Don’t Mess With Texas, or State of Arousal

On Tuesday the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) sued Christie Craig over the title of her book, Don’t Mess With Texas.  Why?  “The book contains numerous graphic references to sexual acts, states of arousal, etc.”  This, apparently, would do “irreparable harm” to the agency’s reputation.

Two days later, a judge has denied the TxDOT’s request for a restraining order.  Ms. Craig can mess with Texas because she stands to lose too much revenue (35,000 copies are already printed)–at least until an actual lawsuit is pursued and a verdict is reached.  I don’t think Ms. Craig was hurting for sales before this became news, and I doubt she or her publisher is losing too much sleep now.

It wasn’t a surprise to me that she was sued by the TxDOT.  The world has a derisive view of the romance genre (it’s not “smart”).  We’re also uncomfortable with sex Continue reading

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Courting Miss Hattie

Courting Miss Hattie
Pamela Morsi
Genre: Historical – Early 20th century American
Publication Info.: Bantam Books, 1998, ISBN: 9780553761955
 

I originally put off reading this book because the description didn’t capture my imagination.  Miss Hattie Colfax owns and runs her own farm and at 29, she’s missed the first round of marriages.  At this point, her best hope of a husband and children of her own is to marry a widower.  I always like a spinster story, but it was something about the “lady farmer” description that just didn’t appeal to me.  It didn’t seem very romantic.  Which is fitting because Hattie Colfax isn’t very romantic–at least, she hasn’t been until now.  Her life hasn’t allowed for it.  She grew up fast with too much responsibility to waste on youthful fun.  And, she isn’t pretty.  She hasn’t received much (or any) romantic attention.  Which makes it all the more wonderful that her story is one of the most romantic and passionate I’ve ever read.  I’ve rarely been happier for another heroine.

Can you tell that it’s hard for me to remember that Hattie isn’t real?  That she isn’t sitting on her front porch swing with handsome, young Reed Tyler teaching her how to kiss: “There’s the peck, the peach, and the malvalva.”  I know–it was an education for me, too.  If a little more about her strapping young sharecropper had made its way onto the copy material on the back of the book, I might have read Hattie’s story sooner.  What’s not romantic about a good-looking, well-built man discovering his employer is also a woman…and then doing something about it? Continue reading

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K.I.S.S. and TEAL

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and Avon Books is educating women about the subtle signs and symptoms that we need to be able to recognize because there is no early detection method like there is for breast and cervical cancers.

  •     Bloating
  •     Pelvic and abdominal pain
  •     Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  •     Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

Avon Books has already donate $25,000 to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and will double that through proceeds from the purchase of the following books, which means we can help save women’s lives.

  •     Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue by Stephanie Laurens
  •     The Seduction of Scandal by Cathy Maxwell
  •     The Deed by Lynsay Sands
  •     A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
  •     In the Arms of a Marquess by Katharine Ashe
  •     One Night in London by Caroline Linden
  •     Star Crossed Seduction by Jenny Brown
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The Spymaster’s Lady

The Spymaster’s Lady
Joanna Bourne
Historical – Regency
Publication Info.: Berkley Sensation, 2008, ISBN: 9780425219607
 

I’m going to tell you a little story about this book, but first I have to tell you about my mother-in-law.  She’s a reader, and not a snobby one.  She likes a fun novel.  She’s also the wife of a Methodist minister.  She’s pretty down to earth, though, so for her birthday, I gave her a copy of LaVyrle Spencer’s Then Came Heaven.  It’s a romance, but not graphic enough to embarrass either of us, and it has a pretty tame cover that doesn’t scream “There’s sex in this book!”  I felt comfortable giving it to her, and she enjoyed reading it.

Fast forward a few months.  My in-laws were visiting when a friend dropped by to return a sack of books I’d leant her (one point in favor of print books over e-books).  My mother-in-law intercepts the bag at the door declaring, “Oh, are these more of your books?”  I tried to discretely remove them, but she insisted–she would just borrow whatever was in the bag, after all, she’s not picky.  So my minister’s-wife mother-in-law randomly grabs a book and pulls out THIS one.  “Oh, my!” she says.  My thoughts exactly.  There we stand, two thirty-something women in the front hallway of my own home feeling like teenagers caught sneaking out with boys. Continue reading

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Everything Old Is New Again

There continues to be a lot of talk amongst authors about the Brave New World of e-book publishing (I borrowed the application of that phrase from this author).  There are fears, of course, that money will be lost as people share/copy/pirate digital files rather than actually buy books–most authors aren’t rolling in their royalties–but as an e-book consumer, what I’m seeing is a possible boon to authors (if not for used book store owners).

I love used book stores.  I can walk out with a bag of books having spent less than $10, but more importantly, I can find the books I’m looking for–the older books that Barnes&Noble doesn’t have.  This is what keeps my reading habit within our family budget.  After I read Flowers from the Storm (1992), I spent weeks combing my local used book store for My Sweet Foley (2006 – out of print), then The Dream Hunter (2006 – out of print), and anything else I could get my hands on by Laura Kinsale.  But Lessons in French (published in 2010) was the first time any of my money made it into Kinsale’s pocket.  By the time it came out, I was hooked on Kinsale, and ready to buy whatever was hot off the press. Continue reading

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The Corset & The Crinolin

The Corset & The Crinoline: An Illustrated History
W. B. Lord
Publication Info.: Dover Publications, 2007, (1868 by Ward, Lock, and Tyler), ISBN: 139780486461861
 

You can’t read historical romance without learning a thing or two about women’s underwear.  No doubt some books include more accurate representations than others, in part I assume, because information about private and mundane things often isn’t recorded.  (Check out this site attempting to reconstruct some of women’s most private undergarment needs.)  So it was a bit surprising to me when I found The Corset and the Crinolin and discovered it was originally published smack dab in the middle of the Victorian era, and by a man, no less.  Actually, from this, and some of its contents, it seems apparent that a woman’s corset was not considered particularly private, which is interesting in itself.

The author, William Barry Lord, was an army surgeon in the Crimean War if this Wikipedia article entirely lacking footnotes is to be believed.   “His articles…show an interest in a wide range of subject matter – mackerel, fishing, lithographic stone,” etcetera, etcetera, “and a host of other topics that piqued his interest.”  Those apparently having been women’s undergarments.  Continue reading

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The Sheik

The Sheik
E. M. Hull
Genre: Historical – Algeria 1919
Publication Info: http://www.publicbookshelf.com/romance/the-sheik/
 

The Sheik is  one of those books that’s so significant to modern popular culture that its importance is universally recognized even while there is broad disagreement whether it is “good” or “bad.”  When it was first published in 1919, it was considered scandalous, so of course, it sold like hot cakes, and in 1921 it was adapted to silent film, making Rudolph Valentino an international sex symbol.  Women went crazy for him.

In short, Diana Mayo has come to the desert of Algeria for adventure.  She doesn’t want to tread the traditional path of British society misses.  She has decided that she must not be very feminine since she’s not interested in dancing with would-be husbands.  Of course, her brother and a would-be suitor give the reader a taste of British masculinity and it’s decidedly effeminate, so we know right away that it’s not that Diana isn’t particularly feminine, but that she hasn’t met a sufficiently masculine man to awaken her sexuality.  Enter the Sheik, and you can imagine the rest Continue reading

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A Rose By Any Other Name

Have you noticed that romance heroines usually have unusual names?  Bryony, Gigi, Freyja, Annique, Evangeline–these are the heroines of the first five books I pulled from my shelf, all published fairly recently.  Even among the older set there’s Mariah, Merry, and Lacy.  Not completely standard fare.  If I stopped five random people on the street I wouldn’t find this variety (at least not where I live), but names are getting more and more unusual.  It’s just not as popular to name a baby after his father or uncle anymore.  Now, babies get unique names.  No one wants their kid to have the same name as someone else in his class.

In a Roman schoolhouse, roll call would have gone something like this:

“Gaius?” -here- “Lucius?” -here- “Gaius?” -here- “Marcus?” -here- “Quintus?” -here- “Gaius?” -here- “Lucius?” -here- “Marcus?” – here- “Marcus?” -here- “Marcus?” -here- Continue reading

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The Soldier

The Soldier
Grace Burrowes
Genre: Historical – Regency
Publication Info.: Sourcebooks, 2011, ISBN: 978-1402245671

 

This is the second book in The Duke’s Obsession series (trilogy?).  I’m reviewing it before The Heir simply because it’s so new.  You don’t need to have read The Heir to understand The Soldier, but Devlin figures more prominently in the first book than either of his brothers figure in his story, so it’s nice to have some background on the character, and it’s nice to read the first book without knowing what’s in store for him (builds more tension).  All that being said, the stories are remarkably similar.  Not in content, but in characterization and the quality and nature of the relationships.  This isn’t a bad thing, at all.

As is recently the trend with Regency stories, Devlin is a former soldier suffering from PTSD acquired during his years in the Napoleonic wars.  Of course the terms were different, but the issues are similar.  He has trouble sleeping, thunder storms stress him out, he self-medicates a little too much with alcohol, and most significant to his relationship with Emmie, he hasn’t been able to *be* with a woman in years. Continue reading

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Classic Heroes

Somewhere I read plotting advice from Christina Dodd that said something like “torture your hero early and often.”  I think she also said a hero should be as “alpha” as possible.  I hope I’m not mis-attributing these ideas, but I couldn’t find the exact source this morning cruising through her webpage.  In any case, Dodd’s idea of a hero would have sold as well twenty-five hundred years ago as it does today.  The Greeks liked a tortured hero, too.

Greek heroes needed to be flawed, to have the proverbial Achilles heel.  They were weak at times, although not physically; they were at the same time larger than life and incredibly mortal.  Superman would not have been a crowd pleaser in ancient Athens.  He’s just too perfect.  They would have appreciated his super-human strength (a battle with Heracles would have been inevitable).  They would have embraced his other worldliness (Krypton isn’t so different from Mount Olympus).  But Superman is just too good.  He never compromises on his values.  He won’t kill.  Even the most evil villain can not find a chink in Superman’s moral armor, and the Greeks wouldn’t have gone in for that. Continue reading

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