#RWA13 Author Signing!

RWA Literacy Autographing

What better way to revive RtR than by recapping one of the biggest romance reader events of the year! After struggling with my reading mojo for months, when I heard that this year’s Romance Writer’s Convention was being held in Atlanta — and that they were having an event for the public — I knew I had to go! With over 400 authors (and easily double that many attendees!), the #RWA13 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing was hands down the BEST bookish event I’ve ever been to!

I didn’t know what to expect, but I did do a bit of research the day before by making a list of which authors I had to meet. On the day of the event, in true Georgia summer fashion, the weather was erratic — rolling clouds, sticky, humid temps… it looked like it was going to open up and start pouring at any minute — but I wasn’t going to let that stop me! I made it to the hotel with ten minutes to spare and right before the thunderstorms began (whew!). When I arrived, I stopped dead in my tracks — literally. The line to get into the atrium was insane! Silly me for thinking that I was just going to waltz in, when in fact I should’ve arrived hours before as opposed to mere minutes. Luckily, once they opened the doors the line moved quickly and before I knew it I was in a room filled with people just like me — bookish, rom-loving fans. The air was electric!

Even though there were hundreds of people mingling about and standing in line to meet their favorite authors, I was able to make my way around and meet all the authors on my list! Talk about fangirling — I altered between squeeing my love, tumbling over my words, to being speechless. I can say, though, that there were a lot of “Oh my god!” and “It’s such an honor to meet you!”

The Authors

The best part is, every single author I talked to was SO NICE and genuinely happy to be there, interacting with fans! Then again, why wouldn’t they be? They write happily ever afters for a living! Everyone knows that romance lovers are nicer people ;) In addition to meeting all my favorites, I also scooped up copies of each of their books — complete with personalized autographs!

Book Haul + Autograph

When I finally made my way to the checkout line, my final haul was 8 books, including a reprint of the first romance book I ever read. A respectable amount, I’d say — especially considering how many I could have ended up with. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I hadn’t come prepared with an empty suitcase!

Despite the crappy weather, I’m so glad I went and got a chance to mingle with “my own kind.” Now that I’ve gotten my convention feet wet, I’m already planning how I can attend the next event… RT Con, anyone??

 

Review: Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson

Nothing But Trouble (Chinooks Hockey Team, #5)Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson

Chinooks Hockey Team #5 // 354 pp. // Contemp. Romance // Avon // Apr. 2010

GOODREADS SUMMARY: Trouble… Chelsea Ross’ acting career has been a total bust. The closest she ever came to stardom was her brilliant performance as “Pretty Dead Girl #1.” But leaving Hollywood to become the personal assistant to a famous hockey player could be her stupidest career move ever.

More Trouble… Injured superstar Mark Bressler’s glory days are over. The bad-boy ex-jock could at least be civil to the pint-sized, pink-haired bombshell who the Seattle Chinooks hired to be his P.A. If Chelsea didn’t need the money, she’d be running from the world’s biggest jerk as fast as her feet could carry her.

Big Trouble! Chelsea can deal with Mark’s rotten attitude and dark moods. The problem is those biceps and that red-hot bod! And when the bad boy starts to put the moves on her, Chelsea knows it’s time she banished him to the penalty box…if only she could resist the kind of trouble he has in mind.

I gobbled this book up in less than two days! I have read all but one of the Chinooks Hockey Team books and they always make me laugh out loud. This was definitely the case here, as Chelsea and her “cell phone antics” had me giggling while reading on the subway.

As much as I wanted to give this book 4 stars like I did with all the previous Chinooks titles, it started a bit slow and the relationship between Chelsea and her twin sister, Bo, kind of irritated me. Bo came across as judgmental and condescending and Chelsea just sort of took it laying down simply because they were sisters. I did like Chelsea’s character and her witty attitude, but for someone who could talk back so easily, it seemed far-fetched that she would let her sister get away with treating her like that.

I was also a bit disappointed with the sex scenes in the book. They were very watered down and took forever to get to. I understand that in contemporary romances there must be tension built between the characters, but the steamy scenes (if you can call them that) between the two characters doesn’t even occur until about 200 pages into the book – when you’re more than halfway done with the story!

The saving grace of it all was the characters. Chelsea is a smart ass with a love for ostentatious clothes, while Mark is a gruff, broken-down (ex) hockey player who is brought to life by her. Plus, Gibson glosses over a few of the other players on the team and they make great side characters because they’re so believable and their personalities make you smile (Vlad, anyone?).

Matchmakers: Romance’s Cupids

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?

Summer Solstice Series

Suuuuuuummertime, and the livin’s easy hot. 95º hot, to be exact — at least here in Georgia, that is. Today is the first day of summer, which means we’re in the throes of humid mornings, scorching afternoons and sweltering nights. In honor of the summer solstice, I thought it was only appropriate to ring in the new season with a list of smokin’ hot series to stuff into your beach bag. Why a series? Well, everyone knows that when it comes summer reads, you can’t stop at just one! With so much free time on my hands, I know I need at least three books — per week — to satisfy me during summer vacation. Whether you’re heading out of town or soaking up some indoor A.C., there’s a series to accompany you on whatever type of vacation you’ve got planned.

***

Bathing suit? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Perfect beach/poolside weather? Check. If you’re spending the day splashing around and under an umbrella, then you’ll want to tuck Carly Phillips’ Hot Zone series into your beach bag. The series is comprised of four books, which pulls back the curtain of a sports PR agency and its oh-so-sexy employees.

Looking for something that’s sure to melt your ice cream cone? Lora Leigh’s Nauti series is for you! There are six books in the series — each focusing on a different smouldering, trouble-is-their-middle-name cousin. Warning: this series is sure to leave you flustered, so be sure you have a bottle of water close by!

If your plans include camping, hiking, or any other type of outdoorsy adventure, Julie Garwood’s Buchanan series is for you. Begin with Heartbreaker, the first of eight sexy romantic suspenses, guaranteed to give you chills and wish for your own hero to snuggle up to for protection. With so many books in the series, it’s likely that you may have to extend your vacation just so you can read them all!

If summer for you means swimming, playing beach volleyball or watching a ball game, then you’ll want to scoop up Rachel Gibson’s Chinook Hockey Team series. In each of the six books, the chemistry between the couples will leave you hot, while the hockey elements are sure to cool you down. Don’t be surprised if you forgo a few games in favor of finishing these delicious reads!

Hopefully one of these series will keep you sated during what is sure to be a very long and very hot summer. And remember, always wear sunscreen!

ROAMING QUESTION: Do you have another series that you think should be included? If so, what and what type of summer plans should they accompany?

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Who wouldn't want to live in this charming small town?“Gilmore Girls” is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. From the witty, fast-paced banter to Rory’s love for books to the close-knit mother-daughter relationship (my mom & I used to watch it together, and still sometimes refer to each other as one another’s ‘Rory’ and ‘Lorelai’), what was not to love? To this day, I still religiously watch the reruns on ABC Family. However — books and banter aside, another love of mine was the show’s fictional town, Stars Hollow. Each time I watched the show, I marveled at the town’s quaint structure and charm and its friendly (and often quirky) residents. Everything appeared perfect and picturesque, and I fantasized about moving to Stars Hollow and living out my days gossiping with the nosy dance teacher and quarreling with the uptight grocer.

This got me thinking about contemporaries I’ve read and the fictional towns where I wouldn’t mind living, especially if it meant stumbling across the unavoidable hunky hero (because in romance, every town has one). So let’s take a roadtrip to my favorite I-wish-they-were-real-so-I-could-live-there small towns (seat belt mandatory, cheesy girl-pop playlist optional).

First stop is in Truly, Idaho. Readers are first introduced to this little Northwestern gem in Truly, Madly Yours (aka, The One That Started It All) when Delaney Shaw returns home and is forced to stick around for a year as indicated in her stepfather’s will. Delaney might’ve snubbed her nose at the tiny town, but being surrounded by sexy bad boys like Nick Allegrezza doesn’t seem so bad to me! (PS: Truly makes another appearance in Gibson’s Tangled Up In You…as does another bad boy hottie)

After a quick stop for fuel, 7-Up and gummi bears, we head south to the aptly-named Heaven, Texas (penned by one of my fave authors, Susan Elizabeth Phillips) where everything really is bigger — from the hair-dos to the men. Prime example: Bobby-Tom Denton, the cowboy hat-wearin’, over-the-top, flashy football player. Poor Gracie may have her hands full with him, but in a town where the hospitality is as grand as Bobby-Tom’s cowboy boots, you just can’t help but want to take a trip down south to experience some good old country livin’ for yourself. (PS – for those who’ve read Heaven, Texas & are looking for a little something extra, SEP has posted a never-before-seen epilogue for Bobby-Tom and Gracie HERE)

We wrap this roadtrip up with a trip to Tumble Creek, Colorado, which is the small town setting for Victoria Dahl’s Tumble Creek series. So far, I’ve only read Talk Me Down (Tumble Creek #1), but it was uh-mazing! The characters were so realistic, yet were still people I’d actually want to hang out with! Plus, the town’s sheriff, Ben, is my kinda hero — I definitely wouldn’t mind being pulled over by him for speeding!

There you have it — three towns where I could happily see myself as a resident. Sure, small towns may have their downsides — nosy neighbors, no Starbucks, 9 p.m. curfew — but I still think it would be fun to live in a place where everyone knew your name and watched out for each other. As someone who’s lived in the city for all of her life, I welcome the eccentricities and intimacy small towns offer.

By that notion alone, I’ve added a few of Debbie Macomber’s books to my TBR pile. Her stories are set in the fictional town of Cedar Cove, which is loosely based on Port Orchard, Washington. I have an affinity for coastal towns, and as far as I can tell, Cedar Cove seems like the perfect place to add to my “I-wish-they-were-real-so-I-could-live-there” list!

ROAMING QUESTION: Do you have your own I-wish-they-were-real-so-I-could-live-there small towns? If so, what are they and where did you find out about them?

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?