The table is set with the white buffet china bought at a steal from a pre-holiday sale at Target years ago, the flatware shining in place, the glassware sparkling as it awaits the pouring of water and wine. The trivets look lonely as they are strategically placed down the long opened-to-the-max table. The end tables in the living room are overflowing with books and surrounded by an assortment of totes and folded shopping bags. It’s book club night and we’re ready for the crowd.
Twice a month I go to a book club in a home. The first one is held across town in a lovely home in Fort Worth. For the second one, I step out of my office and find everything laid out in my own home. Usually, I’m fortunate to have a family who has helped me “do book club” for more than 10 years in our home; we’ve got it down to a well-oiled practice. The only fly so to speak is when people have other commitments and I have to “leave” work early to get ready. Then I feel the crush of responsibility, and perhaps even the pressure to cook. Oh, dear! Fortunately, this week, everyone is home. The guests otherwise known as the book clubbers arrive with their dinner contribution and books for trade and ready to have a good time with everything from appetizers to dessert to good conversations about books they’re reading.
The first part of the evening is spent in the kitchen, half helping the chef prepare, warm and plate food, while the other half stays out from underfoot by sitting around the small breakfast table enjoying wine and appetizers. Sometimes they are healthy snacks and sometimes decadent experiments. I like the experiments best I must admit. Long-time members and newcomers are each given a task. This includes everything from pouring the water to carrying the hot dishes to the table. Then, at 7 p.m., we all are herded into the dining room. It’s time for the main course. Last night’s menu was Southern (indoor) picnic with roasted chicken, macaroni and four-cheese casserole, baked potato salad, heirloom tomato salad and jalapeno cornbread. Delicious!
Our book-club guest arrived promptly via the iPad and with the assist of Google Hangout. Roni Loren was displayed at one end of the table where everyone could see her, but I think she had a bird’s eye view of a water pitcher and remains of serving dishes—we did offer to pour a glass of wine to put in front of the camera. The 30-minute call was the reason we gathered; to listen to an author and to ask questions.
Roni Loren was discovered by our member Gwen Reyes for a Good Morning Texas segment, and knowing our taste for racy books, suggested we give her a try. It turned out to be spot-on, and her latest book in the Loving on the Edge series was a perfect fit for our Southern-themed night. Set in Dallas, all the “Loving” books feature characters who hang out or visit The Ranch, a private BDSM club. There are four books in the series; the latest is Caught Up In You (Berkley Heat; August 6, 2013) about a high-powered executive and a waitress saving up for her dream. Mix in a dark back story (there are secrets you’ll want to uncover), and some very intense but exquisite sensual encounters, and the Loving on the Edge books will quickly become some of the steamiest books on your reading list.
We found out more about Roni’s background during our book-club session, including her master’s degree in social work—a reason for why she always includes a darker issue in her stories. It’s never so much as to turn you off, though, but enough to give a real texture to the story. She has also experimented with a serial release this past summer: Her readers waited impatiently for each weekly release of Not Until You. Each week, we received a new episode in the relationship of Cela, Ian and Pike. EIGHT weeks of torture are fortunately over; you can now download the entire series and the paperback version is tentatively scheduled for release in 2014. The serial began its life as a novella and then was rewritten as a New Adult book, expanded to over 120,000 words and written in the first person. It was one of the most talked about erotic romance reads in our group this past summer and one of the reasons we invited Roni into our “club” for a visit.
Then, as it usually goes after an author visit, we play the name game and catch up on what everyone is reading while we enjoy cake and coffee. Papers rustle as notes are taken on books to pick up; smartphones are checked for last reading titles and for a quick purchase of a not-to-miss novel. Everyone also stops by the living room where the trade books are piled. No one leaves empty handed. Until next week, book club is over, but we’ve all got something new to read. For book clubbers, this is the best thing.
So, I go to a book club a week in Dallas, each one a little different. Some are held in a home with a pot luck meal, some in bookstores and at least one in a tea shop or restaurant. This September, I attended a local book club to hear Allison Leotta talk about Speak of the Devil (Touchstone; August 6, 2013), part of a chilling thriller series set in D.C. At our bookstore location, we discussed Mary Jo Putney’s latest entry in the Lost Lord series, Sometimes a Rogue (Kensington; September 3, 2013), paired with the first book in the Witches of East End series by Melissa De La Cruz (Hyperion; June 1, 2011) so that we could be ready for the television series.
Do you belong to a book club? If so, what’s your club schedule or routine?
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com, a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors an annual author reader tea in June, a readers conference in November, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.