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

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 »