Foreword Reviews

I'm So Into You

From Historical to Fantastical, Same-Sex to Conventional, Romance Fiction Continues to Heat and Bother

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Obscure, subjective, esoteric, dubious.

Like no other concept known to civilized humans, romance may be the most difficult to define. Yet, most of us would agree that we know romance when we see it. We can also point out what romance is not—a coerced or forcible encounter, for example, or sex for money, a relationship arranged by parents, or a surrogate-mother contract. And romance is not a privilege known to every marriage, or even many loving relationships.

Complex and diverse, romance fiction in the publishing sphere encompasses far more than blazing erotica or clandestine patronage. As in all great writing, it’s the characters in the books we treasure that determine the best of literary romance. These amorous heroes and heroines exercise a fictional right to break from the mold, go rogue, be elusive. Precision would destroy the mystery and pleasure of the form.

With Every Breath

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Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House
Softcover $14.99 (368pp)
978-0-7642-1174-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Dedication and sacrifice bring former academic rivals together in this medical drama set in an 1891 Washington, DC, hospital. With Every Breath, by Elizabeth Camden, reveals the terrifying impact of tuberculosis during a time when treatments were experimental. A death sentence for most, the disease ravaged the US population, leaving pain and grief in its wake, a scenario Camden describes in explicit detail throughout this empathetic historical novel.

Trevor McDonough, a gutsy physician intent on finding a cure, enlists the help of Kate Livingston, an experienced statistician. Once competitors, they must work together for a common good rather than fight for prominence in an intellectual environment. Devoted to saving terminal patients in a research ward while fending off an unknown enemy, McDonough’s attempts seem nothing but a futile endeavor.

Enriched with period flourishes and supported with facts about the disease, a sense of place is effectively established, allowing complete immersion in an unfamiliar setting. “The girl struggled to heave in a lungful of air while she reached for a mask on the small metal table beside her bed. It sounded like she had gravel rattling in her lungs.”

Camden creates mood and atmosphere—a genuine feeling for the fascinating yet disturbing situation her protagonists face. She reaches deep inside her characters to portray them realistically, fleshing out personalities who live by 19th-century moral standards.

This book stays within common boundaries respected by American society over one hundred years ago. The hero and heroine interact in a somewhat confined realm. They express their emotions in a straightforward manner, important actions speaking louder than conversation or prolonged introspection.

An award-winning, prolific author, Elizabeth Camden holds degrees in history and library science, giving her the skills to enhance her writing with exceptional background information. Her book will draw historical fiction enthusiasts as well as readers of inspirational romance.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2014)

Lemongrass Hope

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Amy Impellizzeri
Wyatt-MacKenzie
Softcover $14.95 (304pp)
978-1-939288-53-0
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

A fantasy cruise ten years into the past allows a glimpse of the nautical path not taken in a woman’s life as she sails away from her desired destination—a fulfilling relationship. Amy Impellizzeri’s literary experiment, Lemongrass Hope, showcases everything that is right and wrong about married existence, while turning on an alternative lighthouse as a beacon of optimism.

This bizarre time-traveling experience delves into the psychological unrest that often occurs in a long-term relationship. Kate Sutton is married with two perfect children. But her marriage is far from perfect. On a getaway vacation without her family, a mysterious time warp enables her to see what would have happened if she had chosen the first man she had loved rather than the second. Kate discovers that she would have been happier with the first. This is the premise on which Impellizzeri’s engaging story is built. If one makes the wrong decision … what must happen then?

Kate’s answer is not simple, but the mind-bending journey is fascinating. “I tried to reconcile the Captain’s story with reality. And I quickly abandoned it as the tall tale that it obviously was. I did not want to believe that The Devil’s Triangle could take you back in time or make you forget everything you knew.”

Amy Impellizzeri is an advocate for women entrepreneurs and has a background in law and as a nonfiction writer. Lemongrass Hope is her fiction debut.

Time itself is a villain in this unusual tale, yet the possibility of a dream come true remains on the horizon. Realistic portrayals mingle with strange phenomena in this heady mix of contemporary romance and psychic twilight.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2014)

Making Marion

Where’s Robin Hood When You Need Him?

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Beth Moran
Lion Fiction
Softcover $14.99 (320pp)
978-1-78264-099-8
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In this humorous slice of life, a potpourri of domestic discontent, Cinderella complex, and cold hearted reality leaves unforgettable memories. Beth Moran takes liberties in her portrayal of a shy, insecure heroine in Making Marion, creating a character so believably human that she barely qualifies for fictional status.

Marion Miller is searching for the Sherwood Forest visitor center while grieving for the father she lost in childhood, and in the process, she finds employment at the Peace and Pigs campground in Nottinghamshire, England. She meets a dysfunctional family, falls for one guy, fights off another, and reluctantly reunites with her mother, a downtrodden woman she does not respect. All the trappings of a situation comedy, but this cynical story approaches life and death with a matter-of-fact stance and a sardonic smile. Some books cannot be forced into a predetermined niche, and this unexpected novel is one.

Moran, a native of England, has focused on Marion’s personality outside of her relations with men. This special heroine comes across with idiosyncrasies, faults, and virtues. A three-dimensional view, along with Moran’s ability to refrain from cardboard development in “making” Marion, will place this debut novel outside any category.

Told in the first person, its candid delivery enhances a fly-on-the-wall perspective. “The problem with living for eight years with a boyfriend who treats you like a pigeon he rescued from the side of the road … is that you are prone to fall for the first man who comes along and tells you something different.”

Marion’s rocky relationship with Jake, a manipulative charmer, and her affection for Reuben, a sophisticated lover, brings to light the challenges contemporary women face in making reasonable choices under pressure. Moran’s work is a mix of lighthearted romance and solemn drama.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2014)

Tangled Roots

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Marianne K. Martin
Bywater Books
Softcover $14.95 (224pp)
978-1-61294-053-3
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Childhood companions in the early 20th century grow to love each other amid the turmoil of racist upheaval and sexist restrictions in a touching story of abiding loyalty. In Tangled Roots, Marianne K. Martin presents two intelligent women faced with intolerable choices that will curtail their future together.

Raised by an African American farming family, Nessie must exercise caution in her friendship with Anna, the daughter of comfortable white landowners. In this era, interracial entanglements are frowned upon and same-sex partnerships are forbidden. With two strikes against them in a Southern community that will destroy any chance at happiness, they must resort to secret interludes. Precarious promises that may never be kept form the foundation of their relationship.

Steeped in the brutal reality of a historical period on the brink of violent change, Nessie and Anna live according to the rules of discrimination. This exploration of tender passion, perhaps too sane to be permitted in an insane society, allows a candid look at past contrivances and established tradition. Rooted within this moving novel is the seed of freedom beginning to sprout.

“Maybe the days of seeing each other every day were numbered, but Nessie would not be counting. She chose, instead, to believe the lilt in Anna’s voice, and let it lift her past the truth. Even while what she knew clung stubbornly to the hem of her denial, Nessie reveled in Anna’s smile and lost herself in the blue of her eyes.”

Marianne K. Martin is a best-selling author of lesbian romance. She has garnered numerous awards.

This post-Civil War romance will enthrall an audience seeking diversity in a subgenre often immersed in stereotypes. Deeply engrossing and quite beautiful, Martin’s talent for creating human characters that could walk off the page into real life will leave her audience craving more.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2014)

Lusty Little Women

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Margaret Pearl
Ulysses Press
Softcover $14.95 (528pp)
978-1-61243-302-8
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Discover Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women from a new perspective in this exciting remake of a beloved classic. Margaret Pearl takes her Lusty Little Women into forbidden territory, breaking the rules and restrictions imposed on 19th-century society in Massachusetts.

This titillating title leads one to believe the novel is filled with erotica. These famous four sisters—Meg, Amy, Beth, and Jo March—speak their minds and do the unthinkable, but Pearl’s descriptive passages fade out on the physical and zoom in on the emotional. Tasteful and reserved, the book takes only a conservative step forward in its liberation stance.

In the sex scenes, much is implied rather than explicitly stated. “He proceeded to tease, tickle, lick, and threaten until she was fairly howling with pleasure. Stopping short of fully availing himself of her womanly charms, he tried every pleasing act he knew, until finally he collapsed, exhausted.”

With a potent command of language, Pearl has done an exemplary job in presenting this complicated, lengthy story about a tight-knit family fighting to remain strong under the most trying circumstances. These captivating women are a team, not a group of undermining siblings. Even in situations where petty jealousy and competitive jostling, especially over eligible men, would be considered the norm, these virtuous characters keep their dignity and integrity intact.

Margaret Pearl studied writing at New York University. Lusty Little Women is her debut novel.

This powerhouse of an author will delight fans of Alcott, as well as attract a fresh following of romance enthusiasts looking for an energetic style in a familiar historical novel. This first glimpse promises to be the foundation for sequels.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2014)

Julia Ann Charpentier

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