The Kiss by Elda Minger

thekiss.jpg HelenKay: Just as there are old standards in romance songs – think Sinatra – there are some old standards in romance novels. These are the patterns and situations authors use over and over to push the romance where they want it to go. The unfaithful fiancee who drives the heroine into the arms of the hero. The marriage of convenience. The domineering family that rules the adult child’s life through a series of threats and enticements. The hero who loves dogs. Actually, that last one might be okay in any book.
Sometimes these elements, alone or together in some combination, work. The reader jumps on for the ride, just happy to be on board. Other times, the reader shuts down from the repetitive scenarios. It’s a fine line, one usually separated by a strong author voice, writing that shines and characters that feel full despite the recycled storyline. When the author falls on the right side of the line, the been-there-done-that feeling is forgiven. When, as here, those old romance standards combine with a too-good hero, a weak heroine and an odd run to Vegas, those been-there-done-that feelings become flaws and the forgiving doesn’t come easy.

Continue reading

Captain Sinister’s Lady by Darlene Marshall

CaptainSinistersLady.jpg HelenKay: From the title of this book you may expect a swashbuckling alpha hero – sort of a romance read of old where the strong handsome man kidnaps the desperate heroine and through a serious of arguments and fights love blooms. In these other tales, financial interests or vengeance motivates the hero’s actions. Love isn’t the goal; it’s the result.
In some ways that throwback description fits Marshall’s Captain Sinister’s Lady but not really. Morgan Roberts does capture Amanda Stephenson and does decide he wants to keep her. Those characteristics remain. The difference here is in the why and how. The problem here is in the when. One of the drawbacks of the book is that the majority of the romance action takes place in in the first third of the book, leaving the last 200 pages with little conflict or driving force.

Continue reading

The Hunter’s Prey by Diane Whiteside

thehuntersprey.jpg Wendy:  The rally cry amongst authors and fans of ebooks has long been “they’re good enough for New York publishing, but not homogenized enough for the big publishing zeitgeist”. Or words to that effect.  Whether that’s true or not continues to be hotly debated; what is clear, however, is that in delivering an ever increasingly erotic product to hungry readers, epublishers have led the way into steamier and steamier territory.  With the marketplace for erotica and erotic romance identified and demand skyrocketing, mainstream publishers can’t create super hot imprints fast enough.  So, what about the writers who turn out that erotic product?  As long as the behemoths are benefiting from the demand created by online presses, they might as well reap the authors of ebooks as well.    

Continue reading

Sleeping with the Agent by Gennita Low

sleepingwiththeagent.jpg Wendy:  Single title romances that bloom into multi-book connected series carry a terrible burden.  They must simultaneously stand alone, so that new-to-the-series readers can start at any point without feeling uninvited to the party, and they must effectively bridge the older books with the new, all the while setting up the books to come.  Failing at the first leaves readers in the dark at best, or wondering if the plot and conflict were setup and resolved in another book—or books—at worst.  Failing at the second makes writing a series pointless.  With Sleeping With The Agent, Gennita Low steps into this quagmire with somewhat successful results.  While the forward motion of the plot effectively and compellingly stands alone, characters and back stories established in prior books pique interest of the “Must all the books be read to understand the story?” variety.

Continue reading

My Favorite Witch by Annette Blair

myfavoritewitch.jpg HelenKay:  Witches.  Werewolves.  Vampires.  If you love paranormal romance, times are good.  If the creatures of the night leave you – ahem – cold, this might be a good time to think about the mystery/suspense section of your bookstore.  With all those choices, both light and dark, the pressure is on authors to craft a work that rises above everything that’s come before.  Being good isn’t good enough.  Or, as here in My Favorite Witch, being good is entertaining and fun but maybe not quite enough. 

Continue reading

Matchmaker, Matchmaker by Joanne Sundell

matchmakermatchmaker.jpgWendy:  At present, the romance section of bookstores teems with contemporaries so hot they might combust, paranormals that stretch the imagination to its furthest reaches, and Regencies that have finally arrived at a genetic bottleneck of population destroying proportions.  There was a time, not too long ago, when heroes were more likely to push cattle than fear sunlight and frontier heroines did what they could to further peaceful relations with Native Americans (ok, Cassie Edwards never stopped writing that book).  Lately, whispers and rumors have abounded that the long dead western would once again rise to the forefront.  There’s some difficulty in imagining tales of westward expansion exciting a romance community that is more demanding and sophisticated now than it was when westerns were last well-liked.  It would seem that if westerns are to make the predicted comeback they’ll need to do so on a fresh horse.

Continue reading

A Total Waste of Makeup by Kim Gruenenfelder

atotalwasteofmakeup.jpg
HelenKay:  There are a never-ending series of lits out there – chick lit, hen lit and glam lit, just to name a few.  What separates one offering from another is a smart premise or an interesting voice.  If a reader is lucky, the author provides both.  In this light chick lit/glam lit hybrid, Gruenenfelder succeeds on voice.  She introduces readers to Charlie (Charlize) Edwards, a personal assistant to a Hollywood superstar.  With one ear attached to a cell phone at all times, Charlie struggles to deal with the wedding of her younger sister and a string of broken relationships – all in a flawed and humorous way that prevents A Total Waste Of Makeup from slipping from charming to silly. 

Continue reading

Kiss The Year Goodbye by Brenda L. Thomas, Tu-Shonda L. Whitaker, Daaimah S. Poole and Crystal Lacey Winslow

kisstheyeargoodbye.jpg
Wendy:  If there is one thing the holiday season guarantees, it is the frenzied speculation over what was hot and was not from the previous months, what can’t be missed entering the new year and what, absolutely, should not be repeated. This is true in movies, music, fashion, and, naturally, books. In the case of Kiss The Year Goodbye, a new anthology featuring novellas by four authors, the question might not be hot or not, but: What could have been?

Continue reading