Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Review: Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins

When Grace Emerson’s ex-fiancee starts dating her younger sister, extreme measures are called for. To keep everyone from obsessing about her love life, Grace announces that she’s seeing someone. Someone wonderful. Someone handsome. Someone completely made up. Who is this Mr. Right? Someone … exactly unlike her renegade neighbor Callahan O’Shea. Well, someone with his looks, maybe. His hot body. His knife-sharp sense of humor. His smarts and big heart.

Whoa. No. Callahan O’Shea is not her perfect man! Not with his unsavory past. So why does Mr. Wrong feel so … right?

Grace Emerson is a good girl done wrong by love. But she’s over him, really. She has her students, her best friend Julian and weekends spent at Civil War re-enactments (oh how I love that unique character trait). She lives in her dream house, purchased with her ex and then used as sort of breakup recovery. She also has Angus, her white West Highland terrier (the most adorable fictional dog I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet). Life is good. Life is grand. And then she attends her cousin’s wedding (the third wedding). And Andrew is there, dating her youngest sister. Suddenly, Grace isn’t so sure she’s “just fine”. But before she has time to explore that thought, she finds Nat in the bathroom crying. Before she knows it, Grace has invented a pretend boyfriend and assaulted her new ex-con neighbor all in one night.

Callahan O’Shea, ex-con and house flipper, just wants a quiet life. He wants to meet that perfect woman and settle down with a few kids. He doesn’t want the cops called on him or find himself at the receiving end of a field hockey stick. But that’s just what happens. Fortunately for him, the woman who assaults him with her hockey stick ends up being his dream girl. But he holds back. He has a past and once Grace knows of his crime (embezzlement, with a very good excuse), he waits for her to accept what he has done and come to him on her own.

Grace does come to Callahan on her own terms. Throughout the book she realizes that she has left Andrew and the hurt of their failed relationship far behind. One of my favorite scenes occurred when Grace climbed up to the roof where Callahan lay. She spent better half of the book spying on him from her attic and finally she was invited up.

“Were you ever married?” Callahan asked.

“Nope,” I said, staring at the hypnotic stars. “I was engaged a couple years ago, though.” God. A couple of years ago. It sounded like such a long time.

“Why’d you call it off?”

I shifted to look at him. Nice, that he assumed it had been my decision. Nice, but untrue. “I didn’t, actually. He did. He fell for someone else.” Funny … saying it like that didn’t sound all that bad. He fell for someone else. It happened.

Callahan O’Shea turned his head. “Sounds like he was an idiot,” he said softly.

    Oh. Oh. There it was again, that warm, rolling squeeze of my insides.

Ms. Higgins brings her signature humor and heart to her fourth effort, Too Good To Be True. Readers follow the trials and tribulations of Grace, a woman trying to heal herself while she navigates the choppy waters of dating, family issues and morality. The warmth of her characters seeps through the pages and creeps into your heart with very little effort. Three days after reading the final pages, I find myself still thinking of Grace and Callahan. Ms. Higgins is an auto-buy for me and I bought Too Good To Be True without even reading the back blurb. I was rewarded with the best Higgins book yet. 

Things I Liked

~ Grace’s family, the Emersons. They’re dysfunctional, they’re funny, they care about each other and most importantly, they are REAL. Ms. Higgins creates a true, caring relationship between the Emerson sisters. When you read about the sisters, you come to understand why Grace would allow and even set-up a romantic relationship between her youngest sister and her ex.

~ My favorite scene: Grace trapped in the closet at Julian’s dance studio while her parents acted out a sexual fantasy … or Grace and Callahan on the roof … or, oh yes, Nat’s wedding. I won’t ruin it for those of you who haven’t yet read the book, but Grace’s act of closure is priceless.

~ Grace and Margaret’s use of particularly fun exclamations. As Margaret once said: “Gentle Jesus of the three iron nails …” And Grace’s favorite: “God’s nightgown!”

~ Most importantly, I loved Grace’s love of the Civil War and Gone With the Wind. As a history geek myself (and yes, I have participated in a re-enactment or two), this was a refreshingly unique character trait for our heroine.

Things I Didn’t Like

~ For the better part of the book I wasn’t quite sure I even liked Callahan. He was mean and surly and I wondered how he and Grace would ever come to love each other. As the book progressed, so did their relationship (in a believable way) but his initial bad attitude was distracting.

Additional Info

~ Published ~ January 2009

~ Price ~ $6.99

~Favorite Author Book ~ This one!

~ Author Website ~  www.kristanhiggins.com

Sunday, January 25, 2009

And I'm Back ...

It's been awhile. OK, a long while. But I've been busy. Well, sort of.

The past two weeks I've been busily looking for a new job. I found one and I start tomorrow with mixed emotions. It will be nice to talk to adults everyday but I will miss my little man. He turned eight weeks today and he gets cuter everyday. 

Look for a book review of Kristan Higgins' new book, Too Good To Be True, on Tuesday. 

Also next week Keli Gwyn from Romance Writers on the Journey will post an interview from me about, well, my writing journey. 

And I am busy plotting out my next endeavor and I'm in love with my characters. Plotting may be my favorite part of the process. That and writing "The End". 

In any case, look for more posting in the future and thanks for waiting around! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review: For the Love of Pete by Julia Harper

What happens when opposites attract?

Free-spirited Zoey Addler is about to hijack a federal agent. And not just any federal agent, but very Special Agent Dante Torelli, a man whose designer suits and Italian shoes are more GQ than FBI. But when her baby niece, Pete, is snatched right in front of her eyes, Zoey doesn’t hesitate to scramble into Dante’s spotless BMW. She needs his help to rescue the baby … if only she can ignore his Lips of Sin.

Oh, baby!

Dante’s original mission is down the drain and he’s dodging bullets with a loopy redhead by his side. He likes quiet. She never shuts up. He likes to follow the rules. She throws the rules out the window. But these opposites do more than attract—they ignite. With a henpecked hit man running wild, cooking-obsessed matrons chasing down contraband spices, and a relentless killer tracking them all, Dante and Zoey will risk everything—for themselves and … For the Love of Pete

For the Love of Pete starts out with a bang, literally. While tearing into the guy who lives upstairs for stealing her parking spot, Zoey is hurdled to the ground when shots are fired. Luckily the guy who lives upstairs? An FBI agent. Unluckily, Zoey and Lips of Sin (as she had named Dante) watch as Zoey’s niece, Pete, is taken from the apartment building.  What follows is a madcap adventure not only for Zoey and Dante, but for sisters-in-law Pratima and Savita; Neil Sr. hit man, an anger management student who took his son on a hit; and Rutgar the requisite super bad guy.

First let me say that I am not usually a fan of suspense novels. Especially suspense novels with your run of the mill FBI agent hero and free spirited heroine. So when I sat down to read Ms. Harper’s latest offering, I went in with reservations. And I came out a fan. It’s fast, it’s funny and it’s anything but conventional. The dialogue is smart and the characters are never two-dimensional. Except perhaps the gun-obsessed Rutgar but we must forgive Ms. Harper for molding her bad guy after every other bad guy. Bad guys aren’t suppose to be deep, right?

The romance is believable and lately I really enjoy novels where the romance develops quickly and under extreme circumstances. The ending, however, seemed a bit rushed but after such a fast-paced adventure, slowing down the ending would have seemed unnecessary. Dante and Zoey read like real people with real problems (you know, aside from being on the run from the mob). Ms. Harper draws out these two characters and overcomes their internal conflicts without much fuss. The external conflict – kidnapping, FBI corruption, psycho hit men and the hilarious Indian sisters who think nothing of stealing cars to save their restaurant – makes the story. Ms. Harper I will be reading whatever you come out with next.  

Things I Liked

~ The characters—Especially the secondary characters. Sisters-in-law Pratima and Savita Gupta made me laugh aloud several times throughout the book. They were vivid, they were real and all of them: the sisters, Neil, Ashley, and Neil Jr. added depth to an already excellent story.

~ The setting. For the Love of Pete is set in Illinois – from Chicago to Cairo. I’m from the Chicago area and now live in central Illinois so it was quite fun to read a book and know exactly what the author was talking about. I had no trouble envisioning the scene because I myself have driven those same roads. Kudos to an author who doesn’t set her big-city novel in New York or Los Angeles.

~ Zoey. She didn’t do anything stupid or something that an average person wouldn’t do in order to protect her niece. This girl escaped the “too stupid to live” stigma.

Things I Didn’t Like

~ The first love scene between Zoey and Dante drew me out of the story completely. The build-up, once they reached the cabin, seemed out of character for Dante. His anger at Zoey was out of left field and irrational for the normally level-headed Dante.

Additional Info

~ Published ~ January 2009

~ Price ~ $6.99

~ Author Website ~ www.juliaharper.com

(this review can also be found at Reading Romance Books)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Have You Read? ...

I was shopping for books yesterday (surprise) and came across a James Patterson book that I haven't heard of. I usually stay away from his romantic fiction because someone always dies in the end and I wondered if this were the same. If anyone knows, you can email (elbecher@gmail.com) me so it won't spoil it for anyone else who is interested but here are the details:

Jane Margaux is a lonely little girl. Her mother, a powerful Broadway producer, makes time for her only once a week, for their Sunday trip to admire jewelry at Tiffany's. Jane has only one friend: a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael. He's perfect. But only she can see him. Michael can't stay forever, though. On Jane's ninth birthday he leaves, promising her that she'll soon forget him.

Years later, in her thirties, Jane is just as alone as she was as a child. And despite her own success as a playwright, she is even more trapped by her overbearing mother. Then she meets someone–a handsome, comforting, funny man. He's perfect. His name is Michael...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Website

Over the past month or so I have been working on creating a website. It's finally done and you can find it at:

For those of you who are interested, I have posted several excerpts from my works in progress. These are some of the WIPs I am considering as entrants into a couple of contests. 

Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


With the new year comes new challenges and experiences. I have been writing seriously for seven years now and in that time I have never once entered one of the many contests offered by RWA chapters. When I stop to wonder why I haven't done so, I'm a little perplexed. OK, sure, there is the inevitable guarantee of rejection. Some judge is NOT going to like my submission and perhaps that judge has a bad day and decides to tell me exactly what she thinks. That's going to happen, and when it does -- oooooh doggie. But here's the thing: so what? For every negative feedback I receive, I am sure to receive twice as many positive. So, positive doesn't necessarily mean praise but it does mean feedback that I can use to my advantage.

So here's the deal. This year I am going to enter several contests. I have some picked out and I am narrowing them down. I'll keep you up to date on the ones I enter. 

Also, I am working on publishing a website, so look for that in the future. 

New year, new challenges. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Future Book Reviews

Today is Tuesday which means it’s Emily’s usual day to post a review. Unfortunately Emily doesn’t have a book to review. Why? Because the holidays have sucked the life out of me and I am slowly trying to reclaim it. So I apologize for the lack of book review today. Instead here is a list of books I am going to review in the future. 

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a contemporary and I am eager to get back into them.

Star Bright by Catherine Anderson – She’s fleeing from an abusive husband and finds refuge on a horse ranch. He’s determined to save her from her past and love her in the future … but can she trust him and herself enough to have the life she deserves?

A Coventry Wedding by Becky Cochrane – a bride running away? I’m hooked. Running to the middle of Texas? Hello, I’m buying. Throw in a dog and a chocolate festival and I say we got ourselves a winner ladies. Let’s hope this book delivers because I am really excited about this one.

And now, back to the historical …

To Seduce a Texan by Georgina Gentry – Set during the Civil War an outlaw kidnaps a banker’s stepdaughter. I wasn’t really convinced until I read the opening chapter compliments of Amazon.

Give Me a Texan by Jodi Thomas, Linda L. Broday, Dewanna Pace, and Phyliss Miranda – Thomas is the draw for me on this anthology of the American West but with three other potential must-read authors, I couldn’t pass this one up.

So, that’s what I have coming up in the future. You may have noticed I read mostly Westerns and Regencies but I am open to contemps too. If you have a book out there you’d like me to review, just drop me a line at elbecher@gmail.com. Until then, happy reading!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Have You Noticed?

For months now, even prior to the US economic fallout, there has been rumblings and then proclamations throughout the publishing world that book sales are going to fall drastically. I've generally ignored these rumors because I tend to believe that in times of crisis people turn to reading more often than not as a way to escape the depressing nature of the real world. 

But maybe I am wrong. 

In the past two weeks I've been to Borders three times. Each time I've noticed that bookshelves to be increasingly sparse. It's like they aren't restocking. The tables that welcome you when you walk in are becoming bare. Are bookstores not reordering because they aren't selling? Take in account to the number of email coupons and coupons you get at the register - $5 off when you spend $5 ... 40% off any one item ... surely a good deal but how am I suppose to use these if the stock isn't replenished?

Am I alone in seeing this or have others seen it too? Will the publishing world really suffer?

Friday, January 2, 2009

In Search of That Perfect CP

Early on in my writing career ... (can I call it a career with just a novella under my belt? Yeah I can, it's my blog). Where was I? ... Right, so early on via cyberspace I met an awesome fellow writer. Beth and I developed a strong bond over the years and if we lose touch for a few weeks, we can always pick right back up. 

Bottom line, I value my relationship with Beth and yet, I find myself unsatisfied with having only one person with which I can share the ups and downs of a struggling writer. There are several reasons for this I think. 
  1. While Beth has awesome ideas and feedback, I need the perspective of more than one person. 
  2. At times, we aren't always on the same professional page. Life interrupts, things happen (like babies) and she can't always be there, just as I can't always be there. 
  3. Sometimes I am looking for a particular type of feedback and don't receive it. This isn't her fault, she gives her all, but I think it goes back to needing a different perspective. 
Over the years I've had several critique partners but haven't been able to keep the relationships going. I'd like to think the fault does not lie with me and more often than not, I seem to be paired with people who aren't on the same wavelength. But perhaps I am wrong. Like any relationship, being a critique partner (emphasis on partner) means working at that relationship. Being a critique partner means being a friend and a co-worker. It's an intimate thing. I mean, I am putting myself out there by having someone, who is by all rights a stranger, read my work in it's roughest form. It's almost like baring your soul to that random stranger on the train during your morning commute. It's hard. Yet, I do it. Time after time I send my work to women I've met through websites and conferences and each time I am met, in the end, with rejection. That's hard to take. 

I've also tried critique groups but found them to be mostly intimidating. Usually I enter a group and everyone already knows everyone else. I begin working with these fellow writers and perhaps, because I am new, I don't always offer my most honest opinion. I sugarcoat the things I really want to say. Should I do that? I'm not sure. No matter what someone, somewhere along the way is going to get their feelings hurt. So maybe the groups don't work for me because I don't give my all. 

This post is a mess of random thoughts and I apologize for that. I am just trying to figure out if the problem is mine or if other people experience the same level of frustration and disappointment. 

Here's what I want:
  1. Someone who is on the journey to publication, just like me.
  2. Honesty without cruelty
  3. Contact several times a week - I write everyday, I need someone to talk to about it almost everyday. 
  4. Trust, humor, comfortable commiserating, support, and most importantly: 
  5. A friend
Is this what others want? Am I being ridiculous? I don't know, but if you have some feedback, I'd love to hear it. Thanks for listening.