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.
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.
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!
It happens every now and then. You see a book, look away and then walk back and pick it up. The author’s name is familiar but you’ve never read her. You like the title, think the cover blurb sounds promising and decide…why not?
Then you get it home and realize the book is a bit different than you thought. It’s not a standalone title. It’s one in an ongoing series where the hero and heroine and their relationship date back two books. These folks already love each other. The courtship is over. You missed that part, which makes you wonder what’s left to discover about these two. Sure, J.D. Robb manages to keep the interest alive in her “In Death” series with Eve and Roarke. Your book also revolves around a wealthy, sexy hero and a tough-talking heroine and a mystery of some sort. So…maybe Suzanne Enoch can pull it off? And, for the most part, she does.
The debate over what constitutes “erotica” versus “erotic romance” versus…well, versus whatever descriptive the book-buying public is using at that moment to define these sexy works, is one guaranteed to drive even the most level-headed reader to hunt down the nearest bottle of pain relievers. The definitions are murky. The marketing purposely misleading. The availability of titles growing, perhaps too much. The authors traveling from publisher to publisher making any distinction between publishers even harder to ascertain.
An otherwise intelligent person could get confused.
Into this mess walked publishing giant HarperCollins. A bit later to the genre party than other publishing houses such as Kensington and Berkley, HarperCollins launched its own brand of erotica with the Avon Red imprint. Avon Red’s books are self-described on the imprint’s website as: “…the best, most sophisticated erotic fiction available in the industry…” If the launch single title Swept Away by Toni Blake is any indication, the definition should include the word “romance” in bright, shining letters because the focus of Swept Away is, and stays on, a romance.
The time has come to throw back the curtain and provide a sneak peek into the inner workings of PBR. If you believe all of the book discussions resemble refined Oprah Book Club teas, prepare to be disappointed. The behind-the-scenes action here at PBR is not all that sophisticated at times. In fact, the words “rugby match” come to mind.
The process starts simply enough. Books arrive from authors, from publishers, from PR professionals and, every now and then, from actual bookstores following the exchange of money or credit between PBR reviewers and said bookstores. We pass around titles and upcoming releases. But sometimes – not all the time, but sometimes – a book just sits there and manages to create controversy.
Enter the anthology Hell With The Ladies by Julie Kenner, Kathleen O’Reilly and Dee Davis.
Some books defy easy definition. These books may best be described by what they aren’t. A promise of a suspense not met. A romance focused only on the chase and not on the catch. A vampire tale less about vampires than about societal pressures. If a book isn’t as suspenseful as advertised, or isn’t really a romantic as hoped, disgruntled readers tend to rise up and complain of missed expectations. But, other times a book has just enough of everything to be enticing. Kimberly Raye’s Dead End Dating falls into the latter category.
You go to the bookstore in search of a contemporary romance read. A solid, straightforward romance read. Not erotica or erotic romance. No suspense or mystery. No vampires, werewolves or other evidence of paranormal. Sounds easy in theory. Reality is the problem.
Oh, books of this type are on the shelves. You just have to dig through all of the book with photos of vampires, witches and mostly naked people on the bindings first. And when you find that non-historical, non-erotica, non-paranormal romance you face an even bigger issue – will it hold your attention. The question is, without the worldbuilding necessary for paranormal romance, without a dead body or missing something, will this newly purchased contemporary romance keep you turning all 400 pages. Authors like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Lani Diane Rich and Meg Cabot craft novels where the pacing, plot and character development all work together with success. Others don’t.
This is a don’t.
When is a vampire not a vampire? When is the flu just the flu? When is an engagement not an engagement? When is a bad guy not a bad guy? And…when is it okay to get bitten by a complete stranger at a literary party?
All good questions. For that last one, the answer probably is “never” but maybe not. The other answers aren’t as clear and answers are exactly what you’ll want. See, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula is one of those books that raises several questions as it goes flying off in a hundred different directions. The book is hard to define in terms of romance versus paranormal versus chick lit with a twist. But, and here’s the best part, it’s equally hard to put down. This is due, in part, to Acosta’s engaging voice and, in even bigger part, to a desire to know what the hell is happening here.
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.