Thursday, January 27, 2011

With This Fling

If you haven’t already read my Kelly Hunter fan girl moment, you can find it here.

Misbehaving with the Magnate was the first book of Kelly’s I read. It was a fun read and remains on my keeper shelf, but it was her Bennett series that turned me into her biggest fan.

Kelly just seems to go from strength to strength, with each book better than the last. Her latest, With This Fling (a launch title for Mills & Boon’s new Riva imprint) is without a doubt my favourite so far. You can read the blurb, and find out how the book was inspired, over at the Minxes blog.

There was a lot to love about With This Fling: a fast-paced story-line, sparkly banter, a to-die-for hero, and a lovely setting. But for me the best thing about this novel was the heroine. Kelly Hunter has an amazing ability to write heroines who are completely original and utterly engaging.

Charlotte Featherstone is quirky, self-assured, socially skilled, intelligent and just a little ditsy. I often identify with the heroines in novels, but it’s not often I want to BE her.

Though With This Fling is fun and flirty, fulfilling the promise of the line, it also has poignant moments. My eyes were very wet when I read the scene involving a contact card. You’ll have to read the story to find out why.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Riva has arrived!

Over at the Minxes Blog, we're celebrating the launch of Mills & Boon's new Riva imprint this month, with interviews with four Riva authors.

Last weekend I bought all four Riva launch titles, and then I was faced with a dilemma: which to read first?
Since all the blurbs sounded so enticing, I finally settled on reading them in order they appear in the Minxy spotlight, starting with Kimberly Lang's Girl's Guide to Flirting with Danger. And all I can say is that if the others all measure up to this one, Riva is going to be a hit!

Girl's Guide is everything you'd expect from what was previously known as Modern Heat. It's packed with snappy dialogue (look out for the radio scene in chapter 3!), some laugh-inducing moments, and a great deal of sizzling sensuality. It's a reunion story, with two lovable characters. And it's FUN! Read it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Too Stupid To Live

This post includes spoilers for several best-selling paranormal YA novels. So if you don’t want to know how they pan out, stop reading here.

* * *

The heroine is a young girl, living in a place she really doesn’t want to be. She meets the hero at her new school, and is instantly attracted to him, though he seems to take an instant dislike to her. Then they get to know each other, and it turns out that he is more than he seems. She unearths the secret of what he really is. He admits that he can’t resist her any longer, and that she is the great love of his life. They are blissfully happy together, though they can’t get too passionate as it’ll be too dangerous for her. Then her life is threatened and he has to come to her rescue in a dramatic finale which involves a great deal of flying glass and an entourage of superhuman beings.

Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight? Actually no, I’m talking about Lauren Kate’s Fallen.
So far so good. It’s a winning recipe that works well for both books.

Their sequels are also remarkably similar:
For her own good, the hero separates himself from the heroine. In his absence, she undertakes a series of dangerous adventures. She meets another boy, one who seems a great deal more normal and warm and considerate, and who becomes her closest friend. Though his interest in her is obvious, she doesn’t love him as she loves her One True Love.

The difference between these two books is that in New Moon, though the heroine’s depression at losing her love is a tad annoying and you’d like to slap her upside the head with a wet fish, she isn’t Too Stupid To Live. Whereas Luce, the heroine of Lauren Kate’s Torment, is.

Maybe I’m dating myself here when I say that Luce comes across like a spoilt, whiny teenager. Yes, I know she is a teenager, and yes I know it’s possible a lot of teenagers behave like that, but seriously, this is fiction. The heroine is the person whose head the reader is going to have to spend hours and hours inside. And having her whine on about how everyone treats her like a baby and doesn’t tell her anything is enough to make the reader want to put the book down.

Chicky, I counted at least three people telling you not to leave the safety of the school grounds before you left the safety of the school grounds. And you know what? Claiming afterwards that you didn’t know it was dangerous because nobody tells you anything is TOO STUPID TO LIVE.

Luckily for Lauren Kate’s next book, I still hear Mrs Steen’s voice in my head. She was my primary school library teacher, and the one thing she ingrained in me was that you had to read the book before you could decide whether you liked it or not.

I’m looking forward to Passion, due out in 2011.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My favourite non-fiction book of all time

Confession time: I was a geeky kid who used to sit and read the Encyclopedia Brittanica for fun. Really.
I spent many hours in my teen years, in front of the TV with an encycopedia open on my lap, sometimes just browsing, sometimes jumping from article to article. Actually not much different from the way I surf the internet these days!

I find most non-fiction very dry to read. You have to be interested in the subject matter (or be truly bored!) to persevere. But there is one non-fiction book that I have read over and over. I know the stories contained in its pages intimately, but sometimes I'll just dip into it and read a few pages just for pleasure.

I was still in my early teens when I bought the book second hand in a tiny independent bookstore, and its fabric cover still smelled of the previous owner's pipe tobacco. My whole reason for buying it was because it contained a picture of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, nicknamed Sissi, a role played by the actress I was named for, Romy Schneider.

The book is Dorothy Gies McGuigan's The Habsburgs. It covers over five hundred years of European history, focussing on one of the most influential dynasties of all time: the Habsburgs, who came out of obscurity in central Europe (Austria) to conquer most of Europe through marriage. First The Netherlands, then Spain and Hungary, vast tracts of Italy and the title of Holy Roman Emperor into the bargain.

But what I love most about this book aren't the stories of power and politics, which is what most non-fiction books would dwell on. It's the small personal stories that the writer tells with such emotion that the reader can't help but be drawn in. Stories like that of Juana the Mad, queen of Castile, obsessively in love with her Habsburg husband, who is known to history as Philip the Handsome. After his death, she decided to have his body moved to the royal crypt at Granada:
She started southward in a great funeral cortege, the coffin on an open bier before her carriage, journeying only at night by the light of torches, for, she said, "A widow who has lost the sun of her own soul should never expose herself to the light of day."
Is it just me, or is that really moving?

If you ever stumble across this book, give it a read. And if you're a romance writer then like me, you might just find inspiration within its pages.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Willkommen 2011

My parents gave me a gift in my early teens, a poster of a beautiful ballet dancer that hung on the back of my bedroom door for many years. Beneath the picture were these wise words from William Arthur Ward:
If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.
If you can dream it, you can become it.
I have no idea what happened to that poster, but those words will stay with me for life.

This is my resolution for the new year, and my hope for all of you; that we will all dream big. But remember: you need to believe in the dream for it to come true.