Sometimes I think authors and publishers have little respect for their readers—or they don’t think readers are terribly smart. Especially romance readers. And I hate to be the one to break it them, but although we have a great deal of patience with our authors, we’re also not all suckers for anything being pushed as a romance. In the past year, we’ve seen a few break-out self-published authors being picked up by big publishers and given print deals that have helped them reach a larger audience. And we’ve seen established authors decide they can do better by going the self-published route.

But there are also thousands of books in the middle that suffer from bad covers, uninteresting storylines, incompetent editing and extravagant pricing.

It’s sad and demoralizing for faithful readers who need great books to entertain, inform and help escape from our normal lives. We want reasonably priced books to enjoy on our e-readers and decently priced books for our collections. We want books that are edited, with stories to grab us from beginning to end, and at a fair price. I don’t think it’s asking too much, do you?

On the other hand, it’s also an exciting time for readers. Small independent publishers, called Indies, are going back to the roots of romance and turning out some great reads by freshening up our favorite romance tropes. And some small presses are experimenting with stories that haven’t been tried before. The bigger publishers are also creating mini groups within their lines to try out new books. They’re all trying the e-book-first publication model and it seems to be working very well. In fact, some of the best new books I’ve read this year were of the e-book-first publication model. And some of the worst books I’ve read this year have been self-published books from authors I thought already had it all together.

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Well, we live and learn.

But as reading, especially reading romances, is something that helps me make it through my days and nights, I always find something of value to read. And right now I can’t wait for the release on October 29th of Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren. This is the third story in the Beautiful series and it’s the best one to date. Well, maybe not the very best. Beautiful Bastard hooked me by the second paragraph, so I need to give it some love. The books are being published by Gallery Books, after being born as a self-published series. In Beautiful Player, the writers have matured (yes, it’s a pair who are writing as Lauren) to the point where we can just sit back and enjoy the flow of the story, the interaction of the players and the sensuality of the encounters.Beautiful Beginning

It’s a familiar tale of the younger sister being paired with the brother’s best friend, but with a Pygmalion twist. In this case, the brother is worried his younger sister (Ziggy) needs exposure to the world outside of her research lab and pushes her into the arms of friend William. So, being the best of buds with Ziggy’s brother and owing a bit to the family, William decides as a favor to shepherd the shy Ziggy into the dating game of New York City. Surely, a shy scientist will just need a couple of dinners out, some dating advice, and a little reassurance until she’s bored with it all.

All does not go as planned.

Hanna aka Ziggy is ready to let loose and do a little exploring and maturing of her own. In fact, equipped with a scientist’s inquisitive nature and unfiltered perspective on life, she’s ready to experiment—and why not use William, whom she’s had a wee crush on for nearly a decade? It’s My Fair Lady advanced a century and with lots more sex. Really great sex. And why not? 

William finds himself almost out of his element and, for a “player,” it’s beyond his comprehension how the situation spun so quickly out of his control. He thought he knew it all, but Hanna turns the tables and he’s soon trying to catch up.

Lauren’s style of alternating point of views from chapter to chapter gives insights into the main characters’ motivations and thoughts. The result is spit-fire fast action paired with dialogue that’s not only easy to follow but fun to read. And oh-so addictive. My only whine is that, although this will be the sixth release this year, they are still not writing fast enough to suit me. Three full length novels plus three novellas aren’t enough to satisfy the legion of fans waiting for the next installment. In Beautiful Beginning, scheduled for release in November, one couple, Chloe and Bennett, are about to tie the knot, but their relationship is still sizzling all the way to the altar. But what will come in 2014? Inquiring minds always want to know.

And don’t forget, if you’d like to meet some of the best published authors around, come to our Readers & ’Ritas Weekend, November 8th through the 10th. A few tickets are still available and we’ve now opened a new block in a nearby hotel. Yes, we sold out our hotel! I told you it was THE reader place to be! Join Alexandra Allred, Mary Burton, Shannon K. Butcher, Connie Cox, Tracy Deebs, Nikki Duncan, C.J. Ellisson, Karen Erickson, Lorenz Font, Felice Fox, Morgan Fox, Winnie Griggs, Liliana Hart, Candace Havens, Sherri Hayes, Lorelei James, Missy Jane, Tonya Kappes, Diane Kelly, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jenn LeBlanc, Jade Lee, Roz Lee, Heather Long, Dianna Love, Sylvia McDaniel, Emily McKay, Nancy Naigle, Michael Schneider, Terry Spear, Sasha Summers, Liz Talley, Sherry Thomas, Kay Thomas, Vicki Lewis Thompson, and Jaye Wells. You can find more information at Readers-n-ritas.org. We can sit and talk about romance books, as it’s always a great way to spend time. And perhaps enjoy a margarita or two?

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.