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Best Romances of 2009

It’s the time of the year where everywhere looks back and thinks of their favorite and sometimes least favorite things for the year. I thought I’d list my top romance reads for both print and e-books. NOTE: Most of the above books came out in 2009, but a few of these are 2008 releases. I read them this year and therefore they’ve made my list.

Favorite Romance reads in no particular order.

1. Wicked Burn by Beth Kery (erotic contemporary)
2. Pleasure Unbound (Demonica, Book 1) by Larissa Ione (paranormal)
3. Able-Bodied (Harlequin Blaze) by Karen Foley (Blaze)
4. Amorous Liaisons (Harlequin Blaze) by Sarah Mayberry (Blaze)
5. Bound to Shadows (Riley Jensen, Guardian, Book 8) by Keri Arthur (paranormal)
6. On the Prowl (Tales of an Urban Werewolf, Book 2) by Karen MacInerney (paranormal)
7. She’s Got It Bad (Harlequin Blaze) by Sarah Mayberry (Blaze)
8. The Education of Madeline by Beth Williamson (historical)
9. Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels, Book 3) by Ilona Andrews (urban fantasy)
10. Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas (contemporary)
11. Bound to Please by Lilli Feisty (erotic contemporary)
12. Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carrigan (historical paranormal)

Favorite Romance e-books in no particular order.

1. Hard Fall by James Buchanan (m/m)
2. Branded as Trouble by Lorelei James (erotic contemporary)
3. High Line by TA Chase (m/m)
4. The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks by Josh Lanyon (m/m)
5. Rough Stock by Cat Johnson (erotic contemporary)
6. Happy Ending by LB Gregg (m/m)
7. Hara’s Legacy by Bianca D’Arc (futuristic)
8. Gray’s Awakening by Cameron Dane (m/m)

The interesting thing is that while I’ve read plenty of e-books this year, many of them have been by NY published authors. I’ve purchased far more books in e-format than print this year. There are some books in my to-read pile that I suspect would have made this list, if I’d had time to read them such as Tere Michaels’ Love & Loyalty and NJ Walters’ Alexandra’s Legacy. I’ve been drowning in edits for the last two months, which cuts into my reading time!

Which books made your “best of list” for 2009?

How Many Characters Are Too Many?

I love reading series and books about families or groups of friends. I enjoy secondary characters, especially the ones who bring humor to a story and lighten what would be an otherwise dark book. Secondary characters sometimes help show the hero or heroine in a different light, give us a new perspective and make our main characters seem more multi-faceted to the reader.

A secondary character shouldn’t overshadow the hero or heroine. If they’re that interesting, give them their own book.

A secondary character should have a specific purpose in driving the plot forward. Sometimes they provide important information for the reader and the main characters.

There shouldn’t be so many secondary characters that the story is overwhelmed. Sometimes a secondary character can do double duty, allowing the writer to get rid of one of their cast of characters.

I’m a big Sherrilyn Kenyon fan, but in some of her books I struggle with the sheer number of characters. I can usually get my head around the main characters and the other Dark Hunters who make an appearance. Add Acheron and Simi and I have no problem because they’re my favorites. It’s the casts of Gods and Goddesses who get me confused.

I’m also a huge fan of Lorelei James’ western contemporaries. I emailed her after reading one of her books and told her I loved her latest release but had she considered doing a family tree? I was getting dreadfully confused trying to keep the family characters straight. Several of them have Christian names that start with the same letter of the alphabet, as is tradition in the area where Lorelei sets her books. She ended up adding an awesome family tree to her website. Here’s the link so you can see her family trees.

With my Middlemarch Mates series, I’m currently working on book nine. I’ve been thinking about doing a family tree for my website. I don’t have any problems keeping my own characters straight, but I’m not sure how my readers are faring. If you’re reading my series, do let me know what you think about a family tree.

How many secondary characters do you think are too many in a story? What do you like most about secondary characters? What do you think about family trees? Do you like having them as a reference when you’re reading a book?

A Contemporary Read

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Contemporary Romances I’ve Read Recently

I’m going through a contemporary blitz at the moment and thought I’d share what I’ve been reading. I enjoyed all the following books but have noted my extra favorites. I’m also after some sympathy. I did a header over the handle bars of my bike yesterday and collected almost enough ouchies to do a separate TT. I even have a very impressive black eye and a dashing cut above my eye. I need virtual hugs!

1. Sexiest man Alive by Diana Holquist.

2. Catch of the Day by Kristin Higgins. This was written in first person and hooked me in from the start. I thought the heroine made a few stupid decisions but it was still a good read.

3. Virgin River series by Robyn Carr. I love this series and can’t wait for the three back-to-back releases coming out early next year. I loved the characters and really invested in them. I feel like they’re family.

4. Irresistable by Susan Mallery. This is also part of a good series. I have two more books waiting on my to-read pile.

5. The Laws of Attraction by Sherryl Woods. This was a category. I’m going to pick up some of her single titles when I get a chance.

6. Sweet Surrender by Maya Banks. I really enjoy Maya’s writing and can’t wait to pick up some of her others.

7. Rough, Raw and Ready by Lorelei James. I mentioned this book in my menage a trois TT. Lorelei did an awesome job with this book and it’s one of my favorites of her series.

8. Seduction of Shamus O’Rourke by NJ Walters. This has just come out in print. I fell in love with Shamus. He’s such a great hero!

9. Flashpoint by Jill Shalvis.

10. The Darker Side of Pleasure by Eden Bradley. I love Eden’s writing. I’m a huge fan.

11. Asking for Trouble by Leslie Kelly.

12. Sarah’s Seduction by Lora Leigh. I read the first in this series, Marly’s Choice a while ago. It’s not an easy series to read because it deals with abuse, but Lora does a great job making the reader care for the characters.

13. The Stranger by Portia Da Costa. This is what I’m reading at the moment. I’ve read a couple of Portia’s books and always enjoy them.

As you can see, I read a real mixture. Some hot and some not. Some are category while others are single title. Do you like contemporary romance? If so, have you read any good ones recently?

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What A Tangled Web We Weave with Lorelei James

Tied Up Tied Down My special guest today is Samhain author, Lorelei James. She’s talking about family trees and books. Over to Lorelei and her Western men!

Shelley contacted me after she’d finished, TIED UP, TIED DOWN, the latest book in my Rough Riders series from Samhain Publishing, wondering if I’d ever considered creating a family tree for the characters as a reference point for readers.

I’ll admit I hadn’t thought of it. I’ll also admit I have lots of characters in my books — no one really is an island, even in the middle of nowhere Wyoming. The Rough Riders books are a Western saga, if you will, featuring a large ranching family. Each book can be read as a standalone, but each book builds on the entire arc of the series, both forward and backward, and each one features a different McKay or West family member.

***Complete disclosure; if I had it to do all over again, I would not have so many ‘C’ and ‘K’ names in this series – although it is something families do frequently out here in the Wild West, begin all offspring’s first names with the same letter. As sort of a wink wink nudge nudge to my readers and myself, in TIED UP, TIED DOWN, Skylar complains about the excessive use of the same consonant in the McKay family. And Kane asks his twin brother Kade why their mother gave them such similar names.***

I remember a series by a famous author in which the first couple in the series birthed one kid in the epilogue. Then in the next connected book that same couple were blessed with twins…but no mention of the first child. In the 3rd or 4th book, that same couple had triplets, not twins, still no mention of that poor little forgotten first kiddo. The inconsistency pulled me out of the story. Readers might think it is the copy editor’s job to double check facts and character lineage, but I wonder if the whole incident could’ve been avoided had the author created a family tree.

So I took Shelley’s suggestion to heart. Not only would an official roadmap be a bonus for readers, it’d be an easy way for me to keep track of my own characters. I checked a couple of author sites to see how they structured their family trees to get an idea of what I wanted. Then I posed the challenge to my readers loop, The James Gang, and two fabulous ladies volunteered to head up the project. Honestly, I think they’re afraid if I’m dinking around with working on a family tree I won’t actually be writing, and they’re sort of antsy for me to get the next book finished :grin:

These fans, Joy Roett and Carla Hartman created not one, not two, but three separate family trees. Immediately I sent the finished project to my website designer to post. Check out the results here.

Question of the day for readers: Do you look at family trees in the beginnings of books? Or skip over them entirely? Or would you go to the author’s website for more information?

Lorelei James writes erotic Westerns set in the modern day Wild West. For more information on books, contests and the James Gang readers yahoo group, visit Lorelei’s website: www.loreleijames.com