Sunday, February 28, 2010

Feature Review: "Pieces of Sky," By Kaki Warner

By Michelle Buonfiglio

***Catch Kaki's GuestBlog Here!***

When we think about storytellers who've shaped our contemporary images of the American Southwest, names like Larry McMurtry , Horton Foote , heck, even Louis L'Amour come to mind.

Their novels, stage and film work encompass themes and issues which can be stark, humorous, edgy, raw and even boldly romantic in a tumble-weed swashbuckler sort of way. Yet the trait those authors' pieces have in common is that they're all social histories of a sort, recording the desires, challenges, triumphs and tragedies of folks whose lives intersected amidst the unforgiving climate of some of the nation's most beautiful country.

Authors who create western-set historical romance novels set as their task celebrating women of the West who forged lives of independence and meaning almost out of necessity, yet in ways their sisters in other parts of the U.S. hadn't the opportunities. And today's western-set historical romance heroine can come from any strata of society, exhibiting self-determination that jibes with our modern sensibilities, especially because, as American readers, we know these characters depict women very close to those who paved the way for the lives we're living.

Jessica Thornton is an example of the kind of woman long depicted in western-set romances. The heroine of Kaki Warner's marvelous debut, "Pieces of Sky ," Jessica has immigrated to America from her comfortable home in England. The gently bred deportment expert and milliner has fled everything she loves after surviving a violent act which left her deeply shamed - and with what some would consider a disgraceful secret.

While traveling in New Mexico to reunite with her brother, Jessica is injured in a deadly stagecoach accident, and is saved along with several others when one of the passengers, cussing, rough-and-tumble rancher Brady Wilkins, nearly cripples himself heading to his home and returning with help.

At Wilkins' ranch, Jessica finds Wilkins' family and workers are pleased to care for and welcome her. She's enchanted and comforted by the humble beauty of the New Mexico terrain, and the awkward, but tender attentions of Wilkins himself. Yet Jessica's got demons to face - and a bit of maturing to do, despite her advanced "spinster" status and rather too much experience with hard knocks.

And Wilkins? Well, learning what makes Brady Wilkins tick and drives him to save everyone's day is worth the price of admission to "Pieces of Sky," which is saying something, because the love story is grand and the novel's one to savor.

"Pieces of Sky" begins a series of romances featuring Brady Wilkins and his brothers. If Warner's depiction of Jessica and other female characters as capable and multi-faceted remains true, we're in for some special reads as the Wilkins men find themselves in the hands of women who've met the challenge of life in the American West, and who're ready for love.

What qualities of the western-set romance heroine do you most admire? How do you see western-set romance having been influenced by popular western genre fiction? What do you enjoy about western-set romance fiction?
___

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday Morning Power Breakfast



Wicked kick-ass pipes. Brain-bleed sweet dynamics.

Good Morning! And, em, yes, as the kids say: crank it.
___

Friday, February 26, 2010

Feature Review: "Wild Ride," By Jennifer Crusie And Bob Mayer

By Becke Davis, RBTB Contributing Editor

CONTEST TODAY!!! Win a copy of "Wild Ride" or a $10 book gift card! Deets below.*

“Demons and Minions and Clowns – Oh, My!”

Carnivals have scared me ever since I saw Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train,” and Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” confirmed my conviction that fun fairs hide all manner of nasty things. Roller coasters terrify me, Tilt-a-Whirls make me nauseous and who wants some fake psychic to guess your weight, anyway? As to clowns – I don’t need Stephen King’s “It” to persuade me that clowns are just . . . wrong.

In Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer’s “Wild Ride,” clowns – one in particular – bedevil Mary Alice “Mab” Brannigan. Mab’s restoration of Dreamland is a labor of love, until she’s assaulted by the smiling robot clown she recently painted. After that, it hardly surprises her when a motherly fortune-telling machine gives her relationship advice and a helpful raven becomes her companion. Mab’s road to love is bumpier than most, as she struggles to accept that her mother’s admonitions about demons in the old amusement park were nothing but the plain truth.

Ethan John Wayne has come home to die at Dreamland, where his mother still lives, after a Taliban bullet lodged in his chest and stole his future. His mission changes when his mother starts spouting nonsense about demon Untouchables residing in the park and Guardia saving the world. Ethan can’t even save himself, but he’s the only one capable of dealing with the mass hysteria. Another shot to the chest makes Ethan realize the threat is no fantasy, but it’s going to take more than a mysterious shooter and a rattling roller coaster to make him a believer.

“Wild Ride” is as wacky and wonderful as a Frank Capra movie, if Capra had dropped acid and dreamed up a demon-infested Potterville crawling with evil minion teddy bears. The story is both warmly, weirdly familiar and totally original, infused with Crusie's and Mayer’s strong, uniquely recognizable voices yet unlike any of their other books. Mab has Crusie’s artistic vision, and Ethan has Mayer’s military ethos; their stories weave together in a tale that has everything: not one but two romances, mystery, magic, a voluptuary mermaid, an Etruscan devil and even a very un-Poe-ish raven.

Pull back the bar on your roller coaster seat and . . .


Buy the Book!

“Wild Ride” refuses to stay in the box called what-readers-expect. Crusie and Mayer successfully took the road less traveled, and with all the book’s unexpected twists and turns, I had a hard time imagining how the story would end. How do you feel when a story arrives at its happy ending by an unconventional path? Does it shake you up, or do sit back and enjoy the ride?
***
*Becke's offering today's 30th new RBTB NEWs subscriber a copy of "Wild Ride," PLUS a $10 book gift card up for grabs for folks already on board RBTB NEWs! Click here to enter, and to keep up-to-date on romance-fiction fun -- and the exciting upcoming phase of RBTB.
***
Monday: Kaki Warner -- "Pieces of Sky" -- GuestBlogs with the very funny tale of how western romance has changed the way we "listen" to dialogue.
___

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feature Review: "In the Warrior's Bed," By Mary Wine

By Gannon Carr and PJ Ausdenmore, RBTB Correspondents

What do you get when you combine a feisty lass kidnapped by a sexy Scot, feuding clans, and the machinations of the Scottish court? Our pick for February, “In The Warrior’s Bed” by Mary Wine! PJ and I love books set in Scotland. Men in kilts, anyone? In this new read, Cullen McJames’ honor has been besmirched by his enemy, Laird Erik McQuade, in front of the entire Court of Scotland. McQuade has accused Cullen of stealing his daughter Bronwyn’s virtue. Cullen decides that maybe a marriage could end the decades-long war between their clans. While he may not have stolen Bronwyn’s virtue, he has no problem stealing her instead.

PJ: Fess up, Gannon. I can’t be the only one who’s had this particular fantasy: There I am, fresh from my bath, standing in the kitchen drying my hair by the heat of the fire. The door opens and before I can turn around, I’m pulled against the tall, hard body of a brawny, handsome Highland warrior. I fight against him but, secretly, my body sizzles with awareness and anticipation as he throws me over his shoulder and carries me off into the night to have his wicked way with me. Sigh Oh! Uh, sorry, got carried away there. It’s Bronwyn who’s spirited off into the night and she’s mad as spit about it.

Gannon: Moi? Have fantasies about being kidnapped by a sexy, buff Scottish warrior?? Well, maybe once or twice. Apparently Bronwyn doesn’t share our wouldn’t-it-be-hot-to-be-abducted-by-a-yummy-Scot fantasy. She sees her abduction as punishment for something she didn’t do. Her father and brothers have viewed her as nothing but a nuisance her whole life, and she has no intention of going quietly with Cullen to his home to be treated far worse by him and the rest of his clan. Cullen really throws her for a loop when he treats her with kindness and respect, something that is completely foreign to her. And when he sets out to woo and seduce her as his beloved wife? Well, let’s just say I envy her.

PJ: Ah yes, I was especially envious of those “riding” lessons he gave her! While Cullen and Bronwyn grow closer physically and emotionally, pride and lack of trust still stand between them, not to mention Bronwyn’s murderous father and brothers. The couple’s love, their lives and the future of their clans hang in the balance. Only by opening their hearts to one another, and trusting completely, will they have a chance at happiness and a life together. If they live long enough…

“In The Warrior’s Bed” is a captivating follow-up to Mary Wine’s charming debut, “In Bed With A Stranger.” It’s a classic historical that brings medieval Scotland to life with its warring clans, men of honor and spirited women. Get carried away by a handsome Scot when you --

Buy the book!

Do you dream of being kidnapped by a brawny Scot or maybe a mysterious sheik? Trapped at sea with a bold pirate? Or do you fantasize in the contemporary world? Maybe a rich boss/secretary fantasy lights your fire. Let’s share favorite romance fantasies!
***
Click here to make sure you're signed up for RBTB NEWs! The final phase of what's happening here in the pink is in the works, and you won't want to miss out on the inside scoop.

***
FRIDAY: Becke Davis takes us on a "Wild Ride" as she straps us into a front-row seat on the way-out roller-coaster trip that is the new Cruisie/Mayer fun fest.
March 1: Kaki Warner ("Pieces of Sky") GuestBlogs with the tale of how western romance has changed the way we “listen” to dialogue.

___

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feature Review: “Bound, Branded, & Brazen,” By Jaci Burton

By Michelle Buonfiglio

Let’s face it, shall we? There are many types of romance heroes to admire, but none one so consistently can count on to live rough, love hard and talk dirty as the western cowboy or ranch hand. They do nasty, tedious, back-breaking labor. They go long stretches without women while thinking about not much else but women and what they’ll do to those women when they finally – and it really must be said this way – get those women under them.

The persona of this guy in romance – especially erotic romance – allows for all the great dynamics of alpha-heading-toward-HEA behavior: lust; begrudging tenderness; jealousy; selflessness; irrational anger; emotional befuddlement; solo shower scenes.

So when an erotic-romance anthology comes along written by an author proven to be on the short list of best in her field, you’ve just gotta know about it, especially when it’s Jaci Burton’s dare-you-not-to-drop-everything-to-read-it fine and hot “Bound, Branded, & Brazen.” In it, the McMasters sisters reunite on the family ranch expecting to take care of some old business – and end up getting a whole lot of new love and life to look forward to.

-- Bound: Great sex may not be a good enough reason to keep a commitment-phobic girl home on the range, but it’s a great starting point for her ranch-foreman ex to lure her to take another look-see. So when Valerie returns from her big-city doctoring job to help her sisters, Mason reminds her what drew them together from the first should definitely be enjoyed for however long Valerie’ll hang around. But he’s counting on that intimacy opening her heart to how finally identifying and fulfilling her own needs may open her eyes to finding happiness she’s not scored by taking care of everyone else’s.

-- Branded: Brea’s found hiding behind her smart-girl job, and spending most of her free time buried in the pages of romance novels, good ways to avoid her perceived shortcomings, especially in the relationships and sexual intimacy areas. Yet time spent back home has her attention turning to Gage, the unassuming, self-proclaimed drifter who so masterfully, yet gently, tames wild horses. Gage works his magic on women, too, and soon has Brea in a lather, ready to act out her most secret, precious, fantasies. Brea understands Gage is the love ‘em/leave ‘em type, and works to enjoy, not go wild for him. Yet looks like this time around, Gage might be the one getting roped in.

-- Brazen: Model-gorgeous and ranch-hand-rough-talking Jolene McMasters has turned the family cattle business into a success through hard work and business know-how. Yet the bursting-with-confidence dynamo’s tied up in knots over ranch hand Walker Morgan, who seems to be playing hard to get, regardless of how she can tell he’s hot for her. He says it’s “bad business” to get involved intimately with the boss. But when Walker’s “yes” actions speak louder than his continued verbal rejections, Jolene starts wondering whether there’s something more to his story – and starts to worry he may simply see her as nothing more than “just one of the guys.”

Spy the name Jaci Burton on the spine of a novel, and you’re guaranteed not just a sexy, get-the-body-humming read, but also one that melds the sensual with the all-important building of intimacy and relational dynamics between partners. Oh, and Burton always fronts the reader some really fine writing.

So forget about silly male dancers in chaps, or any other dime-store cowboy imitations. Get you some grade-A, prime, down-home-and-dirty, Jaci Burton-style real men of the range. --

Buy the book.

What do you like about the "sisters/girlfriends find love" anthologies? Are they ever anything like the relationships you share w/your sisters/friends? Do you prefer this type of anthology to ones in which heroes play the larger roles?
***
TOMORROW: Resident nice girls Gannon Carr and PJ Ausdenmore of TheRomanceDish.com reveal some shockingly naughty inside stuff in their RBTB cyber-pals’ column while singing the praises of Mary Wine’s sophomore hit, “In the Warrior’s Bed!”
FRIDAY: Amy Kennedy on the woo-woo and wooing within Lois Greiman’s “Charming the Devil.” March 1: Kaki Warner GuestBlogs with the tale of how western romance has changed the way we “listen” to dialogue.
___

Monday, February 22, 2010

Feature Review: "The Hellion And The Highlander," By Lynsay Sands

By Michelle Buonfiglio

This may surprise you. But inside the body of this natural blonde quivers the soul of a fiery redhead aching to burst forth and make her sensual mark on the world.

OK, spoilsports, so my moonlite-and-caramel angel-kissed highlights may be nurtured an itty bit by my girl, Miss Clairol. But, yeah, my total romance fantasy is to be one of those titian-tressed heroines who brings the lusty rake to his knees as she makes a grand entrance at a ton ball, her “unfashionable” auburn-threaded-with-sunset curls ready to tumble about her creamy shoulders, set off by a daring gown in a shocking scarlet hue.

To some, ginger locks also suggest a hot-tempered or sexually seductive nature. This leaves many a redhead feeling annoyed, misunderstood and, in the case of even an anthropomorphized cartoon character, uttering the lament, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”

The flame-haired heroine of Lynsay Sands’ amusing and suspensefulThe Hellion and the Highlander” perhaps leans a bit toward the fiery version of the stereotype. Not that Lady Averill Mortagne would allow anyone to see the passion she’s painstakingly subdued. Regardless of whether she’s chatelaine of her father’s home and a respected healer, her lot in life is to become some preening English lord’s wife, and eventually her father hopes one will overlook the nuisance of her red locks.

Highlander Kade Stewart thinks Averill’s hair is astoundingly lovely, and can’t seem to get enough of her as she tends his wounds. Averill’s brother brought Kade to their home for Averill to heal after they and fellow Crusaders escaped enemy prison. Kade can’t understand what’s wrong with the foppish Englishmen who won’t have Averill. He thinks she’d be a bright, supportive woman to take to wife – and the honeymoon’d be no chore -- except for the fact that she’s just too biddable to be the spouse of a Highland laird.

Yet when Kade decides he can’t not marry Averill – smart, lusty young knight that he is – he finds Averill’s not exactly got some ‘splainin’ to do about her apparent feistiness, but rather is exactly the kind of woman who can help him as he seeks to restore honor to the role of laird within his clan.

But danger seems to hide in wait for Kade around every turn and turret, not just suspiciously linked to surprising suspects who may want him dead, but sometimes in the sweetly funny form of a red-haired hellion who might do him in first with her just-a-tad-too-enthusiastic approach to pleasuring her new husband.

Lynsay Sands’ Medievals always are reads to look forward to, because Sands creates in them a special brand of adventure-packed, yet lighthearted storytelling wrapped in period flavor. You’ll be treated to the addition of the always-appreciated braw Highlander – and the hopes for the love story of another awesome hero from “Hellion” in a book to come – when you --

Buy the Book.

What kind of heroine do you have lurking inside you, just dying to be let loose? What’s your alter-ego fantasy hair color?
___

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feature Review: "The Sari Shop Widow," By Shobhan Bantwal

By Tracy Montoya, RBTB Contributing Editor

When I’m deep into a book, I don’t often process how an author treats setting. Some rely so much on character and dialogue, readers barely notice where the story takes place.

Then there are authors like Shobhan Bantwal, who elevate setting into an art form. In "The Sari Shop Widow," Bantwal’s gorgeous writing and careful attention to sensory detail transported me to another world. Just a few pages in, you can practically smell the saffron and cardamom wafting from the family kitchen, run your fingers over the cool silk saris in the heroine’s shop, and admire their dazzlingly brilliant hues. But it’s the story itself that truly dazzles.

Anjali Kapadia is a young widow who has moved back in with her Indian-American parents since her husband’s premature death. It’s a decision made from equal parts tradition and practicality, not because she’s hiding from the world. Even though the pain of losing a spouse never goes away, Anjali has taken charge of her life, dedicating herself to updating her family’s sari shop into an innovative, chic boutique catering to Edison, New Jersey’s Indian population.

But just when her boutique is starting to show some promise, her parents blindside her with bad news: Due to her father’s poor financial decisions, the boutique is in serious trouble. Anjali is in danger of losing the center of her world for the second time in her young life.

Desperate times require desperate measures, so her parents call in Anjali’s rich uncle, who flies from India to bail them out in exchange for a majority share in Silk & Sapphires. But Anjali wonders if saving the shop is worth the price—Jeevan is boorish, overbearing, and not a little selfish. To her, it feels too much like a deal with the devil.

Especially when that devil brings along his business partner Rishi Shah to help overhaul the shop. Number one, the fact that he’s partnered with her self-centered uncle probably means she’ll be dealing with two overbearing alpha males for the price of one. Number two, Rishi is sure to mess with Anjali’s carefully thought out business plan, turning her dream of a one-of-a-kind boutique into a cookie-cutter chain. Number three, Rishi is much too handsome and confident for his own good, and the obvious attraction between them makes her really nervous.

As they all work together, Anjali is surprised by how much Rishi respects her ideas for the shop—everything he proposes reinforces her creative plans, rather than crushing them. He’s a calming force on her over-the-top uncle, and just as brilliant in business as Jeevan had promised he’d be.

But then he turns his charisma—not to mention a pair of striking green eyes—in her direction, and Anjali’s first impulse is to bolt. Can she trust Rishi with her fragile heart, when all signs point to the fact that he’s a love-’em-and-leave-’em kind of guy—one who’s set to return to the other side of the world in a matter of weeks?

"The Sari Shop Widow" is an emotionally complex, beautifully told tale of a quirky, tight-knit-family; a strong heroine who’s been through more than her share of emotional trauma; and the one man who can complete her already full life. You’re in for a treat when you …

Buy the book.

I confess, I’ve never been a fan of romances where a business partnership figures prominently in the plot, but The Sari Shop Widow gripped me from page one. Have you ever been surprised by a book, where you expected to be sort of “meh” about it and ended up passionately loving it? What turned the tide for you?
__

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Q: Are We There Yet?

A: Almost!

You may not remember, but a year ago when RBTB moved back to these digs from myLifetime, I told you some big things were in store for RBTB. Well, we’re working into the final phase. Knowing that shift was coming, I made the decision recently to wrap up my time at BN.com, where I created with them their first romance fiction blog, “Heart to Heart.” I really enjoyed writing about romance there, but, as you know, Romance: B(u)y the Book’s been my heart since 2005.

Back in February of 2006, this blog was born in the RIP-form of Romance: By the Blog. And one of the first posts I wrote was called, “Toe Curling Hotties,” in which I asked my two viewers who was the hotter Olympic curling-team skip, TEAM USA’s Pete Fenson, or TEAM Canada’s Brad Gushue.

If you know anything about those sexy guys who brave the ice with sweepers in hand, who thrust their stones with gusto while their mates cheer them on, then you agree there’s nothing like a curling man to thrill a girl while he shows her a slow, easy and controlled slide to the button.

So in honor of the fourth anni of this RBTB blog, and our USA Men’s Curling Team from l’Etoile de Nord -- the great state of MN, soon to be my home-again home – I ask you:

Which team do you find hotter? Team USA (above, RT)? Or our Neighbors to the Nord, Team Canada (Left)? Hint: This team's got a cutie who realized if he let his hair grow out, he’d be ready for reality…*

*It’s actually a pretty moving story (photo, right).
***
Cheer on TEAM USA in all the events. Click the pic to head to the official site of the US Olympic Committee. Catch the latest news -- like whether the Dudes from Duluth can wing-and-prayer it -- and sign up for exclusive updates through the rest of the games.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feature Review: "Dying Scream," By Mary Burton

By Becke Davis, RBTB Contributing Editor

“Walking Dead Man”

My aunt died suddenly at age 52. My uncle was out of town and later swore that she’d called and talked to him on the phone an hour after the coroner said she died. He is a very matter-of-fact guy, not prone to vivid flights of imagination, and this bothered him a lot. He didn’t know what to believe – that the dead could talk, or that he was losing his mind

In Mary Burton’s gripping and suspenseful “Dying Scream,” Adrianna Thornton can’t trust her own senses. Just as she’s about to put the past behind her, she starts hallucinating. What else can she call it when she hears her dead husband’s voice, when the scent of his cologne haunts her?

As the last surviving member of the wealthy Thornton family, she wants to sell the estate and move on. When a corpse is found on the Thornton property, the clues point to Adrianna’s husband, Craig, as the murderer. Only he can’t be connected to the crimes – because women are still dying. Cards and flowers arrive purporting to be from Craig, and Adrianna fears she’s losing her mind. And the detective assigned to the case is not a man she’s likely to confide in.

Detective Gage Hudson never trusted Craig Thornton, and it wasn’t just because he married the woman Gage wanted – he suspected Thornton was a psychopath. Craig Thornton was bad news, and Gage hadn’t mourned when the creep died and left Adrianna a widow. But when bodies start turning up on the Thornton estate, Gage is torn. He’d give anything to prove Thornton’s guilt, but he doesn’t want Adrianna hurt.

Gage suspects Adrianna is at the core of the mystery – either she’s involved up to her pearl-clad neck, or she’s the next victim. Gage has to find the murderer before he strikes again – and there’s more at risk than he suspects.

In “Dying Scream,” Mary Burton has written a mystery/suspense/thriller wrapped in a romance. But while the romance is important, the mystery is the focus. You never forget that lives are at stake, and then there’s the 100-thousand-dollar question: is Craig dead or alive? If you like mysteries seasoned with romance . . .

Buy the Book!

As I read “Dying Scream,” the thought running through my head wasn’t “Will Adrianna and Gage get their happy ending?” It was “Who is killing these women, and how will they catch him?” But then I like mystery as much as romance. Do you like mystery with threads of romance or a romance with elements of mystery? How would you define romantic suspense?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's In The Bag

RBTB NEWs Winners!

Ro/Goddess10, you've won the fab LOVE bag from RBTB! Your books, bag and goodies will be on the way with love from Michelle and Becke!

Kirstin/Lotsofgingers, you scored the $10 BN card!

Bethany: You've got a copy of Kristan Higgins' "The Next Best Thing" coming your way.

Pam Keener: Enjoy Rekaya Gibson's "The Food Temptress!"
***
TOMORROW: Becke Davis brings you the suspenseful story of Mary Burton's "Dying Scream!"
Friday: Tracy Montoya treats us to a hidden gem romance, Shobhan Bantwal's "The Sari Shop Widow."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Feature Review: "The Next Best Thing," By Kristan Higgins

By Becke Davis, RBTB Contributing Editor

CONTEST!!! One randomly chsn commntr wins a copy of "The Next Best Thing!" Pls have your email addy avlbl in comment or blogger accnt to enter.
“A Family Affair”

If we could chose who we love – and who loves us – life would be a lot simpler, but it’s rarely that convenient. Even though my own romance has no angst, I instinctively understand the agony of loving the one person you just can’t have. Why else would Romeo and Juliet still ring so true?

In Kristan Higgins’ hilarious and heartbreaking “The Next Best Thing,” grieving widow Lucy Lang is content to wallow in memories until her sister’s newborn triggers her biological clock. Longing for a family, Lucy decides to marry without risking her heart. But there’s a complication: Ethan, her friend-with-benefits. He’s out of the running on two counts. #1 – she has dangerous feelings for him. And #2 – he’s her husband’s younger brother.

Ethan Mirabelli is resigned to living in his brother’s shadow. Dead five years, golden boy Jimmy is still first in the hearts of his parents. And Jimmy’s widow refuses to let him go. When lovely Lucy’s maternal instincts are aroused, Ethan hopes he’ll finally get his chance. After all, they’ve been burning up the sheets for two years. When he discovers Lucy’s plans for a loveless marriage, Ethan takes an arrow to his already battered heart. It seems the only way to ensure Lucy’s happiness is to sacrifice his own. Again.

Kristan Higgins excels at hot-and-heartwrenching forbidden romance – her heroines are often modern day Juliets, her heroes strong Romeos who care too much to be ruled by convention. In “The Next Best Thing,” Lucy fights her feelings with everything she’s got, but Ethan is tired of being second best. This is one battle he intends to win. Do yourself a favor --

Buy the Book.

Kristan’s books are auto-buys for me, and every one has a place on my keeper shelf. I have a special fondness for the tortured hero, especially when he is the best friend who kept his feelings hidden.What about you? What is your favorite type of hero – the best friend, the first love, the bad guy on the Harley? Tell me more!
***
We've got Wedding Day Pix of Favorite Romance Authors here!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In The Beginning...






Are these valentines' romance stories inspired by the love they share? Maybe their wedding-day memories tell the tale...


































































***
Authors, Bellas and RBTB teamers, thanks so much for sharing this almost-Valentine's Day treat with us here in the pink! We wish you happiness and love: the stuff already in your life, and the happily ever afters just waiting to happen.
***
Tomorrow: Please join us as Becke Davis offers us her valentine, a lovely feature review of Kristan Higgins' "The Next Best Thing." Grazie, Becke, for hatching the idea for today's event!
***
CONTEST!!! Michelle and Becke want to share the love! Join us to receive the RBTB newsletter and you could be the lucky winner of the "LOVE" bag chock full 'o books and other goodies! PLUS, the 10th person who signs up wins a $10 Barnes&Noble gift card!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feature Review: "My Zombie Valentine," By MacAlister, Fox, Mancusi, Cach

By Amy Kennedy, RBTB Contributing Editor

When I was a kid, Valentine’s Day in elementary school meant heartbreak, ‘cause it was never a given that I’d get a card from the boy I liked. I always liked someone who didn’t like me. Oh, they liked me, they just didn’t like me, like me. Rats.

I realized after reading the last story in “My Zombie Valentine,” all the men in these stories – hunks, every last one of them – fall in love first, and then make it their mission to convince their ladies to love them back.


Ysabelle Raliegh’s a zombie counselor and a tutor in her spare time, in Katie MacAlister’s hysterically hot “Bring Out Your Dead.” On her way to a tutoring gig, Ysabelle runs into and falls onto Sebastian, tall, dark, and a definite stranger. They share a passionate kiss until she remembers she doesn’t know him and bolts. Once Ysabelle reaches her student’s house, who walks in but Sebastian, surprised to see her, yet ready to kill the kid’s father.


Sebastian, a disgruntled vampire, seeks the father of Ysabelle’s student. He’s waging a vendetta against the man responsible for turning him. He’s happy to find Ysabelle, his “beloved,” and once they ‘join’ not only will he reclaim his soul but also exact his revenge. Sebastian may be hot, but, Ysabelle wants nothing to do with vengeance. Now Sebastian must decide which means more: getting even or winning his beloved?

Angie Fox’s “Gentlemen Prefer Voodoo,” gives new meaning to the phrase: Beware what you wish. Tired of waiting for Mr. Right, Voodoo practitioner Amie Baptiste takes love matters into her own hands and concocts a spell to attract her soul-mate. She never expects his previous address to be St. Louis Cemetery Number One. And while Dante Montenegro may be a fine looking zombie, he has only three days to convince Amie he really is the love of her life or it’s back to the grave for eternity.

Marianne Mancusi’s “Zombie Confidential,” is a veritable feast of tongue-in-cheek jokes, and a perfect girl-next-door-gets-the-movie-star story. Make-up artist Scarlett Patterson can’t believe her luck in landing a job on the location of a movie starring Mason Marks. Too bad there’s some bad luck involved also. Sure, Mason flirts with her, but she’s a nobody, her best friend is missing and the extras are staying in “zombie” character way too long. Mason thinks he’s never seen anyone as beautiful or as sweet as Scarlett. As the zombie extras wreak havoc, Mason thinks if he can save the day for real, he can win her love.

In Lisa Cach’s sexy and surprisingly thought-provoking “Every Part of You,” we meet Angelica Sequiera and Tom Haggerty in a noted plastic surgeon’s waiting room. While Tom stuns Angelica with his matter-of-fact comments, like: Seems like no one in L.A. can appreciate a nice little pair of half cuppers like Angelica’s, she can’t help but be attracted to his surfer-boy good looks, even though she finds him nothing more than a dumb jock.

Turns out Tom can’t stop thinking about Angelica , and they end up on a date where he proves not only he’s way more than a pretty face, but also that he likes her just the way she is. But since her visit to the plastic surgeon, Angelica’s noticed something weird going on with her face – and some insatiable cravings.

Apparently all the surgeon’s patients are acting like Angelica, and soon she and Tom race against time to find a cure for this new kind of zombie she’s become – craving caandyyyy, instead of braaaainssss.

“My Zombie Valentine” is funny and satisfying. Each author has her own brand of humor and uses it well. I think we could all use a laugh this Valentine’s Day, so get yours when you --
Buy the book.

These women got their hearts' desires, even if they didn’t know those are what they wanted. But what I want to know is: What’s the worst Valentine’s card or present you ever received? – and -- Who do you wish would give you a Valentine – or wish would have given you one in the past?
___

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Rekaya Gibson GuestBlog: The Romance of Food

CONTEST !!! 1 Randomly Chsn Cmmntr wins a copy of Rekaya's "The Food Temptress!" Pls have your email available in comment or blogger accnt to enter.

From Michelle:
I e-met Rekaya Gibson when she became involved in TEAM RBTB @ Brenda Novak's Online Auction for Diabetes. Since then, she's become a Bella, and this author of the upcoming "The Food Seductress" came to mind immediately when I was looking for someone to get us all riled up and thinking about the sensuality, romanticism and plain good sexy fun of food. Please offer her your sultriest, "Chocolate and I have become rather close" Bella buongiorno...

From Rekaya: Hi Bellas! Do you remember the first time you met a smooth chocolate cake? Your eyes widened; your lips moistened; and your heart pounded. All you managed to say was “Oh!”

When was the last time you felt that way about your mate? A nice dessert will do it to you every time. You don’t even have to taste it first. You can simply imagine what it would feel like touching your tongue.


If you have ever experienced this, then it is more likely than not that you have experienced the romance of food. Sure, it nourishes the body and mind, but it also plays on our five senses and emotions. For example, the scent of cinnamon and sage during the holidays make you feel safe and warm no matter if you are at home or at someone else’s house. You give the pumpkin pie and the turkey your undivided attention no matter what – I know I do.

When you pull those homemade biscuits out the oven, you quickly place them on a plate. What is the first thing that you do? You feel them. Their hot, soft, and round bodies excite you. Before you know it, you are having an unhealthy relationship with the dough man!

Try dangling steak, gravy, and potatoes in front of a man. He will follow you to the ends of the earth just to get a taste. The grin on his face takes him some place special. Perhaps the love that goes into preparing meals transmits pheromones to the souls of its diner – you never know.

Don’t get me wrong, the romance of food will let you down. Your unconditional love will fall by the waist side – literally. The crunch of your favorite chips will fade over time. Then you will end up writing romance novels about food!

Have you experienced the romance of food? If so, what food did you carry on a love affair with? Is it over or are you still in a relationship?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Feature Review: "Provocative in Pearls," By Madeline Hunter

By Melanie Murray, RBTB Correspondent

Historical romance heroines come with a variety of faults: excessive naiveté, outrageous independence, lack of acceptable breeding. It isn’t every day you read about a heroine who is too practical.

Now, sometimes practicality can cause one to take a rash action. Like, say, arranging for it to look like you’ve died only hours after taking wedding vows. But what else can an untitled, not-yet-of-age woman do after she’s forced into a marriage she knows will fail?

That’s the central story in Madeline Hunter’s “Provocative in Pearls.” Hunter’s protagonists are two people who have allowed logic to lead them into a messy situation, and, lucky for us, only passion, emotion, and a few extorted kisses will lead them out of it. The result is a beguiling blend of sensuality and angst.

Verity Thompson grew up knowing her future. She’d marry a man who could take over her father’s ironworks and live happily in her hometown. But her father died suddenly, leaving Verity in the care of a greedy, abusive cousin who conspired to marry her off to a poor peer.

Taking matters into her own hands, Verity ran away on her wedding day, leaving behind evidence that she had drowned. She has been in hiding ever since, with plans to reenter the world after her twenty-first birthday to petition for an annulment and take back control of her father’s business from her cousin.

Grayson, Earl of Hawkeswell has been living in a terrible limbo since his bride disappeared. Not only have the funds promised upon his marriage been tied up in legalities, making it impossible for him to care for his family and tenants, but he has been a favorite topic of gossip. When he discovers Verity completely by chance, he is overjoyed that this terrible situation will finally be set to rights.

Except Verity is not willing to live as his wife, and she is no longer the meek girl he wed. She is strong, clever, articulate, and fiercely attached to her independence. Hawkeswell is equally adamant that they will stay together, and he’s shocked to realize that this is not just because of her wealth. The truth is that he is instantly and thoroughly attracted to her.

He aims to seduce her, demanding three kisses a day while they are married. Verity has never felt desire before, and she forgets herself in the face of Hawkeswell’s handsome face, maddening caresses, and domineering masculinity. Yet Verity firmly believes that a man such as this would never let her live the life she was meant to, while Hawkeswell is frustrated by his young wife’s refusal to give in to her feelings and submit to his authority.

Hunter weaves a tale where the characters’ sense of duty is in conflict with their passion, where their heads are at war with their hearts. Despite their feelings for each other, Verity and Hawkeswell truly want different things from their lives, and the resulting love story is all the more rich and moving because of this. You'll wonder how in the world these two people can overcome what’s standing in their way as a couple.

So, want to know if Verity and Hawkeswell will live happily ever after? To find out if they do, you’ll have to --


Buy the Book.

What are your favorite romances where the hero and heroine are married but not in love? And why do think it’s so darned romantic to read about a wife and husband who fall for each other?
***
Get Set for Valentine's Day with RBTB Team & Friends:

Tomorrow: Feel the Love; Feel the Food as "The Food Temptress" author Rekaya Gibson treats us to a funny/sexy tribute to the Romance of Food, one we all can relate to w/ a smile. Win a copy of Rekaya's read.
Wednesday: Zombie cuisine may not be as romantic as Rekaya's, but Amy Kennedy's got the deets on kinder/gentler zombie fare from "My Zombie Valentine."
Friday: If you read one romance to get you in the Love-Day mood, Becke Davis tells you why Kristan Higgins' "The Next Best Thing" is the one to choose. Win a copy of the book!

Friday, February 05, 2010

The AuthorView: Patricia McLinn

As we gear up for the 2010 Winter Olympics, sports reporter turned romance novelist Patricia McLinn dishes to Becke Davis about the beauty of the event, the role of pets in our lives and going for the gold with the re-release of her taut, fast-paced tale of the top athletes who live for “The Games.”

Becke Davis: What do you like most about your behind-the-scenes Olympic romance, “The Games?”

Patricia McLinn: While I was writing “The Games,” I liked the characters the most – can’t imagine spending that much time with characters I didn’t like a LOT. They’re passionate, determined, dedicated athletes. But holding up those disciplined bodies are very human feet of clay, and that’s what I love about them.

BD: Who or what inspired “The Games?”

PMcL: As a brand new sports writer I covered a skating event with participants from a 5-year-old on up to a heading-for-stardom Scott Hamilton. I asked the 5-year-old about the best part of the event, fully expecting him to say it was skating with Scott Hamilton. The kid looked soulfully up at me and said, “Using the porta-potty.” That might seem like a strange inspiration, but it puts even famous Olympic gold medalists in a human context.

The devotion and discipline required for an athlete to reach the Olympics is far beyond what most people imagine – and it’s required of every single athlete, not only the stars, not only the medalists. But I also realized the training and competing were only the beginning of the story.

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

PMcL: I have to pick two – my parents. Both were raised financially-poor and family-rich. Six months after they married, Dad was called into the Army for WWII. Mom went -- eventually with two babies -- wherever he was posted in the U.S. And she held down the home front while he was deployed in North Africa and Europe, including the Battle of the Bulge. They’ve been married more than 69 years and are people of honor, who raised three kids with emphasis on family, education, responsibility, good sense and humor. That’s heroism in my book.

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

PMcL: What it depends most on is who’s the right guy for the heroine – not a perfect guy, but one who helps/prods/irritates/complements her into being a better person after knowing him than she was before. And vice versa.

What the heroes you describe and my romance hero share is a sense of being comfortable in their own skin, at ease with their own individuality. And a sense of humor that finds my jokes funny sure helps.

BD: What are you up to these days?

PMcL: I’m settling back down after a multi-level life upheaval. Two years ago, when I was president of Novelists, Inc., I left my job at the Washington Post, packed up my long-time home in Virginia and headed to the Midwest to house-hunt, grateful my sister and brother-in-law opened their home to me for several months.

The changes gave me the opportunity to write full-time. My companion in all this and more was my collie Riley – he was the model for “Sin” in "Match Made in Wyoming" and an artist’s rendition of his puppy picture is on the cover. He died 18 months ago at 12 1/2. He is much missed.

I lasted about two-and-a-half months, and adopted another rescue collie I named Kalli – like Riley, a character from "Rodeo Nights." (Photo, right)

I’m working on a humorous western, a short contemporary romance and what I’m calling an ethical suspense. Then there’s a series of historicals in Wyoming, and I’m playing with some mysteries, teaching writing classes and gearing up for the Vancouver Games. The biggest thing is a major project with a number of other authors that will be going public in early 2010 . . . don’t you just love cliff-hangers?

Check out an excerpt from "The Games" here!

***
Dying to get the d.l. on Kresley Cole's new
"Pleasure of a Dark Prince?" Click here.
***
Be Our Valentines next week here in the pink!
Drop in to hang and talk hot reads:

Monday 2.8: Melanie Murray's take on Madeline Hunter's newest
Wednesday: Amy Kennedy brings you "My Zombie Valentine"
Friday: Becke Davis on Kristan Higgins' "Next Best Thing"
___

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Kresley Cole's "Pleasure of a Dark Prince!" Feature

Even as a sane, self-sufficient, contemporary professional woman, you may find it tricky to explain to friends and colleagues why the idea of a guy hunting you down and trailing you because he’s convinced you’re his life mate to guard – and maybe, um, mark as his by aggressively latching on to your neck from behind in a moment of passion – is really flippin’ romantic.

To help them understand the classic appeal of the mating bite, you could give em a copy of Kresley Cole’s much-anticipated “Pleasure of a Dark Prince,” the newest in Cole’s wholly kick-ass, genuinely fun and entirely addictive Immortals After Dark (IAD) series. READ MORE, BELLAS!
***
TOMORROW: The AuthorView returns when Becke Davis chats with Patricia McLinn just in time for the Winter Olympics and the reissue of McLinn's olympic-themed romance, "The Games!"
***
Monday 2.8: Melanie Murray's take on Madeline Hunter's newest
Wednesday: Amy Kennedy brings you "My Zombie Valentine"
Friday: Becke Davis on Kristan Higgins' "Next Best Thing"

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Skin Deep

There’s a trend in romance toward heroines who are imperfect, and who are more “real life” sized. While that’s refreshing, many readers still dig a gorgeous, seemingly “perfect” heroine. But do we lack self-esteem if we dream of being in her pretty place as we read? READ MORE, BELLAS...
***
Dying for Romance?: Every day this month, meet a different top romantic suspense author at BN’s Mystery boards as moderator Becke Davis celebrates Valentine’s Day with a Month of Romantic Suspense! Today: Sharon Sala. Catch up with: J. Crusie/B. Mayer, Jayne Ann Krenz, Suz Brockmann (Valentine's Day!); Hank Phillipi Ryan and more!
__

Monday, February 01, 2010

From Schmear To Modernity

Not everyone agrees, but after much reflection and considerable practical experience, I am of the opinion that one most assuredly can lie supine, read a paperback, and dip Oreo® Double Stufs into icy-cold milk without their glopping to the bottom of the glass, depositing under one’s French manicure, or soiling one’s chaise longue.

If one, in fact, owned a chaise longue. In the same way some folks have flashbacks when assailed by certain scents or sounds, sometimes I’m reminded how much I enjoyed a particular section of a beloved novel by the junk-food smudges schmeared across the page. But with the advent of e-readers... READ MORE, BELLAS!
***
Lori Wilde Winner: lastnerve, you've won a copy of "Sweethearts' Knitting Club" + limited-edition needles. Congratulazione! Thanks to all for visiting for Gannon's and PJ's cyberpal's day. Next month, they've got something hot in store for you!