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  • Dahlia Adler 5:35 pm on 2014/12/23 Permalink
    Tags: , amy finnegan, contemporary romance, , , julie cross, kasie west, liz czukas, , paula stokes, , , , ,   

    The Best Contemporary YA Romance of 2014 

    Stephanie Perkins' Isla and the Happily Ever AfterConfession: contemporary young adult romance has the most special place in my heart of all YA genres. It encompasses so much of what I love about reading (and writing) young adult as a whole—all the experiences of “firsts” and all the ups and downs that come with them. Some of them are sweet, some are steamy, some are intense, and some are hilarious, but what all the good ones have in common is the butterfly-inducing magic that cannot be denied.

    Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins
    It was a long wait for the final book in Perkins’ trilogy of romances, but well worth it. Passionate, artsy Isla has had a crush on Josh for years, but it takes a Vicodin-induced semi-stupor to get them together. Once she learns the feelings are mutual, it’s full speed ahead into exactly the kind of all-consuming, enchanting romance no one does better than Perkins. Dramatic, engaging, and surprisingly sexy, this was a most satisfying conclusion to one of contemporary YA’s most popular series.

    Everything Leads to You, by Nina LaCour
    To be honest, LaCour’s grocery lists could probably make any post I write at this point—she’s just that good. This book is full of beauty: in the screenwritten vignettes, in main character Emi’s passion for set design, in the way Emi views enigmatic and struggling love interest Ava, and in LaCour’s writing in general. Those looking for LGBTQ YA romance sans coming-out angst particularly need to put this story about two already-“out” girls falling in love at the top of their shopping lists, but this is an all-around great read for any fan of YA and/or romance and/or books in general, really.

    Open Road Summer, by Emery Lord
    Reagan needs some time away, and there’s no better way to get it than by accompanying her country star BFF, Dee, on a national tour. But she doesn’t expect the perks that come along with it, in the form of the talented and adorable Matt Finch. Matt is that rare YA love interest who places a strong emphasis on friends and family, and makes a fabulous sweetheart counterpoint to Reagan’s thorniness. His songwriting skills don’t hurt one bit, either.

    The Art of Lainey, by Paula Stokes
    Soccer star and general has-it-all girl Lainey Mitchell has a pretty awesome high school life going, until her long-term boyfriend dumps her out of nowhere. Lainey isn’t the type to take it lying down, so armed with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and an excellent best friend, she sets out with a plan to win him back. In this case, the plan involves mohawk-sporting, similarly-broken-heart-suffering coworker Micah, and a fauxmance intended to win both of their exes back. But it turns out the only romance worth fighting for is the one sparking between them, and watching them figure that out is oh-so-delightful.

    Whatever Life Throws at You, by Julie Cross
    Annie Lucas knows baseball—her father is the brand-new pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals. Jason Brody is baseball—the sexy new Royals’ rookie with a heartbreaker reputation to spare. There are so many reasons they need to keep their distance, but none of those compete with the chemistry they share. There’s something about sports-themed romances that just make them that much more swoon-inducing when done well. Maybe it’s the sheer amount of testosterone around, or maybe it’s just the baseball pants, but when it’s good, it just works, and it’s definitely good here. (Bonus points to Cross for all the frank sex talk, far too rare between partners in YA.)

    Ask Again Later, by Liz Czukas
    Heart LaCoeur has a ridiculous name and a ridiculous problem: two dates for one prom, neither of whom she’s interested in. Alternating timelines show the night playing out with each, but don’t be fooled by the premise—Czukas’ debut otherwise reads completely contemporary, and the romantic ending is beyond satisfying. It’s also charming, funny, and real, and one of my favorite recs for when you just need something to put you in a good mood, ASAP. (Which is also true of Czukas’ unrelated follow-up, Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless.)

    Not in the Script, by Amy Finnegan
    Emma Taylor’s been in Hollywood too long to believe there’s potential for true love there…until she meets her new costar, Jake Elliott. Jake is sweet, thoughtful, hot, and family-oriented, and the slow burn romance in this book is completely and wholly earned in the best way. Those who love the healthy pacing and fully fleshed development in books like My Life Next Door are sure to adore this one, and those looking for Hollywood YA with a heavy emphasis on insider Hollywood would do well to pick this one up, too.

    On the Fence, by Kasie West
    A truly adorable book about a girl named Charlie who’s surrounded by testosterone and starts to find her feminine side while falling for the boy next door. West stole my heart with her first contemporary YA romance, The Distance Between Us, and though this cute, fun summer read feels a little more light and predictable (as the friends-to-lovers trope tends to be), I loved the family dynamics even more. Most importantly, West holds up as one of the queens of romantic YA banter, which ensures I’ll be buying all her contemporary romances from here on out.

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 5:00 pm on 2014/09/25 Permalink
    Tags: contemporary romance, he's so fine, , , ,   

    Author Jill Shalvis on Her Path to Becoming a Writer 

    Jill ShalvisJill Shalvis is the best-selling author of the Lucky Harbor contemporary romance series, set in a small, charming beach town in Washington State. In He’s So Fine, the eleventh book in the series, vintage shop owner Olivia Bentley is happy to keep to herself in Lucky Harbor—until her daring rescue of handsome charter boat captain Cole Donovan propels her out of the shadows. He’s So Fine is available September 30.

    This week Jill shares the story of how she found her calling as a writer.

    Everyone has a “How I Started My Career” story. Which is different from their “My First Job” story. Cause my first job? Well, let’s just say I had two first jobs. One was working for a vet, which sounds great and right up my alley. Dogs! Kitties! Um, yes there were dogs and kitties. But take a wild guess at who scooped all the poo. ALL of it. My second first job was at the senior folks home, and no I didn’t scoop poo, thankfully. But I did serve meals. And I still have a bruise on my butt from the old guys, who, by the way, had quick hands for senior citizens. But I digress…

    My “How I Started My Career” story is a little different. I’d moved on from poo and handsy old men to accounting. It was hurting my brain somewhat, so when I got laid off for being the low man on the totem pole, I wasn’t all that devastated. Well, okay, I was, but mostly because the mortgage was coming due.

    This was just over fifteen years ago, during a time I fondly refer to as The Deep, Dark Years of Hell. Alpha Man and I had three kids under the age of five (don’t worry, we finally figured out what caused that problem), I’d just lost the accounting job, and he had officially burnt out on his job driving an ambulance on the mean streets of downtown Los Angeles.

    It was not a great time for me to begin a new career. So of course that’s what I did.

    I had no idea what I was doing; it was sheer reader instinct back then. In between diapers and bottles and baby naps (God bless the nap!), I wrote what I thought was a suspense. When I finished, I bought the Literary Guide to Publishers and started sending out chapters.

    I was writing my second book when I got a call. The woman identified herself as an editor from Bantam. She wanted to buy my book if I would just add some sex so she could call it a romance…

    I about passed out.

    I was standing in the kitchen with a baby in one arm and a kindergartener playing house with the Tupperware all over the floor. I was trying to shush them so I could hear, but all I heard was my middle daughter, a toddler at the time, yelling from the other room, “Mom, WIPE ME!”

    Which was when I accidentally hung up on the editor.

    With his uncanny male sense of timing, Alpha Man walked in the door at that very moment. I shoved babies at him, saying, “I sold a book, I sold a book!”

    “Cool,” he said. “To who?”

    Which was when I realized I had no idea. Thank God she eventually called me back (brave of her). I’ve been writing ever since, and I hardly ever hang up on editors anymore.

    What would you like to ask author Jill Shalvis about writing romance?

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 3:30 pm on 2014/08/15 Permalink
    Tags: contemporary romance, , , , ,   

    Jill Shalvis on the 5 Questions Every Romance Writer is Asked 

    Jill Shalvis

    Jill Shalvis is the bestselling author of the Lucky Harbor contemporary romance series, which is set in a small, charming beach town in Washington State. It’s in His Kiss, the tenth book in the series, tells the story of Becca Thorpe, who flees the city for the beach, where she meets sexy surfer Sam Brody. Becca is just beginning to find her place in Lucky Harbor when her brother follows her there. Will he convince her to return to the fast-paced city life she left behind, or is there a chance that Sam can convince her to stay? It’s in His Kiss is out on August 26th.

    This week Jill was kind enough to share some insights into the the most common questions she fields as a romance writer.

    1. How do you do your research?
    It never fails. When someone finds out I’m a romance writer, they almost always ask me some variety on this, usually in a sort of hushed tone like maybe their priest is listening. Let’s be clear. I know what they’re really asking. You know what they’re really asking. And it never fails to crack me up. I write a 400 page book filled with stuff that real life is filled with: action and adventure and emotion and screw-ups and victories and heartache and fun and yeah, there’s usually at least ten pages of the good stuff, the NC-17 stuff.

    Okay, maybe 20.

    My point is, it’s not all sex (um, excuse me, I mean tasteful love scenes). But that’s what people want to know about. Alpha Man gets a similar question at least weekly: “…Do you help her with her research?” He generally gives an easy smile and says something along the lines of, “It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.”

    2. Where do you get your ideas?
    In a warehouse outside of Toledo. I try to wait for the semi-annual sale and stock up.

    3. Do you pick your covers?
    I wish. Sorry, did I say that out loud? No, I don’t get to pick my covers. Or my titles. I get to voice an opinion and even make suggestions, and my publishers try their very best to keep a straight face when I give them my ideas for titles and covers and then…they do what they want.

    4. Do you let your children read your books?
    When my kids were young I always wanted to ask back “Do you let your children watch NC-17 movies?” I mean, it’s just common sense, people. But my kids are almost adults now and they read and watch what they want. And what they absolutely do NOT want to read is anything that has their mother and sex together on the page. So no they do not read me. They are proud of me and happy for me, and they love nothing more than to see me on the shelves. In fact, they’ve been known to put my books face out in front of Stephen King and Nora Roberts (don’t tell them) and smile at perfect strangers while pointing at my books and saying “That’s my mom!” But they get hives at the thought of reading me, which I’m good with.

    5.  How long does it take to write a book?
    I always want to laugh when asked this. How long does it take? Well, it takes as long as the darn book wants to take.  Add in at least one family crisis, a mid-book author crisis (yes, every single time I have a meltdown over chapter 12, what’s it to ya?), some sort of computer crisis, and for kicks and giggles I tend to get sick in the last few chapters because I’ve been living off ice cream and tears and blood and sweat and dramatics (what, I’m a writer… hello, I was born a drama queen).

    What questions would you like to ask a romance writer?

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 7:00 pm on 2014/07/15 Permalink
    Tags: contemporary romance, , , , , , ,   

    Romance Quiz: What’s Your Favorite Genre? 

    Lord of Scoundrels

    Although there are countless delightful genres in the world of romance, many readers have a particular favorite. It’s the genre that you usually find yourself reaching for; the one that you most often imagine yourself living (and loving) in, and the one that features the most appealing heroes and heroines. If you’re on the fence about your favorite, though, this handy quiz just might help you find it. And even if there’s no question of your strict genre allegiance, why not give it a whirl anyway? Your results might just surprise you.

    1. You arrive at a party—one you’ve been looking forward to for months! Walking in the door, you look across the room and immediately spot your crush:
    a)    Leaning against a pillar, sipping claret while disdainfully watching as the gossipy townspeople you know and love dance the quadrille.
    b)   Struggling mightily not to shapeshift into a werewolf the moment he sees you, which would ruin his only remaining nice suit.
    c)    Quaffing a longneck and kicking the mud off his boots after a hard day’s work on the ranch.
    d)   Looking charmingly disheveled and nervous as he leans over to ask the DJ to play a song you once mentioned liking.
    e)    Landing on the roof in his private jet and heading towards you; a dirty martini in each hand, and a dirtier glint in his eye.

    2. You are getting dressed for a night out on the town. Standing in front of the mirror, you put on:
    a)    A silk chemise, a corset, stockings, a petticoat, an evening gown trimmed with ribbons and lace, and velvet slippers; topped off with elbow-length gloves, your finest mantle, and your sauciest parasol. Before walking out the door, you pinch your cheeks for extra color.
    b)   The small caps you use to disguise your vampire fangs. And daring red lipstick.
    c)    The cute, short, flowered shift Pa told you to never, ever wear out of the house.
    d)   A perfect little black cocktail dress that’s been sitting in the back of your closet forever! Finally, the chance to wear it to a party where you know you’re going to run into your sexy nemesis, who just opened up a competitive bakery across the street. Sure, he’s gorgeous, but he’s got some nerve.
    e)    The stunning designer gown, shoes, and mink jacket that your billionaire sort-of boyfriend just had delivered to your shabby walkup apartment. In fact, he seems to have thought of everything except undergarments. Hmm.

    3. Which of the following character names makes your heart skip a beat?
    a)   Lord Wickedshire
    b)   Slash
    c)   Chase
    d)   Jake
    e)   Dalton

    4. Your face turns bright red with embarrassment when you recall how:
    a)    You nearly stepped in front of a speeding carriage and had to be rescued at the last minute by the insufferable Archduke Ferdinand Lehneis, who recently moved into town and has been giving you haughty glances whenever you encounter him. (In truth, you find the way his fevered gaze burns into yours rather delicious, but you would never ever admit it.)
    b)   You shapeshifted into a puma right in the middle of a heated encounter with the handsome half-demon you’ve been lusting after forever, and you’re pretty sure he’s not going to forgive you for all those claw marks.
    c)    You tried to show off in front of the sexy new ranch hand by jumping the wildest stallion in the paddock, but you lost a stirrup and nearly fell out of the saddle right in front of him.
    d)   The new neighbor in your building showed up at your door with a loaf of banana bread and a stuffed animal for your daughter. You told yourself you wouldn’t start dating again until she was 21, but that was before you met Mr. Just-Down-the-Hall-with-the-Biceps-and-the-Oh-Sure-I-Love-Kids.
    e)    You’re pretty sure everyone at that work presentation noticed the beard burn on your face and neck from the unforgettable night before, which you spent with a guy you met at a bar across the street who apparently just so happens to be your brand new boss. Awkward.

    5. Your idea of a leisurely afternoon involves:
    a)    Sitting in the parlor to welcome visitors, and then maybe taking a trip into town to buy a bit of ribbon for trimming your hat.
    b)   Hunting rebellious werepires with your trusty (and attractive!) partner and sidekick, with whom you’ve been noticing a little bit of sexual tension lately, although that’s probably just all in your head.
    c)    Going for a relaxing afternoon horseback ride, and maybe taking the long way so you’ll just happen to pass the farm where the boy next door, your former childhood sweetheart, has just moved back in with his parents after a decade in the big city to take care of his ailing mother. He always was a goodhearted boy…only, you’ve begun to realize he’s not a boy anymore.
    d)   Hanging out on the couch in your PJs, flirting over IM with your best guy friend, who is comforting you after yet another bad breakup. Nobody understands you the way he does. Of course, you guys don’t feel that way about each other. No chance.
    e)    Handcuffs and hot wax.

    And Now For Your Score:

    Mostly a’s: You’re a regency romance buff at heart. If there are dukes, lords, and ladies, count you in (also if there are counts). You’ll take a heroine who is decked out in a bodice and a hero with a hansom carriage any day.
    News to you? Here are some authors you may enjoy: Loretta Chase, Julia Quinn, Eloisa James

    Mostly b’s: Paranormal romance is your jam. It takes more than boring plain old people in a love story to hold your attention, but throw in a vampire or a shapeshifter or two, and we’re golden.
    Authors you may enjoy: J. R. Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nalini Singh

    Mostly c’s: The wild west (or, even the tamed west) has forever captured your heart, and you simply can’t pass up a story that features tumbleweeds, tumbles in the weeds, tumbles in the hay, sexy ranch hands, and dusty leather chaps. (Although if your focus is more on the chaps, you might be a tie between western and erotica.)
    Authors you may enjoy: Lorraine Heath, Lorelei James, Linda Lael Miller

    Mostly d’s: You’re a contemporary romance reader, and you prefer that your heroes and heroines send each other steamy (or confusing) text messages and find themselves thrown together unexpectedly on business trips.
    Authors you may enjoy: Sarah Mayberry, Jill Shalvis, Bella Andre

    Mostly e’s: A bedroom door closing or a candle blowing out are not quite enough description for the consummate erotic romance fan. (Get it? Consummate?…I’m sorry.) No, you like a little sass, a little sauce, a little saltiness in your books, with no apologies (and none required).
    Authors you may enjoy: Lora Leigh, Sylvia Day, Maya Banks

    What’s your favorite romance genre?

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