Dream A Little Dream – Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Dream A Little Dream CoverI can’t explain why I am sometimes compelled to go into the scary place that is my garage and root around in boxes in search of a specific book. It’s like a chemical reaction that I can’t control — I wake up and nothing will make me happy except for that one specific book (generally that one specific book is also located in a box under a zillion other boxes, meaning I work up a sweat before I get to read. Beats hitting the gym.).
A couple of weekends ago, I woke up with a powerful need to read Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Dream A Little Dream. It turns out that I get this urge about once a year, give or take. I love this book. I love this book despite the fact that I spend a good three quarters of my reading time in tears. Please do not tell anyone about that — I do not cry easily (what is the old saying? There’s no crying in reviewing?). But this book does me in. Every. Single. Time.

Continue reading

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

welcome to temptation hb.jpgWhen I signed on to Paperback Reader, I inserted a clause in my agreement to the effect that there would be a team review of Welcome To Temptation during my first year of employment. In retrospect, I probably should have gone for the signing bonus. You live, you learn.

So, what with one thing and the other, a year passed, but the dream remained alive (also, I forgot to insert language about what would happen if said review failed to materialize). And…here it is. A review of Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie. It should probably go without saying, but there is not a single unbiased word in the lengthy discussion Wendy and I had. We didn’t even attempt to fake impartiality. Had someone (name withheld, but initials are HK) kept her promise to read with us, maybe things would be different. We’ll never know, will we?

Welcome to Temptation is the story of a girl, her family, and her dog. Or maybe it’s the story of a boy, his town’s water tower, and his pool table. Sophie Dempsey comes to Temptation with her sister Amy to film a screen test for D-list movie star, Clea Whipple. Phineas Tucker, mayor of Temptation (three generations and counting), learns that there might be loose women (and possibly a porn flick being produced) out at the Whipple farm. Phin isn’t opposed to loose women on principle — too bad because Sophie’s wound so tight with nerves, she might snap.

Which means, yes, porn is happening, but only the vanilla kind, and Sophie is sure she’s going to be thrown out town pronto. What happens next? Political maneuvering, phallic, flesh-colored water towers, family strife, thwarted ambition, con games, blackmail, apparent murder, softball games, and pool. Not necessarily in that order. Suffice to say that a lot of paint was sacrificed in the making of this story.

What? You want a detailed, linear synopsis? Better that you read the book. But read our review first. We gush.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

The Comeback Kiss by Lani Diane Rich

thecomebackkiss.jpg HelenKay: Reunion romances walk a fine line between engaging and annoying. Readers will abandon some measure of common sense in favor of the promise of love triumphing over time and distance. The ultimate romantic notion is in believing people can hold on to a forever-kind-of-love through adversity, family differences and difficulties tearing them apart, only to find each other again years later and still feel that tug and pull. The dangerous ground comes with whatever the awful “it” was that ripped the couple apart. Make it illusory or easy to resolve and – poof – the reader disappears. Lani Diane Rich’s storytelling avoids the annoyance trap in The Comeback Kiss with believable motivations and histories for her heroine and hero. Frankly, even if Rich had faltered in this aspect, most would forgive her thanks to the other strengths of the story, including a lovable hero, humorous dialog and strong suspense thread.

Continue reading

Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison

everywhichwaybutdead.jpg **Today we are deviating from our usual current release schedule to review our January contest winner’s choice, Every Which Way But Dead.
Romance, for all the suppleness it possesses as a genre, rigidly adheres to certain axioms: the heroine must be likeable (the most limited definition possible for this), the story must center on the emerging romance, the ending must satisfy. These elements, while enjoyable time and again, do limit possibilities. They are the creative equivalent of a coloring book versus the wide open space of a blank canvas. This is never more apparent than when another genre of fiction plays around with the elements most traditionally associated with romance, but doesn’t then bother with those axioms. Such is the case with Kim Harrison’s three-books-and-counting Rachel Morgan series. Like any good romance, Harrison’s story is tightly focused on the heroine, but with the freedom found outside the genre—in this case fantasy—Harrison doesn’t waste a single word on making Rachel saccharin likeable, when gritty and downright dirty make for better conflict. There is a romance with a male character who is just that, a male character, not a hero. It’s long in coming and spicy while only accounting for a portion of the overall story, and it isn’t sugar-coated with hard to ground concepts like destiny. The romance never feels buried behind other plot points, but rather blends nicely with the underlying theme of Rachel learning not everything is black and white. Why then do so few offerings in genre romance accomplish all that?

Continue reading

The Adventurers by Michelle Martin

The Adventurers by Michelle MartinI am a heretical Regency fan. I don’t care much about historical accuracy. Don’t worry about lines of succession. And, frankly, I’m not all that much fascinated by muslin, sprigged or not. When it comes to reading Regency, I’m all about the style of the story.

Michelle Martin’s The Adventurers, published in 1996 (and sadly out-of-print – go forth, pay lots of money on the black market for this one), is one of my favorite Regencies. Let’s call it my comfort Regency. Oh sure, I adore all of Martin’s work, but The Adventurers is the one I pick up first, second, and last.

Continue reading

Anyone But You – Jennifer Crusie

anyonebutyou.jpgNina Askew is forty, divorced, and, much to her surprise, the proud mother of a depressed beagle/basset hound named Fred. She wanted a perky puppy; Fred’s idea of perky is eating Oreos. Then one night, Fred brings home Alex Moore, the smart, funny, handsome doctor who lives below Nina. Alex is everything a woman could want — and ten years younger than Nina. He’s used to perky, silicone-enhanced bodies. Nina has discovered that gravity can be very cruel, indeed. Despite her long list of reasons why Alex is a Bad Idea, Nina discovers that she doesn’t want anyone but him.

Jennifer Crusie’s beloved Anyone But You was originally released in 1996. HQN has re-released this classic title in hardcover this month. I fell madly in love with the book when I first read it, and was pleased to know that my memory didn’t fail me. It is a rare romance that stands the test of time — it is even rarer for a category romance to rise above the sheer volume of titles released every month. That so many of Jennifer Crusie’s titles are remembered fondly is a testament to her skill as a writer and storyteller.

Continue reading