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Monday, February 24, 2014

Harlequin Roundup

by Anna Campbell

I haven't done a Harlequin roundup for ages and given we've just had Valentine's Day, it seemed like a nice opportunity to review a couple of category romances that I've recently really enjoyed. 

The first one is a real charmer from an author I hadn't read before. Nikki Logan happens to be the current president of Romance Writers of Australia and I've met her many times. I even did a crit on the start of a romantic suspense that she'd written before she was published. But I'd never read one of her Harlequins until I picked up HOW TO GET OVER YOUR EX (January 2013), one of the new Harlequin Kiss line. 

Poor Georgia Stone! She proposes to long-time boyfriend Daniel over the air as part of a radio station's Valentine's Day promotion. And he knocks her back. Ouch! Station manager Zander Rush decides to rescue this stunt gone wrong by instituting something called "The Year of Georgia" where he escorts Georgia to a whole range of new experiences including a makeover and a trip to Turkey. Georgia gradually comes to realize that, despite Daniel's rejection, there actually wasn't anything wrong with her in the first place and she doesn't need to become a new person. Through sharing all these experiences and getting to know Georgia, Zander realizes that he has taken a few wrong turns in his life. I love a romance where the hero and heroine grow into more fulfilled, better people at the end, and that's the case here. I smiled the whole way through this lovely book!

My next selection is also by an Aussie author, the fabulous Sarah Mayberry. THE OTHER SIDE OF US (SuperRomance, January 2013) revisits a familiar theme from Sarah's work about how sometimes life's unexpected turns can at first seem a catastrophe but in the end, become opportunities for growth and fulfillment.

Mackenzie Williams is the sort of woman who makes most workaholics look like complete slackers. She's achieved major success as the producer of a television drama when she has a horrific car crash on the way to a location shoot. When we meet her, Mackenzie is holed up in her beach house on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne after a 12 month convalescence. She's angry and bitter and worried that she might lose her place in the dog eat dog world of television production. She's also pushing her body beyond where she should in her attempt to return to the woman she was before her accident.

Oliver Barrett, ex rock muso and current music producer, has just discovered that his wife of six years has been cheating on him the whole time with her ex. Devastated, angry, confused, he retreats to a beach house he inherited with the idea of taking a few weeks to sort through his late aunt's possessions and preparing the house for sale. Guess who's next door? Yup, prickly, difficult, intriguing Mackenzie. These two have a rocky road to romance, with quite a few hairpin bends relating to their baggage. But in typical Sarah Mayberry style, they're wonderful, complex, interesting characters who leap breathing and arguing and loving from the pages. Highly recommended!

My last book for this roundup is prodigious talent Sarah Morgan's sexy and intense LOST TO THE DESERT WARRIOR (Harlequin Presents, September 2013). I love Sarah's books - don't miss her first single title SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW that came out last October. I love how Sarah takes the classic Presents style - the alpha hero, the glamor, the drama, the high stakes emotions - and makes it completely her own. It's no accident that she's won the RITA award two years in a row for best short category romance!

Princess Layla's only hope of escaping an odious arranged marriage is to flee into the desert in search of the true heir to Tazkhan's throne, Sheikh Raz Al Zahki, and propose herself as his bride. The problem is that Raz has lost a beloved wife to Layla's evil family's machinations and he's sworn never to wed again. Not to mention he's convinced that Layla is just a chip off the old rotten block of her father and cousin.

I love marriage of convenience stories and this one's a doozy! Raz is wonderful: brooding and grieving, but passionate, wise and kind. Sigh. Layla is a fantastic character. She's spent her life learning things from books so she's got all this arcane knowledge rattling around in her head, knowledge that proves of very little use when it comes to managing the man she rapidly falls head over heels in love with. This one's very much a fairytale, romantic and fun and steamy.

So have you read any good Harlequins lately?

22 comments:

  1. Hello Anna,
    *waves madly* I've been on a Harlequin Kiss kick. I finished Joss Wood's "If You Can't Stand the Heat" and Leah Ashton's "Beware of the Boss." I've never read Nikki's books, but I'm a huge Sarah Mayberry fan.

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    1. Jane, I seem to be on a sweeter kick at the moment too. Have you tried Liz Fielding? Her stuff is marvellous. So is Fiona Harper's. I've heard a lot about Joss Wood - must give her a go. Seriously, give this one of Nikki's a burl, it's just lovely. And Sarah's never missed a winner for me. I think she's one of the best writers out there.

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    2. I had no idea the books in the Kiss line were sweet, but in both of these the action was behind closed doors. I looked it up on the Harlequin site and it says that the sensuality is high, but it didn't seem that way. It didn't matter because I really enjoyed the books.

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    3. That's interesting, Jane. I've definitely always approached them as sweet and that's how they feel - and that's definitely NOT a term of derision in my vocab. I find sweet romances really ramp up the emotional content so they're compelling reads even without all the sensual detail. Depends what I feel like at the time. Will definitely check out the Joss Wood!

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  2. I rarely read the short categories, although I have read a few of the Kiss books, How to Get Over Your Ex among them. (I did download Sarah Morgan's Dukakis's Apprentice after you recommended it and will read it as soon as I have time.) But I am a big Superromance fan. I always check out the current month's HSRs, and I never miss books by Sarah Mayberry, Janice Kay Johnson, Karina Bliss, Ellen Hartman, Beth Andrews, Liz Talley, and a few others. I also read a few authors in the Special Edition and American Romance lines (Karen Templeton, Raeanne Thayne, and Trish Milburn, for example). And I check out the Harlequin Historicals too. I look forward to their publishing new Carla Kelly books such as The Wedding Ring Quest set for April release and offering historical romance beyond the Georgian/Regency/Victorian stories such as Secrets at Court by Blythe Gifford, a 14th-century romance with the relationship between Joan of Kent and Edward, the Black Prince as background. Then there are the non-category imprints, Mira and HQN, home to quite a few of my autobuy authors--Robyn Carr, Kristan Higgins, Susan Mallery, Susan Wiggs . . .



    I also read certain authors in the Special Editions and American Romance line (

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    1. Hi Janga! I seem to be on a hiatus from my SuperRomance craze of last year (you'll remember I read a lot of them then). Perhaps because I'm on a tight deadline, the shorter books are suiting me better at the moment. Having said that, I'm all up to date with Sarah Mayberry who I'd crawl over glass to read. Got a couple more Karina Blisses on the TBR pile - I love her books. Karen Templeton is a newish author to me - definitely going to read more of hers. Blythe is coming on the Romance Bandits in early March - I loved her indie-published The Witch Finder if you haven't read that yet. Unusual setting, really high stakes, very passionate romance. Looking forward to her Secrets at Court!

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  3. I recommend:
    Donna Alward for sweet, sexy contemporary cowboys
    Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry
    Karen Templeton
    Carla Kelly, Carolyn Davidson, (Harlequin Historicals)

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    1. JCP, so glad to see you're another Sarah Mayberry fan. The Other Side of You is great too! I read a couple of Carla Kellys a while ago when they were still publishing trad Regencies as a separate line. Must read some more. Haven't read Donna A - will definitely check her out. Thanks for the recommendations.

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  4. I read Marin Thomas's Her Cowboy's Secret and really enjoyed it. I do enjoy reading these sometimes for something different when you don't have a lot of time to read.

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    1. Quilt Lady, that one had gone under my radar. Must check it out. I agree with you about shorter books being ideal when time is short.

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  5. I haven't read any Harlequins in quite a while, no, but I did go ahead and by the "Ex" one because, well, I can totally relate right now and it looks like good fun.

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    1. Helly, let me know what you think of Nikki's book. I thought it was lovely. There's a prequel by Fiona Harper featuring the guy who says no that's worth checking out too.

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  6. The Kiss Wedding Season series was good! Also, Amy Andrews' The Most Expensive Night of Her Life. American Romance books by Marin Thomas - The Cash Brothers, and Donna Alward's Cadence Creek series. The Holiday Miracles series was good - I think that was from 2012, though.

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    1. Sharlene, really love Amy Andrews's books. She writes wonderful medical romance too if you can lay your hands on it. She works as a pediatric nurse so the stories have a real feel of authenticity about them. Thanks for the other recommendations. I can see my Harlequin pile growing apace!

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    2. I have read a few of Amy's books & they are really good! Medical romance isn't really my thing, though.

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    3. Sharlene, it's not really my thing either but her books are really fantastic, sexy romances so I'd suggest giving them a go.

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  7. Hi Anna!

    I was fortunate to get a copy from Christine Merrill of her Harlequin historical romance The Fall of a Saint. It's the second book in her The Sinner and the Saint series and is being released in March. I couldn't put it either of these books down once I started reading them and even if you haven't read the first book in the series, The Greatest of Sins your going to love reading it!

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    1. Jeanne, Christine's great, isn't she? Will have to grab both those books. Thanks for the recommendations!

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  8. Thanks to everyone who swung by today. Check out next month's reviews when I'll be talking about a series that Janga recommended to me here!

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  9. I've read Nancy Robards Thompson CELEBRATION BRIDE and the other books in this series.

    Cindy Kirk and her book in the Fortune series, A Sweetheart for Jude Fortune!

    Marie Ferrarella WISH UPON A MATCHMAKER

    I read a lot of Blaze books: Leslie Kelly, Joanne Rock, Jo Leigh, VLT etc

    I recently read Betrayed By Love Diana Palmer in Harlequin's reissue series with a bonus story by Kathie Denosky The Rough & Ready Rancher featuring Flint & Jenna.

    I have a lot of categories on hand for easy, fast reads when I travel or wait for appointments.

    I do like Fiona's stories set in Wisconsin.

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    1. Wow, Laurie, lots of recommendations there. Thanks so much! I've read a few of the Fortune books and really enjoyed them - Karen Templeton did a great one with Fortune's Cinderella. Great read.

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  10. I just finished the Super Romance BECAUSE OF AUDREY by Mary Sullivan. Audrey is a delight, very much her own person described as Jackie O meets Betty Boop. Her protagonist, Gray Turner, is a wounded soul fighting to recover from a loss and save the family business. There is a history between these two and their families. I like the super romance format, because it gives the author more time to develop the characters and the story.
    I am currently reading THE NANNY'S SECRET by Elizabeth Lane. It is her new one in Harlequin's Desire line. Am enjoying it so far. The shorter format does rush the attraction, but that is true of all category romances. I am about 1/3 of the way into the book, so we'll see how the relationship and the secret flow. I have read many of Elizabeth's books, primarily her historical romances, and enjoyed them all.

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