TBR Challenge – Heating Up the Summer

August 20th, 2014

shiver As summer comes to an end, I’ve been challenged to read a book with luscious love scenes. I immediately thought of Harlequin’s Blaze line, and grabbed Shiver by Jo Leigh, a 2010 release that is still available digitally. Though the story wasn’t quite as steamy as I’d expected, I still ended up with a sexy, fun read, and I’d give it a B.

My first recommendation to readers? Don’t judge this one by its cover. It’s a lot more offbeat and fun than that somewhat generic picture would suggest. After all, the hero not only owns a supposedly haunted inn; he also makes independent documentary films. The semi-reclusive comic strip writer known for her snarky humor didn’t strike me as a run of the mill character either.

Both lead characters are city folk who have no intention of leaving their usual environment, but they’ve ended up at a quaint, haunted inn in Colorado for plausible enough reasons. Sam Crider has inherited the inn where he grew up, and he’s come home temporarily to run it while trying to sell. Carrie Sawyer, on the other hand, has only come to the Crider Inn as a somewhat reluctant guest. Read the rest of this entry »

Critique Partners, Continents Apart

August 18th, 2014

M and J 1Two of my favorite books I’ve read thus far this year are Untouched by Maisey Yates and Having Her  (here’s my review) by Jackie Ashenden. Though both books are contemporary romances, they have little else in common. Or so I thought.

However, when I was at RT in May, I met Maisey and was startled to find out that, for years, she and Jackie have been critique partners. This is even more startling when you consider that Maisey lives in rural Oregon and Jackie lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Curious how that works, I asked if they would talk with me at RWA in July. The following interview is taken from that conversation and from emails I’ve exchanged with the two. Read the rest of this entry »

Fairytales in Romance

August 15th, 2014

andrew-langs-fairy-booksFirst there were vampires, then zombies, and now fairy tale adaptions seem to be the new entertainment trend. The newest film adaptation of “Sleeping Beauty,” Maleficent, scored big at the box office and has added momentum to the fairy tale fad. Studios hoping to capitalize on this are already planning live-action versions of “Cinderella” and more than one “Beauty and the Beast.” I have been a fan of fairy tale retellings since childhood and have spent my life reading and watching them so, obviously, the renewed interest in fairy tales recently has been right up my alley. Although I wasn’t crazy about Maleficent (I think it took the bite out of an otherwise fantastic villainess), I was pleased to see one of my favorite fairy tales getting revamped.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Special Titles Update!

August 13th, 2014

One of the nicest parts of looking up newly nominated titles for a Special Titles Listing is discovering and rediscovering great books. This time around, we were struck by how many of the titles we had to research for the present list were actually perfect summer reading material. We came across exotic settings, sea travel, luxury lifestyles and an over-all fairy tale quality. Here are some of the new titles that we found especially interesting, sorted by the list they are part of. Check out all of the results here.sleeping-beauty_jpg Read the rest of this entry »

Our First Take on Outlander: The Series

August 11th, 2014

outlander_starzStarz’s adaptation of Outlander, with Caitriona Balfe as Claire and Sam Heughan as Jamie, premiered last week with a free online episode available here. Outlander is a legend in the romance world and here at AAR, where it’s placed in the top five romances in every annual poll except 2004 (it “crashed” to seventh). I’m a fan of the books but not a die-hard, so I’m not troubled by minor plot deviations or additions as long as they’re in the spirit of Gabaldon’s book. I’m looking for something that captures the detailed, warts-and-all Highland setting, Claire’s confidence and competence, Jamie’s honesty and enthusiasm, and their marvelous, inevitable attraction. On the basis of the first episode, I’m optimistic that this series is going to deliver. Read the rest of this entry »

AAR’s Maggie Interviews Mary Kubica, Author of The Good Girl

August 8th, 2014

image“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.” Read the rest of this entry »

Possessive, check. Jealous, check. Volatile, check.

August 6th, 2014

Mr. BigIt’s no mystery that the Alpha-Male character type has dominated romantic fiction. Nearly any romance you pick up will feature one of these tough, rugged, manly men out to woo their lady of choice with their muscular body and chiseled looks. I don’t mind indulging in this type of fantasy at all when reading romance, although I do enjoy the sweet, Beta-Male as well. However, lately, I’ve noticed that the trend has shifted away from the standard Alpha, which is normally a beefcake with a heart of gold, to what I like to call the Alpha-Douche. This guy is possessive, volatile, jealous, and borders on stalking the lead female. I have to wonder, why is it that this type of man has gotten so popular recently? Read the rest of this entry »

Speaking of Audiobooks: Notable August Releases, MOBY, and STARZ Outlander

August 4th, 2014

Heroes Are My WeaknessAugust is always a strong month for romance audiobook releases and this year is especially strong evidence of such. Here are just a few titles worthy of your attention in August.

Heroes Are My Weakness – Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Narrated by Erin Bennett

A lover of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ books for at least a dozen years now, I always eagerly anticipate each of her new releases. I’m unfamiliar with Erin Bennett but she’s not new to narrating. At Audible, I found close to Read the rest of this entry »

Romance Writers Rock my Favorite Bookstore

July 31st, 2014

When I was 18 and arrived in North Carolina to go to school, I was thrilled to discover The Regulator Bookshop. Its shelves held fiction so tempting that for the next 25 years, throughout college, graduate school, and grown-up life, I bought as many books as I could afford. To this day, when someone says “indie bookstore,” I think of The Regulator and smile. So it was a joy to see the place I’ve so loved host four fabulous romance writers for an evening of romance and rose. Authors Virginia Kantra, Jennifer Lohmann, Katharine Ashe, and Jessica Scott talked to a standing room crowd about their work. Read the rest of this entry »

RWA 2014 – My Wrap Up

July 30th, 2014

riverwalkI think I’ll think of RWA 2014 as the “Can’t we all just get along?” conference (subtitled, “of course we can!”). Or, to paraphrase a Zora Neale Hurston quote, there are conferences that ask questions and conferences that answer. This one answered.

In what way? Well, Carolyn Crane’s self-published Off the Edge won a RITA, and that’s significant. I talked to authors who love self-publishing, and authors who love their publishers. I talked to authors who self-publish and traditionally publish simultaneously. The general consensus is that writing and publishing is still a challenging business, but the challenges have changed over the years; now one of the biggest challenges is finding what’s right for you in a world of so many choices. But there was also a general feeling that whatever your choices are, they’re okay. Self-publishing or digital only publishing are not the romance ghetto; for many they are the smartest financial decision.

What else is afoot? Well, when I attend RWA my primary goal is basically to have my ear to the ground. I want to know what’s happening, what publishers are looking for and not looking for, and what people are working on that they’re excited about. I tweet as many publisher spotlights as I can get myself to and talk to authors formally and informally. Oh, and go to the type of fun and glamorous cocktail parties I rarely attend in “real life”, and talk about books with some of the most interesting women you could ever hope to meet. It’s a tough gig, but someone has to do it.

I felt like the publisher requests this year were somewhat similar to last year. People still see Paranormal Romances as being in somewhat of a downturn (although witches and shape shifters still sell). Virtually every publisher still wants Westerns, and most absolutely want to see unusual settings. Digital publishing has made the business so much more flexible. As for New Adult (which seemed like all anyone could talk about last year), publishers still want it, but they didn’t have last year’s tone of desperation. And at least one publisher said they wanted New Adult, but could we get past college and do something different? At the end of the day, there were fewer hard and fast rules. If your vampire book is well-written and manages to bring something new and different to the table, you can probably find a home for it. And if you can’t? You can always publish it yourself.

On a personal note, I just love connecting with the fabulous group of (mostly) women who write romance, write about romance, and publish romance. I had both serious conversations on how best to help someone who has a child with cancer and less serious conversations about possible sex techniques when your hero’s/partner’s penis is not exactly…straight. I found out that there is a boom in heroes named Trenton, that the fabulous Sarah Wendell has the distribution of surplus review books down to a science (and is clearly the most popular person at her nail salon and pediatrician’s office), and that many of us still have a love/hate relationship with Fifty Shades of Gray. Yes, we talked about the trailer. I sorely missed our own Lynn Spencer, who had to sit this year out, but had a fabulous time with Dabney Grinnan – who was a first timer at RWA and found out that the RITAs are fun. Oh and my favorite image of RWA 2014? Molly O’Keefe with a beer in one hand and a RITA tucked under her arm.

And I am happy to post my workout view photo again this year – I had no luck with that one at Atlanta because my view was from the hotel gym and it was terminally boring. This year I ran all along the river walk and absolutely loved it. Yes, it’s warmer than Denver and sort of smells like a zoo in places, but it’s beautiful and shaded, and you get way more oxygen when you’re not running at 6000+ feet (something that came in handy when I got lost and ran six miles instead of my usual three). Thanks to all for a fabulous conference. See you next year in the Big Apple!