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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sweet Talking Susan Mallery

by Anna Campbell

Do you have people you turn to for book recommendations?

I certainly do and among them is my lovely Romance Bandits friend Anna Sugden who seems to have very similar taste to me.

One of her favorite authors is Susan Mallery. But silly me, I didn't pick up on this recommendation until I was trawling through the to-be-read pile and came across these two books.

Well, what a discovery! I can see why Susan Mallery's so popular with readers. Wonderful contemporary romance.

Sadly, one of the books I found had been in the TBR pile since 2001 (gives you an idea of the scale of the TBR pile) and is now out of print. But if you happen to see MARRIED FOR A MONTH around the place, grab it. It's a fun read with a reunion/secret baby plot about two psychologists determined to prove that their theory for lasting love is the right one. A particular treat in MARRIED FOR A MONTH is a geek/sexpot romance that is hugely enjoyable - that's a theme I really enjoy. Susan Elizabeth Phillips often features awkward, nerdy, but smart and sweet guy with much more worldly woman and those stories are always great.

I picked up the book you can still buy, SWEET TALK, at the 2010 Romance Writers of America conference in Orlando. It's the first of a trilogy featuring the three Keyes sisters who own a bakery in Seattle. The other two books are SWEET SPOT and SWEET TROUBLE.

I said above I always enjoy the geek and the love goddess plot. In SWEET TALK, the geek is actually the heroine, concert pianist Claire Keyes (wonder if that's a case of nominative determinism!). Claire is a former child prodigy who has devoted her life to music. This has cost her many things, including her relationship with her family and a chance at a relationship with a man.

When her youngest sister Jesse calls out of the blue asking her to go back to Seattle to look after her twin sister Nicole who has undergone surgery, Claire leaps at the chance to re-connect with the family who have given her the cold shoulder for so many years. She knows it's not going to be easy - her twin Nicole harbors bitter hostility toward her and blames her for the death of their mother in a car accident. 

Claire's right. It's not easy. But she hangs in there, through thick and thin, determined to re-establish her closeness with her twin. Jesse is even more problematic - she and Nicole have fallen out which is why Jesse can't look after Nicole in her hour of need.

Through the miserable, difficult weeks, Claire gradually finds compensations for coming back to Seattle. There's her growing self-confidence as she undertakes a whole range of 'normal' activities outside her rarefied world like driving a car and working in the bakery. There's also handsome building contractor Wyatt Knight (White Knight? More nominative determinism?) and his lovely Deaf daughter Amy. Wyatt is at first suspicious of Claire and her motives, thanks to Nicole's stories about her sister. But he can't deny their immediate attraction and it's so enjoyable watching him slowly falling in love with the last person he ever thought he'd want in his life.

This story definitely falls into the 'sweet' category - that title is no mistake. The characters are nice people who you'd happily spend time with (even Nicole who is very prickly at the start warms up as the book progresses). There are some lovely scenes of reconciliation and forgiveness. Claire, as you've probably gathered, never gives up which puts you very much on her side and it's lovely watching her stretch her wings while still remaining true to herself. Wyatt is a great hero, smart and perceptive but still a real guy. The secondary characters like Amy and the people in the bakery give this story great texture.

I think for me the best part of the book is Claire. Susan Mallery does a beautiful job of conveying quite how at sea Claire is in the normal world, however much of a genius she is in front of a piano. There are touching scenes of Claire's vulnerability and uncertainty as she struggles to deal with the challenges of her sister's hostility and everyday living. There are also some great funny bits - a couple of the scenes in the bakery will have you laughing out loud.

So all round, this was a fun, touching read about family and finding love where you least expect it. Just perfect for the Holidays. Although it's not set at Christmas, there's a Christmas feel of hope renewed and love rediscovered here that will leave you with a smile on your face.

So have you read Susan Mallery? Any recommendations? I've got a lot of catching up to do! Do you have a favorite contemporary romance writer? I must say I can never go past Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I think she's just phenomenal. What about you?

62 comments:

  1. Hi Anna!

    I've "met" a lot of new or new-to-me authors through Kim at SOS Aloha and Melanie at bookwork2bookworm that have both introduced me to authors and different genres that I hadn't read before. They both are great at giving great reviews on their blog and I've learned over the last year that I can trust what they have to say.

    One of the best things that has also happened is that even though I've never met them them and we live in different parts of the country is that I can also now considered both of them my freind.

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    1. Kim and Mel are both great reviewers and have wonderful blogs. I've had the pleasure of meeting Kim in person. She's a sweetheart.

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  2. Jeanne, aren't Kim and Mel great? Love them both to death. I've been lucky enough to meet Kim a couple of times and she's wonderful in person. I'm sure Mel is as well. Hope you get to meet them both one day. Isn't it great when you trust a reviewer? Someone whose taste matches mine fairly closely is Janga who reviews here. And PJ and I share a lot of books that we love in common. Even if we don't 100% agree on a book, it always makes for an interesting discussion! Thanks for swinging by!

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    1. Life would be boring if we always agreed on the books we read. I enjoy those lively discussions! :)

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    2. Wish you lived closer!

      Oh, me too!

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  3. Susan Mallory has been on my list of authors to try for a long time. I like the sound of SWEET TALK and am sure I would enjoy it. I have only read one or two of Susan Elizabeth Phillips' books, but they were really enjoyable. I am pretty sure there are a few more buried in my TBR mountain. I wish mine only went back to 2001.

    Thanks for bringing these books and author to our attention. I always enjoy your suggestions and have enjoyed reading new to me authors because of it.

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    1. Pat, how lovely that you've checked out the books I've recommended! That's fantastic. I adore Susan Elizabeth Phillips - I'm looking forward to her latest THE GREAT ESCAPE. I think my favorites of hers are First Lady, It Had to Be You, Match Me if You Can and Lady Be Good.

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    2. Pat, it sounds like your tbr is similar to mine. My stash went from a shelf to a closet to an entire room! lol!

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    3. I have 40+ bookcases in my house and my husband started building 3 more for me this weekend. All shelves are double full and I probably have enough books in boxes and piles to fill them a second time. I have always collected and read books. At least half of the books are those I'll read and not keep, but many belong to collections I don't want to part with. When we eventually downsize, I am in big trouble. My dear husband thought my working at a library would cut back on my acquisitions. All I did was find more authors I liked. In addition, I started following blogs like The Romance Dish and author sites so I could be up to date on what was coming out to order. I really miss that job, but still enjoy following the blogs.

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    4. Pat, sounds like you're a fellow addict. My friends kill themselves laughing that I have a three-car garage. I don't drive so clearly cars aren't something I have to store. Until I tell them that the garage makes a great book storage site!

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  4. I started reading Susan Mallery a long time ago. I started with her sheiks.

    I've enjoyed several of SEP's books especially Nobody's Baby But Mine and the ones that you mentioned. However I'm currently struggling with her book What I Did for Love. I'm having trouble with Bram.

    I'd recommend Jill Shalvis, Susan Anderson, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Susan Wiggs, Lori Foster and Victoria Dahl.

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    1. Like you, Laurie, I've been reading Susan Mallery for a long time. I discovered her in 1996 when I bought Part-Time Wife, part of her Hometown Heartbreakers series from Silhouette Special Edition.

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    2. Hi Laurie! Thanks for swinging by and for the recommendations. I've really enjoyed Susan Anderson and VLT. I'll have to try the others you recommend. I really liked What I Did for Love but I know it's a book that divides readers.

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  5. Hi Anna!

    I've been a Mallery fan for years. I love her Buchanan family: Delicious, Irresistible, Sizzliing and Tempting. Accidentally Yours is also a favorite as are her Marcelli Sisters books and her current Fool's Gold series.

    Susan Andersen is another favorite. I highly recommend her Sisterhood Diaries series (Cutting Loose, Bending the Rules and Playing Dirty)and her Marine series (Head Over Heels, Getting Lucky, Hot & Bothered and Coming Undone. Getting Lucky is a particular favorite.

    Kristan Higgins is a contemporary auto-buy for me. I'd recommend anything she's written. And SEP is a given. I especially love her Chicago Stars series.

    Veronica Wolff has recently ventured into the contemporary realm with her Sierra Falls series. I enjoyed the first book in the series, Sierra Falls and have the second, Timber Creek on my tbr. If you enjoy time travel historicals, I also highly recommend her Warrior of the Highlands. I'd happily give up my modern conveniences for Alasdair MacColla!







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    1. PJ, what a great list of recommendations. Thank you! I read a couple of Susan Andersons back when contemporary romance was the boom genre (early 90s?) and really enjoyed them. Remember a fun one where there was a good twin and a bad twin and a bounty hunter (I think) handcuffs the wrong sister to drag her back to face the music. Very It Happened One Night!

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  6. Hi Anna. I absolutely agree on Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I would recommend Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins for their ability to incorporate humorous and sexy in their stories. I would also look into Robyn Carr's catalogue. She is about to release a new series (Thunder Point) this coming spring and it sounds quite promising. The Wanderer (book 1) will be released at the end of March. My to-read list is growing into a monster :)

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    1. I'll second your recommendation of Robyn Carr, Mina. She's one of my all-time favorite authors. I think I've probably loaned, and given away, more copies of Virgin River than any other book.

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    2. Mina, thanks for the recommendations! Kristan is actually in Australia right now and is the keynote speaker at the Australian Romance Readers Association convention at the end of this week. Can't wait to see her - she's great fun in person.

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  7. What fun! I'm so glad I got you onto Susan, Anna. Her books are awesome - my personal favourite is Falling For Gracie.

    I'm a big SEP fan too. Natural Born Charmer is still one of my faves. I also like Susan Andersen, Julie James and Kristan Higgins. I have a soft spot for the ladies who write sports romances - Deirdre Martin, Rachel Gibson and Kate Angell. I think you'd love Kate Angell's Crazy For you *g* which isn't a sports romance, but is about a cruise ship owner and has a wonderful flapper ghost called Daisy.

    One of the best contemps I've read in a long time is by our very own Bandita sister, Susan Sey. Kiss the Girl was fantastic!

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    1. Hi Anna! I have Kiss the Girl on my Kindle and am looking forward to reading it. Susan Sey has a wonderful voice!

      I'll second your other recommendations though I've only read Kate Angell in an anthology. Must check out Crazy for You. Thanks for mentioning it!

      Congratulations on your sale. Can't wait to read your debut book in September!

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    2. PJ, I'm so looking forward to it too!

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  8. Like others have mentioned, I LOVE Kristan Higgins. She has a great voice and her sense of humor shines in every novel. She writes the kind of people you want to be friends with--certainly can identify with.

    Jill Shalvis and Susan Andersen are on my TBR pile. I'm looking forward to reading them someday.

    I've read all of SEP - loved her books. Rachel Gibson's hockey player series is great. You can't go wrong with Carly Phillips. Her most resent series of books based in Serendipity are fun.

    Roxanne St Claire, who many may identify with romantic suspense/action has a new series of contemporary romances which prove this lady can write across the genres. In April 2012 BAREFOOT IN THE SAND, Book #1 in the Barefoot Bay Series, came out and was followed by BAREFOOT IN THE RAIN, Book #2 in the Barefoot Bay Series, in October, 2012. BAREFOOT IN THE SUN will be out in April, 2013. (Soon!) There will be one more but I don't recall if the title has been released yet. Barefoot Something.

    Lori Wilde writes wonderful books. Her Twilight, TX and Jubilee, TX books are sweet, romantic, sexy and fun! The book that got me started with Lori was THERE GOES A BRIDE (Wedding Veil Wishers Series, Book 1) Legend claims this antique Irish wedding veil can grant your heart’s deepest desire. There are four friends, four books. She likened her hero in TGAB to Gerard Butler and she had me! :) I highly recommend this series.(2007-09)

    Finally, someone who doesn't get quite to publicity as some of these bigger names...is Starr Ambrose. I received LIE TO ME at the RWA conference in D.C. in 2009 and it sat in my TBR pile for a long time. I finally picked it up and I was very happy I did. Love and Suspense in wealthy Bloomfield Hills, MI... which was fun for me since I live in Michigan. SILVER SPARKS, the first book in the Barringer's Pass series, received the industry's highest honor when it was nominated for the 2012 Rita Award. I think her books are more contemporary, less suspense.

    And, gee, the list goes on and on, we are so fortunate to have so many great prolific romance writers, giving us so many wonderful books. I would be remiss to skip Julie James and Louisa Edwards who I love and follow with each new book.

    Okay, I'll say good-bye before I think of anyone else. Happy reading to us all. :)

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    1. Some great names there, Annie! I've enjoyed the Lori Wilde books I've read. Roxanne St. Claire is an autobuy for me, no matter in what sub-genre she's writing. Barefoot in the Rain was a 5 star read for me.

      I have a couple Starr Ambrose books on my tbr but haven't read them yet.

      Julie James and Louisa Edwards are both favorites!

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    2. Wow, Annie, that's the most fantastic list! My groaning TBR pile thanks you. My groaning Visa Card not so much! ;-) What wonderful recommendations. I've read Roxanne's romsus books - didn't realise she'd moved onto contemporary romance. Good for her. And I've never actually heard of Starr Ambrose - definitely someone new for me to try. Thanks for the great input! I'll definitely follow up on it!

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  9. If you haven't tried Susan Mallery's FOOL'S GOLD series, you must give it a try. Susan has a talent for writing characters that you hate to say goodbye to. Each book is stand alone romance, but if you read them in order you get to visit old friends and keep up with what is happening with their families....weddings, births, vacations. Last Summer the three released were about cowboys (Summer Days, Summer Nights, and All Summer Long). This Summer the theme will be body guards who have started a business in the town. Susan also writes the Blackberry Island series which is more about women dealing with life issues than about romance, though romance and happy endings are included. The second in the series releases this Tuesday...THREE SISTERS. I've enjoyed her books so much and was lucky enough to be on her Cheerleaders Team last Summer.
    Love getting referrals from other readers. It's a great way to find new authors.

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    1. Hi Brenda! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your love of Susan's books. I'm looking forward to this summer's bodyguards!

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    2. Brenda, I still think word of mouth is the most powerful recommendation. I know if Anna or PJ strongly recommend a book, I'll always give it a go (even if it takes me years, blushing!). We don't ALWAYS agree completely but I've never had a bad read from either of them. Ditto for Janga. I've seen the Fool's Gold series go from strength to strength. Having broken my Susan Mallery drought, I think they will probably be my next port of call. She's got suchg a lovely voice.

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  10. I do read and enjoy the works of both Susan Mallery and SEP. Other contemporary authors I read, with some recommendations, are: Jill Shalvis--Lucky Harbor series, Carly Phillips--Serendipity series, Lisa Kleypas--Smooth-Talking Stranger.

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    1. Hi LSUReader! I really think SEP is one of the best writers out there in any genre. I think she's so in control of her craft, reading her is like drinking fine champagne. I used to really enjoy Jill Shalvis's short contemporaries. I must pick up her longer contemps. I've seen her climbing the bestseller lists with them. I've read a lot of Lisa K's great historicals - must check out her contemporaries.

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  11. I have not read a Susan Mallery book. Shame upon me? I don't read many contemps; haven't in the last 10 years or so. I used to read Debbie Macomber because I think her romances are sweet and fun. (Orchard Valley Trilogy is my fave.) So, I will try a SM since you enjoy her stories, Anna.

    As for books being hard to find or out of print....I wanted an early Suzanne Enoch book, but it cost $127 on Amazon.com. However, I got it for $2.99 on my Kindle. So, that is always an option for readers who have e-readers.

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    1. Deb, that's a good point about the Kindle. I know that's a great way to get no longer available category romance too - and as you say, the price is usually right! Debbie Macomber visited Australia for Romance Writers of Australia's conference a few years ago. Everybody absolutely adored her.

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  12. Oh I love Susan Mallery! The first I read of her work was the Marcelli Sisters, I received the second one in a batch of books from a friend and the search was on for 1 and 3, that of course led me on to the rest of her backlist. The Marcelli Sisters still remains my favorite. The Marcelli Bride and The Marcellie Princess was reissued as a 2-for-1 May 2011.
    She also has a great site with a cooking blog that I just love.

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    1. Dianna, that's the second recommendation for the Marcelli Sisters books. Perhaps they should be my next port of call. And I'll check out the cooking blog. I've noticed she's very interactive with her readers which is something I like in an author!

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    2. Anna, Susan is one of my all time favorite authors. Her interactive relationship with her readers just endears me even more. LOVE her Fools Gold Series! Chasing Perfect HQN -- Book 1 Fools Gold series, May 2010 started a full blown love affair not only between her characters, but with her readers and this amazing town where everyone is welcome. Each story brings in new characters, while maintaining a relationship with the past ones. Absolutely adore Susan's witty and poignant writings! Another great series (in addition to the aforementioned Marcelli Sisters) is the Buchanan family. Starting with Delicious, then Irresistible , Sizzling and Tempting - all are wonderful. I just cannot say enough about her.
      Lisa Kleypas is another top of my list, don't even hesitiate to buy author. Her latest series Friday Harbor creates a mystical magic in the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Jill Shalvis, Lucky Harbor series. And the Wilder Brothers...OMG! Who wouldn't want to partake in the cold country just to be warmed up by them! And, talk about wit...she makes me laugh everyday with her blog and Facebook postings. Love her!

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    3. Linda, thanks so much for swinging by and giving me all those great recommendations. As I said below to Char, I'm always so happy to find a great new (to me) author who has a wonderfully long backlist. Hours of reading pleasure ahead!

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  13. I have read a few of hers, not sure which ones now.

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    1. Quilt Lady, these are the only two I've ever read - really need to pull my finger out and get some more!

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  14. Anna, the reply thing doesn't seem to be working on your comment - thanks for swinging by! And thanks for the wonderful recommendations over the years. I love the Carrie Bebris Jane Austen mysteries that you put me onto too - they're fab. Natural Born Charmer has one of the best openings I've ever read - I use it in writing classes as a perfect example of setting tone and gaining reader interest. I really enjoy Rachel Gibson's books too - I'll have to check out the other two authors!

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  15. Susan Sey's books are fantastic. Love her slightly snarky sense of humor!

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  16. Anna, have you read Suzanne Ferrell's new contemporary, Close to Home? I really enjoyed it.

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    1. PJ, I've got a stack of Bandita books waiting in the TBR pile! I'll let Suz know you mentioned it - she's a lovely writer, isn't she?

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  17. Hi, Anna! Once again you've introduced me to an author I've yet to read. One of these days...!

    A few of my "must read" contemporary romance authors are: Julie James, Jill Shalvis, and Lisa Kleypas. Love their books!

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    1. Andrea, it's interesting how often JJ, JS and LK have appeared in people's recommendations, isn't it? I'll have to check them out. I've never read JJ, I've read LK's historicals (brilliant) and I read Jill Shalvis's old categories. I'll have to get moving on some of these recommendations.

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    2. I know, Anna! You simply MUST read one of Julie's books. I just know that you'll love it and want to read the rest! :)

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    3. I met her at RomCon. She's great fun in person!

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  18. I have all of Susan Mallery's books. She is awesome and funny IRL. I havent read a book she has written and not like or loved it. The Logan, shiek and fools gold are wonderful but when you open her books you dont want to put them down till you finish. I hooked my reading group on to her via nook, kindle and books they love them and cant wait till the 26 for all the books Im taking them for her Blackberry Island series. Its the 2nd one Three sisters. Have fun introducing your self to her world of writing and enjoy.

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    1. Hi Char! Thanks for swinging by! Yeah, love it when I discover an author who has a great big long backlist for me to explore. Looking forward to reading more of Susan's books. Thanks for the recommendations.

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  19. I LOVE Susan's entire Fools Gold series. It makes you want to move there!

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    1. I've seen lots of buzz about the Fool's Gold series. Will have to check them out!

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  20. I started reading Susan Mallery's books with the Marcelli Sisters, The Sassy One, The Sparkly One, The Seductive One and then came The Marcelli Bride and the Marcelli Princess. The first 3 books had me hooked and I wasn't going to stop until I read every book I could find of hers. Always on the look out for her old ones at used book sales, and the new books just keep getting better and better.

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    1. Tawnya, those books sound great. I'll definitely keep an eye out for them. Keep an eye out for Married for a Month too - it's a really fun read.

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  21. There are not many of Susan Mallery's books that I have not read. She is a must have for me. I love all her series. The first series I read was The Marcelli Family books and from then on it was a love fest of her books.. I then read her Buchannan Saga and then her Sweet Stuff and Lone Star Sisters. Now it is Fool's Gold and Blackberry Island I so look forward to. Her stand alones are wonderful reading too.. You can never go wrong with a Susan Mallery book.

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    1. Thanks for swinging by, Kathleen! Clearly I'm preaching to the choir when it comes to Susan's books! I'll have to read more of them - really enjoyed these two.

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  22. Kristin Hannah and Susan Wiggs are two of my very favorite writers/ Debbie Macomber's "Blossom Street" books are my favorite of hers. Joann Ross is another favorite. Her "Shelter Bay" novels are her current series--"Moonshell Beach" and "On Lavender Lane"--with a third title in the series coming out soon.

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    1. AntNene, I've read a couple of Kristin Hannah's books and really liked them. I've read some of Susan Wiggs's historicals - there's a brilliant one set in renaissance Venice that's well worth hunting out if you can find it. Thanks for the recommendations for Joann Ross and Debbie M - I met Debbie at a Romance Writers of Australia conference a few years ago and she's absolutely lovely.

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    2. Hi AntNene! Great choices! I love JoAnn Ross's Shelter Bay series and I've been a fan of Debbie Macomber for almost thirty years.

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  23. Thanks, guys. What a great day of talking contemporary romance! Come back on the 24th of next month when I'm talking about Liz Carlyle's fantastic debut MY FALSE HEART.

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  24. Hi, Anna! I'm sorry I missed this discussion yesterday. Thanks for the kind words. I've been reading Susan Mallery for years. Like PJ, I love the Buchanans and the Marcellis, and I eagerly await each new Fools Gold book. Have you read Sherryl Woods?

    I'm a big SEP fan too, and Robyn Carr has been a favorite since well before her Virgin River series. Julie James is terrific, as are Susan Andersen, Christina Dodd, Rachel Gibson, Kristan Higgins, Lisa Kleypas, Jill Shalvis, and Susan Wiggs. I love Susan Sey's books. I know you've read Molly O'Keefe's categories,and so you won't be surprised that I give her single titles my highest recommendation. I second the recommendations of current series by Roxanne St. Claire and JoAnn Ross and add Brenda Novak's Whiskey Creek books and Mariah Stewart's Chesapeake Diaries series to the list.

    Never-miss contemporary authors who have not been mentioned include Meg Benjamin, whose Konnigsburg series is among my favorites; Shannon Stacey, whose Kowalskis stole my heart; and Ruthie Knox, whose voice I love. Alison Kent has a book coming out next month, Second Chance Cafe, that is a great read. And I hope everyone puts Meant to Be by Terri Osburn on their May reading list. It's her debut, and I predict readers are going to fall in love with her characters and with Anchor Island.

    And, of course, no list of contemporary romance authors could be complete without La Nora.

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  25. Janga, you know I love your recommendations! And here you've given me a stack more. Oh, my aching Visa card! ;-) You actually put me onto one of my all-time favorite series, the Julia Spencer-Fleming books about Russ Alstyne and Claire Ferguson. If any of you haven't read those books, grab them. They're marketed as mystery but it's one of the best romances you'll ever read. It's funny about La Nora - I tend to think her as a whole category to herself!

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  26. Came back to check the recommends and thought for sure I had posted mine. Guess not; so here are some.

    (And yes I love Susan Mallery - she writes great standalones and wonderful series books)

    Toni Blake - The Red Diary - anything really by her I love
    Jane Graves - Black Ties and Lullabies
    Kate Angell's baseball series
    Linda Howard - Sarah's Child - a much older book as well as Three Wishes by Barbara Delinsky
    Marie Force - Waiting for Love
    Erin McCarthy - The Pregnancy Test
    Shannon Stacey's Kowalski series
    Catherine Anderson - Phantom Waltz
    Carolyn Brown - anything, particularly her contemp cowboy series books
    Robyn Carr - A Summer in Sonoma, A Virgin River Christmas (loved that series)
    Debbie Macomber - A Turn in the Road or is it Bend in the Road - can never remember

    Anything by SEP, Rachel Gibson, Julie James, Robin Kaye, Jill Shalvis, Donna Kauffman's contemps, Susan Andersen, Carly Phillips, Sherryl Woods




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