AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites: Caroline’s Picks

again Everybody has had so many interesting ideas for how to choose a top ten – breaking down by genre, assuming “pocket copies” of classics, choosing only books which haven’t been listed by other bloggers – so I apologize for using yet another methodology. I’ve chosen books which were so good that I have or would recommend them to non-romance readers. These are books which, in my opinion, stand as books, enjoyable and even lovable by people who will cut them no slack for genre conventions. I hope you love them as well!

Again – Kathleen Gilles Seidel

Again is a true buried treasure: an A grade here at AAR and my personal pick for single best romance ever, and yet it isn’t even in print. Seidel transports you into the meticulously researched world of a historical soap opera called My Lady’s Chamber (think Downton Abbey, but Regency), written by Jenny Cotton and starring Alec Cameron. I love Alec, a natural leader unable to ignore the problems at work causing Jenny distress (boy, could my workplace use a man like that!). Jenny is creative, intelligent, and gifted at her job. It is fascinating to watch Jenny’s real-life relationships play out in her characters. When one of her soap characters does something wonderful, and you realize that on some level Jenny’s falling for Alec… it’s just magic. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Rike’s Picks

cotillion All the romances listed below are true Desert Island Keepers for me, and for each of them the following holds true: Whenever I open them to reread a particular scene, I cannot put them down again, and I end up reading the whole book. Each and every time. So this list is entirely subjective, with no regard to subgenres or dates of publication – although to gain entry on this list, a romance must have been around for a few years, otherwise I won’t know whether I will reread it again … and again … and again.

The order in which I have placed the books is not according to preference, but, as far as I can remember, according to the time in which I discovered them and added them to my own personal canon. Continue reading

Before They Were Authors

career The recent Labor Day weekend had friends and I discussing the changing job market. Many of us had launched into second (and even third) career paths, something that certainly wasn’t expected when we initially graduated from college. This got me to thinking of others who have a secondary career path (or sometimes even just a second job!); the writers who keep me supplied in romances.

Contrary to what many in the media may think, an author does not, as Eileen Dreyer so succinctly put it, choose this path because she is “a sexually frustrated loser dressed in a robe and bunny slippers who lives in a dreary apartment with my cat and lives vicariously through my devastatingly beautiful heroines.” Most seem to choose it because it is a girlhood dream. And many, many, many of them come to writing only after having pursued another career first. I am fascinated by the diversity of what those careers are and thought others might be to. So here it is, a cataloging of what several of the greats did before they were romance writers.

Linda Howard worked at a trucking company, which explains to me at least why she can create such realistic men. I would imagine working in a male dominated field like that would show one a great deal about how the opposite sex thinks. Susanna Kearsley was a museum curator, and I think that is reflected in the wonderful historical settings of some of her novels. Justine Davis was in law enforcement before being a writer. She writes authentic romantic suspense with an authentic flavor now.  And Inez Kelly was a 911 dispatcher and Linnea Sinclair worked as a private detective and also a news reporter before taking on romantic science fiction. Sandra Brown also worked as a reporter, and Pamela Clare “went to work for a newspaper and held almost every position in the newsroom before becoming the paper’s first woman editor.” Karina Bliss, who has received a DIK here at AAR for Here Comes the Groom, worked as a travel journalist. And Carla Kelly? Well, among her many and varied careers, she has worked as a park ranger and was a Valley City Time Record feature writer.

Continue reading

Free and Bargain eBooks – Blessing or Curse?

kindle I have caught a new addiction: I hunt the net for free and bargain eBooks. Thanks to the delightful folks at Mobileread and here at AAR Potpourri Forum, and thanks to special discounts offered by ebookstores like Fictionwise or Kobo, and by publisher sites like Harlequin, Avon or Carina, I pick up loads of books for comparatively little money. Let’s take the last two months: In April, I acquired 66 new eBooks, and altogether I paid $ 70. In May I acquired 171 new eBooks, and I paid $ 210. On average, that’s $ 1.18 per book, and considering I still paid full price for a number of them, you can see how many came completely free. Before I started to gather my numbers, I was going to write that I now bought more books than usual, but paid less for them than I had done with paper books. Faced with the exact numbers now, I must concede that while this is certainly true for April, in May I spent more on books than usual, ending up acquiring far higher numbers than in any other month before.

I made extensive use of Kobo’s delightful € 1 off discount for a lot of books, especially books from Smashwords and Harlequin that were cheap to start with, and with the discount came free, or virtually free. Similarly, in May there were very good discounts and bargain prices offered from Fictionwise and Carina Press. I want to point out that I acquired all of my new books legally, respecting geographical restrictions and never pretending I was from anywhere but Europe. And I want to add that were I a citizen of the United States, I would have had even more books available, and were I prepared to read books on my PC with a Kindle App, even more.
Continue reading

A Tribute to Linnea Sinclair and Sci-Fi Romance

Once a year, I pick up Linnea Sinclair’s Finders Keepers and devour it. It’s the first science fiction romance I ever read, and what an eye-opener it was! SF-wise, I come from Star Wars and Star Trek, with some Ursula K. Le Guin thrown in. I adore Leia and Han, and I enjoyed the various romances in Star Trek – to the degree that I stopped watching Deep Space Nine after they killed off Dax, much to the deep disgust of my husband. As for Ursula K. Le Guin, I don’t necessarily expect strong romances when I read her novels, which I admire tremendously, but I clearly remember how thrilled I was to find a gem of a romance in Forgiveness Day, one of the novellas in Four Ways to Forgiveness. But all in all, I had taught myself never to expect a strong romance in a SF novel.

I discovered Finders Keepers due to AAR, and then Amazon: There was a review of An Accidental Goddess, another Linnea Sinclair novel, here at AAR, but when I wanted to buy it from Amazon, it was not immediately available, whereas Finders Keepers was, and so I ordered that one instead. And what a find it was! I read it in one go, reread it since, and have finally written the DIK review it so richly deserves.

While I own and love all of Linnea Sinclair’s novels, I am also grateful to her for opening my eyes to the possibility that SF stories and romance can actually be combined. I have since discovered Susan Grant, whose Moonstruck I especially enjoyed. Now I follow recommendations at review sites and blogs, glad that my romance reading has been enriched by the science fiction romance sub-genre.

What SF romance writers do you admire? Is there, for you, one single title that influenced your reading to such a degree that you remember it to this day as a literary turning point?

-Rike Horstmann