As fairy tales go, the one where the handsome prince sweeps into a small village and tells a pretty—if unassuming—young woman that she is his princess, is hard to beat. Whether the young girl is cleaning out fireplaces or just living an ordinary life, wife of royalty is a more exciting proposition. Then there is the prince himself, who in the fairy tales is always tall, dark, and handsome, and never ever has ears like dinner plates. In romances the prince (be that literal or figurative) is monstrously well endowed, with a prowess that never abates, and enough skill to coax even the most shy and reluctant future princess into multiple earth shattering orgasms. The enduring and wide spread appeal of this fairy tale is understandable. Who wouldn’t want Prince Charming? Jennifer Ashley takes on the tale and the prince in Penelope & Prince Charming and proves that the story is worth telling again.
Wendy: The role of the small press has long been to champion what is overlooked by large publishers, to give readers choices beyond the homogenized products turned out by the behemoths, and to find a niche in the marketplace and fill it. In the last few years electronic publishers have done exactly that for romance, offering not only sub-genres and styles untouched by New York or Toronto, but authors as well. The electronic publishers aren’t the whole story, however; there are traditional small publishers (and next to Penguin USA everyone is small) out there, presses that don’t put out a few books a month, but rather a few books a year. What role are they to fill? Is there something unnoticed that only a small press could bring attention to? If Medallion Press is any indication, the role of this small publisher isn’t a niche market, but direct competition for the Big Boys.
Why is it that most books about vampires and werewolves are so deadly serious? Oh, right, deadly. All those sharp teeth, the blood-sucking, the tearing from limb-to-limb. I suppose evil beings might strike some as non-frivolous subjects. But not MaryJanice Davidson – in her newest short story collection, Dead and Loving It, she offers vampires and werewolves with humor to spare.
Housekeeping first: Dead and Loving It is a collection of three previously published short stories and one brand-spanking new story. The older stories came out in e-book format – “Santa Claws”, “Monster Love”, and “There’s No Such Thing As A Werewolf” were published by Ellora’s Cave. This little bit of knowledge explains some of the action in the sex scenes, if you know what I mean. The final story, “A Fiend In Need” is original and, apparently, highly anticipated. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
If this discussion were a television show, it would probably fall into the “Fear Factor” category: a beloved author goes off and, horrors!, collaborates with another author. Immediately, worst case scenarios fill your mind. What if her style is overwhelmed? What if the stuff I like isn’t there? What if it isn’t good?
We (Kassia, Wendy, and HelenKay) faced our fears and lived to write about it. When Jennifer Crusie announced that she was co-authoring a book with Bob Mayer (who is that? we all said), people wondered how it would all work out. After all, Crusie is one of those authors who doesn’t need help. She’s great just the way she is. And that hasn’t changed. What is different became the stuff of our lengthy discussion. Which naturally does not require you to have read the book first, though if you did, we want to hear your thoughts on our thoughts.
World’s shortest plot synopsis: Lucy Armstrong is brought in to direct some final (and pointless) scenes of a movie. On set is her sister (Daisy), niece (Pepper), and ex-husband (Connor Nash). Also, J.T. Wilder, stunt double and Green Beret. Things quickly get out of control, danger ensues, shadowy figures try to play puppet master, and Lucy and J.T. try to make sense of it all. There are crosses and double-crosses and possibly a triple-cross. Action and romance and alligators (Moot). It’s all there.
HelenKay: The front cover of Sword of Darkness starts out with a joke. Sherrilyn Kenyon provides a cover quote praising MacGregor’s first book in the Lords of Avalon series. Kenyon and MacGregor are, of course, the same person. Hence the joke. Kenyon explains in her Author’s Note at the end of the book, that the quote grew out of a conversation with her editor. The real question is: when a book begins with a jest and then takes on a legend as strong and pervasive as King Arthur, will the joke be on the reader?
In the past few months the publishing industry has seen scandals that range from the eyebrow raising variety, to the forever-alter-the-way-business-is-done variety. The latter, of course, refers to James Frey’s embellished memoir; the former could be filled by any number of minor disgraces authors and publishers have endured. It wasn’t that long ago, a little over a year, that the book business scandal of the moment was Fordham University Professor Mary Bly’s confession that she writes romance under the nom-de-plume Eloisa James. In the wake of A Million Little Pieces, Bly’s confession hardly seems worthy of ink. There is no true scandal in an academic with degrees from Harvard, Yale and Oxford writing those books. More importantly, James writes with too much elegance to be anything less than an asset to romance.
I was suckered. There they were, two grown women, giggling like twelve-year old girls who’d seen their first half-naked man on a book cover, and still I walked up to them. I should have been wary – they were holding matching books and offered me one. Instead I picked up Jaid Black’s Deep, Dark, & Dangerous. It was like they’d planned for me to do that all along; the hers-and-hers books were a diversion. I said, sure, I’ll read it for review. And I did, all because they looked so sweet and innocent.
Wendy: Romance’s greatest strength lies in its numbers: the number of readers it claims, the number of sales it racks up, the number of authors who forge a career in it, and the number—the sheer volume—of romance titles released each year. While many of those titles are familiar retreads of what has come before, there is always a gem awaiting discovery. Just when it seems every angle and possibility has been played out, a new voice, a new perspective comes along to breathe new life into the old constructs and to play hard and fast with the old rules. These discoveries don’t come along often enough, but when they do, they are something more than simply a good read: they are a reminder of all the reasons why romances are passionately consumed and lovingly cherished. J.R. Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood series of paranormal romances are those rare gems, full of heroes that are a higher order of Alpha Male, heroines that bring those heroes to heel, and stories that are obstacle and conflict rich.
HelenKay: Romantic conflict. There are competing views on this issue. Some argue that a romance novel, by its very definition, requires an attraction between the hero and heroine as well as compelling reason to keep them apart – the something standing between the hero and heroine that prevents a happily ever after from being a foregone conclusion. Others say that a romantic conflict pulling the hero and heroine apart often feels trite or forced because we know how that part of the story will end. For these folks, something else can drive the plot without having the story suffer. Parallel Attraction should appeal to the latter group but will likely violate all the “rules” set out by the former.