Posts tagged ‘Susan Elizabeth Phillips’
A few weeks ago I had written about one of my favorite book moments, the “letter scene” from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Originally, I was just going to use it as a jumping off point to talk about other favorite scenes from contemporary novels. As posts sometimes do, though, it ran away from me, and I never did write about my other favorite book moments.
It was actually very easy to come up with a quick list of about 5 or 6 favorite scenes that I never tired of reading. This is the first one (after the letter scene) that was on that list, the opening scene from Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Natural Born Charmer.
It wasn’t every day a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of a road, not even in Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard’s larger-than-life world. He slammed on the brakes of his brand-new Aston Martin Vanquish and pulled over in front of her.
The beaver marched right past, her big, flat tail bouncing in the gravel, and her small, sharp nose stuck up in the air. Way up. The beaver looked highly pissed . . .
She was definitely a girl beaver because her beaver head was missing, revealing sweaty, dark hair pulled into a scraggly ponytail. He’d been praying for a little distraction from his own depressing company, so he threw open the door and stepped out onto the shoulder of the Colorado road…
Funny, sexy, and touching—Natural Born Charmer is the unforgettable love story of a golden boy who might be losing his luster and a spirited woman who’s learned never to depend on anyone but herself.
The Set Up:
OK, so the opening scene of this book is so awesome that an edited version of it is actually used as the back cover description. So, really, the above description sets it up nicely.
The first scene begins with Dean seeing Blue (in her beaver costume) hitchhiking, and culminates with Blue decking her loser ex, and hitting the road with Dean. (Yes, a lot happens in the 9 1/2 page scene.)
“Meet cute” doesn’t even begin to describe when Dean and Blue first lay eyes on each other. “Meet hilarious” or “over the top intro” is more like it. Yet, for all of its outrageous-ness, the reader learns a lot about Dean’s and Blue’s characters.
Dean, at first glance, doesn’t really seem like hero material. He might be rich and beautiful, but he also appears to be shallow and vain. Yet, very quickly, SEP shows (this scene is the most amazing example of “showing not telling”) the reader that Dean wields that persona like a shield that is inserted between himself and the rest of the world. He also oozes a self-deprecating charm that makes him pretty darn irresistible.
This entire scene is seen through Dean’s perspective, and his pov allows some insight into his character, and how he sees Blue.
And Blue, herself, is a unique heroine. She is feisty and prickly, and in this scene she is a whisker away from snapping. Yet, there is a vulnerability about her, even when she is trying to tackle Monty, her ex, that keeps her from being strident and unlikeable.
Usually, the reader doesn’t meet the heroine when she’s at her lowest point. But, that is what happens here. Because, really, how much lower can you get than walking down a road in a beaver costume, trying to bum a ride?
Yet, it all works because this scene is so well balanced—feistyness/vulnerability, rage/silliness, superficiality/kindness.
I dare you to read (or listen to) this scene, and not get completely drawn into the story.
The first 4 chapters (and 1st page of chapter 5) are available through this “Browse Inside” widget.
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And, a 5 minute audioclip of this scene is available through Audible:
One of the ways I was able to limit myself to choosing only 5 for my Top Reads of 2009, was that I told myself I would acknowledge some really great new and new-to-me authors that I read last year. (This list is in no particular order.)
Here they are:
JR Ward-Black Dagger Brotherhood
Suzanne Brockmann-Troubleshooters series
Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Her site.)
Jordan Castillo Price-PsyCop series, Hemovore
Loretta Chase (Her site.)
Meredith Duran (Her site.)
Lauren Dane-Federation series
Ginn Hale-Wicked Gentlemen
Scott Westerfeld-Uglies series, Leviathan series
Maggie Stiefvater-The Wolves of Mercy Falls (Shiver) series
LB Gregg-Men of Smithfield series
Jill Sorenson (Her site.)
Jill Shalvis-Wilder Adventures series
Julie James (Her site.)
Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett (Their site.)
Jane Seville-Zero at the Bone
Carolyn Jewel (Her site.)
Gail Carriger-Alexia Tarabotti series (Soulless)
Seanan McGuire-October Daye series (Rosemary and Rue)
Jennifer Ashley-Highland Pleasures series (The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie)
Samantha Kane (Her site.)
Well, duh. Honestly, I was sort of put off by the random h’s, “bro-talk” and ubiquitous brand-name-dropping that I had read was so prominent in this series. But, at the same time, so many people whose reading tastes I shared (and whose opinion I heeded) loved this series. They were so right. I call it my “Pringles” series. Totally fun to devour and completely irresistible. I’m waiting for Lover Avenged to come in from the library. I have found the controversial switch from a pnr style to more of a uf style hasn’t affected my enjoyment of this series.
Duh, again. Spec Ops/Military themed romances aren’t my first choice. But, this is another reason to read outside my comfort zone. Lori (among others) convinced me to give this series a try. And I have come to love not only the action-romance combo, but also the way the characters and their relationships grow over the course of the series. This is one of those series where, when I think I’ve chosen my favorite hero or couple, I keep remembering others, and have such a hard choosing just one. This is just such a consistently great series, and Suzanne Brockmann is a masterful writer.
Yeah, again, I’m sometimes late to the party. I won What I Did for Love over at Book Binge. It was celebrity romance, another theme I don’t really read. But, SEP writes both incredible characters and some of the best dialog around. Natural Born Charmer has become one of my Top 5 Contemporary Romances, as well as a “comfort listen”. I’m still working my way through her very lengthy backlist, and have only had 1 so-so read.. BTW, if you haven’t listened to SEP’s books in audio format, they are SO worth checking out.
I’m SO digging Vic Bayne and the PsyCop universe. Tracy first turned me on to JCP’s Hemovore which was an awesome m/m parnormal romantic suspense. I’d heard great things about her PsyCop series, but just never got around to reading it (I think I melded it in my mind with RoboCop. :-P ) But, after enjoying Hemovore so much, I had to read it. Right now, Vic is one of my favorite misfit heroes: edgy, a loner, and still trying to figure out what Jacob is doing with a guy like him. The supernatural mysteries are tightly plotted and really absorbing. And, the chemistry between Vic and Jake is smoking. I’ve also got to say, the PsyCop book covers are among my favorite in the m/m genre.
SO GLAD I listened to Carolyn, who told me I HAD to read Lord of Scoundrels. This is now one of my Top 5 Historical Romances. The dialogue is great, and I love how Loretta Chase can take a romantic convention and completely stand it on its head. In LoS, Jessica doesn’t treat Dain like the jaded rake that he projects, but nurtures (sometimes with VERY tough love) the wounded child she sees inside of him. LC’s heroine’s are smart, and she always has a surprise for the romance reader. So far, I haven’t been disappointed in a Loretta Chase book.
Bound by Your Touch was such a beautifully written book! I just wish the covers weren’t so cheesy. To me, they distract from the wonderful story inside. The story of Lydia’s and Sanburne’s romance was an exciting read. Also, there was a love scene in BbYT which was the best I’d read all year. It brought together the emotions and sex that really revealed so much about these two characters (and was incredibly hot.) I also enjoyed Written on Your Skin immensely, which involved characters introduced in BbYT. I’m not currently reading historicals, but when I’m back in the mood, I’ll definitely be picking up MD’s debut novel, Duke of Shadows. ETA: I forgot that I won this over at Ciara Stewart’s! And then, the lovely Rosie brought me a signed copy from RWA!! THANK YOU, ladies!
Relentless (Book 2 in the Federation series) was such a surprise for me. I had seen it, and book 1, Undercover, around, but the plots hadn’t really caught my attention. Then, I went to a So Cal Bloggers get together, and it came home in my bag after one of our book swaps. Then, it blew me away. I was worried that starting with the 2nd book in the series would leave me confused, but Lauren Dane seamlessly weaves in the essential information from book 1 without ever seeming to info dump. I loved Relentless so much that I immediately went out and bought Undercover. I’ve also started LD’s shifter series, Cascadia Wolves, and have been told that her Chase Brothers series is also excellent.
Author of one of my Top 5 books. I’d been hearing some buzz about this book, and then read a post by JenB at the Den of Iniquity (her former blog) that made me HAVE to get this book. I’ve written ad nauseum about how much I love this spec fic m/m novel. But, really, it comes down to Ginn Hale’s wonderful story telling skills. Even in her short online story Shy Hunter, and her story in the Hell Cop anthology, it is clear that she has a way with characterization and plot. I’m eagerly looking forward to her Wicked Gentlemen sequel, as well as anything else written by her.
Scott Westerfeld has been around writing YA fantasy for ages, but I finally listened to his Uglies series this year, and was blown away. This series set in a futuristic society where everyone receives plastic surgery on their 16th birthday to make them “pretty” was not only an exciting read, but also much food for thought about accepted standards of beauty and the need/desire to conform to society’s norms. SW’s current release, Leviathan, is a steampunk adventure that takes place on the eve of WWI.
I’ve had Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament on my tbb list for ages, but it was her new shifter book, Shiver that finally got me to read her books. Shiver really demonstrates what a multi-talented author she is. The prose is beautiful, the atmosphere is vivid and the characters were ones I really cared about. Maggie Stiefvater writes in a beautiful, lyrical style, and she is also very musically talented. (She wrote the music for as well as animated Shiver‘s book trailer-scroll down to bottom of linked page to view trailer.)
I was nervous about reading a book by a person I knew (virtually) and then I was relieved to read the fun, sexy and fast-paced first installment in the MoS series, Gobsmacked. I love how LB has developed her stories around the rural NE town of Smithfield, and her men are guys I’d want to go out for drinks with. I’m also enjoying the elements of suspense in this series, and I can’t wait for 2010 to bring MoS 4 and LB’s new series, Romano & Albright.
I’m not a big romantic suspense reader, but Jill Sorenson’s debut novel, Crash Into Me was a great departure from my regular reading. I love the San Diego area setting of her 2 books, and the characters are original and compelling. One of my other favorite things about both Crash and Set the Dark on Fire are the strong secondary storylines featuring YA characters. The suspense plots kept me guessing, and even after I knew “who did it”, finding out the “why” kept me reading. I’m really looking forward to finding out what 2010 will have in store for Jill!
Jill Shalvis really knows the mountain setting (again, a part of California not often written about) she writes about, and her characters in the Wilder Brothers Adventures are interesting and sexy. I was worried that I’d be disappointed with Instant Attraction (book 1) after hearing so many raves for it. Luckily, it was as good as I heard, and Instant Gratification (book 2) was even better. Jill Shalvis takes characters that are sometimes a little hard to warm up to, like Emma in IG, and over the course of the book makes the reader understand why she is the way she is, and enjoy reading about her growth.
Hollywood and law firms are 2 settings I usually don’t enjoy in romance. Yet, Julie James proves that great writing will trump reading biases every time. Great dialogue and character growth are my 2 favorite things about JJ’s books. Especially in Practice Makes Perfect, I LOVE how smug, arrogant lawyer JD Jameson is slowly revealed to be the great hero he is. There’s a scene toward the end of the book revealing a secret about JD that got to me so much I had to re-read the scene a couple of times to take it in. Can’t wait for Something About You, out in March.
Havemercy reminded me a lot of Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths when I first picked it up (dark fantasy magical world told in alternating 1st person povs), but by the end of the novel, I felt like Jones and Bennett had set their own path. Then, with Shadow Magic, they took Havemercy’s world and made it even better. Their story-telling is exciting and still is able to touch on themes like the act of storytelling, legend and myth, and the intersection of an individual’s story with the story of a culture. I love it when a writer’s books get progressively better, and I am really psyched to see what happens with this series in the upcoming Dragon Soul.
I meant to get around to reading Zero at the Bone for months, after seeing a review of it at Lesley’s. When I finally picked it up, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long. I loved the intense relationship between D and Dr Jack, and the action kept me riveted to my reader. As soon as I finished ZatB, I went to Jane Seville’s site, and read all the Jack and D short stories she has there. Now, I’m waiting like a kid with my nose pushed up against the pet store window looking at puppies, hoping for a new book by Jane Seville.
I’ve come to love both her historicals and paranormal romances. Her beautiful prose style really smacked me upside the head when I read Scandal, and then when I read her pnr My series, Carolyn Jewel became one of my favorite all time authors. In fact, Scandal is on my Top 5 historical and 2009 Top 5 reads, and My Forbidden Desire is on my Top 5 pnr reads. (See sidebar on right for Top 5 links.) I think that what Carolyn Jewel does so well in these very different types of books is that she really gets inside the characters and lets the reader not just see, but also feel what they are feeling, be they a 19th century widow or a 21st century fiend.
I love checking out the Orbit release schedules to see what one of my favorite fantasy publishers has coming out. I’ve found more than one new author on their schedule that I’ve come to enjoy. This year, the cover for Soulless caught my attention, and the description of this steampunk paranormal made it at the top of my to be bought list when it was released. Gail Carriger’s smart and witty writing style made this book so much fun to read.
This is on of my favorite new uf series that debuted this year. (Ilona Andrews’ The Edge series and Ann Aguirre’s Corine Solomon series would be my others.) Though, this is the only one by a debut novelist. I first saw this at Kmont’s, in a New Author Spotlight post. The story was dark and starts out quite melancholy (given what happens to Toby, it’s understandable) yet the action never bogs down in mopiness or self-conscious angsting. The world is very complex, but doesn’t info dump and Seanan McGuire allows it to be revealed naturally, through the action of the plot. I can’t wait for the rest of the series, starting with A Local Habitation, coming out in March.
This was another book that had so much buzz, I was afraid to read it for fear of being disappointed. Luckily, for me, The Madness of Lord Ian was a wonderful historical romance. This wasn’t just because Lord Ian was such an unusual character (which he was) but also because I found Beth to be equally interesting. Now, in 2010 not only will Jennifer Ashley be releasing the next book in this series, Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage, but also the first book in her new pnr series, Pride Mates, which due to its shifter-y goodness, I’ll be really looking forward to as well.
Though Sam Kane’s m/m/f Brother’s in Arms series is better known, I first read her m/m romance, Islands. The romance and emotions blew me away. She is so great at showing how the characters feel about each other, whether it’s through a love scene, a conversation, or simple looks or touches between characters. Of course, after loving Islands so much, I did go back and read The Courage to Love (BIA 1). I’ve been meaning to get back to finish reading the series, because I know that there are some great love stories to be told there.
PHEW! I feel so lucky that I found so many great new authors last year. They are now all on my upcoming books list as I look forward to their new releases, or on my to be bought booklist as I continue to read their backlist. A couple of things I noticed while compiling this LONG list:
Many of these were books I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. The were stories that were either outside of my comfort zone or had story lines that I don’t usually like.
The other thing was that I DID pick up these books because of other bloggers’ recommendations. So, a big THANK YOU to everyone who led me to these great authors.
Did you have any author discoveries in 2009 that you want to share?
This is my first post completely written post-arm-fracture. I’m trying out typing without my splint (I’ve been told I can start removing it occasionally), and if things go well (no swelling or pain) I’m hoping to resume regular blogging activity! ::fingers crossed::
There’s a lot written about “comfort reads”, and while I’m not a big re-reader, I do have one or two— Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are the ones that immediately come to mind.
However, I actually turn more often to audiobooks for “comfort listens” and I actually have more of them than comfort reads. I will turn to these audiobooks when I want something that I can really relax to while listening. And, often, it’s not just the story that makes me return to these audiobooks: it can also be the reader, or even the way the words flowing over me make me feel.
These books aren’t even necessarily my Top 5 audiobooks. This is mostly due to the fact that more than a few of my Top 5 audiobooks are epic stories, like the series: Outlander, Harry Potter, and Temeraire. For comfort, I tend turn more to the personal stories with which I can deeply identify (paranormal elements notwithstanding :-P ).
Here are a few of my comfort listens:
Sugar Daddy (Travis family series, book 1) by Lisa Kleypas
I’m an unabashed Kleypas fan-girl. And, while many of her books have made my Top 5 lists (and even more would make it into my Top 10s) Liberty Jones story just makes me feel good when I give it a listen. I’ve heard complaints about Jeannie Stith’s Texan accent, but honestly since I can’t tell if it’s authentic, it works for me. She also does a great job weaving this very intimate feeling between Liberty and the listener. It really feels as if Liberty is sitting down telling her story to a friend. Sometimes, when I need a little pick-me-up, I won’t even listen to the whole book. Just a few minutes of listening in to Liberty’s up-beat attitude lifts my spirits.
The Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris
This is actually one that’s on my Top 5 audiobook list as well as my Top 5 urban fantasy list. Johanna Parker’s narration takes it to the next level for me. Again, I’m no expert in regional accents, so I can’t really vouch for JP’s authenticity when it comes to Sookie’s northern Louisiana accent, but she really does capture Sookie’s self-deprecating charm and sense of humor way more than Anna Paquin ever has in the True Blood tv series. She also does a wonderful job with Eric’s deadpan (no pun intended) outrageous comments and Pam’s droll observations. After repeatedly listening to the first hour or so of Dead Until Dark whenever the mood hit, I finally decided to work my way through the entire series in audio format. Currently, I’m about to start my “audio re-read” of book 6, Definitely Dead.
Bitten by (Otherworld series, book 1) Kelley Armstrong
The Bitten audiobook is such a great blend of Kelley Armstrong’s incredible writing talent and Aasne Vigesaa’s moody, atmospheric reading. Unlike the Southern Vampire series, I first came across this book in audio format (in audiocassetes, no less!) So, in a lot of ways, AV’s voice really is Elena to me. Honestly, I’d read the phonebook is Kelley Armstrong wrote it, but not only is Bitten one of my favorite Kelley Armstrong novels, but one of my favortie novels, period. Fortunately, the audiobook version does it justice.
Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
NBC is a new addition to my comfort listens. Again, I originally listened to this book rather than reading it, and I’m sure that has a lot to do with why this is going to be a regular visitor on my iPod. The late, incredibly talented Anna Fields has a lot to do with my enjoyment in listening to the story. I’ve been feeling the need to revisit Blue Bailey and Dean Robillard, especially after AnimeJune’s great review, and will probably load it up very soon.
You know, it’s funny, but until I was writing this post I didn’t realize how greatly the readers of these audiobooks impact the fact that they are my comfort listens. I guess when it comes down to it, a book isn’t going to even be considered for an audio re-visit if the story isn’t compelling to me, but it’s my ability to truly connect with the characters that take these stories to that next level of comfort listens. To me, the narrator is the facilitator of that deeper connection.
It’s been a crazy week, but I’ve really been looking forward to writing this post! Up until about a year ago, I hadn’t read contemporary romance in years. I mean, YEARS. However, 2 of the books listed below really turned me back on to it. I love the freshness and relate-ability of contemporary romance, and there are so many great authors out there!
Sugar Daddy (Travis family series, bo0k 1) by Lisa Kleypas
Blue-Eyed Devil (Travis family series, book 2) by Lisa Kleypas
Of course, after loving Sugar Daddy so much, I had to get my hands on this one! And, I loved it almost as much as Sugar Daddy (which will always be first with me!)
In a lot of ways, B-ED is a deeper, more serious novel, dealing with domestic violence. Haven is such a survivor, and boy does this book really tug at the heart strings. I loved seeing how her family really pulled together to support her, and the hero in this one was so well written!
I actually listened to both these books in audio format, BTW, and I thought they were both excellent.
Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Flat-Out Sexy (Fast Track series, book 1) by Erin McCarthy
Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins
It was really hard for me to leave a few books off this list, so I’m going to fudge a little, but including a couple of honorable mentions:
What are your top 5 contemporary romances?
Don’t forget to enter my giveaway! Go to this post and enter to win TWO books from my Top 5 lists. You have until Monday, August 31, 2009 to enter.
Yesterday, I had so much fun over at DIK Island. There were some wonderful suggestions in the comments for some additions to my fantasy casting post!
I finished a couple of audiobooks over the last couple of days. I already posted about Natural Born Charmer about a week or 2 ago, while I was listening to it, so that review will be a quickie:
Swallowing Darkness (Merry Gentry series, book 7) by Laurell K Hamilton
This complexly plotted series is definitely one to be read in order. If you are interested in starting this series, it’s worth starting with book 1, A Kiss of Shadows.
Here’s the book description:
|I am Meredith, princess of faerie, wielder of the hands of Flesh and Blood, and at long last, I am with child – twins, fathered by my royal guard. Though my uncle, Taranis, King of Light and Illusion, claims that he is the true father since he abducted me from my home, betrayed, and defiled me. And now he has branded my guards as a threat to my unborn children.
Bearing an heir has placed me halfway to my aunt’s throne, that much closer to my reign over the Unseelie Court – and well ahead of her son, my cousin Cel, in this race. Now I must stay alive to see my children born and claim my place as queen.
But not all in faerie are pleased with the news, and conspirators from every court in the realm plot against me and mine. They seek to strip my guards, my lovers, from me by poisoned word or cold steel. But I still have supporters, and even friends, among the goblins and the sluagh, who will stand by me.
I am Meredith Nic Essus, and those who would defy and destroy me are destined to pay a terrible price – for I am truly my father’s daughter. To protect what is mine, I will sacrifice anything–even if it means waging a great battle against my darkest enemies and making the most momentous decision ever made as princess of faerie.
|There is definitely a feeling that this series is coming to an ultimate conclusion. Merry and her men are pretty much a fixed group, now. The men are (mostly) accepting of each other, and tied together by their love and devotion to Merry and their unborn children. The struggle between the Seelie, Unseelie, and Merry’s group has never been more desperate.
There’s something that happens to me when I read this series, where while I’m listening to (or reading) it, I am utterly compelled and find it exciting and interesting. Yet, later, when I intellectually think about the story, it doesn’t fare as well. It’s like LKH creates this world that is very emotionally satisfying for me on some level, and I’m happy as long as the bubble doesn’t burst. IDK, I’m still struggling to figure this out.
At least as far as the spiritual element of this book, Swallowing Darkness was the best in the series with how she explained the metaphysical connection Merry has with the Goddess, with the world around her, and with her men. It was, for me, the most interesting part of the book.
One thing that had me scratching my head about Swallowing Darkness, was that the 2nd love scene— there were only 2 in the book, which is unusal for this series — felt sort of random, and tacked on as an afterthought.
There was, however, plenty of battle action, which kept the book moving along. So much happens in each book, yet with LKH’s writing style, it always happens in an extremely short period of time. Most books, if they were to take place over the course of 1 night would be excruciating to read. But, time flows so differently in these books, and LKH really makes it work.
Natural Born Charmer (Chicago Stars series, book 7) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
I had featured this book in a Current Reads post a week or two ago, and it was as much fun as I thought it was going to be!
Here’s the book description:
|Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard is the luckiest man in the world: a bona-fide sports superstar and the pride of the NFL with a profitable side career as a buff billboard model for End Zone underwear. But life in the glory lane has started to pale, and Dean has set off on a cross-country trip to figure out what’s gone wrong. When he hits a lonely stretch of Colorado highway, he spies something that will shake up his gilded life in ways he can’t imagine. A young woman . . . dressed in a beaver suit.
Blue Bailey is on a mission to murder her ex. Or at least inflict serious damage. As for the beaver suit she’s wearing . . . Is it her fault that life keeps throwing her curveballs? Witness the expensive black sports car pulling up next to her on the highway and the Greek god stepping out of it.
|Not to be redundant, but this was such a charming book! Tuesday, I finally got to the point where I hated only being able to listen to it from the car, and brought it in the house so I could finish it. I lugged my laptop around with me, like the world’s biggest iPod, and finally stayed up far too late that night, so I could finish it.
As funny and light a book that this was, the characters also had enough depth and complexity to make it really satisfying. An unexpected bonus was, it turned out that few of the characters that I had just read about in What I Did for Love (my post here) were introduced in Natural Born Charmer.
I will definitely be tracking down more of SEP’s books!