December 31, 2002

laurielikesbooks Blog for December 2002 — December 2002 — December 2002

(Mostly) Kasey Michaels

The dreaded sinus infection never did go away. Last week my daughter had it, and by the time I sent everybody on their way after Thanksgiving, it returned to my head with a vengeance. That said, I managed to have a nice weekend; on Saturday night we
The dreaded sinus infection never did go away. Last week my daughter had it, and by the time I sent everybody on their way after Thanksgiving, it returned to my head with a vengeance. That said, I managed to have a nice weekend; on Saturday night we watched the Mavericks beat the Bulls. The Mavericks are no longer undefeated this season, but are still in first place in the NBA. The game, while closer than their game against the Pistons a few weeks earlier, was not as exciting, although things did pick up each and every time Maverick's guard Steve Nash was in the game. Ladies, I wish I could report that he's an incredibly hunky guy, but I can't, at least not when he's playing, although there are some photos in his gallery that aren't bad....

Yesterday I had one of those The Jimmy moments again when a friend sent me the link for Mrs. Giggles' latest rant. She hadn't read my latest blogging when she wrote it, but she captured my frustrations extremely well. I haven't heard back yet from RWA about whether they'll allow me to send in a letter to the editor of their newsletter, but we'll see.

Now on to some book talk. Last week I managed to get in a little reading when I wasn't doing Thanksgiving prep and/or spending time with my mom. I read Silk and Secrets by Linda Madl (not to be confused with Silk and Secrets by Mary Jo Putney. I've enjoyed Madl in the past - her Whisper of Violets, published back in 1997, was quite a good read.

Her new book was somewhat of a disappointment. It had all the qualities of a good read - interesting lead characters, a gothic-like premise, and tantalizing hints of chemistry, but none of the parts added up to much of a whole. The BYRON blurb isn't particularly helpful; it reads: "An American heiress finds a hedgehog in her slipper, nettles in her bed, passion on a tiger skin with a brooding lord, and murder on the Cornish moors." When I think about just why the book failed to engage me, the most I can come up with is that the gothic-undertones created too much of a separation between me and the hero. That might explain it, except that the book isn't written in the first person. In the end, I can't really think why I didn't enjoy it more - I just didn't.

More enjoyable was the reissue of Kasey Michaels' The Beleaguered Lord Bourne, which I finished yesterday. Originally published as written by Michelle Kasey in 1986 and just reissued, this traditional Regency is the first in a series of three (followed by The Toplofty Lord Thorpe and The Ruthless Lord Rule), all just reissued. My grade for Lord Bourne is a B-, although it's almost a C+. I enjoyed it perhaps the least of all the Michaels' traditional Regencies I've read this year primarily because the heroine and hero have such a tremendous age difference - she's 19 at most, and he's 30. It wouldn't have been a problem if the hero hadn't called the heroine "infant" and "kitten" all the time, but even so, Michaels gets the benefit of the doubt w/her usual sparkling wit and dialogue. Particularly humorous are the large cast of secondary characters. The heroine, in hiring servants for the house, cannot resist a stray. And the hero comes to handle it all w/much aplomb.

Although I recently posted this list on AAR's At the Back Fence Message Board (I'm not giving a link as the message will only be online for two weeks, until the next ATBF column), I thought I would share the titles of the Kasey Michaels traditional Regencies I've read this year and enjoyed so well. Many were reissued this year and are available. I've decided I definitely prefer her traditional Regencies more than either her historical or contemporary romances, and AAR Reviewer Jane Jorgenson agrees.

What separates Michaels from the pack for me is her handling of conflict; her heroes and heroines bicker back and forth from beginning to nearly end of each book, and yet every word of dialogue between them sparkles with wit. The barbs are sent w/laser-like accuracy, and yet there's no feeling of "I hate you...I love you." You know each couple is falling in love, but it's fun to see how it happens because of their arguments.

  • The Anonymous Miss Addams, first published in 1989 and reissued earlier this year. This is my favorite of all the Michaels' reissues thus far; my grade is B+. The fact that I enjoyed it as much as I did considering the amnesia storyline amazed me; if I can handle this type of device, I know the book's got to be good!

    Here's the BYRON synopsis: The damsel has caused HIM distress...GENTLEMAN ROGUE: He was London's most eligible -- and outrageous -- bachelor. But although Pierre Standish didn't give a whit for polite society, he could not deny his father's latest request. To prove himself a true gentleman, Pierre had to perform a random good deed. The task proved unimaginatively easy when, en route to London, Pierre came upon a damsel lying in the road. Her clothes bespoke her an urchin, but although his anonymous Miss Addams had lost her memory, Pierre was certain she was a well-bred lady. A lady whose innocence and plight might just ensnare the ton's most unattainable rogue.

  • The Playful Lady Penelope, published in 1988. This one has not been reissued. My grade is B-. There's no BYRON synopsis, but the book is one of three in which Lucinda Benadict, a woman who has a literary saying for everything, plays a supporting role. In this book, a hoydenish tomboy is sent to live with her Aunt Lucinda; if she can stay out of trouble, her father will not force her to marry. Little does she know that her Aunt is a veritable magnet for trouble and that daddy has set her up knowing this fact.

  • The Questioning Miss Quinton, first published in 1989 and reissued this year. I am wondering whether this is an error on BYRON's part because this book follows The Anonymous Miss Addams. My grade is B-. Here's the BYRON synopsis: Murder her, or marry her...? SUITOR ASTOUNDED: Patrick Sherbourne, eleventh Earl of Wickford, had been unwittingly charmed by the feisty Miss Victoria Quinton. Her bespectacled appearance belied her femme fatale persona -- one he almost dared to covet, until the vixen accused him of her father's murder!

    Not one to allow his good name to be sullied, Patrick found his only recourse was to aid Victoria in uncovering the real criminal. But the earl had to act fast. For not just his family honor was at stake... spending a prolonged period in Victoria's company might mean the end to his beloved bachelorhood.

  • The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane, first published in 1982 and reissued in 1988. My grade is B. There is no BYRON synopsis for this one. The heroine is a "gentlewoman" forced to become a governess. She is waylaid on her way to her new position when she rescues a young, young woman who has decided not to elope after all. When the young woman's older brother - a duke - sees how the tenacious Miss Tamerlane handles his sister, she is invited to be her companion. Lucinda Benadict appears in this book as well; Miss Tamerlane may be the only person who can trade saying after saying after saying.

  • The Mischeivous Miss Murphy, first published in 1987 and reissued in 1988. I mentioned this book in the December 1st ATBF because the heroine is a con woman. My grade is B. Here's the BYRON synopsis: THE MADNESS OF A MARQUESS...Candie Murphy was the most beautiful girl Tony Betancourt, Marquess of Coniston had ever seen... and this rakish aristocrat considered himself an expert on lovely women. He certainly expected this one to be grateful after he rescued her scalawag Uncle Max from jail. Instead, the cheeky Irish miss heatedly refused his invitation to share his bed!

    Then the charming Candie Murphy soon became part of the London ton, posing as one of the Donegal Murphys, descendants of kings. For once, Tony had met his match in wit and mischief -- and he couldn't resist a wager that could lead him into the arms of the lovely Miss Murphy. A dangerous gamble... for with one sweet Candie kiss he might win his bet -- but forever lose his heart!

I realize that one B+, 2 B's, and 3 B-'s might not sound like the best grades, but it's very rare for me to find six books by a single author and never grade them below a B-. I am taking a break from her right now because the next logical Michaels for me to read would be The Toplofty Lord Thorne, and it sounds like more of a mystery a la The Questioning Miss Quinton than a straight Regency, or one w/a minor mystery/suspense sub-plot.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

Rumors and Reality

Those of you reading my bloggings know that I've been in contact with RWA regarding the December issue of their RWR Newsletter. I described the situation in detail in a previous blogging, and was given the green-light yesterday to prepare a letter to the editor of no more than 350 words. Considering my general verbosity, that was a challenge, but I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday writing, editing, and reconfiguring my letter so that it came in at precisely 350 words. I am told it will be included in the February 2003 RWR, and at that time I will publish it here.

Something is going on on our At the Back Fence Message Board, though, that directly relates to the original RWR article, and it's made me so mad you can almost see the steam coming out of my head. Some background first.

This ATBF MB corresponds (in part) with the November 22 ATBF issue. A segment in this issue talks about recent message board threads quite vehement in their dislike of Suzanne Brockmann's online demeanor, her November release, the fact that a future book will be published in hardcover, etc. Because I had never seen such vehemence directed toward an author who was moving into hardcover - and was shocked at the overall hostility in many of the posts in all these threads - I asked whether or not there might not be some sort of backlash against her at this time.

Discussion has continued on and off on this backlash idea, when yesterday a reader posted that Brockmann had snail-mailed postcards to every RWA member and readers asking them to vote for her books for RWA's 2001 Favorite Books of the Year and that it was because of this campaign that three of her books landed on that list.

After Brockmann herself visited our MB to refute that, I thought about it, and this morning made the following post:

It is simply not possible for both you and Suzanne Brockmann to be correct on this point regarding snail mailing of postcard ballots. Often times two people will present two different views and it's easy to say, "Well, the truth is in between the two stories." This cannot simply be the case in this instance - either Brockmann snail mailed postcard ballots or she did not.

After having recently stood up for AAR and said we do not countenance the spreading of gossip or rumors, I've got to ask you... did you receive one of these ballots, or did you simply hear about it? If you heard about it and never saw one for yourself, it seems likely that the story presented to you as fact was not true.

I say this because Brockmann herself has emphatically denied doing so, quite publically, on this MB. It would be incredibly stupid for her to say this if in fact she sent out 8,400 snail mail ballots (that's the membership of RWA) because SOMEONE would likely pop in here and call her on it. Most adults, when caught w/their hands in the cookie jar, will not say, "No, mom, I haven't touched the cookies." And the logistics seem impossible; I could see her having access to RWA members' snail mail addresses, but how would she have access to the snail mail addresses of thousands of readers? Email addresses... perhaps - I know she has three thousand plus members receiving her newsletter, but snail mail addresses are a whole other thing.

I think you've leveled a very serious allegation here and am very interested in the proof you've got for it. This is not simply stating an opinion - this is stating something as fact and needs to be substantiated.

So I'll open this up beyond (the poster). Did any of you received this postcard ballot?

Neither the original poster nor anyone else has so far actually seen one of the alleged postcards, but in case you're wondering why I bring this up here at all, I'm coming to that directly. Because, you see, in response to my post was this one made by another poster, and given the timing of the December RWR newsletter, well... you read it:

_____ isn't the only one who heard these rumors from credible, trusted sources. Who knows, perhaps these sources themselves were mislead by credible, trusted sources.

But last year, when the furor was flying over RWA's favorite book of the year award, Suz Brockman's postcards were pretty much all the loops were talking about.

We all know how rumors can take on a life of their own and become excepted as truth. We've also all witnessed some of the damage such rumors can cause.

That whole distastful rumor that resulted from the article with Robin Lee Hatcher is a perfect example of the power of rumors. At the time I remember your readers stringing poor Robin up and Vehementaly attacking her. In fact, if I remember right, Lori Fosters appearance on this board was in an attempt to defend Robin against the attacks directed toward her. And at the time, Robin Lee Hatcher was denying the rumor. (emphasis added)

Until today, this is the first time since the postcard rumor started, that i've heard Brockman address the issue one way or another. And I lurk on over a dozen links full of yammering RWA members. It is a shame when a rumor is excepted as fact. But when thousands of people are talking about it, and the one person who could set the rumor straight doesn't speak up, well-- it becomes a mightly easy trap to fall into.

And I'll admit that I'm one who fell into this trap. I only wish Brockman had spoken up sooner.

As you can imagine, my jaw dropped when I read this...clearly the "party line" adopted as a result of the RWR article has been accepted, hook, line, and sinker by many authors. As I stated in my reply to this individual:
I'm totally confused as to what RLH rumor to which you refer. RLH was interviewed by a respectable newspaper and we provided a link to that article from one of our message boards. There was no rumor involved whatsoever. The newspaper neither printed a retraction nor did they publish any letter that may have been sent to them by Ms. Hatcher. In fact, when queried about it, the newspaper's official response was this: "Robin Lee Hatcher and I have talked personally regarding this article. That conversation is private, between Robin and myself, but both of us were content with that conversation and the matter has been resolved between us to both of our satisfaction." She added, "You could go to our website and discover that nothing else has been printed on this matter. I assume that would fill in any blanks for you."

I'm afraid I see no connection between a message board discussion of an actual event - the interview w/RLH as printed in the Idaho Statesman - and the promulgation of a rumor that appears to have no basis in reality.

Then I asked again whether anyone had ever seen any of those supposed postcards? And I ask you, (this is becoming my favorite refrain): what the hell is wrong with people?

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

Correcting Yesterday

Slight correction here regarding yesterday's entry - RWA's Favorite Books of the Year poll is limited to RWA members. Further posts on the ATBF MB indicate that it is very unlikely to impossible for an RWA member to have access to the mailing list for all of RWA. Which doesn't change the main thrust of my argument - I still maintain that it is highly doubtful Brockmann would have emphatically denied snail-mailing postcards to all RWA members in hopes that they would vote for her books if indeed she had done so. And it seems nobody has come forward to say they actually saw one of those postcards. Sort of reminds me of those "letters in my pocket" we heard so much about during the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas debacle. There's also the question of why Brockmann would have felt the need to send such postcards, but that's another argument....

As far as my refrain from yesterday (what the hell is wrong with people?), my faith in humanity seems restored. There were some reasonable posts on the MB seeing the clear difference between stating an actual fact and forwarding a rumor in terms of comparing the RLH situation to that of Brockmann.

I'm crawling back to bed now... this second sinus infection on top of the first one that never really went away is yucky.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

The Bachelor and Untameable

I read a considerable number of series romances. Before I started to read them, I would argue against them. Now that I read them, I argue for them as comfort reads. They read quickly and go down like fast food. Perhaps not particularly nutritious, th
I read a considerable number of series romances. Before I started to read them, I would argue against them. Now that I read them, I argue for them as comfort reads. They read quickly and go down like fast food. Perhaps not particularly nutritious, they fill a niche in my romance reading.

Carly Phillips writes both series romances and single title contemporary romances. I liked Simply Scandalous, a 2000 Temptation, and I watched as she made her big splash earlier this year with The Bachelor, her first single title. Remember how it was chosen to as a Reading with Ripa selection? Kelly may have enjoyed it, but AAR Reviewer Jane Jorgenson did not. I agree with Jane myself; this is one contrived read.

"Contrived" is a good starting term for what's wrong with The Bachelor. I agree (more or less) with Jane's grade of D, but get there in a slightly different fashion. Phillips has an easy-to-read style that's engaging, and she doesn't indulge in purple prose. Unfortunately, this book had no business being a single title release; it's got "series title premise" written all over it. In other words, while I quite possibly would have read this book as a series romance, reading a single title contemporary based on the premise that a widow fakes heart disease in order to induce her three single sons to marry and give her grandchildren didn't work for me. Not only is the main premise unbelievable, the secondary premises aren't any more realistic. But let me give you some more detail.

Roman Chandler's lost the coin toss; he's got to find a wife, marry, and produce children before his beloved mother succumbs to heart disease. This gorgeous journalist spent his adult life traveling the globe writing fabulous news stories; he plans to marry and impregnate a woman but not change his globe-trotting ways. The trouble is Charlotte Bronson, his one-time high school fling, who's moved back to town and opened a fancy lingerie store. She's the one who makes him tick, and yet how could he force upon her this life, knowing she deserves a loving husband?

Charlotte and Roman had a "thing" in high school, but once she knew he planned to leave town to become a big-time journalist, she broke it off with him, loathe to be in love with someone who would love her and leave her, which is what she believes her father did to her mother. In fact, her parents remain married, but live on opposite coasts of the country. Her mother exists in a funk except when daddy dearest comes to town. Two-thirds through the book the local doctor diagnoses the woman as "depressed." For some reason this comes as a major surprise to everyone in town. It certainly never occurred to the woman's wandering husband that abandoning his wife might not have been a kind thing to do. Hello! This is 2002, when everybody and their uncle is taking Zoloft, Prozac, or Wellbutrin. At the very least, the town's water supply needs dosing with "get a clue" meds. And, of course,


it turns out that her mother wasn't so much abandoned by her father as she herself was simply too selfish to make the move with him. So this sub-plot is not only unbelievable, but it's a stupid big secret and mean to boot. Yuck!

Another of the book's sub-plots involves the hand-made knitted panties Charlotte fits and makes for her customers. Somebody's breaking into houses and stealing them - only them - from their owners. And because Roman once engaged in a panty raid, he's considered the culprit. While his brother - the police chief - knows he's not guilty, all the women in town are lining up for Charlotte to knit them a pair so he can steal them. Beyond the ludicrousness of the thievery, can you even imagine wearing knitted panties?

What do all these story lines have in common? A total lack of reality. Which means 336 pages filled with unrealistic story. I can handle a series title that is based on an unrealistic story-line; I've read and enjoyed many "let's marry to make so-and-so happy/let's pretend to be engaged/let's pretend to be married" series titles before. As Silhouette Desires, they can be fun, but add two equally unbelievable sub-plots and what was a fun if contrived read is now a disastrously stupid excuse for a single title release.

Carly Phillips has two more books in this series. I don't plan to read them although I do plan to read her new series romance. I pity the women whose introduction to romance came via The Bachelor as a result of Reading with Ripa

The Bachelor was a bummer, but Untameable, a Regency Romance anthology out in October, hit the spot. Untameable features three stories of which I read two. The first novella is Catherine Blair's The Rogue's Wife. I hadn't read Blair before, and her two reviews at AAR are mixed (B+ and D-). I think I liked this novella, but I'm not quite sure. The second story is Kate Huntington's A Breath of Scandal, which I have not read and likely will not - both her AAR grades are in the C range. The third story - A Rogue's Rescue - is the story I read first because it is by Donna Simpson, one of my favorite authors of Regency Romance. I liked this story, but haven't yet decided how much I liked it. The premise is quite unique and, as always, Simpson's created interesting characters.

The Rogue's Wife marries a seemingly plain and quiet young woman to a total rogue - she to get away from an overly familiar brother-in-law and he because it's time to make an heir. He plans to settle her on his country estate to brood while he continues along his merry way, drinking, gambling, and wenching. The heroine is humiliated a couple of times because of the hero's behavior and decides to give him the life he wants. As a result, their first party includes his gambling buddies and (ex) mistress.

The hero is intrigued by his new wife, but she's closed herself off to him to avoid being hurt. How they dance around their predicament and resolve it is at the core of the story. Again, I think I liked it, but think it would have been effective had it been slightly longer.

A Rogue's Rescue begins when the hero thinks he's saving a plain spinster from the clutches of a ne'er-do-well out to swindle her money. Little does he know that she knows about the con and that she's encouraging it to gain payback for a friend of a friend. The hero's constant interference is annoying, and what about his horrible reputation? Could it be that he's after her money? As for the hero, why does the heroine seem to simper at times while at others she's extremely perceptive and well-spoken?

Even after they join forces to work together, there's no diminishment of the chemistry between this couple, and the fact that neither are good-looking is a plus. Though the resolution to the sub-plot required a second read, the final few pages of the book more than made up for it. Simpson can put a nearly fairy-tale ending on a book and I'll believe it.

Before I sign off for the day, let me add that although this particular blogging shows little evidence, I'm trying to limit the amount of passive voice in my writing. It's hard, harder because until my husband showed me with a red pen, I didn't know it was a problem. Damn!

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

Mother Russia

I first read Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K Massie when I was in the 9th grade. I fell in love with the entire story, the shy tsarina, the love match between Nicholas and Alexandra, the children, the tragedy of hemophelia, the dark foreshadowing
I first read Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K Massie when I was in the 9th grade. I fell in love with the entire story, the shy tsarina, the love match between Nicholas and Alexandra, the children, the tragedy of hemophelia, the dark foreshadowing of Rasputin's sway over the tsarina, Nicholas' incompetence in domestic and international affairs, and Russia's humiliation in foreign arenas. For years I imagined what their "mauve and white Hepplewhite" furniture looked like and wondered whether Princess Anastasia had made it out of Russia.

For some reason, however, I didn't make the mental connection between this Russia and the Russia of my ancestors. True, my first Broadway play was Fiddler on the Roof, and I knew of pograms from studying Russian history in college. But oddly enough, it wasn't until this past weekend, when I read The Night Journey by Kathryn Lasky (1981), that it dawned on me; the ineffectual Tsar Nicholas is the same man whose Imperial troops ran rampant in Jewish villages, killing and burning and pillaging and looting and raping. Somehow I doubt I'll be I re-reading Nicholas and Alexandra.

The Night Journey is actually a book my daughter and I are reading for a monthly book club that begins this weekend. This has truly been my year to discover Young Adult Fiction, and I'm very glad I read Lasky's book. Written in 1981, the book contains a story with a story. Rachel is 13, lives with her parents and her Nana Sashie, who is so old her father carries her downstairs in the morning and upstairs at night. Nana Sashie sometimes falls asleep in the middle of talking, and doesn't always know who she is, but one day she begins to recount the story of how she and her family escaped Russia during the pograms.

Nana Sashie's story is very exciting, filled with "characters" and danger. She made her experience come alive not only for Rachel, but for me. By the time Rachel was setting her alarm for the middle of the night to hear more of her nana's story, I was unable to put the book down myself. Those looking for a plucky protagonist will love Sashie, whose ability to plan and think on her feet helps her family escape a terrible time and a terrible place.

Rachel's story outside of hearing her nana's story is merely a frame, and yet it too has something to offer girls my daughter's age. I'm not one for "message" books, and while this one has one, it's offered gently. The ending isn't sugar-coated, but it's sentimental enough that I'm glad it was chosen for this first mother-daughter book club offering.

I've always been interested in Russian - and Soviet - history. One of my favorite professors in college was in the diplomatic service during the Cold War and shared many of his Soviet experiences. He not only taught Soviet history, but Russian history as well. I still have my well-worn copy of Hedrick Smith's The Russians from his class, and will forever remember his recounting how the Soviet analysts with him in the diplomatic corp would search every article and picture in Pravda in order to read between the lines and determine which member of the Politburo was moving in or out of power.

While I'm on the subject of Russia, I'll also mention two other items. I'm not much of a biography reader, but one of my favorites is Catherine the Great by Henri Troyat, translated by Joan Pinkham (1980). I learned more about Voltaire from reading this book than in any literature or philosophy class I ever took. The other item is silly really, but I fell in love with Anthony Hopkins during junior high school while watching his secondary role in The Girl from Petrovka (1974). The movie, which featured Hal Holbrook as an American correspondent and Goldie Hawn as a Soviet ballerina, isn't one many people have seen, but it's one of those movies you see while a teenager that remains in memory. Holbrook's character falls in love with Hawn's, but the relationship is doomed. Hopkins is - if I remember correctly - a Soviet friend of Holbrooks whose matter-of-fact efforts at explaining the Russian soul to his friend aren't well understood.

I have no idea whether anything in this movie is realistic, but it struck a chord with me growing up. I may have soured on the tsar and tsarina, but my fascination with Russia remains.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

Jayne Ann Krentz

Jayne Ann Krentz came up as I was editing the upcoming At the Back Fence column. Since she's been a major comfort-read author for me both as JAK and Amanda Quick, I thought I'd share my grades for the 29 Krentz/Quick books I've read (her main link at
Jayne Ann Krentz came up as I was editing the upcoming At the Back Fence column. Since she's been a major comfort-read author for me both as JAK and Amanda Quick, I thought I'd share my grades for the 29 Krentz/Quick books I've read (her main link at AAR, to all her reviews there, is Not including in this list is the book she edited - Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women (this link is to an in-print hardcover copy; the paperback is out of print). A copy sits on my desk, next to my dictionary and thesaurus. My grade for this book is B+; it ties as the highest grade I've ever given her work.

Of her books, my grade for roughly half have been B's (B+ thru B-). Most of the remainder were C's (C+ thru C-) while four received D+'s. I've still got 15 or so of her titles TBR, and even though I find her series reissues spotty, I continue to buy them. However, I no longer buy her new releases; she jumped the shark for me back in 1999. Some of our more recent reviews indicate she may be back on track, but at this point I'm not inclined to try.

Overall, she's an iconic figure for me as far as the genre is concerned. I also think she's an excellent story-teller with a wonderfully humorous voice who manages to take me away to a different time and/or place easily. Indeed, when my daughter was hospitalized and extremely ill last year, I read many of her books while I sat vigil. That said, her refusal to do interviews with sites that post "negative reviews" seems odd; I can't imagine her turning down a NYT interview. That bit of editorializing aside, here's my list.

(All hyperlinked titles are to books in stock at Amazon.)

Mischief *1996BQuick
Trust Me1995BJAK
Between the Lines1986B-JAK
Grand Passion1994B-JAK
Lady's Choice1989B-JAK
The Pirate1990B-JAK
The Waiting Game1985B-JAK
Whirlwind Courtship1980B-JAK **
With This Ring1998B-Quick
The Main Attraction1987C+JAK
The Ties that Bind1986C+JAK
True Colors1986C+JAK
The Wedding Night1991C+JAK
A Woman's Touch1989C+JAK
I Thee Wed ***1999C-Quick
The Family Way1987D+JAK
Man with a Past ****1985D+JAK
The Test of Time1987D+JAK
Uneasy Alliance1984D+JAK

* After I read Mischief I read Deception, published three years earlier by the same author. I was dismayed at how similar the two books are. Both stand alone as B's, but together they read as though Quick plagiarized herself.

** Originally released under the name Jayne Taylor; later reissued as JAK (my copy is in a 2-in-1 w/Dara Joy's High Energy, a terrific B+ read.

*** Although I still have many JAK/Amanda Quick books on my tbr shelf, she jumped the shark for me with this book.

**** Incredibly surprising to me was the scene in this book that verges on rape. This from a Krentz hero?

As for the remainder of the D's, they are extremely out-dated and old-fashioned. You'll note that none of the reissues done of her Stephanie James titles even made my list. I could not finish a single one because I found them so dated and written with such an old-fashioned hand.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

Catherine Coulter

It was so helpful for me to go through my grades for JAK/Amanda Quick that I thought I'd do the same for Catherine Coulter. After briefly trying romance novels in college, I abandoned them for many, many years. When I next tried a romance novel in th
It was so helpful for me to go through my grades for JAK/Amanda Quick that I thought I'd do the same for Catherine Coulter. After briefly trying romance novels in college, I abandoned them for many, many years. When I next tried a romance novel in the early 1990's, it was Coulter's The Sherbrooke Bride, and I was hooked.

I'm one of the few readers I know who continues to enjoy Coulter's European Historicals - at least some of the time - and though I find many of her heroes thoroughly obnoxious, sometimes I like them in spite of myself. Case in point: her most recent historical, Pendragon. Our reviewer correctly noted the hero's obnoxious behavior toward the heroine; there's even an intimate encounter during which he behaves abominably, and though my final grade for the book was a C+, it was almost a B-. I can't recall whether or not the hero in this book used the "infamous cream," as I refer to the cream too many of Coulter's heroes seem to rely on when taking their wives' virginity, but I'm glad that at least the hero didn't perform oral sex after popping his wive's cherry, which is what the hero did in The Deception (a re-write of her traditional Regency, An Intimate Deception).

What I refuse to read from Coulter are her medievals, and I hated the one contemporary I tried by her, the original Beyond Eden. I've now read 25 books by her (there are a few I began but never finished, including Mad Jack and The Offer), and it seems as though there are equal numbers of books I loved, liked, disliked, and despised. I was lucky enough to interview her back in 1996, and though she bothered many readers with some of her responses, I myself found her forthright and fun.

The listing below may be slightly difficult to follow; I didn't sort by grade as I wanted to present all the connected books together. I hope it's not too confusing. Also, there are some titles for which an AAR Review has been written but not linked to. Because my blog is not an "official" AAR feature, I included links to DIK Reviews written when the site was still "The Archives of LLB," LLB/TRR Reviews, and AAR Reviews I wrote.

(All hyperlinked titles are to books in stock at Amazon.)

Midsummer Magic1987DIK Reviewfirst in series
Calypso Magic1988DIK Reviewsecond in series
Moonspun Magic1997DIK Reviewthird in series
Night Fire1989DIK Reviewfirst in series
Night Shadow1989Grade of Bsecond in series
Night Storm1989Grade of D+third in series
The Sherbrooke Bride1992DIK Reviewfirst in series
The Hellion Bride1992Grade of Bsecond in series
The Heiress Bride1993Grade of D+third in series
The Courtship2000Grade of B+fifth in series
The Scottish Bride2000Grade of B-sixth in series
Pendragon2002Grade of C+seventh in series
The Wild Baron1997Grade of B
The Deception1998Grade of B-
The Duke1995Grade of B-(guilty pleasure)
Devil's Embrace1982Grade of C+(embarrassing)
Midnight Star1982Grade of C+first in series
Jade Star1982Grade of Dsecond in series
Wild Star1982Grade of Fthird in series
Chandra *1984Grade of Ffirst in series
Fire Song1985Grade of Dsecond in series
Rosehaven1996Grade of Dfifth in series
Lord Harry1995Grade of D
Beyond Eden **1992Grade of F
The Rebel Bride ***1994Grade of F

* Enhanced and published as Warrior's Song in 2001

** Enhanced and published under the same name in 2000

*** The version I read back in 1994 was the enhanced version of Coulter's second book, a traditional Regency published in 1979 by the same name

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

Best & Worst

Even though nearly all of my DIK's are listed and/or reviewed on AAR's Desert Isle Keepers page, I thought I'd list them here. Why? Because I really want to list all the books I've given grades of "F" and don't think it would be nearly so &
Even though nearly all of my DIK's are listed and/or reviewed on AAR's Desert Isle Keepers page, I thought I'd list them here. Why? Because I really want to list all the books I've given grades of "F" and don't think it would be nearly so "nice" to do that w/out sharing the flip side. First up? The "F's," followed by the "A's." As in previous bloggings, I'll include links to reviews I've written for these books, as well as links to any that are DIK's. Since I haven't awarded any "F's" this past year, I'll omit any Amazon links, but for the DIK's, I'll include them.

Also, my list of DIK's is not complete; while it lists all my favorite romances, it also lists a few but not all of my favorite non-romance novels. My Anne Rice favorites, for instance, are not listed, nor are any non-fiction titles. If this gets at all confusing, email me and I'll re-work the list.

All My "F's":

The Beauty of the MistMay McGoldrick1997
BelovedStella Cameron19964th in a series
The Best Laid Plans BackfireLeta Nolan Childers2000
Beyond EdenCatherine Coulter1992
Bogus BrideEmily French1997
Bringing Up BaxterPeggy Webb19972nd in series
ButterfliesMartha Goldhirsh1999
California MoonCatherine Lanigan2000
Carried AwaySue Civil-Brown19971st in series
ChandraCatherine Coulter19841st in series
The CowboyJoan Johnston2000part of several series
The Dream HunterLaura Kinsale1994
Dream LoverVirginia Henley1997
Heart's DesireMonica Jackson1998
Holding HandsJoAnne Cassity1995
House of Four SeasonsAbigail McDaniels1992
IndiscretionMargaret Allison1996
Love in a Chinese GardenRachel May1997
Love, Remember MeBertrice Small19942nd in series
Maybe BabyElaine Fox2001
Memory's EmbraceLinda Lael Miller19863rd in series
Night FeverSusan Kyle1990
The NonpareilDawn Lindsey1986
One Christmas KnightKathleen Crighton19981st in series
ParadiseJudith McNaught1991
Rapture's MistCinnamon Burke1993
The Rebel BrideCatherine Coulter1994 *
The Rose of BlackswordRexanne Becnel19921st in series
Scandalous SuzanneGlenda Sanders1996
The Scottish BridePeggy Hanchar1996
Search for a New DawnBillie Douglas1982
The Sex TestPatty Salier1996
Shadow PlayKatherine Sutcliffe1991
A Single ThreadBarri Bryan2000
Sips of BloodMary Ann Mitchell1999
Something About CecilyKaren Kendall2001
The SpitfireBertrice Small1990
While the Moon Looked
Up to Heaven
Terri Stellini1997
Wild StarCatherine Coulter1987

* The version I read was the enhanced version, not the original Regency Romance published in 1979.

All My DIK's:

All We Hold Dear (a)Kathryn Lynn Davis1996Amazon
The BargainJane Ashford1997
A Basket of WishesRebecca Paisley1995
The Beach HouseMary Alice Monroe2002Amazon
BewitchingJill Barnett1993Amazon
Born in Fire (b)Nora Roberts1994Amazon
The Bride (c)Julie Garwood1989Amazon
Calypso Magic (d)Catherine Coulter1988Amazon
Castles (e)Julie Garwood1993Amazon
Chesapeake Blue (f)Nora Roberts2002Amazon
Day Dreamer (g)Jill Marie Landis1996Amazon
A Dove at MidnightRexanne Becnel1993
Dream FeverKatherine Sutcliffe1991
Fairy TaleJillian Hunter1997
A Fire in the Heart (h)Katherine Sutcliffe1990
The First TimeJoy Fielding2000Amazon
The Gift (e)Julie Garwood1991Amazon
Guardian Angel (e)Julie Garwood1990Amazon
Honor's SplendorJulie Garwood1987Amazon
How to Marry a Marquis (i)Julia Quinn1999Amazon
I Know This Much is TrueWally Lamb1998Amazon
IndiscretionJillian Hunter2000Amazon
Jewels of the Sun (j)Nora Roberts2000Amazon
A Kingdom of DreamsJudith McNaught1989Amazon
Lady be Good (k)SEP1999Amazon
The Last Rogue (l)Deborah Simmons1998
The Lion's Lady (e)Julie Garwood1988Amazon
Lord St. Claire's Angel (m)Donna Simpson1999
Love Lessons (n)Donna Simpson2002Amazon
Midsummer Magic (d)Catherine Coulter1987Amazon
Mrs. MikeBenedict & Nancy Freedman1947Amazon
Moonspun Magic (d)Catherine Coulter1988Amazon
My Favorite Bride (o)Christina Dodd2002Amazon
Night Fire (p)Catherine Coulter1989Amazon
Once an AngelTeresa Medeiros1993Amazon
Prisoner of My DesireJohanna Lindsey1991Amazon
The PrizeJulie Garwood1991Amazon
Rebellious DesireJulie Garwood1986Amazon
A Rose at MidnightAnne Stuart1993
Saving GraceJulie Garwood1993Amazon
ScoundrelElizabeth Elliott1996Amazon
Sea Swept (f)Nora Roberts1998Amazon
The Secret (q)Julie Garwood1992Amazon
The Sherbrooke Bride (r)Catherine Coulter1992Amazon
Somewhere Lies the Moon (a)Kathryn Lynn Davis1999Amazon
Splendid (s)Julia Quinn1995Amazon
Tallie's KnightAnne Gracie2001
Then Came You (t)Lisa Kleypas1993Amazon
To Love a Dark LordAnne Stuart1994
Too Deep for Tears (a)Kathryn Lynn Davis1989Amazon
Too Hot to HandleElizabeth Lowell1986Amazon
Velvet Bond (u)Catherine Archer1995
The Vicar's Daughter (l)Deborah Simmons1995
A Well Pleasured Lady (v)Christina Dodd1997Amazon

(a) Kathryn Lynn Davis trilogy: Too Deep for Tears, All We Hold Dear, and Somewhere Lies the Moon (Too Deep for Tears is my all-time favorite book

(b) Nora Roberts trilogy: Born in Fire, Born in Ice and Born in Shame

(c) Julie Garwood duo: The Bride is followed by The Wedding

(d) Catherine Coulter trilogy: Midsummer Magic, Calypso Magic and Moonspun Magic; no other Coulter trilogy received all DIK's from me

(e) Julie Garwood quartet: Castles was my first Garwood. It is also my favorite. I read this quartet backward; the correct order is Lion's Lady, Guardian Angel, The Gift, and then Castles

(f) Nora Roberts quartet: Sea Swept, Rising Tides, Inner Harbor, and Chesapeake Blue

(g) Jill Marie Landis duo: Day Dreamer is followed by Just Once

(h) Katherine Sutcliffe duo: A Fire in the Heart is followed by My Only Love

(i) Julia Quinn duo: To Catch an Heiress is followed by How to Marry a Marquis

(j) Nora Roberts trilogy: Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon and Heart of the Sea

(k) SEP duo: Lady be Good is preceded by Fancy Pants

(l) Deborah Simmons quartet: The Vicar's Daughter, The Devil Earl, Tempting Kate, and The Last Rogue

(m) Donna Simpson trilogy: Lord St. Claire's Angel, Lady Delafont's Dilemma, and Lady May's Folly

(n) Love Lessons is from the My Dashing Groom Regency Anthology

(o) Christina Dodd series: Rules of Surrender, Rules of Engagement, Rules of Attraction, In My Wildest Dreams, Lost in Your Arms, and My Favorite Bride

(p) Catherine Coulter trilogy: Night Fire, Night Shadow, and Night Storm

(q) Julie Garwood duo: The Secret is followed by Ransom

(r) Catherine Coulter series: The Sherbrooke Bride, The Hellion Bride, The Heiress Bride, Mad Jack, The Courtship, The Scottish Bride, and Pendragon

(s) Julia Quinn trilogy: Splendid, Dancing at Midnight, and Minx

(t) Lisa Kleypas duo: Then Came You is followed by Dreaming of You

(u) Catherine Archer duo: Velvet Bond is followed by Velvet Touch

(v) Christina Dodd duo: A Well Pleasured Lady and A Well Favored Gentleman

While my DIK list only shows one novella - Donna Simpson's Love Lessons - I've actually loved two other short stories, one by Morgan Llywelyn, and another by Roberta Gellis. The former was in Irish Magic, the latter in Irish Magic II

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books


'Laurie Gold' left this comment on 7 Jul 05
Jennie -

This particular blogging is of my favorite and least favorites romances at the time I blogged. I'm not a Sandra Brown fan, which is why her books are not on this page. Sorry.


'A visitor' left this comment on 29 Jun 05
Hey, I didn't really understand what to get from this site. I read Sandra Brown books alot and I didn't see any listed. I have read alot of the others also.

My Sh_t Fit

There's no getting around it - something happened Friday night that refuses to let go. I'm working on the problem, but it's hard to say whether it'll be resolved to my satisfaction. Here's the deal. Last month Pat Holt and I did reciprocal segments f
There's no getting around it - something happened Friday night that refuses to let go. I'm working on the problem, but it's hard to say whether it'll be resolved to my satisfaction. Here's the deal. Last month Pat Holt and I did reciprocal segments for each others' columns. If you haven't read my segment in her column, you can link to it here. Well, an author chose that entree to write a letter to Pat Holt Uncensored that appears in her December 20th column (in the letters section) complaining about AAR even though her topic is wholly unrelated to what I wrote for the Uncensored column.

I read this letter Friday evening and, to put it mildly, had a sh_t fit. My husband, who returned from a business trip to New York at 1 a.m., was shocked to find me still awake, and still at my desk, where I was busily composing a letter of my own to send to Pat Holt. And I'm sure she appreciated my phone call to her first thing Saturday morning... not that I can go into the details of my response to this letter because I'm not sure what form it will take at the Holt Uncensored site. But I'm looking for a resolution within the next few days even though Pat's supposed to be on vacation because that's what she promised.

I strive mightily to keep behind the scenes crap off of AAR's pages, but some of our staff think it might be a good idea to bring this one to our readers. I'm definitely thinking about it.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas, one and all. I hope that by the time the new year is upon us that this will have been settled.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

"Marianne, Marianne, Marianne"

It may be a Merry Christmas for most of you, but it's a sad day indeed for me. The first major fall-out from the letter I mentioned in my last blogging has occurred, and it's very sad. A reviewer and editor who has been with AAR since the very beginn
It may be a Merry Christmas for most of you, but it's a sad day indeed for me.

The first major fall-out from the letter I mentioned in my last blogging has occurred, and it's very sad. A reviewer and editor who has been with AAR since the very beginning has decided to prematurely end her association with AAR, and I believe it's because she doesn't want that association to taint her chances of being published.

That's right - Marianne Stillings - whose reviews are brilliant and whose editing of other's reviews is equally brilliant, has resigned from AAR and I've accepted her resignation, effective the first of the year.

This last is important because Marianne has tried to resign in the past, and I've always been able to talk her out of it. This time I didn't even try because I know she's thisclose to being published, and I couldn't live with myself if AAR were the cause of holding her back. Because then it would be my fault. She's been writing romances for a few years now, but signed with an agent not long ago and has a fabulous book just waiting to be published. So now it's "serious."

We always knew this day would come - the day Marianne signed a deal would have been her last day as a reviewer and editor for AAR - but I can't help but believe her decision to leave earlier than planned came as a direct result of this latest attack on AAR, particularly since the Holt Uncensored column is so widely read throughout the publishing industry.

This is a catastrophic loss for AAR - not only was Marianne here since The Archives of LLB became AAR, but her reviews are so incredibly well-written and such a delight to read that she can never be replaced. For the first year or so (at least!) of the site's existence, she was our one and only editor, if you can believe it, and those skills too can never be duplicated. Having read her manuscript, I can only say her talents are wasted in technical writing (she's been a technical writer and editor for years).

Marianne has written a letter to be posted at AAR, but I'm going to post it here as well.

Dear AAR Readers:

I've asked Laurie to post this note so I can have a chance to say good-bye to you all. The end of 2002 marks the end of my reviewing days here at AAR. I've been with the site since it's inception five years ago and have written over 200 reviews; I just can't leave without saying so long.

Because I'm going to be pursuing a writing career of my own, I feel it would be inappropriate for me continue reviewing. To my mind, that would constitute a conflict of interest, and I never want the integrity of my reviews, or of AAR, called into question.

When I first began reading romance novels, I was ecstatic to find a site that offered honest analysis and opinions about the huge number of books available each month. I wanted to be a part of what I considered a viable service to readers. Over time, I have occasionally been shocked to hear accusations that AAR reviewers are nothing more than a covey of unprofessional frustrated mean-spirited writer wannabes. As a former insider at AAR, I want to state that nothing could be further from the truth.

Readers and authors have no idea how much thought goes into each review, and how each reviewer agonizes over posting a negative one. Each book we open, we hope will be a DIK. If the reality falls short of that, then we feel obliged to say so, just as we would if you were our next-door neighbor and we were chatting (as Laurie likes to say) over the back fence. I have never worked with a group of people more dedicated, more thoughtful, or more honest in my life than those here at AAR (and in case you need a credibility check, in Real Life, I have been a technical writer/editor for the past fifteen years).

The term "professional" in the Real World simply means that a person gets paid for whatever he/she does. The fact that the staff at AAR does not get paid, but writes reviews as a service to the genre's many readers, should make it obvious how dedicated they are to helping you make an informed choice. If AAR were a monthly magazine delivered in print format, it would undoubtedly get the respect it deserves, but the fact that it's an online publication doesn't detract a bit from the quality of its reviews and articles, or the sincerity of its staff. And, it's free, delivered on a daily basis. Is life good or what?

I'll miss being a part of the AAR Family more than I can say, but it's time for me to move on. I hope you've enjoyed reading my reviews as much as I've enjoyed writing them, and I wish you all, and Laurie and the staff at AAR the very, very best.

Be well and happy ---
Marianne Stillings

Several months ago I asked Marianne to start a journal so that when her book is bought and published, we'll have a way to share that experience with our readers. She will continue this after her association with AAR ends. If there's one silver lining, that's it.

I wish my friend Marianne the best. Her voice will be missed at AAR.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books


Well, now I just need to be patient. After working through five drafts in response to the letter I began to talk about in my December 24th blogging, I've finally written a version that strikes the right tone. I've heard from Pat Holt that once she's
Well, now I just need to be patient. After working through five drafts in response to the letter I began to talk about in my December 24th blogging, I've finally written a version that strikes the right tone. I've heard from Pat Holt that once she's back online after the first of the year, she'll either include it in the Letters section of her column and respond to it there or she'll preface it and use it in her column itself.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

A Poll

It's driving me absolutely crazy not to respond to the thread(s) on AAR's Potpourri Message Board regarding the Pat Holt situation, but my response needs to come through the Uncensored site and not AAR. Keeping this blog separate from AAR is importan
It's driving me absolutely crazy not to respond to the thread(s) on AAR's Potpourri Message Board regarding the Pat Holt situation, but my response needs to come through the Uncensored site and not AAR. Keeping this blog separate from AAR is important lest I turn into one of those online whiners who posts things in public that should be kept private. That's why I never name names when I'm whining about something here and why you'll never read about the worst behind-the-scenes stuff at AAR itself. You see, one of the reasons I have "issues" with certain authors is that they use public forums to air dirty laundry and complain about sites like AAR in a manner I think isn't "fair."

So one of the reasons I set up this blog was to give myself a place to rage against the injustice of it all while continuing to maintain a professional demeanor at AAR. That works just fine as long as discussion about my blog doesn't spill over onto AAR, but it has spilled over a few times so far, and I'm increasingly uncomfortable about it.

Those of you who are keeping up w/my blog have already noticed there are no links at the end of the entries to any AAR Message Board - there are only email links to me. And yet posts are being made on our Potpourri MB occasionally about my bloggings while very few people actually email me. Should I set up a Blog Board? On the one hand, if I did that, I could better keep blog stuff off of AAR. On the other hand, that's a bit much, isn't it? I started this blog to share behind the scenes things, and to share some personal stuff as well. A MB seems altogether too formal and conceited, but I'm going to poll you all for your thoughts. Frankly, I can't imagine many bloggings would be as insane as this latest incident has become, but who knows?


How to Keep LLB's Blog from Spilling onto AAR
Should I create a blog-specific message board?
Would a Blog MB better separate the blog from AAR?

Current results
Alxnet Free Web Tools

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

Handling my Dilemma

The poll I set up in my previous blogging has somehow malfunctioned. In the interim, two people voted that they thought a Blog-specific MB was the only way to stop postings at AAR on my blog entries, and a third wrote me that while she agreed with th
The poll I set up in my previous blogging has somehow malfunctioned. In the interim, two people voted that they thought a Blog-specific MB was the only way to stop postings at AAR on my blog entries, and a third wrote me that while she agreed with the concept, it was still a bad idea. I think I agree.

This is indeed what worries me, and yet I continue to be worried by additional posts on the Potpourri MB related to the entire incident. One poster even asks who Marianne Stillings is! I think the one and only solution since I believe I absolutely cannot respond on AAR's MB's to blogging posts is to inform readers in the introductory text for the Potpourri MB that blogging posts will be removed in the future and that any comments readers wish to make must be emailed to me privately.

The quandry suggested by this reader is as follows:

"Personally, I think that the *only* way to keep your readers from commenting on your blogs on the AAR bulletin boards when things like this (negative public comment on the site, you, or the reviewers) come up is to have some sort of separate MB, but something about that feels wrong to me. It isn't that I don't want to know about these things when they happen; I certainly do. And I also want to know how you've responded. But a message board where readers of the site comment would end up being a vehicle for cheering for you (not just you personally, but you the AAR website, its' reviews, etc.) attacking those who've been negative, and perhaps hurting the AAR site's reputation as a place where one can have a spirited but civil discussion of romance, learn about authors, the genre, and the publishing industry, and participate in polls, parody writing, and recommending titles to others. It also seems to me that it might open you to more attacks of the kind ______ has mounted."

I'm going to make that MB adjustment now. Thanks, Juliet, for helping me think this through.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books