Tag Archives: romance

Too Much

I have just finished reading the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James. Everyone is talking about this book. You can’t open a newspaper or magazine, or turn on the TV, without a discussion about Grey and its two sequels. And it’s being discussed at the Library, as you can imagine. Is it erotica? Mommy porn? Fantasy? Or is it just a hot, sexy romance? Meanwhile, Library customers have placed hundreds upon hundreds of holds on the books, from throughout the County in our shared online catalog.

When I told them at my hairdresser’s, “I am reading Fifty Shades of Grey as a self-imposed work assignment,” they laughed. But really, that’s why I did it. I ultimately feel responsible for all the books we buy at Main, so I thought I should know first-hand what all the talk is about.

Choosing books to include in the library’s collection is a serious responsibility. Books are selected by librarians, and they must meet certain criteria. Check out, for example, the fiction criteria from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Collection Development Policy. Because of the unprecedented high demand, and because this book is seen as a touchstone of the culture of our times, we did decide to purchase James’s books to fill our customers’ requests.

I read a lot of fiction and about 50% of what I read is some form of romance–contemporary, regency, historical, chick lit, women’s fiction, romantic suspense, etc. I have gotten to an age where life is serious enough, and romance literature has an almost guaranteed happy ending. Clever, thoughtful authors always have something new to say about the condition of love and relationships. To be honest, with James, I was curious as to just how the sex descriptions compared with today’s typical romance novel. Romance novels have gotten increasingly “spicier” over the past ten years. Could Grey be that much different?

Generally we do not purchase erotica for the CLP collection. Certainly, lots of mainstream fiction includes graphic sex scenes and we do have some of the classic erotica like The Delta of Venus by Anais Nin* as well as her Diaries. I remember back in the late 70s when one of our more sophisticated librarians talked her boss into letting her have an Anais Nin / Henry Miller book discussion group. Gosh, that was a long time ago! As I recall, much of the talk was about the “literary” merits of the erotica and florid prose of that writing style.

So, I have read Fifty Shades of Grey, and here is my opinion: Grey’s prose is not florid. It is repetitive, pedestrian, titillating, often vulgar, and clichéd. It’s not fifty shades of grey, it’s fifty shades of black and blue and rosy pink. Here is a short, sanitized synopsis of the plot: virginal college graduate Anastasia meets and falls into immediate mutual attraction with a rich and powerful entrepreneur, Christian, who is not much older than herself. He sweeps her off her feet, literally, and quickly offers her a contract to be his submissive sexual companion. The rest of the story–at over 500 endless pages–is Ana’s conflict of conscience between her “subconscious” (I am not even sure that James is using this word correctly) and her “inner goddess,” for good and ill.

Can Ana negotiate her way to a somewhat normal relationship by redefining Christian’s rules and setting strict time limits on his potential actions while still indulging him in his craven need for dominance in all things? Throughout the whole story Ana is required to call him “Sir,” not out of respect, but instead recognizing his physical and emotional dominance in all aspects of their relationship. Their most honest communications occur in terse e-mail messages. Egad! What has love got to do with this?

For my part, I can’t explain the demand to read these books. The storylines are anti-feminist–though Ana sees herself as an independent woman. And it’s misogynistic. I think you would really have to hate women to treat them in such a demeaning manner. What really makes me feel bad is that a woman is the author of these stories.

So why the popularity? And why now at this time? Is it curiosity about kinky sex? Or maybe it’s a distraction from the bad economy or the difficulties of normal, everyday life? Maybe it’s just the fantasy of relinquishing control to a handsome, rich, devil of a guy? At the end of book one, Ana takes a stand. How will this play out over the rest of the series? Someone who slogs through these books is going to have to tell me, as I just can’t invest any more of my time with E. L. James.

 My hope is that these books, much like the Harry Potter series did, will have folks reading again. I hope that they will discover authors who write about love and relationships that are based on mutual attraction, love and respect, and are well-written! Get lost in the stories of Susan Wiggs, Robyn Carr,  Susan Mallery, Victoria Dahl, Nora Roberts, Emily Giffin, Lauren Weisberger, Jennifer Weiner, Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and many, many more. Just ask a librarian and we can recommend books for all tastes.

For my part, I’ll take romance. Fifty Shades of Grey was just too much.



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Next, Please

I have blogged in the past about why I like to read series books. If you like to read popular fiction and you have favorite authors, series books are often their profit-makers. Sure, most authors like the challenge and do occasional stand-alone titles. Take Harlan Coben, whose Myron Bolitar sports agent/lawyer series started his writing career.  Myron still gets to headline a new story every few years or so, between Coben’s complex standalone novels.  But even these stories share settings and subsidiary characters with each other and with the Bolitar books. 

There is a comfort in dropping in on the lives of characters you have come to know and love (or hate) over a sustained period of time.  Characters evolve.  They and their relationships grow and change.  Series cover all genres of popular fiction – action, suspense, cozy mysteries, science fiction, and romance, etc. With series books you look forward to their annual publication, carefully track reviews, place your reserve so you can get the book early, and then chat with friends to see if the book met your series expectations.  When you read series, you realize that some books are better written than others as the “plot” may not be as gripping, or funny or sad or compelling as others, but does it really matter when you are entertained just by the experience of reading?

Here are three recent titles from some of my favorite series:

Red MistPatricia Cornwell’s Red Mist, #19 in the Kay Scarpetta Series

Long before CSI became the rage of TV, Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, forensic pathologist; her investigator, Pete Marino; tech- genius niece Lucy;  and Kay’s FBI profiler husband Benton began working murder cases together.

Stung by the murder of long-time assistant pathologist Jack Fielding in Port Mortuary, Kay jumps into an investigation in Savannah leaving Benton, Marino, and Lucy behind in Boston.  She’s off to find out about the killer by visiting the murderer’s mother at the Georgia Women’s Prison where she is doing time for murder, too. Kay soon discovers that Marino, who is supposedly on vacation, is also in town, helping former colleague, NYC prosecutor Jamie Berger, with her first independent case for the defense– trying to clear another woman at the prison who is on death row and scheduled for execution.  In just three short days Kay and Marino are surrounded by bodies and are called upon by the local coroner to assist with the investigation which ties these disparate cases – the only common denominator being the prison.

Critics complain about Cornwell – too much psychology and not enough forensics; she doesn’t pay attention to continuity and details; should she write in first person or third person; Kay’s lost her humanity – she’s so unkind and bitter to everyone; she should put the spotlight on the cases and not the characters . . . but to my mind that’s what makes it worth reading the series.  Kay has been through a lot since 1990 – change happens.

Down by the River by Robyn Carr  – #3 in the Grace Valley Trilogy (prequel to the Virgin River Series)

Sometimes when you read a series you have to go back to the very beginning.  Several years ago I started to read the Virgin River Series by Robyn Carr.  # 17, Hidden Summit, has just been published and it’s sitting on a shelf at home calling to me.  But the last book I read is from the connected Grace Valley series, which she first published in 2003.

 Strong storytelling carries Carr’s series.  Small towns are populated by unique, independent men and women – the lawmen and lawyers, the medical personnel, the homemakers and the babies, the randy teens, and the preachers, the cooks and florist, the ranchers and farmers, the campers and the pot growers.  Many of the stories focus on returning war veterans re-assimilating into society, all choosing the picturesque communities of northern California where around every mountain curve is a beautiful view and lives touched by joy, tragedy, danger, intrigue and a true sense of community – where everyone knows everyone else and they care about and take care of each other. 

Medical emergencies in Virgin River often result in trips to the nearby hospital in Grace Valley.  And that’s where the whole series started.  The Grace Valley Trilogy centers on town Doctor June Hudson – she has dedicated her life to her practice and her town.  She is pushing 40 and has given up hope of ever having a family of her own, until undercover DEA agent Jim Post begins a secret liaison with June that will forever change her life and fill it with new possibilities.  In the last of this series, Down by the River, June’s high school sweetheart returns to town with his delinquent sons. Add a flooding river and the whole town has to pull together, with June leading the way to save the day.

J. D. Robb’s New York to Dallas – # 33 of the In Death Series

Now we come to my favorite book of last year, New York to Dallas.  Back in 1995, romance / romantic suspense writer Nora Roberts wanted to try her hand at a different genre – police procedurals with a twist.  Her publisher suggested she write these under a pen name since they were such a departure from her previous stories.  When they first came out I admit that although I am a big Nora fan, I could not countenance myself reading stories set in the late 2050s New York after the urban wars, but after reading #1 Naked in Death, I was hooked!  This is a series where character detail, continuity of character, setting, intriguing plots with despicable villains, and the development of a loving relationship over time between the two main characters have sustained the stories.

The series focuses on New York Police and Security Department detective Eve Dallas, and her Irish husband Roarke, a powerful, tech-savvy, mega-billionaire entrepreneur who often assists with her complex homicide cases as a professional civilian consultant.  Both Roarke and Eve come from tormented childhoods.  Eve was an abused child who grew up in Dallas Texas foster homes and Roarke was a petty thief, making his way by cunning and wits on the streets of Dublin, Ireland.  How these two people from vastly different backgrounds find each other, love, trust, marry, and struggle with their personal demons plays out through the series. At the NYPSD, Eve’s loyal squad includes detective Delia Peabody, IT Captain Feeney, and criminal profiler Dr. Mira.

In New York to Dallas, Eve finds that she must track a serial pedophile who brutalizes young girls to her home town of Dallas.  Eve is a fish-out-of-water without her normal department support system. With only Roarke by her side, she confronts a case with a twist of fate that makes her horrid past and her present life collide.  The story is so simple, yet so complex and compelling, that the stunning ending is a new beginning for Eve and Roarke. Wow.



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Hiding From Summer (But Not From Summer Reading)

Heat and I are not friends; ditto humidity.  With apologies to the beachgoers, picnickers and other outdoorsy folks, I think I’m just going to cut up some fresh fruit, whip up some cold drinks, and spend my summer inside, sprawled in front of a fan, reading.  If you’re inclined to copy my example, here are a few books you can sink your teeth into while you hide from the weather.


The Paris Wife, Paula McClain.  The waiting list for this novel is awfully long, but if you’re a fan of either literary fiction or tragic romance, you should place a hold now, because it’s definitely worth the wait.  McClain’s lush tale of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage brings 1920s Paris to life through the eyes of Hadley, a timid fearful woman whose life revolves around her soon-to-be famous husband.  The Hemingways’ fictionalized courtship, sojourn to the City of Lights, and subsequent break-up (due as much to incompatibility as to expatriate American morals) are both compelling and haunting.  If your heart doesn’t break just a little for Hadley by the end of the novel, you might want to make sure you haven’t died from heatstroke.

Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones.  A bigamist’s two daughters both live in Atlanta, but only one is aware that the other is her sister. Born only four months apart, but as different as night and day, Dana and Chaurisse both love their father.  Chaurisse, however, has never been told about Dana, while Dana knows all about Chaurisse.  In fact, Dana’s been spying on Chaurisse since she was a little girl, with her mother’s help; will the secrecy that’s dominated Dana’s life lead her to make irrevocable choices?  This is a darkly delicious meditation on the nature of deceit and desire, and how they can lead people down paths they never thought they’d take.  Crank up the fan while you turn the pages–this one’s a psychological scorcher.

Witch Child, Celia Rees.  Recapture the feeling of “school’s out for summer” by making a foray into teen fiction via this historical novel. The story unfolds via the diary of Mary, an English teen whose grandmother was executed for witchcraft, forcing Mary’s flight to the new world.  Matters don’t improve there, however, as the witch craze seizes New England, and anybody who doesn’t quite fit the proper social mold is accused of unnatural deeds…including our solitary, introverted heroine.  Will Mary survive and thrive in the colonies?  Or will she meet her fate at the hands of the Puritains? If you enjoy this story, you can then move on to Sorceress, the sequel, in which a contemporary teen finds and reads Mary’s journal.


When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the Present, Gail Collins. New York Times columnist Collins offers a breathtaking micro-history of the feminist movement that will appeal to readers looking for a balanced history amongst all the heated rhetoric. Readers under forty, especially, may find themselves alternately fascinated with and horrified by pre 1960 cultural conditions and the struggles that led to benefits said readers currently enjoy.  Collins, however, pulls no punches when it comes to describing setbacks, unforseen consequences, and other wobbly patches in women’s liberation.  A clear-eyed, well-researched read for anybody interested in contemporary women’s issues.

33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs From Billie Holiday to Green Day, Dorian Lynskey.  Music buffs and casual listeners alike will find something to love in Lynskey’s collection, which begins by defining the term “protest song,” then takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the cultural circumstances under which some of America’s hardest-hitting tunes were composed.  Beginning with “Strange Fruit,” Lynskey winds through the tumultuous events of twentieth-century history, highlighting artists such as Woody Guthrie , Dead Kennedys, and the recently deceased Gil Scott-Heron.  If you’re curious about the stories behind some of your favorite songs, or just want to learn more about protest music in America, this collection will engross and absorb you!

 Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton.  When it’s too hot to do anything useful, why not try an imaginary life on for size?  Thornton’s in-depth exploration of what it’s like to be part of the contemporary art world allows you to do just that, so if you’ve ever fantasized about working at Christie’s, going to art school, or participating in an international exhibition, this is the book for you.  Thornton’s seven chapters provide a fly-on-the-wall view of what it’s like to occupy a different role in the visual arts, from creator to teacher to buyer, delivering an experience that’s sure to both educate and entertain.  If you love reality television, why not switch off the set for a second and see how the “warts and all” experience of behind-the-scenes reporting translates into book form?

Hot as it may get, you won’t want to hide from the 11th annual Summer Reading Extravaganza coming up on June 12th.  Even I will be there, slathered in sunscreen, and probably wearing a ridiculous hat.  And if the reclusive librarian with the sunshine phobia will be there, you have no excuse not to join the fun.  Pre-register today so you can dive right into the festivities, or sign up that day and tell the registration staff about all the great books you’ve been reading thus far.  And if you happen to catch me before I vanish back into the shadows?  We can swap book suggestions and smoothie recipes!  Definitely cool, in multiple senses of the word.

Leigh Anne
pale, pedantic and proud


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Lists, Lists, and More Lists!

Did you know that librarians like to make lists?  I’m not talking about grocery lists or to-do lists. (Although I am fond of both of those.) I’m referring to booklists.

Part of our job, and one we find quite enjoyable, is developing lists of books our readers might find interesting. We make lists of new books. We make lists of fiction and non-fiction titles. We compile lists of mystery, science fiction, and romance books. There are lists of cookbooks, no matter what your eating or drinking preferences. We make lists of books we liked and some we may not have, but that other people might. There are lists of books for people who want to travel far away and for those who stay closer to home. We make lists that recommend other authors based on who you already like. And there are lists to tide you over until that book you’ve been waiting for actually arrives.

Given all of these lists and the fact that we add new lists every month, we have great book recommendations available 24/7, only a few mouse clicks away.

Do you have any ideas for booklists you would like to see ?  We do take suggestions . . .

-Melissa M.

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Loads of Lovely Love

I’m a sucker for a good love story, most likely thanks to my parents. Forty years ago this weekend they tied the knot after a long and spirited courtship that nobody really believed would end in marriage, given how independent both parties were (think Beatrice and Benedick). To this day they remain devoted, affectionate sparring partners in the game of life; it’s inspirational, really, the kind of long-term success story about which epic poems and great novels are written. 

I’ve noticed, though, that in fiction and literature so many of the “great” love stories end badly, be it by death, betrayal, or temporal dislocation. That’s not exactly encouraging, now, is it? Luckily, there are also many wonderful novels with happy endings that can reaffirm your faith in true love without going overboard on the treacle factor. Observe.

PossessionPossession, A.S. Byatt. This is the best kind of love story, the kind where all the obstacles the characters encounter turn out to be worth it in the end. Getting there is half the fun, however, and there’s quite a lot to get through in this long, literary tale of two sets of lovers:  a pair of Victorian poets and the scholars who study them after their deaths. The passion and angst quotients are high, but that just makes the resolution all the better. Read the book, then pick up the film for date night with your favorite lit crit wit. 

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen. No offense to Colin Firth or the entire Sense and SensibilityMr. Darcy franchise, but I’ve always preferred this tale of lessons learned and love won (and the presence of Alan Rickman in the film certainly doesn’t hurt). Flighty Marianne Dashwood learns the hard way that a handsome physiognomy doesn’t necessarily house a gentlemanly heart; meanwhile, sister Elinor discovers that while reserve is admirable, it is occasionally possible to keep one’s feelings too much a secret. After much confusion and mayhem, the sisters’ double happiness is secured. Hurray!

Our Mutual FriendOur Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens. In typical Dickensian fashion, his final novel is jam-packed with enough characters and plotlines to render all but the most careful readers dizzy. These include two romantic storylines in which wealth and social class play pivotal roles. Determined to help her family by marrying for money, proud young Bella Wilfer grows to care for John Harmon, a man she thinks is a pauper. Meanwhile, Lizzie Hexam, a waterman’s daughter, finds herself embroiled in a love triangle with two gentlemen far above her station, one of whom she loves, but fears she can never hope to marry. Dickens definitely turns on the brooding and despair for this episode of his London chronicles, but brings both romances to tender, satisfying endings that will melt even the most hard-hearted reader.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott. Three out of four March sisters find Little Women romantic happiness against the backdrop of the Civil War and Reconstruction periods (I suppose there has to be a little tragedy to keep a novel interesting, but, still, poor Beth!). Conventional Meg and coquettish Amy are paired off easily enough, but the highlight of the book, for me, is when tomboyish, career-minded Jo manages to pursue her own dreams and find true love, without compromsing on either aspect. A pretty nifty writing feat, that, considering the limited range of acceptable paths for women in Alcott’s era. This is the most sentimental of the lot, so you might want to opt for the most recent film version, and fast-forward through the mushy parts (at least until Gabriel Byrne shows up).

Dared and DoneOf course, one of the best love stories ever was the real-life romance and marriage of the Brownings, poets Elizabeth and Robert. An attraction sparked by poetic skill, a disapproving papa, a miraculous recovery from long-term illness, and a dashing elopement are just the beginning of what was definitely a marriage of true minds. You can read all about it in Dared and Done: The Marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, which describes in intimate detail how the couple weathered both the sunny and shadowy elements of their relationship, and helped each other grow as poets and people. 

Scoff if you like, but if life hasn’t beaten faith in true love out of me by now, it probably never will. Do you have a great romance to share, either fictional or biographical? Do you like your love stories sunny or star-crossed? 

Leigh Anne
who is more like Marianne than Elinor, despite her best intentions

Leave a comment on today’s post for a chance at today’s prize in the 29 Gifts giveaway.  Daily winners will be contacted by e-mail.


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Sweet and Sour Chick Lit

Today I am wearing ridiculous shoes.

By “ridiculous” I mean “high-heeled,” which is normally not my style.  Alas, my favorite comfy shoes have finally worn out. And because you can’t run around barefoot in a public building — or, at least, you shouldn’t – I’m forced to navigate between the Scylla of wearing the one pair of fancy footwear I own, and the Charybdis of shoe shopping.

Thus is life for a certain type of broad, er, dame.  She doesn’t wear makeup, she doesn’t carry a purse, and, under most circumstances, she refuses to wobble around the library like a bad imitation of Grimm’s “The Little Mermaid.”

[Oh, quit that laughing.  Especially you menfolk with your consistently sensible, yet stylish, footwear!]

While the trappings of a certain kind of femininity don’t appeal to me in real life, I find them fascinating when they turn up in books.  In fact, I think I get a bigger kick out of reading about characters who are nothing like me; one of the primary reasons for reading, after all, is to learn more about who we are by examining who we are not.

Still, I reach what I call a “sugar point” in a book if the heroine is too pretty / perfect, or if her biggest problem in life is which of her many outfits she should wear to her glamorous job.  I like my chick lit with a bit of a twist, just enough doom and dismay to keep things interesting.  Here are a few examples from the county’s extensive collection.

The Late Lamented Molly Marx, Sally Koslow.  Molly is extremely wise, witty MollyMarxand stylish.  She’s also quite dead, and, justifiably, a bit miffed about it.  After all, if your corpse were found in a public park under mysterious circumstances, you’d want to know what happened and why.  With her newly-discovered post-life powers, Molly reviews her life to unravel the mystery around her death.  Designer clothes, dual infidelity, and a sexy angel named Bob add punch and pucker to this Manhattan mystery.

On My ListThe Next Thing On My List, Jill Smolinski.  June Parker drove the car that Marissa Jones died in, so of course she feels just awful about it, even though the accident was in no way June’s fault.  To make matters worse, Marissa’s “bucket list” turns up, a plan for all the fun and wonderful things she intended to do with what she thought would be the rest of her life.  To atone for her guilt, and what she perceives as her crime, June decides to complete the items on Marissa’s list, even though she finds some of them downright scary.  As June stumbles outside of her comfort zone, her life changes for the better in delightful, albeit sometimes difficult, ways, which makes for a page-turning treat.

If you’re fond of non-fiction that reads like fiction, you’re going to love Lorna couchMartin’s Girl On the Couch.  Martin has a great job, a great life, great friends, and a great boyfriend.  The only problem is, she can’t stop crying and she doesn’t know why.  Jetting from one cushy newspaper assignment to another can’t keep the demons at bay, so Martin reluctantly agrees to try psychoanalysis, with hilariously funny results.  Written in a dry, self-deprecating tone, this chronicle of the neuroses that can lurk underneath a polished surface will have you cheering as Martin learns to let down her defenses and change her self-destructive behaviors.

On a completely different, but no less complicated note, readers who like Iron_Duketheir romance novels both action-packed and bittersweet will want to check out Meljean Brooks’s The Iron Duke.  When the Horde ruled England, they used technology to enslave the populace; after the Iron Duke’s liberation mission, half-caste citizens like Mina can get a fresh start on life.  However, the “star-crossed lovers” plot that eventually unites Mina and the Duke is complicated by issues of racism, class warfare, and technological ethics.  If that sounds a bit too intelligent for a romance novel, let me assure you that the conventional romance parts are no less, er, arresting for all the high-falutin’ sentiments.

Your turn, Pittsburgh:  do you like your chick lit tart, or sweet?  Do you like to read about heroes/heroines who are just like you, or nothing like you?

–Leigh Anne


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The Love Connection

Romance readers love series books. Favorite characters featured in one story will play supporting characters in the other tales. So, like life, the initial love affair continues on.

Summer is a good time for reading romance series. You can read them all in a row – a most satisfying venture!- or you can begin a series and pace them over a designated period without losing hold of the thread of the ongoing relationships. Many romance series are written as trilogies and published in quick sequence, but others continue on, year after year, like a healthy rose bush producing beautiful blossoms season after season.

Grandma Is Cutting Flowers And Red Roses In Garden Stock Image

After Lady Agatha tended her roses, she would visit the local library for more series romances...and a glimpse of Giles, the handsome librarian.

Whether historical (like the regency genre set from 1790 – 1820 when the Prince Regent of England, George IV, ruled as proxy to his father during the “madness” of George III), or contemporary, romances ever-satisfy by providing that necessary happy ending.

Historical and Regency Romances:

Stephanie Laurens’s Cynster novels: The devilishly handsome sons and other relations of Sebastian Cynster, the Duke of St. Ives and their fair ladies are chronicled over fifteen steamy Regency novels. Check out the latest, Temptation and Surrender, for a treasure hunt and an unexpected love affair in a rundown tavern.

Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses sextet: it’s four stories down, and two to go!  When the Duke Returns, Duchess By Night, An Affair Before Christmas, Desperate DuchessesThis Duchess of Mine (release date May 26, 2009), and A Duke of Her Own (series conclusion, release date July 28, 2009) are rich in the historical detail and quaint societal mores of the Georgian period.  Whether finding love or rekindling an old passion, playing chess or dueling for honor, these Dukes and Duchesses portray English aristocracy and its excesses with droll humor and breathless seduction.

Mary Balogh’s Huxtable series:  These Regency period stories chronicle the romances of three sisters, a brother and second cousin Constantine -who may or may not be a despicable rake and a cad. The sisters’ stories, all 2009 paperback publications are: At Last Comes Love (Margaret’s story),  First Comes Marriage (Vanessa’s story), Then Comes Seduction (Katherine’s story), and Seducing an Angel (Stephen’s story).

These will be followed next year with an as-yet-untitled tale of enigmatic cousin Constantine. Balogh has said she writes connected books because “…often three books are not enough. Four are better, but why not get greedy and go for five?”

Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick’s Arcane Society novels:  Bridging the gap between the present and the past, Krentz writes contemporary romances and her alter ego Quick provides historical love stories, both with a paranormal twist. 21st Century and late Victorian era detectives from the Jones and Jones Psychic Investigation Agency use a wide variety of unique psychic gifts to solve intriguing mysteries often related to the quest of members of the centuries-old Arcane Society to uncover the secret paranormal research of the society founder alchemist Sylvester Jones in the 1600s. The series begins with Second Sight, followed by White Lies, Sizzle and Burn, The Third Circle, Running Hot, and The Perfect Poison.

Contemporary Romance

Lisa Kleypas’s “Travis” trilogy:  Kleypas, a great Regency writer, has recently published a contemporary series. Wealthy Texas mogul Churchill Travis’s children, Gage, Haven and Jack are each featured in complex, bigger than life sagas: Sugar Daddy, Blue-Eyed Devil, and Smooth Talking Stranger.

Susan Wiggs’s Lakeshore Chronicle:  Following several generations of the Bellamy family and friends in the rural New York resort town Avalon, these intriguing tales focus on the good and bad decisions people make and how those choices can impact the next generation. Start with the first story and follow this series in order: Summer at Willow Lake, Dockside, The Winter Lodge, Snowfall at Willow Lake, and the recently published Fireside.

Robyn Carr’s satisfying Virgin River Series is set in the redwood forests of northern California. A group of buddies from the U. S.  Marines who have served in the Middle East have settled there to start their civilian lives and seek contentment in love and family. Each story stands strongly alone but, read together, they paint a portrait of a community of friends. Titles include: Virgin River, Shelter Mountain, Whispering Rock, A Virgin River Christmas, Second Chance Pass, Temptation Ridge, and Paradise Valley.

Linda Lael Miller’s Mojo Series:  Can former biker bar waitress Mojo Sheepshanks parlay her special talents for winning at Vegas and seeing dead people into a successful new career as a private investigator in Cave Creek, Arizona? Miller’s other series have focused on settling the west and contemporary ranch life, but this quirky contemporary series with a paranormal element is sure to amuse readers and frustrate hunky homicide cop Tucker Darrogh. Check out Deadly Gamble and Deadly Deceptions.

These should be more than enough to get you started, but the list of quality series romances, both historical and contemporary, goes on and on. For more suggestions, ask a librarian!



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Shelf Examination: GLBT Fiction

Today’s installment of Shelf Examination highlights the GLBT fiction collection, which combines genres to please the various reading tastes within the spectrum of people who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, intersexed, or otherwise queer.  So, whether you’re looking for a good mystery, an inspirational heart-warmer, or a supernatural thriller, you’ll find it here, written by, for, and from folks with alternative gender perspectives.

The book:  Murder in the Rue Chartres, Greg Herren.

Pick this up if you like:  cold cases, inter-related murders, and missing persons; family secrets; the sensuality of the French Quarter; stories where setting and geography play a key role; stories steeped in current events.

The book:  Of Drag Kings and the Wheel of Fate, Susan Smith.

Pick this up if you like:  Star-crossed lovers; fluid gender identity; self-chosen families; pop culture themes and metaphors; ethnic and religious plurality; epic Jungian soul quests; passionate, yet tender, awakenings.

book jacket     book jacket     book jacket     book jacket

The book:  And You Invited Me In, Cheryl Moss Tyler.

Pick this up if you like:  inspirational fiction, social justice, realistic sibling reconciliations, well-rounded characters, stories that explore multiple points of view, or the delicate process of negotiating clashing worldviews.

The book:  American Goth, J.D. Glass.

Pick this up if you like:  Paranormal thrillers, multiple trips to the astral, family bonds and legacies, tough choices between desire and destiny, representations of the goth subculture, or wicked-cool swords.

The book: Friends, Lovers and Roses, V.B. Clay.

Pick this up if you like:  Circles of close friends, multiple narrators, gossipy relationship drama, AfricanAmerican families, sassy narration, or plots where secret-keeping plays a major role.


Intrigued?  As ever, you can find more quality GLBT picks by perusing our webrary of booklist goodness.   Tune in next time when we examine more shelves!

–Leigh Anne


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Romance Redux: Another Perspective

I am an unabashed romance reader and have been since I was a girl. Each summer, my neighbor Kathy and I would go to the Woods Run Branch. She’d check out her 6 books and I’d take mine. Rosamond du Jardin, Lenora Mattingly Weber, Maureen Daly…we’d read them all and then switch books, thus filling our summers with countless hours of enjoyment. The first romance I remember reading was Beverly Cleary’s Luckiest Girl, in which teenage Shelly experiences her first crush on basketball star Hartley. From those teen titles we progressed to the great gothic authors of the 1960s and 1970s – Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. Forty five years later, Kathy and I are still friends and we still sometimes share books we like.

Romance was in the air last month in Pittsburgh as the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention was held at the Hilton, downtown. I took a few vacation days to attend. Hundreds and hundreds of women (and a few men) attended the 25th annual event. The convention offered three tracks – one for publishers, one for budding writers and one for readers. I signed up for the reader’s track so that I could get to meet and hear some of my favorite authors.

The grande dames of historical romance, writers Bertrice Small, Janelle Taylor, Roberta Gellis and Jennifer Blake are sticklers for historical fact. They derided the current Showtime hit The Tudors for playing fast and loose with truth of those ribald royals.

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Romantic suspense authors Barry Eisler, Heather Graham, Brenda Novak, and F. Paul Wilson talked about the importance of creating a gripping mystery without ever losing sight of developing a realistic love interest between the protagonists.

Vampires and urban fantasy specialists MaryJanice Davidson, Christine Feehan and J.R. Ward drew the biggest crowd of readers. These authors were wacky and bawdy, and spoke about creating and populating erotic alternative worlds filled with love and the eternal struggle between good and evil. I’ll admit that I just don’t get the current fascination with this genre.

Some of my favorite Regency Historical authors – Mary Balogh, Nicole Jordan, Mary Jo Putney and Patricia Rice gave a wonderful peek into the 19th-century worlds they create. Their stand-alone books and series are often written several years in advance of publishing. They work hard to please their readers by threading major and minor characters from one book to another to sustain interest and to achieve the happy ending romance readers expect.

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Over 350 authors were in attendance. Many were recognized on Thursday at the Annual RT Awards luncheon. For a list of winners, click here.

Best of all at the Convention was the book signing on Saturday where I got to meet and talk to about ten romance authors whose books I collect. It was really fun to do and just looking at the crowds lined up at the tables and the smiles of the authors selling and signing their books, it was evident that they were all having a great time too.

If you are looking for a few good romances to take to the beach with you this summer, here are a few titles you will surely enjoy:


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Just another manic Monday?

The Monday morning blues – hardly anyone’s immune to them, even if you happen to have the best career on the planet.  Weekends can be so much fun, it’s hard to shake off the recreational vibes and get back to business.  Maybe you went bowling this past weekend, or attended a cultural event. Either way, it’s time to get your head back in the game, and you’re just not feeling it. What’s a conscientious, career-minded person to do?

Taking a career quiz
could be fun, but possibly risky. Better play it safe and grab a book for later. There is always, of course, coffee, which you can both read about and drink at the library; we’d appreciate it if you’d keep the beverages on the ground floor, but feel free to read anywhere you’d like.

The novel that’s chasing my blues away this rainy Monday morning is A. S. Byatt’s Possession. Some of you may have already seen the film: two scholars discover that the 19th-century poets on whom their work focuses conducted a passionate, clandestine affair; this discovery then leads to scholarly chicanery and deception, among other things. The novel will really sing to folks who enjoy the satire of David Lodge, but for me, the attraction lies in the letters exchanged by the two poets. Brimming with life and vigor, they depict the gradual, tantalizing courtship of two kindred souls, and it’s enchanting to watch their correspondence evolve from decorous niceties to passionate familiarity.

Say, there’s an idea: why not take a break from the hectic corporate pace and investigate the lost art of letter-writing? And do let us know if you’d like some help.

–Leigh Anne

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