I’m An Advanced Reader

This year, I’ve taken fangirling to the max and made friends with my favorite romance writers on Facebook. I’ve also subscribed to their newsletters and joined their reading groups. Thus, I’m one of Sally Thorne’s Flamethrowers, Kate Meader’s Kittens, Sophie Jordan‘s Sirens, and Katy Regnery‘s Ladies. I’m also a member of Bella Andre’s Street Team, Eloisa James’ Book Club, and–the one that started it all for me–Sarah MacLean’s Old School Romance Book Club. One of the privileges is getting a bead on their upcoming books, months or weeks before they go on sale in the form of Advance Reading Copy. This week, I’m putting three of these ARCs on top of my To-Be-Read pile.

 

forever nightsOne more easy job, life coach and empath Jamie Donovan promises herself. Then she’ll take a well-earned break from her booming business to properly grieve the loss of her mother and pull herself together. When that job turns out to be an ambush intervention for Las Vegas heiress Layla DeGrasso, all bets are off. But Layla isn’t Jamie’s biggest problem on her new job. That honor goes to her client’s hot as hell bodyguard, Axel. Damn those abs.

Axel Frasier is finally free from the Army and is trying to make a name for his fledgling network security firm. When he lands a promising contract at Lush, Victor DeGrasso’s crown jewel on the Vegas strip, a few quiet weeks of system analysis beckon. But a twist of events force him back into the role of bodyguard, one he swore he’d never play again. It wouldn’t be so bad if he could only keep his head on straight around his clients’ distracting life coach.

Jamie needs to move past the baggage her mother has saddled her with, while keeping Layla on track. Axel can’t afford to be distracted by lust and doesn’t trust the lure of more. Neither is ready for true love, but the nights in Las Vegas are long and lonely…

Forever Nights will go on sale on June 27, 2017.

 

director and don juan

Heiress Alice Story left her father’s company three years ago in a blaze of glory, inviting all of his employees to jump ship and join her, but only one accepted her offer: mail room clerk, Carlos Vega.

While Alice spent the next three years getting her own company off the ground, Carlos became her indispensable right-hand man — executive assistant and office manager, loyal counsel and trusted co-worker.

And all the while, they were quietly falling in love with each other.

When Alice is offered a lucrative business deal in Puerto Rico, island-born Carlos is the perfect person to accompany her on her trip as translator. But as they travel together from Philadelphia to Santo Domingo to Ponce, two unlikely co-workers will discover that their feelings for each other have grown far deeper than they ever could have guessed.

And though business-minded, proper Alice will try her very best to ignore the longings of her heart, scorching hot, insanely sexy Boricua, Carlos, has no intention of letting her go.

The Director and Don Juan is available on June 30, 2017.

 

sophie jordan the scandal of it all

It takes two to make a scandal…

What kind of woman ventures into London’s most notorious pleasure club? An outsider like Graciela, the Duchess of Autenberry, snubbed time and time again by society because of her Spanish roots. Ela longs to take a lover for a single, wild night, and within the walls of Sodom there are gentlemen to suit every forbidden taste. If only she were not so drawn to the smoldering Lord Strickland…a dangerous man who sees beyond her mask, and could ruin her reputation with a mere whisper.

Lord Strickland never permitted himself to fantasize about the sultry, off-limits lady, but then he never expected to find Ela in a place so wicked, looking for what he’s more than too happy to give. She may not be to the ton’s taste, but she suits him perfectly. First, however, he must convince her to trust in this dangerous desire—and in the promise of forever unleashed by one wild, scandalous night.

The Scandal of It All will be published on July 25, 2017.

 

From these blurbs, I can already tell I’m going to love these books. I’ll be posting my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Happy Reading to me!

 

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Photo Credits: ARC – CreativIndieCovers.com; Cover photos and blurbs – Amazon.com

 

Celebrating Loving Day Every Day

On June 12, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court which invalidated the state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

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I celebrate because I’m a direct beneficiary of this decision. My husband’s American, I’m Filipino. He’s white, I’m brown. In 2005, we were able to marry legally because we could, because we were allowed. I celebrate not just on June 12, but every day. Thanks to Richard and Mildred Loving. Thanks to the US Supreme Court in 1967.

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The Lovings’ story, my own story, and the stories of more than half a million interracial couples are the inspirations for my books. I’m also encouraged by the great multicultural romances I’ve been reading recently. Surely, they too have been inspired by real-life stories of mixed-race pairings. Some of them are: Courtney Milan’s Cyclone series beginning with Trade Me (Chinese-American heroine); Alisha Rai’s upcoming Forbidden Hearts series with its first book Hate to Want You (Japanese-Hawaiian heroine); and Tif Marcelo’s North to You (Filipino-American hero), the first book of her Journey to the Heart series.

trade me hate to want you north to you

All of these books show the love between two people, regardless of race or skin color. All of them prove that love is, indeed, color blind.

 

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Photo credits: Love is Color Blind – quotesgram.com, Loving photos – lovingday.org, book covers – Bing images, and Share the Love – RWA

My Name Is Maida And I’m A Bookaholic

I am not exaggerating when I say I have a To Be Read mountain–ok, fine, hill–rather than a mere pile. There are a couple of hundreds of paper books on the floor of my home library and a few hundreds each of ebooks on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, and Nook. Add to these my membership to the San Antonio Public Library and Houston Area Digital Media Catalog and I have an unlimited access to thousands of books

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Does that stop me from buying more? Heck, no! Yesterday, May 30, was release day for some of my favorite romance authors–Lorraine Heath, Eva Moore, Julia Quinn, and Nora Roberts. Naturally, I bought them all.

new releases may 30 2017

 

Bibliophile. Book Collector.  Book Hoarder. No matter the label, that’s me. As another Bookaholic said, I’m “Addicted. Obsessed. Passionate.” about books and I’m proud of it.

 

Even stormy weather

 

Eating And Reading Are Two Pleasures That Combine Admirably

I love reading. I love food. I love reading books with food in them. I love it so much that all my books will feature local food from their respective setting (Philippines, Singapore, Thailand). Also, the hero of my third book, Craig, is a chef.

I thought of this quote by CS Lewis because I recently read 20170518_191314402_iOStwo food-centric romance novels – Sherry Thomas’s Delicious and Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Thief. The food descriptions in both novels were so vivid and sumptuous that the first thing I did after reading was go to a French café and buy madeleines and chocolate tartlets and mini-croissants.

I always give high marks to books that make me react – whether it is to cry, laugh, or think. Those that induce me to go out and buy food deserve no less than five stars. It doesn’t hurt that they are fantastic stories told by talented authors. These were my first books by these two writers and they won’t be the last. I already have their backlists on my Overdrive holds. What are a dozen more books to pile onto my TBR mountain? Why, nothing. Nothing at all.

 

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Looking for Asian/Pacific-American Heroines in Romance Novels

May is officially the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US and this month, I’ve decided I’m going to read romance novels featuring heroines of Asian descent. Before today, I’ve only read a few, among them Nalini Singh’s Rock Courtship, Alisha Rai’s Pleasure series, The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev, Lora Leigh’s Wicked Pleasure, Jaci Burton’s Midnight Velvet, and Fobolous by my friend Rainne Mendoza.

My Goodreads search proved to be frustrating as there are very few books that answer to the criteria – 190 if you include South Asians. Amazon is not much help either – only 40 are listed and most of the heroines are half something else.

It’s no wonder that 63% of those who answered the Dangerous Books for Girls survey said (they) “…think there is not enough diversity in characters and settings…”. It’s true, there’s not.

DBGi3 diversity

In the same study, it was learned that there were over 9,500 Romance ISBNs in 2013. Very likely, that figure went up in 2016. If I would hazard a guess, the number of those books who have Asian/Pacific Islander heroines would be pitifully small, could only be just a handful. Why? Are people not buying them? The Romance genre is a Billion-dollar industry and there’s no market for novels with my kind of protagonists? That’s sad and I refuse to believe that.

According to the 2010 US Census Bureau Statistics, over 3.3 Million American husbands have Asian wives. If only a small fraction of those wives read romance novels, that’s still a substantial number who may want to see their stories told in books. Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So, that’s what I’m doing, I’m writing their story.

I’m writing MY story.

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“No two persons ever read the same book.”

The quote was attributed to Edmund Wilson, a noted American writer, editor, and critic. I agree with him.

This year, I have decided to write a short review of every book I read or reread and post it on Amazon/Goodreads. Before 2017, I used to only rate the books without giving my reasons for the number of stars. After posting my rating, then and only then will I check out other people’s reviews. I always look for the ones that are most diametrically opposed to mine and just shake my head and smile at the reasoning behind their grades.

Here are a couple of examples:

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

M: “Five flamethrowing stars. This book is fresh and young, utterly delightful. Josh and Lucy are fantastic characters, their chemistry is electric. I adore their conversations. I didn’t want the book to end. One of my new favorites.”

S: “DNF. Lucinda and Joshua are extremely annoying. I don’t care about how much she hates Josh 4Ever.”

The Duke and the Lady in Red by Lorraine Heath

M: “Five heartrending stars. This novel broke my heart and put it back together again. Avendale – he’s so flawed and yet so amazingly heroic. Rose — a swindling angel. Harry — the best part, the heart of the book.”

E: Two stars. DNF. Barf. Cannot stand the prose.

We’re all different and what appeals to one may not be attractive to others. This brings to mind another (cliché) quote, “One (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure.” This is one of the reasons why I appreciate my favorite Facebook Group–Old School Romance Book Club (OSRBC)–so much. We all just agree to disagree. The members’ thoughts and opinions are respected and supported. They might have been the cause of my out-of-control TBR pile, but I won’t ever regret joining them. #OSRBCRocks

 

 

 

 

Proud Romance Reader

The ebook of Dangerous Books for Girls, Maya Rodale’s nonfiction book on romance novels, is on sale for $2.99. This book, published in May 2015, is based on Ms. Rodale’s master’s thesis which examined the stigma attached to consumption of this genre.

As a reader–and now, writer–of romance novels, this study fascinates me. Even when I was young, I was never ashamed of reading them because I was known as a math nerd. Nobody maligned me for my choice of reading materials. The only reason I hid books within the folds of the skirt of my uniform was that I was not supposed to be reading during school hours, and not because of the subject of my book. I would have done the same for a Shakespeare or a Charles Dickens title. But then, it’s probably because I grew up in the Philippines, where you’re encouraged to improve your English as best as you can. Reading anything in the language was an accepted–even approved–means of doing that.

I never knew that Americans are looked down on when they read romance. That was weird to me because most of the books I read in Manila were from the US. Even when I came to the US in 2005, I was still oblivious. Had I been interviewed for this study, I would have been one of the “50% of romance readers who love the genre and don’t care who knows it”. I surely would have answered that romance novels make me happy.

As a writer, I am encouraged by this infographic. Especially as I’m hoping to address the lack of diversity in characters and settings issue mentioned here. I hope my multicultural, contemporary novels set in Southeast Asia will find a place in the romance readers’ bookshelves. I certainly hope they won’t feel guilty about reading it for pleasure.

Thanks, Maya Rodale, for this enlightening study. Your books are now going up on my TBR pile.

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Boracay and Me, Our 20th Anniversary

Twenty years ago today, I went to Boracay for the first time and fell in love…with the island. I experienced that indefinable, magical feeling of coming home even though I wasn’t born there, had never been there until March of 1997. It wasn’t as if I had not seen the beach before then. I grew up with the sea only a few steps away from our house. No, Boracay was different. Special. More.

It was a combination of things – the white, fine sand; clear blue waters; fragrant sea air; sweet, delicious mango shake; and best of all, the company of my best friends. I can only recall the beauty and deep contentment of being there, my friend had to remind me about the masses of people who, like us, were spending their Holy Week in the island and the turbulent waters during our boat tour. I didn’t mind those things. I was happy. I was home.

Boracay Krista Quote

We only stayed three days that first time. They weren’t nearly enough. I had to go back three months later with a different set of friends. From then on until I left the Philippines to migrate to the US, I kept going back to Boracay. It became an annual pilgrimage for me. Even when I was working in Indonesia and Singapore and had gone to the famous beaches in Bali, Phuket, Sydney, and Brisbane, I still wouldn’t miss a trip to Boracay. That’s how much I love that island. I don’t need any travel magazine to tell me it’s the Best Island in the World. I already know. I have known for 20 years now.

So when I decided to write my first novel, there was never any doubt where I was going to set it–yep, you guessed it–Boracay. In my book One Week in Boracay, I created a fictional exclusive resort named Perlas, which is supposed to be located on the Northeast part of the island where Yapak, Punta-Ina, and Ilig-Iligan beaches are. Perlas has its own airstrip (instead of the golf course that’s there now), a dream scenario that may or may not be possible given the topography. The Boracay in my book is my ideal, the one I first fell in love with in 1997 – a clean, quiet, less commercialized place that’s a balm to a person’s soul.  It’s the one I’d like to go back to again and again even if only in my books.

Happy 20th Anniversary to us, Boracay! I will be with you again, soon.