On the cover of DIRTY by Megan Hart are these three word: An Erotic Novel. Published by Spice Books, the story makes no claim to be an erotic romance, nor does it pass itself off as a work of women’s fiction with erotic elements. It simply states that it is an erotic novel. The question that might then follow is whether or not the story in an erotic novel should succeed or fail based on its level of eroticism. In other words, does the tale that is told need to turn on a vital erotic component, or is it enough that it offers readers detailed scenes of explicit sex?
For a romance novel to be rich and full, one of the usual requirements is that the heroine possess believable faults and, in some cases, many faults. Idiosyncrasies, difficult backstories, fears, dysfunctional families all help to fill-in the person the heroine is at the beginning of a story. Faults, yes, but rarely does a heroine seduce then suck the souls of the men she meets. That’s just not something a “normal” heroine does. Then again, a succubus is not a “normal” heroine and Succubus Blues is not the usual romance.
In high school, discovering whether or not a boy likes you is a matter of the growth process, with every action or reaction dissected by your group of friends. For Cammie “The Chameleon” Morgan in Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You it’s a matter of national security. You see, the girls of Gallagher Academy aren’t your average students but spies in training, and to them “normal” is just a buzz word for blending in.
The best romantic suspense villains exhibit which of the following traits:
- Shadowy, mushy goals and motivations which make sense only because the author says they do.
- The ability to hide their thoughts so well that the reader is more often perplexed than not.
- Violent, sometimes sadomasochistic tendencies that have appeared for no good reason.
- Clear, well-defined goals, motivation, and conflict.
Sometimes you enjoy a book, reading cover-to-cover with a speed usually reserved for eating your way through a family-size potato chip bag, and you have no idea why. Maybe the plot isn’t all that new. Maybe there are flaws in the reasoning by both the heroine and hero. Maybe there are a few (or more than a few) “wait, what just happened?” moments. Maybe there’s an overly annoying character, or an immature character or an unnecessary character. Yet you keep on munching. Debra Mullins’ Two Weeks With A Stranger, an enjoyable read-it-in-two-sittings historical romance, has a bit of that flavor.
These days, good contemporaries are hard to find as bookstore shelves are laden with paranormal and erotic romances. Want a good romance with vampires? Sure, throw a rock and a dozen of those will be hit. Craving a good romance that’s a cover-to-cover sex romp? Good is highly subjective with those, but at least there are lots to choose from. But a good love story set in the present, in this world, between humans who do more talking than groping? Not so much. In this era of sharp teeth and high octant erogenous zones, stories about men and women falling in love that are simply stories of men and women falling in love are few and far between.
Julie Garwood is a member of my personal romance pantheon. While she’s written some clunkers, she’s also given me many hours of reading pleasure (oh my, do I just adore the heck out of Castles). That makes this a difficult review to write. Because Shadow Dance isn’t a bad book…it’s just not the book it could (or should!) be.
Since making her move to romantic suspense (I know, HK, I know), Garwood has also been name-checking two previous series – the “Roses” series and, for lack of a better name, the “Medieval” series. To achieve this feat, she has brought together a descendants of the Claybornes from the Roses series, and the Buchanans (see Ransom. among the other Medievals) and the MacKennas (who apparently didn’t appear in any of Garwood’s previous books — fact-checkers will be working overtime to verify this — but they’ve been feuding for centuries with the Buchanans). This will all come together, I swear.
Laura Castoro’s ICING ON THE CAKE hit the pink cover mother lode. Pink cake? Check. Pink skirt? Check. Pink window dressing? Check. Decorative pink flourishes? Check. It’s a shame that pink isn’t the new black instead of a shortcut used to identify stories about career girls, their shoes, their insecurities, and their boyfriends, because this work of women’s fiction shouldn’t be judged by its cover. Neither should it be missed by any reader who enjoys characters able to face one crisis after another while retaining both their sanity and their sense of humor.
PBR is thrilled to announce the newest addition to our review team – Alison Kent. If you read romance, you must know Alison. She writes romance and romantic adventure for Harlequin Blaze and Kensington Brava. In addition to writing, holding down another full-time job, running a widely read and very active blog, founding a website design firm as well as an author community, Alison reads with a critical and honest eye. Where she finds the time…well, we’re not exactly sure.
Alison appreciates that critical analysis is good for the romance genre. We could not be happier about her decision to join PBR. Welcome Alison!
Even though I often find them implausible and rife with Big Misunderstandings, I am a sucker for marriage of convenience stories. Amazon knows this about me, and has a way of suggesting new titles that make them seem enticing. Time and again I fall for the sales pitch, the clever cover copy. It’s just one of my many character flaws.
So when events transpired that I needed to buy a book by Carson McCullers, I decided to see what new recommendations Amazon had for me – and was intrigued by the come on of The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day. The beauty of one-click purchasing is there is no time for remorse or second thoughts.