Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Feature Review: "Evenings at the Argentine Club," By Julia Amante

By Tracy Montoya, RBTB Contributing Editor

Did you know that National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15? I’ve often wondered what was up with that. I mean, all the other heritage months get a full month—none of this dividing up two months business. So one day, I finally Googled “What is up with Hispanic Heritage Month?” and discovered that its start date is Independence Day for five Latin American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

In celebration of our crazy month, I pulled Julia Amante’s "Evenings at the Argentine Club" out of my monolithic book collection. It’s a rich, emotional story about self-discovery, family ties, and the meaning of home, especially when that word simultaneously applies to two different worlds.

Many Latinas in the US live under their immigrant parents’ roofs and watchful eyes until they get married, and Victoria Torres is no exception. She works at her father’s restaurant, regularly goes to the local Argentine club—the heart of the Argentine community in southern California—with her mother, and is the quintessential good girl.

When her father confides that he’s going to expand his restaurant into a chain—with the expectation that she’ll continue to work for him—it’s a big wake-up call. The American side of Victoria doesn’t want to toil in the restaurants forever, but the Argentine side recoils at the thought of disappointing her parents.

Then her childhood friend Eric Orteli walks into the Argentine club one night. Successful, confident, and ridiculously good-looking, the real estate investor’s life took the opposite path of Victoria’s. Instead of sticking close to his family and following the career goals they’d prescribed for him, he’d left home as soon as he became an adult. That created some tension between him and his father, so he’s hasn’t been home in a long time.

But now he’s back, and he and Victoria fall easily into their old friendship—and something more. He inspires her to break free from her parents’ rigid expectations and embrace her own “American dream” to be an interior designer. And she helps him start to see the beauty in the community he couldn’t wait to leave behind years ago.

As their attraction grows, so does Victoria’s trepidation. Can she trust her heart to someone with so little rooting him to one place, who doesn’t seem to value family and community as much as she does? And should she really jump from one man’s home to another’s, just when she’s starting to grow wings?

"Evenings at the Argentine Club" is a compelling exploration of one woman’s search for her identity and of what it means to fall in love just as you’re discovering who you are. While the themes are universal, details about Argentine customs and culture add unique depth. Evenings at the Argentine Club is a gorgeous romance—both between Eric and Victoria and between the Ortelis, the Torres family, and la patria.

If you want to get in on the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, the perfect way to start is to --

Buy the book.


Have you ever felt stuck in a rut, and what did you do to get out? And did the title of this book make anyone else bust into the "Evita" song catalog, or was it just me?

Image: DiversityGraphics.com

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

7 PM EDT Tonight: Rocki St Clair Book Club @ H2H

Love Rocki St Claire? Join me tonight at Heart to Heart to swap comments with Rocki and the W. Melbourne, FL Barnes & Noble Romance Reader's Circle!

We're having a no-holds-barred "Hunt Her Down" book club tonight, 7 PM - 8 PM EDT. Stick around, 'cause we're posting an Exclusive Sneak Peek at "Make Her Pay" at 7.55 PM. Win a chance at a copy of "Make Her Pay" when you check out the excerpt from H2H.

Catch the H2H Online/In-Store Romance Reader's Circle here!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Feature Review: "Feels Like The First Time," By Tawny Weber

By Becke Davis, RBTB Contributing Editor

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT & CONTEST TODAY!!! Read an Exclusive Excerpt from "Feels Like the First Time" here !
“Reunited, And it Feels So . . . Bad?”

Reunions are hell. I’ve managed to avoid three of them, and I liked high school. I was luckier than some – no need to pretend I invented post-its, like Romy – or was it Michele? My claim to fame was being voted half of the “Most Affectionate Couple,” along with my future husband.

Even if reunions make you break out in a rash, Tawny Weber’s red-hot-and-romantic “Feels Like the First Time” reminds us that revisiting the past can also bring scorching surprises – and who doesn’t wonder about the guy who got away?


Zoe Gaston’s peers voted her Most Likely to Die a Virgin, and ruined her life. As the “pudgy-cheeked brainy Goth-girl,” her only real friend at Central High had been Dexter Drake, a younger guy as studiously hopeless as she was. The football jock she’d had a crush on was the source of her humiliation – their theme song could have been “The Way We Weren’t.”

Going to her reunion has as much appeal as chewing on glass, but Zoe’s brother needs to contact the mysterious creator of a hot new video game. There’s a rumor “Gandalf” is one of her old classmates – and one of the characters in the game looks suspiciously like a sexy version of Zoe’s high school self. Reunion? Game on!


Dex appears, morphed from geeky to gorgeous, and Zoe is tempted to play. But she can’t forget her hunt for Gandalf. Is he the football hero? The masked man who sweeps her into his arms? Or could it be that Gandalf isn’t there at all?

Caught up in a torrid masquerade, beguiled by bedroom eyes and a stranger’s seductive ways, Zoe is distracted from her goal. It should have been her worst week ever, but she’s having the time of her life.


Tawny Weber’s name on the cover guarantees a blistering hot read, and “Feels Like the First Time” is no exception. It’s not just flash-and-sizzle, though – this book has plenty of heart, too. Zoe’s lusty, go-for-it exterior hides the soul of a teenager who was labeled a loser and has spent the rest of her life trying to convince herself it isn’t true. We feel her outrage and cheer on the dashing hero who helps Zoe embrace her true self.

In Weber’s dexterous hands, the familiar tale of old friends and new lovers becomes brand new, and all the more reason to --
Buy the book!

What about you -- do you love the idea of a reunion, or hate it? Have you gone to your own reunion(s)? Found romance at a reunion? Whether your reunion story is happy and heart-warming or something out of "Carrie," we'd love to hear about it!

Exclusive Excerpt: "Feels Like The First Time," By Tawny Weber

SPECIAL CONTEST TODAY, 9.26!!! Become a member of Michelle's RBTB NEWs for a chance to win "Feels Like the First Time," or a read from Tawny Weber's Backlist! Click here to win!

Absorbing the serenity of the moonlit garden, Zoe took a deep breath and tried to pep talk herself into going back into the ballroom. Gandalf was in there. She’d be damned if she’d let Candice and her pompoms intimidate her into losing her edge.

“Whip me, beat me, make me attend a class reunion?”

Zoe spun around to face the owner of the low, male voice. She peered through the dark, only able to make out his costumed body, since his face was shadowed. Still, heat flared and a wide, appreciative grin curved her lips.

Helloooo, gorgeous.

Breathless, she stared. Leaning against the wall, the guy was pure sex appeal. She narrowed her eyes, trying to make out his costume. Tight leather pants, a loose shirt and a big ass sword. Between the dim garden light and what looked like a wide mask ala Zorro, she could barely make out his face. But his body was a work of art. Tall, lean, but well muscled, all she could think about was pressing herself against his chest and trying him on for size. A black cape completed the mysterious look.

“Having fun?” he asked, his question reminding her of his original comment.

“Hardly. To tell you the truth, it would have taken a whip to get to me attend if I’d know it would be this bad,” she admitted.

“Time heals all wounds?” he asked in a teasing voice.

“Or sharpens all claws.”

“Interesting image coming from a woman wearing leather and studs,” he teased, his tone low and husky. Almost like he had a cold or was disguising it along with his face. He had a faint accent, giving his sexually charged words an extra dose of romance. She couldn’t tell from where, though.

But there was something achingly familiar about him. Not surprising, given the circumstances, but still she wished she knew who he was. She eyed his cape and recalled the photographer’s comment. But, even though it’d been ten years, this guy just didn’t remind her of Brad.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“Aragorn.”

She narrowed her eyes. Wasn’t that a Lord of the Rings character? She scanned the costume again and tried to remember the movie. Unlike some of her friends, she hadn’t read the books. Instead, she’d gone to see the hot, sexy hunk hero and that cute blonde elf guy. She regretted not paying more attention to the names, but with all that eye-candy, she’d been distracted.

“How about your real name,” she invited.

“Nah. It’s a costume party. Go with the mystery.”

Zoe debated. He could be Brad under that mask. Better yet, he could be Gandalf. Or was she just justifying her need to spend some time with a guy who got her thinking naked thoughts with just a few words?

“How about that break?” he asked again. “Catch your breath before you head back in to whip butts and make them beg.”

He gave a charming, one sided grin in response to her snort of laughter, then gestured to the path leading toward the rose arbor. “Maybe a walk in the moonlight?”

When he gestured, his cape fell back. She could clearly see the outline of his chest and shoulders beneath the soft flowing fabric of his shirt. Her breath caught. The sculpted muscles beneath the white cotton owed nothing to the costume and everything to Mother Nature. Broad shoulders, solid pecs and biceps that made her mouth water.

Gorgeous. Zoe swallowed hard, her body, already aware, went hyper alert. Her breasts swelled, nipples pressed arousingly against their leather restraints.

“A walk sounds tempting,” she breathed, tucking her arm in his elbow. God, what could be more romantic. A moonlit walk in the gardens with a gorgeous guy with a really big sword who got her hot with just the sound of his voice.

Categor(icall)y Romance

TOMORROW!!! On the heels of one of the most powerful GuestBlogs we've seen at RBTB -- Gwendolyn Pough's African American Romance: A Personal History of Sorts -- comes another day to connect with great joy as RBTB contributing editor Becke Davis features "Feels Like the First Time," and author Tawny Weber and friends with a Super-Sexy EXCLUSIVE excerpt! Don't miss it -- or the fun!

***
Back in the spring I attended a conference on romance scholarship at which several academics spoke on topics related to romance fiction and race. After the presentations, an attendee and I, both white chicks, discussed our multiracial families, and how we thought about race as kids. I told her I grew up in the time when I heard ugly things like, "He's a credit to his race," and "If you date a black man...READ MORE, BELLAS

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gwen Pough ScholarBlog: African American Romance -- A Personal History Of Sorts

From Michelle: From the moment I heard Gwendolyn Pough of Syracuse U (aka romance author Gwyneth Bolton) speak at last spring's Princeton romance scholarship conference, I was dying for you to hear her story -- and learn about her studies of black romance fiction, and how its advent enriches and changes the lives of the women and men who read it. Her presentation was powerful and riveting, and anyone who cares about romance should hear what she has to say, spread the word and give African American romance a try if you haven't. Check out Gwen's amazing bio here. Please offer Gwen a warm TGIF Bella Buongiorno...
From Gwen: Hello, Michelle! Hello, Bellas! Thanks for having me here today. Fifteen years ago two things happened that at first glance have absolutely nothing to do with one another. I started the Doctoral program in English at Miami University in Ohio. My major exam area for the degree was Rhetoric and Composition. My minor exam areas were Critical Pedagogy and 19th and 20th Century Black Women Writers. I wrote a dissertation on rhetorical disruptions and black public culture. But I won’t bore you with any of that… Something else happened fifteen years ago that is far more interesting than my dissertation.

Fifteen years ago, Kensington published the first Arabesque novels. To be sure, there had been a few romance novels published prior to 1994 that featured black heroes and heroines. Before that time, we had Rosiland Welles’s "Entwined Destinies" (1980), Jackie Weger’s "A Strong and Tender Thread" (1983), Sandra Kitt’s "Adam and Eva" (1985) and Joyce McGill’s "Unforgivable" (1992). Traditional paperback romance novels that showcased black love had been sparse to say the least. However, from the time editor Monica Harris got Kensington to publish those first Arabesque novels all of that changed.

Those novels helped me when I was living in Ohio as a single, black woman graduate student yearning for her own chocolate prince charming. I could believe he existed because those early Arabesque authors—Francis Ray, Margie Walker, Rochelle Alers, Shirley Hailstock, Monique Glimore, Sandra Kitt, Layle Giusto, Angela Benson, Adrienne Reeves, Donna Hill, Mildred Riley, Amberlina Wicker, Bette Ford, Francine Craft, Lynn Emery and Roberta Gayle—were writing about him. I also remember pondering if I should just quit graduate school and become a romance novelist.

You see, in addition to giving me hope that I would eventually find my own black hero, those early Arabesque novels gave me hope that I might one day achieve my secret dream of writing romance novels. Before then, I never imagined that one day there would be romance novels with black folk in them. Even though I had studied African American Literature and all of the great black women writers from Harriet Jacobs to Terry McMillan, the idea that I would one day have a box of romance novels with black women heroines delivered to my doorstep, similar to that box of Harlequin Presents novels that my mom used to get back in the 80s, was something I could never have dreamed of back then.

Many black women romance readers, like myself, read romance novels long before the first African American imprints appeared in the early 90s. Many still read a wide variety of romance and don’t limit their reading based on the race of the author or the race of the characters in the book. Some only started reading romance novels when the black romances were published and never will read a romance with white leads. Some have read white authors in the past when they couldn’t find black authors and will never read another white romance again now that they can find black romances. However, most black readers will tell you that they read black romances because they want to be able to relate to the book. They want heroines that look like them.

At first glance, that desire may seem superficial. But imagine growing up never seeing popular images of healthy loving relationships. Imagine hearing nothing but distortions about your sexuality, having your desire demonized, and hearing nothing but myths about your so-called pathology. Could you hold on to the dream that you would one day find love? African American romance novels also offer readers and writers a way to rewrite images of black masculinity. For the most part the stereotyped images of black masculinity that populate the larger public sphere are missing for romance novels.

I believe that contemporary Black romance novels perform a kind of activism. These novels participate in the re-making of African American images and representations. They offer positive representations of relationships between black men and women. And they also work to rescue the images of black men and women from harmful stereotypes, often rewriting and
remixing the stereotypes. They work to disprove myths about black love and black people’s capabilities to love and worthiness to be loved.

And this is where those two instances that happened fifteen years ago come full circle. My academic studies of African American rhetoric, language and literacy practices has led me to merge my love of romance with my academic study. Since I have also followed my dream of writing romance novels and write them under the pen name Gwyneth Bolton, this is sometimes tricky. But it is always thrilling. History is still being written for both African American romance and myself. I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

So, Bellas, that’s a little history about why I read and write romance and why some of the black women I’ve interviewed say they read romance. Why do you read romance? Is it important for you to be able to identify in some way with the heroine in the novel? If so, in what ways? Do you think romance novels can help foster healthy, loving relationships or at least offer models that can lead to change?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A (Nerdy History) Girl's Best Friend

Those Two Nerdy History Girls are at it agin', Bellas, and in the spirit of Loretta Chase's now infamous bawdy plush breeches post, Susan Holloway Scott offers up this tribute to a Luscious Libertine and His Libidinous Lyrics at TwoNerdyHistoryGirls.com.
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Gwendolyn Pough of Syracuse University (aka romance author Gwenyth Bolton) visits RBTB today, Fri, Sept 25, to round out Back to School Week 2: Scholars on Romance! Please, don't miss her, and do, please, invite anyone you know who cares about romance.

It's Good To Be Punct(uation)al

Rather than continuing with their discussion of why Male Perspective Guy, aka my husband, Dave, feels RomanceUniversity.org's "Anatomy of the Male Mind" may be promising more deliverables from said psyche than available, RBTB contributing editor Becke Martin invited MPG to put whatever gray matter he's got goin' for him to good use in celebrating National Punctuation Day!

If you check out the site of NPD punctuation poobahs Jeff Rubin and Norma Martinez-Rubin -- they of the fab Official Punctuation Day Meatloaf and Cooking Contest -- suggest pithily and with what many an editor's beaten from my copy with a digital sledgehammer, the serial comma before that derned "final 'and,'" that they're all about:

"A celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotes, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis."

Now, I dig the serial comma, and still pause with an almost mournful hemisemidemisecond of silence for my lost love for want of its use; I do so adore the lengthy sentence in which serial commatization, which is, indeed, a word if I say it is, can make the difference between being understood and being considered a run-on sentencer and one of whom many might consider not well acquainted with Mssrs. Strunk and White.

Yet an academic like Gwendolyn Pough -- aka romance author Gwyneth Bolton, she of the hot, fire-fightin' Hightower mens -- probably knows everything there is to know about proper punctuatin', seein' as she's an English prof at Syracuse U, and tomorrow's visiting professora, wrapping up Back to School Week 2: Scholars on Romance!
***
Just for fun: Feel free to play with all the punctuation in my column! Tell me why you'd change anything that drives you crazy. What's the grammar rule that drives you nuttiest because you either don't know it, or do know it and everyone else messes it up all the time?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

RomanceUniversity.Org ScholarBlog: Empower. Entertain. EnShug.

CONTEST!!! Head to RomanceUniversity.org to find out when Michelle's lecturing, email mbuonfiglio@rbthebook.com with the date, and you're entered for a chance to win a 6-pack of new romances! RBTB CE Tracy Montoya lectures at RU October 19.

From Michelle: RomanceUniversity.org (RU) is ingenious. Long before unis taught/studied romance, authors/industry folks educated up-and-comers. Kelsey Browning, Tracey Devlyn and Adrienne Giordano carry on that tradition at RU, where you'll love visiting and learning. I'm honored to have them with us today -- and adore that they remember men count in the romance equation. Please offer the professoras a warm Bella buongiorno...
From the Romance University Faculty: Good morning, Bellas and Michelle! The Romance University faculty is thrilled to be at Romance B(u)y the Book today.

For those unfamiliar with our blog, our tagline is:

“Empower Writers. Entertain Readers. Understand Men.”


That’s a tall order and not a venture we undertook lightly. We spent six months brainstorming the concept and content for Romance University because we wanted to provide an educational forum exemplifying the true nature of romance readers and writers—smart, savvy, professional, loyal and unfailingly generous. So our contribution to this selfless community is a virtual classroom where talented authors, publishing professionals and other subject area specialists pass on their hard-earned knowledge.

Our readers have an opportunity to meet, network with and learn from these experts. Experienced authors like Brenda Novak, Allison Brennan and Bob Mayer. Literary agents like Lucienne Diver and Lois Winston. Editors like Leah Hultenschmidt, Theresa Stevens and Leslie Wainger. Booksellers, librarians and therapists. These and other visiting professors have graciously lectured at RU for which we are profoundly grateful!

Mondays are “Crafting Your Career” where visiting professors answer questions about the business side of writing. Fridays are “Chaos Theory of Writing,” where our guests discuss the writing craft. Since writing is a lifelong learning experience, these topics appeal to both new and experienced writers. Monday and Friday posts also introduce readers to new-to-them authors and provide insight into their favorite authors’ careers. For example, how does Lori Foster (L.L. Foster) balance writing contemporaries with urban fantasies?

A favorite segment is “Anatomy of the Male Mind.” Each Wednesday, we explore the male psyche, which never fails to entertain. Even if it is somewhat scary. If female writers want to portray men correctly, we need to understand them. Or at least try to! We recently consulted with RU’s “man panel” on the male hug and discovered an entire language behind the male hug, or shug. Hint: Don’t forget the shoulder slap and absolutely no lingering!

We’ve also recently launched three “Lab” sections: Ask an Editor with Theresa Stevens, Managing Editor at Red Sage Publishing; Query Writing 101 with C.J. Redwine, urban fantasy author; and Wayne Wednesday with Wayne Levine, Director of the West Coast Men’s Center.

Bellas, we would value your input. What can authors—pre-published or bestsellers—learn by listening to the romance reader community? Should Romance University invite readers to be visiting professors? If you could write a how-to post for writers, what would you title it? -- and -- How do you think the tradition of folks w/in the romance industry educating up-and-comers has strengthened the genre?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eloisa James ScholarBlog: Perfect Angels After The Storm

From Michelle: Romance superstar Eloisa James (who's got a really cool paper-doll contest goin') keeps a 'day job' as Fordham University English prof Mary Bly, whose specialities -- yes, think it w/ a Brit accent, cause our faire Eloisa is expert in Things Shakespearean -- are boy's plays and queer theory. Today, La Bel' Eloisa joins us from Paris (6 hrs ahead on your Minnie Mouse timepieces, Bellas) and ponders romance from the unique position of one who writes, reads and studies the genre we love and respect. Please offer her your warmest Bella buongiorno...
From Eloisa: Buongiorno Bellas! People are always expecting me (as a romance writer who’s an academic) to defend the genre of romance whenever I put on my professor-hat.

I’m not going to do that, any more than I would defend the genre of plays written for boy actors around 1608, the subject of my research as a professor. I don’t think either genre needs defending.

People enjoy romances, just as they enjoyed boys’ plays (Hamlet himself expressed a little anxiety about the fact that boys’ plays were more popular than adult plays). For that reason alone, romances are fascinating objects of study that need no defending.

For example, a burst of paranormal romances featuring heroines able to control the weather followed hurricane Katrina. Some of those books were very well written; some were less carefully written; some were probably terrible. But all of them are tremendously interesting, from an academic point of view.

The tough thing is trying to figure out what to say about a trend like that. Did readers feel more powerful in the face of bad weather after reading these romances? I think one mistake academics make is rushing to judgment as far as the effects of reading are concerned. For example, I do not believe that reading a romance about a Prince of Darkness type of hero makes a woman more likely to stay home with an abusive husband. But it is clear that the Katrina-esque romances registered a deep strain of anxiety in current culture.

For the past two years I have written a column on romance for BN.com's Barnes & Noble Review, which has resulted in virtually every published romance being sent to my house each month. One trend I’ve noticed lately? Angels. To be more specific, heroes who are fallen angels. J. R. Ward’s latest book, "Covet," joins a throng of angelic men.

So what’s that about? What is happening in our culture that we like to read/think/dream about angels, fallen or otherwise?
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TOMORROW: Back 2 School Week 2: Scholars on Romance Continues with the gregarious gray matter behind RomanceUniversity.org, carrying on in the longstanding tradition of romance authors and industry professionals educating up-and-comers -- and readers taking part in the tutelage!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Click Tease

When it comes to scoring tasty treats, it's easier to download a spicy e-read, than to bust open a pack of Pop Tarts... READ MORE, BELLAS!

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Back to School Week 2: Scholars on Romance begins
Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22





Tuesday: Eloisa James
of Fordham U
; Wednesday: Romance University Scholars; Friday: Gwendolyn Pough of Syracuse U

Friday, September 18, 2009

Feature Review: "Campaign For Seduction," By Ann Christopher

By Tracy Montoya, RBTB Contributing Editor

I still remember the day I found out Maria Shriver had resigned from her NBC news anchor position. The reason: her husband Arnold Schwarzenegger had just become California’s governor, and the network felt she could no longer maintain her objectivity.

Now I wasn’t a frothing-at-the-mouth Maria Shriver fangirl back then, but when I saw Shriver’s reaction to being forced out, I knew she’d been blindsided by the fact that her husband’s career choices were going to steal her own dreams away. As a working mom with dreams of my own, long have I carried Maria Shriver’s bitterness in my heart.

Which brings me to Ann Christopher’s latest release, "Campaign for Seduction". (No, really, it does). The conflict in this compelling, achingly romantic story is basically Maria Shriver’s, if she’d been aware back in 2003 that she had a choice to make.

Senator John Warner has everything a good presidential candidate should—presidential looks, presidential charisma, and presidential smarts. Problem is, he’s naturally recalcitrant with the press, and he’s been trailing in the polls because of it. On the suggestion of his campaign advisor, he agrees to give popular news correspondent Liza Wilson special access to his campaign to boost his image.

But is it really luck, or does the widowed Senator have a thing for the tough-as-nails reporter?

It takes a special kind of person to be the US president, and you’d better believe that that person is going to have a lot of alpha qualities. Which makes John Warner both believable as a potential candidate and smoking hot. It isn’t too long before he turns his legendary charisma to the task of making Liza his First Lady.

But if Liza gives in, she’ll lose everything. She’s in line to be the next nightly news anchor for a major network, and her coverage of the primary could make or break that dream for her. She’s also been burned—badly—in the past, and she knows that no man is worth sacrificing her career and her dreams.

Ultimately, the tension between John and Liza becomes overpowering, and they outrun the cameras and spend a very steamy night together. (Did I mention that the senator is really, really alpha)? But the only way their relationship can last is if he gives up his shot at the presidency or she gives up the chance to make one more crack in the glass ceiling by accepting the anchor position.

I won’t tell you which one makes the sacrifice, but let me just say that the depth of their relationship made me feel a little better for Maria Shriver.

Combine the well-researched, behind-the-scenes look at a presidential campaign with the scorching-hot chemistry between the main characters, and you have one of my favorite romances of the year.

Buy the book.

Have you ever sacrificed something important to you for love, and are you glad you did? And am I the only one who is a news junkie nerd, or are there others out there?
***
NEXT WEEK!!! Back to School Week 2: Scholars on Romance ! Check it out MWF with special guests from the world of romance scholarship -- and a new romance academy in the grand old tradition.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bite Club

Dateline: 30,000 feet over the Midwest

Buongiorno, Bellas! I'm writing to you while wingin' Eastward through the clouds. Gauche it may be, but I couldn't help but share with you my first experience with in-flight WIFI! How wicked cool is this?

So, Male Perspective Guy's hangin' next to me reading -- you guessed it -- "The Lost Symbol." He's looking decidedly uneasy and I don't blame him. I mean, I filled him in on all yesterday's "Moon Kissed"* heaving, panting, sweating talk about weres and, well, I may have leaned a little heavy on the whole lycan-claiming-his-woman thing. Can you believe MPG refused my invitation to join the Mile High (Mating Bite) Club?

Ah, well. So I'm just going to entertain myself by starting Georgette Heyer's "The Foundling," and making notes for a meeting I'm heading to to talk RBTB with some "creative types." Wanna help me prep, please?

What would you like to see more of at RBTB? What new things? What could you do without? What do you like about RBTB?
***
Tee Hee: If you're a fan of Mr. Darcy, you must, really must
visit Two Nerdy History Girls today!
***

*Moon Kissed Winner: elaing8! Please email your snail mail to mbuonfiglio@rbthebook.com! Congratulazione!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Feature Review: "Moon Kissed," By Michele Hauf

By Amy Kennedy, RBTB Contributing Editor

SPECIAL CONTEST TODAY!!! Michele Hauf's offering a copy of "Moon Kissed" and "The Highwayman" to one randomly chosen commenter! Pls have an email available to enter.

The Wolfman Always Rings Twice

As a little girl, I had a recurring nightmare of a werewolf -- specifically, The Wolfman -- loping past my bedroom door. Every night, as I lay in bed, I wondered if this would be the night he’d sniff me out and gobble me up.

Today my nightmare would be his loping on past my bedroom and never coming in. Come on, already, wolfie -- Amy’s got a treat for you!

Bella Reynolds’ nightmare is a little different. Chased by three creepy guys, this heroine of Michele Hauf’s, full-throttled, hand-me-a-fan hot romance, “Moon Kissed,” runs into a warehouse and is pulled to safety by a rough-around-all-his-edges mystery man named Severo, who informs her the creeps are vampires, his sworn enemies -- and, oh, yeah, he’s no mortal either.

“Your fear arouses me,” Severo tells Bella, and we’re right there with him, even as he lets her go, yet makes it clear he will find her again; Belle’s awakened something inside of him and he thinks she could be his true mate.

When Severo comes back for Bella – as we knew he would – he gives her the bottom line: He’s a werewolf and the vampires have a vendetta against her. Seems Bella’s long-time pal Seth is the new boy toy of vampire leader, Evie, and Evie’s none too happy about their little friendship.

Severo needs to protect Bella and wants to make her his, hoping she’ll accept his werewolf within. Bella allows both, because she’s learned just how many scary things exist.

Their attraction is palpable and Bella falls fast, but she’s unsure how to build a life with Severo; he’s already a little controlling and she’s yet to meet his werewolf side. As their enemies work to keep them apart, Evie realizes the perfect plan to save their day – or tear the love right out of Severo’s heart.

Second in her Wicked Games series, Hauf’s “Moon Kissed” is full of exciting and downright funny scenes, and pushes the envelope on male/female relationships. But, key to this book, Hauf never forgets the romance; even with the war between the werewolves and the vamps, it’s the relationship between Severo and Bella that holds us breathless. But don’t hold your breath, get out there and

Buy the book.

Team Vampire or team Werewolf? Which one are you more drawn to and why?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Angels And (Glee Club) Demons

About a year after "The Da Vinci Code" shined a halo-shaped light on our varying abilities to separate genre fiction from religious text, my husband, who attended Exeter and college and sang in glee club - yes glee club -- with Brown, said, "Hey, we're having dinner with Dan and Blythe Brown this weekend!"

My eager response was something like, "I'd feel a lot better about this if you guys actually had seen each other once between college and- oh, I dunno - the time Dan wrote the Greatest Work of Genre Fiction the World Has Ever Seen."

By that time, Dan Brown wasn't just the guy whom, creepily, everyone now wanted to tell one embarrassing old-school stories about at class reunions. Now he was...READ MORE, BELLAS!
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Tomorrow: RBTB contributing editor Amy Kennedy shares the key to why Michele Hauf's new "Moon Kissed" is full-throttle, hand-me-a-fan paranormal romance!
***
Winners from Christmas Ball GuestBlog: Tamsyn-JAshley choice; Debbie Haupt--EBryan; Virginia-AJohnson title. Write mbuonfiglio@rbthebook.com w/your snail mail to receive your prize, pls!

The Lost (Sex) Symbol

Like everyone in Christendom, I read "The DaVinci Code" when it dropped a few years back. And I read it for one reason only: Brown and my husband attended the same small high school and college and - oh, this is fun! - were in glee club together. I just adore ribbing my husband about his having been in something that includes the word "glee" and only included men.

OK, yeah, you're picturing a bunch of guys in little pastel-plaid bow ties, aren't you? I knew it.


But back to the "The Da Vinci Code." So, I'm not... READ MORE, BELLAS!
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Check out "Dan Brown Nosing," an eye-opening account of my double-date with Dan and Blythe Brown, today at BN.com's Unabashedly Bookish.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"A Christmas Ball" GuestBlog: Holiday Hearthrobs


CONTEST TODAY!!!* 3 Winners!

From the Christmas Ball Authors: Buon Natale, Bellas!

Yes, we know we’re rushing the season a bit, but we can’t help it! "A Christmas Ball" is coming out in just a few days—September 29th ! Thanks for being the first stop on our 12 Days of “A Christmas Ball” Blog Tour.

What does every girl want for Christmas? Why, an Alpha all wrapped up in a bow, of course! And we’ve got 3 of them for you. They’re all totally drool-worthy and all totally different.

First, there’s USA Today’s Best Seller Jennifer Ashley’s hero, Valentin in "The Longest Night." Dark and dangerous, he has half the ladies of the ton speculating on what he looks like out of his clothes. But he’s even more menacing than he first appears. He’s a logosh—part demon, part animal—which means he sometimes presents himself as a Nvengarian ambassador’s aide and sometimes as a black wolf. How’d you like to see him gazing at you across a crowded ballroom with hunger in his eyes?

Next, there’s Emily Bryan’s Ian Michael MacGregor in "My Lady Belowstairs." Hard labor has turned Ian Michael into a sight to set feminine pulses fluttering. He’s quick-witted, self-taught and not above crashing a party to keep his lady love from making a mistake when she’s called upon to masquerade as her well-born half-sister. But will he give her up when he sees the life of luxury that could be hers without him?

And last but not least, we have Alissa Johnson’s William Renwick, Earl of Casslebury in "Traditions." If you’re one who likes the meticulous, buttoned-down type of hero you can’t wait to see come unbuttoned, you’ll love William. He’s a man with a plan. Want to be part of unraveling him?

*As long as we’re thinking about Christmas, how about making a list and checking it twice of things you like to see in your heroes? Share them with us today and three of you, randomly chosen, will win your choice from Jennifer Ashley’s, Emily Bryan’s or Alissa Johnson’s backlist. Grazie, Bellas!
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Back to School Week 2: Scholars on Romance
is in session Sept 21 - 25 at RBTB!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Most Wonderful Chime Of The Year

Hear that? Ayup. That's the ol' bell that sings the song of kids out from underfoot and tinsel drippin' from the tree, for it's time to kick off the

12 Days of Christmas and

Back to School Week 2:
Scholars on Romance!


Tomorrow, get set to have yourself A Christmas Ball, as Emily Bryan, Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson kick off their 12 Days of Christmas cyber tour to celebrate their new anthology of the same name! We're big fans of Em and Jen -- and looking forward to meeting Alissa. PLUS, they've each got a contest for you, an early holiday treat.

Then, Sept. 21 through 25, RBTB welcomes a second installment of the event that planted the seed for the Princeton Romance Scholarship Conference as we welcome scholars Gwendolyn Pough of Syracuse U, Guy Mark Foster of Bowdoin and more to give you the d.l. on what's doin' in romance at the Us today. Do not miss this, 'cause you ain't heard this song a'fore.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jo Davis GuestBlog: Let Us Never Forget The Heroes

From Michelle: Last September 11, Jo Davis visited RBTB to help us make a little sense of our feelings about the day by paying tribute to the "True Grit of An American Hero." Please welcome back Jo as she reminds us why looking back is the best way to move forward.

From Jo: Good morning, Michelle and Bellas! Thank you so much for having me back today to discuss a special topic, and for joining me in remembering the significance of this day. For paying tribute to my favorite folks—heroes.

Years ago, at a time when I was far more innocent, I listened to a gentleman tell a story of real-life suffering. Of cold, systematic murder on a grand scale and of people crying out for terror to end, for justice to prevail. What a horrible tale it was, and a valuable lesson no history book could ever teach. In a quiet, resolute voice, this man said, “Let us never forget what one human being can do to another.”

I’ll bet you thought I was referring to the day on most of our minds today, September 11, 2001. No, indeed. You see, that gentleman was an elderly Jewish man who spoke to my 10th grade high school World History class about surviving the most unimaginable horror of his time—years of incarceration at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Germany during World War II. A place where more than one million people died, 90% of whom were Jews. Hell on earth. And that gentleman lived to share his experiences and his message with others.

Let us never forget what one human being can do to another.

His words remain forever burned into my memory exactly as he spoke them to a group of wide-eyed 16 year-olds in my class, 28 years ago. They haunted me on December 21, 1988 as I watched news coverage of Pan Am Flight 103, brought down by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland. They made me shiver as I saw the tragedy of Oklahoma City unfold before my eyes on April 19, 1995, and again on April 20, 1999 as I learned of the massacre at Columbine High School.

They hit me hard on September 11, 2001, and many times since. History, it seems, will repeat itself because there are always those who will never get the message, or care about ideals such as freedom, love, and human dignity. Does this mean all is lost?

Absolutely not! While we as Americans should remember never to take these ideals for granted, there’s something else we should remember as well:

Out of the ashes, there is hope. Because for every tragic event, there are survivors. And for each survivor, there is a hero. Someone who helped them through their darkest hour, someone who reminded them that while there is evil in the world, there is also good. There is still a reason to believe that at the end of the day, the best in people will triumph.

You don’t have to take my word for it. The elderly gentleman who spoke to our history class survived Auschwitz because his fellow comrades kept hope alive, refused to let each other give in to despair. In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, firemen and other rescue workers spent sixteen days pulling victims out of the rubble. A 27-year-old financial analyst donated his entire year’s salary to assist children orphaned by the tragedy.

On September 11, 2001, six firefighters helped a grandmother climb down from the 73rd floor of the North Tower. After they reached the 4th floor, the tower collapsed…but all seven people survived. That day, passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 overpowered hijackers, preventing them from reaching their intended target and sacrificing their own lives in the process.


What do every single one of these heroes have in common? The survivors are reluctant or downright refuse to take credit for their acts of bravery.

They are loyal. Selfless. Dedicated. Honorable. Courageous.

This is the stuff that makes a true hero, and there are endless examples of their sacrifices to light our way through the darkness. To remind us that while there are those in the world who would take away our freedom and our very lives, there are many more who would not, under any circumstances, allow them to prevail.

Shall we pause to reflect on the past, and never forget the horrors our enemies would inflict so that we may prevent them from happening in the future? Without a doubt.

But let us never forget the heroes who, in our moment of need, put it all on the line and risk everything to save us from harm. Because when your day of personal darkness comes, that hero may be the one who ensures you survive to pass on the message.

That hero might even be...you.

Has there been a hero who stepped in and saved your life or that of someone you know, or impacted it in some other way? If you could, would you write this person’s story?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

UYS GuestBlog: Friendship Unleashed!

CONTEST TODAY!!! One randomly chosen commenter wins a choice of one of the books below!*

From Michelle:
As if the prizes for participants in the Unleash Your Story Read/Write/Blog-a-Thon for Cystic Fibrosis (UYS) aren't enough to get you psyched, today, Teresa Bodwell -- whom some call the 'heart' of UYS, is here to intro you to her fellow event organizers/cheerleaders/all-around-caring chicks. Participation is down a little this year -- and we need your help -- so make the choice to join UYS in some way. It's not too late! And welcome the RU friends with your warmest, "Lay some gal-pal wow on us" Bella buongiorno...

From Teresa: Greetings Bellas! And special thanks to all of you who have joined Michelle B's UYS team. I've been elected to tell you the story behind the Unleash Your Story. Some of my fellow Romance Unleashed (RU) authors will chime in later, too.

Have you ever bonded with someone you met in the midst of some life-changing event? For me it was Army boot camp and the first year of law school. Then again a few years ago when my debut book was published and I landed on the careening roller coaster we call the publishing world. Luckily, I stumbled upon several other women with tickets to the same rickety amusement park ride. Together we formed a sisterhood we call Romance Unleashed.

Scattered across the U.S. and Canada, we fly our magic carpets through cyberspace to visit regularly. (I'm sure the Bellas can relate to the idea of meeting people digitally). Naturally, RU authors share the triumphs and frustrations of the publishing business. But our friendship goes beyond business. We've experienced the joy of a new baby, mourned the deaths of several of our parents, worried over each other in times of illness and injury. And we've become honorary aunties to all the children in the group—sharing pride in their accomplishments and worrying when they are sick or troubled.

When we learned our friend Lori Devoti's kids have cystic fibrosis, we knew cyber-hugs and kisses weren't enough. But how could a bunch of writers make a difference?

It's easy to feel helpless when faced with a fatal disease.We can't be there for the daily treatments and piles of medications. All we can do is raise money to kick this disease into submission.

We knew the online reading and writing community was packed with generous people who would want to help these kids and tens of thousands of others living with cystic fibrosis. So we created the write/read-a-thon. This year, thanks to Michelle B's suggestion we have bloggers going at it as well.

We invite everyone to harness the power of friendship by forming teams to encourage one another to meet their goals. Last year Unleash Your Story raised over $11,000. With your help, we hope to raise even more this year.

Have you experienced some event or activity that turned a group of strangers into tight friends? What's the craziest thing you've ever done to help a friend?

*Lora Leigh/Heat Seeker; Laurel K Hamilton/Skin Trade; KM Moning/Faefever
***
Join Michelle B's UYS Team or start your own w/the info here! She's drawing a winner for a 12-pack of new romances from among her team members raising $75 or more. Top earner on Michelle B's Team scores a 24-pack of new romances.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Sexy Beasts

To understand why Lora Leigh's romances are so well loved by readers comfortable with erotic imagery at its earthiest, you've simply got to get right with the fact that some women dig their sexual fantasy laden with overbearing-alpha male beastliness.

Now, beastly is as beastly does, and in the case of Leigh's extraordinarily popular Breed series about shapeshifting humans altered genetically so they retain characteristics of predatory animals, beastly does aggressive dominance and... READ MORE, BELLAS!
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Tomorrow: The authors of RomanceUnleashed.com visit to tell you why they're so psyched about their Unleash Your Story Read/Write/Blog-a-Thon for Cystic Fibrosis!
Friday: Jo Davis
returns to once again commemorate 9/11 with us.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Shacked Up

Sept. 29, grab your copy of "Hunt Her Down," and hang @ Heart to Heart w/ Roxanne St. Claire, LIVE via WIFI, 7 pm EDT as she visits the West Melbourne, FL B&N Romance Reader's Circle!

All you really need to know about why you should score "Hunt Her Down" -- our selection for Sept. 29 H2H Online Romance Reader's Circle -- takes place in a little tool shed, where lovers reunited after 14 years are locked in close quarters, loaded with unrelieved attraction and so on edge sensually that an erotic whisper from one of them leaves the pair in greater danger from each other than the bad guys they're dodging.

OK. So maybe you're one of those exacting readers who wants details to recommend a book, so for you I offer... READ MORE, BELLAS!
***
Sept. 29, grab your copy of "Hunt Her Down," and hang @ Heart to Heart w/ Roxanne St. Claire, LIVE via WIFI, 7 pm EDT as she visits the West Melbourne, FL B&N Romance Reader's Circle! The members of the Circle are looking forward to your joining them in this unique and intimate digital experience. Score more deets here!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Everybody's A Critic

Hot-button topics abound in cyberspace, where everyday bloggers term themselves citizen journalists as we necessarily revise our definition of legitimate media.

But let's be frank, shall we? WallStreetJournal.com ain't hiring every Joe with a URL and an ATM card to give financial advice. It follows that not everyone who blogs about books can expect to be taken as seriously as folks writing for sites affiliated with well-established publishing and bookselling brands... READ MORE, BELLAS!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Feature Review: "Loves Me, Loves Me Knot," By Heidi Betts

By Becke Davis, RBTB Contributing Editor

“BDSK: Bondage, Domination, Submission . . . Knitting?”

Okay, I’ll admit it: I don’t knit. I can just about manage chopsticks; you would have thought it was a similar skill set, but apparently not. I can sew on a button, I’ve done some needlepoint and even made a quilt. Knitting? No knack.

But this lack of ability hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the current craze of “knit-lit” romances, starting with last summer’s “Tangled Up in Love” from Heidi Betts. Now I’m totally jazzed about Betts’ delightfully twisted new yarn, “Loves Me, Loves Me Knot.”

Jenna Langan’s future looked rosy when she and Gage Marshall tied the knot, but it didn’t take long to unravel when he suddenly nixed their plans for a family. Divorced for a year and a half, she misses her brown-eyed, built-like-an-oak ex, misses the no-restraints sex, and has all but given up on ever having a baby.

Knocking out Gage – who happens to be a cop – and tying him to the bedposts might not be the most politically correct way to get herself pregnant, but Jenna is desperate. The mango margaritas she drinks with her knitting friends on girls’ night out are strong enough to make that sorta’ wrong seem right. Gage isn’t likely to complain, because what guy would say no to hot bondage, right?

Gage is more pissed off than unwilling when Jenna refuses to untie the silky boas that restrain him. He’s all for a night of sensual thrust-and-retreat, but no way in hell will he be her sperm donor. And if anyone’s going to be tied up, it should be his sexy ex-wife. He decides to play along – but this time, by his rules.

Heidi Betts makes love seem like a complex knitting pattern, and knitting seem like foreplay. She can make you laugh and gasp at the antics of her heroine, but you never forget these are people who love each other. Even when they behave badly, Heidi has you rooting for her characters to work out their problems and earn their happily ever after.

The next book in Heidi’s knaughty-and-knotty “Chicks with Sticks” trilogy, “Knock Me for a Loop,” is out February 2010. Pack up your knitting and brace yourself for a wild ride when you --

Buy the book!

Hang with Heidi online at HeidiBetts.com, w/ her alter ego, the delightfully naughty Mistress Heidi really nice pals at WIPs and Chains, and with her smart n fun Knit Wit friends at Must Love Yarn.
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NEWS NOSH: Join Michelle's RBTB Quickie Email to get mini-bites of romance entertainment, and what's doin' at RBTB. Use the blue easy registration box in the upper right sidebar!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The AuthorView: Heidi Betts

The AuthorView returns as RBTB Contributing Editor Becke Davis clicks sticks with Heidi Betts in a no-holds-barred knit-lit clatch.

CONTEST TODAY!!! One commenter wins a copy of Heidi's "Tangled Up in Love" courtesy of Mistress Heidi!

Becke Davis:
What do you like most about “Loves Me, Loves Me Knot?”


Heidi Betts: Probably the same thing I love about all of my “Chicks with Sticks” books—how funny and sexy they are. My editor gave me total freedom over these stories, telling me to go as funny and sexy and edgy as I wanted. I was able to use some very adult language and put characters into some very funny, sometimes questionable situations that you can’t get away with everywhere.

BD: A crucial scene in the book between Jenna and Gage, the hero and heroine of LMLMK could be controversial. Did that concern you?

HB: Ah, yes, the tie-me-up-and-have-your-wicked-way-with-me scene. I have actually gotten a bit of flak for that. Thankfully, the number of readers responding positively to it is much higher than those who have responded negatively. I knew it would be something readers would either accept and enjoy … or find hugely offensive and hate with a fiery passion.

I needed to be true to Jenna and Gage and their story. I was careful about how I handled the scene, making sure nothing was truly against anyone’s will and that nothing came of it in the end … if you know what I mean.

BD: Who or what inspired “Loves Me, Loves Me Knot?”

HB: My own sweet, darling Dwayne Johnson (yes, he’s mine; back off, ladies, or you will get cut) was very inspiring. I kept telling my editor that Gage was going to be big, extremely built and buff – finally I sent her a picture of Dwayne in some form of half-nakedness. To which she responded, “Oh, now I get it!”

BD: Who’s the most heroic person you know?

HB: That would be my mother. She’s been through a lot in her life and handled it all like a trouper. Most recently, she battled breast cancer, treating it like no more than the common cold. She’s taught me by example how to keep my chin up, stay positive, and be strong through adversity.

BD: Who’s your romance hero: dark, brooding bad boy, or white knight in shining armor?

HB: Hmm—can’t he be both? I’m picturing a dark, brooding bad boy turned knight on shining Harley, riding in to whisk me away. I think it’s the inside that counts—integrity, compassion, a sense of humor—and not necessarily what the outside package looks like. Although I never complain about a nice … um, package.

BD: What do you think triggered the craze in knit-lit books?

HB: I’m not sure I know what triggers any trend or craze. I have this vision of women suddenly realizing that all those things their grandmothers have knit over the years are really kind of cool. With the rush-rush and super-technology of modern living, there are simpler, very charming skills out there that are being lost, and it’s nice if they can be carried forward for generations to come.

Ironically, my mother taught me to knit so that I could sell some handmade items while I worked toward publication. So when my editor said she was looking for knitting romances – really sexy and really funny—I said, “I’m your girl!”

BD: Speaking of funny and sexy, I have to ask: Did Mistress Heidi -- your alter ego at your popular WIPsAndChains blog -- bring her fuzzy-pink handcuffs for this visit to RBTB?

HB: Ha! Well, Mistress Heidi always comes prepared, so of course she has her fuzzy pink handcuffs with her…along with a few other fun toys.

Heidi Betts and her pals from WIPsAndChains visit today to talk "Chicks with Sticks," more Jenna and Gage and the fun and deliciously naughty goin's on with Mistress Heidi!
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Tomorrow: Catch Becke's Take on "Loves Me, Loves Me Knot!"