Tag: Five Books Everyone Should Read

Five Books Everyone Should Read: Author Kristen Ashley

Posted October 25, 2015 by Holly in Features | 3 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

Today we have romance author Kristen Ashley here to share her list of five books. As you know, Ashley is one of my favorite and most re-read authors in recent years. I’m so pleased to share her list with you today.

Five Books Everyone Should Read à la Kristen AshleyKristen Ashley

to kill a mockingbirdTo Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

– it’s forcing me to hark back a loooooong way, but if memory serves, reading this book in my late adolescence not only solidified my future as an avid reader, but it formed the person I would become. An extraordinary story with a transcendent message and beautifully drawn characters from Scout and Jem to Boo, and especially Atticus. I have not read Go Set a Watchman, mostly because I’m chicken. I’ve heard some things about what Atticus has become in that book that I fear will pollute the beauty of a character who helped to teach me to be empathetic, thoughtful and active in my beliefs, no matter how quiet that activity is. I think I’ll hold Mockingbird dear and leave it at that.

slaughterhouse-fiveSlaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhous-Five is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.

– it’s safe to say I’m a Vonnegut fan, (a scene in Bluebeard being one of the most magnificent reveals I’ve experienced in my lifelong literary journey). Slaughterhouse-Five is devastating. Humorous and magnificently strange, most definitely, but ultimately devastating. Almost too easy to read, the underlining message sneaks up on you, scoring your heart. I’ll never forget Edgar Derby or Vonnegut’s description of Dresden before and after the bombing. It is an odd and heartbreaking masterpiece.

a confederacy of duncesA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole’s hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is “huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans’ lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures” (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times).

– this book has a cast of wonderfully eccentric characters, our protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly chief among them. A funny and fascinating adventure tale so well told, it could stand as a work of art. It won a Pulitzer, posthumously, Toole having committed suicide and his mother finding the manuscript after his death. Tragic. Yet he left us the rich and unconventional beauty of his imagination and sense of humor, which, lucky for us all, will live forever.

In Cold Blood, by Truman CapoteIn Cold Blood

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

– I grew up in a big house with six other people, their ages spanning four generations. That house was on a farm. And I cannot recall a single time growing up with my big family when I was alone in our farmhouse. Except the dark night I lay in my grandparents’ bed and read In Cold Blood. Do not read this book alone. Or in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. I was scared out of my wits. I even threw the book from me at one point. But I picked it back up and read on. I did not quit. I couldn’t. It was that good. That compelling. I’d never read anything like it and I’ve never read anything like it since. It stands alone in its genre. Magnificent.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya SisterhoodDivine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells

The incomparable #1 New York Times bestseller—a book that reigned at the top of the list for an remarkable sixty-eight weeks—Rebecca Wells’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a classic of Southern women’s fiction to be read and reread over and over again. A poignant, funny, outrageous, and wise novel about a lifetime friendship between four Southern women, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood brilliantly explores the bonds of female friendship, the often-rocky relationship between mothers and daughters, and the healing power of humor and love, in a story as fresh and uplifting as when it was first published a decade and a half ago. If you haven’t yet met the Ya-Yas, what are you waiting for?

– it guts me not to list a book by Margaret Atwood or Judith McNaught or Jane Austen or Tom Robbins (or Carl Hiaason, I’ll shut up now). However, I was so deeply affected by the depth and breadth of storytelling, the highs and the lows, the fearlessness of exposure of the darkest pits of characters that ran alongside their most glowing attributes that are featured in this fabulous novel, I have to list it. I remember closing this book and thinking I’d never write again for I wouldn’t be able to tell a story so fluidly, so hilariously, so vividly and so heartbreakingly as Ms. Wells. I’m a sucker for stories about women, most definitely. Packs of women friends, count me in. Mothers and daughters, for sure! This had it all and then some (and then some more). I read this book well over a decade ago and I still mourn Jack like he was my own love lost. That is not a joke. What it is is phenomenal writing.

About Kristen:

Kristen Ashley is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She grew up in Indiana, but has lived in Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus she’s been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least), but loopy is good when you want to write.

Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multi-generational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland and existed amongst the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched).
Needless to say, living in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up. And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

Check out her latest releases:

Walk Through Fire
Walk Through Fire
Hold On
Hold On

Five Books Everyone Should Read: Guest Reviewer Ames

Posted October 18, 2015 by Holly in Features | 2 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

Today our very own guest reviewer Ames shares her list of Five Books. Ames and I tend to have similar taste and I’m seeing a lot of wonderful goodness on this list. max


I don’t like making decisions, like the best of or my most favorite. I like to keep my options open. So I was thinking with this list of 5 Books Everyone Should Read would be focused on the books I turn to whenever I’m in a reading slump. But the more I thought about it, I’ve read some stellar books that I can recall like I read them yesterday that I’ve never re-read. So my list of 5 books are a mix of those books that really touched me and had a long-lasting effect and those that I turn to when I need to jumpstart my reading mojo.

Because its like choosing a favorite child, these are in no particular order.

almost like being in loveAlmost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger

A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart.

Flash forward twenty years.

Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers, and loves. But something is missing …. Travis is the first to figure it out. He’s still in love with Craig, and come what may, he’s going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown. Told in narrative, letters, checklists, and more, this is the must-read novel for anyone who’s wondered what ever happened to that first great love.

Nath introduced to me this author and for that I am eternally grateful. I am not a big fan of epistolary novels but this book is the ultimate. Memos, letters, journals – Kluger uses all these different forms of communicating to tell an awesome story about two boys who fell in love in high school and the journey to reunite after twenty years apart. I laughed and I cried. The author also uses this format in My Most Excellent Year and Last Days of Summer and I highly recommend those two books as well. Read this book, you won’t regret it!

dragon bound by thea harrisonDragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Half-human and half-wyr, Pia Giovanni spent her life keeping a low profile among the wyrkind and avoiding the continuing conflict between them and their dark Fae enemies. But after being blackmailed into stealing a coin from the hoard of a dragon, Pia finds herself targeted by one of the most powerful-and passionate-of the Elder races.

Holly had recommended this novel to me a few times before she held me hostage and forced me to read it. I could have kicked myself for not reading it sooner. But I think I more than made up for it by the amount of times I’ve read it. haha Also, I was so in love with Pia and Dragos that I could not read the next book in the series for years. Nothing could top this ultimate power couple for me and to this day I love Pia and Dragos.

count to tenCount to Ten by Karen Rose

In all his years in the Chicago Fire Department, Lieutenant Reed Solliday ahs never experienced anything like this recent outbreak of house fires – devastating, vicious and in one case, homicidal. He has another problem – his new partner, Detective Mia Mitchell. She’s brash, bossy, and taking the case in a direction he never imagined.

Mia’s instincts tell her the arsonist is making this personal. And as the infernos become more deadly, one look at the victims’ tortured faces convinces her and Reed that they must work closer to catch the killer. With each new blaze, the villain ups the ante, setting firetraps for the people Reed and Mia love. The truth is almost too hot to handle: This monster’s desire for death and destruction is unquenchable … and for Mia he’s started the countdown to an early grave.

Here’s another one that Nath recommended. I wasn’t too keen to read it at first because I don’t like romantic suspense but there’s something about this book that works for me on so many levels. Mia is a kick-ass detective and Reed is an uber hot investigator for the fire department. The romance is extremely well woven around the mystery (of an arsonist/murderer). This book is the perfect balance between suspense and romance.

bet meBet Me/Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie

Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes, and keep him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But Fate has other plans, and it’s not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon, they’re dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme donuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all-true love.

Out of all the Jennifer Crusie books I’ve read, I could honestly only narrow it down to these two. I can’t pick, both really are my favorites. Reading one leads me into reading the other. Crazy for You features a friends-to-lovers plot with a cute rescue dog that I absolutely love. Did I mention friends-to-lovers is my favorite romance plot? And then Bet Me has delicious Cal and a cat that loves Elvis and a prickly heroine who loves good shoes. I love that Min doesn’t apologize for who she is. And Cal…swoon. crazy for you

On Wednesday, Quinn McKenzie changes her life. On Thursday, she tries to get somebody to notice. On Thursday night, somebody does.

Quinn McKenzie is dating the world’s nicest guy, she has a good job as a high school art teacher, she’s surrounded by family and friends who rely on her, and she’s bored to the point of insanity. But when Quinn decides to change her life by adopting a stray dog over everyone’s objections, everything begins to spiral out of control. Now she’s coping with dognapping, breaking and entering, seduction, sabotage, stalking, more secrets than she really wants to know, and two men who are suddenly crazy . . . for her.

the winter roseThe Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

It has been twelve years since a dark, murderous figure stalked the alleys and courts of Whitechapel. And yet, in the summer of 1900, East London is still poor, still brutal, still a shadow city to its western twin. Among the reformers is an idealistic young woman named India Selwyn-Jones, recently graduated from medical school. With the help of her influential fiancé–Freddie Lytton, an up-and-coming Liberal MP–she works to shut down the area’s opium dens that destroy both body and soul. Her selfless activities better her patients’ lives and bring her immense gratification, but unfortunately, they also bring her into direct conflict with East London’s ruling crime lord–Sid Malone.
India is not good for business and at first, Malone wants her out. But against all odds, India and Sid fall in love. Different in nearly every way, they share one thing in common–they’re both wounded souls. Their love is impossible and they know it, yet they cling to it desperately. Lytton, India’s fiancé, will stop at nothing to marry India and gain her family’s fortune.
Fractious criminal underlings and rivals conspire against Sid. When Sid is finally betrayed by one of his own, he must flee London to save his life. Mistakenly thinking him dead, India, pregnant and desperate, marries Freddie to provide a father for hers and Sid’s child. India and Sid must each make a terrible sacrifice–a sacrifice that will change them both forever. One that will lead them to other lives, and other places . . . and perhaps–one distant, bittersweet day–back to each other.

The Winter Rose blew me away as I was reading it. India is a female doctor in a time when women were typically not going to university (right before WWI). She decides to work for those living in poverty and gets involved with Sid, a crime boss in London. This was a time of great change in England and India was affected by it all. She’s torn between her noble family and the family she makes for herself in the slums. I like how all these plots were intertwined and India and Sid were gripping characters that I was rooting for right to the end. I won’t lie, it made me cry. A beautiful book.

I hope sharing these books with you piques your interest if you haven’t read any yet. I found it hard to limit myself to these five. I think I could add a couple more. Maybe I’ll come back with another five books in a couple of weeks! LOL Now I’m off to reread one of them…

About Ames:

I’m just a girl, living in her bookish world. With two awesome sidekicks, Maximus and She-Ra.

Visit her on the web: Bookish Ames | Twitter | Goodreads

Five Books Everyone Should Read: Author Elle Kennedy

Posted October 11, 2015 by Holly in Features | 4 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

elle kennedyRowena: Today, Elle Kennedy, author of one of my favorite reads of the year The Deal, shares the five books she thinks everyone should read. I really love the books that I’ve read on Elle’s list so I’m pretty stoked to add the other books I haven’t read to my TBR list.

Let’s check out her five, shall we?


Elle Kennedy: Um. Only FIVE?? This is a Sophie’s Choice of massive proportions. Ha, and I just snuck in a sixth read in this intro, because, guys, you should read Sophie’s Choice. And once you read that, you should check out these five:

Outlander
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

If you haven’t already read this one, you are missing out! I know, I know, it’s constantly being hyped up and people are always gushing about it, so you’ve probably already gotten this recommendation a million times before. Now you’re getting it a million and one times. I adore this book (and the entire series). I honestly believe that Jamie Frasier is the perfect man. He’s alpha but also beta, flawed, brave, sexy, compassionate, ruthless…the list goes on and on. The heroine is one of the strongest female protagonists of all time, in my opinion. And when you throw in the time travel element? Pure magic.

natural born charmer
Natural Born Charmer, Susan Elizabeth Phillips

NO ONE CAN RESIST A NATURAL BORN CHARMER
A gorgeous football player …
A Lonely Colorado highway …
A woman dressed in a beaver suit.
Life’s funny that way.

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.

I knew I wanted to include a Susan Elizabeth Phillips book on my list, but it was so hard to pick just one! I finally chose Natural Born Charmer because it’s the one I’ve reread the most. It is laugh out loud funny, with out-of-this-world chemistry between the main characters, and (my favorite thing ever) a football setting. SEP is so talented at writing snappy, realistic dialogue. She’s one of my biggest inspirations in my own writing.

wanderlust
Wanderlust, Danielle Steel

Wanderlust is the story of Audrey Driscoll. Orphaned young, Audrey has grown up caring for her eccentric millionaire grandfather and her demanding younger sister, Annabelle, who assume she will always be there for them. Sheltered yet restless, responsible beyond her years yet hungering for experience, Audrey is hopelessly bound until she herself makes the daring decision to leave. As the 1930s unfold, alone, camera in hand, she will shock friends and outrage family as she plunges headlong into the wider world.

Crossing the Atlantic aboard the luxurious Queen Mary, Audrey meets James and Violet Hawthorne, who will draw her into a sophisticated circle of artists and expatriates. And it is they who will introduce her to Charles Parker-Scott, in who Audrey will come to recognize a twin soul, a man propelled by relentless curiosity and driven by conflicting needs for intimacy and independence. Together they will spend an exquisite summer at Cap d’Antibes, then board the Orient Express on an adventure that will carry them to a remote outpost in China. But at the farthest reaches of this journey Aubrey must choose again. Japan has attacked China. Charles knows he must return to Europe at once. But Audrey becomes involved with a besieged orphanage and decides to remain in China without Charles, caring for the abandoned children until help arrives.

In time Audrey will return to America with a daughter of her own. While she must come home to San Francisco to confront a world irrevocably changed by time, she finds she cannot stay. From prewar Germany to London during the Blitz, from a wrenching reunion with Charles to a war zone in North Africa, again and again she must choose between the dictates of her conscience and the yearnings of her heart. For Audrey Driscoll and the men and women whose lives touch hers, wanderlust is the inescapable element. Born at a time when women were expected to stay close to home and fulfill traditional roles, Audrey is compelled to follow the thread of events that will destroy the complacency of the past and shape the future. From Europe to China, from San Francisco to North Africa, she is irresistibly drawn into a man’s world of conflict, discovery, and danger.

In a vivid novel of breathtaking scope, Danielle Steel has once again surpassed herself in creating an unforgettable tale of men and women caught in the tides of personal drama and historic event. Wanderlust is Danielle Steel’s finest journey.

I gush about this book a lot. It is one of my favorites, and I take it with me whenever I travel. I’ve read it about a hundred times. And yet I can’t exactly pinpoint why I love it so much. It’s typical Danielle Steel, with the same basic romance-saga formula her books tend to follow. But this one…gosh, I just adore it. The heroine has the kind of strength I could only dream of having, and the book is rich with history and settings that really take your breath away. Again, magic.

the ugly duckling
The Ugly Duckling, Iris Johansen

If fate suddenly made you more beautiful than you ever dreamed possible, would it be the beginning of a fairy tale, or your worst nightmare?

The brutal attack should have killed anybody, but Nell Calder did more than survive. She emerged a woman transformed, with an exquisite beauty found only in fairy tales. Nell Calder deserved a happy ending. Instead, her descent into terror has just begun.

Her attacker is still on the hunt, determined to finish what he’s started. And Nell, protected by a new face, is just as determined to fight back and take her revenge. But to catch her prey, she will have to expose herself—even if it makes her a killer’s prime target.

This is the book that made me fall in love with romantic suspense. It’s fast-paced, exciting, intense, and romantic. The heroine starts off as weak but a trauma in her life turns her into one of the toughest, most kickass heroines I’ve ever read. And the hero is the definition of alpha badass. I’ve read this book so many times, and it never gets old for me. It introduced me to a genre that blew me away, and pushed me to write my own kickass heroines.

standing in the shadows
Standing in the Shadows, Shannon McKenna

Ex-FBI agent Connor McCloud can never forget the day he was set up to die at the hands of trusted friend and fellow agent Ed Riggs. Hard justice and loyalty to his badge have cost Connor what he wants most–Ed’s shy, studious daughter Erin. He can never have her now, but her beauty still haunts and torments his every waking hour and his most fevered erotic dreams. But now that his old enemy Kurt Novak has returned, Connor is prepared to do anything to protect the vulnerable young woman from a killer who has vowed a brutal payback. . .a killer with a predator’s lethal patience.

Erin has been harboring secret fantasies about Connor McCloud since she first laid eyes on him–but that was before his testimony sent her father to jail. Her world is falling apart and it’s all she can do to hold her family together. But now Connor is knocking on her door, telling her she needs his protection, whether she wants it or not. He won’t give up and he won’t stay away. He’s sworn to guard her life with his own and his fierce protectiveness awakens long-buried feelings–and a fiery sexuality deep within her soul. . .

This one was another eye-opener for me in terms of romantic suspense, mainly because of the unbelievably erotic scenes between Connor and Erin. The dirty talk…gosh, the dirty talk. McKenna is one of my go-to authors. She has a talent for combining the hottest sex scenes ever with the most exciting action scenes ever. This was my introduction to the McCloud Brothers series, and then not only did I go back to read the previous ones, but I proceeded to buy all the next books, dying of impatience for each one to come out.

About Elle:

A New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle writes romantic suspense and erotic contemporary romance for various publishers. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!

Check out Elle’s latest release:

Five Books Everyone Should Read: Author Jill Sorenson

Posted October 4, 2015 by Holly in Features | 2 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

jill bToday we have Jill Sorenson here with her list of Five Books. I love how varied Jill is in her writing, reading and interests. Her list includes some of my favorites, as well as some new-to-me books I’ll be picking up soon.


Hello Book Binge! I decided to include some non-romance titles because I don’t think everyone should read romance. Here are my picks:

island of the blue dolphinsIsland of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. once, Indians also lived on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind.

This is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.

My childhood favorite! Karana gets stranded on the island where she was born, off the coast of California, after her entire tribe sails away. She lives alone with a wild dog as a pet for many years.

 

The Valley of HorsesThe Valley of Horses by Jean Auel

This unforgettable odyssey into the distant past carries us back to the awesome mysteries of the exotic, primeval world of The Clan of the Cave Bear, and to Ayla, now grown into a beautiful and courageous young woman.

Cruelly cast out by the new leader of the ancient Clan that adopted her as a child, Ayla leaves those she loves behind and travels alone through a stark, open land filled with dangerous animals but few people, searching for the Others, tall and fair like herself. The short summer gives her little time to look, and when she finds a sheltered valley with a herd of hardy steppe horses, she decides to stay and prepare for the long glacial winter ahead. Living with the Clan has taught Ayla many skills but not real hunting. She finally knows she can survive when she traps a horse, which gives her meat and a warm pelt for the winter, but fate has bestowed a greater gift, an orphaned foal with whom she develops a unique kinship.

One winter extends to more; she discovers a way to make fire more quickly and a wounded cave lion cub joins her unusual family, but her beloved animals don’t fulfill her restless need for human companionship. Then she hears the sound of a man screaming in pain. She saves tall, handsome Jondalar, who brings her a language to speak and an awakening of love and desire, but Ayla is torn between her fear of leaving her valley and her hope of living with her own kind.

Clan of the Cave Bear is the first in the series, but this one has sex and romance, yay! It’s another story about a woman who survives on her own for years. She rescues injured-traveler Jondalar, whose legendary manhood is too large for other women. Ayla accommodates him perfectly and it’s TRUE LOVE.
their eyes were watching godTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

I read this in college and I was blown away by Zora Neale Hurston’s writing. “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board…” There is a romance, but the HEA is for the heroine only. You root for Janie from start to finish.

 

 
close enough to touchClose Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl

For makeup artist Grace Barrett, Hollywood isn’t the land of golden opportunity. It’s the land of difficult divas, cheating boyfriends and unemployment. So when her great-aunt offers her a free place to stay in Jackson Hole, Grace thinks she’ll spend a little time in the sticks to figure out her life, and then move somewhere exciting to live out her dreams. But it turns out that there are a few more thrills in this small town than Grace was expecting….

Cole Rawlins is a rugged Wyoming cowboy born and bred. Yet he can’t help but be drawn to the fascinating big-city girl who moves in across from him. He wants to get close enough to Grace to see past her tough facade, but if he does, she might see the real Cole. The one with a Hollywood history gone bad. As they discover a sizzling attraction, it becomes harder for him to keep his demons at bay—and those fires from long ago may burn them both.

They’ll need more than scorching-hot passion to make this opposites-attract affair work. But if they can learn to trust one another enough to reveal their secrets, they just might have a chance at forever.

An excellent romance from my favorite contemporary romance author. I think this is a great choice for non-romance readers because it’s beautifully written, and Dahl doesn’t rely on over-the-top tropes or male fantasy figures. She writes about real people, real families, real issues…and hot sex.
twilight eyesTwilight Eyes by Dean Koontz

Slim MacKenzie is no ordinary man. With eyes the color of twilight, he’s been blessed with a psychic gift: premonitions. He’s also been cursed, for Slim can see the monsters hiding among us, feeding on our suffering.

And when Slim joins a traveling carnival seeking sanctuary, what he’ll find is a hunting ground-with humanity as the prey.

In my teens and twenties I binged on Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I selected this book from Koontz because it’s sexy, romantic and violent, with a fascinating portrayal of carnival culture. The 17-year-old hero is a goblin killer with The Sight. He falls for a woman with a dark secret of her own.

 

 

About Jill:

Jill Sorenson is the RITA-nominated author of more than a dozen romantic suspense novels, including the Aftershock series by HQN. She lives in the San Diego area with her family. She’s a soccer mom who loves nature, coffee, reading, twitter and reality TV.

Riding Dirty is her first erotic suspense novel.

Visit Jill on the web:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Website

Jill’s latest release:

Riding Dirty by Jill Sorenson Shooting Dirty by Jill Sorenson

 

Five Books Everyone Should Read: Author HelenKay Dimon

Posted September 20, 2015 by Holly in Features | 3 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

We have a first today. Author HelenKay Dimon is here to share her list of Five Books Everyone Should Read, and she’s first guest since we began this mad journey who didn’t cheat at all! No sneaky inserts of other titles, no series, no trilogies. I don’t know how she did it, but she stuck to five. And they’re good ones, too.

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It’s almost mean to let me choose only five. Like any good reader I recoil in horror at the thought of narrowing down all those books I love, across so many genres, through all those years, to just five. Curse you! To prevent hours of frustration (and more than a little profanity use) I went with the five romance novels I return to over and over again. These are a few of my ultimate favorite reads.

The BrideThe Bride by Julie Garwood

By edict of the king, the mighty Scottish laird Alec Kincaid must take an English bride. His choice was Jamie, youngest daughter of Baron Jamison…a feisty, violet-eyed beauty. Alec ached to touch her, to tame her, to possess her…forever. But Jamie vowed never to surrender to this highland barbarian.
He was everything her heart warned against—an arrogant scoundrel whose rough good looks spoke of savage pleasures. And thought Kincaid’s scorching kisses fired her blood, she brazenly resisted him…until one rapturous moment quelled their clash of wills, and something far more dangerous than desire threatened to conquer her senses…

I made it to the ripe old age of 30 before ever reading a romance. This was my first. Reading this book literally changed my life. I fell in love with the genre and eventually decided to try to write romance. Alec and Jamie – him all gruff and alpha and “I’m not going to fall in love” and her all feisty and “yes, you will!” Some parts made me laugh and others made me sigh. Loved it back then and still do.

kiss an angelKiss An Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

How did pretty, flighty Daisy Devreaux find herself in this fix? She can either go to jail or marry the mystery man her father has chosen for her. Alex Markov, however, has no intention of playing the loving bridegroom to a spoiled little featherhead with champagne tastes. As humorless as he is deadly handsome, he drags the irrepressible Daisy away from her uptown life and sets out to tame her.

Except it won’t be as easy as he thinks. This man without a soul has met a woman who’s nothing but heart. Will vows spoken in haste shatter . . . or offer the promise of love everlasting?

This romance has a virgin heroine, Russian royalty and a circus. A circus. No one except Susan Elizabeth Phillips could pull that mix off. And if that doesn’t convince you, let me try this…there is a scene near the end where the unbending hero hits his knees that is sure to please any romance reader looking for a good grovel scene.

Lucky's LadyLucky’s Lady by Tami Hoag 

As wild and mysterious as the Louisiana swamp he called home, Lucky Doucet was a dangerously attractive Cajun no woman could handle.  His solitary life left no room for the likes of elegant Serena Sheridan, but Lucky couldn’t deny her desperate need to find her missing grandfather.  He would help her, but nothing more—yet once he felt the lure of the flaxen-haired beauty, an adventurer like Lucky couldn’t help playing with fire.

Serena felt unnerved, aroused, and excited by the ruggedly sensual renegade whose gaze burned her with its heat, but she did not dare tangle with a rebel whose intensity was overwhelming, who claimed his heart was off limits?  Deeper and deeper they traveled into the steamy bayou, until with one electrifying kiss her resistance melted into liquid desire.  And the devilish rogue found he’d do anything to make Serena Lucky’s Lady.

Maybe it’s the loner alpha hero with the sexy Cajun accent and habit of engaging in dirty talk. Not sure, but this book is super hot. Also, if you ever wanted a sister and you’re mad at your parents because you don’t have one, read this and you’ll forgive them.

after the nightAfter The Night by Linda Howard 

FAITH DEVLIN: A poor, outcast child in Prescott, Louisiana, she’d always adored the town’s golden boy from afar. But he called her white trash that sultry Southern night when his rich, respected father disappeared, along with her pretty Mom. Now Faith wanted to hate Gray Rouillard…not to feel a powerful surge of desire. But she couldn’t quench her passion, any more than she could hide the truth about the past she had waited so long to unravel.
GRAY ROUILLARD: Even when he raised hell, he did it with style. Reckless, charming, and backed by Rouillard money, Gray controlled the town of Prescott — and Devlin was a name he never wanted to hear again. But when he gazed at Faith Devlin, all he saw was a swirl of tangled sheets and her silken flesh beneath him. To care for her was impossible, unthinkable…because Gray Rouillard planned to use all his power to ruin her.

Two words: Gray Rouillard. He’s the grumbly hero. This book shouldn’t work. The open scene is rough but you’ll get sucked in. Really, almost any old school Linda Howard is pure gold. She writes swoony tough heroes and heroines you’ll wish you knew in real life. Buy any of them.

RavishedRavished by Amanda Quick

From the cozy confines of a tiny seaside village to the glittering crush of the a fashionable London soiree comes an enthralling tale of a thoroughly mismatched couple . . . poised to discover the rapture of love.

There was no doubt about it. What Miss Harriet Pomeroy needed was a man. Someone powerful and clever who could help her rout the unscrupulous thieves who were using her beloved caves to hide their loot. But when Harriet summoned Gideon Westbrook, Viscount St. Justin, to her aid, she could not know that she was summoning the devil himself. . . .

Dubbed the Beast of Blackthorne Hall for his scarred face and lecherous past, Gideon was strong and fierce and notoriously menacing. Yet Harriet could not find it in her heart to fear him. For in his tawny gaze she sensed a savage pain she longed to soothe . . . and a searing passion she yearned to answer. Now, caught up in the Beast’s clutches, Harriet must find a way to win his heart–and evade the deadly trap of a scheming villain who would see them parted for all time.

The hero’s nickname is the Beast of Blackthorne Hall and the heroine is basically a Regency archeology nerd. Do I need to say more?

About HelenKay:

HelenKay Dimon spent the years before becoming a romance author as a…divorce attorney. Not the usual transition, she knows. Good news is she now writes full time and is much happier. She has sold over thirty novels and novellas to numerous publishers, including HarperCollins, Bantam, Kensington, Harlequin, Penguin, Samhain, Carina Press and Riptide. Her nationally bestselling and award-winning books have been showcased in numerous venues and her books have twice been named “Red-Hot Reads” and excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine. She is on the Board of Directors of the Romance Writers of America and teaches fiction writing at UC San Diego and MiraCosta College. You can learn more at her website: www.helenkaydimon.com

Check out her latest releases:

Tamed by HelenKay Dimon
Tamed by HelenKay Dimon
Facing Fire by HelenKay Dimon
Facing Fire