Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Favorite Presents by Caitlin Crews

A few weeks ago I was in Seattle with Jane Porter. We were giving a workshop at her local RWA chapter, but before that, we had a few days to hang out. So, obviously, we talked books. Specifically, we talked a lot about the Presents line, which Jane has written for for years and which I've just started writing for this year.

We talked about love overtaking you--the idea that love will change your whole life and is on some level terrifying. That you will never be the same because of it, no matter what happens. That kind of love makes a riveting Presents.

I know, because I know exactly when I decided to try to write one of these emotionally intense, breath-stealing books. I was reading my way through Jane's entire catalogue, and I made it to The Sheiks's Disobedient Bride.

I read this book in one sitting, and I don't remember breathing. This man is like the desert he rules-- impossible, treacherous, immovable. And the heroine, Tally, fights against the inevitability of his possession--until she realizes that women must bend where men cannot. That women can bend when men cannot. That there is strength and power in choosing to bend. In loving enough to do so.

I thought to myself: I can never, ever write something like this. Something that has made me rethink some of the ways I conceive of relationships, and something I still think about from time to time, like a touchstone, all this time later. But I knew I wanted to try.

In Seattle, I told Jane this, and she asked me if I'd read a few of the books that had inspired her to write for Presents. When I said no, we found them. She ordered one, and her friend hand-delivered another from her Keeper Shelf. I had to read these books, Jane said, to understand two things. First, why the particular authors were so revered and second, what kind of things could be done in a Presents. I'm always interested in books by new-to-me authors, so why not, I thought.

You never really expect to have your world rocked when you pick a book, do you? Though I'd wager that's why we read--for those few and far between books that alter us profoundly. The ones we can't get over. The ones we push into our friends' hands and whisper urgently you have to read this book!

The first was Price of a Bride by Michelle Reid.

I read this book late into the night in Jane's guest room, frantically turning the pages, literally unable to believe what I was reading. It is one of the best books I've ever read. It is harrowing. It leaves marks. What would you sacrifice? Why would you do it? How do you hold on to yourself in the face of your worst nightmares coming true? What if you can't tell the difference between the worst thing and the best thing for a while? I do not have enough superlatives at my disposal to describe this book. Weeks later, I remain in awe.

The second was The Spanish Groom by Lynne Graham.

I was unable to put this book down. I mean this literally. I was pulled in, completely enchanted by the sweet, not-quite-as-daft-as-she-appears heroine and the hard, uncompromising hero. It's one thing to say that a heroine's sweetness and light can melt the hero's hard, hard heart--and quite another to actually watch this happen on the pages of a book. To feel it, right along with the hero. I was stunned by this book--unable to read anything else for days. In awe, yet again.

What are your favorite Presents? What are the best ones you've read--the ones that won't let go of you, the ones that take up space in your heart and change the way you breathe for weeks afterward? The ones that make you cry. Or make you so upset you spend the next day in a funk. Or make you so happy you can't stop smiling for the rest of the week.

Please let me know. I have a whole lot of reading yet to do!


Michelle Styles said...

Totally bad on titles.

But have you discovered Anne McAllister? She is consistently good. InMcGillvray's Bed swept me away when I was waiting for my eldest to finish some sports event. Savas Defiant Mistress helped me get through losing my pets earlier this year.

India Grey is also consistent. Mistress: Hired for the Billionaire's Pleasure had me weeping. It also won the Romance Prize.

ANd then there was the Kate Walker The ANtonaxos Marriage that got me through my first cataract op.

Caitlin Crews said...

I have a couple of those authors on my to-be-read shelf, but haven't jumped in yet. Thanks for the recommendations!

Jane Porter said...

Oooh! I like this blog, and not just because it has my name and book in it (although that does garner many extra friendship points. ahem.) But because I loooooove intense books. I love being swept away by intense emotion and just leveled by a conflict that's internal, not external. I think this is why Presents has been such a strong line for so many years. The stories zoom in on the hero/heroine conflict and stay there. Love, desire,'s all wraped up into one explosive story of emotion and passion and seduction. Love does explode the walls of your world. Nothing is quite the same after. And we crave that change as much as we fear it.

Linda Henderson said...

I can honestly tell you that I've never read a Presents I haven't liked. I've been reading them practically since they came out. I have some low number keepers. Emma Darcy, Kim Lawrence, Helen Bianchin, Lynne Graham, Jane Porter, Anne McAllister, Lucy Monroe, the list goes on and on. All the Presents authors are great. You can't go wrong with any of them.

Mary said...

Gosh there are so many Presents that are just so overwhelmingly good. Anything by Jane Porter and Anne McAllister are more than likely to take your breath away.

Pat Cochran said...

I've read just about every one of
the early Presents. I have the
first one hundred or so back in the depths of my closet. All of those
authors continue to be among my
top favorites! Especially Anne
Mather and Anne McAllister!

Pat Cochran

suehussein said...

Hi, it's good to hear about different books. I love these blogs. I have never read any of these Presents. I'll look for them now, thanks. Sue

Lynz Pickles said...

I've read two suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper Presents of late: Sara Craven's Ruthless Awakening and Annie West's The Savakis Mistress--which, unfortunately, is not currently out in North America. I won a copy and have been re-reading it since it arrived! But the Craven book is out here and it's... stunning. Wonderful. It changed my mind on third-person, single-viewpoint books. Before it, if you'd asked me to read a third-person book from only one viewpoint, I would've scoffed. "What's the point? I want my viewpoints rotating, rotating, I say!" And while I would've loved it if this one had rotating viewpoints, it's so amazing that I didn't mind not being able to see into the hero's mind. It. Was. So. Good. I've lost track of how many times I've re-read certain scenes since I bought myself a hard copy.

penney said...

I love the present books and love the authors who write them. I been reading them since I was in my 20's I still go back and read the older ones too.
Great post today thanks
Happy Thanksgiving!

Alison said...

I loved 'Glass SLippers and unicorns' - sorry, can't remember the author! Partly because of the clear Cinderella reference, because I'd never met a herione called dary, and because I loved the hero's family.