Hachette vs. Amazon: Show Me the Money

June 11th, 2014

Blam-Pow160I am no Amazon fangirl. In April 2013 I blogged about my concerns when they took over Goodreads. On the other hand I have what is probably an unhealthy attachment to my Kindle and I visit their site several times a week vis-à-vis books. Amazon seems to be one of the few companies aware that the book world is changing and certainly acts interested in helping readers navigate that world. They not only provide new books cheap but help you get old books and books from overseas. While I may not want Amazon to take over the book world, I certainly want them to be a large part of it. Read the rest of this entry »

Nine romance writers band together to support RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States

June 9th, 2014

What happens when love gets caught in the rain? In this romance anthology, RITA-Award winning author Molly O’Keefe shows us the power of a city thunderstorm from the top of a skyscraper, while Amy Jo Cousins soaks us in a rain in Spain. New York Times bestselling author Ruthie Knox’s heroine is devastated by a winter storm, while a summer thunderstorm grants Alexandra Haughton’s hero and heroine a second chance at love. Rain sparks self-awareness in the robot in Charlotte Stein’s story and allows Mary Ann Rivers’s heroine to fall in love with her hero and her own art. Rain causes romance between the college students in Audra North’s and Shari Slade’s stories, while romance causes rain in Cecilia Tan’s myth-inspired tale of a sacrifice to a demi-god. Nine romance novelettes, edited by Sarah Frantz. Read the rest of this entry »

Not Your Ordinary Hero

June 6th, 2014

logan-veronica-marsI’ve spent the past few weeks watching the TV show Veronica Mars (I so love Amazon Prime.) I’d seen it when it first came out but my husband hadn’t. When the movie came out this year, I thought it would be fun to check out Veronica and her pals in Neptune again.

There are many things to love about Veronica Mars–Kristen Bell’s adorable snark, the stinging accuracy of its portrayal of class, the haunting and hip soundtrack, just to name a few. But the thing that strikes me the second time around is how unusual a hero Logan Echols (played brilliantly by Jason Dohring) is.

Logan is the son of two spectacularly screwed-up movie stars played by real life spouses Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna. Logan’s grown up with money, fame, and access. In the first half of the first season he is an unmitigated ass. And yet…

By the end of the first season, he’s a man in love, a guy who most of the time, I find myself cheering for even as I struggle to define him.

If you listen to Logan without seeing him, he sounds like an obnoxious, overly confident alpha male. And if you turn the sound off, and just watch him, his mien is that of a beta guy. His body leans away as he speaks, his facial expressions are gently mocking. He routinely holds up his hands as if to say, don’t mind me, I’m backing away. But he’s never really backing away. His laid-back schtick barely hides the rage that undergirds his character . He finds his own path, one that almost always leaves him on top of the proverbial high school heap. I find him fascinating.

The hero in romance novels who most reminds me of Logan is  Sebastian Verlaine, the hero of Patricia Gaffney’s controversial historical romance To Have and to Hold. Like Logan, Sebastian is, when the reader first encounters him, an awful person. And yet, midway through the book, he’s the hero of the piece, a man I trust. Sebastian, like Logan, is neither a villain or a hero. He’s something else entirely–a complicated man whose actions belie his admitted sins.

I’d like to encounter more such men in my reading. Who are the heroes who defy easy categorization? And do you like them? Or do you find that some sins are too grave for you as a reader to overcome?

Dabney Grinnan

mentioned in this post are:

Remembering Mary Stewart

June 4th, 2014

Mary Stewart died this month at the age of 97. As the author credited for creating the romantic suspense genre she leaves behind a tremendous legacy in the world of books. Even though she hasn’t published since 1997, her novels are still being read and sold to this day. Among her most popular franchises is her Arthurian Legend series that begins with The Crystal Cave and ends with The Wicked Day. Those novels have a special place on my keeper shelf but it is her lovely, gothic suspense books that have always held the strongest place in my heart.

Back in my tween reading years I spent a lot of time with Ms. Stewart and her compatriots Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney. My grandmother had given us a large stack of their books (we got the rest from the library) most of which featured a young woman on the cover running from some medieval style stone structure in her nightgown. One can only assume the cover artists had no knowledge of the books since I can’t remember this scene happening in a single one of them. What I do remember is the bright, inquisitive heroines fighting for justice and falling in love along the way.

Stewart’s heroines especially were far from delicate violets. They travelled to amazing places like Greece and Vienna and the Canary Islands. They jumped right into adventures, they solved mysteries and they had harrowing brushes with death along the way.  They were well written, intelligent women who knew how to deal with the problems life threw at them. I’ve read all her books and while I didn’t love them all I found them all to be easy, enjoyable reads. I was especially delighted when I was able to borrow a copy of the elusive (and expensive) The Wind Off the Small Isles in order to finish off her list. It’s a short tale about a find on the Canary Islands which is of value only to a handful of people. A bit different from her usual work but it did contain her trademark descriptions of the location.

That is where Ms. Stewart really stood out – her descriptions of the exotic places her heroines travelled.  Her approach was unique; many writers wall paper their locales on, giving us mentions of a few important landmarks and then focusing on their story. Others write a travel brochure leaving you with the feeling that at some point you might want to visit. Stewart somehow made you feel like by reading the book you had visited; she captured the sights, sounds, scents. She didn’t just tell you about the major tourist attractions but took you down back alleys and through windmill filled fields to give you the full sense of the place. You met the natives; you learned the customs. Reading a book by her was like going on vacation with her characters. You felt it all.

Before telling you my favorites I thought I would let a couple of other AAR staffers who also loved her share with us what they found special about her work.

Linniegayl: My mother introduced me to Mary Stewart and I have some wonderful memories talking about my favorite books with her. I link my desire to visit Greece for the first time to my favorite Stewart, The Moonspinners. While I haven’t been to Crete yet, the first time I glimpsed one of the Greek windmills on Santorini it brought back all my images of The Moonspinners. As an adult, I shared my love of Mary Stewart with my teenage niece, and the two of us read The Moonspinners and My Brother Michael while on a trip to Greece. The settings come to life in those books (as well as my third favorite – This Rough Magic.) The Gabriel Hounds! How could I forget that one! I remember being so shocked when we discovered the secret about Aunt Harriet. That was another great Stewart in an exotic location. And I think one of my first romances.

Lynn: Oh, I loved Mary Stewart’s books! Nine Coaches Waiting is a special favorite of mine. I just loved the way she created her settings and the eerie gothic mood of her stories. I also liked that her heroines were intelligent and that they actually went out and did things rather than just passively sitting back while things happened to them.

Maggie: My two favorites are Airs Above the Ground which includes the famous Lipizzaners of the Spanish Riding School and has a wonderful secondary character in Tim Lacy and Rose Cottage, a mystery which has a happy surprise at the center of it.

Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite novels about this author? Who introduced you to her? What did you find special about her work?


Maggie Boyd

Speaking of Audiobooks: JIAM, the Audies, and June Recommendations

June 2nd, 2014

Audie-LogoJune Is Audiobook Month (JIAM)! That’s not just a statement – it’s also the title of a month long event celebrating audiobooks sponsored by the Audio Publisher’s Association (APA). All month long you will find all sorts of special events and giveaways across the audiobook community. You can participate in some of the action by following two month-long blog hops.

First, the APA has scheduled 31 single audiobook giveaways throughout the month, each featuring one of the 31 Audie Awards winners (announced on May 29th). Bloggers are lined up to give away the winning audiobooks courtesy of the respective publisher. It promises to be a lot of fun and actually started this past Saturday at Audiobooker. Visit Audiobooker to enter for your chance to win the Audiobook of the Year, Billy Crystal’s Still Foolin’ ‘Em, and to discover the next stop (and giveaway) along the way or follow hashtags #audiomonth and/or #Audies2014 on Twitter and Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »

From Inside the Reviewer’s Studio

May 30th, 2014

mm blogOne of the things I like best about reviewing for AAR is the fact that I’m encouraged to select books to review rather than being assigned what to read. Of course, this freedom promotes good, rather than bad reviews most of the time. Read the rest of this entry »

RT20014: The Author interviews, part four

May 29th, 2014

The best part of RT was, for me, talking to authors.  I asked each the same three questions.

What is the most interesting piece of research you ever uncovered while writing a book?

How have people responded to you when you tell them you write romance?

If you had to have lunch with one of your characters, who would it be and why? Read the rest of this entry »

Books with Characters Who Read

May 26th, 2014

tumblr_lcwupgBQRR1qb8ugro1_1280Last week I was walking past a used bookstore that had a number of books displayed on a shelf outside the store. One of the books – The Library by Sarah Stewart – caught my eye. I spent over 10 minutes thumbing through this children’s book (illustrated by David Small) and ultimately bought it. It’s now sitting on my coffee table where I can look at – and smile at – the cover featuring a young girl with her nose in a book dragging a wagon filled with books behind her. Read the rest of this entry »

RT20014: The Author interviews, part three

May 24th, 2014

There were countless authors at RT and I met many of them. Those I interviewed, I asked the same three questions.

What is the most interesting piece of research you ever uncovered while writing a book?

How have people responded to you when you tell them you write romance?

If you had to have lunch with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

CourtneyMCourtney Milan:

My next book is called The Suffragette’s Scandal which is about Frederica Marshall who is a recurring character in The Brothers Sinister series. It comes out later this summer. The hero of the book is someone my readers have never met. He is a complete scoundrel, a blackmailer, a man who doesn’t believe in anything at all. Frederica is the most idealistic heroine I’ve ever met so it’s an explosive combination.

In my latest book, my heroine had gone to Cambridge so I was researching women attending Cambridge at the time. They gave a test called the Mathematical Tripos to those who would graduate with Honors. They finally started allowing women to take the test but wouldn’t rank them alongside the men. Instead, they would announce the women separately and then say where they would have fallen in the official ranking. In 1890, there was a woman named Philippa Fawcette who was a badass. She took the test and her results posed a challenge for the announcers. Her score beat out all the men… by 13%. She is one of the reasons Cambridge began to let women be ranked alongside the men.

For a very long time I kept my romance life completely separate from my work life. Then, I quit my day job. All of my friends were completely supportive. I went to a reunion and, afterwards, a guy from it emailed me and said “We all voted and we think you have the coolest job.”

At this point, it would be Free (Frederica). She’s funny, she’s optimistic, and she likes to eat. So we could order everything.

JenniferMJennifer McQuiston:

My latest book is Diary of an Accidental Wallflower–it’s “Mean Girls” set in Victorian London. It’s will come out in late 2014 or early 2015 and is being published by Avon.

In Diary of an Accidental Wallflower, the hero’s a physician who is working on a device to safely deliver chloroform in surgeries. I researched the phases of sedation. I actually found a YouTube video from the late 1940′s and early 1950′s and watched it over and over again. I was interested to learn that many people fight being sedated and may have to be tied or calmed down to get to that final stage of unconsciousness.

I get a lot of raised eyebrows because in my day job I am an epidemiologist at the CDC.

I would have lunch with Carolyn Tolbertson, the heroine of my second book, Summer is for Lovers. First, I would get to go to Brighton in the 1800′s. Second, she was a very unusual woman. She was a swimmer at a time women didn’t swim. She was very true to herself. I think she would be an interesting person to talk to.

EliseCElise Cyr:

My latest–and first–book is Siege of the Heart. It’s a Medieval romance set in England in the aftermath of the Norman conquest. The heroine, Isabel, is English-born but Norman-blooded and is somewhat adrift in this new political climate. The hero Alexandre is one of William’s knights sent to her holding to secure her family’s loyalty. It was released in April of this year by Kensington Books.

It was incredibly difficult to research this time period. It was a time when everything was in the transition, so I had to research the late Anglo-Saxon period, the post-Norman climate in England, and make guesses as to what happened in between. It was an eye-opening experience for me, especially given that the victors write the history.

I’d pick Isabel. She is a twisted mirror reflection of myself. She’s the version of myself I’d like to be.

MeganMMegan Mulry:

My upcoming release is Roulette, which comes out in December, 2014.

The most interesting bit of research had to do with Sharia Law and arranged marriages in Somalia. This still goes on, but the laws are gradually changing to allow mothers to support their daughters’ decisions to decline an arranged marriage. It’s only a minor part of a subplot, but I love learning all these random facts. I also loved doing research into Parisian cheese shops, high-end clothing shops, Van Cleef & Arpels, and private jet interiors.

When I tell people I write romance they are usually super-excited to meet a “real” writer. I am often out socializing with my husband and the conversation frequently leads to the raised eyebrow along with, “So…do you help with research?”

I would love to have lunch with Miki and Rome from Roulette. He brings her take out from Petrossian that they eat in the back of a limo when she is too busy to eat lunch between high-powered meetings in New York City.

Dabney Grinnan

available books mentioned in this post are:


Surviving the Convention

May 23rd, 2014

covermodelEven though I’ve been to BEA (Book Expo America) quite a few times, I wasn’t prepared for the RT convention this year. Although they both revolve around books and finding the right book for the right reader, they are markedly different.

BEA is geared to publishers and booksellers with very few sessions aimed at readers. It’s staid and business-like, very organized and not given to much fun and frivolity.

RT? Laissez les bons temps rouler, baby!

Here’s a quick overview of the event : Read the rest of this entry »