Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Feature: Read, Read, Read - Romance Roundup!

It's no secret that I did a lot of reading this winter, with all the blizzards and less-than-ideal weather in New England. But one weekend I outdid myself and read EIGHT BOOKS in two days. Well, I got up early Monday to finish the last 20 pages of the eighth book, but still. Eight. Books. Not novellas. Books. Brain Candy Books.

Three were contemporary romance.
One was romantic suspense.
Two were New Adult Contemporary Romance.
Two were Young Adult Paranormal Romance.

Five of the Eight were worth 4 stars in my rating system. One of them I went back and completely reread on Wednesday night. Yeah, only 3 days after reading it the first time. So maybe that should be a "5"... but it doesn't feel like a 5, if you know what I mean.

Thank you,, for bringing all these free reads to my attention. (If you haven't signed up, I urge you to check it out.)

Here are the books and brief reviews of the five I would recommend, in no particular order. If you need a weekend read, any of these would work. Or all of them. Your choice.
MARKED, by Kaylea Cross
Romantic Suspense, published 2014
Action, adventure, hot heroes and tense situations. Loved the interactions between the main characters, and between the secondary characters too.

These days, it seems "FBI romantic suspense" should be it's own subgenre. But the adventure and thrills keep readers like me coming back, so I'm not knocking it. Kaylea Cross is a new-to-me author, and seems to have mastered this genre. I look forward to reading more of her books! 4 stars.

BE MY LOVE, by Lucy Kevin
Sweet Contemporary Romance, published 2014
This is Bella Andre's sweet side, her contemporary romance alter ego that leaves everything but the longing firmly behind closed doors. There are a few kisses but nothing more, and yet she develops the tension and the longing through masterful storytelling and scene setting. Other authors might do this better, but Andre is a master storyteller, giving us a satisfying romance with the HEA the characters deserve. 4 stars.
CAUGHT UP IN US, by Lauren Blakely
Steamy Contemporary Romance, published 2013
Kat Ross is earning her MBA to launch her jewelry business to the next level. She hasn't seen or heard form Bryan since he walked away from their relationship on her 18th birthday, five years ago. Now he's her business mentor, and sparks fly between them. Sparks, desire, longing, obsession, and some of the hottest phone sex scenes I've ever found in a book! 4 stars.
Contemporary New Adult Romance, Published 2013
First person contemporary New Adult romance - our narrator is a college student with a troubled past that is revealed in drips and drops until it comes to a head. An extra on a movie set for the hottest bad boy star in America, she meets him but is the only one not fawning all over him - which intrigues the guy enough to pursue her. The whirlwind friendship and subsequent romance is fast-paced and fun to read, with enough twists to keep you turning pages. 4 stars.
Contemporary New Adult Romance, published 2014
Harper is a recent SCAD graduate reeling from a bad breakup and struggling to find her place in the world (while still paying rent on time.) She takes a nanny position and falls for her widowed boss. Predictable and cliched, right? Actually, so much about this story is fresh and fun, from the Savannah setting to Harper's Chicago tough side. It kept me turning pages to see how the author would unkink all the knots she tied her characters into - and yes, this is the book I reread again after only three days. Fun, flirty, sexy and fun. 4 stars.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Reading like a Writer

My mother-in-law once lent me a book by Francine Prose entitled Reading Like a Writer, and while I'm not sure I returned it to her, I also don't really remember much of the advice. Honestly, I took it as a jab, because the book's author examines classic works by great authors to show why these works have endured. Where I write romance and YA, I thought she was dissing my choice of genres.

But her point is sound. Some writing resonates more deeply with readers than others. Not every reader likes the same literary material, but in every genre there are stand out best sellers who connect with readers. Think of Nora Roberts, for instance, and you get my point.

What I have come to realize lately, is that every writer can improve their own writing by examining not what worked for Franz Kafka or Virginia Woolf exactly, but by looking at best selling authors in their own genres and seeing why those works resonate with readers.

I've expanded my book reviews to include not only new, debut and indie authors, but also some of the genre best sellers, to try and figure out what attracts loyal readers to their stories and writing. What makes a great romance novel? Now, this is not to say that there aren't a slew of wonderful writers and books that don't have "best seller" attached to their names. I've personally read and reviewed lots. However, I figure I also need to read more widely from the authors who've "made it."

The first example I chose after this epiphany was from Bella Andre, a master of the modern contemporary romance. Forget 50 Shades and pick up one of Andre's many steamy tales. She has real plots, fully fleshed out secondary characters,  main characters that leave you panting for more and enough steamy sex to make Christian Grey beg for a time out.

The Look of Love, by Bella Andre
Published June 2011

About the Book:
Chloe Peterson is having a bad night. A really bad night. The large bruise on her cheek can attest to that. And when her car skids off the side of a wet country road straight into a ditch, she's convinced even the gorgeous guy who rescues her in the middle of the rain storm must be too good to be true. Or is he?

As a successful photographer who frequently travels around the world, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women, and whenever he's home in San Francisco, one of his seven siblings is usually up for causing a little fun trouble. Chase thinks his life is great just as it is--until the night he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley. Not only has he never met anyone so lovely, both inside and out, but he quickly realizes she has much bigger problems than her damaged car. Soon, he is willing to move mountains to love--and protect--her, but will she let him?

Chloe vows never to make the mistake of trusting a man again. Only, with every loving look Chase gives her--and every sinfully sweet caress--as the attraction between them sparks and sizzles, she can't help but wonder if she's met the only exception. And although Chase didn't realize his life was going to change forever in an instant, amazingly, he isn't the least bit interested in fighting that change. Instead, he's gearing up for a different fight altogether...for Chloe's heart.

This is the first book in her Sullivan family series, and the only issue I had with it was the first chapter tries way too hard to introduce every single one of the eight siblings and set up their storyline for the future. It became a little bit of name soup and I almost drowned in it before our current hero left the family gathering.

Chase Sullivan is a successful photographer and something of a playboy, but lately he's been feeling the itch for something more. Chloe Peterson is an abused woman going through a nasty divorce who longs for nothing more than her freedom. Sparks fly when Chase helps her out of her car trouble and convinces her to stay in Napa with him for a few days while he does a photo shoot at his brothers vineyard.  Neither of them can deny the electric chemistry arcing between them, but they both resist for their own reasons... Until they can't resist any longer and tumble into steam-your-e reader sex, going from zero to eighty in seconds.

This was my first Bella Andre book, and I know understand why she is such a legend in the romance business. She makes it all look and sound easy with well written characters you care about and hot sex scenes that make you blush while turning pages as fast as possible. If you can get passed the first chapter, you're in for a treat. If you like this sort of thing. Me? I might be reading some more...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Book Review: HEARTS IN MOTION, by Edie Ramer

Hearts in Motion, a Rescued Hearts novel, by Edie Ramer
Published 2013 by Blue Walrus Books

About the Book (from Goodreads):

Take two cats, a dog, and a determined woman...
Animal lover Abby Pimm isn't looking for love. With two rescue cats, one rescue dog, and a struggling business, and her fourteen-year-old sister to raise, she's got her hands full. What she needs is an angel - though she'll settle for the devil if he'll invest in her fledgling company and keep it afloat.

Add a six-year-old girl...
Wealthy businessman Holden Ramsay is no devil. He's doing all the right things, and when he's forced to care for his ex's six-year-old daughter, he ends up hiring Abby as a temporary sitter - a woman who lights up his damaged heart, and perks up other organs as well. A woman who might be his redemption...or his downfall.

Who's rescuing who?
The animals that Abby rescued think maybe it's time they do a little rescue work of their own - because sometimes humans in love can be so dense...

First let me say Watership Down was one of my favorite childhood books, narrated exclusively by various rabbits. And I loved The Rats of NIMH.

But this is a romance novel.

Most of the book is pretty standard. The heroine, Abby Pimm, was orphaned at a young age, taking care of her sister, works hard but just needs an influx of capital to make her company take off. Holden Ramsey is rich, who married on impulse once but now guards his heart too carefully. He needs the heroine's help, just for two weeks. Of course they'll fall in love before the end, but both are stubborn and need some nudging.

Enter the rescue animals. No, really.

There are whole chapters narrated by the heroine's animals, two cats and a dog named Lion. One of the book's main POVs is a Siamese cat. Otherwise, it seemed like a good enough storyline? Cliched perhaps, but a good enough read. But the cat POV kind of stopped me cold. I guess I should've read the blurb a little more closely, because going back to it now I can see the author didn't really hide the fact that the animals were in charge...

I'm an animal person, and like having dogs and cats as characters furthering the action... But not narrating it for me to help me understand or further the plot. Found myself trying to skip those chapters, but you can't if you want to understand the whole story. There's, like, plot that only the Siamese has figured out. So you need to listen to her or you get lost. Argh.

I did finish the book, but won't be reading more from this author. If the idea of animal POVs doesn't bother you, try this as its well written otherwise. I'm going to find something else to get my dog fix.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Feature: #New Release from Joyce Holmes - DARE TO RISK ALL

About the Book:
Tessa Caldwell’s carefully structured world is thrown into chaos when the handsome stranger she had an uncharacteristic fling with reappears in her life. Ben not only gets the promotion she thought was hers, but is also intent on resuming their physical relationship. Although Tessa’s rational mind insists on a professional association, both her heart and her traitorous body have other ideas. Can her sensible nature possibly win against such temptation?

Memories of the petite blonde with large, blue eyes have haunted Ben Dunham for months. When he transfers to her branch, he anticipates picking up where they left off. Reality doesn’t match memory when the cool and collected lady wants no part of him. If he intends to pursue Tessa, he has to earn her trust. The problem is, Ben carries a dark and dangerous secret. How does he get Tessa to trust him when he can’t trust himself?
About the Author:
Joyce Holmes lives with her husband and very small dog in the beautiful Okanagan region of British Columbia.  An empty-nest mom, she treasures family time, especially with her two precious little grandsons.  Hiking, biking, boating and photography are pursuits she enjoys when she's not dreaming up stories in her head or planning her next great adventure.

Find her online in the following spots...
Amazon page:

Goodreads page:


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