In My Mailbox: March 31st
Title: Bodyguards in Bed
Received: From Kensington Books
Synopsis: There’s just one cardinal rule when it comes to being a bodyguard: no matter how tempting it may be, never, ever get romantically involved with the person you’re protecting. But as these sensual novellas prove, even the most important rules are made to be broken – again and again and again. Join acclaimed authors Lucy Monroe, Jamie Denton, and Elisabeth Naughton as they open the files on an undercover operative who finds a sexy surprise under his covers, a hot case involving mixed messages and mistaken identities, and a mission impossible protecting a provocative beauty who lives to love dangerously.
Author: Christie Kelley
Received: From Kensington Books
Synopsis: Born on the wrong side of the blanket, matchmaker Sophie Reynard understands the consequences of unbridled desire all too well. Despite the many highborn friends she has matched, falling in love with an aristocrat without a pedigree of her own would be an act of futility. But that doesn’t stop her from succumbing to one evening of anonymous passion…Nicholas Tenbury, Marquess of Ancroft, knows nothing of Sophie’s lineage. He knows only that the enchanting beauty captured his heart in one night and then fled, leaving no trace of her identity. But when he seeks answers from London’s finest matchmaker, he finds none other than the woman herself – stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the attraction they share! Now the enamoured Marquess has no choice but to sway Sophie with seduction…
Author: Holly Chamberlin
Received: From Kensington Books
Synopsis: In this compelling novel set against the beautiful backdrop of Ogunquit, Maine, the bestselling author of Tuscan Holiday and One Week in December portrays an unexpected friendship, and its consequences for two very different women as time inevitably sweeps them into adulthood…
Over the course of one eventful summer, nine-year-old native Mainer Delphine Crandall and Maggie Weldon, a privileged girl “from away,” become best friends. Despite the social gulf between them, their bond is strengthened during vacations spent rambling around Ogunquit’s beaches and quiet country lanes, and lasts throughout their college years in Boston. It seems nothing can separate them, yet after graduation, Delphine and Maggie slowly drift in different directions…
With her MBA, Maggie acquires a lucrative career, and eventually marries. Delphine is drawn back home, her life steeped in family and the Maine community she loves. Twenty years pass, until one summer, Maggie announces she’s returning to Ogunquit to pay an extended visit. And for the first time, the friends are drawn to reflect on their choices and compromises, the girls they were and the women they’ve become, the promises kept and broken—and the deep, lasting ties that even time can never quite wash away…
Sweet Valley fans rejoice! We finally get to meet up with our good friends, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. Francine Pascal has written Sweet Valley Confidential, peeking into the lives of the Wakefield twins ten years later. When I first heard this book was coming out, I was jumping for joy. After I graduated from the Baby-Sitters Club series, I went straight to Sweet Valley High. I’ve read every book, and was also a gradual watcher of the TV show when it was on air. When St. Martin’s Press offered to send me my own copy of Sweet Valley Confidential, I was ecstatic. My package arrived yesterday (same day the book was available in stores) and also came with a t-shirt! Oh boy, my boyfriend was looking at me like I was crazy when I started shrieking and insisted on wearing my shirt all night. Be sure to get your copy, or visit the fun website SweetValleyTenYearsLater.com. I look forward to reading my copy and posting my review!
Debut author Laurie Frankel was the latest choice for the SheKnows Book Club. Her novel, The Atlas of Love, brings a story of three women trying to be a family. Narrated by Janey, we meet Katie and Jill, all three who are English-lit students, while they struggle to keep up with classes and try to have social lives. For Mormon Katie, this means finding a boyfriend with the same religion. For Jill, life has a different plan. She becomes pregnant by her much younger boyfriend, and when he decides he can’t be a father, he takes off. Janey and Katie immediately come to their friend’s rescue, offering to move in with Jill and help care for the baby. Be their own unique family.
But once baby Atlas comes along, everything changes. Janey becomes overly attached to the baby boy, Katie gets engaged, and the father suddenly appears back in the picture, wanting to be with Jill but still not interested in being a dad. The story takes a dramatic turn when Atlas lands in the hospital, and the three friends are forced to make a decision. Can they keep living like a happy family? Or will the bonds of friendship become broken?
The Atlas of Love started a little slow, but quickly picks up steam and transported me into the character’s world. I felt a real honesty with each character- including when Jill wanted to give the father a second chance. I may not have liked what she was doing to her friends who changed their lives for her, but it was real. I thought this was a really interesting topic for a novel, one that more readers can relate to as we move away from what a “normal” family is. With TV shows now showcasing how 21st century families live (ABC’s Modern Family, for one example) I wasn’t that surprised at the non-traditional setting I was reading about. I definitely recommend this debut novel!
The Scarlett O’Hara Effect
Thank you Chick Lit Plus for inviting me over! Those that know me are fully aware I pretty much have five passions in life – my kids, writing, dancing, working out, and pageants. I’m a southern girl so in a shout out to the South, I’m going to talk about something we down here below the Mason Dixie Line just LOVE! Pageants! I’ll toot my own horn, but I’m a pageant guru. In essence, that means I’m like one of those old men that sit around and quote baseball statistics. Only, I know what color dress Miss Mississippi wore for talent in 1984, and…well, you get the idea.
I think my first pageant experience was when I was five, but really got the bug when I turned fifteen. I’ve competed on the local, state, national, and international levels and in every sector of pageantry you can imagine. In college, I participated in the Miss Universe and Miss America systems. A huge highlight was competing in Miss Alabama for several years. I was Miss University of Alabama, an honor I still have no qualms bragging about! Another special title for me was Miss International Motorsports Hall of Fame. The title is long, but getting to meet Jeff Gordon (sigh!) as well as other famous NASCAR drivers and ride atop the Pace Car to open a Talladega race made memories I’ll never forget. Fast forward to present day – I’ve been a pageant coach for over fifteen years with a dang impressive track record. I also work as a professional emcee and judge (Miss America certified) and big surprise, my daughter now competes, and kindly points out that she has won way more titles than I ever did. In fact, we just returned from a weekend at the Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen Pageant (the teen division of Miss Alabama/Miss America) where my daughter was presented as a “Rising Star.”
To give you a little history, a unique American tradition began in 1921, as a promotional gimmick when Atlantic City, New Jersey, hotelmen decided to stage a flashy fall festival, or “pageant” to entice summer tourists to stay in town past Labor Day. On the boardwalk, “the most beautiful bathing beauties in America,” strutted their stuff. Newspaperman Herb Test said, “Let’s call her Miss America!” Eight contestants competed with Margaret Gorman, who represented the nation’s capital as Miss Washington D.C., won. The sixteen-year-old schoolgirl was a dead ringer for reigning matinee superstar, Mary Pickford. Talent became mandatory in 1938 and scholarships were first awarded in 1945.
The next big pageant came along in the 1950’s when Miss America 1951 Yolande Betbeze refused to pose in a swimsuit, insisting that she was a classical singer, not a pin-up. (BTW, she is a native of Mobile, Alabama, where I live!) Officials supported her decision, but main sponsor Catalina Swimwear quit and started the sexier Miss USA, Miss Universe, and Miss World. In case you don’t know, Donald Trump now owns those systems. I also think it’s rather interesting to note that these systems were the first to work for world charities, even beginning in their earliest year of 1951, while Miss America is now better known for supporting its national platform, the Children’s Miracle Network, along with each contestant’s personal issue.
Basically in the United States, Miss America and Miss USA are the premier two pageants. Many others exist including those for women of all ages, single, married, divorced, minorities only, plus size, and even senior citizens. There are pageants for teens and children young as zero. The first international pageant for children was staged in Miami, Florida, in 1960. It was Little Miss Universe.
To be blunt, pageants are a way for the owners/directors to make money. Most, particularly those involving children, most likely began when someone got mad about something and broke away, founding another system. Each new system had a new set of rules regarding dress, make-up, modeling, talent, etc. That’s why you now have everything from all natural (no make-up and minimal sparkles) to glitz (think Toddler’s and Tiara’s). It’s true, in glitz pageants, spray tans, flippers (fake teeth), hair pieces (extensions and/or wigs), Tammy Faye Baker make-up, and lots and lots of rhinestones are not only necessary, but required to win. Glitz pageants are the ones giving away cars and ginormous crowns. Talent is usually optional while “fancy” modeling rules the runway. Even boys can compete!
The more natural ones opt for scholarship money. Most of them and the middle-of-the-road (a little make-up) pageants focus more on talent and are considered to be Youth Development Programs (YDP) as opposed to a “pageant” where you win a crown and go home. YDP’s provide a “reign” and not only for the winner, but all contestants involved have the opportunity to participate in parades and entertain at various festivals, fairs, and other venues throughout the year. This provides opportunities to be on stage (or doing backhandsprings on a flat bed trailer as I often did) and try out different talents or work on public speaking skills. A girl may sing one number and dance the next. That usually means changing with a few mamas holding up beach towels to create a dressing room. Who said pageant life was glamorous? Participants also meet political leaders and take part in charitable events. Friendships are formed and competing many times becomes secondary to having fun with friends.
Opponents to pageants say they degrade women and children, turning them into puppets and sex objects. Contestants often develop eating disorders and spend way more money than they ever receive, even in the popular scholarship based Miss America and Distinguished Young Woman (formerly Jr. Miss – which does not consider itself a pageant, but for argument’s sake, I’m including it as a scholarship source for young women). They say that pageants encourage women/girls to not be their true selves, but a made-up version, which encourages excess plastic surgery. The Jon Bennett Ramsey incident still haunts us, but her parents maintained, as the vast majority of pageant parents do, that this is hobby. Boys play baseball. Girls put on pretty dresses and smile.
Proponents argue that pageants develop poise, self-confidence, and talent. Lynn Maggio, 2011 Mrs. Alabama International believes, “pageantry has given me the confidence to explore other opportunities. It has contributed to the way look and feel, put me in the public eye, and helped me use the abilities and talents I have that otherwise I would not have been exposed.” Laura Newton says, “I have two daughters that have competed in pageants for the last ten years. I can see a difference in their self-confidence, ability to speak in front of others, and their ability to interview well. I feel they have grown from this experience socially and mentally.” I can attest that pageant experience gives you the skills to think on your feet and speak in front of a crowd with zero prompting and preparation. Just this fall, Miss Alabama 2010 Ashley Davis http://www.missalabama.com/ and I were emceeing together. There was probably an hour of technical difficulties, but the show never slowed or stopped because we were able to adlib, interview each other and audience members, speak on our personal platforms, tell jokes, and entertain. (Thank you Ashley!)
Those skills translate into other areas of life. For example, having been interviewed in front of judges at a pageant makes a job interview a cakewalk because pageant judges are famous for asking (1.) General pageant questions (What is your ambition and why? What three words best describe you? (2.) Current events (How do you feel about the US government’s involvement in Egypt? Name your Senator, Congressman, and the president’s daughters.), and (3.) Stupid pageant questions (What kitchen utensil best describes you? If you could be a car, animal, color, flower, etc. what would it be and why?). Don’t forget you have about two seconds to come up with an intelligent reply. Interview questions make you think on your feet and develop the skills to articulate opinions. Research has shown that pageant participates do well academically in school because of the discipline pageants develop. Girls must practice their talent, modeling (yep, I’ve walked around my house with a book on my head in pajamas and high heels), and study up on interview (read the newspaper and watch CNN). Other advantages are increased interest in community service and volunteerism, bonding time between parent and child (unless you have one of those moms), and increased in physical health (no jiggly thighs in swimsuit). It’s important to mention that Miss America’s stance on the swimsuit competition is they keep the tradition, not because that’s how the pageant got its start, but because the American public expects its winner to be beautiful and physically fit.
So why are pageants so popular in the South? The entire top five in Miss America 2009 were all southerners (including Miss Alabama!) and as much as we like to think Southern Belles are just plain prettier, that’s not the case. Pageant judge Cheryl Bonner coins Southerners’ appreciation of beauty as The Scarlett O’Hara Effect. Foo foo hairdos and fancy dresses come from that old Southern Belle look which we southerners have been exposed to all our lives as a form of beauty. In essence, we love our traditions. Since pageants have been around for nearly 100 years, it makes sense that we would love parading that beauty around and watching it.
What’s your take on pageants? My seven year-old pageant veteran advises, “Be sure to wear a slip because those dresses itch so bad you’ll feel like a cheetah is attacking you!” Why do you think we are obsessed with pageants in the South? Do you have a pageant experience you want to share? I’ll go first and admit my most embarrassing story. Before evening gown competition in a Miss Alabama preliminary, I went to the restroom then went on stage with my dress tucked in my panty hose! Thankfully, the dress was full and created a bustle of sorts. Here’s another memory. Luckily, they have all these fancy pasty gadgets nowadays, but back in the day, one had to tape their breasts for extra perkiness. I used cloth first aid tape, but once I was out used Duck Tape. Can you say pain? There was not enough baby oil in the world to make getting that stuff off hurt any less. I’ve had “wardrobe malfunctions” too, but simply tugged on that top back in place and kept on dancing. I’ve even made the mistake of going to the restroom after swimsuit competition and let me say that spray glue on one’s behind mixed with a toilet seat HURTS! After that experience, I added baby wipes to my list of “must haves” along with Q-tips, lipstick, mascara, and hairspray. Lots of hairspray.
Casey Crow is a Summa Cum Laude graduate from the University of Alabama with degrees in Business Management and Dance. She received her Master of Business Administration from the University of Mobile. A pageant coach and dance instructor, Casey also writes spicy contemporary romances with the tagline “Sexy, Southern & Sassy.” Visit her at http://www.caseycrow.com.
I don’t read a whole lot of short stories, but when author Sarah Mlynowski asked if I would check out Know It All, a short story that originally appeared in the collection Girl’s Night In, I said yes with enthusiasm. And I’m glad I did! Even with the few short scenes, I was laughing at the characters and learning a lesson.
Shaun, a twenty-something single gal, gets a new roommate, Dee, who claims to be “a little bit physic.” Shaun certainly doesn’t believe someone can be physic, little bit or not. But when Dee claims to have seen Shaun’s ex-boyfriend falling in love with a new woman, Shaun has to make sure that doesn’t happen. Not that she is still in love with him. But if she is over him, why does she keep rushing around making sure he doesn’t meet this woman? Each time Dee has another vision of them meeting, Shaun intervenes. Is Shaun truly over her ex? And is it time to stop interfering with fate?
I think Mylnowski did an excellent job at building characters quickly, and making this story very relatable to all women. To move on or not to move on? The ways that Shaun interrupts all the chance meetings are very funny, and the lesson at the end is a good one. If you enjoy short stories, I would definitely recommend you pick up Know It All.
In My Mailbox: Week of March 27
Title: Wherever Grace is Needed
Received: From Kensington Books
Synopsis: When Grace Oliver leaves Portland for Austin, Texas, to help her father, Lou, recuperate from a car accident, she expects to stay just a few weeks. Since her mother’s divorce thirty years ago, Grace has hovered on the periphery of the Oliver family. But now she sees a chance to get closer to her half-brothers and the home she’s never forgotten.
But the Olivers are facing a crisis. Tests reveal that Lou, a retired college professor whose sharp tongue and tenderness Grace adores, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Grace delays her departure to care for him, and is soon entwined in the complicated lives of her siblings-all squabbling over Lou’s future-and of the family next door…
Ray West and his three children are reeling from a recent tragedy, particularly sixteen-year-old Jordan, whose grief is heightened by guilt and anger. Amid the turmoil, Grace not only gives solace and support, but learns to receive it. And though she came to Austin to reconnect with her past, she is drawn by degrees into surprising new connections.
Author: Clodagh Murphy
Received: From Clodagh Murphy
Synopsis: Jenny Hannigan might be a good-time party girl, but all she secretly craves is a life of domestic bliss and solid respectability – worlds away from her troubled upbringing back in Ireland. So when she crashes into the arms of Richard Allam — the young, handsome, recently separated politician hotly tipped to lead his party to victory in the upcoming election — she thinks she’s found her perfect match.
Richard’s spin doctor, charismatic publicist Dev Tennant, thinks otherwise. Charged with putting a positive spin on the relationship, Dev soon discovers that Jenny has more than one skeleton in her closet – and as the election gathers momentum, he is working overtime trying to keep them there.
And as Jenny’s life starts to spiral out of control, suddenly she isn’t sure what she wants anymore …
Author: Lori Foster
Received: Tricia Carr @ Media Muscle
Synopsis: Foster’s new romantic suspense series hilariously juxtaposes private mercenaries and publishing. When Dare Macintosh raids a human trafficking trailer in Tijuana to find a friend’s sister, he also rescues the unconscious woman locked in with her: Molly Alexander, a sexy romantic suspense author who has no idea why she was kidnapped from a street in Ohio. After Dare gently nurses her back to health, she hires him to find out who wants her dead. Suspects abound, including her relatives, her ex-fiancé, and disgruntled fans. Foster dissects family dynamics as Molly and Dare eliminate suspects and find their initial hot sexual attraction deepening into something more. Dare’s relationship with his gay assistant spotlights a healthy relationship between men, and readers will enjoy the strong plot and a glimpse of Foster’s publishing world.
After battling health problems for many years, Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor has died. She was 79. Taylor’s publicist, Sally Morrison, said in a statement, “She was surrounded by her children – Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd and Maria Burton.” The Oscar winning is also survived by ten grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
During the week of February 11th, Taylor was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where it has been reported that she stayed there until her passing. She had been suffering symptoms of congestive heart failure.
Elizabeth Taylor was known for many things: her violet eyes, her work as an actress, her charitable donations, and her love life. Taylor found stardom at the age of 12, after appearing in the 1944 movie National Velvet. After playing Cleopatra in 1963’s Cleopatra she became the first Hollywood actor to earn $1 million. She was also an advocate for AIDS, and received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1993 by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for her charity work. Taylor was married eight times to seven different husbands, including twice to Richard Burton, and also hotel heir Conrad “Nicky” Hilton and U.S. Senator John Warner.
Lucky O’Toole, the feisty heroine from Deborah Coonts novel Wanna Get Lucky? is back and better than ever. In the second novel, Lucky Stiff, Lucky is now happily dating female impersonator/singing extraordinaire Teddie, and still working for the luxurious Babylon Resort and Casino on the Vegas strip. On a seemingly normal night, a swarm of bees escapes from an exhibit, and Lucky’s normal streak is over. The domino effect begins, starting with a DA naked and locked hotel closet, a bookie with no conscience found dead in the shark tank, and Lucky’s good friend at the top of the suspect list. Could the DA and bookie be relevant to one another? And can Lucky handle all the Babylon’s problems on top of her love life, which is spinning out of control after Teddie is offered a recording deal?
Lucky Stiff is even better than the first, which is usually pretty rare. I liked that even though this was a sequel, it could easily be a stand alone as well. And Coonts doesn’t fill the pages with information readers would find in the first novel, she gives just the right amount of needed info and moves on with the new plot line. The writing borders on raunchy, with sex being a hot topic amongst all the characters- especially Lucky’s Madame mother- who is auctioning off a young woman’s virginity. Readers will enjoy the fast paced scenes, the picture of a glittery and glamorous Vegas with an underlying of secrets and sin. I heard from Coonts that she is currently working on a third in the series, and I cannot wait to read it!
Acanthamoeba infection. Doesn’t sound fun at all, does it? For contact lens wearers, this should be something you need to get familiar with. Acanthamoeba infection most commonly occurs in people who wear contact lenses, especially those who shower or enter swimming pools or hot tubs wearing contacts. The chance for infection can be increased if you practice poor hygiene when it comes to caring for your contacts- such as not cleaning or disinfecting them properly. This particular infection caught my eye (no pun intended!) while I was reading Shape Magazine, so I decided to do some more research on it- because I frequently wear my contacts while I shower. Who wants the hassle of removing the contacts, then inserting them again once out of the shower? Seemed like a waste of time. But it is an important step that I should be taking.
According to CDC.gov, Acanthamoeba is a microscopic, single-celled living organism found in the environment. It can cause severe, but often rare illnesses. Infections involving the eyes are called Acanthamoeba keratitis. It is most often linked to contact lenses wearers, but there is also a slim chance that non-wearers can contact the infection as well. Acanthamoeba can be found worldwide, and a few places that it can be found include swimming pools, hot tubs, and drinking water systems.
How can you prevent getting infected? As always, it is important to see an eye doctor on a regular basis. For most people, that is once a year. The doctor will check your eye health, and be able to warn you of any problems. If you do wear contacts, be sure to handle them properly, including disinfecting them and changing them according to schedule. For example, I open a new pair of lenses every two weeks. And be sure to remove lenses before any activity that involves water.
If you think you may have been infected, it is important to be seen by an eye doctor immediately. Eye infections caused by Acanthamoeba are usually treatable. Some of the symptoms include:
- Eye pain
- Eye redness
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensation of something in the eye
- Excessive tearing
My point in writing this article isn’t to terrify people and have you ripping out your lenses if you get a drop of water in your eye. But I was never aware of the added risks contact lenses bring to my health. There are a few eye doctors who say that it is okay to wear contacts while showering, as long as you take care of your lenses properly and try to avoid water in the eyes. Not all water systems are contaminated, but it is simply the awareness we should have. I know that taking a few extra minutes to remove my contacts before I shower is worth preventing an infection. Has anyone experienced an eye infection before brought on by contaminated water? Do you remove your contacts before showering or entering a pool? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Research obtained from CDC.gov
Wanna Get Lucky? is the first in the Lucky O’Toole Las Vegas mystery series by Deborah Coonts, and I loved it! The story follows heroine Lucky, who is in her thirties and works as the head of Customer Relations at a mega casino and resort on the Vegas strip. Lucky has dedicated much of her life to her work, after the Big Boss took a chance on her and gave her a job at only fifteen years old. Since then, Lucky has worked herself up to achieve everything she has. Her tough exterior comes from growing up in the Sin City, and also from her mother, who runs a brothel. Lucky is used to solving problems, from irate guests to drunken fights, and people counting cards in the casino. But when the lovely Lyda Sue drops to her death from the helicopter owned by Lucky’s resort and the pilot goes missing, Lucky has a new task to handle- murder.
Wanna Get Lucky? is a fast-paced, keep you on your toes novel. I love a good mystery, and Coonts adds in so many plot twists and new character developments that I couldn’t figure this one out until the end. The main character is a gem, a tough female not afraid to speak her mind and get her way. I loved reading about her love life as well, and the mom who is a Madame- hilarious! The only part I didn’t love so much was it was a bit stereotypical. The Big Boss was like a mobster, and sometimes the Vegas scene seemed like what people who have never been to Vegas might think it’s like. But I’ve been there, and it wasn’t quite like what is described. Then again, I was a tourist visiting for a few days. But, I also think this is an aspect that makes the book so much fun to read. It’s drama, it’s mystery, it’s fiction. Wanna Get Lucky? is over the top, a novel readers can get lost in. I cannot wait to read book number two- Lucky Stiff.