Decisions, decisions…. – If you haven’t voted yet, don’t forget that our Annual Reader Poll runs through Sunday, January 20, 2013. I’ll admit that I’m one of those still procrastinating over my ballot. My votes for some of the categories jump out at me right away: The Siren was definitely the most unforgettable erotica I read this year and nothing was as much a tear-jerker for me as The Sleeping Night. However, it’s very hard for me to vote for just one book in some of the other categories.

So, what books are you all thinking about as you go over the poll this year?

Harlequin on TV – Harlequin Books is pairing up with ABC on The Bachelor tonight. It sounds like Sean and the various female competitors will be learning about what it takes to be a cover model, and the one who looks the most natural while posing in various scenarios will get a three-book contract with Harlequin. If I’m being totally candid, I’d have to admit that I’ve never really understood the RT-style cover model obsession. For me, the story’s the important thing. Still, if this convinces more readers to try romance, I’m all about pushing books for people.

Vacation Reading! While I was on vacation recently, I finally got time to read some of the books piling up in my TBR. One of those was Fatal Affair, the first in Marie Force’s Fatal series from Carina Press and a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I really like the idea of a series that follows one couple, and this particular book was one of those “I have to read it all in one sitting” types of books. It has its weaker points, but the strengths kept me flying through the story. If you like romantic suspense, definitely check it out! There are five books so far, and a sixth is in the works. And if you prefer to read in print? Well, Marie Force is coming to HQN! The series will start being published in print June 2013 by the HQN imprint.

Book freebie Those who have been missing Marsha Canham no doubt rejoiced when she started re-releasing her historicals as eBooks in 2011. And if you haven’t discovered this author yet, you are missing out. Her historical romances feature strong writing, and even though she is one of the authors I discovered in my early days as a romance reader, some of those stories are still seared into my mind. So, definitely give her books a try. And if it helps, Across a Moonlit Sea is even free right now.
Barnes & Noble? For romance readers, my town has been without a real bookstore since Borders closed. We have some indie bookstores, but they look down their noses at romance to put it mildly. A couple jumped on the Fifty Shades of profit gravy train, but that’s about it. Not surprisingly, there was much rejoicing (and a line around the block) when we finally got a Barnes & Noble. I don’t know if other readers have had this experience, but I have to say it’s been rather disappointing here. The store seems to have a giant Nook section and lots of gift items, but the selection of actual books is somewhat lacking. Romance only gets one bookcase of space – and most of it seems to be taken up by Danielle Steel’s entire backlist. Not surprisingly, I’ve overheard more than a few conversations at the customer service desk along the lines of, “You don’t have x by Julia Quinn/Eloisa James/Nalini Singh/JR Ward/etc..?” “No, I don’t want to come back and pick it up here later; I’ll just go online.”

Barnes & Noble has reported that sales are down and the Nook seems to have flopped big-time over the holidays. I don’t use the Nook app, but Jean Wan here at AAR mentioned that the Nook for Mac app hasn’t been working and a quick look at various Apple forums turns up tons of users complaining about problems with it. Not good signs for Barnes & Noble. As a romance reader, I find their cruddy customer service and lack of selection in-store frustrating, but I don’t like the idea of Amazon or anyone else gaining a monopoly either.
EDITED TO ADD: And I found out via the Avon blog after I ran this piece, that Beverly Jenkins has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Literary Work – Fiction for her book, A Wish and a Prayer. I haven’t read this particular book, but I have enjoyed some of Jenkins’ historicals(Winds of the Storm is probably my favorite so far), which I have long hoped would find wider readership.
And if you have any big book news that you would like to share, please do it in the comments!

– Lynn Spencer