It’s the end of July!

In January, I would have thought I’d be in Orlando this week for RWA, but life has a way of happening when we’re making other plans, doesn’t it?

In fact the whole last month has been full of surprises for me, mostly good, some not so good—and while I’ve had to adjust some expectations, overall it’s been a good reminder that even when life doesn’t go the way we expect, often the end result is still positive.

It’s a common arc in romance, too. The idea that a main character loses everything in the beginning, only to rise from the ashes and soar, brighter than ever, learning to become an even better version of his or her self so they can find even more happiness by earning the love of a perfect mate.

I think about romance a lot, of course. I read and listen to lots of romance novels and women’s fiction with high romantic elements. I’ve experienced the good and the bad of the romance community; I am thankful it’s mostly good.

So to all my friends and colleagues in Orlando this week—I hope you have fun, do good work, find inspiration and community, and soak up everything good thing RWA has to offer.

I’ll be thinking of you all.

If, like me, you weren’t able to make it to Florida this week, then I hope you have the chance to read a few good books as you work your way through the rest of the summer. Here are a couple titles I read recently and loved:

Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann (which received a Kirkus star) - It was a long wait for Brockmann’s latest—which came out earlier this month—but it was well worth it. Diving back into the world of her wildly popular Troubleshooters, yet taking a slightly new tone and more domestic direction, Brockmann reminds us just how good she is at romantic suspense. Yet she also celebrates our very diverse world with a broad cast of perfectly rendered characters.

Navy men don’t come tougher than Lieutenant Peter Greene. Every day he whips hotshot SEAL wannabes into elite fighters. So why can’t he handle one fifteen-year-old girl? His ex’s death left him a single dad overnight, and very unprepared. Pete can’t relate to an angsty teen, but at least he can keep Maddie safe—until the day she disappears. Though he’s lacking in fatherly intuition, Pete’s instinct for detecting danger is razor sharp. Maddie’s in trouble. Now he needs the Troubleshooters team at his back, along with an unconventional ally.

Romance writer Shayla Whitman never expected to be drawn into a real-world thriller—or meet a hero who makes her pulse pound. Action on the page is one thing. Actually living it is another story. Shay’s not as bold as her heroines, but she’s a mother. She sees the panic in her new neighbor’s usually fearless blue eyes —and knows there’s no greater terror for a parent than a child at risk. It’s an ordeal Shay won’t let Pete face alone. She’s no highly trained operative, but she’s smart, resourceful, and knows what makes teenagers tick.

Still, working alongside Pete has its own perils—like the heat between them rising out of control. Intimate emotions could mean dangerous, even deadly, consequences for their mission. No matter what, they must be on top of their game, and playing for keeps . . . or else Pete’s daughter may be gone for good.

Brockmann never disappoints, and the combination of a hot SEAL and a smart, resourceful black romance author trying to find and save his daughter is both highly entertaining, intensely moving and deeply thought-provoking. Highly recommend.

7.27 romance_devil'scutDevil’s Cut by J.R. Ward - I have thoroughly enjoyed the epic Bourbon Kings trilogy, and Ward brings it home in a completely satisfying—not to mention clever and unexpected—way. (Releases Aug 1)

At first the death of William Baldwine, the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom...but the woman he left behind. His love, Sutton Smythe, is the only person he has ever truly cared about, but as she is the CEO of the Bradford Bourbon Company's biggest competitor, any relationship between them is impossible. And then there's the reality of the jail time that Edward is facing.

Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward's shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer - only to discover a secret that is as devastating as it is game changing.

As Lane rushes to discover the truth and Sutton finds herself irresistibly drawn to Edward in spite of his circumstances, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again. For some this is good; for others it could be a tragedy beyond imagining. Only one thing is for certain: Love survives all things. Even murder.

In a brief author’s note, Ward says: “This series was born of my old-school love for the television show Dynasty, fueled by my deep reverence for Kentucky, and directed by my fascination for how people and families evolve through stressful times.”

It’s the perfect explanation for how this series—equal parts soap opera, family drama, and romance novel—came to be, and I for one would love to see the occasional return to this type of storytelling for those of us who might have watched Dynasty, but absolutely read Judith Krantz and Sidney Sheldon. Ward’s Bourbon trilogy brings all of that to mind.

7.27 romance_angelsAgain, highly recommend, but do start from the beginning (The Bourbon Kings, The Angels’ Share).  A fun, rollicking series that still touches on meaningful emotions and relationships, and truly shows a love for the land and the people of Kentucky. 

Very different, but two excellent reads.

Any great books you’re reading this week?

(By the way, Read-A-Romance Month is almost here! Yay! You can see this August’s terrific lineup here. As a romance advocate, I celebrate romance every day. But August is the month where celebrating romance reading is front and center! This year’s theme is The Power of Romance. Hope you’ll join us.)

#LoveRomance #HappyReading