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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Harlequin Round-up! Yee-ha!

by Anna Campbell

Hello, everyone! It's been quite a while since I've done a Harlequin roundup (checked and seems to be way back in June last year). So I thought I'd do a quick swing around some short contemporaries that I've recently really enjoyed, and either share some favorites of yours or introduce you to some new authors and lines you may not have previously considered. All of these books are still available from online retailers and as e-books so they shouldn't be too hard to find.

So buckle your seatbelts!

First up is one of the best Harlequins I can remember reading for ages. I grew up reading the equivalent of Harlequin Presents. Oh, how my heart would beat faster at the thought of a new Anne Mather or Violet Winspear. Sarah Morgan's books have that same classic feeling of alpha male meeting his match in the strong, clever woman he falls in love with. In DOUKAKIS'S APPRENTICE, mega-millionaire and all round bossy boots, Damon Doukakis, thinks he's inherited an absolute airhead assistant in Polly Prince with her new age ideas of staff creativity and plants and pets in the office. But Polly is a woman of hidden depths and Damon finds himself completely at sea with this brilliant, unconventional dynamo who teaches him a breathtaking lesson in love. Seriously, even if you generally don't like Harlequin Presents because of the occasionally overbearing heroes, you'll love this book. It's a real hoot and the chemistry between Damon and Polly sizzles like a goldfish in a frypan. I can't recommend this one highly enough!

While I'm on the subject of Presents, have you read Annie West's books? Annie and I work together as critique partners, but when a book's as good as GIRL IN THE BEDOUIN TENT (isn't that a gorgeous cover?), I don't feel I'm doing any special pleading for a friend. Innocent Australian traveler Cassie Denison and dashing Prince Amir find themselves trapped in dangerous proximity in the wild desert. Annie does some of the best Sheikh books around and this is one of my favorites of hers. There's the thrill of forbidden love about the relationship between these two proud, wary people, and the sexual tension when they're trapped in a tent together with no escape on the horizon is heart-stopping. Really great stuff! GIRL IN THE BEDOUIN TENT is out in America in March.

While I'm on the subject of great Aussie writers, do you know Bronwyn Jameson's work? A couple of years ago, three of Bronwyn's exquisitely crafted Silhouette Desires were up together for the RITA. Now that's some serious kudos. Bronwyn writes so beautifully, I find myself just stopping to re-read her sentences and glory in her prose. And nobody does that delicate advance and retreat of sexual tension better than she does. It's wonderful watching her characters fall in love, usually against their better judgment. But they just can't help it! In MAGNATE'S MAKE-BELIEVE MISTRESS, Isabelle Brown works as a freelance housekeeper to the rich and famous, but finds herself entangled in a dangerous game of mistaken identities when she takes a job for intriguing, sexy Argentinean playboy Cristo Veron. You'll have great fun with this one. Cristo and Isabelle are great characters who will linger in your mind.

Sarah Mayberry is one of my favorite authors and her latest SuperRomance ALL THEY NEED is one of her best, I think. There's such depth of emotion in this story. Melanie Porter was once a vivid, vibrant woman but years with a bullying husband have sapped her spirit. She decides to abandon the high society where she's never felt at home and set up a bed and breakfast on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne. Rich boy Flynn Randall belongs to that luxurious world Melanie has fought so hard to escape and his arrival in her life threatens all her dreams of independence and finding herself again. Or does it? Perhaps Flynn is deeper and more worthy than she believes. Perhaps he offers Melanie the chance of personal fulfilment that she came so close to losing. A beautiful story of two people who have to take dangerous emotional risks to achieve their happiness.

Liz Fielding is another of my favorite authors and she's never let me down yet. But even a favorite author occasionally writes a book that slams that ball out of the park and into the next suburb. TEMPTED BY TROUBLE is longer than most Harlequin Romances as it was originally written to launch the new Riva line in the U.K. There's a definite Cinderella touch to this story of Elle Amery who has put her life on hold to raise her sisters. But what's nice about this story is that it never quite goes where you think it's going to - for example, Elle's sisters really aren't ugly either inside or out, and in fact emerge as wonderful characters in their own right. Into Elle's life rides Prince Charming Sean McElroy. And seriously, girls, he is CHARMING with a capital 'ch'! One of the nicest heroes I've ever read - I wish he lived next door to me! Sean's gallant steed isn't a white charger but a pink ice-cream van called Rosie who also becomes a character in her own right. This book is such a charmer. You won't be able to resist it! It's as delicious as Rosie's ice-cream!

I don't read a lot of Mills and Boon Medical Romances and I know they can be difficult to find in America, but there are a couple of authors who are auto-buys for me. Strangely they're all Aussies! Don't know what it is about Australians and sexy doctors!

Sharon Archer writes heartfelt romances set in Australian country towns. A large part of the pleasure of reading one of her books is getting to know the bush community where the story is set. One of my favorites of hers is BACHELOR DAD, GIRL NEXT DOOR which is a story about second chances and forgiveness and finding your place in the world. After his wife's death, Dr. Luke Daniels brings his young daughter back to the beautiful seaside town of Port Cavil while he wonders how to rebuild his life. He doesn't count on meeting the girl who enchanted him as a young man. Even more troubling, he finds himself still attracted to her. Terri Mitchell is now an A&E doctor and she's far from sure she wants to risk her heart again with her teenage crush, Luke. Especially as it's perfectly clear that Luke never wants to fall in love again after losing his wife so tragically. You'll close this one with a happy sigh and a smile.

Amy Andrews, another Aussie, is a practicing nurse who writes dramatic and very sexy books that buck the stereotype of Medicals being all sweetness and light. So please don't be fooled by the rather corny title of this book (seriously, Harlequin, this has to be one of the WORST titles ever!). ALESSANDRO AND THE CHEERY NANNY is the first in a two-parter with VALENTINO'S PREGNANCY BOMBSHELL (which isn't much better as a title, frankly!). It's another story about a father bringing up his child, in this case a four-year-old son, after the death of his wife. When brooding Italian A&E doctor Alessandro Lombardi encounters vibrant nurse Natalie Davies, he doesn't realize just how profoundly Nat will change his life and that of his withdrawn son Julian. Another one you'll close with a smile and a sigh of pleasure.

So do you read Harlequins? What are your favorite lines? Why? Have you read any good category romances lately?

33 comments:

  1. I'm having a bit of a category binge at the moment. Really enjoying Marion Lennox's Banksia Bay series. Looks like some more here to add to my list.

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  2. Hi Anna,

    How terrific to see you've down a Harlequin round up. And even more terrific to see 'Girl in the Bedouin Tent' there! I'm chuffed it scored a place in your post.

    As you can imagine I read Harlequin books a lot as well as longer romances. I'm thrilled that you included Sarah Morgan's 'Doukakis's Apprentice' which is such a wonderful, witty, warm, engaging story. Hm, did I mention sexy? Liz F's 'Tempted by Trouble' was another recent fave for me that made me smile from the start and I have fond memories of Sharon A's 'Bachelor Dad, Girl Next Door' too.

    As for the others you've mentioned - I haven't read those specific stories yet but Bronwyn Jameson, Sarah Mayberry and Amy Andrews are all authors I love to read.

    I have a real soft spot for Harlequin Presents books and have read some excellent ones lately, including a new one by India Grey and a reread of a fabulous older one by Susan Napier.

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  3. Hi Keziah! Marion's another of the Aussie medical writers I really like. Another one is Fiona Lowe - she does really great emotional depth in her stories. As I said, weird that my fave Medical writers are all Aussies. Wonder what the secret is. I read a lot of category - I find it's a great way to get a romance fix without having to commit to still being awake at 2am to find out what happened at the end of a 400 page book. And there's some wonderful category stories. I've got particularly keen on SuperRomance over recent years and some of the Blaze authors are great. I could have included Tawny Weber's latest series (latest is SEX, LIES AND VALENTINE'S) but the Dishies have already reviewed those books in glowing terms.

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  4. India Grey is another author I've recently discovered, Annie. I think she's got that same classic Presents feel that Sarah does. A really satisfying read (yours too!). Hoped you'd be chuffed to see Cassie and Amir get a mention. I really think that story's one of your best. And isn't Doukakis's Apprentice just the bee's knees? I loved it from first page to last.

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  5. What a round-up!! I love all the authors you're reviewed. I really enjoyed Doukakis' Apprentice as well as Girl in a Bedouin Tent.

    I love category romance and usually buy by author although I do often try out new lines/authors, despite my massive TBR pile.

    Sarah Mayberry's new one sounds brilliant. I enjoyed her Blaze's but I reckon her Supers are even better - she punches in so much emotion.

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  6. Anna, I'm feeling very chuffed indeed to be on your list and in the company of some of my very favourite Harlequin authors! There are only a couple of those books I haven't read - how did I miss them on the shelf - I must catch up with them!

    I agree with you and Keziah about Marion Lennox's stories and in the Banksia Bay books I especially adored Abby and The Bachelor Cop!

    And then there's Rachel Bailey's Return of the Secret Heir, Emily May's Unmasking of a Lady! And actually all my LoveCat blog buddies! (waving to Annie who has just joined us!)

    Vicki Lewis Thompson is another fairly recent discovery of mine and she's got a backlist for me to delve into too! And have you tried a Jessica Hart book!

    You introduced me to Tawny Weber and I do thoroughly enjoy her stories too!

    I could rummage in my book shelves and keep going but I think I should go now! LOL

    Thanks again, Anna!

    :)
    Sharon

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  7. What a great round up, Anna! My favourite lines? Um, um, um, all of them?! I couldn't pick just one because there are sooooooo many talented authors. All the ones you've mentioned are wonderful!
    Great blog

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  8. Anna

    What a round up love those authors as well the only one I haven't read yet is Sarah Morgan I need to get a hold of that one.

    There really are so many great HM&B authors out there and I have been reading a few myslef lately just finished Paula Roe's new one Bed of Lies and Tawny Weber's Sex Lies and Valentine oh soo good.
    I love the medical ones and have read all of Sharon's and nearly up tp date with Amy's

    Have Fun
    Helen

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  9. Joanne, it's the emotion that's key in a great romance, isn't it? I think even in Sarah's Blazes, the emotional level was really high. One of my favorites of hers is Hot Island Nights - I cried my eyes out over that one. So glad you're a fan of the books! Like you, I tend to buy by author. One of the nice things about falling in love with a particular category author is that generally they have a couple of books out a year.

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  10. Sharon, I loved your BACHELOR DAD, GIRL NEXT DOOR story. You're such a beautiful writer - I love it when someone gets the craft right and all these authors I've listed can all write like angels. I'm so glad you're now a fan of Tawny's. Her latest series is great, among her best, I think. I've read the first two and I'm saving the third for a rainy day. Actually that would be NOW. It's pouring buckets outside. Flood warnings all over the place! Just the right weather to curl up with a great romance.

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  11. Hey, Serena, lovely to see you here. I'm so delighted you're a fan of all these talented writers too. As I said, when I said I was going to do a Harlequin update, I found myself completely spoiled for choice. But once I got to six, I thought I'd better stop ;-) I've had a really bumper year of reading great category books and there's a couple of new authors I've discovered who have become regulars on my bedside table. Sarah Morgan, India Grey, Molly O'Keefe, Helen Brenna, for example.

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  12. Oh, Helen, you absolutely positively have to get the Doukakis Apprentice. You'll love it to death. I've noticed it's had a lot of buzz online too. Clearly I'm not the only person who thinks it's a classic of its type. The hero is so gorgeous when he finds himself so completely out of his depth. Love it when an alpha goes all to pieces when he falls in love.

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  13. I've read Harlequin books since the 1980's. These books are great for a quick read. I loved them when I had to wait for my children, school, clubs, sports etc.
    Old favorites: Presents- exotic locales outside the USA
    Desire, Blaze and old Temptations sexy reads
    I do read a little from most of the lines. Recently I added the Historical and Inspirational lines.
    Authors: Helen Biachin, Cathy Williams,Penny Jordan, Abby Gaines, Tessa Radley, Jill Shalvis, Jo Leigh, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Alison Kent, Kristi Gold, Nicola Marsh, Melanie Milbourne, Trish Wylie, Nicola Cornick,Julia Justiss, Susan Stephens,Kate Walker, Lyndsay Stevens, Jane Porter, Margaret Way, Catherine Spenser, Maya Banks and all of the earlier mentioned authors. There are so many I'm forgetting.

    I started with: Sandra Brown/Rachel Ryan, Nora Roberts, Heather Graham, Jayne Anne Krenz, Elizabeth Lowell, Catherine Coulture, Barbara Delinsky, Betty Neels, Joan Honl,Janet Dailey, Kasey Michaels, Lisa Jackson and Sharon Sala.

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  14. I'm busily adding to my reading list here. Great recommendations!!

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  15. Hi Anna! Thanks for another great round-up. I'm a Harlequin reader from way back and these all look like great stories!

    I've read all the lines at one time or another but, these days, I tend to focus more on favorite authors than the lines for which they write. I have two Harlequins currently sitting on my nightstand patiently waiting for me: The Cowboy's Secret Son by Trish Milburn and A Hero in the Making by Kay Stockham.

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  16. Wow, you've been a busy (reading) bee, Anna! Thanks so much for all these reviews. I'm putting a few on my list. ;-)

    I would have to say that my favorite line is Blaze. What can I say? I like a little extra spice in my romance. *g*

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  17. Oh my, look at the wonderful books! Gotta run as I'm busy adding them all to my Wish List. Thanks for letting me know! :-)

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  18. Wow, Laurie, that's a great list of writers. I've read a lot of them. Thanks for recommending the others. I'll check them out. I find most ofmy new must-reads through recommendations - a lot through this blog.

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  19. Hey, Mary, isn't it great to see so many great books by fellow Aussies. I wholeheartedly recommend books by any of these writers.

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  20. PJ, great choice. Trish's latest in particular sounds great. I'm like you, I tend to follow authors, not lines so much. And sometimes I can find a sweet romance has more impact than something more overtly sexy. It's all in the writing, isn't it?

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  21. Andrea, I love Blazes too. I love that they allow in a bit of a fun, flirty tone a la the old Temptations which I still miss. Some of my fave authors are Sarah M, of course. And Kathleen O'Reilly and wonderful Tawny. Do you have any others you'd recommend?

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  22. Connie, I really don't think you can go wrong with any of these books. What fun - love sharing great new authors with readers. Happy reading and thanks for swinging by!

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  23. Looks like I'm late to the party! Thanks for including me in your round up with all those other fab authors!
    I'm really excited at the moment because my first RIVA is out next month! Innocent Til Proven Otherwise was so much fun to stretch my wings with!

    Amy Andrews

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  24. I do read Harlequin and a little of all of them. My favorite line is the Historical and Intrigue.

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  25. Amy, congratulations on writing such brilliant books. Can't wait to read your Riva! I didn't mention in the piece, but Alessandro won the Australian Romantic Book of the Year. Pretty strong recommendation!

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  26. Virginia, I haven't read many Intrigues. I should try some more. I've got a couple on the TBR pile that have been recommended to me. There are some marvellous historical authors. One of my faves is Emily May. Have you read her Unmasking of a Lady? It's fantastic!

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  27. I used to read Harlequins....I can still remember my very first one; Katrina Britt's The Gentle Flame. It was so romantic for a 12-year-old girl. :) Then I moved on to Betty Neels and Essie Summers. But, I haven't read a contemp Harlequin for awhile. I think the last one I read was a Cindy Kirk book. I have read a couple of Love Inspired books....

    I've never read Sarah Mayberry, but have heard they are quite good. Thanks for the post today, Anna!

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  28. My pleasure, Deb. I read thousands of Harlequins/Mills and Boons (they were published as M&Bs here in Oz) when I was growing up. They really helped form my taste for romantic literature. Definitely give Sarah M a go. You'll love her stuff!

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  29. I like the Harlequin Intrigue and Historical lines. Lately I have been reading their Inspirational line. There are so many good authors. If I were home, I could check my shelves and give you a nice long list of authors I like. I hate to leave out anyone. I will say that Debra Webb's books were what got me started on Harlequin Intrigues. I still look forward to her books.

    The authors and books you have mentioned sound well worth the read. Thanks for the suggestions.

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  30. Pat, definitely think these writers are worth trying. I didn't realize until I'd finished the post quite what an Aussie slant I'd taken. Must say there are some great Harlequin authors from Down Under. I must check out Debra Webb. Got a feeling she's one of the Intrigues on my TBR pile. I haven't really explored the Inspirational lines much - I love the covers, especially the historical ones (not just Harlequin). So romantic.

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  31. What a great roundup of Harlequin R's in that line up, Anna. Love Sarah Morgan and Annie West - and India Grey. And a couple of great medicals to add to my reading list.

    A pleasure to be in such great company. Glad that Tempted touched the spot with you. :) I'm just starting in on Sorrel's story.

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  32. Ooh, cool about Sorrel, Liz. As you know, I adored Tempted by Trouble. One of your very best, I think - and you do set the bar high! Glad I gave you a few recommendations. Didn't mean to make it quite so nationalistic - although it is Australia Day tomorrow!

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  33. Thanks, everyone, for a great discussion. See you next month when I have a definite romance classic to talk about. She said, being very mysterious. ;-)

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