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  • Corrina Lawson 7:00 pm on 2018/01/11 Permalink
    Tags: barbara faith, brooke hastings, carolina dreaming, constance ravenlock, , day beyond destiny, her every wish, , mary stewart, nine coaches waiting, , pages of hte mind, rendezvous at gramercy, , sun dancers, the great rita read, the heart's victory, the rita awards, this magic moment, virginia kantra, winner take all   

    The Great RITA Read: In The Beginning 

    It started in 1982 with four books: two historical romances and two contemporary romances.

    In the 35 years since then, the Golden Medallion Awards, given out each year by the Romance Writers of America for excellence in the romance, have evolved into the RITA Awards, and last year, had winners in 13 categories, some of which were not even on the radar in 1982, including paranormal romance, romantic suspense, erotic romance, and romance with religious or spiritual elements.

    But there is a direct line from the first winners to 2017 winners, which included some of the biggest names in romance, such as Carolina Dreaming by Virginia Kantra, Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy, and Her Every Wish by Courtney Milan.

    The romance genre has always featured women, it’s always allowed the heroine to have her story told, and it’s always valued her independence. And, now it also features LGBTQ stories as well, providing a happy ending for all those who love.

    As part of new series here on B&N Reads called “The Great RITA Read,” I’ll be exploring the history of the romance genre by reading as many Rita-winning books as possible, leading up to the announcement of the 2018 Rita Award finalists in March.

    Why this series? Because I love romance and it’s time that the RITA Awards gained the prominence of the other major genre awards, such as the Edgar Awards, given out by the Mystery Writers of America, or the Nebula Awards, given out by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Ameria.

    There’s little mainstream press coverage of the RITA Awards (or really, the romance genre as a whole) and when there is, it tends to be of the sneering or patronizing kind that characterized a recent article in the New York Times. Why does this happen? I’ll point out romance is the one genre largely written, published, and read by women, and the state of the world, and let you do the math.

    I’d rather talk about the stories.

    I had some preconceptions of what those early romances would be like. I thought perhaps the heroines would not be as three-dimensional or independent as modern-day romance protagonists; that perhaps they would seem tame compared to today’s heroines, and even that they would end up being damsels in distress. After all, even romance readers often say, “well, there were some older romances with heroines who are passive and need to be rescued.” I also thought perhaps writing styles might have changed and the older books would read as stilted or less interesting.

    Um, no.

    As I read the three of the first four Golden Medallion Award-winning books, Day Beyond Destiny by Anna James, Rendezvous at Gramercy by Constance Ravenlock, the two historical winners, and Winner Take All by Brooke Hastings, the contemporary winner, I had a collection of characters who would not be out of place in a current romance. (I could not obtain a copy of the fourth winner, Sun Dancers by Barbara Faith, alas.)

    Among these heroines were a diplomat’s daughter turned smuggler, an abused housewife, a mother, a painter who dared fall in love with a man who valued her, and a business owner determined to save her company, despite the machinations of a corporate raider. (Yes, dear readers, millionaire heroes go back to 1982 and beyond. Millionaire/billionaire romances are not new.)

    I did find one interesting element these three books had in common: they were all heroine-centered, meaning if the men had a point of view at all, it was brief, and they didn’t have a strong emotional arc.

    In Rendezvous at Gramercy, where the heroine is rescued from a shipwreck off the French coast and taken in by down-on-their-luck nobility who are smuggling in food and other necessities for the local townspeople, the style is very much in the vein of Mary Stewart’s gothics, such as the classic (and still wonderful) Nine Coaches Waiting. The reader does not get to know the hero, though he does eventually put aside his cynicism due to the heroine’s noble acts.

    Day Beyond Destiny was fascinating in several ways. One, the heroine is a clearly abused (married to a rapist husband) who finds love and tenderness with a Greek native while on vacation in Greece. Yes, she cheats on her husband, which I’ve been told “should not be done” in modern romance, though I’m reasonably certain it could be done and done well in a modern romance. (And feel free to comment with romances you love that have this element.)

    But the most fascinating element is this book is a three-generational romance, following up with the daughter and granddaughter, and, thus, the original hero actually dies later in the story. I know! Blasphemy in a romance today. Even worse, the second heroine’s story ends in tragedy, and the granddaughter barely has a romance at all but has mainly a coming of age story.

    Clearly, readers (and writers) have cemented certain “rules” since 1982 that would make Day Beyond Destiny a controversial romance today. But it’s also a terrific book and, by the end of the first story, I wanted to move to this Greek Island, or at least vacation there. The story sweeps a reader away to a new and fascinating world, which is something we still want today.

    Next up in this series: a look at Nora Roberts’ first Golden Medallion/RITA Winners: This Magic Moment and The Heart’s Victory, from 1982 and 1983.

    Yes, Nora Roberts has been writing that long—and writing well that long.

    The post The Great RITA Read: In The Beginning appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Corrina Lawson 4:00 pm on 2016/12/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , the guardians trilogy,   

    Island of Glass Concludes Nora Roberts’ Epic Guardians Trilogy 

    I picked up Island of Glass, book 3 in the Guardians series, having not read books one and two. I also picked it up not having read any fantasies by Nora Roberts before.

    No matter.

    I was sucked into the story and finished it in one night. Which is not to say I’d recommend reading this volume before reading Stars of Fortune and Bay of Sighs, the first two books.

    I’m that weird person who is happy to read a series out of order but, even so, it takes me time to parse who is who and what is what. That I could do that within ten pages speaks highly of Roberts’ writing skills, especially since the book begins with the arrival of our group via magic portal to a castle perched on an ocean cliff in Ireland. They’re fleeing a confrontation with, well, a mystical goddess.

    More than anything, reading Island of Glass made me want to go back and read the first two books, and then re-read Island of Glass to see what nuances I was missing.

    Essentially, the Guardians Trilogy is about three couples with varied powers and abilities, including a wizard, a seer, and a mermaid. Doyle, the hero of the third book, is an immortal warrior and Riley, an archeologist who is like a female Indiana Jones, is the heroine. But their story has been percolating for the first two books so what was in this final volume was more a culmination of their relationship than a full romantic story. They’ve already met, fought together, made friends together, and faced death together.

    Aside: I’m a total sucker for world-weary repressed immortal warriors, so Doyle caught my attention immediately. Maybe it’s just as well I read this first because if I’d read them in order, I’d want more Doyle in each of the first two books. Yes, I’m that much of a sucker for this trope.

    The couples already together have moments in the third book that are essential to their happily ever afters. In the finale, the party of six are in the last stage of their quest to take possession of the three “fallen” stars and return them to the Island of Glass in the title, attempting to overcome the goddess who has left the fold and only wants to destroy.

    The fantasy is built around Irish mythology. As I noted above, it’s the first fantasy I’ve read from Roberts. I’m generally a fan of her romantic suspense novels and the J.D. Robb series, but apparently, I’ve been missing out because the worldbuilding is as sure here as in any regular fantasy novel. (And would probably serve as a good introduction to Nora Roberts for fantasy fans.) The magic is well-handled with specific rules, including the wizard/mage’s power, the seer who glimpses the future, and the curse placed on the immortal warrior. Also, I loved the mermaid but I may also be a sucker for an “outsider who knows little of human civilization.”

    Each of the six main characters has their own strengths and weaknesses and while they’re paired off, they also have meaningful if platonic relationships with each other as well. So often in ensemble novels, paired-off characters are on their own islands, only interacting with their romantic partners, but this group has bonds that cross every which way.

    In short, the six are a cohesive team, and Island of Glass provides both them and the Guardians Trilogy with a satisfying ending.

    Island of Glass is on B&N bookshelves now!

    The post Island of Glass Concludes Nora Roberts’ Epic Guardians Trilogy appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Corrina Lawson 4:00 pm on 2016/09/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Kate Rothwell, Natasha Moore, ,   

    Why Do Romance Authors Write Under Multiple Pseudonyms? 

    My introduction to the romance genre was via the In Death mystery series by J.D. Robb. My friends assured me that these books were a terrific showcase for the talents of the romance writer, Nora Roberts.

    I read the first one, Naked in Death, and was hooked.

    This exactly why authors use different names across different genres: to reach as many readers as possible.

    Not all readers want the same things from a book, and yet some authors are multitalented and versatile enough to write different types of romances or even to cross genres entirely. For those writers—and those readers—the pseudonym is a gift. For instance, I still love the J.D. Robb mysteries and read every single one, but remain picky about Nora Roberts-authored books. Some I love and others aren’t to my taste. But with the pen name, I know exactly what I’m getting before I buy a book.

    Authors too numerous to count write under multiple names across various genres for people like me. Perhaps the most famous is Nora Roberts, but there’s also the bestselling romantic suspense author Jayne Ann Krentz, who writes historical romance as Amanda Quick and paranormal romance as Jayne Castle. There’s paranormal romance author J.R. Ward, who writes contemporary romance as Jessica Bird. And then there’s urban fantasy author Sherrilyn Kenyon, who writes historical romance as Kinley MacGregor.

    Those particular pseudonyms are well known, which means that their different branding isn’t an attempt to deceive, but more an attempt to inform.

    Kate Rothwell, who also writes as Summer Devon, took the Summer Devon identity to signal a difference in heat levels for her romances. But she makes no secret of the two identities, as it’s even listed in her “meet the author” note on bn.com, under her latest Kate Rothwell historical release, Somebody Wonderful.

    “The Summer Devon identity produces hotter books (Summer, after all). I adopted it for books that weren’t standard male/female historicals,” said Rothwell.

    However, sometimes these identities take on a life of their own.

    “Now I think it’s associated with my male/male romances, no matter what their heat level,” Rothwell added.

    Author Natasha Moore writes contemporary romances. Her latest release is Chemistry, a comedic take on love potions, but she has an alter ego, Anna Lund. Says Moore, “The second pen name is strictly for one type of book with another publisher”—a type of book that may contain heat levels that may not appeal to the same readers who read Natasha Moore.

    In fact, it has become common in the romance genre to take a different pen name for erotic work.

    Besides Rothwell and Moore, there’s Kit Rocha, who writes hotter books, such as Beyond Shame, while her alter ego Moira Rogers, writes paranormal romance such as Crux. Kate Watterson writes suspense such as Frozen, the first book in her Detective Ellie MacIntosh series, while her alter ego Emma Wildes writes the Sinful Gentlemen series. Readers may enjoy reading both Watterson and Wildes, but if a reader looking for a mystery stumbles across sexy romance instead, that might be frustrating or confusing.

    Of course, sometimes authors in other genres take pen names to avoid being seen as too prolific. (Hello, Stephen King‘s Richard Bachman!) Or authors start out writing under a pen name early on in their careers (such as Michael Crichton, whose novel A Case of Need, written under the name Jeffrey Hudson, won an Edgar Award), only to later republish them under their real names, once those real names have become household names.

    There are outliers, of course, who want to hide their identities so that readers won’t come into new work with preconceptions, (Robert Galbraith, ahem, J. K. Rowling, I’m talking to you!) though Rowling’s deception was more to make certain that her Cormoran Strike mystery series would be received based on its own merits, rather than being touted as the “new J. K. Rowling book!”

    In that, Rowling was like most of the other authors using pseudonyms: she didn’t want to give potential readers the wrong idea about any particular book. No sense angering the reader on the front page and plenty of sense in letting them know when their favorite author may be veering into paths where they may not want to follow.

    Plus, there’s the bonus of finding new readers, like me.

    The post Why Do Romance Authors Write Under Multiple Pseudonyms? appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Corrina Lawson 2:00 pm on 2016/07/08 Permalink
    Tags: all that jazz, , jazz age romance,   

    Swing to these 5 Jazz Age Romances 

    The Jazz Age was a time of social upheaval, lawlessness, and changing morality. It certainly had its dark underbelly, especially regarding violence and racial discrimination, but it was also a time of hope, when people believed that things long set in stone could be changed.

    Such a tumultuous time makes it a perfect setting for a romance—although you’ll find that there aren’t very many set in that age. Fortunately, the ones that do exist are excellent and, bonus, they are all set in different cities that were at the heart of the Jazz Age: San Francisco, Chicago and New York City.

    Bitter Spirits (Roaring Twenties Series #1), by Jenn Bennett
    Set in 1920s San Francisco, this book has a supernatural edge, as the heroine, Aida is a medium who can call and banish ghosts. That’s how she first encounters the hero, Winter Magnusson, who is being haunted by a ghost following him around. Getting rid of the ghost is easy; and watching over Winter while he’s naked in a spell-infused bath designed to release the curse is arousing, but the real problem this couple has is that they’re not just independent, they’re determined to push people away because of the losses they’ve suffered.

    I tend to be indifferent to a lot of sex scenes, but Winter and Aida’s scenes were excellent, concentrating on how the sex released so many emotions between the two of them, with the added quirk of his adoration of the freckles that cover her all over.

    I wanted more of the supernatural but that may be the fantasy reader in me. Romance readers will love how the focus stays squarely on the romance. The best part? There are two more books in the series, each featuring a member of the Magnusson family.

    Romancing the Rumrunner, by Michelle McLean
    Chicago is the city of the big shoulders, where anything goes during the 1920s, and if you’re an enterprising woman who needs to make a living, you run a speakeasy that rotates locations out of your deli, and never let anyone know that the male owner is fictitious.

    I already liked the setup here and the cleverness of our heroine, Jessica, and as a bonus, this romance features the “enemies to lovers” trope, as the private eye hired to take down the speakeasy is instead enthralled by it (and its fetching owner). But happy endings aren’t easy in Chicago, and this one has to be well-earned.

    The Gin Lovers, by Jamie Brenner
    New York City is in the midst of the Roaring Twenties, and you’d think a society woman would have her pick of fun adventures, but Charlotte is stuck in a loveless marriage. Until, that is, the arrival of her younger sister-in-law turns out to be her entry into the hidden speakeasys of the city and an answer to finding love. The story is great journey into this long-ago period and is sprinkled with appearances of some of the real people from the era, and it breathes life into various fascinating worlds in 1920’s New York.

    This was originally published as a serial novel, which means the pace is refreshingly brisk. It’s also about something I love in romances: the heroine coming to realize her own strength.

    The Ashford Affair, by Lauren Willig
    Yes, I know, this one is not strictly a romance, but the parallel stories of the past in the post World War I period and modern-day Manhattan make it just too good not to recommend. Plus, Willig has a knack for historical adventure and mystery, as seen in The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

    An American Duchess, by Sharon Page
    A classic marriage of convenience, done 1920s style, with an American heiress who cannot access her fortune unless she marries and, of course, there’s a lord of the English realm who needs to shore up his crumbling manor with that fortune. The plan is, of course, for them to get divorced with money in both their pockets. But things don’t always go according to plan…

    What Jazz Age romances have you loved?

  • Corrina Lawson 3:30 pm on 2016/04/29 Permalink
    Tags: Harlequin Historicals, history and romance, one night with the viking, , the courtesan's book of secrets, the harlot's daughter, the highlander's runaway bride, , wish upon a snowflake   

    Where to Start with Harlequin Historicals 

    The first few times I picked up a Harlequin Historical, I was delighted by the quality and the range of stories. Before long, I actively sought them out. I love these titles because one, I know I can finish them quickly and easily because they’re shorter, and two, because I can count on their consistent quality. (Yes, sometimes I roll my eyes at the titles, but what’s between the covers more than makes up for that.)

    The best part of getting hooked on Harlequin Historicals? Since authors write multiple books a year, once you find a favorite author, there is a plethora of backlist titles to read. Depending on your preferred historical period/location, here are five terrific books and authors to start with.

    The Courtesan’s Book of Secrets, by Georgie Lee
    Often, Regencies start with a big misunderstanding (and rare is the book in which, once the truth of the misunderstanding is revealed, things actually get much worse for the hero and heroine). The Courtesan’s Book of Secrets is a delightful story of second chance love, a popular Regency theme, in which past mistakes make it almost (but not quite) impossible for our hero and heroine to have a happy ending.

    Wish Upon a Snowflake, by Christine Merrill, Linda Skye, and Elizabeth Rolls
    Merrill is my favorite Regency writer, and this Christmas novella, The Christmas Duchess, is my favorite of her stories. It’s a lovely fairy tale in which a daughter of marriageable age is jilted by a callow heir to a dukedom. The Duke himself comes to make amends for his cousin and, well, soon finds that the mother, whom he first sees sweeping the kitchen, is the most interesting woman in the house. This collection is a three for one, and also features the tale of a Russian princess, and a story of rekindled romance.

    The Harlot’s Daughter, by Blythe Gifford
    The bastard daughter of the late King Edward III and his mistress are thrust into the dangerous politics of young Richard II’s court, where her mother’s reputation makes everyone view her as untrustworthy and inferior. But, of course, there is one lord who is able to see through to her true self…

    The Highlander’s Runaway Bride, by Terri Brisbin
    In my view there’s not a more reliably delightful writer of Scottish historical romances than USA Today bestselling author Terri Brisbin. This one is an arranged marriage story in which the bride is less than thrilled to be sold off by her father (surprise, surprise!). The hero, who’s also not excited by the fact that he’s been given no choice when it comes to the selection of his bride, has to work to win her over. And—spoiler alert except not really—win her over he does.

    One Night with the Viking, by Harper St. George
    Need a little something to hold you over when History Channel’s Vikings goes off the air? (Yes, I’m in denial about that too.) St. George has an entire series about Vikings, and One Night with the Viking is a very good place to start. It features the story of a Viking couple separated by distance and their own confused emotions, and it provides a fascinating look at Viking village life, for those who like learning to blossom along with their romance.

    What are your favorite Harlequin Historicals?

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