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"Chloe Harris" really is the pseudonym for two writers, Noelle and Barbra, who've joined forces to write intriguing and sexy stories. A quintessential eccentric southerner, Noelle seems to find a story in almost everything. Ever ambitious to change her stars, she has a degree in Communications. Barbra lives together with her cat ('Princess Mimi'), who isn't very happy that she is spending so much time on writing. But this folly of the living can opener with opposable thumbs is mostly tolerated.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Washboards pressed between two covers

by Barbra

I love books. I am a bit of a bibliophile, true, but above all I’m a bookworm. I have one clear preference, though. I want strong stories that pull a multitude of emotions from me – which isn’t easy, sure, but it can be done. What especially appeals to me is if books are not only well written, but spicy too.

I admit it openly: as reader my expectations are high. As writer they are even higher. I want all the basic ingredients for a good story: the characters must have a Goal that’s worth dying for, psychologically logical Motivation and a clear Conflict. But on top of that the narrative plus some sexy scenes should blow my socks off – which is quite hard, but let me say once again: it can be done.

I’ve read quite a few books that had astoundingly little going on GMC-wise – not to mention the spicy scenes. They were as tantalizing as my new washing machine’s manual. They even read like it: Put tab A into slot B. What you get then is a careening, jerky movement for a few minutes. After that pull out and hang to dry.
Exciting, isn’t it?

But lo and behold, every now and then I discover books that combine everything I’ve wished for: wonderful narrative, a strong plot that make me laugh out loud on one page and cry on the next, and the spicy scenes provoke a reaction out of me other than rolling my eyes or bored yawning. Now I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those authors that met my expectations.

My first erotic romance was Emma Holly’s Ménage a few years ago. I’ve gobbled up her books ever since whether they be historical, paranormal or contemporary. Holly’s skill at forging good stories that also have a deliciously hot element is, truth be told, outstanding. Not to mention her gift for employing the English language at its best. I’m absolutely devoted to her books.

Lisa Valdez’ historical romance Passion has a strong plot that is so romantic it made me actually shiver at times. It was an honest to goodness page-turner. Above all, the sensual scenes were simply delicious. I can’t wait for her next book (Patience) to come out.

Madeline Hunter’s historical romances are simply marvelous. So good in fact that I caught myself wishing once or twice I had a real-life alpha-male Dante by my side!

As for paranormal escapes from reality, Lynn Viehl and her Darkyn books are always a nice treat – and not just because one of the minor heroes in her books is Austrian. I just wished her resource for the Austrian/German language would have been better, i.e. more reliable. I could help her out, of course. She’d only have to ask. Of course, I’d have to overcome first shock then a fangirl moment. But eventually I’d manage, I’m sure.

Last but not least, Lara Adrian’s paranormal “Midnight Breed” series (Kiss of Midnight, Kiss of Crimson, Midnight Awakening - although a reliable German speaking source might have been helpful with that one too - Midnight Rising and Veil of Midnight) is enticing, awesome... in a word sublime.

This of course is just a small list of authors I admire. The more I read, the more it is likely to evolve. But whenever I’m ordering another shipment of books, those names have to be among the many other books. Those authors, you see, make me close a book and sigh with bliss, a content smile on my face. They give me the feeling that I haven’t wasted my time or money – which, I agree, isn’t easy but it can be done. I can only say:
Capital, capital! Ladies, don’t stop writing. You make my day.


Sherri L. said...

I agree with your observation's, Barbara, and Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed's are a great read. I'm in the process of reading Veil right now and enjoying it tremendously!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Your blog was interesting and entertaining. My favorite part was, "I’ve read quite a few books that had astoundingly little going on GMC-wise – not to mention the spicy scenes. They were as tantalizing as my new washing machine’s manual. They even read like it: Put tab A into slot B. What you get then is a careening, jerky movement for a few minutes. After that pull out and hang to dry." LOL
Sarah McNeal

Anonymous said...

Good observations, Barbra. I just bought Veil of Midnight and I liked it. Now, thanks to you, I will check out the other books you mentioned. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot!

Sherri, in the beginning there was all this buzz about J.R. Ward's books. Maybe you remember that? Well, I tried the Black Dagger Brotherhood (duh), but - while well written - somehow the characters and the mythology didn't appeal to me as Adrian's or Viehl's do.

Sarah, hey! Was that a giggle I tickled outta you? Glad you enjoyed my post that much! I'll do my best to be as funny in the posts to come...

Carole, it's wonderful that my post inspired you to give those other books a chance. Please let me know if you share my thoughts or if not, why not!

Karen McCullough said...

I agree with you! I've read several books recently where there was no plot to speak of at all, just a series of incidents. Sex scenes are pretty flat and meaningless when they're not part of growth, change or movement of the characters involved. They can sparkle, though, when they either create or show conflict either within a character or between the two of them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Karen!

That's it exactly: Even the spicy scenes must move the plot forward in some way. If they don't, they're a waste of paper and time imo.
Sometime ago I read a book where the spicy scenes of the villain(s) were passably hot whereas the protagonists' were flat, boring and unbelievable.
I figured out only later why that was so: The villain(s)'s scenes had conflict and showed their development as characters while the good guys remained static, even stereotypical characters.

Samantha Kane said...

I, too, am a big fan of Emma Holly's. Her books are delicious, and you can really sink your teeth into them. I loved All U Can Eat.

Nothing will make me throw a book at the wall faster than the h/h having sex with no connection. If I'm asking myself, "why do I even care if these two people have sex or get together?" I'm done. I stop reading right there. Unfortunately, I've stopped reading a lot lately. :-( So thank you for the book recommendations!

Noelle said...

I have never got this many responses to my posts. Humm.
Anyway, I even found a new author in the post. B have you told me about Lisa Valdez before? I don't remember but I will be checking her out.

Anonymous said...

Samantha Kane... OMG! I'm honored that you'd comment as well!

Deep breaths... Okay, I'm over my fangirl moment! :-)

All U Can Eat is very delicious, true, but Strange Attractions is even better! Or The Top of Her Game, or... don't get me started! *lol*

While the urge to throw a book against the wall is sometimes very tempting, I try to get through it to the end simply because I believe I can learn from a badly written book a lot - if not more - than from a well-written one. I guess you can say that reading &§~$$/ books is kind of research for me.
Of course, you wouldn't need to learn anything anymore, but I definitely do!

"why do I even care if these two people have sex or get together?" - that is definitely the key question a lot of romantica writers nowadays don't ask themselves. They forget that this is what it should be about because otherwise it's just plain ol' porn in words (and not very original at that).

Anonymous said...


Noelle I only just read Lisa Valdez two weeks ago. Or was it last week? I always forgot to tell you about Passion! Then I assumed I already told you... you know me.

It's a historical erotic romance that captured me (!!!) from the very first page. The conflict was palpable, the sexy scenes (while I'll have to make some further inquiries if that really works ;) ) are mouthwatering and as a reader you can't wait until they get together again! I loved it - and you know how rare it is for me to say that.

Samantha Kane said...

Okay, I'm over my fangirl moment! :-)

Well, don't let me stop you! lol

I did like Strange Attractions, it was actually my first Emma Holly, but . . . I wasn't super happy with the menage relationship at the end. Oops, SPOILER ABOVE. Anyway, I thought one person in that trio got the short straw. But I loved Jack West in All U Can Eat. He's on my favorite hero list. And I love her Demon series.

Of course, you wouldn't need to learn anything anymore,

Au contraire, it's a never-ending process. I was just talking with Mari Freeman about an author we both read because we'd heard so much about her. We both hated the two novellas we read. We loathed the heroines and the heroes, and didn't find them romantic at all. So you're right, sometimes it pays to finish the books you don't like to analyze why, which we did at length. It really helps you to focus on the things you do like in your heroines and heroes, and to incorporate those into your writing.

Hmmm, I feel a blog post coming on . . .

Anonymous said...

Samantha, I felt that way about the end of Ménage, but Strange Attractions? I honestly can't remember. But it was a wonderful read regardless (any book for that matter).

Oh well. Life is a never-ending process of learning new lessons (and possibly improving), huh? Noelle and I disagree three out of ten times but then only because one of us is pig-headed (and that's usually me...).