April Reader Challenge

Writers start out as readers. We read tons of books and then one day we realize we could put our characters on the page, and BOOM, a writer is born. The problem is, once you start writing seriously, you get jaded about what you read. Eventually, going to a bookstore is work because you’re there to research covers, see what the market is buying, get ideas, buy research texts. And you have to be careful about what you’re reading while you’re writing your book because you don’t want to end up sounding like someone else instead of yourself.

I was at that point last month. I couldn’t tell you the last book I picked up. And I was pretty miserable. Nothing was piquing my interest. I’d walk into a bookstore and look at the section headers and think, “Nope. Too much work to find something.”

Then, paranormal romance author Regan Black stopped by for a chat, and she mentioned this romance challenge. No, it wasn’t about finding a guy, although I could use that challenge too. This was the Reading Romances monthly book challenge. It gave me the help I needed.

This month’s topic was alternate realities. Choices were: 1) a contemporary with something different (paranormal); 2) future/historical with an alternative reality; 3) a Rita/Golden Heart nominee; 4) a book with at least three of the seven colors of the rainbow on it’s cover or a title that included dream/wish/rainbow; or 4) a book with an accountant/book-keeper character or a borrowed book.

No pressure. You don’t have to read one from each option. Just one book. I could handle this.

I started out with Lothaire by Krelsey Cole. Here’s the excerpt:

In this thrilling tale of the Immortals After Dark, #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole reveals secrets of the Lore, fierce realm of the immortals.


Driven by his insatiable need for revenge, Lothaire, the Lore’s most ruthless vampire, plots to seize the Horde’s crown by offering up the soul of his lovely new captive, Elizabeth Peirce. Yet the young human soon tempts him beyond reason.


Ellie Peirce’s life was a living hell—even before an evil immortal abducted her. Though he plans to sacrifice her, the vampire seems to ache for her touch, showering her with sexual pleasure. In a bid to save her soul, she surrenders her body, while vowing to protect her heart.


In one month, Lothaire must choose between a millennia-old blood vendetta and his irresistible prisoner. Will he succumb to the miseries of his past . . . or risk everything for a future with her?

This turned out to be a double play for me. I sort of dole Kresley Cole out to myself because I adore this series, and I knew there was a new book out, but hadn’t gone to search it out because I knew what would happen. So when I went to figure out what I was missing, I realized she’d also released a novella over the holidays when I wasn’t looking.

Before I cracked open Lothaire, I dove into Warlord Wants Forever, the novella that tells the story that starts the series. It was fantastic, although I give a warning: this book has all the heat of a full-length novel packed into a small package. Cole handled it well, but given the shorter format, the sexual tension that normally carries her characters along while they get to know each other before they hop in to bed is minimal. It was a great read and I highly recommend it. If you’re new to the series, I’d start here (normally I read the books in the order written).

Back to Lothaire and Ellie. This is by far the darkest book in the series, so do not read it right after you’ve lost your job and you feel all alone. Or when you have a deadline looming. I was going to read for 30 minutes one morning and then get to work. Right. Eight hours later, the kids were home from school and I had done nothing.

And I’d do it again. In the early days of this series, I didn’t think you needed to read the books in order, but now that the paranormal war is in full swing, you really need to. If you haven’t discovered Cole yet, and you like the idea of vampires, werewolves, Valkyries and the like living among us, take a week off work and give her a try.

Needless to say, that broke the reading dry spell I had going on. I finished that, caught sight of Eloisa James on one of my shelves and realized that I’d stopped reading in the middle of one of her series. My daughter had bought the remaining books, so I ran upstairs and stole a couple of books off her shelf.

Luckily, Eloisa’s books can be read out of order, because I’d picked up another of series in the middle and wanted to try and complete it. So, the book that started my trek into borrowed book territory was Desperate Duchesses.  If you’re looking for a wild romp in the Georgian period, you’ve found your series. It follows six wild women of the time as they find the men that tame their hearts.

I love Roberta for looking at her life, realizing she needs something more and doing what’s necessary to get it. And I love Damon for ignoring the attitudes of the time when it comes to his son, and getting the duchess he’s fallen for.

At a time when many of us can’t find one man, it’s refreshing to have a woman having to choose between two: the bad boy Duke and the Earl, who’s a little tarnished himself. The story moves quickly and led to a couple of late nights reading.

I’m not a huge fan of historical, but Eloisa James is a fun read that makes me wish for corsets. How often can you say that?

Here’s the teaser:

Welcome to a world of reckless sensuality and glittering sophistication . . . of dangerously handsome gentlemen and young ladies longing to gain a title . . . of games played for high stakes, including—on occasion—a lady’s virtue.

A marquess’s sheltered only daughter, Lady Roberta St. Giles falls in love with a man she glimpses across a crowded ballroom: a duke, a game player of consummate skill, a notorious rakehell who shows no interest in marriage—until he lays eyes on Roberta.

Yet the Earl of Gryffyn knows too well that the price required to gain a coronet is often too high. Damon Reeve, the earl, is determined to protect the exquisite Roberta from chasing after the wrong destiny.

Can Damon entice her into a high-stakes game of his own, even if his heart is likely to be lost in the venture?

You’d think after four books (I read two by Eloisa), I’d be done. But I hadn’t picked up the book I said I was going to read at the beginning of the challenge, Bet Me by Jenny Crusie.

I’ve read it before, but I love it. Min’s an actuary, not technically an accountant, but it was close enough in my mind. She’s reserved, except for her shoes. But only one person really gets her: Cal Morrisey, the man who’s left a string of broken hearts around town because he won’t let a woman in to his heart.

These two characters are awesome together and the back and forth banter between them is what makes Crusie a New York Times bestseller.

Here’s the blurb on this one, and like the others this month, it was well worth the time I spent not sleeping. Although I may need to break down and get this one on my Kindle because I’m wearing out the binding on another Crusie novel. Shocking. Not.

Minerva Dobbs knows all about risk management, which is why it’s such a shock when David, her extremely logical choice for a boyfriend, dumps her three weeks before her perfect sister’s wedding: David was not supposed to be a wild card. So when Min overhears David make a bet with his old nemesis—the gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey—that Cal can’t get Min into bed in a month, she decides that fate has just handed her a stacked deck: she can make Cal sweat his sex appeal and get a date to the wedding, if she plays along and doesn’t fold. What follows is a novel of destiny, chaos theory, Krispy Kreme donuts, the spirit of Elvis, Chicken Marsala, and a gamble for the highest stake of all: true love.

In honor of this book, my daughter and I are making Chicken Marsala tonight. We’ll let you know how it goes next week in the Kids in the Kitchen blog update!


New Reading Slump

I could tell you I don’t have a To Be Read pile, but that would be a big, fat lie. And I don’t want to lie here. I mean, we all smile and lie through our days, “Yes, I understand” when it’s all still fuzzy, “No, I don’t want that doughnut” when all you can think of is the frosting melting on your tongue, and the mother of all lies, “I’m fine,” when all you want to do is kick something.

But there shouldn’t be lies here. Part of this exercise is to get me writing daily again. (Let’s not talk about last week. It was a particularly depressing week at the day job, the ramifications of which will be felt for months to come.) But it’s also to figure out where I am, where I’m going, what I want to be when I grow up, etc., etc. and I can’t lie to myself or you guys about that.

So I have a very large To Be Read pile. In fact, it’s several piles spread here and there throughout the house. Everything from the Boy Scout Merit Badge Requirements Book to Fire in Fiction to It’s All Too Much. But if you take a look at those titles, you’ll notice a common theme: they’re all non-fiction.

This is bad. Really bad. Some of the books throughout the house have been on my list for close to a decade. Yeah, I get it. They’re probably never going to be read. But a girl can dream. Being a planner, I had a plan at one point. Ten pages of non-fiction a night and then I could read what I wanted. This worked for a while until I hit a very boring book, which killed the urge to read non-fiction for a while (and was summarily given away to the library).

The lack of fiction is because I don’t have any great new author suggestions coming in. But fate has a way of correcting for these issues. In my case, it came when I helped a technologically challenged friend hook her computer back up Friday night.

Her: “Hey, have you read Dorothea Benton Frank?”

Me: “Nope, never heard of her.”

Her: “She writes fiction that takes place in the south, like Pat Conroy. I’ve heard good things.”

Me: “Sounds good.”

That should have been the end of the story. But then on Saturday I was running an errand in the used book/DVD/music store. Yes, really. I was in the checkout line waiting for them to get my not-at-all-what-I-came-in-looking-for DVDs, when I glanced down at the package deals of select authors they had at the register. There’s Dorothea.

Since it was taking some time to find the DVDs, I picked up the 3-pack. They were tied with Christmas ribbon to keep anyone interested in back cover copy from getting a taste. I carefully worked the ribbon off a corner so I could pull the books out and take a look. Hooked by the end of the first cover. By the time the cashier came back – it might have been Sunday night – the ribbon was a thing of the past and I was reading the opening pages. Somehow this threw the cashier for a loop, but really, what did she expect me to do with a book? It’s not like I took the pricing sticker off of it. All the components of the package were right there.

So anyway, I’m trying out Dorothea (and will be sharing her with my friend). Who have you discovered lately?