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Book Reviews - Love 'em or Hate 'em??

I have been writing book reviews for a few years, and have been reading them for as long as I can remember.  From the “big time” reviews in such prestigious publications as the NY Times Book Review to features in weekly or monthly magazines, I’ve enjoyed reading reviews of books, many of which I will never pick up and read for various reasons:  time, interest, or a poor review.  Although one poor review won’t stop me from reading a book that interests me, if I see a trend toward the negative, the book won’t be at the top of my “must read” list.

There is a delicate balance when writing a book review between writing a book report and writing a review.  A plot synopsis is key to letting readers know what the book is about, but that synopsis doesn’t have to contain every little detail of the story.  I have read too many reviews lately that sound more like an elementary school book report:  “And then, this happened.  And then, that happened.”  Why would someone bother to read the actual book if the plot is laid bare in a review?  It’s simply not necessary to spoil the readers’ fun by detailing every plot twist in the review.

A book review should contain information that will allow a potential reader to make a decision to read or not read that selection.  If the reviewer finds certain areas weak, say so.  But don’t say “The story disappointed me when on the last page it was revealed that indeed the butler did kill the ingénue.”  Arghh!   If Susie loves Todd but Todd loves Barry and leaves Susie at the altar to run off with him, I don’t want to know about that startling plot twist before I read the book!  Let me find out for myself.  Please!

What about you, readers?  What do you like to see in a book review?  Do you want loads of details about the plot, or just the facts, ma’am?  Do you expect a review to sell you on a book, or simply let you know as objectively as possible that you should spend your hard-earned money and time devouring the selection, or leave it on the shelf?  How does a book review weigh on your decision to go ahead and read (or not!) the book you are contemplating?  This reviewer would love to know! 


New-to-You Authors

I read dozens of books each year, many of them historical romance novels.  Like most romance readers, I have my favorite authors, the ones who write the books that I know I’m going to purchase as soon as they come out.  Over the years, that list has evolved from the dependable Nora Roberts and Jude Deveraux, to current favorites like Julia Quinn, Julia London, Eloisa James….the list goes on and on, adding to my groaning book shelves.

It’s fun and exciting to know that a favorite author has a new release coming up, perhaps a new installment in a series, or even better, the first in a whole new storyline.  What I’ve come to enjoy even more in the past few years is the discovery a new-to-me, previously unread author, especially one with a deep backlist!  There’s something about the thrill of the hunt, trying to find all of the writer’s older “stuff” that is satisfying, yet the same hunt can be frustrating for those of us who share the quirk of having to read everything in order of publication! 

Given my towering stacks of to-be-read books, I’ve had to temper my impulse to rush right out and acquire everything written by a new favorite author.  That control went right out the window, however, when I recently read The Accidental Wedding by Anne Gracie.  A quick trip to Borders with coupons in hand, followed by a few clicks on my e-reader to download what I hadn’t found in hardcopy, and Gracie’s books were mine! 

The Accidental Wedding is the story of a young woman, Maddy Woodford, who has the charge of five younger half-siblings now that their father has died.  Maddy has left her family’s estate behind to escape a less than desirable suitor, and she and the children are living in a small cottage, barely subsisting on Maddy’s garden and the kindness of neighbors.  When Nash Renfrew has a riding accident and falls unconscious and gravely injured in Maddy’s yard, she takes him in and nurses him back to health. 

Nash has taken a severe blow to the head and doesn’t remember who he is or why he was in the area.  As his injuries heal so does his memory, and he realizes that he was in the area to check on the estate that he has recently inherited from his uncle, the same uncle who owned the cottage Maddy shares with the children.  Nash is very attracted to Maddy’s innate kindness and simple beauty, but has decided that marriage should be more of a business arrangement than a love affair, and marriage with Maddy would not suit on a number of levels.

One passionate night together leaves them both shaken, but for different reasons.  Nash feels empty at the thought of leaving Maddy and the children behind, and can’t reconcile those feelings with his desire for an arranged marriage with a suitable bride.  Maddy loves Nash, but she is a practical woman who knows that Nash cannot and will not marry her.  She has the children to take care of, and her social standing is nowhere near that of the type of woman Nash will marry.

Village gossip, an unscrupulous estate manager, Nash’s family and a voice from Maddy’s past, let alone the differences in their social status, all combine to make the couple’s future together seem impossible.   Interesting plot twists, very well developed primary and secondary characters, and depth of emotion pull all of the elements and plot lines together seamlessly, making The Accidental Wedding a sweetly sentimental and heartwarming read, worthy of the keeper shelf!


Spotlight on Carina Press: Of Dukes and Deception by Wendy Soliman

I'm a huge lover of historical romance and I'm always look for new authors and new books that I might like. I was browsing some upcoming books for Carina Press and this one caught my eye. What do you think? Does this book pique your interest?

Cover image for Of Dukes and DeceptionsBook Description

Author:  Wendy Soliman
Historical Romance



When Nicholas Buchanan, the Duke of Dorchester, accepts an invitation to visit a country stud farm, he counters his boredom by striking a wager with his henchman that he'll bed the poor relation, Alicia Woodley, before the end of his stay. But he reckons without Alicia's disdain. She's disgusted by Nick's cavalier attitude, unimpressed by his grandeur and wants as little as possible to do with him.

Between her newfound role as family charity case and fending off the attentions of both her clueless cousin and the arrogant Nicholas, Alicia Woodley has quite enough to contend with...but when her life is endangered, quite possibly from those closest to her, surprisingly it is Nicholas who seems determined to ensure her safety. As they conspire to uncover secrets that the family wants hidden at all costs, they discover a passion that surpasses all obstacles.


Summer 2011 Book Club Series

This summer we will be featuring approximately 5 books. Join as a member in our club, and gain access to bonus materials from our featured authors, chat events, and discussions directly with the author. We are going to have a fabulous summer reading.

Want to suggest a book to feature? Post your suggestions to our BLOG! Your suggestion may be picked.

Are you an author who wants to be featured? Contact me at

Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available!


A Coffee Break Chapter: THE COFFEE WARS by Michelle Miles

Want to read this as it was sent out as an enewsletter?

go here:

The Coffee Wars
by Michelle Miles

(the fifth installment in the Coffee House Chronicles)

This title contains explicit language and graphic sex.

Purchse from Cobblestone Press!All's fair in love and coffee. In this war, the only thing that matters is a lot of hot steam!

Lilly owns the new up and coming, Java Perks. She’s determined to be the number one coffee house in town, crushing her competition down the street, The Bitter End.

Meeting the mystery woman in his coffee house, David immediately wants her for himself. After a hot encounter on his desk, he can’t stop thinking about her. Until he learns she’s the owner of the place trying to put him out of business.

When David confronts Lilly accusing her of using him, she throws down the gauntlet. Now the two are at war and may the best woman win!

Read an excerpt:

Standing at the counter early one morning a few weeks before Christmas, Davis Sawyer expelled an exasperated breath as he inventoried their latest in icing-covered pastries. They were out of Christmas tree-shaped cookies, leaving only wreathes and stars. And no one had touched the slices of fruitcake since they arrived six days ago. He suspected the only thing they’d be good for was as a doorstop.

It was nearly seven-thirty. Where was the morning crowd?

“Where’s the morning rush?” Louise asked, echoing his thoughts. She was in her early twenties, putting herself through college to complete her master’s degree. “We’re usually busy as hell this time of year.”

David couldn’t agree more. The holidays at The Bitter End Coffee House started in early November with the first wave of special blends of coffee and tea, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, and holiday pastries. That was only the beginning. The postage stamp-sized stage had an act booked on it from the first weekend in November until New Year’s Eve.

“I bet it’s that damn Java Perks up the street,” he said, glaring at the new store through the front windows. “They’re stealing our business.”

The new store had been open barely a week, and already he’d seen a decline in business. Usually, he’d discuss this with his mother, owner and operator, but she was currently on a six-week-long cruise in the Mediterranean with the new love of her life. She wouldn’t be home until after the New Year. Meanwhile, his brother, Mark, had gone off with his little woman for a four-day weekend, leaving the store solely in his hands.

Which also meant he had to decide what to do about Java Perks. He made a mental note to do some recon later.

A new customer came in to busy Louise, while he scratched a note to order more Christmas trees. Putting down his order form and pen, he scanned the coffee house. Their holiday season was in full swing, and he expected larger crowds by now. There were clusters of people here and there, all sipping lattes or cappuccinos. He could smell peppermint wafting on the air, lingering with the scent of java, vanilla, and pumpkin bread.

There wasn’t a line, however, to order the latest drink of the season, only the regulars lounging in the leather chairs prolonging the inevitable—going to work. He wondered if the bitterly cold wind and gray overcast sky kept people away.

He scowled. Christmas was his least favorite time of year.

When the door chime signaled the arrival of another customer, he glanced up. She walked in with such cool confidence it rivaled the cold wind outside. She wore knee-high, brown suede boots, coupled with a mid-thigh length skirt, exhibiting plenty of her shapely legs. He idly wondered how she managed to keep warm in such a get-up. Her coat looked like something straight out of a 1950s high fashion magazine and, underneath that, she wore a fuzzy white sweater with a plunging neckline, showing off enough cleavage to be enticing yet not enough to be slutty. Her porcelain face seemed to be carved into perfection with pouty red lips, almond-shaped café au lait colored eyes fringed in dark lashes, high pink cheekbones, and shoulder-length brown hair falling in soft waves.

As she placed her order, he edged toward the counter, his blood pressure rising. Normally, David wasn’t a man to hit on the customers, but this one he couldn’t resist. She was different from the normal crowd, exuding an electric air about her.

Just looking at her wrapped in those layers of chocolate made him want to run his tongue over her from head to toe. She looked delectable. He had every intention of getting her under him as soon as possible.

“Will that be all?”

“And a blueberry scone,” the goddess replied. Her sultry voice matched her svelte body.

“On the house,” David said, smiling as he nudged aside his barista. “I’ll take it from here, Louise.”

Louise dutifully went off to brew the latte.

“That’s very generous of you,” the woman said. In her suede-gloved hands, she held a designer wallet with the embossed letters LV. “But not necessary.”

“Oh, I think it is.” David punched a few buttons on the register and swiped his manager’s card. “I insist.”

She paused a moment, considering, before putting away her wallet. “All right, then. I can’t argue. Especially since your competition up the street has a line out the door.”

“Competition?” He played dumb, hoping to get some insider information.

“You didn’t know about Java Perks?” The beginning smile tipped the corners of her perfect mouth. “It opened last week.”

David glanced around again to see only his faithful regulars. He was grateful to them. His mind raced, trying to come up with a marketing plan to reward loyal customers. But marketing wasn’t his thing. That was all left to his mother, Jody. Still, he made a mental note to do some Internet research to come up with creative ways to get his clientele back.

“You didn’t know,” she said, “did you?”

“Of course, I did.” He didn’t want to admit it. “They’ll be lucky to last a week. We’ve been around nearly ten years.”

Never mind they’d nearly lost the place to nasty developers, only to be saved by his bad-guy-turned-good-guy brother. Mark got half ownership out of the place and a girlfriend. Sometimes life wasn’t fair.

To take his mind off the thought of losing half his business to Java Perks, David packaged her blueberry scone as her order was called out from the other end of the bar.

“Thanks for the comp.” She dazzled him with a smile that seemed genuine. “Glad I stopped in.”

He watched her as she sauntered down the length of the bar, her hips swaying in the miniskirt that left not much to his imagination. All he could think of was running his hands up those soft legs, cupping that round bottom, and thrusting deep inside her, while she moaned his name.

And suddenly an idea struck him. He fumbled for his business card in his shirt pocket and found the pen he’d discarded on the counter. He scrawled a discount on the back of it.

“Before you go,” he called, nearly running over his barista trying to get to the woman. She paused at the door, giving him a quizzical look. “Why don’t you come back tomorrow and bring a few friends? I’ll be here again.”

He handed her the card. She clutched her bag in the same hand as her coffee, doing her best to juggle the two so she could take the card. She skimmed it quickly then looked up and met his eyes, her mouth quirking in a half grin.

“I’ll see what I can do.” She paused and glanced down at the card before meeting his gaze again. Those coffee-colored eyes sent his mind reeling. “David.”

He edged closer to her. “I’m afraid now you have me at a disadvantage.”

“I like that,” she purred. “It’ll keep you on your toes, won’t it?”

“Perhaps,” he agreed. “I’d still love to know your name.” He leaned closer, caught a whiff of her perfume. A rich, spicy, oriental scent with a hint of vanilla that tickled his nose and sent his senses on high alert. He flexed his fingers, trying hard to keep his hands to himself when all he wanted to do was run them through that silken hair of hers.

“Maybe you’ll find out tomorrow.”

“Does that mean you’ll be back?”

She tipped her head to one side, giving him a view of her long, lean neck, making him want to plant his mouth there and taste her. Then sink his teeth ever so gently to nip her. He wanted to trace a long line from earlobe to collarbone, to slide his hands under that fuzzy sweater and feel her cool skin. To pull her close until skin met skin.

“I suppose you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.”

She tucked his business card into her handbag, turned on her red-soled boots, and slipped out of The Bitter End into the bitter wind.

He certainly hoped that wasn’t the last he’d see of her.


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