Thursday, December 9, 2010

After Christmas Treats: Coming to a Bookstore Near You

December 28 has long been marked on my book calendar as one of those terrific, tantalizing Tuesdays that promise a bounty of books that I’m longing to read. I’ve already read three (all A reads for me), and I am eagerly awaiting the others.

Toni Blake--Whisper Falls (Destiny, Book 3--Avon)

Nobody is better than Toni Blake at giving a reader engaging characters in a story that is both sizzling and sweet. She does it again in Whisper Falls, the third book in her series set in small-town Ohio. If you’re as weary as I am of heroines (and heroes) whose loves are blighted beyond recovery because some past love betrayed them, you will probably find heroine Tessa Sheridan as refreshing as I did. She is battling Crohn’s disease, and it’s a tough fight. Tessa felt real to me. Chronic illness has had both physical and emotional costs, but she’s determined to enjoy life. She’s also an interesting combination of caution and risk-taking.

Lucky is a dark, dangerous biker bad boy, the kind your mother always warned you about but you kept sneaking looks and having fantasies ‘cause he was so-o-o sexy. And he is all these things, and  much more. He’s a guy who made some bad choices, but he’s trying to right old wrongs and make choices now that are best for all concerned. He’s a Romo (brother to Mike, whom you’ll know if you read Book 2), and he has family issues that have to be resolved. He also has a past, and we romance readers know that the past is rarely fully past.

I like my romances with rich contexts, and Blake provides plenty of that. I especially liked the way characters from the earlier books were woven into this one. Their presence had purpose in the story. I never got the feeling they were making cameo appearances to satisfy the series addicts (like me). This book stands on its own quite well. Readers new to the series or to Blake should have no problems with it.

Whisper Falls was another TB winner for me. I'm already wondering what’s happening in Destiny next.

Robyn Carr--Promise Canyon (Virgin River, Book 11--Mira)

I’m always happy to visit Virgin River. It’s filled with interesting people. Clay Tahoma and Lilly Yazhi are terrific additions to the community. Clay has just arrived in Virgin River, and he’s looking to settle down and build a life here. He’s also trying to cut some troublesome ties with his immediate past. Lilly has a past too, one that has taught her to be wary of strong, sexy Native American males. She’s the only one in Virgin River not delighted to have Clay join the community.

I really liked these characters. Their different responses to their cultural heritage seemed genuine to me. One of the things I liked best was that Lilly reconnects to parts of who she is because of her relationship with Clay. The scene where she meets his mother left me teary-eyed. In fact, I loved the family connections in this book—the fierce but imperfect love between Lilly and her grandfather and Clay’s extraordinary history with his son and his close ties with his sister and her family.

Clay and Lilly are good together too. Lilly may be guilty of stereotyping (a certain irony there) when she first meets Clay, but she has good reason for her reservations. The mistake Clay makes with Lilly seemed in character to me, and his propensity to delay the difficult reminded me of some men I’ve known. And Robyn Carr could give lessons in how to make a hero admit he’s wrong and how to atone for his errors.

I’ve read all the Virgin River books, and I have enjoyed them, some more than others. I’d rank this one very close to the first three, which continue to be my favorites.

Note: The count for the series says Promise Canyon is Book 11, but if you include the two novellas, it’s really story #13. I admit I made a chart, so I can keep track of all the character connections in the series. For any of you who are as obsessive as I am with keeping track of such details, the story of Clay’s friend and employer, veterinarian Nate Jensen, and his fiancée, Annie McCarty, can be found in “Under the Christmas Tree,” a novella in That Holiday Feeling (2009).

Laura Lee Guhrke--Wedding of the Season (Abandoned at the Altar, Book 1--Avon)

This is the first book in a new trilogy from Laura Lee Guhrke, and if they are all three as good as the first one, this series should rival Guhrke’s Bachelor Girl series in popularity. I should start by saying that I had three reasons for a predisposition to like Wedding of the Season before I read the first line: (1) It’s written by an author whose books routinely earn keeper status from me; (2) it’s set in the Edwardian period, a time I think we see too little of in romance fiction; (3) it’s a reunion story, my favorite theme. Sometimes having high expectations of a book can lead to a proportional disappointment. That was definitely not the case with WOTS.

Beatrix and Will are a couple with a history. Six years ago, each of them makes a choice that puts a period to their long relationship. She’s engaged again and looking forward to a wedding that will take place--and then Will reappears. The opening scene is marvelous. It sets up the tension between the H/H beautifully, plus it gave me the same feeling I get from the opening scene of my favorite romantic comedies of the 30s and 40s.

The plot is fairly predictable. There’s the heroine with a grievance, the hero with a purpose, the proper new love, and a set of circumstances that force the H/H into one another’s company with the expected result of reunion and HEA. What sets Guhrke book apart from hundreds of other books with the same plot is the skill with which she creates characters with whom the reader falls in love. Beatrix’s determination to have the life she believes she must have and her reluctance to take risks may be maddening to some readers, but she had my sympathy from the beginning. I thought the roadster worked masterfully to show that there is more to Beatrix than even she understands at this point. Will is a great hero, but he's not faultless. His interest in the Egyptian excavation is consuming. Their flaws make these characters interesting, credible, and endearing.

I can’t praise the setting highly enough. Not only is it refreshingly different from the usual Georgian/Regency fare, but it is tied directly to action and character in this novel. The opulent lifestyles of the privileged, the technological advances, the shifting social roles—all these things are part of WOTS. They are part of who these characters are. Wedding of the Season is not only a fun read with a wholly satisfying romance; it’s also an intelligent book. I love that!

December 28 releases I haven’t read but that are on my To-Be-Bought list are:

I've been waiting for Lady Most Likely for ages. Three favorites in one book--how often does that happen? In Too Deep introduces a new series, but it's still an Arcane Society book--and I'm hooked. Mistress by Midnight is the second book in the Courtesans Court series. I think that court was a brilliant idea, and I can't wait to read another book by my friend Maggie.
(Rose Lerner’s second book, A Lily Among Thorns, was on my list for December 28, but according to her website, the release date has been changed to March 2011 for the ebook, June 2011 for the pb. I had wondered how the changes at Dorchester would affect this book. I’m glad it’s just a delay in release.)
Note: I received free ecopies of Whisper Falls, Promise Canyon, and Wedding of the Season from the publishers through NetGalley, but my reviews were unaffected by their generosity. As evidence, I offer the information that I'll use my own $$ to buy copies of all three along with the other books on my list on December 28.


irisheyes said...

Those are all on my list too, Janga!

I'm especially excited about the start of another Laura Lee Guhrke series. I don't think I've ever read anything set in that time period before. It should be interesting.

I'm also glad to hear that Robyn Carr's new addition to the Virgin River series measures up. I'm in the middle of a re-read of the first three!

I also can't wait for SEP's "Call Me Irresistible". That one doesn't release until January 18th, though. And I hear Carla Kelly has two consecutive releases, "The Admiral's Penniless Bride" on January 1st and "Borrowed Light" on February 8th!

It's going to be a VERY GOOD New Year!

Jane said...

I can't wait to read "Whisper Falls." I want to know what Lucky has been doing all these years. Also looking for a reunion between him and Mike.

PJ said...

Whisper Falls is in my queue for review so I'm not going to read what you've said about that one. (though I'm *really* looking forward to meeting Lucky!)

Robyn Carr and LL Guhrke are both auto-buys and I'm always excited when they have new books coming out. The first three Virgin River books are still my favorites so I'm thrilled to hear you think the new one is close to their standard of excellence.

I'm with you on the Edwardian period too. I'd love to see more romances set in that age!

I've already read the Quinn/James/Brockway book and it was even better than I expected it to be. How could it not be with those three at the helm?

Janga said...

I think you'll really like the Guhrke, Irish.

January does look great for romance/women's fiction readers. Barbara O'Neal has a new one that will be released December 21, How to Bake a Perfect Life. I'm really looking forward to that one too and to Kaki Warner's Chasing the Wind, which will be released January 4. And any year that has two Carla Kelly books in it is a good reading year. :)

Janga said...

Jane, Lucky is such a great character, and Tessa is a wonderful heroine too. The Destiny books have all been terrific reads.

Janga said...

PJ, I understand about not reading someone else's review before you write your own. I envy you having already read The Lady Most Likely. I am so eager to read that one from both a readerly and a writerly perspective. I know I'll love the story, and I'm really interested in seeing how their different voices worked.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Thanks so much for including me in such a stellar line-up! I hope people still have some $ to plunk down to buy books, LOL.

Have the merriest of Christmases if our paths don't cross before the holidays! I've got tons of company already and hope to survive to Christmas Eve. :)

quantum said...

I have just finished VR 10 - Moonlight Road and thought I had reached the end! They are all excellent though, and I will certainly buy Promise Canyon ... just waiting for the audio version.

I have also read some of Toni Blake and was an avid follower until her publisher stopped downloads to the UK. Good news though.I just noticed that Amazon UK are going to sell Blake's 'In your wildest dreams' soon as a kindle ebook. An anthology, 'the power of love', with her contributing is also available.

I think we in the UK may be coming out of the backwaters at last! .... And Yay, some of Eloisa James's books are also now on sale at kindle UK.

I am a big fan of Krenz, particularly when she wears her Amanda Quick historicals hat. The hats seem to be whizzing about now though, as I think that she started 'The Arcane Society' series (Second Sight) as Amanda Quick. Then introduced 'Dreamlight' at book 7 as Krenz, though in 'The Midnight Crystal', written as Jayne Castle, she links the series to the 'Harmony World' series, also written as Jayne Castle. Could any other author get away with this hat conjuring?! LOL

Delighted to see that Maggie is now getting a full head of steam. I have just started on her debut novel from Amazon UK Kindle. Hard to imagine that I once competed with her in drabble contests. She's way way out of my league now!

Guhrke is an author that I haven't yet tried .... maybe after Christmas!

Can't wait for your Christmas Stocking recommendations Janga.
Will you be adopting a contrarian strategy and suggesting some really hot reads to warm us up?

I know .... I will have to wait and see! *smile*

Janga said...

Maggie, I know I'll have the company of lots of people reading Mistress by Midnight. And congrats on all the great reviews your novella is getting!

Enjoy your guests and have a wonderful holiday. I'm sure that Sadie and Ryder will see that you do. :-)

Janga said...

Q, Carr has three more Virgin River books in 2011, and I don't think that's the end. It's a place many readers lover returning to. I'm glad you're getting to read Toni and Eloisa's books. Great reading!