Anybody Out There? – Marian Keyes

Anybody Out There CoverBack at the dawn of the chicklit era, authors like Helen Fielding and Melissa Banks were getting a lot of attention (even though I still remain confused by Melissa Banks’ inclusion on the chicklit list). However, a select, savvy group of readers were hip to an author who largely slipped under the media radar: Marian Keyes.

Keyes is an Irish author who writes bitingly funny, painfully real stories about modern day Irish women and the troubles that foil them. Keyes’ depiction of her country – much drinking, smoking, drugging, shopping, and middle class mores – is short on the mystical, magical, woo-woo that passes for Ireland in romance fiction. Since I much prefer the Irish of The Pogues, I couldn’t be happier.

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Lady Anne’s Dangerous Man – Jeane Westin

Cover - Lady Anne's Dangerous Man by Jeane WestinThere are times when I feel like I need to confess the awful truth to Wendy and HelenKay (and, well, Lorna and L.J.). This is one of them. When it comes to picking books for review, I have almost no process. I pretend I do, and sometimes that pretending leads to an actual thoughtful choice.

But mostly it’s a matter of serendipity mixed with my desire to read where no reviewer has read before. But it’s the serendipity that seems to lead me to the most interesting books. In the case of Lady Anne’s Dangerous Man by Jeane Westin, I was poking through the teetering book pile, desperately seeking something new and different to read. Not even for review. I just wanted something that would let me escape for a little while. I was aiming for disposable but interesting.

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Enchanted – Nancy Madore

Cover - Enchanted by Nancy MadoreOnce upon a time, a young woman stood at the edge of the library stacks, wondering where, oh where, she’d find her perfect story. Years went by, and she continued to seek the perfect story. One was too hot, one was too cold, very few were just right.

Still she kept reading, deciding that no one tome would fit her every mood. She settled on a mix of stories, figuring variety was the spice of fantasy. After all, there is a great difference between story and reality. One always ends just right, the other, well, you know how it is when you wake up to cat vomit. Or morning breath. They sometimes smell the same.

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To Rescue A Rogue – Jo Beverley

To Rescue A Rogue coverA mere six months ago, I reviewed the ostensible second-to-last novel in Jo Beverley’s “Rogues” series. At that time, I pondered the idea of series that have run their course. Specifically, I wondered if thirty years was too long for one series. Especially if said thirty years was punctuated by periods of unavailability for some of the titles in the series.

I am the ultimate series sucker. You write them, I will come. And will keep reading and reading forever. In fact, I will keep reading long after I have sworn I will stop. There are possibly twelve-step programs for people like me, I simply haven’t found them. But still, there’s a point where even I wonder why I keep coming back…and then suddenly I remember who’s in charge of me, and I take the initiative and stop myself cold turkey.

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Black Sheep – Georgette Heyer

black-sheep_sml.jpgLorna Freeman and I both worship happily at the altar of Georgette Heyer. We discovered this the usual way. You know how it goes…you enter into casual conversation with a new friend, “Hey, wow, so you like Regencies?” She says, “I’ve been known to read a few in my day.” You look at the ground and say shyly, “So, read any Heyer?” She’s far cooler than you, but not quite sure where the conversation is going. “Some.”

You grow bold. This is a rare moment. Probably not to repeated in this century You say, “So, wanna co-review Black Sheep with me?”

Much to your surprise and happiness, she agrees. Eagerly. You have found a soul mate. Which is good, because Black Sheep is all about soul mates. The good kind, the you-honestly-believe-these-people-are-meant-for-each-other kind, the you want this romance to go on forever kind. Black Sheep is romance at its best. Trust us. We’ve hardly every lied to you.

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Dime Store Magic – Kelley Armstrong

dime store magic.jpgOkay, I admit it: I judge books by their covers. You can’t tell me that you don’t. Humans are visual creatures. At some point, you’re looking at the cover of a book and thinking, “Hmm, that looks like exactly what I want.”

I did that with Kelley Armstrong’s Dime Store Magic. It has one of those shades-of-blue covers that suggests a sexy paranormal. Oddly (for me), I was in the mood for a sexy paranormal. The blue shadows suggested something along the lines of dark, too. I was in the mood for dark. One of those weeks, you know.

I didn’t quite get what I expected.

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Everyone Else’s Girl – Megan Crane

everyone else's girl.jpgChicklit gets a bad rap because over-zealous acquisitions editors went crazy with “single girl looking for love and high-paying jobs in the city” stories. The commensurate market saturation left a bad taste in many a reader’s mouth (not to mention creating much fodder for dissing an entire genre). I suspect a lot of readers were like me – desperately seeking fiction with a romantic edge, realistic stories, and smart writing (oh, for more smart writing).

I suspect a lot of readers were like me and dropped out of chicklit game because finding the good was damn hard work.

I dedicate this review to those readers. There is hope.

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Two Hot! By Cara Summers

Two Hot! coverAccording to the buzz at RWA’s annual conference this year, sex continues to sell like hotcakes (I don’t get the reference either) and the hotter the story, the better. Before erotica/erotic romance became the darling of publishers everywhere, Harlequin pushed the boundaries with their Blaze line.

You know, sexy premise, sexy story. And I’m going to admit it – I fell for a marketing pitch. I picked up Cara Summers’ Two Hot! Based on back cover copy alone. Part of Blaze’s “Forbidden Fantasies” flash, the book promised me a journey into fantasy numero dos – two men, one heroine.

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Braced2Bite – Serena Robar

Braced2Bite coverBack when Dante was imagining the circles of hell, they hadn’t invented high school. Otherwise, there would have been a special place devoted to cliques and pimples and headgear. They say that college is where you learn independence; high school is where you learn to survive.

Not that the heroine of Serena Robar’s young adult novel, Braced2Bite, has any problems with the high school scene. She’s the top of the cheerleader pyramid, an honors student, and gunning for the man of her dreams. Okay, so she’s also a vampire, no, half-vampire. Genealogy is a tricky thing.

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New Contest – July 15, 2006

Last week’s scavenger hunt is over and we’re gearing up for this week’s extravaganza. First a big congratulations to the hard-working Jennifer Yates who found the answers to all three questions:

  1. Alison Kent’s 1997 Harlequin Temptation release, The Grinch Makes Good, featured a cover model who appeared on some other 250 covers (hint: usually as a brunette). What’s his name? Joe Anselmo
  2. The One Named Wonder of romance covers first hit shelves in June of 1987 on Joanna Lindsey’s Hearts Aflame. In how many movies has he made a cameo as himself? Fabio has appeared has himself in 6 movies (the key here is as himself)
  3. Who is the Topaz Man who appeared on the step-back cover of Penelope Williamson’s Once in a Blue Moon? Steve Sandalis

Now on to this week’s tough hunt. The answers are readily available on the Internet. I know because I put them there myself (okay, so maybe I didn’t do all the work myself, but it’s really hot, so if you’ve been paying very close attention, you know where to start your research)

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  1. This prolific author reportedly came up with the name for Harlequin Presents during a lunch meeting with Alan Boon.
  2. Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Cynthia Powell, and JoAnn Ross all have books with this title.
  3. LaVyrle Spencer wrote the debut title for this Harlequin imprint.

The winner of the hunt gets to pry the autographed copy of Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta out of Wendy and HelenKay’s hands. Winners will be announced next Saturday. Happy hunting!

P.S. – Send your answers to this address. Don’t post them in the comments (you don’t want to give away your brilliance, do you?)