flirting

I meant to post about this ages ago but, alas, that never happened. Back in late March, my debut book review at the Wonkette vertical, Happy Nice Time People, was published. And it was a gushing review of Ruthie Knox’s novella Making It Last:

It’s an emotional ride, and one that might be difficult to get through. You can likelly see yourself in both characters, recognizing the struggle to (and the messiness of) maintaining a long-term relationship. You might quit reading if you didn’t know that Knox was driving us all toward a happy ending. These are the books we read for escape, not soul-searching. Your trust in the formulaic genre allows you to push through in moments when the plot and the feelings were too close to home, too personal. You need the resolution and you need the happy ending.


Also, over at Sulia, I have a short review of her novel, Flirting With Disaster, which is cross-posted in full here:

Here’s the synopsis of Flirting With Disaster, from Knox’s website (http://www.ruthieknox.com/book/flirting-with-disaster/) :

Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother’s security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn’t want her help . . . or her company.

Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she’ll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can’t keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It’s time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie’s newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.

The genius of this book is that Sean stutters and all of those things that people carry around that impede relationships with other people, those are represented physically through Sean’s speech. But it isn’t that Knox makes it corny or that this aspect of Sean’s character is seen as a problem by any other person except for him. He is the one who must come to terms with a past that includes a harsh, not-very-motherly mother, a years-long crush on Katie, and a desire to escape the town where he grew up. His journey to find himself is not some kind of triumphal moment where he overcomes a disability and is cured. Knox is too smart for that and she knows her readers are, too.

It is a love story about acceptance, not from someone else but from yourself. This is as true for Katie as Sean, as she is dealing with the scars of a relationship that she felt had buried her own identity under that of her partner’s. Who is she? And does she like that person?

Good stuff, Ms. Knox. As always.

Cover of Ruthie Knox's ALONG CAME TROUBLE: A long-haired blonde woman who is naked from the waist up, leans into the back of a muscled man who is naked from the waist up. Since we are looking at them in profile, we can see the side of her breast, though her arm is out, reaching around his body, her hand touching his chest.

Along Came Trouble, Ruthie Knox’s latest full-length novel, was released on March 11, 2013.  I received an advanced reader copy from Random House Digital.


Here is the summary of the book from Knox’s website:

An accomplished lawyer and driven single mother, Ellen Callahan isn’t looking for any help. She’s doing just fine on her own. So Ellen’s more than a little peeved when her brother, an international pop star, hires a security guard to protect her from a prying press that will stop at nothing to dig up dirt on him. But when the tanned and toned Caleb Clark shows up at her door, Ellen might just have to plead the fifth.

Back home after a deployment in Iraq and looking for work as a civilian, Caleb signs on as Ellen’s bodyguard. After combat in the hot desert sun, this job should be a breeze. But guarding the willful beauty is harder than he imagined—and Caleb can’t resist the temptation to mix business with pleasure. With their desires growing more undeniable by the day, Ellen and Caleb give in to an evening of steamy passion. But will they ever be able to share more than just a one-night stand?

Writing reviews of books, I find that I end up confessing things I wouldn’t necessarily confess otherwise. But if I’m going to explain my reaction to this book, I have to be honest about my thought process while reading it.

So, in Along Came Trouble, Ellen has a toddler (his name is Henry) with her recent-ish alcoholic ex-husband (Richard). And, honestly, I rarely enjoy romance novels where either one of the main characters has a kid. When I realized that Knox’s latest book would have a kid, I immediately thought, “NO! Ruthie, WHY?!?” Because I absolutely love Ruthie Knox’s writing and I feared that this would be the first piece of hers that I would not enjoy.

I was wrong.

I should have trusted in Knox.

I will from here on out.

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Cover of Knox's How to Misbehave. Woman in a man's white collared shirt on the let, the shirt is open and she is naked underneath. Her body is pressed up against the naked torso of a hunky, muscular man.

How to Misbehave, Ruthie Knox’s new novella, will be released on January 28, 2013. I received an advanced reader copy from Random House Digital.


Here is how you misbehave:

  1. Look like a goody-two shoes but, in fact, be a woman looking for some sexual excitement in your life.
  2. Work in a community center where renovations are happening under the watchful eye of one hunky contractor.
  3. Get trapped in a basement with said hunky contractor during a tornado warning.
  4. Be lucky enough for the lights to go out, trapping you in a pitch black basement with him.
  5. Have revealing conversation while sitting in the dark.
  6. Flirt back when he starts hitting on you.
  7. Once outside, let the hunky contractor finger you while you’re pressed up against an oak tree.
  8. Do what these people are doing:

Cover of Knox's How to Misbehave. Woman in a man's white collared shirt on the let, the shirt is open and she is naked underneath. Her body is pressed up against the naked torso of a hunky, muscular man.

At least, that’s how Amber misbehaves in Ruthie Knox’s new novella.

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[FYI: this is not in any kind of order. And, as always, I have a list (that I try to keep updated) of my favorite romance novels.]


How the Marquess Was Won by Julie Anne Long (regency romance)

This is the sixth book in Long’s Pennyroyal Green Series. Technically published on December 27, 2011, odds are high I didn’t actually read it until like January 2, 2012. And since I’ve read it probably 8 times in 2012, it gets to go on this list. From my review:

I think I love this book because they just love being around each other so much. That is never in doubt. Instead, this is a story about how a marquess, who is desperate to secure land through marriage to another member of the elite, lets go of that dream in order to follow his heart. It about watching them learn what the other one loves. It is about courtship, even when they know they shouldn’t be courting (and the courting they do is in secret with gifts passed when others are looking, sweet notes that aim for the heart, and stolen embraces).

If you are into technicalities, Long’s seventh book in the series, The Notorious Countess Confesses, definitely came out this year and is nearly as good. I spent time recently reviewing the entire wonderful series (of which Marquess is my favorite).

My review for How the Marquess Was Won.

My review for The Notorious Countess Confesses.


Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas (historical romance)

This is the first book in a trilogy, all three of which were published this year and I would HIGHLY recommend all of them. My review for Beguiling the Beauty:

When I read this passage, I remember thinking to myself, “Well, I’m in love with these two characters now. I must know what happens to them.” Thomas’ descriptions leave no room for wondering who these characters are, what motivates them. It is such a reassuring feeling as a reader and it tethers you so completely to the narrative. You cannot, by this point, escape investing in them.


A Lady Awakened and A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant (regency romances)

A Lady Awakened was Grant’s debut novel and it, like How the Marquess Was Won, was released just before the end of the year in 2011. And I know I did not get a chance to read it until early in January this year. And I didn’t read it, I devoured it. And I was VERY lucky to become friends with Ms. Grant (via Twitter) and secured myself an advanced copy of A Gentleman Undone, which I also consumed nearly in one sitting. From my praise-filled post on Grant’s writing:

Grant is a master at pushing the story forward until the end (in both novels, despite knowing – believing – that somehow these characters would end up together, I was unsure until almost the very end how it would happen). She writes the most amazing sex scenes: many in A Lady Awakened were full of uncomfortable moments that make you feel how weird Theo and Martha’s arrangement would have been and how tightly closed Martha’s emotions and heart were from her physical body; in A Gentleman Undone, when we finally get the first sex scene between Lydia and Will, it is not ideal and the joy we expect is not present (and rightly so).

Grant does not force a story to go where it shouldn’t, doesn’t allow characters easy outs for sake of a specific narrative, and doesn’t tie up all the strings into a pretty bow. These people make sacrifices, they navigate the space they are allotted, and they do their imperfect best.


About Last Night by Ruthie Knox (contemporary romance)

I don’t read a whole lot of contemporary but since reading Knox’s debut novel, Ride With Me, which is also excellent, I have been more willing to give it a try. And while Knox has sort of converted me to contemporary romances, she has certainly made me a believer in all things written by Ruthie Knox. I feel very lucky that I can say that what Knox has coming out in the first months of 2013 will only continue her amazing streak of top-notch, funny, hot romance novels (and short stories).

My review of About Last Night (which also includes a review of Ride With Me).


A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare (regency romance)

This is one of my most favorite romance novels ever, which means it’s one of my most favorite novels ever. It is the second in a series. While I did not love the first one the way I did A Week to Be Wicked, the third one in the series, A Lady by Midnight, is phenomenal (my review). And to top it all off, Dare wrote a great short story titled “The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright” (my review).

From my review of A Week to be Wicked:

Minerva and Colin’s chemistry is never forced. You don’t doubt it at all when they fall in love. It doesn’t happen to early in the story, nor too late. The reasons that Colin fights it make sense. All of their motivations make sense.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Re-reading parts of the book to write this review have me considering reading it yet again (that, I think, would be the fourth time thus far).

Bravo, Tessa Dare.


Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase (regency romance)

Chase is always a good bet. I love her stuff. Scandal Wears Satin is no exception. From my review:

But, look. I read lots of romance novels and I don’t choose to spend time writing reviews of them. I knew I would be reviewing this one when I got the second sex scene between Sophy and Longmore. These two characters clearly like each other from the beginning, though neither will really admit it. Even after they have made love once, their prickliness does not diminish. And Chase – oh, bless her – captures it all so perfectly in the banter between them during this scene. I love this scene so much I’ve probably already read it four (or ten) times. It makes me chuckle each time. Hell, I’m chuckling now just thinking about it.


At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran (historical romance)

Not only did I get to read this amazing book but I got to review it for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, one of my most favorite sites on the interwebs. From my review:

More than anything, it is Nora’s reality as a high-born woman maneuvering in this dangerous political landscape that I found most interesting. English common law held that a woman was covered legally by her father and then husband (for this reason, it is referred to as “coverture”). She could not own property, sign contracts, or earn wages under her own name but also, in many cases, was not able to be held legally responsible for her actions. Widows, like Nora, had more power under the law but for high-born women, even if they legally had some power, they were restrained culturally and socially by their position. Duran captures this magnificently.


The Wedding Fling by Meg Maguire (contemporary romance)

A delightful, quick read with a very satisfying and believable happily ever after. From my review:

The best part is the ending. They fall in love quickly (something I normally roll my eyes at even in the best novels). But then, after Will’s secret-keeping comes to light and Leigh flees, time passes. And when they do come back together in the end, Maguire does not write it as some sappy, cliched moment. Leigh is measured and she is careful and she acknowledges her fears at the same time that she decides that her happiness is wherever Will is. Will is not exonerated for what he did but Leigh does forgive him. It just felt real and honest.


Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry (contemporary romance)

Just go read it. You’ll thank me later. From my review:

This book is so incredibly hot, the chemistry between the characters written to perfection. You cannot stop reading it once you start. At least, that was my experience as I read deep into the night even knowing that I was going to pay for it with a serious lack of sleep. It was well worth it.


The Wicked Wedding of Miss Ellie Vyne by Jayne Fresina (regency romance)

Okay so it is not technically out until January 1, 2013 but I read it a couple of weeks ago so, for me, it counts in 2012. And I absolutely loved this book so not including it would be wrong. Delightfully fun. Ellie is such a great leading lady, with wit and drive to spare. From my review:

As I was reading this book, I realized that there was a lot going on. And yet, I was never confused. I knew who everyone was and why they were there. It is quite the narrative juggling act but Fresina does it well.

I so thoroughly enjoyed reading every single word of this book. Watching these two characters, who start from a place of deep animosity, become lovers and friends is just a damn good time.


What were your favorites this year?

RWMCover

Ruthie Knox has written two books so far. I have loved them both. In fact, both are on my “My Favorite Romance Novels” list.

Her writing is crisp, funny, refreshing. But she also does heartache as well as anyone. I become so engrossed in her storytelling that I can’t stop until I finish (though I do take breaks for necessary things like the bathroom, sleeping, and…nope that’s about it).

I think the biggest compliment I can give to Knox is to say that I almost never skim her books. As a trained humanities academic, my ability to skim texts and not lose the context is quite good. And often while reading romances, I will find sections contrived or obvious or cliche, so I will zip right over them. Out of habit, I will start glance past part of Knox’s book and then get immediately sad about what clever writing or cute joke I may have missed. Knox is good. I don’t skim.

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