Sugar and Spice by Fern Michaels, Beverly Barton, Joanne Fluke and Shirley Jump

sugar and spice.jpgChestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at your nose make the holidays, and curling up with a good book, all the better. The same goes for romances; there is always the hope that holiday themed romances will deliver a seasonal magic and the burden of disbelief will be lessen in the season of miracles. Or, at least, that’s the wish. In the case of Sugar and Spice – an anthology featuring Christmas themed romances from Fern Michaels, Beverly Barton, Joanne Fluke and Shirley Jump – that’s not entirely the case.

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Hell With The Ladies by Julie Kenner, Kathleen O’Reilly, and Dee Davis

ladies.gif 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.

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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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Wild Ride by LuAnn McLane

wildride.jpgIt’s a particular curiosity that a genre of fiction as large and as encompassing as romance continues to grow, not with experimental or speculative creativity, but by continually recreating and repackaging and retreading the same product. Romance readers like their formulas and constructs and that’s fine. But, when the same story is told over and over again it should become more polished with each telling, more fine tuned every time it’s recited. What it can’t do is fail on the most elementary level. Fiction, for all its many elastic incarnations, must rigidly hold to certain fundamentals: stories must have beginnings, middles, and ends, setting and character must be established, conflict must build and action must rise, then fall. Fiction that doesn’t ascend to this most basic level—especially in a genre that takes so few risks—fails.

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

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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?

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Scenes From A Holiday Anthology by Lauri Graff, Caren Lissner and Melanie Murray

scenesfromaholiday.jpgWendy:From Wal-Mart to the White House this Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year’s season has been marked by the “Happy Holidays” v. “Merry Christmas” debate. Red Dress Ink’s seasonal offering, Scenes from a Holiday neatly sidesteps the issue by presenting an anthology that is not solely devoted to any one celebration. Rather, each novella focuses on a particular holiday, hopping from Hanukkah, to New Year’s Eve, to Christmas. The concept is fresh and exciting. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for much of the execution.

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