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For those of you new to the world of romance novel blogland, the Smart Bitches are a couple of very smart, very funny, ultra-snarky bloggers who have a passion for romance novels; a passion that does not, however, blind them to the genre’s shortcomings, such as the over use of clichés, tropes, the godawful cover art, the often apostrophe-ridden, wince-worthy titles.

beyond-heaving-bosoms-miniThe Smart Bitches (SBSarah, aka Sarah Wendell of New Jersey, and SBCandy, aka Candy Tan of Oregon) have been around for a few years, providing continuous entertainment with their cover snark and an endless education. Their discussions have covered all aspects of the romance genre-from the use of rape as a metaphor for seduction to the evolution of the heroes and heroines from the stereotypes of the 1980s to the more realistic people of the late 1990s, to the use of ferrets to root out and demolish-metaphorically speaking-plagiarists.

How these two intelligent and educated women got together to create their very popular website, Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books, is a different story entirely, but now, inevitably, they have collaborated on a book that has a bit of something for everyone who believes that romance novels should be treated no more, but certainly no less, respectfully than other genres. After all, romance novels account for a hefty percentage of all book sales worldwide-in fact, the biggest slice of the publishing pie for any single genre.

A warning to those readers who may be easily offended by “strong language” (e.g., the “f” word, the “c” word, the “p” word, the “s” word, the “mf” word and, probably, the “x”, “y” and “z” words, too): you may want to consider waiting for the expurgated version.



Warning, this is a particularly long rant, the likes of which I rarely like to indulge in these days, so I suggest you grab yourself some coffee and chocolates before you commence reading.

Dear Diane

I read your post the other day on E-span, (in response to Deidre Knight’s post that she wrote a few weeks ago) trying to defend RWA’s stance on e-publishing, and I must say, I was swearing rather loudly by the time I finished reading your column. I had to immediately take some maximum strength headache tablets, due to the brick-sized foot that seemed to be stamping on my head.

Diane, I get it, I really do, the RWA is a dinosaur that’s hard to move, mired in tradition such as it is. The majority of your members are print-published, so to a certain extent, I do indeed understand your reluctance to embrace anything that on the surface seems to veer away from those very traditions that are an essential part of your history and success.

However Diane, dinosaurs eventually became extinct, and there’s nothing to say that RWA in its current format, will continue to be successful. Myopia has downed many great organisations in the past, and RWA doesn’t have the divine right to be the exception to the rule.

Your stance with regards to digital publishing has turned this into a Them vs Us debate. Print vs E-published, as if the two aren’t able to co-exist happily together, without the constant attempts to undermine and bully the new kid on the block.

You wrote in your column: (more…)

premeditated-murderPremeditated Murder, by Ed Gaffney

A courtroom drama, Premeditated Murder was Mr Gaffney’s debut novel. To date, he only has four books out (and was nominated for the 2009 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original for his fourth book, Enemy Combatant). This book introduces to the readers two wonderful characters, lawyers Zack Wilson and Terry Tallach.

Here is the back cover blurb:

In a courtroom, everyone is entitled to the best defense. But in this trial, it will have to be the best defense… ever.

In a New England courtroom, two young defense lawyers face a trial they cannot win. For attorneys Zack Wilson and Terry Tallach, partners and best friends, it seems an open and shut case. Their client confessed to a horrific multiple homicide-and Zack and Terry have only one hope: to spare him from the death penalty. But even that is a long shot… until the case takes a sudden, strange turn.

The two lawyers may have stumbled on a loophole: their client had a secret motive for his indefensible act-a motive that might even free him if Zach and Terry can pull off an ingenious defense.

But as the media descend on a quiet Massachusetts town, and as Zack and Terry fight to save their client’s life, a surprise witness turns the trial into something no one could have predicted. Because only he can pull all the pieces of an astounding puzzle together-and expose a conspiracy that is more shocking, far-reaching, and treacherous than anyone could guess…



“A major strand of our cultural DNA has left us. RIP MJ.”

John Mayer

It truly feels like the day that music died.

I can’t even comprehend my feelings of devastation. I feel like a family member died tonight, and I’m in mourning. A deep kind of mourning that is usually only reserved for loved ones.

Rest in peace Michael. My siblings and I will miss you terribly.

A Bravo’s Honor, by Christine Rimmer


Part of the long running Bravo series, this is my second exposure to Ms Rimmer’s work. Just a few weeks ago I reviewed the previous title, The Bravo Bachelor, here. A western-flavored retelling of Romeo and Juliet (with the requisite romance genre happy ending), A Bravo’s Honor tells the story of Luke Bravo and Mercedes (Mercy) Cabrera.

He is the third son of Davis Bravo, the wealthy financier and patriarch of this particular branch of the large Bravo family. She is the adoptive daughter of Javier Cabrera. Both families have been sworn enemies for some sixty years, and while there haven’t been any duels recently, there seems to be plenty of bad blood-cause enough to avoid stirring the pot, so to speak.


unnatural-deathYou guys probably cannot tell, reading the bulk of my reviews, but I do read stuff other than romances.

Case in point:

Unnatural Death, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Oh man, my love for Ms Sayers’ characters is probably unhealthy, it is so vast, so deep, so strong! Unnatural Death is the third of Ms Sayers’ novels starring Lord Peter Wimsey, and the one in which the inimitable Miss Climpson is introduced.

The back cover blurb in my copy does the story absolutely no justice:

The wealthy old woman was dead-a trifle sooner than expected. The intricate trail of horror and senseless murder led from a beautiful Hampshire village to a fashionable London flat and a deliberate test of amour-staged by the debonair sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.

Okay, now forget that awful paragraph; it has nothing to do with the novel.


‘It’s like having a child that never grows up – how perfect is that?’ … Mary Lynn Campbell and Silly Willy, in My Monkey Baby. Photograph: Channel 4

I don’t agree with the act of dressing dogs in cutesy doggy clothes, as if they were a fashion accessory. In fact I hate it, and I truly believe it’s an act of cruelty towards the dogs, so you can imagine my horror when I watched this programme on the telly the other night.

It’s a new form of family life, and thousands of Americans are raising a monkey as a member of their family.

These cheeky monkeys have everything a real child could want, expensive clothes and toys. Their own rooms complete with TVs. Sweets, treats, and most of all, quality time with ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ In fact, all the love and attention a parent can give.



Like many readers who spend time around romance blogs (readers’ or authors’) I have been an interested observer of the continuing train wreck that is RWA’s stance on e publishers.

Leaving aside the often condescending (if not outright distasteful) attitude that seem to drip off some of RWA’s board members’ communications with the general membership *coughDianePershingcough* here is some of the stuff I don’t get. If I understand correctly, the raison d’être for RWA is to educate its members, giving them the information they need to make intelligent choices about everything from choosing an agent to reading a contract, in order to have fulfilling careers as writers of romance novels.


I mean really?


I wouldn’t mind, but the hat clearly doesn’t go with the dress.

tall-dark-defenderTall Dark Defender, by Beth Cornelison

This Silhouette Romantic Suspense title is my first exposure to Ms Cornelison’s work (though I know there’s at least another one in my TBR mountain range…). Tall Dark Defender tells the story of Annie Compton, a single mother of two young children and a survivor of terrific domestic abuse, and Jonah Deveraux, an ex-cop with his own emotional scars. This is also a sequel of sorts to Duty to Protect, in which Annie is a secondary character.

Here is the (misleading as usual) back cover blurb:

Rescued by a handsome stranger.

Undercover investigator Jonah Deveraux barely knew Annie Compton, but that didn’t stop him from nearly blowing his cover to save the pretty waitress from a ruthless killer. Convincing the stubborn single mom that she needed his protection 24/7 was a fiery battle of wills, but fighting his burning desire to make love to her was a war he wasn’t sure he could-or wanted to-win.

Annie didn’t like a mysterious man keeping watch over her, especially one as dangerously attractive as Jonah. But she’d do anything to keep her family alive, even if it meant giving in to her temporary bodyguard’s demands regarding her safety… and her heart.



This week’s dilemma is as follows:

You and your husband are getting a divorce. You have a 10 year old child together, and you have every intention of getting custody of him.

Your husband also wants the child, and he threatens to reveal parts of your past that you would rather not have out in the open.

You had an affair a few years ago, and it nearly destroyed your marriage at the time. Also, you’re a recovering alcoholic, who’s been sober for over three years now. The thing is, about thirteen years ago, whilst you were driving under the influence of alcohol, you ran into, and accidentally killed a little boy. You served some time for it, but nobody outside your immediate family knows what you did.

You’re terrified of it all coming out in the open, but you are desperate to keep your child with you.

What do you do? Do you give in to your husband, and let him have full custody, with visitation rights, or do you fight for your child regardless of what may be revealed?

Jane’s Warlord, by Angela Knightjanes-warlord

After reading Ms Knight’s short story “Mad Dog Love”  (Shifter anthology, Berkley, 2008–review here), I was quite keen on reading more of her work. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long, for I had this novel waiting for me in the scary (and every growing, yikes!) TBR mountain range.

Even though Jane’s Warlord is published by the Paranormal Romance imprint at Berkley, it’s more a futuristic romance, with shades of science fiction world-building, so to speak. In that sense, it’s quite close to “Mad Dog Love” in fact. Here is the back cover blurb:

Another rant: it is not so hard.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Posted in: Azteclady Speaks, rant

For the love of all that’s good and holy: when writing a character of an ethnicity not your own, please please please get someone who is one hundred percent fluent in that language to check and double check your foreign language expressions!

Yes, if you are writing for the US market it’s likely that a good chunk of your readership will skip over those and be happy, but for those who actually speak that other language it is grating and annoying and-I’m sure unintentionally but all the same-offensive.

It is not that hard to find someone who actually speaks other languages like a native (or who is indeed a native). It is not.



Shifter anthology

As implied by the title, this 2008 anthology by Berkley contains stories centered on shapeshifters, with each author giving these paranormal beings their own unique spin. I grabbed this book while glomming the Warriors of Poseidon series and, I have to say, I have had GREAT luck with anthologies lately. Way better than the usual for me, for sure: four stories, three read, three enjoyed.

The (much hated) back cover blurb:

Something happens when the beast within is teased and tempted. Something dangerous. Something inescapable. Something so irresistible no woman would want to run from it.

Whether transforming beneath a cool blue moon, prowling the night streets with feline grace and bloodred talons, or panting with pleasure, the shifters come alive to fulfill your wildest fantasies…



I had an epiphany of sorts last week.

I finally unpacked the books that I hadn’t seen for nearly two years, since we moved to this house, and put them into what hopefully will be their final resting place. I have to say, I had an absolute ball. Those who follow me on Twitter, will have seen me oooh, and ahhh my way through my book collection.

Like I twittered at the time, you really can’t beat the physicality Of the dead tree book.

I really love the convenience of my Sony PRS-505, but whilst I sat going through my old and not-so-old books, I realised that paper books will always come first, last, and always with me.


I am serious, this is not a review. This rant originated while I was reading Maggie Shayne’s “Animal Magnetism” (originally in the Wild Thing anthology)

Bare bones set up: there’s a serial rapist about and no clues. The bastard wears a mask of some sort, beats his victims to within an inch of their lives, then rapes them and leaves. During one such attack, he shoots the victim’s dog. When the cops arrive, one of them takes the wounded Lab to the nearest vet… who happens to have a psychic ability that allows her to communicate with animals. Events unfold from there.

So far, so good, right? But then I got blindsided.

The blame for this lies squarely on the amazing Super Librarian’s shoulders. She made me do it.

A Not-So-Perfect Past, by Beth Andrews


Published in April 2009 by Harlequin Superromance, A Not-So-Perfect Past is Ms Andrews’ second novel, and the first of her books I’ve read. It has also shot to my top ten contemporary romances I’ve read recently. The setup is simple and-I suspect-may be off-putting to many readers. The hero is an ex-con, but not your stereotypical “wrongly accused” one. He spent five long years in a maximum security prison for a homicide (murder, in the eyes of the town) he did commit. The heroine is one of the town’s good girls, and an annoying, irritating, want-to-shake-some-backbone-into-her doormat.

The magic is in how, through Ms Andrews’ writing, we see these two characters grow past their current limitations and evolve into more rounded human beings.



This week’s dilemma is as follows:

You and your just-turned-fifteen year old daughter are very close, and you usually trust that she’ll always try to do the right thing. She starts dating a 17 year old boy, who’s she’s really keen on.


A couple of months later, your daughter comes to you, and asks to go on the pill.

What do you do? Do you let her start taking The Pill, or do you tell her that she’s far too young to be having sex?

What would you do?


I have a slightly twisted viewpoint with regards to the subject of torture.

I don’t think that torturing people to get information from them is right at all, however, I’d be all for torturing people who’d committed heinous crimes.

I have no problem with paedophiles being subjected to waterboarding just for the hell of it. In fact, I’d be happy as a pig in shit if all paedophiles, and murdering bastards were strung up by their finger nails and their skin systematically removed from their bodies. Seriously, that thought makes me feel all nice and warm inside.

But I have to say, in the case of the Guantanomo prisoners, I actually can’t condone it, mostly because there doesn’t seem to be any comprehensive evidence that information-by-torture works.

My other objection to torture methods, is that it’s bound to become a tit-for-tat game, where any American/European person captured by extremists would be subjected to even more heinous treatment on the grounds that they’re just doing the same as we would.

Here’s an interesting article on the subject, via Angry Black Bitch.

What say you? Do you support torture tactics, if so, what are your justifications?

Atlantis Unleashed, by Alyssa Day


The fifth installment in Ms Day’s Warriors of Poseidon series, Atlantis Unleashed is the third full length novel in the series. It follows the fate of one of Atlantis’ Seven chosen Warriors, Lord Justice, after the climactic events narrated near the end of the previous book, Atlantis Awakening.

Because of the complexity of this universe, I would definitely recommend reading all the stories in order-Atlantis Rising, “Wild Hearts in Atlantis” (Wild Thing anthology), Atlantis Awakening, “Shifter’s Lady” (Shifter anthology) and, finally, Atlantis Unleashed-as many secondary threads are woven through them, building the overarching plotline. For this reason, at least a few spoilers for previous stories are unavoidable in this review, so… reader beware.