Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Cora's Picks - Two Desire Romances

I'm behind on everything these days, and I'm running on empty. I'm supposed to be on a panel this weekend in Bossier with a few other authors, but after that, I'm not taking on anything new until the summer. Perhaps even later than that.

I'm currently stressed about going up to Chicago and Great Lakes next month. Plus, I have prepared nothing for conference, which is only what...3-4 weeks away? I'm pretty much facing a wing-it type situation, but I'm not gonna worry about it. I've got too much family stuff going on to stress over a pitch. If nothing else, I'll give my slots to someone else, and go the old fashioned slush pile route. Or, when I have something ready to go, I'll sign up for a different conference. I'm at the point now, where I just want to write what I want to write, when I want to write it, and if a publisher doesn't want it, I'm fine with that. I'll publish it myself.

I'm currently enrolled in two workshops. One of those, I hope, will help me get through edits on the September Experiment. I've barely had time to think about that book, which is kinda sad, because it is a good story. So, this is sort of a 2nd chance for that book. If I don't get it all the way polished through the course of the workshop, I'll look at it again over the summer.

I've about got the character sheets ready to upload. I need to tack on one more section, then it's all good - I'll be ready to put them up on my website and Scribd. While tinkering around in my office the other day, I thought about making a book starter packet type thing, where I take all my brainstorming sheets (not just the character sheets), and bundle them into one file I can download and use when I go to start a new book. Hmm...I still like the sound of that. But, I don't have the time to compile one right now. It's on my mile long to-do wish list. Still, that would be super handy, me thinks.

Now, for more Cora's Picks... (yeah, I haven't done this in a while)...

Over the weekend, I read two books. Both are new releases from the Harlequin Desire line.

The first book I read is Sex, Lies, and the Southern Belle by Kathie DeNosky. I chose this book, because it's southern in nature (my stompin' grounds), and the characters are non-royalty, non-cowboy American urbanites. The book got off to a confusing start. There were a lot of characters to sort through. This book is part of a continuity, which is a multi-author mini series within the line. I don't have all the books that go in this particular series (Dynasties: The Kincaids), which could explain, in part, why I didn't grasp all the characters right away. At any rate, it turned out to be a pretty good read. The ending is very romantic, which I think helped me get over the awkward beginning. It was worth reading to get to that ending, so I will probably pick up the other Kincaid books in the series as well. I've got those books marked down to add to my TBR list.

Now for another reason I give this book my recommendation. If you've ever looked at Harlequin's submission guidelines, they are very specific about what they want per line. One common thing among the available guidelines - many of the editors explain that they are looking for character driven, dramatic, emotional stories. Stories that revolve not around events, not around plot points, but the relationship dynamics between the hero and heroine. They really want that emotional conflict, those things that keep the hero and heroine apart, and I don't think I completely understood what they were looking for until I read Sex, Lies, and the Southern Belle.

The hero is a CEO, but there is very little mention of his working life. A lot of Harlequins will put the guy in the boardroom, or running off to take care of some business type thing, or the heroine will show up at his workplace. It's easy to look at that scenario and assume that part of the plot should revolve around his work. (Or, the heroine's work.) That has always tripped me up when trying to plot a contemporary romance.

Well, Sex, Lies, and the Southern Belle took that workplace element out of the story, and I found it much easier to see the emotional conflict like the editors at Harlequin talk about in their podcasts. So, if you've been struggling to find that underlying "IT" that the editors are talking about in the podcasts or in the guidelines, I think Sex, Lies, and the Southern Belle is a very good book to read for research.

The other book I read over the weekend is Wanted by Her Lost Love by Maya Banks. What made this book stand out to me is that you know right away this hero is still in love with the heroine. There is no scheme to get revenge, he's not going after her because he wants to punish her, you can see from chapter one, he is not over his "lost love", and as angry as he is about what happened in the past, he is still in love with her. It is a very romantic book. That beginning chapter drew me into the book right away. I didn't put the book down until I finished it.

Wanted by Her Lost Love is one of the best books I've read so far this year. And I say that as someone who doesn't read secret baby books very often. This is a really good book, and it's one that like Sex, Lies, and the Southern Belle, would be a good book to read to research the line, or to take apart and see what character driven, emotionally intense books look like from a craft perspective.

The hero in this book is a land developer, but his work takes a backseat to the point its almost an afterthought. His career is pretty much relegated to setting. The hero and heroine take refuge from his family at the beach resort he is developing with his friends and business partners. He is primarily with the heroine throughout the book. The emotions are a roller coaster ride. I dare you to chart the emotional through line with this book. It's very intense, and doesn't feel forced in any way.

You can see in this book, that 90% of it is emotional development. The emotional/internal conflict arc is very clear. You see the characters go from bitter anger and hurt in the beginning, to being emotionally open and in love by the end of the book. As a reader, and a writer, I can't recommend this book highly enough.  Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Wanted by Her Lost Love for yourself - especially if you're interested in writing for Harlequin. This book is everything you'd want (and an editor wants) in a Harlequin romance.

So there you have it. My latest picks. You can click the links on the titles to take you to the purchase pages for these books at eHarlequin.com . As a side note, I was not paid to evaluate these books. They are not ARCs, nor were they given to me for review. I purchased them from my local bookseller. Any opinions you see above are my own.

Okalies, disclaimer done. It's after 1am now,  and I have to be up at 6, so I better get to bed. Happy reading (and writing) everyone. Night, night!

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