Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Lure of Shapinsay Giveaway!

❤ The delightful Krista Holle, author of all things romance, is offering up a great giveaway package containing swag to promote her historical eBook, The Lure of Shapinsay, which was published in December!

Krista's debut novel is a unique paranormal romance dealing with the very old Scottish mythology of the selkies. Selkies are beautiful seal men and women who live the bulk of their life under the water as seals, but they occasionally shed their skins to come on land as humans. The men are notorious for luring women to their deaths deep beneath the sea. Here's the official blurb:


Ever since Kait Swanney could remember, the old crones of the village have been warning her to stay away from the selkies. They claim that like sirens of old, the seal men creep from the inky waters, shed their skins, and entice women to their deaths beneath the North Sea. But avoiding an encounter becomes impossible when Kait is spotted at the water’s edge, moments after the murder of a half-selkie infant.

Kait is woken unexpectedly by a beautiful selkie man seeking revenge. After she declares her innocence, the intruder darts into the night, but not before inadvertently bewitching her with an overpowering lure.

She obsesses over a reunion deep beneath the bay and risks her own life to be reunited with her selkie. But when she lands the dangerous lover, the chaos that follows leaves Kait little time to wonder—is it love setting her on fire or has she simply been lured?
Sound yummy, or what? There are already a bunch of awesome reviews of it on Goodreads, so be sure to check out what those readers have to say. Also take a look at the book trailer, which makes me want to read the book even more!



Additionally, check out her website for more info about upcoming releases as well as exclusive content on her work :)

Giveaway!
Up for grabs, just for ¡Miraculous! readers, are the following:
  • eBook copy of The Lure of Shapinsay
  • 'Have you been lured?' promotional T-shirt
  • Themed bookmark
  • Themed bookplate
To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post explaining why you'd like to read The Lure of ShapinsayThere are plenty of reasons I can think of at the top of my head, so this is an easy-peasy one!

Giveaway runs through April 14th, 2012 at 11.59 pm (your time).
Open to ALL readers, including you international folk!
Please include your email address in your comment! If I don't know who to contact once you are chosen as the winner, your prize will be forfeited.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

❤author: Alina Adams Interview and Giveaway!

❤ I'm thrilled to welcome author, Alina Adams, to the blog today. Welcome to ¡Miraculous!, Alina! Will you please share a short bio with us?

I'll try to keep it short. ;) I was born in the former Soviet Union, and moved to the United States with my parents when I was seven. When not writing books, I've mostly worked in television, including E! Entertainment (when I was there, nobody knew what a Kardashian was), ABC Daytime (that's the soaps; when I was there, they still had four on the air), ABC Sports (and ESPN) in their figure skating department, and Procter & Gamble Productions for As the World Turns and Guiding Light. I currently live in New York City with my husband and three kids, where I am in the process of turning all my previously published books into enhanced eBooks with audio, video, et cetera, and helping other writers do the same (like Dan Elish, whose children's fantasy, The Worldwide Dessert Contest now includes its own original musical theater score!)

❤ The enhanced eBooks sound marvelous! Tell us a little more about them, as well as your Figure Skating Mystery series.


In 2002, following the Olympic Pairs' figure skating judging scandal in Salt Lake City, I wrote Murder on Ice, the first in what became a five book series, based on the real-life events. Except in my version, the judge who awarded the Gold medal to the dour Russian over the perky American is promptly murdered. And it's up to Bex Levy, television researcher (a job I was very familiar with), to solve the crime.

At the time I first wrote the book, and its follow ups, On Thin Ice, Axel of Evil, Death Drop, and Skate Crime, when it came to talking about the beauty and majesty and artistry and athleticism of figure skating, all I had at my disposal were words. Now, however, with the advent of new technology, I can actually illustrate the performances of my main characters, thanks to videos provided by the Ice Theatre of New York. Murder on Ice: Enhanced Multimedia Edition is an eBook that not only features all the text of the original, Berkley Prime Crime paperback release, but also skating videos embedded as an integral part of the story!


❤ How did you arrive at writing mystery? Do you write any other genres?

The very first book I sold, The Fictitious Marquis (to AVON in 1995), was a Regency romance, as was my second, Thieves at Heart. Alas, I am of the belief that nothing truly romantic could have taken place prior to the invention of indoor plumbing. I switched to contemporary romance in 1998 with Annie's Wild Ride and When a Man Loves a Woman in 2000 (the latter is also currently available as When a Man Loves a Woman: Enhanced Multimedia Edition, featuring its own musical soundtrack). I came to mysteries after a non-fiction book I wrote in 2001, Sarah Hughes: Skating to the Stars unexpectedly hit the best-seller list following Sarah Hughes' upset victory at the Olympics. My editor on that book asked if I had any interest in writing a figure skating mystery. I said yes. The same way I'd said yes eight years earlier when an editor asked me if I'd like to write a Regency romance. I didn't even know what a Regency romance was then. I, at least, knew what a mystery was (and was already an avid reader). So I figured I was ahead of the game.

❤ How funny, but fortunate! How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories?

Well, in the case of Murder on Ice, the character of Bex is a great deal like me – eighteen years ago. She is just out of college, in her first full-time job, desperate to make a good impression, and while she believes she knows a great deal (and she does), she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know, which is her biggest obstacle. As is the fact that, when you’re that young and that eager, it’s pretty difficult to discern what’s truly a big deal, and what won’t matter a whit in a few years – or days.

Because my background is in soap operas (another enhanced eBook, Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama’s Greatest Moments features interviews with the actors, writers and producers who created the scenes fans voted as their favorites and features links to the scenes themselves), I made my Figure Skating Mysteries a series. While each book features a single crime that gets solved at the end, the characters move from book to book. They change and evolve and grow. The same way I hope I have (for the better) since I started writing them.


❤ What are your biggest motivations for writing?

An inability to do anything else. No, really. I can’t not write. I can’t not make up stories. It’s pretty much all I do. I walk to pick up my kids from school, I cook dinner, I shower, and I hear characters talking in my head. What else is there to do but write it down?

❤ Can you honestly say being an author is your ideal job? Do you ever sometimes wish you hadn't begun a writing career?


Being a writer is absolutely my ideal job. If I had my druthers, I would do nothing but write stories, then hand them off to other people to produce and edit and, most importantly, market and promote. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Whether you’re with a major New York City publisher, a small press, or reissuing previously published works on your own, you have to get the word out about them to the most important people in this process – the readers. No one else will do this for you. I love talking to readers, I love blogging, I love answering questions and hearing what people like – and don’t like – about my work.

However, the process of finding reviewers, blog hosts, interviewers and other promotional details – if I could leave that part to someone else, I wouldn’t miss it.


❤ Very insightful – I feel I'd do the same! How would you describe your writing style and tone?

I like to believe I’m light and funny. Some people agree with me; some do not. I also enjoy writing characters who do things, not just talk about them (frankly, I prefer that quality in real-life people, too).

I prefer dialogue over exposition (in both writing and reading), self-deprecation over self-pity (again, a quality I like to see in real life), and plot over introspection. I’m the kind of reader who always wants to know “what happens next?” And I hope I’m a writer who inspires the same enthusiasm.


❤  What about you would surprise your readers?

English isn’t my first language. I didn’t speak a word of it when I started second grade in San Francisco, CA. But I think I picked it up pretty well ;)

❤ 
You sure have! Glad to see fellow second-tonguer around town :) Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

There is good writing, and there’s writing that sells. Sometimes a piece can be both. But, it doesn’t have to be. Figure out what you’re most interested in, and what those words mean to you. Frankly, I’ve sold very few books, articles, what have you, that were truly as “good” as I would have liked them to be. But if I’d continued to work on them incessantly, I might have missed the chance to get them sold and out into the world (where other people can take great glee in explaining what’s wrong with them). I’ve had work that I liked edited to the point where I didn’t even like it anymore – I felt the flavor and tone of the original piece had been irrevocably lost. But the editor is boss, and I went along with it. Writing is my career and my job, and I treat it as such.


❤ What's a question you always want to be asked during interviews? How would you answer it?

I know one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my career is that I’ve skipped around from genre to genre. I wrote two Regency romances, two contemporary romances, five mysteries, three books of non-fiction, three soap opera tie-ins (Oakdale Confidential, The Man From Oakdale, and Jonathan’s Story), and now this whole enhanced eBook thing. I’m not easy for a reader to keep up with.

I wish someone would ask, “Why, Alina? Why do you skip around like this – to your professional detriment?”

The answer would be: Because I am always looking for a new challenge. I feel like once I’ve got the hang of something, it’s time to move on, try something different. Fortunately, with enhanced eBooks, we are all still so early in the game, nobody knows what’s going on (and if they tell you they do, they’re lying), or what this will ultimately turn into. I can’t wait to find out. And to be a part of that process.


❤ What’s the most interesting comment you have ever received about your books?

It’s not so much one comment, per se, but the many disparate reactions that can be triggered by a single story. My first contemporary romance, Annie’s Wild Ride and, to an extent, its follow up, When a Man Loves a Woman were incredibly polarizing. People either loved the main characters, or detested them. They either understood why they did what they did, or thought it made no sense at all. No one was on the fence.

I found it absolutely fascinating how the same story could engender such conflicting reactions.

When I was at Procter & Gamble Productions, I developed a media property for them, Another World Today, which was an online soap opera where fans got a chance to vote at the end of every episode on where they’d like the story to go next. No matter how obvious a question seemed to be, we never, ever, ever had a landslide poll result. There were always divergent opinions.

It taught me there is no such thing as a story that everybody likes.


 What's next for you?

After Murder on Ice: Enhanced Multimedia Edition, I plan to enhance all five books in my Figure Skating Mystery series, followed by my romances. Once that’s done, I will be launching an original series, Counterpoint which, like Another World Today, will allow the readers to guide the story as I write it. I plan to put out a book a month with my readers’ help!

In addition, I am actively working with other writers to help enhance their books, and am always interested in new projects and proposals.


Where can you be found on the web?

My website has information on all of my current and upcoming books, as well as a mailing list for all the latest news. In addition:
Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you'd like to ask our readers?

What can I do to make the enhanced eBook experience better and more enjoyable for readers? Please e-mail/Facebook/Tweet me and let me know. As I said, I am eager to work on projects that take reader feedback into consideration. I want to be interactive, and I
want to hear from you!

In the meantime, I am giving away a copy of my coffee-table book, Inside Figure Skating. Leave a comment on this interview with your thoughts about enhanced eBooks and where the future of reading is headed in general, in order to be eligible to win. And thank you!

Giveaway!
You heard Alina right! One lucky winner will receive a Inside Figure Skating by filling out the Rafflecopter form below.
Giveaway runs through June 30th, 2012 at 11.59 pm (EST).
Open to readers in the continental US only!
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

guess who'll be keeping my bed warm from now on ;)


♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Jake's Return by Liana Laverentz

Jake's Return
Liana Laverentz

Release Date: October 19th, 2009
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Page Count: 203
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

The last person small town bad boy Jacob Donovan expects to find when he returns home in disgrace after serving time is Rebecca Reed, head librarian. Rebecca had always had much bigger ambitions. Jake hadn't wanted to stand in her way, so after one night of passion with his former best friend, he'd hit the open road.

Rebecca refuses to believe Jake is guilty of murder. The boy who'd been her friend and protector when they were town outcasts together could never have killed a woman. Not to mention the tender, loving man who'd given her their daughter, Katie.

But who is Jake now? That's what everyone wants to know, including the town council chairman, who is determined to send Jake back to prison, by any means available.

Jake's been running from love for all of his life. Will he find the courage to defeat his demons and stay this time?
What Stephanie Thinks: Laverentz does it again! I was so pleased with Thin Ice, which I reviewed back in August, and even more thrilled when Liana contacted me asking if I'd like to review her other books too. I love her writing style, as well as the realistic, yet still edgy and intriguing contortions in her stories. Jake's Return once again impressed me with its essentially Laverentzian elements: the perfect villain and the perfect crime; childhood sweethearts, Rebecca and Jake, who only spared one hot night together; and most riveting of all: a burden of proof created between them, which publicly acknowledges the intensity of their love, thus counteracting all denials of it. You don't get any better than that.

The plot is just complicated enough, involving a love child and a scandalous homecoming, but it's simple and straightforward—nothing confusing and nothing TOO deep. The frisson between Rebecca and Jake absolutely sucks me in. Each of them, as characters, comes to life from the pages, making me fall in love with them, even with all their flaws. And of course there's little Katie. Laverentz has a knack of tugging at your heart by using adorable irresistible children. How very, very manipulative of her.

Overall this book was the perfect blend of suspense, airy questions, and heat. I loved it, but the only complaint I have is that Jake and Rebecca's relationship was too coy—there is so much of 'you deserve better than me's and 'I love you but won't ever tell's that seemed a bit immature at their age. This isn't a high school romance; I felt both Jake and Rebecca, as adults, should have been able to voice their feelings better, no matter how difficult it is to admit to falling in love. It was frustrating for me as the reader because the sexual tension made me want them to get together already, dammit! I like sexual tension in a story, but this as a whole was more irritating than it was suspenseful. And it was sort of encompassing because the whole book revolves around the relationship. Nothing that upset me too much, but was just spread throughout.

If you're looking for a romance that's not ALL romance, but also family sentiment, small-town values, and thundering suspense; if you're looking for a book that surrounds two very lost and very in love characters who learn to make the best of what they have—especially in circumstances and disasters they have no control over—I would totally recommend Jake's Return. I love the fuzzy feeling I get when I read Laverentz's stories. I guarantee you will too.


Stephanie Loves: "Her all-out smile did dangerous things to his libido."

Radical Rating: 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Friday, March 23, 2012

❤author: Katherine Stone Interview and Giveaway!

❤ I'm thrilled to welcome author, Katherine Stone, to the blog today. Welcome to ¡Miraculous!, Katherine! Will you please share a short bio with us?

Thank you! I'm delighted to be here. I'm a physician turned contemporary romance novelist. Born in Seattle, I attended Stanford University followed by medical school at the University of Washington. I did a residency in internal medicine in San Francisco and a fellowship infectious diseases in LA. There was also romance in LA. I met my future husband, physician-novelist Jack Chase there...during a spinal tap. I was having difficulty with it - though the patient was fine - and he appeared, as if a knight on a white charger, and saved the day. My twenty-one novels have been translated into over twenty languages and are sold throughout the world.

❤ Tell us about you books, and more specifically, Bel Air, which I reviewed recently!


First and foremost, they are love stories. I write about nice people who are giving life their best shot despite the enormous obstacles I put in their way! Like most of us (I think) they hope to be loved for who they truly are, and aren't at all certain that will ever happen (especially given the aforementioned obstacles), but, in the end, they are rescued by love.

There are other relationships, too: friends and enemies; sisters, brothers, twins, families. I usually have an ensemble cast who lives are entwined in various ways. Soap opera-esque, you ask? Yes, absolutely and unabashedly, with a little Grey's Anatomy and Lifetime Movie Network thrown in. The tension is more emotional than sexual (or so my readers and fellow writers tell me). I can't and don't resist including medical drama - and information - from time to time.

[Bel Air is a sweet romance that incorporates the medical drama as well as extra-romantic dilemmas within the storylines as well!]


❤ What inspired you to write your first book and then how did you get published? Tell us your call story.

The immediate inspiration was my husband, who, after years of hearing me say that someday was going to write a novel, said "Just Do It!" I should mention that I'm a firstborn Virgo, which means I have two scoops of goal-setting and achieving (or bust) combined with the utter inability to resist a challenge. And since age 11, when I wrote my first story, writing had always been a passion and a dream.

I knew nothing about getting published. But it made sense to me to send the completed manuscript directly to the folks who actually made the publishing decisions -- i.e., the publishing companies. In those days, this was possible to do. A book called Writer's Market listed the companies that would accept unagented books "over the transom" to be added to their "slush pile."

I got the we-want-to-publish-it call in my office. I had just returned from making infectious disease rounds at a hospital in Chicago. Needless to say, I was over the moon!


❤ How did you arrive at writing your particular genre? Is there any other genre you'd like to tackle in the future?

Like many writers, I had been telling myself stories forever. As a very young girl I remember looking forward to going to bed so that, before falling asleep, I could find out what happened next.

Romance, relationships, drama, tormented heroes, love conquering all, and happy endings are what have always interested me. It's what I authentically love - and, I think, it is my only authentic voice.


❤ How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories?
Lots, although in non autobiographical bits and pieces. I definitely write about places I know and love, and medicine, and things I wish I could do (like be able to sing). And there are certaintly fictionalized glimpses of people I have known and admired. But the specific relationships and characters are imagined.

❤ What are your biggest motivations for writing?

I love it, and those darned stories (dare I say voices in my head?) keep coming.

❤ Can you honestly say being an author is your ideal job? Do you ever sometimes wish you hadn't begun a writing career?

I'm very lucky. I've loved being both a doctor and an author.

❤ How would you describe your writing style and tone?

Dramatic, romantic, soft. 


❤  What about you would surprise your readers?

That I was on stage at the Rolling Stones' concert in Altemont, maybe? My undergrad years at Stanford coincided with the acid-rock era in San Francisco. My brother was - and is! - a gifted musician. So I felt totally comfortable wandering back stage, fiddling with amplifiers, talking to musicians, etc. You could do that then. It was that open and free. But on that sunny California day, the scene went from joyful to terrifying in a heartbeat.

❤ 
Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

Everyone has their own voice, their own unique stories to tell. No author's voice will be every reader's cup of tea, nor does it have to be. Write your story the way you want to write it and believe it should be. Don't put things in - or take them out - because you think that's what another author would do. Go with your instincts, the way that feels true and right to you.


❤ What’s the most interesting comment you have ever received about your books?

I got a lovely postcard from a reader who was vacationing in Italy. She had been in Rome, admiring the roses in the Borghese Gardens, and she felt quite certain that she had spotted Charles and Melanie enjoying the gardens, too.

What's so lovely about this is that Charles and Melanie are characters from Twins.


 What's next for you?

Both Jack and I are in the process of publishing our previously published novels in new ebook and trade paperback formats. His brand new medical thriller, The Magruder Transplant [which Stephanie WILL be reviewing soon, once she sits her butt down to it, folks!!!], has also just been released.

It has been great fun revisiting the books. I've discovered, however, that some of my characters have more to say - and now are saying. As a result, this has become a lot more involved than simply converting existing Word docs to ebook ready html files. But I'm really enjoying the revisiting and, of course, I want the books to be the best I can make them.


I'm certainly looking forward to getting to them. They all sounds like good reads -- I've currently just started Roommates, actually! Where can you be found on the web?


My web address is www.katherinestone.com. There's book info, bio, mailing list sign up and, most importantly, a few of the zillion photos I have taken of the 3 canine girls who rule our world: Wendy, Molly, and Scout.
Awww! How precious! Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you'd like to ask our readers?

Not ask so much as tell. You remember that firstborn Virgo thing? Bossiness comes with the territory, too. I'm a huge believer in going for your dreams - and as my wise (Scorpio) husband said to me, "Just Do It.".

Giveaway!
Katherine has been generous enough to offer a new trade paperback edition of Roommates for one very lucky ¡Miraculous! reader! To enter, all you have to do is tell us what you love! Katherine's interested in what you readers enjoy, so leave a question or comment telling us your favorite book, movie, hunk, television show, or anything else that comes to mind! We just want to hear from you :)

Giveaway runs through April 8th, 2012 at 11.59 pm (your time).
Open to readers 13 and older (by the prize provider's request) -- US and Canada only!
Please include your email address in your comment! If I don't know who to contact once you are chosen as the winner, your prize will be forfeited.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

♥♥♥♥: Bottom Dwellers by Shane Etter

Bottom Dwellers
Shane Etter

Release Date: April 7th, 2011
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Page Count: 159
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

After suffering a stroke, forty-eight year old, karate black belt Patrick Dylan is scuba diving in Lake Lanier for exercise and therapy. He encounters green skinned mutant people with gills who have been living there for more than fifty years, since the lake was created. While diving, Patrick also meets beautiful Park Ranger Trudy Price who soon becomes his fiancée.

Just as with all people, there are good and bad among the bottom dwellers of Lake Lanier. Patrick battles with the bad and is surprised by the good.

Thinking that they have left subterranean life in the deep waters of the lake, Patrick and Trudy get married and head to New York City for their honeymoon. When they are visiting the Cloisters Museum, a curator is found murdered. They are thrust into the investigation and discover another subterranean culture: The Mole People of underground Manhattan, denizens of the abandoned subway and train tunnels. Patrick and Trudy are once again coping with good and evil among a different kind of bottom dweller.
What Stephanie Thinks: The prospect of this sci-fi novel is extremely engaging. I love 'other world'-type stories, with different races, especially if they have histories behind them. In Bottom Dwellers, the Bottom Dwellers came into existence when a subterranean city was covered by a dam and some of its townspeople refused to take refuge, while the Mole People formed as a result of poor living conditions and preferential outcasting. This, in my opinion, demonstrates a high level of imagination on Etter's part. Unfortunately, the story fell immensely stale because of the author's lack of writing style and lack of acceptable structure.

The book is easy to read, with large font and less than 200 pages. I probably read it in two or three sittings, not having enjoyed one. I really wanted to like this novel but the rigid and awkward tone that Etter uses makes it impossible. He describes in excruciating detail, the little insignificant parts of the book (every phone call between Patrick and Trudy, every nightly routine, every driving scene) but skirts over the major parts with equal drawing-out. This not only is a turn-off for me as a reader, but also as for me as a writer, who knows better than to make such mistakes.

The dialogue is probably what irks me most. It's very idealistic (i.e. would only happen in someone's mind, or with between thick people) and again, awkward. I can't ever see it happening. For instance, here's the engagement scene, which takes the sentiment out of any idea of 'proposal' I ever had:

She squealed with excitement, but said, 'Isn't this a little sudden?'

I said, 'When you know, you know, and I'm not getting any younger.'

'Well, that's true. You aren't getting any younger and you probably should get married. So, okay. I'll marry you.'

'Thank you.'
I'm sorry, but what the fuck was that??

In terms of organization, there really is none. Perspectives shift randomly, without page breaks or even line breaks, for that matter, which makes any instant understanding of the book's situation very confusing. Chapters are cut off at random moments, rather than at suspenseful peaks or resolved conflicts, which is both irritating and detrimental for the plot.

It would be a really long stretch for me to recommend this book. Some novels, I can definitely say and know just weren't for me, while others, I get a feeling can't be enjoyed for the majority. I personally did not like it (reading it was easy; taking it seriously was tough), although I was impressed with the idea of Bottom Dwellers and Mole People. I also gained great knowledge for scuba-diving, which was pretty cool. But aside from those few things, this book is a page short of a tragedy.

Stephanie Loves: "'I knew I smelled a rat. If you weren't a girl I'd show you what I could do.'
'If I wasn't a lady I'd kick YOUR ass.'"

Radical Rating: 4 hearts: So-so; reading this book may cause wrinkles (from frowning so much). ♥♥♥♥

Thursday, March 22, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥: Bel Air by Katherine Stone

Bel Air
Katherine Stone

Release Date: June 28th, 2011 (reprint edition)
Publisher: CreateSpace (originally issued by Zebra in 1990)
Page Count: 372
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, dear!)

All that glitters is not gold...
Sometimes it is love.

Bel Air, California, where even the rich and famous marvel at the splendor of their surroundings. It is here, in the lush, sun-bright hills of Hollywood, that Allison, Winter, and Emily search for the courage to dream, to trust, to love.

But there are dark secrets and hidden betrayals that must first be overcome.

A terrible accident has stolen Allison Fitzgerald's dreams, and it has taught her that life is too precious and too fragile to waste. So when she meets a man who evokes a passion in her that she has never known before, she surrenders to his love without questioning his secretive past.

Gifted and beautiful actress Winter Carlyle has learned from painful experience that the people she loves always leave her, and that it is far too dangerous to care, and that she is only liked when she is pretending to be someone she is not. Still, she is willing to risk everything for the doctor who sees beyond the pretense... but is he willing to risk everything for her?

Emily Rousseau only feels safe, only feels free, when she is behind the lens of her camera, safe and free from the men who want her, and want to hurt her. The portraits she takes are works of art, and there is one man, unlike any other man she has ever known, who sees not only the talent in her work, but the loveliness in her. But can she accept the love and face that demons that will free her from her past?
What Stephanie Thinks: Bel Air is everything I want and expect in a sweet romance, with lovely and flawed, yet beautiful characters, an exhilarating ambiance, and a twisted (though eventually resolved) storyline. Stone brings each of her protagonists—both male and female—to life by portraying and delving deeply into their pain and pasts, of their loves and longings. I think every reader will be able to relate to, on some level, how intricately hurt each of them are in their own way.

More than the characters, is the stylistic ease and flavor Stone writes with. I can tell her words are penned carefully and thoughtfully, stringing together to produce delicate, sensory prose. To me, the plot was so-so and very foreseen, but the author's technique made each sentence an awing and impressive read.

Overall I don't think this is my ideal romance novel. Keep in mind, it was written some-twenty years ago, but it's definitely outdated, lacking the necessary suspense and just that 'hook' modern fiction has. The plot certainly has its strengths—skirting on topics such as recovering bodies and recovering hearts, bitter reminiscences and bitter ex-flames, betrayal, death, as well as a discovery of abuse, and emotional trauma—all stuff that could potentially have been considered 'dramatic' and edge-of-your-seat worthy back in the day, but cannot be said any longer. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the book, but I just don't think it was anything phenomenal of a narrative either.

The characters' motives and the outcome of the plot were inevitable, so there was nothing really that made me hang on to the words on the pages (aside from the gorgeous and elaborate fluidity of style). I didn't have to guess anything, so the end of the book really just felt oomph. I feel I didn't necessarily get anything out of it.

I definitely think some of you will enjoy it more than I did, though; it's simply not keen on my tastes. While the typical predictable 'clean' romance is usually not my thing, I can say Bel Air is a beautifully-woven, affectionate novel about love and light to be cherished and reminded of, when the good gets going and the going gets tough.


Stephanie Loves: "'Emily, please don't go.'
'Rob, why not?'
'I'm afraid you won't come back.'
Her obvious surprise reassured him a little.
'With all the collateral you have?'
'What collateral?' he asked. The ring, which you do not want? The flannel nightgown? 'What, Emily? Are you leaving your camera?'
'No,' she said softly. 'I am leaving my heart.'"

Radical Rating: 6 hearts: Satisfying for a first read, but I'm not going back. ♥♥♥♥♥♥