Romance writers and readers are grieving the loss of a beloved author this week. Francis Ray, who wrote more than 50 contemporary romances, recently passed away. Her books have often appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Essence bestsellers lists. Throughout her long career, Ray won several awards including a Romantic Times Career Achievement award.
Two new books by Ray were published this summer. After the Dawn, the third book in her Family Affair series, brings together two unlikely characters to save a family business. Samantha Collins is shocked when her grandfather leaves her in charge of Collins Industry and also asks Dillon Montgomery, the man Samantha has been in love with for most of her life, to help her. Years ago, Samantha’s grandfather fired Dillon and cut ties with him, and Sam and Dillon haven’t been in contact since an awkward encounter years ago. Can the two of them make this work? All That I Need is the latest entry in Ray’s long running Grayson Friends series, which remains a fan favorite. This story features Lance Saxton and Fallon Marshall, two people who live very different lives. Both are forced to reexamine their priorities when they meet and fall in love.
Actress Lauren Graham delivers a delightful debut novel featuring Franny Banks, a struggling actress, in Someday, Someday, Maybe. Graham, familiar to viewers of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, drew on her own history in sharing the story of a young woman finding her way in New York City. The novel opens in January, 1995 – six months before Franny’s self-imposed deadline to make it as an actress. So far all she has to show for her two and a half years in The Big Apple is a coveted waitress gig and a television commercial for ugly Christmas sweaters. Things are looking grim and all her hopes rest on the upcoming showcase put on by her acting class. Although her performance doesn’t go exactly as planned (think wardrobe malfunction), she does receive two offers from prominent agents and lands a guest spot on a sitcom. Franny’s Filofax is soon packed with auditions, appointments, and dates with James Franklin, her sexy and successful classmate.
All too quickly, the agent stops calling, the auditions dry up, and the sitcom is on hiatus. Her Filofax is now filled with soap opera viewing and cheese doodle consumption. Through the highs and lows, Franny is supported by her father and her roommates, Jane and Dan. When her agent offers her a movie role that involves nudity, Franny comes to a career crossroads. And when Dan starts to feel like more than a roommate and James’ self-absorption grows tiring, she faces a romantic muddle. This is a funny and optimistic coming-of-age story about an audacious young woman fighting for her dreams and overcoming self-doubt. Graham has said that there is a little bit of her in every character and her own experiences as an actor struggling to make it adds an added layer of authenticity.
Two long-running manga series come to a close this month, but not without captivating final volumes. In Dance in the Vampire Bund, a seinen manga by Nozomu Tamaki, vampires have been secretly living among humans until one day a vampires-only island (the “Bund”) is created off the coast of Japan. Humans and vampires fear what they do not understand about each other, but this separation creates a fragile peace. As the series unfolds, the princess and head of the vampires, Mina, has been kidnapped by a faction of extremists and replaced with an imposter. Her friends, werewolf Akira and once-human Yuki, must free Mina and together retake the Bund from the radicals. Shades of romance and impressive supernatural powers fuel this fourteen-volume series to its climactic conclusion.
A very different shojo series, We Were There, by Yuki Obata, is a contemporary romance in which several older teens age into their twenties as the series progresses. After Yano’s girlfriend dies in a tragic accident, he begins to date Nanami. However, Yano cannot stop thinking about his late love and heads off to help his unstable mother. In the interim, Nanami begins to date Yano’s best friend, and various love triangles and connections among close-knit characters perpetuate through the sixteen volumes in this series. In a fitting close, a reunion at the graveside of their long-gone friend ties loose ends and promises the potential of a happy ending.
A couple weeks back, some lucky romance writers were thrilled to receive that special phone call with the good news that their books were finalists for a RITA Award. RITAs are the highest award of distinction in romance fiction and are awarded in twelve categories. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) bestow these awards to highlight excellence in published romance novels and novellas. Want to see how many you’ve read? Check out the complete list which also includes Golden Heart (excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts) nominees. The Romance Writers of America will announce the winners of the 2013 RITA contest at the Awards Ceremony at their annual conference in July, this year held in Atlanta.
Several of the titles were featured on Between the Covers during the course of the past year. My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade is a finalist in Best Inspirational Romance and is the contemporary love story of Kate and Matt and their personal struggles. Sarah Maclean’s A Rogue by Any Other Name is a Regency that gets the Rules of Scoundrels series, which follows four charming rogues, off to a rollicking start. Anna Huber secured two RITA nominations for The Anatomist’s Wife, her debut historical fiction and first in the Lady Darby mystery series. Huber is hoping for wins in both Best First Book and Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements.
British writer Jojo Moyes’s latest novel, Me Before You, is a beautifully crafted story about a 26 year-old woman who leads a monotonous life in a small town in England. After losing the job she’s had for six years, Louisa Clark, better known as Lou, begins the difficult task of looking for employment. Not knowing what she wants to do with the rest of her life and frustrated with her job prospects, Lou eventually applies for a position as a caregiver. Despite her lack of experience, she is offered the job because of her upbeat and quirky personality.
Enter Will Traynor, a former high-powered executive, who became a quadriplegic following a severe accident. Will has been forced to give up his adventurous lifestyle, and to rely completely on others, which has sent him into a deep depression. His mother hires Lou in hopes that she can make him reverse the decision that his life is no longer worth living. Their relationship begins shakily; however, as they grow to know each other better, Lou finds ways to reach out to Will and to help him find some things to enjoy in his world as it is. Meanwhile, Will teaches Lou to live her life more fully, and to try new things.
Moyes draws readers in with the novel’s sense of intimacy, as most of the book is told from Lou’s unique perspective as Will’s caregiver. However, scenes with the extended cast of characters, Lou’s family for example, offer levity. Me Before You raises many philosophical issues, while also being a funny, heartbreaking, and unconventional love story.
Her husband left her for a newer model and now he’s lost his job, which means no more child support. This leaves Molly Hagan up a financial creek and emotionally still at sea in Vanity Fare: a Novel of Lattes, Literature and Love, a debut from Megan Caldwell, a regular blogger for the popular romance site Heroes and Heartbreakers. When an old friend offers her a freelance project writing marketing materials for a new bakery headed up by British celeb pastry chef Simon, Molly jumps at the chance. Thus begins the familiar balancing act between work, her son, Aidan – a six year old still dealing with the fallout from his parents’ split, and her financially strapped mother who has moved in with her.
Out of the workforce since Aidan was born, her lack of experience increases her self-doubt as she tackles this creative assignment. But her fears are assuaged as she comes up with a unique idea playing on the proximity of the main branch of the New York Public Library to the new storefront. She creates stories tying each scintillating treat to a great work of literature and even comes up with the bakery’s name – Vanity Fare. Her self-confidence is further boosted when the sexy Simon shines his romantic spotlight on her. Unfortunately, she must deal with his business partner, Nick, who is suspicious of Molly’s abilities, but does show a softer side when Aidan is around.
The clever marketing copy opens each chapter and readers will find themselves longing for "A Room of One’s Scone" or a "Tart of Darkness". For the more adventurous, the epilogue includes select recipes to bake at home. While the mouth-watering descriptions create a framework for this story, it is ultimately the realistic, yet still humorous, story of one young mother trying to start over again professionally and find lasting love.
Lady Eliza Sumner is a determined woman bent on recovering her fortune, her family name, and her dignity in A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano. Some slight obstacles include a lack of money, family, friends, and a loss of faith. After her father’s death, Eliza’s inheritance was stolen by his trusted manager and his wife, Eliza’s former governess. The despicable duo has fled to America where they are masquerading as British aristocracy. Eliza, with little more than enough money to pay for her way across the pond, arrives in New York with the intent of recovering her wealth and returning to London in a blaze of glory. She takes a post as governess to a wealthy family and begins plotting.
When Eliza’s employer presses her into attending a dinner party, a disguised Eliza (complete with padding and eyeglasses) meets the fabulous Beckett brothers – Zayne and Hamilton. Hamilton is an eligible widower who blames himself for his wife’s death and is devoted to his two children. Because of the failure of his first marriage, he has sworn off women and marriage. However, Eliza and he learn that they share a common enemy and find themselves thrown together repeatedly in their efforts to recover her fortune and save his business. Eliza and Hamilton aren’t without friends who try to help their cause, including Agatha, an opinionated suffragette who happens to be the eldest daughter of Eliza’s employers, Arabella, sister to the Beckett brothers, and Theodore Wilder, a dashing detective.
This debut inspirational historical romance is packed with humor, interesting characters, and a fast-moving plot. This is the first in the Ladies of Distinction series and will appeal to fans of Deeanne Gist and Cathy Marie Hake. For more fun with this zany crew, look for A Most Peculiar Circumstance in June where readers will be delightfully reacquainted with Theodore Wilder and Arabella Beckett.
Friends and bestselling historical romance authors Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway have teamed up to bring readers The Lady Most Willing: A Novel in Three Parts, the story of an outrageous kidnapping plot that leads to four unlikely romances. Although romance authors frequently collaborate on collections of novellas, Quinn, James, and Brockway decided to try something a little different. Each wrote a part of a story that would become one cohesive novel. The result was their first shared novel The Lady Most Likely: A Novel in Three Parts. The trio enjoyed that project so much that they decided to try it again. When Brockway suggested a plot inspired by one of her favorite movies, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Lady Most Willing was born.
Laird Taran Ferguson wants his nephews to marry and produce heirs to secure the family line, so he hatches a drunken plan to kidnap eligible young ladies for them to marry. What could possibly go wrong? He and his men decide to capture three young heiresses, Lady Cecily Tarleton and sisters Fiona and Marilla Chisholm, from a ball at Bellemere Castle. During the raid, Taran’s men are confused about one of the ladies’ identity, and Catriona Burns is mistakenly taken, too. The inept kidnappers steal a carriage for their getaway, and The Duke of Bretton, who was sleeping off a substantial amount of brandy in his carriage, is also inadvertently abducted. The whole group is brought to Finovair Castle where they are snowed in together, and fate and love soon intervene. This witty, warm romance is the perfect antidote for a chilly winter night.
You are cordially invited to attend Angelica Silverstein’s fairy tale wedding in Yona McDonough’s A Wedding in Great Neck. Angelica is set to marry Ohad, a former fighter pilot, but this event is more about Angelica’s family than the bride and groom. The whole Silverstein clan is gathering in Great Neck, including one ex-husband, two separated spouses, and one sullen teenager. Angelica’s sister, Gretchen, is dealing with a failed marriage and twin teenage daughters, including Justine who is exceptionally moody. Brother Teddy is a bit of a blowhard, while other brother Caleb is up in the air with his career and new romance. All three siblings are dealing with repressed jealousy of Angelica, the perceived favorite of both parents. And let’s meet those parents - Betsy and Lincoln. Betsy is on her second husband and he’s given her security and the dream lifestyle she’s always wanted. Lincoln (hubby number one) is a recovering alcoholic and something of a slouch when it comes to work and family. Rounding out the family circle is Betsy’s mother, Lenore, who usually limits her advice to foundation garments, but has decided her loved ones need help and they need it today.
When Justine’s actions threaten the wedding, all of the bottled-up family tensions bubble to the surface. Whether Angelica and Ohad become man and wife is at question, and before the day is over the lives of all the players are irrevocably changed. Written in three parts over the course of the wedding day, readers are treated to the inner workings of a wedding extravaganza while meeting unique, real characters with recognizable issues. Enjoy the delights of white tents and black ties, diamonds and designer dresses, but ultimately this is a story about the distinct characters which create a most remarkable family.
In Kate Locke’s God Save the Queen, the Plague has infected the Aristocracy with something called the Prometheus Protein, which led to vampirism in England and lycanthropy in Scotland. Queen Victoria, a vampire, is about to celebrate 175 years on the throne. British society is now a strange blend of Victorian and modern, and the social ranks are comprised of the infected Aristocracy, Halvies (the half-blood offspring of the Aristocracy), and humans. They all coexist, but animosity between humans and the infected is high.
Xandra Vardan, a member of the Royal Guard, is a halvie; her mother was a human courtesan, and her father is an Aristo vampire. Shortly after Xandra’s half-sister Dede disappeared, her family was told that Dede committed suicide, but Xandra has good reason to believe that the corpse provided for her family to identify is not her sister. Xandra’s search for Dede leads her to the goblins’ underground kingdom and to Bedlam where she learns about dark secrets that someone would kill to keep hidden. She soon realizes that everyone she trusts may be part of a conspiracy, and her blood could be key to it all. With the help of Vex MacLaughlin, the sexy Alpha of the UK wolves, and an unlikely cast of outsiders, Xandra must navigate the secrets and lies that could bring down the British Empire.
Locke’s unique blend of alternate history, urban fantasy, romance, and steampunk will appeal to readers who enjoyed Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. Xandra is a tough, smart heroine, and the story reads like the script of an action movie. The Queen is Dead, the next book in Locke’s Immortal Empire series, will be published in February 2013.