Saturday, February 28, 2009

Should We Do a 'Discovery Showcase' Like the Fantasy Debut?

Good morning, Blog Buddies! The second excerpt for Tia's Discovery Showcase over at her Fantasy Debut blog is up this morning. I've been thinking of doing something very similar here, except maybe to include authors with lesser known ePublishers too. Also, we would accept all the genres we review here. The purpose is to connect readers with great stories they might otherwise miss. Variety is the spice of life! Pop on over to the Fantasy Debut and check out Tia's guidelines - http://fantasydebut.blogspot.com/2009/02/discovery-showcase-for-self-and.html - and maybe the excerpts themselves - http://fantasydebut.blogspot.com/search/label/Discovery%20Showcase Then, pop back and tell me what you think?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

HOPE'S FOLLY reviewed...

...by Frances. It's on the shelves now, so check it out! Mfitz will be posting her review here next month. http://frances-writes.blogspot.com/2009/02/review-hopes-folly-by-linnea-sinclair.html

Star Wars Republic Commando Series - Karen Traviss


Hard Contact



OK. I know you are now shaking your heads and thinking I have lost my mind.
This month for my review/recommendation to people who mostly read romance I’m pushing a series that is a military SF media-tie in. I’m not crazy so stay with me for a while. If you read this series I’m willing to bet most of you will enjoy it.

Let’s take the media tie-in issue first.
I admit before I read this series I didn’t think to highly of most media tie-in books. Sure, I had read my share of Trek novels, some were good some were wretched. Continuity was all over the place. I had picked up other TV and movie tie-in books and had about the same reaction. I liked the original Star Wars movies; I saw the three prequels and didn’t hate them. Han Solo is yummy, but I don't own a light saber and wouldn’t say I’m a Fan Girl. If I had ever read a Star Wars tie-in book I don’t remember anything about it.

A few years back I read City of Pearl the first book in Karen Traviss’s Wess’Har series and was immediately hooked on her writing. I read all the other books in that series as soon as they came out. They are fist rate SF pumped full of action, cool aliens and big ideas. They are what SF can be when it is at the top of its game, fun to reads without being fluffy, with the sort of ideas that make you stop and think about your lifestyle without being preachy. You should give them a try too, but that's not today's topic.

While looking around for more books by Traviss to read I stumbled across a website where she talked about how she had put just as much blood and sweat into writing Republic Commando – Hard Contact for Lucas Arts as she did into the books she wrote in her own universe. I sort of let that roll off my back. How good could a Star Wars tie-in book based on characters from a soot-em-up video game be? Well a few months later I was off work with a wretched sinus infection and hanging around Kroger’s waiting for my anti-biotic prescription to get filled and came a cross a copy of Hard Contact. I got it on a whim. Took it home and read it almost in one sitting and was hooked. It was every bit as good as Traviss said it was. Since then I have eagerly waited for the rest of the books in the RC series and none of them have disappointed.

Why is this series so good? Traviss has created one of the most interesting takes on being a clone that I have ever read and for that alone this series stands out. She is a bang-up writer, who has personal experience in the military and as a journalist, which gives her work a very real edge. She creates engaging characters and puts them in powerful situations, and the folks at Lucas Arts gave her all the room she needed to tell the sort of story she tells best.

Trraviss sets the SW Universe on its ear. How can the Jedi be all that is right and pure and at the same time have no qualms about talking control of what is essentially a slave army of men born to be nothing but cannon fodder? Who is Human? What is the duty of a society toward the people fighting and dying for it? Does your duty as a soldier out way your rights as a human being? Can you really have a democracy when rule of law is enforced by a small elite religious order? Does having a special genetic trait the rest of the population lacks make you a natural ruler? What is the average citizen’s duty when a government becomes corrupt? What is family? Does duty to family top duty to any government? Does love make you strong or weak?

On top of questions like those there are great characters. I’m a woman of a certain age, not into Mil-porn style guns and guts SF but I fell in love with the guys in Omega Squad, Darman, Niner, Fi, and Atin. The team of Special Forces commandos made up of survivors of the massacre on Genosis so they all come to the start of the series with psycological wounds and other issues that make them stand out. Fi especcialy got to me. His yearning for the real world outside of the very narrow bounders of life in the GAR is so strong it hurt to read about. I wasn’t sure if these guys needed a roll in the hay, or home baked cookies to be happy but really wished I could offer both. There is also Kal Skirata a hard-boiled Mandalorian mercenary who lost all ties to his family when he went onto the secret program to train the clone army. He fills that hole in his heart with every clone he trained, and takes on heaven, hell , and everyone in-between for the chance to build real lives for his boys. All the characters aren’t military types. Etain, is a confused young Jedi tossed into a situation over her head and outside her training. Maybe my favorite character in the series is Besany Wenman. She is a government forensic auditor, who when she uncovers corruption and a massive cover-up does what is right instead of what is easy. There is even a Romeo and Juliet sub-plot running through all four books in the series. As to HEA, that is there too, sort of, if you look at it from the right angle. No big pink spun-sugar bow, but for the most part the right thing happen to the right people.

The next time you are looking for something different to read give this series some thought. You’ll never think of Star Wars the same way again. Sex happens, always off stage. There are many fight scenes and battles. People die. People you like die. Part of the point of the whole series is that in war people die, and every death is a tragedy not a statistic.










Tuesday, February 24, 2009

THE KING'S DAUGHTER by Sandra Worth


Elizabeth is no Disney princess. She's the daughter of the good King Edward IV and the ambitious Queen Elizabeth (Woodville Grey.) The War of the Roses between the Yorks and the Lancasters has been going on and Princess Elizabeth is of the House of York. The King wants to maintain peace and some sort of justice throughout the land, but has a hard time untangling himself from the Queen's manipulations. Not much love is lost between the two and the King is said to have spawned numerous bastards throughout Britain and half of Europe. However, the more babies the Queen has by the King the better, you know.

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Princess Elizabeth is just a kid when the King betroths her to the next King of France and, of course, the Queen is beside herself with power-hungry joy. She insists on everyone deferring to Elizabeth, even though Elizabeth hates because her many siblings resent her for it. Elizabeth grows up and endures the usual medieval hardships of constant threats to her parents' power, having to spend time in sanctuary for fear of assassination, and threats to force her to marry politically advantageous old farts. As a teen, Elizabeth falls in love, but the boy is only a lowly knight. Having previously accepted her lot that she would one day marry a man not of her choosing, she's not heartsick to realize love will probably never be hers. I mean, doesn't it just gross you out to think of a poor girl having to have sex with a dirty old goat whether she likes it or not? Well, it still happens, unfortunately, in form or another, but it still grosses me out.

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The King's health fails and he whithers away. Just before he dies, he adds a provision to his will to prevent the Queen from seizing power in their young son's name. He proclaims the Duke of Gloucestor regent until their son comes of age. Needless to say, after the King kicks, the Queen spends her time freaking out about the will instead of mourning. Her attempt to seize power despite the dead King's will leads to civil conflict which ends when someone tattles that the Queen's marriage to the dead King wasn't actually legal. The King had been legally betrothed before and that little issue was never properly addressed. The Queen's marriage to the dead King is declared invalid and all their children become bastards. The Queen is ill with rage and fears her sons will be murdered and all that.

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At one point, the new King placates the old Queen with a house in the country and Elizabeth, now a non-princess, is invited to court. Elizabeth becomes friends and lady-in-waiting to the new Queen Anne. After Queen Anne's young son dies, she also becomes ill and whithers away with grief. She tries to make Elizabeth promise to marry the new King after she's gone. And I was going 'iiiicky, he's her uncle.' Things like that happened back in the Dark Ages (and still do sometimes, at the girl's expense) and the Pope would have to be bribed to grant a dispensation for the marriage. Thankfully, the new King loves his wife too much to do such a thing to her, even after her death, and so Elizabeth is still free to wonder about her true love, Thomas. Now that she's no longer a princess, marriage to Thomas is possible. Difficult, but possible.

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Unfortunately, the new King is so grief-stricken over the death of his beloved Queen he goes rather suicidal into battle with an invading usurper, Henry Tudor, who thinks the death of the heir gives him an in. And he's determined to marry Elizabeth to strengthen his claim to the Throne.

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Oh, dang, poor Elizabeth. Told you she wasn't a Disney princess.

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If you remember this is NOT a Historical Romance, you'll enjoy it. There's no glossing over to make it easier for contemporary readers to digest. Nevertheless, the story will engulf you with universal human truths. Love of a good parent, resentment of a selfish one, the need for true love, the desire for happiness, the drive to protect one's family and friends, the hope for one's own destiny.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Another Bookstore Review

Good morning, Blog Buds! I had to tell you all about a new-to-me bookstore my husband and I visited on our hot, hot date yesterday. When you love books as much as we do, believe me there's nothing hotter than a really good bookstore..Pandemonium Bookstore is located in Wasilla, Alaska, a thoroughly happenin' town since it's home to our governor, Sarah Palin. It's the largest town in the Matanuska Valley, so named after the glacier and also known as the bread basket of the state because of the farming. And it's got a fair-sized campus extension for the University of Alaska. Anyway....
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The brilliance of the creator and owner of this bookstore is stunning. I didn't learn his or her name because I didn't want to be biased. But, let me tell you why I think he or she is brilliant. *He or She knows her local patrons extremely well and puts that knowledge to work.*
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I think I mentioned in my last bookstore review for Title Wave Bookstore (an awesome independent) in Anchorage, Alaska that there had been a Big National Chain Bookstore in a nearby mall. It failed and it's failure came as no surprise to me. Why? Because the majority of the people living and working in the neighborhood in which it was located was African American. Not only did this Big National Chain Bookstore segregate the African American authors, but there was only one pathetic little shelf for them. Well, Pandemonium is the exact opposite.
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To begin with, Pandemonium is situated in the parking lot of Home Depot. Who goes shopping at Home Depot? Mostly men. And not just any men. *Married Men with Families.* Women go shopping there too and women are also the largest segment of the book-buying public.
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Husband: "Uh, Honey, I need to go to Home Depot and pick up some..."
Wife (leaping up): "The one in Wasilla next to Pandemonium Bookstore? Round up the kids!" (skips merrily away, grabbing her purse)
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I'll start at one end of the store and go to the other. On the immediate left as you walk in is the conference room with a long table and comfortable chairs. My husband said it was being used by a religious group yesterday. There's a local Bible college nearby and many churches in the area.
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Beyond that to the far left is the children's section. Naturally, they have all the best titles, but what they also have is *Homeschool Supplies.* Homeschooling is HUGE in Alaska! Even the Governor's eldest daughter is finishing her high school education at home. Some of you may have heard the erroneous rumor that she'd dropped out. Absolutely not true. Homeschooling has always been huge in Alaska because educating children who live waaaay out in the Bush has always been a challenge. Many of them simply live too far from a regular school to attend. I know of at least one village in which children fly back and forth in an airplane to attend a school. For the poo-pooers, you should know Homeschool kids continue to win top honors at the National Spelling Bee and Geography Bee and get into nearly every college in the nation, including Harvard and the Air Force Academy. Homeschooling can work beautifully. But, I'm on my soapbox here because educate our children at home too. I was thrilled to be able to examine curriculum in person which I'd only ever read about in homeschool supply catalogs.
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Besides the homeschooling area, they had a playhouse and antique desks set up for children to leisurely read and parents to collapse in exhaustion with their own books while they did so.
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There's a good sized adult section with gifts, non-fiction, and fiction sections. The Science Fiction & Fantasy aisles were decent. Considering how appealing this store is to the female population (even the bathroom was a girl's delight) I was surprised there weren't more Romance novels. The Romance genre accounts for about fifty percent of all books sold, you know. But, I guess it was a space issue. This store is small, but extremely well-organized, and I predict will expand at some point. Remember, our economy is a lot better here in Alaska than it is for you Lower 48ers.
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The coffee shop is glorious with a fire place and a delightful selection of treats and sandwiches. We had Italian sodas, the first ones we've had since our favorite coffee shop went out of business when we were newlyweds.
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The coffee shop seemed to be a well-populated hang-out for the early twentysomething crowd, all of them polite, enjoying the company of friends, and/or doing their homework, probably for that nearby UAA extension campus, or that local Bible college. I did say the patrons were well-served at Pandemonium, right?
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Lessons Learned:
1) Know your patrons (or readers, in the case of authors.)
2) See a need, Fill a need.
3) Respect and appreciation go a long way.
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When I got home, I wasn't surprised to discover this bookstore also has a well-organized, pleasant website- http://www.akbookstore.com/;)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Star Captains' Daughter excerpt at Fantasy Debut

http://fantasydebut.blogspot.com/2009/02/discovery-showcase-star-captains.html Tia started a weekly feature in which she posts an excerpt from the novels of aspiring or self-published authors, and I'm her first victim! Uh, I mean, I'm her first guest! She's such a sweetie to go through all this work for those of us who write too far outside the box for a paying publisher to take on. Hey, it's good for readers during this recession too, because a lot of our stories are free or very cheap. Mine's free. If you've got a neglected masterpeice, you might want to check out the terms of her Discover Showcase. Not saying mine's a masterpeice, of course, but it's still my personal favorite of all the stories I've ever written.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Book Trailer - HEART OF THE RONIN

Read about this one at Fantasy Debut - thanks, Tia! My ARC's on the way. Remember, authors and author associates, if you have a book trailer, please let me know. I can't always track these things down. Besides the Blogosphere, I have an insanely busy Real Life. Here's the book trailers' link- http://enduringromancebooktrailers.blogspot.com/

Dear Author's eBook Article...

...this Sunday is particularly good and also related to advertising. http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/02/15/why-ebook-hardware-manufacturers-are-missing-the-mark-and-the-market/

'The Reader's Emotional Investment' article

Good morning, Blog Buds! Pop over and check out my guest blog at Romance the Blog today. http://www.romancingtheblog.com/blog/2009/02/15/the-readers-emotional-investment/

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Great Books for Married and/or Mature Lovers on Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!


*THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES helps couples understand how their spouses communicate their love.*


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If you've lived long enough, you probably realize that romance and passion doesn't just happen in real life, especially if your real life is full of work, housework, and children and/or grandchildren. You have to make it a priority and make it happen.


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I've compiled a list of good self-help books. If you're married to someone who doesn't read, buy the audio-book version.


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For the love nest-





DR. RUTH'S GUIDE FOR MARRIED LOVERS

DR. RUTH'S SEX AFTER FIFTY

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Management advice from Kathy Peel-




FAMILY FOR LIFE (about transitioning from parents of children to parents of adults)

FAMILY MANAGER

FAMILY MANAGER FOR WORKING MOMS

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Because you can't make love if the baby's up crying all night, help from Tracy Hogg-


SECRETS OF THE BABY WHISPERER


SECRETS OF THE BABY WHISPERER FOR TODDLERS


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Because you can't make love if the kids are destroying the house-
1-2-3 MAGIC (we use this one)

SOS HELP FOR PARENTS (Time-Out Method, which does work if used properly)


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Leaving the Past Behind, so You Can Embrace the Future-


KEEPING THE LOVE YOU FIND


GETTING THE LOVE YOU WANT


TOXIC PARENTS (If your childhood was less ideal, it impairs your ability to relate to your spouse and own children)


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And my personal favorite-


THE ART OF KISSING


Start at the beginning and work your way through. Guys, almost all gals loooove kissing. Kiss more and you'll get more...other stuff. Trust me.


;)
Here's a bonus for the busy family who needs to get healthy-

Thursday, February 12, 2009

GAMBLE ON LOVE & NO ONE BUT YOU by Michelle Monkou

Good morning, Blog Buddies! I've got a two-for-the-price-of-one special here for Valentine's Day.

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Isn't 'Michelle Monkou' a beautiful name? I think if I ever own dove, I will name her 'Michelle Monkou.' Michelle is also blessed with beautiful cover art.

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In fact, I think the Kimani cover art is the best Harlequin has. But, anyway, on with the books.


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I'll start with my favorite of the two, GAMBLE ON LOVE.




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On the outside and, okay, a little on the inside, Denise is a spoiled heiress. She and her siblings have had the best of everything Chicago could offer. Now she's a grown-up, her parents are buying her a house, or I should say a mansion. The parents like to buy houses and renovate them, then sell for a profit or give to one of their adult offspring. And now it's Denise's turn. She shows up to her new house, sees construction work underway, but now workers. She proceeds into her new house and does a little dance, not realizing Jaden, the dude in charge of the construction team, is there and watching.




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Jaden has no love for snotty, rich people. He's a working class hero and you can just tell he's probably got the hard body to show for it. When he finally introduces himself to Denise, he's understandably put off by her flippant attitude towards him. They both disguise their mutual attraction well. Of course, that doesn't last long.




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What I like best about this novel is it's an 'opposites attract.' She's rich, he's working class, she likes R&B, he likes country music, she's 'too good' for him, and he's afraid of long-term commitments. They're thrown together getting this house renovated and love blooms. I love to see love building bridges for people who might otherwise be too close-minded to get along.




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And the next one, NO ONE BUT YOU.




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This one has my favorite cover art of the two. In fact, it's what drew my attention to Michelle's books in the first place.




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At a time when most young women are finishing college and getting started, Sara is already the youngest professor at her college. She spends a lot of times with her sorority sisters doing all the things sorors do, things I never did because they never interested me. Life is good, though she still carries around two painful memories. One was Jackson breaking up with her because his family wanted him to marry someone as rich and powerful as them, and she's just a regular girl. The other was having her wedding to another guy interrupted by his pregnant mistress' tempor tantrum. She wasn't really in love with that guy, but it was still a horrible humiliation.




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So, Sara has gotten on with her life and it's pretty good, but then both Jackson and the ex-fiance's mistress, with baby on hip, show up pretty much at the same time and sends her into a tailspin. Jackson wants to convince her to take him back, but she's through with getting dumped on by men. And the mistress is searching for the ex-fiance because he hasn't been supporting their child. In fact, the ex conned her out of a bunch of money, just like he did Sara. Oh, what is a girl to do? Well, Sara does the right thing by the ex-fiance's mistress, but I'll leave Jackson to your imagine. You'll have to get the book.




;)




The Heat Level of both these books is Sensual. http://www.michellemonkou.com/

Sunday, February 8, 2009

REINING IN THE RANCHER by Karen Templeton

'Noooobody does it better. Makes sad for the rest. Noooobody does it half as good as yoooou. Baby, baby, you're best.' Sorry, I just had to serenade Karen Templeton a little bit there. ;) What I mean is, nobody does Romance which involves pregnancy, babies, or children better than Karen Templeton, I swear. I'm expecting my fifth baby, so I think I know what I'm talking about. There are some good ones, but there are also some pretty lame ones too. For example, I once read this novel which was perfectly wonderful in every other way. But, when the couple got around to making love for the first time, the Heroine was, I think, seven months pregnant. They made love face-to-face. Although the author successfully communicated how frisky a pregnant woman can be, she made no mention of how challenging it is to make love face-to-face in the last trimester, especially when the couple has no previous experience!
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Anyway, on with REINING IN THE RANCHER.

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Thea grew up with a jerkwad father and, consequently, married a jerkwad. This is fairly typical for women who have no idea they can find and deserve anything better. Thea eventually figured it out, but not until after three emotionally crushing miscarriages. Little wonder she has a hard time identifying and opening her heart to true love when if finally comes along. She got involved with a Real Man with issues, stemming from his own failed first marriage, and didn't find out until after they both messed up their relationship that she was pregnant.

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The story starts with Thea driving out to tell Johnny he's going to be a dad, again. Johnny has a 17 year old daughter from his first marriage and before Thea can get her news out, Rachel informs her father that she is pregnant. Johnny promptly freaks out, which sends Thea emotionally running for cover. She puts off telling him. After all, two surprise pregnancies in one day could send the poor guy into cardiac arrest. Or, as Karen puts, he might just 'have kittens.' I think that's slang for freaking out.

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With no past heartache to slow them down, Rachel and her boyfriend plan their wedding for after graduation, which isn't too far away. Not every girl wants a high-powered career, you know. Heck, I would have done the same thing if I'd found HH in high school. Some of us are just born mommies. Like me, Rachel plans to take college classes in between babies.

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Of course, Thea finally does tell Johnny and he freaks, but he doesn't completely lose it. He asks her to marry him, but she turns him down because she knows he's only asking her because of the baby. She doesn't believe he loves her and I don't blame her. I mean, I knew they loved each other from the start, but neither one of them have guts to admit it. And that's no way to start a marriage.

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Meanwhile, Thea has an ongoing freak-out of her own. After losing three babies, she's absolutely terrified of losing the new one. Having had a miscarriage, I can totally relate. And I only had one. Even though she's past the danger zone for miscarriage (first trimester) she's still terrified and hasn't brought herself to make a prenatal exam appointment. I was puking scared that first time too. Luckily, her friends are making babies all over the place too and Johnny won't back off. They finally get her to the doctor, who happens to be a friend in this small town.

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Hearing the baby's heart beat, seeing him on the ultrasound screen, and a massive dose of pregnancy hormones compelling her to bond help Thea adjust and begin to hope, and begin to open her heart to Johnny too.

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Love those pregnancy hormones. I know there's a belief that pregnant women don't like nookie, which was probably perpetuated by the poor guys who are mated to the few pregnant women who hate it. However, the fact is a lot of pregnant women are extremely lovey-dovey. If they have lovey-dovey mates, they really have a great time. Karen totally nails the pregnancy love-making thing. I'd put the Heat Level at Sensual. I don't think REINING IN THE RANCHER is on the shelves anymore, but it's definitely worth ordering. Just pop over to Karen's website- http://www.karentempleton.com/

Dear Author's eBook Article This Week

http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/02/08/is-social-drm-the-great-digital-compromise/#more-9872

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Book Haul

Just back from the big city of Anchorage with my haul of books, including one beautiful hardback, BEWITCHING SEASON, sent to me by the author herself, Marissa Doyle. If you want to read the list, scroll down to my Amazon widget on the lower left sidebar.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

THE NAKED MARQUIS by Sally MacKenzie



With February 1st being the release date for Invisible, my second contemporary romance, I didn't have the time to do the reading I wanted to in January. I must have read, oh, about 20 romance novels. One of them was the superb Seduce Me At Sunrise from Lisa Kleypas and another was The Warlord's Bride from the always reliable Margaret Moore (shivering with delight) but you readers KNOW those two books rocked it. The other books I read were so-so.

So I thought I'd go back in time and pick an oldie but a goodie. The Naked Marquis from Sally MacKenzie is one of the funniest regencies I've ever read. I loved it so much, I've bought it four or five times (I keep leaving it on planes and buses).

I know what you're thinking. If I read the title The Naked Marquis today, I would peg the book as erotica also. However, this Naked series started in 2005 and the publisher's Zebra (notice the lack of naked men on the cover). It isn't erotica. People do get naked (as they do in most full length historical novels) but that is seen as shocking, rather than… well… stimulating. There are also a few very funny sex scenes but nothing too graphic.

Here's the set up…

Second son Charles finds himself in an enviable position. He is now the Marquis of Knightsdale. The thing is… he doesn't want it. He loved his brother (issues and all) and he liked the life he was leading. But duty calls so he trudges home to his new house and his two small nieces. He realizes he's responsible for the kiddies and aware of his own mortality decides to marry. Right away. As in… he proposes to the first eligible female he meets, his former childhood friend Emma. She responds to this romantic proposition by throwing a ceramic dog at his head.

Although The Naked Marquis is the second in the series and the first book's characters do make an appearance, you don't need to read them in order. I didn't and I followed the story perfectly.