First let me say how thrilled I am to be a regular columnist here at The Pink Heart Society. Thanks for asking me, gals! I love this site, so this will be fun...
Being asked to choose favorite category romances, however, is an inventive way to torture an author, since I hardly know where to begin. I’ve been reading category since I was twelve years old, taking a break somewhere in my twenties and early thirties, and then picking up again late thirties, so there’s a lot of territory to cover. Do I choose something early that I remember from years ago, such as Nora Robert’s MacGregor series, which was a keystone for all of her readers and for those of us who enjoy writing series?
Do I choose one of the early Blaze novels such as Janelle Denison’s The Ultimate Seduction, or JoAnn Ross’s Thirty Nights, that inspired me to write for the line? Do I choose something from the new authors and new books I’m reading, like Sarah Mayberry’s Daytime Diva Blaze series or Amy Knupp’s Superromance, The Boy Next Door, to help promote someone new and let you know how great their books are?
Damn, this is hard!
So, I did the only thing a rational woman can do. I closed my eyes in front of the bookshelf and pointed, and that’s the book I’m going to talk about, since if it’s in my bookshelf, it’s a keeper. Ah. . .there it is. A good one, indeed. Isabel Sharpe’s Christmas Blaze, Before I Melt Away. Perfect! Christmas in August. But this book is on my shelf because it is about more then the holiday; to me, it is category romance, and Blaze, at it's best.
This is hands down the most romantic title Blaze has put on a cover (even the font is romantic!), and it’s an annual read for me at the holidays. It was definitely an inspiration as I wrote my own Christmas Blaze, due out December ’07, Talking in Your Sleep, but we'll talk more about that later.
In Before I Melt Away, Personal chef Annabel Brightman is a driven workaholic, but her old friend Quinn Garrett convinces her to have some hot (very hot!) and sexy fun over the holidays – thing is, Annabel is so closed off from the world, from her friends, from her colleagues and the people in her life, she can be callous and unthinking that I literally wince every time I read the scene where she and Quinn are picking out Christmas trees and she whips open her cell phone, disappointing him sharply that she cannot extend herself to share in even the tiniest moment of Christmas magic. Isabel does such a great job of making you want to just shake her, she's so determined to resist the magic of the holiday and Quinn, and you have to wonder, how did this woman get this way and can she change?
Quinn has his hands full with Annabel – literally and figuratively as this story is as hot as any Isabel has ever penned – but it’s also achingly romantic and just a beautiful holiday story that asks how many of us get so wrapped up in work we forget what’s really important? How many people don’t make time for love?
In the story we can see that as successful as Annabel is, she is wounded, and she needs to change be a whole person, and that's what I find most fascinating about all romance. All romance novels open with characters who are at a point in their lives where they are ready for change, but will they do it? They will either take the risks that they must to win real love, or they may lose out forever.
They say that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, and maybe that’s true in a limited sense, but finding love is the way most people really grow, don't you think? Sometimes it might be "tough love," but it always has to be love. When you know someone loves you, you can let go of pain and insecurity, and then you can really blossom. But you have to be willing to change, and so many of us aren't, because we're afraid of what will happen. We just have to have faith that it will work out. This is what Isabel’s book is about, and it’s one of my favorite themes as well.
This theme emerges in my August release, Pick Me Up, as well, where Lauren and Brett have to both risk and grow to find real love, and the book was so much fun to write. In many ways, Lauren is a heroine I relate to, since my husband also has been someone who has supported me and helped me take risks I might not have otherwise, and so from that, I have grown and changed over the years, too. This is what love and romance is all about right? What is your favorite category romance where the characters really risk something or change for love? Is there a hero or heroine you've ever really related to in that way? Share! :) What's the biggest change you've ever made for love?
Samantha's netx release is PICK ME UP. Said to entail ". . .Hot sex, well-developed characters and humor, all placed in beautifully described scenery. Pick Me Up, (4 1/2 stars) is a winner!"