Eagerly Awaited Books – October 2014

It’s still pretty warm where I am in Virginia, so it’s hard to think October is just around the corner. This is especially true when I recall that the October list always seems to have that first wave of Christmas romances. I love me a romantic holiday tale, and I know I’ll be buying one or two to savor when the weather turns cold. What about you? What goodies does fall bring you?

Title and Author Reviewer
Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt Haley, Lee, Caz, Cindy, Alex, Mary, Heather
In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins in Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins Dabney, Mary, Heather, Jenna, Alex, Lee
Never Marry a Viscount by Anne Stuart Never Marry a Viscount by Anne Stuart Lynn, Caz, Cindy
Carolina Blues by Virginia Kantra Carolina Blues by Virginia Kantra Haley, Dabney
What a Lady Needs for Christmas by Grace Burrowes What a Lady Needs for Christmas by Grace Burrowes Caz, Mary
Indecent Proposal by Molly O'Keefe Indecent Proposal by Molly O’Keefe Dabney, Lynn
Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley Mary, Lee
The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain Shannon
The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander Linnie
Season for Desire by Teresa Romain Season for Desire by Teresa Romain Caz
Too Friendly to Date by Nicole Helm Too Friendly to Date by Nicole Helm Dabney
Christmas Brides anthology Christmas Brides by Suzanne Enoch, Alexandra Hawkins, Elizabeth Essex, and Valerie Bowman (contains both new and previously published stories) Lynn
Hope Burns by Jaci Burton Hope Burns by Jaci Burton Haley
Truth Be Told by Hank Philippi Ryan Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan Shannon
The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield Dabney
Betrayed By His Kiss by Amanda McCabe Betrayed By His Kiss by Amanda McCabe Lynn
Chained by Night by Larissa Ione Chained by Night by Larissa Ione Shannon
Deceived by Irene Hannon Deceived by Irene Hannon Maggie

TBR Challenge 2014 – Pick a Book For Me

dukesholiday For my “Recommended Read” in this month’s TBR Challenge, I chose The Duke’s Holiday by Maggie Fenton, a book which a number of my friends on Goodreads enjoyed and which was recommended to me by one of them.

It’s a fairly simple story – a very proper, highly fastidious duke with what the synopsis indicates is Obsessive (or is it Obsessional?) Compulsive Disorder meets his match in the form of a feisty, flame-haired mess of a women who thrives on chaos. I normally like the “opposites attract” trope, I like comedic romances, and the person who recommended it and I normally have very similar tastes, so it seemed like a good bet for a fun read.

Unfortunately, however, I seem to be in the minority of people who aren’t wild about this book. It’s not terrible by any means, but there are a number of things in the execution that just don’t work for me and to be honest, I didn’t find it all that funny. Continue reading

You Never Forget Your First

Sweet-Savage-LoveHere at All About Romance, our team of reviewers is dedicated to the romance genre. We read, review, and keep up with the goings on of all things romance. We’ve even had quite a few people who turned to writing romance as well. I wouldn’t call us romance addicts, per say, but we definitely have a strong habit. Like any good addiction hobby, there had to be a first time that captured our attention and made us life-long romance lovers. Continue reading

A Formula for Romance… Novels

Math_FormulaCritics of romance novels often cite a long list of problems with the books and one of the most frequently used is that the books are formulaic. Some authors embrace that idea and give a guide to what they think of as “the formula” such as Paula Graves or Rita Clay Estrada and Rita Gallagher. Others like Anne Gracie heartily reject the idea. Harlequin calls it a format and insists that all genres use such a tool. Continue reading

Checking in with Sarah MacLean

imageI was lucky enough to get a chance to sit down and chat with Sarah MacLean while at RWA. (This was before she won the RITA for best historical romance!) I wanted to follow up with her. I’d talked to her in December of 2013 about her challenge to The New York Times and that paper’s dismissal of romance. Since then, Sarah has been writing a regular column for the NYT’s rival, The Washington Post, about–gasp–romance novels.  Continue reading

TBR Challenge – Heating Up the Summer

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. Continue reading

TBR Challenge – Back to the Classics

seventearsforapollo This month’s TBR challenge, reading one of the classics, had me scratching my head for a little bit. Did I want to reach for one of those books that could be considered part of the romance canon(to the degree we have one), or did I want to pick a classic trope or author? In the end, I decided on Seven Tears for Apollo. When we start talking about old school romantic suspense or gothics online, certain names tend to pop up. Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels – all have their fans. However, Phyllis Whitney is one of those names that seems to be mentioned almost as an afterthought.

I’ve read a few Phyllis Whitney novels, all historicals, and I did enjoy them. However, I had yet to read one of her contemporaries and so I gave this one a whirl. Written in 1962, it captures a world that for 21st century readers feels like a curious blend of old and new. Continue reading

What’s Your (Guilty) Pleasure?

cuttingedgeAs I was reading A Wedding by Dawn, a book I had to admit was pretty bad, I also noticed that I was sort of enjoying it. Not because it got better (because eventually, it kind of did), but because it was kind of ridiculous. What do I mean by that? Well, the heroine is determined not to marry the hero, who has come looking for her in Malta because her dad has promised him 50,000 pounds if he marries her. She escapes (so many times I lost count) throwing herself into increasingly ridiculous situations and almost deciding several times that losing her virginity to a random stranger would be a great idea. Ridiculous. And yet, so silly and ridiculous that I didn’t mind reading it. Somewhere along the line, silly books have become a new guilty pleasure.

I’m not sure this was always the case. Early on in my reviewing career, think I took myself more seriously, and I think I probably took romances more seriously too. Funny was great, but silly? Weren’t we too intelligent and important for that? I scoffed at madcap Regencies by Emily Hendrickson and Sandra Heath, wondering why we hadn’t gotten beyond such ridiculous fare. On the other hand, I felt no guilt liking funny regencies by Diane Farr or Emma Jensen.

I’m not sure what changed. It isn’t my grading, because something truly ridiculous would rarely merit higher than a C in my book. Nonetheless, I find myself kind of enjoying the occasional stupid heroine or far-fetched plot line. You know, the stuff that verges on parody with cross-dressing heroines who manage to fool people, silly will provisions, zany bluestocking archeologists and the like. I can’t in good conscience recommend them per se, but I don’t exactly mind reading them either – probably because I am laughing too hard.

In order to meet my guilty pleasure needs, it really needs to be so bad it’s good. And lord knows, it can’t be boring. Boring doesn’t qualify. It also works best for me in romance. I recently attempted to get through Clara and Mr. Tiffany, an historical fiction novel, for my book club. I let myself stop after fifty pages of tortuous prose, stilted dialogue, and flat characterization. It was ridiculous alright, but it was no pleasure.

At the risk of opening a can of worms, I’d put the Fifty Shades books in the guilty pleasure category. Granted, I was laughing too hard at the end of the second one to bother with the third, but the point is that I was laughing.

One of my guiltiest pleasures is our own bad reviews. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I’ll look up old D and F reviews in the database and read them for hours, laughing at how funny they are (because even when a bad book is hard to read, the review is often fun to read and write).

My family’s cinematic guilty pleasure is The Cutting Edge. If you’ve never seen it, you’re missing some of the cheesiest dialogue ever written. It’s a romantic comedy featuring a washed up hockey player and almost washed-up figure skater who skate their way to (presumably) an Olympic gold medal in pairs skating – and of course, fall in love along the way. It’s horrible. And yet brilliant. If you don’t love lines like: “There are two things I do well…and skating’s the other one”…well, you’re probably a better person than I.

How about you? What’s your guilty pleasure, whether cinematic or bookish? And do you like a good, silly book once in a while?

TBR Challenge – Can’t Escape the Hype

exclusivelyyours This month’s TBR Challenge was to find a book that got inescapable buzz. As it turns out, I have had one sitting in my Kindle for ages, waiting for that perfect time to be read. When Carina Press launched back in 2010, one of their debut titles, Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey generated lots of chatter almost from the beginning and it filled my Twitter stream for months. In fact, this title generated so much buzz and so many sales that it ended up being picked up for reissue in print by HQN. As it turns out, it ended up being the perfect companion for me as I sat through my 3 hour glucose test(ah, the joys of pregnancy.) If you like single-title contemporaries, this one is a cute, light-hearted read. I’d give it a B+ for the huge smile it left on my face.

The basic set-up is this: Hero and heroine fall in love in high school. Heroine wants a life outside of small-town New England and she takes off for the West Coast, where she starts to build a career for herself writing for celebrity tabloids. Hero, meanwhile, goes on to become a famous author and also notoriously reclusive in his private life. Continue reading