romance

Hot and bothered with Sylvia Day

It looks like I missed out on a couple treats when I handed over today’s books to TBYL Reviewer Fiona! She’s been taking a wild ride with two Sylvia Day novels…

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At a recent reviewer catch-up with Mandi, I unwittingly picked up a couple of romance novels by Sylvia Day to review, only to find that they were, well, rather hot and bothersome.

entwined with youSylvia Day is an international best-selling author and has been described by Fox News as “one of the most successful romance writers in the world.”  I think it would be fair to say that the two books I’m reviewing, Don’t Tempt Me and Entwined With You, are much more than just simple romance.

Unlike many other people I know who found the prose of E.L. James to be a little bit non-literary and a tad overwrought, I really enjoyed the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and read the three books over a four-day thirty-year High School reunion long weekend in Fremantle last year. Even though the lead character Anastasia Steele is a young woman just about to graduate from college, I believe that there’s not so much about the 50 Shades books that would appeal to young women, but rather; it’s a pure fantasy ride for middle-aged chicks, like me. The sort of what-could-have-been story, if only we’d valued ourselves a bit more, been a bit more willing to try things, the ‘pathway not taken’ sort of thing. I myself have my own Christian Grey path that I didn’t take and every now and then I wonder what would have happened if I had?

Titillation and adventure is what is going on in both these Sylvia Day novels, although the settings and historical contexts could not be more different.  Like the E.L. James books, I found these books virtually impossible to put down, they are so readable, and really quite naughty, in a non-drudge kind of way.

Entwined with You is the third in the Crossfire books, a series that has sold over 6 million copies so far. I haven’t read the previous two Crossfire novels, however Sylvia Day’s clippy and jovial style means that it’s not really necessary to have done so. The two main characters are Eva and Gideon, both damaged by childhood abuse and both seeking to move beyond those harmful experiences and enter into a grown-up and normal relationship with each other. Gideon is a New York property-billionaire kind of dude who seems to be able to have anything and anyone at any time he wants, though for some reason that is unfathomable, he only really wants Eva.

Eva is a smart and sassy kind of gal with bucketloads of attitude, a clear head and the capability to not panic and just get on with things when the going gets tough, which is pretty unlike Anastasia Steele in the Fifty Shades books. That said, there are numerous borrowings of Fifty Shades motifs that are probably there to excite those who have read E.L James books, a little bit of post-modernist cross-pollination.

The dominant theme of Entwined with You is around the many obstacles that are thrown in the path of Eva and Gideon, and how they still keep finding ways to both be together and to get it on together. This is how some of the titillation goes:

“I loved him wild and I loved him tender. I’d take him any way I could get him, but it’d been so long… My skin was already tingling and tightening expectantly, craving the greedy reverence of his touch. I feared what would happen if he came at me full force when I was so starved for his body. We might tear each other apart.”

Of course it gets way more graphic than this, however quoting some of the really blue prose in Entwined with You isn’t really kosher on a family blog like That Book You Like. One of the qualities I like immensely about Entwined with You is the feeling of being in New York with the heroine; from her Krav Maga (a brutal martial arts practice developed in Israel) sessions in Brooklyn; to her incredibly bouncy sex sessions in her lover’s apartment, through to the doorman in the apartment block, and the really hip and cool lifestyles of the twentysomethings that dominate the book. I mean, where else would you find a bisexual best friend named Cary who’s dating both a guy and a girl, who also happens to be a super hotty and features on underwear billboards? A flatmate like this is much more likely to be found in New York, New York than Melbourne I think.

A fun read, very sassy, lots of sexy stimulation and if your life is feeling a bit boring at the moment, a quick read of Entwined with You by Sylvia Day is the perfect wake-up!

The other book by Sylvia Day that I read in this batch was set in a totally different era, and the sex scenes were in some ways much more delectable. For me there’s nothing like a bit of period drama to add a certain frisson to a book or television drama.

don't tempt meDon’t Tempt Me is a riveting romance novel. It’s an adventurous story and Sylvia Day’s female characters are mainly strong and capable, even the damaged or deceived ones. Set in 1757 and then 1780 in Paris, at a time when Benjamin Franklin (one of the founding fathers of the United States and in the 1780s the United States Ambassador to France) Day delivers a rocking rip through a historic time that in this story seemed to be transitioning out of the economics of the kingdom into the economics of the merchant. This transition is nicely demonstrated through the leading male protagonist, Simon Quinn, the mercenary. The story is nicely set against the back-drop of the start of capitalism as we know it now.

Ben Franklin is representative of a political motif in the book, and thereby it’s just his name that matters. It’s his researcher and analyst, the very solemn and stern but capable Edward James who is one of the key manly characters in this read. It is in James that we see the representation of level-headedness, certainty and moral rectitude that is probably a metaphor for the emerging place that the United States of America is exerting in global politics at this time.

One of the most admirable qualities in Sylvia Day’s writing is the open lust and admiration for the male body that is running through the minds of her female characters. For the main part these are not women who hang around waiting to be conquered and then ‘lie back and think of England’, seeing their role as to ‘do the marital duty’. They are full-blooded, mainly young women caught between the dictates and constraints of polite society and their own raging lust. Fortunately for the reader, their lust wins out in the story. For example, there is a particular heroine, a 23 year old virgin named Lynette Baillon, standing behind a fern at a rather licentious party in Paris, who spys the hero Quinn…

“He was the sort of man who could enslave a woman with a single glance.

A glance such as the one he was presently giving to her.

Lynette Baillon watched the notorious Simon Quinn with similar shamelessness, admiring the raven blackness of his hair and the brilliant blue of his eyes.

Quinn lounged further against the fluted column in the Baroness Orlinda’s ballroom, his arms crossing his broad chest and one ankle hooked carelessly over the other. He looked both leisurely and alert, a dichotomy she had noted the first time she saw him riding through the moonlit Parisian streets…”

And minutes later, with Quinn not understanding exactly who he was attracting the attention of…

“Her blood felt hot now. Her chest rose and fell rapidly in response to his stare. Her heart raced. That a stranger could incite such a response in her despite the crowd that surrounded them and the distance separating them only exacerbated her reaction.

Then he straightened abruptly and approached with a predator’s easy, yet determined gait. His long legs ate up the space between them, his pathway direct and unconcerned with those who were forced to move out of his way. She inhaled sharply, her palms dampening within her gloves.”

Of course the text gets a whole lot bluer than this, however I think this snap-shot demonstrates that while Lynette is indeed an inexperienced young gentlewoman, she is not without an imagination that encompasses fully-fledged erotic fantasy, which in the course of the book is realised in practice.

The title of this novel, Don’t Tempt Me comes from words uttered by the hero Quinn when against the odds, all the societal obstacles put in the way of his courting Lynette Baillon have been turned upside down and surprisingly he holds himself back and decides to court her for marriage in a rather old-fashioned way.

This book is a rollicking adventure story set at an interesting time in history, in the world’s most romantic city Paris, with hot blooded characters who stride across both the bourgeoisie, the political classes and the mercantile classes. Oh and with worried parents of very comely daughters and a superb plot using twins to great effect.

One to enjoy as a secret journey to another time and place when the kids and partner are driving you up the wall during the school holidays. Sit back with Don’t Tempt Me and think of Paris!

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I’ve got the most recent Sylvia Day novel on the reading list, In The Flesh. Do you think I should pass it on to Fiona?

If you’d like to find out more about Sylvia Day’s books from Penguin, you can read more here.

Opulence: Torn

I’ve said it before, but once again – I love it when one book’s theme follows sweetly on from another…

Last month I enjoyed Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl and in doing so, learnt a lot more about the politics, hardships and bloodshed of the Napoleonic era. I was neck-deep in the early 1800s and loving it.

tornAnd so, you can imagine my delight when I received Torn by Karen Turner (Palmer Higgs Books)…

1808. When 14 year old Alexandra meets Patrick, her handsome and notorious step-brother, she is confused and resentful as he shakes the foundations of everything she has ever known. Driving a wedge between Alex and her brother Simon, he tears apart the fabric of her quiet world. Yet she is intrigued by the enigmatic Patrick and finds herself increasingly drawn to him.

These are the years between childhood and womanhood, during which Alex begins to realise that her growing affection for Patrick owes nothing to sibling fondness.

But these are turbulent times for England and Patrick and Simon, answering the call of adventure, join the fight against Napoleon with devastating consequences.

In a family ravaged by war and deceit Alex finds herself betrayed in the worst possible way.

This is the story of one woman’s passionate struggle for love and hope against all the constraints of her time.

The bookish universe is a funny thing and so I followed its trail into a brand new period adventure.

Torn is set in London’s high society, an opulent setting where each family estate is more impressive than the last. The story’s main character, Alexandra, is a tomboy, but no less a part of her fine surroundings. She may resist, but as she grows, she finds herself drawn into the dance the same as everyone else.

Her occasional, unconventional boyish attire does little to discourage her admirers, and she finds herself betrothed, again her will…

“Oh heavens, Alexandra, what is there to understand? Lord Elginbury approached me several summers ago. Nothing was ever formally agreed, but recently our communications resumed, and yesterday a mutually favourable arrangement was achieved. You ought to consider yourself fortunate – it’s an enviable position, a perfect match that will benefit both families.”

“He has seen me?”

“Yes. The boy visited with his parents several years ago and attended the solstice ball. He thought you… suitable enough, even if you were in the garden wearing a pair of Simon’s breeches when he arrived.”

Despite being promised and her reluctance to behave in an entirely ladylike manner, Alex does find herself growing into her womanhood and in turn feeling herself fall for the bittersweet charms of her step-brother Patrick.

From this point, the story revolves around a ‘will-they-wont-they’ plot. Their relationship is feisty, heated and eventually passionate. Still, I was questioning all the way though – is this really a happily-ever-after story? Will Alexandra’s hard-headness push Patrick away, or will his good looks lead him into temptation?

Karen Turner has a great story to tell, and even though I was a little unsure about the authenticity of some of the language used, I was sufficiently drawn in by the beautiful descriptions of landscapes, gowns, riches and love triangles.

It’s an enjoyable story and one that’ll be thoroughly appreciated by fans of period dramas.

If you’d like go into the running to win a copy for yourself, all you need to do is email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line TORN. Include your name and address and I’ll draw a winner on the evening of 31/08/13.

Plus, you can find out more about Karen Turner’s Torn here…

 

Phew! The Look of Love

On my journey to read differently, I’ve experienced all kinds of stories – adventures and suspense, drama and biography, chick lit of all shapes and forms – and out of all of these genres, it’s romance that continues to surprise me.

I like a good love story as much as the next girl, but until TBYL I’d never read a ‘romance novel’ as such, especially the type that feel like a one night stand, lusty, exaggerated and alway happy ending.

lookofloveThe Look of Love by Belle Andre (Harlequin) is one such book. It’s the first of Belle’s books that I’ve read, although I’ve it on good authority that her Sullivan’s series are staples of the romance genre, and the Sullivan famiy are super stars of the digital publishing revolution.

This instalment, the first in printed format, focuses on Chase Sullivan (what a name!) a talented and handsome photographer. After a chapter of introductions, bringing the reader up to speed as to where the rest of the Sullivan clan are at, we join Chase on a bitterly cold, stormy night on the road. Travelling to his brother’s boutique winery for a fashion shoot (of course) Chase comes across Chloe Peterson, forlorn, drenched, battered and bruised, her wrecked car useless in a ditch by the side of the road.

As you might expect, Chase rescues Chloe, and after only a moderate degree of resistance, their hot tryst begins.

This steamy tale, taking place in luxurious bedrooms, inviting spas and spring grapevines will have your heart beating a faster, and I’m sure it’ll make you a little breathless. Sure, it’s formulaic and a little bit predictable, but it’s saucy, and hot as hell. If you’re a fan of romance literature, this will be just your thing.

“Chase took her hand, hurried up the front steps and kicked open the front door, not stopping in the living room even though it meant waiting another few seconds for the pleasure he’d been craving. He wanted her in a bed, the way he’d been picturing her for forty-eight straight hours, naked and flushed with desire – and pleasure – for him.”

Phew!

As you know, I’m always interested in the process of writing, almost as much as the story itself, in particular when an author is as prolific as Belle Andre is. I was fortunate enough to find out a little more about how she puts her steamy stories together…

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What made you decide to pursue writing as a career?
I’ve been a huge romance reader all my life, devouring a book-a-day whenever I can. I was a professional musician for ten years (I played guitar and piano and also sang and wrote songs) until one day two fictional characters started having a conversation in my head. I wrote it down and then the next day when their conversation continued, I wrote that down, too! Before I knew it, I’d written my first romance. Two years later, I realized I needed to decide between playing/writing music and writing romance. It was an easy choice to pick books and every day I give thanks for having the most fantastic job in the world.


Your success in self-publishing has been extraordinary. Could you tell us a bit about your publishing journey and how you ended up pursuing self-publishing?
Thank you! It’s been a very exciting journey. When I first began to self-publish in the middle of 2010, ebooks and digital readers were still fairly new. I was excited about the opportunity to write the books my readers had been asking for – and as soon as I self-published my first book, I was stunned by how much fun the process was. I had always wanted to write a big series of connected books about a family, so I decided in the summer of 2011 to launch my Sullivan series with 8 books about the San Francisco based family, The response from contemporary romance readers for these sexy, emotional stories blew my mind.

Once my Sullivan series took off in a huge way and sold more than a million copies as self-published ebooks – because of my awesome fans around the world! – I was thrilled to have the chance to work with Harlequin on the print launch of the Sullivans, starting with THE LOOK OF LOVE, FROM THIS MOMENT ON and CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE this summer.


Have you got a favourite place or time of day to write?
I can – and do – write at any time of day or night, and I will write absolutely anywhere, as well. When the weather is good, I write outside. If it’s cold outside, I’ll curl up on the couch with my laptop. I write in airports and on planes and in the car while waiting for my kids to finish soccer and ballet practice.

I listen to music when I write and all I need to get into the zone is to pop in my ear buds. Within seconds, I can usually be right back in the thick of the emotions of my characters.


Can you tell us a little about your writing process, are you a plotter or a let the characters take the story where they will author?
I’ve always thought of my self as a writer who let the characters take me where they want to go! But then, by the time I get to the end of each book, I realize I’ve written a 50-100 page outline along the way. So I guess that means I’m a hybrid of both styles – I outline as ideas come to me, but I’m always open to my characters and scenes changing direction when they need to. I write between 10 to 25 pages a day in a fairly quick first draft and then I revise each book at least a half-dozen times before publication.

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If you’d like to find out more about The Look of Love by Belle Andres, you can visit the Harlequin website here…

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Three days, three titles

Staying home during the summer break suits me just perfectly…

We venture out to the beach in the evening when the weather is hot, and the local park gets plenty of visits during the day. Picnics and BBQs are the order of the day. But the thing I love to do most is to put my feet up at home and get some really serious reading done.

Last week I managed three books in three days, which is pretty much a record for me. I thought I’d share them with you as a ‘bundled’ review.

Close Enough to TouchFirst up I read Close Enough to Touch, by Victoria Dahl (Harlequin), a sexy romance – Hollywood girl meets rough-riding cowboy…

Cole Rawlins is a rugged Wyoming cowboy born and bred. Yet he can’t help but be drawn to the fascinating big-city girl who moves in across from him. He wants to get close enough to Grace to see past her tough facade, but if he does, she might see the real Cole. The one with a Hollywood history gone bad. As they discover a sizzling attraction, it becomes harder for him to keep his demons at bay – and those fires from long ago may burn them both.

The story is really entertaining and make-up artist Grace Barrett is a fascinating character. She’s not your typical Hollywood type, she’s tough to a fault and fiercely  independent. She’s also sufficiently flawed, explaining why she ends up dirt poor in Wyoming with only the bag on her back for company.

Cole Rawlins is pure cowboy, all rough hands and cowboy boots. Or so it would seem – scratch the surface of his history and you find big-city misadventure and regret. As you might expect, Grace and Cole hit it off straight away. Their attraction to each other is immediate, although Grace’s bruised heart (and ego) ensure that she keeps Cole at arms length – emotionally, but not physically. The sex is passionate, rough and a little bit ‘cowboy’ – not for the faint of heart!

Close Enough to Touch, is a good, quick read with a bit of ‘steam’ for your entertainment.

After MoonriseNext I read After Moonrise, by P.C. Cast and Gena Showalter (Harlequin) which was particularly perfect for a summer read. It comprises of two short stories (one by Cast, one by Showalter) both revolving around After Moonrise, a paranormal detective agency. The two novella’s make for nice, snappy reads. This book was decidedly darker in theme than Dahl’s novel, but just as much fun.

Possessed, by P.C. Cast
Being a psychic detective who can channel only negative emotions makes Kent Raef good at catching murderers, but bad at maintaining relationships. Then Lauren Wilcox arrives with a most intriguing case: her twin sister has been murdered and is communing with Lauren’s spirit – and sharing her body. Raef’s the only one who can track the killer and free the spirit. But soon he begins to wonder just which twin he wants to save…and why…

Haunted, by Gena Showalter
Artist Aurora Harper is convinced she’s witnessed a crime – a murder so brutal she’s repressed the memories, only to paint the scene by the light of the moon. Now she needs her new neighbour, Detective Levi Reid, to help her track down the victim – and the killer. Levi’s dealing with his own memory issues, but one thing he knows for sure: Harper is meant to be his, and nothing can take her away from him – not in this life…nor in death…

Both stories start with a surly (but sexy) detective, tough and detached. Both Raef and Reid have spent so long dealing with the dark underbelly of this world and other more paranormal landscapes, that they’ve become hardened and dejected.

Enter a beautiful young lady. Cue steamy sexual encounter, followed by unintended emotional connection. It’s so much fun!

Both of these stories have really interesting plots the spirit stealing and murderous memories had me gripped from the start.

After Moonrise is scary but not terrifying, and darkly funny at times. It was a really interesting blend of film noir, the paranormal and romance.

Better than chocolateFinally I picked up a book that did not at all help me get ‘back on the wagon’ after the Christmas binge. I spent a day reading Better Than Chocolate, by Sheila Roberts (Harlequin) and craving chocolate.

Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company has been in the Sterling family for generations — ever since Great Grandma Rose literally dreamed up her first fabulous recipe. But now it looks as if they’re about to lose Sweet Dreams to the bank…and that would be a disaster — not only for the family but for the town of Icicle Falls, Washington. Can Samantha, the oldest daughter and new head of the company, come up with a way to save it?

This small-town story will particularly appeal to two types of people… chocoholics and entrepreneurs, as the novel sees Samantha working to solve a massive small-business problem, all the time consuming various chocolate delights.

I found this story a really interesting picture of an American town filled with every-day people struggling to meet the challenges of a weak American economy. The problems which the financial climate presents are only solved by community and Samantha, her family and her network find that they are forced to dig themselves out of a substantial business hole. This rescue is only made possible by banding together, as town and community.

Of course, then there’s the bank manager, who just happens to be a spunky young man from Samantha’s past. Will he play hero or villain?

At the beginning of Better Than Chocolate, the author challenges the reader get through the book without eating any chocolate. I must admit, I failed this challenge…

It was a great three days of reading, and it’s not finished yet. I’m reading like a machine, and I’ll have lots more reviews for you in the days to come!

Have you had a chance to do any extra reading over the break?