Posts Tagged ‘romance novels’

What a Pain

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

manHaving had major surgery a few weeks ago, I was a little disconcerted when my next two review books featured protagonists in pain. I was immediately struck by the realization that physical pain is something that many authors don’t portray realistically at all.

We all know the cliché: Hero is shot, stabbed, beaten up, whatever, and his immediate thoughts turn to sex. Sex?! Having just been sliced open under the best sterile surgical conditions, I can say without a doubt that sex was the last thing on my mind. Adding a pain killer like the norco I’m taking doesn’t change my mind at all. General oral pain killers, it seems to me, mask the pain as long as you don’t probe the wound, but don’t totally kill it. You need a shot near the wound site for that.

But Victoria Dahl’s cowboy hero Cole in Close Enough to Touch, recuperating from having a horse fall on him and suffering from a broken tibia and pelvis is ready to roll at the drop of a hat. And does.

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Never Say Never

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Fruits “I don’t like THOSE kinds of stories.” Admit it. You’ve heard those words or said something similar yourself at some point. Hang around any romance site long enough and people will start talking about their favorite plots or going on about types of plots they just can’t stand. One person just can’t enjoy secret baby books while another will proclaim that marriage of convenience plots are enough to keep her from picking up a novel. When I come across these discussions, I’m more than happy to dish on plotlines that just don’t thrill me. We all have our preferences, and the fantasies that work are as different as the readers who choose them. These conversations also make me think about good writing, though. After all, even if we don’t like a particular plotline, couldn’t there be an exception to our rules in the hands of a good author?
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What’s Your Favorite Type of Cover?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

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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The Cupcake Craze

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

cupcakeWhat is it about over-priced, calorie-laden, exotic cupcakes that has everyone in such a twitter?  I don’t get it. I particularly don’t get it when a friend was telling me that she bought cupcakes for her daughter’s class at school and thought she had a bargain because they didn’t cost over $100. Fifteen cupcakes for under $100? Is that really a bargain these days?

Then I started getting review books that featured cupcake bakers who find love through exotic ingredients and piles of frosting.

First I read Cupcake Rush by Donna Kauffman, and while I understood the minimalist approach of baking small goodies rather than a huge cake, I didn’t really buy that an upscale New York baker would chuck it all to become a cupcake specialist in a downscale Southern seaside town. But I didn’t think much about the cupcake angle.

Then the avalanche of cupcake books landed on me:

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Endearments – Yea or Nay?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

imagesDearest, darling readers: I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day with your loved ones.  My day began quite unexceptionally, at school with those sweet children in my class, and all I planned to do when I got home was start Gaelen Foley’s One Night of Sin.  But guess what, cupcakes?  Before long I was sighing and shaking my head.  There was one thing, O Best Beloveds, that was driving me to near insanity – much as I am probably doing to you currently, my poor angels.  And that was the proliferation of endearments.

I have a hard time dealing with them, especially the flowery ones, and especially when they’re used often.  One Night of Sin has them in abundance and I find them nauseating.  But are they nauseating because it’s actually overkill, or is it just because I’m not used to them?

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Romance Novel Wish List

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

pride-and-prejudice-graphic-novelI recently began re-listening to Jayne Ann Krentz’s Eclipse Bay, the first in her Eclipse Bay trilogy, originally published over 10 years ago. After being very frustrated by her recent Arcane series books, this re-listen has been refreshing. I’ve found myself wishing that Ms. Krentz would write another series like her Eclipse Bay series, with no paranormal elements (well, except in the mind of one of the secondary characters). Or if not a series, I would love to read a straight contemporary by her such as Trust Me or Family Man.

This re-listen has also reminded me of some of my other romance novel wishes. Now these aren’t about my desires for specific settings (Egypt, Malta, and Santorini head that list) or time periods (post-World War I is a particular favorite). These are wishes I have for books I want specific authors to write.

First up is a wish for Colby Hodge. One of the first books I reviewed here at AAR was her paranormal time travel Twist. Abbey, the heroine, is smart and tough, but has her girly moments. I would love to see this turn into a series, or at least have a sequel where Abbey and the real Shane get to spend some time together.

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Through the Stomach and Into the Heart

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

poya1yj5kwvzc1I really like food, but I think I’ve become a bit inured to most food scenes in romance novels.  All the dessert-cum-sex scenes have melded together, to the point where all I can think about is the mess.  I’m not really into strawberries and champagne, so if the hero starts waving them around, my mind starts wandering.  And then you’ve got the chefs – I like them, but I think the proliferation of TV chefs, and the sheer accessibility of gourmet gastronomy, have taken away some of the luster of the professional kitchen.

The most memorable scenes, I find, occur outside the gourmet and professional arenas.  I remember very clearly the beginning of Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter, when St. Vincent provides a hamper of food for the starving Evie, who proceeds to devour the thinly sliced meats and cheeses sandwiched between buttermilk bread.  There’s something equally delicate and decadent about the thin, savory layers (and geez, buttermilk bread) that conveys the indulgence of St. Vincent’s life, which contrasts heavily with Evie’s prior existence.  Plus, it just sounds good.

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The Game of Love: Romance, Authors, and Casual Games

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Mamlambo reported that in 2004 “at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California, three top game designers were given a challenge – to architect a game with a love story.”  Not surprisingly, the three whose stock in trade revolves around guns and mayhem had a difficult time doing so.

In fact, “Ultima producer Warren Spector struggled to come up with a love story game premise that did not involve giving the characters a gun. After a lot of research on the nature and physiology of love, he came to the conclusion that a true love story was impossible to develop.”

Obviously Spector doesn’t know how to use Google because games surrounding love and some based on romance books not only exist but are bought and played by casual gamers. Most are hidden object or puzzle games in which players not only don’t have a gun but also don’t need one to complete their objectives.

Norah Roberts’ Vision in White may have been the first of the romance author-generated games. In it the player aids Connecticut wedding photographer Mackensie find love—just like the plot in Roberts’ 2009 best-selling book.

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Romance Novel Covers: A Rant

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

coverThey’re like bad relatives.  You can’t avoid sleazy Uncle Bob or foul-mouthed Cousin Betty, because Uncle Bob married to Aunt Emily (the loveliest auntie in the world), and Cousin Betty is sister to Cousin Mark (who’s like a brother).  But you’d really, really prefer not to have to see them.  Ever.

Give a romance detractor a romance novel, and I’ll bet that nine times out of ten, they’ll look at the cover and grimace.  Hell, give a romance reader the same book, and you’ll probably get the same reaction.  So much for not judging books by their covers, but really – really, can you blame them?

Creamy bosoms and hairless tanned chests.  Serifs gone mad.  Florid colors.  And the clinches – oh, the clinches.  Shudder.

Let’s ignore the fact that they’re totally generic.  Hey, romance is a genre book, and all genre books, to a certain degree, are generic.  That’s the point, so that readers can spot them from a mile away, and go, “Oh, a romance/sci-fi/fantasy/mystery novel!”

And let’s also ignore the fact that there can be serious discrepancies between the cover models and the characters.  How many plus-sized, curvy heroines are depicted like Nicole Kidman?  Or the blonde heroes, drawn with black hair?  We’re told that black hair and thin women sell; I’d argue, but there are worse crimes, so I’ll leave it there.

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What a Scandal

Friday, May 6th, 2011

scandalThe promise of a scandal seemingly sells.  In fact, scandal seems to be one of those publisher buzz words that is used over and over again whether there’s a real scandal in the story or not.

In fact, judging by the number of times the word has blazed across book covers, scandal has been used, abused, and reused, I think almost to death. Amazon lists 276 paperback romances with “scandal” or a version of it (scandalous, etc.) in the title, as well as 27 hardcover and 50 Kindle titles. Worldcat lists 578 romances with the word in the title. And AAR has reviewed five pages with it or variations in the title. So far in 2011, four books with that title have been reviewed using the word in their titles. If the trend continues, this year will be a banner year for scandal.

But how much scandal do most of the stories include? Take Scandal in Scotland by Karen Hawkins which will be published in June of this year. A sailor and an actress, whose protector is trying to hide his homosexuality by providing for her, scramble to get hold of a mysterious antique onyx box. So what’s the scandal? Her having a protector?  Hardly! Weren’t actresses during the Regency supposed to have them? Wasn’t part of a young man’s “wild oats” to be spent hanging around actresses? Having a liaison between a sailor and an actress, under the circumstances, isn’t scandalous at all! But the title indicates there will be one somewhere in the 384 pages.

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