Archives for: August 2010
Barely a Lady by Eileen Dreyer
May's Review: Our spunky English heroine, Olivia, finds herself in the midst of Napoleon battlefields and is forced to rescue her ex-husband, Jack, who years earlier, had divorced her and left her penniless. Unfortunately, Jack has amnesia and doesn't remember the past few years and thinks he is still married to Olivia. To make matters worse, he is found wearing a French uniform. Is he a traitor?
To be perfectly blunt, I found this romance so-so. In some ways, it was barely a romance for me. The main problem is that the author spends quite more time developing Olivia's character to the point where she is a martyr-like figure. Meanwhile, Jack for the most part is largely portrayed as a "jerk" who is easily manipulated into thinking the worst of Olivia. Their romance is told through brief flashbacks that seem forced and does not help to explain their love other than the usual strong physical attraction to one another. I just could not care one way or another if these two got together again. Frankly, I think it would have made a much more interesting romance novel if the author had introduced a new love interest for Olivia instead of re-introducing her ex-husband. Still, this book sets up a more intriguing couple for the sequel which I hope will be more "romantic" than this title.
Some New Paperback Titles
Operation Prince Charming by Phyllis Bourne
Summary: With his fiancée out hunting bigger game, Detective Hunter Coleman realizes that good manners are no match for basic instincts, and he’s got all the charm he needs to win the woman he really loves.
White Tigress by Jade Lee
Summary: Englishwoman Lydia Smith sailed to the Orient seeking her fiancé. She found treachery. In seedy Shanghai, she was drugged, sold, made a slave—to a dark-eyed dragon of a man. But while her captor purchased her body, was that what he sought? He demanded not her virginity but her Yin—the essence of her ecstasy—and there seemed no choice but consent. What harm, Lydia wondered, was there in allowing him to pleasure her, to teach her, until she could flee? It was the danger—and reward—of taking the first step on a journey to heaven, and her feet were already on the path to becoming a radiant and joyous White Tigress.
Wolf Runner by Constance O'Banyon
Summary: Wolf Runner has always had a mystical connection with his namesakes, but even they won't be able to help him when he loses his heart to an impossibly beautiful and troublesome senorita.
Home Again by Mariah Stewart
Summary: Dallas MacGregor is living the Hollywood dream. At thirtysomething, she’s an award-winning actress beloved by the public and bound for even bigger success. But when her soon-to-be-ex-husband, producer Emilio Baird, is caught in a sex scandal, Dallas’s charmed life turns tabloid nightmare. Determined to shield her young son, Cody, from the ugly uproar, Dallas seeks refuge in sleepy St. Dennis, Maryland—the Chesapeake Bay town where her happiest childhood days were spent. Reunited with her boisterous great-aunt, Dallas wants nothing more than to leave her Hollywood days behind. And when she crosses paths with local veterinarian Grant Wyler, her high school summer love, she finds he’s everything she remembers, and more—and that the spark is still there.
The Penalty Box by Deirdre Martin
Linda's Review: This book is much more serious than the others of her New York Blades series, but I think it’s one of my favourites. This book’s hockey hero, Paul, is no longer an active player. Forced to retire after one too many concussions, he returns to his home town and takes over the local bar, which becomes a shrine to his career. Much of his time is spent reminiscing with fans and signing autographs. But how long can this go on?
Enter the heroine: Convinced by her mother to attend a class reunion, Katie is the ugly duckling grown into a swan – the chubby nerd, butt of everyone’s jokes, including Paul’s, now reshaped (literally) and with a successful academic career. She’s spending a sabbatical year in her mother’s home to write a book.
There are other complications, too. While Katie’s sister is in rehab, trying to deal with her addictions, her young son is living with his aunt and grandmother. He, of course, is thrilled with the developing relationship of his aunt and his hero.
This book has a lot more going on than Martin’s other hockey romances . Along with the hot sex and rink scenes it considers how a man rebuilds his life after he has lost the thing which gave him his identity. And who is best able to raise a boy – the mother who claims to love him, but to whom he’s often a nuisance, or the grandmother who doesn’t really understand the struggles of this child?
There are plenty of light moments, however, as Katie reconnects with some of her high school tormentors and sees them somewhat differently, particularly Dennis, who’s now Denise.
Even the ending isn’t quite the happily-ever-after we’d expect, though I’m sure we can predict a future together for Paul and Katie. If you want a book with a bit more substance, but still a definite “romance”, this may be the one for you.
Review: Morning Comes Softly by Debbie Macomber
Morning Comes Softly by Debbie Macomber
"She was wearing a pale lavender dress, and the soft color enhanced her features, which were--he hated to say it--ordinary. She seemed a tad pale, until he realized she wasn't wearing makeup. Not even a little blush or lip gloss. Her glasses were the huge horn-rimmed variety that took up nearly all of her face. Her classic navy blue coat was unbuttoned, and she wore sensible black shoes."
Well, geez, could the woman be, oh, I don't know, a LIBRARIAN, perhaps? Why May, you know the stereotypical description of a librarian!
Shy and petite children librarian Mary Warner from Louisiana is lonely and decides to answer a personal ad. Basically too cheap to pay for a housekeeper, Montana rancher Travis Thompson needs to find a wife to help him clean and raise his three orphaned nephews and niece. Quicker than you can look up the state capitals of Louisiana and Montana which by the way are Baton Rouge and Helena, Mary accepts Travis' offer and moves to Montana without meeting him or the children. Acknowledging their relationship is a "marriage of convenience", Mary and Travis spend most of their time either arguing with one another or consoling/disciplining the kids. Yet somehow, these two manage to find time to fall in love with one another. It certainly helps when Travis begins to realize how beautiful Mary is both on the inside and on the outside and to let go of his anger at the driver that accidentally killed the kids' parents.
Not a bad romance novel. Everything is neatly wrapped up or swept under the rug, especially since there is no in-depth exploration about Mary's and Travis' evolving relationship. Besides the growing physical attraction, these two characters really don't seem to have any common interests besides wanting to do what's best for the kids. Luckily, the story wraps up before wondering if these two crazy kids are going to make it. Anyway, Macomber fans will probably enjoy one of her older titles. As for me, this was a decent entry in the category "featuring a librarian".
JC's Review: A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh is the fifth book in the Huxtables series, so if you haven’t read any before, start with First Comes Marriage. In A Secret Affair we get to find out about all the secrets that Balogh has hinted at in the previous books as the story follows Constantine, the cousin who missed out on the Huxtable inheritance by being born two days before his parents’ marriage.
In my opinion, all of the books in this series are good, but the first and last are the best. Constantine is an interesting hero, and his love interest, the Duchess of Dunbarton is fascinating. This book looks at image versus identity, rumour versus reality, and the two main characters have to come to terms with the public personas that they play and the vulnerability that comes with letting another person in on their personal secrets.
One thing I love about Mary Balogh is that she excels at character development. I grow very tired of romance novels that make ridiculous generalizations about characters and expect the reader to just accept them as character development. I have set aside so many romance novels where the hero notices something about the colour of the heroine’s dress or the way she holds her spoon, and essentially says "this means she is independent" or some other character trait. Balogh would never insult her reader this way, and instead lets the personalities of her characters slowly unfold and even evolve. So, if you are looking for quality writing and intriguing storylines, Mary Balogh is the writer for you.
Review: Hot Ticket by Deirdre Martin et al
Hot Ticket by Deirdre Martin et al
Linda's Review: This book puts to rest the discussion, if there ever was one, about which sports are most suited to romance. There’s no doubt (but we already knew this) that it’s hockey.
This volume contains a quartet of sports-related romances, with very little sporting content. Martin’s contribution is a story called “Same Rink Next Year”, in which the concierge of a Chicago hotel hooks up with a Buffalo-based NHL player when his team makes its annual trip to the Windy City.
Not surprisingly, both characters, she from Nebraska and he from Saskatchewan (yes!), discover that their relationship needs to move beyond the one-night-stand. His being storm-stayed due to a blizzard is all it takes for them to move forward. I don’t need to tell you how it ends. Maybe it’s blizzard, maybe it’s because he’s from around here, but this was definitely my favourite of the four.
Two of the other stories revolved around baseball players and one was pretty good, “Lucky Charm” by Julia London. This involved a talk-radio sports announcer and a sometimes-slumping member of the New York Mets. It was cute and actually had the most sports content of any of the four stories.
The other baseball story, ”You Can’t Steal First” by Annette Blair, was a bit of a bust. No sports content at all, except for the fact that the male lead is a ball player and not much to recommend it aside from a couple of brief sex scenes.
The fourth story, “Can’t Catch This” by Geri Buckley, involved arena football, and that only peripherally, but it had the most appealing characters after the Martin hockey story, a wealthy cousin of the football quarterback, a red-haired heroine and a precocious nephew.
I had originally intended to only read the Martin story, but breezed though the others just because they were there. If you have some time to kill waiting for an appointment or while riding the bus home, you might want to check this out. Otherwise, save your time for the full-length Martin books – there are quite a few!
Romance Writers of America® (RWA) handed out the RITA awards, which honors the best romance fiction published in 2009, last weekend. As our readers are well aware, we have been highlighting the nominees in each of the major categories.
Congratulations and without any further adieu, here are the winners:
BEST CONTEMPORARY SERIES
A Not-So-Perfect Past by Beth Andrews
Summary: Nina Carlson knows all about Dillon Ward. Knows he served time in prison. Knows nobody put out the welcome mat when he moved to Serenity Springs. But that doesn't stop her from renting him a place to live. And when someone crashes into her bakery, he's just the man to fix the damage. And Nina isn't the only one who thinks Dillon's the perfect man for the job: her two kids have taken a shine to him. Still, she can't afford to get close to Dillon, even if he is tempting her to toss out her good-girl shoes. Because it's not that she doesn't trust him. It's that she doesn't trust herself.
BEST CONTEMPORARY SUSPENSE/ADVENTURE SERIES ROMANCE
The Soldier's Secret Daughter by Cindy Dees
Summary: Dashing spy Jagger Holtz lived in a world of danger. Not even a sweet brown-eyed siren alone on New Year's Eve could be trusted, especially when he had to bring down her employer. Somehow Emily Grainger broke through his defenses—and set him up for two years of torturous captivity. Or so he thought. Emily hadn't expected a cryptic message to lead her to rescue the man who'd disappeared after their night of passion. Nor had she known that he'd been held prisoner all that time and believed that she was responsible. Despite the suspicion, they must work together to stop the threat against them…and protect their precious daughter.
BEST FIRST BOOK
One Scream Away by Kate Brady
Summary: Killer Chevy Bankes is a master of disguise, and just paroled, he's coming after the woman who sent him to jail, the beautiful antiques expert Beth Denison. A set of antique dolls brings Beth into his sight, and inspire Chevy's disturbing crimes as he draws closer to Beth and her young daughter. Neil Sheridan gave up his FBI shield five years ago, but his best friend Rick, a cop, pulls him in as a consultant on a case involving a serial killer who is eerily similar to a murderer Neil encountered in the past. The investigation leads Neil to Beth's doorstep, and he is certain she isn't telling him the truth.
BEST HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
Summary: Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon—to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith’s. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn't possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India? Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won’t rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister—and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them—or their rekindling passion?
BEST INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE
The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander
Summary: Determined to tame her younger brother's rebellious streak, McKenna Ashford accepts her cousin's invitation to move west and to begin again. But she quickly discovers that life in Copper Creek, Colorado is far from what she expected. U.S. Marshal Wyatt Caradon is dedicated to bringing fugitives to justice, yet years of living on the trail have taken their toll. When his path intersects with that of McKenna, he comes face-to-face with a past he never wanted to relive--and the one woman who can help him find the future he's been longing for.
BEST NOVEL WITH STRONG ROMANTIC ELEMENTS
The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal
Summary: It’s the opportunity Elena Alvarez has been waiting for–the challenge of running her own kitchen in a world-class restaurant. Haunted by an accident of which she was the lone survivor, Elena knows better than anyone how to survive the odds. With her faithful dog, Alvin, and her grandmother’s recipes, Elena arrives in Colorado to find a restaurant in as desperate need of a fresh start as she is–and a man whose passionate approach to food and life rivals her own. Owner Julian Liswood is a name many people know but a man few do. He’s come to Aspen with a troubled teenage daughter and a dream of the kind of stability and love only a family can provide. But for Elena, old ghosts don’t die quietly, yet a chance to find happiness at last is worth the risk.
BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole
Summary: Sabine, Sorceress of Illusions: the evil beauty who surrenders her body, but not her heart. Rydstrom Woede: the ruthless warrior who vows to keep her at all costs. With each smoldering encounter, their shared hunger only increases. If they can defeat the sinister enemy that stands between them, will Sabine make the ultimate sacrifice for her demon? Or will the proud king lay down his crown and arms to save his sorceress?
BEST REGENCY HISTORICAL ROMANCE
What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
Summary: When Olivia Bevelstoke is told that her new neighbor may have killed his fiancee, she doesn't believe it for a second, but, still, how can she help spying on him, just to be sure? Sir Harry Valentine works for the boring branch of the War Office, translating documents vital to national security. He's not a spy, but he's had all the training, and when a gorgeous blonde begins to watch him from her window, he is instantly suspicious. But just when he decides that she's nothing more than an annoyingly nosy debutante, he discovers that she might be engaged to a foreign prince, who might be plotting against England. And when Harry is roped into spying on Olivia, he discovers that he might be falling for her himself.
BEST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Whisper of Warning by Laura Griffin
Summary: When Courtney Glass finds herself at the heart of a brutal murder plot, she has two choices: run, or trust the detective in charge to discover the truth. But when their attraction gets the better of them, has she found the perfect man, or enabled the perfect crime?
BEST YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Summary: When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.
May's Reviews: Okay, well now that I have grabbed your full attention, I have been steadily tracking down and reading as many romance novels that features a librarian. Hey, I would read hockey romances but I figure Linda doesn't need the added competition!
Anyway, here are two books that I have read most recently:
I Still Do by Christie Ridgeway
Shy librarian Emily Garner needs to live a little and takes a massive plunge when she attends a librarian conference in Las Vegas, meets up with childhood crush Will Dailey, gets drunk and then finds herself married to the aforementioned guy! Unlike Brittany Spears who managed to get an annulment within 48 hours, our couple here decide to play a wait and see game especially since Emily ends up living in the same town as Will and she is "torn" about whether or not she wants the annulment. After all, it's not everyday a librarian can say she is married to a sexy fireman!
A quick fluffy read with the usual romantic elements that can be expected in this type of novel--meddlesome siblings, the ever-present flu that prompts one of them to take care of the the other for a weekend and forces them to realize that he/she likes the responsibility, and the usual misunderstanding about one's intentions (e.g. is he or is he not a player?). Recommend you read this while sitting outside and drinking a nice tall glass of cold ice tea.
Mad, Bad, and Blonde by Cathie Linz
Hmm...Librarian Faith West is jilted by her fiance at the altar. Humiliated but deciding she needs to live a little as well, she takes off on her Italian honeymoon alone. While there, she meets up with mysterious and sexy private investigator, Caine Hunter, who has a secret agenda of his own--to bring down Faith's father who he blames for driving his father to suicide. Betrayed and angry, Faith gets a total makeover, quits her job as a children' s librarian, and goes to work for her father's detective company to prove her father's innocence. Unfortunately, circumstances keep throwing Faith and Cain together. Will they or won't they?
Unlike Emily who is described as shy, Faith is anything but. She is feisty, smart, highly resourceful and inquisitive. This is a woman who has been trained by her father to think on her feet and take immediate action when needed, especially when she realizes that Caine is following her and she needs to plot her escape. A total blast, especially for us librarians who don't mind poking fun at ourselves especially when Faith talks about book cart drill marches (note: to see what I'm talking about, check out the 2010 ALA Book Cart Drill Team Winner)! This is a cute novel that can be read be read outside as well but I think it's good enough to be read on that rainy afternoon when all of the laundry is done, the dishes have mysterious washed themselves and you are tired of watching the The Real Housewives of Orange County marathon on TV.