Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tempt Me Not by Eve Byron

This book packed a wallop. It's full of angst in some ways. Not a major character dying or adultery of the main characters angst. But the angst of being the child of someone who doesn't know how to love, and having to learn what love is and how to open one's heart. And there are very complicated relationships between the major characters. People who think they are friends, turn out to have deeper relationships. Secrets are kept, and lives are destroyed. To say more would be giving away major plot points, so I won't do that. But I can say that this book shows the power of a loving heart, and the determination of a person who will not give up on the one the person loves. Jillian loves Max. She's loved him since she was a child. When her chance comes to have him, she takes it. And there are some consequences. But like most things that seem bad at the time, much good comes of it. Max is scarred by his indifferent father. And his father turns out to be the man who kept his good friend Bruce's married mother as his mistress for many years, but ignored his own wife and son. Max has been friends with Damien and Bruce for many years. Jillian is Damien's younger sister. As complicated as these relationships sound, they turn out to be even more complicated. To best enjoy this story, you should read Tempt Me Not first, then Love Me Not, and finally Decieve Me Not. This trio is very intertwined. I read Love Me Not first, and I had question marks about Max and Jillian. Reading this book last, I had some blanks filled in. This book is evidence that disproves the fallacy that romance is fluff. The emotions and situations in this book are deep and real life, and they hit home, but have the comfort of a loving relationship between the hero and heroine to soften the blow. I am glad I got the opportunity to read this book.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Romance of the Rose by Julie Beard

This was a fun, passionate book for lovers of the Elizabethan period. Of course Queen Elizabeth and the bard William Shakespeare make appearances. In fact, they are both heavily involved in the plot of this book. It's also a good book if you like unrequited love, and friends/enemies to lovers. Rosalind was a good heroine, and I admired her determination to live her own life, even if that meant remaining unwedded. Drake was complicated and had some motives that might have made him seem amoral, but Beard did a good job of making him sympathetic. I loved that he was helplessly in love with Rosalind, and had been since he was a child. Of course love denied turns to spite. Be even at his worst, he was not cruel to Rosalind. I enjoyed that both characters grew and had to made a determination about what was really important to them in their lives. The passion between them was fiery, yet the consummation came right on time. I enjoyed the look at the bawdy, intrigue-filled, and complicated lives that people led back in the 16th century. Not always pretty or pristine, but definitely interesting. This book is a keeper.”

Only A Duke Will Do by Sabrina Jeffries

Great way to spend a Saturday evening reading about Simon's determined pursuit of Louisa, and how the pursuer really was the pursued all the time. Simon has some issues from his cruel grandfather that take things to the next emotional level. I'm glad to see that things worked out for Simon and Louisa, and it's so refreshing to read a book with a hero who isn't sleeping with every woman he can prior to the heroine. Simon was a really hot hero, although he tried so hard to keep his emotions under control. I loved that Louisa was the only woman who could get under his skin, and how that fact drove him crazy. I loved that Louisa helped Simon to heal from his emotional wounds and taught him how to love. This one goes onto my favorites list.

Christmas Getaway

This was a fun, old-school type romance where chemistry and a love connection are emphasized over sex scenes. Anne Stuart's writing sparkles as always. Fitzgerald is so yummy you want to eat him for dinner. And I actually really liked the other two stories and I'm glad I read them. They all tie in together and form a nicely-done connection of stories designed to warm the heart and remind us that Christmas is about love and family, and that family isn't always just the traditional definition.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Western Winter Wonderland by Cheryl St. John, Jenna Kernan, and Pam Crooks

This book reminds me of how much I love westerns. All of the authors in this volume are dependable writers of good romance, and they don't fail you. Cheryl has the wonderful beta hero in Seth that she is so good at writing. You will fall for him, just as Marvel does. I also like the Marvel is not immune to issues of vanity or insecurity. She fears aging poorly because of having much older parents she had to take care of in their ill health. She is also about seven years older than Seth. But they are the perfect couple in many ways. Seth is such a sweetie and he deserves to have a woman he loves and truly wants to be with. Jenna also writes a powerful romance. Ford is a bounty hunter who specializes in bring back violent killers dead (not alive) after his family was savagely killed by a criminal. He accidentally shoots single mother Abby and takes personal responsiblity for nursing her back to health and caring for her son in the meantime. He falls deeply in love with them both, and has to choose between opening his heart to love and possible loss or living on the edge and waiting for his death. And lastly, Pam's story involves Sonja, who has a bad reputation in the small town because people don't understand why she keeps pigeons and often meets with the army. She is a good woman who is doing a dangerous job, but is being unjustly judged. She helps Beau by nursing a found fox kit back to health, and thus gets intertwined into the lives of Beau and his father Chet, whom she is deeply in love with. This story reminds me that the unsung heroes will be rewarded. As Sonja is with a real family who love her as much as she loves them. I am very glad I read this, because it's a nice, warm book to read for the holidays. It has family and children, the warmth of Christmas, but also the uncertainties and dangers of western life with a promise of a happy future. This is a great book to read at Christmastime for a genuine lover of western romance.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Home for the Holidays by Johanna Lindsey

This was an interesting and enjoyable read. Vincent is an intriguing hero who thinks he feels nothing, but clearly has never gotten over his childhood of emotional neglect. He does some pretty bad things because he is exacting revenge for his brother's suicide. However, he does have a turnaround and truly does repent as his love for Larissa changes his heart and melts the layer of ice that encloses the little-used member. It's a very good Christmas read that captures the elements of A Christmas Carol but also gives them a romantic aspect missing from the famous and well-loved Dickens tale. There is no magic here, well, other than the magic of love transforming a heart. Larissa is way too sweet, at least until her heart is broken. But even then, she manages to find the way to forgive Vincent, with a little help from her father. A good read to get you in the mood for Christmas.

Fire and Ice by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I adored this story. It has all the elements that make Sherrilyn Kenyon irresistible as a writer for me: imaginative story and setting, well-drawn, likeable characters, flawed hero who is deeply tortured both physically and spiritually, a deep, emotional connection between the hero and heroine, and the promise of redemption and a bright future. It took me about an hour plus to read this story, but the joy of reading it will last longer. You have what looks like a hopeless situation initially that becomes a catalyst for a wonderful love between Adron and Livia. Livia is being forced to marry a really old man by her father. In order to be suitable as his bride, she must be a virgin. In her culture, women are kept extremely innocent. Thus, she has not even been alone with a man who is not her relative, much less had physical contact. Together her and her maid come up with the idea to find a man and sleep with him so she is no longer a virgin. She goes to a bar and finds Adron, the most beautiful man she has ever seen. However he is deeply scarred both physically and emotionally. She seduces him with a kiss, and he decides to take her home. From there, their lives become intertwined in the most beautiful of ways. This story accurately portrays the challenge and the agony of being disabled (the hero was badly wounded and tortured as a League Assassin. Each day is excruciating pain and limitations due to the fact that his internal organs sustained massive injury). He wanted to die but his brother would not kill him. But at the same time, he won't kill himself because he knows how much his parents and family love him. My heart just went out to him for his situation. Knowing people who deal with disabilities every day, I could see that this was real life, although in a fictional story. That is why I loved the ending of this story so much. I read Fire and Ice in the Man of My Dreams anthology, and even though I don't plan to read the other stories, it was definitely a worthwhile purchase and a keeper for me.

Naughty or Nice by Melanie George

This book kept me up late this Saturday as I found I could not put it down without finishing it. How I feel about the book is complicated. It was a very good romance with elements of realism that added to its appeal. The hero was not a goody-two shoes titled hero with no dark past or issues other than chasing women, drinking, and gambling. He does indulge in those sports to various degrees, though. Instead he is self-made and comes from the lowest of the lower class. He had grown up extremely poor in the worst of conditions. His father was a terrible man who abused him, his siblings, and his mother. He gets into trouble with an Earl's wife and ends up being shanghaied off to India where he develops an addiction to opium. He never hears from his family again as they simply disappear. Despite all this, he manages to become a respected and admired military man. Lucian was a complex character who I did not always like. I have a strong aversion to substance abuse so I know that this was a major issue for me. However, I really do like flawed heroes, so that was also an advantage. I struggled with whether I felt his reasons for falling into opium addiction were valid. In the end, there is definitely some credence for him seeking solace in the drug, although it wasn't a wise decision for his life. He was a honorable man in many ways, but at the same time, he did not always do the right thing. I liked that he was irresistibly drawn to the heroine, Fancy, who he finds out later is his ward. Initially he thinks she is a thief and a working-class woman who is available to be his short-term mistress. The initial draw is lust, but soon he finds that she brings him peace. When he finds out late that she has been pretending to be someone other than his guardian, it makes things a lot harder for him, because he knows he must give her up. The reasons why Lucian is Fancy's guardian stems from his time in India serving as the commanding officer for her brother. Even that situation turns out to be very complicated. This book is a very complex one to read, but very readable at the same time. It deals with issues of addiction, poverty, guilt, forbidden love, and also delves into the wrongs of imperialism. Although you could pick it up to have a nice romance novel read, be prepared to have your intellect and your heart involved, as this book does delve deep as the hero finds his way out of the morass of drug addiction and a tortured past into a bright future with Fancy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lover Avenged Prep-Pack

Okay I know I haven't posted about how darn much I adore the Black Dagger Brotherhood books by JR Ward, but I do. I am chewing my nails waiting for Rhev's book, even though I haven't read Lover Enshrined and the Compendium book. He is sooo sexy and intriguing to me. I just picture this big, sexy, kinda scary guy who is dressed to the nines. His eyes are amethyst-colored. Yum! He's vulnerable but scary tough. He walks with a cane (plus there). He was so tender to Marissa and supportive. He was so adoring her. He's troubled by his heritage and tortured past. I love how he takes care of his mother and sister and accepted Zsadist as Bella's mate. I am dying here. Can't April get here sooner? So today on the BDB yahoo group, someone had posted what JR Ward says was the prep-pack for the books. Here is what we will need in advance to read this book that I will break down and buy a hardcover for (direct quotes for emphasis):

*Kleenex (everyone who's read him has cried except for two men- but they're not criers)
*Something of amythest color- candle, throw blanket, small stone (you know something to get in the right frame of mind)

*Neck brace (cuz long ass book... going to be there awhile)

*Sustenance (going to leave that to personal choice but suggest something crunchie, something sweet, and a lot of liquid)

*Fan (*blush* what don't look at me like that)

*Kleenex (back up)

*Phone/computer (for the OMG moments so you can reach out and touch others)

*Door (to shut out rest of real world)

*Window (to open and let in cold air in event fan doesn't go far enough)

Thanks to Betsy on the Black Dagger Brotherhood Yahoo group! Alas this has only made my relentless obsession worse. Rhev!!!!! Come to me, my darling!!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My Attempted Christmas Reads List

Okay I have to preface this by saying I never do a good job of reading according to a theme. Every year I get my Christmas books organized and read a few of them, but they pile up more and more each year. I am going to do my best to read a good number of them this time around.

Here is what I plan on reading:

  • A Bride for the Holidays by Renee Roszel (Harlequin Romance): I started this one

  • Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (Anthology of Christmas/Werewolf urban fantasy): I started this one

  • Naughty or Nice by Melanie George: I started this one

  • Home for the Holidays by Johanna Lindsey

  • A Western Winter Wonderland (collection of short stories) Harlequin Historicals

  • A Season of the Heart (collection of short stories) Harlequin Historicals

  • A Highlander for Christmas by Sandy Blair (paranormal/time-travel)

  • My Dashing Earl by Constance Hall

....and, if I can get it in time, Christmas Getaway short story collection with my favorite author, Anne Stuart.

We'll see how well I do on this....

Windfall by Emily Carmichael

I really enjoyed this older romance. It's a Victorian (takes place in 1899-1900) and also a western, at least for the last part of the book. It's got an across the pond romance (my phrase for a romance between an English person and an American). The heroine is half Blackfoot Native American and half Irish, and she is a doctor. The hero is a British baron. There are some issues that have to be dealt with because of what happened to the heroine when she was in Paris getting some post-doctoral training. I won't spoil you on that, since it takes a while for this to be revealed as the story continues.

I really enjoyed the way the relationship developed between Ellen and Jordan, and the evolution of the characters. Jordan seems really stuffy and priggish initially, but you realize that it is training that he has undergone as the heir to a Barony and the head of the family. I enjoyed seeing a heroine who is a professional and a career woman.

It's got some funny moments and some angsty moments. It's also got good love scenes, perhaps a little tame by today's standards but I liked them.

I recommend this one if you can get a hold of it. Unfortunately it's part of a series. The first book is Outcast, about Ellen's dad Gabriel and her stepmother, Olivia, who is a doctor as well. The second book is about Ellen's identical twin, Katy and her newspaperman hero Jonah.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

November Reads

1, CEO's Marriage Seduction. Anna De Palo. A (Baby wishes, enemies to lovers, marriage by agreement) Silhouette Desire. Eva, Griffin. A. 11/2/08.
2.Pregnant by the Italian Count. Christina Hollis. A-. (Wary hearts, widower, workaholics, pregnant). Harlequin Presents. Giovanni, Kate. 11/2/08.
3.Sale or Return Bride. Sarah Morgan. A+. (Vendetta, Greek, Feud, MOC, Baby). Harlequin Presents. Alesia, Sebastien. 11/4/08.
4.Ice Storm. Anne Stuart. A++. (Enemies to Lovers, Reunited, Spies, Covert Agency, In Disguise, Ice Series, Romantic Suspense). Isobel, Killian. 11/5/08.
5.Surrender. Pamela Clare. A++ (French-Indian Wars, Hero to Die For, Post Culloden, Scottish, Enemies, Warrior, Frontier America, McKinnon's Rangers Series). 11/7/08. Iain, Annie.
6.Dark Desires After Dusk. Kresley Cole. A++. (Demon, Fated to Be Mated, Immortals After Dark Series, Quest, Hidden Agenda, Paranormal Comtemporary). 11/8/08. Cadeon, Holly.
7.Red Skies at Night. Shara Azod. A+. (Novella, Interracial, Navy, Office Affair, E-Book). Brett, Teane. 11/8/08.
8.Hostage to Pleasure. Nalini Singh. A+. (Psy/Changeling Series, Broken/Less Than Perfect, Emotional Suffering, Fated to Be Mated, Evil Twin, Enemies to Lovers, Shapeshifter, Paranormal Contemporary). Dorian, Ashaya. 11/16/08.
9.Cordero's Forced Bride. Kate Walker. B. (Jilted, Abused, Businessman, In Sibling's Shadow). Harlequin Presents. Santos, Alexa. 11/16/08.
10.Desert Prince, Defiant Virgin. Kim Lawrence. A+ (Plain Jane, Misconception, Secret Sister, Seduction, Sheikh, Kidnapping). Harlequin Presents. Tair, Molly. 11/16/08.
11.The Sheikh's Ransomed Bride. Annie West. A+ (Sheikh, Rescued, Marriage of Convenience). Harlequin Presents. Belle, Rafiq. 11/23/08.
12.The Sheikh's Bartered Bride. Lucy Monroe. A (Deception, Seduction, Marriage of Convenience, Arranged Marriage, Low Self-Worth, Awkward). Harlequin Presents. Hakim, Catherine. 11/26/08.
13.The Stone Prince. Gena Showalter. A+ (Alien, Paranormal Romance, Amazonian Heroine, Battle Between the Sexes, Curse, Tortured Hero.) Katie, Jorlan. 11/27/08.
14. The Dream Hunter. Sherrilyn Kenyon. A+ (Greek Myths, Dreams, Bargain, Driven, In Disguise, Quest, Atlantis, Paranormal, Dream Hunter Series.) Arikos, Geary/Megeara. 11/29/08.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Pleasure Slave by Gena Showalter

I enjoyed this first book by Gena Showalter, with its fresh theme of a warrior imprisioned in stone. As characteristic of her writing, it shows a sweet, goodhearted approach to paranormal romance. The sensuality is well-developed but doesn't overwhelm the romantic aspects of the book. It has many laugh out loud moments, while balancing the heart-tugging moments equally well. Jorlan comes off as being a male chauvinist pig at first, who turns out to be just what self-sufficient tomboy Kate needs. Although he seems just like her macho brothers and father initially, she comes to see that he does respect her strengths and wants a woman who will walk at his side, and not behind him. The villian Percen is actually quite compelling and tortured and scarred in his own right, and you feel sorry for him and hope that there is a way for the book to end where he gets a happy ending too, which does happen. He ends up falling in love with a young woman who can equally meet him on the tortured playing field. I love reading Gena Showalter's books because they have a feel-good appeal to them, which is definitely why I read romances.

The Dream Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon

The Dream Hunter was a book that I got completely sucked into by page one. It takes the Dark Hunter series in a different direction, and shines the spotlight on yet another group of gods in the pantheon of Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter universe. I loved how SK integrated the dream world into this book. Dreams are so complex and so fantastical, how could they not be an excellent backdrop for an epic war between good and evil? SK gets that the Greek myths have characters that are not always completely good or evil, that the gods' motivations are often selfish and petty. We see that Arikos is not a bad guy. He's merely a person who has tired of being abused as used as a pawn by the higher gods. He wants happiness and joy just like all us humans want. The closest he has come is through the dreams of the human Megeara. When he is denied the closeness he craves with her through the dreams, he desperately makes a deal with Hades to be human for two weeks to spend time with this human he has become so captivated with. Unfortunately the deal involves giving her up to Hades after the two weeks ends. However, those of us who have studied the myths know that the gods don't make fair deals. Arik says yes before he realizes what the caveat is.The Dream Hunter introduces new intriguing characters and allows us to reconnect with some old favorites. The time line is about 10 years in the past, which is interesting, as we get to see the time before some pretty big events unfold. I love this world, and even if there's not much going on, I'd read SK's books just to experience her incredible imagination, and her fantastic writing ability. However, this book does have a lot going on, passion, pathos, vengeance, adventure, fun, and excitement. Also for those of you like me who has a thing for Atlantis, there is a quest to find the lost city that many don't want found, as well. You don't want to put it down because you want to know what happens next. I loved the direction that SK went with this book because it gives me some in depth on some of the Greek myths that always intrigued me. She brings these gods and heroes of the myths to life for me, but also adds her own unique spin that makes me laugh at some times, and cry at others.This is not a Dark Hunter book in the traditional sense, but it is definitely a great addition to the mythos, and if you are a fan of SK's books, I have trouble believing you won't love this book as well. Let me close by saying I hope that Solin gets his own book.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh

This book was fantastic. I thought that this series would get less interesting as it continued, but it seems to get even more intriguing. I loved the hero Dorian. He is full of contrasts: ice cold, but hot, violent but controlled, and deeply sensual. He is unable to change into a leopard, which he has mostly made peace with. Instead he has honed his skills as such a formidable warrior, that being unable to shapeshift is not a liability. However, being unable to shifts makes him no less in touch with his animal nature. As a lover of shapeshifter romance, I love how Singh depicts the feelings and thoughts of the leopard that dwells inside the man. Dorian is a totally hot hero, although he is an ice cold sniper for the Snow Dancer Leopard pack. He sets his sights on Ashaya Aleine, a member of the hated Psy race, but his leopard recognizes his mate. I love fated to mated books, so it totally worked for me that Dorian decides early on that he has to have Ashaya. And once he recognizes her as his, he will move heaven and earth to protect her and his child.

Ashaya is a Psy who never accepted Silence, the nonemotional protocol of the Psy race. Instead she has continued a charade. She is a scientist with a woman's heart who saves children being subject to horrible scientific experiments. When she delivers them to the Snow Dancer pack for protection, she asks that they extract her son who is being kept hostage to keep her working on a high priority project for the Psy Council. This is how she encounters Dorian. Dorian hates the Psy since his beloved sister was savagely killed by an insane Psy Councilmember. His heart is full of vengeance against the Psy for what was done to his sister. Dorian almost shoots her, but his leopard recognizes his mate, although at first he is unable to accept this. Although in theory she is his enemy, the conflict doesn't get drawn out too long because the mating bond is much stronger between Dorian and Ashaya.

The attraction between Dorian and Ashaya is red hot and drives this book. You want to keep reading to see the fire between them. I loved the banter and interactions between Dorian and Ashaya. However, the plot is very readable as well. Ashaya has a twin who is a best a sociopath, at worst extremely dangerous. I felt for Ashaya's burden of trying to keep her twin under control, and how this has affected her life in many ways. Ashaya is rational and scientific, but is equally loving and loyal to those who matter to her.

Hostage to Pleasure was definitely a joy to read. I had trouble putting the book down, and was impatient to finish it. Nalini Singh has definitely earned my loyalty as an author by writing this fantastic series that mixes science and fiction that is an delicious package. Science fiction can be dry at times to me, but not the way that Singh writes it. She understands that the love story and the sexual chemistry, along with strong depiction of interpersonal relationships, has to be the glue in a paranormal book with science fiction elements, and succeeds without question. I also love how racially and ethnically diverse her characters are. Ashaya seems to be of European and African ancestry, while Dorian has predominantly Nordic features. As long as she continues to write these books with sexy, alpha heroes, and the women they love, I'll continue to eagerly read them.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Red Skies at Night by Shara Azod

This is a short novella e-book that I downloaded from Red Rose Publishing. It was so good. This book was hot but also had an emotional love story as well.

Teane finds herself in a difficult position: she has the hots for her supervisor. To make matters worst, she is in the Navy. The good news is that her crush is not one-sided. Brett has the hots for her too.

The way that she finds this out is when he catches her in a "private moment" shall we say. And he helps her along in her "private moment." If you haven't noticed, I'm demure, so you can probably guess what I mean by "private moment."

I didn't mention that this is an interracial romance, so it's really cool that although both characters are sure that the opposite wouldn't want to date outside of their race, they are entirely wrong.

Brett has had the hots for his subordinate employee Teane for a while. If he hadn't heard her calling out his name in her "private moment," he probably wouldn't have pursued his younger, Black Petty Officer. But since he knows she has feelings for him, his pursuit is ardent. He is totally hot, and boy am I glad that I didn't have to work for a guy who was so irresistible since I don't feel comfortable dating a person I work with.

Having said that, this story really worked for me. I laughed so hard, and felt acutely embarrassed for poor Teane. Just imagine getting caught in the moment like that. Too horrible to conceive. But this turns out to be a very fortuitous moment for both Teane and Brett.

Ms. Azod doesn't shy away from the serious repercussions of fraternization in the military. But it shows that the feelings between Teane and Brett are real that they try to protect each other when word gets out about their affair.

This story was so endearing, despite being so short. This story is one that reaffirms my love of the interracial genre. It shows that the color of someone's skin does not have to be an obstacle. For love is in the heart and soul. It's not skin deep.

If you want to read a great story that is steamy but also emotional, then I would definitely point you in the direction of "Red Skies at Night." And while you're at it, pick up "Chain of Command" and "Cory's Salvation" by Shara as well.

Dark Desires After Dusk by Kresley Cole

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As a matter of fact, it went by too fast. I had been captivated with Cade since Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night, and I was holding my breath for his book. But the wait was richly rewarded. Holly is a perfect heroine for him. She brings out the protective side in Cade, but also the playful side. And if anyone needs to live a little, it's Holly. I loved the whole plotline and found it wildly romantic. This book was also a good action book with scenes that show that Holly is a powerful woman in her own right. I just adore Cade, even more then I did before. He is sexy beyond belief, and very funny also. I loved his devotion to Holly, and how he challenged her but cared for her at the same time. It was great to see Holly come into the woman she was meant to be. She learns that it is a good thing to trust one's instincts as well as one's intellect. She also learns to acknowledge her sensual nature, and what better teacher than Cade. Cade and Holly had some serious chemistry, but there was also a deep emotional connection. This book just further increased my love of this series. With each book, I more eagerly await more books in the Immortals After Dark series. Kresley Cole's imagination is incredible, teamed with some excellent research. So I end by saying, take this ride wild, but you might want a cold drink and a fan while you read it.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Surrender by Pamela Clare

I had heard really good things about this author and this book. I must say that all praise was well-deserved. If you like Scottish heroes, you have to read this book. Iain has made an impression on me that will make it very hard for future Scottish heroes to live up to. He is fearless, honorable, capable, manly, beautiful and loving. He risks his life many times for his brothers and men, and for Annie, the woman he had no obligation to save, but did, even though it brought misfortune on him and his men. The adventure in this book is incredible. I am as much a fan of adventure as I am romance. If a book can wrap both up in an appetizing package, I am won over. I don't typically seek out books set in colonial America, but this book has gotten me interested in this period. I loved that although Iain and his brothers faithfully maintain their Scottish identities, they are also seasoned frontiersmen and adopted into the local Indian tribe that we would more easily recognize as the Mohicans. Anna is a compelling heroine who shows strength and honor. She has suffered greatly, but her heart is still huge and capable of love. After reading this book I would definitely call myself a fan of Pamela Clare's books, and find myself very happy that I have accumulated all of her historicals. I may also have to branch out to her contemporaries. Surrender is a must read.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sale or Return Bride by Sarah Morgan

I really enjoyed this book. It has some familiar conventions for the Harlequin Presents line, but the old saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is very apt. I loved the fact that the heroine had had so much misfortune, and what turned out to be the worst thing, turns out to be the best thing. This is marrying her hero. This book is a feel good book in my opinion. It definitely shows that a good person has to have faith and good will come to them for their actions. You need to read books like this sometimes.

Ice Storm by Anne Stuart

Anne Stuart does not disappoint. This book has all the things I love about Anne's books. And it has more. The characters are heroes on the edge, both the hero and the heroine. They live in the black heart of night, but fight for good the best way they know how. As much as I love Anne's heroes, Killian really sunk into me. His battle to do what must be done, and the fact that he never really got over Isobel in eighteen years. Isobel is convincing as a cool, competent leader for a covert organization. She suffers when she sends men out to their death, but she does it because it's the right thing to do. You want these two people to find peace. You want them to be together. In the hands of a master like Anne Stuart, you get what you want and more.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

October Reads

October Reads
The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories. Various Authors. A (Short stories, ghosts ). Favorite story was "The Whistling Room" by Henry Hope Hodgson. 10/5/08.
The Dark: New Ghost Stories. Various. A (Short stories, ghosts). 10/10/08.
Angel of Fire. Tanya Anne Crobsy. B. (Medieval, girl in pants/disguise, enemies to lover, Norman conquest) 10/10/08.
Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded. Kate Hardy. A. (Friends to Lovers, Marriage of Convenience, Problems having a baby, Unrequited, Harlequin Presents). Alex, Isobel. 10/10/08.
The Italian Billionaire's Pregnant Bride. Lynne Graham. A (Wrongly accused, pregnant, rags meets riches, Harlequin Presents) Kathy, Sergio. 10/11/08.
The Defiant Sheikh's Bride. Sandra Marton. A. (Artificial insemination mixup, heir to the throne, Sheikh, Kidnapped to marriage, Pregnant, Misunderstood, Runaway Bride, Mistrust, Captive, Harlequin Presents). 10/11/08. Whitney, Tariq.
Secretary Mistress, Convenient Wife. Maggie Cox. A (Wounded hearts, abusive relationship, scarred heroine, MOC, Harlequin Presents). Fabian, Laura. 10/12/08
Mustang Wild. Stacey Kayne. A+ (Accidental Marriage, Girl in pants, Trial Journey, Horse Trainers, Reluctant partners, Former Bounty hunter, Twin, Harlequin Historicals) Tucker, Skylar. 10/11/08.
Secretary Mistress, Convenient Wife. Maggie Cox. A (Wounded hearts, abusive relationship, scarred heroine, marriage of convenience, Harlequin Presents. )Fabian , Laura. 10/12/08.
Pregnancy of Revenge. Jacqueline Baird. A (Revenge, affair, marriage, fear of love, Harlequin Presents). Jake, Charlotte. 10/12/08.
Keir O' Connell's Mistress. Sandra Marton. A+ (Wrong tracks, O'Connell Series, Boss, Showgirl/Former Stripper, Love-Wary, Harlequin Presents). Keir, Cassie. A+. 10/12/08.
Bought for Her Baby. Melanie Milburne. B (Wrongly accused, jerk hero, secret baby, lovers reunited, addiction, archaeology, Harlequin Presents). Charlotte, Damon. 10/12/08.
The Desert Sheikh's Captive Bride. Lynne Graham. A (Lovers reunited, misunderstood, blackmail, sheikh, Harlequin Presents). Rasha, Tilda. 10/12/08.
Betrayed. Arnette Lamb. A (Warrior woman/bodyguard, assassin, inventor, scientist hero, Widower w/ children, Scotland, Georgian, Quest). Hugh, Julia. 10/19/08.
Maverick Wild. Stacey Kayne. A+ (Rape, Tormented heroine, Evil Parent, stepsibling, Unrequited, Runaway, BBW, Twin, Harlequin Historicals) Cora Mae, Chance. 10/25/08.
The Djinn. Marie Morin. A (Djinn Humor, Widower, E-book). 10/26/08. Raheem, Elise.
Unshapely Things. Mark Del Franco. (Urban Fantasy, Fae, Druid, Racism/Bigotry, Serial Killer). 10/25/08. Connor Grey.
Angelo's Captive Virgin. India Grey. A. (Cold hero, adopted, businessman, orphanage, real estate, Harlequin Presents). 10/27/08. Anna, Angelo.
Murder by Magic: Twenty Tales of Crime and the Supernatural. A (Various, Occult mystery). 10/31/08.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Maverick Wild by Stacey Kayne

Maverick Wild gave me many hours of entertainment this weekend. It is the second story in the Morgan brothers duo by Stacey Kayne.

Chance Morgan is eager to continue his carefree bachelor existence and not at all eager to get married. However, meeting Cora Mae Tindale again puts a wrench in those plans. Cora is the daughter of his hated stepmother. When they were kids, she was a boon companion who Chance and his brother enjoyed corrupting. Many times they got the young girl in trouble with her mean, overbearing mother, but she never complained about the abuse that she suffered at her mother's hands.

When Chance and Tucker ran away to join the Confederate Army, they knew that they couldn't take little Cora Mae with them. But Chance promised to return for her. However, when they were able to come back, Cora was gone, and their stepmonster had sold their father's farm. Bitter about women and how marrying them destroyed a man's life, Chance vowed never to get married.

Twenty-one years later, they are reunited when Cora Mae arrives in Wyoming to visit her stepbrothers for a short time. When she arrives, she finds that Chance has become a hard, dangerous stranger who only sees a hated Tindale when he looks at her. Little does she know that he sees a beautiful red-head with bewitching curves that make it very difficult to be resistant to her.

He needn't worry that she wants to trap him into marriage. After a painful and harrowing experience with a man that her mother tries to force her to marry, Cora Mae has sworn never to marry. She just wants to feel a sense of family and home that she felt when she tagged along with Chance and Tucker as a girl.

Maverick Wild was an excellent book. It helped to cement my appreciation for Stacey Kayne as a western writer. It's not a copycat of her first book, Maverick Wild. The heroine and hero are different people with different motivations. Yet the elements that made her first novel appeal to me are there in spades: emotion, vivid descriptions of western life, good storytelling, and likable, appealing characters.

Cora Mae is not a rough and ready cowgirl like Skylar. She's more of a homemaker who is very happy knitting and crocheting, and baking goodies. She is a sturdy, curvaceous woman, who has been made to feel that she is unattractive. Although she is self-conscious after years of being put down by her mother, she has an inner strength and spunk that makes her a worthy opponent for Chance. She also has a sweetness and a kindness that makes everyone around her love her. Chance sees this in her, but is determined to resist the pull she has on him, at times showing a suspicious attitude towards her that is hurtful to Cora Mae.

Chance is definitely a western hero. He's very attractive in a hard, sexy way. He's tough and independent, but clearly loves his family and wants to protect them. Although he fights his attraction for Cora Mae fiercely, when he realizes how dangerous her plight is, he steps up to the plate to take measures to keep her safe, even if it means losing his freedom. Of course, deep down, the real reason is that he wants her to stay.

The chemistry between the characters is just as heady and appealing as it was in Mustang Wild, but there is also a poignancy as Cora Mae heals from her fears of men and opens her heart and mind to being loved by Chance.

If you would like to read a western that reinforces the joy of hearth and home, and features characters who are struggling to get over painful pasts to find a happy future, you will love this book.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Beguiled by Arnette Lamb

I started this book a while ago, and put it down for several months. It was really good when I started reading it, but I am a mood reader so it wasn't fitting my mood. I finished it yesterday and I was ready to read it then. Agnes Mackenzie is a heroine after my heart. She has purpose and drive, but also a heart. She can be ruthless when needed, but for the best reasons. She is tough and a warrior. I wish there were more genuine women warriors in romance. I also liked the hero, Edward. He is a scientist and a thinker, but also a man of action. Both characters embody elements that I love about Scottish people: passion, pragmatism, loyalty to the end, and love of family. The love scenes come late in the book, but they are well written and emotional. You want this couple to be together, and I loved that Edward supported Agnes's mission and was willing to change his own life to be with her and to help her fulfill her mission. I highly recommend this older romance for a reader who likes Scottish romances, strong heroines, sexy, cerebral heroes, and a good bit of adventure thrown in. This is part of the Clan Mackenzie series which starts with Highland Rogue, and is followed by Betrayed, if you like to read books in order.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Stalkerific Romance Hero

I think you are probably going... The what hero? Well it's a made up word. It's my word for the romance hero who's obsession for the heroine borders on being stalkerish if it was real life.

The stalkerific hero has appeal in romances. Let me tell you something. I believe that most women want to be adored like in the Stone Roses song from the 80s. You want to feel like you are the sun and the man is the earth, orbiting around you. Does this happen in real life? Probably not to most women. But in the romance book...It can happen.

The stalkerific hero can also be called the hero in pursuit. Once he realizes that he is in love or maybe he still thinks it's lust, he becomes totally fixated on the heroine. His body, mind, and soul is focused on her. He'll do anything, break any rule to have her. Again, very appealing.

Real life, not so much. How would you feel if you were a heroine who always manages to see said hero staring at her at every ball she attends. He is invited to every party she goes to. He tracks her down, even buys the company she works at, just so she can stay in his proximity. He knows where she lives. He might even kidnap you and take you to his private island or enclave in the middle of nowhere. And forget about not ending up in this guy's bed or married to him. It's going to happen, whether you want it or not. Real life, that is a scary proposition, even if you like this guy.

In romances, if well done, I find this very appealing. That is not to say that I haven't read a few books where it icked me out more than a little. But I have to say it's a refreshing change from the hero who tried to avoid the heck out of the hero because HE DOES NOT LOVE HER!!!! HE REALLY DOESN'T. LOVE DOESN'T EXIST. You know the whole spiel. In their defense, some of these guys are shapeshifters or vampires. In other words, it's in their blood to be possessive over their mates. Maybe that's why I like paranormals. (Big grin). Let me just warn you, these books may not be the most P.C. romance novels. But I think they are interesting and enjoyable in a fantasy/strictly between the pages of a book capacity.

What are some good stalkerific heroes? Here is a list of the heroes in books that I have read that could be classified as stalkerific. Thanks to All About Romance as a resource, since I can't always remember the names of the characters.

  • Simon Hunt from Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas
  • Derek Craven from Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
  • Wynter, Viscount Ruskin from Rules of Surrender by Christina Dodd
  • Christopher Raine from The Care and Feeding of Pirates by Jennifer Ashley
  • Comte d'Esmond from Captives of the Night by Loretta Chase
  • Charles Harcourt from Beast by Judith Ivory
  • Ruan, Duke of Cynnsyr from Lord Ruin by Carolyn Jewel
  • Arden Mansfield, Lord Winter from The Dream Hunter by Laura Kinsale
  • Sylvester "Devil" Cynster, Duke of Ives from Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens
  • Major Michael Fallon from Must Have Been the Moonlight by Melody Thomas
  • Roger "Sam" Starret from the Team 16 Books and Gone too Far by Suzanne Brockmann
  • Adrik Winter aka "Warlord" from Into the Shadow by Christina Dodd
  • Jasha Wilder from Scent of Darkness by Christina Dodd
  • Rurik Wilder from Touch of Darkness by Christina Dodd
  • Doug Black from Into the Fire by Christina Dodd
  • Clayton Danvers from Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
  • Nikolai Wroth from The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole
  • Lochlain MacRieve from A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
  • Sebastian Wroth from No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole
  • Bowen MacRieve from Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole
  • Conrad Wroth from Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole
  • Courtland MacCarrick from If You Dare by Kresley Cole
  • Hugh MacCarrick from If You Desire by Kresley Cole
  • Ethan MacCarrick from If You Decieve by Kresley Cole
  • Dageus MacKeltar from The Dark Immortal by Karen Marie Moning
  • Cian MacKeltar from The Spell of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
  • Remington Knight from One Kiss from You by Christina Dodd
  • Gabriel Ansell, Earl of Campion, Scandalous Again by Christina Dodd
  • Sebastian Durant, Viscount Whitfield from A Well-Pleasured Lady by Christina Dodd
  • Luke Bardell from Ritual Sins by Anne Stuart
  • Michael Dubrovnik from Glass Houses by Anne Stuart
  • Anthony Malory from Tender Rebel by Johanna Lindsey
  • Adrian de Lancey, Earl of Shropshire from Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney
  • Lord Raith from The Rogue's Seduction by Georgina Devon
  • Ransom Quincy, Marquess of Blackburn from That Scandalous Evening
  • Robert Mackenzie, Earl of Hepburn from Some Enchanted Evening
  • Heroes from Once Upon a Pillow by Christina Dodd/Connie Brockway
  • Damien De La Sola from Treasure of the Sun by Christina Dodd
  • Adam Keane from Princess by Christina Dodd
  • Prince Damior of Baminia from The Runaway Princess
  • Crown Prince Damien from Penelope and Prince Charming by Jennifer Ashley
  • Austin Blackwell from Perils of the Heart by Jennifer Ashley
  • Rafe MacGinnis from Rafe's Revenge
  • Nicholas Blackthorne from A Rose at Midnight by Anne Stuart
  • Elliot Chalmers from Some Sort of Spell by Frances Roding
  • Wolf Mackenzie from Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard
  • Joe Mackenzie from Mackenzie's Mission by Linda Howard
  • Zane Mackenzie from Mackenzie's Pleasure by Linda Howard
  • Chance Mackenzie from A Game of Chance by Linda Howard
  • Micah Steele from The Last Mercenary by Diana Palmer
  • Justin Kinmurrie, Duke of Kylemore from Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell
  • James Malory from Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey
  • Christoff, Marquess of Langford from The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe
  • Lucas Hunter from Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
  • Vaughn De Angelo from Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh
  • Clay Bennett from Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh
  • Michael Wyndham from Love's Prisoner by MaryJanice Davidson
  • Vane Kattalakis from Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Dante Pontis from Winter Born by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Wrath from Dark Lover by JR Ward
  • Rhage from Lover Eternal by JR Ward
  • Zsadist from Lover Awakened by JR Ward
  • Butch from Lover Revealed by JR Ward
  • Vishous from Lover Unbound by JR Ward
  • Gyles Rawlings, Earl of Chillingworth from All About Passion by Stephanie Laurens
  • Marcus Savin from The Mercenary by Cherry Adair
  • Lucas Kendrick, Duke of Harndon from Heartless by Mary Balogh
  • Sir Ross Cannon from Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas
  • Nick Gentry from Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas
  • John McKenna from Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas
  • Prince Dmitri Petroff from Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey
  • Phillip Caxton from Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsey
  • Selig Hardraad from Surrender My Love by Johanna Lindsey
  • Valerian from The Nymph King by Gena Showalter

...an honorable mention to most of the Harlequin Presents heroes who are stalkerific in a scary way as they really don't want to love the heroine, but can't resist her, and they make her pay for it.

If you see some missing, please feel free to post a comment. I haven't read Christine Feehan, or I am sure some of the Carpathians would be on here. I've heard about those guys. :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories

I found this volume to be very good reading. Pretty much all of these stories were thrilling, and some were extremely scary, necessitating a brief break before I could continue reading. It took several months to finish reading this book, but this is the kind of book you read in sessions anyway. Definitely makes me glad that I live in a brand new house. One of my favorites was "The Whistling Room" by William Hope Hodgson. Highly recommended.

The Dark: New Ghost Stories

This was a good book of ghost stories. As the blurb on the back says, no two are alike. They take the reader in different directions. I like this anthology because it shows how versatile the the ghost story is. And what defines a ghost is in the eye of the beholder, and the storyteller. None of these stories would keep me up at night, but there is a lingering unease as I remember reading some of them. Various settings are used, and the imagination of the writers seems limitless to me. Read these stories if you want a fresh, different look at ghosts. I definitely think this volume has ghost stories for the millenium.

Mustang Wild by Stacey Kayne

I started this book on Saturday and finished it the same day. This book was incredible. It has the great elements of an authentic western setting, engaging characters, sensual romance, humor, and danger. You will love Skylar as she is an incredible woman with a sense of honor but also the grit and determination to do what it takes to make a life for her younger brother. She was forced from a young age to suppress her feminine side and to work and to live as a cowboy, and nobody would question her abilities. Skylar ends up accidentally married to playful, but dangerous former bounty hunter, Tucker Morgan. He's gorgeous and tempting, but having a home for her brother is her first priority. The end goal is to get to Wyoming, get paid for her mustangs, and get an annulment. She just has to keep her hands off him, and his hands off her. Tucker wasn't looking at getting married ever, but he has one heck of a bride on his hands. She's willing to pull her weight and then some, and earns his respect. And she's beautiful. He finds it harder than he thought to keep from taking his wife to bed, and soon finds that he wants her forever. I really enjoyed this book. It was fun, it was intense, and I felt like I was there on the trail to Wyoming, with dust in my mouth, the cold wind blowing on face, hearing the mustangs neighing, and dodging bullets, along with the characters. If have been feeling at a loss as less and less western romances are being published, I highly recommend picking up this book. It will keep you entertained for hours indeed. Stacey Kayne is a new go to author for me when it comes to western romances.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Revenge Sex

Why is revenge sex so prevalent in romance novels? Maybe because it sparks the interest. I am no hypocrite. I am often attracted to books with revenge sex. Does that mean that my interests are depraved? I certainly hope not. If asked why I read those books, I would have to say that it makes a romance a lot more interesting. Some readers don't like revenge stories. I do. It's intense, it's edgy, it's powerful, if done by a good storyteller.

This is a challenge for an author: to take a couple who are brought together through a vendetta of one of the people, whether it be the hero or heroine. How can one go from hate to love? Well the old saying is that hate and love are opposites of the same coin. Passionate emotion is not always positive, but it is definitely tempestuous. It makes for good conflict in a novel.

The overwhelming amount of books that I read with revenge sex come from one line: Harlequin Presents. And most of the time, it is on the part of the hero. He is mad for some reason, so the first thing he thinks about is taking the heroine to bed to "teach her a lesson." And it's not going to be rape, because he will seduce her body and steal her soul until she is his, until he is done with her. Only he doesn't feel done when it's over. She gets under his skin, and it must be love. Sound familiar? It probably does if you've read more than ten Harlequin Presents romances in your life.

When the woman is the perpetrator it seems to backfire more quickly. Again I am likely to be accused of sexism. But I fervently believe that most women are not wired to isolate sex from love. I am not saying that some can and do have sex without love all the time. But I don't want them in the romance novels I read. Again I guess I am a sexist. But to be honest, I don't like heroes who have sex with women they don't and cannot love. The heroine is exempt because she is already in there, so to speak.

Women use sex as a weapon all the time, but generally not the romance heroine in the books I read and like. I know a lot of women love Sex and the City, but I hate it because I don't agree with that sexual attitude. Yes I said it. If you don't like it, we can agree to disagree. So back to what I was saying. Most romance heroines cannot go through with using sex as a weapon. At least not succesfully. I have read very few romance heroines who were able to do this. And I am not sure I would like a romance heroine who did. Fundamentally, I need to have some degree of respect for the heroine, even if I hate the hero. If I don't respect the heroine, it practically destroys the book for me. When I have read books with the heroine as the "revenge sexer" she usually cannot go through it with the hero. She either values herself too highly to take this step, or she is love with the hero by the time they finally have sex/make love. The exception to this rule is the assassin heroine. She might do this and it is done for the mission. I don't like it (too much like prostitution) but I can live with it. I usually stand up and take notice if I read this in a book. And there are times when I really like books that challenge my notions. But for a heroine to do this merely for revenge, it feels wrong because it goes against her nature. Evolutionarily speaking women are wired to seek a safe and lasting committed union with a man. It would be a disadvantage to accept any man who would not give her this as a lover. This wiring is deeply entrenched and that is why I think it goes against most women's natures. Again you may call me a sexist, but I am a scientist and this holds up scientifically. This heroine who does have sex for revenge has put herself at a disadvantage to be used and abused. Heroes who are stupid enough to use revenge sex deserve to have it blow up in their faces, as it always does.
Now that I have probably infuriated any person who reads this blog, lets move on to the next point.

Why would you want to take someone who you clearly despise to your bed? That is a question I have never been able to answer. I wouldn't even want to spend time in the same room with someone I can't stand. But these men definitely want these women in their beds. Of course there is the matter of a sexual attraction between them, no doubt intensified by the apparent so-called hatred they feel for these women. What really bugs me is when the hero is not even mad at the heroine per se. It is her father, brother, step-father, uncle, grandfather, you name it. I guess the hero doesn't want to do time for murder and wants to get some sex with an attractive women in the bargain, so off to bed with you. It's laughable when you think about it. That doesn't make me avoid these books, unless I get burned out. Sometimes I read one where the hero is particularly idiotic, or the heroine is doing her impression of a doormat, and the unavoidable urge to throw the book against the wall surges within me. Then I have to take a time out from the good old revenge sex books. But when I get over burnout, I pick them up again. It's a great catharsis, it's not my life, but fiction. And at the end of the book, all is well.

It sounds crazy, doesn't it? Well maybe I'm crazy too, because I find myself reaching for these books first, if I want to read a romance that packs a punch. Well second, anyway. First of all, I reach for the tortured, scarred, virgin heroes. (Smile). It's not pretty or nice, but for the hours I am reading the story, if it is told well, I am far from bored. And if the author does her job well, I am wowed at how I got from point A to point Z. An excellent example of this is Comanche Moon. Hunter hated whites. Loretta hated Indians. By the end of the book, true love was felt on both sides. So it is very possible.

The revenge angle is also used quite a bit in historical romances. In the past, it was not so unusual for a woman to be claimed as a spoil of war. In the medieval times, often the women left behind in a siege were taken as wives or mistresses or worse by the conquering party. I certainly don't mean to stereotype men, but I believe it is part of the nature to conquer, and to take women. It's a residual urge from the times when life was short and brutal, and the biological imperative to reproduce ruled. When the average life span was less than 35 years of age, whether the woman liked you wasn't really that important. Now men are not alone in primitive urges. It is a visceral part of a woman that responds to an aggressive, masculine man. If you don't believe it, look at the top-selling romance authors nowadays. Most of them write stories with strong, sexually-aggressive, alpha males who claim the women they want, and usually with little delicacy.

Is revenge sex rape? It's a kind of rape. If you make somebody feel things they don't want to feel, is that not rape? Sometimes I feel very unsettled when I read a romance with a hero who is determined to seduce a heroine who doesn't want to have anything to do with him, but might feel a reluctant attraction to him. This is not even necessarily occurring in just revenge sex-themed romances. I think that attraction is a visceral and carnal emotion that doesn't necessarily translate at the higher brain and mental levels. The sexual urge is powerful, but as rational humans, we have learned to control and sublimate those urges. So it is not fair to prey on a person's "lower urges." Especially when you make it clear you don't like her, and she'd be a fool to like you. Usually though, the heroine is halfway in love with the hero by this point. And if there is a past between them, she never stopped loving him.

Do I have you intrigued? Or are you merely scratching your head, wondering what I and many other romance novel readers and writers are smoking? Life is complicated. Life isn't pretty. Life doesn't read the book. Neither should romance novels. Some do, but for me, the most compelling romance books throw the books out the window. I can say no more to defend myself. If you have never read a romance with revenge theme, I challenge you to read one, and find out for yourself if you see the appeal of these books.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

October Scare Fest

Every year I do the same thing, in a fit of masochism. I pull out the scary books and watch the scary shows on tv in honor of Halloween being in the month of October. By the end of the month, I am through with it, and I back away from the scary stuff.

So I am in the midst of organizing my Halloween month reading. As I love classic horror and ghost stories, I have tons of anthologies to choose from. Most likely I will read stories from these anthologies:

  • The Irish Book of Weirdness: A Treasury of Classic Tales of the Supernatural, Spooky and Strange by Mairtin O'Griofa
  • Hex and the City by Simon R. Green (Book 4 in the Nightside Series)
  • The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories
  • Classic Horror Stories: 16 Stories of the Supernatural
  • The Dark: New Ghost Stories edited by Ellen Datlow

Today I was reading Haunted House Stories, and also yesterday at the gym. Some of these stories are pretty scary. "The Whistling Room" by William Hope Hodgson really gave me some shivers. Also another story about a guy being stalked by an ancient presence of a Egyptian cat diety was pretty darn scary also. Well most of them are thrilling. And the funny thing is they are are all older stories, no blood, guts and gore. More modern horror is overly reliant on such underpinnings, and when you read it, you feel distinctly disgusted instead of genuine terror.

I will post at the end of the month with my thoughts on the reading, and my overall progress. If you are doing your own scare fest, happy scares!

September Reads

For the month of September, I read the following books in entirety:

  1. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident. Eoin Colfer. A+. (Child criminal genius, Faery Police Organization, Goblin Conspiracy, Russian Mafiya, Rescue mission, YA Fantasy). 9/1/08.
  2. Dead Until Dark from Dead in Dixie Omnibus. Charlaine Harris. A. (Book 1 in Sookie Stackhouse Series, Ability to read minds, Local color, Southern Gothic, Vampire Lover, Serial Killer Mystery, Urban fantasy). 9/2/08.
  3. This is All I Ask. Lynn Kurland. A++. (Blind Hero, Plain Jane/Scarred heroine, Timid Heroine, Child Abuse, Arranged Marriage, 2nd Wife, Humorous, Poignant, Medieval, Piaget). Christopher, Gillian. 9/3/08.
  4. Comanche Moon. Catherine Anderson. A++. (Indian Wars, Enemies to Lovers, Captive, Prophecy, Western/Native American). Hunter, Loretta. 9/6/08.
  5. Penelope and Prince Charming. Jennifer Ashley. A++ (Book 1 in Nvengaria Series, Prophecy, Prince Meets Ordinary Girl, Sensual, Magic, Paranormal Regency, Made-Up Country). Damien, Penelope. 9/7/08.
  6. From this Moment On. Lynn Kurland. A+. (Girl in Pants, Warrior, Less than Perfect Hero, Low Self-Esteem, On the Run/Hiding, Betrothal, Medieval, Piaget). Colin, Alienore. 9/12/08.
  7. Into the Flame. Christina Dodd. A++ (Book 4 in Darkness Chosen, series, Shapeshifter, Lovers Reunited, Secret Baby, Fighting Supernatural Evil, Family, Paranormal romance). Doug, Firebird. 9/13/08.
  8. Immortals: The Darkening. Robin T. Popp. B (Book 2 in Immortals series, Did not like heroine, Werewolf Heroine, Sex Magic, Witchcraft, Fighting Demons, Paranormal). Darius,Lexi. 9/14/08.
  9. The Willing Wife. Claudia Dain. A+. (Unhappily married, Reluctant heroine, Emotional scars, Mourning dead spouse, Marriage by Command, Medieval). Rowland, Nicolaa. 9/17/08.
  10. Bought: One Night, One Marriage. Natalie Anderson. A. (New Author, Wary hearts, Heiress, Businesswoman, Bachelor auction, Playboy Businessman, Pregnancy, Sensual, Reproductive Issues, Harlequin Presents). Blake, Cally. 9/17/08.
  11. The Love Match. Deborah Simmons, Deborah Hale, Nicola Cornick. A. (Bluestocking V. Rake. Pagan, Scholastica (The Notorious Duke), False elopement/Partners in Crime/Virgin hero/Scientist/Nerd hero/Matchmaking heroine. Ivy, Oliver. (Cupid Goes to Gretna), Hero in Pursuit/Reformed Rake (The Rake's Bride). Favorite was Cupid Goes to Gretna. Regency Romance Short Story, Harlequin Historicals. 9/21/08.
  12. Mr. Fix-It. Crystal Hubbard. A+. (New Author, Interracial, Fear of Love, Insecurities, Romance Author heroine, Fame, Wealthy Businessman hero, Contemporary). Carter, Khela. 9/23/08.
  13. The Arrangement. Betsy Page. A. (Reread, Marriage Deal, Arranged Marriage, Opposities, Rags to Riches, Virgin Widow, Mechanic Heroine, Cold Businessman, Vintage Harlequin Presents). Tyler, Kate. 9/24/08.
  14. An Innocent Miss. Elizabeth Bailey. A-. (Heroine was too naive, Ingenue, Gossip, Evading forced marriage, Overbearing father, Book 2, Steepwood Saga, Regency, Harlequin Historicals). 9/26/08.
My favorite books this month were: This is All I Ask, Into the Flame, From This Moment On, Mr. Fix-It, Comanche Moon, and Penelope and Prince Charming. Least favorite was Immortals: The Darkening because I could not stand Lexi. She was wishy-washy and pseudo strong and independent. She could have been pretty awesome, since she was a werewolf. I think Elena from Bitten by Kelley Armstrong raised my standards for werewolf heroines.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Favorite Romance Supercouples

Supercouples are prevalent in today's media-driven society. There is even an article of supercouples in Wikipedia. Typically you may think of celebrity supercouples like Brangelina, but to be honest, my interest lies more with romance novel supercouples. These are the heroes and heroines that have earned their place in your heart as a couple. That you think about, time after time, and wonder what they are up to. You reminesce reading about their love story, and name their kids, if they haven't already been named.

So what is my criteria for selection?
  • You can honestly see them staying together years down the road
  • They worked hard for their happy ending
  • They complete and heal each other
  • Their chemistry was scorching, but underneath is a deep, true love
  • They just "work" together. It's just a magic combination
  • I like/love both the hero and the heroine and I think they deserve each other
  • After reading thousands of romances, they are the couple that stays in your mind

So without further ado, I present my Romance Novel Supercouples!!! (drum roll...)

1. Wolf and Mary from Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard
2.Zsadist and Bella from Lover Awakened by JR Ward
3.Butch and Marissa from Lover Revealed by JR Ward
4.Dain and Jessica from Lord of Scoundrels
5.Samuel and Leda from The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
6.Lochlain and Emmaline from A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
7.Nikolai and Myst from The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole
8.Derek and Sara from Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
9.Carter and Bailee from The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas
10.St. Vincent and Evie from Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
11.Sam and Alyssa from Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann
12.Chandos and Courtney from A Heart So Wild by Johanna Lindsey
13.Conrad and Neomi from Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole
14. Ben and Alayna from A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne
15.Scott and Vanessa from Fate by Pamela Leigh Starr
16.Sin and Callie from Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor

Revising An Earlier Post on My Romance Reading Tastes

I was reading my blog and found that I had posted about some questions on reading tastes off the AAR website. I thought I'd refresh and see if my answers changed. Let me preface this by saying it is very hard for me to settle on just one of anything. But here is what I came up with. I added some urban fantasy questions because that is a new favorite genre of mine.

Favorite Romance: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Favorite Romance Author: Anne Stuart
Favorite Funny: I wish I read more funny romances. I read books with some funny moments.
Most-Hanky Read: tie between Sweet Lullaby by Lorraine Heath and Lover Awakened by JR Ward
Most Luscious Love Story: Anything by Lisa Kleypas
Most Tortured Hero: Zsadist from Lover Awakened by JR Ward
Feistiest Heroine: Jessica Trent from Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Favorite Hero: Tie between Marquess of Dain, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, Roger "Sam" Starrett from Team 16 books by Suzanne Brockmann, and Ben "Ice Man" Richards from A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne
Favorite Heroine: Jessica Trent from Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Favorite Couple: tie between Jessica Trent and Sebastian Ballister from Lord of Scoundrels and Bailee and Carter McKoy from The Texan's Wager
Favorite Family: Tie between The Montgomery/Taggarts by Jude Deveraux and Kresley Cole's MacRieves and the MacCallisters by Kinley MacGregor. If I could count The Black Dagger Brotherhood I might try. :)
Most Annoying Hero or Heroine: The hero from The Velvet Promise by Jude Deveraux. I hated him so much that it's the only JD book I actually gave away. What a total bastard (pardon my French)
Best Discovery/Buried Treasure: Teresa Medeiros
Your Biggest Glom (you try to buy all her books): Anne Stuart
Best Villain: Right now it's Stryker from the Dark Hunter books because I'm trying to figure out how he's going to be a hero in his own story. Well I guess I might also count Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer because he is on 12-13 yrs old when the series starts and he is a criminal genius.
Favorite Medieval: Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor
Favorite Regency: Tallie's Knight by Anne Gracie
Favorite European Historical: Other than Lord of Scoundrels I would say My Darling Caroline by Adele Ashworth or Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
Favorite American/Western Historical Romance: The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas
Favorite Contemporary Romance (nonparanormal): A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne
Favorite Series Romance: The Soldier and The Baby by Anne Stuart
Favorite Romantic Suspense: Ritual Sins by Anne Stuart
Favorite Other Romance/Paranormal Romance: Lover Awakened by JR Ward/A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
Author You Gave Up On: Catherine Coulter/Brenda Joyce
Author Others Love That You Don't: Nora Roberts
Most Disappointing Read: Out of Sight by Cherry Adair
Worst Read: I can't really say right now. I don't read a lot of really bad books, thankfully.
Most Purple Prose: Sinful Secrets by Thea Devine
Favorite Virgin Hero: Sin MacCallister from Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor
Favorite Bad-boy Hero: Justin Kinmurrie, Duke of Kylemore from Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell. He kidnaps the heroine and, um, doesn't take no for an answer. But he was a compelling hero.
Favorite Bad-girl heroine: Ghislaine de Lorgny from A Rose at Midnight by Anne Stuart. She starts the book trying to kill the hero.
Favorite Non-Romance with Romantic Themes: Tinker by Wen Spencer
Favorite Urban Fantasy: Nightlife by Rob Thurman
Favorite Urban Fantasy hero: Tie between Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher and John Taylor by Simon R. Green
Favorite Kickbutt Heroine: Joanne Walker from Urban Shaman by CE Murphy

Okay I think that's what my answers are, for now, anyway...

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Arrangement by Betsy Page

The Arrangement does have the rags to riches element that is prevalent with the heroines of Harlequin Presents, but this heroine is very accomplished in her own way before she meets the hero. Kate Elliot is a widow who runs her deceased husband's garage, and can fix just about any car. She has kept the roof over her mother and young siblings' heads for seven years since her husband dies. But things come to a head when Tyler Langston comes to town. Tyler's father Uriah has given him the ultimatum that he marry Kate, who Uriah met and became impressed with on a trip to the small town in Maine where Kate lives. Tyler has worked hard to run his family's company. Too hard to see his shiftless brother and sister squander it away, should they obtain controlling shares from his father if he does not marry Kate. Tyler goes to check out Kate and finds himself unwittingly attracted to her. But Tyler is a cool character, and manages to hide the depth of his feelings for her. Kate is happy to avoid Tyler, but pressure from an unwanted suitor to whom her mother owes a lot of money fairly drives her into Tyler's arms. When he asks her to marry him, she knows that she doesn't really have the choice not to. Love sneaks up on the married couple, and Tyler is not keen on falling. Kate deals with issues of going from a small town girl barely scraping by to being a rich man's wife, as well as her feelings for a husband she doesn't believe returns her feelings. This is a quick read, but a good read. The characters are vividly drawn. Tyler is a control freak, and it comes across. Kate is a practical woman who finds that she is not immune to love for her aristocratic, hard-edged husband. If you would like to read a Harlequin Presents that has a slice of small-town American life, with a heroine who is more at home in overalls with a wrench than designer fashions, I think you will enjoy this book as I did.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mr. Fix It by Crystal Hubbard

If reading a book is like eating a meal, then reading Mr. Fix It is like eating a gourmet meal. This is the first book that I have read by Ms. Hubbard, and I can tell you honestly, I was blown away at the skill of her writing. I have read few other books that gave me the impression that the author was a wordsmith. One example is Judith Ivory, who is not prolific, but beautifully writes historical romances. Language can be sparing and economical, or it can be flowery and showy. Mr. Fix It manages to be a happy composite of both. There is no overblown, florid prose in this book. But sentences tease the mind like the sweet smell of pink roses, or the explosion of flavor on the tongue when tasting a really good cheesecake.
I am a visual person, and each scene played vividly in my mind. Although Mr. Fix It is not written to intently describe every feature of the character's looks, you are given the details to form your own image of the characters in your mind. You know that Khela is pretty and has dimples that come out when she smiles. She is brown-skinned with peach undertones, and her body is toned from boxing practice. And we know that Carter is so beautiful that he could float by through life merely on his looks. Food is described with sensuous detail that tells me that Ms. Hubbard is definitely a foodie. And she writes of the best things in life with a knowledge that makes me think that either she has exquisite taste or is an expert researcher. I certainly learned a lot about many subjects as varied as the romance writing industry, architecture, gourmet food, and high fashion. Even though I felt very unsophisticated compared to Khela, it was refreshing and wonderfully destructive against stereotypes to have a Black female character in a book with such culture. And thankfully, Khela still manages to be a genuine, nice, and good person that you would love and admire, at the same time. Khela is a romance author, who would spend hours signing books or talking to fans. She also works very hard to write high quality romance books that are excellently researched, dispelling the stereotypes that romance novels are just trash. She understands how much they mean to people (and as someone who can firmly state that reading romance has gotten me through some awful times, this hits home personally with me). I can safely assure you that will definitely like Khela, if not love her as the heroine of this book. Carter is also likeable, but I would say that he turns out to be the more troubled counterpart in this romance. This is a twist because you go into the book expecting Khela to be more weighted down with issues and afraid to love.
I must tell you honestly as a writer, I felt mixed emotions as I read this book. I felt awe at Ms. Hubbard's writing skill and beauty. Also I felt despair at the thought that I could never write a book this delicious and written with such consummate skill. As an aspiring writer, I know that I am also encouraged to develop my craft and to be the best writer that I can to make minutes pass like seconds and hours like minutes like this book did when I read it.
As far as the interracial romance, by nature that is what this book entails. However, race is so not the issue in this book. I found it decidedly refreshing. Khela is a character whose insecurities in romance stem from being used in the past, not for fear of loving a White man. For Carter, being with Khela is the culmination of years of desire. It was love at first sight for him, even if he couldn't use the words in his mind. She is the woman he wants, for all that she is. If she happens to be Black, that is just part of who she is. His angst stems from the fear that he is not enough for her, or good enough for her. There is the conflict of loving someone who is famous, and all the drama that goes along with this. Also the fear of being wanted and used because of your success and material wealth. The first fear is Carter's, and the second is Khela's. They both have to overcome these fears to find happiness together. And race, simply does not matter. If you are the interracial romance fan who is mortally sick of the "I can't date a White man" song and dance that is far too common in this genre, I encourage you to read this book. It is like a breeze of fresh air tinged with newly blossomed flowers. I guarantee that this book will cleanse a jaded palate.
I thank you, Ms. Hubbard, for writing such a splendid book.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Darkness Chosen Quartet by Christina Dodd

Well, yesterday I finished Into the Flame,which is the last book in The Darkness Chosen series by one of my favorite authors, Christina Dodd. It was excellent, and somehow more and different from what I thought it would be.
I can defintely tell that a lot of thought and planning went into this series, and it paid off. For a long-time, hardcore, Christina Dodd fan, it was rewarding to read her major foray into contemporary Paranormal romance. It is not her first romance with paranormal elements. That would be A Well-Favored Gentleman, which is a historical about Ian Fairchild.

This series is composed of the following books:
  • Scent of Darkness
  • Touch of Darkness
  • Into the Shadow
  • Into the Flame

The things that I loved about this series:
  • Sexy, dangerous, strong heroes. They are alphas in the best sense of the word.
  • The mating bond forms early in the book (just like I like it). Each hero finds his woman and he is faithful and devoted to her.
  • The heroines can more than hold their own with their alpha and old-fashioned heroes
  • The action is unstinting. There is violence that is pretty in your face, but it was necessary with this story.
  • The villians are formidable and extremely wicked. Few romances have villains who are as unique and depraved. I firmly believe that Ms. Dodd spent as much time developing the villians to make them three-dimensional and formidable.
  • The sex scenes are hot, but also loving. But Ms. Dodd always did write some awesome sexy scenes. One of the reasons I love her books.
  • I just love shapeshifter romances, and how cool is it to have a family of shapeshifters. Konstantine Wilder is a wolf, as is Jasha, the firstborn. Rurik is a hawk, Adrik is a black panther, and Doug is a mountain lion/panther. The scenes where they are in animal forms were breathtaking to an animal lover like me. I also loved the twist that they had to be careful not to change too often because it brings them one step closer to losing themselves to the evil darkness that is part of their natures. This is especially key in Into the Shadow, Adrik's story.
  • The mythology behind the series is exceptional. Ms. Dodd starts by telling of a powerful Russian warlord who craves even more power. His way of obtaining that is by making a deal with Satan. In doing so, he damns every son born of the Konstantine Varinski dynasty. In order to break this curse, true love is required. How cool is this? Another thing I like about this series is that it does not stray away from Christian beliefs. I believe that Ms. Dodd probably wanted to write this book in such a way that it did go along with her own beliefs. As a reader of paranormal fiction, I have come to realize that most of the books I read will not be in line with my Christian faith. I just have to put things into context. In this story, I was very much in my element with the underpinnings of the parnormal context. I am very familiar with the battle against Satan, and it made this book resonate with me. It also helps me to feel that I can write in this genre and use my own beliefs and have readers who will enjoy the books.
  • I really got a kick out of the fact that the scion of the Wilders, Konstantine is the black sheep of the Varinski family. He actually falls in love with the woman he has taken, a cherished child of the Romany, Zorana, and runs off with her and marries her. He becomes an outlaw of his family in his rejection of evil. That was genius in my opinion.
  • Family is important. It is great watching the scenes where the Wilder family, although the Scion is damned because of his heritage, is a large, loving family. The brothers, Jasha, Rurik, and Adrik are very respectful and caring of their parents. They cherish their little sister Firebird. And as they bring home their brides, Ann, Tasya, and Karen, they are smoothly integrated into the family. They call Konstantine "Papa" and Zorana "Mama."
  • I love the moments of humor in this book. Without this humor, the storyline would be grim indeed. Recall that all males born of the Varinski Dynasty are damned. Yeah, that's a little risky to have the heroes be hell-damned evil men. But Christina pulled it off. The battle to fight evil is ever present and eloquent, and the grim aspects of that are lightened by humorous banter and lighter moments.
  • The last book, Into the Flame, was very interesting because she turned things around. In this book, the beloved, rare daughter of the family turns out to be not of their blood after all. But the father of her child, is actually the fourth Wilder son. Doug was a Wilder in many ways: alpha, sexy, powerful, a shapeshifter. But he was a little different also because he was raised separately from the Wilders. He is just the catalyst to bring the battle for the souls of the Wilder man out of damnation.
  • I like each and every heroine. They are all different, and strong in their own ways. Ann, Tasya, and Karen are tailor made for their spouses, and they fit seamlessly into the family, each bringing a different gift that will crucially aid in the battle against evil that the Wilders face. Out of the trio, Karen probably had the hardest battle to help save her man, Adrik. But her love truly does rescue him from the evil he has abandoned his soul to. The youngest Wilder sibling and the heroine of Into the Flame, Firebird is a feisty, yet thoughtful heroine. She proclaims herself spoiled, but she never seemed particularly spoiled to me. Instead she has a good head on her shoulders. She definitely has pride and self-worth, but she not a blond little princess, like she seems to think she is. When she realizes what needs to be done, she does it, without any whining or vacillations.

In short, Darkness Chosen is an excellent paranormal series. Although Ms. Dodd is an autobuy, the innovative storyline would have won me over regardless. But with Ms. Dodd's excellent writing, she takes this premise and executes it brilliantly. The Darkness Chosen series is unmissable.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Happy Ending: A Must Have

I was hanging out on the Amazon.com romance forum and a woman asked if a romance novel had to have a HEA (happily ever after) for you to be satisfied. Great question with only one answer from me. An absolute yes. When I read a romance I want that joyous ending. The couple is walking into the sunset together (or moonlight if they are vampires). I want them committed to each other. That means about to get married, married already, mated, bonded, any permanent covenant between them. And preferably with children in the future. No living together for a while or maybe we'll get married. No way.

HFN (happy for now) endings don't work for me. That is one of the things I dread about soap operas and television shows. You know that around the corner, a breakup is inevitable. Well at least in romance novels we should be safe from this. In a romance novel, I don't want to see a HFN ending. I spend hours afterwards feeling let down and fearing that in one, two, ten years the couple will be going their separate ways. That does not work for me.

Fundamentally romantic fiction to me is about escapism. Yes we have adultery, divorce, death, miscarriages, death of children that happens to really good, loving people in the real world. That's why have to have a bubble of safety around our romantic couple. They have to be immune to these events, even if they have had a very tragic life up to this point. I love angsty reads, but the angst must end prior to the end of the book. They can still have issues that need to be resolved, as long as the couple is together to resolve them. I find that the happy ending is even more satisfying in a book with tortured heroes and tormented heroines, and with scenarios that are so intense you often wonder how the writer will deliver the happy ending. And when she/he does, you sigh with tears in your eyes, close the book, and hug it against your chest.

To be honest, I really don't even like books where the couple is infertile, although I have read and enjoyed them. I always feel sad because their precious, everlasting love won't bring another life into the world. It's great when they adopt children together and give them love and a family. But at the same time, it's still sad because they can't have their own children. It makes me really, really sad in a way that lingers after I finish the book. I guess I take my romantic couples too seriously. What can I say? Despite all the crap I have seen in my lifespan, and how messed up this world is; deep down, I am an incurable romantic. I want to believe in love everlasting, and all that goes with it.

That is why I must admit to you today a terrible habit I have: I do read the end of books when I am deciding to read/buy a book. My sister is horrified by my habit. I will tell you honestly that it has come in handy. I have read the ends of books and decided that there was no way I would read the book. Like I said, the HEA is obligatory. Why put myself through the anguish of being disappointed so cruelly? Sometimes I read the end and it makes no sense. In those cases, I am likely to read the book out of curiosity. But if I really don't like the ending, the book goes back on the shelf at the store and I walk away. My time is too valuable to get my hopes up with what sounds like a great love story and then fall crashing to the ground, broken and bruised.

What about in other genres? I still love happy endings. Again, incurable romantic here. Escapism rules the day with pleasure reading. Pleasure reading meaning not for work or school, etc. Doesn't matter what the genre is, I still want the happy ending. Does that mean I have not read one single book with an unhappy ending that I did not enjoy? Not at all. But it is not the same level of fulfillment and joy with those books.

Case in point, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I love this book. It is incredibly well-written and vivid. Atticus Finch is an incredible hero who won my heart. I felt like I was there in that little town seeing everything that Scout saw. I still remember the scene with the rabid dog and how mild-mannered Atticus Finch calmly shot the dog before it could bite any of the children. I held my breath the whole time. This book was a love story about a girl and her father. It was also a coming of age story, and a story about injustice. I did not like that a man was wrongly accused and convicted and hanged. It hurts me to this day. However I can still love this book for the joy of experiencing Atticus Finch and the slice of life through Scout Finch's eyes. Let's just say I would have liked the book more with a happier ending for Atticus Finch's client. But Harper Lee wrote the book the way she was moved to right it, and I can't fault her for that.

When it comes to horror or thrillers, my happy ending is simple. I want the bad guys to be vanquished and for good to win the day. That is why I don't like a lot of modern horror. It seems as though a lot of times, evil is prevailing. Evil may seem like it prevails everyday, but the victory will be won by good in the end. I firmly believe that. Thus, any world that I would construct as an author will adhere to these same guidelines. Now I am not talking "paper tigers," as my writing teacher called them. "Paper tigers" are villians that are not very formidable and make the job of good vanquishing evil seem easy. I thought the villian in Tomb Raider was a very good example of a "paper tiger." He was so wimpy it was completely unbelievable that he could vanquish Lara Croft. You need a very scary, believeable villain, and you need to write the book in such a way that the reader fears that the villain may win, although deep down, they still have faith that good will win out. Doing this makes the happy ending more satisfying to the reader. Even in romances, a formidable adversary/villain is much appreciated by the reader.

Yes, even with movies, I am clamoring for the HEA. I love the ones that sneak up on you. You weren't expecting all to end well, and bang, it does. And when the ending is not happy or unclear, you sink like a stone. Yes there are a few historical movies with unhappy endings I really like, but there are other things that cause it to resonate with me. I will tell you right now, I hated the way 3:10 to Yuma with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe ended. I was totally bummed out for the rest of the day.

But getting back to the subject, please hear me, all romance novelists. When you write that romance novel, remember that it is the reader's escape, her safe place where love is pure and conquers all. Please remember that the benchmark is about the ending just as much as it is about the journey. Otherwise, the reader is left feeling a sense of desolation like no other. How fitting that The Backstreet Boys' song "Incomplete" is on.

Heroes to Die For (Part I)

A hero to die for is a hero in a book that you simply fall totally and completely in love with. It may be for a variety of reasons. But this man has won you over so completely, you cannot help but compare all other heroes in future books to him.

My qualifications for heroes to be added to my list are:

  • They show unforgettable traits such as bravery, love, selflessness, devotion to the heroine
  • Some of them are just truly good, wonderful men
  • They have had a journey that affected me deeply, such as going from a troubled past to become an honorable person
  • They are flawed, scarred, but also able to show love and do have a sense of what is the right thing to do
  • They show passionate, intense love and emotions towards the heroine that is distinguished from their interactions with other women
  • There is something so sexy and so seductive about them that I would probably throw myself at them if they were real men :)
  • They are strong and formidable in a fight.
  • They may be a bad boy, rake, or rogue, but there is a core of goodness that makes them irresistible to me
  • I could not get them off my mind long after I finished reading the book
  • I want to reread their books just to experience more of them
  • They have some ability that they are exemplary at

So now that you know what I look for in a Hero to Die For, let me tell you who my heroes to die for are (keep in mind this is an ever-expanding list as I continue to read more excellent books)

  • Ben "Ice Man" Richards from A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne
  • Christoff, Marquess of Langford from The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe'
  • Nikolai Wroth from the short story "The Warlord Wants Forever" in Playing Easy to Get by Kresley Cole
  • Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent from Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
  • Cory Booker from Cory's Salvation by Shana Azor
  • Scott Halloway from Fate by Pamela Leigh Starr
  • Simon Hunt from Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas
  • Roger "Sam" Starrett from the Team 16 Books, and Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann
  • Shane "Scarecrow" Schofield from Ice Station by Matthew Reilly
  • Sin MacCallister from Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor
  • Rafe Kendrick from Baby Love by Catherine Anderson
  • Alex Montgomery from Annie's Song by Catherine Stuart
  • Colin Wescott from Touched by Fire by Kathleen O'Reilly
  • Sebastian Durant from A Well-Pleasured Lady by Christina Dodd
  • Dylan Davis from Iguana Bay by Theresa Weir
  • Wolf Mackenzie from Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard
  • James Ardmore from the Pirate Hunter by Jennifer Ashley
  • Grayson Finley from The Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley
  • Austin Blackwell from Perils of the Heart by Jennifer Ashley
  • Christopher Raine from The Care and Feeding of Pirates by Jennifer Ashley
  • Captain Julian Reece Lambert from Wicked Lies by Laura Renken
  • Zarek from Dance With the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Vishous from Lover Unbound by JR Ward
  • Butch O'Neil from Lover Revealed by JR Ward
  • Hart Moreland from A Dangerous Man by Connie Brockway
  • Sheridan Drake from Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale
  • Samuel Gerard from The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
  • Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain from Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
  • Jack Seward from All Through the Night by Connie Brockway
  • Derek Craven from Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
  • John McKenna from Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas
  • Devon Mathewes, Earl of Kerrick from Rules of Engagement by Christina Dodd
  • Lucian, Duke of Blackheath from The Wicked One by Danelle Harmon
  • Lord Martin Kestrel from Too Wicked to Marry by Susan Sizemore
  • Lochlain MacRieve from A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
  • Ethan MacCarrick from If You Decieve by Kresley Cole
  • Sebastian Wroth from No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole
  • Conrad Wroth from Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole
  • Viscount Wynter Ruskin from Rules of Surrender by Christina Dodd
  • Robert Mackenzie, Earl of Hepburn from Some Enchanted Evening
  • Jack Penmartyn, Earl of Penmartyn from The Price of Innocence by Susan Sizemore
  • Remington Knight from One Kiss from You by Christina Dodd
  • Hugh MacCarrick from If You Desire by Kresley Cole
  • Courtland MacCarrick from If You Dare by Kresley Cole
  • Talon Drake from My Lord Pirate by Laura Renken
  • Marcus Drake from Night Shadow by Laura Renken
  • "Chandos"Kane Straton from A Heart So Wild by Johanna Lindsey
  • Lochlan MacGregor from Love Me Forever by Johanna Lindsey
  • Sebastian Townshend from Marriage Most Scandalous by Johanna Lindsey
  • Carter McKoy from The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas
  • Sam Gatlin from When a Texan Gambles by Jodi Thomas
  • Christopher, Earl of Blackmour from This Is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland
  • Luke Bardell from Ritual Sins by Anne Stuart
  • Reilly from The Soldier and the Baby by Anne Stuart
  • Colonel Sam Oliver from Special Gifts by Anne Stuart
  • Rafe McGinnis from Rafe's Revenge by Anne Stuart
  • Patrick Winter from Winter's Edge by Anne Stuart
  • Michael Dubrovnik from Glass Houses by Anne Stuart
  • Simon Navarre from Lord of Danger by Anne Stuart
  • Valerian Romney from Shadow Dance by Anne Stuart
  • Nicholas Blackthorne from A Rose at Mightnight by Anne Stuart
  • Harrison Bainbridge from Never Love a Cowboy by Lorraine Heath
  • Jefferson Randolph from Violet by Leigh Greenwood
  • Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Colin Berkhamshire from From This Moment On by Lynn Kurland

Okay so I love characters by some authors in particular! I will give you a break and post another list with more of my favorite Heroes to Die For. I'd love to hear who your faves are.