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

The Wait is Over – Here are Your 2013 Top 100 picks!

The wait is over! We are pleased to announce the results of our Top 100 AAR Romance Poll here(and we also have a more printer-friendly version.)

In the past, and quite possibly right this minute, when we’ve posted the results of the Top 100 Polls and the Annual Reader polls a frequent reaction for our readers has been, “I didn’t vote for any of those books!” So we thought it might be fun to see how the AAR staffers’ Top Ten romances matched up with the results of the 2013 Top 100 Poll. We suspect the results are probably similar to how many of your results matched up, meaning some yes, some no, some none at all.

Of the Top Ten books chosen by readers in the 2013 Top 100 Poll, AAR staffers’ combined choices matched up with four books: Romancing Mr. Bridgerton was chosen by three staff members (13%), and Lord of Scoundrels, Slightly Dangerous and Outlander by two staff members (9%).

Of the other Top Ten books, Devil in Winter, Flowers from the Storm, Dreaming of You, and The Viscount Who Loved Me only appeared on one AAR staff member’s Top Ten list, while The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie was not listed on anyone’s Top Ten, though it did show up elsewhere in our Top 100 ballots. Meanwhile, the book that garnered the most votes (5) by AAR Staff members was J.R. Ward’s Lover Awakened which landed in 34th place.

All in all, 46 of the books in the final Top 100 were actually picked by at least one AAR staff member.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the final Top 100. Did any of the titles on your ballot make the final Top 100? Which authors or titles were you surprised to see or not to see on the list?

And what about the “Best of the Rest,” or the titles in positions 101-200? Check back here over the next month for some additional analyses of the Top 100.

– Lee, Cindy and LinnieGayl

TBR Challenge – Things That Go Bump in the Night

everywheresheturns This month we’re reading romantic suspense and paranormals for the TBR Challenge. I’ve been gradually packing up for a move over the past month, so finding a book that (1)fit the category and (2)wasn’t boxed up posed something of a challenge in itself. As a result, I ended up reading the first romantic suspense I came across, Debra Webb’s 2009 release Everywhere She Turns. I don’t recall buying this one and all I can say after reading it is that it wasn’t just an average, run-of-the-mill thriller. This one was bad, even offensively bad at times. If I read this for review, I’d give it a solid D-.

So, what do we get in this story?
– misogynist villain killing women? Check.
– heroine with a chip on her shoulder who has returned home from the big city? Check and check.
– skanky villain sex? Check
– hero from the heroine’s past who might still have the hots for her ? Check Continue reading

I’m Never – No, Never! Getting Married

no-weddingNick is a romance hero. He’s never – no, never! – going to get married. You can see why, of course; you need conflict to drive a plot forward, and if Nick sees Elizabeth, falls in love with Elizabeth, proposes to Elizabeth, and marries Elizabeth without a hitch you’ve got one short (and probably not all that interesting) book. A hero (or somewhat less frequently, heroine) who is never – no, never! – going to get married can provide that hitch in the relationship that makes for a good conflict and interesting reading. Well, except when it’s totally lame. If there is one knee jerk conflict that authors like to turn to, this is it. I see it more often in contemporary novels, likely because birth control is widely available and modern sexual mores more permissive. But if pops up fairly often in historicals too, usually for different reasons. I can hardly open a book without running into Nick or one of his ilk. Since the my most recent read with a marriage phobic hero got on my last nerve, I decided to provide this helpful list of acceptable and unacceptable reasons to never – no, never! get married. 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

TBR Challenge 2013: The Wild West

daughteroftx For this month’s TBR Challenge, we’re reading Westerns – contemporary or historical. Most of the Westerns in my TBR are historical, but I was in the mood for a little mystery, so I decided the Texas Ranger tie-in of Terri Reed’s 2011 Daughter of Texas would work. This novel is 1st in the multi-author Texas Ranger Justice series from Love Inspired Suspense. LIS seems to do one of these series each year, and I’ll admit that they often suck me in. Each book has its own self-contained romance and mystery, but there is also an overarching suspense plot that winds through all 6 books of the series and doesn’t get solved until the end. When it’s done well, it can be addictive. In this case, I’d say Daughter of Texas starts things off fairly well. I have a few quibbles with the romance and the heroine sometimes drove me a little nuts, but this was still a pleasant enough read, and I’d give it a C+. Continue reading

The Scenes That Stick With You

reading I was cowardly and scheduled my Top Ten Staff Picks as far out as I could, knowing the list would be difficult to compose and likely to change. As a result, I had a lot of time to ponder my favorite books, and what I realized is that each has a fondly remembered moment that often means more than the rest of the plot or even the characters, when it comes to memory. Those scenes that stick with you are the ones you describe to your friends when you’re trying to tempt them with a book or new series, or they’re the ones you recall when you’re trying to remember a book that you’ve temporarily forgotten but remember enjoying.

When my sister, who isn’t a romance reader, was resistant to the idea of Outlander, she was convinced to try it when I told her about Claire’s instant of revelation with the witch. Although it has been a long time since most of us read that scene for the first time, don’t you remember that gasp of shock? Or how can one forget the part in See Jane Score when Jane screws up her courage and tells Luc “I want to lick your tattoo” – you go girl! I used Jane and Luc to introduce my friend to Rachel Gibson.

I think all the best books and series have that one special moment that touches us. It doesn’t have to be large or important. It can be funny, ironic, romantic, poignant or sad, as long as it makes you feel strongly enough to remember it forever – and is most likely different for everyone. Here are a few of my favorite scenes. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Alexandra’s Picks

ravishingtheheiress Although I know other reviewers and staff have had a lot of trouble deciding upon their top ten romance novels, I have to confess it was mostly easy for me. This likely has something to do with the fact that I’ll be stranded on what is essentially a desert island for the next few months—that’s right, I’m off to college. There’s not much space in a dorm, so only the crème de la crème of my romance novel collection travels with me, and since many of those books have already been mentioned, it’s actually been fairly simple to whittle my list down to just ten.

Even so, I still have some books (like Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton or Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm) which I ache to write about and recommend. The books on my list have all been read and reread dozens of times. I take scrupulous care of all my books, and if you ran your hand down the spines of everything sitting on my bookshelf, you’d find perhaps 80% are in fairly pristine condition. These ones, however, look much more worn. They’re carted around (on vacation, off to college, etc.), they’re lent out to family and friends, and they’re the books most likely to be found sitting on a coffee table waiting to be spilled on.

So, without further ado, here are, in no particular order, some of my top bunch of romance novels—the true DIKs which I’ll be carting off to college this week. Continue reading

Oh, the Mary Sue

marysue Oh, the Mary Sue. Frequently the bane of my existence. The few books I actively hate have Mary Sue characters as the leads. But what is it about the Mary Sue that enrages so many readers? And what is it about her that many others really enjoy?

So first, who is Mary Sue? Well, you know you’re reading a Mary Sue novel if your heroine (or your hero, known to some as Gary Stu):

  • has no real faults as a person/characters, except those that are “adorable”

 

  • is liked or loved by every member of the desired sex (whether male or female)

 

  • is only hated or disliked by the bad guys or people who are jealous

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AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Wendy’s Picks

abandonedbride OK. It’s confirmed. I set my Top Ten Staff Picks blog date way too far in the future. I thought this late date was a good idea originally, because I knew that I’d agonize over the list and change it several times as I remembered favorites or became disenchanted with others. I mean, I have a LOT of books on my keeper shelves. How to pick the top ten? I kept wishing I could narrow it down to, say, my top ten favorite Linda Howards, or top ten authors, or top ten historicals by location or time period. How about the top ten paranormals by era, shifter or vampire, erotic or more subtle? Ugh! After weeks of thinking about it I finally had a pretty firm list, which I put in a “safe place” from which it (of course) subsequently disappeared off the face of the planet. Here goes, in no particular order…

 

The Abandoned Bride by Edith Layton. There are a lot of extremely high quality Signet Regencies from this era, and this is my favorite, hands down. The mere fact that it wins a spot on the list over competition such as Carla Kelly and Mary Balogh says it all.

 

Continue reading