Category: Discussion

Dear Harlequin…

Posted October 29, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

I am going to say this now and perhaps a few more times in this post.  This is my personal opinion — no one else has to agree with me.  But as an online friend recently told me, “If you can’t vent in your own safe place, where can you?”  I Am Not Bashing Harlequin or Mills and Boon…I am, however, voicing my opinion.

I learned of Harlequin’s decision to end the Harlequin Desire Line late in 2022.  I was (and still am) devastated by this news.  Desire has, in my opinion, some of the very best series or returning worlds out there in the vast publishing world.  Second only to the Harlequin Presents Line, those two Lines are where I buy the most titles from on a monthly basis.

Only J D Robb’s “In Death” could come close in comparison to a long, ongoing storyline that I follow religiously, again, in my opinion.  So, this loss was huge to me, personally.

I have read Harlequins since I was 16 years old.  I am now 71 (yes, I’m ancient and probably no longer in the desired dynamics of the customers the company is looking to attract – I get that), but that is a span of 55 years of being completely loyal to a publishing house on a monthly basis.  Do the math.  I’ve spent a lot of my hard-earned cash on books every single month of those 55 years from this publishing house over the years and only recently some (very few) ARCs.

I believe I have a right as a buying customer to my own opinion of any move that a company makes.  It is my opinion; no one else has to share it… but I believe many will and do.

I feel that the loss of the Desire Line is a huge mistake.  I believe there are loyal customers/readers who, like me, will question this decision.  I’m equally certain that there were studies, charts, perhaps PowerPoint presentations, and opinions as to why ending Desire was a profitable decision for the company.  I’m not stupid, I know that the bottom line for any company is ultimately profit.

Yet, honestly, I cannot fathom why adding the Afterglow Line and keeping Desire wasn’t a viable decision.  It makes no sense to me to end something that gave enjoyment to so many readers — other than profitability.

My opinion will make no real difference in the grand scheme of things.  Desire will end, and Afterglow will enter our lives.  The company will (cannot) turn back now.  But the moment that I buy that last book in the Desire Line is going to be one of the saddest days as a reader that I’ve ever experienced.  And I will mourn the loss of the stories that might have been.  (And worry about where I can find those types of stories within the Lines that Harlequin will offer in the future… and the authors whose work have loved throughout the years.)

On a purely ironic note, I can guarantee that the chances of being auto-approved (or even request by request approved) by Harlequin through NetGalley are never going to happen.  They probably wouldn’t anyway since I don’t have the “numbers” that are needed for that auto-approval.  I accept this, but once again, this is an opinion piece.  And I value my own opinions.

I repeat:  I am not bashing Harlequin.  I am voicing a personal opinion.  And the absolute truth is… this hurts, and it’s going to hurt for a very long time.


Standing My Ground

Posted October 21, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 2 Comments

In case you haven’t noticed, there has been quite a larger-than-life debate on some social platforms, mainly X (formerly known as Twitter), about leaving reviews for books.  Some comments are rather bizarre, others downright rude.  I try to stay out of these things; after all, it’s just an opinion, right?

But this time, I stepped in when I just could not stand the post that I originally commented on.  I mean, as you’ll see below, I interpreted it as very rude and condescending.  So, I spoke up.  Right or wrong, I added my opinion to the conversation.  I’ve gotten some likes from that action and some comments, but overall, I’m proud of myself for taking a stand… and stepping out of my comfort zone.

I am not going to identify the person who made the original post. (I won’t give them more power)  But I will copy/paste the original comment along with my replies to it and other posts that I was fired up about.  Looking back, and a bit calmer, I don’t know if commenting was the right thing to do, yet I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who shares my thoughts about reviews… so I’m still glad I did it.

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We All Need A Break Sometimes

Posted July 24, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

Isn’t that title the absolute truth?  I needed a mental health break so, so, so badly.  Instead of feeling bad about that need, I did something, well, revolutionary for me… I took that break.  And I don’t regret a moment of that time concentrating on me, on what I want in my life, or on this website.

In case you didn’t know this, I am retired, which should mean that life is a bit easier, right?  Ha!  Nope, not finding that at all.  Oh, sure, I can sleep late, and stay up way too late, but beyond that… well, stuff still needs to get done; life moves on no matter what our age happens to be.  Between reading whenever I feel like it, I also am a plant mom to a pretty impressive collection of plants; some rare, some common, and all needy in their own blooming way.  I am also an addicted gamer, and when a new expansion comes along, everything else is put on the back burner for a bit. Along with a few other responsibilities that I don’t dwell too much on in my online life.  So, I may be retired, but I’m certainly not just as busy in different ways. 🙂

I also run three distinct websites in the romance reading field.  I once broke them down into specific genres for a reason that really doesn’t hold as true in today’s reading world as it once did (one is over 10 years old now).  In order to streamline a few things in my life, I’m going to merge two of those websites into Happily Ever After Romance.  One I’ll keep on its own, but… I will be adding that genre to HEARomance to a smaller degree, again, to make life easier for me (but also because that website has a large following, and I don’t really want to lose that by merging it totally here).

I also have started a plan for Social Media, since a certain little blue bird isn’t as stable or friendly as it once was.  I’ll be adding those new places to also find HEARomance to the sidebar but would also mention that the best way to know what I’m thinking about books would be to subscribe to receive emails when I post something new.  Again, in all fairness, I’m scheduling posts so that eventually there will be 3 to 4 spaced-out posts from me daily.  If that’s too much of what you might consider “spam,” then I totally get that our inboxes are full enough as it is.  But the choice is there should you wish.

When I started blogging about my love of books, my thoughts about the stories I read, or just to connect with other folks who love romance novels, I had certain dreams about this that didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped.  I’m going back to what I love about romance novels in all the amazingly different genres.  If there is an audience for that, then wonderful… if not, then at least I’m enjoying myself.  And when it comes to a healthy mindset, that is what’s most important of all.  To be frank, this will probably always be a mostly Harlequin based romance review website — I’ll simply be adding in more other styles that I enjoy just as much… and hope that you will, too.

I need a week to set this plan in motion, get posts written and scheduled, do a bit of overhaul on the website, and get that Social Media puzzle sorted out.  So, aside from an occasional comment, look for the new plan for Happily Ever After Romance to begin on August 1st.  I hope you’ll continue this journey about talking about amazing romance novels with me.


Adding Author Book Lists to HEARomance

Posted May 18, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

I’m a reader who has a long, long list of authors that I return to for their next release (or to catch up on their backlist).  I’m pretty certain I’m not the only one out there in Romancelandia who does this.  On another of my websites, I have a pretty decent amount of authors with their title lists in the Paranormal Romance – Shifters genre.  To be honest, that is the website with the most visitors.  And you know what those visitors look at, are looking for?  Yep.  Author Lists, discovering an author who delivers the story wanted, needed and the desire to know what else is “out there” that might have been missed or needs to be discovered.  I’ve had more “thank you for doing this” comments there than anywhere else.

But, frankly, those Author Lists take up a lot of space… and research time, writing up time.  Yet.  I’m finding myself looking for a backlist, searching for all the books in a series far more often lately.  So.  Yeah.  I’m going to do that for Happily Ever After Romance.  It’s going to be a huge undertaking, and it’s going to take time… but, honestly, those lists are often for my own benefit first and to help other readers, well, that comes in second.

There is also no way to put every single author’s booklist on this website.  I’ve been reading for a very long time; I have a huge list of authors that I return to time and time again… but my lists are certainly not all that are out there to be discovered.  So, heads up, I’m not going to get everyone’s list here… but I will get the ones that matter to me (because, it’s my website, after all). 🙂  (Sorry, not sorry).

The way I’ve done this before is to have a page with the author’s name (pseudonym if known) — a link to their own website (if they have one) — and a list of their books (as best as I can research & discover).  All of those pages are connected to one menu usually with an alphabetical link like A-G author name… something like that, I’ll see what works here.

I’d love to hear anyone’s opinion about this plan — author or reader.  It will help me, but in the end, I also hope it will help you.


Blogging Thoughts

Posted May 15, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 6 Comments

It’s no secret that I went on a rant back in April about ARCs and the, what I consider, to be outdated rules for allowing those ARCs to be put into the hands of people who would actually read and review them, to get the news out about amazing stories to come… even if their numbers aren’t in the stratosphere of the blogging world.  I finished out my required reviews for April — and then took a break from all three of my blogs.  I went and lost myself in the newest patch in World of Warcraft and let the anger and frustration I was feeling be useful in taking down the bad guys in my escape video game world.

I was this *measures about a 16th of an inch between thumb & forefinger* close to just walking away completely.

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Lovin’ Dolly Parton’s WORLD ON FIRE ~ Rockstar!

Posted May 15, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

I’ve been a Dolly Parton fan since, well, forever.  When she was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, she kindly declined since she’s not a Rock ‘n Roll artist.  But then she went and said basically, okay, but that means I have to put out a Rock album.  And she did.  Did she ever!  Due to be released on November 17, 2023, she premiered the lead cut on the ACM Awards show… and it is on fire!

Enjoy Dolly rockin’ out World On Fire!! (link will take you to YouTube)



Favorite Releases for April 2023

Posted April 29, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

The title might be a bit deceiving in that I loved every single book I read for Happily Ever After Romance — all thirty-seven (37) of them… and remember that I also have two other book review websites which are not included in that number so, yes, I did read a lot in April. 🙂  (I do not ever borrow, buy, or request a book that I do not know from the Cover Description that I would enjoy… sometimes I’m disappointed, but I go into these books believing I’m about to fall in love – which I usually do.)

Of those books, I’ve gone back and looked at them again to honestly see which ones I would re-read again.  Maybe because I cannot find a current title that calls my name so I’ll pick a comfort read that I know I loved.  Perhaps because I simply love that world and feel the need to revisit it.

The 10 titles listed here are the ones that captured my heart, and my imagination to the point where I will happily and willingly pick them up for another read.  This doesn’t mean that I loved the other 27 books less, only that I know, at this moment, I’d return to any of these titles and fall in love all over again. 🙂


Engaged to London’s Wildest Billionaire by Kali Anthony (Behind the Palace Doors

Bound by a Sicilian Secret by Lela May Wight

Return to Hummingbird Way by Reese Ryan (Holly Grove Island

Just a Little Jilted by Joss Wood (Dynasties: Calcott Manor

Their Temporary Arrangement by Joss Wood (Dynasties: Calcott Manor

Bound by the Italian’s “I Do” by Michelle Smart (Billion-Dollar Revenge

Expecting Her Enemy’s Heir by Pippa Roscoe (Billion-Dollar Revenge

Home to River’s Edge by Nan Reinhardt (The Weaver Sisters

A Baby to Make Her His Bride by Dani Collins (wrap up Four Weddings and A Baby

To Hold and Protect by Sandra Owens (K-9 Defenders

That’s a wrap for April 2023.  What am I looking forward to most for May of 2023?  Honestly?  St. Martin’s Press has kindly auto-approved me on NetGalley.  So, you had best believe that I picked up Nora Roberts’ newest IDENTITY due out on May 23rd the moment I saw it listed.  One happy reader here. 🙂  Psst: you’re gonna love it.



Time, It’s Always About Time

Posted April 20, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

I often wish there were more hours in the day, mainly so that I could fit in all the books I’ve been meaning to read.  Or.. occasionally, the ones that got lost in the shuffle of other books and life in general.  Especially in a year that had more than its fair share of health concerns for me or my family members.  Oh, well.  It is what it is, as the saying goes.

I love novels from Tule Publishing; they so often over the years have allowed me to have ARCs of some really good stories or series that I’m still to this day caught up in.  But, honestly, this one got past me somehow.  When I mess up, I own it and don’t try to push it under the rug.  So, somehow I messed up with The Accidental Billionaire Cowboy series.  Looking back I can see the first release coincided with my hospital stay very late last year.  It’s a reason, not an excuse, I cannot go back, but can only do the right thing now.

The next three reviews you’ll see on my Happily Ever After Romance website are the three (so far) titles in that series.  I read them over this past weekend to get up-to-date, and now the reviews are going live.

I didn’t have to acknowledge this mistake of mine by creating a post about it.  Yet, as I said it was my mistake, and I own that mistake by trying to make it right… even if it is a bit late.  Sometimes, you just gotta do the right thing, ya know? 🙂


Stupid Algorithm

Posted March 18, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

I’ll probably regret this post at some point.  But right now, I need to get this out of my head.  Maybe if I see it spelled out, this will make more sense to me.

For the first time in almost 12 years of writing book reviews and posting them on Amazon (among other places), I’ve received that “first warning” email about content guidelines from an auto-created faceless, no-name entity.  Not even a real person or department to contact.  You just violated our guidelines…

It’s a Book Review!  It’s an opinion about a story!

I don’t understand Amazon’s algorithms.  I will go back and strip down a review to the very bare basics and repost it… comes back with a “thank you” email.  But I’ve no idea what “guidelines” I’ve crossed, for they are very vague, very broad.  Some are no-brainers, and I’d never cross those lines.  Yet, I don’t know what I’ve done wrong on these posted reviews to ensure that I don’t do so again.  It’s a catch-22, an endless loop that I’ve no clue how to navigate through.

If I’m banned from Amazon if I cannot give reviews for books there, then… I might as well close down my three websites and keep my opinions to myself.  Why?  Because so many places that I receive ARCs from have an Amazon review as a requirement.  Authors expect to see Amazon reviews when gifting ARCs to me.  And they have that right, for Amazon is the golden grail in its reach to potential buyers.  I get it.

No, that would be giving up and letting a company destroy something that I love doing, and I won’t do that.  But it would restrict where I can post reviews like Goodreads, BookBub, or maybe B & N beyond my own site.  I’ll cross that bridge when and if I come to it.

The only thing that I can think of to do is to have a separate review to post on Amazon.  Basic, informational, bland but honest.  Beyond that, I’ve no clue what else I can do.  Simply rating a book there doesn’t give that impact that authors and publishing houses want.

I’m very depressed and worried right now because hours after receiving that “first warning” email, I got another rejected post email about, you guessed it, guidelines again.  Plus, some of these emails are days, if not weeks, after I posted the review.  What you see on my websites is what I’m posting on Amazon… I see not one damned thing wrong with any of them.

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or things that you’ve done in similar circumstances to appease the great Amazon… please share.  I’m about at the end of my rope.



Diving Into the TBR Leaning Tower of Unread Books!

Posted February 23, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

I have a very bad habit, perhaps one we share.  I buy books, lots and lots of books — and like any reasonable adult at a dessert buffet, grab far more than I can handle quickly.  (I know I’m not alone in this)  I have good intentions; really, I do.  But time is an enemy that overtakes me far too often.

So.  It’s time to dive into the TBR for at least a weekly feature (that I stick to) or, hopefully, a daily trip down memory lane.  I’ll often do the mechanical parts of a post, the Cover Description, the Cover Picture, who wrote it, etc., as I finish it when I’m on one of those “must read the entire series (world) right now with no break” moods.  I’ll even put down notes, so I don’t forget any important details.  Yet I don’t take the time to write the review because I want to get back to that “world” and see what happens next.  But then a new shiny romance is released, or an ARC is due soon, so I set aside my good intentions and, well, forget those good intentions.  *sigh*

Guilt.  It’s a real thing when it comes to reading an amazing story and not reviewing it, talking about it, or sharing it.  It’s perhaps a personal quirk, but I do feel guilty about missed reviews – which is why you’ll often see reviews of older releases.  It’s time to do something about that guilt, as in getting rid of it!  🙂

Along with those already read but not reviewed yet books, I’m also going to dive into the plethora of books on my Kindle that deserve to be devoured… and not someday but today.  This post is simply to give me a reminder of accountability – if I say I’ll do something, then I need to show proof of it to myself if no one else.  Yet, I’ve read some amazing romances, and I do want to share those reading experiences, so now is as good a time as any.

Please, please tell me I’m not alone in this TBR madness – I’d love some company! 🙂



Catching Up on Series!

Posted February 1, 2023 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

I discovered that as I was just about to start a review for my current finished book that although I’d read the two earlier stories… *sigh* …I hadn’t reviewed them (or at least I cannot find those reviews anywhere, and believe me, I’ve searched).

I get so annoyed with myself when this happens.  But, life also happens.  *shrugs*  So, all I can do is go back, remind myself of the story (and they usually come back pretty quickly to mind after rereading the Cover Descriptions), and simply do the review now – the authors deserve that at least, even if it is a bit late to the game.  I could beat myself up about it but what good does that do?  Just a reminder to do better. 🙂

Yet… I’m betting that I’m not the only person who has had this happen to them.  We’re human after all.  I love the escape of books, but sometimes we show those human qualities of the characters we love so much… like, forgetfulness. 🙂


A Personal Journey

Posted December 31, 2022 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

This is a post that I will place on all three of my websites for it’s the same message to my readers and visitors to Keeper Bookshelf or Shifter Haven or Happily Ever After Romance.  All are owned and created by the same person — Me.

As another year comes to a close we often reflect back… but I’m going to go only about 10 days that have changed so much about my life in ways that I’ll be discovering in the coming weeks.  I’m careful of what I share personally online but this is a message that I feel is important and might help someone else.

Last week I had a fall, I wasn’t badly injured but looking back that was a defining event.  Recently I was admitted to the hospital with bilateral pneumonia and it was discovered at that time that I was dealing with some heart issues as well.  At my age, beyond retirement, that’s not something you really want to hear – but it was pretty loud and clear that I needed to pay attention to my own health.  Which I will be doing intensely over the next few weeks.  I’m not done with this life yet so I’m going to take the steps needed to ensure that I wake up every morning for as long as possible.

In light of this, I’m going to be cutting back a bit on the number of books I’m reading and reviewing for these websites.  To authors that I’ve promised reviews, they will still be delivered the timing will be off, but I’m not going back on my word.  My life, my health is worth the investment of time to take care of it – and if that isn’t understood, well then, I don’t know what else to say.

I will always love Romance Novels across so many genres… but right now I have to be realistic about what my personal future may hold.  I’m far from done reading and reviewing what I love, I just may do it less often for a hopefully small period of time. 🙂


Binge Reading

Posted November 21, 2022 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

There are times when I just want to read.  I don’t want to leave a fictional world, I don’t want to stop to write up my thoughts… I Just Want To Read.


This means, eventually, there are a lot of reviews to get written up.  Over the last 5 or 6 days, I got caught up on a couple of series, but didn’t leave those worlds so you’ll see a lot of back-to-back same-series reviews… it just means I was being lazy and staying content within a world that I was enjoying. 🙂


It’s Time to Start Some New Series!

Posted October 2, 2022 by Marsha in Discussion, Harlequin / 0 Comments

I am a devoted series reader.  I cannot seem to change that fact, and although I’m still catching up on so many series in spite of reading and reviewing other books, book review deadlines, getting ready for the Dragonflight World of Warcraft expansion, drooling over books, and some random housework — I just bought more series to begin.  I know, right?  *grins*

I never claimed to be sane, only addicted to a good book!

Anyway.  I found several new series are starting within the various Harlequin category lines so, of course, I picked them up.  I’m starting them right away this time so I can at least be up-to-date on some series.  In order to save some room on what might be a long post, I’m only going to list the title with a link to Amazon (because I know these books are there).  In full disclosure, they will have affiliate links in them.  That doesn’t mean you have to click to buy right then but if you do I’d get a small commission.  Okay, official stuff is done, let’s check out some books!

The Lost Hart Triplet by Nicole Helm – Covert Cowboy Soldiers #1 (I’ve finished this one, review to follow soon – hint: it’s amazing!)

Cinderella’s Secret Baby by Dani Collins – Four Weddings and a Baby #1

Crowning His Kidnapped Princess by Michelle Smart & Pregnant Innocent Behind the Veil by Michelle Smart – Scandalous Royal Weddings #1 & #2 (okay, but the second is out now – and that cover is gorgeous -, and catching up before I forget)

The Marriage that Made Her Queen by Kali Anthony – Behind the Palace Doors #1

Their Desert Night of Scandal by Maya Blake – Brothers of the Desert #1

The Amish Matchmaking Dilemna by Patricia Johns – Amish Country Matches #1 (again, yes, not this month but gotta get to it now while it’s still new)

An Amish Proposal for Christmas by Vannetta Chapman – Seven Amish Sisters #1

Journey to Forgiveness by Dancia Favorite – Shephard’s Creek #1

So all of these stories went to the top of my TBR tower of doom pile.  I really need to get started on series earlier than I have been but, man, you’d think being retired I’d have more time but it seems I’ve even less free time than ever before!  Each of these books sounds fascinating in its own way, wish I could show you the amazing covers but I don’t have the space.  Anyways, wish me luck on my October 2022 reading spree plans.  🙂


Book Love & Other Opinions

Posted September 24, 2022 by Marsha in Discussion / 0 Comments

Recently I’ve been getting comments in Twitter DMs, or Goodreads emails or just emails to the blog basically saying that I’m not an objective reviewer because I rarely rate below 3 stars.  I know I don’t have to – but I’d like to address that impression briefly.

Most importantly of all – I do not ever purchase or request ARCs of books that I don’t think I’m going to enjoy.  I mean, really, why would I do that?  I only have so much real-life money to spend on books and so much free time to read… why in the world would I pick up something that I know going in isn’t a book that I’m going to love?

Second in importance… I’m not a professional reviewer.  I’m a reader first and foremost of all.  I happen to love Romance novels in all (or most) of the sub-genres available today.  I started the blog because I like to share my thoughts with other readers, maybe find a new to me author, or introduce someone to an author that I enjoy.  Book talk, simple.

Thirdly, someone famous once said that no two readers ever read the same book.  And this is very true.  We all bring something different to each story we read – our history, our beliefs, our emotions, ourselves so how is it possible for everyone to react to one story the exact same way?  It’s not.  My reviews are my opinions – they are not Aunt Sally’s or the cat lady down the street’s but mine and if I happen to be entertained enough to say I loved a story enough to give it 4.5 stars… then that’s my opinion and my right.  No one has to agree with me, and no one should take me to task for not sharing their opinion of the written word either.

Fourthly… well, I think Rhett Butler said it best when he uttered, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”  I want to spread my love of reading, it really is that simple.  I love to escape my reality and head off into my imagination fueled by someone else’s imagination through the pages of a book.  And if I think that book that you’d only give 2 stars to is worth 5 stars to me… well, that’s okay, because we each read a book and reacted differently.  Not one thing wrong with that reality.  /end rant