Every month, we review the hottest new romance releases in our Romance column. But why let the print books have all the fun? In Digital Dalliances, we highlight digital-only releases guaranteed to heat up your eReader.
Call Me, Maybe by Ellie Cahill
Loveswept• $2.99 • ISBN 9780425284575
Published Feb 9
Clementine Daly is old money, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. Although she’s enjoyed all the privileges of growing up wealthy, she prefers yoga pants and reading, not designer gowns and jet-setting. Clementine is in the post-grad limbo that so many young people find themselves in, and her family is a bit concerned by her lack of direction in life. So they send her off to California with her brother, Honor, to check out the family real estate empire, hoping that might push her into a career.
Unfortunately, it doesn't, and in the scramble to get to her (first class) seat, she ended up with the wrong phone. The phone of a very sexy reporter she (literally) ran into at the airport. She’s mortified, but luckily she and the reporter, Justin, both call Chicago home, so they agree to switch back phones after their trips end. But who knew accidentally stealing a phone could be so much fun? Between the flirty texts and phone calls as they forward messages to each other throughout the week, Clementine is developing a serious crush. But she’s kept a few choice aspects of her identity secret, so who knows what will happen when they finally meet up in Chicago . . .
Do you think you'll be picking up this romance novel for your eReader?
On Friday, Nashville's literary nonprofit The Porch brought Rodney Crowell and Mary Karr together for a night of music and song. The two artists read from their works—Chinaberry Sidewalks and The Liar's Club, respectively—and performed music from their 2012 album, Kin.
Four regulars from The Porch's workshops—Tiana Clark, Kate Parrish, Joshua Moore and Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay—opened the event with readings of their work, and testimonials to the power of storytelling, an idea that certainly seemed to resonate with the audience. As she took the stage, Karr said how impressed she was by their work. "You're all going to heaven, but first you're going to be writers, which is hell."
Karr, who referred to storytelling as "communion," read an excerpt from The Liar's Club to uproarious laughter, but was at first reluctant to sing. She eventually joined Crowell in a rousing rendition of "If the Law Don't Want You, Neither Do I," a song she and Crowell wrote that was recorded by Norah Jones.
The two longtime friends maintained an easy banter, sharing the story of how they met (Crowell included Karr's name in a list of writers in the song "Earthbound," which inspired her to get in touch with him). Crowell had already written an autobiographical album, Houston Kid, but he wanted to stretch his muscles and write a memoir. When he mentioned as much to Karr, she tried to discourage him. "She said, give me 250 pages and I'll cut it down to 50," Crowell remembers. "I didn't write anything for a year [after that]."
After their performaces and readings, the two had a discussion with local interviewer Craig Havighurst. When asked about the Venn diagram of prose, poetry and song. Karr and Crowell agreed that music was the emulsifier—a surprising answer for a memoirist.
Other memorable quotes:
Karr: "Being a writer is hard and it's lonely and you're a weirdo."
Crowell, on his parents: "They were sent out into the world with bad directions and got lost from there."
Karr: "I'm in my body a lot. . . . If I hadn't been a writer I might have been a massage therapist."
Listen to a few other excerpts here.
An edgy, fantastical short story collection and three novels are among the highlights of this week's new paperbacks:
By Rachel Cusk
Picador • $16 • ISBN 9781250081544
Cusk’s eighth novel landed on many “best of” lists in 2015, including the New York Times’ top 10 books of the year. Through 10 conversations, we learn the painful background story of the unnamed narrator, an author heading to Greece to teach a summer writing course.
Get in Trouble
By Kelly Link
Random House • $16 • ISBN 9780812986495
The acclaimed, award-winning short story writer returns with new weird and wonderful worlds in her fourth collection, which ranked #21 on BookPage's Best Books of 2015.
By Eddie Joyce
Penguin • $16 • ISBN 9780143107873
Joyce taps his hometown of Staten Island as the setting for his memorable first novel, the story of an Italian-American family still struggling with the death of their firefighter son on 9/11.
A Small Indiscretion
By Jan Ellison
Random House • $16 • ISBN 9780812985429
Ellison took a break from college at the age of 19 to travel and work in Europe for a year, an experience that inspired her riveting debut novel about a young (and foolish) American woman whose experiences in London echo through her life two decades later. The paperback includes a reader's guide with discussion questions for book clubs.
BookPage is excited to reveal the cover for Wish, the upcoming middle-grade novel by Barbara O'Connor, the award-winning author of How to Steal a Dog and The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. It will be released this November from Macmillan Children's.
According to the publisher, Wish takes young readers to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where 11-year-old Charlie Reese is sent by her irresponsible parents to live with family she doesn't know. But there she finds a stray dog that quickly becomes her best friend, and suddenly it feels as though her greatest wish may come true.
Jennifer Wright's It Ended Badly, a fascinating and well-researched catalog of 13 of the worst breakups in history, is too hilarious to be read in public. I had to stop reading it at the office, as I couldn't stop reading passages out loud to everyone while shrieking with laughter. Our reviewer writes that this book is "the perfect Valentine’s Day read for anyone who’s still daydreaming about setting their ex’s car on fire." (Read the review.)
We asked Wright to tell us about three books she loves.
I wrote It Ended Badly: Thirteen of The Worst Breakups In History so that people would have a book they could take to bed with them the first night of a breakup. But that book did not always exist! These were always my favorite books to read when heartbroken, all of which are excellent follow-ups once you have bought my book, read it and sent copies to all of your friends.
In what a teacher once called “deeply reductive reading of the novel, seriously, that is not what it is supposed to be about at all,” this can be approached as the best breakup work of all time! First of all, it’s not a novel, it’s a novel-in-verse, and second of all, I stand by my reading of this 19th-century Russian classic. Spoilers ahead: The plot revolves around Eugene Onegin, a city gentleman who moves to the country to inherit an estate. While he’s there, Tatyana, a shy teenager, becomes infatuated with him and writes him a letter proclaiming her love. Eugene tells her not to be ridiculous. Duels follow! Years later, back in St. Petersburg, he spies Tatyana at a ball. She’s insanely beautiful and married to a Prince. Eugene realizes he’s in love with her now, but she says, “Nope, nope, too late, dude, wow, way too late.” Who runs the world? Shy literary girls who love writing letters run the world! Damn right Eugene regrets all his decisions. He regrets them because he was dumb, just like everyone who ever spurned you and your literary gifts. (Regardless of your gender, you are Tatyana, and never forget it.)
The Portable Dorothy Parker edited by Marion Meade
The best compliment you can give any funny female writer is to compare her to Dorothy Parker. Unfortunately, her martini-dry wit didn’t lead to an especially happy love life. That’s a shame for Dorothy, but a boon for you, because her heartbreak led to some amazing short stories. There are a variety of her collected works around, and you should obviously buy them all, but make sure you get one that contains “A Telephone Call” and “Advice to the Little Peyton Girl.” Both deal brilliantly with the anxieties and stupidity surrounding heartbreak—and the fact that we often can’t stop ourselves from doing things that go against our own best interests. If you’ve done those things, these stories will reassure you that you’re not alone. Besides, if you’re heartbroken, laughter is the best medicine, next to scotch. And when you get back into the dating scene, you’re going to appreciate having a copy of “The Waltz” handy.
The Love Books Of Ovid
These may have been written 2,000 years ago, but human nature doesn’t change. Now, look, if you’re heartbroken you’re going to want to skip over the numerous positive elegies Ovid wrote to love. Those are garbage lies (or at least they might seem that way now). You can begin with the elegy in which “He Upbraids His Mistress Who is Acting Falsely Towards Him.” It’s filled with choice outraged lines like “Away with thee, Cupid and thy quiver! Love's not such a priceless thing that I should so often and so desperately long for death!” Or there’s the one in which Ovid “Beseeches Cupid Not To Discharge All His Arrows At Him Alone” and he laments, “who dost never weary of tormenting me, who never givest me any peace of mind, why, Cupid, dost thou treat me thus, who never ceased to march beneath thy banner?” I don’t know Ovid! Why do bad romantic things keep happening to us!? We’re so nice! Anyhow, Ovid is a perfect whining kindred spirit if you’re going through that phase of your breakup. And surely everyone goes through that phase.
Thank you, Jennifer!
Author photo by Eric T. White
This homey Sausage & Guinness Pot Pie recipe from Ken Haedrich's new cookbook of savory, one-dish delights, Dinner Pies, is the perfect choice to fill your stomach and warm your soul during these last days of winter.
Sausage & Guinness Pot Pie
Makes 4 to 6 Servings
I love the deep, rich flavor of this saucy pie. It’s the sort of hearty dish you’d expect to find in a good Irish pub, accompanied by slabs of grainy bread, a glass of stout and a round of cheer. Unlike a lot of pot pies with a cast of thousands, this one is all about the sausage and carrots, but if you can’t resist, then go ahead and add some peas.
1. Prepare the dough as instructed, dividing it into four to six pieces, depending on the size of the individual pot pie dishes you’ll be using (they should each have a capacity of 1 to 1¼ cups). The pastry will be used for the top crust—there is no bottom crust—so unless your dishes are more than, say, 5 inches wide, you can probably get six out of a single batch of dough. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1½ hours. While the dough chills, butter your pot pie dishes and set them aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large stovetop casserole over medium-high heat. Prick each of the sausages several times with a fork, then add to the pot. Brown for 5 minutes, turning once or twice. Transfer the brats to a plate and set them aside.
3. Add the onion and carrots to the pan. Cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and flour. Cook and stir for another 30 seconds, then stir in the beef broth and stout. Bring to a simmer and, as the liquid starts to thicken, stir in the chili sauce, tomato paste and brown sugar. Slice the brats thickly and add them to the pot. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then stir in the Worcestershire sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. It will likely need at least ¼ teaspoon salt and perhaps even ½ teaspoon or more, depending on the saltiness of your beef broth.
4. Divide the filling evenly among the buttered dishes. Cool for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 375°F.
5. Working with one piece of dough at a time (and leaving the others in the refrigerator), roll the pastry a little larger than the diameter of the pie dish. Drape the pastry over the filling and the sides of the dish. Poke the center of the pastry with a paring knife to make a steam vent. Repeat for the other pot pies. If you have a large enough baking sheet, line it with parchment paper or foil and bake them on the sheet. Or bake them directly on the center oven rack. Either way, they’ll be done in about 35 minutes, when the filling is good and bubbly and the pastry is golden. Transfer the dishes to a rack and cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Go-To Pie Dough
Makes enough for 1 (9 ½-inch) pie or tart shell)
It’s no mystery why I call this my “go-to” dough: It’s so versatile that I use it for perhaps four out of every five of the savory (and sweet) pies that I make. You can’t beat it for reliability, and it bakes up to a beautiful texture, perfectly balanced between flaky and short. This is the single crust recipe; the double crust version follows. The recipe calls for a food processor; to make the dough by hand, see the Note.
1. Put the butter and shortening cubes in a single layer on a flour-dusted plate, with the shortening off to one side of the plate by itself. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Combine the flour, cornstarch and salt in a bowl and refrigerate that mixture also. Pour the vinegar into a 1-cup glass measure. Add enough cold water to equal 1⁄3 cup liquid. Refrigerate.
2. When you’re ready to mix the pastry, transfer the flour mixture to a food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Remove the lid and scatter about 6 tablespoons of the butter—a little more than half of the total fat— over the dry mixture. Pulse the machine five times—that’s five 1-second pulses—followed by an uninterrupted 5-second run. Remove the lid and add the remaining fat. Give the machine six or seven 1-second pulses.
3. Remove the lid and loosen the mixture with a big fork; you’ll have a range of fat clods, most quite small but a few larger ones as well. With the lid off, drizzle about half of the liquid over the mixture. Replace the lid and give the machine three very quick, half-second pulses. Remove the lid, loosen the mixture with your fork and add the rest of the liquid. Pulse briefly three or four times, just like before. The mixture will still look crumbly, but the crumbs will be starting to get a little clumpier.
4. Transfer the contents of your processor to a large bowl, one large enough to get your hands in. Start rubbing the crumbs together, as if you were making a streusel topping—what you’re doing is redistributing the butter and moisture without overworking the dough. (Note: If your dough mixture came out of the food processor more clumpy than crumb-like, don’t worry. Just pack it together like a snowball, knead it very gently two or three times and proceed to step 5.) You can accomplish the same thing by “smearing” the crumbs down the sides of the bowl with your fingers. When the dough starts to gather in large clumps, pack it like a snowball and knead gently, three or four times, on a lightly floured surface.
5. Put the dough on a long piece of plastic wrap and flatten it into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 ½ to 2 hours; overnight is fine. (You can also slip the wrapped dough into a gallon-size plastic freezer bag and freeze it for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.)
To make the dough by hand, chill all of your ingredients as specified in step 1, but increase the flour to 1½ cups plus 1½ tablespoons. Remove the butter and shortening from the refrigerator 5 to 8 minutes before mixing; it should have a little “give” to it when squeezed between your fingers. Add about 6 tablespoons of the butter to your dry mixture; toss to coat with flour. Using your pastry blender, cut in the butter until the largest pieces of fat are pea-size. Add the remaining fat, toss to coat and cut that in. The entire mixture should look like it has been “touched” by the fat and nothing should be larger than pea-size. Pour half of your liquid down around the sides of the bowl, but not in any one spot. Mix well with a large fork, moving the mixture in from the sides and up from the bottom. Repeat with the remaining liquid, but add the last few teaspoons only if needed. Rub and smear the crumbs as specified in step 4 until a dough starts to form. Pack the dough and knead gently a couple of times. Flatten into a disk, then wrap and refrigerate.
You should have seen this list of 2016's most anticipated romance novels before I pared it down! It was nearly impossible to limit myself, but these are the 15 books this romance editor is most excited about reading this year.
The Friends We Keep by Susan Mallery (Feb 23)
Three friends deal with the pains of love and loss in Mallery’s latest trip to Mischief Bay. Gabby must contend with the chaos of her crowded home life, Hayley is desperate to become pregnant despite the cost and risks, and Nicole is fresh off a divorce and skeptical about love. As they turn to each other with their challenges, their friendships grow stronger.
One with You: A Crossfire Novel by Sylvia Day (April 5)
Day closes her Crossfire quintet with the final chapter in the tumultuous love story of the tortured Gideon Cross and Eva Tramell, two broken people who find strength in each other’s love. If you enjoyed Fifty Shades but haven’t discovered the Crossfire series yet, then Day's books are a perfect follow-up.
What We Find by Robyn Carr (April 5)
Carr starts a new series with the story of Maggie Sullivan, who leaves behind her high-stress job as a neurosurgeon and heads to Sullivan’s Crossing, her family’s charming hideaway in rural Colorado. She’s happy to live the simple life, but when a mysterious hiker shows up and offers to lend a hand, she can’t turn him away. But both are harboring pain from the past that may threaten to tear their budding relationship apart.
The Obsession by Nora Roberts (April 12)
Has Nora Roberts ever not been on a "most anticipated" romance list? I highly doubt it. The romance master offers up a standalone of romantic suspense à la The Liar with the story of Naomi Bowes. The daughter of an infamous murderer, Naomi has created an entirely new identity that depends on solitude. But Xander Keaton seems determined to break down her walls—walls that should perhaps stay standing.
Dirty: A Dive Bar Novel by Kylie Scott (April 19)
The first in Scott’s new Dive Bar series follows a brokenhearted bride who discovers her groom is having an affair (with his best man, no less) on her wedding day and the scruffy bartender who offers her a (broad) shoulder to cry on. He’s not her usual, strait-laced type, but perhaps it’s time to let loose.
The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux (May 3)
Deveraux kicks off her Summer Hill series with a fresh take on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Casey Reddick is a busy chef who leaves it all behind to clear her head in Summer Hill, Virginia, but any head-clearing hopes fly out the window when Hollywood hunk Tate Landers comes to town, and the two are cast as Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in a stage adaptation of Austen’s novel.
Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan (May 31)
Known for her charming and sexy romances, Morgan rings in a new contemporary trilogy with this novel set in New York City. Paige Walker lands her dream job in Manhattan as an event planner—and promptly loses it. So when her brother’s friend, whom she’s always had a crush on, offers to help her start her own company, she can’t say no, even though he’s a serious distraction.
Devil and the Deep by Julie Ann Walker (July 5)
Walker started the Deep Six series last July with Hell or High Water, our Top Pick in romance for the month, so we're delighted that the second book is coming this summer! The series follows a band of former SEALs in their new adventures as treasure hunters who can't seem to avoid getting sucked into intrigue. The latest book picks up with Bran Pallidino and the socialite who ends up in his arms.
The Angels' Share by J.R. Ward (Jul 26)
We’ve been waiting for this one with bated (bourbon-laced?) breath! Ward continues her saga of the Bradford family, who are firmly entrenched in Kentucky high society thanks to their enormously successful bourbon business. But when the Bradford patriarch is murdered, the family and their estate is thrown into turmoil, and the eldest, bitter brother Edward finds himself in the middle of the chaos.
Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (March 29)
Quinn continues her beloved Bridgerton series in this tale of former childhood playmates who absolutely loathe each other—or do they? Despite a lifetime of resentment toward each other, Miss Billie Bridgerton and George Rokesby cannot deny the sparks that unwittingly fly when they’re together. Expect Quinn’s signature humor and wit in this Regency romance!
'Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick (April 19)
Calista Langley is an elite matchmaker for wealthy Victorian souls in London, but things get creepy when someone begins sending her memento mori carved with her initials. Enter crime writer Trent Hastings, who may have the key to stopping Calista’s stalker before it’s too late.
Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas (May 31)
Kleypas continues the series she kicked off last year with Cold-Hearted Rake in this new Victorian romance. Rhys Winterborne is known for his ruthless business practices, and that unyielding spirit carries over into courting as well. He’s determined to win the hand of the shy Lady Helen Ravenel—no matter what it takes.
Once a Soldier by Mary Jo Putney (June 28)
Putney starts her new Regency series, Rogues Redeemed, with this tale of a dedicated soldier and a woman with a warrior's heart. Athena Markham is convinced and accepting of the fact that she is far too independent and fierce to be anyone’s wife. However, when she meets the brave soldier Will Masterson, she realizes she may have found her soul mate.
Illusion Town by Jayne Castle (July 26)
Castle (aka Jayne Ann Krentz aka Amanda Quick) starts a new series in her futuristic desert world of Harmony in this novel. Hannah West wakes up with a wedding band and absolutely no memory of the wedding or the groom. Unfortunately, the groom can’t provide any answers, because he can’t remember the wedding, either. They only know they’re on the run together—but from what?
Allegiance of Honor (Psy/Changelings) by Nalini Singh (June 14)
What’s not to love about a new book from the lovely Singh? She continues her Psy/Changelings series with the 15th book, which follows the birth of a new era in Singh’s elaborate paranormal world.
The Sea King by C. L. Wilson (July 15)
OK, I will admit that I have never read a book by C.L. Wilson, but her fantasy romance novels have made the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. This is making my own list because its cover is insane, the hero’s name is Dilys Merimydion, and it's fabulous.
What romance novels are you most excited about reading this year?
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The idyllic town of Littlefield, Massachusetts, is home to 4 yoga studios, 6 dog groomers and 1,146 psychotherapists. Littlefield's citizens appear to be the picture of the American ideal, but inside their well-maintained homes, of course, things are anything but ideal. Margaret is cheating on her husband with a lonely novelist. Margaret's teenage daughter is miserable at school. Mrs. Beale despises the indignities of aging and hates her daughter. And then there's the fact that dogs are dying all over town, victims of an unknown poisoner. Berne, who won the Orange Prize for her novel A Crime in the Neighborhood and made the longlist for the Baileys Prize with this novel, has written an incredibly entertaining peek into the imperfect lives led in a perfect suburban town.
Why were the suburbs felt to be safe? They seemed more unsettling, at least at night, than any Chicago neighborhood, where at least there were streetlights. Never trust a place without sidewalks, her mother always said.
One night Dr. Watkins passed a parked car, and there was Margaret Downing, kissing a man who was not her husband.
The following week, out with Aggie later than usual after typing up her notes, Dr. Watkins spotted Bill Downing in a dark overcoat and a black wool cap on Ballard Street. He was standing with his big black dog in front of the Melman house, just beyond the reach of yellow light thrown by their windows. But his face was visible to Dr. Watkins as she approached in the darkness—and on it she perceived a look of such monstrous suffering, as if it were not a man who stood there but something that had consumed the man and now occupied his body. A look of wooden self-consciousness, fraudulence, vacancy, a kind of flat-line anguish that was almost frightening. Even when he turned, startled, to say good evening to her, that look did not quite leave his face.
What are you reading this week?
Two acclaimed memoirs, a Nick Hornby novel and a sizzling psychological thriller are available in new paperback editions today:
By George Hodgman
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143107880
A publishing industry veteran leaves New York to care for his aging mother in tiny Paris, Missouri, in this warm and wise memoir about family secrets and finding forgiveness.
Publishing: A Writer's Memoir
By Gail Godwin
Bloomsbury • $16 • ISBN 9781620408254
The novelist and three-time finalist for the National Book Award reflects on her 45-year career as a writer, from her early struggles to find her voice to the often frustrating ups-and-downs of the publishing business.
By Nick Hornby
Riverhead • $16 • ISBN 9781101983355
In his engaging seventh novel, the author of High Fidelity and About a Boy chronicles a beauty queen's rise to TV stardom in 1960s London.
By Mary Kubica
Mira • $15.99 • ISBN 9780778318743
When a Chicago woman offers shelter to a homeless teen and her baby, her generous act sets the stage for a tense family drama in this powerful followup to Kubica's bestselling debut, The Good Girl.