"Sweethearts" - Sara Zarr - 2008

While cleaning up my zillion bookmarks I came across a list geared right to me - "The Most Swoonworthy YA couples of all time" on a site called Forever Young Adult "for YA readers who are a little less Y and a bit more A" - which also applies to me.  There were a few couples (and books) I didn't know including Cameron and Jenna from Sara Zarr's "Sweethearts."  I love that cover by the way - not only is it cute and clean it actually fits the story - (which includes the most dead-on descriptions of food for comfort I've ever read).

This book was not at all what I expected, I thought it would be a light, quick read - it's more than that, and it's more than a romance in many ways.  Zarr's style and prose is sparse and wonderful, capturing both the trauma and innocence of childhood effortlessly.  

Hell yeah, Cameron Quick and Sara Zarr. I see some glomming in my future. 


I just read a little more about "Sweethearts" on FYA and it seems that Tim Riggins (well, the actor who plays him) is universally chosen for the role of Cameron Quick if a movie were made, and I laughed and laughed and then thought, well yeah, a 6'2" emancipated minor who doesn't say much?  
Of course, Tim Riggins. Haha!

"Some Brief Folly" - Patricia Veryan - 1981

When the latest AAR Top 100 came out, many long-time romance readers on the message boards complained about the relative newness of the books and authors.  It seems newer readers did most of the voting or just out-voted some older favorites.  One reader posted about the dearth of iconic romance authors on the list and also mentioned a few names I'd never read - Julia Ross, Patricia Veryan, and Eva Ibbotson.  The library had no titles by Ross, but quite a few by Veryan and Ibbotson - I grabbed at random.

Though it took me weeks to finish "Some Brief Folly" by Patricia Veryan was pleasantly surprising.  It's one of those stories  that isn't so much a mystery as a snowglobe.  The answers are shaken up and trapped, and seem really obvious when they settle down.  Veryan was known for her Regencies, especially the "Golden Chronicles" a series of five novels which was given a DIK review.  While I wouldn't just grab any Veryan again, (she has two "F" grades as well as that "A") As for "SBF" I found the hero pompous in a bad way, but I did enjoy the intelligent heroine and cast of kooky characters, even if the story did tie itself up too neatly in the end.

Resolutions 2010/Looking at 2011

Well, let's see how I did.

My monthly classics reading lasted until May - which is better than the previous attempt which ended in February.  Fell off the wagon with "Jude the Obscure" - and never did finish "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."

Seems I lost my checklist back in May as well - I'm not really sure what happened.  No significant thing, maybe I didn't need it anymore - or maybe I just became too lazy.

The Good:
Shot a lot of film, some that will become paintings.
New series in the works.
Wormed my way into the theater.
Used my sewing machine (a few times...)
Maintained an organized studio - mostly.
Every month in 2010 except January -  I posted more times on this
blog than the same month in 2009.
The checklist was a way to get me into the studio, 
and now I am comfortable there, 
so I just have to do it.

For 2011:

I get overwhelmed easily, and I shut down/avoid things instead of working through issues, so the resolutions this year will be simpler and specific to the month.  Let's try for 10.  


I have some time off while the shop is closed, so there's no excuse not to:

1) Paint the kitchen a lovely shade of tangerine.
2) Paint coffee table, hide the footprints.
3) Grids.  Time to start getting serious.
4) Research (Styling/Titus/Bookbinding/Internet). Ditto
5) Sketch Comedy Marketing/Props - hearts all over town.  
6) Read a novel I should have read (classic or not). 
7) Finish/give away one item from the misc craft box.  
8) Do something with one item in closet. 
9) Use a new fabric.
10) Watch a 'classic' film.  

That should be good, right??

In the words of Mr. Tom Petty, 
"It's time to move on, time to get going..."


"Just One of the Guys" - Kristan Higgins - 2008

Re-reads are a funny thing, I commonly re-read the same sections of my favorite books, but rarely re-read an entire book.  Usually another book by the same author will lead me back for better of worse.  I read "Just One of the Guys" in late 2008 (just before I started keeping this blog) and really enjoyed it.  Now it's two years and at least 4 Higgins novels later and I wasn't quite as impressed.  I wanted to revisit this particular novel because the ending of "All I Ever Wanted" really felt familiar to the finale of "Just One of the Guys." As I said in the "AIEW" review a few days ago, Higgins always has the same elements, and they are all starting to run together.  Also I skimmed my earlier reviews and found I had the exact same issues - no hero's POV and desperate heroines.  While Chastity is a type of heroine you don't often see, tall and very athletic, inside she's the same as any other 'adorable' but hopeless Higgins heroine.  Also she's a nerd and the Lord of the Rings references are a bit much - and this is coming from a girl who just watched the entire appendices of special features last week!  There isn't enough quality page time with the hero, and there's an equal amount with the wrong man.  I bought the ending (no tears the second time around though) but would have loved better circumstances for these two.  I guess it boils down to enjoying this story more before I'd seen it done several times - by the same author.    

Books to Look for - A Reminder to me

Because I'll just lose the scrap of paper I wrote them on.

"Knight of a Trillion Stars" and "Mine to Take" - Dara Joy (Paranormals 1997-8, A and A+ on AAR)
"The Famous Heroine" - Mary Balogh (one I've never heard of)
"The Vicar's Daughter" - Deborah Simmons (highly recommended and a plot I love)
"Jackson Rule" Dinah McCall (DIK - 1996)
"Bewitching" - Jill Barnett (1993 - paranormal)
"By Arrangement" - Madeline Hunter
"Daughter of the Game" - Tracy Grant (2003 at library)
"Scoundrel" - Elizabeth Elliot
"Broken Wing" - Judith James
"The Duke" - Gaelen Foley
"A Bride Worth Waiting For" - Cara Colter
The Seduction - Julia Ross

"All I Ever Wanted" - Kristan Higgins - 2010

All I ever wanted was a lime green house, rocking chair, cute shoes, cute dog and a lap to sit on.  
Well, I'm down for all of those things, especially the lime green house!  Kristan Higgins has great covers with dogs and bright colors, but this one is my favorite - it really fits the book right down to the rocking chair. On the flip side the back cover blurb was so off-putting I had this book in my hand to purchase it and put it back. However, the next book store visit I took a gamble on Higgins and ignored the blurb.  

When Kristan Higgins is on her game she writes some of the best contemporary romances around.  She’s a funny comfort read, and you can always count on a crazy family, a charming small town
and a neurotic heroine desperate to meet Mr. Right.  While I always love the towns and the families, the heroines’ first-person POV can be a bit much.  It always comes down to spending too much time in the heroine's brain and never enough page time with the hero.  With every new Higgins novel I read I find myself longing for the hero’s perspective - an insight to the hero’s thoughts and feelings could take her novels to a Jennifer Crusie-esque level for me.  I have no issues with first-person perspective in other genres, but the only time I feel a standard romance needs a first-person POV is when the heroine has two options for who the HEA will be with.

"All I Ever Wanted" has two love interests, but not really.  One is a d-bag straight out the gate - and the heroine's fixation through the first half almost kills the book for me.  Thankfully instead of getting crazier she gets practical - instead of madcap nonsense to get her man she gets to know a complicated and unexpected hero.  And thank god she did.  The hero of 'All I Ever Wanted' made me laugh out loud - AND - tear up a little, not an easy feat on either account!  He's a 'Darcy'ish cold fish - how can you resist that? Put him a room with a Brownie Troop and it's pure magic.

I love when the timing is right and not only do you have an entire evening to read, you want to finish the book, because it's so damn good.  I spent most of an evening being anti-social and completely wrapped up in Callie and Ian's story, way too late for how early I have to wake up - I ended up falling asleep with 4 pages to go! Ridiculous. Unfortunately, I lost a bit of emotional momentum by finishing the next day. The dramatic ending struck me as a bit rushed and, something that's been done before - by Higgins herself.  For all it's good points, Higgins used that awful plot device - the big misunderstanding to pull apart and reunite her lovers. I could have done without it.  Other than that I'd say Higgins is back on top of light contemporary single title romance (for me anyway) and if I ever got to hear the hero she would write a keeper every time, I just know it!  

The results are in...

...and I was pretty far off.  The 2010 Top 100 on AAR results are in.  I called P&P for #1, but "Lord of Scoundrels" held on.  So did Lisa Kleypas "Dreaming of You" at #2 - and I was very wrong about "Devil in Winter" - not only did it stay in the Top 10 it moved up to #3!  Lizzie and Darcy dropped to #4, and "Outlander," "Flowers from the Storm" and "Slightly Dangerous" each bumped back one in the standings. However, "The Viscount Who Loved Me" jumped from #10 to #8 - and two "upstarts" made their way in to the current Top 10.  Elizabeth Hoyt made quite a splash a few years ago with her "Prince Trilogy" - seems the first, "The Raven Prince" (2006) stayed with lots of readers (the other two novels also made the list).  Congratulations to Jennifer Ashley for her complicated hero everyone loved in "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie" (2009).  "Bet Me" is still my fave, but it fell to #16 - and my girl Jennifer Crusie fell out of the Top 10 altogether!  "Welcome to Temptation" landed at #35 - I blame those partner books with Bob Mayer!

I broke down where I fall in this year's survey.
I have read 67 of the 100. 
I will not read 13 of the remaining 33. 
I will look for 14 of the remaining 20.
The remaining 6 are either books I may have read but can't 
remember - or books I'll get around to reading maybe.

As for the 2007 survey...
I have read 56 of the 100.
I will not read 21 of the remaining 44.
I will look for 14 of the remaining 23.
The remaining 7 are up in the air - maybe I did, maybe I won't.  

In 2004 I was pretty new to Romance a year or two in...
I have read 56 of the 100 (not the same 56).
I will not read 16 of the remaining 44.
I will look for 20 of the remaining 28 .
I am not sure about the other 8.

In the year 2000, In the year 2000 (higher)
I have read 51 of the 100.
I will not read 16 of the remaining 49.
I will look for 15 of the remaining 33.
I am unsure about a whopping 18 this time.
The older list includes a few authors I'm unfamiliar with or never found.
And I'm starting to get worn down by seeing the same keepers from
Linda Howard, Suzanne Brockmann and Nora Roberts!
I'm wondering whether they are worth another chance, then I look at Navy SEAL plots,
murder and policemen and think, no.  I'm good.

"Not what they seem..."

Owl Lover 2011 Calendar

but they are adorable and free!

"The Wives of Bowie Stone" - Maggie Osborne- 1994

The heroine of "The Wives of Bowie Stone" wife #2, Rose Mary Mulvehey is the most interesting female character I can remember in any romance.   She only bathes after spending a night in jail - she goes to jail for getting drunk and shooting up the saloon, she smokes, rides fast and lives rough as any cowboy in the west.  She was also abused by her step-father, and depends on alcohol to cope.  She is complex and difficult - she would never have 'caught' a husband without a post-war town loophole.  The town of Passion's Crossing (sounds like a soap opera name doesn't it?) needs men, and they are in such limited supply a woman can save a man from a hanging if she marries him.  Rosie chooses Bowie Stone - who escaped the noose and fails to mention wife #1.  

Rosie sees a profitable harvest as the ultimate revenge on the step-father who died before she could kill him.  She needs Bowie to be her 'roustabout' or man of all work and over the course of a year he pulls the plow because her horse is the only good thing she owns, they work until they bleed and do it despite the town's mockery.  Bowie and Rosie fall in love slowly.  Which makes sense as she looks like 'Calamity Jane' from HBO's "Deadwood" for most of the book.  I must admit that's kind of how she talked in my head too, it was pretty distracting. 

Bowie discovers the beautiful woman underneath the liquor, dirt and men's clothing - but most importantly he helps Rosie dry out and see the beautiful woman she is.  

There's a nice subplot with Susan Stone - wife #1 - learning to take care of herself without the support of a man.  Bowie never loved Susan, his brother died while she was pregnant, Bowie marries her to give his nephew a name.  She's never had to do more than plan menus and act as hostess.  In the west she meets a man who expects more and finds more courage than she knew she had.     

My only issues with "The Wives of Bowie Stone" are plot issues.  There were a few loose ends that tied up too neatly and unnecessarily in my opinion.  But overall this book is wonderful at showing a completely new heroine and a real hero to love her.  

"Kisses To Go" - Irene Peterson - 2007

 Why do people keep sneaking magic and new age shit into perfectly harmless (i.e. ho-hum) contemporary romances without mentioning it ANYWHERE on the outside covers? New Age readings, dancing at Stonehenge, and a sworn secret about King Arthur's grave??? I didn't sign up for that!  I picked this book up while on a restaurant romance kick - yes, the heroine is a chef, kind of, maybe - diner food vs. gourmet? I don't know.  The hero was a jerk and the plot sucked all on it's own, too,  separate from the 'magic.' 

I can handle reading a less than average novel when I haven't read any reviews first, that's a risk I take when I don't have internet access, but I hate being mislead by back cover blurbs and the lack of "paranormal/fantasy" listings on the spine.  Zebra is trying to sell more books to a wider audience, I get it - but it's also bull shit.  

All About Romance's Top 100

Every few years the good people at my go-to site for romance ask their readers to submit their Top 100 romances and then compile a definitive list.  The last list was in 2007 and the Top 10 of the Top 100 was:
1) "Lord of Scoundrels" - Loretta Chase - 1995
This is a book people love so much, but I barely remember it, and honestly wasn't at all impressed at the time.  It's number one ranking has made me wonder if it was the setting where I read it, (Rock House) or if I just don't care for the novels of Loretta Chase.  I doubt it will hold the number one spot again.  
2) "Dreaming of You" - Lisa Kleypas - 1994 
I also love this book,  my favorite of all the Lisa Kleypas keepers on my shelf, and I have quite a few!
3) "Pride and Prejudice" - Jane Austen - 1813
I predict P&P will top the 100 this time around.  Everyone loves Darcy and Lizzie, and I think confusion came from whether it was acceptable to vote for a classic novel, placing it at Number 3.  
4) "Outlander" - Diana Gabaldon - 1991
This is a crazy cult favorite, number one a few lists back.  I read it once and liked it, but never read any sequels or developed a devotion to it.  It is the only romance a librarian has hugged while checking it out for me though!
5) "Flowers From the Storm" - Laura Kinsale - 1992
Another one I've read only once, but really liked.  It's biggest downfall is Fabio offering a flower to the reader on the cover, but thankfully it's been reissued...
6) "Slightly Dangerous" - Mary Balogh - 2004
My favorite (and everyone else's) of the "Slightly" series.
A twist on P&P and the best cold hero in ages.
7) "Devil in Winter" - Lisa Kleypas - 2006
A keeper for sure, but I believe it's high ranking came from being a recent release and fresh in everyone's minds.  I'm curious to see where it will fall, but my money's still in the Top 20.
8)"Bet Me" - Jennifer Crusie - 2004
My favorite contemporary romance of all time.
9) "Welcome to Temptation" - Jennifer Crusie - 2000
Another good one, but not quite a comfort read.  I've only read it twice.
10) "The Viscount Who Loved Me" - Julia Quinn - 2000
My favorite Quinn, first read when I was new to romance and she was my favorite author. However,  she's been putting out some real crap for about 5+ years, so, we'll see how she's fallen in the ranks!

The Top 100 was a great way to discover keepers and older releases I might not have discovered on my own.  For a while I was attempting to read all books on the lists - the reason why I read one (and only one) Nora Roberts and "Dream Man" by Linda Howard.  "Dream Man" made me realize I left a love of romantic suspense (a la "Mary Higgins Clark) behind me in the 7th grade, along with khaki pants and my natural hair color.  I don't have time to read authors I know I don't care for - I'll try one, and that's it.  Once again I ran out of time before submitting my personal Top 100 - it's an overwhelming task for me, plus some books I had from 2007 I don't even remember!  I'm excited to see the 2010 results, and hope to get my list counted next time around.  

"Dead Man's Cell Phone" by Sarah Ruhl

    Picture on found on Facebook, I'm not sure which audience member took it, but thanks for posting and thanks for coming.  This production featured not one, but two of my winter jackets (both looked better on Maggie, by the way) many yards of gold fabric, mod hair, cosmic pipelines, - and a handmade kidney lamp - I broke out the sewing machine for the first time in months.  Also, glitter drop.  Oh yeah.


A Letter to Rory Gilmore

Dear Alexis, 
If you ever want me to stop seeing you as Rory 
please make more films like "Sin City" 
and stop taking roles in movies that could be 
called, "The Good Guy" OR
"Rory Gilmore Lives in New York, Works as an Urban Conservationist, and finds Love."
Thank You,
Laci Hess

Alexis Bledel, a TV veteran herself, has now made two movies with quarterbacks from the TV show "Friday Night Lights."  "Post Grad" with Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen, the mumbling and sincere underdog) and "The Good Guy" with Scott Porter (the football star who lost the use of his legs in the pilot, Jason Street). This isn't terribly unusual, TV actors work on movies together all the time, such as "Can't Hardly Wait" during which I play the "Who Guest Starred on Buffy?/Do you remember their character's name?" game in my head.  Also any number of horror movies made in the mid to late 90's - (I Know What You Did Last...Season on the WB...) 

Anyway back to Ms. Gilmore - "Post Grad" was terrible (plus I saw it before FNL and didn't realize that's just how Zach Gilford speaks...) but I liked "The Good Guy" mainly because of the good guy in the film - who may or may not be Jason Street, I won't spoil it. 

"Anne's Perfect Husband" - Gayle Wilson - 2001

Here's the thing, Anne is perfect, the hero is wonderful - the first half of the book is perfect and the end  made me want to throw the book at the wall as hard as I possibly could!  

As with "The Bad Man's Bride," Gayle Wilson's "Anne's Perfect Husband" was recommended as a DIK on AAR,  I had very high expectations which I thought would be met...until I got about 30 pages from the end and the conclusion ruined this book for me.  I won't include any spoilers, but I started to question how the loose ends could come together in such a short time, not to mention when the hero and heroine would finally kiss!  With every page I read, I got more nervous - rightfully so as I found out.  I enjoyed both the hero and heroine so much, but hated how Wilson steamrolls an abduction scene into absolute torture into a pseudo-marriage of convenience between two people who are already in love -  all within the final chapters of the book.  
Two characters from the previous "Sinclair Brides" novels appear throughout, and there were some apparent inside jokes I didn't understand.  Without reading their story, I don't know how much of an ass Dare is - but he sure comes off as one in this book.  He's sarcastic and meddlesome all in the name of protecting his brother.  Sometimes I like reading the second book in a trilogy, it can peak my interest 
in the first couple and sometimes I won't even bother...

The plot has a "Daddy Long Legs" feel, the hero is appointed her guardian, expecting a small child and finding a woman of 20.  Major Ian Sinclair is a man of 32, who acts and appears older due to wounds inflicted from the war.  Anne's father was responsible for those wounds, including one piece of shrapnel which could be harmless forever or move from it's lodged location in his chest and kill him. The tension is wonderful, they share a house (it's all aboveboard because he's her guardian) and fall in love very quickly - each feels the love is and always will be unrequited, he due to threat of possible death and she because of her age and other miscommunications.  Great setup, huge fucking let down.

"The Bad Man's Bride" - Susan Kay Law - 2001

I have a list written a few years ago of recommended or DIK books to hunt down.  Unfortunately the list  ended up in a folder and never made it to the used book store - until last week.  I love the tiny one in our area, where I learned you do not tax bibles and has credit slips for books you bring in or bring return.  The romance section takes up half a room and they keep them organized by historical, contemporary, and series, plus it's all alphabetical. 
Last trip I found two I was looking for, "Anne's Perfect Husband" by Gayle Wilson and "The Bad Man's Bride" by Susan Kay Law.  I blame "The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice" for spoiling me a bit, plus my expectations from the recommendation list were pretty high.  I began Law's novel too soon and through no real fault of its own, it was a bit of a let down.  I wanted to be blown away, and wasn't.  It was a perfectly nice Americana/Western story of an inexperienced school teacher falling for a gruff father of one of her students.  Law throws a few curve balls (a nice surprise) making "The Bad Man's Bride" a perfectly enjoyable ride, just not one I'm likely to take again.  

Not For Halloween

But still pretty scary.

"The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice" - Abigail Reynolds 2010

Yes, it was the name that initially caught my eye, but I think I like the original title better.

This book sucked me in more than any in a long, long while - but after I finished and went to the bookstore to purchase my very own copy - I talked myself out of buying it.  Now, it's very likely I was simply feeling stingy - or maybe it's the weight of those TBR boxes in the corner of my bedroom.  I loved this novel as I was reading it.  But maybe it's like when you watch hours and hours of a TV show and get so sucked in to the characters (and let's face it, the love story) then after it's finished you have a bit of an entertainment hangover and only time will tell whether it was truly worthy of your emotions.  

"The Man Who Loved P &P" feels like three different books in one.  First the modernization of "Pride & Prejudice" - Contemporary New England, a feisty heroine Cassie, this time a marine biologist and a proud misunderstood man, Calder, a published author who comes from a prestigious political (Republican) family.  He's rich - she isn't - she's actually very ashamed of her background,  the journey of her acceptance provides a layer of depth to the story completely separate from any Austen references.  I'd have to say this was my favorite section, falling in love but fighting it every step of the way.

Next, Calder (Darcy) writes Cassie and himself into a modern retelling of P&P - entirely from Darcy's perspective.  While I always love to hear the hero's side of things it does take you out of their story a bit.  

Finally, the third section of the novel shows Cassie and Calder struggling against work and family to find their happiness together.  Reynolds' author bio says she's working on a sequel, and I for one am excited to read it.  I'd love to see this couple work create a family on their own terms and find out how Cassie deals with what seems to be an inevitable (Democratic) political future for Calder.  

Reynolds style and narrative swept me along for a roller coaster of emotions, but the POV confused me a bit.  I'd say 70 % of the book from Cassie's perspective, the P&P section from Calder's, however there are a few times even in the beginning that Reynolds jumps inside Calder's head for a paragraph or two and then right back into Cassie's.  However, this was a minor detail overall that didn't hurt the story.  
It's been a few days since finishing and my trip to the mall and I do think it will be a keeper.
When I re-read I rarely go start to finish - it's scenes I love and this one has some great ones.  

Goodwill Shelves

Think it works?

Easter Colors

"The Kiss" - Elda Minger - 2006

Not just a clever name!

It's not that I need sex or steamy love scenes in my romances - I love many books that consist only of kisses or less in some cases (Christy - P&P) however the back cover blurb of "The Kiss" contained some serious misdirection.  

"When she finds her fiance with another woman the night before their wedding, Tess Sommerville's safe, dull, by-the-numbers life is over.  Packing up her broken heart - along with her dog - she impulsively joins her older brother's best friend in a two-thousand-mile trip cross country.

Will Tremere always had a soft spot for Tess when they were growing up - and now she's become a beautiful, intriguing woman.  He also knows that Tess is hurting, and he's determined to help her get back on her feet, no strings attached.

But by the time the pair rolls into Las Vegas, all bets are off.  Because neither Tess nor Will ever counted on finding their perfect match on the road..."

How I was mislead (into thinking I would like this book...)

...older brother's best friend - actually an exchange student from London who lived with Tess's best friend's family for a year.  Though friends with both Tess's older brother and her best friend's brother,  Will had fallen out of touch, but was planning to visit them in Colorado on his way to California. 
growing up - like I said, Will was an exchange student for one year while Tess was a shy, 8th grader - yeah, I'll bet those sparks were really flying!
by the time... - I took that to mean they'd be at the very least sleeping together by the time their road trip hit Las Vegas - they didn't, but they did do something much more absurd but is a bit of spoiler.

Maybe I read too much into the back cover, but I was hoping for a young unrequited love storyline and a road romance.  But in reality "The Kiss" struggled to find a balance between chick lit and the ridiculous through the entirety of the novel.  Will's big thing is trusting his instincts because his psychic friend tells him to - she also says Tess's dog told her he was abused by the fiance over the phone! Those are some powerful doggie vibes, huh?  Between the new age BS, the saintly hero, and the heroine who spends half the book crying - I'm shocked I even made it through to the LA conclusion. Let's just say he isn't the starving artist she thought he was.  Shocker.  


 I always argue that pop culture references need to be classic or have a cult following, but in actuality I love when a Tom Waits song is mentioned and love when Jennifer Crusie references Buffy - but - "Desperate Housewives" is neither.  And I don't know this Bree person you speak of.  Never watched the show, and in fact, forgot it still existed.  

"Bridal Favors" - Connie Brockway - 2002

I really enjoy when I can place a book to the time of my life in which I read it - by the library it was checked out of.   
"Bridal Favors" - 2003 - Indiana Free Library.  
I enjoyed it then, and enjoyed the re-read.  I've read most Connie Brockway novels and love a few, but I did notice that this particular historical was full of anachronisms that I may not have noticed the first time around.  But I loved the leads and she only used the word insouciance once (page 146) so it's a keeper for me! 

"Dream Fever" - Katharine Sutcliffe - 1991

I guess it's my Third Wave-Feminist tendancies that make me cringe at most romances written before say, 1997...  The late-80's/early 90's are home to the famous 'bodice rippers' and everyone's favorite love scene - the forced seduction.  For those unfamiliar with term it's basically when a hero convinces the heroine she didn't mean 'no' when she said it, and while it is not quite rape, 
it really is too close for comfort and not at all what I want for my hero and heroine.   

"Dream Fever" was written in 1991 and has all those elements I avoid, an arrogant hero (alpha male), a painfully young (just 18) and naive heroine, and some roughness (a near forced seduction/intense first sexual encounter.)  Having just read it back in May, I must note that the plot and setting are similar to Candice Proctor's "Night in Eden." However, "Dream Fever" was written first, and although it also takes place in a new colony (New Zealand this time) and there is violence affecting the H/H it feels sweeter and much less harsh than Proctor's convicted heroine and brutally real depiction of the colonization of Austrailia.  It is a tribute to Sutcliffe's writing that I was able to like the hero and heroine more and more as the story progresses and if it wraps up a little too neatly at the end, I didn't mind because they went through so much getting there.  While reading "Dream Fever" I did get that giddy race to the end feeling - and I'm starting to think that romances should be devoured in one sitting whenever possible.

The only time I find myself wishing for an IPhone is when I'm at the used book store - I'd love to check out reviews before I buy.  I only have lists I've compiled but forget to take with me and the snippets that stick in my brain.  I found "Dream Fever" for 75 cents and vaguely remembered reading a DIK review of it.  Turns out the  review was penned by author Adele Ashworth (My Darling Caroline, Winter Garden) who still has her signed copy she bought at an airport in 1991.  Not sure if "Dream Fever" is a keeper for me (mine is unsigned after all....) but I did pick up another Sutcliffe novel today hoping for some great banter and fabulous sexual tension.

"The Darling" - Elizabeth Keys - 2003

I always hope that every random Americana book I pick up from the library paperback section will be as wonderful as novels by Pamela Morsi author of my favorite romance, which I randomly found in the paperback section years ago.  Not this time.  Struck out again.  "The Darling" had potential but lost my interest about 3/4 through, I did not finish it. 

READ 2010

So, it all went downhill when I decided to give myself two months to read "Jude the Obscure" by Thomas Hardy and only read the first two pages...in mid-July!  Then I said to myself, well, that was a summer vacation of sorts, back to it in August.  Let's just say I've had two different copies of Betty Smith's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"" for two months now.  Just like the romance I'm currently reading, one or two pages and I'm out.   Sigh.   To be fair (to myself) most of September was dedicated to "Entitled"but now I've got some down time.  So,  what will be - "O, Pioneers" or "On The Road"?
Hopefully one of the two this month.

First Page

I've had this same spiral notebook full of magazine clippings and collages since high school, though very little of the high school images remain.  It's starting to fall apart, and I have a scanner now, so there you go.  

"The Perfect Stranger" - Anne Gracie - 2006

An enjoyable, though pretty uneventful road romance that I'm currently re-reading.  It's slow-going as I've been falling asleep after about two pages, my fault -  not the novels'.  I do remember enjoying all of Gracie's "Merridew Sisters" quartet, especially "The Perfect Rake" however, "The Perfect Stranger" strongly reminds me of Mary Jo Putney's classic, "One Perfect Rose" - a great road romance with a twist ending.  Also, I know guns are phallic symbols, but doesn't that one look like there are two figures on it (in a Cosmo-like position), or is it just me?

A Successful Show...

...now I just have to unload my car and recycle all those 'gin' bottles!

"A Man to Call My Own" - Johanna Lindsey - 2003

The first romance I ever read was "Gentle Rogue" by Johanna Lindsey, stolen from my mother and accidentally burned and the evidence disposed of (long story...)  Too young to know a cliche when I read one, I loved that ridiculous pirate/heroine disguised as a boy tale, though it would be many years before I read another official romance - (Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught) - and it seems my standards were much, much lower when I was new and completely smitten with the genre.  
I would just gobble up anything I could find, now I try to read reviews first and find novels that are more of a sure thing.  I read "A Man to Call My Own" when it was first released and I remember really enjoying it.  I passed it in the library and thought it might be fun to revisit, to see if it holds up, ya know? It doesn't.  I couldn't even finish it.  I didn't know you could fit that many romance cliches and cardboard characters in one book.  Twins, an "evil' (spoiled) twin and a good one - Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield anyone?  A hero who is too stupid to tell them apart, even after he has sex with the heroine - are you fucking kidding me?? The horrific father, the kindly mother figure, and so on.  Also, Lindsey uses modern day slang in reference to relationships, saying "like" instead of "fancy" or something similar and the 18-year-old "bad" one is described as sleeping with men to keep them away from her sister.  Not saying people didn't have pre-marital sex, it just seemed so modern and casual.   Oh, it's so bad.  One scene I remembered as being powerful and sweet comes off forced and barbaric to me now.  The hero basically pulls the heroine into the stables for a roll in the hay because he can't stand one more second without touching her.  Just really terrible.  This is why I will never re-read more than selected sections of even my older keepers (the McNaughts and Deveraux's) - what worked for me then probably won't hold up, and I think I'd rather keep the fond memories of stories than read some purple prose.  


This Week!

"Stay" - Allie Larkin -2010

Ha Ha! He came up first in the image search!

I picked up "Stay" because of it's cute and cheerful cover.  Also, a quick glance at the back jacket showed debut author Allie Larkin hit the blurb jackpot.  Her novel features endorsements from 6 pretty well-known chick-lit/romance authors.  Since I just finished up Emily Giffin's latest, one quote especially intrigued me: 

"Wow! This book blew me away. Sharp.Smart. Observant. 
Buzzing with romance, friendship and heart. Most of all
incredibly well written.  Stay is sure to become the new favorite
among Emily Giffin fans. Enjoy!"  -Sarah Strohmeyer, author of The Cinderella Pact and The Penny Pinchers Club 

     However, I have read one of Strohmeyer's books, and it left the worst image in my head - checking for moles where the sun shouldn't be an issue...I'll say no more...Despite that, she is dead on with her recommendation of  "Stay."  

Based on the description and Giffin comparison, I feared
this book would be "Something Borrowed 2" just a rip-off of the engaged love interest plotline.  "Stay" could have gone that direction, but was so much better that it didn't.  

The heroine, Van (short for Savannah) is likable, but flawed.  She just watched her best friend marry the man she's loved for years, and goes home and drunkenly buys a dog on the internet.  The dog, who will be called "Joe" isn't a tiny puppy as thought, but is a purebred German Shephard who answers primarily to Slovakian commands and cost $6000 dollars.  But Joe is the keystone in Van's new life leading her to the life she's meant to have including a hero I would have liked to see a lot more of and some wonderful unexpected friends.

I know I would have gobbled it up in one sitting, if I hadn't been forcing myself to stop and get some work done!  Larkin also runs a blog called The Greenists for the environmentally minded,  which is cool, but I hope she's working on another book, I can't wait to read more from her.  "Stay" was the most enjoyable story I've experienced in quite a while -  not just in "chick-lit" but any genre.  

Real Brains

Now that I work in the mornings I like to start my day with NPR and "Fresh Air."  Sometimes I get funny looks (like the segment about movie musicals) from the regulars, but usually it's the most peaceful part of my day.  Whether it's celebrity interviews (I love you, Dolly!) or horribly depressing poets it's still great - and sometimes I get introduced to a whole new person or idea.

One morning, a few weeks back I heard a great interview with author Jack Clark who worked as a cab driver in Chicago for 30 years and has published three novels.  He was so down-to-earth and even self-published his first novel and  sold it in his cab for $5!  He had a great quote when asked about why he chose to drive cab - he said "he never wanted to use his 'real brain' for his job."  Not an attitude you hear very often, and I just love that, because I happen to agree wholeheartedly.  Here's a link to the whole story:  Fresh Air Interview

"Heart of the Matter" - Emily Giffin - 2010

Thankfully, I wasn't reminded of Don Henley until the final pages.  What is up with the song titles for book titles trend?  It drives me crazy, but that being said, that title is pretty dead on - this book is all about forgiveness.  This is the story of two women, a wife and the other woman, told in alternating chapters and interestingly one in first person, and the other in third.  The husband is actually a pediatric surgeon, like the fake boyfriend in the last book I read.  

"Heart of the Matter" surprised me with a guest appearance from my favorite Giffin novel.  I often complain about couples who re-appear in novels after their own HEA but, I loved seeing Dex and Rachel's "perfect" marriage and the little head nod to her daily conversations with Darcy (the somewhat-scorned heroine of 'Something Blue').   I worried that "Heart of the Matter" would read as "Something Borrowed" the sequel, but it holds its own and showcases a completely different sort of love story.  

I flew through "Heart of the Matter" during a lazy Labor Day Weekend afternoon, and it has inspired me to try to get in one more re-read of "Something Borrowed" before Hollywood completely ruins it!  

"Too Good To Be True" - Kristin Higgins - 2009

I wish Kristin Higgins would just suck it up and write the male perspective.  

She's talented and funny, and when she's on, her books are tugging my heartstrings left and right.  

However, she only writes first-person POV and 300 pages or so are just about 150 too many to be trapped within those neurotic ladies brains!  Take Grace in "Too Good To Be True" for example:  she's a history nerd, a "Pleaser" middle child who just got dumped by her fiance - and gave her blessing for him to date her little sister - so she makes up a fake doctor boyfriend to compensate and avoid pitying looks.  No, she's not 15 - she's 30 something.  She also accidentally beats the shit out of the hero and focuses on his past over and over again - I find it hard to understand what appealed to him about her. Which brings me to another issue with the first person POV...
Sometimes Higgins' novels seem light on actual romance.  You don't see a lot of the hero, or he doesn't become a potential hero until the last 50 pages, etc  - but I'm convinced she could kill it if we finally got to hear what the hero is thinking.  Maybe then these "tragic spinsters" would be a little more likable and a lot less annoying.