Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Author pseudonyms: helpful or harmful? Just wondering...

Warning: a long and rambling post ahead... but honestly. I'm really curious about this.

I've been thinking a lot about this, because I see it happening more and more often. It always bothers me when an author takes on a pseudonym to publish a book in or outside their usual genre. I feel cheated, because sometimes I’ll miss a book by a favorite author. Without the name recognition, I don’t always pick up books by new authors. I admit it. I only have a limited amount of money to spend, and the majority of my book-buying money goes to tried and true authors rather than first-timers, even though I do also buy and read new and new-to-me authors. I commented in my Overview of 2010 post about how sad I was that Leslie Parrish was having so much difficulty getting her books sold because they seriously rock the house, and I wondered if the pseudonym was hurting her because she lost out on the name recognition (she’s also well-known Harlequin author Leslie Kelly). The answer I’ve heard from many authors is that their publisher recommends/requests/requires the name change when branching out to a new genre – even if it’s still within romance. Something about reader expectations, blah blah blah.

I have to wonder if this is a smart move. We are living in an age where publishers will drop an author immediately if their first book doesn’t sell well. I would think that they would want to take advantage of any name recognition they can. When you send an established author out into the world with a new name, not only are they a new name, but they are a new author with a first book. It does nothing to increase their credibility.

Many romance readers are incredibly savvy. We read the OBC blurbs. We follow our favorite authors on Facebook, and twitter, and we read their websites and blogs. Not only are authors allowed to have more than one type of voice speak to them, they usually have no say in the matter, LOL, and as consumers, we should be able to understand that. On the other hand, many romance readers are also impossibly old-fashioned (GASP – S.E.Ecks? Nooooo! Say it isn’t so!!). They like what they like, who they like, and the way they write it. These folks are disappointed when an author changes genres, and whine to the high heavens about the immorality of sex in romances today (because real people don’t ever have sex with the door open, or before they get married, or in any way other than missionary). And there are many who fall somewhere in between. Just like in any other area of life, you can’t pigeonhole romance readers into a type. So why cater to only one portion of readers (the please don’t ever ever change a thing portion)? If those folks aren’t going to follow an author into a new genre anyway? Why not cater to those who will, and get the extra name recognition and sales out of it?

Here are some examples of pseudonyms I've been thinking about:
Sylvia Day/ SJ Day/ Livia Dare: I adore her historicals. I’m not a fan of urban fantasy, so didn’t read the SJ Days or the Livia Dares, but if she wrote those as Sylvia Day I wouldn’t hold it against her. In fact, I noted in my review of her latest historical that I simply (ok, impatiently, LOL) waited out the UFs knowing this book was coming. Not sure why the UF had to be released under not one, but two pseudonyms.

Leslie Parrish: This is the pseudonym for bestselling Harlequin author Leslie Kelly. A Kelly category is pretty much guaranteed to be a success, cause well, she rocks. But as Parrish, she had a really tough time breaking into romantic suspense, which sucked cause, well, the books rocked. Was it because Parrish was a “new” author with a "first" book? As a reader, I’m more likely to take a chance on a known author spreading her wings than an unknown newbie (although I read plenty of those as well). Personally, I think sending her out into the romantic suspense world as a new author hurt her sales, where her name recognition could have helped them. Sure, some readers would have read the first one and decided to stick with her categories (those "No, don't ever ever change a thing" folks  - and indeed, some did and needless to say were NOT happy). But how many more would have picked up that suspense book, simply because Leslie Kelly wrote it, and loved it – and then bought the rest?

Beth Williamson/Emma Lang: I really don’t understand the reason for the pseudonym here at all (Emma Lang), also requested by her publisher as I understand it. Emma Lang writes western historicals. Beth Williamson? Yup. Western historicals (although she has several hawt contemporaries out there as well). So here, this seems to be a perfect opportunity to take advantage of an author’s name in a genre where she’s already known. Why wouldn’t a publisher want to capitalize on that?

Toni Blake/Lacey Alexander: A successful dual genre, dual-named author. Her Toni Blake contemporaries are wonderful. Her Lacey Alexander erotic romances are also terrific. She’s also one who was able to keep her dual identity secret for a long time. I’m not sure if her print or her e-books came first, but it’s definitely easier, IMO, to break in as a new author into the digital world.

Jessica Bird/JR Ward: Does this one even count? I only ask because there seems to be no more Jessica Bird. JR Ward reigns in that relationship, and I guess given her success, rightfully so. Once the BDB came out, Jessica simply disappeared. But here's an example of a pretty successful category romance author breaking out into paranormal, and hitting a home run with a new identity. Would it have happened anyway, had they been released as Jessica Bird? I tend to think so, but at this point, who can tell?

Nora Roberts/JD Robb: Perhaps the most successful dual-named author of them all. I read on her site that the In Death series was originally only supposed to be a trilogy. I wonder if that was why she originally went with a pseudonym for the futuristic suspense books, either in case they weren't successful, or out of fear that her readers wouldn't accept a new genre. Was it her choice, or her publisher's decision? Nora? You out there? It would be very interesting to hear more about this. And once the books were successful, then I assume she was stuck. She even has a different author photo on her Robb books that looks much more appropriate for a suspense/thriller/futuristic author than a romance author (I'm sure that amazingly awesome leather coat is the same one that Eve wears). I think the NR/JD Robb brand is what every pub house is after when they ask their author to use a pseudonym. But really, how likely is that to happen again, where a highly successful author continues to write in both genres under both names? There's only one Roarke, people. (I'm sure there are other success stories, so if you know of any more, please share!)

Megan Hart: Here’s an author who is successful in romance. And yet, she hasn’t changed her name for any of her latest releases, some of which are not really romances. She made no bones about it to her readers – I recall her saying over and over – “Hey, this isn’t a romance – but I’d love for you to take a chance on it.” IMO, this hasn’t hurt her brand as a romance author in the slightest. When she does write a true romance, her romance audience will read it, even if they skip the speculative fiction. (If you write it, they will come.)

Many other authors have also successfully changed genres without changing their name. Coming to mind immediately are Tami Hoag, Lisa Jackson, Sandra Brown, Catherine Coulter, Heather Graham, Linda Howard, Iris Johansen, Mariah Stewart, and Karen Robards (can you tell I read thrillers - a lot?). Interestingly, they all switched from romance to suspense - and Graham dabbles with the paranormal (in its truest definition). And yet, Kelly wasn’t given the same opportunity. Interesting to me.

James Patterson and John Grisham both wrote books for YA readers (my boys both enjoyed them – youngest really enjoys the Maximum Ride series). Nobody asked them to change their names (I assume).

As a reader, I pick and choose which books I buy, even when an author releases a book in the same genre as she usually writes. I appreciate being given the benefit of the doubt for my own intelligence. Oftentimes, a book just doesn’t sound all that interesting to me, so I skip it. Doesn’t mean I don’t go back to that author next time. I eat up Teresa Medeiros’ and Kathryn Smith’s historicals, but after I read the first vampire historical from each of them, I passed on the rest. But when they each released another straight historical, I was the first to go buy it (I think I actually squeed aloud when Kathryn Smith told me about her latest series at the RWA Literacy signing in SF). Take Anne Stuart – she writes contemporaries, suspense and historicals. Just because her ‘genre’ changed, her writing remains constant. Dark, morally ambiguous heroes and almost TSTL heroines that make you want to smack some sense into them.

I look at authors like Lauren Dane, who writes contemporaries, futuristics, and paranormals concurrently. Or Shiloh Walker, who also switches from contemporary to paranormal. Or NJ Walters, who switches between vampires, shifters, and contemporaries easily. Common denominator: all these folks got their start in digital publishing, and continue to publish there. (And someone please tell me why NJ isn't a huge star in the NY scene? Huh?) Wonder if that’s the key here. Are digital readers more willing to follow authors and move between genres than their print counterparts?

What do you think? Does it help or hurt an author to use more than one name, whether they are switching genres or not?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Restless Heart by Emma Lang

Blurb via
Angels don’t always have halos…

Angeline Hunter ran from a horrific marriage, to start her life again in a small town in Wyoming, away from the Mormon life she had escaped in Utah. She didn’t want to fall in love, or even fall in like, with a man like Samuel Carver. He was too nice, too normal, and far out of the reach for a woman who lived each day in a lie.

Sam Carver had hair the color of midnight and eyes darker than pitch—the eyes of a man who’d seen too much. But he couldn’t get enough of the mysterious, ethereal beauty who had turned up in his little Wyoming town, working at the Blue Plate, keeping to herself.

He knew Angeline Hunter was running scared, pursued by a fanatic who threatened her life. But no matter what it took, Sam would convince his angel to put her trust in him, to put the painful past behind her and learn just how pleasurable the present could be….


This is the sequel to Ruthless Heart, which I enjoyed. Angeline is the sister to Eliza, the heroine of that book.

What a fabulous book, with two really likable characters. This is, at its heart, a tender love story of two lost souls finding and healing one another. A Civil War soldier, Sam saw far too much death. He still dreams about it every night. He’s got a father with dementia and struggles to overcome the “half-breed” stigma. He feels as though he is just treading water – not sure of where to go, what to do, or how to improve on his life as it now exists.

Angeline was always the good, obedient daughter. So obedient, that she never put up a fuss when her father arranged for her marriage to a Mormon church elder, one who was far older than her and abusive to boot. We only find out exactly how abusive late in the book. Angeline’s family is Mormon, and she is to be one of three wives to her husband. Her one defiant act was to run away when the abuse got too bad. Her husband is out looking for her, having already hired someone to kill her and failing at that (see Ruthless Heart). Angeline is meek, out of fear, but as the book goes on, Sam’s quiet, understated demeanor, love, and support help her gain her footing and she becomes more self-confident. The scenes where she realizes that she has the power to bring a man to his knees simply by undressing for him were enlightening for Angeline and very well done. To see her grow and gain her confidence back was lovely.

Oh, how I loved Sam. It was unexpected to read a Lang (Williamson) book with such a beautiful beta hero. He’s soft spoken, he isn’t afraid to show his love for Angeline or for his father. He runs around helping folks and trying to make everyone happy. But he’s no pushover, and when he needs to, he steps up and protects his woman. He empowers Angeline simply by being gentle and showing Angeline what she means to him. The character growth in both Sam and Angeline was terrific, but even moreso in Angeline. She became her own woman; one who people turned to for help. As she grows, we see her take on the tough situations in order to support Sam, as he goes through difficult times.

Their courtship was heartbreakingly simple and beautiful. Over the course of a month, Sam brings her little gifts and slowly gains her trust before he ever even asks her out. (As an aside, I loved that the first gift he gave her was Sense and Sensibility!) Enough trust was built that it is Angeline who initiates their final step into lovemaking after a bit of official courting. They each have their scars, both physical and emotional. But like in any successful relationship, they make each other stronger, lift each other up, and show each other their worth.

The secondary characters are also strong and well-drawn, without removing the focus from Sam and Angeline. Each one of them adds layers of richness to the story. The real “action” happens after Sam and Angeline get married. Heartbreaking events force them to look inside themselves and to step up and be strong and support each other.

Oh wow, how I enjoyed this book. It was a tender, gentle love story set against a time of changes in our post-Civil War history. My complaint about Ruthless Heart had to do with the strongly negative picture painted of the Mormon church as well as the heroine's unorthodox views of the church. Here, we see Angeline reject the Mormon church, but she still has a strong faith. We see the women being valued and their opinions seen as important. (Given that Wyoming, where the book takes place, was the first to grant women the right to vote, this makes sense historically – the story takes place in 1873). I also liked the historical accuracies as they related to Sam, his war experiences, and his Indian heritage.

Those looking for a great conflict between the hero and heroine won't find it here. But the external issues lend an air of tension to the gentle love story. And the ending lines bring the two books full circle perfectly.

And oh, as an aside, one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen in a while. Man-titty, but understated. The focus more on the man himself than his chest.  (And his pose actually reflects an exact pose described in the book.) Sighworthy cover.

Monday, January 17, 2011

WTF, Borders?

No wonder you're going out of business soon. If you offend everyone the way you just did me...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

ARC: Pride and Pleasure by Sylvia Day

Hot damn. I've been waiting forever for Day's next historical. While I adore her writing, urban fantasy isn't my thing, and so have been (im)patiently waiting out her last several releases. Waiting for MY book *g*. And here it is, thanks to an ARC provided by the author.

Wealth has its dangers…

There are disadvantages to being an heiress, as Eliza Martin knows well. Fortune hunters flock to her, acquaintances lie and pander, and lately, someone is engineering “accidents” to propel her to the altar. But Eliza will not be bullied, and she will get to the bottom of this plot. All she needs is a man to infiltrate her assemblage of suitors and find the culprit. Someone not easily noticed; a proficient dancer, quiet, and even-tempered.

…so do certain men

Thief-taker Jasper Bond is entirely too large, too handsome, and too dangerous. Who would believe that an intellectual like Eliza would be seduced by a man of action? But the combination of her stubbornness and the mystery makes the case one Jasper can’t resist. Client satisfaction is a point of pride and it’s his pleasure to prove he’s just the man she needs after all…


I adored Jasper and Eliza. Flat out loved it. Because although there is an element of mild suspense, most of the focus is strictly on them. And while I expected Jasper to be a badass, he really is all about feeling the love for Eliza, which amazes him (and her) no end, but he runs with it.

Eliza is an incredibly intelligent woman, one who chafes at the bit at the lack of feminine standing in the world. Yet she is not your typical bluestocking. Yes, she has difficulty making socially inane conversation, but she can do it. And she is a strong woman, too, which I love.

I also loved that Eliza and her uncle had a loving relationship, and that she didn't resent looking after him. They had a special bond.

The mystery was fairly easy to solve, but I loved the journey there. Jasper and Eliza's love grew slowly, even though the attraction was there immediately. Day gave them the time to get to know each other, and I loved that. As a result, Jasper wasn't at all the alpha jerk that I expected. He was sweet, kind, and loving with Eliza. She loved that for once someone was taking her at her word. And I loved that when certain things come to light at the end of the book, she doesn't jump to conclusions. She gives Jasper the benefit of the doubt because she knows this man. As well as she knows herself.

All in all, a much more character focused book than many of her historicals, with a bit of mystery/suspense built in. If you are a Day fan, you won't want to miss this. Releases January 25.

Friday, January 07, 2011

ALS, music, and hope

This is a very personal post for me. My sister-in-law has been sick for the past couple years, and she and my brother have been visiting doctors non-stop trying to get a diagnosis. She was finally definitively diagnosed a couple months ago with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease), which is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. It is progressive and always fatal.

My brother and his wife have been together since the early 80s. Married in 1989. Neither of them have really had any other boyfriend or girlfriend. Only each other. We used to joke that if they came to dinner, you only needed one chair, because they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Obviously, over the years, that has mellowed, but they are still very much in love. I worry for my brother.

They have two beautiful daughters – one is a junior in college who just got back from a semester abroad in London. The other is a high school senior, who has her heart set on going to BU. Now that SIL is no longer working, I hope that they can work something out so that she can still go. And yet, I hate that if she goes, she won’t be able to spend the last bits of true quality time that she can with her mother. My heart breaks for all of them, and for our entire family. We have no way of knowing how fast the disease will progress for SIL, but there is no doubt that it will. She is already in a wheelchair, because she doesn’t have the strength in her feet and ankles to support her body.

I don’t know what decisions they will make as they move forward. Whatever they decide will be the best they can for their family.

As most of you know, I am a huge supporter of the ACS and cancer research. Each year, I nag beg ask you to support my Relay for Life walk. This year, and moving forward, I am going to branch out and find different ways to support the ALS as well as the ACS. There is a ton of research going on for both diseases, and much of it surrounds stem cell research. Since the ruling that reversed President Obama’s 2009 executive order that widened the opportunities for federal funding, there is even a greater need for donations and funding of research for all diseases, but especially those that are fatal where research could make such a difference literally between life and death. I definitely don’t want to turn this into a discussion of the rights or wrongs of embryonic stem cell research – just making a point that funds are needed in order to conduct research – of any kind. There are several organizations out there conducting research for a cure for ALS; one is the ALS Association, another is Project ALS. Both are doing wonderful work not only on the research front, but in providing support to ALS patients and their families.

This morning on the radio, I heard an ad for a CD from an artist who is donating 100% of the proceeds to Project ALS. This is such a simple and easy way to support ALS research and get something completely enjoyable out of it. The artist is Peter Gusmano, and his website is Guitar for a Cure. From there, you can read his story, or link off and purchase his CD, A Flickering Light, which is really great. The CD is available at Amazon and iTunes, among other places. Music Therapy is such a great thing, and I hope that ALS patients, their families, or really anyone who hears this beautiful CD can derive even more pleasure knowing that every dollar spent on that music is going to work to save the lives of ALS patients.

I promise not to flood you with requests for money, but will definitely be participating in the Walk to Defeat ALS and looking for other similar opportunities so that I can support funding the ALS cure research. I hope that, if you don't have your own personal pet cause, that you'll consider looking into supporting a cure for ALS or cancer.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Romance Novel: 2011 edition

Usually, delete email I get from my mom, but I loved this one, and remarkable, hadn't seen it anywhere else yet.

He grasped me firmly but gently just above my elbow and guided me into a room, his room. Then he quietly shut the door and we were alone. He approached me soundlessly, from behind, and spoke in a low, reassuring voice close to my ear. "Just relax."

Without warning he reached down and I felt his strong, calloused hands start at my ankles, gently probing, and moving upward along my calves slowly but steadily.

My breath caught in my throat. I knew I should be afraid, but somehow I didn't care. His touch was so experienced, so sure.

When his hands moved up onto my thighs, I gave a slight shudder, and partly closed my eyes. My pulse was pounding. I felt his knowing fingers caress my abdomen, my ribcage. And then, as he cupped my firm, full breasts in his hands, I inhaled sharply. Probing, searching, knowing what he wanted, he brought his hands to my shoulders, slid them down my tingling spine and into my panties.

Although I knew nothing about this man, I felt oddly trusting and expectant. This is a man, I thought. A man used to taking charge. A man not used to taking 'no' for an answer. A man who would tell me what he wanted.

A man who would look into my soul and say ...

"Okay, ma'am," said a voice. "All done"

My eyes snapped open and he was standing in front of me, smiling, holding out my purse.

"You can board your flight now."

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Lori's 2010 reading year, part 2: favorite books

So... in 2010 I read 301 books (revised from previous post). Here's the breakdown:

Historical: 96
Contemporary: 130
Romantic Suspense: 50
Futuristic: 16
Nonfiction: 1
Paranormal: 7
Thriller: 4
M/M: 7
(total is > 301 because some books were placed in more than once category)

I think the contemporary is so high because I read a lot of category romance. I didn't read a ton of single title contemporaries. Plus, often if a book is a RS, it also gets categorized in my contemporary shelf. But it definitely confirms that my two favorite subgenres are historical and RS. Hmm... wonder if I can stick to just one category per book for next year. Not likely.

So what books did I absolutely love? I had 24 5-star reads. That's 8% of my total. I'm not going to list them all; you can find them on my Goodreads account (link to my 5-star shelf is at the right). Of those, several were rereads, and I won't include them here. I only had one 1 rating in there (Sexy as Hell, which I reviewed for Book Binge - I just don't like reading about cheaters and assholes, what can I say?).

Here are the ones that stood out to me so greatly that I would pimp them to you and nag until you read them. In no particular order.

Captain's Surrender: Alex Beecroft (m/m)
A sweeping epic historical showing a wonderful, sweet love set against the harsh life of the Royal Navy.

Shaken: Dee Tenorio (contemporary)
I've never ever included a novella before, but this was soooo good! A married couple tries to put their life back together after the death of their daughter.

The Darkest Hour: Maya Banks (romantic suspense)
Another married couple. Wife comes "back from the dead" with serious addiction issues and fear. Wonderful family, too.

The Perfect Family: Kathryn Shay (comtemporary, m/m)
Not a romance, but a wonderfully relevant look at a family dealing with the coming out of the youngest child.

Duke of Shadows: Meredith Duran (historical)
I cannot believe I waited so long to read this. Simply fantastic.

Song of Seduction: Carrie Lofty (historical)
A gorgeous portrayal of 18th century Europe, the music industry, and obsessive love.

The Dark Tide: Josh Lanyon (m/m)
I've always been a Jake fan, and I simply adored the end of this series.

Visions in Death: JD Robb (futuristic, R/S)
A welcome relationship-focused issue in this series following the very intense and tense Divided in Death.

Loyalty in Death: JD Robb (futuristic, R/S)
A spooky foreshadowing of 9/11. A terrific suspense portion and a wonderful relationship aspect as well.

Exclusively Yours: Shannon Stacey (contemporary)
Proof that writing what you know pays off. A fantastic family story that features reunited lovers and loads of mud and teenagers. (It works, trust me!)

Cold Sight: Leslie Parrish (romantic suspense)
Parrish writes like Karen Rose, and her books are sufficiently creepy to keep me happy and contain the perfect amount of romance to balance it out. Plus, no TSTL heroines!

I Can See You: Karen Rose (romantic suspense)
Loveloveloved Noah and Eve. Both so damaged, but so perfect for one another.

Honorable Mentions go to:
Slow Heat: Jill Shalvis
Silent Scream: Karen Rose
Marry Me: Jo Goodman
Coming Undone: Lauren Dane (which was a Jan release, but I technically read it in Dec 09)
Something About You: Julie James

What were your favorites this year?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Lori's 2010 reading year, part 1

2010 was the year that I was determined to track my reads all year. In the past, I've tried doing it via an excel spreadsheet and the longest I ever made it was through March. Much as I adore Excel (I think it's the best thing Bill Gates ever did, LOL), I couldn't access it to record my books immediately. This year, thanks to Goodreads and my iPhone, I was able to track my reads. Once the Goodreads app came out, it was easy. I didn't have to remember anything - I always had my phone with me and could record when I finished a book immediately. I was also able to jot down some initial thoughts that helped my memory when I went to review. However, I also realized I have tons of typos when I write on my iPhone, LOL! So all those typos on my monthly roundups are because I copied and pasted from Goodreads. And apparently, I suck at proofreading when I type on the phone. Also, I wonder if there was some bug in December, because Goodreads ate a ton of my reviews for that month. Which sucks, cause my memory aint what it used to be.

Here are some thoughts about 2010...

The good: I made it all year with tracking my books! Go me! As I said, noting them right away in Goodreads made it easier to write reviews.

The bad: I was really lazy and rarely brought over my thoughts on Goodreads to this blog. Something to work on in 2011. Also realized that I might want to post weekly rather than monthly wrapups. There were so many books to note that it made for long, unwieldy posts.

The good: The In Death challenge. I've put off reading this series for a really long time. First, I generally don't enjoy books about the same couple, but Robb makes it work so well! I just finished book 21, and plan to hit the library tomorrow for Memory In Death.

The bad: I think I burned out on the books, and stopped reading them for a period of about 4 (5?) months. But thankfully, I picked the next one up and started it Thanksgiving weekend, and am now back in the saddle.

The good: I read 295 books in 2010 (and actually, I think it's likely closer to 300 because I read some small ebooks in December that I never recorded. There were 24 5-star reads in that bunch, so, close to 10%. Not bad. And a ton of 4 stars. So I read a bunch of great books this year.

The bad: I hardly read anything that wasn't romance. While I did read some thrillers, I usually read several non-fictions each year, but not so this year. On my list, Jimmy Carter's White House Diary, Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier (saw the author interviewed on the Colbert Report), War by Sebastian Junger (saw author interviewed on the Daily Show), Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories by Anna Baltzer (also a Daily Show find). Must get to these at a minimum.

The good: Carina Press - 2 of my favorite books of the year come from them. Why that surprises me, I don't know. Quality authors seem to follow Angela James wherever she goes.

The bad: Harlequin's gain is Samhain's loss. I've noticed a decrease in editing quality with some Samhain books since Angie's departure. No terribly edited books, but just not as top-notch as before. However, I still love many of the authors that write for Samhain, so will continue to buy those authors as their books come out.

The good: Some really great authors put out some amazing books.

The bad: Pub houses don't seem to be supporting some genres as much as they previously did. This makes me sad. The big names still do well, thank goodness, but new-to-the-genre authors who wrote amazing books are unable to continue selling the books that speak to them. Thinking specifically of Leslie Parrish here, whose Cold Sight romantic suspense was one of my favorite books this year. And I have to wonder if she'd written them as Leslie Kelly if she might have been more successful. Others have made the leap successfully using the same name - Stephanie Tyler comes immediately to mind (although she does also write as Sydney Croft in partnership with Larissa Ione). Either way, I think Parrish has a wonderful voice, and am disappointed to see that her pub house isn't supporting her as much as she deserves. OTOH, some authors made the leap the other way: HelenKay Dimon, who has much success with single title contemps, made the leap over to Harlequin Intrigue to find a home for her RS voice. And I'm digging her books there in a line I tend to avoid. And again, wondering if her name recognition has helped folks to try those books when they otherwise might not have (raising hand).

The good: I spent more face time online, discovering Facebook, twitter, continuing my own personal blog, and in general raising hell.

The bad: All that online time meant that I became less productive at work (must stop doing romancelandia at work!), and was glued to either a computer, phone, or book at home. Thank goodness my kids are rarely home anymore. OTOH, JenniferB is so busy being a mom that she hasn't had much time to read or to write those amazing reviews of hers. I sure hope that she'll be able to do more in 2011. I can totally relate, though, as I'm sure anyone with a young, active child can. The homework, the sports, the family trips, and on and on... There were a couple years where I barely posted anything over here.

The good: Many authors are self-publishing via Smashwords, making books that might otherwise be unavailable out there for us all to enjoy. For me, this year I purchased and enjoyed books from Shiloh Walker (Beg Me), Kathryn Shay (Still the One, plus many of her backlist), Marie Force (True North - still reading it). I'm sure there are some amazing ones I've missed. I think this gives authors tremendous power over their work.

The bad: While giving authors some control over their works, I wonder if it's becoming too difficult to deal with pub houses, if a book may be less well edited (although Shiloh blogged about this extensively)

The good: Rereading some amazing series. (Hearts of the South and Devils on Horseback)

The bad: There's a bad to rereading awesome books? Huh, who knew.

There are a ton more thoughts running through my head, but I think I'll leave it here. Coming soon, my list of best reads of the year.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Lori's December reads

In December I read 26 books, bringing my total up to 295 for the year. It was tough to track my books all year, but I did it!!

Some good books this month, including 4 In Death books! Also read an inordinate amount of category - most of it super good.

One really bad thing this month: I noticed that several reviews I wrote on Goodreads via my iPhone never saved to my account. I don't know if there was a bug that was resolved or what the cause was, but bottom line is that I lost close to 10 reviews of really good books.

I didn't get around to posting many reviews here this month, but most of these have something written over at my Goodreads account.

Marry Me (Reidsville, #2) by Jo Goodman. Goodreads rating: 5.
Cole was perfect for Rhyne. I loved seeing her come out of her shell and learn to embrace herself as a woman. Also loved the secondary characters, as I did in Never Love a Lawman. Cole's sister was a wonderful addition. Must read.

Visions in Death (In Death, #19) by J.D. Robb. Goodreads rating: 5.
Despite the drama in this one, the levity and love between Eve and Roarke and the little discoveries Eve makes about friendship make this a stellar entry to the series. Especially since Divided was so tense with no light relief from all that tension. Where this one truly shined was the character arcs and Robb knowing that after all the upheaval in the previous book, we needed to see a united and together Eve and Roarke. Full review to come on the blog.

An Amish Christmas by Patricia Davids. Goodreads rating: 4.5.
Beautiful, respectful story of falling in love slowly in an Amish community. Loved it.

Christmas with Her Boss (Harlequin Romance #4205) by Marion Lennox. Goodreads rating: 4.5.
Read this because of Shannon Stacey's review. I think she was dead on. I really enjoyed this book. Loved all the characters, but had to won...more4.5 stars. Read this because of Shannon Stacey's review. I think she was dead on. I really enjoyed this book. Loved all the characters, but had to wonder why the heroine felt she had to resign her position, especially given how infrequently she saw her boss.

Love Me (Take Me, #2) by Bella Andre. Goodreads rating: 4.5.
I didn't read book 1, but didn't feel like I was missing too much (although I will be going back to read it now!). Andre did a fabulous job with the themes of rising above your past, feeling worthy of accepting love and wanting it. A very sexy romance and quite emotional.

Triple Threat by Jan Coffey. Goodreads rating: 4.5.
Really liked the hero and heroine. Interesting plot, too. One that was really intriguing to think about. Must now go look for its predecessor, Ted's story.

Still The One by Kathryn Shay. Goodreads rating: 4.5.
Review to be posted later this month (it's already up in part at Goodreads if you want a sneak peek) - Kathy Shay will be a guest over here, and we'll talk about this one. It's available on Smashwords - I highly recommend you read it!

Survivor In Death (In Death, #20) by J.D. Robb. Goodreads rating: 4.5. I actually cried big fat tears in one scene. Some truly heartwrenching stuff going on in this one.

A Soldier's Redemption (Silhouette Romantic Suspense #1635) by Rachel Lee. Goodreads rating: 4.
What I enjoy in the RS line (formerly SIM) is the relationship that develops between the characters under trying circumstances. Often I could take or leave the suspense portion. In this one, the suspense was rooted in a believable story. And I loved the way that Wade was portrayed as having such difficulty adjustimg to civilian life. Liked watching Cory slowly come out if her shell, only to jump back into it the moment she felt threatened either physically or emotionally. It seemed realistic. Loved that Wade and Cory actually *talked* to each other about their thoughts and feelings.

All of You by Dee Tenorio. Goodreads rating: 4.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Tenorio excels at bringing out the best in her characters' emotions and making them seem so very real. This is book 1 in a two-parter about 2 twin brothers who switch dates. I thought this one was more focused on the heroine's issues, but it didn't detract at all. In fact, Kyle's easy acceptance helped bring her along.

All or Nothing by Dee Tenorio. Goodreads rating: 4.
This is the 2nd book. Here, again, the focus is more on the heroine's issues, but again, it's because the twins had a good, happy homelife growing up. However, Lucas is far more intense than his brother, making for an intense love story. Loved it.

Divided in Death (In Death, #18) by J.D. Robb. Goodreads rating: 4.
 This was a very uncomfortable book, in that Roarke and Eve are again fighting over that which together makes them strong - most especially Roarke's immense love for Eve and his desire to make everything in her world perfect. Which he already does by simply existing, but when he gets a glimpse into her past and learns something rather horrifying (but frankly, not that surprising if we're talking about governments), he is determined to make it right for Eve. Which would involve illegal activity on his part, including murder. He sees no problem with it, but Eve's innate sense of justice won't allow her to sanction it. They spend the entire book at odds, and it's very uncomfortable to read. But uncomfortable does not equal bad, and so I thought this was another excellent and believable entry in the series.

Explosive by Beth Kery. Goodreads rating: 4.
Really enjoyed this one. Review upcoming for Book Binge.

Guns and the Girl Next Door by HelenKay Dimon. Goodreads rating: 4.
In general, Intrigues aren't my favorite . But I like the way that Dimon writes them. Her Intrigue heroes are always flawed, and always learn to rely on the strength of their heroines. This book was as much about a team working together and dealing with strengths and weaknesses of their own and each other, as it was about the romance.

Her Private Avenger by Elle Kennedy. Goodreads rating: 4.
I really liked both the hero & heroine. Loved how sensitive Quinn was and how he acknowledged both to himself and to Morgan how mych he'd loved her. A...moreI really liked both the hero & heroine. Loved how sensitive Quinn was and how he acknowledged both to himself and to Morgan how mych he'd loved her. Also liked that they both remembered the good times as well as the end.

Here Comes the Groom by Karina Bliss. Goodreads rating: 4.
Terrific book. Friends to lovers story along with some PTSD from an Afghanistan vet hero.

Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham. Goodreads rating: 4.
Loved the backdrop of the Revolutionary war for this time travel. Although it was odd that Jake so readily accepted what had happened to him. But truly liked all the characters.

How to Wed a Baron by Kasey Michaels. Goodreads rating: 4.
I liked this one a lot. Another "I'm no good" hero who is quite simply bowled over by the heroine. And goes with it, for the most part.

Never a Bride by Amelia Grey. Goodreads rating: 4.
I must have liked it because I gave it a 4, but to tell the truth, I can't remember a thing about this one.

Origin in Death (In Death, #21) by J.D. Robb. Goodreads rating: 4.
Wonderful book, yet again. Great social commentary again here, along with Eve & Roarke settling back down after a volatile couple of books. 

Rescued by His Christmas Angel by Cara Colter. Goodreads rating: 4.
Here's one that was deleted by GR. I read this one on the rec of someone (can't remember now, damn it). I was glad I did. A wonderful story about a single father and the elementary school teacher that changes his life.

The Cruelest Cut by Rick Reed. Goodreads rating: 4.
I think I would have given it 5 stars but for the bumbling, corrupt police chief. Otherwise I loved it. Loved the teamwork and actual work the team did. Can't wait for the next Jack Murphy.

The Dangerous Viscount (The Burgundy Club #2) by Miranda Neville. Goodreads rating: 4.
Here's another where the review was wiped. Sigh.This was a great story of the bookish Sebastian and the beauty Diana. It was such a great juxtaposition of the usual regency trope of a young, plain woman coming out of her shell.  Only here, it was the hero, and because of his anger at the heroine. Loved it.

How To Tame a Lady by Kasey Michaels. Goodreads rating: 3.5.
Splitting the middle between a 4 for the hero and story and a 3- for the heroine. Nuff said.

The Pursuit of Pleasure by Elizabeth Essex. Goodreads rating: 3.
I found there were frequent phrases that were totally overused, such as describing the heroine's brow as "her marmalade brow" so often I wondered seriously about the editing. Plus, marmalade made me think of jam every time I read it. Then, as quickly as it began, her brow was never mentioned again after about p 50. And the author found a new phrase to repeat. The smuggling story was average, but got better as it went which is what raised this up to a 3.

Trust Me (Lassiter Group, #1) by Sydney Somers. Goodreads rating: 3.
I really wanted to like this RS book. Really. But it just didn't work for me too well. And I'm not sure why (another Goodreads eaten review).

Guns and the Girl Next Door by HelenKay Dimon

Agent Holden Price didn't have to go far to find his next case—it crashed right into his living room! Not only had the beautiful blonde lost control of her car, but if she was telling the truth, someone was also trying to kill her. As a recovery agent, he had an obligation to investigate. And he couldn't deny that Mia Landers interested him more than she should.

Nothing made sense to Mia—especially not the attempt on her life. All she could do was trust Holden, the tall, dark and devastating agent who discovered that he and Mia had a common enemy…and a fierce attraction. But in order to act on it, they'd first have to come face-to-face with their darkest fears and a deadly revelation that might put their newfound love on the line.


Thank you to HelenKay Dimon, who kindly provided me with an ARC of this book (although I admit that it didn't convert well at all, so I went ahead and bought a copy). Guns and the Girl Next Door is related to her earlier Intrigue, Under the Gun.

In general, Intrigues aren't my favorite.It's too hard to get a believable romance into such a short page count when there is, at the heart of the book, a fast-moving suspense. But I like the way that Dimon writes them. Her Intrigue heroes are always flawed, and always learn to rely on the strength of their heroines. This book was as much about a team working together and dealing with strengths and weaknesses of their own and each other, as it was about the romance.

Having said that, both Holden and Mia come to rely on each other and it grows slowly from a sexual to a very intimate thing. Although Mia began the sexual relationship with the emotional need to feel clean, they were both surprised with the intensity of feeling that struck. They were torn between embracing it and fighting it, since it brought out both their vulnerabilities.

Their HEA was an assured thing - after all this is a Harlequin, but I liked that Dimon went out of her way to show how safe and good Mia made Holden feel as well as the other way around. It built more believability into their quick fall into love.

I found it hard to believe that there would be no fallout from the death at the end, and so assume that Trevor will make an appearance in the next book as the team continues their hunt for their boss. This is a series, and has an overarcing plotline. We saw the couple from Under the Gun making a big appearance in this one, and it helps to seal their HEA, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of Holden and Mia in the next one, Gunning for Trouble, in Feb.

Another strong book from Dimon, with a messy hero and the heroine he relies on for so much.

In Death Challenge final post...

First, I would like to thank Christine for hosting the In Death challenge. I've been afraid to start the books because I knew I would get hooked, and I was so right. Darn it. I burned out somewhere around June or July, and then picked back up at the end of November. All in all, I've read up through book 21 since last December. Wow. Only a bazillion more to go :)

Anyway, here are a few short synopses of the 4 I read this month.

Divided in Death

There are plenty enough reviews out there that give the plot summary. So I'll just talk about my reactions. This was a very uncomfortable book, in that Roarke and Eve are again fighting over that which together makes them strong - most especially Roarke's immense love for Eve and his desire to make everything in her world perfect. Which he already does by simply existing, but when he gets a glimpse into her past and learns something rather horrifying (but frankly, not that surprising if we're talking about governments), he is determined to make it right for Eve. Which would involve illegal activity on his part, including murder. He sees no problem with it, but Eve's innate sense of justice won't allow her to sanction it. They spend the entire book at odds, and it's very uncomfortable to read. But uncomfortable does not equal bad, and so I thought this was another excellent and believable entry in the series.

Visions In Death

Despite the drama in this one, the levity and love between Eve and Roarke and the little discoveries Eve makes about friendship make this a stellar entry to the series. Especially since Divided was so tense with no light relief from all that tension. Where this one truly shined was the character arcs and Robb knowing that after all the upheaval in the previous book, we needed to see a united and together Eve and Roarke.

Survivor In Death

I actually cried big fat tears in one scene.

No matter how much softer Eve has gotten, she sticks out like a sore thumb in her inability to be soft with Nixie. She shows her compassion in different ways, and we kmow, as does Nixie, that she is deeply touched and affected. I think Roarke was able to relate to her better simply because a) she's a living breathing female, and b) because he'd had some experience with Marlena and Jenny back in Ireland.

Loved that Eve and Summerset seemed to come to a mutual respect albeit grudgingly given on both sides.

Best LoL moment:
She slid a glance toward him as she uncoded the seal. "You really do want sex."

"I'm still breathing, so that would be yes."

Origin In Death

Possible tiny spoiler at the end of 1st paragraph...

I think what I liked so much about this one was twofold. First, as always, Robb's social commentary is superb. She takes issues that are on the burner today and pumps them up for 50 years in the future. And sometimes the look we get is excellent (gun control, birth control, same-sex marriage and interracial relationships a non-issue) and sometimes it's downright scary, as in this book where the focus is on genetics and cloning.

I also liked the first real peek I recall at the actuality of the Urban Wars, and once again, I felt like this was somewhere I could see our world heading.

Lastly, I liked that this book seemed to settle Eve and Roarke once again, following the upheaval in Divided in Death and the almost wackiness I felt in Visions In Death. Although, they continue to get themselves into situations that stretch their comfort level (family for Thanksgiving), but it shows how they ground each other and how their relationships make them much more willing and able to interact with others on a real basis (though they are still uncomfortable as hell with the idea of family and Eve is still uncomfortable with the idea of sharing a holiday table with anyone!).
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