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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More on Diversity

I have never read a book by Tana French and the first time I saw her name was in the Eagerly Awaited August Books where both Dabney and Lynn indicate that they are looking forward to her new release Broken Harbor.  Then while surfing the Web, I came across  her name again.  She wrote an article for Publishers Weekly outlining her writing tips.

A few of them didn’t resonate, but this one did:

There’s no such thing as ‘men’ or ‘women’. There’s only the individual character you’re writing. One guy emailed me asking me how to write women, and I couldn’t answer, because I had no idea which woman he meant: me? Eleanor of Aquitaine? Lady Gaga? If you’re thinking of ‘men’ or ‘women’ as a monolithic group defined primarily by their sex, then you’re not thinking of them as individuals; so your character isn’t going to come out as an individual, but as a collection of stereotypes. Sure, there are differences between men and women on average – but you’re writing an individual, not an average. If your individual character is chatty on the phone or refuses to ask for directions, that needs to be because of who he or she is, not because of what he or she is. Write the person, not the genitalia.

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Looking for a Few Good Gothic Heroines

misstress_of_mellyn When I wrote my post for the TBR Challenge yesterday, one of our commenters brought up a good point – it’s hard to find a gothic where the heroine isn’t a doormat. Nowadays, gothics are pretty hard to find anyway but even in their heyday, they seemed to have more than their fair share of childlike, frequently fainting heroines. Growing up, I remember my mom loved gothics and while I enjoyed some of the old books she picked up at library sales, there were definitely some helpless idiot heroines out there. And while The Jade Pagoda, the book I read for TBR Challenge yesterday, didn’t feature a completely spineless heroine, it still isn’t one I’d put on a list of recommendations.

After seeing the request for good gothic suggestions, Barbara Michaels immediately came to mind. Though better known today for her Amelia Peabody books written as Elizabeth Peters, under the Michaels name she has written a number of novels full of creepy Gothic goodness. Continue reading

2012 Reading Year So Far: Chick List and Women’s Fiction

Last week we featured a sneak peek at 2012 debut authors. This time, I’m taking an early look at Chick Lit and Women’s Fiction for 2012, a category that at times has been a bit of a problem in the Annual Reader Poll at AAR. Some years we pollsters wonder if we’ll have enough votes for any single title to declare a winner. This wasn’t the case in the 2012 AAR Reader’s Poll for books published in 2011, when Jill Mansell’s To the Moon and Back was the winner in the category. A number of 2011 books captured readers’ attention and received quite a few votes in the category.

But in other years we’ve had more problems. First, a lot of AAR readers avoid both genres and leave the category blank on their ballot. Now this isn’t a problem for the readers; I tend to have a number of blank categories on my ballot each year as well (Biggest Tearjerker, Best Love Scenes, Best Romantica/Erotica to name just a few).

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There’s a New Girl in Town: Girl Sleuth, That Is

girlismurder I’ve posted here before about my love of the original girl sleuths, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. And I’ve also posted about my discovery of a new girl sleuth, the marvelous Flavia de Luce. I even wrote a DIK review here for first in the Flavia series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Well look out fans of girl sleuths, I’ve just discovered a new girl sleuth, Iris Anderson, who makes her debut in Kathryn Miller Haines’ The Girl is Murder, set in 1942 New York City.
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Books with Buzz: Nalini Singh Interview and Five-Book Giveaway (Contest Closed)

tangleThe minute I read Nalini Singh’s Slave of Sensation, I knew we had something special in our hands.  In the intervening six, short years, Nalini has published fifteen stories in her thought-provoking Psy/Changeling series, each of them gritty, passionate, and loads of fun.

With this month’s release of Tangle of Need, we took the opportunity to ask Nalini a few questions, and she’s coming along with some free books in tow.  Five lucky readers will have their pick of any one book from the previous 10 books in the Psy/Changeling series (not including Tangle of Need – sorry), and all you have to do to enter is comment on this post by Friday, June 8, 11:59 p.m. EST.  We will notify winners by email on Saturday morning, and they will have 24 hours to respond.  If we don’t hear from a winner within that time, a new winner will be selected.  If you review for another Web site or blog, please don’t enter.  Unfortunately, only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to enter.

Now, on to Nalini!

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Five Awesome Romance Things

bookofawesome3dIntroduction first: In case you were unaware of the 1000 Awesome Things blog, Neil Pasricha was at a down point in his life a couple of years ago, and decided to cheer himself up by blogging about the good, often unnoticed, things in life.  When gas prices go down just as you need some gas.  When you turn a pillow onto its fresh side.  The fact that we exist.  When a cashier opens a new cash line.  You know – awesome things.

1000 posts and 3 bestsellers later, the blog is over.  In (belated) honour of the 1000th post, I decided to write about the awesome things in romance.  It’s been a good exercise, because too often I focus on the annoying or tedious in romance novels.  But despite the bad stuff, there are many reasons I stick with romance novels, and they’re all awesome (in my opinion, anyway).  So here, counting down, are my Five Awesome Romance Things.

5. You can’t please everyone, but you can please someone. Publishing is a transient business.  Just think of all those thousands – no, millions of books that clutter used bookstores, books that are in and out of print, remembered and forgotten.  But what’s great about romances is that even 999 people think a book’s absolute crap, there’s probably at least one person who finds it awesomer than Kraft Dinner.

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In Search of Contemporary Romance Heroines with Hobbies

knittingI like heroines who have full lives — they work, they have hobbies, hopefully they read, and they have friends or families with whom they talk to and visit. I’m talking specifically about contemporary romance heroines. In European Historical romances, particularly those set in Regency England, it’s only the odd heroine who works (such as the governess or the secret writer or secret spy). The job of the properly bred, upper class, historical heroine is to marry. As such, most seem to have been trained to sing, play an instrument, draw or paint, and do needlework.

There’s a whole genre of cozy mysteries often referred to as “crafting mysteries.” According to rumors I’ve heard, many of these are started by a publisher saying something like “Knitting is hot, I need a series of knitting mysteries.” The word “knitting” can easily be substituted with “scrapbooking,” “organizing,” or whatever the latest hot hobby happens to be. I’ve heard that most of these “crafting mysteries” are just a three book series in which an author is hired to write them. In most of these books, the “hobby” is actually the full-time work of the main character in the mystery. That’s not what I have in mind by hobbies.

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Speaking of Audiobooks: Giveaway Plus Author and Narrator Interviews (Giveaway Closed)

The Madness of I MacWhen I discovered that Tantor was set to release Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie on March 26th, I enthusiastically shared the news far and wide.  Published in 2009, it’s a favorite among romance readers winning Best Romance of 2009 in AAR’s Annual Reader Poll and ranking #10 in AAR’s 2010 Top 100 Romance Poll.  In print, we were mesmerized by hero Ian Mackenzie and, in audio, we hope to move the entire experience up a notch by actually hearing him interact in his matter-of-fact manner as he determinedly pursues Beth.

Today, we are celebrating the release of this much loved book with a giveaway and interviews with both author Jennifer Ashley and narrator Angela Dawe.

The Giveaway

We are giving away FIVE MP3 CD copies of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie courtesy of Tantor Audio.  Place your name in the hat by commenting on this column by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, March 22nd. Due to the cost of postage, the giveaway is open only to listeners in the U.S. and Canada.  We encourage multiple comments in our discussion, but you will only be entered in the contest once.  If you review for another Web site or blog, please don’t enter.  The winner will be notified by email on Friday morning and will have 24 hours to respond.  Another winner will be selected on Saturday morning if the winner has not responded.  Audiobooks will be mailed to the winners upon release of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie.

Talking with Jennifer Ashley

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Endearments – Yea or Nay?

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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