Romance readers are creatures of habit. We have our go-to authors - those writers whose stories we buy just on name alone - and we stick to 'em. My list includes Kristin Higgans, Joanna Bourne, Lisa Kleypas, and Madeline Hunter. I stop what I'm doing when their new books come out and devour them, reviews or no, good buzz or no. It doesn't matter what others might think or say about my inner circle, as I commonly refer to it, because I know what I like and I know these writers are going to deliever.
And let's face it - romance writers today are busy little bees; they put out enough material to keep us occupied for months. It's easy to keep our reading profile limited to our favorites. If a book by a well-known author we don't typically read has fellow romance readers talking, then, yes, we'll pick it up. But what about the unknown quantities, first-time writers? Why would you alter your tried-and-true routine to take a chance?
The reason to pick up a new writer is because you might be meeting the next member of your inner circle. And this month, Hanna Martine and Molly Cannon make their claims on your time with a heart-pounding, otherwordly suspense tale and a good, ol'-fashioned Texas romp, respectively.
Liquid Lies by Hanna Martine is, on its surface, a story about a woman trying to break out from family expectations. But their's more to Gwen Carroway than that. First of all, she's a "Secondary" - a being not of Earth, a group of non-humans with extraordinary powers at their disposal. Gwen just happens to be able to learn a language in a day (she speaks twenty-three fluently) and to control water. And she's also desperate to join the Board of her people's corporation. Their business? Selling magic to humans. Not an easy line of work, considering that Secondaries must safeguard their secrets during every transaction. Gwen's dad doesn't want this kind of life for her; she's to marry a fellow-Secondary and continue on in her work, not striving for more than what she has. But when a deal goes wrong, Gwen is thrown into the path of a dangerous renegade named Reed, a human with questionable ethics and an air of danger that rolls off of him in waves. Their attraction is immediate and undeniable.
What follows is complicated and compelling. Reed and Gwen are the classic pair of characters who shouldn't want each other, yet do. There's more to overcome than having different backgrounds. They come from different worlds - literally - and Reed's agenda doesn't initally involve falling in love. There's a reason he's thrown himself in Gwen's orbit, and it's not innocent.
Danger doesn't alway lie with that handsome stranger. Sometimes the biggest threat to you is you, and Molly Cannon's Texas-sized treat of a first novel, Ain't Misbehaving, examines just that.
It's humiliating when your husband leaves you for another woman. Ask Marly Jean Bandy. Now ask her how it feels when that other woman is a dowdy librarian, twenty years your senior. Yup. Marly Jean's not doing so well, and she's had enough with the moping. What she needs - she thinks - is a no-strings-attached romp to get her back in the singles groove. But each time a willing fellow crosses her path, Marly Jean can't bring herself to commit. The only man in town who makes her want to get down and dirty is Jake, her brother's best friend. Jake's been in Marly's life for ages; they have history; they're practically family. Marly's looking for a life-restoring roll in the hay and that might not be possible with Jake. Jake's more of a long-term commitment. And Marly's track record with those isn't so good, just ask the librarian.
Ain't Misbehaving is funny. That's all there is to say. The comical situations and colorful dialogue bring Texas to life in the same way that Kristan Higgins' witty observations evoke New Englanders and all their foibles. And at the end you'll find you've teared up as often as you've laughed. Not a bad thing to take away from a book at all.
So if you're feeling feisty and looking for a book to break up your rotation of old favorites, try Hanna Martine's Liquid Lies or Molly Cannon's Ain't Misbehaving. You just may find new recruits for your inner circle.
Do you read debut authors? Who have you discovered and loved this way?
Melanie Murray is a writer and editor, and the moderator of Romantic Reads, BN.com's all-romance, all-the-time community forum. You can follow her on Twitter at @Melanie_Murray and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.
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