Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer of Smutty Reads: Harlequin Present

   In the last post I admitted my guilt pleasure of reading Johanna Lindsey novels. Since my summers are known as “Summer of Smutty Reads” (where I usually indulge myself in trashy romance novels...how else do you suggest I survive Summer Reading?), I have decided to admit another guilt pleasure: Harlequin Presents.

    If you have never read them, don’t worry there is a pretty basic format. Super rich billionaire (or some foreign equally rich prince) who has either lost his wife, girlfriend, fiance  or perspective female in one way or another. In whatever way he has lost her, it has caused him to despise her and he is usually seeking her out for revenge or divorce. Throw in a pregnancy or a baby or some deep dark family secrets. And don’t forget to throw in a few bullying/blackmail scenes where our “hero” is forcing the female character to bend to him. Usually this is added because the female character is scared that the super rich hero will take away their child that she has mysterious kept hidden or will refuse to grant her a divorce. You get the idea?

    Gosh, after writing that I am beginning to question why I read this stuff. Oh, yeah…because they are addicting and pure brain candy. I can read a Harlequin Presents novel by reading maybe a paragraph each page. So why do that? I like the simplicity of the stories. You know what you are going to get. Yes, they are very cookie cutter, but sometimes that predictability is nice when you just want to turn off you brain.

    Though I am confessing this love of Harlequin Presents to you doesn’t mean I am ready to start placing HP on hold at my local library. Remember, I work in a library? Ah, the ridicule and teasing. No thank you. Nor do I want to pay $3.59 at Walmart. Buying them used is too much trouble. So how do I get my grubby hands on them? Netgalley.

    If you have an e-reader and haven’t heard of Netgalley, shame on you! It is a great site that solely deals in e-book ARC (Advance Reader Copy). I can usually get 5 or 6 HP at a time and that will tie me over for a few months. In exchange for the ARC I will give an honest review. Normally, I write a couple of sentences because that is usually the extent of a HP. No long in depth reviews because HP aren’t really that deep in my opinion. I still love them though.

    I will usually give 3 to 4 stars on Goodreads for a HP. 5 stars for a HP is very rare. Like Halley’s Comet rare. I have easily read hundreds of HP and I can count on one hand the number I have given 5 stars too.

   That being said, I wanted to mention a HP that I recently acquired from Netgalley, Princess in the Iron Mask by Victoria Parker. This is Ms. Parker’s debut novel. Here is a summary of the book from Goodreads:

A princess in hiding
   Dispatched by the king to retrieve his headstrong, errant daughter, Lucas Garcia thought this was just another day at the office. That's before he meets Princess Claudine Verbault, who's adamant that returning to the kingdom that banished her as a child is never going to happen.

A barely concealed attraction!

   Hidden from the spotlight, the now-independent Claudia has learned the art of being the anti-perfect princess. But Lucas does not look like the kind of man to accept insubordination! If only she could bargain with this frustratingly immovable man and give him something to distract him from his duty.

    While the summary is a little bland, I decided to give this a try. I was extremely surprised to find myself drawn in by the characters of Claudia and Lucas. Their dialog and chemistry are a perfect combination to keep you invested in the story. Ms. Parker was able to do what a lot of HP writers can’t do. In 185 pages, she had you fully invested in these characters. I really wish she would have focused more on Claudia’s family and their back story. There is a big rift between Claudia and her family and it was a golden opportunity to take this HP one step further. There was actually a lot of potential for this story to be drawn out. In fact I could easily see Princess in the Iron Mask as being a full fledged contemporary romance novel. Kudos to Victoria Parker for creating a unique set of characters and for constructing a HP novel that goes above and beyond the standard. 

SIDENOTE: Are the covers absolutely terrible? Terribly awesome that is. I love cookie cutter covers. I just don't know where to start when making fun of them. Don't get my started on Amish Romance covers.....

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Love Affair with Johanna Lindsey

      We all have our guilty pleasure authors. Authors, no matter how terrible their material may have gotten over the years, we are still loyal to. I have always loved reading but my love of romance novels can be pretty much summed up with one author: Johanna Lindsey. The first book I ever read by Lindsey was Gentle Rogue (Malory Family #3). I picked this up at the grocery store when I was in junior high. I had just started reading romance novels, but nothing prepared me for Johanna Lindsey. Gentle Rogue hooked me in forever. Georgina’s and James adventures, family,  and love story captured my inner romantic. I became addicted to her novels. This was right when the Internet was really taking off for the masses so I began scouring whatever I could find on her works. Since I was in middle school when all this started, I was too embarrassed to check out her novels at my local library (this was waaaay before the days of the privacy of self-check out). I had to get my mom to get them at the grocery store or dig through boxes at my local used bookstore. When I discovered Ebay, I was in Johanna Lindsey heaven! 

           So what makes Johanna Lindsey’s writing so wonderful in my opinion? Her characters. All are filled with their own unique characteristics and the way she compliments each couple with pinches of humor, steaminess, and chemistry is utterly awesome. 

       Over the years, I have eagerly awaited every new novel. I always manage to be the first on the hold list at my library or will abuse my librarian power to have cataloging give me the book before anyone else.
       About a year ago, my book club read One Summer by David Baldacci. This was my first Baldacci book so I was very intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. I read it and  I loathed this book. By page 10 I wanted to gouge my eyes out at the predicable and terrible storyline. I ended up discussing my disgust with the person who recommended this book to the club. He said that everyone has that one author who they will read everything they put out because you remember that feeling of how amazing their work can be. This really struck a cord with me because I had been pretty disappointed in the last 3 Johanna Lindsey novels: Let Love Find You (Reid Family #4)  (2012), When Passion Rules  (2011), and That Perfect Someone (2010). All earned 3 stars according to my Goodreads. Each deserved a 2 but my love and dedication to Ms. Lindsey’s previous work guilted my conscience into giving each that last additional star.
     So when I read that her 50th novel would be coming out this year (6/11/13), I was excited. I prayed that she stepped it up and would return with a comeback novel that would make me fall in love with her writing all over again.
      Once I discovered One Heart To Win on the processing cart yesterday in the cataloger’s office I begged for her to immediately process it. I went straight home and dived right in. To my joy, I discovered that the Johanna Lindsey I remember was coming back! Though it wasn’t up to par with my favorites, One Heart To Win did a great job of stomping over Ms. Lindsey’s recently novels. The characters had chemistry, humor, and a wonderful sparkling repartee.
     Though it was a well improved step above her recent works, Ms. Lindsey did forget one teeny tiny part in One Heart To Win: the sex.  No I’m not saying that Ms. Lindsey went all conservative on me and left out the sex. The characters do have sex…well I’m pretty sure they did…it was super short (about one paragraph) and so vague I had to reread that one scene a few times to make sure I comprehended what was going on. I’m not saying that Lindsey’s work is up there with the descriptiveness of some of today’s erotica, but it definitely wasn’t flatlining either. I was quite surprised that Lindsey just copped out on this. I felt that by skipping a love scene(s) Lindsey was shortchanging her fans. Don’t get me wrong, I still stand by my statement that this novel is a definite improvement over her recent ones. Cake is still good without the icing, but icing always makes it so much better.
      Every summer, I completely forget everything on my to-be read list and indulge in nothing but smutty romances. My summer, I do what I want! That being said, I have included a list of my favorite Johanna Lindsey novels. If you never have read anything by Ms. Lindsey I encourage you to dive on in. Though she has had her ups and downs, most of her novels are truly wonderful and I cannot recommend them enough.
Top Favorite Johanna Lindsey Novels
  1. Gentle Rogue(Malory #3) – Though this is the 3rd in the series, you can easily figure out the family structure without reading in order.
  2. Once  A Princess (Cardinia’s Royal Family #1)
  3. Man of My Dreams
  4. Paradise Wild
  5. Tender Rebel(Malory #2)
  6. Secret Fire
  7. Fires of Winter
  8. You Belong To Me(Cardinia’s Royal Family #2)
  9. Angel (Wyoming #3)
  10. Prisoner of My Desire
  11. A Gentle Feuding
  12. Glorious Angel(Southern #1)
  13. Captive Bride 

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