New contest: "Unclaimed" by Courtney Milan

ETA 10/8/13: This contest is now closed. Aislinn won the book!

It is no surprise that I love stories about sweet, earnest heroes and embittered courtesan heroines. So I have a special place in my heart for Courtney Milan’s incredible Unclaimed, the second book in her Turner brothers series.

HER ONLY HOPE FOR SURVIVAL…

Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London–and he’s known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check…until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he’s waited for all his life.

IS TO RUIN THE MAN SHE LOVES…

But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady Sir Mark believes. Desperate to win free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when Mark’s enemies make her an offer she can’t refuse: Seduce Mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she’s sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs–and the love she knows is impossible.

In my goodreads review I said (among other gushy things): “Courtney Milan is a genius in many ways, but one of my favorite things about her writing is the sheer depth of longing in her books. I bought Mark and Jessica as meant for each other within seconds of them meeting, their connection was so intense and real. And I felt Jessica’s bitter loneliness in my bones.”

Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your e-mail address on the comment form (not in the body of the comment itself, just where it says NAME: URL: EMAIL:). It won’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.

NB: Courtney isn’t involved in the giveaway and the signed book isn’t personalized. So if you want to tell her how much you loved her book, this isn’t the place. That would be her website. (But this IS the place to tell ME how much you loved it!)

Good luck!

New contest: "A Lady Awakened" by Cecilia Grant!

ETA: This contest is closed. Chelsea B. won the book!

So…I just read the third Blackshear book, A Woman Entangled, which is a bit of a problem because ALL I WANT TO DO RIGHT NOW IS TALK ABOUT HOW GREAT THAT BOOK IS. So great! Not to mention perfectly structured and completely satisfying all the way to the last page. I ended that book with the biggest smile on my face, and I love all the characters, and the protagonists’ unique combination of showmanship/romanticism and practicality/conventionality, was so incredibly appealing and vividly drawn. So I thought this might be a good time to give away a signed copy of the first Blackshear book, A Lady Awakened!

Newly widowed and desperate to protect her estate—and housemaids—from a predatory brother-in-law, Martha Russell conceives a daring plan. Or rather, a daring plan to conceive. After all, if she has an heir on the way, her future will be secured. Forsaking all she knows of propriety, Martha approaches her neighbor, a London exile with a wicked reputation, and offers a strictly business proposition: a month of illicit interludes…for a fee.

Theophilus Mirkwood ought to be insulted. Should be appalled. But how can he resist this siren in widow’s weeds, whose offer is simply too outrageously tempting to decline? Determined she’ll get her money’s worth, Theo endeavors to awaken this shamefully neglected beauty to the pleasures of the flesh–only to find her dead set against taking any enjoyment in the scandalous bargain. Surely she can’t resist him forever. But could a lady’s sweet surrender open their hearts to the most unexpected arrival of all…love?

I was honored to have Cecilia as a guest on her blog tour back when ALA first came out. You can read her awesome interview and also read me fangirling all over her about

1) the sex scenes, which Martha steadfastly refuses to enjoy for quite a while and poor rakish Theo starts out sort of bemused (“but…my prowess!”) and ends up really quite overset by the whole thing (before, obviously, a turnaround full of orgasms and other pleasant things!). Very unique, and VERY hot
2) the tightly emotionally controlled heroine and the hero who helps her open up (one of my favorite things in the ENTIRE WORLD as you…may have guessed from reading my books, although I like to think that my next couple of books will be a bit different)
3) Cecilia’s great taste in TV
4) &c.

Here is what Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell had to say about it: “I am throwing my hands up at the idea that you may not read this book. Please go get a copy. It is to be savored and enjoyed while each character grows into someone amazing, people I have not been able to stop thinking about.”

SO. Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your e-mail address on the comment form (not in the body of the comment itself, just where it says NAME: URL: EMAIL:). It won’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.

NB: Cecilia isn’t involved in the giveaway and the book isn’t personalized. So if you want to tell her how much you loved her book, this isn’t the place. That would be her website. (But this IS the place to tell ME how much you loved it!)

New contest: "The Black Hawk" by Joanna Bourne

ETA (7/4/13): This contest is closed. Kylan won the book! A new contest (for Cecilia Grant’s A Lady Awakened) will open on Monday 7/8.

Do I even need to say anything about this book? Or can I just link to the 2012 AllAboutRomance reader poll, in which this book won in SEVEN CATEGORIES?

I’ll just list those categories, shall I?

Best Romance
Best Historical Romance Not Set in the U.K.
Biggest Tearjerker (Tied with Eloisa James’s When Beauty Tamed the Beast)
Best Romance Hero
Best Romance Heroine
Most Kickass Heroine
Best Romance Couple

So there you have it. Personally, I imagine it had to be a close-run thing in Best Love Scenes too. That one with the tree in the rain…let’s just say I remember it very vividly.

It also won a RITA.

I can see that I was equally tongue-tied in my goodreads review, which reads simply “★★★★★ It was wonderful to see more of Justine and Adrian. I love these characters so much, and they love each other so much, and <333! I’ve been waiting for this book a long time, and it was worth it!” Yeah, that about sums it up.

book cover: A man in a red-lined cloak and open but tucked in shirt
He is her enemy.
He is her lover.
He is her only hope.
Someone is stalking agent Justine DeCabrillac through London’s gray streets. Under cover of the rain, the assassin strikes–and Justine staggers to the door of the one man who can save her. The man she once loved. The man she hated. Adrian Hawkhurst.

Adrian wanted the treacherous beauty known as “Owl” back in his bed, but not wounded and clinging to life. Now, as he helps her heal, the two must learn to trust each other to confront the hidden menace that’s trying to kill them–and survive long enough to explore the passion simmering between them once again…

If you haven’t read a book by Joanna Bourne yet, I’d actually recommend starting at the beginning–but enter this contest anyway because you’ll get through the first three in a week and then you’ll want this one!

Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your e-mail address on the comment form–it won’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.

NB: this is a copy I got signed at the RWA National Conference. Ms. Bourne isn’t involved in the giveaway and the book isn’t personalized. So if you want to tell her how much you loved her book, this isn’t the place. That would be her website. (But this IS the place to tell ME how much you loved it!)

New contest: "A Night to Surrender" and "A Week to be Wicked" by Tessa Dare

ETA: This contest is closed.

Tessa Dare’s third Spindle Cove book, A Lady by Midnight, is out this week, so I thought it would be a good time to give away the first two books in the series!

cover of A Night to Surrender

Book 1: A Night to Surrender. Spindle Cove is Susanna Finch’s brainchild: a community for troubled women, where they can be free to be themselves without having to worry about men.

Here in Spindle Cove, young ladies enjoy a wholesome, improving atmosphere.” Susanna indicated a knot of ladies clustered by the hearth, industriously engaged in needlework. “See? The picture of good health and genteel refinement.”

In unison, the young ladies looked up from their work and smiled placid, demure smiles.

Excellent. She gave them an approving nod.

Ordinarily, the ladies of Spindle Cove would never waste such a beautiful afternoon stitching indoors. They would be rambling the countryside, or sea bathing in the cove, or climbing the bluffs. But on days like these, when new visitors came to the village, everyone understood some pretense at propriety was necessary.

But when the government decides Spindle Cove could be a target for a landing by Napoleon’s forces, Victor Bramwell is sent to organize a militia. Suddenly Spindle Cove is full of men, and Susanna’s peaceful community is at risk.

What I love most about this book is that the hero is an alpha…and so is the heroine. Watching them fight and maneuver and flirt to come out on top as the chief authority in Spindle Cove is incredibly awesome! (And sexy…) Plus there’s lots of heartwrenching family drama and a fantastic cast of minor characters (out of which I hope to see many more books!).

But even more than A Night to Surrender, I love:

cover of a A Week to Be Wicked

Book 2: A Week to Be Wicked. And this one’s signed by the author!

Geologist and spinster Miranda Highwood wants two things: keep rake Colin Sandhurst away from her sister, and get to Edinburgh in time to present at a scientific conference. She decides to kill two birds with one stone and talks Colin into pretending to elope with her to Scotland.

This book contains so many of my favorite things, I don’t even know where to start: geek heroines, fossils, a rake who’s a rake because he can’t sleep when he’s alone in the bed (seriously, one of my favorite tropes EVER), a roadtrip, making up exciting fake identities together, making out “just to see what it’s like”…the list goes on. Miranda and Colin are both so precious and heartbreaking and I love them madly.

Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your e-mail address on the comment form–it won’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.

NB: I got AWtBW signed at the RWA National Conference. Ms. Dare isn’t involved in the giveaway and the book isn’t personalized. So if you want to tell her how much you loved her books, this isn’t the place. That would be her website. (But this IS the place to tell ME how much you loved it!)

New contest: "Wild Ride" by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

ETA: This contest is closed. The winner is Justine!

I’m giving away a copy of Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, signed by Jenny Crusie. She is one of my absolute idols and I’m so excited to have met her and be able to do this!

cover of Wild Ride, showing an outsized full moon rising behind a roller coaster. tagline: 'Get ready for the thrill of a lifetime'
This one isn’t a romance, although both main characters do have romance subplots–it’s a found family story, which I love just as much! The main characters are Mab, restorer of old amusement parks and carnival art (and isn’t that a cool job?) and Ethan, an ex-Special Forces guy whose family has traditionally guarded the demons held prisoner in their old amusement park.

Here’s what I said about this book in my Goodreads review:

I knew in advance that I would love this book because it was by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer and because it was about an amusement park that is also a demon prison.

I adored every character, and the plot was fabulous. I especially loved the way the portrayal of demons started out very black/white, good/evil, and then grew more nuanced. (This is what I wanted so badly to see on Buffy and never did–yes, we got demon and vampire characters who were obviously not evil, or not more evil than humans anyway, but the ideology never changed from “stake them on sight, they HAVE NO SOUL!”)

I think my favorite character was Cindy, the ice-cream maker. I loved her ice cream and how her subconscious manifests as dragons and how when the demons were acting out everyone’s worst fear, they chanted at her “Hungry, hungry, can’t feed us!” What can I say, I’m a cook.

Plus, I loved the recurring theme of the fortune “He loves you as much as he can, but he cannot love you very much,” because my mom actually got that fortune one time.

Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your e-mail address on the comment form–it won’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.

NB: this is a copy I got signed at the RWA National Conference. Ms. Crusie isn’t involved in the giveaway and the book isn’t personalized. So if you want to tell her how much you loved her book, this isn’t the place. That would be her website. (But this IS the place to tell ME how much you loved it!)

New contest: "Everything I Know About Love, I Learned From Romance Novels" by Sarah Wendell

This contest is now closed. The winner is Kim!

I’m giving away a signed copy of Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell’s Everything I Know About Love, I Learned From Romance Novels!

This book is exactly what the title says–it talks about what romances have to teach us about love, and not just in the abstract. Sarah has brilliantly edited together hundreds of quotes from romance writers and readers into a hilarious and touching (I cried a few times, not gonna lie) celebration of reading romance and the community of romance readers. Reading this book brought home for me how proud I am to be part of this community, and how much romances have given me throughout my life.

Smart Bitches was one of the first sites I regularly spent time on, when I was discovering the romance community. I’d been reading romances for years and years at that point, and even written one, but apart from one or two friends and my mom, I’d never known anyone else who did. And I was so thrilled to find out there were loads of us out there and that I could talk to them! (And that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like “forced seductions”! Man, this was a long time ago.) So this book felt like coming full circle for me. Thank you Sarah and Candi for everything!

I’ve been posting some of my favorite quotes from the book over at my tumblr (and I still have plenty to go)…here’s one of the best:

Reba, a fan of the genre, says that one thing she enjoys ‘about romance novels is the [depiction of a] woman struggling for independence in a world that does not recognize her value. Historicals are especially good for this, but I think they only highlight things that women recognize exist to this day. To wit, even our literature is seen as “less than,” despite strong writing, compelling storytelling, and regular inclusion of universal truths (or as universal as truths can get, anyway).’

Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your e-mail address–it won’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.

NB: this is a copy I got signed at the RWA National Conference. Ms. Wendell isn’t involved in the giveaway and the book isn’t personalized. So if you want to tell her how much you loved her book, this isn’t the place. That would be her website. (But this IS the place to tell ME how much you loved it!)

New contest: The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

ETA: This contest is now closed. The winner is Elaine Carlini-Davis. Congratulations!

This month I’m giving away a signed copy of Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady!

It’s the first book in her amazing Spymaster series, not to mention the first appearance of Adrian “my boyfriend” Hawker. I cannot possibly do the brilliance of Bourne’s prose justice, but here’s the gushing Smart Bitches review, which is how I first heard about the book when it came out.

Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your e-mail address–it shouldn’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.

Oh, and something I wanted to clarify from last time–this is a copy I got signed at the RWA National Conference. Ms. Bourne isn’t involved in the giveaway and the book isn’t personalized. So if you want to tell her how much you loved her book, this isn’t the place. That would be her website. (But this IS the place to tell ME how much you loved it!)

New contest!

12/14/11: This contest is now closed. The winner is rudi_bee. Congratulations!

I’m going to start running my contests from my blog, because it will make admin a lot simpler for me and hopefully lead to actual monthly giveaways–the signed books are piling up on my shelves! Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your e-mail address–it shouldn’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.

This month I’m giving away a signed copy of Courtney Milan’s Unveiled.

It’s the first book in her Turner brothers trilogy, and since the second one, Unclaimed, just hit shelves (and is AWESOME, not to mention being about an ex-courtesan and an innocent blond, like A Lily Among Thorns), I thought this would be a good time to offer up this one! Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

“As always, Courtney Milan writes the longing for an intimate connection with another human being, and then gives that connection to her hero and heroine, so perfectly I found myself choked up at intervals:

Margaret had always thought a man seduced a woman by making her aware of his charms: his body, his wealth, his kisses. How naïve she’d been.

Ash Turner seduced her with the promise of her own self. She longed to believe him, longed to believe that the nightmare of the past month was nothing more than a delusion, that if she simply screwed her eyes tightly shut, she would be important again. And that desire was more alluring than any promise of wealth, more irresistible than any number of heated kisses pressed against her lips.

You can read my five-star reviews of both Unveiled and Unclaimed on Goodreads if you want to know more about my deep and abiding love for these books and/or see other readers’ reviews.

Comment for a chance at winning!

See a Penny, pick it up

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but after being unavailable as a print book for a while except from Dorchester’s website, In for a Penny is now readily available in trade paperback!

There are more buy links on the bookshelf page, but here’s Amazon and BN.com.

I’ve also put up deleted scenes for A Lily Among Thorns (WARNING: they contain spoilers!). You can find them here.

In honor of the occasion, I’m giving away a signed copy of the new Penny trade and one of A Lily Among Thorns to two commenters chosen at random. Let me know in your comment which book(s) you’re interested in.

Remember, you can read the first chapter of Penny here, and the first chapter of Lily here.

ETA: Mo won Lily, and Kim won Penny! Congratulations, guys.

It's open for discussion

To me, the reader’s freedom to react is part of the romance of writing, its mystique and its beauty. I put a part of myself on paper and then I give it away. You can trample on it or you can love it, that’s your choice, but either way I want you to have it.

I recently linked to a post by Cecelia Grant about rock ‘n’ roll and the importance of reader reaction in romance. It indirectly got me thinking about something I’ve been meaning to post about for a while.

I’ve mentioned my favorite band, the Headstones, a couple of times recently because I went to their reunion concert LAST WEEKEND!!!! It was one of the best experiences of my life. I was telling my uncle about how great it was, and he said, “Well I’m glad, you had built it up so much that I was worried it would be a letdown.” That was not actually something I had ever been worried about. I had worried it wasn’t going to actually happen, that it would be canceled at the last minute or the Toronto airport would be closed due to snow or that it was all some kind of horrifying trap to steal Headstones fans’ organs for the black market, but I knew that if it did happen it would be amazing, and it was.

I was right in the front near Trent, the guitar player, and the band was on. Being with so many other fans and hearing those songs live just felt like adding a whole new dimension or sixth sense to how I was experiencing them, like there had been this other layer to the songs all along, made up of how energy was flowing between members of the band and between the band and the listeners, and I could finally see it.

Anyway. The lead singer, Hugh Dillon, is one of my very favorite lyricists in the world, and I love it when he writes about writing. On his most recent album, Works Well with Others , the song “Reel to Reel” has some of the absolutely best stuff in it about the writer/reader (or writer/listener, in this case) relationship I’ve ever heard. One of the verses says:

It’s open for discussion
My heart’s on that machine
You can turn it up or down
Delete or let it bleed

There’s a perennial argument over whether a book is an author’s child or a product created for money. One side of the argument goes, “A book is like an author’s baby, she has poured her heart and soul into it, and therefore it should be treated with respect and spoken about nicely.” The other side goes, “A book is something in author produces for money, and once it is purchased it belongs to the consumer and can be treated however he or she wishes. If an author doesn’t want people to write bad reviews of her work, she should not make it publicly available.” You see the same basic argument showing up in discussions of the ethics of fanfiction as well.

Hugh Dillon says there is no distinction. I’ve written this song with my blood, he says. I did it for you. Do whatever you want with it. (At least, that’s what those lines mean to me. They could mean something totally different to Hugh! But I bet he would support my right to interpret them this way.)

I love that. Does it upset me when I read unfavorable things people have said about my work? Of course. Does that mean no one should write them? No.

Okay, I’m going to maybe get a little melodramatic here, but as Hugh Dillon also once wrote: “Buried in my heart, you know it’s heavy-handed.” It’s hard to sound cool and detached about something that matters so deeply to me.

To me, the reader’s freedom to react is part of the romance of writing, its mystique and its beauty. I put a part of myself on paper and then I give it away. You can trample on it or you can love it, that’s your choice, but either way I want you to have it. And it’s the risk that somebody could choose to trample on it that makes that gift so powerful. It’s like that moment in a romance on the hero or heroine chooses to say “I love you” for the first time, not knowing if the other person will say it back but wanting them to hear it anyway.

I write because there’s something I want to tell people. There something I want to communicate. It’s a weird, one-sided relationship of trust and vulnerability, but it’s worth it to me. Because I know that someone, hopefully a lot of someones, will hear it and it will mean something to them. Even if it’s not what I thought it would mean. A good review is a phenomenal high.

I’ve been an avid reader since I was small. I’ve read a lot of books that I loved, that I connected with on a fundamental level, that I had a relationship with. I’ve also read a lot of books that I hated, that I found boring, laughable, or that made me deeply angry. But I will always be grateful to all of those writers for having the courage to put part of themselves out there for me to react to, to love and admire and argue with and make up alternate endings and trash-talk and laugh at.

I’m giving away a copy of Works Well with Others at my website here, and since I’m in such a Headstones mood after the concert, I’m including a used copy of their fantastic album “Teeth & Tissue.” Go enter! They’re both wonderful albums. You can listen to all the songs on WWwO on Hugh’ s website, including “Reel to Reel”–just click “launch music player.” And the music videos for the singles from T&T are up on YouTube: Hearts, Love & Honour and Unsound (which has one of the greatest basslines ever).