Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Review: How To Dance with a Duke

How To Dance with a Duke
By Manda Collins
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: January 31, 2012

Cecily Hurston has a goal—to dissipate the cloud of suspicion that surrounds her father since his return from Egypt without his secretary, William Dalton, brother of a duke. The first step in reaching her goal is to read her father’s journals, which are somewhere inside the Egyptian Explorer’s Club, a society that bars unmarried women. Cecily tries the direct route first, only to find herself summarily ejected from the club. Since the direct approach failed, Cecily is prepared to try indirect means—finding a husband who is a member of the club. The wives of club members are admitted.  Unfortunately, from Cecily’s view at least, this means allowing her step-mother to transform an ugly duckling scholar into a proper miss with beauty enough to attract the right men.

Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, has a goal—to find out what happened to his younger brother who disappeared while he was in Egypt with Viscount Hurston. He mishandles his first meeting with Cecily, who, is the closest he has come to contacting the man he holds responsible for his brother’s disappearance. He determines that he will make amends if by chance Miss Hurston should be one of the guests at the ball he plans to attend that evening. But he is unprepared for the green-eyed beauty in the latest fashion who has replaced the woman he initially mistook for an impoverished widow when he saw her outside the Egyptian Club.

It doesn’t take Winterson long to deduce Cecily’s marital plans, and for reasons he finds inexplicable he is offended by the idea of her succeeding in her plan. Despite his reservations, he agrees when days later Cecily proposes that he help her find the best man for her to marry among the membership of the Egyptian Club in exchange for her help in discovering what happened to Will.  As they spend time together, a friendship develops between the two of them, and the attraction between them intensifies. But as they work to solve the mystery of his brother’s disappearance, the questions multiply—and so do the dangers. Someone is determined that the truth remain hidden at any cost.

Both Cecily and Winterson are engaging characters. Cecily combines two of my favorite heroine types—the scholar and the ugly duckling. Not only does she possess a native intelligence but she had the discipline and determination to develop her intellectual gifts against the expectations of her world and her father’s opposition. I found her transformation from dowdy to divine completely credible because it’s a matter of using the right clothes, the right colors, and the right haircut to reveal her best qualities. And what woman doesn’t know what a difference such things make. I was also delighted that one of her strengths, determination, intensifies to become one of her flaws, stubbornness. I often find in real life that strengths and weaknesses are like two sides of the same coin.

Winterson is a wonderful hero: intelligent, honorable, handsome, and witty. I consider his devotion to his brother and his mother a plus, and I must say I was delighted to have a loving mother in a romance. He was brought up as a vicar’s son, and, after his father’s death, as the son of a dependent poor relation. Thus, he lacks the arrogance that so often accompanies a dukedom. Because he and Cecily come to like each other enough to talk and laugh together, I believe in their HEA. Don’t misunderstand me, I want to believe the desire the hero and heroine feel for one another is strong and sizzling, but I also want to believe they have a relationship that involves more than hot sex. I can see Cecily and Winterson growing old together, enjoying the children and grandchildren they talk about.

I also delighted in the mean girl adversary and the dance card trick. I love the relationship among the cousins and look forward to both How to Romance a Rake and the third Ugly Duckling Tale. If you like your romance with wit and heart and characters you can believe in, with a touch of mystery adding to the interest, you can’t do better than the books of Manda Collins. Today she’s a romance writer debutante. I predict her tomorrows will see her become one of the genre’s enduring successes.

In the interest of full disclosure, Manda Collins is a friend. We first met on Squawk Radio, shared moderator duties on the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn bulletin board, and traveled together in the Romance Vagabond caravan for eighteen months. All these online gathering spots are now things of the past, but our friendship has endured. I have believed since I read the first snippet of Manda’s writing that today would come. However, none of these things would have persuaded me to write this review unless I loved the book. I did. I do. I will.

I am celebrating with a happy heart, a ton of congratulations and best wishes for Manda, and a giveaway of a copy of How to Dance with a Duke to one randomly chosen commenter on today’s post. The winner will be announced in Friday’s post.

Today definitely ranks as a Squee Day in my world. What romance debut have you celebrated?

Friday, January 27, 2012


I will be celebrating my BFF’s birthday Saturday. We go back a long way, more than half a century, to a time when two four-year-olds, one with dimples and dark curls and one with stick-straight blonde hair and a too-wide mouth, shared a consuming desire to play tambourine in the kindergarten rhythm band. “Cool” wasn’t in our vocabularies yet, but we knew the six five-year-old girls who played the tambourines were the ones who got the attention and the praise. They were who we wanted to be. We learned a lot of things that year—how to tell right from left, how to print our names, and how to please the teacher. The latter skill helped us move from lowly rhythm-stick players to the coveted tambourine positions the next year. But the most important thing we learned was that best friends were for sharing books, telling stories, giggling over boys, and keeping secrets.

All these years later, after decades of sharing triumphs and trip-ups, births, and deaths, a lifetime of laughter and more tears that we could have dreamed of at four, we still understand the role of best friend. We are very different women who have led very different lives. We disagree about religion, politics, hairstyles, music, and who Lynn H. really liked best in second grade. But we never run out of things to talk about, we can finish each other’s sentences, and we know with absolute certainty that the place we hold in one another’s heart, like the place we hold in one another’s history, is large and sure.

The summer of 2010, I went to a reunion. Not a class reunion--this one was much smaller. It was a reunion of a small group with whom I shared a big part of my life from elementary school through high school. Most of us attended the same church and our parents were friends. We grew up feeling at home in one another’s houses, being disciplined and comforted by one another’s parents, sharing tea parties and softball, football games and barefoot dancing at the swimming pool, hugs and heartbreaks. After high school, we kept in touch, although more and more sporadically as our lives moved in different directions.

But occasional lunches when everyone was in town, Christmas letters, and church homecomings kept us part of one another’s lives. That summer gathering was golden, hours and hours of talking and laughing and looking at photographs of the girls we were and the women we had become. Husbands and SOs joined in. There were no awkward silences or uncomfortable moments, just old friends enjoying one another. Of the five married couples in the group, three got together during those halcyon days and still have the kind of relationship that had them exchanging glances across the room and dancing in the moonlight. How wonderful to be reminded that HEAs do happen in real life too. Another, who was widowed, had just returned from her honeymoon, a motorcycle trip to Las Vegas. I’m going to use her in a book one day.
College, grad school, teaching years—at every stage of my life there have been women friends who added color and meaning to my life. Some of my closest friends now are women whom I’ve never met face-to-face, but with whom I exchange emails, share dreams, and rant and rave about the disasters and delights of our reading, our writing, and our lives.

Friends not only make us happier; they also make us healthier. Studies have shown that, for women, talk and touch release the hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that initiates labor in pregnant women).  Oxytocin reduces stresss, calming both mind and body. Hugs and chats really are good for you. Spending time with our girlfriends also fosters the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. A Dove study suggested that women friends also increase our self-esteem. Among the women in the study, 75 percent felt prettier because of other women. Yet another study reported that the more friends a woman has, the less likely she is to develop physical impairments as she ages. Some experts suggest that women who lack these close friendships are placing themselves at a risk for health problems equal to that of smoking.

In real life and in online communication, I spend a lot of time laughing with my friends. For me, shared laughter is an essential part of intimacy. I can’t imagine a close relationship that didn’t include laughter. Did you know that the benefits of laughter are similar to the benefits of exercise? One study found that over the course of a year, laughter increased levels of good HDL cholesterol by 26 percent and decreased C-reactive proteins, a measure of inflammation linked to both heart disease and diabetes risk by 66 percent. And while some people claim that the internet is a threat to friendship, research indicates that, especially for women, online friendships after a year become comparable in quality to real-life friendships. Self-disclosure rather than face time seems to be the key to quality friendships.
So if you’re feeling good, have a healthy self-esteem, and are looking forward to more happy years, take time to say thanks to your girlfriends. You owe some of that health and happiness to them.

This Saturday, I’ll be singing “Happy Birthday, dear Nancy” to my BFF. Today I’m saying thank you to her and to Beth, Anne, Peggy, Sheron, Martha, and dear Micki (who left us last year); to Mary, Sandy, Linda, Trisha, Judy, Marty, Kay, Claudia, Rachels, Shannon, Mary Anne, Sylvia, and Wilma (RIP); to Elizabeth, Beth F., Effie, and Marge; to Linda, Bette, Joanne, Pat, Lane, and Janet; to Dana, Brenda, the Pats, Patsy, and Bonita; to the Bon Bons, the Vanettes, and my Safe Zone sisters; and to others too numerous to name. I am indeed blessed to call you all friend.
Friends, I will remember you,
think of you, pray for you,
and when another day is through,
I'll still be friends with you.
--John Denver

How important do you consider friends in your life? What do you think are the most essential qualities of friendship?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Review: Crooked Hearts

Crooked Hearts
(digital re-release; original release 1994)
By Patricia Gaffney
Publisher: Open Road
Release Date: December 13, 2011

Imagine a book opening with a nun readjusting the gun she has hidden in her garter, unaware that the blind man who is sitting opposite her in the stagecoach is not truly blind but a con-artist who can see quite well when she lifts her skirt. You know from the beginning that this is not your typical romance. And each scene that follows confirms that knowledge.

Of course, the nun is not really a nun. She’s Grace Russell, a grifter who has assumed the identity of Sister Mary Augustine in order to con tender-hearted gulls out of money they think they’re contributing to a deserving, divinely blessed charity for African orphans. It takes Grace a while to realize how much she has in common with Reuben Jones who is presenting himself to the world as a blind Spanish scholar, although he sees more than most, is not Spanish, and is a scholar only of confidence tricks. Before Grace’s anger at being deceived has run its course, the stagecoach is attacked by a Chinese gang, and Reuben, somewhat reluctantly, comes to her aid. Their covers broken and their ill-gotten gains stolen, they escape on horseback before the authorities show up to ask uncomfortable questions, ending up at Reuben’s apartment in San Francisco with a Ming figurine in hand.

Their adventures are just beginning. Reuben has men pursuing him who are very interested in a certain $4,500. Grace is desperate to save the farm and a dear family member. Then there’s the matter of the mysterious Ming. The two bicker their way to a decision to team up to achieve their goals, and the attraction they have been denying builds into something for which neither of them is prepared. Dishonesty and distrust are ingrained habits with both of them, but when danger threatens, they must learn to trust one another and work together.

Set in California in the 1880s, Crooked Hearts is a Western/Frontier novel that is reminiscent of the black and white screwball comedies of the 1930s with their rapid dialogue, fast pace, elements of farce, class issues, and eventual triumph of love. It’s not an expected combination, but in Gaffney’s capable hands, it works wonderfully. Despite their “profession,” Grace and Reuben are irresistible characters who have a kind of courage and even goodness. In creating them, Gaffney is gently mocking the stereotypes (and remember this book was written more than fifteen years ago). Grace is no virginal miss ignorant of men. Without being the “kickass heroine” who is familiar in 2012, she is independent and lusty. Reuben is no noble knight adept with weapons and fearless in a crisis. In fact, he’s afraid of knives.

There are some great love scenes, filled with humor, sweetness, and plenty of sizzle, and they take place between two people who become friends and partners as well as lovers. I had forgotten what a delight this book is. Reading it again makes me grateful for all the romance classics that are becoming newly available in e-editions. I highly recommend it.

Open Road has also recently reissued another five of Gaffney’s historical romances as e-books: Fortune’s Lady, Another Eden, Sweet Everlasting, Lily, and Outlaw in Paradise. Others that will likely be reissued later include Sweet Treason, Thief of Hearts, Wild at Heart and the Wyckerley trilogy: To Love and to Cherish, To Have and to Hold and Forever and Ever.

Have you read any of Patricia Gaffney’s books? Have you discovered any old favorites reissued as ebooks?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Professor and the Magic Ruler

When it comes to grammar, you need to know the rules before you can break them effectively.

I have spent most of my adult life in English classrooms teaching various courses in literature and many, many, many courses in composition. I have never been a purist. I will probably always say “If I were,” but failure to use the subjunctive seems insignificant in light of other concerns. I like the quotation from Erasmus that Joseph M. Williams uses as an epigram to chapter two of Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace (an excellent guidebook for those interested in learning more about these qualities): “God does not much mind bad grammar, but He does not take any particular pleasure in it.”

Kindness, integrity, intelligence, honesty, a sense of humor—all of these matter much more than correct use of language. However, when I invest my time and/or money in reading, I want to be “particularly pleased,” and I find particular pleasure in well-crafted prose. I consider correctness in grammar and usage part of craft.
If I were given a magic ruler that could end crimes against the English language with a sharp rap against the knuckles of offending writers, I would begin by freeing the world of words from the following infractions.

Between you and I

This error has become common, but repetition does not equal correctness. I can’t think of a single writer who uses this phrase who would write “Go to the ball with I” or Please stand by I.” And yet these same writers fail to remember that between is also a preposition and should be followed by an object.

Just between you and me, the magic ruler would make sure that writers would always use “between you and me.”

Could of, Should of, Would of (or coulda, woulda, shoulda)  

A sharp rap with the magic ruler would change these misspellings forever to “could have, should have, would have.”

Writers of popular songs are exempt from the ruler’s rap for using "coulda, woulda, shoulda; the rest of us should write “could have, should have, would have.”

Feel badly

Unless something is wrong with the nerves in our fingers, we do not feel badly. If we regret a thoughtless word or deed or if we are unhappy with the consequences of such words or deed, we feel bad. The rap of the trusty ruler may make us feel bad.

Eliminating this error won't make me feel bad.

Passed, Past

“Passed” is the past tense of the verb “to pass.” That ‘Vette passed me as if I were Aunt Jenny driving on a sunny summer Sunday.” “Past” may be a noun or an adjective; it is never a verb.
Jack’s past is a quagmire of bad choices. (noun) Ella judged Jack by his past mistakes. (adjective)

If your errors are in the past, the ruler may pass you by.

Sensual, Sensuous

In our genre, “sensual” means “hot.” More generally, it means “relating to the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of appetite.” It can carry a pejorative edge, as in “The driver’s sensual leer made Rebecca uneasy.” “Sensuous” means “pleasing to the senses, especially those involved in aesthetic pleasure.” The sensuous language added to the book’s appeal.

The magic ruler will not help you write scenes sensual enough to melt Kindles and Nooks, but it may be used to help you craft sensuous description.

It’s, Its

“It’s” is the contraction for “it is.”  “Its” is the possessive form of the pronoun “it.” An easy test here is to change the “it’s/its” to “it is.” If doing so makes the sentence nonsense, you should dump the apostrophe.

It’s best to eliminate the errors if you wish to avoid the ruler and its sting.

Affect, Effect

In most common usage, “affect” is a verb meaning “to have an influence on.” His touch affected me like a third glass of wine.

“Effect” is most often a noun meaning “a result.” The effects of the recession are measured in human misery.

Less frequently, “effect” is a verb meaning “to produce as a result.” My goal for 2012 is to effect a change in my writing habits.

Note: The correct idioms are “take effect,” “special effects,” and “personal effects.”

May the magic ruler affect all careless writers, and may the effects be immediate.

Do you take “particular pleasure” in well-crafted writing? What usage errors would you correct with my magic ruler? Or do you think I’m just another dusty old English teacher out of step with 21st-century English usage?

Note: A version of this post appeared on the Romance Vagabonds in 2009.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Review: She Tempts the Duke

She Tempts the Duke
By Lorraine Heath
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: January 31, 2011

Sebastian Easton, the eighth Duke of Keswick, was only fourteen and his two younger brothers were only children when, with the help of Sebastian’s best friend, Lady Mary Wynne-Jones, they escaped from the tower in which their uncle had imprisoned them and fled into the night. Twelve years pass. The Easton heirs are presumed dead, and their uncle it just about to be recognized as duke with all the wealth and power that entails when Sebastian and his brothers return. The children who left are now men hardened by all they endured to survive and by war. Keswick, the most scarred psychically and physically by their experiences, is filled with determination to claim what is rightfully his and see that his uncle pays for his crimes, which Keswick suspects includes the murder of the seventh duke.

The years have brought change to Lady Mary as well. When the twelve-year-old Mary asked her father to help the Eastons, he ordered her never to mention the help she had given them to anyone and sent her to a convent where she remained for many years. Although she gives up hope after long years with no message, she has never forgotten her friend Sebastian, the night he left, or his promise to return. Although the scarred, maimed man who returns looks very different from the beautiful boy who left, Lady Mary recognizes him when he and his brothers burst into the ballroom to challenge their uncle’s right to the title.

Mary is betrothed to a man with whom she expects to create a happy life, but the attraction the adult Keswick holds for her is as strong as the tie they shared as children. She is undeterred by his wounds and by her father’s warning that she is courting disaster by maintaining her friendship with the dangerous duke. When her father’s fears are realized and Mary’s betrothal is ended, Sebastian feels honor- bound to marry her. But happiness for the two is possible only if Sebastian’s desire for a life with the woman he loves proves greater than his hunger for vengeance against the man who destroyed his youth.

She Tempts the Duke introduces a new series, the Lost Lords of Pembroke, from Lorraine Heath. The prologue introduces the hero and heroine as children. They are brave and loyal to one another, and it would take a reader with a harder heart than mine not to be won over by the characters in this first scene. While there is nothing unexpected in the way the relationship between the adult Sebastian and Mary develops, it remains easy to feel sympathy for them and to root for the two to find their HEA. Sebastian is a tortured hero in many sense of the word, and Mary’s strength and tenacity are admirable. The younger Eastons, Tristan and Rafe, are interesting characters as well.

I liked many things about this book. Heath is an experienced writer who knows how to craft an emotional tale. While this one is not the equal of her best work, Always to Remember and her Texas trilogy, it is an engaging story with characters I cared about. It is also a story weakened by a villain who is little more than a placard reading “Evil Man,” but that’s not a big enough flaw to stop me from looking forward to Tristan’s and Rafe’s stories. With that one cautionary note, I recommend this book.

What do you expect to see in a successful villain? What’s your favorite Lorraine Heath novel?

Note: You will see that I assigned no stars to this novel. This will be my practice with all subsequent reviews. Assigning a grade was often an exercise in anguish when I was teaching, and I find it no less difficult as a reviewer. I don’t have a problem summarizing a story and explaining what worked for me and what didn’t. But not infrequently I spend as much time deciding whether a novel should have three or four stars as I do writing the review. So for Tuesday Reviews here, I will continue to rave about books I love, share the hits and misses of books I like, remain silent about the rest and refrain from “grading” any book.  I have no problems with reviewers who make different choices. When I do guest reviews at The Romance Dish or other sites where the policy is to rate the books with stars or some other symbol, I will follow the policy of the site.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Breaking Up Is Hard to Write

I’m writing my third break up scene, and I am caught in the maybe-this-is-it, type-and-delete, it’s-all-trash, try-again cycle. Perhaps I’m spoiled. In The Long Way Home, I always knew how and why Max and Dori would break up. The black moment felt almost effortless when I wrote it. In Who Says You Can’t Go Home, the breakup is low key because all the drama involves a secondary character, and Saja just leaves.

But now I’m working on the break up scene in  Feels Like Home to Me, and I can’t seem to make it work.  I know what should happen. I know Caleb acts the jerk and Zan ends the relationship. But I can’t see what happens. One of the things I often do when I’m stuck is listen to music. Frequently something in the lyrics will spark an idea that ends the block. I've come up with a playlist of ten songs that cover the stages from fighting the idea of ending things through depression and you’ll be sorry to coming out on the other side believing that there is life after love gone bad. I'm listening to them, hoping for inspiration.

Here’s my list.

1. "Crazy," Patsy Cline
2. "Piece of My Heart," Janis Joplin
3. "Give Me One Good Reason," Tracy Chapman
4. "Crying," Roy Orbison
5. "Tonight I Want to Cry," Keith Urban
6. "Empty Chairs," Don McLean
7. "This Is Me You’re Talking to," Trisha Yearwood
8. "You’ll Think of Me," Keith Urban
9. "Red High Heels," Kellie Pickler
10. "I Will Survive," Gloria Gaynor

OK, heavy on country, I know. But I like country music, and country songs have given me some great ideas in the past.

What’s your advice for writing break up scenes? Do you have suggestions for my breakup playlist?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday Review: Rainshadow Road

Rainshadow Road
By Lisa Kleypas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Five Stars

The pattern of Lucy Marinn’s life was altered permanently when she was seven years old. Her younger sister Alice had meningitis. Alice survived, but her brush with death left her parents so fearful for her well being that they indulged her every wish and insured that Lucy did as well. Lucy also began a life-long fascination with glass making, and she discovered a magical connection between her emotions, the glass she loved, and a magic all her own.

Lucy does indeed grow up to be a successful glass artist. She has a studio in Friday Harbor and a boyfriend with whom she’s been living for two years. Life seems good.  Everything changes when her boyfriend breaks up with her because he has fallen in love with her sister. In a matter of minutes, Lucy loses her lover, her home, and her sense of security, all of it to a sister who has been taking what belonged to Lucy for years.

Sam Nolan is a native of the island, the middle brother in a dysfunctional family of three sons and one daughter. Readers who have read the novella that introduced the series, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, will recognize Sam as the vineyard owner who shares his home with brother Mark and their newly orphaned niece Holly. Giving up his privacy and the freedom of the single life is typical of Sam. He’s a good guy, terrified of commitment in a romantic relationship because of the horrendous example of his alcoholic parents, but essentially the best kind of hero—intelligent, kind, and charming with sea-colored eyes and a terrific sense of humor.

Lucy and Sam meet when she falls at his feet literally, and he administers first aid and listens to her. They meet again when he rescues her from a persistent drunk. When Lucy needs a place to stay after she’s injured when her bike is struck by a car, Sam offers house room and some nursing that leads to interesting contacts. But Sam thinks he’s incapable of a long-term relationship, and Lucy has lost faith in her own judgment.

I read romance fiction because I’m interested in relationships, but sometimes the relationships prove a disappointment. I like the heroine better than I like the hero or vice versa, or I like them both but have doubts about their HEA really lasting ever after. Lucy and Sam’s relationship was not a disappointment. I liked Sam in the first Friday Harbor book, and I quickly fell in love with him in this one. He’s not just another hot hero. He’s an interesting, complicated person. A former geek with a passion for his vineyards, an indulgent uncle who teaches his niece to tie her shoes and puts away bits of her past that will help her remember her mother, a tender lover who gives perfect, unexpected gifts—he is all of these things and more. Lucy longs to tell him, “You’re more than you think you are.” The reader shares her longing.

Lucy is just as likeable and interesting. An endearing combination of toughness and vulnerability, her passion for glass making matches Sam’s for his vines. She recognizes the flaws in her family, she allows herself to be angry or exasperated with them, but she loves them—even the sister who betrays her. The kinds of friends she has and their loyalty to her says a great deal about the kind of person she is.

Lucy and Sam deserve each other. Yes, they have great chemistry, and the novel contains some wonderful love scenes that are a mix of heat, heart, and humor. But they are more than sex partners. They talk to one another, revealing themselves through sharing their histories and their thoughts. They laugh together. They like each other. I don’t want to include spoilers, so I’ll just say there are two incidents in the novel where Kleypas had a choice about what her characters would do, one fairly early in the story and one near the end. In both cases, one choice would have destroyed the book for me. It would have become just another in a long list of books that leave me regretting the book that could have been if only . . . Both times, these characters make the choice that maintains the integrity of the people I have come to believe they are.

What else can I say? The setting is wonderful, detailed enough to give a sense of the island’s beauty and uniqueness. The secondary characters are great. Kleypas gives readers pieces of many stories so that even minor characters achieve multi-dimensions. I loved seeing Mark, Maggie, and Holly again, and I loved that their presence was natural and never threatened to distract from the central story. I find Alex, the youngest Nolan brother, fascinating. I hope the next book will be his. I loved the magic in the story. It seemed closer to magical realism to me.  As Lucy concludes, “[W]hether she called her gift a phenomenon of molecular physics, or magic, both definitions were true, and the words didn’t matter anyway.”

I give Rainshadow Road my highest recommendation and Lisa Kleypas my gratitude for writing a book that I will read again and again. And I'm counting the days until August and Crystal Cove.

What’s your favorite Lisa Kleypas book? 

Note: I am one of Lisa’s Divas, a group of “super fans” who share news of LK’s books and receive terrific stuff such as an Advance Readers’ Edition of Rainshadow Road.  I will point out that I’ve been a Lisa Kleypas fan for fifteen years, and no sway would have persuaded me to give a dishonest review.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Calendar: 2012 Edition, Part 1

My Christmas books are packed away, and another reading ritual is in process. I’m filling in my reading calendar for 2012. I love making this list of books I plan to read in the coming year, anticipating the story of a series character I’m already invested in, speculating about the direction of a plot to which I’ve been introduced in excerpts, wondering about new books of which I may know only the title. Three years ago, a friend suggested I share my calendar on Just Janga, and the response encouraged me to continue. This year I decided on two posts: one that covers January-June, the list below, and a separate one for July-December, which I’ll post in late June. My reasons for doing so are varied. The list for the first half of the year is quite long, more than 150 books. Information on books being released in the second half of the year is incomplete. I have only two books for December. Inaccuracies are more likely for books for which release dates are still six or more months away. One book I had noted as a 2012 release is currently marked as a 2025 release on one site.

Please remember as you check out my list that it is not comprehensive. This is a list of the books I expect to read or add to my TBR shelves in the first half of 2012. There are genres and subgenres that are not included because I don’t read them. The same holds true for authors. In romance fiction alone, thousands of titles are released each year (more than eight thousand titles in 2010, for example). I read only a small fraction of the new releases of any year. Romance dominates my list, but I also include some mysteries, women’s fiction, general fiction, and non-fiction. I expect other titles will be added as authors share news, friends recommend books, and online buzz persuades me to check out titles.

I look forward to some of these books with particular delight. The debut of my friend Manda Collins with How to Dance with a Duke on January 31 will be the culmination of a squee-fest that has been going on for many months. I’m excited about The House on Butterfly Way, a new single-title from Elizabeth Bevarly in February. Marilynne Robinson, whose fiction I find rich beyond measure, has a collection of essays coming out in March, When I Was a Child I Read Books. I loved the tiny tastes of Paris that Eloisa James shared in her tweets, and I am eager to partake of the banquet of her book-length memoir, Paris in Love, in April. I have waited for what seems like forever to read the story of Gwen, Lady Muir, and Mary Balogh is giving it to me with The Proposal in May. And June offers the second of Loretta Chase’s dressmaker stories, Scandal Wears Satin.

I have accepted the Goodread’s Reading Challenge for 2012. My goal is 365 books. Looking at this list makes me confident I’ll meet my goal. The more than half dozen titles that I’ve already read this month assure me that 2012 is going to be another great reading year.


January 1

1.      The Cowboy’s Secret Son (Harlequin American Romance—HAR), Teagues of Texas #1, Trish Milburn
2.      The Lure of Song and Magic (Fantasy-Contemporary Romance—F-CR), Patricia Rice

January 3

3.      Mad About the Earl, (Historical Romance—HR), Ministry of Marriage #2, Christina Brooke
4.      A Promise of Safekeeping (CR), Lisa Dale
5.      At the King’s Pleasure (Historical Fiction—HF), Secrets of the Tudor Court #4, Kate Emerson
6.      Bride by Mistake (HR), Devil Riders #5, Anne Gracie
7.      Love Lifted Me (Inspy), Songbird #3, Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck
8.      Tempted Again (CR), Cathie Linz
9.      On Lavendar Lane (CR), Shelter Bay #3, JoAnn Ross
10.   A Hero in the Making (Harlequin SuperRomance—HSR), North Star #6, Kay Stockham
11.   Colorado Dawn (American Historical—AH), Runaway Brides #2, Kaki Warner

January 10

12.   Copper Beach (Romantic Suspense—RS), Dark Legacy #1, Jayne Ann Krentz

January 17

13.   Gone West (H Mys), Maisie Dobbs #20, Carola Dunn

January 24

14.   Ravished by the Rake (Harlequin Historical—HH), Danger and Desire #1, Louise Allen
15.   Forbidden (YA Fantasy), Syrie James
16.   A Lady Never Surrenders (HR), Hellions of Halstead Hall #5, Sabrina Jeffries
17.   Undeniably Yours (CR), The Kowalski Family #2, Shannon Stacey

January 25

18.   Unhinged (Mys), Kate Holly #4, Charlotte Hughes

January 31

19.   Lucky Penny (CR), Catherine Anderson
20.   How to Dance with a Duke (HR), Ugly Ducklings #1, Manda Collins
21.   Home Front (Women’s Fiction—WF), Kristin Hannah
22.   She Tempts the Duke (HR), Lost Lords of Pembroke #1, Lorraine Heath
23.   File M for Murder (Mys), Cat in the Stacks #3, Miranda James
24.   Third Grave Dead Ahead (PR), Charley Davidson #3, Darynda Jones
25.   Secrets of the Lost Summer (CR), Carla Neggers
26.   The Summer Garden (CR), Chesapeake Shores #9, Sherryl Woods


February 1

1.      Secrets of an Accidental Duchess (HR), Donovan Sisters #2, Jennifer Haymore
2.      Last Chance Beauty Queen (CR), Last Chance #3, Hope Ramsay

February 6

3.      Fatal Flaw (RS), Fatal #4, Marie Force

February 7

4.      The House on Butterfly Way (WF-CR), Elizabeth Bevarly
5.      A Scandalous Countess (HR), Malloren World #12, Jo Beverley
6.      A Texas Chance (HSR), Deep in the Heart/MacAllisters #6, Jean Brashear
7.      One Book in the Grave (Mystery—Mys), Bibliophile Mystery #5, Kate Carlisle
8.      Between Love and Duty (HSR), A Brother’s Word #1, Janice Kay Johnson
9.      What Happened to Hannah (GF), Mary Kay McComas

February 14

10.   I’ve Got Your Number (WF), Sophie Kinsella
11.   Heart of Glass (AH, Inspy), Irish Angels #2, Jill Marie Landis

February 16

12.   The Garden Intrigue (HR, CR, Mys), Pink Carnation #9, Lauren Willig

February 21

13.   Seduced by the Scoundrel (HH), Danger and Desire #2, Louise Allen
14.   The Revenge of Lord Eberlin (HR), Secrets of Hadley Green #2, Julia London
15.   Time Out (Harlequin Blaze—HB), Jill Shalvis
16.   Yours to Keep (CR), Kowalski Family #3, Shannon Stacey
17.   When a Scot Loves a Lady (HR), Falcon Club #1, Katharine Ashe

February 22

18.   Death of a Kingfisher (Mys), Hamish MacBeth #29, M. C. Beaton

February 28

19.   Redwood Bend (CR), Virgin River # 18, Robyn Carr
20.   Spellbound Falls (CR), Spellbound Falls #1, Janet Chapman
21.   Sonoma Rose (GF), Elm Creek Quilts #19, Jennifer Chiaverini
22.   Rainshadow Road (CR), Friday Harbor #2, Lisa Kleypas
23.   Blame It on Bath (HR), The Truth About the Duke #3, Caroline Linden
24.   A Rogue by Any Other Name (HR), Fallen Angels #1, Sarah MacLean
25.   Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea (HR), Royal Entourage #1, Sophia Nash


March 1

1.      A Recipe for Love (WF), Katie Fforde
2.      The Piccadilly Plot (H Mys), Thomas Challoner #7, Susanna Gregory
3.      Touch of a Rogue (HR), Touch of Seduction #2, Mia Marlowe

March 6

4.      When Maidens Mourn (H Mys), Sebastian St. Cyr #7, C. S. Harris
5.      The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne (HR), Fairbourne Quartet #1, Madeline Hunter
6.      From Father to Son (HSR), Janice Kay Johnson
7.      The Runaway Countess (HR), ebook from Samhain, Leigh Lavelle
8.      Wedded in Scandal, Bridal Favors #1, Jade Lee
9.      More Than One Night (HSR), Sarah Mayberry
10.   Cowboy to the Rescue (HAR), Teagues of Texas #2, Trish Milburn

March 13

11.   Hush Now, Don’t You Cry (H Mys), Molly Murphy #11, Rhys Bowen
12.   Another Piece of My Heart (WF), Jane Green
13.   When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays, Marilynne Robinson

March 20

14.   Married to a Stranger (HH), Danger and Desire #3, Louise Allen
15.   Some Assembly Required (Nonfiction), Anne Lamott
16.   Lady Folbroke’s Delicious Deception (HH), Three Ladies #1, Christine Merrill
17.   Much Ado About Rogues (HR). Blackthorne Brothers #3, Kasey Michaels

March 26

18.   Starting Now (WF), Blossom Street #9, Debbie Macomber

March 27

19.   A Week to Be Wicked (HR), Spindle Cove #2, Tessa Dare
20.   At Your Pleasure (HR), Meredith Duran
21.   Hot Under Pressure (CR), Rising Star Chef Challenge #3, Louisa Edwards
22.   Taming an Impossible Rogue (HR), The Scandalous Brides #2, Suzanne Enoch
23.   Imperial Scandal (HF), Teresa Grant
24.   The Seduction of Lady X (HR), Secrets of Hadley Green #3, Julia London
25.   Barefoot Season (WF), Blackberry Island #1, Susan Mallery
26.   Trouble Me (CR), Rosewood Trilogy #3, Laura Moore
27.   The Art of Duke Hunting (HR), Royal Entourage #2, Sophia Nash
28.   Confessions from An Arranged Marriage (HR), Burgundy Club #4, Miranda Neville
29.   Woodrose Mountain (CR), Hope’s Crossing #2, RaeAnn Thayne
30.   Elegy for Eddie (H Mys), Maisie Dobbs #9, Jacqueline Winspear


April 1

1.      Master of Sin (HR), Courtesan Court #4, Maggie Robinson

April 3

2.      The Duke’s Perfect Wife (HR), Highland Pleasures/MacKenzies #4
3.      On His Honor (HSR), Deep in the Heart/MacAllisters #7, Jean Brashear
4.      Deadly Dance (RS), A-Tac #5, Dee Davis
5.      Betrayal (RS), Scarlet Deception #3, Christina Dodd
6.      How to Ravish a Duke (HR), Vickie Dreiling
7.      Death Comes Silently (Mys), Death on Demand #22, Carolyn G. Hart
8.      The Wedding Dress (Inspy), Rachel Hauck
9.      About That Night (CR), Julie James
10.   The Call of Bravery (HSR), Janice Kay Johnson
11.   The Flower Reader (HF), Elizabeth Loupas
12.   If I Fall (HR), Kate Noble
13.   The Book of Madness and Cures (Historical Fiction—HF), Regina O’Melveny
14.   Miss Julia to the Rescue (Mys), Miss Julia #13, Ann B. Ross
15.   Just Down the Road (CR), Harmony #4, Jodi Thomas
16.   The Beginner’s Goodbye (GF), Anne Tyler
17.   The Princess and the Peer (HR), Princess Brides #1, Tracey Anne Warren

April 12

18.   The Secret Life of William Shakespeare (GF), Jude Morgan

April 16

19.   The First Last Unicorn and Other Beginnings (Fantasy), Peter Beagle

April 17

20.   Twisted (RS), Tracers #5, Laura Griffin
21.   Paris in Love (memoir), Eloisa James
22.   Lady Priscilla’s Shameful Secret (HH), Three Ladies #2, Christine Merrill
23.   The Garden of Happy Endings (WF), Barbara O’Neal
24.   The Witness (RS), Nora Roberts

April 24

25.   Sunrise Point (CR), Virgin River #19  , Robyn Carr
26.   The Good Father (GF), Diane Chamberlain
27.   Somebody to Love (CR), Kristan Higgins
28.   All for You (time travel), Lynn Kurland
29.   Lyon’s Bride: The Chattan Curse (HR), Cathy Maxwell
30.   Crystal Gardens (Paranormal Historical Romance—PHR), Ladies of Lantern Street #1, Amanda Quick
31.   The Saint Who Stole My Heart (HR), Regency Rogues #4, Stefanie Sloane
32.   The Shoemaker’s Wife (HF), Adriana Trigiani
33.    The Apple Orchard  (WF), Susan Wiggs

April 26

34.   Aunt Dimity and the Village Witch (Mys), Aunt Dimity #18 , Nancy Atherton


May 1

1.      The Proposal (HR), Bedwyn World #9, Mary Balogh
2.      Mrs. Jeffries Defends Her Own (H Mys), Mrs. Jeffries #30, Emily Brightwell
3.      Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal (HR), Windhams #5, Gwen Burrowes
4.      Too Tempting to Resist (HR), Lords of Midnight #2, Cara Elliot
5.      The Long Shot (HSR), Ellen Hartman
6.      The Cowboy Sheriff (HAR), Teagues of Texas #3, Trish Milburn
7.      No Longer a Gentleman (HR), Lost Lords #4, Mary Jo Putney
8.      The Last Boyfriend (CR), Inn Boonsboro #2, Nora Roberts
9.      Barefoot in the Sand (CR), Barefoot Bay #1, Roxanne St. Claire
10.   Beguiling the Beauty (HR), Fitzhugh #1, Sherry Thomas

May 8

11.   Tides of Memory (WF), Mary Alice Monroe
12.   Home (Literary Fiction), Toni Morrison

May 22

13.   The Taming of a Scottish Princess (HR), Hurst Amulet #4, Karen Hawkins
14.   Marriage of Mercy (HH), Carla Kelly
15.   Unbuttoning Miss Hardwick (HH), Deb Marlowe
16.   Lucky in Love (CR), Lucky Harbor #4, Jill Shalvis

May 29

17.   Rescue Me (CR), Rachel Gibson
18.   A Night Like This (HR), Smyth-Smith #2, Julia Quinn
19.   Along Came a Duke (HR), Elizabeth Boyle
20.   Home for the Summer (CR), Chesapeake Diaries #5, Mariah Stewart


June 1

1.      “A Little More Scandal” (HR), Christies 1.5, Carrie Lofty
2.      Summer Days (CR), Fool’s Gold #7, Susan Mallery
3.      Unexpected Family (HSR), Sequel to His Wife for One Night, Molly O’Keefe

June 5

4.      Unraveling the Past (HSR), The Truth About the Sullivans #1, Beth Andrews
5.      Bring Him Home (HSR), Special Forces #3, Karina Bliss
6.      A Life Rebuilt (HSR), Deep in the Heart/MacAllisters #8, Jean Brashear
7.      Quilt or Innocence (Mys), Southern Quilting #1, Elizabeth Craig
8.      Little Night (WF), Luanne Rice
9.      Bride of the High Country (AH), Runaway Brides #3, Kaki Warner

June 12

10.   The Red House (GF), Mark Haddon

June 19

11.   A Bad Day for Mercy (Mys), Stella Hardesty #4, Sophie Littlefield

June 26

12.   How to Be a Proper Lady (HR), Falcon Club #2, Katharine Ashe
13.   Willow Springs (CR), Destiny #5, Toni Blake
14.   A Duchess to Remember (HR), Ministry of Marriage #3, Christina Brooke
15.   Scandal Wears Satin (HR), Dressmakers #2, Loretta Chase
16.   Starlight (HR), Christies #2, Carrie Lofty
17.   Can’t Buy Me Love (CR), Crooked Creek #1, Molly O’Keefe
18.    At Last (CR), Lucky Harbor #5, Jill Shalvis
19.    Ocean Beach (WF), Beach #2, Wendy Wax
20.    Midnight Promises (CR), Sweet Magnolias #8, Sherryl Woods

What books are you most eagerly anticipating in the first half of 2012?

And remember that I'm giving away a copy of Eloisa James's most recent New York Times bestseller, The Duke Is Mine to one randomly selected commenter.

       Congratulations to Jane, winner of a copy of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas.