passion rating: hot
Dear Ms. Shalvis:
I’ve read much of what you’ve written in the past five years. I’ve found quite a few of your contemporaries irresistible: Animal Attraction and The Sweetest Thing were two of my favorite reads in 2011. I’ve been less enthralled with your Harlequin Blaze books; they seem to me to be more formulaic than your longer novels. But, then again, they should be, right? The Blaze series has a formula—I know this because I went and looked it up on the Blaze website.
The Blaze line of red-hot reads is changing the face of Harlequin and creating a continual buzz with readers. The series features sensuous, highly romantic, innovative stories that are sexy in premise and execution. The tone of the books can run from fun and flirtatious to dark and sensual. Writers can push the boundaries in terms of characterization, plot and explicitness. Submissions should have a very contemporary feel — what it’s like to be young and single today. Heroes and heroines should be in their early 20s and up. We want to see an emphasis on the physical relationship developing between the couple: fully described love scenes along with a high level of fantasy, playfulness and eroticism are needed. And don’t forget, secondary characters and subplots contribute to the richness of story and plot action we look for in a successful Blaze novel.
Are you a Cosmo girl at heart? A fan of Sex and the City or Red Shoe Diaries? Or maybe you just have an adventurous spirit. If so, then Blaze is the series for you!
I am not a Cosmo girl at heart—I’m more of a Slate.com adult—and I think that’s why your book, though well-executed and entertaining, left me feeling unsatisfied.
In Time Out, the very masculine, absolutely gorgeous hero with “silky, dark” attractively tousled hair is Mark Diego, the “youngest, baddest, sexiest” head coach in the NHL—he coaches a fictional team, the Sacramento Mammoths. Mark is a typical Harlequin leading man: wealthy, in superb physical shape, authoritative, and utterly self-assured. He’s the kind of guy who only needs to level “a long, hard look” at anyone who challenges him in order for the person to fall quavering back in fear. The Mammoths, who just lost the Stanley Cup finals on a controversial call to their archrivals the (real) Anaheim Ducks, are currently all over the news for a “seedy bar fight”–are there any other kinds of bar fights?–a few of their players instigated against the Ducks. The fight came to an abrupt end when Mark “strode up out of nowhere,” shoved his behaving badly boys out of the bar and into his big black SUV. Mark and the Ducks’ coach have managed to keep their players from being suspended by proposing “a solution that would involve giving back to the fans who’d supported the two teams”: the brawlers will spend their summer doing volunteer labor in their home communities. The Mammoth players will be working in Santa Rey, a working class town devastated by wildfires the previous summer. Mark grew up in Santa Rey and left it as soon as he could, determined to “do something big, something to lift him out of the poverty of his upbringing.”
Now he’s back, driving that big black SUV, and pretty pissed about the whole thing. He’s been working his ass off for the past seven months and really should be on vacation. But no, rather than lounging on a Caribbean beach, a scantily-clad babe on one arm and a drink in the other, he’s stuck babysitting his two youngest players in a low-rent town. There’s an upside, however. The minute he pulls into town, headed to the community center his brother Rick runs—his players are going to coach summer league ball there in the evenings—he runs into Rainey Saunders (she’s the junior sports coordinator of the center), she of the “perfect body,” with whom he shares—big surprise here—a past.
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