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Featured Selections for This Month
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Don’t miss these great reads!
What book (or author) made you a romance reader for life?
I started reading romance novels when I was eleven or twelve, hiding them under my mattress or inside my nightstand so my mom wouldn’t find them (of course, she knew I was reading Stephen King at that point, so I’m not sure why it really mattered, but still). Initially, I read Civil War historicals because that’s what my best friend’s mom had on the bookshelf sitting at the top of their staircase. At Erin’s house, we could read whatever we wanted, and I frequently picked up stories to read at sleepovers (my friend slept much, much later than I did and I preferred to read on my own than to return to my much busier and therefore often louder house).
Soon I moved on to my teenaged sister’s collection. She had a lot of Old Western romances, some Civil War and Revolutionary War-era stuff. I enjoyed the books, but I rarely grew attached to any specific author. All of that changed when my college roommate suggested I read Ravenous by Amanda Quick.
Immediately, I fell in love with Quick’s quirky heroines. I loved that they weren’t the stereotypical eighteen-year-old Regency blushing virgins (although that trope is also fine). They were usually in their mid-to-late 20s. They are all reasonably intelligent. Most of them unusual interests that set them apart in my mind–not just unusual for women of the time, but interests like archeology that are simply not common, period. The plots intrigued me. Best of all, the books had a liberal dose of humor. I’ll never forget the first time I read one of Quick’s absolutely disastrous first-time sex scenes. I loved it. It was so realistic. As soon as I finished it, I went to the public library and checked out every Quick book I could get my hands on.
A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Jayne Anne Krentz at RWA. She was giving away one of her own books and one under her pen name. In asking for the Quick book, I explained how those books spoke to me in college and why I loved them so much. She smiled and told me that a lot of people disliked her books because her heroines were different.
To me, it was reassuring to meet such a successful author and realize that she had many of the same doubts I have. She worried that people wouldn’t like her characters because they were too weird or too smart or too independent. Some people even told her that. But she published the books as she wrote them, and became one of my favorite authors in the process. Now, I’m a fan for life.
Laura Heffernan once broke up with her now-husband during a board game after realizing that he was ahead 96-3. She hasn’t played that particular game since. Her best friend still talks about the Great Uno Card Throwing Incident of 2003. Yet, somehow, Laura insists that she is incredibly gracious whether winning or losing. She lives in the northeast with her husband, new baby, and two furry little beasts. Laura loves connecting with readers. Find her on her website, lauraheffernan.com, Facebook, facebook.com/lauraheffernanbooks, or on Twitter at twitter.com/LH_writes, where she spends far too much time tweeting about reality TV and Canadian chocolate.
Books We Can’t Wait to Share – Staff Picks
Review by Esi
Have you ever read a book so realistic and all-consuming that you start to forget it’s not your actual life?
That’s how I felt when I read Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn. I wanted to hang out with Meg Mackworth and friends, watching movies and sharing secrets. (I would also love to hire Meg to make me a planner that would finally organize my life). Watching Meg’s relationships—romantic and non—unfold over the course of the book felt like visiting with a great friend, the kind who you can go months without talking to, but then you get together and it’s as if no time had passed at all.
Of course, the care and detail taken with the location and descriptions just build on the realism. New York City springs off the page, so be careful if you’re the kind to make impulsive travel plans (or especially if you’re hungry, because there is a falafel description that makes my mouth water even now).
The story of Meg Mackworth, handletterer extraordinaire, and the decision she makes that upends not just her life, but that of buttoned-up, reserved, deeply thoughtful (and extremely handsome) Reid Sutherland, will make you laugh and cry, yes. But it will also make you think, make you dream, make you grateful for the people around you. Visiting the little world Clayborn has created makes it clear how wonderful all of our own little worlds are.
Review by Larissa
You don’t need to be fans of Victoria Laurie’s Psychic Eye or Ghost Hunter Mystery series to enjoy her the first book in her new spin off series starring two fan favorites, Cat Cooper and her best friend Gilley Gillespie!
In COACHED TO DEATH, Cat Cooper finds herself gouged from an unexpected and nasty divorce and decides to settle in the Hamptons for her new career as a business-savvy life coach. But her mean girl neighbor, Heather Holland, is trying to bully Cat out of town. But Cat is the wrong person to try to intimidate, and after a series of petty actions on Heather’s part, the two women have a showdown at Heather’s invite-only luncheon. But when Heather’s dead body turns up next to Cat’s shattered punchbowl, Cat gets pinned as the murderer. With Gilley at her side, Cat must scour chic Hampton boutiques and oceanfront mansions in search of the criminal who framed her.
COACHED TO DEATH is deliciously witty and fun, Cat and Gilley are the two perfect friends to spend time with. Readers will be counting down the days until their next Hamptons adventure.
Reviewed by Esi
Nothing will get you into the holiday spirit like this collection, based around my absolute favorite story concept—being snowed in!
Fern Michaels, our resident holiday expert, delights with her tale of a a radio host who is supposed to be an expert on love, but finds herself feeling more and more lonely. But an adventure in speed dating and an unexpected snow storm may be just what she needs, in “Starry Night”. Tara Sheets brings us the story of Layla Gentry, a woman who has it all, and her nemesis, Sebastian. If there’s one thing I love as much as couples being snowed in, it’s a classic enemy to lovers story, and Tara delivers, in “Mistletoe and Mimosas”. Finally, in Kate Clayborn’s “Missing Christmas” longtime friends and business partners Kristen and Jasper make a trip to New England to finalize a vital deal for their company. But a freak blizzard may be all it takes to show them what they’ve really been missing.
These smart, funny, heartwarming tales are perfect to read while cozied under a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa—picture perfect for the holiday season!
Review by Ann
Attention, fans of Downtown Abbey, The Bletchley Circle, Home Fires – and books like The Alice Network and The Lost Girls of Paris – meet Verity Kent!
Verity is an amazing woman, far ahead of her time. A British wife who ends up working for La Dame Blanche, a real-life intelligence gathering organization in The Great War, Verity may participate in the societal conventions of her time, but she is also an independent thinker, an intrepid spy, and a modern woman by 21st century standards. Her husband, Sidney – whom she thought dead – turns up quite alive, and the two of them sort through these successive shocks in addition to recovering from the psychic ravages and demands of the war.
What’s entertaining and educational about Anna Lee Huber’s Verity Kent mysteries is that they’re anchored by historical fact. In PENNY FOR YOUR SECRETS, the mystery centers on the wreck of the Zebrina, a British cargo ship whose crew mysteriously vanished, and which remains one of The Great War’s still unsolved mysteries.
Huber also drew inspiration from the life of The Duchess of Marlborough, the stunningly beautiful Gladys Spencer-Churchill, who once notoriously brought a pistol to dinner during one of her parties and flippantly threatening to shoot her husband with it. In the book, Lady Rockham is a newlywed who is confused by her marriage’s rules and decorum. The first blushes of romance are gone. The Lady shocks her guests by bringing a pistol to dinner and ponders whether she’s going to fire off one at her husband, Lord Rockham. Then Rockham turns up dead.
Verity finds herself wandering deeper into a thicket of political intrigue: Lord Rockham’s death may be connected to his shipping business. He had lost considerable cargo due to German U-boats in the English Channel and The Atlantic. Why would someone seek revenge over the sinking of a ship if the Germans were to blame? Unless they weren’t? Verity and Sidney are both drawn into the investigation, their strengths and backgrounds and marriage all coming into play as they get dangerously closer to discovering the murderer and the motive.
I love Verity, and you will, too. Until the BBC opts to make a series about her, we have Anna Lee’s books to bring her to life.