Top 10 Reads of 2008

These will not be in any particular order, nor will all the books have been published in 2008. These are just the best of everything I read this year. So without further ado, I give you my year-end, best-of compilation.

And there you have it, my picks for 2008. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with any book on this list. Happy holidays, everyone. I’ll see you next year.

The next to last post of the year

Hey, everyone.

I’m back from Chicago, where I enjoyed a lovely time with Stacy, some delicious pizza, and the hospitality of a driver who knew Chicago like the back of his hand. I was able to sign some books at B&N (and O’Hare airport!), get presents for Andres at Best Buy, and make my way safely home.

I realized I can say that now. At first this country where I live didn’t seem like home. I missed the States. I was homesick and I yearned for familiar things. But this time, when I was in Chicago, the weather seemed strange to me. People were huddled in their overcoats and they didn’t look me in the eye. They didn’t look at each other, either. If I happened to make eye contact with someone, their gaze would slide away as if we’d done something shameful.

I yearned for someplace else, where the sun shines and the bougainvillea blooms in fuchsia and royal purple upon my garden wall, where the nochebuena tree has grown proud and overshadows my front door, where the terracotta patio tiles are warm beneath my feet when I tread out to fetch the mail. This is my Mexico.

When we came speeding down the periferico late on Saturday, the cool wind whipping through the open windows and my son nestled against my side, I realized something. This country is my home now. As we passed, I took comfort in the old hacienda buildings standing side by side with modern structures of concrete and glass. I took comfort in passing the old toreo, half-demolished now. I took comfort in the light-crowned mountains rising in the distance and in the red chain of lights that came from passing cars. I belong in this land of palm trees and agave farms. If you did not know it, the most important words in the subsequent sentence are: I belong. I had to come thousands of miles from the place of my birth to find a place that fit me. I have sat in the smoky dark and listened to the ancient chant of the Temascal. I have worn ancient earth on my skin and been cleansed in the waters of Lake Catemaco. I have taken blessings from a woman on a small island and come away feeling lighter in my soul for no reason I can name.

Which is why I am posting the following email. Do not worry; I have permission.

Dear Ann: I’ve read your books and they speak to me. You seem to know what it is to feel alone. I can sense it in your characters, who fight so hard for their right to love and be loved. I don’t know much about you. Your bio seems written to mislead rather than inform. Were you ever as alone as I am? Did you ever feel like there’s no place for you? My friends and family don’t really know me. They don’t know what I think about, and I’m pretty sure they don’t care. Sometimes it seems like it’s too much work to bother with. The only thing I love is books, but they don’t love me back. I don’t know even know why I’m writing this. Just take this as a compliment from a reader and let it go at that.

Yes, and yes. I was that alone. But sometimes blessings come to us, unasked. Sometimes we find we are more than we ever dreamed we could be, if only we don’t lose the will to try. And that’s what I offer you. Dig deep and find the strength to try. Keep seeking your place in the world, and perhaps it will come to you, or you to it. The alternative is unthinkable. In time, there will be people who love and understand you. Sometimes, like cuckoos in the nest, we are not born among them, but we must quest like bards of old until our soul finds those that match it. The struggle will be worth it.

Winners

Day 5
Adelina

Day 4
Janicu

Day 3
Katiebabs

Day 2
Maya M

Day 1
Erin

Grand Prize Winner
Betty (from day 2)

Everyone has a week to email me your name and mailing address. If that doesn’t happen, I re-draw names and send the prizes to someone else. Thanks for playing, everyone, and Merry Christmas! This is it for the blog for a while. Hope you enjoyed the fiesta here. Now enjoy your holidays.

Early Christmas – the finale




Welcome to the last day of Early Christmas. Remember, all the contests run until Sunday at midnight. Then on Monday, I’ll be announcing six names: one for each day and the grand prize winner.

Here on the last day, I have a very special guest. With all the romance genres so amply represented, I felt like I needed somebody from urban fantasy to round out the week. Who is it? I know you’re dying to find out, so without further ado, I give you, NYT bestselling author Carrie Vaughn. Squee! (I still can’t believe I have her on my blog. She actually answered my email and everything.)

Things I love about the holidays: the food (spiced cider, spritz cookies, candied pecans, chocolate cherry cordials), the decorations (even at the mall), shopping for other people, the music (even that annoying Paul McCartney song), the holiday episodes of TV shows, cars with trees tied to their roofs, spying on the mall Santa, the Macy’s parade, picking my brother and his wife up from the airport, the way people smile more, the cards, the local SCA Midwinter feast, the Nutcracker, and if we’re lucky, snow. If we’re unlucky, lots and lots of snow (see 2006). Happy Holidays, and happy reading!

–Carrie Vaughn

And now for the squee part of my program. Oh man, I can’t say enough good things about this author. If you didn’t know, she writes the Kitty Norville series (a werewolf named Kitty, isn’t that AWESOME?), and these books are unbelievable. I had been hearing good things about them for a while, so not too long ago, I was really jonesing for some tasty urban fantasy so I decided to give them a go. I bought and downloaded the first two books from ereader.com. I devoured them in a single day. The following day, I bought the second two, and devoured them as well.

Very seldom have I encountered such lovely, spare writing that also manages to be elegant and evocative. The characters are wonderful. Sometimes urban fantasy heroines get on my nerves, but Kitty feels like a real person. She feels like someone you’d want to talk to, hang out with. I love her. The worldbuilding in this series is top-notch. The plotting is dynamite, and very often, it’s surprising. I don’t want to spoil, but I was pretty sure I knew where she was headed with the series and then BLAM, I got the best surprise upside the head. I love the twist, and the romance is deliciously unexpected. I never in a million years expected the hero to be who he is. It’s nothing short of brilliant. And wonderful.

These books are so good, I’d re-read them, and I almost never re-read books because there are so many new ones to be read. That’s how good Carrie Vaughn’s work is. I want actual books for my shelves, now that I’ve read the ebooks, so I can caress them and hug them. I want the next two books in the series so bad, I’m practically slavering. (Carrie, if you read this, I will trade you any book of mine for ARCs. Srsly, I have some good stuff that doesn’t come out for YEARS. I could make a deal. Just sayin’.) Anyway, if you like Patricia Briggs, you owe it yourself to try out Carrie Vaughn. I guess I better rein in the tongue bath and get to the loot, eh?

You know you want these books. If you haven’t read them, there’s something really wrong with your world, and you don’t even know it! To win, just tell me what you’d do if you became a werewolf, You’re just you, too. Not a martial artist, not a bounty hunter, not trained in the art of war. How would you handle it? How do you think it would impact your daily life? That’s what these books deal with, and in an astonishingly realistic fashion, too.

Early Christmas – day 4

Xmas TreeWelcome to day four of Early Christmas! Everyone seems to be having a good time around here, so that’s awesome. I’ve interrupted the dominion of the fake Christmas tree to share my actual tree with you. Isn’t it sweet? We decorated the whole house yesterday.

While my husband and children adorned the courtyard with twinkly lights, I made a really delicious carmelized French onion dip, which turned out absolutely fab. (Yes, I used the silky tofu in place of about 1/3 of the dairy, and it worked like a charm.) We ate this as the appetizer course along with some cocktail crackers (plain, sesame or vegetable). Then we decorated this gorgeous tree while the chili simmered. Afterward, we took some pictures of our lovely home, ate chili for supper, and watched CHRISTMAS VACATION. Aunt Bethany never fails to crack me up. So that’s how we’ve been getting ready for the holidays around here.

Today, I have Colby Hodge as my special guest. This week, I’ve had authors who write romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance, so it’s only fair that we now hear from someone who writes futuristic romance, right? (She writes historicals as Cindy Holby, too, so we’re getting two genres for the price of one here.) Well, let’s give her the floor a minute, shall we?

Ann asked me to do speed blogging since she said I rocked her world this year. That gave me a squee moment since Ann’s Grimspace and Wanderlust rocked my world this year also. The thing I loved about Ann’s books was the fact that she incorporated humor into them, even when the circumstances were dire. (And yes, peegasm is now part of my vocabulary.)

I have to have some type of humor in my stories. Even when my characters are being tortured by hot coals, demon witches or alien time suckers, they can find something humorous in the situation. Life is full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Humor will get you through anything that comes your way. Even being shot at by aliens.

–Colby Hodge / Cindy Holby

Sweet! The peegasm is making it’s way into pop culture. Soon, you’ll hear workers talking at the water coolers about how they were stuck in traffic getting to work and had a peegasm before they even booted up their computers. Mwahahaha! But this isn’t about me; it’s about Colby. Cindy. Colby? Cindy. You get the point.

I met her this past year at RT. We participated in a couple of things together and that was a pleasure. Then at RWA she stopped me in the hall on the way to the RITAs to give me a hug. She’s a sweet person in addition to being a fine writer, which brings me to the squeeing part of the program.

I really enjoy her futuristics. Like she said, she uses humor a lot, and it works. If you like a great mixture of heat, action, and intensity in your futuristics, you’ll definitely want to check her out. I remember the first time I ever read a futuristic. It was one of those capture romances, you know the ones? Where the heroine is an important captain in an advanced society, and she winds up on a primitive planet for some reason. She is then dragged off to the caveman’s lair, and he teaches her with his giant penis that she’s been wasting her whole life. I’m so glad we’ve moved beyond that particular trope. I’m glad that futuristics can offer more creativity, more imagination. Really, when you think about it, in this particular genre, the sky is the limit, and Colby is great about pushing the envelope.

I’m going to give some lucky soul an opportunity to win a Colby / Cindy sampler; that’s right, a quartet, this time. Whether you’re in the mood for a futuristic or a historical, you can sate yourself right here.

How can I get a hold of this awesome collection of books, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

You’re a starship captain, and you’ve crossed paths with a handsome space pirate more than once. This time he’s gone too far. He’s boarded your vessel and is attempting to hijack both you and your cargo. So you…

Early Christmas – day 3




Welcome to day three of Early Christmas! I hope you guys are having as much fun around here as I am. I’m rubbing my hands together with anti-Scrooge glee, just thinking about all the happy souls when I announce the winners on Monday.

Today, I have Gwyneth Bolton in the house. I met her this past year; she gave me a hug and everything. This lady is a real class act. I must admit to being a little intimidated by her, though, because she’s a college professor, so I figure she has to be uber-smart as well as talented. She was kind enough to provide me with a holiday message for readers, so let’s check that out:

If you think about it, the song didn’t lie. This really is the most wonderful time of the year! Take away the commercial aspects of the holidays and we are left with some things to grow on. You see, we move from being thankful for all we have and all we have accomplished in the year to a spirit of giving to the celebration of renewal. And lucky us, we get to embrace all of this with family and friends close by! Now, if we could only figure out how to capture and keep these wonderful holiday feelings with us year round, all day, every day… I think the wonderful Ann Aguirre has figured out a way. Happy holidays, everyone! Much love and peace…

~ Gwyneth Bolton

Cor, I’m blushing. I don’t know if I have the holiday spirit in me all year, but I do like giving away books to people who love to read. It’s one of my favorite things. And when I can share books I’ve really enjoyed with folks, that’s even better.

I totally agree with what she’s saying about that sense of renewal. A new year carries with it a sense of endless possibilities. This year didn’t turn like you thought? You have next year to make all your dreams come true.

Today, I’m featuring a trilogy (actually there are four novels but the last one doesn’t come out until next year) of Gwyneth’s about a quartet of sexy brothers named Hightower. Their names are Jason, Joel, Lawrence and Patrick.

This series reminds me a little of Suzanne Brockmann’s men in uniform books, but these stories have more urban flair. Set in New Jersey, the Hightower men have a tradition of working in public service; they raise heroes in this family, policemen and firefighters. So that gives the ladies in their lives a lot to live up to, but don’t worry; they are totally equal to the task.

The thing I like best about Gwyneth’s work is her heroines. Oh, the men are dead sexy; don’t get me wrong. But her heroines are just attitude and a half. They make me laugh out loud with their witty cracks. I also love that they take no crap. I love reading about women who have worked for their success and they’ve made it despite the odds, and Gwyneth offers that all over the place. She writes strong women, which I adore.

The first book in the series is all about the drama. The second book tackles some serious issues, but not in a way that drags you down. I love that the heroine doesn’t let the hero feel sorry for himself at all. She picks him up when he’s down, but she doesn’t become his mama. The third book in the series is just plain hot, and that’s all I’ll say about that. I can’t wait for Patrick’s story. He’s the oldest and he’s wary after a bad divorce. I just love when the oldest brother is all quiet and remote because it just means he’s gonna fall super hard when he meets the right woman. She’ll turn him ass over teakettle before he knows what hit him.

So I’m giving away a Gwyneth Bolton trilogy. If you want something hot-n-sassy in your stocking, here’s the game. You’re a romance novel heroine again, but this time, your hero is a cop (or fireman) and he’s about to leave, heading into danger. You may never see him again, so you have to make this moment count. You look deeply into his eyes and…
(Fill it in, folks! But keep it PG-13, please.)

Early Christmas – day 2 + Chapter 2

Pastiche Cover art

Chastity went quietly to pack her bag. She had no choice! There was no way anybody would believe her over Gladys. Her stepmother had told everyone she was mentally disabled in order to explain why a woman her age would be content scrubbing up orphan vomit all day long. But the truth was, Chastity would do anything to stay close to Miracle and Marvel.

To make matters worse, Gladys had destroyed all the records relating to the twins’ birth. Oh, if only she hadn’t consented to this pretense! If only she’d been strong enough to stand against the shameful stigma of being that lowliest of lepers in their quaint but friendly hamlet near Piddlehinton, which lay on the road between White Lackington and Higher Waterston: an unwed mother. If only she’d been daring enough to break away and seek her fortune with her darling babies in the comparative metropolis of Bramblecombe.

But Chastity was not known for her strength. Quite the contrary.

She removed her hair net to pack it. Perhaps Cesar would want her to work in his kitchens in addition to taking care of the twins. It was only right that she pay for the shameful way she had yielded to him. Only a whore would have acted in such a way! She bowed her slender neck, and the weight of her mass of titian curls spilled forth in a glorious profusion only rivaled by the autumnal majesty of the trees in Bloomington, Indiana on, say, October 23rd.

Chastity gazed at her reflection in the mirror and instead of a bedraggled servant, she saw her image as she’d been the night of the ball superimposed over the top. Oh, it had started so beautifully, but she should have known that anything that began in trickery could only end badly, like asking a blind man to hold her dog’s leash for a minute, when the dog in question was really just a furry seat cover full of rotten tomatoes and packing peanuts. Despite regrets too numerous to mention (even though they in fact numbered nine) she lost herself in memories. Her mind drifted away, lost in the magical twinkle of fairy lights.

Two years before

“I can’t do this,” Chastity protested to her friend. “They’ll never believe I belong there, Ferris. The Annual Friends of the Orphanage Ball is far too grand an occasion for me. Ever since Papa died, Stepmama has made it clear that she’ll find a way to cut off my school funds if I get in her way. She’ll be furious if she catches me!” She tugged fitfully at the silver lame΄. “And I’m… too small on top to wear this dress. It’s showing my chest!”

“What chest?” Ferris asked cheerfully. “You look like a broomstick. Now quit complaining while I finish these princess seams. Just don’t raise your arms and nobody will ever know the difference.”

What could Chastity do? She had no choice; she never won arguments with Ferris, who was everything she would never be: voluptuous, bold, and beautiful. If Ferris thought she should crash the ball, then she’d crash it. Perhaps she could find a quiet corner to hide for an hour or two. All she really wanted to do was quietly finish her Geology program, but nobody ever asked what she wanted.

Hours later, she felt even sorrier for herself as she mounted the white marble stairs to the private club where the event was being held. Chastity checked to make sure her disguise was fully in place. Yes, she still had on the tiara. Nobody would recognize her now!

The other women all had glamorous escorts, but who would ever look twice at such a tiny, petite little woman like herself? Men wanted curves, not coltish angles. These massive steps were more than twice the length of her tiny feet, and the gown was narrow at the bottom, so she struggled with her arrival.

“At this rate I will never make it to the top,” she muttered.

“Allow me, signora?” The dusky man’s accented voice sent a chill down her spine.

“I… I’m not married,” she stammered, overcome by the pure vision of manly beauty that had manifested beside her. She set her fingers, light as a dove’s wing, against the black sleeve of his jacket, unless of course said dove had hit a window moments before.

“No?” His tone became rich with satisfaction. “Such a fiery English rose… the men of your country must be blind.”

“Well, some are,” she said, confused that he would want to talk about disabilities on such a romantic night. It must be a defect in her tiny delicate person that made men’s thoughts turn away from passion. “Some are deaf. Others have lost limbs and what-not. I understand yet others are born with bits missing—”

The man threw back his head and laughed with such vigor that Chastity’s eyes were drawn to the rugged bulge in his trousers. “Your sense of humor, signorina, it is…affascinare.” He lifted her delicate wrist to his beautifully molded mouth. “You enchant me. Will you permit me to escort you to tonight’s function? Lamentably, my date had to cancel at the last minute, for she needed to groom her poodle.”

This couldn’t be happening, not to shy, diminutive Chastity Bliss. They’d made up such a cruel rhyme to taunt her with at school: “Chastity Bliss! Chastity Bliss! Gonna die before she’s kissed!” She gazed way up at him, taking in his strong shoulders and chiseled features. Why, she was pretty sure she’d seen his nose on a coin somewhere. Maybe one of those golden wrapped ones. Those were delicious. It had to be a sign!

***

While the tiny minx considered his invitation—as was proper—for only a whore would go with the first man who asked her, Cesar Machismo gazed down at her succulent yet dainty breasts. They looked to him like two tiny infants wrestling beneath a shiny space blanket. He had a great fondness for shiny space blankets, having grown up watching Buck Rogers reruns as a child. In fact, there were only two things he liked better than shiny space blankets: baby food and women, generally in that order.

He had never seen a woman who could match her for pure radiance. Lust surged through him like improperly cooked carrots forced through a colander. If he did get her in his arms and soon, the pulp of his love would pop with a terrible squelch. And his trousers felt tight too.

“I suppose I’d like to escort you,” she said, timid as a shy hare who was about to be turned into a particularly plebian fricassee.

Escort! His heart fell. Only a slut would use such a word to describe her company. She must be yet another gold-digger, lying in wait for him. Someone must have told her he couldn’t resist coming to the aid of a lady in distress, for he was every inch (especially the best inches) an Italian gentleman.

But no! It was a truth fit to break his lonely but insanely wealthy heart. Despite her dainty magnificence, her fragile features and her perky yet lush breasts, she was nothing but a dirty whore. On the plus side, it meant he could take her outside during the appetizer course and bang her in the shrubberies. His wee general saluted the idea.

Even knowing what sort of woman she was, he felt himself moved by the way she struggled to mount the giant stairs. She was so tiny! So fragile! He was reminded of a dainty bird trembling in the palm of his hand.

Overcome, Cesar tucked her beneath his arm and carried her the rest of the way. She smelled deliciously like the apple cobbler he’d been experimenting with for his line of gourmet baby food, and it was all he could not to take a bite right out of her then and there.

“Would you like to dance, signorina?”

She peered up at him through a tumbled red fringe with eyes as sweet and guileless as a vat of blueberry puree. Even the ridiculous false tiara she wore amid her tousled curls made him think of bedsport. “I don’t know how.”

“I will teach you,” purred Cesar. “Everything you need to know, mi tartufo di amore.”

And so they danced. Slowly, he began to realize she had no idea who he was. Her artless chatter entranced him. Perhaps she was not without conscience, decency or morals after all, unlike so many of the dirty whores who had come before her, although never before him. He must have one deliciously sweet kiss from her full yet innocent mouth.

“May I show you the gardens?” He breathed the question into her shell-like ear, only to find that was a particularly vexing accessory.

Meanwhile, his date peered up at him in confusion. “You like my earrings? My friend Ferris said it made me look like a mermaid. Oh, yes,” she added hastily. “The gardens. Please!”

Oh yes! The shell earrings, silver dress, creamy skin, Titian hair and at-sea expression did make her look like a mermaid. This woman could surely lure sailors to their doom, and Cesar felt himself falling. He’d never met anyone like this enchantress.

They walked outside together, hand in hand. The stars looked like crushed diamonds on black velvet overhead, which assumes anybody would be stupid enough to crush diamonds. It was a warm night, but Cesar used the pretext of body heat to draw her close.

He’d had such a good intentions, but when his lips touched hers, he was maddened in a fit of lust. Cesar moaned uncontrollably as he ran his tongue against the sealed virginal seam of her lips. Oh, an angel! She did not even know how to kiss properly.

That made him want to screw her sideways.

He lost all control of himself, yanking at her dress, and ravishing her breasts with his mouth like a teething toddler. The woman whimpered, soft little sounds that could have been arousal or distress. Cesar decided that as long as she didn’t actually say no, it must be the former.

Her underpants tore in his hands. How did that happen?! He’d only meant to kiss her, like the delicate flower she was. When he lifted this tiny dainty female into his arms and impaled her on his rampant rod, she sobbed in ecstasy. That meant she felt the connection too, body to soul! He thrust quickly, utterly undone. Her tiny hands dug into his shoulders, urging him on. Cesar Machismo came, roaring his pleasure. The whole world ceased, just the two of them pinwheeling together in endless ocean of sweet creamery butter.

Afterward he breathed, “L’amo. Sarei piuttosto unto nel burro e nel miele e sinistro per le formiche di vivere un altro momento senza lei dal mio lato.”

***

Or so Chastity guessed, two years later. She’d run off, leaving only a jar of baby food behind from her handbag. She liked to eat the strained peas when she was nervous.

She started as someone banged on the door. “Are you done in there, idiot girl?! You better not be daydreaming again.”

Chastity hurriedly finished packing. She couldn’t imagine how her life could possibly get worse.

~The end of chapter two~

December 15th – Carolyn Jean posted chapter 1
December 17th – Tumperkin posts chapter 3
December 18th – Bettie Sharpe posts chapter 4
December 19th – Carrie Lofty posts chapter 5
December 20th – Meljean Brook posts chapter 6
December 21st – Kate Rothwell posts chapter 7
December 22nd – Lorelie Brown posts chapter 8
December 23rd – Dionne Galace posts all 8 chapters

The Italian Gourmet Baby Food Baron’s Ironically Pregnant Virgin Mistress will eventually be available for download through Amazon and Scribd. Story concept and project vision by Tumperkin; cover design: Bettie Sharpe.




Hope you enjoyed the free read above. How’s that for holiday awesome? Anyhow, welcome to the second day of Early Christmas. I’ve changed the rules a bit here. You’ll note I didn’t wrap up yesterday’s contest yet. I thought it would be more fun to let them all ride until Monday when I announce each day’s winner and then the grand prize winner. I haven’t announced what that prize will be yet, by the way. It’s good, trust me. Since this is the internet, as a profound weasel once said, you don’t need pants for the victory dance. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today, when I’ve posted my master pastiche, who else could I possibly have on the blog except my co-conspirator Meljean Brook, who was kind enough to share a few words.

Top Five Reasons to Have a Guardian Over for the Holidays

5. They’re fast. Before you can say “Jingle Bells,” they’ll have your dishes washed, laundry folded, presents wrapped, and the holiday lights strung around the roof.
4. They’re good with their swords, so they can slay any unwelcome demons (or in-laws) who show up.
3. If you have kids that are out of school for the holiday and who are complaining that “Moooooommmmm, it’s so borrrrring! All of my friends go to exciting places on winter break!” you can ask your Guardian to take them on a trip through Hell. Chances are, next year they’ll be more than happy to stay at home.
2. Lose your Christmas tree decorations? No problem! Just have a Guardian form his wings, and stick him on top of the tree.
1. Holiday madness? Pffft. Have a Guardian fly you to a tropical island with a bikini and a suitcase full of books, make him shape-shift to look exactly like you, and send him home to let him deal with everything. And in January, when everyone asks where you got your tan and why you look so relaxed, just smile.

Happy Holidays!
Meljean

Now it’s time for the squeeing. I’ve read all of her books now, even the anthologies. I can honestly say that DEMON ANGEL was the only one I didn’t love. (I found it by the way. Win! I cleaned out the hope chest at the foot my bed.) I realize this will come as a shock to some readers, but I still love Colin best. I’ve read Ethan and Jake, but Colin is still the big win for me, along with Savi. I’d have to put them in my top ten couples for 2008, in fact. Closer to the New Year, I’ll probably have to make up a list of my faves. I posted about her writing not long ago; read this for more squeeing.

Now I’m going to talk about something a little more general, which applies to Meljean as well. I’ll let you in on a little secret; for me, character is everything. I can forgive a lot in the name of compelling characters. If the writing is good (and hers is fierce), that’s even better. I’ve been known to be vastly entertained by books that don’t make a lick of sense when analyzed critically. I mean, obviously I prefer smart plotting (which Meljean has), but if I had to choose between an airtight plot with flat characters and a Swiss cheese story peopled with folks who glow with life… you know which I’m gonna choose.

Meljean is a smart writer. By which I mean, her books are not cotton candy. You’d better want something to sink your teeth into and spend several hours with. The dialog is clever and fast. The plotting is keen as a knife. But the artistry of her writing and the power of the characters is where she truly shines. When I read her , I sigh in admiration over the way she puts her words together. Vivid. Evocative. She is a hotly sensual writer — and I don’t just mean in the sex scenes. She uses language as if it’s foreplay, seducing the reader into her world, which is richly imagined and solidly built. Whew, this is just a mammoth post. So let’s call it here.

Want a Meljean Brook quad for Christmas? Ask for it. How? Simple. You’re a romance novel heroine and you’ve just found out your life is in terrible danger. But not to worry! You have your own Guardian to protect you. What’s he like?

Alternately, if you comment on the chapter, that also enters you in the contest. Good luck!

Early Christmas – day 1

EDITED TO ADD: Here’s a special holiday treat for free! Remember I told you we were working on a holiday pastiche? Go devour chapter one. Chapter two will be here tomorrow in addition to the second day of early Christmas.




Hi and welcome to the first day of Early Christmas, where I give you an opportunity to meet authors of books I’ve loved. What’s even better than that? Well, of course, I also give you a chance to win them.

This is the second annual celebration. I did this last year, and it was a big hit, I think. This year, I have five amazing authors in the house. First up, we have Annie Solomon. Here’s a holiday greeting she was kind enough to send my way.


Happy Holidays everyone! I hope good times and warm celebrations are in store for all. I tried to take the month of December off, but alas, that darn thing called “work” had other ideas. I just turned in the final revisions on my May 2009 romantic suspense, ONE DEADLY SIN, and need to start on the next book, TWO LETHAL LIES. No rest for the wicked. I hope the rest of you are goofing off and getting ready for friends and family.

When I’m not doing what I’m supposed to, I’m knitting scarves and making jewelry and thinking about how to avoid all the calories in store for me in the upcoming weeks. May the New Year bring you breathing space and guilt-free apple pie. And lots of good books.

–Annie Solomon

I’ve squeed about her books more than once on here, but in case you need a reminder…

Annie writes romantic suspense — and not just any romantic suspense. Totally ass-kicking suspense. My chief objection in most RS that the hero and heroine are on the run for their lives, fleeing whatever psycho killer is stalking them… and what do they do? They stop somewhere to bump uglies. It’s like watching a horror movie where the blond in her white nightie insists on going down to check out the dark basement, even though she knows someone is stalking her. Only with books I’m totally denied the satisfaction of hurling popcorn at the screen.

With Ms. Solomon, there’s none of that. Her plotting is taut and realistic. The threats are always credible, and her characters are very smart in their behavior… except when they’re not. I mean that in a good way, however. Sometimes the characters are so damaged (which I love!) that they act in self-destructive ways, taking stupid risks. But NOT because they’re stupid or because the plotting requires that particular bonehead move. It’s never like that, a fact I simply love about her work. She’s not afraid to push the envelope, not afraid to write about an ugly heroine getting her happy ending, or about a nurturing male who makes no apologies for the fact that he likes to take care of people. Her sexual tension is always smoking hot, layered with serious conflict. DEAD SHOT just rocked my world. If there’s anything romance needs, it’s more authors who take risks (and nail them). They also need readers looking for that kind of thing, which is where you come in.

Today, we have up for grabs the first Early Christmas prize package. To enter, you tell me in comments why you want an Annie Solomon trifecta in your stocking. It’s gonna be busy, busy, busy around here this week, so keep watching this space.

Undercover winners

Brad Gallaway
Jennygirl
Wrighty
Kati (10)
Katee (16)

I only used numbers when there could be confusion as to who I mean. Congrats, people! I hope you like this uber-sexy book. You have a week to respond to the email I’m about to send. If you fail to reply by next Sunday, someone else gets your prize. Ohnoes! Don’t let that happen.

Stay tuned for more prizes all this week, as early Christmas kicks off tomorrow. I’ll be stuffing your stockings all week long. (And why the hell does that sound so dirty? It seemed so wholesome in my head…)

Massive Undercover contest

I’ve been waiting for Frauke to design something sexy for this, but I don’t want to wait any longer. When she comes up with something, I’ll add it to the post. So without further ado… I offer my crappy placeholder graphic until I get a better picture! (Hey, my skills do NOT lie in design.)

Lauren Dane is a good friend of mine, so I’m totally stoked for her. She’s now a nationally bestselling author, which is a wicked achievement. But wait, there’s more! She’s also been nominated for an RT award for this book. It’s a smokin’ hot menage, which isn’t usually my thing, but Lauren really makes it work. UNDERCOVER is so sexalicious; you’ll be sorry when it’s over. Don’t despair, though. She has another book in this same universe coming out next year. You won’t want to miss RELENTLESS either. I’ve read both of them, and they’re yummy.

undercover

At any rate, I’m giving away FIVE (5) copies of this bad boy. How can you win one? Simple. Tell me in comments under what circumstances you’d have a threesome. No, you don’t have to get graphic. This isn’t 1-900-talkdirty2ann.

For instance, Lauren’s answer was: “Clive Owen on one side and Gerard Butler on the other.”

See how easy it is? You can give more detail if you want, but keep it PG-13, pls. (Won’t someone think of the children?)

As always there may be surprise giveaways. I’m thinking I’d like to give out a copy of Cynthia Eden’s latest release. Maybe Vivi Anna and Anya Bast, too. You just never know what might happen when I put on my Loot Hat. I’ll wrap this contest up at midnight on Saturday and announce the winner on Sunday.

Get going, ladies! You know you want a copy of this.