Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ain't No Sunshine If These Authors' Keeper Books Are Gone

by Joyce Lamb)

Today's featured authors: Melissa Cutler, author of How to Rope a Real Man; Kate Angell, author of No Sunshine When She's Gone; and Charlotte Hubbard, author of Breath of Spring. We're talking books that will remain on our keeper shelves forever.

Melissa Cutler, author of How to Rope a Real Man

• The top spot on my keeper shelf is The Secret by Julie Garwood. Hot Highlander laird, medieval midwife … this will forever be my favorite book of all time, and Judith my favorite heroine. I now own three paperback copies of it because I couldn't bear to throw away each copy when it became tattered and crumbling.

• Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie is another favorite book of mine. This was one I read as an unpublished author that really influenced my craft and opened my mind to what a romance novel could be and do. I still think about it on a regular basis. The pacing, the characters, and that fantastic ending. It's a master class in romance writing.

• I have a lot of classic, IMPORTANT books on my keeper shelf because I have an English degree and was a high school English teacher before I was a full-time writer, but I can't think of one of those, specifically, that has influenced me more than the others. Lolita, The Things They Carried, Invisible Man, Play It As It Lays … there are pieces of so many books I've read over the years that are important to me. However …

I'm going to go with an unconventional third keeper book to share that has had a tremendous influence on me in the past decade as a writer and reader. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell. This book smacked me over the head with its outside-the-box excellence. It's probably my No. 1 influence for how I conceive and write about characters, as well as how I developed my written voice. I think any fan of my voice and my books would love Beat the Reaper, which isn't a romance, except that it kind of is, except, well … readers will just have to find out on their own.

Here's the blurb about How to Rope a Real Man (courtesy of publisher Zebra):

Jenna Sorentino is as independent as they come. Despite her wild past, she's grown up enough to keep quiet about the identity of her baby's daddy, go to night college—and hide her plan to escape tiny Catcher Creek. She's also stopped dreaming of happily ever after—except in the case of gorgeous, rugged, Santa Fe native Matt Roenick. Too bad the oil rights attorney acts like he barely knows she's alive…

Matt knows only too well that Jenna's alive—in fact, she's driving him crazy with desire. But Matt's got his reasons for resisting her. And when her son's father shows up, those reasons multiply. Trouble is, Jenna's secrets are more complicated than he imagined, and forgetting her isn't as easy as he'd hoped. Matt knows life can be messy as hell. For Jenna, maybe it's time he got dirty…

Find out more at

Kate Angell, author of No Sunshine When She's Gone

• Historical romance Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer is one of my favorite books. This story centers on a bandit and a gentleman both vying for the heart of Abigail McKenzie. Abigail takes the two men into her home after a train robbery. They are wounded and she nurtures them back to health.

This is an incredible book of chance meeting, laughter, anger, heartache, and perseverance. Abby is a woman of etiquette and propriety. The (supposed robber) Jesse Dufrayne shows her how to break through her fears and insecurities and to embrace an imperfect love with extreme passion. Readers sympathize with Abby when she must make a decision no woman should ever have to make. She must choose one man. Spencer has an incredible descriptive writing style. Each scene is wonderfully vivid. The last chapter where Jesse is taking Abby's picture is one of the best scenes I've ever read.

• Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss is another historical on my Keeper Shelf. For many years. Ruark, a handsome and terribly clever prisoner with a mysterious background, is meant for the gallows. I loved this hero just after his first scene in the jail cell — He's catching fleas — when Shanna comes and strikes a dangerous deal between the two of them. Ruark's background is kept a secret for much of the book. Shanna is quite difficult at times. Still, I loved all the sacrifices Ruark made for the woman he loved. The scene where Shanna travels to Ruark's home and discovers he is as rich, if not richer, than her father, is priceless.

• From the moment I read New York Dead by Stuart Woods, I was hooked on his Stone Barrington series. The first book begins with Stone as a lieutenant detective on limited duty due to a bullet he took to his knee. As the series progresses, he leaves law enforcement and becomes an attorney with a prominent NY law firm. Each progressive story in the series finds Stone in the wrong place at the wrong time, and specific incidents turn his life inside out. Woods' books are very quick reading. He has a wonderfully sharp style. His dialogue snaps. There are many reoccurring characters. I love the fact Stone has remained a bachelor. Although his conquests are numerous. He's such a likable guy. A real man's man.

Here's the blurb for No Sunshine When She's Gone (courtesy of Kensington):

Though his family owns the charming beachside town of Barefoot William, Aidan Cates is as down-to-earth as the locals. He's also practical to a fault and doesn't believe some psychic on the boardwalk can predict his future.

Jillie Mac is as free as an ocean breeze, so when the hot stranger and his date mistake her for a fortune teller, she's ready to have some fun. But one devastating secret told, one mistaken identity revealed, and numerous long summer nights later, it's Jillie and Aidan who discover that sometimes love comes with a simple twist of fate.

Find out more at

Charlotte Hubbard, author of Breath of Spring

What's on my keeper shelf? My library is crammed with research titles as well as fiction, so I had to really think and gaze at my bookshelves to name three titles that I would hate to be without.

• Even before I needed recipes for my Seasons of the Heart Amish books, I relied on Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book to find basic recipes for good old-fashioned food. This is a facsimile of the original 1950 version, so the illustrations look a little hokey, but you can't go wrong with the key recipes and their variations. Old Fashioned Bread Pudding, for instance, is followed by Custard Bread Pudding and Chocolate Bread Pudding. That page of the cookbook is splattered and sticky because my husband loves bread pudding — and if you get the proportions of eggs to milk wrong, you end up with a soggy mess! So I always check the recipe before I get out the stale pieces of bread I've stashed in the freezer to make his favorite dessert.

• I also love Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Months go by when I don't consult this book, yet I never fail to find inspiring messages about the small pleasures and treasures to be found in ordinary activities. Each month features a theme about some sort of self-discovery, with a daily essay about such topics as "Creating a Sacred Space," "Always Be a First-Rate Version of Yourself," and "Discovering What You'd Like to Do, If You Ever Had the Time," — that one resonates with me! Now that I'm writing two Amish series under two names for two different publishers, I need an occasional reminder to get away from my desk and immerse myself in something other than writing. Thumbing through this book offers plenty of ideas for that.

• For fiction — because reading for pleasure is one of my favorite escapes — I enjoy Barbara O'Neal's books. Her most recent title, The All You Can Dream Buffet, continues her series about modern women and men from all walks of life who meet up because of food. (Yup, when I'm not trying new recipes, I'm often reading and writing about food!) I love the way Barbara's characters transcend the situations they find themselves in to create new lives for themselves. I always reach the end of her books wishing I had the next one right now.

Here's the blurb about Breath of Spring (courtesy of Zebra):

As a bright season brings a fresh start to Willow Ridge, Annie Mae Knepp feels she can never make peace with the past. Her disgraced ex-bishop father is furious she has taken her five siblings to live with her. She's never been truly at home in her faith…or believing in herself. And Annie Mae fears no man will want to take on the responsibilities she's gladly shouldered. True, her quiet neighbor Adam Wagler has been steadfast and unshakeable helping her through her trials, but he surely couldn't think of someone so lost as more than a friend. Believing she is unworthy because of her doubts, Annie Mae will find in a moment of surprising revelation that God can work impossible miracles—and that love makes all things new.

Find out more about Charlotte and her other writing personas at