Archive for the ‘Pat Henshaw’ Category

The Cupcake Craze

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

cupcakeWhat is it about over-priced, calorie-laden, exotic cupcakes that has everyone in such a twitter?  I don’t get it. I particularly don’t get it when a friend was telling me that she bought cupcakes for her daughter’s class at school and thought she had a bargain because they didn’t cost over $100. Fifteen cupcakes for under $100? Is that really a bargain these days?

Then I started getting review books that featured cupcake bakers who find love through exotic ingredients and piles of frosting.

First I read Cupcake Rush by Donna Kauffman, and while I understood the minimalist approach of baking small goodies rather than a huge cake, I didn’t really buy that an upscale New York baker would chuck it all to become a cupcake specialist in a downscale Southern seaside town. But I didn’t think much about the cupcake angle.

Then the avalanche of cupcake books landed on me:


Keeping It Real

Friday, February 17th, 2012

becauseI hadn’t realized until this week what a liar I was about romance books.  If anyone asked what kind of romances I like best, I would have said those that transport me away to somewhere I haven’t been in either time or place.

Then I read three books in a row that convinced me I was lying to myself.

  • Because of You by Jessica Scott looks at love in the setting of today’s military between a wounded sergeant and a nurse. In many ways it reminds me of Cheryl Reavis’ The Older Woman, another in my personal AAR Top 100 list, except with buddies for the nurse and soldier instead of a grandmotherly landlady as charming peripheral characters.  Like The Older Woman, Because of You explores war wounds and breast cancer, two of today’s hot spots, and like the other book isn’t an easy read. It reminded me all too vividly of visits I made to my cousin Jerry in a VA hospital after he returned from the Vietnam War as a paraplegic. Instead of taking me away from reality, it brought all the memories and feelings back to me.
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Pandora’s Box: Deliciously Sinful

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

sinfulTake one plucky orphaned heroine assuming the family business; add one bad boy who’s hiding his romantic heart; mix with food, food, food; and a large dollop of sex, sex, sex.  We’ve seen it before, but somehow, while we hope these everyday ingredients will produce a culinary masterpiece, we more often get tepid leftovers.

In Deliciously Sinful by Lillie Feisty, Phoebe is spread too thin trying to run both her organic farming business and the family’s organic restaurant The Green Leaf Cafe. Since she can’t cook, in order to maintain the café’s sterling reputation she hires down-on his luck Nick Avalon.  Nick plans on staying a year, then bolt back to L.A. to reclaim the fame and recognition his talents demand.

Leigh: As a fan of Pandora’s Box, whenever I can I try to convince another reviewer to join me. After reading Deliciously Sinful I immediately thought of you, Pat.  Thanks for joining me. So what did you think?

Pat: Since I’ve read your reviews and often thought we have the same reading likes and dislikes, I was surprised you thought I might like this one.  What was it about this book you thought would appeal to me?


The Game of Love: Romance, Authors, and Casual Games

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Mamlambo reported that in 2004 “at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California, three top game designers were given a challenge – to architect a game with a love story.”  Not surprisingly, the three whose stock in trade revolves around guns and mayhem had a difficult time doing so.

In fact, “Ultima producer Warren Spector struggled to come up with a love story game premise that did not involve giving the characters a gun. After a lot of research on the nature and physiology of love, he came to the conclusion that a true love story was impossible to develop.”

Obviously Spector doesn’t know how to use Google because games surrounding love and some based on romance books not only exist but are bought and played by casual gamers. Most are hidden object or puzzle games in which players not only don’t have a gun but also don’t need one to complete their objectives.

Norah Roberts’ Vision in White may have been the first of the romance author-generated games. In it the player aids Connecticut wedding photographer Mackensie find love—just like the plot in Roberts’ 2009 best-selling book.


Casting the AAR Top Ten Romance Novels

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

ioanIn 2010 readers voted on their Top 100 favorite romance novels. Some of these have been made and remade into films, but many of the top 10 haven’t. Isn’t it time to give Hollywood a nudge and help the powers that be to cast the crucial roles in our favorites?

That’s today’s game: Cast the Top Ten.  Let’s start from number ten and work our way to the top. I’ll explain my picks, but the real question is whom you would cast in your favorite book.  In case you’ve forgotten who’s who in the books, there’s a link to the AAR reviews to jog your memory. And the actors’ names are linked to their IMDB pages.


Pastimes: What Do You Enjoy?

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

sewingJane Eyre had her painting.  Marianne Dashwood played piano.  Often the heroines in our favorite romance books have interests other than finding husbands and running households.

The same is true for AAR staff members, who beside reading books and writing their considered opinions, are addicted to interesting sidelights. Some have pastimes based on what were once called the womanly arts, knitting, sewing, and the like, while others do activities unheard of by our ancestors.

Probably one of the oldest and most traditional pastimes is bookbinding which Rike enjoys. She says this “encompasses crafting and restoring actual books.” In addition, Rike creates boxes out of cardboard and colored or printed papers. She explains, “At the moment I am making individual treasure boxes for my nieces and nephews, a rather long-term project, but lots of fun.”

Leigh and Sandy also share a traditional pastime reminiscent of Medieval ladies in their solars: needlepoint. As Sandy says, “There is a something about the sense of accomplishment. I can sit down for an hour and I can look back at the area I just worked on and feel a real sense of purpose.”


What a Scandal

Friday, May 6th, 2011

scandalThe promise of a scandal seemingly sells.  In fact, scandal seems to be one of those publisher buzz words that is used over and over again whether there’s a real scandal in the story or not.

In fact, judging by the number of times the word has blazed across book covers, scandal has been used, abused, and reused, I think almost to death. Amazon lists 276 paperback romances with “scandal” or a version of it (scandalous, etc.) in the title, as well as 27 hardcover and 50 Kindle titles. Worldcat lists 578 romances with the word in the title. And AAR has reviewed five pages with it or variations in the title. So far in 2011, four books with that title have been reviewed using the word in their titles. If the trend continues, this year will be a banner year for scandal.

But how much scandal do most of the stories include? Take Scandal in Scotland by Karen Hawkins which will be published in June of this year. A sailor and an actress, whose protector is trying to hide his homosexuality by providing for her, scramble to get hold of a mysterious antique onyx box. So what’s the scandal? Her having a protector?  Hardly! Weren’t actresses during the Regency supposed to have them? Wasn’t part of a young man’s “wild oats” to be spent hanging around actresses? Having a liaison between a sailor and an actress, under the circumstances, isn’t scandalous at all! But the title indicates there will be one somewhere in the 384 pages.


The People We Hate to Love

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

During my life I’ve been a critic and/or a reviewer of books, movies, theatre, live events, and art.  I’ve written a weekly book review column as well as a weekly art critic column.

Everywhere I’ve worked and for everyone who edited my writing, what a critic or reviewer is and should do has been a bit different.

In the early ‘70s, my editors saw the job as that of critic, the point being to give an honest critique of art pieces I saw in local galleries. Critique, in this case, meant being harsh. I tended to write my columns only about pieces I liked and avoided technical art language in favor of the language used by everyday people. I tried to describe the art in terms of how the piece made me feel, not how the various art elements worked in the piece. Oddly (to me), my columns produced positive letters to the editor, which, of course, made my editors happy.

When I switched newspapers, I became a critic at large, being assigned various entertainment events to cover. This included people like Tony Orlando and Dawn or Liberace, family events like the Ringling Brothers Circus, and generally any event other critics couldn’t cover.


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.


Cowboys – Ridin’, Ropin’, Lovin’

Friday, January 21st, 2011

cowboys Nothing seems more iconic to America than the cowboy, who is recognized and often revered all over the world. He’s tall; handsome; hardworking; kind to women, children, and the elderly; deadly to miscreants; and laconic. His trademarks include a well-worn Stetson, boots, jeans, and chambray shirt. Occasionally, he’s seen in chaps, spurs, and holster holding his trusty revolver. He’s a man’s man, and definitely, oh, definitely a woman’s man.