Posts tagged ‘Historical romance’

Loving Lisa: Three Reasons to Read Lisa Kleypas

I’ve been busy. Super busy. Sure I’ve been doing productive things that deal with productive details and result in productive business. But the real reason I’ve failed to post anything in FOREVER can be summed up in two words: Lisa Kleypas.

She’s addicting. Terrible, terrible woman. And by terrible I mean awesome. See, I’ve read the lovely Ms. Kleypas’ books before, but to my everlasting shame, up until this last week, I’ve only read her contemporary romances. Bad Lizzie! Oh no, see Kleypas’ real talent is for the historical–that random time period between Regency and Victorian. And man are those books good reads. So after devouring her Wallflower and Hathaways series–a total of nine books–here is my List of Lisa, three BIG reasons why Lisa Kleypas is an author to read and a paragon of romance-hood.

1. Her unexpected heroes!

In a world filled with dukes and earls and viscounts, Kleypas’ heroes are bold, unconventional, and sexy as hell because of it. Out of nine heroes, only 3.5 of them are titled nobility (one is a second son who becomes titled so he only partially counts). I know right? Dukes are like the bread and butter of this genre, and Kleypas instead choses to write about Gypsies, Americans, and self-made men. Thank god.

2. Her nicely flawed heroines!

She’s smart and pretty and accomplished and rich and dazzling and perfect and blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I want to attach romance heroines with a spork. They are just too perfect it makes my teeth hurt. Thankfully, Kleypas’ heroines are nicely grounded and likable. They don’t faint, swoon, giggle excessively, nor do they rush into danger, lack the ability to reason, or live the lives of virginal femme fatals. Evie has a stutter. Daisy is vertically challenged. Poppy is just fun. Readers will actually like these heroine!

3. The sex!

Nicely done. Not gonna lie. But more than the actual love scenes in these books, I really liked how Kleypas handles them. All of the characters involved realize the scandal of being compromised–aka having sex before marriage–and how disastrous it can be. So guess what? Most of them wait for the bonds of matrimony, which some people might claim is not sexy at all, but it really is, mainly because it’s the two of them learning to live and love after the clichéd “happy ending.” In Tempt Me at Twilight, she actually writes, “The London season is like one of those Drury Lane melodramas in which marriage is always the ending. And no one ever seems to give any thought as to what happens after. But marriage isn’t the end of the story it’s the beginning. And it demands the efforts of both partners to make a success of it.” Kleypas shows us those stories. And they are funny, dangerous, and sexy as hell.

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October 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm 3 comments

Cruel to be Kind…or Just Kinda Cruel

Everyone’s a critic. Especially on the internet. Or so I hear. But see, here’s the thing I’ve learned during my past year as a semi-legit book reviewer: bad reviews are not easy to write. At all. In fact, they are infinitely more difficult to write than good reviews.

Not a "semi-legit" critic, more like a "totes legit" one

It seems so counterintuitive. You would think that it would be relatively easy to write a scathing review of some book by some author who you probably will never meet and who wont know you from Tabitha, Denise, or Harriet much less from Tom, Dick, or Harry.  Online you can hide your gender with initials, your name under pseudonyms, you can be anyone… so surely it must be easier to just rip into a book, to really get in there and give it a terrible review.

But it’s not. Bad reviews make you just feel bad.

Last night I was finishing up my latest book for RT BOOKREVIEWS. It was a new Carina Press romantic suspense, and I was just loving the beginning. It was smart. It was funny. The car chases seemed so real and quirky. And the hero and heroine seemed to have some pretty hot stuff between them.

And then the author lost me. Our quirky, spunky, stubborn heroine transformed into the clinched TSTL female–you know the kind, rushing into danger, refusing to listen to logic, spurring good advice all under the guise of standing up for herself and being empowered. Oh sure, I am all for empowered femininity and not bowing to the demands of an Alpha male, but when your empowered stance lands you in deep shit forcing the hero to save your worthless ass, then I don’t really see that as “empowered” per say. I see it as a demeaning example of a stereotypical feminine inability to reason. Not cool. At all.

Oh, I was so angry at this book.  They lured me in with happy, awesome-ness and then smacked me up the head with stupidity. I literally threw it across the room I was so frustrated. And then I ranted to Roaming through Romance diva, Spencer, who sadly seems to end up on the “arg” side of quite a few of my romantic rants.

However, as much I was angry with this book, as much as I felt betrayed and let down by it, it took me hours upon hours to write the review. Hours of sitting there at my computer watching the cursor blink, thinking of how I could emphasize the good, relate the bad, and still not crush the hopes and dreams of a talented debut author who just needed a little more work and a better heroine.

It took me all night when most reviews take me less than an hour. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say–my midnight emails to Spencer suggest otherwise–it’s trying to balance that line of professional and informative with just plain opinionated and bitchy. Who knows whether the review worked or not–we’ll just have to wait and see. But until then take a look at one of my 2 star, “official” reviews. The first book I ever had to be cruel and kind, Freedom’s Treasure by Janet Quinn. Oh Jubilee!

Romantic Question: Do you think you need to be cruel to be kind in bookreviews? Or should people just keep their opinions to themselves?

September 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm 1 comment

Letters to an Unknown Fairy Godmother

Remember how I recently found a whole stash of my childhood diaries? And remember how I exposed some of my embarrassing childhood moments to you online where they will now live forever? Well, I have another confession:

For the longest time I believed in some faceless, nameless, anonymous fairy godmother. Way past the point where it was socially acceptable.

A good point....

Yes, apparently, I have been blogging about my random life long before “blogging” was a word–my sister recently confessed to reading every entry– and there nestled within my  journals were pages and pages of letters spanning back in time starting when I was 6 and going all the way up until I was 13.  Letters upon letters, upon letters.  All addressed to my Fairy Godmother.

My Fairy Godmother was not a slut. Just saying.

They talked about my life, my wishes, my worries about my future.  They were misspelled and random.  Some were about my dream playhouse. Some were about boys. Then there were the letters during my environmental phase when I was 9 where I asked my Fairy Godmother for fewer cars and that “animals not be hunt down and killed for their fur.”  Those letters were then followed by my Born Again Christian phase where I somehow managed combine Christianity with fairytale beliefs in magic when I asked my “F.G.” –cause by that point I was too cool to say Fairy Godmother– for the salvation of mankind.  I was 10.  Good times.

But despite my different phases and interests, the letters to my F.G. never stopped.  They lasted all the way up until high school, and always included not just my wishes but also all of the things happening in my life that I though she should be aware of.  When 9/11 hit, I wrote F.G a letter–just in case she missed it–and when I changed schools when I was 10–I wrote her a letter about that too.  She was like my imaginary, magical friend straight out of reading too many fairytales.  And each letter would end with some random wish.

I don’t really know if I honestly expected my F.G. to grant me my wish or write me back–most of my letters included inquires about her own well-being–but I do know that I must have felt there was some benefit in writing them. I guess I’ve always been a fanciful person, as my F.G. could probably tell you if you ever manage to locate her. And not looking back at all those letters, I realize that the magic of fairytales has always tickled my imagination.

So in honor of my box of letters to an unknown Fairy Godmother, I give you my latest review for RT BOOKREVIEWS. A sexy, modern take on a classic Cinderella tale. Enjoy!

August 31, 2011 at 8:22 am Leave a comment

The Alpha and the Beta

Just a little something I want...

My newest and dearest friend Courtney asked me the other day what the secret is to writing a good romance novel. Is it the sex? The characters? The dialogue? The plot? What makes one romance novel good or even great and the other so bad that it makes you want to twirl the heroine around your head like a lasso and let go, thus ensuring she will never return?

Well, obviously there’s no set secret or key ingredient for a kick-ass romance. And hypnotically speaking? If there was, and I told you, then I’d have to kill you, and since y’all are primarily my friends and family, I think that would be very sad indeed. But, I can tell you that for me, there is ONE thing that can make or break my romance novel: the hero.

Oh that hunky, hunky piece of man-flesh. The hero is like 40% of the romance equation with the heroine making the other 40, the setting being 5 and the plot being 2. Which I don’t think makes a whole 100% but math has never been my strong point and there are other miscellaneous things that also contribute to romance gold like author and writing and for me HISTORICAL ACCURACY. But the hero, he’s really at the heart of the story.

See the hero needs to be someone you, the reader, can see yourself falling in love with (or for you strangling dudes out there who are reading this, he needs to be someone who represents an ideal, romanticized, yet totally realistic version of you).  When Courtney asked me what makes a good romance, I told her the hero needed to be Alpha. I know it’s a controversial stance. But for me, the hero has to be an Alpha Hero, preferably with a military/criminal background, the ability to fire a gun/beat someone up if he has to, or some mildly dominant/aggressive figure.  He also needs to be sensitive and caring and understanding, acknowledging that our heroine can take care of herself. Make sense?

Chose Wisely!

Some sites on the internet like to argue that there are many types of heroes blah blah blah. But in my mind there are two: the Alpha and the Beta. One I love. The other I loath.

Popular romance writer Jayne Ann Krentz defines the Alpha saying:

‘Alpha Male’ was a term coined by romance writers a few years back to try to explain the essential qualities of the most popular heroes in romance novels. It has come to stand for the hero endowed with the classic heroic virtues: honor, courage, determination – a man who may be rough around the edges but who is capable of learning how to love. Beta males just aren’t nearly as interesting, for some strange reason.

And I agree.  Beta males are the heroes who let the woman take the lead. I see them as the Ray Romano character on Everybody Loves Raymond (which newsflash: no one in that family really seems to love Raymond!). The Beta is more of a lover not a fighter. The site All About Romance, defines them as:

These romances have kinder, gentler heroes, the kind of men who will change your flat tire, open doors for you, help your kid with his homework, and bring you soup when you are sick. They are the anti-thesis of the testosterone-filled chest beaters found in the earlier bodice-ripper romances. These are the guys we all want to find in real life.

But really? Women love their Alphas (there are who blogs devoted to them like the aptly named Alpha Heroes). And yes, all that sensitive bullshit is nice, but where’s the passion? For me, Alphas have all that nice stuff and chivalry–it’s just under their super masculine exterior. Like in Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect, hero Sam is not a Beta. He’s a tough, grouchy, sexy-as-sin cop who argues with Jaine, can shoot his gun, and is ever so mildly possessive. Yet, he also cares for his elderly neighbors, opens Jaine’s door, and washes her car.  Sam is testosterone meets sensitivity. Perfect Alpha (although some will argue he’s a gamma but really that’s just confusing).

The Alpha can be protective and aggressive because his heroine is just as spirited. If you have a Beta hero and a spitfire heroine, she seems too brash and domineering, but when you get the combo of the Alpha hero and spitfire heroine? Romance magic. Come on y’all this is a fantasy and no one really fantasizes about being a weakling!

Romantic Question: How do you weigh in? Are you an Alpha or a Beta fan? And what are your fav hunky heroes?

 

July 28, 2011 at 12:49 am 6 comments

Review: “The Devil Wears Plaid” by Teresa Medeiros

So it’s a really good thing that I have no desire to be a martyr or a saint because I am quite terrible with “self-sacrifice.”  Like really, really bad at it.  Lent? I once tried to give up reading…it lasted a day. One single day.  Opps? To be honest, I’m actually pretty selfish when it comes to things like love, life, possessions and keeping all my body parts in one piece [note: see St. Denis who literally lost his head].  So when I was reading The Devil Wears Plaid by Teresa Medeiros, I kept thinking, I am nothing like this heroine at all!

A devoted daughter willing to give up her future and happiness for the sake of her family? Yeah, that’s nice and all, but as much as I love my family…still wouldn’t get me to marry an 80+ year old with porcelain teeth.  No way. Especially if said geezer had already buried three wives.  I feel like there’s a sign in there if three other women couldn’t survive his company, I would be doomed.

Summary from Goodreads

Passion sparks in USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Teresa Medeiros’s irresistibly tempting new romance after a sexy Highlander kidnaps his rival’s spirited English bride Emmaline Marlowe is about to wed the extremely powerful laird of the Hepburn clan to save her father from debtor’s prison when ruffian Jamie Sinclair bursts into the abbey on a magnificent black horse and abducts her in one strong swoop. Though he is Hepburn’s sworn enemy, Emma’s mysterious captor is everything her bridegroom is not—handsome, virile, dangerous . . . and a perilous temptation for her yearning heart. Jamie expects Emma to be some milksop English miss, not a fiery, defiant beauty whose irresistible charms will tempt him at every turn. But he cannot allow either one of them to forget he is her enemy and she his pawn in the deadly Highland feud between the clans. So why does he still want her so badly for himself? Stealing his enemy’s bride was simple, but can he claim her innocence without losing his heart?

My Review!

Fun, sexy, and a little bit dangerous, The Devil Wears Plaid is a romance definitely worth picking up. Set in historical Scotland (date unspecified), author Teresa Medeiros combines the allure and mystery of the Highlands with sizzling passion and a plot filled with intrigue. Readers will relate to heroine Emma Marlowe, an intelligent and spirited young noble woman forced by circumstances to accept the marriage proposal of a much older man. Medeiros skillfully balances Emma’s vulnerability with her passionate and spitfire attitude, creating a strong, multidimensional character, and not some martyr or wilting violent. Furthermore, Emma’s sharp tongue creates great dialogue and steamy chemistry with Jamie Sinclair, the sex-on-a-stick hero with a dangerous, hard edge. A great historical read!

[3 1/2 Stars!]

June 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm 1 comment

The Middle Child Syndrome

“I am not getting out of the car,” my sister stated with a firm nod as she looked around at parking lot of the local Atlanta restaurant.  And I mean, I have to admit she had a point there.  The “restaurant” was little more than a painted trailer with graffiti, swimming in the haze of an already scorching Atlanta summer. It did not look promising, the neighborhood did not look promising–then again in summertime Atlanta everything looks like the inside of an oven–but my brother had picked it out.  Said it was the best BBQ in town, and really, we were already there.  So I tried to put on my least terrified face and opened the car door. After all I am the middle child…

If my family were a romance novel 1. we would be a comedy and 2. my siblings and I would so fit the standard roles for oldest, middle, and youngest child.  More than that–after re-reading Nicole Jordan’s Courtship Wars series, our personalities all pretty much follow the pattern set by the Loring sisters. 

My brother [who we affectionately call Boy] is the adventurous, independent one.  At 24, he’s most like Arabella in To Pleasure a Lady, which I am sure he will LOVE to hear.  The eldest sibling, he is pretty much the leader whether he likes it or not, taking us to shady looking trailer/restaurants and blazing the way.  Boy is an enigma, a mystery, to the family and very much marching to the beat of his own drummer, but under it all, I have a feeling he’s pretty freakin responsible–much like Arabella.

My sister [who we affectionately call Midge] is the baby.  At 18, she’s the mildly rebellious, popular, social, and a little–make that a lot–spoiled youngest daughter in our historical drama who you worry will become entangled with a wrong sort of man but who matures throughout the series until she stars in her own book.  She’s also most like Lily in To Seduce a Bride, which I am sure my mother will LOVE to hear.  Midge…well…she’s the younger fiery sibling who is completely stubborn and a little too bold sometimes.

And me? Well, I’m the middle child affectionately known as Sister, and my nickname pretty much says it all.  Like middle sister Roslyn in To Bed a Beauty, I’m settled–a homebody if you will–who likes to read. I’m not as bold and brave as my brother, not as rebellious as my sister, but that doesn’t mean that I am boring…I’m just more of a settled form of crazy and randomness.  I like my adventure and my rebellions but I like them in small doses…and with frequent trips back home.

So see? Whoever said romance characters are completely unrealistic apparently hasn’t met my family…cause obviously the Loring sisters and the Poteet siblings have some things in common…

June 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm 2 comments

Book Review: Portrait of Seduction by Carrie Lofty

So over the past semester, I’ve learned some things about myself and my writing after spontaneously deciding to take a creative nonfiction course for my English major. What have I learned? Easy…I’ve realized what I like in my romance novels.  Dear PLAC (Prestigious Liberal Arts College), Thank you for once again contributing to my passion for romances, though I doubt that’s what you intended!

See, there are two things that can make or break a book for me: dialogue and characters.  Seriously.  I can’t stand it when a character’s motivation makes no sense or when they sound like a robot-child-idiot.  “Hello. I can not be with you Duke Blank for my parents are divorced and I am too sad for words.”  It drives me bonkers.  BONKERS! Even in my own writing, my stories are–as one professor stated–“strong in character and dialogue”–although at the time I don’t think me meant that as a compliment as he was criticising my “issues with depth.” Oh well! We all can’t be deep wells.

Therefore, when I was reviewing my latest book, Portrait of Seduction by Carrie Lofty, for RT BOOKREVIEWS, I was a little apprehensive about the heroine’s character.  She seemed so passive.  A little weepy.  And prone to fainting.  I was like…ummm…yeah…not sure if this is going to work for me.  Imagine my surprise when I realised halfway through the book that I actually liked dear, dear Greta!  Sure she started out a wilting violet, and yes, she did faint and cringe and worry her way through the first half of the book,  but I felt that she evolved throughout the book.  She was a little stronger.  Congratulations Greta!

For my full book review check out RT BOOKREVIEWS or click on the image below!

Romantic question: Would you continue to read a book with an annoying heroine?  How many chances do your characters get before you put the book down?

May 18, 2011 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

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