Friday, August 31, 2007

Have you ever...

pulled out a purchase you made a couple of weeks ago, and been like, "What the eff was I thinking?"

I went to the used bookstore a couple of weeks ago, sans kiddies, and I don't know if I was just heady with freedom or what, but I went hog-wild. I know that I wanted to get some Harlequin lines that I have never read before, and I was picking up and putting a lot of stuff down. I also know that I had meant to grab a Harlequin Intrigue and didn't, so I must've put down the wrong book. Or two. But apparently that day, I had a real fascination for the works of Christine Rimmer, secret babies, accidental pregnancies, and most inexplicably, a boss/secretary story. Called "The Boss and his Secretary." I never like those. Nothing against the works of Christine Rimmer, I'm just not sure why I was compelled to buy three books by an author I am completely unfamiliar with. Perhaps she will become an auto-buy.

Oh well, with trade-ins, the whole she-bang was about 4 dollars. I think some are going back unread.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Big Girls Don't Cry by Brenda Novak

A two Haiku review!

Warning: I was unsure how to write this review. Part of me feels like I'm giving away the big secret. But there's no way around it, because that's what I both liked and disliked about the book. And the "secret" is revealed early on and is what pushes the whole plot. Here is the slightly misleading back blurb from the book:

Sometimes Mr. Right couldn't be more wrong...

Thanks to a devastating revelation about her husband, Reenie Holbrook's once-perfect marriage is over. For eleven years she had the life she wanted--and now it's gone.

Sometimes Mr. Wrong couldn't be more right...

Reenie decides that the first step in recovering from her ordeal is to find work; after all, she has three young children to support. She's thrilled when she lands a job at Dundee High teaching math--until Isaac Russell, the man who triggered the unraveling of her marriage, accepts a temporary position teaching science. Then she's tempted to quit. Reenie doesn't care if the whole town admires Isacc...and she won't admit that, secretly, she admires him, too. She doesn't want to see him or his sister in "her" town.

But a friendship with the most unlikely woman leads to a relationship with the most unlikely man...

If you are intrigued but don't want to know what's going to happen, don't click on the cut.

One man with two wives,
Wife two's brother finds out
and tells all the truth.

Reenie recovers,
but Isaac makes things tougher,
Intense, slow romance.

Comments from the peanut gallery:

This was an intriguing read. I devoured it in a matter of hours. Often in romances, the traumatic events have already taken place, but in Big Girls Don't Cry, we find out what's been happening along with the hero and heroine. It was very immediate and engrossing, but it also weakened the story a bit, for reasons I will explain.

Keith O'Connell lives with his wife of 11 years, Reenie (his HS sweetheart), and their three children in Dundee, Idaho. He also lives with his wife of 9 years, Liz, and their two children in L.A. His job as a software developer has him travelling between both places, and he has used both women's trust to great advantage over the past nine years. However, when Liz's brother Isaac becomes suspicious, he follows Keith to Idaho and uncovers the truth. After meeting the charming Reenie, he is unsure of what to do, but these things take on a life of their own and so the truth is revealed. The two women have to deal with a totally awful betrayal, while protecting their children. Keith abandons family #2, to try to get Reenie (whom he has always loved more) to take him back. Stung, and hurt for her children, Liz moves to Dundee to make him acknowledge his family and stay in his kids' lives. Loyal brother Isaac goes along to help. Now everyone's together in this small town. Can you say AWKWARD? Things only get more complicated when Isaac and Reenie grow increasingly attracted to each other.

This read more like women's fiction to me (but I'm not positive because I haven't read too much women's fiction). A lot of the book was focused on the big reveal, and everyone's reaction and recovery from it. I really liked the characters. They were well drawn, strong and had mixed and different reactions. But Reenie, Liz, and Isaac seemed human, never contrived or petty. That was some heavy shit to be dealing with. Keith, OTOH, was such a selfish, immature asswipe, it was hard to see why both women had loved him so much. But he was a bigamist, so I wasn't expecting to like him anyway.

The problem for me was that the book was so much about the fallout and recovery from the Keith betrayal, that the Reenie-Isaac romance felt a bit rushed. I was getting impatient for it to actually start. There was chemistry between them from the get go, but I would've liked a bit more focus on the relationship development and the sparks between them. Also, Reenie, had been totally in love with Keith prior to finding out the truth. Now, of course, I wouldn't expect her to remain that way, given the situation. But it made something like her telling Isaac that it was the best sex ever, ring a little hollow, given that she was shown to be sexually satisfied with Keith at the beginning. Overall, a moving and interesting read, but I'm giving it a B-, because I wanted more romance. I went to Brenda Novak's website , and I'm very interested in some of her other Superromances, especially the ones that take place in Dundee. She's got some unusual premises going on there. I hope the focus is on the advertised love story.

A Meme...

Tagged by KristieJ

1. Total number of books I own:
400ish--I kinda stopped counting. I have increasingly limited space, so I have been ruthlessly weeding my collection. Of course, this is then counteracted by trips to the UBS where I pick up copies of books that I checked out of the library but now must own.

2. Last Book I bought:
A mini-spree at Liquid Silver: Alitus by Kayelle Allen, Measure of a Man by Bonnie Dee, Celeste by Tiffany Aaron

3. Last Book I read:
Big Girls Don't Cry by Brenda Novak. A Harlequin Superromance and new to me author. Good stuff, reminds me of the old days (see previous post's bitching). I polished it off yesterday evening and will review soon.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me:
**Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild--Read it until it fell apart, then bought a new one. Children's classic about three talented London sisters. I would still recommend it to any 9-10 y.o. aspiring ballerina/musician/actress.

**The Curse of the Blue Figurine by John Bellairs--The first book I read by the author that started me down the path to being a mystery/paranormal junkie. Uber creepy, but they don't hold up that well. Now I find them kind of hokey, but still rec them to kids.

**The Witch of Lagg by Ann Cheetham--Totally random YA horror novel about three teens in Scotland and the ghost of a witch. For some reason I was obsessed with it and I think it had a big influence on reading habits to follow.

**The Street of Five Moons by Elzabeth Peters--I may have mentioned once or a hundred times that Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels is my favorite author ever, and has had the most profound effect on my reading tastes and twisted outlook on life. I'm particularly obsessed with Vicky Bliss and roguish art thief John, and still waiting patiently for Peters to return to them.

**Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon--Not even my favorite SK, but this book holds a special place as the book that introduced me to paranormal romance and re-introduced me to romance in general, reigniting the book obsession that had grown quite dormant during my twenties.

5. Tag 5 people

Mailyn (whenever you're around, Kiddo!)

Ta for now. Off to the pool.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Whatever happened to

the good old days of series romance? During what I fondly think of as my "first wave" of romance reading, I used to pilfer my mom's categories when I was home alone. We were regulars at this store, which I was surprised to see advertising on AAR recently (I haven't been there in years and assumed it had closed down). I would get mysteries, she would get her Silhouette Desire fix. Then I would rifle through them and quickly read ones that sounded interesting, hoping no one would come upon me. I don't know if I'm remembering things through a haze of nostalgia, but those books seem so much better than the categories I've been reading lately. Better is the wrong word, because I have certainly read and enjoyed a number of them. They're just...different.

I appreciate the breadth and variety Harlequin has to offer, but so many of them seem to fit within certain margins. You've got the secret baby/accidental pregnancy books, the big city girl goes(or returns) to the small town where she hooks up with a rancher, and of course the millionaire/sheikh/tycoon and the mistress/secretary. Or perhaps mix of two or three, with some blackmail and revenge thrown in for good measure. I experimented with the Blaze line, but often find them to be hampered by absurd plot devices designed to shoehorn as much sex in as possible. Sex themed hotels and artists who carve penises and magic potions and whatnot.

The books I remember fondly featured a variety of settings, characters who had all kinds of occupations, and lively romances with deep, emotional underpinnings. Not so much on external trumped up suspense plots. When my parents moved, I had the opportunity to grab some of my and (my mother's) old favorites. I've only re-read and reviewed one (Guilty Secrets by Laura Leone), and it was pretty much as good as I remember. So without further ado, here are some other old series romances I loved. Anyone remember these titles or authors? Anyone know why they changed the Silhouette Desire line so much?

*Contact by Lass Small: I've read several books by her, but this Desire was the most memorable. The story of a hotshot attorney who falls madly in love with a reclusive artist. But can he get her to allow him into her well-guarded life? Small has an extensive backlist, but nothing since 2000. Wonder why?

*Winter Morning by BJ James: Another Silhouette Desire author with nothing since 2004. This was about a doctor who returns to her North Carolina hometown to practice, fleeing her friend and for one night, lover, another doctor. He follows her five years later. Nice sense of place in this one, and I loved the heroine's best friend, a dyslexic, illiterate Native American sculptor. Wonder if he ever got a book?

*Summer Light by Jude O'Neill: A Silhouette Special Edition about an uptight curator and a bohemian artist who decide to have a summer romance. As a suburban teenager, I loved the New York City art scene setting. Great, memorable characters, interesting story. I can't find much info on this author. Anyone heard of her?

*Leftover Love by Janet Dailey: Okay, she's a big gun. Haven't read anything recent by her, but I vaguely remember reading some of those state books. I remember swooning over this story of an "ugly" rancher who falls for the Omaha beauty who comes to work for him and has ulterior motives for doing so. I think I'm gonna read it tonight.

*Lightning that Lingers by Tom and Sharon Curtis: Sigh. Who can forget the shy children's librarian with the Dorothy Hamill haircut and the wildlife biologist who strips to hold onto his family manse? So many great scenes in this one. Wonderful, unusual book. In a class all it's own. Worth finding (I'm holding onto my copy).

All of these books proved to me that you could pack a vivid setting, well-developed characters and a compelling romance into a relatively short length. Now, if you've made it all the way to the end of this post, I've got a question. Have you read any great Harlequins lately? Something really different that stands out from the crowd? Even a single title contemporary that might have a similar feel. And again, what did they do to the Desire line and why?

A New Look and a New Attitude...


I feel like I've been quite crabby and negative about romance lately. Although I have read and enjoyed some books, I'm just not excited about stuff like I used to be. Releases by two former auto-buy authors (Sherrilyn Kenyon and MaryJanice Davidson) have come and gone with no interest from me. I keep buying different things in an attempt to recharge the mojo, to no avail. I haven't read a book in over a week. I was annoying myself, wondering why (should I take a hiatus from romance? from blogging?), and then I realized, it's probably just summer. The heat and humidity fry my brain after awhile, and there always seem to be personal dramas that distract me. Well now that some of these dramas have been resolved, and my sister's lovely but exhausting wedding is out of the way (I looked fab, btw), I am determined to catch up on all that is going on in Romancebloglandia, and find something cool to read.

I bought myself Dangerous Lover by Lisa Marie Rice for my birthday. I really enjoyed it, and thought that it was what erotic romance should be. There were developed characters having scorching sex while developing believable chemistry and romance. Im not feeling like reviewing, but here are some reviews by Rosario, KristieJ and Gwen that I was in agreement with. There is something so durn delicious about a man who is just head over heels in love, nay, obsessed with a woman. In fact, his obsession is creepy, almost, if it wasn't so well written. I get so sick all the obsessive women in books, tv, and movies mooning over some dude on the basis of his looks or $$$. I liked seeing the tables turned. Ms. Rice guest blogged at The Good, the Bad and the Unread recently. There were a couple of interesting posts on her philosophies on Erotic Romance and the ever popular topic of Alpha Males. Her particular brand of sensuality and hero was definitely on display in Dangerous Lover, and whooo boy, I found it pretty much breath taking in its intensity. Will definitely be checking her out again. I'm thinking I'll start with Midnight Angel.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

test post

Too similar to the previous look? Well, I'm sticking with it, because any change seems to delete my sidebars.

This pyzam site has tons of free layouts. There were a couple I loved, but the post column seemed too narrow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What's the failure rate of condoms in romance novels?

As a public service, I would like to take a moment to talk to all those romance novel heroines out there who are pondering a wild night out or a wild vacation to break out the monotony of their stifling lives. You know, the plain ones, the dependable ones, the ones who get passed over for more exciting women. I'd also like to address the romance novel heroes, passing time at the local club or watering hole when they notice a mysterious and highly attractive woman at the bar. Oh, I know how it goes: a few drinks, a few laughs, blazing chemistry. That's why I'm going to take a moment to make a suggestion before it goes too far. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, PLEASE USE A BACK UP BIRTH CONTROL METHOD!!!! According to this site,the reliability rate for the male condom is 87-98% effective. In fiction world, it definitely seems to be on the low end, with condoms failing left and right, and accidental pregnancies resulting in every other book. I have read a number of books lately wherein the lead couple used a condom, but still ended up expecting.

I find it endlessly interesting to see what kinds of romance plots I seem to be drawn to. While I find the secret baby plot to be kind of tired, I find myself drawn over and over to a plot I like to think of as "Help, I had a one night stand, we're pregnant, and I'm falling in love with my baby momma/daddy!" Not exactly pithy, but you get the gist. Recently, I read two books along these lines,with mixed results.

I didn't particularly care for Father Material by Kimberly Van Meter, mostly because the heroine was a pill and the hero was too stupid to live. Natalie Simmons decides to go on a white water rafting trip to show her ex-fiance (who's going with his new girl) that she's not boring. First sign that I wouldn't like her. How desperate is that? The handsome, charming river guide, Evan Murphy, provides a shoulder to cry on, and a bit more. Natalie ends up pregnant, and decides not to tell Evan, because as a river guide/ski instructor he's obviously not father material. Evan can't stop thinking about Natalie, and shows up on her doorstep to return a necklace. After finding out about her pregnancy, he decides to move into the apartment underneath her, to help her and make sure he's not excluded from the baby's life. I tried to be sympathetic, but I just couldn't like either of these characters. Natalie came off as whiny and petulant, constantly insisting that Evan wouldn't be a good pappy, when he seemed pretty involved. Evan was so scarred by relationship trauma, that he became a ski bum, and absolutely refused to talk about anything personal. They were a couple of knuckleheads, who really needed to have a conversation, and by the time Evan pulls a really dick move at the end, I couldn't even care. It was just dumb. Kimberly Van Meter writes ok, and there are some laugh out loud moments in their internal monologues. Too bad they couldn't be more likeable. C-, but I'm keeping an eye out for Van Meter's other releases, because the other two sisters sounded a bit more interesting, and I'm marginally curious about their dickhead father.

Next I moved on to Accidentally Expecting by Michelle Celmer. This was one of those books that I really wanted to read, inexplicably to me. For one thing, it was a traditional guy/independent woman stories, and those often make me groan. But at the same time, I like "opposites attract" stories. For another thing, the cover really annoyed me, in particular, woman. She's got this dumb, drunken, self-satisfied look that bugs me. Regardless, I wanted it. This was my first read by this author, and it won't be my last. I enjoyed it. Accidentally Expecting is the story of Miranda Reed, author of a guide to divorce which extols the virtues of women staying single, and Zack Jameson, a 'relationship guru' who promotes traditional values of commitment. After participating in a radio debate, during which Zack makes Miranda looks like a feminist harpy, Miranda resolves to seduce Zack at the hotel where both are staying. Well, it doesn't take much effort and the two share a most satisfying night, then agree that they shouldn't see each other again, too different from one another. But once again the condom has failed, and after recovering from her surprise, Miranda goes to see Zack with the news. Zack is shocked. Getting a woman knocked up after a one-night stand wouldn't look good for his image. But he's very attracted to Miranda anyway, and determines to be there for her during the pregnancy, and overcome her fear of commitment. He moves into the condo across the street, they begin to dance around each other, communicate (unlike the first book), and fall in love. This was a B read, lively, enjoyable, featuring two intelligent and likeable characters with chemistry who need to get past their fears. What I'm looking for in a Harlequin, pretty much. There was a subplot featuring Zack's younger brother and his wife which wasn't resolved to my liking. The wife was a sympathetic character, and she got screwed over by her husband. Maybe she'll get her own book. I would've liked to see a bit more fallout regarding the public revelations. Michelle Celmer has a nice style and voice, and I'll be looking to see what her backlist holds.

Next: A Erotic Romance that is both super romantic and scorching hot. It can be done!!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

I think a trip to the bookstore is in order! I have decided that the problem is that I'm burned out on paranormals and erotic romances. I need a change to get my mojo going. With that in mind, I went off to the used bookstore (solo!)and took home a bag of Harlequin Romance and Superromance and Silhouette Special Editions. I am currently reading Father Material by Kimberly Van Meter. Not bad, but the heroine's a bit of a pill, so far. It's got one of those "knocked up from a one night stand, now I'm falling in love with my baby daddy" plots. When I read these blurbs, I shudder with distaste, because in my opinion, accidental pregnancies don't often lead to HEAS, but rather to bitterness and recriminations. Even though I'm not usually one of those people, I have to wonder about the message it sends: get knocked up, and the guy will love you and take care of you and your baby forever. Troubling. But day-um, if these stories don't just hit the spot sometimes. I'm sucked in wondering how she's going to tell him, how's he going to react, how, for jiminy's sake, are they going to make it work.

I finished Familiar Stranger by Michele Hauf. Am I becoming a Harlequin Junkie? This was good, very cute. I think the Nocturne line is starting to hit a nice stride. This one had a great heroine and a Jason Statham-like (in my mind anyway) hero. [OT: Did you know that Jason Statham's girlfriend dumped him for Billy Zane? Billy Zane?!] I liked the idea of two factions (The Cadre and P-Cell), who study paranormal entities and take very different approaches to limiting their presence on Earth. I also liked the odd world surrounding the Cadre's base. A bit heavy on the British-isms (cheeky bird, snog etc.), but being an Anglophile, I liked it. The romance seemed a bit rushed, but less so than many categories I've read. I'd give it a B-. Good (and kinda different) characters, interesting worldbuilding, entertaining story. I'll be reading the others. Check out the Dark Enchantments blog. Fun for crazy people like me who like to read about fictional characters as though they are real.

Click on the cut for pictures of me and the kids--
{Edited because I can't figure out the cut on the new layout and the pictures are slowing me down.}

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tired of Sex?

What's that you say? Is it possible? Man, I think I've read one too many erotic romances that go something like this:

  • Hero and heroine meet. Wet, clenching pussies and rock-hard cocks ensue.
  • Although heroine and hero are not sure if they even like each other, they engage in some heavy petting, most likely at inappropriate time and place.
  • More heavy petting. Oral sex most likely occurs, and possibly intercourse.
  • Hero and heroine think about each other, realizing that feelings are involved. Hero wonders if he can ever meet another woman like this. [I agree, it might be hard to meet a woman who gives a blow job in the bathroom during a cocktail party so readily.] Heroine thinks there may be something about this man she will never find again. [Perhaps the huge, hard cock that can go for hours?]
  • More sex occurs. Perhaps some finger in the butt action. [Question: At what point in the relationship does one decide that finger in the butt action might be welcomed?]
  • They realize they're in love. The End.
Enough already. The sex is boring if the love story is all in the characters' heads. I need some sexual tension, some banter, some friendship. Interaction that doesn't involve bodily fluids. A relationship.

So I'm going for something different. I'm looking for some "Tender Romance," ending at the bedroom door. I'm hoping it'll be more satisfying. I'm thinking of some Harlequin Romance or Superromance. Anyone have any title/author recs?

OTOH, those new Spice Briefs are on sale for 99 cents. Never read any Sarah McCarty or Delilah Devlin. Hmmm...