TBR Challenge – Modern Love

returntotomorrow When I saw that this month’s TBR Challenge category called on us to read a contemporary romance, I found almost an embarrassment of choices. Did I want to go mainstream or inspy? Small town or big city? Something serious or more chick lit in tone? In the end, the setting drew me into Return to Tomorrow, a 2010 re-release of a 1990 title.

The premise of this novel is definitely not run of the mill. The characters were all shaped by their experiences in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and even 20+ years on, the author shows how the war affected them. Rachel McKendrick spent years in a prison camp in Laos, and not surprisingly, has a lot of emotional issues to work through. After her rescue, she never intended to return to the region but a promise made to a priest she respected deeply brings her to a refugee camp.

There she meets Brett “Tiger” Jackson, a man with a dangerous reputation. Tiger fought in the war and has stayed behind working a variety of shadowy jobs and living among a trusted group of expats who, like him, never could quite return home after the war. Rachel’s brother back home knew and trusted him, but on the ground in Thailand, he has a reputation as a dangerous drug smuggler. There is obviously more to him than meets the eye, but readers are only slightly ahead of Rachel in learning this. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: Top Ten 2013 Romance Listens

FFTS and MM -final coversAlthough we’re seeing the audio romance section over at Audible brimming with unknown authors and narrators these days, it’s an indication that romance audiobooks are more popular than ever and the number of quality titles is on the rise as well. 2013 offered the best selection yet of highly entertaining, exceptionally written and performed audiobooks. My Top Ten List could easily number twenty-five.

When choosing the year’s Top Ten romance titles, it goes without saying that the author’s writing and the narrator’s performance are the most influential factors. With the proliferation of home studios, production plays a bigger role each year as those who take the time to give us a seamless listen without awkward corrections, noisy intakes of breath, or poor sound quality deserve recognition as well. And although all of these elements were taken into consideration when making my selections, there’s another dynamic that sometimes comes into play and overrides all the others – it’s that sense of being swept away – a gut feel that tells me “This was a perfect listen for me.”  Here’s hoping that my Top Ten Listens will provide you with the same. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Haley’s Picks

texasdestiny When I sat down to put this list together, I thought this would really be a piece of cake. Well, I was wrong. It turns out, I had more like a top twentysomething list and narrowing it down was not all that easy. Another thing I noticed is that so many of the books represented were some of the very first I ever read. My love of the romance genre began when I was a pre-teen and started pilfering books off my mother’s bookshelf. I knew she wouldn’t be happy with me reading them because I was so young, so I hid them under my bed or in the window seat. I got caught once while reading a book I loved, but now I can’t remember the title, and was told I was forbidden to read the romances. That didn’t stop me. I only grew more and more sneaky. I made sure to only take one book at a time and to shift the other books around to hide the missing one. I wonder now if the forbidden fruit aspect fueled my love of those books. I’ve made an effort as an adult to track down the books I read then and make sure they still appeal to me. Some have help up, and others not so much.

Had I not trimmed this list down significantly, there would be many, many more Westerns represented. That is because all my mother reads are Western romances, with the occasional other historical if it is by an author who also writes Westerns,and I’ve ended up loving those Westerns, too. I also noticed that I enjoy more unusual heroes, not just the alpha male you typically see. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Mary’s Picks

There is absolutely no possible way that I can trim my favorite romance novels down to ten. Therefore, I am going to take a page from other reviewers’ entries and exempt those written in the 19th century (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell). I am also going to state that Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is a given, but because the story continues and the end has not yet been written, it will be excluded from my top 10 list. I am also going to exclude A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught, because Jenna included it her list and I would not want to be redundant. So…in no particular order and with the caveat that I could exchange some books on this list at any time, here is my qualified Top 10 list: Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: Historical Romance Audio News

It looks like 2013 will be one of the best years yet for historical romance listening with many popular print books finally scheduled for audio release.

Julie Garwood
It starts this month with the release of Julie Garwood’s The Secret, a book that has made every AAR Top 100 Romances Poll since it started in 1998. It’s classic Julie Garwood and one many recall from their early days of romance reading with its original 1992 publication date. And it is being narrated by one of my favorites for historical romance – Susan Duerden.

Brilliance has scheduled the majority of Garwood’s backlist (that is not already in audio format) for release in 2013. A month ago, we saw the release of Prince Charming (Rosalyn Landor) with projected release dates for: Continue reading

Cheating Hearts

There are few deal-breakers as universal as infidelity. Most readers avoid any mention of it like the plague, and very few authors can – or even try to– pull off a believable HEA when one of the protagonists cheats on the other. But what if the hero and heroine cheat together?

I recently read Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins, in which the hero and heroine sleep together despite the fact that they are both seeing other people. Obviously they both eventually break up with those other people and they end up together (it is a romance novel, after all) but not before they each return to their significant others and try to work things out. Continue reading

Redeeming Bad Boys – Does it Really Work?

perrybrand I’d be wary if one of my friends started dating a guy with a shady rep. Yeah, everyone deserves a second chance, but that doesn’t mean I want to test that myself, or have one of my friends be the ones to see if a jerk has reformed. At the same time, I love redemption stories. I think seeing a dark character get turned around by love is one of the best characterizations and plots an author can create (at least when it’s done right). This is why The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt is one of my favorite novels: the quiet and non-violent Lucy wins over the dark and revenge-focused Simon. It’s a story that will always be at the top of my list, even if in real life I would probably have warned Lucy away from him.

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Do You Believe in the Slump Buster?

48826434As part of the  ongoing discussion about reading or really the lack thereof, I must admit that I’ve been in a major reading slump for the last few months.  Obviously, I’m not the only one.  Recently Sandy wrote an post on The Reading Slum That Will Not Die in which she blames a book for her lack of reading interest.  Jean followed Sandy’s piece with her own where she discussed A Solution to the Reading Slump, which involved taking a break from reading to end a slump.   Now, I’d like to throw out there the idea of a slump buster – a book so good that it in and of itself will bring you out of a slump.   At first, I thought such a thing didn’t exist, but now I know and I believe.

My slump was caused by what seemed like both an inundation of mediocre books, as well as upheaval in my personal life that left me with little time to read and when I get out of a habit, it’s incredibly hard to get going again.  I can’t say I didn’t read, because I did, but I lost the desire.  I read a couple of books that were good, not great, and certainly not inspiring and I just wanted….no, needed…. a book that would make me fall back in love with romance.  In other words, I needed a true slump buster.

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Books with Buzz: To Beguile a Beast ARC Giveaway and Interview (Contest Now Closed)

Over the past few years those of us who love historical romance have been given a few reasons to celebrate.  Elizabeth Hoyt is certainly one of them.

She writes smart.  She writes sexy.  And she writes books that engage the emotions of readers on almost every level.

With her new release set for April 28, she was kind enough to take the time to answer a few quick questions.  And, to make a great thing even better, her publisher donated two ARCs (which are tough to come by these days) of To Beguile a Beast to give away to two lucky AAR readers. All you have to do to enter for your chance to win is to post in the comments section of this blog by 11:59 pm eastern time on Thursday, April 9th.  (Please note: This contest is designed to put ARCs in the hands of readers who might not otherwise have access to them.  So,  if you review or write for another blog or site, please do not enter the contest.  Obviously, we can’t police the entries, so we ask you to use the honor system.)

Hope you enjoy the brief interview and that you’re as buzzed as I am about the new book. (BTW, the author promised to stop by to check out the comments.)

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