Saturday, June 29, 2013

RITA Season, Part 4: Romance Novella

The 33rd Annual Conference of the Romance Writers of America will be held in Atlanta July 17-20. The 2013 RITA winners will be announced on July 20.

The posts that I’ll be sharing on alternate Saturdays between now and July 13 will be self-indulgent, romance-fan posts.  I’m going to be looking only at the categories in which I have read most of the finalists and talking about the books I have read with a nostalgic glance at some favorite winners from the past and a few gripes about treasured books not included among the current finalists. I hope you’ll join me and share your own totally authentic, equally subjective views

Romance Novella: The Past

The RITA for best romance novella is a fairly recent addition to the awards. “Starry, Starry Night,” a ghost romance by Marianne Willman in Once upon a Star, an anthology headlined by Nora Roberts, won the first RITA in this category in 2000. I haven’t read all of the winners by any means, but four of the winners are by authors whose books I regularly read. 

 2002 Best Romantic Novella "I Will" by Lisa Kleypas from Wish List 
Lisa Kleypas has been on my auto-buy list since the 1990s, and this novella is one of her redeemed hero tales. Andrew, Lord Drake, the hero of “I Will” is the dissipated, drunken half-brother of Logan Scott (Because You’re Mine, 1997). In this novella, Andrew, in an effort to prove himself a reformed character to his dying father and thus be reinstated in his will, convinces the prim and proper Miss Caroline Hargreaves to participate in a sham engagement. Great sexual tension and memorable characters make this one a winner for me. This is my friend Santa’s all-time favorite novella, another reason for me to acknowledge this novella as special.

2008 Best Romance Novella “Born in My Heart” by Jennifer Greene
in Like Mother, Like Daughter
Already suffering from a slight case of empty-nest syndrome, Anne, the mother of an adopted daughter, fears losing her daughter when the college student locates her birth mother and wants a relationship with her. But Anne discovers not only that her daughter knows that her mother is the woman who loved her and shared a life with her but that her husband is a treasure she has been overlooking. A tender, heartwarming story with Greene’s usual likeable, believable characters and emotional punch, this is one of my favorite Mother’s Day stories.

2010 Best Romance Novella "The Christmas Eve Promise" by Molly O'Keefe in The Night Before Christmas
Merrieta Monroe has always sworn that she would not end up in Webster Groves working at the family diner, but when her family needs her help and she dumps her cheating fiancé, she comes home. Now if she can just deal with her big secret, the Monroe holiday extravaganza, and Gavin McDonnell, a part of her past she can’t forget, she’ll be fine. This story had me at line one: “Within moments of walking downstairs to the diner, Merrieta Monroe was violently assaulted by Christmas.” The story that follows made me laugh, sigh, and blink away a few tears. A gender-bending Santa, a troubled teen angel, and an old flame reignited all help make this a different but beloved Christmas read.

2012 Best Romance Novella I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden
Connected to Linden’s The Truth About the Duke series but set a generation earlier, this is the story of Margaret de Lacey, who finds herself the target of fortune hunters when her brother Francis inherits the dukedom of Durham. Francis settles a dowry of 40,000 pounds on Margaret, who, still single at the advanced age of thirty, expects to remain unmarried. Rhys Corwen, Earl of Dowling, needs a wife with a fortune, but he finds that Margaret’s fortune is the least of the reasons he needs her in his life. This is a wonderful story with two mature characters who behave sensibly and romantically. I like this full series, but the novella is my favorite.

Romance Novella: The Present

I’ve read four of the six finalists in this category and enjoyed them all.

 The Duchess of Love by Sally MacKenzie
 I read this novella because it was offered free on Amazon, and it worked the way authors hope the freebies will. I liked it enough to buy Bedding Lord Ned. Andrew, the Duke of Greycliffe decides to enjoy the freedom from his title when a new housekeeper mistakes his older cousin for the duke. But when he meets Venus Collingswood skinny dipping in his pond and falls for her, he makes the mistake of letting her think he is a plain mister, cousin to the duke, a lie he pays for later. All ends happily, however, and as readers discover in Bedding Lord Ned, Venus and Andrew become the parents of three sons who are the heroes of three novels in the Duchess of Love series. I liked Andrew, who is anything but an arrogant duke, and I adored Venus, who, in a reversal of the usual, is the misfit in her family because she is not bluestocking. This is a light-hearted, fun read.

“Room at the Inn” by Ruthie Knox in Naughty & Nice
 Ruthie Knox’s stories are hotter than mu usual fare, but I can’t resist her characters. “Room at the Inn” is a clever rewriting of It’s a Wonderful Life in which Carson Vance, who can’t wait to leave his hometown of Potter Falls, New York, travels the world building embassies for the Foreign Service, and his college girlfriend, Julie Long, a wealthy Manhattanite, falls in love with the small town, finding in Carson’s parents the family for which she longed and becoming an integral part of the community. For a decade, Carson and Julie were involved in an intermittent affair, “tumbl[ing] into the past with a lurch of nostalgic lust” every time Carson returned for a brief visit. Six years ago, his mother guilted him into ending the affair, but the chemistry between the two is as powerful as ever. Carson is home for the first time in three years, trying to help his dad get on with life after the death of Carson’s mother. The ending is predictable, but the journey is lusty and complicated by a mix of emotions. Leo Potter, the antithesis of Mr. Potter of movie fame, is a delicious addition to this sexy Christmas story.

Seduced by a Pirate by Eloisa James
 This was my favorite novella of 2012. Sir Griffin Barry, a secondary character in The Ugly Duchess, is on his way home after spending almost half his lifetime at sea. Married at seventeen shortly before he jumped out a window and out of his new wife’s life, he was a pirate by eighteen. Four years later, he was captain of the feared Flying Poppy, named for the wife he left somewhere near Bath. Fourteen years later, he’s returning with a limp, a blue poppy tattoo on one cheekbone, a pardon from the king who has declared him a privateer rather than a pirate, and a case of nerves almost the equal of those that rendered him impotent on his wedding night. Going home seems to be his only option, but he has serious qualms about the reception he’s likely to receive from the wife he left behind. Griffin and his lady are quite a pair. For fourteen years, he’s thought his wife’s name was Poppy; for fourteen years, she’s thought her husband was short, slight, and unprepossessing. They discover they are both wrong. I smiled from the first page to the final scene, only stopping when a grin or a giggle replace the smile.

“The Valentine’s Curse” by Jodi Thomas in Be My Texas Valentine
 Nobody does Texas settings and misfit characters better than Jodi Thomas. She gives readers both in this tale of a Valerie Allen, a twice-widowed heroine whose touch is believed to curse a person with death, and Brody Monroe, a Yankee cowboy in post-Civil War Texas. The two outcasts meet at a Valentine’s dance and watching them fall in love in this marriage-of-convenience story is a delight.

I have not read two of the finalists: Breathless by Sophie Jordan and “Sleeping with a Beauty” by Leslie Kelly in Once Upon a Valentine.

Romance Novella: The Missing

Thanks to the proliferation of e-novellas, I am reading many more than I used to, although I still read far fewer novellas than novels. Many of those I do read are connected to novels. That is the case with all three of the 2012 novellas that I feel are missing from the RITA list of Best Romance Novella.

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

Hugo Marshall, son of a coalminer, former prizefighter and current secretary of the Duke of Clermont, is known as the Wolf of Clermont, a man who makes his employer’s problems and inconveniences disappear by any means necessary. The immediate problem is Serena Barton, a woman Clermont describes as a servant who seduced him. Hugo doubts Clermont’s veracity, but that doesn’t lessen his determination to rid his employer of the obstacle to reconciling with his wealthy bride and the subsequent 500-pound payment that represents a giant step toward the fulfillment of Hugo’s ambition to become wealthy and powerful. Serena, who was raped and impregnated by Clermont when he visited the family who employed her as a governess, refuses to be just another ruined woman who silently accepts what was done to her. Since Clermont ignored her when she confronted him, she decides to sit on a bench in front of his house until she receives justice and recognition. The conflict between the goals of Hugo and Serena makes them antagonists, but this role is eroded as they come to know and care for one another. This is a smart, complex, emotional story beautifully written. It is a prequel to Milan’s The Brothers Sinister series.

The Second Seduction of a Lady by Miranda Neville
 Eleanor Hardwick, an independent woman with a great respect for common sense and very little respect for the institution of marriage, is visiting in Somerset, having responded to an urgent summons from her father’s second cousin, the Honorable Mrs. George Brotherton, whose detestable character Eleanor can tolerate only because such tolerance is the price she must pay to enjoy the company of her delightful seventeen-year-old cousin, Caroline Brotherton. While she is in Somerset, Eleanor meets the man who five years earlier for a brief time separated her from her common sense persuaded her that she was as wildly in love as even the romantic Caro could hope for. Max Quentin, who is spending a few weeks in Somerset winding up his guardianship of young Robert Townsend, has spent five years regretting a foolish bet that he accepted against his better instincts because he needed the money, and he has never stopped longing for a second chance. Both Max and Eleanor are intelligent strong-minded, and imperfect, qualities I associate with most of Neville’s characters. I loved them both and particularly enjoyed that they were a bit older than the typical hero and heroine. Reunion romances are my favorites, in part because I like a hero and heroine who share a history. And this second seduction is marvelous. The Second Seduction of a Lady serves as a prequel to The Importance of Being Wicked, the first book in Neville's late-Georgian quartet about art collectors.

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Molly O’Keefe in Naughty & Nice
 This bittersweet story, a prequel to O’Keefe’s Crazy Thing Called Love, Book 3 in her Crooked Creek Ranch series, is an atypical romance novella in any season, particularly at the Christmas season. Maddy Baumgarten is two days away from her eighteenth birthday, the day after Christmas, when she is planning to elope with Billy Wilkins, 20. Maddy has a loving, supportive family who has great hopes for their bright young daughter whom they expect to become the first person in the family to attend college. Billy, whose family is financially and emotionally impoverished, is a second round draft pick in the NHL. He has his ticket out of the life he has known, and he wants Maddy with him. Even without the knowledge from book 2 in the series that these Maddy and Billy suffer a devastating divorce, the extreme youth of the protagonists and evidence of Billy’s temper are enough to make a reader question the HEA. O’Keefe has the gift of creating characters so real the reader’s heart aches for them. That ache is amplified in this story. It is flawlessly written and wonderfully risky. Both qualities merit recognition.

Are you reading more novellas? What was your favorite of 2012?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Review: Willowleaf Lane

Willowleaf Lane
By RaeAnne Thayne
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: June 25, 2013

Charlotte “Charley” Caine has been a minor character in earlier Hope’s Crossing books, most notably in Currant Creek Valley as a woman Sam Delgado dates once before he and Alex McKnight become a couple. Charley has been overweight for much of her life, but within the last eighteen months, she has made significant lifestyle changes that resulted in a substantial weight loss. A thinner, healthier Charley has more self-confidence and finds greater joy in clothes shopping, but her new svelteness has not healed all the damage from the years when she was shy, fat, awkward, and hopelessly in love with a cocky jock whose carelessly cruel words broke her heart.

Spencer Gregory grew up in Hope’s Crossing, working several jobs from the time he was twelve to keep utilities turned on in the small, dilapidated house where he lived with his alcoholic mother. One of those jobs was at Dermot Caine’s Center of Hope café. Dermot was kind to Spence, not only giving him a job but including him in activities with his own sons and helping pay for expenses connected with the sports teams that were the bright spots in Spence’s dismal life. Dermot’s only daughter, Charlotte, was kind to Spencer too. For four years, the younger Charlotte helped him with his English assignments, keeping his grades high enough to maintain his eligibility for football and baseball. Billie Gregory died of liver failure shortly before Spence graduated from high school, signed a multimillion dollar contract with the Portland Pioneers baseball team, and left Hope’s Crossing with no plans of ever returning.

Smoke Gregory, so christened by the media for his smokin’ hot looks and his fastball, enjoyed a decade of wealth, fame, and adulation before everything fell apart. First, a career-ending injury left him addicted to prescription pain medication, necessitating a bout in rehab. He had just returned as the Pioneer’s pitching coach when a scandal broke over charges he was selling steroids and other drugs, charges that almost led to a prison sentence. The day the judge threw out the charges, his supermodel wife drowned in their swimming pool, and Smoke Gregory went from being a hero and media darling to being vilified as a drug dealer who may have been complicit in his wife’s death, an object lesson in all that was wrong with professional sports.

The man who returns to Hope’s Crossing with his twelve-year-old daughter Peyton is far removed from the arrogant kid who left. Humiliated and humbled, he is grateful to Harry Lange for giving him a chance as director of the town’s new recreation center. Although he doesn’t need the money, he does need the feeling that he’s accomplishing something with his life, and he needs a chance to repair his relationship with his daughter, who is still grieving for her mother and holds Spence responsible for her mother’s death. Spence is determined to reclaim a relationship he let deteriorate while his career soared and his marriage to his high-maintenance, needy wife disintegrated.

Spence doesn’t even recognize Charlotte Caine when he first sees her, but he’s attracted to the curvy beauty immediately and uses every excuse to spend time with her. Charley tells herself that she hates Spencer Gregory for his betrayal of the fifteen-year-old girl who thought he was her friend and for the way he let down her father and all those in Hope’s Crossing who viewed their favorite native son as a hero. She wonders why of all the streets in all the world Smoke Gregory had to end up a few doors from her house on Willowleaf Lane.  But she can’t ignore him, the feelings he awakens in her, and even the reluctant sympathy she feels for a man in whose innocence she begins to believe. She also feels sympathy and kinship for Peyton since Charley remembers all too well what it was like to be a young adolescent girl who had lost her mother at a time when she needed her badly. But can Charley learn to trust Spence, and can Spence surrender all his secrets and find a permanent place in Hope’s Crossing?

Raeanne Thayne’s fifth Hope’s Crossing book is packed with sympathetic, complicated characters and an abundance of issues. Charlotte’s weight issues and her transformation are handled with impressive insight. First, her motivation to change her lifestyle stems from the emotions resulting from her brother Dylan’s brush with death from injuries sustained in battle in Afghanistan. Nearly losing her brother opens her eyes to the risks she’s taking with her own life with weight-related high blood pressure and a possibility of diabetes. Then, Thayne shows Charlotte’s self-awareness of the factors that contributed to her weight gain. Although Charlotte owns Sugar Rush, a gourmet candy shop, her downfall is not her famous fudge or hand-dipped chocolates but the comfort food her father serves in his café, food that represents for Charley the safe, warm, loving world of family life before her mother’s death. Also, although she has reached her goal weight, Charlotte is repeatedly described as “curvy,” suggesting that her ideal weight is what is right for her body type, not some model thinness unattainable for most women.

Some readers may grow impatient with Charley’s inability to forgive and forget an incident that took place more than a decade ago when she and Spence were teenagers, but Thayne makes clear that that vulnerable girl is still part of who Charlotte is. Charley can’t allow herself to believe that Spence is truly attracted to her because “the fat girl who still lived inside her skin” wonders if he’s using her again.

Except for learning to trust Spence and overcoming her fear of being hurt again, Charley’s growth occurs before the book opens. Spence is the character who grows the most. Although his earlier experiences have humbled him, it is what happens to him after he connects with Charley and begins to see Hope’s Crossing through her eyes, after he focuses on something larger than himself that he becomes the man he was meant to be. He was never the villain the media made him out to be, but he is a better, more complete human being by the story’s end.

Subplots involving Peyton and Dylan add further complications to a story already layered with Charley’s issues with weight and body image and the tangled, temptation laden world of professional sports that has been Spence’s life. Peyton’s eating disorder, her way of controlling a world that turned to chaos in the wake of her father’s disgrace, her mother’s death, and a move away from everything that was familiar, is resolved in Willowleaf Lane, but Dylan’s depression and adjustment to life with one arm and one eye remain to be addressed in a future book.  

Thayne has given her readers another Hope’s Crossing book that offers a richly emotional tale of people facing real problems in a real place. Life in Hope’s Crossing is no idyll. Bad things happen to good people, and while the town is filled with decent people who are caring and compassionate and eager to help, it also has its share of people willing to think the worst and quick to move to hurtful judgments. Both elements make it a town I believe in and look forward to visiting again. If you’ve read earlier Hope’s Crossing books, you should not miss an opportunity to see old friends and read a strong, moving story. If you haven’t read any of the Hope’s Crossing books, Willowleaf Lane can be read as a standalone. As for me, my Hope’s Crossing keepers now number five, and I’m expecting to add a sixth in late October when Dylan’s story, Christmas in Snowflake Canyon, is released.

Beginning with the success of Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series, almost every small-town series seems to have one or more characters who is a veteran dealing with the physical and psychological wounds of war. Do you see this trend as patriotic, or do you think it has reached the point of overkill?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bonus Review: Hold on My Heart

Hold on My Heart
By Tracy Brogan
Montlake Romance
Release Date: June 25, 2013

With a single click of a mouse, Libby Hamilton ended her career as a corporate events planner. She hit “Reply All” in error and went public with her emphatically negative opinion of her boss. Not only was she fired but the story of her error has made the rounds, making remote the likelihood of her finding another job in Chicago. Her boyfriend of almost four years is eager to keep his distance, physically and emotionally, and Libby has moved back to the family home in Monroe, Illinois. Her father, a retired history teacher with a personal history of unsuccessful projects, has just bought a historic one-room schoolhouse that he plans to turn into an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, and her long-suffering mother, also a teacher, is dealing with a hypercritical mother-in-law. Older sister Ginny, who teaches at the local high school, is married and pregnant with her first child, and free-spirited younger sister Marti, a college senior, has just announced her engagement to a jousting instructor with a dragon tattoo. Jobless and suddenly single, Libby is drafted into helping them all, but most of her time is taken up with her father’s project, a project that is made more interesting by the presence of a hunky builder.

Tom Murphy, a builder and restoration specialist, is hired by Peter Hamilton to restore the old school building. A taciturn widower with a teenage daughter, Tom is still struggling with grief and guilt a year after his wife’s death and trying to persuade his daughter that she belongs with him rather than with her maternal grandparents with whom she’s been living since her mother’s death. He is thankful for the job that promises work through the winter, but he’s not interested in the complications that Libby Hamilton promises. She talks too much, leads him to revealing more than he’s comfortable with, and stirs feelings that leave him restless and guilty.

The popularity of romantic comedy leads to the term being too loosely applied at times. At its best, romantic comedy is a genre in which the protagonists, realistically drawn adults who are equals in mind, body, and spirit (although not always in social status) meet, engage in quips and ripostes, encounter obstacles (often their own confusion), and ultimately understand that the other is the right person for him/her. Sexual tension may be prevalent, but the relationship is not about sex; it’s about resolving conflicts and moving to a happy union of the lovers. Hold on Your Heart meets these criteria. Hold on My Heart is a romantic comedy with humor, heart, and characters quirky or poignant.

It’s easy to root for Libby and Tom, both engaging, credible characters. Their romance is an appealing blend of sweet and heat with some laugh-out-loud moments and some heart-touching ones. Libby’s family, individually and collectively, are endearing, amusing scene-stealers. Some of my favorite scenes were those involving family interactions. A bridal shop scene with all the Hamilton women is as memorable for its believable sibling interactions ass for its comedy.

Brogan’s Crazy Little Thing is a RITA finalist in the Best First Book category, and I think Hold on My Heart is even better. If you like romance that evokes laughter and tears and gives you characters you can believe in, I highly recommend this book.

Libby Hamilton’s family is a bit unusual in romance fiction in that it is an “intact family,” that is both parents are still living and still married to one another and there are no estrangements within the family. Can you think of other families in romance novels to whom this description also applies?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bonus Reviews: Two Texas Towns

Anything But Sweet
By Candis Terry
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: June 25, 2013

Excitement in Sweet, Texas, is contagious. The town is in dire need of some sprucing up, and the news that they have been chosen by the cable makeover show My New Town has everyone smiling and preparing to welcome the show’s cast and crew to Sweet. Reno Wilder, ex-Marine, cowboy, and hardware store owner, is the only holdout. He likes his town just fine the way it is—worn and comfortable. Reno has already had more change in his life than his heart can bear. First, his oldest brother Jared was killed in Afghanistan, then his beloved father died, and finally his fiancée. He is opposed to the changes Charli Brooks and her crew will make and adamant that his hardware store will not be one of their projects.

The daughter of a Marine general, Charli Brooks grew up constantly moving. Her mother died when Charli was eight, and her father maintained his emotional distance even during the rare times when he was physically present. Charli’s dream has always been to find a place to belong and a community to offer the human connection lacking in her life. The last thing she expected to do as an adult was to continue her nomadic lifestyle, but as designer and star of My New Town, she’s around just long enough to fall in love with a town before she has to move on to the next one. Sweet is just the kind of town she likes best, one that leaves her wishing she were part of the close-knit community where everyone knows the name and history of all the citizens.

Since Sweet has no hotel, the personnel of the TV show are offered hospitality by private homeowners. Jana Wilder, mother of the Wilder boys, offers Charli an apartment over the barn of her oldest surviving son, Reno. Charli loves her quarters, even if Reno is considerably less hospitable than his mother. As of her proximity in the apartment were not enough, Charli soon talks Reno into painting a mural for the senior center, part of her makeover plan. She may be charming all of Sweet including his two younger brothers who can’t stop talking about how hot she is, but Reno is determined to keep the chatty beauty at arm’s length. Not even his sternest resolve proves strong enough to continue to resist the curiosity, humor, and generous heart of the effervescent Charli. The inhabitants of Sweet couldn’t be more delighted to see this unlikely pair turn out to be the perfect match.

Terry gives her readers another small town that merits regular visits in this new series. Sweet, Texas is warm, welcoming, and filled with quirky characters. Charli is a charmer with enough vulnerability to capture the reader’s heart, and Reno is a wounded cowboy hero worthy of hot hero status. The details of the reality show’s production add interest to the story. I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Sweet and am eager to return for the stories of the other Wilder brothers—firefighter Jackson, veterinarian Jesse, and Marine Jake.

All Out of Love
By Lori Wilde
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: June 25, 2013

Lace Beddingfield was a plump, 14-year-old stutterer when the letter she wrote to Cupid confessing her love for and fantasies about the quarterback of the football team, Pierce Hollister, became the most read part of her high school newspaper, thanks to Lace’s cousin Mary Alice, editor and recently dumped girlfriend of the hot jock.  The experience left Lace feeling humiliated and betrayed by her cousin and by the mockery of life-long friends. It was those feelings that led to her skinny, wild child period, but at 26, with a Ph.D. in plant science, Lace is content with her size fourteen body and happy with her job as director of the botanical gardens of her hometown. She’s not happy with the news her Aunt Carol Ann brings to the gardens one July morning: Pierce Hollister has come home to Cupid, Texas.

Pierce Hollister had gone from Cupid’s Millie Greenwood High School to the University of Texas to the NFL, a golden boy every step of the way until a linebacker’s hit in the Super Bowl lost the game for the Dallas Cowboys and left their quarterback with a broken leg and sidelined on the disabled list indefinitely. At thirty, Pierce is no longer a boy, and despite all the pep talks he gives himself, his leg injury may mean that he’s no longer football gold either. His father’s illness brings him back to Cupid, but his injury could mean his stay is not the temporary one he plans.

Pierce finds the grownup Lace a tempting armful, and he’s convinced he can win her over with the charm that has won him more women than he can count, but Lace is determined to avoid Pierce and uses her wit and tart words to check him at every turn. However, when a city employee’s theft of half a million dollars from Cupid’s coffers puts the botanical gardens in jeopardy, Lace is forced to ask for Pierce’s help in a fundraiser to save the gardens. Pierce’s price for his help is time with Lace, and it doesn’t take long before two hearts are in greater danger of being lost than are the gardens.  

Wilde’s second book in her Cupid, Texas series features a sympathetic heroine and a hero with more heart than his playboy reputation and celebrity-inflated ego suggests. Readers who enjoyed Wilde’s earlier series and Love at First Sight, the first Cupid book, will doubtless enjoy this one as well. New readers may find themselves wishing for less time spent with characters tangling the sheets and more time developing the romance. I rank this one with books I label “promising start, potential unrealized.”

Texas is a popular choice for small-town romances. What's your favorite Texas-set series?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday Review: Two of a Kind

Two of a Kind
By Susan Mallery
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: June 25, 2013

Felicia Swift has a genius I. Q., the social skills of a six-year-old, and a hunger to be “normal.”  Her extraordinary intelligence made her parents so uncomfortable that they abandoned her to be brought up by scientists and scholars. She has come to Fool’s Gold to help her friends from her days as a logistician with the Special Forces set up CDS, their bodyguard school. But even though she knows she can continue to work with them, Felicia wants a job that is closer to normal. She’s ready to become part of the Fool’s Gold community and find someone with whom she can settle down and create a home and family. The first step toward her goal may be the job she’s just been offered a job. Pia Moreno, pregnant with her fourth child, has decided it’s time to become a stay-at-home mom, and the mayor thinks Felicia will be the ideal replacement. Torn between elation at the opportunity and fear that she’ll mess up, she turns to Gideon Boylan for advice, a man she remembers too well from their single encounter four years ago.

Gideon Boylan has found his place on the fringes of the Fool’s Gold community, literally and metaphorically. He bought a house outside town, isolated on the side of a mountain, and bought a radio station where he fills the air waves with classic rock during the night hours, his low, sexy voice winning fans among the ladies while he maintains his distance. Gideon may look like other people, but marked by his years as a warrior--especially the two he spent in captivity being tortured and watching his comrades die until he was the only one who survived long enough to be rescued, he is convinced that an essential part of his humanness has been lost. He believes he lacks the capacity to love. His capacity for desire however is unabated as just the sight of a certain redhead with whom he enjoyed one unforgettable night reminds him. Four years has not been long enough to dim the memory of his time with her nor its abrupt ending when Justice Garrett and Ford Hendrix stormed in the next morning to end the idyll. What were the chances that their connection with Ford would lead them all to Fool’s Gold?

Felicia’s circle of friends is enlarging, and she loves her new job. There’s still no potential husband in sight, but when the wary Gideon accepts her proposal that he be her partner in “practice dating” to develop her social skills, life seems good. If she can only make her heart accept the fact that Gideon is adamant that he’s no candidate for a happily-ever-after relationship. When the son Gideon never knew he had shows up, Gideon may not know what to do with him, but Felicia opens her heart and accepts him as family, even though she knows she’s asking for heartbreak if Gideon can’t lose his fear of love.

Susan Mallery adds more heart-stealing characters to the Fool’s Gold community with the twelfth book in her long-running series. Gideon has suffered immeasurably, and he wins the reader’s sympathy even when she’d like to shake him for his stubborn refusal to accept the gifts that are his for the taking. Felicia is wonderful, one of my favorite characters in the series. Her impressive intelligence is minuscule compared to the size of her heart and her eagerness to embrace life. Some of the most touching scenes in the book are those she shares with her girlfriends and with Gideon’s thirteen-year-old son, Carter, who is a delight. Two of a Kind brought a tear to me eye and a smile to my face, my favorite kind of story.

As always with the Fool’s Gold books, part of the pleasure of reading is the secondary characters. The characters new in the bodyguard trilogy are an appealing group, and series fans will enjoy brief appearances by favorite characters from earlier books. Mallery shows readers a new view of Justice, who has been Felicia’s only “family” for years, and Mrs. Hendrix, so intent on seeing her two single sons married and settled in Fool’s Gold that she sets up a booth at the festival for prospective wives to complete application, is one determined mama. I especially enjoyed seeing Pia and the uncannily perspicacious Mayor Marsha.

I look forward to every trip to Fool’s Gold. I already have my ticket to return on July 30 for Three Little Words, Ford and Isabel’s story, and I hope Angel’s story is in the future.

Are you a regular visitor to Fool's Gold? Who is your favorite character?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rita Season, Part 3: The Long Contemporary Series Romance

The 33rd Annual Conference of the Romance Writers of America will be held in Atlanta July 17-20. The 2013 RITA winners will be announced on July 20.

The posts that I’ll be sharing on alternate Saturdays between now and July 6 will be self-indulgent, romance-fan posts.  I’m going to be looking only at the categories in which I have read most of the finalists and talking about the books I have read with a nostalgic glance at some favorite winners from the past and a few gripes about treasured books not included among the current finalists. I hope you’ll join me and share your own totally authentic, equally subjective views.

Long Contemporary Series: The Past

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Nora Roberts was a repeat winner in the early years of this award, with RITAs for This Magic Moment (1984), A Matter of Choice (1985), and One Summer (1987), all of which I read. Other repeat winners who were favorites include Cheryl Reavis for A Crime of The Heart (1989) and Patrick Gallagher’s Widow (1991), Kathleen Korbel for The Ice Cream Man (1990), A Rose for Maggie (1992), and A Soldier’s Heart (1995), and Ruth Wind for Reckless (1998) and Meant to Be Married (1999). Another favorite among the winners of that period is Dragonslayer (1994) by Emilie Richards. Harlequin has practically made an industry out of Nora Roberts reissues, and so I’m sure all those titles are still available in both print and digital formats. Amazingly, among the others, only Reckless is available as an e-book. I’d buy them all in a heartbeat if I could download them to my Kindle. Most are on my keeper shelves, but after years of rereading, they are shabby and tattered. I don’t even dare reread A Rose for Maggie and A Soldier’s Heart, two of my all-time favorites, again for fear they will fall to pieces. 

Fortunately, all of these authors are still writing. Nora Roberts has been a fixture on bestseller lists for ages, Cheryl Reavis has a new book releasing next month, An Unexpected Wife (Live Inspired Historical), and Kathleen Korbel, aka Eileen Dreyer, has a new Drake’s Rake book, Once a Rake, available in late October. Ruth Wind aka Barbara O’Neal won’t have a new book on shelves until The All You Can Dream Buffet releases in May of next year, but, if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend her June 2012 book, The Sleeping Night, written as Barbara Samuel. I reviewed Emilie Richards’s soon-to-be-released Somewhere Between Luck and Trust earlier this week.

Coming Home to You may be Fay Robinson’s only RITA winner (2002) in this category (She won in 2001 for Best First Book) in her tragically brief career, but all five of her books are well worth reading. Sadly, only The Notorious Mrs. Wright and Christmas on Snowbird Mountain, reissued in 2011 as The Wish List (Harlequin Heartwarming) are available as e-books. I especially wish Harlequin would issue her first book, A Man Like Mac, in digital format.

The three most recent winners in this category are all authors whose books I always eagerly anticipate. Janice Kay Johnson won in 2008 for Snowbound, and she is a double finalist in this category for 2013. This has been an incredibly prolific year for Johnson. She has had three Superromances released already: A Hometown Boy (January), Anything for Her (March), and Where It May Lead (May), with two more scheduled From This Day On (August) and Bringing Maddie Home (November). She has also self-published three novellas: Dangerous Waters, Home Field Advantage, and All Through the House with a fourth as part of a Harlequin Christmas anthology, The Christmas Wedding Quilt, to be released November 1. (This is a don’t-miss book with stories by Sarah Mayberry and Emilie Richards as well.) Karen Templeton, who won in 2009 for A Mother’s Wish and in 2011 for Welcome Home, Cowboy, is also a finalist this year. I loved A Marriage Campaign (2013), the conclusion to her Summer Sisters trilogy. Beth Andrews won in 2010 for A Not-So-Perfect Past, part of her Serenity Springs series. This year she introduced a new series: Talk of the Town, the first book in her Shady Grove series was published in April. What Happens Between Friends, Book 2, will release in August, with the third book, Caught Up in You set for December. There was no Long Contemporary Series category in 2012.

Long Contemporary Series Romance: The Present

This is the only RITA category in which I have read all the finalists. I read a lot of Superromances, and five of the eight nominated books are Superromance titles. Four of the six nominated authors are writers whose books I always check out. The downside to all this is that with so many authors I love and books I enjoyed in competition, I can’t pick a favorite for which to cheer. 



A Cold Creek Noel by RaeAnne Thayne is the eleventh book in Thayne’s Cowboys of Cold Creek series. Although I prefer Thayne’s non-category books, she has a gift for creating characters that I care about. I’ve read most of the Cold Creek books and found them engaging. This one is no exception. It’s a heartwarming story of two wounded people, two believable kids, a generous serving of extended family, and lots of dogs. The Cowboys of Cold Creek series includes a number of Christmas stories, and Caidy Bowman and Ben Caldwell’s story is a strong addition to the group.

From Father to Son by Janice Kay Johnson is the middle book in A Brother’s Word trilogy features a dour detective with heavy baggage, a heroine with heavy burdens, and two kids and a dog who are real heart stealers. I probably would have liked Niall MacLachlan and Rowan Staley’s story even if it hadn’t been written by JKJ, but her ability to create engaging, credible characters and add twists to the plot makes this another memorable book by this author. I also liked the other books in the trilogy, Between Love and Duty and The Call of Bravery; the latter is actually my favorite of the series.

A Gift for All Seasons by Karen Templeton is the second of the Summer Sisters books. Templeton says in a letter to her readers that the character of Patrick Shaughnessy was inspired by J. R. Martinez, the former soldier turned actor who was severely burned during his service in Iraq. Templeton was beginning April’s story as Martinez was winning Season 13 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and the idea for her hero was born. Of course, Martinez is eons ahead of Patrick in self-acceptance and the courage to live life. These are the lessons Patrick learns over the course of the book, lessons that his family, Lili, and, most of all, April Ross have to teach him. This was one of my favorite Christmas stories of 2012.

A Life Rebuilt by Jean Brashear concludes her 2012 MacAllister trilogy, but my love affair with the Montalvo/MacAllister family goes back to the first Brashear book. Jenna MacAllister, the adored younger sister of Diego and Jesse Montalvo and Cade and Zane MacAllister, is an effervescent optimist who deserves the nickname her father gives her, Sunshine. Roman Gallardo, tormented by all he saw as a member of an Army Special Forces team in Iraq, has become a recluse who runs through the night streets to keep himself in shape and works on restoring the house he grew up in. Jenna’s innocence and idealism capture Roman’s interest, when he saves her a second time, the bond between them strengthens. But Roman can’t believe the darkness that surrounds him can be overcome even by the brightness that is Jenna—until she shows that she’s strong enough to save him as surely as he saved her. This novel is filled with characters who show brokenness and courage can co-exist.

Making Her Way Home by Janice Kay Johnson is not one of my favorite books by JKJ, but that has more to do with the fact that child in jeopardy books make me a basket case than it does with the book’s quality. Detective Mike Ryan is a stubborn, honorable, compassionate hero who gets past the walls Beth Greenway has in place, hardly surprising given her abusive childhood. He gets her through the harrowing experience of her niece’s kidnapping and shows her an HEA is possible.

No Ordinary Joe by Michelle Celmer features a heroine with big dreams of making it in Nashville and a hero with a history of women who leave him. Reily and Joe are warm, winning characters, Joe’s daughter is a darling, and Paradise, Colorado is a place I’d love to visit. I’m a fan of small-town romances and sweet love stories that show the extraordinary in the ordinary. This book qualifies on both counts.

Out of the Depths by Pamela Hearon is a reunion story complicated by class issues, and it’s set in Kentucky, not a common setting. I also have a fondness for photographer protagonists. These facts earned this book three stars from before I read the first page. This was fortunate because when Kyndal Rawlings and Chase Brennan are trapped in a cave for four days, I was tempted to bail. Just the thought was enough to give me nightmares, but I persisted and found this a rewarding story. I found Kyndal with her tenacity and vulnerability the more sympathetic character, but Chase redeems himself, especially when he finally puts his father in his place.

A Texas Chance by Jean Brashear is the first book in the new MacAllister series. Cade MacAllister, an adventure photographer, has spent twenty years wandering the world and taking photographs of some of its most beautiful and inaccessible spots. Cade returns home after an accident on a shoot leaves his friend dead and Cade critically injured. He is also burdened with guilt so severe that he has lost his passion for photography. Sophie Carlisle is used to depending only on herself. Orphaned at fifteen, left alone again after the death of her husband and three-year-old daughter in an automobile accident, she has built a life devoted to her work, allowing only a very few friends into her inner world. Wounded characters in need of healing and fighting it every step of the way are Brashear’s specialty. I loved the reluctant vulnerabilities of Cade and Sophie, and I loved seeing them achieve their HEA. Catching glimpses of all Cade’s extended family as they come together to help Sophie and her reaction to the big, loving family made this book even more special.

Long Contemporary Series Romance: The Missing

It’s harder to argue for a book that should have been in a list of best books in its category when the list of finalists includes so many beloved authors. Certainly there are long contemporary romances I loved that I would have liked to see included. Among them are the following:

Bring Him Home, Karina Bliss’s third Special Forces book that offers her usual engaging, adult characters and with its story of grief and second-time-around love adds a greater emotional richness

The Long Shot, Ellen Hartman’s story of a pro basketball player who ends up coaching a girls’ basketball team, a bad girls’ basketball team, with all its complex layers of bad memories, illiteracy, and fraternal relationship plus a romance that is an unusual pairing.
Unexpected Family, Molly O’Keefe’s sequel to His Wife for One Night (2011), that takes a pair of failures and makes them a hero and heroine who triumph without losing their authenticity as complicated, flawed human beings.
But my top category read of the year, and the book I sorely miss on this list, is Sarah Mayberry’s Within Reach. It’s not only my favorite in a long list of Mayberry keepers, but it’s one of those books that resonated with me so powerfully that I still think about it many months after having finished it.
Mayberry’s characters always seem real; they behave like adults who know what it is to hurt, to dream, to grow. And Mayberry has the knack for giving her readers romances with plenty of sizzle without making the characters appear to have the libidos of adolescent males. But Within Reach goes beyond her usual excellent romance to present a powerful and moving look at grief and recovery.

Because the reader meets and likes Billie Young in the prologue and sees her interacting with her husband Michael and their children and with her best friend, Angie Bartlett, the empathy evoked for both Angie and Michael has a dimension it would lack had Billie been merely a name. The unrequited love for a best friend’s spouse or lover that blossoms into mutual love after the death of the friend is standard fare in romance fiction, and it has been handled skillfully by some authors, disastrously by others. But what Mayberry does is different, and I think more difficult. Before Billie’s death, Angie and Michael’s relationship is solely through Billie. They like one another, but they define one another in terms of Billie. Angie sees Michael as Billie’s husband; Michael sees Angie as Billie’s best friend.  This removes any sleaze factor from what happens later, and it allows Mayberry to show their relationship develop gradually with the emotional connection strengthening as the sexual tension increases.

The intimacy between them grows naturally from the time they spend together, from their mutual commitment to the children Eva and Charlie, from the honest conversations they have, and from their concern about each other’s well being. And Mayberry never oversimplifies the process. The relationship, emotional and physical, is a series of advances and retreats, and both Angie and Michael struggle with feelings of guilt and disloyalty each step of the way. Within Reach is an unforgettable book.

Do you read Harlequin Superromance or Special Editions or some other long contemporary category romance line? If so, what was your favorite long contemporary series romance novel of 2012?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Review: Somewhere Between Luck and Trust

Somewhere Between Luck and Trust
By Emilie Richards
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: June 25, 2013

Twenty-two-year-old Cristy Haviland is about to be released from The North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women, where she has just served eight months on a contrived shoplifting charge. Her future looks anything but promising. She is struggling with making the right decision about the son to whom she gave birth during her imprisonment. Michael, the son whom she has never held, is being loved and cared for by a cousin of Cristy’s.  She is afraid to go back to Berle, her hometown, because her son’s father is there. Cristy is grateful but wary that Samantha Ferguson, the director of a maternal-health clinic in Ashville, has taken an interest in her and is offering her a place to stay at Goddess House, a log cabin located between two small mountain towns, Luck and Trust.

Ironically, luck and trust are two qualities in short supply in Cristy’s life. There’s little in her past to foster a belief in either quality even before the prison sentence. The daughter of a legalistic preacher and his ineffectual wife who set standards their daughter could never meet and withheld their love and approval when she failed, Christy was ripe pickings for Jackson Ford, the spoiled and superficial charmer who won her with his attention and used her for his own twisted purpose.

While Christy is adjusting to her freedom, discovering who she is, and finding answers to the questions she has about her new life, one of the directors of Goddess House is searching for answers about her distant past. Georgia Ferguson, Samantha’s mother, is an innovative educator currently employed as the principal of an alternative school. Georgia is the once famous “Sweatshirt Baby,” so tagged by the media because as a new born she was found wrapped in a University of Georgia sweatshirt and abandoned in a hospital sink, a preemie who almost didn’t survive. Now newspaper clippings about her birth and a charm bracelet have mysteriously appeared on her desk. Their appearance just as she is approaching her fiftieth birthday leave Georgia wondering about the mother who abandoned her even as she deals with the challenges of her troubled students.

As different as the two women are in most ways, a connection develops. Georgia, who has extensive training in the teaching of reading, recognizes that Cristy is illiterate. Given the young woman’s obvious intelligence and social skills, Georgia determines that the problem is a form of dyslexia and offers to teach Cristy to read. Afraid of just one more failure, Cristy is at first reluctant but eventually accepts Georgia’s offer. As they work together, their respect for one another deepens and a friendship develops. When Georgia decides to unlock the mystery of her past, Cristy is one of the friends with her every step of her journey.

Emilie Richards packs this second book in her Goddesses Anonymous series with elements drawn from a variety of genres and a bundle of social issues. Somewhere Between Luck and Trust is most clearly women’s fiction, but both the mystery and romance threads are strong. In addition to the mystery of Georgia’s beginnings, there is the mystery of the setup that sent Cristy to prison. Both mysteries are solved but not without some twists along the way. Romance is provided for both women as well. Jim “Sully” Sullivan, a young cop from Berle who has a strong sense of justice and high courage, becomes Cristy’s champion and earns his place in her heart. Lucas Ramsey, a mystery writer with a soft spot for a troubled teen, sneaks past Georgia’s reservations about romantic relationships with his genuine charm and caring.

The social issues woven into the story include rehabilitation, adoption, child abandonment, literacy, education, acceptance of homosexuality, the evolving definition of family, and I may have missed one or more. The result of so many issues could easily have been a confusing, tangled mess of threads or a sociological treatise, but in the deft hands of Richards, it is neither. She is a gifted storyteller, and she weaves this complicated mix into a compelling, coherent, variegated whole that captures the reader’s interest, touches her heart, and challenges her preconceptions. And she does all this while making the North Carolina setting so real you can feel the sun’s heat and touch the earth of Cristy’s garden.

Readers of One Mountain Away will enjoy learning more about Georgia and seeing Samantha and other characters from the first book make appearances and appreciate seeing Charlotte’s legacy come alive, but Somewhere Between Luck and Trust can also be read as a standalone. If you appreciate novels, regardless of marketing tags, that ate cogent, compassionate, and courageous, I highly recommend this one.

I sometimes think we pay too much attention to putting books into simple categories. While I will always love undiluted romance, I also find that some of my favorite books defy simple labels. How do you feel about books our need to separate books by genre or subgenre?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Summer Reading 2013

Officially, the first day of summer is June 21, but all the signs of summer are present and accounted for at my house. It’s a humid 80 degrees with afternoon thunderstorms forecast, the grands are out of school, we’ve already had picnics and cookouts, Braves baseball accounts for a steady stream of conversation, and the summer reading program at the local library is in full swing. Oh, yes, it’s definitely summer here.

My reading calendar is just one more piece of evidence that summer has begun. I have almost one hundred books on my TBR list for June, July, and August. I’ve already read nineteen of them. (See the bolded titles on the list below.) I can tell you that you have some wonderful books coming to bookstores near you this summer. I’m reading Carolina Girl by Virginia Kantra today, and I have another ten books from the list waiting on my Kindle. (See titles marked with an asterisk.) I’ve already reviewed a few of these books. You will see the rest here At Just Janga, at The Romance Dish, or at GoodReads over the summer months.

I’m particularly excited about new books from Susan Crandall (Whistling Past the Graveyard, a coming-of-age story with a nine-year-old narrator set in 1960s Mississippi, set for release  on July 2) and Pamela Morsi (Love Overdue, a romance with a sedate Kansas librarian who is longing to free her Inner Vixen, set for release on August 27). Crandall and Morsi are both authors whose voices I love and whose books always leave me longing for the next one.

Historical romance is my favorite subgenre, and I am eagerly anticipating the summer offerings, especially Manda Collins’s Wicked Widows series which debuts on July 30 with Why Dukes Say I Do and Anna Campbell’s new Sons of Sin novella (Days of Rakes and Roses) on July 2 and novel (A Rake's Midnight Kiss) on August 27. I am also enthusiastically looking forward to the Billionaire Brothers series by Lily Everett (aka Louisa Edwards). This contemporary series, consisting of three enovellas (The Firefly Café, The Summer Cottage, and Island Road) releasing on July 2, 9, and 16, is set on Sanctuary Island and serves as a prequel to the novel Sanctuary Island (July 30), described as a place “where broken hearts come to heal—and where every lost soul will find a home.”  

Every book on this list promises to be a great summer read.


Stewart, Mariah
Swept Away (novella)

Andrews, Mary Kay
Ladies Night
Burrowes, Grace
Carlisle, Kate
A Cookbook Conspiracy*
Dark, Emmie
Just for Today
Gray, Juliana
How to Tame Your Duke
Jacobs, Holly
A Walk Down the Aisle
Kantra, Virginia
Carolina Girl*
Kaye, Robin
You're The One
Marlowe, Mia
Romanced by a Rake
Pickering, Kathleen
The Father of Her Son
Talley, Liz
His Uptown Girl
Thomas, Jodi
Can't Stop Believing
White, Karen
The Time Between

Collins, Manda
The Perks of Being a Beauty
Delinsky, Barbara
Sweet Salt Air (HB)
Goodnight, Linda
Baby in His Arms
Jeffries, Sabrina
What the Duke Desires
Wilde, Lori
One True Love

Beaton, M. C.
Hiss and Hers (pb of 2012 release)
Brogan, Tracy
Hold on My Heart*
Carr, Robyn
The Newcomer
Grant, Celia
A Woman Entangled
Griffin. Laura
Haymore, Jennifer
The Duchess Hunt
Long, Julie Anne
It Happened One Midnight
Mallery, Susan
Two of a Kind
Monroe, Mary Alice
The Summer Girls
Pappano, Marilyn
A Hero to Come Home To
Rice, Luanne
Little Night
Richards, Emilie           
Somewhere Between Luck and Trust
Stone, Jillian
The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter
Terry, Candis
Anything But Sweet
Thayne, RaeAnne
Willowleaf Lane
Wilde, Lori
All Out of Love


DeStefano, Anna
A Sweetbrook Family 

Krotow, Geri
Navy Orders
O'Brien, Kathleen
Betting on the Cowboy
Brooke, Christina
London's Last True Scoundrel
Burrowes, Grace
Campbell, Anna
Days of Rakes and Roses
Crandall, Susan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Everett, Lily
The Firefly Café (enovella)
Essex, Elizabeth
Scandal in the Night
Frank, Dorothea Benton
The Last Original Wife
Mulry, Megan
If the Shoe Fits
Rice, Luanne
The Lemon Orchard
Robinson, Maggie
In the Arms of the Heiress

Everett, Lily
The Summer Cottage (enovella)
Naigle, Nancy
Wedding Cakes and Big Mistakes*
St. Claire, Roxanne
Don't You Wish (YA)

Foley, Gaelen
My Notorious Gentleman

Everett, Lily
Island Road (enovella)

DeStefano, Anna
Three Days on Mimosa Lane

Andersen, Susan
Some Like It Hot
Ashe, Katharine
How to Marry a Highlander
Collins, Manda
Why Dukes Say I Do
Cornick, Nicola
The Lady and the Laird*
Everett, Lily
Sanctuary Island
Jordan, Sophie
How to Lose a Bride in One Night*
Linden, Caroline
Love and Other Scandals*
Mallery, Susan
Three Little Words
Novak, Brenda
Home to Whiskey Creek
Ranney, Karen
The Devil and Clan Sinclair*
Robinson. Maggie
Lady Anne's Lover*


Kelly, Carla
The Double Cross

Andrews, Beth
What Happens Between Friends
Altman, Kathy
Staying at Joe's*
Beverley, Jo
Seduction in Silk
Burrowes, Grace
Once Upon a Tartan
Drake, Laura
Her Road Home
George, Lily
Healing the Soldier's Heart
Johnson, Janice Kay
From This Day On
Lee, Jade
What the Bride Wore
Quinn, Tara Taylor
Second Time's the Charm
Ross, JoAnn
Castaway Cove
Scott, Regina
The Courting Campaign*
Warner, Kaki
Behind His Blue Eyes
Willig, Lauren
The Passion of the Purple Plumeria

London, Julia
Homecoming Ranch
Macomber, Debbie
Rose Harbor in Bloom

Allen, Louise
Rumors: Scandal Comes to Wimpole Hall
Ashley, Jennifer
The Untamed MacKenzie
Greene, Jennifer
The Bonus Mom (HSE)
Stuart, Anne
Never Kiss a Rake

Ashe, Katharine
I Married the Duke
The Arrangement
Mary Balogh
Campbell, Anna
A Rake's Midnight Kiss
Carr, Robyn
The Hero
Castle, Jayne
Deception Cove
Chapman, Janet
For the Love of Magic
Kramer, Kieran
Say Yes to the Duke
Macnamara, Ashlyn
A Most Devilish Rogue
Morsi, Pamela
Love Overdue
Neville, Miranda
The Ruin of a Rogue
Putney, Mary Jo
Sometimes a Rogue

Will you be reading this summer? At the beach? 
At the mountains? At home with the airconditioner on low?
What books are you most eagerly anticipaing?