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Karen Ostertag's blog

New Romance Fiction for December 2010

NOTE: * = holiday-themed title

In paperback:

Blood Spells by Jessica Andersen (5, Final Prophecy) C, F, S
Burning Up by Susan Andersen C
When Wicked Craves by J. K. Beck (3, Shadow Keepers) C, S, M
Miracle Baby by Laura Bradford (Harlequin American Romance: Baby to Be) C, *
Spun by Sorcery by Barbara Bretton (3, Sugar Maple) C, S, M
Living Nightmare by Shannon K. Butcher (4, Sentinel Wars) C, S
Midnight Kiss by Robyn Carr, Jean Brashear, Victoria Dahl C, * (Pbk-Romance Midnight)

New Speculative Fiction for December 2010

New to our shelves:

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks (9, Culture) SF
Noonshade by James Barclay (2, Chronicles of the Raven) F
Nightchild by James Barclay (3, Chronicles of the Raven) F
Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear SF
Passion Play by Beth Bernobich (1, The Erythandra series) F, R
Beyond Exile by J. L. Bourne (2, Day by Day Armageddon) H
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold (13, Miles Vorkosigan series) SF
Bones of Empire by William C. Dietz (2, Empire duology) SF, R
The Wolf Age by James Enge (3, Morlock Ambrosius) F, H

Sweets to the Sweet

I wrote about sensuality in Romance back in September, covering the "hot" end of the scale ("Burning Books").  This month, I promised to take a look at the other end of the sensuality spectrum-- the "sweets."  Sweets are romances that do not contain explicit sexual content, focusing instead on the social, emotional, and mental aspects of the romantic relationship.  You're likely to see kisses and some cuddling, but any further physical involvement (if there is any) will happen behind doors that are closed to the reader.  As romance author MaryJanice Davidson puts it, "There will be no forced seduction in these books.  Tons of respect, of soul-searching, of angst.  But no booty."  It's not that sweets are anti-sex; they just treat it as a profound step in a romantic relationship, not something to be undertaken lightly or casually.  If bodice-rippers make you blush and all you want is some good, clean romance, these are the books for you!

Broadening Your Horizons

When you think of Fantasy, what elements immediately spring to mind?  Perhaps a vaguely medieval, pre-industrial setting, for starters-- thatched cottages, castles, a feudal system, and so on.  A young, questing hero, or maybe a team of adventurers wielding longswords and magic.  An evil witch or wizard.  For variety, let's toss in a few noble Fae folk, a stolid dwarf, and a troublesome halfling or two.  And it's not a proper fantasy without some fabulous beasts, right?  How about a fire-breathing dragon?  Classic... why is that, though?

Now, before you get too upset at me for reducing all fantasy fiction to a stereotype, I do have a point.  Potentially, the fantasy genre has a near-limitless scope-- it's not bounded by science or reality, only by the author's imagination.  Despite that latitude, what fan hasn't read a dozen books containing most of the elements I listed above?  My concern is that the American fantasy landscape today is suffering from a sad lack of diversity.

New Romance Fiction for November 2010

* = holiday-themed title

In paperback:

Scoundrel by Zoe Archer (2, The Blades of the Rose) H, S, M
Rebel by Zoe Archer (3, The Blades of the Rose) H, S, M
Bespelling Jane Austen by Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard, and Janet Mullaney H, C, A, S
    (Pbk-Romance Bespelling)
When Pleasure Rules by J. K. Beck (2, Shadow Keepers) C, S, M
Mad about the Duke by Elizabeth Boyle (7, Bachelor Chronicles) H
Scoundrel in My Dreams by Celeste Bradley (3, Runaway Brides) H
One Scream Away by Kate Brady (1, Sheridan) C, M
Lord Lightning by Jenny Brown (1, Lords of the Seventh House) H, S

New Speculative Fiction for November 2010

New to our shelves:

The Secret History of Fantasy by Peter S. Beagle, ed. F (Fantasy Secret)
The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett (2, Mrs. Quent) F
Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks (1, Legends of Shannara) F
The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust (Fairy Tale series) F
Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files) F, H
He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson by Christopher Conlon, ed. H (Horror He)
Haunted Legends by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas, eds. H (Horror Haunted)
Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker

Terror! Passion! Gothic Romance

A dark and stormy night.  A mysterious castle, rife with hidden passageways.  A wicked usurper.  A strange prophecy.  A beautiful heiress, innocent prey to his dark desires.  Frightening apparitions!  Family secrets!  Madness!  A really big helmet!  And the faithful love who will overcome all obstacles to save her....

In a nutshell, this is Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto, the very first Gothic romance.  It was published in 1764, the same year that Ann Radcliffe-- another famous Gothic writer-- was born.  Today, we might find his work a bit absurd and overwrought, but Walpole deserves credit for trying something completely new.

No Sparkles Here: Old-School Vampires

It's that time of year again.  The air is getting colder; trees are shaking off their summer raiment to reveal the skeleton branches beneath.  With each passing day, we lose a few more minutes of precious daylight.  The burgeoning moon is cold comfort to those who already yearn for the vanishing sun.  As the shadows lengthen, the 31 titles of this month's speculative fiction list lie ready to remind you why we should fear the long night.

You won't find any pale-but-sexy, misunderstood immortals in this month's offerings.  No compelling, tall, dark strangers with an unfortunate dietary requirement.  No soulful soulless writhing in metaphysical melodrama, no Byronic brooding.  (Okay... maybe a little brooding.)  No vegetarians.  And most definitely, positively, and categorically: NO SPARKLES.

New Romance Fiction for October 2010

In paperback:

Deadly Little Secrets by Jeanne Adams C, M
Taken by Midnight by Lara Adrian (8, Midnight Breed) C, S
Warrior by Zoe Archer (1, The Blades of the Rose) H, S, M
Swept Away by a Kiss by Katharine Ashe H
Don't Cry by Beverly Barton C, M
When Blood Calls by J. K. Beck (1, Shadow Keepers) C, S
Last to Die by Kate Brady (2, Sheridan) C, M
Mark: Secret Cowboy by Pamela Britton (Harlequin American Romance: The Codys: First Family of Rodeo) C, W
Assassin's Heart by Monica Burns (2, Order of the Sicari) C, S, A

New Speculative Fiction for October 2010

New to our shelves:

The Living Dead 2 by John Joseph Adams, ed. (2, The Living Dead) H (shelved at Horror Living)
Dawnthief by James Barclay (1, Chronicles of the Raven) F
A Star Shall Fall by Marie Brennan (3, Onyx Court) F
The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang SF, H
The Walrus & the Warwolf: A Chronicle of an Age of Darkness by Hugh Cook (Planet Stories) F, SF
The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (2, The Strain) H, SF
The Year's Best Science Fiction 2010 by Gardner Dozois, ed. (27, The Year's Best Science Fiction) SF
What Distant Deeps by David Drake (8, RCN (Leary/Mundy)) SF

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