Friday, August 21, 2009

Feature Review: "Again," By Sharon Cullars

By Tracy Montoya, RBTB Contributing Editor

I don’t keep many books anymore. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve become an increasingly jaded reader as I’ve gotten older, or because I have a serious book-buying addiction and am genuinely afraid that one day, my TBR pile will pseudopod around my entire house and my family and I will never be seen again. But once I’ve read something, I generally donate it, resell it, or give it away to make room for the next bag o’ books I’ll lug home from a store or conference.

Back in the ’90s, news broke that Demi Moore bought an entire house just to store her doll collection! If I had scads of money, that would be me, but with books. Unfortunately, since I don’t have scads of money, I’m just approaching a potential guest spot on HGTV’s Clean Sweep.

Last year, Sharon Cullars foiled my (feeble) instinct for order, and I have all three of her books to date in my permanent collection. Since this is my first column as RBTB’s contributing editor in multicultural romance, I thought I’d start out by sharing one of my favorite romance novels, Cullars’ “Again.”

In all her books, Cullars focuses on what I call “realistic paranormal.” In lieu of vampires, shapeshifters, and dragons, she uses paranormal elements that plenty of people claim to have experienced for real -- ghosts, past-life memories, psychic phenomena and so on. “Again” is reincarnation romance at its best and most poignant.

In 1879, Caucasian aristocrat Joseph Luce and widowed African-American schoolteacher Rachel Chase began a doomed love affair. It wasn’t a time when interracial relationships were remotely tolerated, and Luce and Chase know that public discovery would ruin them. As Rachel is keenly aware, she’s the one with the most to lose from their liaison: her reputation, her livelihood, and even her family. But when she tries to end it, Joseph -- young, deeply in love, and all too used to getting his way -- refuses to let her go.

Fast-forward to 2006: While architect David Carvelli sleeps, erotic visions of a woman he doesn’t know play out in his mind. When he meets journalist Tyne Jensen at a friend’s wedding, he knows that she’s the woman of his dreams—perhaps literally.

Tyne has also been having supercharged dreams about a stranger (with really great hands)—though hers are often marred by a nightmarish undercurrent of violence. When she meets David, she feels the same inevitable attraction that he’s experiencing, but her subconscious is screaming that he’s trouble.

David’s mother, a gifted psychic, is the only one who truly understands that David and Tyne have met before. As their modern-day relationship plays out, Carmen Carvelli starts to realize that Rachel and Joseph’s affair ended tragically, possibly at the hand of Joseph himself. And she knows she has to figure out what exactly happened to the couple, before the tragic events of the past play out in David’s and Tyne’s present—Again.

Cullars blends gorgeous prose with edge-of-your-seat plotting and heart-wrenching emotion. Oh, and the love scenes aren’t too shabby, either; this is a Brava, after all.

The past and present politics of interracial relationships make “Again” a unique, emotionally gripping powerhouse of a read, with the added bonus of having plenty of steam heat. If you belong to a book club that can handle some spice, there’s enough in here to keep the conversation going for hours.

Buy the book.

Hypothetically speaking, if you had had a past life, what would it have been? What times periods and places seem to have an almost supernatural draw for you? And do any of you have suggestions on how to cope with my book-hoarding disease, so my friends don't write to Oprah asking her to help me clear the book clutter?
***
Next week at RBTB: Mon. Susan Holloway Scott Historical Romance v Historical Fiction SmackDown; Wed. Jenny Gardiner TGTB2S (Thank God They're Back 2 School); Fri. Tessa Dare's Regency Dating Game Pt II.
***
Winners Round-up: TNHG -- Well, you who guessed Michelle's fave TwoNerdyHistoryGirls.com post to date was the one about the tight breeches were spot on! The randomly chosen commenter who'll rec've Loretta Chase's and Susan Holloway Scott's newest titles is: PrincessBumblebee. Anna DeStefano GuestBlog -- winner of "Dark Legacy," Lisa F.; XoXo wallet, Patricia. Winners, please write Michelle at mbuonfiglio@rbthebook.com w/your snail mail! Congrats!

43 comments:

Portia Da Costa said...

Wow, 'Again' sounds like an incredible book! It's probably the sort of paranormal I'd like to try as a change from all the vamps, shapeshifters, demons etc. And that cover is rather gorgeous too.

Wish I could offer a suggestion re. the book hoarding, but I'm in the same boat. My house is crammed with books and I find it incredibly hard to let any of them go. Am considering asking himself to erect a second shed in the garden for my book storage! LOL

Wayne said...

Tracy, Again is simply awesome and one of my favorite romances too.

Hoarding? I purchased a Sony Reader and now I when I run out of space I saved them to my Memory Card Library. I know people say it's not like reading a book, but visually it is and I've gotten accustomed to the feel of it. I just wish that some of the books in my collect that stretch back years were available in ebook format. I'd get rid of them with no problem.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Hi Tracy! OK, I'm convinced - sounds like a great book.

If I had a past life, I fear I may have been a wheezy invalid with thick glasses, confined to my over-heated, stuffy bedroom to conserve my strength. Thank God for modern medicine and contacts!

I also hate wearing turtlenecks and constricting things around my neck. I read once that it's an indication that I was probably strangled or hanged in a former life. So, I guess I was either an invalid or a criminal! Probably in the Regency era. Maybe I was smuggler. A consumptive smuggler.

amy kennedy said...

Wow, "Again" sounds great. I truly believe in reincarnation (shocker) but I've never tried to find out about a past life. Although I like to think I can always tell if I've been in a past life with someone else. Maybe we have lots of ishues that weren't resolved or we're just tied together...

Vanessa, I love it that you have it pinned down to a consumptive smuggler. I'd like to think I was a progressive miss living in New York, 1900. Or traveling in a Rom (gypsy) caravan telling fortunes.

The book thing? I'm constantly editing my book collection, and even then I'm not giving up very many.

amy kennedy said...

issues. Not ishues. Perhaps in a past life I was a champion spelling bee contestant.

debbie haupt said...

Wow Tracy you don't mess around, one day we're welcoming you and the next you wow us with this incredibly exciting looking read. I haven't read her so now I'll also have to add to the pile in my house.
I love the title of realistic paranormal and I do believe in reincarnation, but I guess I'd have to visit some sort of hypnotist or seer to find out if I've lived before because it's beyond my mortal abilities to "feel" anyone else inside my psyche.
As for your little book buying,storing, keeping problem. Sorry I'm as bad as you, in fact worse because I find it really hard to give away books.
I think we should start a support group.

"My name is Debbie and I'm a book buying/keeping/storing etc.. addict"

They do say that the first sign of recovery is knowing you have a problem. ;-)

Princess Bumblebee said...

Yay! I won books! Awesome! Well, since I always read romances set in those times, I would love the Regency or midaeival (can never spell that right) times. There's just somethign about both times, so full of rules, but so crazy, as well, hehe. Love it!
Michelle, sorry, I am the last one to tell anyone about keeping or NOT keeping so many books. Indeed, my house is full to bursting, itelf, hehe. Gott love it!

Tracy Montoya said...

Portia, isn't the cover amazing? And that's exactly why I like Cullars--her paranormals are always unique.

And a second shed ... hmmmmm. Might be a solution. : )

Tracy Montoya said...

Wayne, I loved Cullars' second book, The Object of Love, too! I hope she's back writing again soon. As for e-readers, I've been somewhat tempted to get a Kindle, but I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to books. I spend so much of my day at a computer, that it's nice to just relax with a nice, paper, uncomplicated thing in the evenings. But you're right--getting one might help clear the clutter!

Tracy Montoya said...

Vanessa, you're hilarious--and I so agree about modern medicine. I probably was your legally blind, asthmatic, toothless friends back in the day....

Tracy Montoya said...

Amy, I did a past-life regression with Melinda Rucker-Haynes at an RWA conference a few years back, just for fun. (Melinda is fabulous.) I've always had this sense when I sing that I used to have a much stronger voice and broader vocal range, and one of my regressions was an opera singer! Whether it was really a past life or a reflection of someone else or just a writer's imagination gone wild, I can't tell you, but it was a blast.

Tracy Montoya said...

Debbie, I give that "first step" line to my husband all the time when he complains about my books, but so far it's not working!

Tracy Montoya said...

Princess, I love those time periods, too, but I could definitely do without the irregular bathing, poor dental hygiene, and lack of modern sewage systems in the medieval period. The idealized romance novel version is SO much better!

As for the books, why did I know that I wasn't going to get much help here? ; D Ah, well, at least I'm among my fellow book hoarders....

Lisa F. said...

Good luck with your hoarding. I've actually brought home boxes to pack up my books for the library and then get stomach cramps at the thought of not having them in the house. My oldest has actually looked at receipts from the store to see how much I spent that day on books. It is an addiction but IMO, it's not hurting anybody! I'll just keep rearranging to make room for my books!

Tracy Montoya said...

Lisa, our house is on the market right now, and my head nearly exploded when my realtor asked me to box up my books and put them in the garage. I did it, but sometimes they call to me at night when I'm trying to sleep....

Farrah Rochon said...

This books sounds awesome, Tracy! Thanks for contributing to my ever-growing TBR pile. Unlike you, I haven't figured out a way to part with my books yet. I'm making room for this one, though.

MaryC said...

What a great recommendation, Tracy. I can't wait to read it.

I like the way you described "realistic paranormal". That's my favorite kind of para. Three of my favorite books ever are Ciji Ware's Midnight on Julia Street, Vicki Hinze's Festival, and Barbara Michaels's Patriot's Dream - all past lives paranormals.

Great idea for the blog. I'll look forward to reading! We do so much great multicultural literature with the kids in school; it's nice to read about the adult variety.

Tracy Montoya said...

Farrah, it IS awesome, as is her other full-length novel, THE OBJECT OF LOVE. You can't go wrong with either one. (I'm such an enabler....)

Tracy Montoya said...

Mary, I've read all three of those authors, but not their paranormals. (Darn it, now I'm feeling compelled to hit the bookstore again.) I love teachers who make a point of reading multicultural books with their students--and you're right, it's just as entertaining and edifying when you read them as adults. Thanks for stopping by!

Becke Davis said...

This book sounds fabulous, I'm going to go see if I can order it as soon as I finish writing this.

I remember seeing the movie Far From Heaven, where Julianne Moore is unhappily married to Dennis Quaid and forms a close -- and, in the Fifties, still forbidden -- relationship with Dennis Haysbert (from the Allstate commercials and many other shows). I was so sad as I watched that, but it sounds like this book is going to be even more wrenching. Thanks so much for recommending it!

I know what you mean about TBR piles -- mine is like kudzu, or Triffids.

Welcome to RBTB, Tracy -- what a great premiere post!

LisaK said...

Wow, "Again" sounds really good, it's definitely different from your "average" paranormal romance. I don't actually believe in reincarnation but I absolutely wouldn't swear that it doesn't exist - one of the myths I'll never solve in all my life. *sigh*

Although I'm not a big fan of the Regency Time per se, had I lived there I can imagine I would have been like Penelope Featherington in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. I've never read a book where I've cried so hard because she so reminded me of myself. Hopefully my life would have developed like Penelope's, too - I mean, there must be some men like Colin Bridgerton, musn't they? Unfortunately I haven't found my Colin yet - maybe I will. *doublesigh*

Had I lived in the Middle Ages, I probably would have been a witch. Like, I've got the red hair for it and the ideas some more conservative people around me find shocking. I hope I didn't end on the pyre!

As for the book hoarding - my two BIG shelves are almost full now and I'm fearfully awaiting the day when the last book is put into place and I won't know where else to go. We moved into a small flat last year and I needed three (big, heavy) boxes for my books alone!

Tracy Montoya said...

Becke, Alone is a romance, so you know how it ends in a general sense--nowhere near as rotten as Far From Heaven's ending! Thanks for the encouragement!

Tracy Montoya said...

Lisa, I think that's why I like multicultural romance so much--the authors and editors tend to get wacky sometimes, in a really good, refreshing way.

Would you believe I've never read Julia Quinn? (I know--what's wrong with me?) I'm going to have to look out for this Mr. Bridgerton. ; )

And only three boxes? I have NINE in my garage, and my two pretty bookshelves in the house are still full. Don't get me started on the emergency supply under my bed....

Princess Bumblebee said...

Tracy, yes, those times would be great if there weren't those things, exactly like in a romance novel. Then again, so much in life would be great if it life were more like a romance novel, hehe.
Have a great weekend, Bellas!

Becke Davis said...

Tracy - thanks for confirming that. I do want a happy ending!

Vanessa Kelly said...

Tracy, we would have been wheezing away in the dimly lit parlour, continually bumping into things. And I guess you would have been gumming your food!

Good luck with the house-selling - packing up your books. You must have a very cruel realtor.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buona sera, Bellas! Sorry I missed so much of this fab day. Thanks so much for this great feature, Tracy. I'm really glad you shared a fave book w/us today.

You know, I read this Cullars, too, way back when! And i LOVED, I mean was crazy for " the Object of love." I remember not being able to feature it cause of a glitch in my scheduling, not having the room; I was writing RBTB elsewhere at the time. But there's such passion in that novel, and so many different kinds. A very contemporary ghost story. Eerie and sexy. Younger man/older woman, too, which we love here.

'nessa and Tracy, I'm glad you don't 'shine it up' w/your reincarnations. I've always believed I probably was what I came from: sturdy peasant stock. No Cleopatra or Queen of Asia in my past; I just don't feel the grandness there. But the idea of soul/spirit recycling is pretty cool to me.

ooo, Wayne, so you're an e-reader fan now. I'm really paying attn to what folks think of it and which ones they like. If it cuts down the clutter, it may be a really good idea. My husband read me the riot act a few years ago, when books started covering every free surface in the house. You can ask Amy Kennedy here; she's seen it.

Hi, Portia! I love Tracy's coining the 'realistic para' term. And this novel and Cullars' second definitely have the para edge, but are a change from the 'other' novels. Keep us up to date on how the new shed (giggle) erection is going. (giggle)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, Amy, Vanessa made me laugh w/that, too. And I've totally turned into a phonetic speller. It's mortipheyeing.

LisaF, rearranging isn't a method I've tried yet! Like, when kids want you to think they're eating their veggies. So, do you just make it look like you've gotten rid of books and actually moved them to other places in the house? Does your family by this? :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

debbie, your willingness to change is admirable! Let me know if you need a sponsor. :)

Congrats, principessa. And folks can tell you I spelled medieval 'medaeval' for, like, a year back in, like, 07. i'm the worst speller ever.

lisaF, i'm laughing, not at your ending on the pyre, of course, but because I used to fantasize about living in times gone by, but always figured I'd be burned as a witch when I accidentally healed someone with a modern technique we take for granted.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Thanks for those recommendations, MaryC, which are new to me. You know, I feel blessed to have Tracy on our team, helping us find more books and authors that/who deserve to be seen by more folks. We do spend a lot of time making sure our kids get nourished with good books. Romance is good for us, too, and we adults deserve to give ourselves nice treats as often as possible. :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

becke, kudzu. that's striking me as really funny right now. Isn't there a Stephen KIng book that starts out talking about kudzu??? Well, it's pretty insidious stuff, and those book piles can seem menacing at times...

Santa said...

Yes, ma'm! I think I will buy this book! It sounds fascinating.

And you've given me some ideas about what to do with all my books. I have boxes and bags waiting to be sorted and put away but I don't want to put them in the attic because I want to have them on hand in case I want to grab one for a re-read or two or three. Sigh. Decisions. Decisions.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Michelle, I hate the word medieval - I almost always get it wrong! It's the most counter-intuitive arrangement of vowels.

Becke Davis said...

I vaguely remember that King book, Michelle. Am I the only one old enough to remember the old B/W movie The Day of the Triffids? Oh man, I'm off on a tangent again.

amy kennedy said...

I was suddenly back in the Buonfiglio's kitchen/living room/office/garage for just a moment...books in boxes books under the bed books on shelves books on floors...the boooooks!

Yeah. The realtor said the same thing to Michelle -- the books have to go (was she crazy?)

Here's the thing, if I could get back all the books I've gotten rid of, I'd take them back, no questions asked. I literally think of some of them and sigh. (sigh.)

But then I think of all the new books I'll be getting and I feel much more betterer.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

A tangent, becke? you? shocking. And nobody never called me Queen of Non Sequitur. In fact, you and I have never had a convo in which we meant to clear up something that would take 2 minutes and ended up talking 2 hours, and never resolving the original question.


Amy, that's a marvelous point. I think about some of the books I've given away and lament it when i see a sequel come out. I think, why did I give that away? And, yeah, the very idea that someone might not appreciate my cases with their colorful arrangements of romances was just unfathomable. But now they're in boxes in my basement, waiting for me to find somewhere to display them.

Santa, bella! See, you are so right! One re-read always leads to more. It's very dangerous. Great point. :)

Thank you for justifying my shortcoming, nessa.

Tracy Montoya said...

Princess, I KNOW! If I lived in a romance novel, my husband would pick up his socks and vacuum on occasion, for example....

Tracy Montoya said...

Vanessa, he's really secretly very nice, but it's very hard to trust someone who wants to mess with my books, you know?

Tracy Montoya said...

Michelle, I know what you mean, although I like to think I was a fabulous peasant. : )

ev said...

I got a Sony eReader for the same reason. I keep my collections on SD cards and keep them organized that way. Has cut down on the clutter in the house, at least bookwise. Anything else is a whole nother story.

And really, how much space can a bunch of memory cards take up anyway? ;P

Tracy Montoya said...

Santa, I'm getting better about not keeping books for a reread that's not going to happen (since I keep bringing fabulous NEW books into the house that i need to read). I'm sure this is going to be a problem again when my preschoolers are older and I have more time to read!

Tracy Montoya said...

Amy, I just end up buying the ones I want to re-read again. I totally have a disease.

Tracy Montoya said...

Memory CARDS? EV, I'd be dangerous with a bunch of memory cards! I would lose them, the kids would send them into an alternate dimension along with my watch and one of my opal earrings, and then I'd be an ogre to live with. I'd probably best stick with paper. : )