Archive for the ‘Historicals’ Category

Quirky Is as Quirky Does: When Romance Doesn’t Follow the Formula

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

kinsaleThe formula: Boy meets girl; girl meets boy. They fall in love. A complication or two, or a misunderstanding or two separate them. The complication or the misunderstanding is cleared up. They live HEA.

That about sums up the typical romance, right? But what if that’s not exactly what happens? What if the plot and/or characters, the tone or voice are so different from the usual romance that for a while the reader might wonder if what’s being read really is a romance at all?

Then we have what I call a quirky romance, the kind of romance story I seek out and love. Laura Kinsale’s historical Flowers from the Storm, one of the best known representatives of this type of romance, features rake and mathematician Christian Langland, Duke of Jerveaux, as the most unlikely of romantic heroes, especially since he suffers a stroke rendering him incapable of speech at the beginning of the book and is clapped into a madhouse.

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Guilty Pleasures: Let’s Spread the Joy

Friday, December 24th, 2010

whitneyOne of the best things about the holidays is that we all give in to indulgence of our Guilty Pleasures for weeks at time.   Much chocolate and champagne consumption ensues – at least for this holiday-er.

As romance readers, though, we’re familiar with a different type of Guilty Pleasure:  Books we love that we don’t necessarily want to admit to loving to our smart women friends who read romance, too. Your GP may involve an un-politically correct plotline or an over the top Alpha hero you would hate in real life – whatever your particular brand of GP happens be, it’s your bidness, right?

So, without further ado, let me take the cover off a few of my personal brand of Guilty Pleasures:

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The Best? Or the Favorites?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

When I submitted my entries for the 2007 Top 100 Romance Poll, my exposure to romance novels was still fairly limited.  But in the past three years my reading has expanded in both breadth and depth, stretching across genres and eras and sensuality ratings.  My list of TBR books and Auto-Read authors has doubled in length, and I’ve found much delight in some damn good books that have come across my way.  However, this also leaves me with a quandary: With so many books to choose from, do I vote for the best, or my favourite?

After all, the poll’s title (“Top 100”) can be open to interpretation, and for me the two are not necessarily mutual.  For instance, I think Nora Roberts’s Angels Fall is one of her best books.  Plot, character, setting, structure, dialogue – you name it, she aces it.  I really enjoyed it, both times I read it, and I’ll continue to re-read it.  But do I read it as often as I read Sweet Revenge?  Hell no.  Sweet Revenge is faulty, but every time I read it I store away my critic’s hat and just enjoy.  I need my annual fix of the un-tannable Englishman and felonious Arabian princess.  However, when it came time to rank the books, my head overruled my habits, and Angels Fall went in at #6 with Sweet Revenge at #69.  Ditto Connie Brockway’s My Dearest Enemy and Bridal Favors. I re-read the latter probably twice as much as the former, but I think the former is the better book.  So I listed them as #10 and #22 respectively.

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Are We in a New Historical Golden Age?

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

RuthlessI sat down to write something kind of snarky about language use in historicals after having come across some particularly heinous examples lately, but I soon found myself thinking about something entirely different:  Are we in the midst of a renaissance of the historical romance?

I think we may be getting there.  Recently I read – and was blown away by – Anne Stuart’s Ruthless.  The novel is a great one any way you choose to judge it, but it’s also noteworthy for taking place in 1765 in France.  Yes, that’s right, I said France. But, refreshing as that different time and setting may be, I loved this book because it is a voluptuous (and, yes, I really think that word applies), full-bodied (yes, I like it, even if it is redundant), lush romance between a truly dissolute rake and a strong, self-reliant woman.  And, even better, it reminded me of a classic of the author’s from a l-o-o-o-o-n-g time ago that I have saved since I first read it – Lord Satan’s Bride. And I am excited – oh, my, am I excited – about the remaining two books in the trilogy.

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Avon ARC and Vera Bradley Bag Giveaway (Contest Closed)

Monday, June 21st, 2010

AvonbagOur friends at Avon books are helping AAR celebrate our new look by putting together an extra special prize package for one lucky reader, including coveted ARCs of favorite authors and one from a historical romance debut author.  It includes the following ARCs:

A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James (July 27 release)

One Touch of Scandal by Liz Carlyle (September 28 release)

Born to Bite by Lynsay Sands (August 31 release)

Eat Prey Love by Kerrelyn Sparks (September 28 release)

Afterlife by Merrie Destefano (September 28 release)

Swept Away by  Kiss by Katherine Ashe (July 27, Avon debut author)

And, to make a good giveaway even better, the prize package also includes a cute Vera Bradley drawstring bag and a beach towel in a coordinating pattern.

To enter for your chance to win, simply comment to this post by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, June 24th.  The usual caveats apply:  This giveaway is designed to put advanced reading copies into the hands of readers who wouldn’t otherwise have access so, if you review for another Web site or blog, please don’t enter.  Due to high postage costs, this prize package can only be shipped to U.S. and Canadian addresses.

Thanks to our friends at Avon Books for putting together such a terrific giveaway.  Thanks, also, to everyone who visits AAR.  And good luck to everyone, but if you don’t win this time, be sure to stay tuned over the coming weeks for more cool giveaways.

- Sandy AAR

Propose RIGHT!

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

balogh“Will you marry me? You would be well advised to say no.”

These are the words Edmond uses to propose to Mary in Mary Balogh’s The Notorious Rake. I first read it well over a decade ago, but it remains my favorite proposal in all of romance. And as a veteran reviewer of nearly twelve years, I’ve seen my share. Because I’ve seen so many, the unusual proposals stand out, and are duly noted. Also duly noted: A new Disturbing Trend, one you’ve probably noticed too. Heroines can no longer accept their first proposal from the hero. No matter how logical it may be, no matter how much they love the guy, they just can’t say yes the first time around.

Oh, we all know why. It’s because he didn’t ask right . The scenario goes like this: Hero and heroine have sex. It is 1815. She might be pregnant, because hey, it’s 1815. The hero, who has been in love with the heroine forever but just didn’t realize it, is secretly thrilled. Now, finally, he has an excuse to do what he’s been wanting to do for some time, which is ask this gorgeous woman to marry him so they can have sex legally whenever they feel like it. So he gets down on one knee, professes his regard and his fervent hope that she will accept his hand. Only to hear, “I can’t marry you! I won’t force you to marry me just because I am ruined and might possibly be pregnant!” Never mind that those are actually excellent reasons for getting married in 1815, particularly if you love someone anyway.

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Sherry Thomas Winners

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Thomas

Congratulations to Barb in Maryland, msaggie, ensbit5, Karenmc, and JeriR.  They are the lucky winners of an early copy of His at Night by Sherry Thomas.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  And be sure to stay tuned for exciting giveaways yet to come.

- Sandy AAR

Books with Buzz: Sherry Thomas Interview and Giveaway (Contest Closed)

Monday, May 10th, 2010

ThomasI’ve made no secret of the fact that I love the books of Sherry Thomas.  And, with His at Night scheduled for release on May 25th, those who love historical romance as much as I do have reason to celebrate.  As one of the author’s biggest fans, I’ll say that this one is a bit different in some ways from what we’ve come to expect from her.  Still, with that said,  I never forgot for one moment that I was reading a book by Sherry Thomas since the emotional intensity and the sophisticated prose that I’ve come to expect from her are absolutely there.  To put it simply, I loved it.

To mark the release, I’ve got five copies of His at Night to give away to five lucky AAR readers.  To enter for your chance to win, simply comment to this post by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, May 12.  Winners will be announced here and also notified by email.  You know the caveats by now, but just to spell them out:  This giveaway is open only to readers in the United States and Canada and, since our purpose is to get early copies into the hands of readers who wouldn’t otherwise have access, if you review for another Web site or blog, please don’t enter.

But, first it’s time to hear from Sherry.

Sherry, let’s start with the Books with Buzz official Opening Question:  Would you tell AAR readers a bit about His at Night?

His at Night has no flashbacks!  Somehow my first three published books all featured reunited lovers in one form or another, so His at Night will be the first time that I do not rely upon a prior relationship to build tension and conflict.

As for specifically what the story is about, it revolves around a forced marriage between two people who want nothing to do with each other.

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The Pregnant Heroine

Friday, May 7th, 2010

ackermanmorningAs so many of us have blogged about our reading preferences lately, I began thinking about my own romance likes and dislikes.   As I’ve gotten older or simply have read more, I’ve noticed differences in my reading preferences and have often wondered why those tastes change.   Way back in the day, I loved the pregnant heroine, but now, not so much.   I don’t know if it’s because I’ve passed that period in my life – a been there, done that  attitude -  or maybe it’s simply that there aren’t as many pregnant heroines  in Romancelandia  these days.

When I began reading in my early teens, I could only get my sneaky little hands on my mom’s books and, sadly, those were the old bodice rippers of the 70s, 80s, and even into the 90s.  The ones I remember the most were mainly the Woodiwiss and Lindsey books where the heroines were usually pregnant or at least ended up that way for a good portion of the book.  They weren’t the only ones, of course, but those are the ones that standout in my memory because of the pregnancies, or maybe even because of the violence.  I’m not terribly scarred – I promise. Regardless, for a younger me marriage and pregnancy were the goals I wanted to obtain after I completed my education and established my career and I gobbled up those books.

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Contemporary Clichés

Friday, February 19th, 2010

RB-0811836428-LgI’ve got my cranky pants on today.

First of all, I’ve always loved contemporary romance.  And there are many – many – writers of contemporary romance I love.  Really love.  Welcome to Temptation is my touchstone for all that is perfect in contemporary storytelling.

Still, I’ve been burned a bit lately and I could use a little help in identifying the books I want to read.

In historical romance, we’ve got handy code words to help readers know what they’re going to get when they open a book:  Wallpaper or Not Wallpaper.  Though some may define what constitutes a true Wallpaper a bit differently, I think most of us would agree that we know one when we see it.  (Clue:  If a 19th century heroine uses “whatever” as a snotty response, you’re looking at a Class A Wallpaper.)

In contempories, however, we’re swinging out there in the breeze.  There’s no way to tell between a …say, a Rachel Gibson-smart small town book or a “contemporary” romance featuring a setting straight from the turn of the century.  And I’m talking the 20th century.

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