Sunday, December 30, 2007

Prezzies for Ye Olde Birthday Bitch



Happy Birthday to MEEEEE
Add another year to my
Half Centuryyyyyyy
Happy Birthday to MEEEeeee
Happy Birthday to ME!


Oh, Look! Party Games!




And Prezzies!







And here comes my Josh!



PhotobucketAnd he brought me a Birthday Cake!









AAAAAWWWWWWW! How sweet... he even tried to wrap a prezzie for me!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holiday Confections


I've shopped (started AND finished on the 22nd), I've cooked and cooked some more, I've decorated, I've wrapped, I've cleaned a year's worth of dust off everything in my house, I've hosted the gathering of the clan on Christmas Day, and I've returned gifts. Now I've started the end of calendar year work (not to be confused with next month's end of fiscal year work).

But tonight, I've got visions of sugar plums dancing in my head...

Christmas Island


And a couple more because what are the Holidays without a heapin' helpin' of sweet beefcake nut clusters?

Brokeback Igloo


Coming Out on Christmas Day


I hope everyone had a


(pssst... don't tell Sybil I came out to play, K? She'll figure that if I have enough time to drool at Eye Candy, then I have enough time to write the 210 reviews in my backlog)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Early Christmas Present

PhotobucketMy baby girl came home from Rome last night! WOOT! On one hand it seemed like she was gone forever, but on the other hand, these past 4 months have flown by in a blink. In case you don't remember, she spent this last semester studying in Italy and attending Pontifica University in Vatican City. Needless to say, the field trips outside the classroom, particularly for her art history class, were amazing. As part of the different classes, they were taken through parts of the Vatican that most of us weren't even aware existed. However, we stopped to eat at Damon's on the way home from the airport last night- she got a big juicy burger and fries- and she said it's going to be a long time before she wants to see pasta again!

I haven't been updating this blog much lately. For one, I've been so damn busy. And for two, it just hasn't been easy to keep track of new and upcoming releases now that the labels on the right have become so numerous. So here's a sneak peek at what I've been up to. Building the index is a slow tedious process. But once I'm done, it will make searching for each author's releases MUCH easier. Then, I can get rid of the author labels here and instead will then have room for a "Flavor" (genre) label.

I've said before that this blog is designed to be useful to ME. But if anyone else finds they like it too, that just makes it more fun.

Later on, if Syb gets those nasty server issues resolved over on TGTBTU, I will start on an index for that site, too. Of course, unless I draft some other duckies, THAT index could take YEARS to complete.

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Book CoverHalfway to the Grave (Night Huntress, book 1) by Jeaniene Frost
Paranormal Romance published by Avon 30 October 2007





Category: Peanut M&Ms - mmmm...devour... sigh... then reach for the next one. My daily dose of Insanity-B-Gone. Most books I read fall in this category. (A-,B+,B)
Flame Height: 5.5" out of 9"

Head over to The Good, the Bad and the Unread to read my review.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Anthology: Beyond the Dark by Knight, Holly, Leigh, Whiteside

Book CoverBeyond the Dark anthology with novellas by Angela Knight, Emma Holly, Lora Leigh, Dianne Whiteside
Paranormal romance published by Berkley Sensations 04 Dec 2007





Category: Peanut M&Ms - mmmm...devour... sigh... then reach for the next one. My daily dose of Insanity-B-Gone. Most books I read fall in this category. (A-,B+,B)
Flame Height: 8" out of 9"

Head over to The Good, the Bad and the Unread to read my review.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

TGTBTU Mayhem

holly.jpgHave you been following the Duodecimal mayhem over on TGTBTU? In a salute to the Twelve Days of Christmas, we've got lists of 12-- from 12 favorite cookies to books to characters, etc. with contributers from authors to bloggers to reviewers.

Bev's All-Time Favorite Book Series went up today. Head on over and read all the the Duodecimals. Today's 12 Days of Smart Bitchery is freakin' hilarious!

Monday, December 10, 2007

QB's Quickies

"So, read any good books lately?"
"What did you think of...?"

Here's the Quickie answers to those questions. Click on the Links for more info.



Catherine Coulter - Double Take, FBI series, book 11

Book Category: Peanut M&Ms - mmmm...devour... sigh... then reach for the next one. My daily dose of Insanity-B-Gone. Most books I read fall in this category. (A-,B+,B)
Flame Height: 1" out of 9"

This book should be considered a continuation of book 10, Point Blank (see previous commentary), since it wraps up Dix and Ruth's storyline. Damn good multiple plotline mystery/thriller. I just wish she'd write some of the sexual tension back into her stories.
Piquant Opines: RT, ABC Wide Bay

Emma Holly - Fairyville
And Then There Were Four: The Epilogue to Fairyville (Amazon 49¢ download)

Category: Lava Cake - reads like warm Chocolate Lava Cake... à la Mode... sprinkled with nuts (A,A)
Flame Height: 7.5" out of 9"

This Fantasy is Emma Holly's most memorable work since Menage! It's light, quirky, fun, and hot. Multiple relationships, including straight, gay (m/m), and, in the downloadable epilogue, m/m/f/m.
Piquant Opines: RT, TGTBTU,

A. Leigh Jones - Forever Crossed

ALJ's LiveJournal; Forever Crossed is also available at Fictionwise

Category: Lava Cake - reads like warm Chocolate Lava Cake... à la Mode... sprinkled with nuts (A,A)
Flame Height: 2" out of 9"

This book was released in print by Imajinn books back in June of 2004 and, after recently discovering it, I was filled with glee. Why? Because I HAD to read the rest of the series and figured there were probably 2 or 3 more already released and waiting for me to devour them! Uh... nope... couldn't find anymore AND I couldn't find the author A. Leigh Jones. So I sent out a call for help to Bam (who loves a good mystery) and totally squeed when ALJ responded! Read what happened here. Course that was followed by a groan of disappointment that I wasn't going to get to visit her world again. This was a damn good Urban Fantasy and I wasn't ready to leave!
Piquant Opines: RT, TBR,

Lora Leigh - Tanner's Scheme

For the complete chronological listing of the Breeds books, including the earlier ebooks from Ellora's Cave that are all now available in print, click here.

Book Category: Peanut M&Ms - mmmm...devour... sigh... then reach for the next one. My daily dose of Insanity-B-Gone. Most books I read fall in this category. (A-,B+,B)
Flame Height: 7.5" out of 9"

Series Category: Crème Brûlée - My All-Time Moan-Out-Loud Favorites (A+)
Flame Height: 9" out of 9"

Scheme is a strong, noble, intelligent heroine and is a worthy match for ANY of the Breeds. She also happens to be the daughter of one of the Breeds most powerful enemies. The fact that she ends up mated to Tanner, the Breeds public "poster boy" is an extra sweet victory over those full humans who oppose the Breeds' acceptance by humanity. And I think I've got an unhealthy fixation on Jonas. I SO want someone to bring him to his knees, but then again, since it can't be me, I also DON'T want it to happen. Go figure.

BTW, I mentioned before that Lora likes to name characters after people she knows and I met the real life Scheme at RAW in September. But I forgot to mention that Lora introduced a new character in Tanner's Scheme, Shiloh. And yep, she's named after Lora's partner-in-crime, Shiloh Walker. And just like the real life Shiloh, the Breed Shiloh is described as shy and demure! *snickers then guffaws then ROFLMAO*
Piquant Opines: RT, TGTBTU,

Thursday, December 6, 2007

STICKY - Aural Pleasures on TGTBTU

TGTBTUI wrote a three-part series on audio books for The Good, the Bad, and the Unread. I'll leave this post up as a sticky (scroll down for newer posts) and will update the links as each part of the series is published over on TGTBTU.






Don‘t Miss:
Aural Pleasures 101 - “Why” and “Where” to buy Audio Books - Tell us why you listen to audio books.
Aural Pleasures 102 - “How” to Select an Audio Book - Come share your tips for selection.
Aural Pleasures 103 - “What” Audio Books are Recommended - Share your recommendations and warnings.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

QB's Quickies

"So, read any good books lately?"
"What did you think of...?"

Here's the Quickie answers to those questions. Click on the Links for more info.




Maggie Shayne, Erin McCarthy, Nalini Singh, Jean Johnson - An Enchanted Season anthology

Category: Peanut M&Ms - mmmm...devour... sigh... then reach for the next one. My daily dose of Insanity-B-Gone. Most books I read fall in this category. (A-,B+,B)
Flame Height: 6" out of 9"

Four surprisingly sexy, paranormal Christmas stories. I've been curious to read Singh's Psy/Changeling series because of the nearly universal glowing reviews. And I'm glad I finally read one of her stories, Beat of Temptation, in this anthology because it showed me that I probably won't like the series-- The "Psy" aspects would be too futuristic sci-fi for me. I ADORED the other three stories, though. If you buy only one holiday themed romance this season, I recommend it be this one.
Piquant Opines: RT, TRRC

Sherrilyn Kenyon with Alethea Kontis - The Dark-Hunter Companion

Category: M&Ms - a bit lighter and/or not quite as satisfying as Peanut M&Ms, but still Oh-So-Enjoyable! (B,B-,C+,C)
Flame Height: 0" out of 9"

I bought this book for one reason only- I'm hoping that I'll be able to make sense out of Archeron when it's released. As I've said before, Ash's story is the only reason I haven't stopped buying this series, but after his story, that's it. Although I have to admit I'm curious about Savitar, but he's not worth reading the rest of this increasingly muddied up series.

I have to give Kenyon and Kontis kudos for the entertaining concept of this book-- it's written from the POV of a smartass Squire (is there any other kind?) writing a training manual for new Dark Hunters. It's best to read this in small doses, though, because all those Greek, Sumerian, Roman, Nordic, Celtic, and Atlantian gods, goddesses and myths WILL make your head explode if you spend too much time trying to figure them out, especially since they tend to contradict each other (much like Kenyon does). It's more than encyclopedic, and some of the info is sort of interesting, while some info is just an info dump. There's a "secret" section on Archeron that precedes the Bonus Materials section. There's also a section of Cajun and Greek recipes thrown in there (how odd and random is that?!).

The most important and telling line in this rigid cover, larger than trade, paperback is "Now for the disclaimer: This book is mutable. It goes with the wind. It changes more often than the mind of a sixteen-year-old Libra..." Indeed. And might explain why I'm not the only one who has trepidations about whether Archeron can live up to expectations.
Piquant Opines: LV,

Eden Bradley, Jaci Burton, Lisa Renee Jones - Exclusive anthology

Category: M&Ms - a bit lighter and/or not quite as satisfying as Peanut M&Ms, but still Oh-So-Enjoyable! (B,B-,C+,C)
Flame Height: 6" out of 9"

BDSM doesn't usually float my boat, but I bought this because Mike, the other vet from Wild in Burton's Wild, Wicked and Wanton (see previous commentary) gets his HEA, or at least HIS version of an HEA. A pretty big life change for the amount of time that passes, but nonetheless, another intelligent erotic romance from Burton. Bradley's story just wasn't my "flavor" and Jones' story could have been better if she had just filled it in a bit more-- "show don't tell".
Piquant Opines: RT, RJ,

Maggie Shayne, Susan Sizemore, Lori Handeland, Caridad Piñeiro - Moon Fever anthology

Category: M&Ms - a bit lighter and/or not quite as satisfying as Peanut M&Ms, but still Oh-So-Enjoyable! (B,B-,C+,C)
Flame Height: 5" out of 9"

Four entertaining and engrossing vampire and/or shape shifter stories. Good stuff, Crazy for the Cat by Caridad Piñeiro was particularly memorable.
Piquant Opines: RT, RJ

Charlaine Harris (editor) - Many Bloody Returns anthology

Category: M&Ms - a bit lighter and/or not quite as satisfying as Peanut M&Ms, but still Oh-So-Enjoyable! (B,B-,C+,C)
Flame Height: 1" out of 9"

Thirteen authors (Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Bill Crider, Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher, P.N. Elrod, Rachel Caine, Jeanne C. Stein, Tanya Huff, Carolyn Haines, Tate Hallaway, Elaine Viets, Toni L.P. Kelner), thirteen stories, each using the theme of vampires and birthdays. It truly amazed me to see the thirteen COMPLETELY different stories that arose from those two words. Some dark, some funny, some cute, some suspenseful, some poignant. Most were good, a couple were just "okay".
Piquant Opines: RT, VampireGenre, Darque Reviews

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm back. It's been a rough week and my way of dealing with things is to withdraw and escape. I didn't want to talk about any books, but I wanted- NEEDED- to get lost in them. So I've spent the last week lost in Stephanie Lauren's Cynster series. I think, actually I KNOW, it was my way of avoiding the real world and recapturing some sense of happily-ever-after. Doesn't make anything easier, but that's the coping mechanism that works for me.

I started out with the intention of only re-reading book 1, Devil's Bride, but even that close-to-perfect book wasn't enough and I ended up re-reading the first 6 books, all the Bar Cynsters, before I came up for air. I don't know what I'll read next. NOTHING I have is capturing my attention AT ALL! I think Sybil has given up on me and has decided not to be my BFF anymore. *sniffle*.

But I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow. I've gotta say that Thanksgiving has always been my LEAST favorite holiday. All the overcrowded grocery stores, then cooking all day, just to see the meal end 20 minutes later. GAK! I refused to do the big family holiday meal years ago, which helped enormously. I always hated how the women busted their asses all day, we ate , then we busted our asses cleaning up while the men all watched football and did NOT watch the kids. Fuck that shit, I want to go sit down after I eat, too! At least, when it's just me, my DH, and our kids, THEY help with a bit of the prep, and THEY clean up. I refuse to, although I do help box up the leftovers.

But wherever you are for Thanksgiving, whether you celebrate it or not, stay safe and take a minute to count your blessings.

glitterbank.com - Icon graphics


Things you can only say on Thanksgiving (I totally ripped this off from another site)

1. Talk about a huge breast!

2. Tying the legs together keeps the inside moist.

3. It's Cool Whip time!

4. If I don't undo my pants, I'll burst!

5. That's one terrific spread!

6. I'm in the mood for a little dark meat.

7. Are you ready for seconds yet?

8. Its a little dry, do you still want to eat it?

9. Just wait your turn, you'll get some!

10. Don't play with your meat.

11. Just spread the legs open and stuff it in.

12. Do you think you'll be able to handle all these people at once?

13. I didn't expect everyone to come at once!

14. You still have a little bit on your chin.

15. How long will it take after you stick it in?

16. You'll know it's ready when it pops up.

17. Wow, I didn't think I could handle all of that!

18. That's the biggest one I've ever seen!

glitterbank.com - Icon graphics

Monday, November 12, 2007

In Memoriam

When my Dad died 21 years ago, he was 59. I was about 2.5 months pregnant with my twins, and HIS Dad died when my Mom was about 2.5 months pregnant with me.

This morning, my sister-in-law died. She turned 59 last month. I remember when my Dad died (lung cancer), my co-workers kept commenting on how young he was. At the time, I didn’t truly understand what they meant. I mean, I knew 59 wasn’t OLD, but it didn’t really seem young either. Now I know EXACTLY what they meant.

Virginia and my husband’s oldest brother, Carl, have been together since the late 1960’s. Carl just retired as a captain in the fire department of a large city out west. They were inseparable, even more close and more in love now than they were back then. Their two daughters are grown now with kids of their own, but still very much need their Mom at this stage in their lives. Their oldest daughter has a 2 year old son, and a little girl due in January, and a 15 year old son who spent a good part of this past summer hanging out with his Grandma. Their other daughter has a 2 year old and a newborn daughter.

Virginia was diagnosed about a year ago with pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, that’s not a cancer that has a good outcome, and hers was the most aggressive type of pancreatic cancer and had already invaded her liver. In spite of that though, she was able to fight the good fight for almost a year. That’s almost unheard of with pancreatic cancer. And through most of the past year, she stayed upbeat and active despite occasional setbacks. But in the end, her body just wasn’t strong enough to fight off both the cancer and the ravages of chemotherapy.

The thing is, she always did everything RIGHT! She ate only healthy foods, she ran and exercised daily. She was a tiny woman who never got over 100 pounds although, ironically, that was one of the reasons the chemo was so devastating to her- she died at 81 pounds. She took care of herself, dammit! All the things “they” say we need to do and it didn’t matter one damn bit, did it? Just goes to show that it doesn’t really matter what we do, it’s all just the cards we’re dealt.

So now we worry about her husband, Carl. Through all of this, he has been bitter and angry. To the point that, when she was started in a clinical trial program, the doctors pulled Carl out of the room and said “The first thing we need from you is a better attitude.” Yes, it’s normal to be angry, to resent others who live unhealthy lives and aren’t sick, to rail against the fate that could take your other half away from you. But I have never seen anyone as tortured as Carl has been for the past year. When my husband had lymphoma, I had to be the strong one. I told him his job was to get well and mine was to deal with all the other bullshit stress in our lives. And I did it without resentment. But it seemed to us like it was Virginia who had to remain upbeat and strong because Carl was falling apart and couldn’t deal with any of it. I have to admit we were kind of shocked since Carl had always been so protective of Virginia and now that she needed him most, he was almost too devastated to function. And now, at the end of the day, he will be going home to an empty house and the realization that after nearly 40 years of living and loving together, he won’t be seeing her again during his time here on earth. So, yeah, we are all worried about him. It really is hard to believe they won’t be together. And even harder to believe she’s really gone.

We here in Romancelandia read all about how the hero and heroine get together, fall in love, and live happily ever after. But in the real world, we don't really get an HEA, do we? Sooner or later death is going to rip one from the other. What do you do when the other half of your life is suddenly gone? Can you ever become a whole person again when you feel like your body is functioning but your heart, mind, and soul died right along with the one you love?

ADDED: She was in the hospital for 2 blood clots in her lungs which had also happened a few months ago. As late as Friday night, she was still upbeat and positive. In fact, she told my other sister-in-law that this was just another setback and she intended to get back into the fight as soon as it was taken care of. But by Saturday, the doctor told Carl to get hold of Hospice, take her home, and begin making funeral arrangements. On Sunday evening, he went home to eat and take a shower and then felt a strong need to go back to the hospital and spend the night with her. He planned on bringing her home as soon as he could make the arrangements with Hospice today.

This morning (Monday), she opened her eyes, looked at him, and said "I love you"... he said, "I love you, too"... then she took one last breath and was... just... gone.

There will be no services, no funeral, according to both their wishes. She will be cremated and he said he will place the urn containing her ashes on their bedroom dresser surrounded by her favorite jewelry and other trinkets, so that he can talk to her whenever he wants.

When I first found out he said that, I was even more worried about him. But, you know, in a way it makes sense. If having her ashes there for right now makes it easier for him to cope, then who's to say there is anything wrong with it? In fact, it's probably more comfort to him than anything else could possibly be.

ADDED: The circle of life goes on... my Mom just called to tell me that I've got a new grandniece. Momma (my brother's daughter) and baby are doing fine.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

More from the Jeff Files


Finished up end of month/beginning of month work crunch. So, since I haven't had time for much else, and it's been awhile since I've posted one of the endless supply of emails forwarded from my brother-in-law Jeff, I thought I'd show everyone what an equal opportunity offender he is!



What do you call two Mexicans playing basketball?
Juan on Juan

♥ ♥ ♥

What is a Yankee?
The same as a Quickie, but a guy can do it alone.
♥ ♥ ♥

What is the difference between a Harley and a Hoover?
The position of the dirt bag.
♥ ♥ ♥

Why is divorce so expensive?
Because it's worth it.
♥ ♥ ♥

What do you see when the Pillsbury Dough Boy bends over?
Doughnuts...
♥ ♥ ♥

Why is air a lot like sex?
Because it's no big deal unless you're not getting any.
♥ ♥ ♥

What do you call a smart blonde?
A golden retriever.
♥ ♥ ♥

What do attorneys use for birth control?
Their personalities.
♥ ♥ ♥

What's the difference between a girlfriend and wife?
45 lbs
♥ ♥ ♥

What's the difference between a boyfriend and husband?
45 minutes
♥ ♥ ♥

What's the fastest way to a man's heart?
Through his chest with a sharp knife
♥ ♥ ♥

Why do men want to marry virgins?
They can't stand criticism.
♥ ♥ ♥

Why is it so hard for women to find men that are sensitive,
caring, and good-looking?

Because those men already have boyfriends.
♥ ♥ ♥

What's the difference between a new husband and a new dog?
After a year, the dog is still excited to see you
♥ ♥ ♥

What makes men chase women they have no intention of marrying?
The same urge that makes dogs chase cars they have no intention of driving.
♥ ♥ ♥

Why don't bunnies make noise when they have sex?
Because they have cotton balls.
♥ ♥ ♥

What did the blonde say when she found out she was pregnant?
'Are you sure it's mine?'
♥ ♥ ♥

Why does Mike Tyson cry during sex?
Mace will do that to you.
♥ ♥ ♥

Why did OJ Simpson want to move to West Virginia ?
Because he heard everyone there has the same DNA.
♥ ♥ ♥

Why do men find it difficult to make eye contact?
Breasts don't have eyes.
♥ ♥ ♥

Why do drivers' education classes in Redneck schools use the car only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays?
Because on Tuesday and Thursday, the Sex Ed class uses it.
♥ ♥ ♥

Where does an Irish family go on vacation?
A different Bar.
♥ ♥ ♥

Did you hear about the Chinese couple that had a blond baby?
They named him 'Sum Ting Wong'.
♥ ♥ ♥

What would you call it when an Italian has one arm shorter than the other?
A speech impediment.
♥ ♥ ♥

What's the difference between a southern zoo and a northern zoo?
A southern zoo has a description of the animal on the front of the cage along with... 'a recipe'.
♥ ♥ ♥

How do you get a sweet little 80-year-old lady to say the F word?
Get another sweet little 80-year-old lady to yell *BINGO*!
♥ ♥ ♥

Why is there no Disneyland in China ?
No one is tall enough to go on the good rides
♥ ♥ ♥

What's the difference between a northern fairytale and a southern fairytale?
A northern fairytale begins 'Once upon a time '
A southern fairytale begins 'Y'all ain't gonna believe this shit....
♥ ♥ ♥


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHAH! Admit it! You laughed, didn't you?! Guess, you aren't as PC as you thought you were!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bride for a Knight by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Book CoverBride for a Knight by Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Historical romance published 01 Sept 2007 by Forever

This one just barely squeaked into my M&Ms category. Head over to The Good, the Bad and the Unread to read my review.

Monday, November 5, 2007

We're All 15 Year Old Boys

Gwen just sent me the link for this. Remember Conan O'Brian's Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog? Well, I had seen a few bits and pieces of him with Bon Jovi, but I had never seen the complete piece. Dear God! I had tears rolling down my face from laughing so hard!

Friday, November 2, 2007

But, Ya Gotta Have Fr-ie-ie-ie-nds

(Damn, I just gave myself an earworm with that title)

In Shelly Laurenston’s The Mane Event (see my TGTBTU review), three of the male leads are alpha-shifters and two of those are also former Navy Seals. But instead of writing them as predictably humorless and overbearing, Laurenston made them fun and playful- even in the bedroom! Totally unexpected and it set me to thinking about some recent romance books that also had less intense heroes.

In Shiloh Walker’s Hunter’s Salvation (see previous commentary), Vax doesn’t even WANT to get involved and be a hero. Nic, from Hunting the Demon by Jaci Burton (see previous commentary) is pretty laid back and has no problems letting Shay be the heroine. In Burton’s Wild, Wicked, and Wanton (see previous commentary), Abby felt a stronger connection to Seth because they had spent the previous year laughing and joking together. In Annie Dean’s Your Alibi (see previous commentary), the male lead, Sean, never realized sex could be so fun until he met Addie.

The brothers in Jean Johnson’s Sons of Destiny series (see previous commentaries), may THINK of themselves as manly men (despite all their quirks), but they really are marshmallows when it comes to their women. Luc, in Shayla Black’s Decadent (see TGTBTU review), was far more swoon worthy than the lead male character because he develops a friendship with Kimber outside of the bedroom (the fact that he was gorgeous and a gourmet cook didn‘t hurt either).

Throughout Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Underworld series, Jeremy has been the stoic alpha wolf, but in No Humans Involved (see previous commentary), she let us see the softer, more “human” side to him. Hunter was unmistakably the hero of Jennifer Ashley’s Immortals: The Gathering (commentary pending), but he was also laid back with a sense of fun. In Christine Feehan’s newest Carpathian novel, Dark Possession (see previous commentary), even Manolito is a kinder, gentler version of an uber-alpha!

Micah, from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series (see The Harlequin commentary) is an alpha shifter but doesn’t feel the need to growl at everyone to prove who he is. Also in LKH's AB series, Jean-Claude can "taste" food for the first time in hundreds of years through his metaphysical link with Anita. Anita recounts how, when they are alone, Jean-Claude enjoys the tastes so much that he rolls around on the floor, covers his mouth and moans. For him to let go and get that goofy, you just KNOW it must be love!

Jamie Frazer from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is beloved because (among other things) he is friends with and genuinely LIKES Claire.

My husband and I have been together 26 years. On our wedding invitation 24 years ago, we had the following engraved on the front, “Today I marry my friend. The one I laugh with, live with, love.” And, to me, that says it all. “Best friends” romance stories have always been popular, and of course we find humor in romantic comedies. Outside of those, though, I hope more and more authors will include male leads that aren’t just sexy and masculine, but genuinely LIKEABLE too. They can still be alpha hardasses, but let me see SOMETHING that tells me why the heroine wants him forever instead of one night. Because, isn’t it the private moments, when we can let our guard down with our significant other and act silly and goofy, that bond us together? Let me see why the female lead puts up with the overbearing protectiveness that is standard in romance novels. We KNOW that the alpha hero will be there during the tough times, but let us see the good times, too. Even if it’s just a quick glimpse of their lighter side. Make me fall in love, rather than lust, with them.

I think one of the main reasons I prefer gay contemporaries over straight ones (aside from the whole man-luvin' thing ;D), is because the relationship dynamics are so different. For the most part, the romantic leads are buddies that hang together AND love each other. It's rare to find that "ease" in a male/female based romance story and, while I can accept the lack in a paranormal or historical, it's very hard for me to read a contemporary without it.

Having said all that, though, let me also caution that playfulness that seems “forced” is a kiss o’ death to a book. An author doesn’t have to be a master (mistress?) of one-liners to show us their hero’s lighter side. The entire book doesn’t have to be oh-so-wacky. Just give me a moment or two that show me how comfortable the leads are together in their private moments. One of my favorite lines in Christmas Pride, the first novella in Shelly Laurenston's The Mane Event perfectly illustrates the point I’m trying to make. This is part of a longer bedroom scene: kneeling above Dez, Mace hands her a condom and says “Here, make yourself useful.” See? Not laugh out loud funny, not even all that important to the storyline, it’s just PLAYFUL and REAL. Maybe only the heroine gets to see it, but find those little opportunities to give us a glimpse of another side to your alpha heroes.