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Matchmakers: Romance’s Cupids

November 18, 2012

One of my favorite things about romance novels is the “meet cute,” aka the scene where the hero and heroine meet. Sometimes they literally bump into one another, other times they’re thrown together in amusingly over-the-top situations (week-long blizzard, anyone?). But out of all the ways to introduce the H/h, what takes the cake for me is when finding love is out of the main characters’ hands and instead left up to what I like to call amateur cupids, otherwise known as matchmakers.

From small-town nosy neighbors, to online dating sites, to actual professional matchmakers, setting the H/h up on awkward and unexpected blind dates (then watching them fumble through said blind dates) fills me with all sorts of romance-lovin’ glee.

Matchmakers have been around for centuries, from ancient astrologers who use the stars to predict the couples’ future to town busybodies who refuse to mind their own business and insist on bringing two people together. Regardless of their training (or lack thereof), matchmakers always take the story’s humor and conflict up a notch, Emeril Lagasse-style (Bam!).

One of literature’s most memorable matchmakers is Jane Austen’s Emma. Oh naïve, misguided Emma. She is a prime example of a clueless busybody who simply wants to help others find love. Though her original plan backfired, thankfully everyone ended up with a happily ever after—including Emma.

In Leigh Michael’s The Birthday Scandal, readers are introduced to the Duke of Weybridge, a 70-year-old amateur matchmaker who attempts to set up his blue blood nieces and nephews. However, with them all having given up on love, the Duke definitely has his work cut out for him and the aging aristocrat quickly learns that the heart is more fragile than a crystal chandelier.

Not all matchmakers come in the form of nosy neighbors (or relatives) who insist on meddling with your love life. In fact, some of them are professionals who are pros at creating the perfect match. In Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Match Me if You Can, Annabelle Granger inherits her grandmother’s matchmaking business and is determined to make a name for herself as a top-notch cupid. But, as fate would have it, Annabelle stumbles into her own match made in heaven. As part of SEP’s Chicago Stars series, this is definitely one of my favorite reads and has a permanent home on my “keeper” shelf.

Since we are, after all, in the 21st century, no list would be complete without mention of online dating. While there may not be actual human beings playing cupid, I’d consider complex dating algorithms just as qualified to act as matchmakers. Rachel Gibson gives readers a delicious peek into the world of online dating in Sex, Lies, and Online Dating. Lucy Rothschild is looking for love while Detective Quinn McIntyre is looking for…a serial killer. While Lucy pretends to be a nurse, Quinn pretends he’s a plumber and just when things are on the verge of getting too mixed up, the skeletons come stumbling out of the closet. Don’t worry, in the end they both find what they’re looking for, plus more.

If you’re like me and like your stories never-ending, then I suggest Claudia Dane’s Courtesan Chronicles, which centers around ex-courtesan Lady Sophia Dalby, who cleverly uses her charm and wit to bring together couples in this Georgian era series. There are currently five books in the series; I suggest starting with book one, The Courtesan’s Daughter, which introduces readers to Lady Sophia and sets the precedence for the subsequent four books.

I realize that with all this talk of matchmaking, it’s possible that you’ve started thinking about how perfect [insert friend/relative] would be for [insert other friend/relative]. Before you pull out cupid’s arrows, I recommend checking out these books instead; you’ll get your fill of drama and a guaranteed happy ending without the consequences!

ROAMING QUESTION: Do you like matchmaker tropes in your romance? If so, what’s your favorite type? Have you ever played Cupid in real life?


A Bibliophile’s Holiday

August 9, 2012

Today is one of my favorite non-traditional holidays. A day dedicated to people obsessed with books — um, hello? That’s me! And with an upcoming vacation mere days away, there’s no better time than today to not only procrastinate packing by reading ’til my heart’s content, but to also start planning which books I plan on taking with me when I go out of town. Thanks to my trusty Kindle, I can “pack” as many books as I want, not limiting myself to however many I can stuff inside my suitcase and carry-on. Gotta love technology!

As for what type of books I plan on dropping in my vacation TBR folder, I’m looking for quintessential beach reads. After coming off a serious romantic suspense streak, I’m definitely in the mood for something more lighthearted and fun. That includes not only contemporary romance, but also a bit of YA, perhaps some chic-lit, and also a few jaunty short stories as well (see Decadent Publishing’s 1 Night Stand series). I’m sure more will be added as the days (okay, hours) go by, but here’s an at-a-glance look at which books I plan on taking with me:

  • About Last Night – Heard about this one through the blogging grapevine and I can’t help wanting to check it out for myself.
  • Slow Summer Kisses – With its short story format and summer setting, this seems like the perfect vacation read.
  • Wanderlove – A YA with a traveling MC who’s currently searching for herself. Appropriate for plane reading, no?
  • Goalie Interference – With all the Olympics hullabaloo going on, a sports-themed story seemed like a no-brainer.
  • Southern Comfort – I enjoyed Western Ties (book 4), so it only makes sense that I indulge in another installment of the Compass Brothers series.

I’ll only be gone ten days, but hey, when it comes to books, you can never be overpacked or too prepared. Am I right? Well, I’m off to read — er, pack. I mean pack. Happy holidays, fellow book lovers!

ROAMING QUESTION: What books are in your vacation bag? Do you typically take physical books or ebooks? Or a mix of both? I wanna know!

Black Knight in Shining Armor

August 2, 2012

Sometimes, when I’m in between books, I find myself at a crossroad over which of my TBRs I want to dive into first. Usually the problem stems from not being able to decide which hero trope I want to indulge in first. Sexy cowboy? Sensitive doctor? Bad boy-turned do-gooder? Grumpy recluse with a heart of gold? You may as well ask a kid in a candy store to only pick one piece of candy. Impossible!

This time around, I struck gold with a hero twofer in debut author Julie Ann Walker’s Hell on Wheels. Not only is our hero a leather-clad biker (with a kick-ass set of wheels), but he’s also part of a secret elite team of Special Ops. In addition to dodging bullets and zooming down the highway, Nate’s holding on to a secret that could make or break his relationship with heroine Ali.

Hell on Wheels is the first book in Walker’s Black Knights Inc. series and comes out later this week. You can find my review on RT’s website or in the August issue.

The Writer’s Life: Animated

July 6, 2012

Hey guys and gals, it’s Friday! I don’t know about you, but I am stoked for the weekend. The Fourth of July — which fell on a Wednesday this year — was just a tease. Sure, it was filled with fireworks, friends, and family, but to have to go back to work the next day… Well, that’s the pits. Unless, of course, you’re a writer. I’m not saying that being an author is easy or doesn’t have it’s fair share of “woe is me” moments (writer’s block, anyone?), but I stumbled across a video by romance author/comic  creator Anne Elizabeth that illustrates (literally) the life of a writer that I couldn’t resist sharing. I found it charming, humorous, and motivating, and whether you’re a writer or not, I’m sure you’re bound to feel the same way. It definitely kept me from falling into the dreaded July 5 work pits.

Now that it’s Friday, I’ve got some fabulous weekend plans lined up which include roaming through romance (of course) and the Gulf Coast. What about you, dear readers?


ROAMING QUESTION: Any exciting summer plans? Come across any reading/writing-related videos of note? I’d love to hear all about it!

Hot Temps, Hotter Reads

June 25, 2012

We’re smack dab in the throes of summer, which means temperatures are creeping up faster than kudzu. Whether you’re lying on a sunny beach or on the couch in front of the AC, it’s never too hot to lose yourself in a spicy book–and it doesn’t get any spicier than Western Ties, penned by erotica duo Mari Carr and Jayne Rylon. The fourth book in the Compass Brothers series, believe me when I say this one is sure to melt your ice cream cone!

SYNOPSIS: Leah Hollister leads a hum-drum, strictly vanilla life. Kindergarten teacher, small-town native, practically a virgin. Looking to spice things up, Leah travels to LA to indulge her inner bad girl by spending the weekend at a BDSM party. What better place to let loose than a thousand miles from home? Imagine her surprise when the first person she meets at the party is Sawyer Compton, a childhood friend from her hometown. Leah is beyond mortified, but determined to go through with her weekend experiment anyway. Little does she know, Sawyer has plans of his own–one of which includes staking claim on Leah…

When Mari Carr and Jayne Rylon get together, the product is hot with a capital “H”! This was my first foray into the Compass Brothers series, and after reading Western Ties, I am now officially hooked (with a capital “H”, of course). The story is a kinky twist to the friends-to-lovers trope, with extra helpings of kink. Leah may be inexperienced, but she knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it, which I highly admired. As for Sawyer, he most definitely knows how to take charge in the bedroom (as well as other places. *wink*). After all, he is part of the notorious Compton brothers clan.

In addition to the relationship between Leah and Sawyer, family plays a huge role in the story. The relationship between Saywer and his brothers are both admirable and multi-faceted, and this time around the Comptons’ face a huge struggle–one that will have you surrounded by wads of tear-stained, balled-up tissues.

*Click here to read my review and view my star rating on Goodreads.

Lucky Harbor is Simply Irresistible

May 23, 2012

Sometimes a book comes along right when you need it, making it the right book at the right time. Simply Irresistible was the “right time-right book” for me. I’d been in a reading rut and, eager for something light, humorous and full of just-right romance tropes — small town, clumsy heroine, sure-of-himself hero — Jill Shalvis’ Simply Irresistible more than delivered. This book is the epitome of a romance done right.

SYNOPSIS: Seeking a fresh start, Maddie Moore heads to Lucky Harbor where she’s been left part-ownership of a broken down inn with her two estranged sisters. As soon as she steps foot into town, she runs into Jax Cullen, who’s instantly smitten with Maddie and wastes no time telling her so. Having sworn off men, Maddie makes it clear that she’s off the market, but decides that the “new” Maddie should have a bit of fun while in town. “Fun” includes a no-strings fling with Jax, which soon turns into something more that neither of them expected. In addition to juggling between her heart versus head, Maddie realizes that running the inn could be her new calling, but has to find a way to convince her sisters to hop on board with the idea — if she can get them to reign in their catfighting. Will the “new” Maddie reign supreme in the end, or will everything backfire and crumble to pieces for the timid middle child?

From the start, Jax makes it clear that he wants Maddie and though it takes her a minute to catch up, Maddie eventually comes around, making their cat-mouse game enjoyable to follow. Maddie has a serious case of middle-child syndrome and watching her come out of her shell was a real treat and had me cheering for her success.

Since this is the first book in the Lucky Harbor series, it also deals with the fledgling relationship between Maddie and her sisters. Though the three of them are complete opposites, it’s clear that they would do anything for the other, despite not having grown up together. Their storyline is wrought with emotion, revealing what I feel is a true-to-life depiction of sibling interaction (you can’t pick your family, am I right?).

In the end, a trip to Lucky Harbor was exactly what I needed. Now, not only do I have a renewed love of romance books, but I also have a new favorite author as well as a new fictional town to add to my list of “fictional places I wish were real.”

*Click here to read my review and view my star rating on Goodreads.

Roaming Around the Web

May 18, 2012

Howdy! Consider this the first edition of Roaming Around the Web, a linkfest for romance and bookish-related happenings. Depending on how much good stuff I come across during the week, R.A.W. posts will range from lengthy to short ‘n sweet. Yikes… One paragraph in and this post is already dripping with double entendre (including this sentence). Shall we begin?

  • One of my fave authors, Carly Phillips, waxed poetic on the Penguin blog on what makes a contemporary romance. It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for small-town romance, and Ms. Phillips does an excellent job at articulating why they’re just so darn charming (and addictive!).
  • What’s better than scoring a new read? Scoring a free new read. Double it and you’ve got yourself a surefire good time. Currently, Ripped Apart (a romantic suspense by Miriam Minger) and At His Mercy (an erotic short story by Alison Kent) are listed as freebies in the Kindle store. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already DL’d them or you’re eagerly clicking the links before you can even finish reading this sentence!
  • Ever wondered what goes on in editors’ minds while wading through the slush pile? Thanks to Carina Press Exec Editor Angela James’ Edit Report, your burning questions can be quelled. Her most recent report answered questions like what percent of submissions are sent R&R (revise and resubmit) letters (A: 5%) and what type of books do editors decide to accept (A: Said of recently acquired book, “I love [its] vivid small town setting, rich secondary romance & how author explores the complex family dynamics.”). Be sure to follow @AngelaJames and/or her #editreport on Twitter for more of her behind-the-scenes POV in the world of editing & books.

ROAMING QUESTION: Have you come across anything interesting (romance/book-related or not) in the World Wide Web? If so, please share! I’m especially keen to links that feature cute animals doing even cuter — and quirkier — things.