#StrongRomanceHeroines, Mills & Boon, Reading, Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading

Respond to Reading: Christmas Ever After

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I often cry over books, but most of the time it’s welling up or tears blurring my vision.  I sobbed over Sarah Morgan‘s Christmas Ever After.

I’ve had such an intense and personal response to this book that this post is somehow part-review, part-musings and possibly a little intense itself.  You have been warned.

The book is the final volume in Morgan’s Puffin Island series, a trilogy (with a Mills & Boon Modern prequel) set on a little island in Maine, following three friends:  Emily, Brittany and Skylar.  I’ve loved each of them, but there was something about Sky and Alec, the hero and heroine of this final volume, that caught my imagination from the start.

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that they kept on sniping at each other – I adore a hate-to-love romance – or because they’re fiercely loyal in their own way, but either way I was super excited about this book.

Conflict is always difficult to get right, and Sarah Morgan is a master of the art – as I’ve argued in the past – so I suppose it came as no surprise that Skylar and Alec’s internal conflict were deeply textured and developed.  But it was Skylar in particular who stood out for me.

I’ve written in the past about anxiety and panic attacks and I’m a firm believer in a romance novel’s ability to deal with darker emotional issues.  The reasons for Skylar’s anxiety and constant apologies couldn’t be further from mine – my family have always been incredibly supportive – but Morgan’s portrayal of this was perfect.

In some ways, it was shocking to see how ingrained it had become for Skylar to apologise or begin to panic as soon as she did something that her family or ex would have disapproved of or disliked.  The automatic catastrophising, continually jumping to the worst possible scenario and apologising in an attempt to get ahead of it.  And when she meets Alec’s family, he does the same thing, immediately fearing the worst possible outcome.

Catastrophising is pretty hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced it; it’s as if you’ve been split in half and one of you is sat there panicking over and over again, whilst the other part of you drifts apart, completely aware that this is an overreaction, and that there’s nothing you can do about it.

I train myself to go to the middle ground.  Whenever I feel myself catastrophising I force myself to think about the best possible outcome and they try and find some kind of middle ground.  The problem with the extremes, is that they’re almost always something out of your control, and it’s only by stopping and thinking about the middle ground that you can truly start making your actions autonomous.

And the end of the novel does this perfectly.  I found reading this surreal and emotional and intense because it was like reading my own journey mirrored on the page, and reading how everyone around Skylar felt about her anxieties was pretty moving.

Hence the sobbing.

But the book’s not dark and depressing, rather an uplifting experience, full of humour and friendship and sex scenes that made me smile and blush in equal measure.  I loved this, and it’s my favourite Sarah Morgan book.

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Erotica, Reading, Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading, Uncategorized

Respond to Reading: Seven Sins

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For some reason, I don’t often read novella anthologies – I wouldn’t be able to tell you why- but when I saw the concept for Seven Sins, where each novella was based on a different sin, I was sold.

And when I read them, I fell in love.

It should, however, be pointed out that these novellas are incredibly sexy.  I read them on my work commute and might have had a couple of moments where I prayed that no-one noticed how flushed I was.

Envy

Blaze for Me – Natalie Anderson

When Austin Tate busts Nicoletta Valeri in a blistering moment of voyeuristic orgasm-envy, it’s the perfect chance for some payback, but instead she’s lit a fire than can be extinguished by only one thing…

There’s something quite delicious about a narrative that opens with a sex scene that isn’t between the hero and the heroine.  Anderson sets up Nicoletta as a sweet but frustrated sportswoman with plenty of talent and more than a little bit of a thing for Austin Tate.  Incredibly hot, but with a realistic conflict that made me fall a little in love with the characters.

Gluttony

Glutton For Punishment – Amy Andrews

With a sudden hankering to be spanked, Darcy Henderson figures Mitch Callaghan is the man for the job. But is she woman enough to take it?

Rarely is a sexy novella set against the backdrop of a senior citizens’ apartment complex, but it works.  This reminded me a little of Andrews’ Holding Out for a Hero, in that the secondary characters stood out as three-dimensional and developed as the main two, much to my delight.  This is Andrews’ first foray into BDSM, and it works beautifully, with a clear understanding of the different levels of kink.  Plus it’s laugh out loud funny at times and I fell pretty hard for both Darcy and Mitch.

Lust

Burned by Lust – Michele de Winton

Biker, Hade Corban is set to take over the Raising Hellfire Gang and love isn’t on his agenda, but lusty goodtime girl Lee Delevinge is hell bent on burning up his heart.

De Winton’s heroine, Lee, is anything but ashamed of her love for sex – especially when that sex involves none other than gorgeous bike Hade Corban.  I love the way that de Winton presents Lee as she is, without any judgement or criticism; it’s a refreshing attitude towards women’s appetite of sex.  And Hade’s internal conflict makes him realistic and well-balanced between biker and hero.

Wrath

Sleeping with the Enemy – Robin Covington

All’s fair in love and baseball…but when Kat Carter, the newly-minted GM for the Virginia Venom, is determined to recruit rival superstar shortstop (and former lover) Derek Foxx the last thing she expects is a sexy ultimatum…

I’m a massive fan of #StrongRomanceHeroines, and Covington’s Kat Carter is definitely one of those.  She’s worked hard to earn her place as a general manager in a world dominated by men, and her fear that a romance with a player could ruin her reputation, is one that I can understand.  Luckily, Covington works out a way of giving Kat both her career and her lover.

Sloth

Princess Sin – Avery Flynn

There’s trouble on the horizon when Cynthia Aston, who the tabloids have nicknamed Princess Cyn for her slacker party girl ways, stows away on a yacht that belongs to workaholic billionaire Hunter McKenney, her older brother’s sexy best friend.

Out of all of these novellas, the one that dealt with sloth seemed to me the hardest one to marry with a love narrative, however, Flynn’s story of entitled Cynthia Aston, more than happy to laze away and not bother working and her passion for Hunter McKenney – her opposite in every way – met the brief perfectly.  Cue a sizzling sex scene on a yacht and my heart melting.

Pride

Accidentally Sinful – Carmen Falcone

Stranded due to a snowstorm, Santiago Cruz must let go of his pride and acknowledge forbidden feelings for the woman he loves but can’t forgive—his stepsister.

I love a good snowstorm – especially when it forces two characters to reexamine their feelings for each other.  Tiffany Burrows and Santiago Cruz are both hiding secrets from each other, and Falcone’s skillfulness in unwrapping each piece of the puzzle slowly and carefully is what makes this a delightful read.

Greed

How to Seduce A CEO – Talia Hunter

Hot shot CEO Marcus Bolton’s decided who to hire for the top job, and it’s not Angel Moore, no matter how temping she might be. But Angel will do whatever it takes to land the job of her dreams—even seduce the boss.

Angel’s a strong business woman, who’s been backed into a corner by a boss who’s incompetent and misogynistic, so she’s determined to get this promotion by any means necessary.  But little does she expect Marcus Bolton to get under her skin the way he does.  Hunter’s story of two people, determined to keep their careers going, whilst heading for a collision is charming and sizzling.

Exploits of a Chick Lit Aficionado, Reading, Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading, Tule Publishing

Respond to Reading: Claimed by the Warrior

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I first discovered Joss Wood with the launch of Modern Tempted (or KISS, as it was called in the US), back in August 2013. My review of that novel, If You Can’t Stand the Heat, was accompanied by a Mills & Boon boy (one of my male friends caroused into posing with the book) and so a love affair began.

I love Joss’ writing, which is one of the reasons why she’s an autobuy author for me. Her characters have heart and sass and there are plot twists which I love.

Claimed by the Warrior is no exception.

It’s got a typically Wood-ian hero in Jed Hamilton (yes, I`m making that a thing): a man who is strong and fiercely independent, who doesn’t usually rely on anybody else. I’m a sucker for these heroes, partly because my own fiance’s incredibly similar. There’s something swoonworthy about someone who won’t open up to anyone but the heroine; it helps create a special bond between the characters that is impossible for either of them to deny forever, however much they may want to.

And to go along with this (rather delicious) hero is McKenna Dixon. I love the way that she interacts with Jed, calling him out when he unintentionally upsets his little sister`s wedding dress shopping and standing up to him when she doesn’t think he’s being upfront with her.

The chemistry between the two of them is sizzling from the outset, with a particularly steamy scene at a restaurant standing out, but the thing that’s most apparent to both the reader and the characters, is that there’s genuine tenderness and affection amidst the heat.

In addition to all this, there’s a thriller-esque element to the story, with Jed stepping up when he realises that McKenna has a stalker, and the eventual revelation at the end came as a bit of a surprise (in a good way – I like that writers can still surprise me sometimes). Romantic suspense is a sub-genre of romance that I’m beginning to enjoy more and more, so I was delighted t see this kind of writing from Joss.

All in all, a delightful read, with Wood’s strong characterisation once more at the forefront of a darn good read.

Mills & Boon, Reading

Tactile Understanding

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Musee Rodin – The Cathedral

We crave to be touched.

Tactile understanding is what most people need and what almost all of us want.

At least, that’s what I tell Chris whenever he complains about me hijacking all the space on the sofa.

But in all seriousness, the NHS (British National Health Service) tells mothers-to-be that “skin-to-skin contact helps you to bond with your premature baby, and it increases your milk supply.”  It’s proven to be good for babies to have time touching their parents – both mother and father – as it helps them associate touch with love and safety.

So why is this relevant on a blog that’s predominantly about romance?  I suppose it’s in part because that skin to skin contact can be an integral part of a romantic relationship, but also there’s the understanding that without interaction with others, we become isolated.  So many romance heroes and heroines find themselves isolated from others and indeed from their own feelings, and it’s when they start to crave someone else’s touch that their attitudes change.

It should come as no surprise then, that the phrase “craving [someone’s] touch” pops up again and again in romance titles:

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Wendy S. Marcus‘s Craving Her Soldier’s Touch looks at a couple who have been intimate once before, but it’s their individual battles (his with PTSD and hers with her attraction for him, as well as the emotional toll of her work with domestic abuse victims) that help them realise that losing themselves in each other may be an answer.

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Bronwyn Scott‘s Craving the Rake’s Touch – the introductory novella to her new Rakes of the Caribbean series – tells of Sarah and Benedict, two people irrevocably drawn together.  Sarah, however must marry for money and, as it argues in the blurb, Benedict must “use his powers of seduction to show her exactly what she could expect with him as a husband!”  Here, the use of intimate touch shows the heroine how much he loves her, if only because that’s the only way she’ll believe him.

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And in May 2015 comes Rachael Thomas‘ third novel, Craving Her Enemy’s Touch.  The book promises to be sizzling, with the blurb placing Sandro Roselli as the only man Charlotte Willingham hates, as well as the only man she can’t resist.  The promise of devastating secrets, as well as the dazzling world of racing, suggests conflict that will only be intensified by touch…

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So how do you feel that tactile understanding between romance heroes and heroines should manifest itself?  And do you think that touches as simple as hand holding can be as potent as more intimate touching in romance?

Reading

Cue the Inevitable Birthday Post

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I get stupidly excited about my birthday every year without fail.  Essentially, I view it as an excuse to get drunk with the people I love (or in the case of my family, eat an obscene amount of food together).  It’s beyond awesome.  And this year was no different.

Over the whole birthday weekend (yes, it was a weekend), I was spoiled terribly.  There was cake, there was homemade fajitas, there was cocktail after cocktail after cocktail.  And a lot more beside.

The fiance took me into Forbidden Planet and let me loose with a budget.  SO AWESOME.  I came away with the following trade paperbacks:

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Ms Marvel, the first comic to star a Muslim woman as a superheroine.  She’s funny, sassy, and fits in perfectly with Marvel’s younger generation heroes.  (Sidenote:  The only complaint I have about my bday being in March, is that it means that I couldn’t get the tp for Gotham Academy)

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Speaking of younger generation comics, I was so taken by Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers series, that I jumped on the opportunity to read their new outing, The Wicked & The Divine.  Plus I’m love anything that has godheads at the centre of it (see my obsession with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods).

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And then there’s Constantine.  I missed Hellblazer the first time round so I thought why the hell not?!  I’m pretty keen on the new tv series and it’s different from many of the comics I’ve read before.  Plus the artwork looked pretty (though apparently the internet disagrees…), so I picked up the first three tps.  Watch this space.

Then came drinking.  Turns out that there’s a cocktail called Strawberry Lemonade which has a little more booze than lemonade, but which was delicious nonetheless.

And then yesterday there was Poldark.

 

It was everything I had hoped for…and then some.  Yes there were the requisite brooding stares, but there’s heart to this drama, and a scenary that has to be seen to be believed.

I’m totally dragging Chris down to Cornwall this summer.

All in all, a fab birthday.

And now I have a request of you; I find myself in possession of a Kindle gift card (I know, my man’s the best!) and at a loss as to which books to buy.  So please, leave recommendations!  I’ll read pretty much anything aside from thrillers/horror.  So have it, dear internet!

Startup Stock PhotosWork In Progress Word Count:  2577 words

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Reading

Introducing #StrongRomanceHeroines

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Nothing frustrates me more than the pigeonholing of romance novels:

“They’re all the same.”

“They’re badly written.”

“The female characters are weak.”

It drives me more than a little mad and so I’m starting a new weekly column:  #StrongRomanceHeroines

This is where, week after week, I’ll pick a strong romance heroine to talk about.  As a genre, romance is delightfully diverse with all ethnicities, sexualities and outlooks falling within its scope.  And I want to celebrate this.

Sal – Amy AndrewsAsk Me Nicely

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“Sally Kennedy needed more tequila. And an orgasm. Not necessarily in that order, of course.”

Firstly, Sal is sassy.  She was the catalyst for her best friend writing a “to-do” sex list in No More Mr Nice Guy and at the opening of this book, she’s frustrated by her lack of orgasms in recent months and so sets out to get drunk and “find a solution” to the problem.

So far, so entertaining.

But here’s the thing.  Sal is tough.  She’s had to be since the accident that ruined her life and took away what she most prized.  And she’s hard, or at least she seems that way.  She’s had a stream of one night stands because – rightly or wrongly – that’s how she’s coping with her grief, and I love the fact that the novel doesn’t shy away from this.

In fact, in some ways the novel can be seen as a lesson in how grief can manifest itself; it’s dark and gritty and heartbreaking.

And there’s the fact that Sal’s an alpha woman.  We talk so much in the romance community about alpha heroes v beta heroes, but there’s been limited discussion on that distinction in female characters.  Andrews herself has discussed it, arguing that:

I’m nervous because Sal’s an alpha woman.

She’s hard. She’s unapologetic. She wears the pants.

And I’m not sure how that’s going to go over with readers.

She’s ruthless in her private life, and damn good at her job (she’s runs a veterinary practice) and she deserves the happy ever after that she everntually gets.

Is she always likeable?  Well, she certainly frustrates us and our expectations, and that can only be a good thing.

 

Startup Stock PhotosWork In Progress Word Count:  2577 words