TBR Challenge: Lots to Choose From

midnightangel Today we’re taking a little break from the RT author interviews for May’s installment of the TBR Challenge. For this month’s adventure through the TBR pile, I went looking for a book by an author represented multiple times in my stash of books waiting to be read. I’ve read a lot of Lisa Kleypas, but I still have plenty of her books in the TBR. The Russian angle of her 1995 historical, Midnight Angel appealed to me, so I decided to give that one a whirl.

Though the heroine is Russian, most of the book is set in England as we are treated to a governess and employer romance. Early on in the book, we as readers learn Tasia’s big secret.
She is actually a Russian aristocrat in disguise who has fled the country as she has been sentenced to death for killing her betrothed. Tasia has no memory of what happened to the man or whether she may have harmed him, but she is determined to live. Conveniently, she has relatives in England who give her a new identity and find a place for her as governess to Lucas(Luke) Stokehurst, Marquess of Stokehurst. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Blythe’s Picks

boundbyyourtouch I put off writing my top ten until the last possible moment for a variety of reasons. I wanted some time to think about it, but I knew even though I had lots of time I’d still be making choices at the last minute; it’s not unusual for me to make my Reviewer’s Choice top pick while I’m writing the column. I also decided my top seven fairly easily, and then got stuck on the final three. I agonized over which three deserved the final honors, and then ended up with some also rans. I’ve been reading romance for a long time, and that presented its own problems. Should I choose early, sentimental favorites, or more of the quality Johnny come lately offerings? Well, in reverse order, here’s my top ten (ish).

Also rans: Just for fun, my books that didn’t quite make the short list but almost did: Paradise by Judith McNaught (overwrought in all the best early 90s ways, and my favorite of all her books). Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn – the popular favorite of her Bridgerton books, and my favorite as well. In the obscure category, Dana Ransom’s Wild Texas Bride or any of the books from her Bass series. You want a good western? These are the real deal. Ditto for Maggie Osbourne’s I Do, I Do, I Do, which has the added bonus of being a wagon train story, a particular weakness of mine. Susan Elizabeth Phillips Nobody’s Baby But Mine (and yes, I know the heroine was manipulative and dishonest. No, I don’t care). And old Signet regencies by Diane Farr and Elisabeth Fairchild – just in general. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Caz’s Picks

splendiddefiance Normally, the question “what’s your favourite book/piece of music/film?” is one that’s likely to turn me into a jibbering idiot and turn my mind completely blank. I mean really – just one favourite? And in any case, it usually depends on my mood on any one day. One day might demand Mozart and the next, Mahler. Or I’ll be in the mood for Die Hard one evening and Wall-E the evening after. By that token, if my choices tend to be mood dependent, how was I going to produce a list of titles that wasn’t going to change from day-to-day? So I decided the first thing I needed to do was to decide on the benchmark qualities I look for in a book that would qualify it for a place in my Top Ten.

Anyone that knows me knows I’m a bit of a stickler for good spelling and grammar, and for writing that displays at least a basic grasp of good sentence construction and logic. But those things should be a given in any good book, so they should be taken as read. So, was my criteria to be based on good writing or an unusual storyline; good characterisation or a talent for sparkling dialogue?

Eventually, I realised I was leaning more and more towards one particular thing – how did the book make me feel? I read romance novels because I enjoy becoming invested in the characters and their stories, so my list is based very much on my emotional response to each title. Did it make me laugh and/or cry? Was it one of those books that, as I finished the final page, made me feel emotionally drained (in a good way)? Did I finish it on a high? Was it the sort of book that makes it hard to get into another one for a day or so? Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Jane’s Picks

outlander I started reviewing for AAR when I was pretty young – 18 years old, and still fairly new to the genre. My tastes have changed and evolved quite a bit in that time. Looking at my reviewer profile, which hasn’t been updated since I started, I am rather skeptical of my “favorites,” some of which I don’t even remember anymore. I couldn’t tell you a damn thing about Hidden Fires by Sandra Brown, except that 6 years ago it was apparently one of my favorites.

My philosophy in choosing favorites is two-fold. One, my Top Ten should be more than a fleeting “books I’m enjoying now,” and therefore aren’t recent reads, or ones that I’ve read only once. Two, they should have something in them that would appeal beyond the romance. I think there is a subtle distinction between “books that a romance reader would enjoy” and “books non-romance readers would enjoy.” There are definitely some stories that I would recommend to fellow romance readers, but not anyone else. The best books are the ones that I think, “I could give this to a friend, and they would understand why I love romance novels.”

So, here we go: my top ten. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Jean’s Picks

See, I knew that signing up for this blog would cause me a headache. How are you supposed to choose the top ten romances that rock your world? How? How? (At the back of my mind I have the Baha Men singing along, except it’s “How do you choose now? How, how, how, how?” Great. Hence the headache.)

Anyway, I figured the only way I can keep sane is a) recognize that I won’t hit them all, and b) acknowledge that if I am actually stuck on a desert island with only ten romance novels, I’d go crazy anyway, no matter what I chose. (Unless I chose, like, the Koran, Paradise Lost, and Journey to the West. Then maybe I’d not go all loopy.)

I decided that what I’d probably crave the most is variety, a little bit of every genre to suit every mood. It actually turned out to be relatively easy once I’d decided on this, looked at my Top 100 list, scanned my shelves, and sliced through the different categories. I’m happy with my choices – they’re all different in setting, subgenre, writing style, and character. I’ve also read each of them at least twice – I’m a serial re-reader, so I know when something works for me, when it doesn’t, and (most of important of all) when it stands up to the test of time. 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.
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Eagerly Awaited in July

Every month, the staff here at AAR send me their lists of books on the new release list that they are eager to try. Going over the July list was extra fun because there were four new releases that clearly caught the attention of many. As I went through my emails, I wondered which book was going to hit the top slot. Would it be the new release from Loretta Chase or would it be Anne Stuart, Mary Balogh or Meredith Duran? In the end, Mary Balogh’s book won out with 11 AAR staffers declaring their anticipation of its arrival, but the books by Loretta Chase, Meredith Duran and Anne Stuart followed closely on its heels. In addition, as you can see from checking out the release list and our picks, July is looking like it could be a pretty good month.

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Title and Author Reviewer
The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh Blythe, Dabney, Rike, Heather S., Jean, Heather B., Maggie, Lee, Sandy, Pat, Jacqueline
Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase Sandy, Rike,Leigh, Dabney, Lee, Heather B., Wendy, Jean. Heather S., Jacqueline
A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran Lynn,Jean, Blythe, Jane, Wendy, Heather B., Rike, Lee, Heather S.
Shameless by Anne Stuart Shameless by Anne Stuart Jean, Sandy, Lea, Jacqueline, Dabney, Lee, Pat, Heather B., Wendy
Heartless by Gail Carriger Heartless by Gail Carriger LinnieGayl,Maggie, Blythe, Jean, Rike
The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn Rike, Lee, LinnieGayl, Jean
One Summer by JoAnn Ross One Summer by JoAnn Ross Leigh, LinnieGayl
This Perfect Kiss by Melody Thomas This Perfect Kiss by Melody Thomas Dabney, Lea
Give Me a Texas Outlaw Give Me a Texas Outlaw by Jodi Thomas, Linda L. Broday, Phyliss Miranda, and Dewanna Pace Pat
Cold Touch by Leslie Parrish Cold Touch by Leslie Parrish Lynn
Black Heart Loa by Adrian Phoenix Black Heart Loa by Adrian Phoenix Wendy
Sunset Bridge by Emilie Richards Sunset Bridge by Emilie Richards Leigh
Just Let Go... by Kathleen O'Reilly Just Let Go… by Kathleen O’Reilly Rike
Inside by Brenda Novak Inside by Brenda Novak Lynn
A Summer Reunion by Kasey Michaels, Sarah Mayberry and Teresa Southwick A Summer Reunion by Kasey Michaels, Sarah Mayberry and Teresa Southwick Leigh
Bayou Bodyguard by Jana DeLeon Bayou Bodyguard by Jana DeLeon Rike
The Creed Legacy by Linda Lael Miller The Creed Legacy by Linda Lael Miller Pat

Are We in a New Historical Golden Age?

RuthlessI sat down to write something kind of snarky about language use in historicals after having come across some particularly heinous examples lately, but I soon found myself thinking about something entirely different:  Are we in the midst of a renaissance of the historical romance?

I think we may be getting there.  Recently I read – and was blown away by – Anne Stuart’s Ruthless.  The novel is a great one any way you choose to judge it, but it’s also noteworthy for taking place in 1765 in France.  Yes, that’s right, I said France. But, refreshing as that different time and setting may be, I loved this book because it is a voluptuous (and, yes, I really think that word applies), full-bodied (yes, I like it, even if it is redundant), lush romance between a truly dissolute rake and a strong, self-reliant woman.  And, even better, it reminded me of a classic of the author’s from a l-o-o-o-o-n-g time ago that I have saved since I first read it – Lord Satan’s Bride. And I am excited – oh, my, am I excited – about the remaining two books in the trilogy.

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Books With Buzz: Meredith Duran Interview and Giveaway (Contest Closed)

wicked becomes youWe’ve been buzzing around AAR for some time now about Meredith Duran, one of the rising stars of historical romance.  It started with Duke of Shadows in 2008 and continued into a blockbuster 2009 with Bound By Your Touch (my favorite by the author and one of many AAR readers as well, considering the results of our 2010 Annual Reader Poll) and Written On Your Skin.  On April 27 Wicked Becomes You, her newest release, hits stores and we’re already celebrating with this short interview with the author and by offering our readers a chance to win one of five copies of the book, courtesy of the publisher.

To enter for your chance to win, just comment to this post by Thursday, April 8th at 11:59 p.m., eastern time. The five winners will be selected at random from all entries and announced here on Friday. The usual caveats apply:  This contest is designed to get early copies of the book into the hands of readers who wouldn’t otherwise have access, so if you review for another Web site or blog, please don’t enter.  Due to high postage costs, this contest is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada.

But first, sit back, relax, and enjoy the interview.

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Meredith Duran giveaway winners!

duran First of all, thank you to everyone who entered our Meredith Duran book giveaway. You left some fantastic reading ideas in the comments. After assigning everyone one or two numbers based on the number of entries they had, the draw gave us two winners – Brandy and Margaret. Congratulations to you both! I hope you enjoy the book.

And many thanks to Meredith Duran for donating the books!

-Lynn Spencer