Touchdown-Worthy Football Heroes

Happy Superbowl Sunday! Even though my team didn’t make it to the finals, I’ll be huddled in front of the TV today watching the Ravens and 49ers duke it out for the championship title. What better way to celebrate one of the country’s biggest events than with cookie dough dip and books that feature hunky football heroes!

Whether you’re looking to soothe your ego because your team didn’t make it to the Superbowl, or you’re simply in the mood to read books that feature six-pack hotties in skin-tight athletic pants, I guarantee you’ll see football in a different light after getting your hands on these hot reads.

Life Imitating Art

Yesterday I came across something in the romance world that was just too cool to not share: As part of an exhibition called the W Project, a couple recreated vintage romance book covers from Mills & Boon, a publisher that is the British equivalent to Harlequin (and now technically part of Harlequin). The woman in the photos, as well as the brains behind the concept, is Alex Holder, while the man is her real-life boyfriend, Ross. Since their release, these photos have spread through the media like a wildfire, and rightfully so!

I’ve been obsessing over these photos for a couple of days now, which got me thinking about romance covers I’d like recreated, if given the chance. The top three that come to mind are:

  • I’ll Bury My Dead by James Hadley Chase. Talk about vintage! This throwback Harlequin was published in 1953. I like it because the woman reminds me of Jessica Rabbit and her body language screams “sexy.”
  • Promises by Judith Arnold. I choose this one for two reasons: 1. It was published the same year I was born (1987) and 2. anyone who looks that happy while flying a kite deserves to be imitated.
  • No Competition by Debbie Macomber and Yukino Hara. The simple fact that this is a manga drawing, and not real people, makes it worthy of recreation.

Those are my picks, now it’s your turn.

ROAMING QUESTION: Which books would you like recreated or made with real people?

PS: Be sure to check the rest of the photos on the Oli + Alex website!

What’s in a Name?

Multiply this by a thousand & you’ve got my love for romance!

If it’s not already obvious from the title of this blog, I am a romance book junkie. While I love reading all types of books, I gobble up romance like Hershey’s kisses. It’s a shameless addiction that I fuel by perpetually downloading genre titles on my Kindle, which currently holds dozens of romance titles from both well-known authors like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rachel Gibson and Carly Phillips, to newbies like Rae Renzi and Karen Bostrom. In the past, I mostly consumed contemporary romance, but was recently presented with an opportunity that introduced me to a new type of romance: category romance.

Category, or series, romance are books that are shorter (usually 200 pages or less) and are released as part of a numbered series each month (like comic books), as opposed to single titles that are longer and aren’t released as often. Category titles also follow a set plot-line, often based on whatever imprint they fall under. The most popular and well-known category romance publisher is Harlequin, which has more than 15 different categories and releases 120 titles each month.

By now I’m sure you’re wondering, “what’s the point?” Well, over the years category books have developed a stigma for being “trashy romance,” more often than not, because of the titles and cover art of the books. I’ll admit, seeing something called The Playboy Sheikh’s Virgin Stable-Girl with a scantily-clad couple breathing each others’ air with pouty lips doesn’t exactly lure buyers. Whoever said to never judge a book by its cover clearly never worked in advertising.

That being said, I finally decided to ignore the “trashy romance” stigma and give a corny-titled, embarrassing-cover Harlequin category romance book a try. It actually happened by accident. A few months ago I received a package from a friend — thanks, Lizzie! — with a cheeky (and humorous) note about how she thought of me when she came across two category romance titles: One Night With His Virgin Mistress and Pregnant by the Boss! (Yes, there’s actually an exclamation at the end). At first I laughed, turning my nose up. But then, faced with deadlines and desperate for any means of procrastination, I figured, why not? I’ll give it a try.

And so I cracked open One Night With His Virgin Mistress.

SYNOPSIS: Tallie is a young, small town girl who moves to London to write a book. After saving money from doing odd jobs, she finds a gig house-sitting for a millionaire bachelor. Tallie, however, doesn’t know that the person who gives her the job isn’t the owner of the house, and when Mark (the real owner) returns and catches Tallie in the shower, the two shock each other with their presence.

Mark begrudgingly agrees to let Tallie stay while she finishes her book and the two live in a tense, but sometimes comfortable silence. One night, after returning from a bad date, Tallie propositions Mark to “deflower” her, no strings attached. Of course, there are always strings, and they pull heavily on Tallie’s heart. If only she can decode what Mark is thinking and – better yet – if he feels the same about Tallie.

“Trashy romance” connotation aside, once I got into the story I realized that it was actually written quite charmingly. This was also the first British romance story I’ve read and it took some getting used to – both grammatically and syntactically.  I don’t know if all UK books are written the same way, but the author (Sara Craven) definitely has a way with words, and spun them together to create lyrical sentences. As someone obsessed with words, I appreciated her use of flowery language to depict an otherwise simple scene.

In regards to the plot, it too was enjoyable. The ending was predictable, as with most genre romances, but the path leading up to it was interesting and filled with delicious scenes – and not just sexually-related ones either. While Tallie may have been a virgin, she was not stupid or naive in any way, which was refreshing. And Mark, though brooding and mysterious, was subtly compassionate, which made his affectionate moments that much more precious.

Millionaires and their virgins and mistresses have taught me a valuable lesson: Do not judge books by their titles! This book was such an unexpected surprise that it inspired me to scroll through other Harlequin category romances in search of an equally captivating story – this time, however, I will be ignoring the corny titles.

Truly, Madly in Love

For my first post, I thought it only appropriate to talk about The Book That Started it All. And by ‘it,’ I mean my love affair with romance books.

I was 15 when I stumbled across Truly, Madly Yours by Rachel Gibson at a yard sale. Though it was nestled in a stack of other 25 cent contemporary romance books, the story between Delaney and Nick caught my attention more than the others. She was a hairdresser, and he was the town’s bad boy, and the chemistry between them set my eyes ablaze! Top it off with a small, quirky town called Truly (still one of the best fictional towns I’ve ever read about) and I had myself a new love — a love for romances.

After Truly, Madly Yours, each time I went to the bookstore, I made a beeline to the ‘G’s in the romance section and bought something by Rachel Gibson. At the time, she was all I knew, and I knew she wrote amazingly. Titles like Simply Irresistible, It Must be Love and Lola Carlyle Reveals All quickly followed.

Then one day, I decided to roam around the romance section to see what else caught my eye. At the time, my knowledge of romances was limited, so I had no choice but to stick with what I knew, which was bright, playful covers. Hand me a book with a curly title and a cutesy drawing of a woman (or her accessories), and chances are I’d be a happy camper — which is how I learned about other contemp authors like Susan Mallery, Carly Phillips and Jennifer Crusie. At the time, I didn’t feel bad for judging books based on their covers because while their covers were cute and colorful, the stories inside them were just as alluring!

Nowadays, my tastes have expanded beyond just cutesy covers (though they still hold much appeal); and with my Kindle, the whole notion of choosing books based on their covers has been thrown to the wind, leaving me free to read whatever I want! So there you have it — the story of how I came to love romances. And to think, it only cost me a quarter.

ROAMING QUESTION: Romance lovers (and other bibliophiles), what was your Book That Started it All? Have you reread it since then?