Foreword Reviews

Intoxicated

In Love with Love and Loving It

romance

The perfect lover, in today’s popular romance, can be anyone from a zombie to an heiress. Creepy tales from the dark side and staid historical traditions propel the most turbulent of stories into a fictional realm far removed from a quaint bed-and-breakfast hideaway. Plots that hug reality feature authentic protagonists facing modern problems on the twenty-first-century dating scene.

Crazy, occasionally cheesy, yet charming, these books may push the boundaries of believability but never fail to interest a worldwide audience—voracious and seeking amour. Nothing irritates the literary critic more than a bad romance, but nothing enrages the literary critic more than a good romance, simply because it sells. This lucrative field attracts all age groups from every socioeconomic background. This is a world where personal problems fade into oblivion. Escape. Excitement. Entertainment. Keep turning those pages.

The Highlander’s Bride

Book Cover
Amanda Forester
Sourcebooks Casablanca
Softcover $7.99 (384pp)
978-1-4926-0543-0
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A staged fourteenth-century marriage turns into abiding love in this beautiful romance. Amanda Forester weaves a simple plot into a gorgeous tapestry in The Highlander’s Bride.

Gavin Patrick, a warrior from Scotland, must deliver Lady Marie Colette to the waiting clutches of her fiancé. They leave France under the guise of marriage so he can keep her safe. In a period when women were merely chattel, this secure yet undercover handoff is the norm. Powerless, concerned about losing her late mother’s belongings, and facing no future despite the fact that she is an heiress, she travels willingly but realizes her bodyguard may be her soul mate.

The lady adores her escort, but a big problem looms on the other side of the English Channel. She belongs to a brute with self-centered desires, and Sir Gavin will need to make a difficult decision.

Strong characterization and superb description create a distinctive sense of time and place. Love scenes are tender and sincere:

She should have struggled to break free, but instead she gave in to grief and sobbed onto his broad shoulder. He held her gently and made calming noises in some language she did not understand. He blocked her from view, and Colette knew he was intentionally protecting her from prying eyes.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2015)

Bring Me to Life

Book Cover
August Kert
Samhain Publishing
eBook $4.50 (172pp)
978-1-61922-990-7

Cannibalism … hmmm … not exactly romantic—hard to imagine that consuming human flesh could play a part in a love story. August Kert’s zombie zinger Bring Me to Life proves this unthinkable undertaking can be accomplished as long as the protagonists refrain from eating each other in the heat of passion.

Just like a May-December romance, this human-zombie affair dares to flaunt the primal urges and animalistic instincts then somehow points toward a happy ending on the horizon. Yet the audacity of the characters sustains this eccentric tale, lifting it from the remains of chewed-up pulp.

Lyric and Anson have a thing going on. From the moment Anson first spotted his beautiful, very-much-alive heroine, he wanted to beat the horrible disease that incapacitated him, making him dependent on his own species for sustenance. His inner man struggles to reemerge for the sake of love.

Held in captivity like prey and waiting to become the next meal, Lyric feels a magnetic pull despite the danger. “I hated his blue eyes and how he looked at me. I despised how it seemed like with one glance he could see into my soul. He watched me in a way that was foreign to me.”

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2015)

Designing Hearts

Book Cover
Robin Strachan
Camel Press
Softcover $15.95 (332pp)
978-1-60381-260-3
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

This glitzy yet surprisingly down-to-earth novel about a high-profile marriage on the rocks explores all the typical cliffs and crevices then plunges into the blue waters of a new relationship. Robin Strachan’s aptly titled Designing Hearts pits a successful feng-shui interior designer against a philandering talk-show host.

A thriving businesswoman, Jill Hennessy lacks nothing except a lover she can trust. Immersed in his own career, her husband, David, enjoys a tighter bond with his assistant than with his wife. Then the love of Jill’s life arrives on the tumultuous scene—an artist with a heart of platinum. Just as Jill learns to distance herself from her estranged spouse, David returns to make amends. Torn between loyalty and love, she must make the most difficult choice of her life.

Far from feeling repelled by the idea of lovemaking after her husband’s betrayal, she longed for it, missed what she had enjoyed during her many years with David. Whenever Denny was near, she had a yearning to be held by him.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2015)

The Lost Heiress

Book Cover
Roseanna M. White
Bethany House
Softcover $14.99 (448pp)
978-0-7642-1350-2
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A missing heiress raised in Monaco travels to Yorkshire, England, to claim her legacy in this Edwardian novel. Roseanna M. White presents a common historical situation in The Lost Heiress, infusing the plot with vigor through the use of strong evocative passages and detailed characterization.

This conservative Christian romance set in Whitby Park features Brook Eden and her trusted friend Justin, an heir to a dukedom, against the backdrop of the North Sea. A slow, simmering relationship, their ardor is built on the meticulous process of getting to know each other rather than boiling over in the first few chapters. Careful and focused, White creates the perfect scenario for their deepest feelings to emerge.

Maybe, if she gave him a chance to share his heart, he would put her fears to rest. Maybe he would kiss her again, and the sensations would swell, and she would know that whatever had happened in her life, he would still have wanted her.

Abduction, intrigue, and a priceless artifact add just the right amount of mystery to raise the temperature of this otherwise cool tale to a comfortable warm. Understated and precise, every word establishes a sense of calm purpose.

Roseanna M. White is the prolific author of nine novels.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2015)

Be My Valentino

Book Cover
Sandra D. Bricker
Abingdon Press
Softcover $14.99 (304pp)
978-1-4267-1161-9
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A remarkable heroine reinvents herself and establishes a new career in this against-all-odds metamorphosis. Be My Valentino, by Sandra D. Bricker, features a resilient woman confronting obstacles and recurring conflicts.

Jessie Stanton opens Adornments, a boutique that rents designer clothing. Private investigator Danny Callahan needs a suit for an event. This Valentino transaction will change the course of Jessie’s life. Danny captures the attention of L.A. Magazine, putting her business on the map, but not necessarily in the way she intended. This attractive hunk may be a godsend in the average woman’s eyes, but Jessie has not fully recovered from a bad marriage.

Written in a lighthearted style, this mainstream novel breezes through serious trouble with an understated, even subdued, approach. Dialogue sparkles. A colorful grandpa emerges from time to time in first-person introspection—italicized passages that may convey more information than detailed narrative.

Shy as Jessie was, people never know’d it. She saw somebody who needed somethin’ or another kiddo left alone at the jungle gym, my Jessie was the first one to try’n do somethin’ ’bout it. Saw her leave a boy hangin’ many a time to go mop up a girlfriend who got her heart broke.

With an extensive background in the entertainment industry, Sandra D. Bricker charges her scenes with electric realism.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2015)

Love, Alba

Book Cover
Sophy Burnham
River Sanctuary
Softcover $15.95 (226pp)
978-1-935914-47-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Narrated by an articulate cat, this feline examination of human behavior offers a unique perspective on relationships. Sophy Burnham’s Love, Alba is a touching reflection on life in a conversational storyteller’s style.

Alba is only one of the personified cats featured in this heartfelt novel set in Washington, DC. Without question, these sage creatures dominate the plot. Mystical, angelic, and occasionally overbearing, they contribute much more than insignificant details. The feline world depicted in Burnham’s book constitutes a subplot that is perhaps more interesting than its human counterpart.

Late that night I moved to the moonlit window. A bat flew past, a silent blur of black, and deep in the grass came the scurrying of mice and moles. In the distance a garbage can lid fell with a clatter—the work of an urban raccoon. The city was bathed in an amber glow, and with eyes half-closed I settled into the silent cat-space that connected me with Puma across the river, communing mind to mind.

Entwining love stories compete for prominence. Lorna’s romance with a younger man leads the novel, and it is her activities and personality that Alba finds fascinating. Hilarious commentary and imaginative asides create mood as well as atmosphere in scenes that reveal contradiction, hesitancy, and eccentricity … from a cat’s point of view, of course. Heavy on social pondering yet light on lectures, the narrative explores every pathway to potential happiness.

Sophy Burnham is an award-winning author and playwright best known for her inspirational work.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2015)

The One That Got Away

Book Cover
Carol Rosenfeld
Bywater Books
Unknown $14.95 (200pp)
978-1-61294-060-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A bridal consultant comes out after years in the dressing room and admits her attraction to women in this funny lesbian romance. The One That Got Away, by Carol Rosenfeld, immerses a modern drama in a hot tub of humor.

When the groom is not enough—yes, this enlightening story will reassure any blushing bride who hasn’t found bliss in a traditional male-female partnership—Bambi Devine, aka B.D., falls for Bridget McKnight. Problem: Bridget is in a relationship with another woman who’s rumored to be having an affair. Pursuing this dream lover may not proceed in a neat and orderly fashion. Accessorize this situation with a little advice from a drag queen, B.D.’s boss.

Psychologists say there is a fine line between laughter and tears. Rosenfeld’s novel delves into somber issues such as loneliness with finesse, eliciting snickers as well as a little sadness.

Sometimes it was easier to believe in Santa Claus and angels than in human beings. While the holidays held the potential for happiness, it seemed too easy to hope for too much. I preferred to celebrate quietly, and alone.

A strong supporter of LGBT literature, Carol Rosenfeld lives in New York City and infuses her fiction with the city’s ambiance.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2015)

Break Your Heart

Book Cover
Rhonda Helms
Kensington
Softcover $9.95 (240pp)
978-1-61773-122-8
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Honors student falls for professor. Honors student kisses professor. Break Your Heart, by Rhonda Helms, is the story of a stereotypical crush on a college campus with the potential to end a career. Academic ethics is the villain in this familiar scenario, creating a barrier that cannot be overcome without sacrifice.

Megan Porter feels an overpowering attraction to Dr. Nick Muramoto, her cryptography instructor and thesis advisor. This young woman experiences a wide range of emotion, progressing from adolescent infatuation to serious interest, while dealing with her mother’s addiction to prescription painkillers. Vulnerable and searching for an end to her own pain by seeking solace in a forbidden relationship, Megan responds to Nick’s flirtation with gusto.

My body became my focus—my body and his proximity, the weight of his gaze. He kept his hands off me, but his eyes roamed me freely.

Portrayed with near-tangible realness, these outstanding characters could inhabit any neighborhood college campus. The first-person viewpoint, honest and straightforward, enhances the quality of this contemporary plot.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2015)


A Chicago-based freelance writer and fiction editor, Julia Ann Charpentier is the author of seven books, including Valentino: Icon of Romance, a bio-bibliography on the silent film star.

Julia Ann Charpentier

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