Monday, January 11, 2010

Christmas Reading Bonanza - Anna Campbell

by Anna Campbell

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2010 is packed with great things for you.

I've already started the year off in style with a reading binge (well, probably I should say I finished the last year with said reading binge) and I thought I'd share the fruits of my labors with you.

The end of the year is always such an incredible whirl but then I take a few days off. Usually there's some visitors involved (there were this year) but in between I indulge in a feast of completely non-educational guilt-free TV and a reading binge.

It takes me back to how I used to read books before deadlines and real life interfered with my addiction. Starting the day knowing that I needed to do nothing and be nowhere and I could just give myself up to a wonderful story until I reached the last page.

And what is a girl to do then?

Why, pick up the next wonderful story!

Sadly, my life no longer affords many opportunities to wallow in books like this which is one of the reasons I absolutely adore these few days every summer. It's hot outside although this year we actually had rainy days after Christmas - even more delicious to lie around and read about these gorgeous heroes and their wonderful heroines. I stash away books I know will be good for this break. And this year I was lucky as a lot of my favorite authors had books out for Christmas.

Anyway, here is a quick thumbnail sketch of a couple of books that really took my fancy. If they're in your TBR pile, read them, they're great. If they're not, get thee to a bookstore pronto!

I love novellas but sometimes the collections can be a mixture of hit and miss. Not in the case of THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS which features stories by Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick and Courtney Milan. Mary and Nicola's stories are both really touching and romantic and Courtney's debut, THE WICKED GIFT, made me think I was witnessing the birth of a star. It's brilliant and features, for a refreshing change, middle-class characters rather than people from the top of the social ladder. I've read an advance copy of Courtney's PROOF BY SEDUCTION which was a January release and it's utterly brilliant. Don't miss it!

Laura Kinsale is one of the geniuses of the genre (or any genre, for that matter). Her first book in several years is out in February and yet again, I was lucky enough to get an advance copy. LESSONS IN FRENCH is wonderful, lighter than many of the vintage Kinsales, but still with a fantastic emotional punch and her beautiful, beautiful writing. And it features what I'm sure is going to be one of my favorite characters of 2010, the heroine's prize bull Hubert! Seriously, you will lose your heart to this particular alpha male!

One of the best mystery/romance series out there at the moment is C.S. Harris's Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries. Sebastian is a viscount in Regency London who, because of his peculiar range of skills, is drawn into investigating murders that the powers that be (and remember, this is before there's a regular police force) would rather just went away without scandal. I read the fourth in the series, WHERE SERPENTS SLEEP, over Christmas. Wow, what a story! And seriously, I'm in love with Sebastian! These books are beautifully written, dark, moody, emotional, and have a very strong romance plot to accompany the mystery. Highly recommended.

Over the last year, Sarah Mayberry, has become one of my must-buy writers. She writes really punchy, sexy, emotional romance and her latest, HER SECRET FLING, is no exception. It uses a romance theme I always enjoy - hatred into love - and features a fabulous ex-Olympic swimmer as the heroine. I love how Sarah gives her characters unusual backgrounds - her last Blaze heroine was a tattoo artist!

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is another goddess of the romance genre. I had a wonderful time (and stayed up far too late) with her latest, WHAT I DID FOR LOVE. It's another hate into love story - perhaps there's a bit of a vogue for those at the moment. Georgie York and Bram Shepard starred in a mega-successful sitcom when they were teenagers, but the romance on screen wasn't mirrored in their real personal clashes. Through a series of mishaps, years later, when both Georgie and Bram are struggling to resurrect their careers, they end up married to one another. It's such fun watching them learn about each other and gradually fall in love, completely against their better judgment. By the way, I adore those shoes on the cover - aren't they gorgeous?

What other noteworthy reads brightened my break? Tiffany Clare's fabulous debut THE SURRENDER OF A LADY, again an advance copy. Keep an eye out in autumn, 2010, for this really sexy story about harems and sensuality and lost love found. Liz Carlyle's WICKED ALL DAY is going to be one of my reviews on The Romance Dish in the next few months so watch out for that. Ditto for Barbara O'Neal's beautiful THE SECRET OF EVERYTHING.

So have you read any of these books? Are any in your TBR pile? Did you pick up any great books over Christmas? Let's start adding to our lists!


Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Anna. It sounds like you have read some wonderful books during your break--I love all the covers you have posted. I trust your recommendations and will definitely buy them!
I did some catch-up reading too.
Read THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson to see what all the fuss was about. Amazing, cannot wait to get the next two in the series.
Enjoyed VISION IN WHITE by Nora Roberts, I like her linked books.
Irish writer Cathy Kelly's LESSONS IN HEARTBREAK was an engrossing read, set between New York and Ireland.
Sophie Kinsella's paranormal chick lit TWENTIES GIRL was fun.
Loved the dog in Kristan Higgins TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.
There were more but I think I have gone on too long.
I can't say I read CAPTIVE OF SIN by Anna Campbell during the break--I read that amazing book the minute I got it!

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Happy New Year Anna....I have Susan Elizabeth's book on my TBR pile.

I also have the 6 Presents books for January who made the USA Today Best Seller List and I can't wait to read them.

I also have a few HQN, Blaze, Desire and Roxanne St. Claire's Bullet Catcher.

It seemed to me December and January were about reunion stories, loved them!

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Oh, I forget to mention.....I had the priviledge of reading two debut authors, Lucy King from Presents and Rachel Bailey from Desire. Both very talented authors and their books incredible.

Emmanuelle said...

Hi Anna. It's a great list you have here. I already read the SEP and Mayberry ones. Both authors have became auto-buys for me too. I can't wait to read the new Kinsale, soon hopefuly.

I also have a few books on my TBR pile, the most recent releases being :
-Robin KAye Breakfast in Bed
-Robyn Carr Forbidden Falls
-Kat Martin's Reese's Bride

Now There are two books out soon I'm particularly anticipating :
- Kristan Higgins The Next Best Thing
- Tracy Anne Warren At the Duke's Pleasure

Anna Campbell said...

Kandy, everywhere I went when I was Christmas shopping, I saw those Stieg Larsson books. I must give them a go. I love a good crime story! Love your list - Vision in White was on all the bestseller lists over Christmas. Hey, cool on loving COS. Thanks for that lovely plug! ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Marilyn, I noticed all those Presents books on the USA Today list. Isn't that fantastic? Hope they're fun! My next category read will be Kathleen O'Reilly's latest Blaze. I think she's an amazing writer. Hope you enjoy the SEP. I love the way she combines hilarious comedy and sharp wit with deep emotion. It's a really unique combination.

Anna Campbell said...

Marilyn, would you believe Rachel lives just up the road from me? I'm really looking forward to reading her debut.

Anna Campbell said...

Emmanuelle, aren't the SEP and the Mayberry great? Sarah's a fairly recent find for me, thanks to Sharon Archer who writes Medical Romance for Harlequin. Interesting list of books coming up - I'll have to check them out!

Vanessa Barneveld said...

Happy New Year, Anna!

I love the cover of the CS Harris book. It looks suitably mysterious.

I have a Sarah Mayberry novel on my nightstand. I'm looking forward to reading it. (And, ahem, thank you for lending it to me!)

My TBR pile/hill/mountain is almost insurmountable, but it's a wonderful problem to be burdened with. It's stacked with wonderful YAs, historicals and non-fiction craft books.

~ Vanessa

Tiffany Clare said...

I always have a reading binge over the holidays. It's become a yearly tradition for me. :)

I keep meaning to read a SEP book--I'm one of those who haven't tried her yet. I have a couple on my TBR.

PS Thank you, Anna, for loving Jinan and Rothburn's story so much (The Surrender of a Lady). Readers will be able to find it at their local bookstores October 2010

Anna Campbell said...

Vanessa, honestly, nobody I know who has a TBR pile as big as a house is REALLY complaining seriously. I think we're all addicts and we love to think we've got all these marvellous stories waiting for us. You'll love Sarah's book - and the Kathleen O'Reilly I gave you as well. Clearly I am enabling your addiction ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Tiff, how cool we both have a reading binge over Christmas. It takes me back to my school and uni days when I used to lie around like a cat sunning itself and just read through a whole pile of books. Mostly Harlequin romances in my younger days, I have to say! Although I remember one very memorable summer when I read the Thorn Birds. That was pretty hot stuff for back then!

I loved your book - as you know. And fantastic that you've got a firm release date for THE SURRENDER OF A LADY! The world has a treat in store!

Rebekah E. said...

All of those book sound really good. I have A Lesson in French and what I did For love on my want to read list.

Atia Austen said...

Happy New Year Anna!

I enjoyed the latest SEP but read mostly classics during my Christmas break. Okay, let me rephrase that: I tried to read some classics until I became sick.
Until then I revisited Cranford and Middlemarch and made my first trip to Maycomb, Alabama (To Kill a Mockingbird).

And I have to agree with Vanessa. An almost insurmountable TBR pile/hill/mountain is a wonderful problem to be burdened with. Can't wait to add some more books in 2010.

Linda said...

I read the entire Kay Hooper series, the entire Dianne Day Fremont Jones series and one Jesse Kellerman. Now reading Wolf Hall.

Anna Campbell said...

Rebekah, I hope you enjoy both. I was laughing out loud at moments in both of them. And they both feature lovely heroes.

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Atia! Happy New Year to you too! Good for you with the classics. I re-read Pride and Prejudice for the first time in years a couple of months ago. It really felt like it gave my brain a bit of a clean ;-) I haven't read Middlemarch for years - I had to do it in uni and I just loved it. I've never read Cranford although I loved the BBC adaptation. Ditto with To Kill a Mockingbird. I read a bio of Harper Lee last year - such a mystery why there was only ever one book.

Anna Campbell said...

Wow, Linda, that's a serious amount of reading. Good on you! Hope you're enjoying Wolf Hall. It sounds really fascinating. I'm currently on an old Laura Kinsale for a review for the Romance Dish - so I guess you could say I'm back on the classics!

Thea said...

Thanks for the heads up that Laura Kinsale has a new booking coming out. She never disappoints! I'm reading Courtney Milan's Proof by Seduction right now. Susan E Phillips What I did for Love was great. Jayne Ann Krentz' Fired UP, and a non-romance, a literary mystery that is excellent: Geraldine Brooks "People of the Book" - wow

Helen said...

Hi Anna

I too love Sarah Mayberry and I am really looking forward to Courtney Milan's debut. I have such a huge TBR pile that it is hard sometimes to choose which book to read next. Laura Kinsale's book is on my must have list I have yet to read one of her books although I do have a couple on the TBR pile I really need to move them up. I did read Sharon Archer's book at the end of 2009 and loved it and there is no way I will miss one of Sharon's books.
I can see my TBR pile growing again LOL I love it.

Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Thea, I loved Courtney's Proof by Seduction. One of the best debuts I've ever read. Hope you're enjoying it too. A new Laura Kinsale is always an event, isn't it? This one is a lot of fun! Did you know Geraldine Brooks is an Aussie? I've heard so much about her books but I'm yet to read any, naughty me! She's hugely popular here.

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, Sharon's books are gorgeous, aren't they? And she's such a beautiful writer. So glad you enjoyed them! I'm not sure if you should hate or love the Bandits - we've definitely been bad for your credit card ;-) I'm surprised you haven't read Laura Kinsale - she's fantastic! I'll be interested to know what you make of her.

Niveau said...

I loved The Heart of Christmas, especially Courtney's story, and Her Secret Frling. LOVED them. And Proof by Seduction was wonderful, too.

I've wanted to read What I Did for Love for a while now, and since it's finally come out in mass market, I'm hoping to pick it up soon. I'll be taking the first three books in the Sebastian St. Cyr series with me to Mexico, and I'm glad to hear such a glowing recommendation of them.

I picked up a ton of books in December--between pre-Christmas sales and Chapters' 30% off hardcovers sale on Boxing Day, I practically bought enough to fill a new bookshelf! I've been waiting years for Edward Rutherford to release a new book, so when I saw New York I nabbed it right away. I read my first of his books when I was twelve, probably because the size was such a challenge, and I've been a fan ever since. I haven't started it yet, but he never lets me down.

The best book I got in that rush of buying was probably Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games, but in a way, it was also the worst. I'd been waiting for it to come out in paperback, but the hardcover sale made up my mind for me and I finally bought it. The writing was wonderful, though I have a problem with just how similar it is to Koushun Takami's fabulous Battle Royale. There are some major differences, but some things, beyond just the premise, are veeeeeeeeery similar and I'm a quite uncomfortable with that. I'm not sure if I'll buy the second book--it's guaranteed to be completely different, but I'm still kind of squicked out about the similarities.

Pat Cochran said...

G'day, Anna,

I have The Heart of Christmas on
the old TBR, it should be coming up soon. The others listed look great, I just added them to my purchase list. Just finished reading Four Dukes and A Devil
& will start The Treasures of Venice tonight.

Pat Cochran

Anna Campbell said...

Niveau, great to meet another Courtney Milan fan. I think both books of hers that I've read have been fantastic. I hope you enjoy the Sebastian St. Cyrs. I think they're wonderful too - definitely read them in order because the revelations are timed to shock. Sorry to hear about the ambiguous reaction to the Suzanne Collins. Would you believe I've never heard of either book? Clearly I need to get out more! LOL!

Anna Campbell said...

G'day right back at ya, Pat mate! ;-) Sounds like you've got some lovely reading ahead of you. I haven't yet read the Treasures of Venice although it's been in my sights since Cindy finalled in the Golden Heart with that story way back in 2006. I loved The Heart of Christmas! Got quite weepy a couple of times which is pretty major when we're talking novellas!

Pam P said...

I enjoyed The Heart of Christmas, always like reading these type anthologies during the season. I do now have the Kinsale and Courtney's Proof of Seduction in the reading pile.

Anna, I love Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries, now one of my very favorite series. Too bad we have to wait so long for the next one after that last book's ending.

Michele L. said...

Hi Anna,

Gosh what an amazing list you put together! They all look and sound so amazing that I want to buy them all!

The books that I have read this year so far are,
DASHING THROUGH THE MALL by Sherryl Woods, Darlene Gardner & Holly Jacobs
SUGAR AND SPICE by Fern Michaels, Beverly Barton, Joanne Fluke & Shirley Jump

I love holiday anthologies!

Also, CASUAL HEX by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Great Paranormal fun!
Loved her book! It is a wonderful romance story!
READY by Lucy Monroe
She is an awesome writer! I just love her books!

along with a couple other books. I love reading during the holidays. The cold winter weather just makes want to curl up under the covers with a great book!

It was fun having you here! Have a great week!

Niveau said...

Anna: while The Hunger Games is pretty popular here in English-speaking countries, Battle Royale is more of a cult hit. It was huge in Japan but never really took off in the same way outside of it, so it's not surprising that you've never heard of it. I would never have known it if a friend hadn't let me borrow his copy a few years back.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, for a bit of fun, check out this video of me talking about CAPTIVE OF SIN on the HarperCollins Australian site!

Anna Campbell said...

Pam, are you talking about What Remains of Heaven? I haven't bought it yet - still deciding if I'll fork out for a hardback! There were so many amazing developments in Where Serpents Sleep (especially if you're in Team Hero!). Can't wait to see what happens next! He's just gorgeous, isn't he? What a wonderful hero!

I usually don't read Christmas anthologies - I'm a contrary old moo! But I'm so glad I read this one. You'll really enjoy the CM and the LK!

Anna Campbell said...

Michele, I've been kinda envying your cold weather up in the Northern Hemisphere. Nothing nicer than curling up on a cold day with a couple of hot books. Having said that, we had a couple of nice rainy days over Christmas so it was ALMOST as good! Love your list - I'll have to check them out. Thanks for swinging by!

Anna Campbell said...

Niveau, they both sound really interesting. I'll have to check them out. I always complain about my TBR pile blocking out the sun but really, I don't mind adding good books to it at all!

Linda Henderson said...

I haven't read any of the books you listed, but I do have a Sarah Mayberry in my TBR pile. I also used up some Barnes and Noble gift cards and picked up some Karen Kelley books, Nora Roberts first two books in her bride quartet series, The Mammoth Book of Time Travel and I have the Mammoth Book of Irish Romance and Mammoth Book of Paranormal on order and they should be here in a couple of weeks. The Irish Romance one doesn't release until 1/26. As you can tell, I like anthologies.

PJ said...

Hi Anna! Sorry I didn't make it over here yesterday. I meant to but life intruded...quite the form of my 3-yr old grand-niece. :)

I've been doing a lot of catch-up reading lately Here a few that I enjoyed.


PROOF BY SEDUCTION by Courtney Milan

SINFUL SURRENDER by Beverley Kendall


SLEEP NO MORE by Susan Crandall

Tawny Weber's YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS from the Blaze anthology, BLAZING BEDTIME STORIES.

I discovered Sarah Mayberry over the holidays. I'll be reading a lot more of her!

I was also lucky enough to score a few ARCs of upcoming releases. I highly recommend:

Sara Lindsey's historical debut, PROMISE ME TONIGHT

IF BOOKS COULD KILL, a bibliophile mystery from Kate Carlisle

LESSONS IN FRENCH by Laura Kinsale (I fell in love with Hubert the Bull too!)

Anna Campbell said...

Linda, I'm SOOOO glad you like anthologies! I've just sent in a story for THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF REGENCY ROMANCE which will be out in June this year. Sounds like it will be right up your alley - lots of fabulous historical authors are involved. Here's a link:

Doesn't it sound luscious? I like anthologies too. And it's a great way for me to discover new authors.

Also, give the Christmas trio a go. Each of the stories was great!

Anna Campbell said...

PJ, lovely to see you whether late or early or on time! Glad you had a lovely day yesterday! I always pay attention to your recommendations because we have very similar tastes (there's a blogger called Janga who has similar tastes to mine too - always love what she likes too!). What an interesting list - looks like you had a lovely reading binge Christmas too. I really enjoyed Susan Crandall's Pitch Black (Cassondra Bandita is a big fan and recommended it). Will have to try out this new one. Sinful Surrender is great! I love anything Tawny has written although I haven't checked out the novella yet. Glad we've turned you into a Sarah Mayberry fan!

How lucky you are with those ARCs! I'm dying to read Sara's debut and Kate's a legend. She hit the NYT list with her debut HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER. How amazing is that?

Pam P said...

Anna, I am on Team Hero now, and just wait until you finally read What Remains of Heaven, you'll certainly be dying for the next book then after the way it ends.

Anna Campbell said...

Wow, Pam, you big tease. Oh, no, that means I'll have to fork out and get the hardback! There were some amazing developments for we Team Heroites in Serpents - sounds like there's more to come. Yum, yum, yum! Nice to meet another member of TH! Snort!

susanwilson44 said...

Thanks so much for the recommendations. I'm always looking for new books to read, Susan

Anna Campbell said...

Susan, I think all of these are great. Hope you enjoy them. I'm always looking for great new recommendations too.