As previously noted, I have read, sometimes voraciously, romance since, well, my whole life. Yet, I managed, somehow, to avoid all of the big names of the genre. As I’ve rectified my omissions, I’ve discovered some great authors, puzzled over the success of others, and wondered what was the big deal about some. You know, the authors who are okay but not great, write nice stories but nothing that rises above the crowd, have a certain something but not enough to make you seek out more.
Thus we come to Linda Lael Miller. I won her title Daniel’s Bride through a Paperback Reader contest. Or rather, I won the privilege of reading and reviewing Daniel’s Bride through a Paperback Reader contest – my idea, which should teach me something. Hey, I thought, I like new stuff. I make macaroni and cheese with chipotle cheddar.
HelenKay: For years romance readers have complained about the too-stupid-to-live (TSTL) heroine. This is the woman who acts in ways that defy common sense and reality. The nonsensical decisions they make come both in the face of true adversity and in reaction to mundane problems. Many times this TSTL woman is too insecure to make a life decision without the approval of her mother or father or grandparent or priest or neighbor or 4th grade teacher or someone in an equal position of power. Despite this, somehow and without explanation, she can take on a McGyver-like quality and diffuse a Tomahawk Missile with her barrette using only the knowledge she gained while growing up on a Kansas farm.
In spite of, or maybe in reaction to, these TSTL heroines comes the kick-ass heroine. These ladies don’t need family permission to take a job or a caucus of friends to pick which man to date. Many can shoot, run, kill, diffuse and fight. Unfortunately, many of these ladies also defy common sense and reality, mostly because of their ability to morph from “normal” to superhuman with little explanation. In those cases, the contexts of their kick-ass natures are wrong. But there are others. Silhouette Bombshell promises from the outset a “strong, savvy, sexy heroine who always saves the day.” A reader goes in expecting a kick-ass heroine with specialized skills and an attitude to match. The worry isn’t that the reader will encounter a TSTL heroine. A kick-ass heroine is guaranteed. The worry then is that the kick-ass heroine won’t convince or stay true to who she is and her surroundings. Wendy Rosnau overcomes all of these worries and delivers on the Bombshell promise with the compelling romantic thriller The Spy With The Silver Lining.
Every first novel has an interesting story of its road to publication. Interesting, at least, for the author. Few have a story that would interest anyone else. Of the tens of thousands of works of fiction that come into the marketplace every year, few have a tale like A Confederacy of Dunces which was published eleven years after author John Kennedy Toole’s suicide (a suicide widely attributed to Toole’s publishing failures) and only after the book was championed by Toole’s mother. Once released, it won a loyal and rabid fan base, and went on to take the Pulitzer. In the end, it’s a success story, the rarity of which authors everywhere should be thankful for.
Caitlin Scott-Turner’s journey to publication doesn’t rival Toole’s, but it is worth repeating. Her first novel, The Queen’s Fencer was written two and a half decades ago. At the time, it was very nearly published, only to fall through the cracks. After years of languishing, the novel was self-published before finding its way to the small press Five Star. Yes, more than a quarter century later, Scott-Turner’s novel was published.
We all survived May, the month of the Scavenger Hunt. For those who played along – thank you and good job. Your Google skills are impressive. For those who didn’t – what, do you guys not like getting free books or something?
First, we have a winner in Scavenger Hunt Kassia Style. She is Jennifer Yates. Congrats!! Send us an email with your contact information, and we’ll get your autographed copy of The Comeback Kiss out to you.
For those scared off by the idea of trying to figure out Kassia’s questions, and you know who you are, here are the questions and correct answers:
1. This husband-and-wife writing team won both the Golden Medallion (the precursor to the RITA) in 1987. The inimitable Sharon and Tom Curtis, writing as Laura London.
2. Sticking with our dynamic duo, this title, written under their pseudonym, featured an Amish woman and a former child actor. The classic Sunshine and Shadow (Kassia cannot believe that HelenKay couldn’t get that one!).
3. Last but not least, this same couple was included in this magical anthology also featuring award-winning author Jo Beverley. When You Wish… The story was the incredible “The Natural Child”. Jennifer gets bonus points for guessing this one because Kassia was staring at the wrong book while she was typing (it was supposed to be award-winning author Elizabeth Elliott — Kassia apologizes and will clean her desk this weekend).
Now for a new contest…
Summer is upon us. At PBR we look at this as a time to be lazy, read and eat. Really, those three can be done all year round, but summer is a good excuse for extra laziness, reading and food. We’ve got the laziness and food parts handled but could use a little help on the reading part. For this month your job is simple (ie, limited Google searching required): you pick a romance subgenre (ie chick lit, romantic suspense, category, historical, paranormal, comedy etc.) and give us three review choices from June and July 2006 releases only in that subgenre. The other requirements: the authors can’t be authors we’ve reviewed before AND at least one of your selections has to be from a debut author. Yes, this may require some searching on PBR. We have one of those nifty search screens on the sidebar. If you’re not sure if we’ve reviewed a particular author before, put in the name and check (hint: that’s faster than reading every single review we’ve ever done, but feel free to read them all if you want to). You can offer suggestions in more than one subgenre category – just do it in separate emails. One subgenre per email.
Here’s the good news: for all your hard work in offering these titles, if we pick your title you get that book and a few others of our choosing. If more than one person picks a title, we’ll randomly select which one of you gets the review book, but all who pick the title will get some free books. Really, how easy is that?
HelenKay: With so many paranomal offerings following the lives (or undead lives, as the case may be) of vampires, witches, werewolves and other nightstalking creatures, a reader can find anything from funny to horror on the shelves. Paranormal reads of the vampire variety range from the more harsh, like Kassandra Sims’ The Midnight Work, to light and charming, like Kerrelyn Sparks’ How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire. Recent witch/Wicca stories tend to fall more on the humorous side, but the not-so-funny are available, too. If the quest then is to find something new, to set one paranomal apart from the one read before, what happens if an author combines funny with serious and vampires with witches? Tate Hallaway provides the answer in Tall, Dark & Dead. She even throws in the Goddess of Evil, and witch hunters who get their orders straight from the Vatican.
Have you heard? Chick lit is dead. The plucky heroine? Over. Tales of life among the single in the big city? Gone the way of Studio 54; the business records have been seized and threats of jail time for tax evasion loom. Variety, a publication devoted to reporting about the film industry, said so. They even used phrases like “as out of style as last year’s Jimmy Choos” and “jumped the shark.” The focus of contemporary women’s literature, Variety claims, is a more grown up, post-Sex and the City phase of life, the literary equivalent of “disco sucks.” Can any of this be true? Is it safe to trust a Hollywood publication’s take on publishing? Sure, if you don’t mind following pronouncements that are so far behind the curve that what they declare as old has had time to become new again.
It is into this 70s-like hangover that Liz Ireland’s The Pink Ghetto arrives complete with its plucky twenty-something heroine, who lives in New York, works as a book editor and is chronically unlucky in love. It’s almost like the “chick lit is dead” memo didn’t get wide circulation, or more likely well written stories continue to be published in defiance of trend watchers.
The clever readers of PBR tracked down the answers to last week’s contest with little trouble and a bit of help from google (that second part is a guess but an informed one since that’s how we’d do it). You even managed not to get confused by the first question. Yeah, Cait London is actually a pseudonym. We know. We know. Next time we’ll be more clear.
Anyway, here are last week’s answers:
1. What is the pseudonym for bestselling romance author Cait London? Cait London’s real name is Lois Kleinsasser. She writes contemporaries as Cait London and historicals as Cait Logan. We gave credit for both Cait Logan and Lois Kleinsasser.
2. What was the original title of Jennifer Crusie’s What The Lady Wants? Whatever Maebelle Wants.
3. Name the title and author of the launch book for Harlequin Blaze. Vicky Lewis Thompson’s Notorious was the official Blaze launch book and Blaze #1.
And the winner is – Samantha Wesley. Way to go, Samantha! Write us with your address and we’ll send off a copy of The Comeback Kiss to you.
Now for this week… You have one last chance to win a copy of The Comeback Kiss. Lani Diane Rich donated an autographed copy of this great book as the prize. To get your hands on it this time around, you have to figure out Kassia’s scavenger hunt questions. She can be tricky. You’ve been warned.
I’m feeling a bit thematic with my scavenger hunt today…
1. This husband-and-wife writing team won both the Golden Medallion (the precursor to the RITA) in 1987.
2. Sticking with our dynamic duo, this title, written under their pseudonym, featured an Amish woman and a former child actor.
3. Last but not least, this same couple was included in this magical anthology also featuring award-winning author Jo Beverley.
The rules are the same for this final week: hunt down the answers and email them to us at PBR. DO NOT POST ANSWERS IN THE COMMENTS.
Send in those answers!
In acknowledgement and appreciation of everyone who wrote us to say they’d like to see a review of HelenKay Dimon’s debut, When Good Things Happen to Bad Boys, we offer you instead an interview with HelenKay. Here at PBR we are committed to reviewing with journalistic integrity and part of that coda is: don’t review your friends. Does it happen elsewhere? Sure. But, we really believe in integrity and this just seemed like a no-no. People weren’t exactly lining up to agree to review HelenKay’s book on PBR. Probably had something to do with being afraid of her.
Oh, and HelenKay hears enough of Wendy’s opinions during the book writing process without having to bear them for the world to see.
HelenKay: Loving a new author can be a dangerous thing. You hear about a book, take a risk and buy a hardcover by an unknown, enjoy the debut, recommend the book to everyone you know and sit to wait not-so-patiently for the next in the series to arrive in the bookstores. When that second book arrives, you’re excited and a bit apprehensive. The worry? Book #2 may not live up to Book #1. The release of Passion, Betrayal And Killer Highlights carried with it that level of excitement and that twinge of danger. It is the follow-up and second in a series by new author Kyra Davis. Her first, Sex, Murder And A Double Latte, was one of those books. One hyped and highlighted in magazines and Big Newspaper reviews. Davis’ first book hit the shelves with a significant amount of fanfare and excitement. Passion, Betrayal And Killer Highlights enjoyed a quieter release but one still highly anticipated. The good news is that Davis’ second book does not disappoint.
HelenKay: Reunion romances walk a fine line between engaging and annoying. Readers will abandon some measure of common sense in favor of the promise of love triumphing over time and distance. The ultimate romantic notion is in believing people can hold on to a forever-kind-of-love through adversity, family differences and difficulties tearing them apart, only to find each other again years later and still feel that tug and pull. The dangerous ground comes with whatever the awful “it” was that ripped the couple apart. Make it illusory or easy to resolve and – poof – the reader disappears. Lani Diane Rich’s storytelling avoids the annoyance trap in The Comeback Kiss with believable motivations and histories for her heroine and hero. Frankly, even if Rich had faltered in this aspect, most would forgive her thanks to the other strengths of the story, including a lovable hero, humorous dialog and strong suspense thread.