Michelle Binfiglio’s Romance: B(u)y the Book

A blog about novels, books, reviews, interviews, health stories, and more.

Category: Book Reviews

The AuthorView: Anne Gracie

In this week’s AuthorView, the very delightful Anne Gracie lauds the merit of men with strong hands, does some ‘new math’ for trilogies, and reveals the best (and worst) parts of the writing life.

MB: What or who inspired your novel?

AG: My heroine, Grace, started off as a minor character in my book ‘The Perfect Rake.’ She was the heroine’s little sister, and though she had a very small role, she was the sort of character that you notice — spunky, likable and mischievous, without being bratty. And readers liked her as well. I had a lot of letters asking me for Grace’s story. So my publisher was very kind and allowed me to write a fourth book for my trilogy.

So I started with Grace’s personality, filled in some of the gaps in her life since the last book, and explored story possibilities. A reader wrote to me recently and said, “It was so wonderful to see that Grace may have matured, but she hadn’t changed.” I was really pleased with that.

I planned quite a different hero, but as soon as Dominic met Grace on the page, he started doing and saying things I hadn’t expected him to say and do… and soon I realized he was a baaad boy, a terrible flirt — well actually a really excellent flirt… But he also has a tragic past, and I knew that he and Grace would bring out the best in each other — eventually. I love a redemption story.

And then, finally there was the setting — I’m quite a visual writer — location is important to me, so I usually search until I find a place/setting that feels right. As soon as I came across Stokesay Castle, I instantly knew this was the place to set my story. You can see some of the places that influenced the book here and at the bottom of that page is the story collage I made. I’ve recently got right into collage as a preparatory aid to writing.

MB: What do you like most about your novel?

AG: I think it’s a fun book to read – well, that’s what people tell me. I haven’t read it since it was published. I like some of the interactions between Grace and Dominic — some are funny, others sizzle.

I always enjoy my minor characters, and in this one there’s a gutsy little boy, a smart old granny with a way with herbs, an eccentric Turk with an eye for the girls, and more. And there’s odd, fun elements, like a harem bath scene…

But most of all I like the way that it ends — where justice is done, and evil punished, where love triumphs and the good are rewarded!

MB: Who is the most heroic person you know?

AG: I know lots of heroic people. Life can throw ghastly challenges at people and I find it extraordinary and wonderful when ordinary-seeming people rise to face the challenge and reveal heroic qualities. Whether it’s battling illness, injustice, an enemy or just the travails of life, most heroes aren’t all that noticeable — they just quietly battle against the odds and persist and persist. For instance here where I live, we’ve had a very severe drought and months of terrible bushfires. Ordinary men and women battle on, day after day after day, exhausted, uncomplaining and determined to survive. That’s real heroism, I think.

MB: Who’s your romance hero: dark brooding bad boy or white knight in shining armor?

AG: I don’t have one romance hero — mine are all a bit different from each other. I suppose you could say they’re bad boys, with a lurking core of white knight. I like the idea of the warrior poet — a tough exterior and a beautiful soul. My guys tend to be strong, protective, tough and deep down honorable. They often shield their heart under a gruff or lighthearted exterior. They are flawed, and often wounded, and when they fall, they fall really hard for the heroine.

In real life I find a wicked sense of humor utterly irresistible, but I also want someone who can listen as well as talk. A kind heart is a must. Broad shoulders and strong hands are very sexy. As is a certain kind of crooked smile. Add in a preference for doing all the housework and you’d have the perfect man.

MB: Answer the question you wish an interviewer would ask.

AG: Q: What do you like best about being a writer? What’s the worst?

A: I love it when a character leaps onto the page as if they are alive, or a scene just flows. I love it when I’m in a pit of despair and suddenly I see how it will all work, and it all starts to come together, and it works.

I love it when readers write and tell me my book made them laugh or cry (it’s often both.) And when they ask for more details or a story for another character, because then I know the world of that book is as real for them as it was for me.

I love the friends I’ve made. Writing is a solitary occupation, but the community of romance writers is very strong and very supportive. I could live in the middle of nowhere and not see anyone for months, but I would never feel alone.

The worst thing?
It never stops. I never have a day completely off, because even if I’m not working on a book, an idea will come, or I’ll see something that intrigues me, or hear a snatch of dialogue and I have to write it down.

And it can ruin your reading. It’s much harder to simply get swept away by a book these days. I read like a writer, not a reader.

But I love this work and feel privileged to be able to do it.

This Week’s Feature: Doing it Right

Doing It Right Review

Feature: ‘Doing it Right’
MaryJanice Davidson

Contemporary with bonus novella
Brava 0-758-21206-2 2007

Overall: Four 1/2 Stars

Sensuality: Five Hearts

Cover Cheese: Two Wedges

Doing It Right Review

Anyone who states emphatically she’s never, ever crushed on a physician who’s treated her is a big, silly, lyin’ liar.

I mean, really. Who hasn’t looked into the eyes of a handsome, getting-younger-all-the-time resident and wondered: at what point did sea-green scrubs and sensible shoes become aphrodisiacal?

Perhaps the combination engenders some atavistic response to a man who possesses power to protect, both physically, and — if he’s far enough removed from med school — economically. But admitting that would be akin to validating our sisters who enjoyed reading those “masterful doctor hero is brought to his knees by saucy nurse who finds her HEA in becoming his wifey” category romances from times gone by.

Yes, today the truly empowered woman is entertained fantasizing about hunky TV docs pursued by independent female doctors and nurses who want to bring the poor bastards to their knees with nary a ratings-plunging HEA in sight.

But take heart, romance fans, for, once again “the doctor is in,” and MaryJanice Davidson serves him up — with attention to anatomy even Gray probably never imagined — in her wicked funny and ultra-hot new novel, “Doing it Right.”

Overworked ER doc Jared Dean is on the overnight when the tedium is broken by sounds of a raucous struggle. He hurries to the scene and stumbles upon the petite goddess who will become the mother of his children — once they’re introduced, and after she’s through dislocating the shoulder of the 250 pound, one-eyebrowed goon she’s pinned to a table.

But the formal introduction doesn’t come until later, when Jared finds the goddess, Kara, has broken into his home to inform him she’ll be bodyguarding him against the hit old One Eybrow’s got on him since the thug figured Jared could I.D. him to the cops.

Well, kinda-sappy Jared can’t believe his good luck, not about the hit, but that he’ll get to spend more time with Kara whom he finds decidedly alluring and insanely honorable, even if she does have this thing about breaking and entering for the good of society.

Davidson works her usual MJD magic throughout “Doing it Right,” her high-energy plot and character movement maintained by great writing and singular ability to convey and sustain humor even when compelling backstory is revealed.

Yet one of the best things about “Doing it Right,” at least the most fun, is the high-voltage sensuality, the good stuff that displays her skill for writing some of the best and hottest sex-with-finer emotions in romance today.

Doctor’s orders –

Buy the Book.

For more high-voltage MJD, visit www.MaryJaniceDavidson.net !


Exclusive Sneak Peek: Force of Nature

FBI agent Jules Cassidy walked out of movie star Robin Chadwick’s hospital room and life at the end of 2005’s Hot Target. The two men haven’t seen each other since then. Here’s an excerpt from August’s Force of Nature, the 11th installment in my Troubleshooters series:

Robin was dressed and pouring himself the evening’s first drink when someone knocked on his hotel-room door.

It probably wasn’t Dolphina or another of his handlers — there was still a solid hour before he had to leave for… whatever event was happening tonight.

Well, maybe it was Dolphina, who’d recently decided she no longer hated him and that she’d rather be his mother. Over the past few days, she’d made sure he ate right, found time to exercise, and, if he drank a little too much, she got him safely back to his room ? all without ending up in his bed.

Although, that might no longer be true. Last night he’d been particularly shit-faced, and as he’d stumbled over the seam between the suite’s living-room tile and the bedroom carpeting, she’d caught him and kept him from breaking his nose. He’d repaid her by dragging her back with him onto his bed, because she was not unattractive, and when he got skunked, sex of any kind seemed better than no sex at all.

As so often was the case when he drank too much, that was where his memory went from murky to dark.

So yes, it was probably Dolphina a-knockin’ on his door. She knocked again ? louder this time.

Robin looked through the fish-eyed lens of the peephole and…

Holy dancing Jesus. He almost dropped his drink. He looked again.

He took off the chain and opened the door, and yes, it definitely was Jules Cassidy standing in the hotel corridor.

Dressed in eveningwear similar to the tuxedo that Robin himself had on.

Other than the tux, Jules hadn’t changed at all in the past few years. Same short dark hair, same trim, compact body, same handsome face, same warm brown eyes.

Same molten attraction in those eyes that didn’t fade even when he smiled.

The man had a ridiculously sweet smile, even when it was tentative, as it was now.

“Sorry to surprise you,” Jules said. “I called your cell, but you didn’t pick up.”

Robin didn’t answer. He couldn’t. He no longer spoke English ? it had been flabbergasted out of him. Instead, he stepped back and gestured for Jules to come inside.

Jules, of course, hesitated. “I was actually thinking we could go down to the bar.”

A stiff drink would be great right about now. But then Robin realized he was holding a glass of rum in his hand. He hadn’t yet added the Coke, but what the hell. He took a healthy sip, and his ability to speak returned. “I’ll be mobbed. Down there. I can’t just go to a bar anymore. Well, I can, if I grunge up, but not on the opening night of a film festival like this.”

Jules nodded. “I should’ve realized. I’m sorry, I’m… Congratulations. I’ve heard great things about the movie and… Your career’s really… Congratulations.”

He was as flustered as Robin was. Maybe even more so. And he’d known who was going to be on the other side of the door before it had opened.

“Please come in,” Robin managed.

Jules looked past him and into the suite. It was huge ? and set up as a living room. Sofa and chairs, and even a full-size dining table. No king-size bed for them to have to pretend not to notice. That was on the other side of French doors that Robin kept tightly shut, mostly due to the fact that he was a slob.

“Thanks,” Jules said as he came inside, as Robin shut the door behind him, putting the chain back on ? which Jules noticed. Of course, FBI agents tended to notice everything.

But God, he still smelled exactly the same. And suddenly Robin went from just barely able to speak to unable to shut the fuck up. “Jesus, I’ve missed you,” came spewing out just as Jules said, “I’m here on business.”
From Force of Nature, by Suzanne Brockmann, available in hardcover from Ballantine Books on August 14, 2007. Š 2007 Suzanne Brockmann


My Wicked Pirate by Rona Sharon

Feature: ‘My Wicked Pirate’
Rona Sharon

Early 18th Century/British West Indies; Mid East; Italy
Zebra 0-821-78057-3 2007

Overall: Four 1/4 Stars

Sensuality: Three 1/2 Hearts

Cover Cheese: Two Wedges

Ah, the romance of the high seas: crashing waves, exotic ports of call – big, lusty Italian pirates in soaking-wet pantaloons.

Fairly makes a girl go, arrrrrghhh, don’t it?  If you’re like me, and you adore swashbuckling pirate romances, it does.

Truly, what could be better than a passionate tale woven from historically accurate details, spun from the yearning of a gently bred lady for a rakish corsair-who’s-more-than-a-corsair, and wrapped in Old School-style political intrigue we thought died out when Marsha Canham retired?

A novel just like that, but with Nathan Kamp on the cover!  Said novel would be Rona Sharon’s marvelous debut, the sensual and voluptuously exotic “My Wicked Pirate.”

Eros, the Viper, has been sailing the Mediterranean for years as a privateer for King Louis IV of France, but his reputation is that of a merciless rogue who captures and pillages.  Yet Eros is waiting, biding his time until he can return to claim his birthright as the true prince of Milan.

Granddaughter of an English duke, Lady Alanis is headed to meet her aristocrat fiancé in Kingston, Jamaica, the port from which he’s been sailing to capture for the Crown scourges of the sea like Eros.  On the way, the Viper seizes as prize Alanis, who later chooses to stay with the gentleman-corsair and helps him escape capture.

As Eros introduces Alanis to the luxuries and ecstasies of the Mid East and the Mediterranean, Alanis learns that there is much to be admired about the man who clearly wants her fiercely, but not forever.  And Eros finds that the revenge and triumph he’s planned for years may not taste as sweet – or even occur – if he doesn’t decide whether he can trust Alanis with his secrets, his dreams, and his soul.

Sharon debuts with a remarkable concoction of great dyed-in-the-wool romance writing and nerdy, well-researched historical themes that add up to a treat for historical fans and romance lovers alike.

“My Wicked Pirate” is so good, because Sharon captures in Eros the arrogant charm that makes foreign guys so appealing and infuriating, but tempers it with vulnerability that makes him appealing, not whiny – the distinguishing mark of the true Alpha male.

And Alanis is not simply some gently bred dolt who falls passively for her captor so the plot can thicken.  She’s smart and sexy, and woman enough to understand exactly what she’s signing on for when she changes the course of her life – and the novel – by haring off with Eros on a grand, authentically romantic adventure.

Oh, yes.  Pirate romance is returned in rare form, and you’ll get a rare high-seas treat when you —

Buy the Book.


Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas

Feature: ‘Sugar Daddy’
Lisa Kleypas

St. Martin’s 0-312-35162-3 2007

Overall: Four 1/2 Stars

Sensuality: Three 1/4 Hearts

Cover Cheese: Cheese Free

If you got your hands on the advance copies of some of the 2007 romance releases on my desk right now, you can bet you’d be squealing like a little girlie girl. Historicals, contemps – oh, lookee here: there seems to be one about a bunch of sexy vampire brethren and their cop friend, Butch.

That was mean, I know. But give me a chance to make it up to you, please?

How about this: today, you get to read an excerpt from one of the most anticipated works of romance fiction of 2007, “Sugar Daddy,” the stunning contemporary debut of NY Times bestseller and historical romance phenom, Lisa Kleypas.

But let me tell you a bit about it first.

Liberty Jones loved Hardy Cates since the day he saved her skinny adolescent self from a couple pit bulls threatening her on the lot of the run-down, Texas trailer park in which the Jones and Cates families lived.

Hardy loves her in his own way, but protects her from himself by keeping her at a distance, only occasionally giving in to the attraction he feels for her. Yet still he leaves her flat as he searches for a way out of poverty and his mother’s over-crowded single wide.

Heartbroken and with no one to help her take care of her infant sister after their mother dies, Liberty struggles for years to keep a roof over their heads. Then, she takes an almost-too-good-to-be-true job as assistant to Texas billionaire, Churchill Travis.

Travis’ son, Gage, is a brilliant oil industry exec, handsome, and alpha, to boot. And Liberty hates that he’s the first man to really affect her since Hardy, because Gage Travis resents her and thinks she’s a gold-digger looking for a sugar daddy. His daddy, to be exact.

Then who shows up just when things look like they’re going to smooth out between Liberty and Gage, but Hardy Cates, self-made millionaire oilman with two things on his mind: winning Liberty’s heart, and crushing Gage Travis every way he knows how.

Sure, “Sugar Daddy” sounds like it’s got all the makings of a 1980s TV series, but it’s just too literarily sophisticated not to be taken seriously.

Kleypas’ enormous talent for writing, storytelling, and evoking the romantic fantasies and intimate emotional desires of women makes “Sugar Daddy” a contemporary romance that’s as intensely entertaining as it is dramatically emotional.

And reading a Kleypas written in the first person – the story as told by the heroine rather than the “all-knowing” narrator – is a marvelous way to explore and enjoy yet another facet of what makes Kleypas one of the best authors of romance fiction, really, any fiction.

So read this excerpt from Sugar Daddy, then –

Buy the book.


The Perfect Kiss by Anne Gracie

Feature: ‘The Perfect Kiss’
by Anne Gracie
Regency/Merridew Sisters series
Berkley Sensation 978-0-425-21345-2 2007

Overall: 4 ˝ Stars

Sensuality: 3 ź Hearts

Cover Cheese: Cheese-free

Drat it all, but I find myself hoisted by my own petard!

You see, when I first wrote those three little words, “Buy the Book” – a tagline to which I’ve occasionally regretted shackling myself – I meant that you should buy the book. I would go along merrily reading from the piles of gratis ARCs I receive monthly, happy as a clam with such a cool job perk.

Yet a few weeks ago, inexplicably and wearing what I imagine was a rather shell-shocked expression, I found myself in the romance aisle of my local bookstore actually, well, buying a book.

Why? To my shame, I’d never read a novel by Anne Gracie, and was dying to buy her entire Merridew Sisters series after having finished an ARC of the delightful final installment, “The Perfect Kiss.”

In it, we meet Miss Grace Merridew a Diamond of the First Water. Yet Grace is nothing if not loyal to those she loves, especially when she thinks they’re being ronged. So, when her favorite cousin must travel to meet the notoriously irreputable man to whom she’s being forced to marry, Grace accompanies her, pretending to be her cousin’s shy, dowdy chaperone.

Dominic Wolfe has earned some of his deplorable reputation, and is not a gracious host when he shows up at the ancestral home he’s not seen since childhood to find his fiancée, her ailing father, and some mousy, yet unreasonably enchanting woman have arrived uninvited.

Dominic knows to inherit the estate and follow through with his plans to destroy a legacy he disdains he must go through with the arranged marriage. Yet he’s having so much fun prowling after the drab little chaperone who’s more than she appears, he begins to wonder how he might change things.

And Grace Merridew is wondering how she ever believed any woman wouldn’t want to be married to a man like Dominic, when he, too, is so much more than he chooses to reveal.

“The Perfect Kiss” is a lovely treat. Buoyed by Gracie’s skilled writing and smooth storytelling, it’s a novel that entertains the historical fan in the way we love — with ambiance and language and delicious, rather naughty sensuality.

Since I had to bite the bullet — and it was worth every hard-earned penny — why don’t you —

Buy the Book.