The Spirit of the Wolf – Karen Kay

Cover of The Spirit Of The WolfThere are two aspects of American history that I believe the romance genre handles especially poorly. The first is the Civil War; the second is anything to do with the treatment of Native American people, especially during the 1800s. Both topics are so frequently mired in politically correct approaches that they come off as sugar-coated and false.

Despite knowing this, I cling to a very frayed thread of optimism, hoping someday I will read an Indian romance that both feels honest and helps me to understand reader (and author) fascination with Indian/European coupling. In The Spirit Of The Wolf, the story of an Indian scout on an unclear mission to save his people and an Englishwoman trying to make her way back home, Karen Kay fails to do either.

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Catch of the Day by Whitney Lyles, Beverly Brandt, Cathie Linz and Pamela Clare

catchoftheday.jpgJust in time for wedding season, Catch of the Day arrives with wedding themed novellas by Whitney Lyles, Beverly Brandt, Cathie Linz and Pamela Clare. This anthology offers readers a quick and uncomplicated dip into stories that stay tightly focused on the hero and heroine, while wading through bridal bouquets, pre-wedding jitters, extreme ceremonies, and ugly bridesmaid dresses. Like any wedding, Catch of the Day‘s crescendos are well planned and well carried out and conversely the low points are as painful and disastrous as a fumbled wedding cake.

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Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts

Cover of Carnal InnocenceAs our regular readers know, every now and then we like to have a little love fest — a favorite book, a favorite author, a favorite book by a favorite author. It’s also a great way to break in new victi–reviewers. Since I’ve been long convinced that Wendy and HelenKay have missed the magic that is Nora Roberts, when I discovered that new PBRer Lorna Freeman is a Nora fan, I thought, “Cool. It’s time for Carnal Innocence.”

Carnal Innocence is your basic small-town mystery: someone’s killing the fast and loose women of Innocence, Mississippi in particularly brutal ways. Caroline Waverly, a world-renowned violinist comes to Innocence after inheriting her grandparents’ home. Her goal: peace and rejuvenation. Of course, with a serial killer on the loose, peace is tough to come by. Enter Tucker Longstreet, known lazybones and the richest dude in town (and possibly the state). Not only is Tucker, uh, well-acquainted with the dead women, he’s also impossibly charming, the backbone of his family, and all-around ladies’ man. I mean that as a compliment.

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And Then There Were Four

bookstack.jpgLorna Freeman, national bestselling author of Covenants and The King’s Own, has agreed to join the festivities here at PBR. Lorna is a long time romance reader who shares many of our thoughts and hopes for the genre. We are humbled by her presence here and delighted with her thought-provoking insight into fiction. Welcome Lorna! And, thank you for saying yes.

Lying In Bed by M.J. Rose

lyinginbed.jpg Harlequin’s new imprint Spice, is the stalwart publisher’s entry into the hot, and increasingly bloated, erotic fiction marketplace. If erotic fiction and Harlequin—the publishing home of countless 30 year old, virginal heroines and conflict that can always be resolved in a precise number of pages with a ring and a pregnancy—seem an unlikely and uneasy partnership, that’s because they are. Spice’s aim is to offer the women clamoring for super hot, non-traditional reads, erotic fiction that isn’t bogged down with all that sex. The result is a line of books that shines bright lights into shadowed corners, smoothes out the rough edges, and generally feels like a favorite strip club that is now run by Disneyland.

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Your Big Break by Johanna Edwards

10298358.gif HelenKay: Bad break-ups are nothing new in romance and chick lit novels. Loser males dump these strong, smart and vibrant women all the time. Just as often (if not more so) these strong, smart and vibrant women dump their loser male mates after finding them naked and horizontal with the Maid of Honor/woman’s best friend/woman’s younger sister. The action then picks up at the dump or post-dump and follows the woman as she struggles to find a new life and new love in a world seemingly filled with male losers.
A book titled Your Big Break suggests the ultimate in dumping books. In some ways, it is. It follows the life and career of Dani Myers as she navigates through a world of unwanted relationships. The difference here is that Dani plays the role of professional dumper, not dumpee.

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The Deadliest Denial by Colleen Thompson

thedeadliestdenial.jpg There is a crux in fiction, a contract between the author and the reader regarding the suspension of disbelief. Readers are willing to step into fictitious worlds and accept the reality presented within and in return authors make those fictitious worlds feel real. What readers are willing to buy into ranges from the impossible to the highly unlikely. In Steam Punk, readers accept a Victorian setting with modern day technology. In Science Fiction, readers accept that humans—or human like species – populate the vast reaches of the universe, traveling and communicating through means that are purely speculation on the author’s part. In romance, readers time and again believe that a playboy will give up his multiple bed partners for that one special woman or that a prince will marry a peasant girl. To aid this disregard of reality, fiction must be couched and grounded in something plausible: readers accept the implausible 200 year old vampire, Louis, in Ann Rice’s Interview With The Vampire because despite Louis’ drinking of blood, rising with the moon, and immortality, he is mired in emotions so human every reader can relate. When fiction is burdened with characters and storylines that strain credibility on top of asking for the usual suspension of disbelief, fiction is doomed to failure. Such is the case with Colleen Thompson’s The Deadliest Denial.

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Cocktails For Three – Madeleine Wickham

Cocktails for Three cover I am, or so I believe, a great proponent of escapist fiction. I’m not particularly opposed to reality in my fiction, but it’s not really a big issue for me. If I can, for example, settle into a coach seat during an east-to-west coast flight, open my book, and not notice “Everybody Loves Raymond” on the monitor, it’s a good flight for me.

So, yeah, when I was anticipating the flight home from Washington DC after BEA, I sorted through my loot for the perfect escapist read. Being one who found the first “Shopaholic” book quite entertaining, I chose Cocktails For Three by Madeleine Wickham aka Sophie Kinsella to be the book in my lap as we taxied down the runway. Alas, I should have recalled that the subsequent Shopaholic books were lacking that certain je ne sais quoi.

Which is to say that I found them unreadable.

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One Cold Night by Kate Pepper

one cold.jpg HelenKay: Books centered on kidnapped children know no genre boundaries. Missing and endangered children are as plentiful in fiction as they are in life. Mysteries and thrillers are logical places to find these fictional children in peril. Romantic suspense and literary fiction often provide fertile ground for this plot as well. While some books like Lovely Bones explore this subject from a fresh angle, many others travel the same path. This relative sameness drains some of the emotion from the suspense aspect of the read. Kate Pepper avoids the read-this-all-before feel in her book One Cold Night by focusing less on the kidnapping than on the desperation and uncertainty of those left behind. The result is a full and engaging exploration of loss, love, deceit and faith.

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Dangerous Consequences by Pamela Rochford

dangerousconsequences.jpgErotica or erotic romance: that is the question. All playing hard and fast with Hamlet aside, there are a lot questions, still, about what erotic romance is, where the boundary between romance and erotic romance is, and where then the dividing line between erotic romance and erotica exists. Questions abound; definitive answers, do not. Divisions, categories and labels create a slippery slope for who gets to decide what fiction belongs where. Does Reader A’s opinion supersede Reader B’s if they don’t agree on what level of sexuality is too much for a simple romance label or what level isn’t enough for an erotic tag? It’s a quagmire for certain, one that Black Lace has stepped into with its re-release of Pamela Rochford’s 1997 title Dangerous Consequences.

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