I just re-read "As You Desire" by Connie Brockway...

...it still rules.

"Love, Unexpectedly" - Susan Fox - 2010

I read a really good review of this book last year, and now it's free for Kindle! 

 "Love, Unexpectedly" combines two plots I love, 'Friends First' and 'Road Romance' and throws in a makeover and role playing for good measure. It takes place in contemporary Quebec, and begins in the apartment building laundry room of neighbors (and best friends) Kat Fallon and Nav Bharandi.  Kat is bubbly, social and a bit superficial, she works at a swanky hotel, while Nav, a photographer, wears a beard and old rugby jerseys, and looks the part of a shaggy starving artist.  He has been interested in Kat since the day he moved in, and as she flits from one bad relationship with one flashy ego-centric douche after another, he keeps falling more in love. But Kat, though attracted to Nav, does not want to ruin the one good and stable relationship in her life with sex, so he is forever stuck in the dreaded 'friend zone.'  The game changes a bit when Kat's little sister announces she is getting married in Vancouver in a week, and Kat needs a date.  Nav sees this as the perfect opportunity to make his move.   His plan involves the makeover and role playing I mentioned, then cleaning himself up and flirting in Continental French and crisp British vowels on with Kat on the train from Quebec to Toronto to Vancouver.  Nav gambles that seduction will lead to far more, and as they ride the rails both Kat and Nav open up and learn more about each other acting as strangers than they ever allowed themselves in their daily life.   

I read "Love, Unexpectedly" in one day, and think it could be my first e-re-read, I really, really liked it.  My only concern was the POV shift from third for Nav to first for Kat - it was a bit confusing, and I didn't understand Fox's reasoning for it... Oh, and there's also this:

So, the hero's name is Nav, short for Naveen and he is of Indian descent but raised in London, and has curly black hair, athletic and unkempt at first, then posh and elegant as he plays a part for Kat.  I try to resist the impulse to cast actors for characters while I'm reading, but there is no fucking way I'll believe that Susan Fox didn't want me picturing this:

Even Jodie Foster looks smitten...

...and of course this.  My first Naveen Andrews sighting, well before I saw him break a neck with only his feet on Lost, I swooned along with millions of middle-aged ladies as he wooed Juliet Binoche in  "The English Patient"

and finally, just looking dapper, I mean come on!  

Susan Fox also wrote a story for Kat's sister Jenna, which I would like to read, and I will be certainly be glomming her backlist as well!

"The Other Guy's Bride" - Connie Brockway - 2011

Well, I broke down and actually purchased an e-book.  Here's what it took:  the Kindle version was less expensive, already reviewed well, and published a full month before the paperback.  I was excited to read a 'sequel' of sorts to a favorite re-read from my Keeper Shelf, 1997's "As You Desire" featuring Harry and Desdemona's oldest child. 

"The Other Guy's Bride" was fast and fun, and I did like it, it just doesn't come close to "As You Desire" for me.  A few issues that detracted from the story included some editing problems (maybe will be fixed for the paperback...) especially a time line difference between the two novels.  To be honest "The Other Guy's Bride" felt really modern, which translates to anachronistic for many readers, and I have a pretty high tolerance for such dialogue and actions, so those history buffs will just hate it!  My biggest issue lies with the heroine, who was kind of spoiled and bratty at times - supposedly concerned with living up to her brilliant Egyptologist populated family, then realizes her dreams don't have to match theirs, but the epilogue really only shows the hero's dreams...
It should be noted that the hero was perfectly lovely.

All in all, I'm not unhappy that I purchased this novel, I think it might deserve an undisturbed re-reading,  but instead I am re-reading "As You Desire" and it feels like meeting old friends.  

"All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Lisa Mondello - 2000

I enjoyed this holiday story, but not as much as I enjoy this song...

"The Guy Next Door" - Anthology - 2011

The first 'real' paperback I'd read in a while...huge bummer to find out it consists of two fucking prequels and a forgettable novella!  

I began reading out of order, because I really like a few of Susan Donavan's novels.  Her story was fine, could have done without the annoying teenagers - but I could not get past the fact that the heroine was a professor at "Beaverdale Collage" in Beaverdale, PA.  I grew up 10 minutes from Beaverdale, PA which features Bud's Auto Sales, an EZ Shopper, a pool hall my 30 year old friend is still not 'allowed' (by the parents) to go into - and a defunct punk house.   I had several laughs thinking where the college would fit in!  Unfortunately it's just one of those little things an author can't control, and I'll remember the setting long after I've forgotten the story.  
Next, I read "Just One Taste" by Victoria Dahl, who I've never read anything by.  I was enjoying the story (even though it stretched the boundaries of fitting under the heading 'guy next door' a bit)  of two business people who meet at a local convention.  However, the story ends after their one night stand and sets it up to buy not only their story, but his fucking brother's stories as well.  Bull shit.  I never mind a teaser for a series at the end of a novel, the first chapter to wet your whistle and get you pumped, but as a  story in a novella?  Ahhh!  I read anthologies when I don't have time or energy for novels - they are supposed to wrap up neatly and be done. So pissed.

Well after that, I did my research and learned from the AAR review (that I should have read first!) that Lori Foster's story was a teaser for a series as well!  I didn't even bother.

I hope this is not a trend.

Only because they were free...

"Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch - B.J. Daniels - 2009

I might have really enjoyed this book back in 6th grade when I was in my Mary Higgins Clark phase...

"Speed Dating" - Nancy Warren - 2007

Uh, yeah.  That's a NASCAR book...
I know, I know - but it was free!  I think I'd actually feel better about reading "Speed Dating" if it had been good.  However, the plot was asinine, the hero was a jerk and worst of all, it featured NASCAR driver Carl Edwards as a character, and I just can not handle that!

Only because they were free...

"Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch - B.J. Daniels - 2009

I might have really enjoyed this book back in 6th grade when I was in my Mary Higgins Clark phase...

"Speed Dating" - Nancy Warren - 2007

Uh, yeah.  That's a NASCAR book...
I know, I know - but it was free!  I think I'd actually feel better about reading "Speed Dating" if it had been good.  However, the plot was asinine, the hero was a jerk and worst of all, it featured NASCAR driver Carl Edwards as a character, and I just can not handle that!

"Throwaway" - Heather Huffman - 2010

"Throwaway" is not your typical romance novel - wrapped up in a typical romance.  
It features many favorite romance novel conventions:
Wrong side of the tracks/Opposites Attract
Secondary Romance
First Love 
Nice Guy Cop (hero)
Small Town/Diner/Family
Running from Bad Guys (typical of Romantic Suspense)

But, this is what makes it NOT a typical romance, the heroine is a prostitute.  
I've seen many historical romances featuring courtesans and mistresses - and movies frequently reference the 'hooker with a heart of gold' but Jessie doesn't really fit either of these stereotypes.  She was forced out of the state foster care system and ended up with a pimp who won't even free her when she 'retires' because then he'll just keep her for himself, she doesn't have any real outs...even after she meets a cop named Gabe who knows what she does and still falls for her.  

I liked this novel, it felt self-published (it's published by Booktrope which seems really cool actually) not in the sense that it was full of grammatical errors and typos, but in the sense that a contemporary romance published by the big houses would not feature a heroine like Jessie.  

I enjoyed this book, it's really a light read despite the subject matter - 
most of the darker issues are avoided or explained away - and she does encourage donating money to the cause of girls like Jessie on her Blog.

"Dancing in the Moonlight" - Raeanne Thayne - 2006

I enjoyed this series romance, but every time an author uses song lyrics as a title it's in my head the whole freaking time....the upside, at least now I know who sings this song!

"The Bride's Baby" - Liz Fielding - 2008

Let's face it, sometimes a cheesy romance is exactly what you need.  
I really enjoyed this series romance - despite it's unbelievable plot, and the hero being a billionaire.  

Honestly, when did being a plain old millionaire become not good enough?  I know romance is a fantasy, but you would think recession would make romance writers more reasonable with their characters, but instead it's all sheiks and billionaires! 

But anyway, I had an undisturbed evening and guzzled this one down - even got a little choked up a few times!

Adventures in E-Reading...

Featuring some free stories and a constant high-pitched buzzing.

"Wicked Games"- Jill Myles - 2011
First E-Read!  A quick entertaining read about 2 people who fall for each other on the set of a "Survivor"like TV show...

"Slow Hands" - Leslie Kelly - 2008
Pretty boring, but free!

"Attachments" - Rainbow Rowell - 2011

"Attachments" introduces its' characters through a series of emails alternating with sections of prose.  The protagonist, "Lincoln" is 28 years old, holds multiple masters degrees, recently moved back in with his mother, and hasn't had a girlfriend since Freshman year of undergrad.  When we meet him, he is just starting an internet security position at the local (Omaha) paper.  This means he looks for red flags like gambling and porn, but also inter-office personal correspondence - basically he reads any email that pops up on his  'WebFence' filter.  This is how he gets to know to Jennifer, a married copy editor and Beth, the paper's movie reviewer, best friends who understand someone was hired to and probably is reading their emails.   That knowledge doesn't stop them from writing really personal (and funny) messages for most of their work days.  The two women are great, their relationship is real, their issues are very relatable - they are funny and cool, I would love to be friends with either/both of them and it's easy to see why Lincoln would fall in love without even knowing what Beth looks like.   He's painfully shy, and oh, can't stop reading personal emails, so that's awkward, and she has a long-term cool guy musician boyfriend, too.  A lot of things stand in their way, but you just root for these two the whole time!

Needless to say, I loved this book!  I stayed up 'til 3 am reading to finish it, and my alarm goes off at 5:25 so that certainly says a lot!  It features so many things I love, but first and foremost,  a beta 'hero' with a smart and funny love interest.  Plus referenes to "Quantum Leap" and "The Goodbye Girl" as well as several other beloved romantic comedies.  It's laugh out loud funny (more than once).  It takes place in the fall of 1999, during the Y2K scare, which as far as I can recall only affected one thing...

There were a few scary moments as I approached that late, late hour and also approached the end of the novel - I mean, less than 10 pages left - where I feared it could turn out to be a wall banger.  It's not a traditional romance and a HEA is not guaranteed!  Thankfully for me (and this borrowed library book)  I haven't read a more romantic ending in the last year of romances!  I finished it, and immediately read the ending again...and maybe one more time before finally trying to get a little sleep before work!

"Sunshine and Shadow" - Sharon and Tom Curtis - 1986

Yeah, that cover is 100 % gold foil.  What's up, 1986?

"Little Children" - Tom Perrotta - 2004

I love this cover art, so simple but somehow still encapsulates various themes of the novel - childhood, childcare, innocence, boredom, and romance.

"Election" - Tom Perrotta - 1998

After hearing an interview with Tom Perrotta about his latest novel "The Leftovers" stories of people 'left behind' after a rapture-like event and learning our local library did not have a copy yet, I decided to do some proper glomming.  It didn't hurt that the backlist includes two popular novels which were promptly adapted into films, "Election" and "Little Children" - "The Leftovers" is already being reworked by Perrotta into a series for HBO.  I haven't seen "Election" since it came out in '99, and just so happened to coincide with my own senior year of high school.  I remember not quite hating it (but I know someone who did...) and not really liking it either.  Since "Election" Payne went on to write and direct two movies I did hate:  "About Schmidt" and "Sideways" - so I'm not holding my breath, but I do plan to revisit "Election" soon to see just how much or how little my tastes have changed over the years.
Next up, "Little Children" book and movie (I know someone who loves it...)

I caved.

Tattoos and tattoo related topics will be on there.  While this blog is still and always will be devoted to romance novels and my other creative endeavors!

"Love Will Find A Way" - Barbara Freethy - 2002

Hooray! Hooray!  The streak is broken!  Thanks, Jess for the recommendation - can't wait to glom!  
A good solid character driven book, with believable leads and so much tension!  Fantastic.  

"The Duke and I" - Julia Quinn - 2000

I did it!  I finished a book!  Hooray - moving on...
- to that fucking dress.  While my copy has the same (reissue) cover, it does not have that ridiculous stepback.  I know Julia Quinn is known for her anachronisms, but I don't think the heroine should look like a hunky man who lost his shirt sidetracked her from her Saturday Night Fever audition.  All I can say about that dress besides it's complete lack of historical accuracy - 1 tug, 1 inch - disaster.  

As for "The Duke and I," I enjoyed it despite a third act 'big misunderstanding.'  The scope felt much smaller than I remembered, but both Daphne and Simon are great leads, so it was nice to revisit their world, so much so, I've moved on to "Romancing Mr. Bridgerton" a re-read that will feel new again because it's been so long.

July/August Wasteland

I guess it's due to the fact that I have less free time than I used to, but I can't get anything finished.   I started Libba Bray's "Going Bovine" after finishing and enjoying "Beauty Queens" - but there is sits, untouched for weeks and soon will be overdue at the library.  After re-reading "The Viscount Who Loved Me" I decided to re-read "The Duke and I" which I had only read once - I am creeping through that mother at a snails pace!   If I have the time, I fall asleep.

I just need a few hours and something so great and funny or sweeping and romantic I can't put it down.

On the other hand, I've been busier for good reason, so I can accept the dearth of good reads.  This won't become a tattoo blog, although I do have some plans in that respect!


"Beauty Queens" - Libba Bray - 2011

This cover pretty much says it all.  A plane full of "Miss Teen Dream" contestants crash on an island, but they are not alone on the island - also, there are pirates (and commercial breaks and footnotes).

That's right, footnotes.  How fucking awesome is that?  

In addition to the quirky and fun writing style, Bray gives the reader a diverse cast of characters several of which, in the hands of a less talented author would have been straight up, after-school special drivel, but Bray handles with an equal balance sensitivity and humor.

"Beauty Queens" takes a highly satirical look at the beauty industry, pop culture, and teen self-image through the eyes of third-wave feminism, but truly does cut to the heart of issues teen girls face today.  The young women in the novel thrive in adversity (and some James Bond type scenarios) they reinforce that:  girls can be smart, girls can be outspoken, they can wear make-up only if they want to, they should never apologize for taking up space and having an opinion, and always, always use a condom!  

"The Viscount Who Loved Me" - Julia Quinn - 2000

When I initially read the Bridgerton series, I favored Colin's story, but over time I've realized that it is the eldest son Anthony and his love, the remarkably real 'plain jane' Kate who's story I keep going back to.  

"Abandon" - Meg Cabot - 2011

A modern retelling of the myth of Persephone and Hades, also the first in a trilogy.  "Abandon" packs in tons of the obligatory setup and not much action, leaving me a bit divided.  I had trouble really getting into this book.  It has a storytelling style that grated on my nerves a bit -  a jumpy flashback every few pages.  Also, I kept wishing the main character was slightly older than high school.  But there were one or two swoonworthy moments, so I'm down for the rest...as long as that bed that "big enough for two" gets used in the second book!  Cabot, you're such a tease!  

"What Happened to Goodbye" - Sarah Dessen - 2011

I've yet to meet a Sarah Dessen novel I didn't like.   This one's a little light on the romance, but heavy on restaurant culture - so, I'll take that trade off.  

With A Little Help From My Friends

I have a confession to make.  I cannot pass up a good deal on a potential craft supply - clearance racks, thrift stores, rummage sales, I don't discriminate - and as every crafter knows, anything can be considered a supply.  So, in an effort to cut down on my overflowing stash and also the amount of misc. stuff that never makes it from my car, I'm declaring a Hoarder's Challenge - both to myself and to others.  

The Challenge:  To take some of my unused supplies and make something.
What you will receive:  a box of random craft supplies, ephemera and tools from my stash.
What you do with it:  is up to you, as long as you follow these guidelines.  

1)  You can make multiple projects, however - you must use all items in box. 
2)  If your box includes a book for collage purposes, you do not need to use every page - but you must use at least parts of the book.
3)  You may use your own additional items/supplies/tools in order to complete the challenge.
4)  You have 3 months from the day you accept a "Hoarder" box to finish.  
5)  You must document (and temporarily return to me) the end results.
6) Finally, just have fun crafting and creating!

If you would like to participate you can email me at Laci_Hess@yahoo.com or we can arrange to meet if you live in the Johnstown area.

Thanks all,

The Hoarder's Challenge! 2011

An old photo...

A fake record cover...

A lazy cat...

Nothing in common. Just putting up pictures.



Bodycon dress
$64 - topshop.com

Chiffon evening dress
£35 - axparis.co.uk

Michael Kors cotton dress
$957 - bergdorfgoodman.com

Heart necklace
$306 - coggles.com

My fashion collage habit goes digital!
Why is it that last week when I was preparing for finally having the internet at home, I was reading the New Yorker and planning to get up to speed on working artists, highlighting (with an actual highlighter!) names of painters to look up - and then I get the internet, and what do I do?

Watch the catch up episode of CYCLE 16 (America's Next Top Model), and discover the winner just now by doing a damn google search... 

Wouldn't have guessed, the non-role model girl - however, Louise Brooks style, still sexy after 80 years.

Still gonna watch the rest of the season, cause I have the house to myself and a six-pack of Miller Light pounders.  

I made a tiny book.

You can find it here. 

"Call Me Irresistible" - Susan Elizabeth Phillips - 2011


 "Call Me Spoiled" (Heroine)
"Call Me an Emotional Robot" (Hero)
"Call Me Out of Touch" (Author)
"Call Me Never Interested Golf, Ever" 
"Call Me Insulting to the Working Class"
"Call Me Chock Full of Insipid Characters I Chose Not To Read About Before"

The heroine learns life lessons while working for minimum wage and tips (how hard for her).  The hero is a multi-millionaire boy genius who cannot show emotions (how hard for him).  There are approx. 8 million cameos.  Golf is boring.  They don't really like each other.  Golf is really boring.  Despite being a romance novel, the hero and heroine don't really like each other.

I understand the value of fantasy and escapism in romance, but you can find that without rich and/or famous characters.  Contemporary millionaire heroes just upset me, however I have a higher tolerance for the rich in historical romance.  If I'm reading about a duke, marquess, earl or even a baron - I'll buy that he's rich, it's 1814, being rich means he's also bathed recently - but if I'm reading about two 30 something's in a small Texas town in 2011, they don't have to be rich, just interesting and likable.  

"Sweet Valley Confidential" - Francine Pascal - 2011

Thank you, Cara.  

And Thank you, Back Cover, for finally teachin me what a MFin' lavaliere is!

I never would have made it through the audiobook, and it didn't have the sweet inside cover featuring  Jessica and Elizabeth's classic Book One cover art.

I spent a hot Memorial Day, lazing about on the couch, surrounded by a haze of nostalgia and cheese!

Terrible book.

Also, I don't remember nearly as much about this fictional world as I thought I would.  I bet the summaries in the ridiculous (on purpose?) epilogue would be funnier if I did though...

Also, no mention of much from SVU (no, not Special Victim's Unit - Sweet Valley University, also, there was definitely some date raping, kidnapping, etc) and no William White (a favorite sociopath).

Also, Bruce Patman is the nice one?  And I bought it?  (I'm such a sucker!)

"Bossypants" - Tina Fey - 2011

 Tina Fey, I love you.
You are hilarious.
Thank you for 30 Rock, 
and thank you for writing this book.  

I found a B/W disposable camera from a few years back.  
It only had 4 pictures taken on it.  One of which was this gem:

Hey Anj! 
You're a weirdo, just saying.  

Cats know you love it when they lounge in your workspace.  
They also know you love shedding on materials and hard bites to the forearm. 
You love these things.

p.s. see that handsome man behind my handsome cat?  

That's just the best birthday present ever, an original Bret Sarlouis painting of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.  

p.s.  Please ignore the bright blue bra hanging around my studio - it's for art, I swear.