Romance Heroines and Exercise

ICPI’ll admit it’s not easy staying in shape, and at times I seem to be fighting a losing battle. In the middle of the winter, curling up with a good book is much more appealing than going out for a long walk on a sub-zero day. But on most days I do try. In nice weather I go for a lot of walks; in colder or rainy weather I’ll return to the treadmills in the fitness center where I live. I attend yoga classes off-and-on, or do some yoga at home, to work on my balance and flexibility.  And I even have a few free weights to do some strength training. Perhaps it’s my own efforts in this regard, but lately I’ve been longing to read about contemporary romance heroines who squeeze in a bit of exercise into their lives.

I’m specifically interested in contemporary romance heroines, because, let’s face, it, reading that a Regency era heroine has a fitness room or that she regularly hikes up her skirts and jogs just wouldn’t be appropriate. And most paranormal or urban fantasy heroines either seem to regularly stay in shape to survive, or have very specific natural abilities and powers that endow them with extra strength and speed. But what about your average contemporary romance heroine? And by average, I mean a non-athlete heroine who manages to fit in a bit of exercising into her regular routine.

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Speaking of Audiobooks: The Best In Romance Audio Publishing

vectorstock_10162If you’ve been an audiobook enthusiast for long, you know that the industry exploded with the availability of digital downloads.  As a result, the number of romance releases increased sharply and the selection only gets better with each passing month.  As one of those enthusiasts and a fan of romance, I pay close attention to those audio publishers who historically have offered a significant selection of romance audio and continue to do so.  You know, those publishers who take the time to choose quality narrators for their titles as well as discover those authors that make romance listeners sit up and take notice.  Here’s to giving a shout-out to those publishers who are doing a particularly fine job of it.

Before we start, I’ll add a disclaimer – I’m using numbers from Audible.  I’m aware that there are audiobooks from years ago in audio cassette or CD format that have yet to hit the digital download market.  But since we’re discussing the move in the romance audio industry over the past few years, I feel the Audible numbers are adequate for this discussion.

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My Beef Against Contemporaries

10553126It’s no secret that I like historicals.  No, change that.  I love historicals.  Yeah, I complain about the proliferation of Regencies.  But when all’s said and done, I look at my list of treasured books, and the vast majority are historicals.

My second preference would be for paranormals and fantasy.  Contemporaries, I’m afraid, are a very, very distant third.  I used to think this was due to several reasons, like the fact that historicals are my first love and that I love the escape into a separate world.  And those are still true.  But the other day, I had an epiphany, which, frankly, I should have had a long time ago: One of the main reasons I don’t read as many contemporaries as I do historicals is that 99.9% of contemporary characters are white and Christian.

My issue isn’t that I don’t qualify as either white or Christian.  After all, human emotions are the same all around the world.  And heck, I’m 100% Chinese, and I identify more with Eve Dallas than characters in The Joy Luck Club.  (Not an exaggeration.)

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Romance Author Booksignings: October and Beyond

This past month I attended a booksigning for William Kent Krueger, who was promoting his latest Cork O’Connor mystery, Northwest Angle.  I haven’t read the series, and still am not sure if they will suit me. But I love listening to authors speak, so jumped at the chance to attend.

There was a large audience, and many had attended previous signings by the author.  As soon as the event began I knew why there were so many repeat attenders; he is one of the most engaging writers I’ve encountered. The time went by quickly as Mr. Krueger entertained us with stories about his writing process, his decisions about his characters, and future directions his writing might take.

Mr. Krueger commented that authors writing a series can either write a character that remains static over the series, or they can write a character that changes and ages over time. Mr. Krueger made the decision early on to have Cork O’Connor and his family age and change throughout the series. He noted that this has allowed him to bring some of his own experiences at different points in his life into the series.

Mr. Krueger writes every day in a local Minnesota coffee house. He said that he tried to write in his home office, but found it was both too quiet and too distracting. Until fairly recently he wrote in longhand, but has switched to a laptop. Cork O’Connor is part Irish and part Anishianaabe. Mr. Krueger did extensive research into the Anishianaabe culture before writing the first book in the series, Iron Lake, and continues to do research, and actually have most of his books vetted by Anishianaabe acquaintances.  In the end, I ended up buying one of his books; he was just that entertaining.

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Romance Author Booksignings: April and Beyond

Earlier this month I attended a booksigning by one of my favorite historical mystery authors, Jacqueline Winspear, the author of the popular Maisie Dobbs series. If you haven’t heard about the series and like mysteries set in post-World War I England, you can check out Ellen’s DIK review of the first in the series here at AAR.

The booksigning was held at one of the larger independent bookstores in town. I arrived nearly 30 minutes early and planned to browse before the event. My plans changed when I discovered that nearly every seat in the place (over 100) was already filled with people. I quickly snagged a copy of her book and sat down. By the time Ms. Winspear arrived, people were sitting on the floor and standing wherever possible.

Although I’ve read the entire series, I really knew nothing about Ms. Winspear until this event. I was pleased when she announced that rather than doing a reading from the new book, she would tell us a little about how she came to write the series. Originally from England, Ms. Winspear’s grandfather was shell-shocked in World War I. Even as a little girl she was fascinated by English history from 1913-1950, and in particular, with the history of women during that period.

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Pets and Romance

dogAs I was reflecting this week on elements that unify us as readers, it occurred to me that many of my reading colleagues are also fellow animal lovers. I live in a house filled with rescued cats and dogs, which is by turns delightful and frustrating. Delightful because life doesn’t get much better than snuggling with a book and a kitty in my lap. Frustrating in that many of my books are now missing covers courtesy of a certain coonhound who has an affinity for ripping them off when my back is turned.

Since I am such a sucker for animals I almost always find it a bonus when a good romance features a furry companion. Especially if the author is adept at creating a unique personality to where the pet becomes an actual character in the story.

Without further ado, here are a few of my favorites:

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Romance Author Booksignings: February and Beyond

Lately, while looking for booksignings to post, I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are going to be appearing at various book festivals around the country.  I’ve only been to two book festivals, and have to admit that I didn’t really enjoy either one. The first I went to was the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago. It’s held yearly in Chicago in early June, and the year I went it was unbelievably hot, and the festival was just packed. I really didn’t know what to expect, and ended up fighting the crowds for a few hours, trying to get close to tables with books, without a lot of success. I finally left, without buying anything or seeing any authors.

My second experience was the Texas Book Festival in Austin, held in October. I didn’t know the festival was happening, and happened to be downtown with a friend and discovered the festival by accident. We didn’t have a lot of time, so just rushed past a lot of tables. Once again, it was very hot, very crowded, and I didn’t buy anything.

Now I’m starting to wonder if my experiences are typical, or if I’m missing out on a good thing in book festivals. Have you ever gone to a book festival? If so, which one? Are there any opportunities to interact with authors, or to have them sign your books? Would you travel a long distance to get to one, or is it something really just for the locals?

Once again, I’ve found a number of romance author booksignings in the coming months. I’ve tried to list as many as I could find , but as always, could use your help. Do you know of any authors who are coming to your home town? If so, please let us know about it. If you know of any events that we missed between now and mid-March, please post them in the comments section. If you know of any events occurring after mid-March, please send them to us at aarbooksign  AT and we’ll add them to our mid-March post.

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Upcoming Author Book Signings

Lauren WilligThis has been a banner month for me for book signings. In late October I attended a signing for a debut mystery author, Gary Corby, at my local mystery book store. He was charming, and ended up talking and answering our questions for almost 90 minutes. I walked away with his book – The Pericles Commission – as well as a handful of free bookmarks.

But as fun as that event was, the real literary highlight for me of the past month was attending a book signing by Lauren Willig, on tour for The Mischief of the Mistletoe (yes, Turnip’s story). I arrived at the event about 30 minutes early, and a lot of the chairs were already full. As I settled into my chair, more and more readers arrived, and the bookstore staff kept busy bringing out extra chairs.

Ms. Willig actually arrived a bit early, and chatted informally with the audience as people continued to arrive, assuring the bookstore owner that “start time is just a prompt.” While we waited , we were treated to a number of “embarrassing personal stories” including a tale from an early book tour that included changing hose in the backseat of a cab, while the cab driver carried on a conversation with her, as if nothing unusual was happening.

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Kiss and Tell

kissandtell I read Surrender of a Lady recently, and as I read it, the heroine’s past really stuck with me. For those not familiar with Tiffany Clare’s debut, it centers on a heroine sold into slavery in a Turkish harem. Her owner runs a pleasure garden, and the girls are expected to entertain the men who bid on their favors. This heroine is no faux courtesan; she really does have multiple partners including her owner and various men who have bid on her favors over the years.

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HPIM2060 I recently took a trip to Italy with close friends, and as I strolled the streets of Rome or admired the views in small Tuscan villages, I couldn’t help wondering why I don’t find more romances set here. Alpha male Italians feature in the Harlequin Presents line, but it’s otherwise fairly difficult to find a good Italian-set romance. The history of the place would lend itself to all manner of lush and romantic tales, and having seen cities such as Venice, I can easily envision a swoonworthy courtship happening along the canals, or in the Boboli gardens or amidst the bustle and grand historic buildings of Rome.

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