Daily Deals: A vintage lesbian romance, a gothic historical PNR, and a contemporary bad boy

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Happy Endings are All Alike by Sandra ScoppetoneHappy Endings are All Alike by Sandra Scoppetone. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

Sandra Scoppettone’s 1978 lesbian young adult romance was a novel ahead of its time. The story follows the relationship between high school seniors Jaret and Peggy. At a time when girls were only allowed to date boys, Jaret and Peggy know they had to keep their love a secret. Of course, nothing goes according to plan, and before long they have to contend with the confusion and outright hatred of those closest to them. But nothing compares to the danger ahead, and the tragedy that will not just test their faith in their relationship, but their belief in themselves.

Sandra Scoppettone has published nineteen novels, primarily writing crime, mystery, and young adult. She has published three novels under the pseudonym Jack Early, including A Creative Kind of Killer, which received an Edgar Allen Poe Award nomination and a Shamus Award, given by the Private Eye Writers of America.

Small town prejudices emerge when a love affair between two teenage girls is revealed.

I’m so intrigued by this book and I had to buy it.

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Occupational Hazard Box Set by Eve LanglaisOccupational Hazard Box Set by Eve Langlais. $ .99

From the Jacket Copy:

My Secretary, My Mistress – Eve Langlais
Can a boss let go of his inhibitions and let his secretary take charge of him in the bedroom?

Yours to Take – Cathryn Fox
Revenge takes on a sexy twist when a powerhouse lawyer is stripped of her control by the handsome multi-millionaire she once took down in the courtroom.

Against Company Policy – Mandy Harbin
Cassie Tucker and Ian Cope know they should keep things professional on their new assignment, but when desire is faced with physical boundaries and company policy, it’s time to get a little creative…and a little kinky.

White Collar Cowboy – Parker Kincade
Lauren Delgado has had a crush on Gavin Mathis for years, but has a strict “hand-off” policy with the men she works with. When her life takes an unexpected turn, there’s nothing to stop her from accepting Gavin’s invitation to his vacation home on Galveston Island … where she learns the policy is definitely hands-on.

Seducing Chase – Cassandra Carr
When a doctor disappears with millions, can Val and Nate set aside their explosive attraction and save the hospital?

First Kiss – Ann Mayburn
Ryan will never forgot that night in high school when he kissed Emma and lost his heart to her forever. Years later he finds Emma again, but now she’s a pro-Domme that refuses to fall in love. Ryan begins a campaign to win her reluctant heart, one night at a time.

Flirting with the Camera – Ros Clarke
Brilliant, beautiful and bigger than your average plus-size model, Hattie Bell can do anything she sets her mind to. After all, she’s just landed her dream job, modelling for top photographer, Tom Metcalfe. So her next goal should be a piece of cake: getting Tom to break his strict rule against workplace romances…

No Restraints – Lilly Cain
Bad girl Selene Carter will do anything to save her business, even team up with the cop who stole her heart. But can Detective Tom Barker help when he knows she’s no innocent?

Pleasing Sir – Delilah Devlin
Raelie might be a submissive in search of just the right Dom, but she’s not the kind to sit back and wait for the right man to happen. When she gets the chance to fill in as Bryce Caldwell’s executive assistant, she decides some subtle seduction is needed to see if he dominates the bedroom the same way he does the office.

Shadowboxer – Cari Quinn
She’s in for the fight of her life…with the man who only wants to be her lover.

Look! A whole box set of workplace harassment romances. I kid. I’m fond of the boss/secretary storyline even though part of me inwardly cringes. I wasn’t ever harassed by my boss but I did have an attorney on the same floor in my building who had made some unwelcome advances. Having those types of passes made toward you in the elevator or office hallways can be very emotionally debilitating. I was afraid of leaving my office without a friend for several months. Nonetheless, romances aren’t like that for good or bad.

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Firelight (Darkest London Series #1) by Kristen CallihanFirelight (Darkest London Series #1) by Kristen Callihan. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

London, 1881
Once the flames are ignited . . .

Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family’s fortune decimated and forced her to wed London’s most nefarious nobleman.

They will burn for eternity . . .

Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it’s selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can’t help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn’t felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.

This is a much beloved paranormal romance series. I think it’s been called a gothic of sorts? I was a bit disappointed by the reveal of the hero’s secret but she’s won several awards and other bloggers love this series.

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Rome (Marked Men Series #3) by Jay CrownoverRome by Jay Crownover. $ 1.99.

From the Jacket Copy:

Sometimes the wrong choice can be just right . . .

Fun and fearless, Cora Lewis knows how to keep her tattooed “bad boy” friends at the Marked in line. But beneath all that flash and sass is a broken heart. Cora won’t let herself get burned again. She’s waiting to fall in love with the perfect man—a baggage-free, drama-free guy ready for commitment. Then she meets Rome Archer.

Rome Archer is as far from perfect as a man can be. He’s stubborn, rigid, and bossy. And he’s returned from his final tour of duty more than a little broken. Rome’s used to filling many roles: big brother, doting son, supersoldier—but none of those fit anymore. Now he’s just a man trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life while keeping the dark demons of war and loss at bay. He would have been glad to suffer through it alone, until Cora comes sweeping into his life and becomes a blinding flash of color in a sea of gray.Perfect may not be in the cards, but perfectly imperfect could just last forever . . .

I had a spirited debate with a friend over this cover. I thought the guy was smoking hot and she thought he looked like a douche. I agreed, but a smoking hot douche. Sadly, the book didn’t work all that well for me but if you buy the book, you can stare at the cover for a long time so that you can decide which side of the douche/hot spectrum you fall.

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REVIEW: The Kraken King Part V-VIII by Meljean Brook

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TKK-feature-covers1

Dear Ms. Brook,

The journey we started weeks ago has reached its end, and even after weeks of waiting for this moment, I’m having a hard time saying goodbye. But alas, I’m not a Kraken, so I have to let go, but not before I tell you that, as you can see, this serial was so good that it put me in a cheesy mood.

Anyway, let’s get Kraken (no more puns, I promise!).

I want to be as vague as possible about events from the previous parts as well as what happens in the final four, but I do want to mention that part V opens with a heartbreaking moment of loss for Zenobia that, together with the events of the previous installments, truly sets the course of the story. She realizes that she has to rescue herself regardless of how much she trusts that Ariq or her brother will eventually save her. But she’s unwilling to be a tool to manipulate those who love her, and she wants the choice to be hers. The recklessness of her act doesn’t go unnoticed, but this is ultimately about agency. Besides, she’s so smart and clever, that there’s never a doubt that she will make it. And these things: taking action, fulfilling her dreams of adventure, and seeing the world, are the main part of a character arc in which the romance plays a key role, but it’s not vitally linked to it. Needless to say, Zenobia was my favorite part of the serial.

All the other non-Zenobia things that I liked but that I was too lazy to organize in a more cohesive, traditional review:

  • Ariq is a fabulous hero who complements Zenobia and also shines on his own. His character arc is subtle (perhaps too subtle for my taste) and entirely linked to the romance. Falling in love changes his priorities and shows him things about himself that are good and bad. But love was already a vital part of his character; the love for his brother, his mother, his people, his country, and his new home, are relationships that shaped the man he is and made him a hero worthy of a great heroine.
  • They fall in love fast, but Ariq and Zenobia come from different parts of the world and spend most of the time in danger. The cultural differences inform their characters and trigger believable conflict and misunderstandings that are resolved through mature communication. But their complicated and unusual situation makes Zenobia, who is, above all, incredibly pragmatic, particularly cautious, so even if she is irrevocably in love, that doesn’t stop her from having a plan B in case things don’t work out.
  • And speaking of culture, I love that not only are most of the characters POC, but they are the dominant culture. There is a lot of work put into the history and world of these people, and neither the text nor Zenobia fetishize Ariq’s –or anyone else’s– features. She finds him super hot, of course, because he is big, strong and all-around swoony, but there’s no mention of how exotic he looks, how different he is, or any other charged and problematic language. There are a couple of words in Mongolian, but no long phrases that could end in disaster and send the author to Google Translate jail. Instead, we are told the language they are speaking at the moment and that’s it. I thought that, from my white reader POV, the representation was very well done.
  • So. Many. Women. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I kept being surprised by how many characters that I was assuming would be men when first mentioned, turned out to be women. First we have The Twins, two wicked minor characters that delighted me for the short time I got to meet them. And then there’s the Empress and her general, the two most intimidating and fabulous sources of conflict and delicious tension I’ve read in a while. None of them clearly fit the enemy or friend categories, something that speaks more about layered characterization and storytelling than about rigid roles. This brings me to…
  • …the villains! The Kraken King has two of them, and they have motivations and backgrounds that raise the emotional impact they have on our leads. These are, by far, the best villains this series has seen, and even better, the stakes are actually high. What’s at play here goes beyond the romantic HEA, and even if we can trust that the outcome will be a good one, at times it feels like getting there will be impossible. Seriously, anyone who thinks the promised happy ending makes the genre predictable should read this book.
  • And last but not least, The Kraken King is an all-you-can-eat buffet of action, adventure, giant monsters and even bigger robots (kind of, this ain’t Pacific Rim http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Rim_(film)), that somehow manage to not get in the way of the main relationship or the political intrigue, because yes, this is about wit as well as strength, and they all come together beautifully during the final climax.

Best,

Brie http://romance-around-the-corner.blogspot.com/.

P.S. I still don’t like serials, but I didn’t have a hard time following yours. I thought the letters at the beginning of each part were a clever “previously on” reminder, and in a way, I’m glad I got to stretch the reading experience.

 

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REVIEW: Devil’s Game by Joanna Wylde

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Devil's Game Joanna Wylde

Dear Ms. Wylde:

One of the most feminist books I’ve read. This is the line I’ve used to describe Devil’s Game to any number of people who would listen. When the words “motorcycle club” are invoked images of overly misogynistic men telling their property how to act leaps to mind. But within the Reaper’s MC, I believe some of the most interesting power dynamic struggles are taking place.

In Devil’s Game, you have two young people in their early twenties who are struggling with their roles within their respective social groups. One is the daughter of a powerful man and the other is an orphan raised by a dangerous group of men to become a dangerous man himself. Between the two, they have to discover the limits of their willingness to sacrifice part of themselves and part of their vision of the future in order to be together.

I’ve read a ton of MC books and frankly most of them are pretty bad but I believe that the reason it is so popular right now is because of the tribe based culture of the club. Tribes have a long history in literature and romance. The first tribe based romance books I ever read were Scottish Highlander stories. The structure of a Highlander novel is not unlike an MC book.

Both include a militaristic hierarchy with a leader, several strong wingmen, and others that live within the confines of the primary property whether it is hold, fief, or armory. Both types of stories feature warring clans vying for power. Often the head of the tribe is a male with a patriarchal power structure.  The concept of loyalty along with external signage (whether it be plaids–although those came much later in history than depicted in many romances–or cuts) is vital. Scottish stories could (and sometimes did) feature a female clan leader. Medievals often followed the same structure.

After the decline in both those types of stories, we saw a rise in paranormals and in shapeshifters, particularly, you see a similar clan or tribal structure. There is one alpha often male, often involved in power struggles, and all living together for the betterment of the clan or tribe. It was author Moriah Jovan who first pointed out the similarities between werewolf packs and the motorcycle club.

Whenever there is a strong male lead, particularly in these patriarchal clan structures, my preference is for a strong female otherwise the romance seems imbalanced to me. In Devil’s Game, Em is the daughter of Reese “Picnic” Hayes who is the president of the Reaper’s MC–an outlaw one percent club that deals in unstated unsavory activities. Em and her sister were raised within a loving household. They would often see their mother and father lustily touching each other so Em knows what a loving, healthy relationship is. That’s what she wants. Moreover, she wants a man who will stand up to her father because her whole life has been full of men who defer to him.

There was a patch (aspiring member) who became a full fledged part of the club who had feelings for Em, but he never made a move on her without checking with Picnic first. This not only infuriated Em, but made her lose respect for him and she couldn’t be with someone she didn’t respect. Her father scared off all of her suitors and so Em sets out to create her own opportunities. She thinks she’s found someone in an internet connection with Liam Blake. What she doesn’t know is that Liam is “Hunter” and part of the Devil’s Jack MC, a rival of the Reapers, who has decided to take Em because holding her means having leverage against the Reapers. Plus he wants her.

In some ways this is a classic Romeo and Juliet story. Two young adults from rival factions seek to form their own unit yet their families strive to keep them apart. Gratefully this is a romance so we don’t get the tragic ending, but we do get fighting, bullets flying, betrayals and forgiveness.  There are the internal struggles between the two as Em has to learn to trust Hunter and vice versa. There are the external struggles with bringing accord between the rival gangs who are brought together to fight a common enemy. Both conflicts keep the book motoring at a super fast pace.

But it’s an emotional story as well. Em’s a bright young woman and she’s learning, through the book, how to move out of her father’s shadow and become an independent woman. Part of that development includes falling in love with someone who isn’t handpicked by her father and then standing against her father with Liam. The relationship dynamic between Em and Picnic is as important at times as the one between her and Hunter because despite Picnic’s desire to keep Em settled with the “right” man (as approved by Picnic) he raised her to think and act independently. She was level headed and calm in the face of intense stress. As Picnic said, she was one hell of an old lady and he was regretful about losing her to someone outside the Reaper’s because of her capableness.

Throughout the story, Em is saving herself and sometimes Liam. Her power isn’t just the emotional power she’s given because of Liam’s love for her; her power comes from her ability to react calmly in tough situations, to think of solutions, to take action when the opportunity presents itself. She’s proactive in the story rather than reactive.

While Hunter’s intentions in the beginning toward Em weren’t very honorable, he worked hard to earn her trust back. There were three overt acts by Hunter in which he demonstrates his remorse for past misdeeds. Two are fairly humorous but one is a pretty big deal. It occurs at the end and I don’t want to ruin it but there aren’t a lot of times in which the grand gesture means the hero gives up something that reduces the potential for increased status and money. And it doesn’t diminish Liam at all. Instead, it is a showing of someone who is sorting out his priorities and determining what is important to him, what will make him content and happy.

Em and Liam are perfectly matched and within the violent, sexy world of the MC both find equal footing. B+

Best regards,

Jane

 

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Wednesday News: The FCC invites comments on Net Neutrality, Apple disappoints (again), alleged plagi

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http://dearauthor.com/?p=61292

John Oliver’s Net neutrality response swamps FCC – I’m posting this story to serve as a reminder that the public comment period for the FCC’s new Net Neutrality proposal is open until July 15th. It’s also a pretty funny anecdote about how comedian John Oliver directed people to the FCC website for comment, which basically killed the FCC site (too much traffic — the irony is so rich). And if you aren’t up on Net Neutrality, there’s more information at the CNET site.

The FCC’s online public-comment system stumbled under heavy traffic Monday after comedian John Oliver capped a 13-minute segment about Net neutrality — the concept that all Internet content should be delivered without preference or discrimination — with a rallying cry to the Internet’s trolls to visit the FCC’s website and “focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction.” –CNET

Apple: There’s more than meets the eye in today’s announcements – In which we are sold the story that the disappointing Apple announcement was more significant than we think. A new programming language (Swift) that’s already making programmers and software developers swoon (allegedly), expanded cloud storage, etc. Still would have been better with new hardware, especially given Apple’s deficiencies relative to more inexpensive, larger screen phones.

As for the rest, in the attached video Yahoo’s Aaron Pressman says much of Apple’s announcement is a down payment on their future. Sure it wasn’t as sexy as an iPhone or iPad launch but Tim Cook and company unveiled the Homekit and Healthkit apps. They will allow third party hardware and software to better integrate with Apple’s ecosystem. –Yahoo

One Direction fanfic author gets book deal – There are really two stories here. First, the sale of a real-person fan fiction story to Simon & Schuster (details below). Then the allegation that the book, After, contains some plagiarized content, most notably from You’ve Got Mail. I’m not sure which story is more interesting, or troubling, but you can read about the plagiarism allegations on Jenny Trout’s site, which is linked to in her Twitter conversation about the situation.

Harry Styles-inspired fanfic After, by 25-year-old One Direction fan Anna Todd, has inked a three-book deal. Simon & Schuster acquired the series with a deal in the “mid-six figures,” according to Publisher’s Weekly. They also grabbed the story’s “world and audio rights,” meaning that spinoffs are possible as well — and movie rights are in the works.  –Entertainment Weekly

Arlington woman seeks millions in royalties from “Fifty Shades of Grey” - And speaking of fan fiction, there’s an interesting twist to the Fifty Shades story, or, more specifically, to the co-op that published the story. Jennifer Pedroza, one of the original owners of the Writer’s Coffee Shop, is suing another owner, Amanda Hayward, alleging that Hayward cheated Pedroza out of royalties when Fifty Shades was acquired by Simon & Schuster. Additionally, Christa Beebe, an employee of Writer’s Coffee House, is suing Hayward, basically for breach of an alleged employment contract. Both Pedroza and Beebe live in Texas, while Hayward is from Australia, where the Writer’s Coffee House is based, although there was apparently no partnership agreement among the women (including a fourth, Lea Dimovski, who joined in 2011), the year they published Fifty Shades.

From the outside, the history and status of Writer’s Coffee Shop has always been a little fuzzy (was it a publisher or was it a place for fan fiction writers to post and exchange their work), and it sounds like things weren’t so clear from within the Shop, either. It’s gonna be interesting.

Writer’s Coffee Shop was launched in 2009 by Pedroza, Hayward and Waxahachie resident Jennifer McGuire as a blog site in 2009. The three women had formed online friendships though a fan fiction website. McGuire did the design on the blog, Pedroza uploaded contributor’s writing and Hayward worked with authors, the suit says. In May 2011, it published Fifty Shades, followed by two sequels of the trilogy in 2011 and 2012.

Pedroza not only handled marketing for the runaway bestseller, she also packed the print-on-demand copies in her home for shipment. Beebe joined in January 2012 to help with marketing and distribution, first as an unpaid volunteer then as a salaried employee, it said. –Forth Worth Star-Telegram

Read the original article: Wednesday News: The FCC invites comments on Net Neutrality, Apple disappoints (again), alleged plagiarism in 1D fan fiction, and Writer’s Coffee Shop owner is sued for millions and comment or visit Dear Author

Daily Deals: A high fantasy with an intriguing hook, a cheating hero, and quest for medical knowledg

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Seven Forges (Seven Forges Series #1) James A. MooreSeven Forges by James A. Moore. $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:

Overview
Captain Merros Dulver is the first in many lifetimes to find a path beyond the great mountains known as the Seven Forges and encounter, at last, the half-forgotten race who live there. And it would appear that they were expecting him. As he returns home, bringing an entourage of strangers with him, he starts to wonder whether his discovery has been such a good thing. For the gods of this lost race are the gods of war, and their memories of that far-off cataclysm have not faded.

The people of Fellein have live with legends for many centuries. To their far north, the Blasted Lands, a legacy of an ancient time of cataclysm, are vast, desolate and impassable, but that doesn’t stop the occasional expedition into their fringes in search of any trace of the ancients who had once lived there… and oft-rumored riches.

So I love this cover. The book sounds interesting but … I’m not interested in another George RR Martin type of story where all the women are raped and all the good men are killed.

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download (1)Love, in English by Karina Halle. $ .99

From the Jacket Copy: He’s thirty-eight. I’m twenty-three.

He speaks Spanish. I speak English.

He lives in Spain. I live in Canada.

He dresses in thousand-dollar suits. I’m covered in tattoos.

He’s married and has a five-year old daughter. I’m single and can’t commit to anyone or anything.

Until now.Because when they say you can’t choose who you fall in love with, boy ain’t that the f*#king truth.

***

To a restless dreamer like Vera Miles, it sounded like the experience of a lifetime. Instead of spending her summer interning for her astronomy major, she would fly to Spain where she’d spend a few weeks teaching conversational English to businessmen and women, all while enjoying free room and board at an isolated resort. But while Vera expected to get a tan, meet new people and stuff herself with wine and paella, she never expected to fall in love.

Mateo Casalles is unlike anyone Vera has ever known, let alone anyone she’s usually attracted to. While Vera is a pierced and tatted free spirit with a love for music and freedom, Mateo is a successful businessman from Madrid, all sharp suits and cocky Latino charm. Yet, as the weeks go on, the two grow increasingly close and their relationship changes from purely platonic to something…more.

Something that makes Vera feel alive for the first time.

Something that can never, ever be.

Or so she thinks.

Against my better judgment, I bought this book about a cheating and unfaithful husband and his young mistress he meets at a English speaking language course. Brie wrote a long review of this book and the TL;DR version is “Love, In English gets a NOPE in every language.”

So why did I buy it? Because I’m a sucker for 99c sales and figure that someday someone might reference it and I might want to read it and now I have it. It’s a lame excuse. I’m a book hoarder. Don’t you all know that by now.

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Come to Me Quietly By A.L. JacksonCome to Me Quietly by A.L. Jackson. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

From the acclaimed bestselling author of Lost to You and When We Collide comes a New Adult novel of one woman’s obsession: a man who’s as passionate as he is elusive—and as tempting as he is trouble?

Aleena Moore is haunted by Jared Holt. It’s been six years since she’s seen her brother’s best friend, the self-destructive bad boy she secretly loved in high school. As the years pass, she knows it’s time to move on. Time to decide between a practical nursing degree and her true dream as an artist. Time to get over Jared and give another guy a chance?

Just when she opens her heart to her friend, Gabe, Aly returns home to find Jared sleeping on her couch. The teenage boy she loved has grown into a man she can’t resist. Covered in tattoos and lost in rage, he’s begging to be saved from his demons—the memories of the day he destroyed his family. As the two reconnect, their passion is hot enough to torch Aly’s judgment. But can she risk her future for a man who lives on the edge of destruction?

You may not have noticed but for the last two weeks Sunita did our deals here while I was on vacation. It was actually quite a pleasure to take a break but Sunita said that she didn’t select many NA or erotic romances so I’ve got a couple for you today. This one is a popular NA. I haven’t read it but my understanding is that the sales of previous titles led to Jackson’s signing with a big 5 publisher. This is the first one of her series published by NAL.

This is another book which I’d mark as deep POV where you get a lot of internal angst by the characters but little external action and the reviews say that the storyline is essentially a big misunderstanding followed by a reunion. There is a second book to this series which is currently available.

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The Physician By Noah GordonThe Physician by Noah Gordon. $ 1.99.

From the Jacket Copy:

Read by millions in thirty-two countries, soon to be a major motion picture, and voted “one of the ten most-beloved books of all time,” here is the first English-language digital edition of Noah Gordon’s masterwork

In eleventh-century London, a child holds the hand of his dying mother and is terrified, aware something is taking her. Orphaned and given to an itinerant barber-surgeon, Rob Cole becomes a fast-talking swindler, peddling a worthless medicine. But as he matures, his strange gift—an acute sensitivity to impending death—never leaves him, and he yearns to become a healer.

Arab madrassas are the only authentic medical schools, and he makes his perilous way to Persia. Christians are barred from Muslim schools, but claiming he is a Jew, he studies under the world’s most renowned physician, Avicenna. How the woman who is his great love struggles against her only rival—medicine—makes a riveting modern classic.

The Physician is the first book in Noah Gordon’s Dr. Robert Cole trilogy, which continues with Shaman and concludes with Matters of Choice.
A young orphan learns the ways of the poor in 11th-century disease-ridden England. As he travels across the country peddling cures to the sick, he discovers he has a real gift. Slowly, the dream of becoming a physician grows with him. From the author of Rabbi.

This sounds like a pretty fascinating and unique story. Library Journal says “Gordon has written an adventurous and inspiring tale of a quest for medical knowledge pursued in a violent world full of superstition and prejudice.”

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REVIEW: Fall From India Place by Samantha Young

http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-c-reviews/c-reviews/review-fall-from-india-place-by-samantha-young/

http://dearauthor.com/?p=61171

FallFromIndiaPlace

Dear Ms. Young:

Your On Dublin Street series is a total winner for me, with each annual release being among my Top 10 favorite books of the year for the last three years running. So requesting Fall From India Place was a no brainer.

When Hannah Nichols last saw Marco D’Alessandro five long years ago, he broke her heart. The bad boy with a hidden sweet side was the only guy Hannah ever loved—and the only man she’s ever been with. After one intense night of giving in to temptation, Marco took off, leaving Scotland and Hannah behind. Shattered by the consequences of their night together, Hannah has never truly moved on.

Leaving Hannah was the biggest mistake of Marco’s life—something he has deeply regretted for years. So when fate reunites them, he refuses to let her go without a fight. Determined to make her his, Marco pursues Hannah, reminding her of all the reasons they’re meant to be together….

But just when Marco thinks they’re committed to a future together, Hannah makes a discovery that unearths the secret pain she’s been hiding from him—a secret that could tear them apart before they have a real chance to start over again….

We met Hannah Nichols in the very first installment of On Dublin Street and have watched her grow up, and had hints at her burgeoning relationship with Marco D’Alessandro throughout the series. The book opens a few years after the previous books in the series and Hannah is now an English teacher enjoying her first year of teaching. She’s invigorated by her students, and is as close as ever with her family. But she’s haunted by her relationship with Marco, which ended abruptly after she gave him her virginity and he literally disappeared the day after. She’s not heard from him or seen him since, although rumor has it that he left Scotland altogether and went back to his native Chicago. This at first left Hannah bereft, but that bereavement has turned to a smoldering anger and an inability to move on from the relationship and give another man an opportunity to win her love.

So imagine her shock when she runs into Marco at a friend’s wedding, and imagine her fury when he informs her that he’s been back in Scotland for four years, and never got in touch. But now that he’s seen her again, he’s ready to make the full court press to win back her love. Hannah is incensed. He broke her heart and left her to pick up the thousand pieces of it and to deal with the ramifications of their actions that night all alone. On top of that, he came back to Scotland years ago and never bothered to get in touch. There is absolutely no possibility of them reconciling in any way. But Marco is determined. He’s a changed man. Grown up and deeply regretful of the heartache he caused Hannah. He wants nothing more than to go back to the place they were before. Best friends and lovers. After him showing up multiple locations to push for something more, Hannah agrees to have a drink with him. She informs him that they will only ever be friends, and that if he can accept that, she’ll give it a try. Marco agrees, but tells her that he’s not going to stop trying to win her love. After spending time just hanging out with him, Hannah is no less attracted to him. He’s funny and supportive and kind. Soon, Hannah acquiesces and they act on their deep mutual attraction. But both are hiding something huge which could affect their relationship forever.

This book should have worked for me. I love reunited lovers as a trope and your authorial voice is one that has always worked really well for me. Marco is a dream of a hero. Yes, he has secrets, but he’s in hot pursuit of Hannah (another trope I love) and he’s everything one would hope a hero would be. Unfortunately, I didn’t like Hannah. I felt that throughout the book she displayed an incredible amount of immaturity, and sister can hold a grudge! She sent Marco mixed signals galore and every time the going got tough, she ran for it. Often after saying something particularly nasty to Marco. The fit she throws when she finds out Marco’s secret is epic and unsupportable in my opinion. They had already exchanged “I love you’s” at that point and yet, at the first sign of trouble, she cuts and runs. It made me dislike her intensely. I kept hoping Marco would find a more mature, kinder woman to love. Hannah acts like an entitled brat throughout the book, which made it impossible for me to root for her at all.

That being said, I really enjoyed getting to visit with previous couples in the series, and I love the setting of the series very much. I liked Marco and could easily understand why anyone would fall in love with him. He manned up for what he did, and spent most of the book doing everything he could to win Hannah’s love. Those parts of the book make me inclined to grade it a little higher than I would if I were going off of Hannah alone. In the end, I believe this is the weakest installment of the On Dublin Street series, but I’m still beside myself with excitement for the next installment, which is Cole’s love story. Fall From India Place receives a C from me.

Kind regards,

Kati

 

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Tuesday News: RNA rejects self-published authors, digital book design and economic advantage, new la

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BALLOT REGARDING RNA MEMBERSHIP FOR INDEPENDENT/SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS – The Romantic Novelists’ Association, the UK organization for writers of romantic fiction, recently put to a vote the possibility of self-published/independent authors gaining eligibility for full membership rights within the RNA. Like the RWA, the RNA is clearly struggling to keep up with the changes in publishing, Unfortunately for self-published authors, there was not a sufficient majority to give them full membership within the RNA, and it seems like a bitter irony for those authors, since they have no voting say in their membership status within the organization.

a. 79 = 24% voted to keep the RNA membership categories as they are at present

b. 174 = 52.7% voted to allow independent/self-published authors to become full members of the RNA with voting rights if they fulfilled certain criteria

c. 77 = 23.3% voted to create a new category of RNA membership for independent/self-published authors without voting rights –RNA News

The superior economics of well-crafted ebooks – I’d love for anyone familiar with digital book design to weigh in on this post, much of which is beyond my limited technical understanding, because I pretty much love the central message, which is that better designed ebooks yield more money for authors and publishers. Safari books is an online, customizable streaming service for books and courses, and the post was written by Liza Daly, their VP of Engineering.

Digital book design is a hybrid discipline of web design, classical typography, QA, XML development, and abuse of regular expressions and/or alcohol. A lot of it is, sadly, treated as a cost center and heavily commoditized and outsourced.

Naturally most developers don’t like to think of themselves as a cost, and take pride in their creativity and knowledge borne out of experience. Ebook developers are no different, with the additional pride that comes from being the latest evolution in a publishing tradition extending back thousands of years.

I want to convince you that craft in ebook design is not just consistent with the ethics of publishing, but also makes good business sense. –Safari blog

What Are The Hardest Languages To Learn? [INFOGRAPHIC] – Inspired in part by the discussion in the Daily Deals post the other day about the difficulty of learning Hindi, here’s an interesting infographic that hierarchically arranges 23 languages according to the number of classroom hours and weeks it takes for English speakers to learn them. Hindi is actually not in the most difficult category, but I’m kind of surprised that Swedish and Dutch are among the easiest. Also a sad reminder that no one apparently learns Latin anymore.  –Voxy

Frankly my dear, Rhett Butler’s put-down is greatest of all – In addition to providing the ten top “literary put downs,” there’s also a voting option at the end, so you can vote for your favorite. I have to admit that my favorites are closer to the end of the list. From Coriolanus, “The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes,” and The Importance of Being Earnest, “The simplicity of your character makes you exquisitely incomprehensible to me.”

What’s yours, and is it even on the list?  –Telegraph

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Any Lawful Impediment: Conflict in Romance (especially m/m)

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The following is a guest essay from author Kate Sherwood. Her latest release is Mark of Cain, released May 20, 2014.</p>

Kate Sherwood came to the romance genre late, but she’s trying to make up for lost time. Most of her work is m/m, but she reads voraciously in pretty much every subgenre, and is always looking for a new twist. Her latest novel is Mark of Cain, in which an Anglican priest falls in love with his brother’s killer. How’s that for an obstacle to happiness?

Handsome shirtless young male lover hiding inside wardrobe

This may be really obvious to others, but after writing more than a dozen romance novels it still came as a lightbulb moment to me: The challenge of writing romance is convincing readers that the central couple is meant to be together, while also convincing readers that there are good reasons for them to be apart for most of the book. And then convincing readers that those good reasons have been resolved enough to allow a satisfying Happily Ever After.

We know what happens when the author doesn’t pull off the first part of that challenge. If we don’t think the characters are meant to be together, we don’t get emotionally involved with the relationship, we don’t care if the characters end up together, and we don’t feel a real sense of satisfaction when they hit their HEA because we aren’t convinced they really will be happy ever after, at least not with each other.

And when the author doesn’t do a good job with the second part of the challenge, finding good reasons to keep the lovers apart? We resent the reliance on The Big Misunderstanding, or the way the author has to make the characters almost pathologically stubborn or poor at communicating or suspicious or TSTL. We want the characters to have to struggle in order to be together (or else there wouldn’t be much of a story!) but we want the cause of the conflict to be logical and organic and believable.

And, of course, when the author doesn’t convince us that the reasons for being apart have been eliminated? We can’t believe in the HEA, because we see the same problems popping up again in the future.

In m/m romance, authors have traditionally had a bit of an edge in the area of creating obstacles for their couples. Why shouldn’t this couple be together? Well, they’re both men. Authors can use this fact to create internal conflict and angst with characters who are just discovering their sexuality, struggling with it, or trying to hide it. We can also use it to create external conflict with a homophobic society, family, or friends. The heroes of m/m romance may have to give up everything to be with their lovers, simply because their lovers are the same sex. Conflict? Hell, yeah!

This conflict can be very effective, especially when combined with other challenges. For me, I think it works best with books that are set in slightly different worlds. I loved Joanna Chambers’ Enlightenment series, set in the 1820s, where the heroes have to deal with external and internalized homophobia, and also class issues and political and social upheaval. And I like military romances like Janey Chapel’s Maritime Men, where the men are living in a macho culture that has historically been pretty hostile to homosexuality. Has anyone written a Motorcycle Club m/m yet? I’d like to read it, if it’s out there!

At the same time, it’s becoming increasingly possible to write m/m romance in which being the same sex is not a significant challenge for the to-be-happy couple. And, I would say, it’s increasingly difficult to write a realistic m/m contemporary in which being the same sex is the main thing keeping the couple apart. Of course it can still be done, and done well, but I don’t think it’s nearly as compelling as it used to be.

(I don’t mean to deny the continued existence of prejudice and homophobia, but increasingly, in the western world at least, it’s the homophobes who have to be in the closet, hiding their behaviour from disapproving eyes. An excellent direction for society to be moving in, absolutely, but it does have implications for our novels!)

In The Only One Who Knows by L.A. Witt and Cat Grant, we have a similar set-up to Chapel’s Maritime Men, but The Only One Who Knows was written more recently, after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In order to have a similar ‘forbidden relationship’ vibe, the characters in the later book were made an officer and an enlisted man. Their love wasn’t forbidden because they were gay, it was forbidden because they were fraternizing across ranks. A step forward for humanity, but I felt that the story didn’t have quite the same kick because of the difference. In Maritime Men, I could be outraged by the discrimination and cheer for the characters to be together. In The Only One Who Knows, I found a really well-written story, but I think I approve of the rule the characters were breaking, so it was harder for me to sympathize with their actions. There are good reasons for not dating across ranks, especially along the chain of command, and the rules in this case would have been applied to a straight couple just like a gay one. With these guys, given the lack of judgment they showed in terms of where to fool around while stateside, I really didn’t think it WAS a good idea for them to be on the same team in a war zone. It was still a good read, but the setup wasn’t as powerful, for me, as the earlier book.

In fanfic, writers talk about being Jossed when the original material (canon) makes what they’ve written in their fics unrealistic. In the m/m world, writers who use homophobia as the main source of conflict may end up being Jossed by social progress. The progress is obviously wonderful… but what does it mean for our stories?

I think m/m writers can look to m/f romance for examples of what to do and what not to do. Just as a writer who wants her m/f characters to be kept apart solely by race or social standing might be best to write historicals or dystopians, m/m authors who want homophobia to be the main source of conflict may need to write in non-contemporary settings, or at least specific sub-cultures. I’m full of sympathy for real-world gay men who don’t feel they can come out for one reason or another, but in fiction? I want my heroes to be larger than life; if the only thing keeping them from declaring their love is a bit of social pressure, I don’t think their love is all that powerful or interesting.

I’m not saying that no one should write coming out stories anymore, or never use homophobia as the main obstacle for the couple. But I think m/m writers need to really work to explore all aspects of our characters’ lives and mine them for genuine, compelling conflict. We’re writing about men who are gay, sure, but they’re not just gay. What else are they, and how can we use those other characteristics to make their lives difficult?

I haven’t read as much Josh Lanyon as I should have (so many books, so little time!) but I just finished listening to Fair Game and I thought it struck a really great balance in this regard. The main characters are gay. Big deal. They have bigger worries. But the case they’re trying to solve involves a young gay man who was dealing with his father’s homophobia and his mother’s more passive shame. The story recognizes the challenges of being gay in today’s world, but it gives the main characters other reasons for not being together.

There’s a new generation of m/m fans just powering up their e-readers out there. They’re going to want to read stories that reflect their reality, and luckily, reality for many of them will be a lot less bigoted than it used to be. There’s still a place for stories that let these kids know that things can be tough, but there’s also a place for stories that let them know that being gay doesn’t have to be the central limiting factor in their lives. I know we’re still a work in progress, but I’m looking forward to a world where the only place homophobia will be a realistic source of m/m conflict is in historical novels. And I’m looking forward to seeing what other sources of conflict m/m authors can come up with.

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Daily Deals: Classic gay fiction & YA, and a thrill ride to Christmasland

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The CharioteerThe Charioteer by Mary Renault. $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:

Mary Renault’s landmark novel about a wounded soldier who returns from the front and must choose between relationships with two very different men

After being wounded at Dunkirk in World War II, Laurie Odell is sent back home to a rural British hospital. Standing out among the orderlies is Andrew, a bright conscientious objector raised as a Quaker. The unspoken romance between the two men is tested when Ralph, a friend of Laurie’s from school, re-enters his life, introducing him into a milieu of jaded, experienced gay men. Will Laurie reconcile himself to Ralph’s embrace, or can he offer Andrew the idealized, Platonic intimacy he yearns for?

This novel has been called one of the foundation stones of gay literary fiction, ranking alongside James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar. Celebrated for its literary brilliance and sincere depiction of complex human emotions, The Charioteer is a stirring and beautifully rendered portrayal of love.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Mary Renault including rare images of the author.

A classic novel of war, love, and coming of age, I reviewed this when it finally came out in ebook form thanks to Open Road. If you didn’t buy it then, you should definitely buy it now. It’s gay romance but the emphasis is on the relationships, not the sex. And the cocktail party scene is worth the price of admission all by itself. It took me forever to finally read this book because I was afraid it couldn’t live up to the hype. Don’t make the same mistake I did!

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lavinia le guinLavinia by Ursula Le Guin. $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:

In a richly imagined, beautiful novel, an acclaimed writer gives an epic heroine her voice.

In The Aeneid, Vergil’s hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word. Now, Ursula K. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills.

Lavinia grows up knowing nothing but peace and freedom, until suitors come. Her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus. But omens and prophecies spoken by the sacred springs say she must marry a foreigner—that she will be the cause of a bitter war—and that her husband will not live long. When a fleet of Trojan ships sails up the Tiber, Lavinia decides to take her destiny into her own hands. And so she tells us what Vergil did not: the story of her life, and of the love of her life.

Lavinia is a book of passion and war, generous and austerely beautiful, from a writer working at the height of her powers.

I am woefully under-read in Le Guin’s oeuvre but even I know that she is one of the towering writers of the 20th century. This book takes a minor character from Virgil’s Aeneid and imagines her life. It’s technically a YA novel, I guess, but like everything else Le Guin writes, everyone should read it. I can’t do it justice, so I’m counting on the awesome DA commentariat to come to my rescue below.

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stray andrea hostStray by Andrea K. Höst. $ Free

From the Jacket Copy:

Part 1 of the Touchstone trilogy.

On her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing: alone, she will be lucky to survive.

The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? What is the intoxicating mist which drifts off the buildings in the moonlight? And why does she feel like she’s being watched?

Increasingly unnerved, Cass is overjoyed at the arrival of the formidable Setari. Whisked to a world as technologically advanced as the first was primitive, where nanotech computers are grown inside people’s skulls, and few have any interest in venturing outside the enormous whitestone cities, Cass finds herself processed as a ‘stray’, a refugee displaced by the gates torn between worlds. Struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, she must adapt to virtual classrooms, friends who can teleport, and the ingrained attitude that strays are backward and slow.

Can Cass ever find her way home? And after the people of her new world discover her unexpected value, will they be willing to let her leave?

We’ve talked about Stray many times in comment threads here at Dear Author, but newer visitors might not be award of Höst’s work. It’s free again for a little while, and it’s well worth the cost of your time. I assumed we had reviewed it at some point, but we haven’t. Technically YA, once again, but also written for just about everyone to read.

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nos4a2 joe hillNOS4A2 by Joe Hill. $ 1.99.

From the Jacket Copy:

NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Amazon informs me that this title is pronounced Nosferatu, for which I am grateful. Joe Hill has great fiction and horror bloodlines (Stephen and Tabitha King are his parents) but he comes by his high reputation honestly, through the quality of his work. This book will apparently make you see Christmas in a different light, and not necessarily a good one. Presumably it speaks to those of us who think the Christmas season already has some horrifying aspects. Critics suggest that it is longer than it needs to be at 700 pages, to which I say bah. I love Big Fat Books.

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REVIEW: Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon

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walking-back-to-happiness

“Juliet’s hiding from her feelings about the recent loss of Ben, the love of her life. If it weren’t for having to walk Ben’s loyal dog, Minton, she’d never leave their half-finished house. Then her mother asks her to take her elderly lab, Coco, along. One dog leads to another, and soon Juliet’s the unofficial town pet-sitter. And when she takes on a lonely spaniel, and gets to know its attractive owner, she realizes that her emotions aren’t as easy to handle as her canine charges…”

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Though all my children now are cats, I’ve had dogs before and still miss daily walkies from time to time. Less so when the weather is bad, I’ll admit. Since I’d enjoyed an earlier book of yours, “Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts,” that features dogs helping their owners over a variety of issues, I’d collected two more. When I realized I was in the mood for a quiet romance, I thought, “A-ha! It’s time for a Lucy Dillon novel again.”

The pain Juliet still feels at the loss of her husband is poignant. Living amidst the unfinished house the two of them had planned to renovate and with only their dog Minton to keep her company during her Grief Hour each day, Juliet is still emotionally stuck. Ben’s sudden death also left her with things said which could never be unsaid and wishes that will never come true. Her family has been supportive through it all but are now worried that she’ll never get out of the house again. Since this is the main issue in the book, it makes sense that the most time is spent easing Juliet past her still aching grief and back to wanting to move forward in her life again.

I had to laugh at her mother’s not-so-subtle maneuvering both to get Juliet out of the house to walk dogs and to get the handsome Irish handyman from next door into Juliet’s house to finally get a proper shower fitted, tiles laid and grout done. At the same time, I liked that no one ended up forcing Juliet into anything she wasn’t quite ready for. Interfering relatives can kick start a book plot but if they get too pushy, I end up wanting to swat them.

Juliet’s not the only person with issues here. Her perfect older sister has the seemingly perfect house, perfect husband, perfect toddler and now is going back to the job she used to ace before maternity leave. But Louise is hiding a dark secret that might blow all this perfection up in her face. While Louise’s marital woes are more common than Juliet’s, each sister finds that you can’t force emotions that aren’t there nor can you move past ones that still grip you and tear at your heart.

I’ll be honest and admit that I was hoping for a little more overt romance here especially as Juliet is actually 8 months into her widowhood instead of the more recent bereavement the blurb hints at. Over the course of the book, she is often thrown together with the man who ultimately might be her next love though it’s not until late in the book, Brit Chick late in a book, that both of them are willing to admit their tentative feelings for each other. In the meantime, it’s fun to watch them knock heads a little, actually get to know each other fairly well and pass the test of friends and relations.

Louise gets a marital wake-up call she never expected and one which calls on her to honestly examine what she wants from her marriage and how far she’ll go to save it. Readers with an adultery trigger might be best forewarned. I’m still debating how I feel about the resolution of this plotline.

Where does the book grab me and hang on? Of course, the dogs – and some cats. The descriptions of walking dogs, meeting other dog walkers and knowing them by their dog’s name is so true. Being dragged via a leash after or towards something that smells wonderful? What dog owner hasn’t had this happen? Having a dog curl up next to you and offer silent, non-judgemental comfort? That’s one of the best things in life and Minton is such a darling dog while he does this. There’s enough serious to balance the funny and thank heavens it never gets schlocky emotional so I think even non-animal people will enjoy this aspect of the story.

This is a nice “prop your feet up and sink into it” kind of gentle story. The issues are realistic, the emotion rings true and there are dogs! And cats, too. B

~Jayne

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