Contemporaries to covet in May – and giveaway!

Ahh, May! When Spring finally arrives and so does a boatload of great romance!

You know the drill. Every month I tell you about the contemporary romance novels coming out that I’m most looking forward to. One person who leaves a comment will win a $10 gift certificate for herself AND for the contemporary romance author she mentions. Details are below, but first, here are the books that’re rocking my world this month.

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins

Somebody to LoveAfter her father loses the family fortune in an insider-trading scheme, single mom Parker Welles is faced with some hard decisions. First order of business: go to Gideon’s Cove, Maine, to sell the only thing she now owns—a decrepit house in need of some serious flipping. When her father’s wingman, James Cahill, asks to go with her, she’s not thrilled…even if he is fairly gorgeous and knows his way around a toolbox.

Having to fend for herself for the first time in her life, Parker signs on as a florist’s assistant and starts to find out who she really is. Maybe James isn’t the glib lawyer she always thought he was. And maybe the house isn’t the only thing that needs a little TLC…

Read an excerpt

My two cents

This is a bit of a cheat, because Somebody to Love actually came out at the end of April, but I swear that when I downloaded my advance review copy at NetGalley, it said it was coming out on May 1st.

Somebody to Love is one of the best romance novels I’ve ever read. You can read my review – or, even better, go buy the book because it’s absolutely perfect.

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The trouble with Valentine’s Day

The trouble with Valentine’s Day is that there just aren’t enough romance novels that make it a central part of the story.

I mean, we get a deluge of books for Christmas, quite a few that celebrate summer. But Valentine’s Day is the day of love. Of passion. Why not more Valentine’s Books?

I’ve been reading romance for years and the only one I can think of is the fantastically named The Trouble With Valentine’s Day by the even more fantastic Rachel Gibson.

I’ve read all but two of Rachel Gibson’s novels – and I’m saving those to perk me up during a really bad week. I absolutely love her books, and Valentine’s Day is no different (even though the hero has the same name as my brother, a massive turn-off meaning that in my head I think of him as Raj. I know it’s a stretch.).

Trouble with Valentine's Day

When everything about her life in Las Vegas just seems to be going wrong, Kate Hamilton leaves her job as a PI and points her car toward Gospel, Idaho. Gospel is the kind of town where a girl can take it easy and just be herself, or so she hopes. But when she gets there, people get the impression that she’s a bit of a ball–buster. And she is, at first.

But Gospel has a way of softening people up. One of those ways is Rob Sutter. He’s a spectacular–looking former hockey player with a wild past of his own, who now lives a quiet (albeit slightly macho) life running his sporting goods store and fly–fishing. Kate and Rob are so wrong for each other that there must be something right. If only they can start seeing each other for who they really are…

Whatever your romance needs today, there are some great reader-generated recommendations at All About Romance, which has just released its 2011 readers’ poll results. Some fantastic reads there!

Do you have any Valentine’s Day novels to recommend? Why aren’t there more out there? Have you read The Trouble With Valentine’s Day? What did you think?

Do you have romantic Valentine’s plans – whether a date with a loved one or with a good book?

(Comment by March 13 to enter to win my $25 gift certificate giveaway.)

The world’s worst dates

When I was 20, a random guy on campus asked me to go to dinner with him. Being a suspicious girl living in LA, I told him I’d pick him up—why give a potential serial killer your address, right?

On our first date, I found out he had a son. I won’t lie—it was a little surprising, since he was 23 and had sole custody of his six-year-old boy. But I admired him for being a devoted dad.

On our second date, I found out he also had a daughter. She lived in a different state with her mom.

Although I was a little nervous about what I would discover on a third date, I really liked him, so we went out again.

Continue reading “The world’s worst dates”

Who will win the RITA for best contemporary romance?

Since the Romance Writers of America announced the finalists for the RITA award back in March, I’ve been reading all of the nominated novels in my favorite category: contemporary single-title romance. Some of the authors are old favorites of mine, and some were new to me.

The winners will be announced on July 1, and I’m lucky enough to be in New York for the party. They’re fantastic novels, and I can’t wait to see who wins.

Best of luck to their authors!

Not That Kind of Girl by Susan Donovan

Not That Kind of Girl coverRoxanne Bloom launches a man-hating blog after overhearing her ass-hat boyfriend denigrating her bedroom skills to his friends – men she has to work with. Her now-ex breaks into her house and threatens her, until her man-hating pit-bull-Boxer mix nearly rips his throat apart. Roxie finds herself being sued and fighting to keep her dog alive. The only person she can count on is Eli Gallagher, the hottest dog whisperer around.

Eli’s used to being top dog, but can he help both Roxie and her dog feel secure enough that they let go of their angry aggression?

Read more about Not That Kind of Girl

The best parts

Susan Donovan does an amazing job of creating emotional intensity between her hero and heroine. Almost all the novels of hers I’ve read feature couples who spark immediately, and the flames grow hotter and deeper as the story develops. Plus, this novel contains the canine equivalent of a Regency rake: a pit bull most people think is irredeemable but who turns loving and loyal thanks to a woman’s devotion.

Still the One by Robin Wells

Still the One by Robin WellsWhen she was 17, Katie Charmaine had a summer fling with Zach Ferguson and ended up pregnant and boyfriendless. She gave her newborn daughter up for adoption – a heartbreaking experience she never revealed to anyone except the man she ended up marrying. But after her husband dies in Iraq, leaving her childless and grief-stricken, Zach returns to town with their 17-year-old daughter – a girl who’s pregnant and desperately needs parents.

The best parts

I cried. No, I bawled. The tenderness and conflict between each of the characters is realistic and satisfying. I loved that the author allowed Kate to have a wonderful relationship with her late husband, and that Kate struggles to overcome her grief before falling in love with Zach.

And One Last Thing… by Molly Harper

And One Last Thing coverWhen Lacey Terwilliger discovers her husband Mike is screwing his artificially enhanced secretary, she doesn’t just get mad; she gets online. Having sacrificed her own career to support his business, she writes one last email newsletter to his clients, family and friends, telling them exactly what a dickless wonder Mike is. Her revenge backfires, though, and she flees to her cabin to get away from her nagging, gossiping neighbors.

Fortunately for her, a hot author named Monroe lives next door. Can she convince him she’s not another psycho divorcée like all the others who’ve thrown themselves at him?

Read more about And One Last Thing

The best parts

Molly Harper’s voice rocks. She’s like a twisted version of Kristan Higgins. Her characters are witty and clever – except for the morons you’re not supposed to like. This novel is funny, tender, sweet and sexy, so it hits all the right spots. If you have a thing for Hugh Jackman, read this book. That’s all I’m sayin’.

One Fine Cowboy by Joanne Kennedy

One Fine Cowboy coverPsychology grad student Charlie Banks is sent to observe a horse whisperer in Wyoming. Unfortunately, the horse whisperer, Nate Shawcross, has no idea his ex-girlfriend took people’s money and promised them Nate would run a horse clinic. He’s shocked when cute Jersey girl (and PETA activist) Charlie shows up on his ranch, hauling her attitude with her. Nate’s ranch is in trouble, though, and he can only save it by putting on a good show for the group of greenhorns that arrive for his clinic. And he desperately needs Charlie’s help to make the clinic a success.

Read more about One Fine Cowboy

The best parts

This novel is the closest I can remember coming to a hero who was abused by a former partner. Although Nate’s ex-girlfriend didn’t hit him, she manipulated him so severely that his personality and confidence are shot. His insecurity when it comes to women is so endearing, and I loved the scenes written from his point of view. He wants to please Charlie, but he struggles hard to find ways to do so. Massive kudos to Joanne Kennedy for such a daring—and well-written—portrayal.

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Simply IrresistibleIn one week, Maddie finally gets rid of her abusive boyfriend, loses her job because of it, and finds out her mother has died. Though she and her mother were estranged, Maddie and her two half-sisters inherit a falling-down inn on the coast of Washington.

Maddie’s learned that trusting men can be a dangerous thing, but when she hires the sexiest contractor for miles around, she learns that love starts with that trusting herself.

The best parts

The hero, Jax, is among the best contemporary heroes I’ve ever read. He’s strong without being obnoxiously alpha. He’s supportive without being a pushover. And he’s thoroughly addictive. For the last couple of months, I’ve returned to this novel over and over, rereading my favorite parts. It’s so high up my keeper shelf no one will be able to touch it.

Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl

Lead Me On by Victoria DahlJane Morgan is the ultimate professional woman, but she hasn’t always been. In fact, she has completely turned her life around from the chaos she experienced growing up. She’s full of secrets—like that most of her relatives are convicts and that she earned herself a reputation when she was far too young—but there’s one thing she can no longer deny herself: hot sex with a tough-looking man.

But as her perfectly composed life begins to unravel, William Chase proves he’s a hell of a lot more than a working class stud service.

The best parts

Victoria Dahl’s contemporary characters break all the molds, and it’s truly a joy to see their layers peeled away to reveal people who are unlike any others I’ve seen in romance. Jane’s shame over her past decisions is gut-wrenching, and her growth over the course of the novel is painful to experience but all the more satisfying because of that. Chase may look like an ex-con, but he displays the stalwart character of superman as he supports Jane through her struggles. This is such a beautiful, sexy, funny story that I took the bus to work because I couldn’t bear to put it down.

Nothing but Trouble by Rachel Gibson

Nothing But Trouble by Rachel GibsonHockey player Mark Bressler made his living on the ice, but when his Hummer hits a patch of black ice and flips, Mark’s career instantly ends and he’s left in excruciating pain to watch his team win the Stanley Cup. No wonder he’s pissed at the world.

But when failed actress and assistant to B-list celebs Chelsea Ross is hired to nurse him back to health, Mark’s pity part is over. With her bossy manner, she soon has Mark frustrated in altogether more pleasant ways.

The best parts

The sex. Rachel Gibson writes very hot contemporary romance, and her hockey players are among the sexiest professional athletes in the genre. Mark Bressler and Chelsea Ross have such a strong connection that it’s explosive when they get together.

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Happy Ever After by Nora RobertsFour friends run a wedding business. They plan a lot of weddings.

The best parts

This is the last in a quartet about women who run a wedding business. There’s at least as much focus (if not more) on the women’s friendships as there is on the romance between Parker and Malcolm. The hero doesn’t even feature in the back-cover text. But if you like reading about wedding details—from cakes to flower arrangements—you’ll probably like this book.

Have you read any of these? Who do you think will win?

Review: Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson

Clear a couple of days in your schedule because Any Man of Mine is unputdownable.

Any Man of Mine coverThe week Autumn went to Las Vegas – determined to start having a life of her own again after taking care of her mother through a terminal illness – she ended up married, pregnant and abandoned. That’s apparently what happens when you let yourself be seduced by a professional hockey player.

Nearly six years later, Autumn and her ex-husband Sam LeClaire run into each other at a wedding. Since Autumn’s the wedding planner, she has to be nice to him, even though he’s regularly disappointed their five-year-old son by changing his plans at the last minute.

Sam’s a busy man who enjoys all the perks that come with being a professional athlete. He barely remembers the weekend he spent so drunk he ended up married and a father, but he’s always regretted the way he left Autumn. When she finally gets fed up with him letting their son down and tells him little Conner cries himself to sleep, Sam realizes he needs to man up and become a better father. That means spending more time around Autumn, who justifiably hates him.

Rachel Gibson is one of my favorite contemporary romance writers. I’ve read nearly all of her books, and the thing that keeps me coming back for more is the emotional intensity of the relationships between her heroes and heroines. Her men are always masculine and tend to start off selfish and egotistical—in other words, they have a lot of room to grow. Her women are strong, sassy and independent, but have usually been severely let down in the romance department.

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