31 January 2014

Lora Leigh: Breeds Series Reading Order

The Breeds series by Lora Leigh happens in an alternate world (ours, btw), but in the future. As far as I can glean—as of this writing, I'm still on the third installment of the series—the actual stories happen several decades into the future. The experiments started during the present though.

A Breeds Primer

The Breeds are genetic experiments, their genes a mutation of human and animal DNA. The species involved are lions, tigers, cougars, wolves and coyotes. (An in one instance, eagles might've been included.) They were created by the Genetics Council, a secret group of scientists, investors, politicians and uber wealthy men who wanted a private army of deadly assassins to dismantle their enemies.

Designed to be cold-blooded killers, they're gorgeous, smart and deadly. The kink in their makeup appears in maturity. They couldn't kill people in cold blood. Unknown to their creators, coded into the animal DNA is a sense of honor and justice that no amount of assassin training can eradicate.

A series of escapes and rescues plunges the Breeds into the normal, ordinary world of humans. But not before they've endured cruelty, betrayal, rapes, and all-around harsh conditions. Their creators believe they don't have a soul because they were created from test tubes, they weren't conceived, despite the fact that human mothers served as their surrogates.

30 January 2014

Review: Forgiven But Not Forgotten? by Abby Green

   He’d spent five years haunted by her. He had to have her—had to have this closure once and for all. And he despised himself for his weakness.

   She was stunned again at Andreas’s world now, and stunned anew to see him in his open-shirted tuxedo and realise that only hours before Andreas Xenakis had still been firmly in her shameful guilt-ridden past, not her tumultuous present.
 High stakes. Satisfying payback.

Photo - Forgiven But Not Forgotten? by Abby Green jacket coverForgiven But Not Forgotten by Abby Green is the first romance I ever read from the author and it's one of those rare, evocative finds. 

The emotional underpinnings of this romance wrung tears so much that Hubby caught me sniffling at a critical moment. He was alarmed, thinking I had bad news from home. When he learned why I was bawling, he shook his head and left me alone in our room, probably disgusted heh.

First lines

Forgiven But Not Forgotten comes with a Prologue, giving us an insight into the "why" of Siena's choices. Her luxurious lifestyle isn't all that it seemed.
Siena DePiero held her older sister’s hand tightly as they left their palazzo. Even though she was twelve and Serena was fourteen they still instinctively sought each other for support. Their father was in an even more mercurial mood than usual today. Their car was waiting by the kerb, a uniformed driver standing by the open door. Siena knew that her father’s bodyguards were nearby.
I like me some nice, intriguing intros to my romance reads. Gives me a frame to my reading experience.

The first lines of Chapter One plunge us right into the conflict, too...
Andreas Xenakis didn’t like the strength of the thrill of triumph that moved through him. It signified that this moment held more importance for him than he’d care to admit. Bitterly, he had to concede that perhaps it did. After all, practically within touching distance now was the woman who had all but cried rape for her own amusement, to protect her untarnished image in her father’s eyes. She’d merited him a savage beating, losing his job, being blacklisted from every hotel in Europe and having to start over again on the other side of the world. Far away from anyone he’d known or who had known him.

29 January 2014

What's Your Love Personality?

So I was watching Dr. Helen Fisher—my new hero!—again, at TED.com and she let slip that she was the “Chemist” behind a dating site.

There, you'll immediately be greeted by a free personality test. You'll give some information on age, gender and, yes, your email. But I was so curious (Cat being my middle name) that I signed up and went through the Q&A for the short quiz. I think it was developed by Dr. Fisher herself.

In any case, I found out that I'm (A.) primarily a Negotiator, and (B.) then an Explorer. (Surprise! Surprise! Must be the curiosity, hee.) These types are what influences me the most, so says the result.

When they dig deeper into what each personality type meant, it gave me the creeps. The results were so dead on about me, even the things that I need to watch out for, that my goosebumps had goosebumps!

28 January 2014

Romancing the Plot: Fairy Tales are Forever

Photo: Cinderella and Prince Charming kissingIf you've been reading romance novels for a few months—or in my case, decades—you've probably realized by now that these stories are nothing but a retelling of the fairy tales we read as a child.

Any romance writer and romance writing teacher will admit to it, too. Now, whether they will do so freely or silently is a toss up, but the standard fairy tales that our parents read to us at bedtime are being retold over and over again—in one form or another—in our favorite romances.

Let's review the more popular happily-ever-afters we've encountered as children and see where and how they've been used.


The plot to Cinderella is simple: poor girl meets wealthy prince, they fall in love, girl's relations put spanners in the works, but love conquers everything.

Cinderella stories has many variations and iterations, but at the heart of the romance is the rags-to-riches story. I've seen some romances incorporating other Romanceland tropes: marriage of convenience, secret or accidental pregnancies, heroine as nanny/governess, etc.

The thing is, because a lot of Romanceland's heroes are uber wealthy and the heroine's often one of the masses, I believe there's something Cinderellaesque in most of the romances I've read.

27 January 2014

Review: Tempting the Beast by Lora Leigh

Burning thoughts:
Him: I was created, not conceived. She's human, they said I'm just an animal. But she has become my soul.
Her: I've never met him, yet I can't get him out of my mind. It's as if he's possessed me, body and soul. 
Photo - Red Hot sensuality levelPhoto - Three Stars rating Tempting the Beast by Lora Leigh is the first of her long-runing sci-fi romance series, Breeds (27 and counting!). It's also my first uber erotic romance read...and it's one burning hot, fan-yourself-every-second experience. I think Fifty Shades of Grey pales in comparison in the Scoville scale alone!

First lines

Tempting the Beast started with unassuming though no less interesting style. You have this feisty, no-nonsense journalist battling eight grown men—her publisher father and seven older brothers.

She's their baby girl, cosseted, protected and more or less shielded from the harsher realities of life. She wants the assignment but the rest of the clan is a formidable wall of granite—unmoving and unimpressed by her arguments.
“This story is mine.” Merinus stared down her family of seven brothers as well as her father, her voice firm, her determination unwavering. She knew she didn't present an imposing figure. At five feet five inches, it was damned hard to convince the males of her family, all over six feet, that she was serious about anything. But in this one instance, she knew she had no other choice.
As launchpads to stories go, I can say it's arresting. Just what was the story all about and why didn't she have any choice? It's a compelling first paragraph that wants you to dig deeper into the story.

First lines rating: 4.0

Main characters: Merinus Tyler and Callan Lyons

Callan Lyons is the epitome of the Alpha Male of most paranormal romances—physically powerful, forceful, and the leader of his Pride of feline breeds. He's the first successful breed created by the clandestine Genetics Council from a mutation of human and lion DNA.

The purpose of his genetic engineering? Become the ultimate killing machine, well-versed in all forms of warfare, including sex. It doesn't help that he's downright smexin' hot!
Some would say the man wasn't even human. A genetic experiment conceived in a test tube, carried to term by a surrogate and inheriting the genes of the animal his DNA had been altered with. A man with all the instincts and hunting abilities of a lion. A perfectly human looking male. A man bred to be a savage killer.

25 January 2014

Why We Love, Why We Cheat by Helen Fisher [Video]

I think, us romance readers all agree with renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher when she says, “There's magic to love!” And, her and us, we should know. Ms. Fisher, because she's spent over 30 years studying sex, romantic love and attachment. And us, because we've spent decades reading these same things in our romance novels.

Anyways, I found this TED Talk that Ms. Fisher gave on the evolution, biology, biochemical underpinnings and importance of romantic love. While she talked, I was reminded of what we read over and over again in countless romances that we've consumed: that there's a difference between the three brain systems—sex, romantic love, and attachment, that we can experience them separately for three different people at one time, but that when all three come together, then the world becomes beautiful and amazing!

What Ms. Fisher says confirms what we already know from our romance novels. It goes to show that we learn a lot about life and the real world from what others belittle as “thrasy books.”

Disclaimer: The video below runs for about 23 minutes. I've included the transcript, courtesy of TED.com. All copyrights to the talk and the transcript belongs to TED Conferences LLC and are used here out of the goodness of their heart. (Thank you, TED!)

(By the way, all the emphases in the transcript are mine, just to mark out what were important bits of knowing for me. Feel free to agree or disagree, hee.)

24 January 2014

Review: The Maid's Daughter by Janice Maynard

Burning thoughts
Him: I want her, but my soul can never afford her love.
Her: I find that I love him, yet he distances himself every time we get close.
Cover photo: The Maid's Daughter by Janice MaynardThe Maid's Daughter by Janice Maynard is somewhat a Cinderella story, somewhat a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast. Sort of the heroine taming the tormented, savage male...though by her admission, the heroine's a far cry from being a raving beauty.

It's the third of the Men of Wolff Mountain romance series but the story can stand on its own. I picked it up on Kindle and the fact that it was free didn't hurt a bit. I couldn't exactly say the same for the reading experience though.

But where do I begin?

First lines

Next to the blurb, I always check out the first lines and/or paragraph of a romance novel before I make a commitment to buy, and then to read. I'm not about to spend precious dollars on a romance read that's going to annoy, aggravate and anger me.

The thing is, I'm also an optimistic reader. Although I have the knee jerk reaction of judging books by its cover, I've got the irritating habit of plodding on to The End despite the fact that the first lines were a “Meh!” experience.

My disappointing encounter with The Maid's Daughter, though not a first of its kind, didn't put me off that habit.
Wet yellow leaves clung to the rain-slick, winding road. Devlyn Wolff took the curves with confidence, his vintage Aston Martin hugging the pavement despite the windswept October day. Dusk had fallen. He switched on his headlights, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel in rhythm to the hard-rock oldie blasting from his Bose speakers.
I get it that it's a dark, dangerous night. I get it that the hero's stupendously rich. But what the H?! Why bore me on the first paragraph, Romance? Why?

23 January 2014

Profile of a Romance Reader

So, okay I'm a romance novel reader. And I'm unapologetic about it. Despite the fact that one of my policy wonk friends—now a respectable local politician—would rather have me consume tons and tons of policy research stuff.
Image credit: marin/freedigitalphotos.net

I do my work nicely, thank you, but when I want to take back my sanity, I dive into a feel-good happy ever after. Ergo, the romance novel.

I've gotten so much flak about this (not-so) secret obsession of mine that I buckled down and decided to find out who those romance novel readers are.

That means you, dear romance novel reader who got stuck in this blog. ;)

Who are you? Where do you come from? What do you do? Why do you read romance? These are the questions I wanted answered, STAT!

So being the research wonk that I was, I searched for studies that would pin down just who we are. And good Romance Writers of America had the information on their site. (Thank you, RWA.)

Here's what they (and now me and you) know about us romance novel readers (and buyers), so far:

22 January 2014

Review: Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee

Burning thoughts:
Him: I want my wife in my bed, and I'm willing to woo and seduce to get her there.
Her: You can never trust men and their motives. Their wants will always come first. 
Book cover photo: Wife by Wednesday by Catherine BybeeWife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee kicks off the Weekday Brides series – four books so far – and I must say, it's such a fun and easy though no less evocative romance read. The premise of the story has been used so many times in so many ways in Romanceland that it's gotten very old and very tired: a secret marriage of convenience made safe and foolproof by an airtight contract.  Still when I saw it on sale on Kindle and read the blurb, I couldn't resist the one-click buy. I'm a sucker that way.

What hooked me though is a lot of curiosity. What kind of spin is Ms. Bybee going to do using this age-old romance plot?

You know a marriage of convenience in a romance has a set trajectory. Boy and girl – regardless of how they meet – enter into a contract to marry (hopefully with eyes wide open), attraction sizzles, sometimes they bicker, hijinks follows, and then the couple end up truly married. So what's different with Wife by Wednesday?

A lot of fun - and sexy - things obviously, when you've got a writer who's willing to explore how far characters who're not shy about who they are, their motivations and what they want, would dare go.

First lines

Ms. Bybee plunges us immediately into the premise at Paragraph One: Blake Harrison, current Duke of Albany and a wealthy entrepreneur in his own right, belabors his pressing problem to his BFF.
"I need a wife, Carter, and I needed her yesterday." Riding in the back of a town car, end route to a Starbucks, of all places, Blake Harrison glanced at his watch for the tenth time that hour.

21 January 2014

Cover Reveal and Release Date: Dark Skye by Kresley Cole

I've just recently discovered paranormal romance...and who hasn't heard of Kresley Cole's Immortal After Dark series? Of course, lots of non-romance reading peeps, but then they're missing a lot. (Just sayin'.)

One of the stories I've been waiting for is the one between Lanthe, a Sorceri—she of the once powerful goddess, and Thronos, a Vrekener...who happens to be her he'll-absolutely-off-me-when-he-sees-me enemy.

We hear of them—and something of their back story—in Kiss of a Demon King, the seventh installment in Sabine and Rydstrom's love story. (Sabine, the Queen of Illusions sorceress, is Lanthe's sister.) And from that time on, I've been seeing flashes of them.
Enough to whet my ever-lovin' appetite!

Now, finally, Ms. Cole has deigned to announce the release date.

20 January 2014

Review: Seven Years to Sin by Sylvia Day

Burning questions:
Him: What she knows of my past is already something that’s too much to accept. If she knows the whole story, will she finally avoid me?
Her: He already has a piece of me that nobody has ever had, not even my husband. Can I turn my back on what has been my entire life and give him the rest of me?
Cover photo: Seven Years to Sin by Sylvia DayThe premise of Sylvia Day’s Seven Years to Sin—a romance that stayed on both the New York Times and USA Today’s bestseller lists for nine weeks—is one that’s surely part of the conundrums—and horrified fascinations—that women sometimes think about: What will I do if I saw someone I’m attracted to in bed with another woman?

Ms. Day admits that this is the sparky thought that zinged into her mind when the romance behind Seven Years to Sin came to her. I must say, it’s also sparked off a few burning thoughts in mine.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First lines

Seven Years to Sin is one of those books that I went in reading blind—something that I rarely do. Because I hate bad surprises in my romance reading.

But I’ve heard so many good things about Ms. Day’s stories, not to mention several romances on bestseller lists, that I took the plunge despite not having read the blurb for this romance.

And the opening salvo only whetted my appetites:
There was something irresistibly exciting about watching athletic males engaged in physical combat. Their base, animalistic natures were betrayed by their unmitigated aggression and ruthlessness. Through their exertions, their bodies displayed a power that stirred a woman’s most primitive instincts.

Lady Jessica Sheffield was not immune, as she’d been taught a lady should be.