All Bags Go To Cleveland

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author C. S. Hale and her paranormal romantic comedy novel, All Bags Go To Cleveland

Author’s description

Angela Grimalke appears more blonde bombshell than the gremlin she is. But there is no denying her supernatural truth after her clumsiness gets her fired from her modeling career. Forced to work for her family’s upscale airline, she spends her days slinging luggage and wishing her parents would get off her back about finding a nice gremlin guy to settle down with.

Relationships were the last thing on her mind, not that her family would accept that.

For Dave Ford his frequent business travel made it next to impossible for him to find a woman who could tolerate his chaotic schedule. Which is why he appreciates Angela. Neither of them are looking for love, but Dave feeds Angela’s addiction for chocolate while she provides him with the chaos to keep him on his toes.

However, as Angela’s parents bombard her with a parade of “eligible” gremlin men at their weekly family dinners, she finds herself torn between who she longs to be and her family’s expectations. Will she give in and live the life of magic they want for her? Or risk it all by to confessing to Dave that she isn’t human?

About the Author

Catherine “C.S.” Hale has been writing fantasy since she could hold a pencil. When not holed up in a comfortable corner writing all her books out by longhand, she can be found somewhere by the sea, enjoying tea and pastries.

Find the Author

Website: cshalebooks.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CatSHale
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorcshale

Buy the Book

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FVDJL54

 Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Focusing on the sparks of energy skittering along her fingers, she sent her magic into the printer. Angela might look like the cover model she’d once been but no one would guess that Windsor’s check-in counter was currently staffed by a pair of gremlins. Dave’s day—or rather night and morning—were about to become a little more exciting than he’d imagined. Dave would have a nice, relaxing flight to London while his garment bag went to Cleveland.

She tamped down the tendrils of guilt rising in her gut. It needed to be done. It was this bag or some mishap not of her choosing. Besides, who in their right mind would check a Louis Vuitton garment bag? First class contained specially built closets in which to hang them. She searched Dave’s thoughts again.

Where have I seen her before?

Angela snapped right back out and jerked her head down. She attached the claim sticker to his boarding pass and handed it to Dave, keeping her focus on the counter. Hopefully, her smile hid the panic now whirring in her chest like the engines that would take Dave across the Atlantic. “Enjoy your flight, Mr. Ford.”

“Always do.” With a small salute, Dave headed toward the security queue. What were the chances he’d be so cheerful in the morning?

A Very Witchy Yuletide

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author D. Lieber and her contemporary pagan holiday romance novel,  A Very Witchy Yuletide.

Author’s description

First love is hard to forget, and even harder to ignore…
Evergreen Pendre wasn’t planning on going home for Yule. But when her Mom tells her the old coven is coming for a visit, she wants to see everyone. Well, almost everyone.

After four and a half years, Sawyer Collins finally has a chance to reconnect with his first love, Eeva Pendre. He might have been too shy to tell her how he felt before, but he’s changed. And he’s determined not to let her slip away this time.

As the coven prepares for Yule, they are reminded that not everyone has the holiday spirit in this contemporary Pagan holiday romance.

My Review

I chose to read this book because it offered me a chance to learn about modern pagan celebrations and the chance to experience the point of view of a legally blind main character. These two potential windows into other worlds overrode my promise to stop reviewing romance novels because I find them too predicable.

First: the paganism. I’m fascinated by any religion I know little about and I thank the author for her excellent job of introducing the beliefs, customs and problems of pagans in 2020. The first two were cleverly interwoven into the plot, never leaving me feeling as if information had been dumped upon me. The third, involving  persecution of pagans in today’s society, was done with gentleness, showing  the tolerant as well as the extremists from mainstream society. For those who claim to be open-minded, or at least fans of freedom of religion, this book is food for thought about the deep-seated biases that still exist against older religions.

Second: the visually impaired main character. The author says she lives with much the same situation as her protagonist, so clearly she writes from a well-informed and a sympathetic point of view. I, however, know far less and was confused when the main character could read a menu by holding it very close, or pick out the shape of clock hanging over a door. Obviously I know little about the range of impairment included in legal blindness. So although I was inspired by Evergreen overcoming her physical challenges, I was also surprised by how little her situation seemed to impact her or her story. Perhaps that is the point?

Third: the romance. So, most romance novels make me want to scream. Not frustrated obscenities or anything, but something very specific. “Why don’t you two people just talk to each other!” In fairness, everything I’ve ever read by Shakespeare makes me want to scream the same thing, so this is not a specific knock against romance novels.

However, this book didn’t have that effect on me. Why not? It is the classic story of two people attracted to each other who fail to communicate until the last several pages. But here it at least makes some sense. They’ve both finished college and haven’t seen each other for four years, since back when they were shy and confused high school students. Upon meeting, they revert back to that OMG-he-can’t-possibly-like-me frame of mind that is the rightful domain of insecure kids. (Are there any other kind?) They work through this and find the grown-ups they’ve become. Kind of simple, but it worked for me and I liked their story. I mean, nobody should be screaming at kids for feeling insecure, right?

So, this was all around a good read: informative, interesting and satisfying.

About the Author

Lieber is an urban fantasy author with a wanderlust that would make a butterfly envious. When she isn’t planning her next physical adventure, she’s recklessly jumping from one fictional world to another. Her love of reading led her to earn a Bachelor’s in English from Wright State University.

Beyond her skeptic and slightly pessimistic mind, Lieber wants to believe. She has been many places—from Canada to England, France to Italy, Germany to Russia—believing that a better world comes from putting a face on “other.” She is a romantic idealist at heart, always fighting to keep her feet on the ground and her head in the clouds.

Lieber lives in Wisconsin with her husband (John) and cats (Yin and Nox).

Find the Author

Website: www.dlieber.com
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/dlieberwriting
Bookbub: www.bookbub.com/profile/d-lieber

Check Out All of Her Books

Conjuring Zephyr June 2016
The Exiled Otherkin November 2017
Intended Bondmates June 2018
In Search of a Witch’s Soul (Council of Covens Noir, #1) March 2019
Dancing with Shades (Council of Covens Noir, #0) August 2019
Once in a Black Moon March 2020
A Very Witchy Yuletide October 2020

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a hand carved tree of life tarot/jewelry/keepsake box (carved by DhewaDecor) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

As Eeva shifted her weight from foot to foot, swaying in time, they started the simple steps of the dance, circling each other.

“Yeah, that’s it,” Sawyer encouraged. “You remember. Ready for the staff?”

Eeva smiled. “Go for it.”

Sawyer struck out with his staff, and Eeva met it with hers. He did it again with the same result. And so they went on in rhythm, the mock battle playing out in a dance. They circled each other. They clashed in the middle. They retreated.

Sawyer’s heart raced as the exercise made him warm in his coat. He took it off, his steps still in time. Eeva did the same, her breaths punctuated by white puffs from her lips.

“Ready to try the end?” Sawyer asked her.

“Come at me,” she challenged, her voice teasing.

Sawyer attacked, bringing his face in close to hers, their staves crossed between them. This was where he was supposed to push them apart. She was to fall to the ground, defeated. But as they locked eyes, and he felt her breath on his face, they both froze.

What makes it a romance novel?

It happened again. I was reading along, really enjoying a novel described as science fiction. Then about three quarters of the way through, a side romance, previously hinted at, took over the plot, and much of the remainder of the story involved making sure these two hot people ending up having sex and, in this case, living happily after. Other threads were dropped or swept aside.

So. Let’s be blunt. I think sex is wonderful. I agree love is the greatest thing in the universe. I like it when people live happily ever after, or at least I’m allowed to think they will.  However, romantic love (in all its trials and tribulations) doesn’t carry a plot for me.

I like action, intrigue, and surprises. I enjoy puzzles, and profound thoughts.  So why do I end up reading so many romance novels and then complaining about it in the reviews?

It took a bad review of one of my own books to get me to understand. This reader found my novel Shape of Secrets on Net Galley. I had to pick a couple of categories for it, and I chose Fanatsy and LGBT novels. The story is about a gay human chameleon who has a romance with another man who struggles with prejudice his home country. The categories seemed reasonable. Coltostallion didn’t agree.

I’m going to start by saying that I didn’t like this book. I’m still giving it three stars because the issue is not that it wasn’t a good book, it’s just not a book I liked. I will also say that I, personally, would not consider this an LGBT book so much. Some might say any LGBT character means the book deserves this tag, but while the book contains romantic relationships I would not consider it romance and this is the same reason I would personally not consider it LGBT.

As for the story itself, it was well written and the plot is very interesting.

I understand. (I also appreciate the compliment.)

For although my main character falls in love and makes himself look like other people in order to save the day, the last part of the book … the climax if you will … is all about who murdered his boss and framed his friend. It’s about catching this person and bringing them to justice. Whether I like it or not, I didn’t write a fantasy novel or an LGBT one.  I wrote a murder mystery, and the people who will enjoy this book are people who like crime novels. The other parts are window dressing. My mistake.

I think other authors are having the same problem.

I’m trying to do more reviews on my blogs, and I wish to encourage and support independent speculative fiction writers, especially women, who historically have not been given as much of a voice. I also like strong women protagonists.

So I’ve been signing up to review any fantasy or science fiction I think fits that niche.

I know the biggest chunk of online book sales goes to romance novels. Primarily written by women and for women, they take place in ancient Rome and on Alpha Centauri. They involve murders, politics and philosophy. However, the climax (by this I do mean the most intense action in the last quarter of the book or so) is primarily about two beings realizing they are attracted to each other and overcoming obstacles so they can act upon that knowledge.

Little of that ending has to due with slave revolts, halcyon beams or lawyers’ closing statements (except as it furthers the ultimate hook-up). It doesn’t matter if they are vampires or live in feudal Japan. The emphasis makes it a romance novel, no matter where it takes place or what else the author calls it.

So why are so many women authors leaving the word romance out of their descriptions? Perhaps there is some stigma attached? There shouldn’t be, but maybe women prefer to tell themselves or others they read some romance, and some historical fiction. A little sci-fi. Does it feel more well-rounded?

Or is the story of two lovers finding each other so compelling to many women writers that they assume it is how all readers want the story to end?  Get rid of that pesky dragon revolt and let’s move on to the good stuff? The story’s not over till the two hot people f**k? Maybe it is simply how they view a story.

The sad result of this, as least to me, is that my average rating for women authors is well below my average for men. Even though I’ve sworn to read the blurbs carefully, and avoid romance novels in disguise, they keep creeping up on me.

On the flip side, I’m taking a harder look at my own novels, forcing myself to define what it is I’ve written. Sure there are blends and grey areas, but when it comes down to the action at the end, every novel reveals it’s reason for being.

What is it the main character wants more than anything? Justice? Freedom? Understanding? Health? Enlightenment? A second chance? The universe is full of things to crave, and I’ll keep seeking out books about women, men and imaginary creatures who want things that fascinate me.

 

 

Our Own Kind of Porn

I’ve discovered something disturbing about my recent book reviews. I’ve only done eight of them, but I have consistently rated the male authors (all four of them) higher than the female writers (there were four of them too.)

In fact, my average rating for women’s books is over a point lower (3 stars versus 4.25 out of five.) What is going on ? I’m a feminist! I’m a huge fan of women authors and a strong supporter of women anything! Am I secretly sexist?

I took a closer look at the books. The four by men include a haunting murder in the Sahara (Deep Sahara), a contemporary thriller about witness protection (Empty Promises), a teen action novel about an ancient artifact (The Ancient Tripod of Peace) and, most surprisingly, a sensitive story of a woman recovering from rape (Off Season) which I reviewed on this blog.

I was glad I read all four books.

All four of the books by women basically centered around two people who really wanted to have sex with each other, who couldn’t or didn’t for various reasons, and then who did, often for many pages. I wasn’t particularly glad I read any of them.

If you don’t like that kind of book, why did you read them? That is a fair question.

The first book was billed as a fantasy romance (Realm of the Dragon). I like fantasy books a lot, but I didn’t get that the genre designation means it is a romance novel that happens to occur in a fantasy setting. My mistake. I didn’t enjoy it.

The second book (First Impressions) was designated an M/M romance. Okay. My protagonist in y1 is gay and has a romantic interest, so I though I would read this one to see how the author handled issues of discrimination and social acceptance with sensitivity. Maybe I could learn something. Uh, yes. I did learn a lot, but it came from multiple-page-long detailed descriptions of every possible gay sex act. I was traveling internationally while reading the book and the descriptions were so thorough I feared being arrested for trafficking in porn.

I won’t make that mistake again.

The third book (Duke du Jour) billed itself as a time travel romance. I love time travel books. How can there not be time travel in this book, I reasoned. There was. The male hunk hit his head and woke up in another time period where he proceeded to not have sex with the female head-strong beauty for the required many chapters. I will say, this author did a lot of research to make her story historically accurate, and I enjoyed learning about the Napoleonic time period. She is the only she to which I gave four stars.

So. Absolutely no more romance novels, I promised myself, no matter what else they claim to be. If it says romance anywhere in the blurb, I will not review it. It is not only fair to me, it is more fair to the romance writing world.

Enter Cloud Whispers, a novel about a woman’s metaphysical awakening after a near death experience. Now this sounds cool, I thought. She’s happily married, got a lot going on, and the book calls itself women’s fiction. Yes. Not a romance novel.

Guess what? The main character has a sister who is, wait for it, an unattached head-strong beauty. Her husband has a brother who is really rich (they usually are) and smokin’ hot (they always are) and you guessed it. Most of the story is these two lusting after each other until they finally do the deed.

Arrgghhh. I was all the more annoyed because I felt like I had been mislead.

I ended up asking myself three questions.

  1. What’s wrong with reading about romance? Nothing. I have no quarrel with lust or love and think they are a great when combined together. If that is what someone likes to read, than that is what they should read. I also have no objection to details that would make a crow blush, although if one is going to go there, I think it’s nice to warn a reader beforehand.
  2. Why don’t you like to read romance? I guess I don’t read to get aroused. I read to learn things and travel places and solve puzzles and understand people. Romance novels provide little if any of that. I find them too predictable. I often find them preoccupied with physical attractiveness, which I think is kind of shallow. They tend towards preoccupation with wealth and fashion, which I think is definitely shallow. I’d rather let my nether regions find their fun elsewhere.
  3. Why do so many women write romance? Because so many women read it. Romance novels are the largest segment of the book industry, particularly the fast growing online book segment. Why do so many women read it? Hold on a minute and I’ll offer my theory.

I heard that 90% of the content on the internet is pornographic pictures and videos. Really? I went searching to see if that had any basis in fact. According to this article in Forbes (yes, Forbes really does have an article about how much porn is on the internet) it is more like 5 to 15%, almost exclusively enjoyed by males. The most popular site (and sight) is a live webcam arrangement where a woman will strip for a man while talking to him.

We all understand. Most men are visually stimulated.

Most women are not, or not so much so. Watching hard core porn actually makes me want to not have sex.

However, we tend to be a verbal gender. By that I mean most women are more verbal than most men, although judgements about specific individuals should not be made. (Most men are better at math then most women, but I’m better at math than 98% percent of either and I’ve got the test scores to prove it, so best not judge my math ability when you see my boobs ….)

Anyway, it has finally occurred to me that steamy romance novels have become (and maybe always were) the feminine version of porn. Judging from the sales numbers, we women as a group might enjoy our version of sexual stimulation more than the guys. We’re certainly entitled to it.

However, if I want to compare male and female authors,  I need to find that smaller percent of women authors who are writing “real” books. (My designation and I take responsibility for it.) They are out there. Many of them fill my shelves and are my idols. I need to get smarter about reading between the lines of book descriptions, so I only select novels by those of any gender that I have good chance of enjoying.

I hope to do a follow up on this post months from now, comparing stats on how I’ve rated non-romance writing women and their male counterparts. I’m confident I will be praising female authors as well, and the numbers will support my assertion that both genders can and do tell stories that speak to my heart and mind and soul.