Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's Thursday SOMEWHERE, Right?

I'm blaming the heat.

Thursday Thirteen, Ed 14

Something that sort of took me by surprise after I’d been blogging for awhile… is that it’s really a circle of bloggers. I think it’s the rare reader, or at least the minority one, that doesn’t have her own blog. I had this image, originally, of providing this font of knowledge for appreciative readers who just didn’t know WHERE to turn for their next romance fix.

OK, heh, so it’s not quite like that. We all have blogs, we are all voracious readers of both books and other blogs, and we are all avaricious about our reader stats. Turns out there’s a fair amount of behind the scenes type stuff that bloggers may or may not do to make their blogs memorable and manageable. Maybe you saw my earlier posts about Bloggiesta and the hard-working Natasha. There’s also a group at BookBlogs.ning that I belong to where bloggers share tips and advice about improving their blogs.

I found all this to be very inspirational, however I wasn’t able to get nearly everything done that I wanted to during the official “Bloggiesta.” So I’m dedicating this T-13 to my blog to-do list.

1. Content. The part that I care most about for this blog is to have good content, even when I don’t feel like writing. I’m going to try to write one “rainy-day” post each week that I can pull out when work gets crazy or the kids get sick. When I have a nice stash, I’ll start posting them and writing replacements so they don’t get too stale.

2. Guest posting. Something I hadn’t thought too much about, but Natasha’s list included working on getting guest posters to appear regularly, and I really like the idea.

3. Static Content Pages. I’d like to have a good “about me” page, as well as pages that outline my policies (my, doesn’t that sound official?) for accepting submissions, reviews, and giveaways. Blogger doesn’t have a great way to do this, so I need to get creative.

4. Sidebar clean-up. I’ve got quite a bit of stale stuff there that feels cluttery. The new template helped a lot, but there’s more to do.

5. Figure out Feedburner and Technorati.

6. I’m planning to kick off something new here that I’m fancifully calling “Friday Fantasy Feature.” Since this IS a romance blog after all, you may be forgiven for that little trip into the mental gutter you just took – but no, I’m not talking about erotica or THOSE kind of fantasies. I’m talking about the sci-fi/fantasy genre, which I confess occasionally distracts me from romance (though I always return).

7. Submissions to book review sites. I’ve poked around a bit superficially without much luck, but I know they’re out there.

8. Contacts at publishers. I have a couple. I want more. (Don’t we all?)

9. Thinking about joining RWA, even though I’m not an aspiring writer. Seems like a good way to find out about good stuff coming up.

10. Graphics and badges. I want to play around with a small square icon for Alpha Heroes – some people like to put graphics in the sidebars, and I might futz a bit with some T-Thirteen headers to share.

11. Do more blog-hopping. I think I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut. I have my favorite bloggers, to whom I’m very loyal, but there are new ones all the time and I don’t tend to make much effort to find them – and that is definitely MY loss.

12. Related, I want to refresh my blog rolls. There are a bunch that I want to add.

13. Read and comment more at the big sites: AAR, Smart Bitches, Dear Author. I tend to feel a little overwhelmed by the big magazine style sites, but I should get over it. Maybe. OTOH, I rather like the little single-owner blogs; they have an intimacy that I love.

Visit the Thursday Thirteen site here.
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Fire King, by Marjorie M. Liu - Review

The Facts
Title: The Fire King
Release Date: July 28 (eek, I thought I had more time for this review!)
Liu's Site (with a nice meaty excerpt)
ISBN: 08439-5940-1
307 pages

Short Answer
Loved! One of the best in the series.

Tell Me More
OK, but remember, you asked for it.

You know how, when you're on a job interview or at your performance review... or maybe the marriage counselor's office, heh, and they ask you those questions: "What's your greatest strength? And what's your greatest weakness?" and sometimes, the answer is the same thing?

One of the best things about Liu's universe is the endless variety of talents and mythologies she draws from. I think that in this way, she takes more chances than some of the paranormal authors out there who have a more tightly-focused world. And there have been some books that didn't appeal to me that much. This one though, just hit every note exactly right for me.

The World
For the most part, this is a book that answers more of the existing world-building questions rather than raising new ones. It's built on shades of gray and uncertain alliances. What really happened to all those shape-shifters? Previous books have alluded to a far-different-looking pre-history, where creatures of myth and legend were not only real but plentiful and played an equal role with humans when it comes to the question of "who's in charge here, anyway?" Most interesting to me was the absence of the Consortium, which has played the role of the villain in most prior books. Here, Liu introduces fractures within the hierarchy of the shape-shifters, and a new group which occasionally aids the Dirk and Steele team, but more in the spirit of a shared enemy than of a shared moral compass. Teensy spoiler: watch out for the double-cross!.

The Hero
Karr is a chimera, the first of these that we've seen in the series, and the discovery of his kind plays a pivotal role in the world-building. He's among Liu's oldest creatures and has an unnatural immortality, which is a mystery that is unravelled in the course of the book. He's isolated and lonely; heroic but with an undeniably brutal side. Able to shift into lion or dragon form, Liu's heroine finds herself thinking of CS Lewis' Aslan, and the Christ analogy isn't entirely off-base. He's a bit of an unlikely hero, but Liu brings them together, bit by bit. I can't say that Karr is my favorite hero; he's a bit more aloof than suits me, but he suits Soria, which is far more important.

The Heroine
Soria is one of the most interesting heroines you're going to see, ever. Shell-shocked, recovering from a major trauma, attempting to escape the shadowy world of Dirk and Steele and the adventures that she no longer feels up to, she is pulled back into a new mission with little choice. I love the way that Liu feeds us information about Soria-before, and Soria-after her trauma. I was frequently surprised, never bored, and yet the heroine's actions never seem out-of-character, perhaps because so much of the interior story is about her reclaiming and redefining herself.

She's got a don't-let-the-bastards-grind-you-down core (though it's been AWOL for a little while when the story opens) and a grim sense of humor that doesn't quit. This bit made me snort at an unladylike volume:
...given the circumstances, a paper trail seemed like a rather poor idea, right along with using a credit card, or writing her name across the sky with big giant arrows pointed down at her ass.

And when you learn about the trauma? whooee. It will set you back on your heels. Liu delivers a depth of horror with this matter-of-fact style that has you absolutely believing. It's more than a bit creepy that within her sky's-the-limit fantastical universe of magic and myth and super-powers, often the elements that are the most profoundly disturbing are the ones that we can find in true headlines. (My husband, the comic-book fan, reminded me that the major theme in the X-Men series is that the monsters are NOT the mutants.) Soria's character is my favorite part of this book -- the way she triumphs through the strength of will is an utterly gorgeous progression. And Karr's best moment is how he listens to her story, and gives her exactly what she needs. The scene is too long to excerpt here, but it's pitch perfect. Every word, every gesture.

And isn't that one of the purest romantic fantasies? A partner who can give us-- who can be-- exactly what we need?

Other Reviews
I'm seeing lots of articles announcing the release, but not too many reviews. Be sure to leave your link in comments if you have one, or know of one, and I'll add it into the post later.

Michelle Buonfiglio at B(u)y The Book

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sugar Time, by Jane Adams - Review

Finding the Right Label
A "coming of age" story is defined by Robert Harris of as:
A type of novel where the protagonist is initiated into adulthood through knowledge, experience, or both, often by a process of disillusionment. Understanding comes after the dropping of preconceptions, a destruction of a false sense of security, or in some way the loss of innocence.

Now, I don't know who Robert Harris is or whether is any kind of authority, but it seems like a reasonable working definition to me.

So what is the name for books on the other side of adulthood? What comes after the genre romance happily-ever-after, which frequently is marked by a wedding, pregnancy, the beginnings of career super-stardom, or some combination thereof. What happens with the kids are grown, the tumbling honey-colored locks are turning gray and thin, the improbably pneumatic bosoms are drooping, and the type-A alpha hero goes into cardiac arrest at age 60 while he's running that venture capital empire? What's the "coming of old age" literary tradition?

Well, Sugar Time self-referentially introduced me to the term "hag lit," which if you ask me is pretty damn unappealing. Nancy Thayer, author of The Hot Flash Club, explains in a Columbia Journalist article, “It comes from the Greek meaning Holy. A thousand years ago, Hagia Sophia meant goddess of wisdom. What we’re becoming is goddesses of wisdom.” Hmmm. Nice try, I guess, but it's still not catchy and I'm not sure I want to dance to it.

I'm NOT a Baby Boomer, Dammit
I was so pleased when I heard about Douglas Coupland's Generation X. Finally, a demographic of my own! However, when "they" talk about children's literature, they say that readers are typically the age group behind the subject matter-- tweens like to read about teens, teens like to read about older teens and adults. Since I started reading romance at the ripe old age of 12 or so, I'm pretty open to reading something in this new genre, too (and I do think it's a new genre, though I'm sure there are pioneers who are there already).

Sugar and I got off to a bit of a rough start though. First off: Sugar. Sugar Kane. Seriously? Whatever. The name was overly twee and didn't seem to suit the character, who was certainly not especially sweet. I half expected her to turn out to be Erika Kane's long lost sister or something. (Though come to think of it, perhaps the reference isn't an accident. The character of Erika Kane remains a femme fatale now for almost 40 years, since her debut in 1970. Ooops-- tangent, sorry).

Second: Sugar is a very particular character type, one that I'm rather familiar with through the magic of TV and novels, but that I've never actually encountered in real life: she's the wise-cracking, fast-talking bi-coastal Jewish woman who's "in TV". She makes me think of Rose Marie from The Dick Van Dyke Show, or maybe even Lucille Ball. Sugar is characterized as someone who uses humor to keep people at a distance, and intentional or not, I was put off at first.

Cut to the Chase Already
Eventually, I did warm up to Sugar. The first couple of chapters were fairly introspective, but I liked it more when she started to interact with the other characters. Throughout the book, the main voice is Sugar's, in the first person, often interior, but once she started doing things, rather than thinking about things, it got more interesting. ;)

I want to go back to Prof. Harris' definition again and re-iterate that this kind of story seems to be a bookend to the "coming of age." If the one is a disillusionment and loss of innocence, this story is about overcoming cynicism and regaining a belief in love. It's a reminder that even if it might be too late for some things -- maybe being the next Mick Jagger or the first woman president is off the table-- life is full of possibility, no matter your age.

There's a lot going on here besides the relationship, and I find that completely appropriate for this phase of life-- falling in love when you're a bit older is still a pretty great ride, but I don't think it's as all-encompassing at 60 as it is at 20.

Bottom line is, this *is* a romance--so sez me-- and I hope I'm not spoilering when I say we *do* get a romantic HEA. It does carry the sense that the "ever after" might not be as indefinite as those tumble-tressed genre romance heroines get. Some of the obstacles between the hero and heroine are also different than their younger counterparts'... but some of them are the same. Trust, career, balancing obligations, family complications -- relatable stuff here, for any demographic.

What Others Are Saying
Mary at Books Gardens and Dogs
Suzanne Braun Levine
That's a Novel Idea

Seems to be early days for reviews on this book, so let me just leave you with the author herself. I pulled this from her website-- she speaks very eloquently about what Sugar is all about:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Loving a Lost Lord, by Mary Jo Putney - Review

Short answer: Best Historical This Year! (well, so far anyway!)

The Premise
A terrible steamship accident causes Our Hero to wash up onshore at the feet of Our Heroine, who just happens to need a husband. Since he also conveniently has amnesia, she tells him one big whopper: "Can you have forgotten that I'm your wife, Mariah Clarke?" from which many subsequent whoppers follow. If Mariah had had Pinocchio's curse, her proboscis would have been prodigious indeed.

The Good Stuff
It's a little puzzling as to why this story works. There are a fair number of tired elements -- I mean, really, amnesia?? And in some ways, Mariah resembled one of Putney's recent heroines that I found really boring: she's relentlessly pragmatic in a similar way to Abigail from Marriage Spell. It's been awhile since I read that one, so this point is no doubt debatable, but I found this heroine to be more real. Putney did a better job of showing me the internal struggle it cost Mariah to maintain her outward serenity, while Abigail just seemed phlegmatic.

Adam is a wonderfully fresh hero. If you're tired of the cold, aloof rake whose glacial heart must be melted by the spunky heroine, pick this up immediately. Putney uses the amnesia device to provide Adam with a tabula rasa; he literally leaves all his cares behind and puts his well-being in Mariah's hands. Beneath the worry about his memories, he's trusting, playful, and loving. As his memories gradually return, you can vividly see the weight they apply, bit by bit, to his ducal shoulders. And of course the reader sees the looming Revelation of Truth along with Mariah, which adds to the tension.

I think one reason that Putney manages this constellation of elements that could SO easily go SO wrong, and pulls off a truly fabulous story instead, is that in spite of the rather preposterous circumstances, both characters behave in truly believable ways (at least, I thought so). Discounting that first lie, there are no TSTL decisions. Mariah understands the consequences of The Lie and is constantly weighing Adam's best interests in the timing of her reveal -- at no time does she really think she's going to get away with never coming clean. But Adam arrives at her doorstep utterly helpless -- it's far more mortifying to him to think he's at the mercy of total strangers than to feel that he's where he's supposed to be, even if he doesn't remember. And when he does learn the truth, he understandably loses trust, but he doesn't leap to wild conclusions like "she must be a gold-digging slut! I shall hate her forever and ship her off to Barbados!" Big points in that respect -- two grown-ups, acting like grown-ups, in spite of the pain it causes them. Go figure.

Another is simply that these characters sparkle with each other. Chemistry, zing, whatever you want to call it. From the fact that Mariah accidentally hits on Adam's true given name, to the way Adam feels perfectly at home with her, Putney builds an implacable rightness between these two. It is marvelous and impossible to analyze. Here, Adam has asked Mariah if she will sleep with him-- not for sex, as he's still injured, but for comfort and intimacy:
Shyly she took off her robe, then climbed into the bed. He recognized that he was still something of a stranger to her. But she was not a stranger to him. Odd, since he was the one who'd lost his memory.
Oh, le sigh....

An interesting theme that Putney plays with here is a duality of nature. There is the obvious: Adam with and without his memories. Once he regains them-- integrates those two men-- he realizes that the foreign side of himself, one he has repressed since inheriting the dukedom can also be acknowledged, at least among friends.

Mariah gets a flip side too. She's had a lonely existence, and an imaginary friend or alter ego named Sarah has been with her since childhood. Sarah helps her remember how to be proper, which is a bit double-edged for Mariah. Sometimes those reminders are helpful, but sometimes they only make Mariah feel inferior or like a poseur. At first this seemed a little odd to me for a grown woman, but hey, you sometimes just go with things. And I like where Putney took it in the end.

The Plot
Besides the amnesia and secret-marriage-that-isn't-really, there seems to be a plot afoot to harm the Duke. While there weren't any big surprises here, the plotting and pacing are meticulous and serve as a perfectly adequate foil for the emotional story.

The Series
I don't know if Putney was the first, but if not, she was certainly a very early adopter of the setup of a group of men, linked from childhood, as the glue for a series of full-length romances. And good lord, she's good at it. I really loved how she shows us bits of the Duke's friends: through his troubled memory-dreams, and Mariah's interactions with them, we learn a lot in a way that whets the appetite without being too obvious. As an example:
She wondered if any of his friends would be as willing to admit vulnerability. Masterson possibly. Kirkland... she wasn't sure. Randall would probably rather be torn apart by wild horses than admit weakness.

And then Mariah is back into dialog with Adam. Just a small aside, not heavy-handed. An amuse-bouche. (And, any guesses as to who the next Lost Lord might be? Heh.)

The Happily Ever After
Putney goes completely wild on this, into real fairy-tale territory. Obviously, I can't say more without spoilering, but I enjoyed it, even if it took an extra dollop of suspension of disbelief-- it was worth it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Don't Tempt Me, by Loretta Chase - Review

A Little Disappointing
I have never been let down by Loretta Chase before. Even deep in her backlist, where sometimes you find an author's less polished works, I enjoyed every book. Chase has a knack for writing unusual, misfit heroines that succeed against all odds, generally because of their eccentricities, rather than in spite of them.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen for me with Don't Tempt Me. I really did want to love Zoe Octavia, but I felt like I was seeing her through the wrong end of a telescope for most of the book. Very little takes place from within her point of view -- what there is, is intriguing, but there wasn't enough for me.

The Premise
In a nod to the Old Skool harem trope, Zoe is introduced to the reader as the latest ton sensation, the long-lost daughter of a prominent noble, escaped after 12 years in the harem of an impotent <eyeroll> pasha. Her mission: to overcome the scandal and live the life to which she was born.

Lucien, with an abandonment complex the size of the Titanic's nemesis, has just enough power in the fashionable circles to help her out. Considering that Zoe's father is the one person for whom Lucien has respect and affection, he's more than willing.

And then?

Beyond that, the book sort of petered out for me. There was never any major obstacle to the relationship between the hero and the heroine. The plot device was unimaginative and underdeveloped. I could live with that, but what I really wanted was to connect better with Zoe.

I didn't get to, though. Her backstory was told to the reader through a newspaper story, of all things, which Lucien engineered to build some empathy for her plight. Not a bad starting place, but we got very little more. I was left feeling like I knew slightly more about Zoe than any random woman of the times who read the newspaper.

The Bright Spot
Chase has always been good at building characters, and maybe the trouble here is just that it was too subtle for me overall. The stuff I did like was about Zoe's consistency throughout. Certain characteristics pinged back to her and Lucien's shared childhood, showing evolution but not radical change. I liked Zoe's pragmatic approach to fitting back into society, while still using and valuing skills she learned in that alien society. Zoe has composure, strength and self-confidence no matter the situation, and that was very appealing.

Don't get me wrong, this was not a terrible book by any means. But Chase is one of those authors for whom I have very high expectations. Hopefully the next one will be back on track.

Around the Blogosphere (my state of underwhelm is distinctly the minority)
Katibabs at RNTV
Neesah Allora
Janet at Dear Author
Ana at The Book Smugglers
Carolyn Hughes
Esmerelda at Flutter (a spanking new romance blogger, and since she agrees with me, you should all check her out and watch her for great things to come.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 13

Every now and then even *I* take a break from reading and blogging romance.

The internet has been an incredible arena for people to connect and share their creativity in so many ways. I do love the cool stuff that shows up on YouTube from time to time. Most of these were spotted and shared on Facebook by friends of mine. Watch a few (or all of them, if you have time to kill, LOL) and share a few that inspire you or make you laugh. In no particular order, here are:


1. Badly animated hippo sings (embedding disabled, sorry)

2. Not the original, but the best Mahna Mahna:

3. Improv in Grand Central Station (so cool)

4. Playing For Change’s Stand by Me

5. More Muppets: OMG, DRUM BATTLE!

6. The first help desk (so funny!)

7. A day in the life of a mom (it's like the soundtrack to my childhood!):

8. Cake or death?

9. Torn- a strange mélange of mime and not-quite-ASL: -- the facial expressions and the word-by-word translation just make this.

10. This is a snip from what MIGHT be the funniest ½ hour of 1980s TV (though the very end was lame). If you’re patient enough, you can find most of the ep in the related snips (embedding disabled).

11. F*cking priceless:

12. Bohemian Rhapsody, but… different.

13. Did Mary Poppins freak you out? No? Maybe you should watch again.

Hope you found something to make you smile! Leave a comment and I'll stop by your place too!

Visit the Thursday Thirteen site here.
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Knight of Desire Winners


Eva S

Congratulations! Email your street address to:
(no PO boxes!)

Last Chance - Knight of Desire Giveaway

Enter Today!

I'll be picking a winner this evening-- the exact deadline to be determined at my whim.

Don't wait too long!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lazy Post - Kensington Authors

Looking for some new authors? Over at Magical Musings, blogger Edie features not one, not six, but FOURTEEN recently-debuted authors from Kensington.

I've read two of these authors, (Carrie Lofty and Delilah Marvelle and liked them both. Given that track record, I might have to look at a couple more... or three... or twelve...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Dogs and Cats Living Together! Mass Hysteria!"

Or, my review of Nalini Singh's Branded by Fire

This is one of my all-time favorite 1980s movie scenes:

The line that I've used to title this post is a bit I sometimes use to make a point when I feel like people have gone off the deep end into hyperbole or skies-are-falling worst case scenarios. Entertainingly enough, it's a propos on a couple of levels for Singh's latest installment in her Psy/Changeling series, Branded by Fire-- although I'm sure that if there were any real-life members of the SnowDancer pack of wolf changelings lurking about, I could expect some unpleasant retribution for referring to them as dogs. Heh.

The Romance
Though "mass hysteria" is a bit of an overstatement, the notion of leopards and wolves mating is in fact the source of much of the characters' internal conflict. Mercy and Riley both have to figure out how to fit this unexpected mate into their highly structured lives. The two of them are both highly--and equally-- ranked, extremely loyal and deeply attached to their respective packs. Riley at least, has always assumed that his mate would be a domestic female who'd fit into his pack. Mercy is not sure what kind of male-- if any-- she'd find for a mate, but rest assured that a wolf? wasn't in the plan.

Here's something that I wrote in one of my very first posts:

Some analyses of the appeal of fairy tales for children, especially the most gruesome, theorize that, by experiencing their own worst fears (lost in the woods, death of parents, etc) in a safe way-- ie, fictionally, through the characters' experience-- kids get a chance to process their fears on a subconscious level and be reassured that there is always Hope for a happily-ever-after.

I'm returning to that thought because I think Singh has taken a very common modern relationship affliction-- fear of commitment-- and built a fairy tale around it that lets us look at that fear and think about it on a level that's not quite as threatening as a straight contemp might be.

Does that make sense or am I veering too far into psychobabble? What I think is that Singh has given Mercy a different context for her fear of commitment: a hardwired, paranormal, "unreal" character trait of being a pack dominant. This is something that, within Singh's universe, Mercy can't help, can't change, and is in fact a big part of who she is and why she occupies the position she does. The difference between Mercy and a typical contemp romance heroine (or... reader?) is that she is never conflicted about this piece of herself. She never apologizes and never feels guilty that she is a dominant rather than a submissive or a maternal type. God, I love that!

She does worry about how to fit a mate into her life, both before and after she finds a specific one to worry about. While she cannot imagine a submissive male as attractive, she's equally unable to imagine herself submitting to someone more dominant. She worries about losing status in her pack, losing part of who she is. She's anguished at the notion of having to leave the pack -- or of asking Riley to leave his.

Maybe it's a bit of personal baggage, but I can relate to that. The way these characters resolve this conflict between their individuality and their couplehood is an exquisite treatise on compromise: on yielding without submitting; on examining and rethinking boundaries. A modern partnership of equals is hard, in the way that a win/win negotiation is harder than a win/lose. Love isn't always enough; it takes a willingness to examine what you think you know about yourself and what you are and are not willing to flex on; whether a yielding for the sake of the relationship is a fair trade or one you'll regret later. And whether your partner's willingness to yield is a measure of his love for you or something that diminishes who he is.

Mercy and Riley struggle with these things in a profound and real way. As characters in a romance must, they find their way through the labyrinth to their own Happily Ever After, and it's one that I enjoyed thoroughly as a reader. However, as someone for whom the term "alpha bitch" wouldn't necessarily be completely wrong, I'd also love to see this couple a few years down the road-- and see how the solutions have worked for them and what adjustments they've made.

The World
I have to admit, after the set up at the end of the last book, I rather expected a bigger bang to happen in this one. Instead, there are more teasers, another narrowly-averted disaster or two, and a looming sense of Something Really Big about to happen. Which is pretty much how the end of the last book felt, too, just with different players this time. If I had to find some fault with the book, I'd say that the series arc at the end felt a little rushed; a handful of loose ends hastily explained away a bit too easily, and not enough actually happening-- and it's becoming a pattern.

On the other hand, I'm verrrrrrrry intrigued by these falcon shifters. Adam sounds SRSLY yummy.

On the topic of the series' future, we also get several more layers on the Hawke-and-Sierra cake. Lots of readers are waiting breathlessly for this one, but I'll have to admit that this is the first book where it registered on me at all, probably because of Sierra's age. She's just turned 18, which is kind of the bare minimum for a contemp heroine to not completely squick me out. I really like how they are setting up Sierra's Psy powers to potentially take her in a radically different direction from previous characters in the series -- between this specific character setup and the rising ambition of the Human Alliance, Singh is layering all kinds of shades of gray into her world which is always more interesting than black-and-white, good-vs-evil. Although I will say that the tease we get about Sascha's research is one of the things that felt prematurely cut off at the end of the book-- I wanted more!

Hawke (does anyone else think it's weird to have a wolf named after a bird?) gets some good airtime here too. We get a little more insight into his character - I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that there are hints that he was mated at one time, but has somehow lost that bond. At least he didn't go off to die alone in a cave. (As far as we know, anyway.)

The Hott
Yeah. *fans self* Let's just say you should probably read this book in a well-ventilated area to prevent spontaneous combustion. I don't know about you, but that opening scene melted me into a little puddle. Hottest book yet, but classic Nalini -- if you haven't liked her previous Alphas, you'll probably really dislike these two... although if your objection in the past has been around a power mis-match, I think that's not a problem here-- the near-exact match of power and status is one of the most interesting features of this book.

Final Thought
Lastly, I'm going to leave you with this quote on the subject of individuality and partnership-- partly because I love the quote (my husband and I used part of it in our wedding) and partly because it amuses me no end to reference Bill Murray and Khalil Gibran in the same post:

Kahlil Gibran on Marriage
From Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet

Then Almitra spoke again and said, And what of Marriage, Master?
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

Other Reviews Around the Web:
Heather's Books
Book Thingo
The Book Smugglers (Ana)
Dear Author (Janine)
Lurv A La Mode (Kmont)
Errant Dreams Reviews

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Knight of Desire, by Margaret Mallory - Review

Review and Giveaway!

The Facts

Title: Knight of Desire
Author: Margaret Mallory
Pub Date: July 1, 2009

Don't get me wrong. I like Regencies; I like them a lot.

But there's just something about a medieval, isn't there? And I've missed them; it seemed like they disappeared from the shelves for awhile. I hope this is the beginning of a trend, along with Madeleine Hunter and ? who else? seems like I've seen a couple surfacing here and there lately.

Anyway, I talked a bit about medieval romance in general a while ago, and I have to say, Knight of Desire does a great job of delivering everything you could want from a classic Knight In Shining Armor story. A larger-than-life hero, terrifying on the battlefield, with an irresistably tender spot only for the heroine. Yum.

Catherine is no slouch either. She endures and survives a disastrous and abusive first marriage, made for political reasons, but "passive" is not a word she knows. In romance books, the hero's sense of honor often leads him into difficult choices between duty and love, but Mallory gives us a twist by sending the heroine down that path instead. Catherine's unswerving patriotism leads her into treacherous political waters, with rather unfair but somehow inevitable consequences for her personal life.

In the end, this is a story about trust, on many levels. The two protagonists are both likeable people of honor, integrity, and loyalty, but nonetheless, those very traits cause frustrating obstacles along the way as they learn to apply those virtues to each other. I want to say too that it would have been easy for Mallory to have gone down the Big Misunderstanding road with this story, but instead she has constructed a fast-paced plot that throws natural-feeling curves into the character-driven twists and turns of the relationship development.

Which happily enough, is exactly what I want in a romance novel.

The Giveaway

Want to see for yourself? Comment on this post for a chance to win one of 5 copies. No PO Boxes! Add a link back to this post, share on Facebook, etc. for additional entries (you have to let me know what you've done though). Stop back here on Tuesday, July 14 to see if you won.

**New Rule for Alpha Heroes Giveaways** I'm not going to chase down the winners! Stop back here to find out if you've won and email me your address. If I don't have it within 3-4 days, I will choose an alternate winner.

Readers from outside of North America: let me know in your comment where you are - the sponsors of the contest do not ship outside of the US and Canada, but I will enter all the international names in the last drawing and cover shipping myself if one is chosen. So you only have one chance instead of five, but you DO have a chance!

Big thanks to Hachette books for sponsoring the giveaway!

The Blog Tour

There are a number of folks around the blogosphere discussing this one, so if you don't believe me, try a second opinion. Or third. Or seventeenth.

PARTICIPATING BLOGS: - June 29 giveaway. - June 29 giveaway - June 29 review and giveaway. - June 29 to July 10 review and giveaway - June 30 review and giveaway. - July 1 review and giveaway. - July 4 review, giveaway, and Q&A. - July 4 review and giveaway - July 5 review; July 19 giveaway. - July 5 - July 6 review and giveaway. - July 7 review and giveaway. - July 8 review and giveaway. - July 9 review and giveaway. - July 10 review. - July 10 review and giveaway - review and giveaway. - review.

Update: I've removed a few of the links where I couldn't find a Margaret Mallory post. If you have reviewed this book and would like a link, just leave your info in comments!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsors

OK, they're not really sponsors. They don't pay me. And I don't run ads on this site. However, I don't mind occasionally turning this space over to pure promotion. Here are a couple of authors worth checking out.

Disappointing News for Delilah Marvelle Fans

It looks like Marvelle's School of Gallantry series is facing a premature ending. Her current publisher has dropped the series, and Marvelle is working hard to prove that her volumes are there in hopes of finding a new publisher. Please check out her comments and the accompanying contest. Here are my thoughts on her first book.

Next Up: Shelli Stevens

I'm not actually familiar with Stevens, but Ciara is, and so I'm passing this along on her recc. This looks like a hot one, so if you're prone to dizziness, heart palpitations, or are under 4'6" tall, please move along.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cover Appeal

It's not often that a romance cover does much for me. Usually I'm happy if it doesn't make me cringe or feel that I might be violating some kind of HR policy if I leave it on my desk at work. Here's an exception though:

I recently signed up for Dorchester's romance newsletter, and this cover really caught my eye. I went cruising Dorchester's site and the author's, trying to find a larger pic. That model... in a world of cut-off heads, oiled naked pecs, and stony profiles glaring into the distance, there's something almost heart-stopping about this fully-dressed fellow, leveling a look right at me, with an expression that seems be inviting me into adventure, with a lurking glimmer of humor... whew, is it warm in here? I'm not familiar with Louise Allen, but I can assure you, I soon will be. There's a very promising exerpt available which only made me want him more... um, I mean, want the book more.

Yeah. That's what I meant.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hot Summer Historicals

THREE of my favorite authors released new books yesterday! Scheduling a trip to Borders' ASAP...

In no particular order:

What Happens in London, by Julia Quinn

Don't you love the title? Truthfully, the Vegas slogan is wearing a bit thin for me, but somehow Quinn's twist makes me smile. I do enjoy the occasional camera-asides, where books or movies or tv shows acknowledge that that's exactly what they are, and sort of bring the audience right into the joke. If that makes any sense at all. Anyway, it says classic Quinn sly humor to me.

Don't Tempt Me, by Loretta Chase.

I don't know what I can say about Chase that I haven't already: Auto-buy. Can't wait!

Loving A Lost Lord, by Mary Jo Putney

It's weird. I love MJP, and I love paranormal romance, but I really, really did not love her paranormal historicals. In fact I sort of hated the one I read and ignored the others. So I'm EXTREMELY HAPPY to see that she's returning to straight historicals with this series. Yay!

Head On Over
to Romance Vagabonds for really good interviews with Quinn and Putney. Then head to your local bookseller and indulge


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