The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason

the rest falls away.jpgThere’s little room for surprise in the clockwork art that is genre fiction. What is expected of the formula is, after all, the expected. But fiction, good fiction, needs the element of surprise, some bit of plot or character or device that isn’t as expected. It is in the unanticipated, the unforeseen, the unpredicted that talent shines brightest and readers are given something memorable. Debut author Colleen Gleason has neatly sidestepped the issue of triteness with The Rest Falls Away, by stretching and straddling genre boundaries. The result is a story that isn’t strictly a romance or strictly a paranormal or strictly a Regency. It’s a romance without a central love story, a paranormal that never looses sight of the fact that vampires are monsters, and a Regency whose heroine has something besides the ton on her mind. All that makes for a read that surprises.

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Wicked Ties by Shayla Black

wicked ties.jpgShayla Black’s Wicked Ties is the most baffling of books, the kind that manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. It isn’t alone in that. There are plenty of books that should be tossed aside and disliked for whatever reason. And yet they aren’t. They can’t be, because somehow they rise above plot issues, or character issues or any number of craft foibles to be compelling and compulsively readable. Likeable…in spite of themselves. Wicked Ties does all that: gives the reader a plot that begs to have its Swiss cheese holes exposed; characters that are archetypes; and a general feeling that the only way to improve the situation is to throw the book against the nearest wall. Any yet throwing the book isn’t an option because valuable reading time would be lost. And for whatever else Wicked Ties is, it’s a book that, once started, demands to be read.

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Born In Death – J.D. Robb

born in death.jpgAs I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I have a real love/hate relationship with continuing series. I adore them more than words can say, and I hate it when a favorite series jumps the shark. I don’t believe every book needs a sequel, I don’t believe every character needs to be expanded into his or her own full-fledged novel, but I do believe that authors should have the grace, dignity, and, well, objectiveness to stop a series at the right time.
I’m also sure that you’ve noticed that even when I swear off a series, I sometimes relapse. For me, breaking up really is hard to do, and sometimes I realize that it wasn’t the series, it was me. Like when I thought I was done with the J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts – the secret was poorly kept to begin with, and that’s clearly Nora looking mad, bad, and dangerous on the back covers of recent books) “In Death” series.

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Hell’s Belles by Jackie Kessler

hell's bells.jpgJackie Kessler’s debut, Hell’s Belles purports to be a paranormal romance. The cover, a red-saturated shot of the city with a shapely leg taking center stage, looks like so many other paranormals on the shelves that the images could be taken as shorthand for the presumed story within: striking and strong young heroine overcomes evil with sass and luck when not tumbling the strapping young stud who turns out to be The One. Even the jacket copy points to romance, something light and frothy, something easy to read, quick to be consumed and then forgotten. But that’s not what Hell’s Belles is. Paranormal romance doesn’t fit this book nearly as well as fantasy does and readers eager for a by-the-numbers romance won’t find that here.

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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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Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James

pleasure for pleasure.jpgEloisa James is a fine writer, a sharp crafter of words, and a good storyteller. Her latest release, the fourth and final installment of the Essex sisters’ stories, Pleasure for Pleasure, is a first-rate example of each of those points: the narrative is charming, the dialog is rapier swift, and the telling both elegant and engaging. It’s odd then to also find, amongst all that good writing, little in the way of cohesive plot. Odder still to make that claim of a four hundred page book. But, the fact is, there’s not a lot of there there in Pleasure for Pleasure. And oddest yet, the book is thoroughly enjoyable despite it.

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And The Winners Are…

Last week, I asked you to tell me what books you’ve always wanted to read, and there were some great titles in the mix. Alas, I can only choose two. Sharon B via email, who chose When We Meet Again by Victoria Alexander, and Maureen who chose Pride and Prejudice — she really needs to get reading because it’s the best book ever!
Please send your snail mail addresses to us and we’ll get your goodies out (including a few of the titles I’ve reviewed over the past several months!).
We’re going to be slow on the posting of reviews over the next week or so — even Type A personalities like us need to shop and cook (and someone’s gonna break the pact and clean, I just know it). Never fear, though, we’re gearing up for a fab 2007!

Drop Dead Gorgeous – Linda Howard

drop dead gorgeous.jpgYou know how it goes — I read a gazillion books a year. Sometimes they blur together, especially if I go on a bender. Things can get weird when that happens. Like when I (accidentally) pick up a Linda Howard book in the grocery store. Honest, I meant to get orange juice, but I went in the wrong entrance.
I digress. So, being a good citizen (I have a badge in Book Buying), I read the back cover. Okay, this was mostly because I never know who might be reporting back to my husband, and I wanted to create the impression that thought went into this purchase. And I’m reading and I’m thinking and I’m trying to remember, “Did I read this before?” Then, being of sound mind and marginally okay body, I realized the book was a sequel.
Hallelujah, purchase!

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Billionaires Prefer Blondes by Suzanne Enoch

Cover of Billionaires Prefer BlondesIt 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.

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Scoop – Kit Frazier

scoop.jpgThrough what can only be viewed as a quirk of fate, I found myself in a situation where there were only two books on my desk. Setting aside the fact that someone cleaned my personal space without my express permission – I am now unable to find anything – I was in a quandary. It was time to select my next review vict— book. Choices? A book called Viva Las Bad Boys! versus a book called Scoop.

For professional as well as personal reasons, I went with the latter book.

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