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

    The Great RITA Read: The “Best Romance” Award 

    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, , , , , , , , , , , , london's perfect scoundrel, , , , , outlander, , , 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 

    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.

     
  • Nicole Hill 4:00 pm on 2017/12/11 Permalink
    Tags: , outlander, , , ,   

    Outlander Season 3 Episode 13 Recap: Eye of the Storm 

    This season’s trip to Jamaica has been bonkers enough that you couldn’t be blamed for periodically forgetting the reason we’re here: young Ian.

    As the season finale begins, our feisty young abductee is still being held by Geillis Duncan, First of Her Name, the Unkillable. Meanwhile, the Scooby Gang has been split up. Jamie has been taken into custody by the precocious Captain Leonard. Claire is on a solo mission to raid Geillis’ lair of doom. Willoughby is M.I.A. And Fergus and Marsali are trying to make sure everyone else doesn’t die.

    There is good news, though, namely that the island of Jamaica is populated solely by characters of this show. Just as the insufferable Leonard is about to whisk Jamie away to face murder charges, he’s stopped by a (for once) welcome squad of redcoats. Next thing you know, John Grey—tipped off to the situation by Fergus—is going toe-to-toe with Jamie’s teenaged pursuer, outranking him in a battle of military jurisdiction.

    Best Friends Never
    For her part, Claire is also a prisoner. While snooping around the slaves’ quarters, Claire’s scooped up and deposited in Geillis’ parlor. Here we learn just how far Geillis has traveled on the paranoia train. From her perspective, Outlander is the story of how a conniving British know-it-all traveled through time to thwart her reasoned and reasonable plans to restore Scottish sovereignty.

    To prove that she couldn’t care less about Geillis’ psychotic nationalism, Claire makes a mistake. She divulges that for the last 20 years she’s been in the 20th century, raising her daughter, a bouncing 200-year-old baby. With that admission, Geillis has the final piece of her prophecy puzzle from last week. All she’s got to do to summon a new Scottish king is kill Brianna. Mother of the Year, Claire.

    There is one other notable item in their exchange: for the first time, we get a real discussion about the mechanics of time travel, or at least how Claire perceives them. Claire tries to explain to Geillis that, no, you don’t need to sacrifice your husband to travel via the stone network. “I think it has something to do with who’s on the other side, drawing you to them,” she says. “That might be so,” Geillis admits, “but I’d just as soon have blood. A girl can’t be too careful.”

    You get the sense that the dead husband bit was always just a perk to Geillis.

    As she tries to find a way out of Geillis’ Haunted Mansion, Claire spies young Ian being hauled off into the darkness. On her way to catch up with his captors, she bumps into Jamie, newly freed by John Grey. There’s little time for a reunion, however, as they’re drawn toward some kind of island ritual that evokes memories of the witch circle at Craigh na Dun.

    Being historically bad at sneaking, Claire and Jamie are discovered, only to be saved by Willoughby. Apparently, after last week’s episode, Willoughby and Margaret Campbell’s date continued, and she was invited to these proceedings out of appreciation for her “gift.” Things have gotten serious for the two; Willoughby discloses that they plan to run off and start a life together.

    But not before we get one more of Margaret’s bizarrely on-point visions. She seems to channel Brianna for a moment before repeating the name of a nearby cave, Abandawe, where there’s another set of stone circles. As Claire figures out that Geillis plans to travel to 1968 and kill her daughter, Willoughby stays behind to defend Margaret and to kill her abusive brother who conveniently wandered up to reveal important details about the prophecy. RIP Archibald, you served your expository purpose, you scoundrel.

    Let’s Avoid the Time Warp Again
    For two people who fail miserably at stealth, Claire and Jamie are generally skilled with navigation. In short order, they find Abandawe and some real déjà vu. Claire warns Jamie that if she’s drawn through the stones, she may not be able to return. (Who’s to say how she knows?) Jamie then instructs her that she must go through the stones if anything should happen to him.

    That well-rehearsed dialogue aside, the two descend upon Geillis, in the midst of going full Gollum, and a bound-and-gagged young Ian. This particular time portal works a little differently than Craigh na Dun; it’s a shimmering pool of time goo. While Jamie works to incapacitate Geillis’ bodyguard, Claire tries to warn Geillis away from the path she’s chosen.

    Sometimes, though, warnings don’t work. Sometimes, for the sake of your child, you have to decapitate your problematic gal pal. And that’s just what Claire does, in one fell swoop. It’s an undeniably awesome moment, though it leaves Claire particularly shook. Remember the skeleton she saw back in Joe Abernathy’s office? Remember how Claire just knew that the woman had been murdered? It seems we now know why: she did the murdering. The time goo, man, it leaves a trace.

    Whatever the mechanics, the day has been saved. But … it’s been saved a bit too quickly. It’s always concerning when things are tied up neatly with 20 minutes left in the episode. Either it means we’re going to get some extended love-making or some villainous scum is about to disrupt some extended love-making.

    Sturm und Drang
    We get the former—Jamie and Claire indulge in a night of unfettered nookie aboard the Artemis—followed by an act of God. The ship is soon caught in the middle of a ferocious storm. While the rest of the gang hangs below decks, Jamie and Claire end up as the only two above deck as a monumental wave swallows the ship.

    Jamie manages to stay aboard, but Claire winds up in the drink, her hair looking as luscious and well-coiffed as ever. Thankfully, Jamie is part Scottish, part Merperson. Not only does he find his submerged wife, his kiss serves as her own personal snorkel.

    We don’t know exactly what’s happened until the camera zooms in on Jamie, face down on an unknown beach, being poked in the butt by some cherubic little girl. She runs off and Jamie crawls to another body on the beach, this one Claire, who finally decides it’s time to resuscitate herself.

    When the little girl’s quaint family arrives to inspect the bedraggled pair, we learn a couple of things. First, the Artemis and its other passengers survived; they’re marooned further down the beach. Second, we’re in Georgia, y’all!

    Welcome to the Colonies, folks, where a whole new crop of British soldiers can harangue our favorite Scotsman and Sassenach. All that’s left to do is get ready for Season 4: Outlander Takes America.

    The post Outlander Season 3 Episode 13 Recap: Eye of the Storm appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2017/12/07 Permalink
    Tags: a notorious countess confesses, a rogue by any other name, , , , , , , , , Joanna Wylde, , julie anne long, , , , , , , one good earl deserves a lover, original sinners series, outlander, reaper's legacy, , , slightly wicked, , , , trouble at the wedding, unclaimed, when he was wicked   

    A Romance Novel for Every Song on Taylor Swift’s reputation 

    It’s been over a week, we’ve listened to it over a thousand times…and now the moment has come: we’re pairing up romance novels with Taylor Swift’s newest album, reputation!

    “…Ready For It?”

    I immediately thought of Claire and Jamie for this song, so Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is my pick! It’s fast-paced, like their adventures, but also sensual and sexy, like their relationship. “Younger than my exes but he acts like such a man” make sense since Jamie is younger than Frank (and Claire herself) in the series. And of course all the references to islands reminded me of the current Season Three (no spoilers, if you haven’t seen it!)

    “End Game (featuring Ed Sheeran and Future)”

    “Ahh, and I heard about you…you like the bad ones too.” This song is all about a couple whose reputation precedes them, making them probably the least likely to work. “And I bury hatchets but I keep maps of where I put ‘em” made me think of Devon Ravenel of Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas: he’s a rake who lives up to his name. But then he inherits an earldom and must step up to the plate and assume responsibiity for his status—and the honor of the late earl’s three sisters. “You’ve been calling my bluff on all my usual tricks” is what happens when he meets Kathleen, who knows better than to ever fall in love with a man like Devon…except, as the song implies, they both wind up wanting to be one another’s end game.

    “I Did Something Bad”

    Unclaimed by Courtney Milan is about a handsome Bachelor known for having unimpeachable character…who finds himself entangled with a secret courtesan, not the high-bred lady he assumed her to be. “I never trust a playboy, but they love me…” totally embodies Jessica’s character: she’s a woman who knows what she wants, and is willing to do “something bad” in order to get it…like team up with the bachelor’s enemies to take him down in exchange for money. But of course, doing bad things makes you feel oh so good, and Jessica and Mark are no exception to the rule.

    “Don’t Blame Me”

    The moody, rumbling, erotic nature of this song brought one threesome to mind: Nora, Soren, and Kingsley from Tiffany Reisz’ Original Sinners series. “For you, I would cross the line/I would waste my time/I would lose my mind/They say, “She’s gone too far this time…” are definitely words worthy of Nora, preeminent Dominatrix and submissive only to Soren, a Priest she credits with saving her life. And of course, there’s Kingsley, the owner of the BDSM club, Dominant in every way…except when it comes to Soren. “If you walk away/I’d beg you on my knees to stay…” The pulse-pounding romance between these three people over the course of the series is the perfect accompaniment to Taylor’s pining words.

    “Delicate”

    Two people with broken pasts—and reputations that have never been worse, as this song croons—meet and marry for convenience in A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean. It’s just business between them: Bourne runs a casino after being stripped of all societal influence a decade ago, and Penelope is just trying to secure her future after a string of failed relationships. But eventually their boundaries start to slip. “Is it cool that I said all that?/’Cause I know that it’s delicate…” That’s contemporary speak for the passion that ignites between this regency couple when they least expect it.

    “Look What You Made Me Do”

    A revenge song needs a worthy book—and I can’t lie, this one made me think about one particular villainess in the 50 Shades Series…Christian Grey’s ex-girlfriend, Leila. “I don’t like your kingdom keys/they once belonged to me…” those words might as well have come out of her mouth in Fifty Shades Darker. We all know that Taylor likes to parody the “man-eater” persona the media has developed for her, but in this case, Leila’s instability was totally real. “I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams”, indeed.

    “So It Goes…”

    This is one of the quieter songs on the album, but with lyrics like “You know I’m not a bad girl/but I do bad things with you” and “I’m so chill, you make me jealous” the book to match needed to have the right balance of sweetness with an undercurrent of passion. Sarah MacLean’s One Good Earl Deserves a Lover totally fits! Pippa is a good girl from a good family who wants nothing more than a quiet life…and the freedom to pursue science. But before she settles down in that life, she wants one little taste of true passion. So she goes to Cross, a notorious gaming hall owner, and proposes an arrangement between them—all in the name of science. But of course, Pippa can’t stay “chill” when it comes to Cross for long.

    “Gorgeous”

    This upbeat song is definitely worthy of a happily ever after! Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked follows the track of the song: a man and woman meet, and sparks fly…the problem—well, in the song it’s that she’s got “a boyfriend, he’s older than us…” but in this book, it’s a betrothal! And to make things worse, the guy she’s marrying is the cousin of the one she falls for. “You’ve ruined my life, by not being mine…” That’s exactly how Michael Stirling feels when she marries the guy anyway. But trust me, there’s a happily ever after waiting for this gorgeous couple.

    “Getaway Car”

    One of my favorite songs on the album spins a story about doomed lovers caught in the aftermath of their betrayal. “Nothing good starts in a getaway car”, the song begins…and the statement rings true in Reaper’s Legacy by Joanna Wylde, except for one thing: you can swap out “car” for “motorcycle”. A love triangle winds its way through the story of Sophie, Zach, and Ruger: Sophie and Zach slept together, resulting in their baby, Noah…but Zach’s a deadbeat dad, leaving his brother Ruger to pick up the pieces. But living—and loving—a man in a motorcycle club can be dangerous, and even when he tries to provide security for Sophie and her son, the past always finds a way of catching up with a speeding bike. After all, remember what Taylor says: “Us traitors never win…”

    “King of My Heart”

    This song makes specific reference to the “American” identity of the heroine (and of course, there’s been rampant speculation on the British identity behind most of Taylor’s new songs) so for this one I chose Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke, a story about an American falling for a Brit! Annabel does not want true love (just like the heroine of the song, who knows she is “better off being alone,”) but still, she agrees to marry a high-born man with a British title as a way to protect her new, “Southern” estate. The problem? Christian, the Duke of Scarborough, does NOT approve of Annabel’s choice. “Change my priorities/the taste of your lips is my idea of luxury…” And that’s exactly what Christian decides to do: make Annabel fall for him, instead, and become King of Her Heart.

    “Dancing With Our Hands Tied”

    Mary Balogh’s Slightly Wicked is about the ramifications of one reckless, erotic night that you think no one else will ever find out about. When Judith meets Rannulf after an accident with her stagecoach, she indulges in a passion she knows she will soon have to bury. (“First sight, yeah, we love without reason…”) But when he shows up at her aunt’s house, intending to court her cousin, Judith knows her secret will not be kept in the dark for long, especially when she can’t stop her feelings from pouring out. As this song says, “I knew there was no one in the world who could stop us/I had a bad feeling”, and soon enough, Judith and Rannulf are dancing with their hands tied, too.

    “Dress”

    One of the sexiest songs on the album deserves a romance to match. A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long made me think of some of the song’s steamiest lyrics, starting with “All of this silence and patience, pining and anticipation/My hands are shaking from holding back from you (ah, ah, ah).” Evie is an ambitious actress, and has charmed all of London…until her scandalous marriage goes down in flames. (Sound at all like a familiar narrative?) She escapes the tidal wave of gossip only to find herself tempted once more…by Vicar Adam Sylvaine, a man sworn to piety and prayer. “Even in my worst lies, you saw the truth in me…” Soon enough, they can’t stop their passion from overflowing, and the costumes come off to reveal their true hearts to one another.

    “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”

    You can finish the title of this romance novel with the title of Taylor’s diss track: If You Deceive…this is why we can’t have nice things! Two people caught at the center of a family feud (aka, a “narrative” they’d like to be excluded from, perhaps?) in the third novel in Kresley Cole’s MacCarrick Brothers series find themselves irrevocably drawn to one another despite the pain and anguish that their families have wrought. “But then you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand…” What starts as a quest for revenge soon becomes a mission to keep the one thing they both hold dear in this Highland romance.

    “Call It What You Want”

    The Royal We by Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks is a sweet romance with just a tad of high-stakes drama: Bex Porter has a real-life fairytale in the form of Nick, the heir to the throne of England. But just like Taylor Swift, loving a famous person comes with consequences. “All the drama queens takin’ swings/All the jokers dressing up as kings…” is right: between the paparazzi, backstabbers, and family baggage, it’s going to take everything she has to keep their relationship together.

    “New Year’s Day”

    This poignant, piano-based closer is heartfelt and raw with emotion, all about what happens when the glitz and glamour fades and the reality of life sets in….and who will be by your side when it does. “I want your midnights/but I’ll be picking up bottles with you on New Year’s Day…” It’s not a New Year’s story, but that sentiment really reminded me of The Notebook: a love story all about choosing the harder road, but the one that’s ultimately true to who you are.

    What do you think of our pairings?

    The post A Romance Novel for Every Song on Taylor Swift’s reputation appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Nicole Hill 5:00 pm on 2017/12/04 Permalink
    Tags: , outlander, , ,   

    Outlander Season 3 Episode 12 Recap: The Bakra 

    Remember the end of last week’s episode of Outlander when everything was great and sexy and no one was in mortal peril? That did not last long. And do you know what ruins that peace? Geillis Duncan bathing in a pool of goat’s blood.

    If you have not read Voyager, the tropical lair of a woman presumed to be long-ago burned at the stake might not have been where you expected young Ian to turn up, but nevertheless, we have found him. This is Outlander, where the rules are made up and plot assumptions don’t matter.

    Everything Is Awful
    It seems Geillis, known here as the Bakra, is the ringleader of the pirates who kidnapped young Ian. Furthermore, those sapphires on Selkie Island were hers, and she’s mighty sore about one of them going missing. After toweling off her bloody skin regimen, Geillis plies young Ian with cakes and some sort of truth-serum tea. (She’s throwing off both some serious White Witch and Circe vibes.) Young Ian blurts out that his uncle Jamie took a sapphire from the island once. A small note of surprise crosses Geillis’ face at the name James Fraser. She’s clearly been set up to be sinister here, and the rest of the scene confirms that, ending with Geillis on the verge of raping the young man.

    As I said, the good times are gone.

    Meanwhile, Claire and Jamie have arrived finally in Jamaica. Fortunately, no law enforcement greets them at the docks, so it seems the intrepid Captain Leonard has not yet arrived. Instead, they’re greeted by one of Cousin Jared’s associates who invites them to a welcome gala at the new governor’s mansion.

    This moment of levity is tempered by Claire and Jamie’s journey to the slave market in search of young Ian. It is predictably gruesome and ugly and awful, and it’s doubly gut-wrenching for 20th-century Claire. Witnessing a particular bit of public cruelty on the auction block, she can’t hold in her disgust any longer and disrupts the sale. (Claire’s justified in her wrath, but this may not have been the best way to keep a low profile while her husband’s a wanted man.)

    To appease the powers that be and to rescue the slave at hand from further abuse, Jamie purchases the man in Claire’s name. They promise to free the man, Temeraire, “as soon as it’s safe to do so.” In the meantime, they ask him to circulate among escaped or freed slaves and ferret out any news of young Ian he can.

    Reunion Special
    The governor’s party provides a jarring juxtaposition to the quiet moments with Temeraire. Of course, Claire and Jamie still cut quite the figures in formalwear, even if the style of the times now requires Jamie to try to pull off a powdered wig. It’s almost like we’re back in France again because everyone looks beautiful and yet everything is absolutely terrible.

    As is custom, there are several ghosts from episodes past in attendance. For starters, do you remember Archibald Campbell and his sister, Margaret, the fortune teller who Claire tried to treat before she left for the West Indies? Well, they’re here and in the employ of Geillis—everyone is, apparently. Geillis herself makes an appearance, stalking the party like the cartoonish time-traveling villain she is.

    On the other side of the room is the new governor of Jamaica: Lord John Grey! After some pleasantries and some exchange of information (young Ian’s been kidnapped yadda yadda yadda your son, Willie, will be here next month yadda yadda yadda), Jamie notices something glistening from John Grey’s waistcoat pocket. He’s wearing the sapphire Jamie gave him. That’s so sweet, so sad, and is so not going to end well.

    While our main characters revisit many of their past foibles, Willoughby circles back to Margaret Campbell. In a tender moment in the gardens, he finds her alone and tells her what we all know: her brother is a dog and she deserves better. Their eyes meet and I find myself shipping this more than I expected.

    Claire and John Grey have their own intimate moment, in which each word from Claire sends daggers through the young man’s heart. It’s always fun to run into your ex’s presumed-dead-but-totally-alive stupid-beautiful wife.

    That interaction, however, is roughly 100 times less awkward than Claire’s ensuing conversation with Geillis. “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in the world,” Geillis greets her, before launching into how she’s still alive. Long story short: They waited to burn Geillis until she’d given birth. That gave Dougal time to bribe her way out, throw the kid in foster care, and get Geillis safely away.

    Side note: The only person, I think, who’s truly dead on this show is Dougal. Everyone else could pop up at any moment.

    Claire brings Geillis (really, Geillis saunters in with Claire trailing behind her) to see Jamie, who’s chit-chatting with John Grey. In the course of conversation, Geillis spies the sapphire hanging at his hip.

    Why Geillis so wants that gem is somewhat vague and complicated, but the three sapphires have something to do with a prophecy about the Scottish king. (She’s got a one-track mind, that woman.) She orchestrates a complex public fortune-telling and maneuvers John Grey to the front of the line so Margaret can do her prophesying with all three stones in her hand.

    Things Can Will Get Worse
    The prophecy involves something about Scotland’s next king and a 200-year-old baby. Geillis gets frustrated and makes a Benjamin Button joke, but maybe we should be concerned because we know someone fitting that description: Brianna.

    That’s drama for another day though, because we’re up to our eyeballs in it here: Captain Leonard finally arrives, as does Temeraire. While our crew flees the party and their Type-A pursuer, Temeraire shares what he’s learned from the other slaves in attendance. They’ve seen someone fitting young Ian’s description. He’s at Geillis’ place, obviously. Claire and Jamie drop off Temeraire at an enclave of escaped slaves just in time for Captain Leonard and his men to show up and take Jamie into custody. Weeeee.

    With one episode left in the season, it looks like it’s all up to Claire to dispose of Geillis, rescue young Ian, and, subsequently, free Jamie. Just another day in paradise.

    The post Outlander Season 3 Episode 12 Recap: The Bakra appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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