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  • Corrina Lawson 7:00 pm on 2018/03/01 Permalink
    Tags: , come spring, , , jill marie landis, laura kinsale, lavryle spencer, lord of the night, morning glory, , , , , , , the prince of midnight   

    The Great RITA Read: The “Best Romance” Award 


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    As I was studying the list of Rita-winning books in preparation for this great adventure in romance reading, I noticed an anomaly.

    From 1989 to 1996, the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award included winners of the “Best Romance” of the year. Then again, in 1998, an award called was “RWA’s Favorite Book” was given.

    And, then, alas, the award was dropped.

    I say “alas” because the books that received this award were some of the best of the genre, represented numerous romance subgenres, and would be ones I’d point to even today as a place to start reading romance.

    The authors?

    LaVryle Spencer. Laura Kinsale. Jill Marie Landis. Susan Wiggs. Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Nora Roberts. Diana Gabaldon.

    The books?

    Morning Glory. The Prince of Midnight. Come Spring. Lord of the Night. It Had to Be You. Born in Ice. Outlander.

    The sub-genres?

    Historicals set everywhere from late 1930s America, to Regency England, the American West, and Venice in 1531. A contemporary in which a supposed “bimbo” inherits an NFL team. A time travel story in which a World War II nurse steps through standing stones and into another era.

    Morning Glory was made into a movie starring Christopher Reeve. And, of course, Outlander is now a popular television series. All these books are still available and in print, over 25 years later.

    I applaud the taste of the RWA membership, who were responsible for honoring these books. The rest of the RITA Awards were judged by a jury of their peers. The “Best Romance” and “RWA’s Favorite Book” RITA Awards were chosen by an open vote of RWA members.

    That means these stories were not only quality, but they were also beloved by their fellow writers and thus have had had a huge influence on the genre.

    As someone who rarely read romance growing up, all these books save Outlander were new to me. I wish I had read them earlier, because they’re wonderful examples of the genre and probably would have hooked me on at least three of the authors.

    The Prince of Midnight is the story of a disabled former highwayman living in the ruins of a castle in France with a pet wolf. (Note: sold already!). Our hero is suffering from deafness in one ear and vertigo from a grenade that ended his rakish career. Then a young woman disguised as a man shows up, intent on learning from him how to kill people and avenge her wrongs.

    This heroine is fascinating. While the hero has obvious physical disabilities, the heroine has been emotionally destroyed by the systematic murder of her family and the failure of her friends and neighbors to protect them. She’s emotionally closed off, focused only on revenge, and is what we’d call today someone suffering from intense PTSD. She’s buried in her own anger, as it’s the only emotion keeping her functioning. She reminded me very much of the television show Jessica Jones, and I’ll just note here that Prince of Midnight won in 1989, many years before the superhero genre explored female emotional pain and trauma with any subtlety. So, the Prince of the title is attempting to reclaim his former panache, while the heroine is struggling to hold onto her anger, lest she fall apart. Of course, she eventually does, and it’s a powerful and healing moment. I immediately wanted to binge all of Laura Kinsale’s books but I have many more RITA winners to read before I can do that.

    This book should be a movie. Why isn’t this book a movie, Hollywood? No, scratch that. We need a British TV miniseries which casts all those wonderful British actors who pull off historical drama with panache. Did I mention the part where the hero has to train the heroine in swordfighting? Or how chilling the book’s description of the cult is?

    The book that did become a movie, Morning Glory by LaVryle Spencer, dials the world down to one farm in small-town Georgia, in an America on the brink of World War II and still suffering from the effects of the great depression. It’s a quiet, intense book about two broken people, a hero who’s never had a family and whose one friend betrayed him, and a heroine whose family believed her very existence was a sin. Slowly, these two shattered people find what they need in each other and create a family together, culminating in a beautiful love story.

    Come Spring by Jill Marie Landis is the prototypical “hero and heroine trapped in a cabin because of snow” book. In this case, the hero is a mountain man of sorts with a toddler niece to care for and he mistakes the heroine for the mail-order wife he needs to ensure the child’s safety. There is a class difference, as she’s from Boston money and he is assuredly not, and he must change to become the foster father the child needs and the person the heroine can love.

    Lord of the Night is a romance set in the Venice of the 1500s, where titles are everything, women are restricted to being wives or whores, and one women refuses to accept that her gender makes her any lesser, especially since she’s determined to become an artist. The hero is the head of what we’d now call the police, investigating a series of murders of men who are mutilated after death. Around them is all the intrigue of Venice, from the whispered meetings in canals to the festivals, to the way lordly men run amok when there is no one to check them. The descriptions of the heroine in the midst of artistic inspiration are amazing, as are the descriptions of her paintings, particularly those inspired by the hero. One note: the motivations of the killer, who turns out to be sympathetic and worthy of pity, may seem a bit dated.

    And then the contemporaries!

    It Had to Be You is Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ first entry into her now famous Chicago Stars series and it breaks all the supposed “rules” of romance. Sports hero. Check. Bimbo heroine. Check. But the heroine is so much more than the bimbo she projects to the world as a kind of emotional armor, and the hero is far smarter and savvier than the stereotype of the dumb jock. It begins with a hilarious opening at the funeral of the heroine’s father, who bequeaths her his football team. But Phoebe has more depth and more trauma than anyone gives her credit for and, like most great comedies, there is something very serious at the heart of this story.

    It was inevitable that a Nora Roberts book would be among those chosen for this award and Born in Ice is a terrific example of Roberts’ contemporary romances, the second in the Irish Born Trilogy, set in a small town in Ireland. The heroine runs the local B&B and the hero is a mystery writer whose books have been made into movies. They’re both holding close the damages imposed by their lack of parental love, and it takes chipping away at each other to get to the truth. In the meantime, there’s a lovely dream trip to New York City for shopping and a movie premiere. Easy to see why this story was chosen, as it’s an incredible fantasy to sink into and yet, it deals seriously with the wounds caused by family.

    Then there’s Outlander.

    The popular vote explains why Outlander is among these award-winning books. Gabaldon has been clear in interviews over the years that she believes the Outlander series should not be termed a romance. Her well-known insistence on “not a romance” was my biggest clue when it came to realizing that the “Best Romance of the Year” Award was not like all the others, as it seemed highly unlikely that Gabaldon would have entered the RITA Awards if she did not believe her book to be a romance.

    Nevertheless, Outlander was voted Best Romance of 1991. Note: having read the book, I believe it’s a romance that ends in a Happily For Now (as opposed to an HEA—a happily ever after). Later books in the series are part of the continuing story and, thus, probably not romance.

    Ending the “Best Book of the Year” award was one of many changes in the RITA Award categories in the 1990s. “Best First Book” was added and, for the first time, awards would be given in the paranormal and romantic suspense. I’ll take a look at those early paranormal books in the next article and see how that subgenre has changed over the years.

    For earlier articles see, The Great Rita Read: In the Beginning, The Great Rita Read: Nora Roberts, and The Great Rita Read: Young Adult Romance.

    Final note: A big thanks to the help of the RWA office, who researched the Best Romance Award and provided a copy of the original advertisement from 1989 that called for nomination;  nomination that resulted in the win for Morning Glory.

    The post The Great RITA Read: The “Best Romance” Award appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 5:00 pm on 2018/02/22 Permalink
    Tags: a darker shade of magic, , , almost a scandal, black daggar brotherhood, , , , , , flowers from the storm, forged in steele, , , , , , , , , , laura kinsale, , london's perfect scoundrel, , , , , , , , romancing mr. bridgerton, , , , , the danger of desire, , the lady hellion, , the secret pearl, , , , , to beguile a beast, victoria schwab, , yours until dawn   

    A Romance (or Two!) For Every Astrological Sign 


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    Do you believe fate is written in the stars? Are you obsessed with learning how the stars will align for your life in any given season? Then this list of Astrology-inspired romances is for you!

    Aries
    Aries signs are strong, full of leadership. They can be heroic and caring, but also impulsive and competitive. They love being the best at things—including, and especially, at winning the hearts of those they admire.  

    Black Dagger Brotherhood, by J. R. Ward
    Wrath is the leader of a group of vampires known as the Black Dagger Brotherhood—and he is set on vengeance against the people who killed his parents. After centuries of violence in pursuit of this goal, he meets a woman who will make him wonder if fighting for love is better than fighting for revenge.

    Forged in Steele, by Maya Banks
    Nothing says Aries more than military background fighters who work beyond the confines of the US Government, right? In this sexy novel, Steele leads his team on dangerous missions, protecting his heart in a thick layer of ice. Until he meets Maren, a doctor he cannot stop himself from wanting to protect, despite the secret he knows she is keeping.

    Taurus
    Known for being organized, supportive people, Taurus signs are ruled by the “Earth” element. They are patient and romantic, but can have a stubborn side, especially when it comes to the security of those they love. (Also, they can have a streak for indulging in the finer things in life!)

    A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
    Diana is a scholar at the top of her game…and a reluctant witch at the center of a grand conspiracy. She knows she should stay away from Matthew, a vampire and supposed enemy of her kind, but when she discovers that all of the supernatural world is after her because she possesses a dangerous document that could shake their order, she turns to him for protection.

    A Darker Shade of Magic, by Victoria Schwab
    Kell is one of the last Atari, a magical being with the ability to travel between worlds. He is essential to keeping the balance of magic between the worlds…but when he cannot help himself from stealing an item that does not belong in his world and the consequences prove fatal, he must risk it all to right the wrong before it claims the lives of those he loves.

    Gemini
    Geminis do not respond well to authority. They are adventurous and fun, but always like to be on the winning side of any debate. Some might call them judgmental, but that’s what makes their wit so striking.

    The Wolf and the Dove, by Kathleen Woodiwiss
    Aislinn’s home has been ravaged by a conqueror in this medieval romance. He is strong and courageous, but responsible for so much pain…and yet, she finds herself drawn to him even as she vows to destroy him.

    Hate to Want You, by Alisha Rai
    For one night every year, Livvy and Nicholas share a night of passion…even though their families hate one another. That is, until Livvy reneged on the deal, and something changed. But suddenly she is back, and Nicholas finds himself craving answers just as much as he continues to crave her.

    Cancer
    Nurturers, homebodies, and romantics—that’s who Cancers are. Sure, they may be prone to gossip and competition, but their hearts are incredibly sensitive and loyal to those they trust. (Just don’t break that trust, or else.)

    Yours Until Dawn, by Teresa Medeiros
    Samantha is a nurse charged with healing a fallen soldier back to health, but her task is difficult. Gabriel lost his sight, the woman he loved, and his place in the world. But her determination and care slowly brings him into the light, and into the arms of a woman who loves him like no other.

    Flowers from the Storm, by Laura Kinsale
    A classic story of love through pain and hardship, Maddy Timms finds herself in the unique position of being the only one who can save the dangerous, fascinating Duke of Jervaulx from himself.

    Leo
    Leos have a love of honesty that can get them in trouble. Sometimes jealous, often generous, Leos command attention and energy wherever they go. Named after the lion, it won’t surprise you to learn that Leos are natural leaders.

    Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
    Noble, proud, and heroic, Jamie Fraser embodies all of the qualities above…as does his love, Claire, who finds herself thrown into a different time and forced to marry the Highlander to keep herself safe. Two strong-willed souls battle for dominance in their relationship, but each will sacrifice everything to save the other if need be.

    London’s Perfect Scoundrel, by Loretta Chase
    Evelyn knows that the Marquis of St. Aubyn is not a man who should be trusted, but she needs his help in a mission more important than her pride. Headstrong and refusing to back down even when he denies her, eventually their fiery temperaments give way to flames in their hearts.

    Virgo
    Helpful and hardworking, Virgos are friends to all. Known for being practical (to the point of being preachy), these Earth signs get a lot of satisfaction out of creating things on their own.

    The Duchess Deal, by Tessa Dare
    A marriage of convenience is a practical thing to do. So the Duke of Ashbury decides that he will marry Emma Gladstone and employ a set of rules to ensure that they not cross any boundaries he isn’t prepared for. But Emma wants more than just a convenient marriage, she wants passion, and love…and their battle of wills will not cease until she gets what she wants.

    Devil in Winter, by Lisa Kleypas
    Not wanting to entrap her inheritance in the hands of unscrupulous relatives, Evangeline decides she needs to marry someone who will keep it safe. So she decides to marry Lord St. Vincent, a rake beyond compare, and is determined to make him into the husband she knows she deserves.

    Libra
    The sign of the scales is known to embody balance and partnership, but Libras also have a dramatic side! They are ruled by the planet Venus—the planet of love—so they are often charming and romantic…and are often riled by things they deem unfair.

    If You Deceive, by Kresley Cole
    Ethan MacCarrick’s life was changed rorever when he was beaten and scarred as payment for a crime he was innocent of committing. Paid for by a powerful nobleman, Ethan has decided there will be no justice until he has bankrupted the man. But it still isn’t enough, so he decides fair is fair: he will seduce the man’s daughter, bed her, and then cast her aside, a ruined woman. But soon, he finds himself falling for his target.

    The Serpent Prince, by Elizabeth Hoyt
    Simon is a Viscount hell-bent on revenge after being beaten almost to death. But his mission is put on hold while Lucy helps him heal—and when the attackers start to target her as well, he must make a choice between the woman he has grown to love and the fight that could cost them their lives.

    Scorpio
    Scorpios do not take no for an answer. Headstrong, passionate, and motivated by how much they can control both in and outside the bedroom, they are as intense as any romance love interest can get. Their symbol is the scorpion, so their bark can have some bite…but when they are on your side, there’s nothing better.

    The Siren, by Tiffany Reisz
    If a romance as described above is your cup of tea, you must meet Soren and Nora, the protagonists at the heart of the Original Sinners series. Soren is a Dominant, but more than that, he feels an inner need to hurt people (and derives sexual pleasure from it) that he controls by way of BDSM. Nora is his submissive—but she’s also the most prominent Dominatrix at the underground club they both visit. How did this arrangement unfold? You have to read the whole series to learn the full story.

    The Secret, by Julie Garwood
    Iain Maitland, a Highland clan Laird, totally fits this mold. When Judith Hampton meets him as her escort into the Highlands to help a friend give birth, she finds him to be everything her polite society has taught her to fear. Cold, calculating, and strong beyond belief; but eventually Judith’s light begins to warm Iain’s heart.

    Sagittarius
    A Sagittarius will never turn down a dare! These rule-breakers are fun-seeking adventurers you will never have a dull day with.

    The Danger of Desire, by Sabrina Jeffries
    Delia Trevor is the heroine inspired by this zodiac sign; seeking revenge for her brother’s death, she disguises herself as a man to infiltrate high society. Gambling with not only her reputation but her life, she finds herself in danger when the infamous Warren, Marquess of Knightford, recognizes her.

    Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, by Sarah MacLean
    Gabriel St. John defies all the rules—he’s a known rake, his skills at seduction both admired and reviled in high society. Lady Calpurnia is the opposite: a total rule-follower, but not for long. Since no one wants to marry her anyway, she decides to pursue him, and together, they find a love that dares to break the mold.

    Capricorn
    Ever seen someone with a color-coded planner? They are probably a Capricorn. Known for being ambitious and organized, these folks are rarely quitters. But dedication can be a double-edged sword, as sometimes Capricorns can be cold.  

    To Beguile a Beast, by Elizabeth Hoyt
    Helen has made mistakes in the past, but she is determined not to give up and to find a new life for herself. So when she takes a job as the mysterious and reclusive Sir Alistair’s housekeeper and finds him to be as cold and unfeeling as his reputation let on, her work is cut out for her. She isn’t afraid of his scars, or his past, or of what will happen if they fall in love.

    Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters are all still unmarried, which presents a problem for her lower-class family, which still has five children to support. But she is headstrong and refuses to marry for less than true love…and when a man she despises interferes with her sister’s happiness, she knows he is the last man she could ever love.

    Aquarius
    These Air-ruled people are friendly and eccentric, known for being inviting and kind. They always seek to root out injustice where they find it, and are at their best when they have a mission to achieve. But be careful: sometimes having a mission can lead someone on a path towards their own destruction.  

    The Lady Hellion, by Joanna Shupe
    Sophie has never shied away from a good fight: her latest battle is to protect the rights of prostitutes, but no one takes her seriously as a woman. So she decides to dress as a man to command the attention her cause desires…and to get an accomplice in her quest, like Damien Beecham, the only man she trusts to help her despite him having broken her heart months ago.

    Almost a Scandal, by Elizabeth Essex
    Sally Kent’s family has always served in the Navy…but when her brother decides not to, she is determined to take his place, even if she has to disguise herself in order to serve. The problem? She’s distracted by the disarmingly handsome Lieutenant David Colyear, who knows without a doubt that there’s a woman on board his ship whose secret he must keep.

    Pisces
    Fantasy lovers known for having huge imaginations, this Fish sign is always on the lookout for perfect love. But sometimes that can lead them into dangerous situations, where they trust people they shouldn’t.

    The Secret Pearl, by Mary Balogh
    Fleur has resorted to desperate lengths to stay alive and afloat in London society. So when she gets a chance to be a governess and escape a life on the streets, she jumps at the chance…only to find her new employer is the mysterious man who took her to bed one night she could never forget.

    Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, by Julia Quinn
    Colin Bridgerton is charming, handsome, totally gossip-worthy…and his sister’s best friend, Penelope, has been secretly in love with him for years. When she discovers a secret that changes how she sees him—and Colin’s feelings for her begin to change—will the scandal of his past bring down their romance?

    What’s your sign? And what’s your favorite romance?

    The post A Romance (or Two!) For Every Astrological Sign appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 4:00 pm on 2018/02/08 Permalink
    Tags: all of you, , christina lee, , kate willoughby, laura kinsale, out of the game, , , so lonely, , the spymaster's lady, topaz, uncertain magic   

    6 Forever Alones Who Find Love  


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    Whether it’s by choice or circumstance, Forever Alones believe they’re destined for a life of solitude. Of course, this makes for an especially sweet romance when they’re proven wrong. Featuring spies and spinsters, telepaths and tattoo artists, and one hell of a brooding duke, these tales prove it’s never too late for love to change your heart.

    Romancing the Duke, by Tessa Dare
    Izzy Goodnight, “at her best when invisible” is “overdue for a ravishing.” As a child, she was a beloved character in her father’s serial, a fantasy adventure that included a sweeping romance. But as a spinster of 26, wild-haired Izzy learned long ago that fairy tale endings and happily-ever-afters are for other people, not her. But then she unexpectedly inherits a castle, with a grumpy, scarred-but-sexy Duke to go with it. As they vie for the rights to the property, sparks fly between them that prove impossible to ignore. A fun historical with a Beauty and the Beast vibe.

    Topaz, by Beverly Jenkins
    Today there’s nothing unusual about an unmarried, 28-year-old newspaperwoman. But in 1884, it’s extremely rare. Especially if the newspaperwoman is black. Accomplished, ambitious, “too tall” journalist Katherine Love doesn’t need or want a man in her life, until the story she’s broken wide open lands her in danger. Enter Dixon Wildhorse, a Black Seminole marshal from Oklahoma’s Indian country. The strapping lawman has been sent by Kate’s father to rescue (and wed) Kate. Although Kate feels an undeniable attraction to Dix, she’s equally determined to continue her career. Whose will power will prove strongest?

    Out of the Game, by Kate Willoughby
    In her third stand-alone book from the In the Zone series about contemporary hockey players, Willoughby introduces readers to the gorgeous team playboy, Alex, who never intends to settle down the way his friends and teammates have. But a torrid kiss from Claire several months earlier has rarely left his mind, and when he gets the opportunity to spend a weekend with her, he jumps at the chance—and discovers he might be ready for a relationship after all.

    The Spymaster’s Lady, by Joanna Bourne
    In this Regency-era swashbuckler, Annique Villiers has been a spy for as long as she can remember. A French double-agent entrusted with the much-coveted Albion plans, her code name is “Fox Cub,” and “she’s made mistakes which haunt her at night and which [she] cannot erase.” As Annique puts it, “To love, in our profession…is madness.” But after teaming up with a dashing enemy agent, Robert Grey, to enact a bonkers-awesome prison break, Annique and Grey find themselves willing to twist a few laws if it means getting closer to each other.

    All of You, by Christina Lee
    This New Adult romance features Bennett, a hot, tattooed, male virgin who captivates the imagination of his frisky downstairs neighbor, Avery. Though Bennett and Avery come from similarly dysfunctional pasts, their methods of coping couldn’t be more different. Convinced that being single is the only way to stay sane, Avery eschews relationships, preferring short-lived hookups. Bennett, however, is wary of no-strings sex, determined to hold out for something real. Will he find it with Avery?

    Uncertain Magic, by Laura Kinsale
    Fans of Sookie Stackhouse will love this supernatural Gaelic romance about Roderica (“Roddy”) Delamore, an Irish lass whose telepathy allows her to read the minds of everyone around her. Roddy is resigned to a lonely existence, dressing up as a boy and tending to her father’s horses, whose physical ailments she deciphers with her gift. She’s certain “no man could abide to have his mind an open book for his wife to read,” but then she discovers there is one man upon whom her powers don’t work; too bad he’s the terrifying Devil Earl of Ireland, Faelan Savigar, and he may be hiding an even bigger secret than Roddy.

    What Forever-Alone-no-more romances do you love?

    The post 6 Forever Alones Who Find Love  appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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