Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Ciao, Bellas: RBTB Says Arrivederci

Well, OK. Not forever. Just, you know, for the summer.

My kids now are going through their second out-of-state move in less than two years, their third in the last six. And if you’ve got children or nieces/nephews or moved around a lot growing up, you know it can wear on a family’s spirit. So rather than drag my young’ns across state lines, killing myself working while trying to take care of them as well as set up new digs and everything that accompanies relocation, this go-round I’ve decided to take time off to attend to their needs.

Sure, it means putting on hold that cool, final phase of the RBTB project I’ve been telling you about. But last night, hanging out with my kids -- playing Bananagrams here at the hotel where we’ll be staying the next two months until we close on our new house -- I realized they don’t just need more of my time since my husband, aka Male Perspective Guy, is on the road so much. I need a little more time with them; I’m looking forward to upping my daily simple, silly pleasure quotient.

Knowing how greatly I value being alive – remember, we just celebrated National Transplantation/Organ Donation Awareness Month – you’d think I’d make every day count. But sometimes even I need something to drag me to a screeching halt, to make me slow it down and remember there’ll always be more romances to write about, so there’s no reason not to sit back and do a little nothing but love on my family for awhile. Oh, and I’ll probably send out a newsletter or two.

When fall comes back around, I hope you’ll head back this way, too, as I reach out to you again to spend time dishing on all the great stuff romance books bring to our lives. I surely have loved what they – and you -- have brought to mine since 2005.

Before you head back out to the rest of your day – and enjoy your spring and summer -- you may wanna’ click here to take a listen to Black Sunshine’s powerful “Once In My Life,” my new favorite crank-the-karma tune. See you soon!

Encore! What do I suggest you read this summer? Anna Campbell’s “My Reckless Surrender,” Toni Blake’s “Sugar Creek ,” Julianne MacLean’s “The Mistress Diaries,” Mary Balogh’s “A Secret Affair,” Lori Handeland’s “Chaos Bites,” Michele Hauf’s “Her Vampire Husband,” Annie West’s “Forgotten Mistress, Secret Love-Child,” Kaki Warner’s “Open Country,” Lori Foster, et al benefit anthologyThe Gift of Love.”
Encore due! Si! I will be watching Italia spank everyone in sight at the FIFA World Cup from South Africa. Azzurri Rules! But, sadly, I think Canna, he will not play…
Encore tre! Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Vanessa Kelly GuestBlog: It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

Danny, you've won a copy of Vanessa Kelly's "Sex And The Single Earl!" You'll be receiving an email soon w/more info! Congratulatzione, and thanks everyone for your great discussion today! SATSE is one of Michelle's picks for Historicals Not To Be Missed in '10!

I’m so thrilled to be celebrating the release of my latest Regency-set historical romance with Michelle and the Bellas. “Sex And The Single Earl” is a sexy, fun read with a beautiful setting -- the ultra-elegant resort town of Bath, England. Sounds like a bit of a romp, doesn’t it? Well, in part, but my characters experience their own dark and stormy night, and it’s touch and go as to whether they’ll survive it. But, hey, it is a romance, so eventually all will be well. And thank God for that, because who wants to see the heroine and hero go to hell and back only to be robbed of a well-deserved HEA? Not the readers of romance, that’s for sure!

Knowing that readers crave happy endings, why, then, do more and more romance writers seem to be penning such dark stories? Ones filled with pain and suffering that push the protagonists to their limits? What purpose can it possibly serve to put readers through the emotionally vicarious torments of the hero and heroine? I have a few thoughts about that.

Because darker stories allow us to explore forbidden, even dangerous emotions. We live in a politically correct culture where so many judgments -- positive and negative -- are attached to feelings. Reading dangerous romance helps us to understand emotions that can be unsettling, but which ultimately enrich our psychic landscapes. Sometimes it’s good to push the envelope!

Because it’s sexy. Romances that push the envelope can be very sexy, allowing us to explore fantasies that others might frown upon (see political correctness in preceding paragraph). Michelle has written about this on more than one occasion -- much more eloquently than I could -- so I’d love it if she weighs in.

Because it’s fun. Like riding a really scary roller coaster or doing those things that mom told us never to do, reading dark and edgy romances can be a thrill. There’s nothing like a good Karen Rose romantic suspense, for instance, to keep you awake at night, with heart pounding and your interest totally engaged. You forget everything in the thrill of the chase, or the terror of knowing a really, really bad guy is about to kidnap our heroine. How will she overcome her nemesis and restore the balance of justice? We’re with her every step of the way.

Because it gives us hope. This is the brass ring. Life these days can be pretty tough, and it seems that inspiring role models are few and far between. But romance writers are a wise and compassionate bunch, and they have the ability to craft heart-felt stories that bring us through the storm and into the light. Sure, sometimes the plots can seem very dramatic, but that’s how we tap into those deeper emotions which lead us to those a-ha! moments that make reading such a worthwhile endeavor. In Anna Campbell’s last book, “Captive of Sin,” for instance, her hero is a much-abused soldier, suffering from what we now call PTSD. His path through torment to healing -- and the heroine’s abiding faith in him -- makes for a highly emotional, truly satisfying read. These kinds of stories provide hope that redemption is possible, if we will only be brave enough to open our hearts to love and keep our eyes steadfastly fixed on what is good in the world.

In “Sex And The Single Earl,” my heroine, Sophie, is a wealthy young woman who comes from a sheltered background. Simon, the man she loves, wants to keep her that way, but that just isn’t possible -- or even desirable. Sophie and Simon will confront some very harsh realities. It will bring out the worst and the best in them, forcing them to grow as individuals and as a couple. After all, there’s nothing like the threat of danger, or even death, to clarify how you feel about something. Or, in this case, how my hero and heroine feel about each other.

So, Bellas, how dark do you like your romance? Do you go right to the edge, pushing those dangerous feelings to the limit? How much is too much for you?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Feature Review: "Running Scared," By Shannon K. Butcher

By Amy Kennedy, RBTB Contributing Editor

I like tough guys in romances, big strong men who handle any situation or danger. I especially like it when the big guy falls for the heroine, and it undoes him; not so tough now. But I’m thinking I might like best of all a hero who literally can’t live without her. Kind of ups the tension, and as a placeholder, his need gives me a nice sense of power.

In her gutsy, intense and arousing “Running Scared,” Shannon K. Butcher gifts us with Sentinels, a plethora of hard-edged heroes who guard humanity against the Synestryn, monsters who see humans as cattle. Yet these tough guys’ lives hinge on the love of the right woman; each warrior must find a compatible woman in whom the Sentinal can channel his building energy, a force that transforms into his woman’s magic. If a Sentinel fails to find his woman soon enough, his soul dies.

Sentinel warrior Zach’s been chasing after Lexi Jordan for what seems like forever and, when he finally catches her, she feels to him like the beginning of his salvation. Now all he has to do is convince her he’s not a monster and they’re meant to be together. No easy task, considering she was reared by a mother who taught Lexi the Sentinels were the bad guys. Lexi’s been running from them since she was a little girl.

When the Sentinels kidnap her best friend, Lexi needs a plan, and thanks to the Defenders -- a group of humans out to destroy the Sentinels -- she gets one. She tricks Zach into thinking she’s in trouble, knowing he’ll find her and take her to his compound to brainwash her so she’ll stay with him. But once Lexi’s at the compound, she plans to rescue her friend and blow the place to hell with explosives the Defenders gave her.

It’s a perfect plan – except for her nearly uncontrollable desire for Zach, his unconditional kindness and his willingness to protect her against the Synestryn. Lexi sees the good in Zach, and she wonders: If she’s been wrong about him, might she be wrong about all Sentinals? Doubting everything her mother taught her,, Lexi’s on the brink of fully trusting Zach when he finds out about her plan.

In Lexi, Butcher takes a possibly unsympathetic character and gives us a glimpse of how a person might be good while thinking wrong-minded thoughts. And Butcher’s secondary, ongoing story arcs add intrigue; Butcher hints at coming storylines just enough to make us do happy dances while waiting for – and hoping – the next book in the series is about our new favorite couple. Do your own happy dance after you –

Buy the book.

It’s not always easy liking the “before” Lexi, but we know she’ll come around to the side of Zach and the Sentinels. Who’s the character you loved to hate, and then loved for real?
Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sunday Morning Don't-Forget-To-Daydream Video

VH1 TV Shows Music Videos Celebrity Photos News & Gossip

Dianne Castell Winners: chelleyreads; soft fuzzy sweater; lois

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Feature Review: "Hot Southern Nights," By Dianne Castell

By Becke Davis, RBTB Contributing Editor

Dianne's giving 3 lucky, randomly chosen commenters win copies of her sexy, funny new read, "Hot Southern Nights!" Please have your email addy in your comment or blogger profile to enter.

“Mayhem and Magnolias”

Take it from me, it takes more than being born below the Mason-Dixon Line to make you a Southerner. I was born where the local speech is slow as molasses, but I grew up a fast-talking Yank. What I know of the South, I’ve mainly learned from books. Some authors bring the South to life so clearly I can taste the salt spray from the ocean, smell the magnolias and feel the sweat on my brow. After reading a couple of Dianne Castell’s books, like her I find myself wanting to say, “Butter my butt and call me a biscuit," and "Y’all can call me 'Miss Becke,'” too.

In Castell's new "Hot Southern Nights," Librarian Churchill McKenzie is Southern as sweet tea, but she’s no Scarlett O’Hara; she’s a good girl, or she tries to be. Is it her fault things go wrong whenever she tries to do right? Taking on the New Jersey mob was the right thing to do, because it led her back home to Savannah. And it was right to label Cal Davis a thief after she caught him running from the church where thousands of dollars were missing. But sending Cal to prison for three years was all wrong, and she intends to put that right once and for all. If only Cal weren’t so blamed stubborn, insisting she leave it alone now that he’s free.

Ex-con Cal Davis knows he’ll never be good enough for Churchill McKenzie, who’s smart as a whip and Savannah’s sweetheart to boot. It was pure luck he’d had one amazing night with her, burning up the backseat of his ’67 Mustang with their bare behinds. He tries to leave Churchill alone, but the woman is a magnet for trouble – she might have sent him to jail, but now she’s intent on proving his innocence. If she succeeds, she’ll put herself in danger and the three years he served will all be for nothing.

Dianne Castell’s “Hot Summer Nights” will make you crave moon pies and martinis, two olives, as she spins a honeyed tale of a mismatched couple whose road to romance is paved with mystery, mayhem and a mutual attraction that just won’t quit. A secondary romance offers a riotous primer on How to Be Southern and features a bathroom scene that will make you cry – with laughter. She surrounds Cal and Churchill with a cast of lovably quirky friends and family, a sort of Walton’s Mountain-comes-to-Savannah. “Hot Summer Nights” comes out in early May, but you can read Dianne’s “Hot and Irresistible” while you’re waiting for it. I’m not just whistling “Dixie” when I say you should --

Buy the Book!

Just what is it that makes the South sizzle? Is it the heat that makes roses smell so sweet? The slow, sultry way the natives speak? What about you – are you a Southern belle at heart?
Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nutty Buddy

Later this week, learn all 'bout Friend of Bella -- and one of the most lovely, genuine people I know -- Dianne Castell's sexy/zany new read, "Hot Summer Nights." Becke Davis tells why you'll love the unlikely hero.

But in the meantime, I want to remind you that the Lori Foster-Dianne Castell Reader and Author Get Together is just around the corner, June 4 - 6! This is literally THE -- and I rarely write all caps, Bellas -- conference I'd go to if I only could choose one to spend my hard-earned cash on. Plus, proceeds from awesome basket raffles this year benefit One Way Farm home for abused and abandoned children.

Readers, you'll meet tons of top authors, your online cyberpals and make new reader friends in an atmosphere that's fun enough to make it worth the trip away from home -- yet intimate enough that you get to spend serious elbow-rubbin' time with your faves. And authors can set up sit-downs with top agents and editors, as well as meet an incredibly eager and respectful bunch of readers.

Check out cool vid action with readers and authors at last year's Get Together -- and Stella Cameron giving a book pitch to HQN editor Margo Lipschultz! -- here. But below's a little piece with Dianne in which she gives the inside scoop on what it's like to be best pals with Lori Foster. It's exactly the kind of convo you might end up having with her if you attend the Foster/Castell Get Together June. She's kind of a nut. But in a really, really good way.

Finally! The winners of the Lydia Dare "A Certain Wolfish Charm" Contest are: Catherine Gayle; Shoshana;Eva S; Nicole Z; Drew s; Amanda; Carol L; Gladysmp; Jedisakora; DianaO-E ! Congratulazione, Bellas! Thanks for your patience. You're being contacted for your snail mails now.
Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Feature Review: "She's the One," By Kate Stockham

By Becke Davis, RBTB Contributing Editor

"Size Matters"

Did you know Alaska is the largest state in the nation – twice the size of Texas? It contains twenty-nine volcanos, 100,000 glaciers, 33,904 miles of coastline and its capital, Juneau, can only be reached by air or sea. Alaska has the tallest peak in North America and has the eastern, western, northern most points in the U.S. Everything about the 49th state, once called “Seward’s Folly,” is larger than life and everyone I know who’s been there talks about its majestic beauty in capital letters and exclamation points.

In Kay Stockham’s lyrical ode to the Alaskan wilderness, “She’s the One,” Alexandra Tulane is far from her Tennessee home – and that’s the way she likes it. Her photography work is a good disguise for her secret life as a travel writer, and she’s well prepared for anything Alaska has to offer. What she’s not prepared for is Dylan Bower, a handsome bush pilot hiding behind a Grizzly Adams-type beard; a guy whose wounds make him distrust everything about her. Sparks fly whenever they’re together, but Dylan won’t leave his solitary home and Alex can’t stay.

Dylan’s heart has been encased in ice until Alex’s warmth begins to thaw him, but he can’t let his feelings guide him. Others rely on Dylan – his father is recovering from a heart attack and his young son, Colt, is fragile and withdrawn. He has his own reasons for escaping from the world, reasons he’s not ready to share, no matter how strongly Alex tempts him.

Kay Stockham will have you grinning before the end of page one, chuckling as her heroine later “pokes the bear,” and by the time you’re halfway through the book you’ll be planning an Alaskan vacation. “She’s the One” is a love affair on two levels – it’s a romance between a self-sufficient heroine with wanderlust and an outdoorsman hero who gives so much he doesn’t know how to take what he wants. But it’s also a love affair with a simple way of life that’s lost to most of us. If you read for escape, you’ll get double your money when you --

Buy the Book!

What is it about those huntin’ and fishin’ outdoorsmen that appeals to us, even though they seem able to survive perfectly well without women in their life? Or is that the attraction – the challenge they offer in both romance and real life?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Miss Information

Oh, it’s lovely to be back from Spring Staycation! And what better way to return after two weeks of frolicking among daffodils and gnawing the heads off tiny marshmallow peeps than to celebrate National Organ/Tissue Donor Awareness Month or, as I and others who cherish every extra moment we live and breathe because someone else had the courage to front us some organ or tissue like to call it:

National Donate Life Month.

A year before the pic on the left of my oldest brother and I was taken at the 1990 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, I wasn't thinking swimsuit competitions and scholarship. In Sept '88, Stan and I were seven months out from the day he gave up one of his kidneys so I wouldn't die, so I could live, finish college, fall in love and marry, one day give birth, stumble across romance novels...mostly, so I simply had a chance to survive past my early 20s.

Compared to "the gift of life," the fact that a year after my kidney transplant I ended up winning Miss PA, earning Top 10
honors at Miss A (See video below), scored more than $20,000 in scholarship to finish the degree waylaid by kidney disease, got NY Times praise on my talent-competition aria (photo, right) and wore the crown may seem fairly incidental. That I my year-of-service as Miss PA allowed me to travel the country spreading the gospel of organ donation and transplantation is not.

For in doing that as Miss PA and for the next couple years as a "celebrity professional patient" and motivational speaker, I didn't just encourage tens of thousands of folks to sign organ-donor cards and share with their families their choices as I hope you'll do today here. I cried and sometimes laughed with parents whose children's organs saved lives of other adults so those men and women could live to watch their own kids grow up.
I heard the news that people awaiting transplantation, with kidney disease or on dialysis whom I'd met on my travels had received the organs they'd long awaited. Folks with donor cards proudly waved them at me from audiences, passing cars and at conferences -- and wrote to tell me how mine and my brother's story encouraged them and their families to sign donor cards. And hundreds of transplant recipients and I connected and supported one another in exactly the same ways veterans of wars do.

I'd gladly live through again and again the worst days of pain or illness following my transplant -- when I contracted a funky virus and had weeks of debilitating, high-grade fevers, when I dealt with depression, lost my hair or later have had issues with sepsis, etc. -- simply to be alive today. I've known folks who couldn't get an organ when they needed one or whose transplants failed. Yet here I am, 22 years post transplant with a beautifully functioning kidney, perfect health and excellent prognosis for keeping the organ for a long time to come. Believe me, I never for a second forget my good fortune and blessings; that's why I live and do things the way I do.

So please take a second to think about signing an organ donor card, then tell your loved ones about your choice. If you've got yours already, grazie! Thank you so much! Myths abound about donation and transplantation -- like after surgery you'll automatically grow big hair and crave watching "Little Miss Sunshine" over and over -- but you can check out the facts here.

Why are you glad to be alive on this very day? And, how big was your hair in 1989?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hey, Peeps! RBTB's On Spring Staycation! Win!

In the spring, a romance lover's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of young men.

Michelle here, and let me tell you, this chick's ready for some sunshine, flowers and naughty goins on among the characters of the great new romances lined up on my to-be-read piles. I've got them neatly stashed where folks touring our on-the-market home can't see them! Oh, not because I'm ashamed of them. But in "staging" my home, I'm attempting to give the impression my house regularly is neither unkempt nor decorated with anything but artfully displayed hard-bound novels, sans dust jackets. Makes me feel a little like those silly aristocrats in historicals who buy books by the pound to fill their libraries.

For the next week, those of us here in the pink'll be spending time relaxing, doing a little business gettin' ready for the next phase of RBTB -- register for the quickie newsletter here, please, to stay utd on deets -- reading a lot of great new romance and trying to catch those first signs that spring is here to stay. In the meantime, you can check in to say hi and WIN, 'cause one randomly chosen commenter wins a Jenny Crusie 3-Pack: Hot new reissues of "Tell Me Lies" and "Crazy for You," plus her new wild read w/ wild-man Bob Mayer, "Wild Ride."
You know the drill; have email available in comment or blogger profile to enter, please. Non-US resident w/in BookDepository delivery area chosen wins up to $10 book from BD.

Spring Housekeeping: Winner of "To Sin w/A Scoundrel" from Cara Elliott: deb. Winners of Lydia Dare books tba/notified soon. If you're waiting for another prize, please write michelle @ mbuonfiglio@rbthebook.com.

What says "springtime" to you like nothing else? What types of romances get you in a springtime mood? What spring releases can't you do without?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cara Elliott GuestBlog: Those Who Can Teach, Learn

CONTEST TODAY!!! One randomly chosen commenter wins a copy of Cara Elliott's marvelous debut "To Sin With A Scoundrel!" Pls have your email address available in your comment or blogger profile to enter.

From Cara: Elliott here, feeling absolutely delighted that Michelle invited me to stop by to chat with the Bellas about books! As some of you may know, I’ve been doing a lot of talking about romance novels this spring, as fellow author Lauren Willig and I have been teaching a undergrad seminar at Yale on the Regency Historicals. (You all heard about it here first from Michelle in December)!

Well, in addition to talking, I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking, and lot of listening. To prepare for each class, Lauren and I draft up a worksheet or the book assigned, with detailed questions about characterization, plot. POV (Point of View) and style, designed to provoke student discussion. It’s been such a fascinating learning process for me to re-read books I’ve enjoyed just for “fun,” for now I have to step back and look at them from a different perspective. Analyzing the elements of a story, as well as the historical trajectory of the genre as a whole, has made me see so many new nuances of voice and style.

But even more fun has been listening to eighteen college students discuss romance novels. For two hours, they engage in a spirited debate about the elements that create a compelling book, talking about such things as what makes a great hero or heroine, how does an author ignites emotional “chemistry”, and all the ways in which love is portrayed. As you can imagine, the opinions are . . . inspiring, especially for an author like me. They are fresh, funny, original -- and sometimes unexpected. The energy and enthusiasm just lights up the room! (BTW, we meet in a wonderful wood-paneled seminar room, with fabulous stained glass windows—here’s one of them, left). I come out of class smiling, feeling that I’ve learned as much as my students.

So what about you, Bellas? What do you like about sitting around with fellow romance readers and discussing what works and doesn’t work for you in a story? In our class, we’ve had the most fun in talking about the characters. Do you like Alphas or Beta heroes? Or a mix of the two? How about heroines -- do you prefer a hellion hoyden or a lady who keeps her talents under wraps?
Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Feature Review: "His Darkest Hunger," By Juliana Stone

By Gannon Carr and PJ Ausdenmore, RBTB Correspondents

Have you ever seen a man who moves with the predatory grace of a sleek jungle cat? We’ve never been fortunate enough to see such a sight in person, but Jaxon Castille is just such a man...and a jaguar shifter to boot. PJ and I were lucky to have read a gripping debut novel this month, “His Darkest Hunger” by Juliana Stone. Jaxon has been plotting his revenge against his former lover, Libby Jamieson for three long years. When the time comes for him to pull the trigger, he realizes he can't do it without confronting her first. But when he comes face to face with Libby, he finds that she’s not the same woman he once knew.

PJ: Stone had me hooked from the first few pages of this book. I was stunned when I realized that Jaxon’s target, the person who had betrayed their anti-terrorist team and caused the death of his cousin, was his former lover. I could understand his pain and rage, his need for revenge, but my heart about stopped when he raised the gun and I realized that he was going to kill Libby...and then started again when he changed his mind -- the first time he had ever disobeyed a direct order. As you said, Gannon, Libby has changed dramatically. She’s no longer the strong, vital woman Jaxon once knew. Even more shocking is the fact that she has no idea who Jaxon is -- or who she was -- but she’s about to find out more than she could have imagined when someone tries to kill both her and Jaxon!

Gannon: Talk about starting a story off with a bang! Instead of getting rid of Libby himself, Jaxon protects her from a sniper’s bullet and realizes he’s become a target himself. Suddenly, the hunter has become the hunted. Despite the fact that Libby doesn’t remember anything about her past and she’s sick and emaciated, Jaxon is not letting her off the hook for her role in his cousin’s murder. But now they’re literally running for their lives, and the safest place for them to go is Jaxon’s compound, where he and his fellow team members can discover the identity of his attacker. But his biggest fight is controlling the attraction he still feels for Libby. And, boy, does that piss him off!

PJ: Does it ever! By this point in the story, the sexual intensity and his internal battle between hatred and desire are spiraling out of control. Add in the bad guys, who are determined to kill them all, and the action escalates to a boiling point. But that’s nothing compared to what happens when Libby begins to regain her memory!

Gannon: You said it, PJ! Once Libby’s memory kicks in, she goes from frail and damaged to kick-butt with a vengeance. If you want to know who the bad guy is -- and he’s very, very bad -- and if Libby and Jaxon get their HEA, you’ll have to --

Buy the book!

If you thought that someone you loved had betrayed you, what would make you willing to give them a second chance?
Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!
Tomorrow: Cara Elliott -- debut author and half of the classy Yale romance class teachin' team you read about here first -- visits RBTB to chat! Make sure to check out her "To Sin With A Scoundrel!" It's getting lots of great praise!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Feature Review: "The Officer's Girl," by Leigh Duncan

By Becke Davis, RBTB Contributing Editor

“Taken by Storm”

When my daughter moved to Orlando, I insisted she buy a camping lantern and keep plenty of bottled water on hand – not to mention duct tape to criss-cross the window glass – in preparation for all the hurricanes I felt sure she’d have to endure. Orlando is pretty far inland, and hurricanes have only come close twice in the five years she’s lived there. At nearby Cocoa Beach, her favorite spot to get sunburned, it’s a different story.

Like my daughter, Stephanie Bryant, the heroine of Leigh Duncan’s sweet-and-sultry upcoming release, “The Officer’s Girl,” is an Ohio native transplanted to Florida. Her realtor, eager for a sale, has slightly exaggerated the safety of living on a barrier island, so Stephanie mistakenly thinks she is safe when storm clouds roll in. She worked hard for the promotion that brought her to Cocoa Beach, and endured a makeover to give her a look of authority. No way is she going to let a little wind and rain make her late for her first day at her new job.

Officer Brett Lincoln is doing a final pass through town to make sure no clueless tourists try to ride out the fast-approaching hurricane when he spots a pint-sized dynamo blithely stacking moving boxes outside her ocean-front house. He insists she must evacuate, but the expensively dressed “me-me” type – who reminds him of his self-centered ex-girlfriend – cops an attitude. What choice does he have but to slap on the cuffs? The woman is hot as blazes, but the last thing Brett wants is to connect with another woman whose whole focus is her career.

Leigh Duncan gives the term “beach read” a whole new meaning when she shows us Cocoa Beach as a cozy small town and not just a spring break destination. She makes you feel the sultry Florida heat, but the story – true to the Harlequin American Romance style – is heartwarming, sexy and sweet rather than steamy and graphically erotic. Whether you read this at the beach or in your living room . . .

Buy the Book!

Watch for “The Officer’s Girl,” winner of the 2007 Golden Rose Contest for Short Contemporary Fiction, in early April, 2010. In the meantime, let’s talk cops and cuffs – why are they so hot? Are you a fan of romances where the hero wears a badge and a gun?


Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!


Thursday: PJ Ausdenmore and Gannon Carr invite you to join them here as these darlings from TheRomanceDish.com show us the mysterious, sexy side of "His Darkest Hunger," byJuliana Stone.

Friday: Cara Elliott -- debut author and half of the classy Yale romance class teachin' team you read about here first -- visits RBTB to chat! Her "To Sin With A Scoundrel" is getting lots of great praise! I've just started it, and I can see why...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Feature Review: "If You Were My Man," By Francis Ray

By Tracy Montoya, RBTB Contributing Editor

When beloved author Francis Ray first approached me to request a feature review, it was for her 2009 release, “And Mistress Makes Three.” I have to confess, her e-mail was so adorable, it kind of cracked me up. She wrote, “[The book] might have a risqué title, but the main characters are good, moral people, as are all my main characters in my romances.”

Sadly, I was in the middle of a cross-country move, and by the time I was ready to open that book, Ray had another romance ready to hit the shelves. So I ended up reading “If You Were My Man” instead, leaving my curiosity about the mistress as yet unsated. But I definitely can’t say I was disappointed – “If You Were My Man” is a beautifully written, emotion-driven page-turner, featuring a hero and heroine who feel like your best friends.

Police hostage negotiator Rafael Dunlap has a reputation among his colleagues as a ladies’ man. And true to form, when a group of officers decides to relax together at the upscale seafood restaurant Fontaine, Rafael’s wandering eye zeroes in on its elegant, accomplished owner, Nathalyia Fontaine.

Obviously relying on his devastatingly handsome looks, Rafael tries a line on her that’s just a slight improvement on, “Hey, baby, what’s your sign?” (The scene where Nathalyia takes his considerable ego down a notch had me doing a little cheer in my seat. Which happened to be on an airplane -- always embarrassing). Widowed three years earlier, Nathalyia has her hands full ensuring the continuing success of her late husband’s restaurant, and she simply doesn’t have time to waste on a Casanova-type.

But underneath that touch of swagger, Rafael is pure gentleman -- the kind who stands when a woman enters the room, plans swoon-worthy dates worthy of an episode of “The Bachelor,” and has a heroic selflessness that makes him exactly who you’d want serving and protecting you. He’s also persistent, thankfully, so Nathalyia gets to learn this firsthand. When she watches the aftermath of one of his hostage negotiations on TV, she realizes that life is too short not to take a chance on such a good man.

But Rafael has his flaws, and one threatens to derail their promising relationship. His job is dangerous, and thanks to some family-related emotional baggage, he’s determined never to put someone in the position of loving him and losing him to violence. In one of his more boneheaded moments, (sorry, guys, you know you have them), he tells Nathalyia outright that their time together isn’t forever.

Although Nathalyia decides at first that a little time with Rafael is better than none at all, she soon shifts gears after receiving a life-changing shock. Though it’s even more painful than losing her first husband, she chooses to walk away, aided by her manipulative sister, who’s always tried to sabotage Nathalyia’s happiness out of jealousy.

The question of whether these two stubborn souls will overcome their very real flaws and have their happily-ever-after kept me reading into the wee hours -- and given the guaranteed upbeat ending in romance, that’s an accomplishment indeed. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a contemporary romance author I’d pit against the divine Francis Ray.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, while Ray’s characters may be “good, moral people,” that doesn’t make them annoyingly perfect or repressed. I love that theme in Ray’s work -- steamy love scenes included – which conveys you can be a person of good character and still fully embrace your sexuality.

One thing I didn’t have room to mention was the charming subplot/secondary romance between a Fontaine waitress and bartender. Have you read a romance lately with a really good subplot? And what turns you off when it comes to subplots?
Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!
Monday: Becke Davis brings you the delish deets on Leigh Duncan's "The Officer's Girl." Yes. Apparently handcuffs are involved.
Thursday: PJ Ausdenmore and Gannon Carr invite you to join them here as these darlings from TheRomanceDish.com show us the mysterious, sexy side of "His Darkest Hunger," by Juliana Stone.
Friday: Cara Elliott -- debut author and half of the classy Yale romance class teachin' team you read about here first -- visits RBTB to chat! Her "To Sin With A Scoundrel" is getting lots of great praise! I've just started it, and I can see why...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lydia Dare GuestBlog: 2 For 1 -- Or -- My Shocking Secret Revealed Here First!

CONTEST TODAY!!! 10 randomly chosen commenters win copies of Lydia’s “A Certain Wolfish Charm!” Pls have email in comment or avail in blogger accnt to enter.

From Lydia: Psst! Have we got a secret for you! That’s right, we said we. Allow us to introduce ourselves. I’m Lydia Dare, and well…she’s Lydia Dare too. There are two of us that make of the writing team of Lydia Dare – Jodie and Tammy or Tammy and Jodie.* (We’d hate for one of us to get top billing over the other).

Our first book, "A Certain Wolfish Charm," hits shelves April 6th. It’s set in a world that combines the elegance and refinement of Regency England with that of mysterious and secretive Lycans -- Or werewolves for you non-paranormal readers. At first glance these two worlds are vastly different, which was why it took two of us. Neither of us could have created this world without the other one.

You see, Jodie pretty much lives in the nineteenth century and can quote more truths about the Regency Era than an encyclopedia. And Tammy lives in a world where alpha-beast howl at the moon or bite their lady-love, in the most pleasurable and hottest ways of course.

But together, well, together we can combine our strengths and create something that is truly magical. At least it is for us when we write together, and we hope it’s magical for readers as well. The two of us have been friends for a few years and when we decided to embark on this quest together, neither of us was quite sure it was going to be successful. But we had nothing lose and a lot to gain.

It has been quite the journey. There is something special in having a partner to share this wonderful experience – from The Call, to the editorial notes, to the line edits, to the… ok, most of this is wonderful and some a little painful. But even in that, it’s reassuring to know that when you want to pull your hair out and cry, your writing partner is right there beside you, experiencing the same things.

Honestly, that’s about all we have in common, however. We are vastly different people with very different lives. How we are able to make this work is as much a mystery to us as it is to everyone who knows us. Yet it does somehow work. A "Certain Wolfish Charm" is only the first in our back-to-back-to-back trilogy chronicling The Westfield Wolves. And we are currently working on four more books that start up where the Westfield brothers leave off.

How about you? Have you ever thought of pairing up with a friend to create something, a bit out of each of your comfort zones? And if so, was it magical? Or a mess?

*Jodie Pearson and Tammy Falkner
Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Art Of The Sale

TODAY, Monday, March 15, I’m visiting RomanceUniversity.org to teach Media Kits 101!

Even if you’re not a romance author, please join us to learn about collecting/creating stuff for a media kit that helps you sell your product, whatever that might be. And I’ll give you a little perspective on how and when to use your digital- or hard-copy media kit.

The rest of the week is really wild fun! Wednesday, meet Lydia Dare, author of a wild new back2back series that begins with "A Certain Wolfish Charm." Lydia's got a double-secret-insiders-only bit of scoopy dish for you!

Friday, RBTB Contributing Editor Tracy Montoya's got another great read to start your weekend right!

In addition to this fun, I'll be enjoying more tedious hours of packing and "staging" as we put our house on the market in a little over a week. Yikers.

Now, if you've ever sold a home, you know the experience runs the gamut from ridiculously tedious to majorly frustrating. This being the third time we've in six years, we should really know the drill. But in this market, who knows what's gonna do the trick of moving a home.

Some folks say we should bury a statue of St Joseph in the yard, because it always miraculously speeds up the sale process. But nobody can quite agree the orientation at interment. Head up. Definitely. No, rather he's supposed to be buried near the For Sale sign, feet to the sky. Or is that feet facing the front door...

At least it's not like the old, old days, when folks buried a cat under the threshold for good luck. Although that would solve the problem of what to do with the ornery, 16-pound Sophia when potential buyers walk through.

One of the hardest parts about moving is culling and packing books. It seems that after a couple years, the "keepers" I thought two years earlier I needed so I could read them into my dotage, aren't as alluring. And that's sad; I want to box em' all. But that's not possible.

So I'm wondering, when you've moved, how did you decide which books to pack, and which to hand off to others? And what's your take on the St. Joe orientation? What other tricks have you heard are sure to sell a home?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dead. Sexy.

Recently I read an historical romance* in which the still-feisty, aged heroine is telling her spirited, dear-to-her granddaughters of the adventurous life she lived, regaling them with tales from her childhood and adolescence, as well as the tumultuous story of the merry chase she led the gorgeous man who would be her forever love. And a few pages in my heart literally stuttered because I realized the author’d broken romance convention; the heroine’s a widow, and the hero of this “reminiscence” romance now is dead!

We must assume the poor guy lived a long, happy, lusty life with the lovely old gal, for she’s still full of mischief ‘n vinegar. Yet the reality is, he’s toes up when we begin the book. How do I know this? I did the unthinkable: I flipped to the end of the novel.

Now, I really liked this book. And it’s not like we watch the hero die on the page; we simply understand from the grande dame’s later comments. Yet as I mentioned, I was saddened a little that I was going to have to face in black and white what I like to avoid by reading romances.

The device of foreshadowing death of a prominent character isn’t new, it’s simply one not used all that often in romance. It’s a snazzy trick, however, and one of my favorite fiction reads, “Slammerkin,” by Emma Donoghue, uses it as well. My coronary palpitation at the realization I’d be losing a leading protag in that one added to the sense of desperation and hopelessness conveyed in the novel. Still, the burgeoning HEA addict within me – I read it before I’d begun reading romance – was really stirred.

I remember thinking at the time that using foreshadowing in that novel – as well as other devices that add to that kind of maudlin, bleak feel I absorb from a lot of popular women’s fiction – is kind of a cheap way to tug at women’s empathy genes. Pretty condescending when one considers the same criticism sometimes is lobbed at romance-fiction writing.

Some say that the death of any major lovable character in a romance breaks the reader/author HEA contract. Yet I’ve read an old-school novel in which a secondary heroine sort of euthanized her lover when he fell in battle, then killed herself, as well as a romance in which a female warrior-heroine from another novel was reported as having died with honor while in combat. I remember feeling really sad and teary, yet accepted the storytelling “as is.”

Maybe 30 years ago we didn’t need the strict HEA as much as we do today. I know I’ve been more than happy to avoid harsh life’s realities with marvelous romance during the last year’s economic craziness. Yet I’ve got to say that, while it shook me a little, I enjoyed the rattle and roll our matriarch heroine provided in the book I first told you about today.

Maybe we’re ready for a little peek at what comes after “Happily Ever”.

What novels have you read which jolted your HEA comfort zone, yet you found still worked for you? Why do you think older romances might have allowed for a little more tragedy?

*NO SPOILER ALERT: I’m not going to tell you which book I’m discussing because it’s new and I don’t want to spoil plot points. If you think you know which it is, thanks for giving the author the same consideration by not spillin'.
Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Goddess In The Machine

There are times in life to be humble, and others when one wants all the credit due one. This is one of the latter. For I think I deserve a heaping helping of, “Oh, you’re brilliant!” for having the foresight to lure Becke Davis and her extraordinary talent and incomparable enthusiasm over to the Pink Side last year.

For by association today, we at RBTB can bask in Becke’s glory since Becke this weekend was chosen as a contender for top prize in round three of NPR’s Three-Minute Fiction Contest! NPR offers listeners/viewers a photographic prompt, then asks them to submit a 600-word max short story. NPR’s book critic chooses the contenders and winners.

Becke’s story, “Deus Ex Machina” was chosen from more than 3,000 entries, and when you read it you’ll see that Jonathan Railey of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop had this to say about it

“Becke Davis' voice-driven 'Deus Ex Machina' is fun and meta-fictive. It's the literary equivalent of a basket of late night fried mozzarella cheese sticks.”

Now, we all know what cheese sticks are, and, since we’ve read Becke here awhile, you know how tasty her entertaining pieces can be. But are you goin, “Huh? Meta-whative?”

Well, just keep in mind as you read Becke’s short story, that within it her character refers to a literary device called “deus ex machina,” which is – simplistically put -- a kind of cheesy way an author ties up a sticky plot problem with an “out of the blue” character or solution. Because she uses the device later, her story then becomes a work of fiction that refers to a fiction device. That’s the “metafiction,” part, again, put really unsophisticated-like. Becke’s kind of poking fun at the idea of deus ex machina, then herself for using it.

Becke says she loves writing to prompts like the photo in this NPR contest, and recalls an 8th-grade teacher who inspired her love of this style of creative motivation. "It's like the event awhile back where the Romance Bandits wrote vignettes on TheRomanceDish.com," she says, "and asked people to complete them." She won that contest! And, believe it or not, Becke jammed out "Deus Ex Machina" in under an hour, thinking she was just limboing in under the deadline pole.

Becke's kind of a "Goddess in the Machine" 'round here, dropping into RBTB from out the cyberblue and helping to make things more fun along with the new RBTB team. We couldn’t be more proud of her, and are kind of bracing ourselves for when we lose her to her full-time writing career. In the meantime, we’ll look forward to more of her exceptional RBTB posts, short stories like her exclusive for RBTB, “Silver and Gold,” and to her dynamic presence here and elsewhere online.

Did I mention I discovered her?

Chat about Becke's NPR story here! Why do you love/not love the deus ex machina device? Is it ever ok to use? Like, you know, when the parish priest shows up and proves the hero's not a groom, but a duke, and the heroine's first-marriage lines weren't legal and...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Feature Review: "Before I Let You Go," By Angie Daniels

By Tracy Montoya, RBTB Contributing Editor

Get your free 2010 Kimani Hotties Calandar! 12 months of super-sexy, sensual and soulful heroes at your fingertips. Deets below.*

When it comes to books, I’m often drawn to superficialities. I’ve resisted reading romances that my friends have gone gaga over, simply because the hero on the cover has a Russian-figure-skater mullet or the heroine is the grown-up version of the class bully from my elementary school. My book club still hasn’t forgiven me for forcing them to slog their way through an interminable, 500-page funeral dirge of a novel, because when it was my turn I’d chosen a book based solely on its elegantly embossed cover art.

And when I got an envelope full of Kimani Romances this month, it was Angie Daniels’ "Before I Let You Go" that rose to the top of my to-be-reviewed pile. Why? Just LOOK at that man on the cover. Helllooooo, gorgeous.

Fortunately, Daniels is a terrific writer -- once my head cleared, I realized I actually knew this, having read her stuff before -- and the story more than lived up to the “Kimani Hottie” in the picture.

When devoted schoolteacher Kellis Saunders spends a rare night out at Wilmington, Delaware’s hottest new nightclub, Ja’Net, she’s drawn to a handsome stranger she spots walking among the crowd -- so drawn, she barely glances at the NFL football player her sister-in-law points out on the dance floor.

When the man approaches their table, Kellis is stunned to discover he’s actually her old high-school crush, Diamere Redmond, now the owner of Ja’Net. Her sister-in-law has set her up.

While “crush” might seem like a superficial word, there was nothing superficial about the way Kellis felt about Diamere. In high school, he’d been good friends with her brother, Mark, and she’d pined away for the older boy in silence for years, even after they’d all graduated and Mark had joined the military.

But Diamere had never noticed her -- until one night when Mark came home for the holidays and invited him to a family gathering. The way Diamere had looked at and flirted with her had seemed like so much more than friendship. But just a few days later, he’d announced that his girlfriend was pregnant with twins, and they were getting married. With that, Kellis firmly shut the door on her hopes for the two of them.

But now, Kellis learns that Diamere has been divorced for a year. And that fact forces her to confront old feelings that apparently have refused to die. While part of her wants desperately to prove to him that they’re meant to be, the other part is scared to death. Though he starts flirting up a storm the minute he lays eyes on her, he’s quick to point out that he doesn’t want “the emotional attachment that comes with relationships.”

Looking at his nightclub-manager lifestyle -- down to the Hooters-style uniforms on the waitresses -- Kellis has no reason to disbelieve him. He already broke her heart once -- does she really want to give him the opportunity to do it again?

Daniels has an array of strengths in her writers’ arsenal, among them her signature snappy voice, an emotion-driven conflict that sucks the reader in and love scenes so smoking, they’ll scorch your fingers as you turn the pages. If you have a pair of oven mitts handy, then stop admiring the cover and …

Buy the book.

People seem to have strong feelings about reunion romances, either loving or, in the case of a small-but-vocal minority, loathing them. How do you feel about them? I love them! And when choosing a book to read, have you ever let a great cover steer you way, way wrong?
*To score a pdf of the smokin' 2010 Kimani Hotties calendar, shoot your email addy to mbuonfiglio@rbthebook.com. Toss KIMANI HOTTIES in the subject line, please.