Penny Watson, reader, writer, reviewer, martini-drinker, weenie dog-owner, beard-lover and ambassador of romance.
Word on the street is that you need to write a middle-of-the-road story to attract readers. Get a lot of sales. Totally makes sense.
You don't want to lean too far to the right, too far to the left.
You want to make your characters likable, redeemable.
You need to make them relatively attractive. So folks want to read about these characters doing the horizontal lambada and not totally freak out.
You need to color within the lines. The romance lines. Young people, attractive people, dealing with issues like coming-of-age, overcoming trauma, family stuff. This is all perfectly acceptable.
But what if...what if...
You chucked all convention?
What if you decided to do the OPPOSITE? Would you sell any books?
What if you made your characters old. Older than I've ever seen in a traditional romance novel.
In their 60s. Hmm.
What if a character was rude, politically incorrect to an extreme, chain-smoked, was borderline alcoholic, and swore like a drunken sailor?
Would consumers want to read about him?
What if a character was uptight, a busybody, sexually-repressed, a judgmental know-it-all, and had been crushed by a cheating, unappreciative husband for forty years?
I don't know.
That's the real answer.
I don't know what will happen.
I took a big risk and colored WAY outside the lines.
This book is NOT a traditional romance. It's a love story. About real, flawed people.
I don't know what's going to happen.
But I do know that I had a great time writing this book.
It isn't exactly a romance, according to the genre parameters. But it is still a love story. And it's still romantic.
Does that makes sense?
APPLES SHOULD BE RED is now available at Amazon (ebook) for $1.99. It will be available later in the week at B/N and Kobo. And within the month it will be released in print, too.
Here's the purchase link at Amazon: APPLES SHOULD BE RED
If you decide to take a chance and read about Tom and Bev, let me know. I want to hear your feedback, good and bad. Something tells me you'll be cheering for this couple by the end of the story.
I know it's hot and trendy to write YA/NA books right now, but since I have teenagers at home, it's the very last thing I want to read about.
I'm pushing fifty, and quite looking forward to it. I wish there were more "geriatric love stories" floating around. That's tongue-in-cheek, but honestly the romance genre considers thirty five "mature" so there seems to be a gigantic gap in books with "older" characters.
Anyhow, I wrote one.
Here's the blurb for APPLES SHOULD BE RED...
Recipe for Thanksgiving Dinner:
Start with sixty-two year old politically incorrect, chain-smoking, hard-cussing curmudgeon.
Add fifty-nine year old sexually-repressed busybody in pearls.
Throw in beer can-turkey, a battle for horticultural supremacy, and nudist next-door neighbor.
Serve on paper plates, garnished with garden gnome.
Tastes like happily ever after.
Penny Watson presents an over-fifty romantic comedy novella. 21,000 words. Story includes copious profanity, botanical references, and old people.
COMING SOON! MARCH 2014!
Review for GEEK WITH THE CAT TATTOO by Theresa Weir
I did three things this week that made me super excited for the new year. (Bear with me a second. I'll get to the book review in a moment.)
1. I watched The Secret Life of Water Mitty. It's the story of a schlumpy, hopeless, quiet man who has to live his life in daydreams because his reality is such a disappointment. And then something happens...he finds courage. He finds the courage to take risks, to open up himself to new experiences, to open up his heart to the greatest risk we all face...loving another person. I ADORED this film. And it is the perfect movie to watch to get pumped for 2014. Ready for adventure and risk and love.
2. I got an idea. A kernel of an idea. And it grew and blossomed and became a bigger idea. And it involves risk and trying new things and adventure--in a professional sense--and I have a really good feeling about it. It involves another collaboration with brilliant artist Sara Pulver, a weenie dog named Lucy, and Santa Claus.
Wait for it.
3. I read a book. Not just any book. A book that is willing to take risks. Geek with the Cat Tattoo. It has a cat with a POV--and he is a real smart-ass. He has a very strong personality, and he doesn't always do the right thing. This book has a nerdy young man, who is brilliant at creating musical instruments, and sucks at interacting with people. It has an adorable young woman who creates beautiful music, but she is still living in the shadow of her successful father, and she is afraid to fall in love. This little book has all of my favorite things...laugh-out-loud humor, gorgeously-written prose, characters who are real and flawed and lovely in their own way, and old-fashioned romantic moments I forgot still existed. The kind that happened in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The kind that evidently still happen in romance novels, but rarely do.
A man who is afraid to speak to the woman he loves, so he pours all of his heart and soul into one perfect instrument.
The woman who is frustrated and afraid, and pours all of her fears and love into one perfect song.
This book is actually a series of incredibly romantic moments strung together with beautiful writing and sassy cats and funny bits and music.
It isn't your typical romance novel. It is different and special and funny and sweet. And romantic.
That's how I want to start 2014. Finishing a book in the waiting room of a beauty salon while my daughter gets her hair dyed blue, and smiling a huge, gigantic smile because evidently some romance novels do still remember what romance is supposed to be.
If you haven't got the idea yet, I really liked this book.
PENELOPE'S HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION: GEEK WITH THE CAT TATTOO by Theresa Weir.
(And if you haven't read the first one, Girl with the Cat Tattoo, I highly recommend that adorable story as well).
It's a great way to start the new year!
HAPPY NEW YEAR,
Download a copy today on me and enjoy!
Romance readers take note!
I wanted to read a book that was Christmas-y, endearing, fun and lighthearted. Well, I got all of that and more!
Penny Watson created her own world with Santa's first born son, the fastidious pastry chef Nicholas, and Lucy Brewster, a kind, workaholic cafe owner. Her tales of romance and cookie recipes and North Pole drama will make any romantic sigh. She adds in the right measure of humor and hard drinking bar elves to keep it from being saccharine.
I found it to be a quick and delightful read.
NOTE: This is NOT a children's book! There were sex scenes that contained extra doses of pepper and ginger in the pfeffernusse, if you get my drift.
✰HOLIDAY BASH AND GIVE-AWAY✰
Oh my goodness! Guess what time it is? It's CHRISTMAS TIME!
Which means it's time to eat these...
And decorate this...
And go shopping and wrapping...
And watch this Christmas movie...
And maybe even treat yourself to some wonderful books! (HEY THAT'S A GREAT IDEA!)
Welcome to Penelope's Holiday Bash! In the spirit of Christmas, we are giving away all kinds of fun stuff this week. Print books, digital books, ornaments, lip balm, and even my famous GOT WOOD mug...(see photo below)...
Remember this? With the vintage cover...(a collector's item!)
All you have to do to enter the give-aways is leave a comment HERE! Include your email so I can get in touch with you!
We have four fun packages...
❅ Indie Basket Give-Away--Print books (for US commenters):
Sweetened with a Kiss by Lexxi Callahan
Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
Alaska Heart by Christine DePetrillo (small press)
Lucy the Wonder Weenie by Nina Clark
❅ Digital Book Give-Away:
Flirting with the Camera by Ros Clarke
Fair Play by Samantha Wayland
The Heart of a Duke by Victoria Morgan
The Girl with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir
❅ Lumberjack In Love Package (for US commenters):
One print copy of Lumberjack In Love
One LIL mug with extra goodies (see photo above)
❅ Penelope's Motley Crew Package:
Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid
Different Strokes by Nico Jaye
Tangled by Emma Chase (Steph's fav)
Still Life by Louise Penny (Penny Sr's fav)
This give-away will be open all week!
Also coming up this week will be favorite Christmas cocktail recipes, and an awesome list of suggested gift ideas for the holidays. Penny's Favorite Things!
Stay tuned for more...
Yes, it's a cartoon. I did it again. A cartoon.
*Penny waits while everyone chuckles at her expense*
I just wanted to offer a fun holiday shortie for my long-suffering fans and readers and people who like to make fun of me.
So, here you go!
Here's the blurb...
Looking for a super-schmaltzy, super-sweet, super-beardy, super-short holiday snowbound-in-a-cabin romance?
You just found it.
❄ A LUMBERJACKY CHRISTMAS by Penny Watson ❄
Happy Holidays To All! On the Velveeta Cheesiness Scale, I'm giving this a 9.9. It's X-tremely cheesy, just the way I like my holiday stories.
A couple more things...today is the last day for THE HEART OF A DUKE give-away. Check it out!
Also, RT Book Reviews has a nice article called Self-Published Romance and Erotica: Titles Self-Pub Authors Recommend. I have a big list of books I loved included in the article. Take a look.
Finally, Monday is the beginning of my huge HOLIDAY BASH. It will be going on all week. I'll be giving away dozens of amazing books, both print and digital. I'm also sharing a tasty holiday cocktail recipe, and a list of recommended gift ideas for folks who need some shopping inspiration. Don't miss it!
Hope everyone has a great weekend. I am putting up the tree, decorating the house, making Christmas cookies, celebrating my daughter's birthday, and cranking out some cards.
Where's my elf?
Fa la la la la,
1. Best Book With A Troll, Centaur, and BBW:
Troll-y Yours by Sheri Fredricks
I got this book as a joke. A curvy-girl (BBW) book with a centaur, trolls, and various other quirky characters? Well, surprise, surprise! The book had great world-building details, an engaging romantic storyline, and even some interesting commentary on ethnic discrimination. I liked it!
2. Best Movie With A Hot Tub:
I'm not sure how I missed this gem in 2010, but I made up for my oversight by heartily enjoying it this year. John Cusack + 1980s music + asinine humor + Crispin Glover with his arm chopped off. It just doesn't get any better than that. I would recommend turning this movie-watching experience into a drinking game. Rules: Drink the whole time.
3. New Favorite Hilarious Over-The-Top Historical Writer Who Also Happens To Be Self-Published:
I read Penelope and Seeking Philbert Woodbead this year, and I was tickled pink with both of them. Wylde's sense of humor is divine--quirky, ridiculous, over-the-top farce. I just adore this type of historical romance novel. She has an utterly unique voice in this genre, and I was charmed.
4. Best Beard of the Year/Best Ginger Beard of the Year/Best Hairy Guy of the Year/you get the idea:
Lucas Parker on my blog
Lucas Parker on my Pinterest board
Lucas Parker on Twitter
Lucas Parker on Facebook
What? I like Lucas Parker. Sue me.
5. Favorite New Discovery:
She writes fabulous comedy, quirky characters, is a brilliant scientist, a devoted knitter, and wears giant potholder dresses on airplanes. What's not to love? This is my author-to-watch for 2014 and beyond. Talented, funny, willing to take chances and be innovative with the self-publishing industry. I adore her. Neanderthal Seeks Human, Penny's debut novel, is one of my favorite romance reads for 2013.
6. Dumbest New Trend In Romance: NA
New Adult? What's next? SCPA (Single Cell Pre-Adult, aka embryonic stage), IPWISA (I Pee When I Sneeze Adult--50-something romance), and possibly DA (Dead Adult, could also be a zombie book).
7. Best Use Of Tai Chi To Defeat Would-Be Villain Award...
....goes to My Sunshine by Catherine Anderson. A deranged lunatic vet tech who exposes her boobies and tries to take out the heroine with a big-ass knife, a brain-damaged character who has severe memory loss but remembers all of her tai chi moves just in the nick of time, and an asinine dog rescue on the highway make this one of the most ridiculous books I read this year. And that's saying something (see CUM 4 BIGFOOT).
8. Best Book With A Cat's POV:
The Girl With The Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir
Right up my alley. Quirky, cute, fun, romantic and even had a suspenseful storyline thrown in for good measure. You know when the cat's POV starts the book, you're in for a treat. And this book is a 5000-star treat. Another favorite romance read from 2013.
9. Favorite New Erotica Writer:
Scarlett likes to torture me on Twitter by discussing non-vanilla, troubling topics (bum sex *cough cough*). Also, she has the most exquisite cuss combinations on the face of the earth. So color me surprised when I discovered that this hard-cussing, highly-opinionated author has major writing chops, excellent character insight, fast-paced humorous dialogue, and sweat-inducing sex scenes. Her writing is a hybrid of literary fiction-style with erotica. It's fantastic. Another author-to-watch for 2014 and beyond.
10. Favorite 2013 Christmas Story:
Starry Night: A Christmas Novel by Debbie Macomber
Huge fat thank-you to Kate at Babbling About Books for recommending this adorable holiday story. I read a lot of stinkers this year, but this one was lovely. It had a grumpy bearded Alaskan writer! Grumpy! Bearded! Alaska! I loved it.
11. Favorite Cocktail:
Strawberry Basil Lemonade (with kick) at the NJRWA conference. Soooooooo good!
12. Best Vanilla Menage:
(and only vanilla menage)...
Commando Cowboys Seduce Their Woman by Paige Cameron
Let's face it. Finding a non-kinky menage story is almost impossible. Nevertheless, I was on a mission. To find a "sweeter" menage with no bum-sex, BDSM, or other sexual practices I needed to Google for clarification. And guess what? I found one! This book was a "caretaker" menage--the two hot studs cooked, cleaned, gave foot massages, and generally serviced their woman in a highly satisfactory manner.
And if you believe that one, I have some land to sell you in Florida.
But it was fun!
13. Most Disturbing Fashion Trend: The Hipster Lumberjack
Skinny jeans + cardigan sweaters + dorky glasses DOES NOT EQUAL lumberjack.
14. Favorite New Indie Book Set In New Orleans With Super Hot Chemistry:
Sweetened With A Kiss by Lexxi Callahan
I loved this book so much I read it twice in one week. Another wonderful debut showing by an indie author. Super smoky hot chemistry between the H/h made for a very sexy story, which was perfectly paired with a steamy New Orleans setting. Looking forward to more from this author.
15. Biggest Sci-Fi Film Disappointment of the Year:
Hey, I have an idea! Let's make a sci fi film with the most iconic spaceship in the genre, and keep the cast grounded on earth for the majority of the movie? Isn't that a great idea?
Um, no. Actually it's a horrible freakin' idea.
Here's hoping the next Star Trek movie GETS US INTO SPACE!
16. Best Bigfoot Orgy Erotica Series:
Cum 4 Bigfoot by Virginia Wade
(I'm guessing that just by typing the last two sentences, I'm pretty much assuring myself a place in hell. I hope they have nice 2-BR condos there).
There's nothing like reading about pot-smoking, girl-abducting, growling, groaning, tea-drinking, loom-weaving, horny-ass bigfoot dudes to guarantee you'll never go into the woods again.
17. Best Starbucks Hot Beverage/Book Pairing:
I recommend drinking a tasty peppermint mocha while reading Christine DePetrillo's Alaska Heart, a lovely story about an Iditarod-winner in Alaska. Curling up in front of a fake duraflame-enhanced fire would also be a good idea.
18. Dumbest SyFy Movie Ever:
When you get so bored watching sharks fly out of the sky that you start reading catalogues in desperation, you know your made-for-television movie is a bust. Not even Tara Reid could save this one. I loved how the scene would be raining one moment, then sunny the next, then windy the next, then storming the next. I want that editing job!
19. Most Romantic Read of 2013:
The Tenderfoot Bride by Cheryl St. John (2007)
This oldie but goodie Harly was so wonderful I actually bought a print copy after reading the ebook. It's a traditional western romance with a gruff hero, a battered heroine desperate for a new life, and a super-satisfying, slow, simmering romance. I cried at the end. This is what romance is all about. Fabulous novel.
20. BEST BOOK OF 2013:
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN by Louise Penny
After leaving her readers in quite a state following THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, Louise Penny had a huge challenge with this book. A complicated overlying story arc to be tied up, a heart-wrenching disintegration of a beloved character, a leader fighting seemingly impossible odds. So, what did she do? She wrote a gorgeous, romantic, satisfying book that was pure, utter bliss. Not only did it satisfy the mystery-lover in me, it satisfied the romance-lover, too.
How The Light Gets In is a winner by a long shot. And Gamache, without a doubt, is my "Best Hero of 2013."
Happy Reading To All!
In a moment of poor judgment, I purchased this book for $2.99. And I read it.
1. The minotaur was indeed horny. (As was everyone else in this story).
2. The minotaur was a stand-up guy with integrity who was protective of his human breeding partner.
3. He was really looking forward to her having his "calf."
Also, this cover is INSANE!
It's release day for THE HEART OF A DUKE! Yippeeee! Victoria Morgan has enjoyed a stellar debut year...her first novel FOR THE LOVE OF A SOLDIER won first place for BEST FIRST BOOK in the Golden Leaf Contest at NJRWA. It was also nominated for Best First Historical at RT Book Reviews. THE HEART OF A DUKE is Morgan's follow-up novel with Berkley.
Stephanie Kay will be reviewing this lovely book today. And I'm giving away a free copy to one lucky commenter at Penelope's Romance Reviews!
A Review of The Heart of a Duke by Victoria Morgan
❊Review by Stephanie Kay❊
Have you ever read a debut author and when you finished the book, it felt like you were reading a book written by an author who had been published for years? Well that is how I felt when I read Victoria Morgan’s first book, For the Love of a Soldier. If you haven’t read it, you definitely should. She just won the NJRWA Golden Leaf award for best debut novel and is nominated for an RT award for best first historical. She should totally win!
But I’m not here to review her debut novel…I just like any opportunity to promote it, since I LOVED it!
Back to her second book, The Heart of a Duke. Which I also LOVED. This book is another example of a great historical romance. The plot is well developed, and filled with mystery and suspense. I loved the sharp and witty dialogue. The pacing is fast and I found myself sucked in by the opening scene.
Mistaken identities and kissing. How can you go wrong with that?
Lady Julia, headstrong and stubborn heroine (my favorite type) is tired of waiting for her betrothed, the Duke of Bedford to marry her. She finds him alone one day and taking matters into her own hands, she kisses him. Only it turns out to be his twin brother, Daniel. Our hero. He is adorable, protective, and enjoys taunting her. I love the combination of teasing and sexual tension that carries through the entire novel. Daniel is determined to protect Julia from his villainous brother, and she is determined to protect him at the same time.
What I love about Victoria’s characters is how well written they are. They come alive on the page. I feel like I’m reading about real people, not just characters in a book. But it is not just the hero and heroine that come alive, but her secondary characters as well. I really hope that a few of them get their own story next. Preferably Brett (Daniel’s business partner) and Emily (Julia’s sister).
I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for an enjoyable historical romance with a happy ending that will make you smile. Victoria Morgan is a new author to watch and I can’t wait for the next book.
The holidays can be stressful, so take a break from all that cookie baking and present wrapping to read this book! (Apparently exclamation points mean yelling, so I’m ordering you to read this book ☺)
Stephanie, thank you so much for this great review!!!! (note the exclamation points, Stephanie's favorite punctuation). It sounds like another winner from Victoria Morgan!
Please go to Penelope's Romance Reviews to enter the giveaway. Contest open until Friday December 6.
Review for TAKE ME HOME by Inez Kelley
I had a tough reading round-up last week. A couple of books that were highly recommended to me which basically had heroes who were complete and utter jerks.
I'm not on board with that. Male characters can be flawed, real, domineering, and have integrity at the same time. You can't just call any old guy a "hero." A real hero has to earn that term. Earn it.
Okay, enough about that. Let's move on to this sweet book!
I have been looking forward to this one for a LONG time. Why? IT'S ABOUT A LUMBERJACK! Even though Matt corrects the heroine every time she uses that term. He's a modern man--ergo, a lumber man/logging manager. Lumberjack is an old-fashioned term.
What I liked...I LOVED all the fascinating research about the lumber industry, the maple syrup industry, the setting. Kelley really did her homework and it shows. This book is X-tremely lumberjacky...lots of chopping and sawing. Yee haw! (No beard, but there was scruff!)
I also really liked the cast of supporting characters--the camaraderie with the male friends had fun, realistic dialogue.
The hero is a REAL hero. He is tortured by a difficult past, but has integrity, honor, loyalty to friends and family. When the heroine needs him, he is there in a flash, even after they have a huge falling-out.
The heroine is sweet and looking for a place to put down roots. But she is also determined to make her own business successful, and she's a hard-worker. I liked that a lot, too.
The first half of the book was bogged down by too much sex, and it took a while to get into a groove. But by the second half of the book, it became an emotional, romantic journey--reminded me a bit of Robyn Carr's Virgin River Series, with the same small town feel, group of friends-like-family, gorgeous setting.
The ending was satisfying and romantic. And sexy (maple syrup was involved).
What I didn't like...
There was a typo in the first paragraph, on the first page of the book. Come on Carina Press, you can do better than that. I find it amusing that so many people are constantly giving self-pubbed authors crap about their lack of editing, but most of the time, I'm finding typos in traditionally published books.
My main problem with this book was...the sex. The hero and heroine come off as complete horn-dogs at the beginning of the story. There are times I don't mind that, but in this case it was jarring and felt forced.
The premise for this story was fantastic--woman buys property that hero lost to foreclosure, not realizing her new dream home is part of some extremely painful memories for the man she is falling in love with. The main storyline is solid, and their relationship (minus the sex) was believable. But the initial sex scenes felt gratuitous to me. Unless it's an erotica, casual and graphic sex scenes are not adding anything to the story. And this book really felt like romance.
The only love scene that made a lot of sense to the story was the final one in the maple syrup shack. It was sexy, emotional, fit the story perfectly.
I'm not sure if publishers are pushing their authors to add extra sex scenes that don't make a lot of organic sense to the story, or if authors think they need them "to sell." Whatever the reason, I've read a good half dozen books within the last couple of months that had sex scenes that did not complement the story going on.
I know. All of you are screaming YOU ARE SO VANILLA, PENNY. GET WITH THE PROGRAM. SEX SELLS.
In conclusion, I thought TAKE ME HOME was a romantic and satisfying story. It had a bit too much sex for Vanilla Penny, but the lush setting, fascinating details about the logging industry and maple syrup process, and solid main characters and secondary characters, made this a strong beginning for the series. I'm looking forward to reading more by Inez Kelley.
The Christmas season is upon us! Time for a special holiday treat!
I recently got the rights back for The Klaus Brothers Series from my publisher, and so I re-released SWEET MAGIK (Book #2) with a brand-new cover, compliments of Penny Reid. I LOVE IT!
I don't have any new holiday stories this year, so I thought it would be nice to offer the first two books on sale...
SWEET INSPIRATION (The Klaus Brothers Series #1)
SWEET MAGIK (The Klaus Brothers Series #2) are
99 cents at these locations...
Sweet Inspiration (Book #1)... Read more about this book here!
Amazon -- 99 cents
Barnes and Noble -- 99 cents
Kobo -- 99 cents
Sweet Magik (Book #2)... Read more about this book here!
Amazon -- 99 cents
Barnes and Noble -- 99 cents
Kobo -- 99 cents
I've seen warnings on some erotica, so I thought I would add one here for my series. Ready?
THE KLAUS BROTHERS SERIES contains scenes with elves, x-treme Christmas spirit, Santa Claus, the North Pole, sex-in-a-sleigh, magic, old-fashioned romance, and very sweet scenarios. It requires a willing suspension of disbelief, a love of beards, and is enhanced by the addition of a gingerbread latte.
I've made up a couple of fun Etsy treasury collections to celebrate!
Check out THE ELFIN APOCALYPSE!
Check out PEPPERMINTY PANACHE!
I decided the rest of the series will be novellas. Coming up next...Sweet Adventure (#3) is Sven's story. I added a new one just for Gregor and his true love called Sweet Cinderella (#4). And the final novella is Sweet Destiny (#5), which is Wolfgang's story.
I'm hoping to get SWEET ADVENTURE out for next xmas, 2014.
Please spread the word about this awesome sale. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Review for The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters by Amy Lane
❆ A review by Nico Jaye ❆
Hi romance readers! I'm Nico Jaye, and I'll be popping into the site with some m/m (a.k.a. male/male) romance reviews.
With the holiday season coming up, Penny has me thinking about (i.e., drooling over) gingerbread men and peppermint spice lattes. I can't get enough! Ahhh! *slurps peppermint cocoa* *ahem* While Penny's in the midst of reading her Christmas-themed stories, I figured I'd swing by to share an m/m romance Christmas rec of my own. :)
Amy Lane's The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters is a cute, sweet, angst-free novella of adorable and yarnfully-awesome proportions. It's filled with character, from the narrator Crawford's gruff ways to the gentle hand with which he cares for his alpacas to the titular courtship rituals he engages in to woo his new neighbor. I adored it and thought it was just the thing to snuggle up with for a nice little dose of winter holiday joy.
In the m/m romance world, Amy Lane is known for her angst-filled stories, and this novella is a nice break from that trend. I'm definitely not an angsty reader—in fact, I'm pretty allergic to it – ACHOO!—and this one hit just the right mark for me. It's heartwarming, and, if you haven't read m/m romance before, then I think it'd be a great little introduction to the m/m romance world. There's a sexytimes scene in it, but it's not terribly explicit. It's also at a point in the story where you'll be celebrating that the two men finally got their signals in tune and opened their hearts to each other. :) In addition to two wonderful men finding love, you'll also read about quirky side characters, winter prep in the Colorado Rockies, and yarn-related awesomeness. There may even be a scandalous knitting pattern included at the end of the book. ;)
This story was super sweet and lighthearted, and I look forward to enjoying it for many holidays to come. Hope you all are having a great holiday season! Keep an eye out for more m/m Christmas-y goodies from yours truly. :)
Making merry with menfolk under the mistletoe,
Thanks so much, Nico, for this adorable review. This book sounds RIGHT UP MY ALLEY. I can't wait to read it!
(I am trying to imagine a scandalous knitting pattern...hmmmmm................)
So I did a couple of things last night that are pretty rare for me.
(No, I didn't work out at the gym.)
(No, I didn't cook dinner...ha ha! Funny.)
(No, I didn't flat-iron my hair.)
What I did is...
A. Read a PRINT book. Carumba!
B. Read a mainstream contemporary romance.
C. Read my first ever Kristan Higgins book.
Last night I was stuck in bed because Lucy my weenie dog fell asleep on my lap and I didn't have the heart to move her.
So I reached over to my nightstand to grab the first thing I could for reading material. I had a stack of books I got at the NJRWA conference, and right on top was THE PERFECT MATCH by Kristan Higgins.
I wanted to DNF the book pretty much right away. The whole beginning felt very contrived (gyn appointment for 35 year old...EGGS ARE DYING, HURRY UP AND GET A MAN), accidentally getting caught naked in front of wanna-be boyfriend's parents while attempting to seduce him (EGGS ARE DYING, HURRY UP AND GET A MAN), and it goes on.
And if you think I'm over-doing the EGGS thing, let me tell you that the EGGS have a deep POV in this book, in italics, from beginning to end.
Yes, the EGGS have a POV.
Now, I get it. This is humor. This is also the main reason why I don't read very much mainstream contemporary romance. The whole "my eggs are dying I must find a man" plot device is not that successful for me. I know. For a big chunk of women's fiction and contemporary romance, this is a go-to plot device. We're getting older, we're getting desperate. Yada yada yada. Just doesn't work for me.
But what REALLY doesn't work for me is the TSTL heroine. And this heroine, although a successful business woman, has not one, but two BEST FRIENDS who are complete assholes.
She keeps saying how her best guy friend is "a nice guy" when in reality, um...no. He uses her for casual sex, is totally clueless about how in love she is with him (sure, I believe that), and just weeks after she asks him to marry her and he rejects her, he gets ENGAGED TO HER BEST GIRLFRIEND. And he's all..."You're okay with this, right?"
That's your best guy friend? Really?
And now for THE OTHER BEST FRIEND. Her bestie gal pal, who consoles her after this paragon of masculine virtue rejects her, is really an insecure back-stabbing bitch who steals her life-long crush, seduces him, gets engaged to him, pretends she's carrying his baby, and has the UNMITIGATED GALL TO ASK THE HEROINE TO BE HER MAID OF HONOR AT THEIR WEDDING.
That's your best girlfriend? Really?
This is another plot device that seems good on paper--HEY! Let's have the best girlfriend and the life-long crush get together and squash the heroine's hopes and dreams and scare her dying, 35-year-old eggs.
On paper, yeah, good.
But in reality, if you're a person who has such incredibly bad taste in friends, is totally clueless about people you think are "nice" actually being "assholes" and then CONTINUING TO BE NICE TO THEM AFTER THEY KEEP TREATING YOU LIKE CRAP...it makes you look bad. Really bad.
Too Stupid To Live-Bad.
Also, I'm not even going to get into the fact that the heroine DECIDES TO MARRY A PERFECT STRANGER TO HELP HIM GET HIS GREEN CARD even after HE IS A TOTAL JERK TO HER AT A BAR.
(Another winning plot device).
But he has a sexy British accent, so there is that.
And then the hero saves the heroine's life not once, but TWICE!
1. Heroine almost dies by drowning.
2. Heroine almost dies by fire.
(If there had been an earthquake, that could have been the perfect triumvirate of near-death experiences...earth, water, and fire.)
And then, after the hideous best friends crushing her, two near-death experiences, her eggs screaming for mercy, and her new man telling her he does not love her thereby crushing her poor soul yet again, we finally get to the end.
What I wanted...
1. Asshole friends to be publicly humiliated.
2. A super-satisfying HEA for the hero and heroine after going through hell.
3. A nice sex scene would have been good.
What I got...
1. Asshole friends storyline NOT RESOLVED. They are having problems, but we never hear about what happens to them. Um...really? After all that business, there is NO RESOLUTION.
2. Hero and heroine make up in the hospital in about 5 seconds. Not kidding. This is ONE page of the book. After all that angst, ONE FREAKIN' PAGE. Not satisfying.
3. No sex scene.
So now you know what I didn't like about this book.
But there was something I DID like.
The hero is absolutely fantastic. He has an adorable British accent, I loved his flawed character, he is crazy sexy. He is the man. Their romance worked, in spite of the gimmicky plot devices that threatened to destroy an otherwise lovely romantic story.
I read this book in one sitting, desperate to finish and find out what happened, to see the H/h get their happy ending. And that's a big deal. That's what romance is all about.
My conclusion about Kristan Higgins...
1. Skip the generic, over-done, not believable, gimmick-y plot devices.
2. Focus on the romance.
3. One melodramatic near-death catastrophe would be sufficient.
As you can tell, I am pretty conflicted about this book. I loved the romance and couldn't put it down, but I was beyond frustrated with many character and plot issues.
I'm not sure if I'll be reading any more KH, but that could be more of a result of me not loving mainstream contemporary romance than a reflection of the author.
If any of you have a favorite KH book, especially one that is not so frustrating to read, I would love some recommendations.
What a way to start the week,
A Review of Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid
***Review written by STEPHANIE KAY, New Ultra-Excellent Crew Member at Penelope's Romance Reviews***
(I will be announcing and introducing the whole new crew very soon, but please give Steph a warm welcome today and feel free to heckle her. I always do!)
Penny Reid has done it again with her second novel in the Knitting in the City series.
I loved Janie and Sir Quinn McHotpants from her first book, Neanderthal Seeks Human. In fact I believe I read the entire book in one day. I swear I do work. It must have been a weekend. And then I quickly friended Penny on Facebook. She is just as hysterical as her characters.
So when I saw that she was releasing Friends Without Benefits earlier than scheduled, I quickly downloaded it. Unfortunately it was a Tuesday, and I had to work, so it took me a day and a half to read. I took a lot of breaks that day!
I absolutely adored Elizabeth and Nico “The Face” Manganiello. Penny’s characters are so quirky and real. I can picture them walking right off the page. And believe me, you want to see Nico in person!
Yummy Joe Manganiello…maybe they are brothers. Now that would be an awesome gene pool!
Her characters are hysterical and intelligent. There is nothing I hate more than a “too stupid to live" heroine, you know, like that dumb blonde trying to run away from a killer. Well Elizabeth is definitely not that. She is smart and witty. She definitely has her issues and thinks she’s a hardass, but she’s really a big ol’ softy inside. And she actually knits!
She and Nico have a long history and I was rooting for them from the first page. And I’ll admit I had tears in my eyes by the end of the book.
And Nico. **insert sigh here**
I love this type of hero. He’s strong, protective, and he has been in love with Elizabeth since they were kids. Not to mention he makes apple fritters while just wearing a pair of black boxer briefs...seriously needs to be turned into a movie just to see that scene!
You will laugh your ass off. The writing moves seamlessly and her dialogue is fantastic. I enjoyed learning new terms like "complisult" (a compliment mixed in with an insult). I will have to find a way to use that in a conversation at some point!
Favorite banter: “The baby is yours”—“Why couldn’t you just yell fire”—“It’s illegal to yell fire if there isn’t one”
And the best part of the book: “The Choose Your Own Adventure” Sex Scene. Genius!
In Neanderthal Seeks Human there is all this crazy sexual tension and then a closed door sex scene. It’s like if you order a chocolate lava cake and then when you are about to get to the best part, instead of ooey gooey chocolate, you just have more cake.
I personally want to read an open door sex scene.
Well now I had the chance. There are two chapter 22s, a closed door sex scene or an open door sex scene. Clearly, I skipped right to the good stuff! If only those Choose Your Own Adventure books had given me those options, I might have read them.
All in all, I thought it was a great fun read and I can’t wait for the next installment, Sandra’s story, Love Hacked.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU Stephanie for this great review! I was lucky enough to beta-read this book several times before publication, but I haven't seen the Choose Your Own Adventure sex scene, and I REALLY want to see that.
I'm feeling adventurous!
I guess my interest in vanilla menage has come to an end. This one was painful and I couldn't finish.
*Penny waves white flag of surrender*