Peddling Visions of Beauty

July 1st, 2014

STnude11382555281.tifThree weeks ago the weather turned, and I opened my closet to find some light summer skirts. No such luck –  I’d put on weight, so the old ones didn’t fit, and the others were too heavy for humid 27 degree weather. So I went shopping. I chose a mall and went with an open mind and larger than usual budget – I’m in my thirties, I want fairly good quality that’s not going to break the bank, and I have a body shape that can be difficult to shop for, vertically challenged and horizontally inconsistent. So yeah, I wasn’t expecting to find $10 skirts.

After three hours I was ready to do my head in. I’d run the gamut from Walmart to the Bay to Banana Republic, but I was a victim of Fashion, which this year seems to be either maxi dresses or skirts that just barely cover the vulva. And when skirts did fit me, in size and style, they were asking for something outrageous. $90 for a flipping polyester skirt, which I damn well know was made in an overcrowded Cambodian factory? No way. So I did what I should have done from the start: I went to a secondhand store and got 4 skirts of different styles for $30.

I went home feeling a curious mixture of fury and elation. $30 including tax, for a variety of work-casual skirts of different cuts and colours? Major back pat. But that I could literally not find anything suiting my age, body type, and budget in a mall of over 100 stores? Enraging. And I am hardly at an extreme. I live above the poverty line. I am able. I am not “plus size”. I am neither young nor old.  All of that should, theoretically, allow me run of the mall. But in fact I was screwed because Fashion allows for all of that except the most important: choice. Read the rest of this entry »

We’ve Got New Additions to our Special Titles List!

June 30th, 2014

Today we’re pleased to announce that six more of the Special Title Lists have been updated: (1) Green Romance; (2) Friendships; (3) Best Enemies; (4) Cross-Dressing & In Disguise; (5) The Limelight; and (6) Two-Hanky Reads. Read the rest of this entry »

Jill Sorenson talks implants, earthquakes, and gives away five copies of Backwoods!

June 27th, 2014

Author Jill Sorenson is known for her heart-pounding romantic suspense. You can read AAR’s review of her latest book, Backwoods, here. I know Jill on Twitter and asked if she’d be interested in answering a few questions. Read the rest of this entry »

Visiting Imaginary Places

June 25th, 2014

imageI remember the first time I read Jane Eyre and entered Rochester’s house, Thornfield Hall. Coming from a middle-class family in Nebraska, the middle of the United States, I was enthralled with walking into the drawing room where Rochester lounged in his overstuffed chair with Pilot at his feet. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Resolutions

June 23rd, 2014

reading-vintageNew Years Eve is the traditional time for most people to make resolutions; plans they have to improve their lives, old habits they’d like to break, more healthful habits they’d like to adopt. Some people make bucket lists of things they’d like to accomplish or experience over the course of the coming year. This is all well and good, but I’ve never found myself compelled to jump on the New Year resolution bandwagon. Part of this could be my overall feeling that New Years is an overhyped holiday, and after a solid month of holiday merry-making, I really want nothing to do with any of it. Read the rest of this entry »

Loretta Chase interview and BIG giveaway

June 20th, 2014

Loretta Chase’s latest book, Vixen in Velvet, comes out on June 24. Ms. Chase was kind enough to agree to an interview and to offer ten lucky readers galleys of her new book. To be entered in the running for a copy, all you need do is make a comment below. The contest is open  until midnight on Sunday, June 22nd. (This contest is now closed.)
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TBR Challenge – Back to the Classics

June 18th, 2014

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. Read the rest of this entry »

When Romance Mirrors Your Own Romance

June 16th, 2014

Children-dressed-up-as-bride-and-groom-252x300A few years ago, my husband gave me an anniversary card that looked something like the picture on the left. “Look!,” he wrote inside. “They found one of our wedding pictures!” It was a joke, of course. I mean, we weren’t nineBut we were both nineteen, which even in 1989 was really young. I am pretty sure people thought we were crazy, and when I look back, there may have been something to that. My mom was completely horrified. She’d married at the ripe old age of twenty-three, and in her mind, getting married meant that you immediately dropped out of college and started having babies right and left, which was not the life she pictured for her honor student daughter. It doesn’t have to mean that. In my case, it did mean that I switched universities (ending up at one that was likely better suited to me anyway), but my husband and I both graduated a year early and didn’t have children right away. With time and perspective though, I can see exactly why my mom was worried. As I went on in life and discovered others who married young, I found that I was the exception rather than the rule. Most people either got married because they were expecting, or married with the intention of both partners remaining in school only to have one drop out to support the other. It’s not that getting married very young is an impossible road, but it creates some unique obstacles that older couples don’t necessarily have to face.

A few years ago I read a very interesting article (which of course I couldn’t find for the life of me when I wrote this piece) that spoke to the challenges of marrying young. It was actually written in sort of a blue state/red state context, and addressed marriage differences and why divorce rates were lower in blue states. The article phrased the dichotomy in a way that stuck with me: “Adults creating families vs. families creating adults.” Do you grow up, meet someone, and build a family together, or meet someone, build a family together, and then grow up? It’s the challenge of an early marriage in a nutshell. My husband and I are in our forties, now addressing some of the issues that a lot of people addressed in their twenties. I love my husband, and we’re still married as we approach our 25th anniversary. But would I advise my daughters (20 and 22) to make a similar choice? Probably not, and they haven’t.

Why do I bring this up? Well, partly it’s because I am at a stage where I am talking and thinking a lot about my marriage and my choices. But it’s also because the heroine of the book I’m reading is eighteen. Granted, she is eighteen in 1812, which is a lot different than being eighteen in 1988 or 2014. It takes us longer to grow up now because life is complicated in ways that it wasn’t 200 years ago. But still, she’s eighteen. The hero thinks she’s young, and she is. And because I married young, because I’ve walked down that road, I know what is ahead of her better than most. I believe that young love is real, because I’ve lived it. But I also understand the intricacies and nuances of what’s ahead. It’s a little harder for me to romanticize it.

It made me wonder whether we seek out romances that mirror our own love story, or avoid them because they are too real. On one hand, if it has worked for you, you know it can work. Linda Hurst, who used to co-write Pandora’s Box with me years ago, was a firm defender of love at first sight romances. She fell head over heels crazy in love with her husband in a moment and knew that it was real and could work outside a romance novel. I’ve also defended young love over the years because I’ve lived young love. Periodically I’ve seen someone say (on our message boards) that you can’t possibly be in love with someone you met at fifteen. Yes, I personally know otherwise. But I am not exactly sure that I seek out romances where couples face the problems I faced.

Do any of us? If your spouse is in the military and suffering from PTSD, do you enjoy military romances? Or do you think they downplay the struggles? If you’re raising step-children, do you enjoy reading about step-families in romance? Or is it all just too real? If we didn’t need desire fantasies, we probably wouldn’t read books with bizarre will stipulations, secret babies, or shapeshifting wolves.

Where do you stand? Do you like romances that remind you of your own romance? Or do you just think, “I can get that at home” and seek out something completely different?

 

 

Women Writing M/M Romance

June 14th, 2014

I interviewed three groups of m/m romance authors at the Romantic Times convention in May, asking the authors primarily the same questions. I let the discussions go in any direction the authors wanted with the idea that the mix of authors would put a different spin and focus on the topic. Read the rest of this entry »

Eagerly Awaited July Books

June 13th, 2014

July looks like it’s going to be a month for historical lovers. Even though all of us here at AAR picked out some favorites across a variety of subgenres, historicals topped the list. Loretta Chase, Kaki Warner, Grace Burrowes and Mary Balogh all have new releases. I like to spend my summers lounging on the deck, daydreaming over a good book. What good books do you want to linger over this summer?

Title and Author Reviewer
Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase Caz, Lee, Lee, Cindy, Alex, Heather
Where the Horses Run by Kaki Warner Where the Horses Run by Kaki Warner Lynn, Pat, Lee, Mary
The Captive by Grace Burrowes The Captive by Grace Burrowes Jenna, Caz, Mary, Alex
The Escape by Mary Balogh The Escape by Mary Balogh Maggie, Alex, Lee
Hope at Dawn by Stacy Henrie Hope at Dawn by Stacie Henrie Caroline, Lynn
The Dead Will Tell by Linda CAstillo The Dead Will Tell by Linda Castillo Shannon, Maggie
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness Alex, Heather
A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber LinnieGayl, Caz
Landline by Rainbow Rowell Landline by Rainbow Rowell Caroline, Jenna
Straddling the Line by Jaci Burton Straddling the Line by Jaci Burton Haley
Awakened by Virna DePaul Awakened by Virna DePaul Shannon
On Sunset Beach by Mariah Stewart On Sunset Beach by Mariah Stewart LinnieGayl
Four Stories by Veronica Roth Four Divergent Stories by Veronica Roth Jenna
Second Chance Cinderella by Carla Capshaw Second Chance Cinderella by Carla Capshaw Lynn
The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan Wiggs The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs Maggie
Unwept by Hickmans Unwept by Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman Melanie
Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan Haley
Midnight Secretary, Vol. 6 Midnight Secretary, Vol. 6 by Tomu Ohmi Caroline
Noble Metals by L.A. Witt Noble Metals by L.A. Witt Pat
Born of Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon Born of Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon Melanie
The Manhattan Encounter by Addison Fox The Manhattan Encounter by Addison Fox Lynn
The Boleyn REckoning by Laura Andersen The Boleyn Reckoning by Laura Andersen Caz
Rusty Nailed by Alice Clayton Rusty Nailed by Alice Clayton Heather
Then Came You by Jill Shalvis Then Came You by Jill Shalvis Haley
Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok Maggie
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes One Plus One by Jojo Moyes Lee
No River Too Wide by Emilie Richards No River Too Wide by Emilie Richards Heather