Saturday, December 29, 2012

Here I Come, 2013! Whoop!

In the true spirit of New Year's resolutions (see the ones for 2012), I decided to do another easy-to-achieve-goals post for 2013. I would just like to point out that I actually achieved ALL of 2012's resolutions, except #4. I didn't get any humiliating dog sweaters for Lucy. (Lucy is thinking THANK THE GOOD GOD!)

So, here ya go. Goals for 2013!

Penelope's 2013 New Year's Resolutions

1. Wear Pants Other Than Black Yoga Pants

This is going to be a toughie. Black is slimming. Yoga pants are comfy. You can wear them to bed, to the grocery store, and to work out. And if you add a sequiny sweater, you could even manage to wear them to a fancy-pants restaurant when you go out for dinner and drinks. Maybe navy yoga pants?

2. Wear Sparkly Temporary Tattoos On My Face

Instead of wearing a tiara to this year's NECRWA conference, I'm considering a new look. Bad-ass sparkly tats on my face. Sort of like this...

...only prissier, sparklier, and prettier. But still packing the same visual punch.
I wonder what Julia Quinn will think? Hee!

3. Learn How To Make A Chicken Pot Pie

I like chicken. I like pie. How hard could it be?

4. Book Purchase Moratorium For The Month Of January

I may have gotten a wee bit out of control with the book purchases in December. So, January is a NO BOOK BUYING month. I need to read the books I already own. And I need to work on my own writing, dammit. 

5. Make Lucy A Star

LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE should be finished and published at the beginning of 2013. The PR Department has decided that Lucy will be making appearances at local bookstores, pet shops and perhaps the grooming salon. Signing autographs, licking questionable areas, and generally behaving as a famous diva should. 

6. Defeat My Nemesis, Old-Man-Walking

As many of you know, I am an obsessive walker. I do loops around the neighborhood while listening to Britney Spears. Well, there is one other person on the block who walks as much as I do. My Nemesis! Whenever I look out the window and see this little old man walking I am filled with guilt, throw on my sneakers, and run out the door. Then, when we pass each other doing our loops, we smile and say hello. That's it. I don't even know his freakin' name. He's just...The Nemesis. I will not let a little old man in a track suit beat my sorry ass at walking! This year, he's going down!

7. Plant A Pumpkin Patch To Make Martha Stewart Cry

Forget the tomato plants and lettuce. This year my garden is going to be one massive, cray cray pumpkin patch. Big pumpkins, little pumpkins, white pumpkins, orange pumpkins. It might be messy, it might be overgrown, but by October, I will be the most popular gardener around. Woo hoo! #pumpkinpower

8. Publish A Book About A Weenie Dog. Publish A Book About A Lumberjack. Publish A Book About Santa's Hippie Son.

Is it me, or are my professional goals for 2013 sort of all over the place? Hmmm...

9. Take Natalie To The Bristol Lounge In Boston For The Dessert Buffet

Every weekend the Bristol Lounge turns into a "dessert wonderland." My sweets-loving daughter will be in heaven. Nom nom nom.

10. Be Happy
(same as last year, and every year)

Simple is best. :^)



Monday, December 24, 2012

Have A Joyous Celebration!

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. Happy New Year to everyone. I am off to wrap and cook and drink cocktails and watch cheesy movies with the fam.

I will return in a week or two.

Happy Holidays to you and your family!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Perk Up Your Day

The last week has been brutal. If you need something to perk up your spirit, try these...

1. Read this hysterical poem on Tom's blog, Is It Me?!

2. Try a 99 cent ludicrous holiday erotica called Snowballin': I F*cked Frosty. (Yes, there are snow balls.)

3. Nothing says Christmas like an orgy! Four For Christmas by R.G. Alexander is a sexy and sweet 4-some book with a bearded lumberjacky doctor. Ho ho ho!

4. Dog-Lovers Must Read This! My Dog: The Paradox

5. Check out this ridiculously cute photo of Hugh Jackman. That will perk you up!

6. Watch Olive The Other Reindeer. Guaranteed to get you in a festive holiday mood. Great song by REM, too!

7. Take a peek at this new adorable blog called We Heart Home. It is stylish and sweet.

8. Make some Caramel Cheesecake Bites. Nom nom nom.

9. Who doesn't love berserkers? (I do! I do!) I discovered a fabulous trilogy called Highland Historicals by Kerrigan Byrne, and sucked down all three books in less than 24 hours. The first one, Unspoken, was my fav.

10. Enjoy this photo of Lucy after her grooming appointment. Note the dorky "hair" accessory. Hee!

Hope you are all having a good week. I am gearing up for a girl's night out this evening with the Quirky Ladies, and a girl's weekend away with my daughter.

All my best,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review for The Wedding Fling by Meg Maguire

The Wedding Fling by Meg Maguire

I forgot how seductive Meg Maguire's writing can be.

As soon as I started reading this, I got sucked back in to the Meg Maguire Black Hole and I couldn't get out.

And I didn't want to.

Once again, Meg takes a seemingly simple premise (run-away bride off to Barbados, and conflicted pilot with a dream and an ailing father), and she makes it sing. Like an opera at the Met.

There is something about her writing. I can't quite put my finger on it. It's simple and straight-forward, and yet it has a richness to it. She has the perfect balance of deep POV and external plot. And the relationships that develop between the hero and heroine always feel organic, real and believable.

This book is no exception. Leigh is by far Maguire's most appealing heroine. She is a down-to-earth starlet and her sweetness and practicality are very appealing. The hero is sexy and complex. A rugged island pilot who falls unexpectedly in love with this woman. She shoots all of his preconceptions about Hollywood gals right out the door. His awful secret and guilt builds throughout the novel and makes a wonderful, suspenseful story arc.

I also liked the resolution. There are no big fireworks, just two troubled characters willing to take a risk after heart-ache. The end was very romantic. I would have liked an epilogue, such as the one we got with The Reluctant Nude. It was such a fine ending for that story.

Another one of Maguire's strengths is her development of setting. And believe me when I tell you, you'll be ready to jump on a plane to Barbados and bask in the setting sun with a frosty cold beer.

Maguire elevates the standard Harlequin into something special. This is a lovely and romantic contemporary, not quite as sexy as some of her other novels, but definitely emotionally satisfying.

Grade: A-

Happy Reading,

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Martini Club Presents: Penny's Hot Brandy Cider

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat... 

Time for some holiday cocktails! 

Here's one of my favorite holiday drinks. You can drink it without the alcohol (why?), or you can add a nice healthy shot of apple brandy (yippeeeeee!).

Penny's Hot Brandy Cider


apple cider
mulling spices (if you don't have this, add pieces of cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise, citrus peel, etc)
Laird's Applejack Brandy

Put apple cider in a pot over the stove. Slowly heat. Be careful not to bring it to a boil, or it will make a gigantic mess, spill over the side of the pot, and generally cause a big ruckus. (Not that I have any first-hand experience with this. Ahem). Add mulling spices to cider. If you don't have the mulling spices, just chuck in some cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise and other fun stuff into the pot. When the cider mixture is nice and hot, get another pot and strainer. Strain out the mulling spices. Pour hot cider into a mug and add a nice big, healthy shot of Laird's Applejack Brandy. (I like to count one-one thousand, two-one thousand, and then stop). If you are serving this to guests, you can add a cinnamon stick and orange slice to the mug for a fancy-pants look. This is a great drink for parties, because A) it makes your house smell great, B) the kids can have the non-alcoholic version, and C) the adults can have the "festive" version.


Counting down to Christmas *slurp*

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


My readers spoke. And I listened. They said they wanted an epilogue. And I wrote one!

As a special holiday gift for my readers, I penned a quickie epilogue to LUMBERJACK IN LOVE that I'm offering as a free download. Find out what happens to lusty lumberjack Marcus, city slicker Ami, and the villain of the story, Dorko Dan. (Even Henry the Bulldog makes an appearance).

I also had readers ask when LUMBERJACK IN LOVE would become available for NOOK and at other sites. It's now at Barnes and Noble, as well as Kobo.


In the mood for a Christmas series about the five sons of Santa Claus? Check out the Klaus Brothers Series...

SWEET INSPIRATION (Klaus Brothers #1)

SWEET MAGIK (Klaus Brothers #2)


Happy Holidays To All!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Penelope's 2012 Top 20 List

1. Longest, Most Tortuous, Riddled With Errors, Strangely Satisfying Romance With A Cussing Bearded Hero:

Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley

I still can't decide if this was a favorite romance or an extended form of torture. Somehow Kristen Ashley manages to make her 10,345,672-page epic romance with a well-accessorized heroine, hard-cussin' bearded hero, and enough plot twists and turns to make your head spin like Linda Blair in the Exorcist, into a satisfying story. I feel like I deserve a medal for making it to the end. But I don't think I'll be reading her again. I just can't spare the 14 years of my life.

2. Favorite Werewolf Story:

Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter by Jessica Sims

I'm tired of vampires, and most of the werewolf books I've been reading lately are too bogged down with politics and confusing storylines. Just when I thought I would retire shapeshifters from my reading stash, I discovered Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter by Jessica Sims (Jill Myles). Yippee! This book had the perfect balance of story, humor, adorable characters and sexy shapeshiftin' lusty times. And best of all, werebears are...hairy.

3. Favorite Vintage Harly:

The Other Laura by Sheryl Lynn (aka JW Manus)

Most of you know I have a love-hate relationship with Harlies. Sometimes the formula is entertaining, and sometimes I want to chuck the billionaire Greek tycoon off the nearest bridge.  Lucky for me, I discovered this 1996 vintage Harly with a superb mystery/romantic suspense storyline. I was utterly riveted by this tale of a heroine with amnesia. Highly recommend!

4. Favorite Erotica Novel About A Sheep Farmer And Some Bad-Ass Bank Robbers:

The Hostage Bargain by Annika Martin

Annika Martin (also known as Carolyn Crane), has crafted a quirky, kinky, incredibly well-written and smoky, smoky hot erotica about a bored sheep farmer and three mysterious and sexy bank-robbers. This is so right up my alley, it's ridiculous. Can't wait to read the rest of the series.

5. Favorite Cocktail:

Cranberry Mojito

What do you get when you mix fresh cranberries, sugar, rum, lime juice and a few other tasty items together? A totally festive holiday drink that packs a wallop.

Here's the link to the recipe. Try it!

6. Favorite Totally Mindless Teen Movie With Vomit Snow-Angels:

Pitch Perfect

Usually when I get excited for a film, it fails to live up to my expectations. (*cough* *Avengers* *cough*). However, Pitch Perfect not only lived up to my mindless-teen-film expectations, it surpassed them. The perfect combination of gross-out humor, adorable characters, fabulous song-and-dance numbers, and the exquisite Rebel Wilson made this my favorite movie of the year.

7. Favorite Flash Fiction:

One of my most favorite discoveries in 2012 is Tom Janikowski (formerly known as Prince, I mean Tom Andrews). He drinks classic martinis, loves Ernest Hemingway, and writes brilliant, and sometimes horrifying, flash fiction. My favorite Martini Club post this year is Tom's original piece titled Cocktail (the movie). He also wrote another hilarious piece called Bile, and more Bile on his blog, mentioning Penelope and a wiener dog. I can't wait for his first novel to published!

8. Favorite Furry, Bearded Russian Heroes:

Bearing All by Tiffinie Helmer and The Blacksmith's Lover by Heather Massey

This category is a tie. I read these two fabulous stories in one weekend, and they couldn't be more different. Bearing All is a thoroughly modern, action-packed Russian spy romance with a hero named "The Bear" (yowzah!) and The Blacksmith's Lover is a quirky steampunk romance set in the 19th century with a heavily-accented Russian blacksmith who is "bearded and barrel-chested...with a thick rug of black fur covering his chest" (double-yowzah!).  Penelope hearts Russian dudes. Sigh.

9. Favorite Sexed-Up Cowboy Story:

All Jacked Up by Lorelei James

Lorelei James has created a cowboy series that will burn the fringe right off your chaps. Some of these are great, and some are less successful. All Jacked Up is fantastic. The fake-engagement, sexy suit and bad-girl combo, and the build-up to one of the best black moments I read all year, make this a must-read for romance lovers who love alpha cowboys. Yeeeeee hawwwwww!

10. Funniest Stupid-Ass Syfy Made-For-Television Movie:

Jersey Shore Shark Attack

My daughter and I are addicted to the cheesy Syfy Saturday night movies. Horrible special effects, awful dialogue, and copious decapitations make these films a light-hearted form of entertainment. (And potential drinking game). Jersey Shore Shark Attack tapped into the perfect angle for these films: self-parody. I thought the characters were hilarious, the dialogue was fab, and Joey Fatone got eaten by a shark. What more could you ask for?

11. Favorite Sci Fi Amuse Bouche:

Invasion of Blood by Joseph Mazzenga

I really got into flash fiction and short stories this year. This quickie sci fi has a surprise ending that I didn't see coming. It's well-written, has excellent imagery, and perfect pacing for a short story. I'm stoked I discovered this author. 

12. Most Conflicted Zombie Novel That I Never Finished:

I've Been Deader by Adam Sifre

This indie author zombie "romance" had some of the funniest one-liners I've seen in zombie humor fiction. Unfortunately, it was billed as "romance" and quickly deteriorated into straight up horror. Nevertheless, I think Sifre is an author to watch. He has a lot of writing talent, and a sufficient dose of self-deprecating humor to make it in this business. (And he's ballsy enough to battle it out with the old guard at the Amazon message boards. Hope he has armor).

13. Favorite "Penelope" Book:

A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

While trapped on a flight to Hawaii this summer, I sucked down about 10 novels. One of them was A Rogue By Any Other Name. This was recommended to me for my "Penelope Project" because the heroine is named Penelope! I adored this romantic story, which reminded me of Lisa Kleypas' Dreaming Of You. Can't wait to read more of Sarah MacLean's books!

14. Favorite Bearded Vermont Firefighter Romance:

Firefly Mountain by Christine DePetrillo

This book took all of my favorite things--beards, Vermont, scarred and tortured hero, romance, paranormal stuff, good writing, and a sweet HEA--and mixed them up into a delicious smoothie. Which I sucked down with a smile on my face. I'll be re-reading this lovely story.

15. Penelope's Authors-To-Watch: Amber Lin, Heather Rigney, Victoria Morgan

I read a lot of new-to-me authors this year, but there are three I would like to give a special shout-out. One is Amber Lin. She writes dark erotica that I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot-pole because I'm way too big a wussie for that stuff. But her alter-ego also writes sweet, sexy stories that are perfect for me. I am thrilled that one of her wonderful novels has been picked up by Carina Press--Chance Of Rain. I LOVE this story. Cannot wait for its release! WTG, Amber!

I also read Heather Rigney's debut quickie "Mermaids Are Not Nice" in the anthology DIVE. She is another author to watch. This horror story blew me out of the mermaid-infested waters. Fresh, different, unique. She told me she's working on a full-length book as a sequel. Excellent!

Last and certainly not least, my Quirky Lady critique partner, Victoria Morgan, is about to publish her debut historical with Berkley. For The Love of a Soldier is an emotional, funny, and touching debut that had me crying more than once. I am thrilled for Vicki. I'll let you all know when she gets a firm release date.

16. Ballsiest Sex Farce With A Unicorn:

Honeysuckle by Anny Cook

The blurb sold this book for me. Peter and Dick Hieney. The heroine is Honey. And then I saw that it had a well-endowed unicorn. I was a goner! Honeysuckle is an outrageous take on King Arthur, with very tongue-in-cheek humor and some surprisingly sweet moments. I am always impressed when writers are willing to take a big risk. And this was certainly a big, kooky risk. Ballsy!

17. Film Most Likely To Make You Fling Yourself Off A Bridge:

The Grey

I thought I was getting a survivor/adventure movie with a beardy Liam Neeson. I didn't realize it was a no-survivor movie. With no hope. No faith. No light. Everything is dark. Everyone dies. The End.

*Penny flings herself off a bridge*
*Penny runs off to watch Pitch Perfect again*

18. Favorite Romance Of 2012:

Castaway Dreams by Darlene Marshall

I've noticed that some folks save up their highest, 5-star rating for super emo, angsty, pull-your-hair-out books. Well, I don't. If I read a romantic comedy that I think is perfect, funny and has a satisfying HEA, I will gladly give it five stars. Comedy/humor is tough to do well. More difficult than serious material. Not everyone shares the same sense of humor, so you are always taking a big risk with comedy.

Of all the romance novels I read this year, one really stands out for me. Castaway Dreams by Darlene Marshall was my absolute perfect package. Light, sweet, funny, sexy and romantic, perfectly satisfying. I love the premise of a grumpy ship's doctor paired with a bubble-headed beauty on a deserted island. Their love story was swoony and wonderful. I am totally, totally digging Marshall's sense of humor. It pairs perfectly with a light romance. Bravo, Darlene. Castaway Dreams is a winner for 2012!

19. Favorite Memoir (and Runner-Up for Favorite Book Of The Year):

Paris In Love by Eloisa James

At first I was unsure about this book. It is jumpy and choppy and seemingly random. And lovely and touching and delicious and a perfect microcosm of life. It's also inspiring and life-affirming, which I find a wonderful breath of fresh air in our cynical times. If you have not read this book yet, I implore you to treat yourself this holiday season. This book is a gem and my most recommended book this year.

20. Favorite Series of the Year/Best Books of the Year:

The Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny

Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow

Funny how this obsessive romance reader became so enamored with these mystery novels. The truth is, they are chock full of romance. And they are chock full of beautiful writing, unsettling revelations, larger-than-life and shockingly real characters, and stunning settings (Canada and Alaska).

Penny's Inspector Gamache Series (currently 8 books and a novella, starting with Still Life) is simply outstanding. She has layered the secrets of small town life and its inhabitants into a complex and alluring series. Her writing humbles me as an author. I became completely emotionally invested in these characters' lives. That has only happened to me one other time--while reading the Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters. Inspector Gamache is in some ways an unlikely hero, and in other ways such a fascinating and enigmatic character. He is a superb captain of this literary ship. I'm signing up for a cruise!

I spent a ridiculous amount of money for these books, and I would gladly do it again. I CANNOT WAIT for the next book , which is coming out next year.

Restless in the Grave by Stabenow took two of her well-beloved characters, Liam Campbell and Kate Shugak, and put them into one phenomenal novel. I honestly didn't think she'd be able to carry it off. But this book was incredible. The end was tragic, inevitable, shocking and brilliant. Liam is a fantastic hero for the romance-lover looking for an excellent mystery series. I am also humbled by Stabenow's writing and how she brings Alaska to life in these books. The setting is integral to the story, which is one of my favorite fictional elements.

So, 2012 was The Year Of The Mystery for Penelope. As much as I enjoyed all the romances I read, these mystery series were the pinnacle of my reading-year.

I hope all of you had a great reading year, as well. I'm looking forward to 2013!

All my best,

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Romance: The Rodney Dangerfield of Fiction

Sometimes it seems like no matter what we do, romance just can't get no respect. Even if our books are on the top of the NYT bestseller list for weeks and weeks, even if we get good reviews, even if they're written by scholars and academics. 

They're still considered trash.

On the big old totem pole of fiction, we're beneath everyone. Way beneath literary fiction, children's fiction, cookbooks, turfgrass manuals, mysteries, thrillers, and horror. On the very bottom, in the mud-pit, is romance.

So, we do what we can to earn some respect in this publishing industry. We write high quality books. We sell. We win awards.

But at the end of the day, there's still one piece of this puzzle which is pretty damned important that is being over-looked. Mainly because I think it's an old-fashioned concept.

And that's professionalism.

If we want to be respected in the industry, we, the authors, need to act with professionalism. In every way.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned. Maybe I'm a stick-in-the-mud. But I spend a lot of time cringing when I see certain behaviors that I think are setting back the respectability of our genre.

Here are a few ways we can help to promote professionalism as authors. I'm breaking this up into three categories...1. Respect Yourself. 2. Respect Your Colleagues. 3. Respect Your Genre

Penelope's Hot Tips: How To Be A "Professional" Romance Writer


* If you attend a professional romance writer's conference, dress appropriately. Do not wear flip-flops, tight blue jeans with your muffin top hanging out, and skimpy tank tops with no bra. Dressy casual, people! Also, don't pick your teeth with toothpicks at the dinner table while some big-name author is speaking. (Don't ask).

* Make sure your author head-shot is professional. Keep your clothes on. Spare us the birds-eye view booby shot. If you want to be taken seriously as an author, your head-shot should not look like a porno. Also, if your bio mentions masturbation or your own personal sex habits, you've crossed the line from professional writer to TMI wanna-be.

* I know there are plenty of folks who think the terms "smut, filth, dirt, etc" are perfectly fine to describe erotica. They think they're cute, funny, tongue-in-cheek. They may indeed be all of these things. They may attract a certain readership. But don't kid yourself. Under no circumstances is calling yourself a "smut-writer" professional.

* Learn your craft. Take writing classes, go to workshops, get a critique group. Write the best-quality work you can. This will earn you respect as an author. Present a polished, professional work to the public. If you self-pub a book riddled with errors, poor grammar and typos, and fail to have it professionally edited, it's a slap-in-the-face to yourself, your readers, and the genre.


* Do not bad-mouth your colleagues in public. EVER. No matter what transgression has occurred. Discuss in private with your buds. But do not discuss in public settings--this includes Twitter, FB, message boards, etc.

* Reciprocate. If your colleagues are helping to promote you and your books, and you are not reciprocating, you come off as a stuck-up beeyotch who doesn't have time for the "little people." Make sure to reciprocate, and to say thank-you. Good manners are professional! Do no underestimate the power of good manners.

* The reader is always right. Even when she's wrong. Do not leave rude, cuss-filled tirades after bad reviews. Do not engage in pissing matches on Twitter. Be gracious, kind, and polite. Karma's a bitch. If you earn an AUTHOR BEHAVING BADLY badge, it's difficult to shake it. Complain in private to friends, family members, and your dog. Public bad behavior sticks with you a long, long time, and is, plain and simple, totally unprofessional.


* Be an ambassador of romance. Recommend good books to readers. Boast about colleagues and their accomplishments. If you hear someone refer to our books as "bodice rippers" you might want to gently point out that there are many sub-genres of romance and erotica, and that "bodice ripper" refers to a certain subset of books that are no longer published. Gently. Kindly. With a freakin' smile on your face.

You have to decide what your goals are. If your goal is to sell a ton of books, you might not care about professionalism. After all, sex sells. Maybe you like your naked photo "head-shot" and your book Daddy Spank Me is selling like hot-cakes. If that's your only goal--to sell a ton of books--then it doesn't matter if you're professional or not.

But if you want to be respected by your colleagues, your readers, and industry professionals--agents, editors, publishers--then you need to act appropriately. The romance industry continues to struggle with respectability within the publishing world--in spite of huge sales and popularity. If we ourselves, as authors, don't act/speak/dress professionally, we're kicking ourselves in the butt. 

How can we expect the rest of the world to treat us with respect, if we don't do it ourselves?

Feeling hopelessly old-fashioned,

Monday, December 3, 2012

Spaseeba! Wherein Penelope Thanks Her Lucky Stars For Bearded Russian Heroes!

I had no idea when the weekend started that I would get on a bearded Russian hero kick.

But I did!

Starting with Bearing All by Tiffinie Helmer. Once again, Kate from Babbling About Books sent me the link as soon as she saw it was about a bearded Russian dude in Alaska. And it was free! I figured I would give it a try, not really expecting too much.

Well, I had no idea how hot and sexy lumberjack Russian assassins could be! Sergei, aka "The Bear" (schwing!) is living in the boonies of Alaska, hiding his true assassin identity, and chopping copious amounts of wood. Chop that wood, Sergei! Faster! FASTER! *Penny slaps her own self* 

Anyhoo, the premise for this story is awesome. The heroine is also an assassin out for revenge. Sergei killed her former partner, and even though she is harboring a very lusty attraction to Mr. Beardy Russian Lumberjack, she tracks him down to kill him.

I'm not usually into action-packed thrillers, but I would have to say this story was superb! The action and pacing were awesome for a novella-read, the simmering attraction between the two spies was super steamy, and the surprise ending was perfect. It was almost as though Tiffinie Helmer wrote this story just for me! (I keep picturing the name "Tiffinie" with hearts over the i's...hee hee).

As far as I know, this is still free at Amazon. I HIGHLY recommend this one if you like fast, action-packed novellas with lots of steam, and hunky Russian dudes.

Grade: A

As a direct result of mentioning Russian dudes on Twitter, I got a recommendation for a second book with a hottie hero. The Blacksmith's Lover by Heather Massey. Talk about different! This book was a delightful, quirky discovery. It is set in the 19th century, and it's about a secretive, super sexy Russian blacksmith with a very heavy accent (hot!), who takes in a scullery maid on-the-run. She is hiding from her vindictive former employers, and Viktor chops off her hair and disguises her as his apprentice.

This book was a totally refreshing, outside-of-the-box take on steampunk romance. Massey's voice is wonderful, and worked perfectly for this tale. The 19th century setting comes alive in this story, and the characters and their relationship were earthy, primitive and sometimes rough around the edges. Sex is not glamorized or romanticized. We get real sounds and real smells during the sex scenes--no rose-scented hair or sandalwood fragrance. Just a big, sweaty, hot, hairy Russian blacksmith...uh...*Penny slaps her own self again* I'm back!

The steampunk climax was fantastic! Massey somehow manages to mix romance, sex and steampunk inventions into one entertaining novella. This is definitely not a traditional romance, but I loved the unique aspect of the story and I will be reading more by this author. I love it when writers take a chance in our genre.

Grade: A-