Sunday, March 29, 2009

Feeling the Love!

Wow! What a great weekend...the NECRWA 2009 Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference was super spectacular. I attended some excellent workshops, did lots and lots of schmoozing, and gabbed with some amazing authors.  Two things occurred to me while sipping my is that the NECRWA (New England Chapter of the Romance Writers of America) is a very warm, welcoming and sincere group of women (and a couple of men, too!). Whether you are a world-renowned bestseller or a "newbie" just starting your first manuscript, you are treated with kindness, respect and an infectious camaraderie borne from a love of romantic fiction. The second thing I marvelled at was how open and welcoming many of the well-known authors are. (I must admit the first time I met Loretta Chase at a book-signing, I stammered and blushed and practically required CPR to recover). Instead of being pumped up on their own self-importance, they are perfectly willing to hobnob with mere mortals, and actually chat, joke and encourage our own burgeoning careers.  Jessica Andersen is one of the most down to earth people you could imagine. Annette Blair is a pocket rocket of enthusiasm.  And Jennifer Greene and I discussed how much we enjoy adverbs.  (I really, really love adverbs).  This conference was especially exciting for me since I SOLD MY FIRST BOOK THIS WEEK!!!!!  I am not sure if there are words to describe this euphoria, but I will try....HOLY MACARENA...I FINALLY DID IT! (Penelope is not feeling particularly modest at the moment).

I was feeling the love this weekend.  Thanks to everyone who offered congratulations and well wishes and let me dirty dance with them on Friday night.  (Honestly, it was the appletinis).  I think I'm going to have a bumper sticker made that says "I Dirty Danced With Judith Arnold." After following that sacred journey of all new writers (you know, writing half a werewolf book before I knew what central conflict meant, accumulating enough rejection letters to wallpaper my entire house, and wondering why the hell I wrote a 55,000-word story about Santa in love), I am thrilled to be entering the next stage of my writing career.  I feel incredibly blessed to be part of this writing community.  And I am already fantasizing about throwing a kick-ass book launch party involving Chippendale dancers dressed in Santa hats, peppermint martinis and plenty of Christmas cookies.  Maybe I'll even get a holly tattoo. Hmmm.  I would also like to extend a special thanks to my friends The Quirky Ladies who believed in me even when I felt like a small bug crushed by a mountain of rejections.
Happy romance reading to all, and to all a good night!
Feeling profoundly proud, Penelope

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New England Chapter of the RWA Conference

Penelope is very excited about the upcoming NECRWA Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference.  It's two days of workshops, inspiring speakers, gut-wrenching pitches to agents, and of course my personal favorite, schmoozing. If you are an aspiring romance writer (or already have mastered the fine art of writing romance), this just might be your lucky weekend. Past highlights have included a funny, touching keynote speech by Annette Blair, Jess Andersen's perfect pitch workshop, and an excellent talk about "pantsing" by Diane Amos.  (For those non-writers, authors are either "plotters" or "pantsers" as in, writing-by-the-seat-of-your-pants.) Penelope happens to be a pantser and found Diane's talk quite helpful.  She also loves the cute picture of Miss Molly on her website! Dachshund lovers unite!  Lisa Gardner, Jennifer Greene, and Jessica Andersen are among the speakers this year.  If you are so inclined stop by for inspiration, motivation, and maybe an appletini or two.  Hope to see you there!
Having the best day of her life, Penelope

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rant About JR Ward, Blood-Sucking Vampires, and Rockability

Today, I decided to employ a new term for my reviews...rockability.  A great book has a high rockability rating. When I think an author "rocks the house" or "rocks out" then the rockability quotient is right up there.  I get very enthusiastic about certain books/authors, and I also have high expectations for highly rockable authors. JR Ward, master of blood-sucking vampires, got her paranormal series The Black Dagger Brotherhood off to a rousing start.  The early books, especially Lover Revealed (Butch's story) and Lover Awakened (Zsadist's story) are absolutely mind-blowingly good books.  Ward has everything a paranormal fan is looking for....larger than life heroes, a well crafted (if at times dark and violent) world, super hot sex, incredible secondary characters. In fact, this world is so delicious, it is down right addictive (just ask the millions of crazed fans who frequent her website).  Problem is, if you are an author with a lot of rockability, you establish high expectations with your followers.  Rabid followers. Then, you've got to deliver the goods or incur the Wrath (pun intended) of your disappointed fans.  Ward had us going up through book four in the series.  But V's book (Lover Unbound) was a disappointment to me. And Phury's book (Lover Enshrined) made me phurious (sorry, I couldn't help myself). (In a nutshell...lukewarm heroine, crappy romance, horribly disappointing first sex scene after 5 books of self-imposed celibacy for Phury, etc., etc.).  In fact, my friends cringe when I start ranting about Phury's book..."Oh dear God help us, she's starting up about Phury's book again. Take cover!" In Ward's defense, sustaining rockability over the course of a series is tough. Sherrilyn Kenyon was one of my all-time favorite authors for a long time (I adore Dance With The Devil and Night Play), but her "formula" is getting stale, and she needs to jet this series and start something new. Karen Marie Moning started a new series (the Fever series) and they have some serious rockability. 

Lover Avenged, #7 in Ward's Brotherhood series, will be released April 28, 2009.  It is Rehvenge's story.  He is a superb character and is deserving of an incredible book.  Will Ward get back to her winning formula (intense lusty love affairs between kick-ass vampires and women strong enough to handle them equals fabulous reading)? I sure hope so.  I was filled with trepidation about this latest installment until I read the two excerpts from Lover Avenged on her website.  They rocked the house! Oh yeah! I am cautiously optimistic about Rehv's book and am hoping that Ward has gotten back to the best part of this series for romance readers.  Namely, romance.  

I would love to hear my reader's opinions about series that are flailing, and those they think are right on target.  Anyone else excited for Rehv's book? Anyone else thinking about getting a purple mohawk? I am hoping that Ward's rockability has returned with a vhengeance. 

Reeling with Rockability, Penelope

Friday, March 13, 2009

Review of Temptation and Surrender by Stephanie Laurens

Temptation and Surrender by Stephanie Laurens
Yes, I splurged and bought the hardcover copy of the latest Stephanie Laurens book.  This is #16 of the beloved Cynster series by this author.  I have been a fan for some time, and of course read the entire series in chronological order (as well as the Bastion Club series).  Laurens is the epitome of traditional historical romance...beautiful heroines, alpha male heroes, fascinating tidbits of the Regency era, and a mystery thrown in for good measure. Laurens is also known for her high sensuality scenes have been known to go on and on and on...oh my! (Is it getting hot in here?)  Although this is not the very best of her Cynster series, I found this story very sweet and satisfying.  Jonas Tallent and Emily Beauregard make an engaging couple in traditional Laurens fashion...he is protective, she is hiding a secret, he seduces her, she surprises him with her passionate virginal response.  I really enjoyed the suspense portion of this story.  Emily is trying to solve the mystery of an old poem supposedly describing the hiding place of their family fortune. If you are a Laurens fan, then this book is a like a nice hot cup of jasmine tea...comforting, pleasant, but not really full of too much excitement.  After finishing Temptation and Surrender, I realized that what makes Laurens' books really pop is very strong hero/heroine Devil and Honoria, Richard and Catriona, Gyles and Francesca, and my personal favorites Gabriel and Althea from A Secret Love.  If the hero/heroine combo is not vivid enough, the story is enjoyable, but not necessarily memorable. Laurens fans will enjoy this latest installment of the series, but if you are new to this author I suggest starting with Devil's Bride, especially if you prefer apple-tinis over a hot cup of tea. Grade: B
P.S. The most exciting part of this book is the excerpt for Mastered by Love, the final Bastion club book, which is Dalziel's story.  Ya-hoo!!!! I cannot wait. The book is slated to be released on July 28, 2009.  Dalziel is my kind of hero...dark, brooding, mysterious, hot tamale! 
With the Utmost Graciousness, Penelope

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jessica Andersen Interview by The Quirky Ladies

I would like to invite my readers to check out this fantastic interview of Jessica Andersen by The Quirky Ladies.  Jess is the acclaimed author of the paranormal Final Prophecy series, as well as numerous romantic suspense novels by Harlequin. (She also happens to be great friends and critique partners with JR Ward! I would dearly love to be a fly on the wall during some of those conversations.) Please stop by and leave a comment for Jess, and you could win a free book. There is also an excerpt from her upcoming novel Skykeepers. Check it out!
Preparing to poke around the interview, Penelope

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Blast from the Past: Review of Ready, Willing, And Able by Lucy Monroe

Of all the romance sub-genres, contemporary is not my favorite.  I usually need a little something extra to float my boat...something like a Regency setting, blood-sucking vampires, or macho time-traveling Scottish warriors.  But every once in awhile I read a contemporary that I love, and this trilogy by Lucy Monroe (with very witty titles, Ready, Willing, And Able-cute!!!) is great. The books focus on a trio of ex-Ranger friends. I really enjoyed the well paced suspense in all three stories, which include dealing with threatening stalkers, mysterious explosions, and ex-assassins.  But the best part of this series is the heroes...yummy! They are total alpha-male ex-military types all the way. Monroe really knows how to spin a steamy love affair.  My only complaint is that the guys take a little long to figure out their "sexual possessiveness" is really love. But hey, gotta get that conflict in there somehow, right? I also like that the heroines are not your typical romance is a computer geek, one is a military-trained tomboy, and the last one is a writer-divorcee.  My favorite of the books is Willing, about a Native American hero coming to terms with his abusive father.  He falls in love with the tomboy, and her loss-of-virginity scene is incredibly touching and romantic. Anyhoo, if you're looking for a fun stack of books to tackle on the beach, I would recommend tossing this trio into your suitcase.  Sipping a strawberry daiquiri under a beach umbrella and reading this sexy trilogy will make it a super vacation.  (Can you tell I'm dreaming about Spring Break?) Grade: A
Totally trilogy-tempted, Penelope

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Interview of Joey Hill on The Quirky Ladies blog

Hello my faithful readers! I would like to invite you to check out an interview with one of my new favorite paranormal authors, Joey W. Hill.  I have reviewed two of her fabulous books, A Mermaid's Kiss and A Witch's Beauty.  The Quirky Ladies are interviewing her on their blog Tuesday, March 3.  Please enjoy the interview and leave comments for Joey.  Also, I have two new reviews coming up this week...Mary Balogh's latest book, First Comes Marriage, and Stephanie Laurens' newest Cynster novel, Temptation and Surrender.  Look for them soon! 
All my best, Penelope

Review of First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh

First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh
She felt beautiful.
She felt cherished.
Ah, how I truly adore the prose of Mary Balogh.  After I read these two sentences in her latest book, I realized this is why women love romance novels...because secretly we all want to feel beautiful and cherished, and we are sure to find these pure sentiments in Balogh's exquisitely crafted stories.  After exhausting the Bedwyn family in her "Simply" series, Balogh has moved on to the Huxtables, who are introduced in First Comes Marriage.  Frankly, I wonder if she will be able to create a family as superb as the Bedwyns, who are truly one of the most memorable of romance families. First Comes Marriage is the story of Vanessa Huxtable Dew and Elliott Wallace, and is somewhat reminiscent for me of More Than A Mistress, one of my all-time favorite romances.  Vanessa is an interesting character...a "plain Jane" with a joy for life and an intense loyalty to her family.  Elliott, much to his surprise, finds himself falling in lust and love with his wife "of convenience."  What I most admire about Balogh's writing is how she distills everything down to the most fundamentally important components of a love story...namely, love.  And joy. And pride, which threatens the path to happiness, of course. There is a starkness to her stories I find incredibly satisfying.  Not every author can elicit the feeling of spring by describing something as simple as a field of daffodils on a sunny day.  Balogh is truly a wonderful writer.  Although the rest of the family did not spark a lot of interest, Constantine, the outcast illegitimate cousin, is quite fascinating.  I cannot wait to read more about him!   I highly recommend First Comes Marriage, a quintessential Balogh novel, and look forward to more promising stories in this series about the Huxtable family. Grade: A
Hoping for Spring, Penelope