AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Lea’s Picks

keeperofthedream As I’m sure a number of other AAR reviewers discovered when choosing their Top Ten Favorite romance books, it’s not an easy task. I whittled my list down to twenty and realized some of my absolute favorites still had to be marked off the list. I wondered, should I include those ultimate favorites from ten years ago when I was most passionate about the romance genre? Or, now that my tastes have evolved, should I choose newer discoveries that more closely match my tastes today? And since I listen to so many audiobooks, how could I keep those with excellent audio deliveries from influencing my choice of print books? Not easy. But then I realized just how much my Top Ten audiobooks list would differ from those books available in print format only and decided to not mix the two. I’ll save my list of top audiobooks for a Speaking of Audiobooks column.

As I reduced the list to only ten books, I decided to include a number of romances that were A+ reads years ago and a number that are my first choices today. After painfully marking a good number of extremely good, completely satisfying reads off the list, here are my Top Ten Favorites in no particular order. 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

What’s Your Favorite Type of Cover?

As long as I have read romance novels, I’ve been interested in their covers. They are bright and often lurid and embarrassing. Who wants to sit on a bus, or at a coffee shop, reading a book with the characters practically having sex on the cover? The marketing strategy is something I find fascinating and counter-intuitive, but it obviously works. A lot of casual readers do not know much about many authors or sub-genres or trends within the industry. They just pick up what looks interesting in the grocery store aisle.

In looking at many, many covers, I’ve found that many of them have similar characteristics, and similar styles. While there are, of course, exceptions, most cover styles fall into one of five categories: The Cute Animal, The Cute Couple, The Faceless Couple, The Solo Star, and the Sexy/”Clinch” Cover.
Continue reading

More Than I Bargained For – When Books Come With a Message

messages There are a few published authors who have a reputation for being passionate about a particular political or social topic. Most readers know this up front and share these authors’ views. But what about those individuals who unsuspectingly buy a book and find themselves getting a dissertation on our corrupt politicians, or how the lack of progress in going green is hurting the country. When does the author’s belief system interfere with your enjoyment of a book?

Frankly, I can tolerate social commentary over political. For the most part, I don’t run into it in most of the books I read and when I do, it’s usually not a problem, but politics can be more problematic. I recently read a book for review that had our politicians sabotaging a military mission in order to stir up sympathy support for the war. Talk about an unexpected and unwanted political surprise. Things like this stick in my mind and overshadow the romance portion of the book. When I asked my fellow reviewers what romance books they have read with political or social views within the pages, I received numerous examples within minutes. Maggie remembers Lady Liberty by Vicki Hinze being controversial for its inclusion of political talk about a former president whose sexual exploits brought disgrace to the office and a new one whose ritual of daily prayer was returning that respect. Kristan Higgins’ book All I Ever Wanted has Michelle Obama giving sage advice to the heroine. Continuing on the political front in the realm of historicals, Dabney mentions Sherry Thomas’ discussion about the lack of foresight used by the British in the 1800’s invasion of what is now Pakistan in her book, Not Quite a Husband.
Continue reading

My Contemporary Dilemma

Rear view of a couple sitting on beach Series romances with contemporary settings appear to be going strong. Harlequin releases plenty of them every month and readers (including me) eagerly snatch them up. However, single title contemporaries are a little harder to find. Anyone who reads romance sites and blogs or who spends any time at all following romance readers on Twitter has seen plenty of moaning about the dearth of single title contemporaries. I started to wonder why this is, and that in turn has made me wonder if contemporaries might not be a more narrowly defined subgenre than one might think at first glance.

At first glance, the contemporary landscape appears wide open. The choice of settings is almost endless and so too the choice of character types. After all, a book can feature cowboys in Texas, a shop owner in Paris, or archeologists in the Middle East and so long as it’s set in the here and now, we can call it contemporary. The possibilities for the imagination at this point almost boggle the mind. Then comes the plotting – and that’s where things get sticky.
Continue reading

Tears in Unexpected Places

shopholic I’m not an easy crier. So, I never saw a Hallmark ad that made me weep, I am completely dry-eyed at weddings, the only time I cry with joy is when I’m laughing so hard that the pain in my stomach muscles eke out a few tears, and I didn’t so much as sniffle when Rose hogged the plank and Jack died. Also, since I read more than my fair share of light-hearted romance novels, crying doesn’t feature into my reading habits.

Until Becky Brandon née Bloomwood walked into my life for the fifth time. Yes, the Shopaholic, that Becky Brandon.

Continue reading

Kristan Higgins Winner

As promised, we announce the winner of The Next Best Thing, the newest contemporary romantic fiction book by Kristan Higgins


Congratulations, Heather!  I have emailed you and will make arrangements to have the book sent.  Thanks to everyone who entered.  If you didn’t win, your wait for the newest from Kristan Higgins will be short. Its release date is February 1st.

- Rachel Potter

Books with Buzz: Kristan Higgins Interview (Contest Now Closed)

The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

One of my best discoveries of the past year was the author Kristan Higgins.  I ripped through all four books in her backlist and found them entertaining and thoughtful, funny and romantic.  She’s become a comfort read for me, actually, so I was excited to learn that there is more comfort forthcoming.  On February 1st, HQN releases The Next Best Thing.  Kristan graciously took time to answer my questions about the book, and will be giving a signed copy of it to a lucky reader.

All you need to do to enter for the giveaway is to leave a comment to this post by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, January 28th. The winner will be randomly selected and posted here on Friday morning.  The usual caveats apply:  This contest is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada and, since the purpose of the giveaway is to put early books into the hands of readers who wouldn’t  otherwise get them, if you review for another Web site or blog that receives advance copies, please don’t enter.

And now, here’s Kristan!

What can you tell us about your upcoming book, The Next Best Thing?

The Next Best Thing is about Lucy, a young widow who’s trying to get on with life five years after the death of her husband, Jimmy. She’s not looking for love…stability and predictability sound a lot better this time around. Lucy figures she’s already had the love of her life, lost him and suffered so much because of it that what she wants now is a nice, slightly boring guy who won’t thrill any part of her.

First order of business for Lucy: suspend the benefits package in her friendship with Ethan, her late husband’s brother. For the past two years, she and Ethan have, er, comforted each other, and while Ethan is Lucy’s best friend, he’s the last guy she’d pick for a husband. He’s way too dangerous, way too lovable. Ethan, however, has other plans. He’s lived in his brother’s shadow all his life, and while he’s initially willing to let Lucy try to find Mr. Not-So-Bad, it’s harder than he thinks to stand by and watch.

Continue reading