Friday, August 27, 2010
Wanted: Father for her Twins
RUBY Finalist 2010
Available as a 2-in-1 special from
Mills & Boon in the UK.
Also available as an eBook.)
To become a finalist for ‘Book of the Year,’ a romance needs something very special going for it! The book must clearly say, “This is it!” to the judges. I found Wanted: Father for her Twins to have that special something.
Sympathetic Heroine & Emotional Writing!
What I liked best about this book is the very sympathetic heroine, Rosie Jefferson. It won’t take many pages before you fall in love with Rosie and begin rooting for her. She’s a GP who has 'inherited' her sister’s twins when her sister and brother-in-law are killed in an accident. Rosie's whole life is turned upside down in one day. She gives up everything for the eight year old twins. The hero, Nick Masters, is a Kiwi and ENT specialist. He’s handsome and ideal father material. So far so good. The story is heartwarming and makes for great reading but there is more: the heroine’s internal conflict.
The Heroine vs the Heroine!
The internal monolog going on in the heroine’s head is the best I’ve read in a romance. The major conflict in this story might be said to be the heroine vs. the heroine. That's because what she wants most is also what could be the worse possible thing for her. It is fascinating to watch Rosie struggle with the idea of a romance at a time when a romance is last thing she should be preoccupied with.
The Perfect Hero...If!
Dr. Nick Masters would make a great father, husband, and helpmate but he has indicated that he has no intention of committing to a relationship any time soon. Should Rosie waste her time and risk her heart on a long shot who is likely to bring even more unhappiness into her life? It’s a tough decision but it’s intriguing to watch Rosie struggle with it.
Your Heartstrings Will Sing!
Emily Forbes is an expert at pulling on the reader’s heartstrings. In the very dramatic scene below, the boy twin, Charlie, is going to speak to Nick, his ENT doctor. This is very emotional because the boy suffers from a form of mutism. Charlie is in his bed and looking out the widow where he can see the stars. His mother and father were very recently killed.
“That’s my dad’s star. When Mum and Dad died, Lucy and I saw those stars shooting up to heaven. That smaller star, just next to Dad’s, is Mum. They’re always together.” Charlie was whispering now but in the stillness of the room Nick had no difficulty hearing him. “He can see me when I’m sleeping. He stays awake all night to watch me. I leave my curtains open so that when I wake up during the night I can see him.”
I love emotional writing like this. It makes this romance extra special.
"Wanted: Father For Her Twins" is one of the best books of the year!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Mills & Boon Ltd (Large Print Books); Large print library ed edition (April 2, 2010)
This Title is Available as an eBook from Mills & Boon in Europe as a 2-in-1 Special.
2010 RUBY Winner "Short & Sweet" Category.
“Marriage Reunited: Baby on the Way”, by Sharon Archer is the RUBY book of the year in the ‘Short & Sweet’ category! (R*BY stands for ‘Romance Book of the Year’ and it is Australia’s highest Award!)
While “Marriage Reunited: Baby on the Way”, may be ‘short & sweet’, it reads as a ‘big’, ‘emotional’ and ‘sexy’ story as well! I also believe it is a very interesting and thoughtful choice for Book of the Year.
The hero and heroine, Jack and Liz Campbell, are already married when the book opens. Jack is a firefighter in Australia who went to California to fight fires for six months. When he left he thought he would be divorced when he came back home. Jack doesn’t want any children but his wife, a doctor, does. When he comes back home, he finds that his wife is six month’s pregnant. Jack has strong reasons why he does not want children but they are too painful to talk about.
So far I think this makes for a solid, traditional, Medical love story. What makes the book an award winner, in my opinion, is the amazingly insightful depiction of the heroine’s moment by moment pregnancy experience. In vivid detail the reader experiences the heroine’s joys, pains, doubts and insecurities. Then there are the mood changes, the fears, the tears, the guilt, the anger, or in the words of Zorba the Greek: ‘the whole catastrophe’ -- of being pregnant.
This is serious writing. As a man, I found it sensitive and very enlightening. It is sweet in that the hero tries so hard to make everything right and to be romantic again. I think women will love the hero and relate to the heroine.
I must say that for a “sweet” romance there is an overwhelming degree of lust, desire, and longing. It is also what I would consider a highly psychological novel. But then it is a Medical romance. If you are looking for action, there’s plenty of danger with the hero being a hero. The book has everything!
I can see why judges would give “Marriage Reunited: Baby on the Way”, the nod. I have not read a romance like it before and it is not a book I’ll likely forget.
A very unique “Book of the Year” that you won’t soon forget.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
by Jennifer Hudson Taylor
Published by Abingdon Press
A Heroine Like the Sun – Brilliant & the Center of Events!
“Highland Blessings” opens in April 1473 as history opens a new chapter throughout Europe! Leonardo di Vinci turns 21 this very month, Christopher Columbus begins sailor school and Nicolaus Copernicus is just thee weeks old. The Sistine Chapel is completed. It will soon be made famous by Michelangelo.
Change is in the air!
Change will also come to Scotland but as “Highland Blessings” opens, the old Scottish ways are still firmly in place in the northlands. It may be the end of an era but it’s also a last look at everything that makes the medieval period so beloved to historical fiction enthusiasts.
“Highland Blessings” is an appropriate title because the book is about the blessings bestowed on those faithful souls who trust in God, are faithful in the face of adversity, and who are true to themselves as well as loyal to their clan.
While “Highland Blessings” is packed with action, it is not “Braveheart”. It’s not about battles and wars. It’s about finding peace and the courage it takes to keep the peace. It’s about love and sacrifice. It’s about one of the most memorable heroines in historical romances.
The story opens with the kidnapping of the heroine, Akira, on her wedding day. Her intended does not try to rescue her from the rival clan kidnappers. She is forced into a marriage arranged years before by her father and the head of the enemy clan. It’s a marriage designed to end decades of strife. While this is all well and good for a Highland romance, what makes “Highland Blessings” extra special is the heroine, Akira.
Like many romance heroines, Akira is at the center of the love story but unlike most other heroines, she is also at the center of the larger world she lives in. She is also an amazing young woman:
She’s a healer.
She’s a teacher.
She’s a diplomat.
She’s a swordsman.
She’s a believer.
She’s a seeker of peace.
Akira is all these things with a passion that rings true throughout the entire story. She’s also a real woman. She fears and trembles at the thought of being whipped. She’s deeply hurt when disappointed. In her world she has the beauty of Helen of Troy but unlike Helen she’s fully willing to take up the sword and fight. She has the passion of Joan of Arc but she is also the heroine in a love story and deeply in love with the hero. Akira is one of my all time favorite romance heroines.
“Highland Blessings” is the story of an entire people who share in the beauty and blessings of their Lady, Akira. A must read for Highland fans! I just loved it!
“Highland Blessings” Christian Fiction at its Historical Best!
Friday, August 20, 2010
Read it as Mainstream Literature!
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade (June 1, 2010)
Second book in Trilogy
First book: “Pieces of Sky”
While “Open Country” qualifies as a romance (a story with its central focus on the falling in love of a man and woman that ends happily with either a marriage or the likelihood of a marriage in the future), I suggest that it should be read as mainstream literature.
To Be Read Without Genre Expectations
The reason for this is that “Open Country” may be too different for traditional romance fans. The language is as rough as it really was during the 1871 time period. The violence is real and shocking -- even sadistic at times. “Open Country” is not for the squeamish. The sex is explicit but written with literary integrity. The book’s moral compass does not always point true north. And the behavior of the men, heroes and villains alike, is often crude and offensive by today’s standards.
So Why Read It?
Why read any work of genuine literary merit? To learn something; to experience something; to go back in time; to have an enjoyable reading experience; to admire the author’s intuition and skills. Besides, it’s just a damn good book!
“Open Country” is compelling reading. There is a surprise at every turn. Characters are real and not stereotypes. The historical details are so convincing, the book reads like a contemporary author actually wrote it in 1871. The descriptions are like looking at photographs. In short, “Open Country” is a unique 5-Star book that you won’t soon forget.
Literary Integrity of Highest Order
“Open Country” is honest and realistic. Everything in the book has the purpose of advancing the plot and adding authenticity. This is why it should be read as mainstream literature. Romance genre fans have a real possibility of being very frustrated by “Open Country”. Some fans are not going to like the explicit sex. Other fans, even some critics, are going to complain that there is not enough explicit sex! After all, if you are going to be hot, be hot a lot!
“Open Country” is Literature
The descriptive sex scenes in “Open Country” are there to advance the story and assist in character development. The actual methodology of the lovemaking in one crucial scene is essential to the rest of the plot. When it is not necessary to go behind the bedroom doors, “Open Country” does not go there. This is part of literary integrity. This same necessity applies to the violence and language. While the violence is real and sometimes brutal, it is always honest and there is never more than the story requires.
Misunderstanding the Heroine
Since the heroine puts herself in danger at times, when it looks like she didn’t have to, some genre fans might consider her to be TSTL. That’s romance shorthand for ‘to stupid to live’. A TSTL heroine is one who stupidly walks into danger for the sole purpose of allowing the hero to rescue her.
Heroine as Proactive Hero!
In “Open Country” the heroine, Molly McFarlane, has spent her whole life, since childhood, serving others. She has worked with her father as a physician's assistant since her mother died. This involved hundreds of amputations during the Civil War and all the horror and pain this implies. The heroine is better trained than many country doctors at the time. Her dangerous actions are a result of who she is. She walks into danger and gets the job done. She knows the risks and is prepared. The romance genre reader does not expect the heroine to do the hero’s job. Again, this is why the book should be read as literature.
The story takes place in 1871 as the heroine is fleeing her brother-in-law by taking a train west. She has her niece and nephew with her because her sister just died and she fears the step-father will mistreat the children. Because of a traumatic event the heroine finds herself married to the hero, Hank Wilkins, a rancher in New Mexico. In romantic genre terms the story is a combination of the ‘marriage of convince’ theme and the ‘protecting the heroine’ theme, which is all fine and well, except that the romance fan is not going to get what is expected. That’s the fun!
One of the best mainstream books I’ve read in a long time but it’s not for everyone.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Actually It Did Win the RUBY --
Australia’s Highest 'Book of the Year' Award!
(R*BY = Romance Book of the Year).
What’s it like? Well, it won in the Short and Sexy category and it’s short and it sure is sexy, lusty and provocative! “A Doctor, A Nurse: A Christmas Baby” provides a full range of emotional pyrotechnics! Instead of a love scene, you get a love chapter!
Think of all the great scenes from all the ‘keeper’ romances you’ve ever read. Now edit them down to create a single original new romance! Presto! You have “A Doctor, A Nurse: A Christmas Baby”. You have a romance that just screams ‘Award Winner’ on every page.
Oh, yes: if you’re a medical junkie and a big fan of “House” be prepared -- there’s enough medical terms and interesting medical conditions to fry your brain. I’m talking OD -- Optimally Diagnostic! (It’s a Medical for a reason.)
The story is about Nash, a 30 year old doctor, with the looks of a male model who falls for Maggie, a 40 year old nurse, who is just his type in everyway. It’s almost love at first sight but the hero can’t recognize it – he's never been in love before and doesn’t recognize the symptoms! To the heroine he is just a player looking for a conquest. She’s too smart at her age to place her heart on the line by robbing the cradle. But Nash is the perfect hero. And Maggie is the ideal heroine. Their mutual attraction is explosive. Their story reads like a long fuse leading up to the explosive ending. WOW!
I never read a “Book of the Year” Award winner that I agreed more with!
Don’t miss this book! And if you have not read a Medical book yet, you’re in for twice the fun! The Medical authors Rock!
Monday, August 16, 2010
Australia’s Just Announced ‘Book of the Year’ Award in the Short Sexy category is Amy Andrew’s "A Doctor, A Nurse: A Christmas Baby". This book is Available on eHarlequin as an eBook.
You can read about this on the Medical Authors Website.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Made to Order Family
Ruth Logan Herne
Steeple Hill Love Inspired
September, 2010, 224 pages.
Rewards! Rewards! Rewards!
I know making a claim that any book is a perfect romance needs to be substantiated. This I fully intend to do with examples and explanations.
Rewarding the Reader --
Every Step of the Way!
I should disclose at the outset that I am a little biased. I am writing a book on the romance genre which advances the theory that the best selling romance authors are the ones who reward the reader the most times on average per page. As of now, my research indicates that Nora Roberts is at the top of my ‘rewards-per-page’ index. I mention this research now because when it comes to ‘rewards-per-page’, “Made to Order Family” is off the charts! Reading the book provides one reward after another after another. This makes for a great reading experience with maximum enjoyment.
Many Ways to Reward a Reader
There are many ways for an author to reward a reader for reading her book. The author can ‘surprise’ the reader, ‘delight’ the reader, ‘5-sense’ her copy so the reader really ‘feels’ the story, and she can provide ‘new experiences’ which the reader can ‘vicariously’ enjoy.
The author may also go to ‘new’ places so the reader can see new things she may never get to see otherwise. The author can let the reader ‘feel’ a wide array of emotions, and she can make anticipated events happen sooner than the reader expected.
The author may also let the reader experience the emotional elation of ‘victories’ along the way without having to wait for the HEA at the end of the book. Victories are very important in creating a rewarding reading experience. (Some romance writers will present only problems and conflict until the very end thinking that this will make the HEA even more appreciated. This is bad thinking. It is like serving five bland courses of a six course meal in a fine restaurant so that the last course, baked Alaska, will seem more spectacular. Every course should be special and delicious!)
The author can please the reader with ‘sparkling’ copy and entertain the reader by writing in a way that makes the reader eager to discover what is happening next. This becomes even more rewarding when the reader is anticipating five or six events to happen!
There are many more ways to reward a reader but I think you get the idea.
Maintaining The Reader’s Interest!
A major factor in successfully rewarding a reader is by always maintaining the reader’s interest. Many authors do this by constantly raising the stakes and heightening tension.
For example, the bad guys may be trying to kill the heroine and with each chapter the murder attempts come closer to success and the heroine’s escapes come closer to disaster. This approach can be successful but it is one dimensional and wears thin rather quickly. This ‘straight-line’ approach is much better suited for the cinema because big screen special effects can dazzle and entertain viewers.
The ‘straight-line’ approach is weaker in a novel because the reader quickly understands that this is how the story is going to proceed. (Oh, it’s a chase story.) Having the expected happen as expected is not very rewarding without spectacular special effects.
The Multi-Dimensional Approach to Rewarding a Reader
A better way to maintain reader interest is to take a multi-dimensional approach with many different ‘threads’ of interest. “Made to Order Family” is an excellent example of this multi-dimensional approach.
Two Conflicts That Leverage The Tension
In addition to the standard hero/heroine conflict present in all romances, the hero and heroine in “Made to Order Family” are both recovering alcoholics. Each fears falling off the wagon which could happen at any moment. Neither wants to return to the disastrous lives they once lived. This danger elevates all normal life conflicts to life threatening proportions. I consider this to be ‘built-in’ tension that's inherent to the plot and thus not artificial. (As simply adding another ‘escape’ scene to a book would be.)
The reader of “Made to Order Family” is always faced with the very real possibility that the hero or heroine or even both of them may fall off the wagon. To make this situation even more poignant, the author is well experienced with AA and dealing with both active and recovering alcoholics. The realism of the narrative makes the danger of a relapse into oblivion an even greater possibility. (If the characters fear a fall, no matter how strong they may appear to others, then the reader will also fear a fall. I have not seen this ‘fear of a fall’ so well shown in a romance novel before.)
Reverberations of the Serenity Prayer
It might be said that the spirit of the book is mirrored in the “Serenity Prayer”. Parts of the prayer are quoted in the narrative and are apropos to the story action. Seeing the “Serenity Prayer” so skillfully mirrored in the actions of the characters adds substantially to the reading enjoyment and the sense that this is an inspirational book.
Unexpected Victories -- The Kindest of Rewards!
At least in four places in “Made to Order Family” the reader is treated to an unexpected victory. These victories elicit the kind of vicarious ‘good feelings’ that are usually reserved for the HEA. To demonstrate this point I want to give one example below. This is the first example in the book. There are more and they get even better. I promise you’ll love experiencing the other victories but you'll have to discover them for yourself.
The heroine’s mother is overbearing and highly critical of the heroine. The heroine seems to be reconciled to her mother’s abuse and the reader fully expects the mother’s conduct to occur for the rest of the book. (Perhaps the mother will come around by the HEA.)
Here’s what happens: (Page 61):
“Mom, I totally get that you’re disappointed in me, my life, my children and my existence on the planet, but I think it’s in everyone’s best interests if we move beyond the drama, okay?
I haven’t got the time to go there with you anymore. What’s done is done. I’m not moving backward and I wish you’d move beyond it, too.”
Just like that! The abusive mother is dealt with and the heroine grows in stature right in front of the reader’s eyes! The heroine has waited her whole life to face up to her mother and we, the readers, get to be there at this critical moment to share in the event. I wanted to stand and cheer!
While this scene happens early in the story, I felt happier with this experience than I have when reading some HEAs at the end of a book. Better yet, this was just one of four unexpected victories in "Made to Order Family". And yes, when you are experiencing near-HEA moments throughout the book, it’s a great reading experience!
Always Having Something Happening That Holds The Reader Interest!
“Made to Order Family” is a multi-dimensional story with many threads of action woven into the main plot. Each thread carries its own reader anticipation and resolution. I am going to list some of these. I am sure there are more.
THREADS -- Creating Reader Interest
Pal the dog’s story – unique use of Scripture with dog to mirror human behavior. (Resolved.)
Kim’s story. (Resolved.)
Skeeter’s story. (Resolved.)
Paul & Amy story. (Resolved.)
Rita’s Mother’s & Father’s story. (Resolved.)
Brooks’ mother’s & Father’s story. (Resolved.)
Tootsie’s story (Resolved.)
Rita’s story. (Resolved.)
Brooks’s story. (Resolved.)
Baseball game. (Resolved.)
Jeff, the sponsor’s story: (Resolved.)
Wendy, the Farmer’s wife & kids story. (Resolving.)
Homeless story (unresolved.)
“Resolved” means the reader will get a happy feeling of satisfaction and unresolved, a sad feeling.
Writing with Realism & Psychological Insight
“Made to Order Family” is very realistic. Kids aren’t sweet and people’s lives are often painful. In additional the writing shows an understanding of human nature. Here is a quote about what the heroine thinks about the hero.
“Liv respected Brooks. It was obvious in her manner, her attentiveness, her awareness of detail in his presence. Something about him inspired others to reach a little higher, go a little faster, try a little harder, that indiscriminate quality that screamed leadership in calm undertones.”
Prose that Does Several Things At Once
You might wonder how a book that is only 224 pages long can develop so many theme threads along with the main plot. The author is able to do this because of her layering and economy of words. For example, in one short scene the hero goes to the town of Canton to look into buying a building that the heroine could use to start a bakery. The hero meets with the Realtor as quoted below:
“What are you thinking? If you’re free to tell me, that is.”
“I have a friend interested in this site,” Brooks explained. Steve’s interest spiked a grin.
“Yes.” Brooks met his gaze. “you know Rita’s interested in this location?”
Steve nodded, then directed Brooks to the back of the store.
“We went over it inch by inch. I tried to fudge a few things, fluff them off, and she nabbed me on every one. Smart girl you’ve got there.”
Brooks grinned, thought of setting Steve straight, then realized too much protest only added fuel to the rumor mill.
“Rita’s got a great head on her shoulders.”
Steve barked out a laugh.
“If that’s all you’ve noticed, Brooks, you’re more than a little hardened. The woman’s beautiful.”
Brooks straightened, chin raised, his shoulders broad and blunt, remembering Steve’s marriage had dissolved nearly two years before. That made him single and in his mid-forties, just a tad older than Brooks.
“Ah.” Steven nodded, respectful. “I thought as much. It would be hard not to.”
“Right now she’s interested in opening a business.” Brooks wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince Steve or himself.
The above short passage, just 195 words, advances the story in these ways:
1. the Realtor reveals that the heroine is a very smart business person who has already looked into the property. (Hero did not know this.)
2. the Realtor reveals that he thinks of the heroine as the hero’s girl. (Hero had not admitted this to himself up until this point).
3. the Realtor is interested in the heroine himself because she is such a beautiful woman. (Hero doesn’t like this.)
5. the Realtor is not married. (Hero doesn’t like this.)
6. the hero discovers he’s jealous. (Hero must now rethink his relationship with heroine.)
7. the hero does not deny that the heroine is his girl. (Hero likes the idea.)
When so much story information can be presented to the reader in so few words, it becomes possible for an author to weave many more story threads into the general narrative while still staying within a limited number of pages.
'Information' Rewards Readers
When a story carries with it ‘inside’ information that is perceived as authentic by the reader, this generates a more rewarding reading experience. The author does this to perfection with her AA experiences and with her professional knowledge of the bakery business. This knowledge alone won’t make a novel a success with readers but it will add to the overall rewards-per-page for reading. This is important because readers are not really buying a book. They are buying a reading experience. The best selling authors create the most rewarding reading experiences.
Double “Knockout” Ending
James Scott Bell, a popular writing instructor and novelist, advises that novels finish with a ‘knockout’ ending! This elevates the impact of the book in the reader's mind making the reader 'hungry' for more and acts to help sell the author's next book. “Made to Order Family” not only has a 'stand and cheer' ending, it has a surprise Epilogue which doubles the HEA enjoyment. In New Orleans this 'second helping of happiness' would be called lagniappe.
“Made to Order Family” rewards the reader multiple times-per-page. It does this by doing many things right. In addition to the overall romantic conflict between hero and heroine, there is the dual tension caused because both the hero and heroine are recovering alcoholics. This ‘alcoholic’ background tension magnifies all the other conflicts in the book because any of life's normal problems could lead to the hero or heroine falling off the wagon.
The spiritual elements in the story are skillfully reflected in the recurrent use of the Serenity Prayer. This provides for inspiration without preaching.
The reader’s attention is always stimulated because, “Made to Order Family” employs numerous interesting story threads. There are also surprise victories throughout the book which will delight the reader. The writing is realistic, the characters authentic, and the author’s insider knowledge of her subject matter is ever present.
“Made to Order Family” also has a dual ‘knockout ending’ which doubles the HEA’s feelings of enjoyment.
“Made to Order Family” is a Perfect Romance!
Like the “Perfect Storm”, I believe that “Made to Order Family” incorporates the ideal combination of story ingredients that are necessary to produce the perfect romance. In a way, I’m sad. This is only the author’s third book and I don’t see how a book better than “Made to Order Family” can be penned! But then, like the pitcher who just threw a perfect game, it just might happen again.
Be Sure to Read This Book!
Read the Review of "Winter's End"
Read the Review of "Waiting Out the Strom"