course the neighbor, Callahan O’Shea, has a few skeletons in his closet as well. Grace cannot get past the fact that in many ways he’s just wrong, wrong, wrong, but still entirely hot, hot, hot. What’s a girl to do? Watching Grace and Callahan stumble toward their happy ending is very entertaining. Hannah provides a funny, exasperating and endearing group of secondary characters – most of them related to Grace. She also works in good subplots – Grace’s adventures in online dating are hysterical, and the school politics and her sister’s marital woes ring true. This is not a steamy, chick lit kind of romance, but it is a nice love story with a fair amount of heat that is well paced and has some emotional depth to it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekend Reading Round-Up Part I

Well actually, it’s a couple weekends worth of reading. I went on a little bit of a binge with the historicals, but did manage to sneak in one contemporary. The first of the historical group is also the first in a new series by Mary Balogh. First Comes Marriage is the story of Vanessa Huxtable Dew, a very young widow whose brother Stephen is suddenly elevated to an earldom. She and her two sisters accompany him to the new family seat and try to adjust to their new status as Stephen learns his duties as Earl of Merton under the tutelage of Elliot Wallace, Viscount Lyngate. Vanessa and Elliot are at cross purposes from the get go, particularly on the topic of all the Huxtable sisters taking up residence with their brother. They must be properly introduced to Society, and as a single man he cannot sponsor them. But if he had a wife, she could. And so Elliot and Vanessa end up in a marriage of convenience, sparks continue to fly, and eventually the two fall in love, but not without a few bumps along the way. This is the first of Balogh’s books that I’ve read, and I am really looking forward to the rest of the series about the Huxtable family. The characters, even the secondary ones, were vivid and believable. The pace was excellent – the plot fairly galloped along with a nice couple of subplots thrown in. I will be grabbing the next book, Then Comes Seduction, the minute it arrives.

Another well know author of historical romance that was new to me is Celeste Bradley. I picked up Duke Most Wanted, the third in her Heiress Brides series. Typically I avoid beginning at the end, but this happened to be the one I picked up and I had started it before I realized what I’d done. So I just kept going with it, figuring I could go back and read the other two in order. I knew the overall premise – three cousins are vying to be the first to marry a duke in order to inherit an enormous amount of money left in trust by an eccentric relative. I thought it sounded like fun, but somehow I just couldn’t get into it the way I expected to. I liked the main characters, there was plenty of humor, colorful villains, and a couple of wonderful secondary characters, but I found my mind wandering. Overall, it was okay. I think it was just a little slow, and I might have enjoyed it more if I had read the trilogy in order. I will probably read this author again, but won’t be racing to be the first to get the next new book she puts out.

NEXT POSTING: Two very contemporary heroines, though one is a woman ahead of her time...

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Tudors -- with Vampires

Ok, somehow this reminds me of the old "Two great tastes that taste great together" ad that ran through my childhood. I believe it was for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, still a favorite. Anyway, I suppose it was inevitable. With the success of Philippa Gregory's series of books about Henry VIII and his many wives and various progeny, and the equal success of HBO's "The Tudors" it's hard to find a time period hotter than 16th century England. Now add to this the phenomenally popular literary subgenre "paranormal romance" which seems to have become "all vampires all the time" and it becomes a no-brainer. Yep, that's right -- the Tudor vampire love story. There may be more than one, but right now my eyes are on Rona Sharon's Royal Blood. Not only does it look like a good story, it is has some pretty nifty marketing going for it. Check out the video here. In spite of the fact that I am really much more of an Imperial Rome/Shapeshifter sort of girl, I am going grab Royal Blood the minute it arrives...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

On the Book Cart

There are a lot of new titles from old favorites on the book cart this week. Starting with historicals, Mary Balogh begins a new series with First Comes Marriage, the story of one of the four Huxtable siblings whose fortunes take a turn for the better when brother Stephen unexpectedly gains a title. Robin Schone follows up Scandalous Lovers with Cry for Passion. Sharon Page’s mainstream historical The Club has arrived, as has Samantha James Bride of a Wicked Scotsman. Kate Noble’s Revealed combines a spy story with romance among the ton, while Charlotte Lovejoy’s Madame Bliss is subtitled “The Erotic Adventures of a Lady.” The lone Western is Carolyn Davidson’s Eden. Also set in the West is the contemporary Montana Creeds: Dylan by Linda Lael Miller. Robyn Carr’s Temptation Ridge continues her Virgin River series. There are also two romantic suspense novels: Danger in a Red Dress by Christina Dodd and Seeing Red by Susan Crandall. Three paranormals round out the assortment – New Moon by Rebecca York, The Darkest Kiss by Keri Arthur, and Touch of Evil by C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Romantic Comedy or Turning Point?

PS I Love You
Then She Found Me

In the last few weeks I’ve been taking home movies that are billed as “romantic comedies,” at least based on the blurbs on the DVD covers. The first was PS I Love You which I thought had elements of romance and comedy, but was really more about decisions and changes in the life of the heroine and to a certain extent, her friends and family. The other two are Then She Found Me and Prime.

Then She Found Me is the story of 39 year old schoolteacher April Epner (Helen Hunt), a woman in her late thirties who marries Ben (Matthew Broderick), her longtime boyfriend and fellow art teacher. A year goes by and everything seems peachy, except for the fact that she isn’t pregnant and wants to be, and her adoptive mother is in the hospital. Shortly thereafter, her world is turned upside down when her husband leaves her, stating that he doesn’t want “this life.” He wants to pursue his art, and wants to be friends. No sooner is he out the door than April’s mother dies. With her life in complete turmoil, she meets Frank (Colin Firth) the divorced parent of one of her students. Frank’s wife left him and their two young children to follow her dream, and he is understandably bitter. Though Frank and April are both pretty damaged, they form a connection. Just to make things even more interesting, April is contacted by a woman named Bernice Graves (Bette Midler) who claims to be her biological mother. Bernice is a local cable talk show diva whose story of why she gave April up is constantly changing. As her relationships with the people around her form and dissolve and reform, April is forced to evaluate who she is and who she wants to be in her roles as daughter, wife, and mother.
All in all, this movie has a lot going on it. It has romance and comedy, but is in no way a classic romantic comedy. It is both entertaining and poignant, but it is really the story of April and the choices she makes about her life and her future. Anyone expecting a lot of laughs and a love story is bound to be disappointed, but anyone looking for a well told, well acted story of the kind of choices we all have to make as grown-ups will enjoy Then She Found Me.

This one follows a more traditional romantic comedy story arc, but its use of a very non-traditional couple and the lack of the requisite happy ending keep it from being representative of the genre. The story opens with 37 year old Rafi Gardet (Uma Thurman) telling her therapist Lisa (Meryl Streep) that she has signed the papers finalizing her divorce, and has suddenly started thinking about wanting a baby. After Lisa assures her that this is normal and natural and that she will find a way to move on, Rafi is somewhat consoled. She ventures out to see a movie with friends and meets 23 year old Bryan (David Bloomberg). They flirt, Bryan is smitten, and works up the nerve to call Rafi and ask her out. She says yes, and a good time is had by all. Both know there is an age difference, but not how great an age difference. As the relationship develops, Rafi shares her hopes and fears with Lisa. At the same time, Lisa is busy quizzing her son about the new woman he’s been dating. It takes a while, but she finally figures out that her son is Rafi’s new lover. What follows is essentially a comedy of errors as Lisa wrestles with the ethical considerations of both therapist and mother, and Rafi and Bryan deal with issues confronting a couple dealing with a large gap in life experience and different cultural backgrounds.
Though the characters in Prime don’t face as many life altering circumstances as those in Then She Found Me, they do respond in very realistic ways to the situations in which they find themselves. There are some very funny scenes, and the ending is much more realistic than in the typical romantic comedy. The fact that there is not a stereotypical happy ending pretty much boots this into a different genre entirely as far as I am concerned, but it didn’t make the movie any less enjoyable or worthwhile, just a little more reality based than I had expected. Overall, I would still recommend it to anyone looking for something light and entertaining.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

On the Book Cart

Jude Deveraux’s latest hardcover release, Lavender Morning, has arrived; it looks like a nice combination of romance, mystery and self-discovery set in the South. Pursuit, by Karen Robards, is a fast paced romantic suspense novel of political conspiracy. Smooth Talking Stranger is a contemporary from Lisa Kleypas that continues the saga of the Travis family. Tracie Pearson’s inspirational Brides of Gallatin county series moves forward with A Love to Last Forever. New paperbacks include Paradise Valley, a Virgin River novel by Robyn Carr; Mischief 24/7, the last of the Sunshine Sisters trilogy by Kasey Michaels, and one historical: The Pirate Bride, by Shannon Drake.