February 17, 2013

So if you head over to Destiny Romance, they have this totally useless but unbelievably engrossing tool (haha, see what I did there?) that lets you photobomb some faux romance covers. As you can see below, the results are loltastic. (And I didn’t even upload the one where I’m picking Guillaume Canet’s nose.)

Seriously, I can’t even pick my favourite.

So, over to you…guess my cover models and make merry with the captions! :D (Click on the image to see the full, ahem, size.) And if you’ve created your own photo bombed covers, link them up in the comments!

Ride of My Life (Destiny Romance photobomb)

Ride Of My Life

There’s nothing like the rev of a powerful engine between your legs…

She likes her men dreamy and her rides fast. But what’s a guy to do when the roar of lust wreaks havoc on that which is most sacred to him? Love is supposed to overcome all obstacles, but no one ever said anything about helmet hair.

(Contemporary romance with inappropriate and unhygienic public displays of affection)

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February 16, 2013

My round-up of the titles reviewed in January for the Australian Women Writers Challenge is up on the AWW blog:

One of the difficulties I’ve had in managing the romance list is the grey area between romance genre books and mainstream contemporary novels that feature female protagonists with a romantic subplot.

Here are some quick stats:

  • Total romance titles reviewed in January: 29
  • Titles published by digital imprints: 12 (~41%)
  • Titles published by Harlequin (all imprints): 15 (~52%)
  • Titles with a contemporary setting: 23 (~79%)
  • Titles with a rural setting: 15 (~52%)

Personally, I read and/or reviewed 9 AWW books last month:

In Safe Hands by Lee Christine (Escape, ebook) — Romantic suspense
Chaos Born by Rebekah Turner (Escape, ebook) — Urban fantasy
Wish by Kelly Hunter (Destiny Romance, ebook) — Outback romance
Man Drought by Rachael Johns (Harlequin Mira, print) — Outback romance (featured in Booktopia’s Romance Buzz)
The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter (Harlequin Kiss, print) — Contemporary romance (category)
The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie (Berkley, print) — Historical romance (Regency)
The Goblin King by Shona Husk (Sourcebooks, print) — Paranormal romance (review pending)
The Man Plan by Elise K. Ackers (Destiny Romance), ebook — Contemporary romance
The Girl in the Hard Hat by Loretta Hill (Bantam, print) — Contemporary romance

I ended my round-up by urging reviewers to consider erotica and erotica romance. If you have any recommendations for me to try, please let me know. Bring on the dirty luuurve!

(To give you an idea, I loved Emma Holly’s Menage, I liked Broken by Megan Hart but wished it had a better romance, and here are a few more titles. On the other hand, Lisa Valdez’s Passion and Elizabeth Amber’s Nicholas take pride of place in my so-bad-I-have-to-keep-them-to-remind-me-how-bad-they-are shelf.)

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Keywords: reading challenges
February 15, 2013

Uncovered by Love by Madeline AshA promising debut with some snappy dialogue and delicious innuendo. Unfortunately, the rest is a little nanna for me.

This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

Vera is recovering from a long bout of illness and is preparing to take her first leap away from her comfort zone by going to Spain when she is invited to exhibit her work in a gallery owned by her late mentor’s brother, Leeson (‘He has a Wikipedia entry and everything.’). Leeson is attracted to Vera, and he knows she won’t just go to bed with anyone, but he refuses to commit to a relationship due to personal issues he’s been harbouring since he was a kid. Vera has trust and self-esteem issues of her own, but eventually, she agrees to a fling and revels in how Leeson makes her feel—normal.

Australian author Madeline Ash’s debut shows promise. The dialogue between Vera and Leeson is snappy, modern and full of delicious innuendo. Their flirtation is subtle, wonderful and thrilling. Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect between the dialogue and the narrative, which has a more old-fashioned tone to it.

To be frank, it was a little nanna for me. This feeling is exacerbated by having a 25-year old virgin heroine who is not only an artist but an artist with no business sense whatsoever. (She prices her work according to her intuition about the buyer’s love for the work.) This character is a little too 80s for me, and I’m not sure if peasant skirts are mentioned, but if not, then I certainly imagined her wearing them.

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February 13, 2013

The Man Plan by Elise K. AckersA sweet romance with a delightful banter between the main characters, let down somewhat by the inability to fully explore their emotional conflicts.

This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

Still reeling from her father’s death, Cora is determined to find The One by Christmas. Her downstairs neighbour, Matt, is disbelieving and then amused at her determination to nab herself the right man. From staging car trouble, to internet dating, to chatting up men at juice bars, basketball games, meat markets and trams, Cora is undeterred in her quest. Too bad Matt isn’t in the running, though, because the more time she spends with Matt, the more Cora wonders if any man will ever measure up to him.

Cora and Matt’s initial meeting starts off a little awkwardly. Elise K. Ackers tries just a little too hard to simulate instant chemistry between the two characters, and the humour is somewhat forced. But as the story settles into its own, Cora and Matt fall into a charming rhythm:

When Matt opened his front door and feigned surprise to see her, it made her laugh. And she enjoyed his expression when he noticed the notepad, Ugg boots, old tracksuit pants and beanie.

‘They’re the worst pyjamas ever,’ he declared.

‘These are my relationship pyjamas.’

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February 11, 2013

I haven’t been keeping up with the news posts—in my defence, we’ve been doing pretty well with reviews this year…so far—but I have some exciting new projects that I just have to share with you guys. So here they are: the sekrit projects!

Romance Buzz

The lovely Kate Cuthbert is stepping down as editor of Booktopia’s Romance Buzz, and they have asked me to take on the role. I am so chuffed! This means I get to choose upcoming books to highlight and talk about. I also get to call myself Booktopia’s Queen of Romance, so I may have to go out and buy a pink boa and a sparkly tiara as befits my new station. Our joint issue went up last week. You can read it here.

ARRC panel

At ARRC in Brisbane, I’ll be moderating the Romance Hour (concurrent session 1D) with some fabulous authors: Kristan Higgins, Hope Tarr, Keri Arthur and Anne Gracie. If that doesn’t float your boat, Decadence will be moderating Angels and dragons and banshees, oh my! (concurrent session 1A). It kind of sucks that we’re on at the same time, but hopefully the sessions will be recorded, because omg, Rachel Vincent, Shona Husk, Nalini Singh and MJ Scott!

RWA conference panel

This year, I’ll be doing more than just going to the RWA conference parties—I’ll be participating in a panel! Kate Cuthbert, Sarah Wendell (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books) and I will be running a panel called Navigating the Choppy Waters of Online Reviews. Here’s the blurb:

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February 8, 2013

The Girl in the Hard Hat by Loretta HillDespite the weak romance and a family conflict that remains unresolved, there are enough interesting characters and situations to make this book an engaging, if not altogether satisfying, read.

This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

Wendy Hopkins arrives at the Pilbara in search of her biological father and some self-redemption after a bad decision in her previous job resulted in disastrous consequences. But being the safety manager at an iron ore wharf comes with a load of politics, an overdose of testosterone and, with cyclone season approaching, more danger than she bargains for.*

When a stranger, who ‘brought the same visual pop to her eyeballs that Brad Pitt brought to the big screen’, follows her while jogging, she punches him in the jaw. In return, he steals a kiss. The stranger turns out to be Gavin Jones, piling engineer and infamous womaniser, and it also turns out that he may have the information Wendy is looking for.

It must be a sign of how starved I am for Australian-set romances featuring authentic sounding Australian characters that I found it difficult to put this book down, despite the lacklustre character arcs and romance plot. I might have skimmed through some of the descriptions of working procedures at the wharf, but I was always drawn back by the dialogue. Where else, for example, would you find a simile like this: ‘…when he came in here last week he was looking at you like you were a bowl of hot wedges served with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.’

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February 6, 2013

The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie (Chance Sisters, Book 1) - Australian editionEscapist fun, yes, but it’s also firmly on the side of women and the ties that bind them. A delight to read.

This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

I’ve enjoyed Australian romance author Anne Gracie’s work in the past, but she’s one of those authors whose backlist is so intimidating, I’ve never got around to catching up. I think that’s about to change after reading this book.

Abigail Chantry, orphaned young and whose parents were disowned by their families, has been living on the edge of respectability. When she’s accosted on the way home and told that her sister, Jane, is being kept against her will at a brothel, she has no choice but to rescue her sister and the two women who came to her aid—Daisy, who grew up in the brothel but wants to be a dressmaker, and Damaris, a missionary’s daughter sold to the brothel owner on her way home to England.

Unable to keep her post as a governess and desperate for money, Abby breaks into a nearby mansion. She finds it devoid of valuables, but discovers an invalid, Lady Beatrice Devenham, being mistreated by her servants. With the consent of Lady Beatrice, Abby and the girls connive to take over the household and nurse the old lady back to health.

Meanwhile, Lady Beatrice’s nephew, Max, receives word that her aunt is being neglected, and returns to England to find the household taken over by impostors—the Chance sisters, whom Lady Beatrice claims as nieces. Needless to say, he’s not impressed. Likewise, Abby is outraged at being accused of trying to fleece Lady Beatrice when it was Max who had failed to monitor his aunt’s welfare.

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February 4, 2013

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Book 1)One of my favourite books from 2012. And no, I’m not killing any fairies.

Karou is a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague, leading a double life. She runs errands for Brimstone, a monster-like creature who collects teeth in his store in the Elsewhere, half in this world, half in the other. She has no idea how she came to be leading this life full of secrets, but that’s changes when her life is interrupted by someone attempting to close the doors to Elsewhere and she must find out what is going on, who she is, and what that means to her.

Every wonderful thing you’ve read in a review about this book is true, I promise. I fell in love with the lyrical prose, the well-crafted world building and the creative wordcraft and characters. Like every teenager, Karou feels like both in place and different to others at the same time. There are things about herself that she doesn’t understand, like she’s trying to grow into herself and figure out who she really is.

The difference from your typical teenage novel and this one is, of course, that Karou was raised by monsters and goes around the world collecting teeth for reasons she is never told. She seems to like her life, despite the secrecy, until one day the door to Elsewhere is attacked by … angels. One in particular, who can’t bring himself to kill her.

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February 1, 2013

The Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionJust the right combination of humour, mayhem and sweetness to appeal to a broad audience. Whether or not it will work for romance readers remains to be seen.

I have a special spot for romantic fiction from Text Publishing. This is the publisher who introduced me to Krissy Kneen and Toni Jordan, so when I heard about The Rosie Project, I couldn’t wait to read it. This book has received some pretty spectacular attention, garnering local awards and becoming the Aussie darling of the Frankfurt Book Fair when Text sold it to 30 different territories.

I admit to some ambivalence towards the book’s success. It’s fabulous to have an Australian author do so well, particularly for a locally set book in a genre that so rarely gets accolades from the literary establishment. But this is a romance written by a man, featuring a male protagonist, written in the first person, ostensibly in a genre that generally prides itself for being written by women for women. I don’t have anything against male romance—in fact, this type of book is right up my alley—but part of me resents that this type of a romance novel is marketed to be somehow more worthy of merit and attention, without the stigma of genre, than the novels regularly published under romance imprints.

That aside, there’s no denying that this is a well-written book with just the right amount of humour, mayhem and sweetness to be enjoyable as well as satisfying. Genetics professor Don Tillman is an unconventional hero—meticulous, efficient, intelligent and socially inept. His only friends, married couple Gene and Claudia, who also provide therapy in an unofficial capacity, have attempted to help him but with dismal results.

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January 30, 2013

A Gentleman Never Tells  by Juliana Gray (Affairs By Moonlight, Book 2)You know this is a good book when I’m compelled to read the entire series.

When they find themselves accidentally renting the same castle in Tuscany, three lords and three ladies make a bet to devote themselves to scholarly pursuits for an entire year without intimate interaction with the opposite sex.

In this book, the second of the Affairs By Moonlight series, Elizabeth Harewood, now the Countess of Somerton and mother of a precocious five-year-old son, encounters Roland Penhallow, the ex-love of her life. She’s escaped to this castle to hide from her husband, who is abusive and somewhat depraved. She cannot afford to give away here whereabouts, as she is afraid he will take her son away. Roland has been in love with Elizabeth for years and sees this opportunity as a chance to get her back. Will this work itself out?

Of course, it will.

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