Meet the Review Staff at Love Romance Passion

Zarabeth – The Royal Fact Checker

“Research is Golden.”

Hi Ladies! (and gents who will never admit they’ve read this :P)

I’m Zarabeth! I live and love in Boston now. I’m a Mary Kay Consultant and a Research Coordinator at Boston Medical Center. I love the historical romance that isn’t afraid to do its homework on the period, customs, and costumes. I like a little smut but don’t want to see any of those words- you know which ones I mean.

My favorites are inevitably spinsters or women of experience who have been around the block and know who they are. No peppy ingénues for me. I need to identify with my heroines and simply can’t abide the airheads, though naiveté is allowed. I like men who are men and need my heroes to have a bit of a primal nature to them, whether they keep it under wraps, are haunted by it, or let their rakish ways consume them.

Learn more about Zarabeth in her Reader Highlight.

Read all of Zarabeth’s reviews here on Love Romance Passion.

Sharon S. – PNRimpared

“Feeding my addiction one book at a time and proud of it!”

I am a 44 year old wife (married 20 years), mother of two girls (15 & 9), second degree Black Belt in Taekwondo and I am addicted to PNR/UF, paranormal mysteries and recently M/M romances. Books are my crack, the kindle is my pipe and amazon.com is my dealer. Yes, I have a problem, and NO, I don’t want help <G>. I am constantly PNRimpared.

I love alpha-males. I like them to be ornery and arrogant with a small gooey center. I want them to get their asses handed to them by a tough, smart mouthed (snarky) female that teaches them they have to *earn a woman’s respect and trust.* I like my UF dark and even bordering on horror. I also like witty PNR. I want nothing to do with sappy.

When it comes to M/M though I *want the sappy happy crap <G>.* Double standard? You bettcha!

I don’t like erotica. I need to have a substantial plot and romance.

My first (and favorite) PNR was J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series and then Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. My favorite UFs are Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series, Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series and Karen Chance’s Cassandra Palmer series. (I really have an 8 page list of my favorites)

If I had to pick the Ultimate Alpha-Male it would be Barrons from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever Series (if you haven’t read this series go cry on a pile of books, cause you are so out of the loop). My Ultimate Kick-Ass female would be Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews.

I like to hang out on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3245634-sharon), Supernatural Underground (favorite author blog) and I have a list of about 16 other blogs I stalk. Contact me if you are looking for some suggestions.

Read all of Sharon’s reviews here on Love Romance Passion.

Susan S. – Romantic Suspense Special Agent 003

“File No. 2011-003-210″

Favorite Subgenres: Romantic Suspense, Erotic Romance, “Dark” Paranormal Romances, and Regency Era Historicals. Although…Georgian is good too.

Favorite Trope: Reformed Rakes

Characters I Can’t Get Enough Of: Kenyon’s Dark-Hunters, or any paranormal character in leather. I also love law enforcement officers. If there’s a hero/heroine with a badge-I’m all over it! Then of course…there’s the unscrupulous, but oh so handsome rakes.

Blah-Blah: I’m an avid coffee drinking reader; who’s always surrounded by books. I use the pseudonym Witchy Woman. Mainly because of my love of the show Bewitched. Not to mention, I own a lot of books about witches. My favorite? L.J. Smith’s The Secret Circle trilogy.

Favorite Book Types: Crime fiction, Harlequin Intrigues, and novels which have at least 7 brothers and sisters. You know…series!

Favorite Authors Intro: I just know, I’m going to get in trouble for this! Before I begin, let me apologize. “Sorry, truly sorry.” “Holy hell-I knew I’d forget so and so!” All right. Let’s take a quick peek at who I’m wasting too much money on.

Pedestal Status: Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, Freda Michel, and Nora Roberts.

Favorite Authors by Name: Sherrilyn Kenyon, Devyn Quinn, Terry Spear, Lydia Dare

Favorite Authors Continued: L.J. Smith, Julie Garwood, Kerrelyn Sparks, Gena Showalter, Lynsay Sands, Erica Ridley, Amelia Grey, Jude Deveraux, P.C. Cast, Tracy Cooper-Posey, Stacey Kennedy, Isabel Roman, J.R. Ward (You were right, Sandra!), Donna Lea Simpson, Eve Langlais, Julie Dolcemaschio, Michele Hauf, Roxanne Rhoads, Kimberly Frost, Judi Fennell, Monica Burns, Tessa Dare, Susan Crandall, Jenna Mills, Emma Holly, Linda Howard, Michelle Miles, Sharon Sala, Nina Bruhns, Carolyn Brown, Suzanne Selfors, Sharon Donovan, Deanna Jewel, B.J. Daniels, Lisabet Sarai, Cathleen Ross, Garland, Brit M., Kilt Kilpatrick, Trinity Blacio, Cynthia Gentry, Reno Lark, Em Brown, Eliza Gayle, Brieanna Robertson, N.J. Walters, among others. And of course…Nora Roberts. Oh, would you look at that! I already mentioned her. Well, considering I own approximately 40 of her books, she deserved another mention.

Learn more about Susan in her Reader Highlight.

Read all of Susan’s reviews here on Love Romance Passion.

Sandra Scholes – Homoerotic Princess

“Wickedly admiring hot young men since 2004.”

Sandra likes nothing more than cuddling up to a good romance novel or two. Her firm favourites are Regency, Victorian, (read into this anything – period.) Homoerotic romance has her up all night if it’s the right book. She likes a good tragedy plot, or one that can’t be worked out easy by the characters, and she likes resolutions too. Humor in a plot is appreciated, but not always received if it’s horror or sci-fi in nature.

Her favourite authors are: Nancy Kilpatrick, Anne Rice, Stephen King, D H Starr, Mitzi Szereto, Sara Reinke, Cecilia Tan, and Dyanna Ashe.

She doesn’t care for contemporary much, unless it’s really good and has got her clinched in the first couple of paragraphs. She doesn’t care for soppy dramas or plots that are easy to solve. Old style authors don’t impress her much – they just remind her of her school days of having to read them.

Learn more about Sandra in her Reader Highlight.

Read all of Sandra’s reviews here on Love Romance Passion.

Carla F. – Viscountess of Verso

“Certain that all Dukes, Earls, and Viscounts are handsome of face, intelligent and need no padding for their shoulders.”

Carla is a Systems Analyst and mother of two boys. She needs the escapism that romance brings.

Favorite Genres: the Historical (Medieval, Tudor, Regency, Victorian, Early American, Western (any subgenres left?)); Contemporary, (but only occasionally suspense); M/M (not one but two men!); the bad boys of the night: werewolves and vampires.

Her favorite authors (in alphabetical order) are: Shayla Black, Candance Camp, Liz Carlyle, Victoria Dahl, Lydia Dare, Tessa Dare, Sylvia Day, Jennifer Haymore, Elizabeth Hoyt, Samantha Kane, Lisa Kleypas, Josh Lanyon, Erin McCarthy, K. A. Mitchell, Julia Quinn, Marie Sexton, Sherry Thomas, and Terry Spear.

Heroines: Smart is most important; there are some TSTL heroines who have tempted her to throw her Kindle and stomp on it.

Heroes: Alpha males are almost always welcome, but sometimes nothing but a geek will do.

Learn more about Carla in her Reader Highlight.

Read all of Carla’s reviews here on Love Romance Passion.

Reader Highlight with Scorpio M

Keira: What are your favorite romance subgenres and why?

Scorpio M: I read almost every romance subgenre but my favorites are straight contemporaries and historicals. Contemps for the pop culture references and the feel of modern life being lived well. And Historicals because I adore the structure of manners and courtship, of emotions fighting societal constraints.

Keira: Sum up your top 5 favorite books (in all romance subgenres or a specific subgenre) in one sentence each (two at most!):

Scorpio M:

  1. Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath: A love story so beautiful & honest, it didn’t need a sex scene.
  2. Naked Edge by Pamela Clare: A modern day reformed rake meets virgin tale, suspenseful & deep.
  3. Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas: Two words: Derek Craven.
  4. Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl: Bad girl turns good, tries to run from her past but can’t outrun the man who loves her unconditionally.
  5. The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt: Proof that a hero need not be a Lord, Earl or Duke to steal hearts.

Keira: In romances is it the hero or heroine who makes or breaks the novel? Why?

Scorpio M: For me, the hero is usually the one who makes it a keeper or not but the heroine is the one who, if really poorly written, will make me “break” the novel..i.e., hurl it across the room!

Keira: How do you define love?

Scorpio M: Tough question. Love is respectful, hopeful, humorous & passionate.

Keira: Does the cover of a book sway you toward impulse purchases? What do you like/hate about the current cover trends?

Scorpio M: I have never bought a romance based on the cover alone.

Keira: What storylines do you love the most? The ones where if you saw any hint of them on the back blurb would make the book an auto-buy?

Scorpio M: I like reunited lovers, frenemies, May-Dec storylines.

Keira: Which do you like more: finishing a book or starting a new one?

Scorpio M: I like the feeling of discovery so I like starting a new novel more.

Keira: Which author is your go to for a solid comfort read?

Scorpio M: Jo Goodman was my favorite author in the 90s and her earlier works (Passion’s Sweet Revenge, Wild Sweet Ecstasy) remain on my keeper shelf and always make me feel good upon re-read.

Keira: Name 3-5 romance authors you haven’t had a chance to read yet, but want to read. Why do you want to read them?

Scorpio M:

  1. Diana Gabaldon: Need to find out why OUTLANDER is so beloved.
  2. Karen Marie Moning: I am not well read in paranormals but everyone seems to love the Fever Series.
  3. Lori Foster: Heard she’s very funny.

Keira: You’re going on an adventure and must cross a great river, trek over land that is both swampy and hilly by turns and covered in lots of woods, and endure a bitter winter with just your wits and what you could carry. Which romance hero would you pick to help you survive?

Scorpio M: Lord Arden Winter from Laura Kinsale’s, The Dream Hunter. He’s an adventurer who has travelled to foreign lands. Uncomfortable in British society, his quiet demeanor hides intense emotions. He would know exactly what to do.

Keira:
Describe the perfect hero in 10 words or less:

Scorpio M: My perfect hero is principled, compassionate, passionate & masculine.

Keira: What is your favorite part of a romance novel?

Scorpio M: I love the moment when the hero realizes that he needs the heroine. Not just want or lust but simple, honest need.

Keira: What romance novel are you reading now? Why did you pick it up? Which book do you plan to read next?

Scorpio M: I’m reading Julie Anne Long’s, I Kissed an Earl in preparation for her new one, What I Did For a Duke. It has received fab reviews and I heard it features an older hero. Perfect. I appreciate mature men. :)

Keira: How big is your TBR pile?

Scorpio M: BIG. Tall. Large. Maybe even huge but I can’t stop. Romance novels are my addiction!

(This is just a partial look at my TBR pile.)

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss? Floor’s open!

Scorpio M: I just want to say that what I love most about being a romance reader is the community that romance devotees have built. Over the past year I’ve found blogs I love (such as this one!), debated hot-button romance issues and chatted with Meljean Brook, Lorelei James & Pamela Clare via the web. How awesome is that?! I am truly thankful for all the HEA lovers out there and the romance authors that feed our hunger. :)

Reader Highlight with Carla F.

Keira: What are your favorite romance subgenres and why?

Carla: I can never seem to get enough of Regency/Victorian books. There were such complex rules for society, and particularly members of the ton. It is fun to see the heroes and heroines manage to follow some rules faithfully and struggle to follow others. Also it is particularly fun to watch them break rules and get caught.

Medieval history has always fascinated me. Once again society had such definite rules. When you bring in the ideal of romance with a knight, his lady and a castle to protect, I can really enjoy myself and sometimes learn something new about the period.

I see Contemporaries as a “break” from all that historical detail and social hierarchy. Heroes and heroines behave in a way that I can understand (well most of the time), and it is nice not to have so many rules restricting their behavior. They also remind me why I would probably not like to live in either the Regency/Victorian/Medieval times.

Keira: Sum up your top 5 favorite books in one sentence each (two at most!) and/or retitle your top 5 favorite books:

Carla:

1) A divorced couple realizes their love while fleeing unrest in India.—Not Quite a Husband.

2) A plain woman marries the viscount that she has secretly loved for years and helps him to deal with a horrific episode in his past.—To Seduce A Sinner

3) After years of meaningless relationships free-spirit Cole falls in love with uptight accountant Jonathan.—Strawberries for Dessert

4) Deaf woman finds love and acceptance with the laird of a clan of werewolves.—Moon Craving

5) NASCAR widow loves again with the help of a younger, sexy driver.—Flat-Out Sexy

Keira: In romances is it the hero or heroine who makes or breaks the novel? Why?

Carla: I had to think about this one awhile. Since I am willing to put up with a TSTL heroine if I like the hero, I think it comes down to the hero for me. If a book is written in first person narrative from the heroine’s perspective, I will usually stop reading the book immediately. I need to know what the hero is thinking. (That way I can live vicariously through the heroine. LOL.)

Keira: Ready for a tough one? How do you define love?

Carla: I basically think of love as sharing your life with someone. You trust them, they trust you, and you have got each other’s back.

Keira: What are the most memorable sex scenes (good or bad) that you’ve come across?

Carla: Well I don’t know about most memorable, but one of my favorites is from Victoria Dahl’s, Start Me Up. Lori and Quinn have decided to embark on an affair (i.e., meaningless sex), and Quinn won’t proceed until he does a little research on what Lori likes in bed by reading a romance novel he finds her purse. That first sex scene where he “gives her what she wants” is hot, sweet, geeky, and funny all at the same time.

Keira: All’s fair in love and war. If it came down to a fight who would win: a vampire or a werewolf?

Carla: The werewolf would have the vampire down so fast he wouldn’t know what hit him.

Keira: What storylines do you love the most? The ones where if you saw any hint of them on the back blurb would make the book an auto-buy?

Carla: A marriage of convenience will hook me almost every time. (If it is an Earl/Duke marriage of convenience one, I am in romance heaven.) I also love the “ugly duckling” type stories where the hero falls in love with heroine even though she seen as quite plain to others.

Keira: And the opposite…What are some things you can’t stand reading about in romances?

Carla: As I hinted at above, TSTL heroines drive me crazy.

Please no fairies, elves, succubi, Hobbits, etc. I am pretty conventional when it comes to the paranormal (does conventional and paranormal even fit in the same sentence?) and stick mostly to werewolves and vampires.

Contemporary “women in jeopardy” ones can get extremely boring (she is wounded, they have sex, something gets blown up, they have sex, etc.)

Keira: What was the first romance you ever read? Do you own it? Is it the book that got you hooked on romances?

Carla: The first romance I remember reading was a Harlequin (back when there was only the one line) when I was in 8th grade. One of my classmates was always reading one, and I guess she must have lent this one to me. I remember that the cover was different from most of the ones that I had seen at the time. The story was a woman torn between two men, and both men were on the cover. One was in a ski suit and the other a business suit. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t really get hooked on romances until later.

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss? Floor’s open!

Carla: I was an early adapter of ebooks because of book allergies (started reading them in 2000 on my PalmPilot). For years I felt like I was out there alone, I am glad that with the Kindle and other devices ebooks are finally catching on, and I can read just about anything. That is why I like sites like this one to know what other people are reading. Thanks for having the site and thanks for inviting me to participate.

Reader Highlight with Sandra Scholes

Keira: What are your favourite romance subgenres and why?

Sandra: I have been reading romance novels for a while now, and I have to say I like immersing myself in period romance; the Regency and Victorian periods are very attractive to me, and being the horror fanatic that I am, supernatural romance novels have a tendency to grasp me in a way that some don’t. GLBT romances have that extra something I like and they are interesting, and show a different way of how people of the same sex find love and try to keep it. I think it is mainly due to GLBT fiction being different from standard romance that is the reason I enjoy reading it so much.

Keira: Sum up your top 5 favourite short stories in one sentence each and /or retitle your top 5 favourite books.

Sandra:

1. Unsent by Greg Herren from The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica
2. The Unmasking of Lady Loveless by Nicola Cornick from Wicked Regency Nights
3. Whitby by Jeff Mann for Men at Noon, Monsters at Midnight
4. Fangs for Hire by Jenna Black for The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance
5. Troll Bridge by Neil Gaiman from Smoke and Mirrors

Keira: In romances is it the hero or heroine who makes or breaks the novel? Why?

Sandra: It depends on how the novel is structured, and whether the hero is a bit of a rake. In quite a few of the novels I’ve had the pleasure to read, it is the heroine who has the power to make the novel readable, and the character has to be the type of woman who is fair, strong and knows her own mind, especially in historical romance novels.

Keira: Time to put you on the spot *g*…how do you define love?

Sandra: Unconditional, and sometimes deep, love can strike at any time and it can be at first sight – for me love is special. Love is when the one you are with finishes your sentences and vice versa during those cuddly, intimate moments.

Keira: What are the most memorable sex scenes (good or bad) that you’ve come across?

Sandra: In The Master of Seacliff by Max Pierce, the sex scene between Andrew and Duncan was kept right until the end of the novel, and was worth waiting for as it was subtle, plus there was enough tense build up between the characters for the pay off to be that much sweeter. Usually men writing gay erotica can be a bit coarse with their sex scenes, but I found this author’s sensitive approach to the bedroom sequence different and refreshing; it felt right, and would be the sort of scenario the couple would have engaged in, so they were actively in character.

Keira: All’s fair in love and war. If it came down to a fight who would win: a Regency rake or a Regency heroine?

Sandra: I would say it would more than likely be the heroine – think about what she can do with the heels on those shoes! Despite her delicate attitude and her pristine looks, she has quite the punch when she needs to. Plus I think the rake would let her win just so he could
seduce her later.

Keira: What storylines do you love the most? The ones where if you saw any hint of them on the back blurb would make the book an auto-buy?

Sandra: Something original, instantly memorable; for me the back blurb of a novel is crucial and my favourite storylines are comical situations between characters who seem the most unlikely to get on so there is plenty of conflict between the two before they get to the hugging and kissing.

Keira: And the opposite…what are some things you can’t stand reading about in romance?

Sandra: Some contemporary romance settings don’t appeal to me where the characters are too predictable, and lack substance and originality. I suppose it is easier to come up with a story like that, but in my mind more taxing to come up with one that has required a lot of research, time and effort. I rarely come across books that don’t have effort put in them thankfully, but they do exist.

Keira: What was the first romance you ever read? Do you own it? Is it the book that got you hooked on romance?

Sandra: Erotic Fairy Tales: A Romp through the Classics by Mitzi Szereto. I do own the book, and bought it from Borders many years ago. It happened to be the book that got me into erotic romance, which is what ultimately got me into contemporary, supernatural and other romance subgenres. There is something for everyone between those pages, and its lots of fun to read.

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss? Floor’s Open!

Sandra: When I first got into reading romances I made a mental note of the various authors along the way, and on browsing websites and blogs I noticed they had started out writing for romance publishers, and then moved into penning more daring erotica novels. I found this quite surprising, but I suppose everyone needs a change now and again, and what else could be as fulfilling!

Reader Highlight with Mandy Dougherty

Keira: What are your favorite romance subgenres and why?

Mandy: My loyalty lies in paranormal romance and urban fantasy. It seems no matter how much I try to broaden my horizons I am constantly pulled back to those brooding vampire warriors and devilishly handsome demons. I will never get enough of the amazing world building in paranormals. It is fantastic to step into a world where there is a dangerously protective hero whose love and life is eternal.

Keira: Sum up your top 5 favorite books in one sentence each (no run ons! *g*):

Mandy:

#5 Born a God, yet forced to live a life of shame he walks the Earth untouchable, but fate may have other plans. (Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon)

#4 His gift is a curse that’s darkness will allow him to touch the one female who has brought love to his life. (Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward)

#3 An awakening inside her draws her to the arms of a male of worth among a race she has devoted her life to annihilating. (Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione)

#2 High School bites, but true love is eternal. (Twilight by Stephenie Meyer)

#1 The shadows of a wretched past haunt the hardened brother, as an undying love pulls him to the light. (Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward)

Keira: In romances is it the hero or heroine who makes or breaks the novel? Why?

Mandy: I am a sucker for a good hero, the more damaged the better. There is something about a strong, confident man who has been shunned by the world that melts my heart and makes me swoon. It is vital to find an author who can seamlessly carry you from the pain of the heroes struggle through the beauty in his breakdown. I really enjoy finding the soft, kind hearted interiors in these men that portray themselves as cold hearted and callous.

Keira: My all time favorite hard to answer question… How do you define love?

Mandy: Love is looking in someone’s eyes and seeing who they truly are deep inside. It is seeing the true you reflected in those eyes and knowing that they accept you for your flaws and cherish you for your strengths.

Keira: What are the most memorable sex scenes (good or bad) that you’ve come across?

Mandy: My all-time favorite sex scene is between Bella and Zsadist in J.R. Ward’s Lover Awakened. The beautiful Bella is drawn to Zsadist, the emotionally and physically scarred brother. The other members of the brotherhood warn Bella that Zsadists interior is as dark and scarred as his exterior. Despite all warnings Bella remains physically drawn to Z. She follows him to his room one evening during a party at the brotherhoods mansion. After a brief altercation Zsadist forces Bella facedown onto his bathroom floor. There he is everything short of a gentleman and a potential rape scene ignites. To his surprise he finds Bella turned on by his rough handling and more than willing to take anything that the brother is willing to offer. The scene ends abruptly after he realizes scaring her off with his bad boy act isn’t going to work like it had for him in the past. Despite Z’s reputation Bella longs for him completely.

Keira: All’s fair in love and war. If it came down to a fight who would win: a vampire or a werewolf?

Mandy: Just like my scale is tipped heavily toward the paranormal genre, my scale is equally tipped toward the vampire as well. Speed, agility, fangs, all of these could be characteristics of both, but the vampire is captivating. Having the ability to glamour, compel or however your favorite author chooses to convey it, is a superpower among superpowers. If you throw in mind-reading and some of the many other traits that are written for them, the vampire is a foe to be reckoned with. Oh, and the fact that they are now being written as eye candy would totally throw anyone off of their game.

Keira: What storylines do you love the most? The ones where if you saw any hint of them on the back blurb would make the book an auto-buy?

Mandy: I kind of alluded to this in a previous answer, but I love a scarred hero. If you throw in a human heroine who can hold her own in the immortal world I am a sure in. I like a confident heroine who complements the abilities of her immortal mate, but can do without one who is overpowering throughout the book and feels the need to prove her worth and human ability. Come on, you are a human.

Keira: Now for the reverse. What are some things you can’t stand reading about in romances?

Mandy: The overconfident, borderline cocky heroine is a deal killer for me. If you are a human heroine and you have stumbled across this dark stranger who you only see in the light of the moon, please take it for that and be willing to accept that fate has drawn you to life for him. I don’t need to read a woman fighting the fates on every single page and then at the end melting like putty in the heroes hands. It is not a realistic scenario to be Miss Independent for 495 pages and on page 501 you are meek and incapable.

Can you tell that is a pet peeve of mine? Haha!

Keira: What was the first romance you ever read? Do you own it?

Mandy: Hmmm….Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is the first romance of substance that I read. I know that there were probably some small, teen romances that fell before it, but Heathcliff and Catherine built the love of the romance genre for me. Saying a classic such as Wuthering Heights makes me feel like I have fell so far from the classics by leaning toward paranormals and urban fantasy, but romance is romance none the less. Now write a vampire or demon into the storyline and make it classic and you have me.

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss? Floor’s open!

Mandy: I have read more in the past five years than I could have ever imagined. My library is extensive and I sometimes look at the masses and wonder how I found the time to read them all. Being a mother, wife and full-time student is hectic, crazy and fun, but nothing beats sitting down at night and wondering into a world of immortals to pass the twilight hours. Long gone are the days of high priced material possessions on my holiday list. Grab me a nice bottle of cabernet and a Barnes & Noble Gift Card and I will be forever grateful. *Hint, hint to those of you reading this that are wondering what to get**

Reader Highlight with MJ

Keira: I know from talking with you that you used to be a self proclaimed bookworm but got out of the habit. What made you decide to pick up reading again?

MJ: I guess I missed it. After college I sort of took a break from books, I didn’t want to read anything, not even the paper! Don’t get me wrong I still read a book here and there but it was not like back in the day when I was always reading something be it fiction, romance, horror, etc.

I missed the feeling of traveling in space and time to places I could only get through my imagination and the writings of creative amazing people.

Sometimes you get caught up with life, or better said the daily routine gets to you, and it’s great to take some time to make changes and take back old habits that brought you pleasure and enjoyment. For me one of those things was reading so I have been trying to bring that habit back into my life. For some reason I thought that if I got hooked on romance stories it would lift off and reading would be back in my life easily. And it sort of has! ;)

Keira: If you could rename your top 5 favorite books, what would you call them?

MJ: Oh wow, I don’t think I could top the authors or even dare change their work. I think “Pride and Prejudice”, “Anna Karenina”, “Como agua para chocolate (Like water for chocolate)”, “Persuasion” and “Little Women” are just perfect titles.

But if I dared to change the first I’d call it  “Becoming Mrs. Darcy” (I’m a total Mrs. Darcy wannabe, aren’t we all?) but thank the reading stars I can’t change anything because I don’t think it would cause the impact the original title has throughout the years.

Keira: Which do you like more: finishing a book or starting a new one?

MJ: Starting a new one. I love the feeling of reading the first lines and slowly page by page I get so immersed in the story up to the point that when I finish the book it’s hard to let go. Days after I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows I felt like my little brother had left and would never come back, ha-ha that one was a hard one to finish in the sense that I didn’t want it to end, although I felt the ending was a bit rushed, but that will take me off the topic so like I said, I like starting books more.

Keira: When it comes to romance who makes or breaks the novel: the hero or the heroine?

MJ: This is a very debatable question; it would depend on the book, especially when it comes to all the different protagonists in the novels out there (m/m, f/f, m/f, etc.).

I think it takes two characters to make a romance novel. For me the best stories are those that give you enough details about both the hero and heroine that make reading about the relationship more enjoyable. But I think all romances I’ve read always agree on the same point, in the end it always depends on the heroine. Even if it is based on the toughest of all heroes, he is devoted to the heroine and without her there wouldn’t be a happy ending to his story.

Keira: What heroine type would you like to read more of and why? (Spinsters,  kick-ass,  brainy, wallflowers,  TSTL,  etc.)

MJ: Kick-ass brainy heroines. My favorite heroines are those I can relate to. They don’t have to be perfect, they are strong, brave and determined, with soft, gentle traits. Women who accept their flaws but don’t let their life be ruled by them. They are intelligent and they can break rules without losing their femininity as not to be rude “testosterone-ish” heroines. TSTL get on my nerves, they are so insipid and make it so hard to finish those books.

Keira: How do you define love?

MJ: Wow, first of all, Love is hard to define and I think everyone’s definition of love changes from time to time. Right now I’m a hopeless romantic, so here I go. :)

Have you seen a Pas de Deux? For me that’s the greatest visual definition of love. I love ballet. My favorite part of the performances is the Pas de deux: two dancers, beautiful movements in tune with the perfect music. It usually starts with both dancers in an entrée, then a variation for each of them and a finale in which both dancers come together once again to execute the most spectacular movements.

The entrée, for me is like the first stages of love. The lovers (dancers) meet and slowly get to know each other (through the movements).

Then come the Variations, both dancers perform magical solos, which for me symbolize the happiness and exhilarating feeling you get when you realize you are in love. You are happy, you feel you can conquer and achieve anything, you have someone to share your goals and motivations as well as your downfalls.

In the Finale, they come back together and mesmerize the audience with the greatest movements. They are a true couple. He delicately and strongly supports her in every step so she doesn’t fall, but it’s not only about her, he also shines in the performance. And for him to shine, it takes a strong woman for them to do the poses in perfect equilibrium. It’s not only him that lifts her up in the air, she also has to hold her position or hold his hand with equal force so they don’t fall.

See, I’m a cornball :P

But that’s Love, a perfectly synchronized partnership that makes you feel the uttermost happiness and support, a force that makes you want to share your complete self with the other, and what makes you admire and appreciate what the other shares with you, good or bad.

Keira: Do you read the sex scenes or skip over them? What’s one of the most memorable ones (good or bad) you’ve come across?

MJ: It depends on how deeply I get involved with the story or on my mood. You know when the sex scene is vital for the story, and if you skip it you miss an important part of the story. I’ve skipped sex scenes that are only fillers, the extremely long ones or the ones with too much dirty talk.

Regarding the scenes, I haven’t read that many but I guess the most memorable sex scene believe it or not is the one in Isle Esme in Breaking Dawn. I know, many of you just rolled your eyes or cringed after reading this but that was the first one that came to mind after reading the question. Not that I would love to wake up one day all bruised up, covered with feathers to find the headboard crushed, but there was something about that “fill in the blanks” scene. I guess the fact that you had to imagine what happened is what made it unforgettable to me.

Keira: What is your favorite and/or least favorite plot, trope, or literary device in romance?

MJ: I really wish Cinderella stories would stop. I like my ladies in distress with an edge, can’t stand inept, incompetent heroines that expect everything be solved for them either by the hero or “fairy godmothers” and who think that everything will be fine once the hero steps in.

Haven’t read any of the following yet but I would really be disappointed if I find a book with TV soap clichés like amnesic lovers that reunite, or the evil twin sibling no one knew about. Also I’m not a fan of love triangles; the whole “Pick me, Bella” deal annoyed me (needless to say I didn’t enjoy the all about Jacob chapters) :P And the other thing I am avoiding when searching for new reads are the abusive heroes, I don’t think I could enjoy reading about people being abused and them not doing anything about it.

I enjoy the friends that fall madly in love or better yet the enemies that become lovers. The sexual tension between the last ones is a guilty pleasure. :P

Keira: Does the cover of a book sway you toward impulse purchases? What do you like/hate about the current cover trends?

MJ: Can’t say I never bought a book based on the cover but most of the time the cover is not important. Lately I’ve been basing my choices on the titles or reviews. Sometimes I’m attracted to a title and then when I see the cover I have and “ay ay ay” moment. :S

Regarding the trends I don’t like the excess Photoshop and image collages in covers.  Also, how many more naked torsos embracing can we handle?

I’m more into the nice fonts for the titles and a neutral yet related to the story images.

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss? Floor’s open!

MJ: The pic I sent you is a cool one for me and I sort of owe it to my mom. After I left for college she managed to keep some of my old books and stored them inside a drawer in my old desk at home. The day I found them was so great! I don’t know how my mom chose the books to keep, but what she kept is valuable for me.  It was like a time capsule.

The drawer contains the first set of paperbacks I ever bought with my allowance: The Babysitter’s club #25-28. (When I was in the 4th grade I discovered we could lend books from the school library and they had the Babysitter’s club collection which I devoured.) You can also see my beloved copy of The Secret Garden. I so loved that book. I always have flower seeds around the house, some of them sprout and others don’t. The little kid in me knows that someday I’ll have my own secret garden.

The drawer also contains the very first romance I ever read: The last princess by Cynthia Freeman. I don’t know how many times I read that book but I know it was more than twice as you can see it’s all worn out. It’s hilarious to remember how I used to hide to read it ha-ha. :D

The German books you see were presents from my German class teacher. I used to speak German when I was little and I say used because I didn’t practice over the years. I’m guessing that now I can only have a “Hi, how are you, thank you very much, good bye” conversation in German. I’m more fluent in French but I’ve only read Le Petit Prince in that language.

You can also see my favorite Spanish romance novel: Como agua para chocolate. I really enjoyed how Laura Esquivel could intertwine recipes with a great romance.

The other books in Spanish were classic lit novels we had to read in school. And the rest of the books show you I didn’t (and still don’t) have a favorite genre, I’ve always read different genres.

You also asked me to send you a pic of my TBR pile. Lately I’ve been e-book reading. I have a full folder with e-books I’m planning to read but before I get to them, I’ll be re-reading the books in that drawer. There’s something about holding a book in your hands and turning pages that e-books can’t top. So to kill two birds with one stone, the books in the pic are going to be my TBR pile. :)

Thank you so much for considering me for the interview; I had fun answering the questions. And most of all thank you for the patience.  And now I have a question for you, to us romance reader “newbies”, is there a list of Romances every newbie MUST read? ;)

Reader Highlight with Rebecca of Dirty Sexy Books

Keira: There’s a Kindle glitch that only you know about – if you type in a super secret code all the prices in one subgenre of romance go to zero, which you have to declare when entering the code. What subgenre do you pick and why?

Rebecca: Why do you taunt me with these evil, ‘what ifs?’  I would probably choose historical romance, just because I enjoy them a lot, but I rarely read them.  I’m overwhelmed by the bounty of titles that comes out each month, and so instead of trying to read them all, I am really selective and stick to one or two per month.  Lisa Kleypas and Madeline Hunter are my favorites.

On a side note, I love me those Kindle freebies every week.  I always like to point out that you don’t have to own a Kindle to take advantage of these free book deals.  You can download a Kindle application for your computer (Mac or PC), iPhone, iPad, or just about any electronic gizmo nowadays.  I think that’s one of the smartest moves that Amazon has done in a long time, because Kindles are still pretty expensive, but you don’t need their device to read books in the Kindle format.  Take advantage now!

Keira: What are some of your favorite, underappreciated blog posts at Dirty Sexy Books and why? (Why they’re your favorite, not why they’re underappreciated… ;))

Rebecca: Last summer I wrote a post called You’d Be Surprised At What Turns Me On, where I talked about some not-so-obvious body parts that turn me on, and how I love it when authors go beyond the usual strong arms and six-pack abs (my list includes eyebrows, wrists, and calves).  Surprisingly, nobody commented on it for a whole week, and then one brave soul piped up.  I’m not sure if it was embarrassing or boring, but the crickets were chirping loud and long on that one.  Of course, that was back when I had about ten readers, so maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

I feel incredibly honored that most of my posts are well received, and I firmly believe that DSB readers are the most thoughtful commenters in blogosphere.  I hardly ever get generic feedback like, “Cool post,” which is a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t foster any kind of dialog.

Keira: All’s fair in love and war. If it came down to a fight who would win: a vampire or a werewolf?

Rebecca: In the battle for my heart, a werewolf would win every time, and it all boils down to being furry and having warm body temperature.  I have such a hard time picturing cuddle time with a vampire who is cool to the touch, although that could be a fringe benefit when it’s 90 degrees outside.  I don’t crave ice cream unless it’s hot outside, and the same goes for the cold vamps.

Keira: If you could rename your top 5 favorite books, what would you call them?

Rebecca: I think you’re overestimating my ability to be creative on this one.  I would probably give Linda Howard’s “Cry No More” something more upbeat, only because I have to twist some readers’ arms to get them to try it, and it’s one of my favorite romantic suspense novels.

I’m pulling a blank because most of the time I love the title of a book; it’s the cover art that makes me go crazy.  One of the best science fiction romances I’ve ever read, “Shards of Honor” by Lois McMaster Bujold, has a strong title, but the crappiest cover ever designed.  It’s pink!  It’s a sci-fi romance, and the cover is predominantly pink!  What were they thinking?

Keira: One of your favorite types of heroines is the Kick-Ass Heroine. In your reading experience who are the best KAHs?

Rebecca: I like my heroines lean, mean, and ready to rumble.  On the paranormal romance side I’m a huge fan of Cat from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress Series.  She’s got the right combination of tough stuff on the outside, and crumbly like a cookie on the inside.

On the urban fantasy side there are just too many to list.  Ack!  It’s a great time to be a woman reader, and follow heroines who don’t wait for the white knight to save them.

Since most readers are already familiar with the biggies, like Mercy Thompson and Rachel Morgan, here are a few worthy warrior-women who don’t always get enough press in my opinion:

Well, I could keep going, but that’s a good place to start.

Keira: And some of the worst pansy-ass heroines you’ve come across?

Rebecca: *Groan*  Here’s where I may piss some people off, but my main hang up with Twilight is Bella.  She is such a pansy-ass heroine, she can’t even take a hike through the woods without tripping and needing help from the hero.  Her doe-eyed act grates on my nerves, big time.  *ducking to avoid rotten tomatoes*

Now, that’s not to say that a pansy-ass heroine cannot redeem herself.  I was not in love with Mac from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever Series at the beginning, but this bubble-gum girlie girl has turned into a real, live, butt-kicker herself.

Another one that surprised me was Jane True from Nicole Peeler’s debut, “Tempest Rising.”  I admit, I was totally unimpressed that Jane’s reaction to every danger was to faint, barf, or run away.  I’m hoping she turns things around in the next installment, because otherwise I’m dropping her like a hot potato.

Keira: From one big honking book nerd to another, how many books do you read in a year? What advice would you give those who want to read more?

Rebecca: Well, I read anywhere from 5-7 books a week, so it’s probably a little over 300 per year.  I don’t keep count on a spreadsheet or anything like that, so I have to estimate.  I’m a freak, and that’s partly why I started DSB, because I figured someone else might be interested in hearing about which ones were keepers, and which ones to avoid.

My advice for readers who want to read even more is to stop watching so much television.  Seriously, it rots your brain, whereas even an okay book is doing something for your mind.  I watch about 2-4 hours a week, and that’s it.  The rest of the time I’m either reading or blogging.

The other cool way to read even more is to get into audiobooks.  You can listen to some great stuff while exercising, cleaning, commuting, etc.  If the price of audiobooks makes you crap your pants, try your local library.  You’ll be surprised at what you can borrow in CD or MP3 formats.  There’s great stuff just waiting to be heard.

Keira: One of the cool features at Dirty Sexy Books is the DSBC (Dirty Sexy Book Club). Care to talk a little about your book club and how newbies can join in the fun?

Rebecca: The Dirty Sexy Book Club is both a pain in my ass, and a constant source of delight.  To any blogger who wants to start an online book club I say, beware!  It’s more work than you’d think.  On the other hand, it’s in the club’s discussion forum where I really get to know my fellow members, and we have some great chats.  We’ve even had the featured author show up and participate 3 or 4 times.

Members come and go, but I’m amazed that DSBC is coming up on its one-year anniversary in July.  It’s an incredibly informal club, and anyone is welcome to participate at any time.  One of my goals with the club is to push my fellow readers to expand their horizons, and try books outside their comfort zone.  We’ve done some cool themes, like science fiction romance, western romance, steampunk, and Harlequin contemporaries, and many readers have been amazed to find that they like this stuff.

If anyone wants to join us for June, we’ll be talking about “Leaving Paradise” by Simone Elkeles, which won our young adult vote, starting on Monday, June 21st.  About the second week in June we’ll be nominating historical romances for July, so it’s a great time to come over and get into the club groove.

Keira: Who are your top 3 favorite romance heroes and why do you love them?

Rebecca: Number one has to be Jamie from Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander.”  I’d go back in time to fall in love with that guy, and the time before penicillin scares me silly.  On paper, he doesn’t have much to offer, but he’s pure of heart.

Number two is Wrath from J. R. Ward’s “Dark Lover,” and I have a soft spot for this book because it really launched my love affair with paranormal romance as a genre.  I dig Wrath’s transformation from the big loner baddie to the happily whipped lover boy.

Number three is Bones from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress Series.  His wicked sense of humor is beyond sexy, which kind of explains why I didn’t like book four after raving about the first three installments.  His humor was in the toilet, and I hope it resurfaces in the next one.

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about or discuss? Floor’s open:

Rebecca: I’m always pushing readers to branch out.  Don’t get stuck in a rut, or stick to closely to one genre, because you can burn out and miss out that way.  Okay, that’s my last bit of unsolicited advice, I promise.

Many thanks for having me Keira!

Reader Highlight with Magdalen of Promantica

Keira: You started Promantica late last year. Why did you start and what are some of your favorite posts that you’ve written so far?

Magdalen: I’d been blogging about other things (my life generally, knitting, quilting, even local politics) for a while when I heard the April 2009 NPR interview with Sarah Wendell and Amy Tan, aka the Smart Bitches. I was stunned by their blog — I’d been living in a cave with respect to romances, and had no idea social media specific to the genre had taken off. Here were bright, educated, funny women interested in romances in a way I’d never seen before.

Before I knew it, I’d found Sarah Tanner’s relatively new blog, Monkey Bear Reviews. If it had only been book reviews, I probably wouldn’t have started to comment, but she had some very intriguing questions about publishing and the media. I’ll pretty much comment anywhere (I’m slutty that way), and her blog was still small enough that I got to know people and be known.

And all of it got me thinking about romance fiction, why it’s not respected, and so forth. I actually wrote a couple posts on my “life in general” blog on the subject. But that didn’t feel like quite the right venue, so I started Promantica.

My favorite posts? Truthfully, I still think my very first post — about etiquette on the Internet — is still timely and funny. I suspect no one else has ever read it though; I had no followers when it was posted. After that, well — it’s hard to pick a favorite when there’s so much variation.

Keira: Which do you like more: finishing a book or starting a new one?

Magdalen: I have a confession to make. I only read one book at a time. Yes, there are books only partially finished that I haven’t yet declared to be DNFs, but those have been kicking around for months. So, generally, if I start a book, I either finish it or ditch it. For that reason, I enjoy finishing books because it means I’m invested in them and like them well enough to keep going. Also, all the angsty goodness is usually at the end!

Keira: You’re stuck in an airport when your next flight has been delayed. You visit the airport bookstore to get yourself a romance and a kind stranger offers to buy you your choice. What genre or author do you pick?

Magdalen: You might as well make that my husband, Ross, who a) actually is someone I might abuse enough to say, “Honey, would you please go buy me a book?” and b) has about as much clue about the romance genre as a total stranger would. So, what instructions would I give Ross about what to buy? That’s a great question — I can’t just say, “Buy me a Nora Roberts,” because what if I’d already read whatever he bought? I means, she’s written hundreds of books and I haven’t read them all, but I’ve read enough to lower the probability Ross would find one that was new to me.

I think I would tell him to look for romantic suspense — I don’t read that much of it, and as I recently discovered, any book is readable if you’re eager to find out whodunnit. As Anne Stuart is a leading light in that sub-genre (and I’ve only read one of hers), that’s probably the name I’d give him.

Keira: What is your favorite and/or least favorite plot, character type, or literary device?

Magdalen: Oddly enough, I don’t have an immediate answer to the question of what my least favorites might be. I’m not a fan of medievals, mostly because a modicum of personal hygiene seems more romantic to me. But for every stock character that someone might name — the virgin heroine, the manslut hero, the beta hero, the other woman, the villain — I can probably think of a book I liked that had one. Same thing with tropes, like the marriage of convenience, the trapped-together-by-a-blizzard meet-cute, and so forth.

I have a rule: every book gets judged on its own merit. That means, for example, that Loretta Chase’s Don’t Tempt Me, with its sexually knowledgeable but miraculously virginal heroine, didn’t bother me. A great writer like Chase could probably redeem anything I think I hate in the abstract.

Wait — I take it back. I do have a fundamental objection to one specific sort of romance. When a contemporary romance pairs up a famous celebrity with a pleasantly non-famous mate, I’m skeptical. There’s a reason why the divorce rate is higher in Hollywood, for example, and it’s not one that encourages me, as a reader, to believe the HEA in those books.

As for what I like, that’s much easier. I like smart characters in interesting situations. I like characters who fall in love above the waist before the loins get involved. I like plausible backstories; too much childhood trauma and I want that person in therapy, not in a relationship. And I do love angsty goodness in a romance: if the protagonists have good reason to think their romance isn’t going to work out, I eat it up with a spoon.

Keira: Who are your five favorite romance heroes?

Magdalen: Even though I first read Betty Neels’s Fate is Remarkable in 1970, I just wrote some fan fiction about its hero, Hugo van Elven, for the Bettys at The Uncrushable Jersey Dress blog. He’s the classic Rich Dutch Doctor from Neels’s early Harlequin/Mills & Boon romances, but with a twist. At the end of the book we learn that he fell in love with Sarah years before he suggested the standard Neels trope: the chaste marriage of convenience. Now there’s a great source of angst! So I rewrote the plot from Hugo’s POV (in a fraction of the words that Neels used, of course), and fell in love with him all over again.

Forty years later, I’ve just fallen in love with Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle, the pater familias in Mary Balogh’s Slightly series. Balogh does such a great job exploring why Wulf is the way he is, and just how much (or how little) he can change. The advantage to romances written more recently is the amount of time we’re allowed to spend inside the hero’s head. I’m not convinced men think the way we’d like to believe they do, but that’s why they call it fiction. (Ross, proofreading over my shoulder, tells me that men don’t think at all. We women think they think, but they don’t. Hey, that’s just what he’s telling me. Don’t shoot the messenger.)

I’m a sucker for almost all versions of the Beauty and the Beast plot, but my favorite — the one I’d strongly consider running to get if the smoke alarm went off — is “The Beast of Belleterre,” a novella by Mary Jo Putney found in a couple different Christmas anthologies. James, Lord Falconer, is plausibly beastly but has a generous and loving heart. He marries a beautiful neighbor to keep her from A Bad Fate but then refuses to touch her. The ending is surprisingly poignant. While “The Beast of Belleterre” isn’t perfect, it’s still my favorite romance story, and Lord Falconer is a hero worth crying over.

Elizabeth Mansfield is not an author many people talk about these days, but some of her Regencies are nearly flawless. The best of the bunch, Her Man of Affairs, is fun largely because its hero, David MacKenzie, is a very different sort of alpha hero. Instead of being the bored aristocrat, he’s a middle class Scottish bank clerk hired to help the heroine (who is aristocratic) sort out her finances. That he’s not of her class doesn’t make him any less heroic, or their ultimate pairing any less swoon-worthy. Plus, I learned a lot of Scottish terms from him. Some of which may even be authentic!

It’s hard to winnow the list down to just five, but I can’t exclude Christy Morrell, the vicar in Wyckerley. He’s the hero of To Love and to Cherish, the first of Patricia Gaffney’s wonderful trilogy. While I’m not a religious person myself, I’m fascinated by faith, and Gaffney does a wonderful job of showing Christy struggling with his love for Anne and the tenets of his religion. Some characters in romances are lucky to fall in love. For others the happy ending seems almost karmic reward for a hard life. But Christy falls in love not because it’s especially easy or particularly hard. He falls in love because in Anne he finds the rest of himself, and all of her. If I had to pick one of these five heroes I would most like to fall in love with myself, it would be Christy. (I have to admit, though profession and hair color are different, Ross comes awfully close to having Christy’s heart and soul.)

Keira: How do you define love?

Magdalen: Wow! I really have to do some heavy lifting here, don’t I? Well, let’s start with a dictionary definition — fondness, charity, strong liking… — uh, okay, so that didn’t help.

I remember when I realized I had fallen in love (for the second time, actually) with my first husband. I’d gone to England to spend Christmas 1997 with his family, whom I’ve known since 1971. Henry hadn’t married in the 17+ years since the first time I fell in love with him, but I wasn’t the same dewy-eyed 24-year-old, inclined to find him charming no matter what. So it was a shock when, after I’d returned to the US, I was reading Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and I suddenly realized that this falling in love stuff in the book was what I felt for Henry. A year later, we were married. We had a great marriage, until it ended.

Here’s the surprising part, though — even though we’re divorced, I love Henry today precisely the way I did the day we married. He’s the family of my heart, and always will be. Love isn’t the toughest element to accomplish in a romance, such that once you love and are loved back, you’re home-free. It’s necessary, but it can’t ensure an HEA all on its own.

So I would define love as the feeling of value we experience with another human being — we value that person, and we want to be valued in return. When it’s romantic love, of course, we want the value to be of the heart (and, sure, sexually) as well as the head. Add some additional elements — the qualities of the relationship, for instance — and you’ve got a winner.

Keira: You have a great post asking What’s Wrong With Thinking in a Love Scene? What are some other things you’d like to see more of (or less of) in love scenes?

Magdalen: Do you mean sex scenes? Because that’s easy — more emotion, less anatomy. I think writers get to the sex scene and switch from a more lyrical writing style to very specific exposition of where someone’s hands are and so forth. I know we all want to know that the protagonists have hot hot sex, but I’m not sure that requires quite as much specificity as writers imagine.

What I want a love scene to tell me is this: whoever’s POV is our window into the bedroom (or wherever they’re getting down to business) — what’s that person feeling? Yeah, okay, we can guess what the actual nerve endings are doing, but before that final uh, thrust — there’s still room for thoughts and emotion.

Keira: If you could rename any five romances, what ones would you choose and what would you change their titles to?

Magdalen: I have two already worked out: Nora Roberts’ current series about the wedding planners riffs on the various heroines’ occupations. So Vision in White for the photographer, Bed of Roses for the florist, Savor the Moment for the baker, and that just leaves the actual wedding planner for last. What did La Nora pick for that one? Happy Ever After. Oh, please — “Planning for Love” would have been better, or maybe “Making It Happen.”

I also thought Mary Balogh missed a trick when she picked Slightly Dangerous for the final Bedwyn story. Given how top-lofty the Duke of Bewcastle is, “Slightly Perfect” would have been better. But if Balogh had wanted to keep that vaguely salacious tone, “Slightly Stiff.” (Okay, maybe that’s too salacious…)

But can I do three more? Not really — generally speaking, titles are either anodyne and forgettable, or they’re memorable in an unobjectionable way. Series titles end up all sounding alike, which is confusing, but at least you know a JR Ward Black Dagger Brotherhood title when you see one.

Plus, I’m cranky enough as it is. I figure authors are entitled to the titles they pick (or which were picked for them by the publisher…).

Keira: Your favorite clinch cover is:

Magdalen: I may have to pass on this one. Covers rarely appeal to me, and the more explicit the pose of the models selected, the less it says anything to me about the book. When the hero and heroine clinch in the book, I promise you I’ll have no trouble imagining it!

(After being poked with a sharp stick and told I had to pick a cover, I added the following: )

Keira: *grin*

Magdalen: Ah, okay. I went and looked at all my “keeper” books as well as everything I’ve read in the last four months. (That tells you how long it’s been since I reshelved anything!) There are books where I love the book so much, I like the cover by association — but I ruthlessly rejected those. And there were covers, like the one for LaVyrle Spencer’s That Camden Summer, that included a pleasant landscape with no real suggestion that it’s covering a romance novel.

But I found one that I think comes closest to doing it right. Jane Ashford’s Bride to Be. Do I remember anything about the book? No. (And now I have to re-read it to see why I was saving it!) But it’s a misty photograph of two models who a) aren’t ubiquitous, b) physically resemble the characters, c) are wearing period costumes that don’t have implausible slits up the side of the skirt, or include an undue amount of skin, and d) still evoke the modern iconography of weddings: a veil and some creamy roses in the corner.

And hey, will you look at that! They even in an embrace! Clinch cover for the win!

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to share or discuss?

Magdalen: Keira, you have orders of magnitude more readers than I do, so I’ll just borrow your bully pulpit, if you don’t mind, to air my petty gripe about romances set in 19th century England:

Authors, please don’t use the word “bloody.”

I can forgive a lot of historical inaccuracies, but that one drives me bananas. I know it’s a quaint Britishism to our American ears, but it was a Very Bad Word in that century. Heck, it was a Pretty Bad Word in England when I first lived there in 1971. So, sure, a 19th century nobleman might, upon having a horse step on his foot, have blurted out some Very Bad Words. But maybe not that particular Very Bad Word, and never ever in mixed company. (A well-born woman of the period might never hear the word, and would NEVER use it herself.) If American authors would just remove “bloody” from their lexicon, no one would ever miss it.

And I personally could sleep easier at night.