Posts tagged with: Category Romance

Kandy Shepherd’s Unforgettable Summer

Kandy 4I’m so delighted today to bring to the lair my good friend, the lovely Kandy Shepherd.

Kandy and I have shared a long writing journey together. When I plucked up the courage to join my very first writing group, Kandy was a member. I was immediately impressed both with the wonderful stories she wrote and also with her great work ethic. I still am!

Way back in the late 1990s when we met (yes, we ARE going back that far), Kandy was targeting Harlequin Mills and Boon as her preferred publishers. Many years and much writing success later, she’s now released her very first Harlequin Romance THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT.

THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT is gaining some wonderful reviews, including a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews, who said, “Shepherd’s love story is heartfelt and has the potential to reach the hearts of lovers across the globe. The main characters are perfect as a pair and the setting of New South Wales is described so beautifully, readers will almost feel the sand between their toes.”

 Here’s the blurb:

It started with a summer kiss… 

Kandy 3Sandy Adams is on her way to an interview, but when she sees a signpost for Dolphin Bay she decides to take a detour down memory lane…. 

Ben Morgan has had his share of heartache. But when a ghost from his youth catches his eye memories of their last summer together come flooding back. 

Everything has changed in the past twelve years, and still they’re right back where they started, facing a second chance they deserve…together.

You can find out more about Kandy and her books on her website: http://kandyshepherd.com/

Kandy, welcome to the Bandita lair! Congratulations on the release of THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT, your first romance with Harlequin. I’m so excited about this book. Can you tell us about this story?

Thank you, Anna, it’s wonderful to be back in the lair with the wonderful Banditas! I’m particularly excited to be talking about this story with you because you were there (when we both lived in the same city!) when I first thought of the story and wrote the initial chapters. It got put aside while I worked on other books but the characters of Sandy Adam and Ben Morgan in THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT never let go and I always wanted to finish their story.

Kandy 1THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT is a very emotional, deeply romantic story of rekindled love between Sandy and Ben who first fell in love as teenagers. Twelve years go by between their first youthful kiss and the first time they kiss when they meet again. A lot has happened in the interim and Ben, in particular, is scarred—both physically and emotionally. Old hurts, betrayals, misunderstandings and deeply-entrenched barriers guarding their hearts mean these two really have to work for their happy-ever-after ending! I thoroughly enjoyed getting them there. In Romance shorthand, I call it my Beauty and the Beast Reunion Story!

Lovely! I always wanted to see how that story panned out. What were the inspirations behind this book?

Have you ever found yourself wondering about your first love—your lost love—maybe from many years ago? What would it be like to meet him or her again? Would you do things differently if you got a second chance? Would the old spark still be there?

I give Sandy and Ben just that opportunity when they meet up again in the coastal town of Dolphin Bay—the place where they first fell in love on summer vacation. Dolphin Bay is a fictional town but it is inspired by one of my favourite parts of Australia, the south coast of New South Wales about four hours drive from Sydney. There you’ll find quaint towns, beautiful pristine beaches and unspoiled bushland. I have spent many idyllic holidays there and hope to spend more in the future. Sun, surf, white sand, blue skies, freedom—it’s the perfect setting for both Sandy and Ben’s fleeting, youthful romance—and perhaps a more mature love that can last a lifetime.

Kandy 2(Little did I know as I was writing the setting I loved that it fell into the new genre of “coastal romance”!)

What is coming up for Kandy Shepherd?

I’m delighted there will be a return to Dolphin Bay in July 2014 with the release of my second book for Harlequin Mills & Boon, THE TYCOON AND THE WEDDING PLANNER. We meet Kate Parker as a secondary character in THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT and the second book is her story of finding love when she least expects it. It’s another emotional, romantic story that I really loved writing.

You’ve had such an interesting writing career. I’d love you to share your writing journey with us.

Like you, Anna, I always wanted to be a writer—and I was always attracted to romance. I had my first short stories published in women’s magazines when I was age twenty-one. Then I got distracted by a wonderful career in magazines, in both Australia and the UK. But the dream to write fiction never went away and I kept on writing in the time I could squeeze in between work and family commitments. Eventually I was published by Berkley Sensation with my two award-winning romantic comedies LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD and HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS. Then I got intrigued by the brave new world of self-publishing and, to my surprise and delight, my sensual romance THE CASTAWAY BRIDE became an Amazon best seller.

kandy 5Way back when I was very first trying to get published, I targeted Harlequin Mills & Boon in London—as many aspiring Australian romance writers did. That dream never went away and I was thrilled when THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT was accepted for the Harlequin Romance line.

Right now I’m concentrating on writing for Harlequin, which I am really enjoying. But I see myself as a “hybrid” writer balancing a career with traditionally published stories and self-published ones.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Persevere, persevere, persevere! Writing with the aim of publication isn’t for the faint-hearted or thin-skinned. Find critique partners you respect and trust—that has been very important for me. That said, you also need to have faith in your own voice and unique ideas. Keep alive the joy of writing—we write because we love it and should never lose sight of that!

Feel-good contemporary romance is definitely the soupe du jour with readers. Have you any thoughts on the rise and rise of this particular element of the romance genre?

I think readers being able to easily recognise and identify with characters, situations and settings has a lot to do with the appeal of contemporary romance. The people seem real, are relevant to everyday life and the settings are familiar.

BanditBootyKandy, do you have a question for the Bandits and Bandita Buddies to get the conversation going?

I love reunion romances and the idea of second chance at love. I also enjoy books set near the water, there’s something so appealing about a coastal or harbor setting. What about you—do you enjoy reunion romance? Do you ever wonder what would happen if you met up with someone from your past? Do you enjoy coastal settings? I have three signed copies of THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT (international) to give away to people leaving a comment.

Wow, that’s very generous, Kandy. Thank you. Get commenting, people!

 

Jennifer St. George’s Winner!

BanditBootyThanks, everyone, for a great day in the lair last Friday when Jennifer St. George visited to tell us about her new contemporary romance THE LOVE DECEPTION. Jen has chosen her winner of the download and it’s:

LOUISA CORNELL!

Congratulations, Louisa! To claim your prize, please contact Jennifer through her website: http://www.jenniferstgeorge.com/contact.html

Happy reading!

 

 

Jennifer St. George’s Honest Deception!

jsg 2Just lately I’ve been lucky enough to catch up in person a couple of times with one of my favorite people, talented Aussie romance author Jennifer St. George who lives a couple of hours south of me in glorious Byron Bay, Australia’s most easterly point. And now, lucky me and lucky you, we get to catch up with the lovely Jen here in the lair.

Jen’s here today to talk to us about her latest release, THE LOVE DECEPTION, which is available worldwide as an e-book.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CSCCKZ6?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B00CSCCKZ6&linkCode=xm2&tag=romanbandi-20

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/the-love-deception/id648685234?mt=11

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Love-Deception/book-8XmLKdzwxUG7QDYlyWtWlA/page1.html?s=6YWDObsIIkOzmnut006yvg&r=3

jsg 1You can find out more about Jen and her glamorous, sexy stories on her website: http://www.jenniferstgeorge.com/

Jen blogs with the fun and clever Love Cats Downunder: http://lovecatsdownunder.blogspot.com.au/

You can also follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.s.george.31?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JenStGeorge

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6521004.Jennifer_St_George

And make sure you check out her first two books, THE CONVENIENT BRIDE and SEDUCING THE SECRET HEIRESS!

Phew! Plenty of chances to get to know our Jen!

Jennifer, welcome back to the lair. Congratulations on your new release for Destiny Romance, THE LOVE DECEPTION.  Can you tell us about this story?

THE LOVE DECEPTION is my third novel with Destiny Romance. It combines legal intrigue, courtroom drama and a dash of exotic Barbados.

jsg 3When Felicity Carter wakes up naked in a strange bed, she has no idea how she got there. And no recollection of meeting the gorgeous man calmly offering her breakfast. Felicity flees – hoping that their paths never cross again.
 
The last thing she expects is to discover that her mystery man is Damon Fullbright, partner at the law firm where Felicity has just started work – and her new boss!

Damon is appalled to find the out-of-control young woman he rescued has been hired to work on his team. Apart from anything else, he doesn’t need the distraction of a hot blonde with a barrel-full of issues. But one-by-one, Felicity blows all Damon’s preconceptions out of the water. When Felicity explosively reveals her dreadful secret, will he risk his reputation and trust her to discover the truth?

Sounds great. What were the inspirations behind this book?

jsg 5Through my various jobs, I’ve travelled extensively and would often wake up in a hotel in a foreign country and forget where I was.  In those first few seconds of waking, I’d always get a jolt of adrenaline and my brain would scream…where am I? Of course I’d quickly realize I was fine, in a hotel and had to get up and go to work. I wondered what it would be like if you woke up and had no idea where you were.

Felicity does just that at the beginning of the book. From that point on, her life is a rollercoaster ride in the search for truth, understanding and ultimately…love.

What’s coming up next for you?

My current hero is an IT guru working in central London. My heroine runs an orangutan sanctuary in Brunei. He lives a fast paced, stressful, inner-city, jetset lifestyle. Building his global business is his sole focus. She’s a wildlife warrior who thinks the hero represents everything that is wrong with the world – IT gadgets, expensive lifestyle and no connection with animals and the natural world. It creates wonderful conflict, which I’m loving. I’ve already cried a couple of times writing their story, so I hope I’m conveying this emotion on the page.

Ljsg 4ast time you visited in January, we were talking about your wonderful second release SEDUCING THE SECRET HEIRESS. You’ve now been published for nearly a year and I wonder if becoming a published author has offered any surprises along the way.

I was pretty excited at the recent Australian Romance Readers Convention when a reader came up and told me how much she loved my books, took a photo and then tweeted me! Hadn’t had that happen before. I did feel pretty special.

Having people review your work publicly is also something very new and at first I found it quite confronting. Fortunately most of the reviews I’ve received so far have been positive (thank goodness!!).

Your books feature fabulous exotic locations like Venice and Barbados. What are your favorite travel destinations? Can we expect to see any of these destinations in future books? 

I love walking and do at least one bush-walking holiday a year – usually up in Queensland’s Lamington National Park. jsg 7Two years ago I walked the Cinque Terra trail in Italy. This year I hiked the Tasmanian Overland Track. This 65km, six-day trek winds through places of extraordinary beauty. I walked with a company that’s been running guided walks for over twenty-years and they’ve built huts along the trail.  Huts mean hot meals, hot showers, warm cabins and chilled wine (I’m not much of a camper). All this delivered by young, fit guides who take care of everything. Food tastes, oh, so much better when you’ve trekked at least twelve kilometres and someone else has cooked. I’d love to feature the Tasmanian rainforest in a book.

Having lived in South America, I’m considering setting a book there. Perhaps Rio or Santiago. New York also appeals as a setting. I remember that thrilling feeling the first time I walked down Fifth Avenue. Just being in that city made me feel like anything was possible.

But my favourite destinations will probably always be in Europe.  I lived in Europe (mostly England) for seven years and just loved the history, architecture, different languages (I can speak a bit of Spanish and am currently learning French), the landscapes, the food and the fact you can travel a few hundred kilometres (or much less) and be in a completely different culture.

jsg 6My favourite cities are Prague, Seville, Salzburg, Bruges, Venice, Florence and of course, Paris.

What do you think makes a great romance hero?

Yes, lots of romance heroes are tall, dark and good-looking. But, I don’t think there’s a template for a great romantic hero.  He can be cute, blond and wayward; brilliant, serious with glasses or ripped, gorgeous and executive. As long as the heroine fancies the knickers (or Calvins) off him I generally find I’m on the right track. Sometimes on the surface my heroes appear to behave a little badly, but there is always a very strong motivation for doing so. However, he always respects the heroine and deep down is very, very kind.

Do you have a question for our Banditas and Bandita Buddies to get the conversation rolling?

I spend a lot of time thinking about what profession to give my characters. Felicity and Damon from THE LOVE DECEPTION are both lawyers. Are there any character’s professions you really love reading about? Are there any that you really don’t like or just didn’t suit the characters? Comment today for a chance to win a e-copy of THE LOVE DECEPTION (Amazon or iTunes).

BanditBootyThanks so much, Jen! Love the sound of the new book! Sounds like those two have a rocky road to love ahead of them.

Get commenting, people, to win the copy of THE LOVE DECEPTION!

Annie West in the Spotlight

Annie 5It’s always a treat to welcome my fabulously talented critique partner Annie West to the lair with a new release.

Today Annie’s going to talk to us about her spectacular new Harlequin Presents CAPTIVE IN THE SPOTLIGHT that is being released concurrently this month in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom. So pretty much all our Bandita Buddies can rush out and buy this passionate story of enemies into lovers with a touch of forbidden love thrown in as well. Yum!

I’m not the only person to love CAPTIVE IN THE SPOTLIGHT. RT Book Reviews said, “Readers will enjoy West’s passionate star-crossed romance, set in picturesque Italian splendor, with a couple facing almost insurmountable obstacles – except in the bedroom.”

Here’s the blurb:

Annie 3Out of the limelight… 
 
Domenico Volpe has been a paparazzi target for years with his rugged Roman looks, glamorous lifestyle and, most recently, a family tragedy. Now that the woman at the center of it all is released from prison, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her quiet.  
 
And into the fire! 
 
Domenico ensures that Lucy Knight “accepts” his offer of refuge on his well-guarded offshore estate. While the media furor abates on the mainland, things are heating up on the island! Domenico is beginning to doubt Lucy’s guilt as he uncovers the innocent, sensual woman behind the tough facade….

You can find out more about Annie and her books at her website: www.annie-west.com

By the way, don’t be misled by the photos. Annie and I don’t spend ALL our lives sitting in restaurants, whatever the pictorial evidence indicates!

Annie 2Welcome back, Annie! And huge congratulations on your latest book CAPTIVE IN THE SPOTLIGHT. Can you tell us about this story?

Hi, Anna, and thanks so much for the invitation. It’s always a treat to be here in the realm of the Bandit girls and their minions. I have a secret fear that one day the Banditas won’t have me back to visit and I’d miss the drinks (make mine bubbly), the company and the chat.

CAPTIVE is about two people who shouldn’t fall in love. Their pasts should prevent it, his family loyalties scream out against having anything to do with her, and the world’s press is waiting, salivating for the opportunity to make scandal out of the pair of them.

Domenico is the sort of alpha hero I’ve got a huge weakness for: he’s sexy and strong and he gets things done his way but he’s driven by a sense of honor and the need to protect. Right now he aims to protect his brother’s widow and young son from the renewed media hype when the woman who killed his brother is released from prison. He’s determined to keep her from the press till he can persuade her to sign an agreement accepting payment (though he hates to do it) for her permanent silence about her affair with his brother.

Annie 1Guess which lucky woman he falls for? You guessed it! Lucy, the once young and innocent au pair who found herself embroiled in manslaughter and a legal nightmare where no-one believed her innocent. Imagine how she feels when she comes out of prison to find Domenico, waiting for her.

This is my ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ book, when for various reasons Lucy and Domenico hide away on his private island off the Amalfi Coast of Italy and things begin to steam…

What were the inspirations behind this story?

Inspiration came from my lovely editor. We were chatting about ideas for my next book and she suggested a story about a public scandal, something attracting media attention. Her idea resonated and I found my self thinking through and ejecting a lot of potential scandals. They’d have made a juicy story but for some reason didn’t seem quite right. As soon as I thought of a high profile (and deliciously charismatic) Italian aristocrat falling for the woman who’d been in prison for killing his brother, I knew I had to write it. Imagine the divided loyalties and conflicting emotions for both of them. Imagine the media frenzy. As anyone who’s read my books knows, I love making things difficult for my characters. I wasn’t sure how I’d rescue them from the tricky situation I’d put them in, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try.

annie 4American readers who pick up CAPTIVE IN THE SPOTLIGHT will get a great bonus with the volume including your marvelous BLACKMAILED BRIDE, INNOCENT WIFE. Can you tell us about this story?  

BLACKMAILED BRIDE was a bestseller when it was first released several years ago. This is a chance for people who missed it then to get it free with CAPTIVE. It features another dark, sexy Italian hero and a marriage of inconvenience. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be ‘convenience’ but in this wedding is the last thing either Dario and Alissa want. One of my favorite reviews called it ‘a luscious read that should not be missed’ (CataRomance).

Annie Jonah'sWhat’s coming up next for you?

August brings IMPRISONED BY A VOW, a marriage of convenience story with a twist and a half. Leila marries Joss to escape an untenable situation but finds both marriage, and walking away from her convenient husband, far more difficult than she’d expected, and not just for the reasons most romance readers will suspect.

Hm, I’m wondering if I detect a theme here – a CAPTIVE followed by IMPRISONMENT. No, don’t tell me what you think that says about the way my mind works, Anna. Perhaps that I’ve been hanging around with you?

Hey, don’t blame me! I think you’re doing fine on your own! What other exciting things have been happening in Annie West world?

20s AnnExcitement? Well, there’s the fact that CAPTIVE is out in all English-speaking markets in the same month (March). Yay! That’s a first and makes it so much easier for readers. Then there was the recent Australian Romance Readers’ Convention just days ago in Brisbane which was enormous fun. Plus I’m counting down to the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in August. It will be in Fremantle, Western Australia, a place I’ve never visited. One of the things about writing romance – it gives lots of excuses for travel!

This current edition contains two Italian-set books. Do you have a special fascination for Italy?

There are just some stories that cry out for an Italian hero, especially ones involving questions of family loyalty and honor or maybe revenge. Sometimes too, I just lock in on the idea of a volatile, flashing-eyed Italian hero – and who am I to ignore temptation? Plus of course the settings in Italy can be fabulous. This book is set in Rome and on island off the Amalfi Coast. Every time I worked on the book I could feel myself soaking up that lovely Mediterranean warmth.  

BanditBootyOne of my favorite scenes in CAPTIVE is when Lucy and Domenico watch the sun set from his speedboat, just off the Italian coast. It’s a balmy summer’s evening and a romantic scene. To be in the draw to win one of my two prizes, how about sharing what you’d like to be drinking if you were in Lucy’s shoes? What would be the perfect drink for a romantic Mediterranean assignation?

Get commenting people! Annie has very kindly offered us TWO giveaways today. One lucky person will win a signed copy of the marvelous CAPTIVE IN THE SPOTLIGHT with its bonus book BLACKMAILED BRIDE, INNOCENT WIFE. Another lucky person will win a signed copy of their choice from Annie’s backlist (excluding CAPTIVE IN THE SPOTLIGHT). You can check out her other books here: http://www.annie-west.com/books.html

Kimberly Hope Introduces Her Billionaire Bachelor

Banditas and Buddies, I am thrilled to welcome my dear friend Kimberly Hope back to the Lair today for the 6th Bandita Day Of Christmas! You may recall she was with us on Dec. 2 as one of four authors from the eclectic holiday anthology A Season For Romance. Well, today Kimberly is here to talk to use about her new romance The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge. I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for this book, so I have known for a while now how fabulous it is. I insisted Kimberly come tell you all about it so you can enjoy it, as well.

Kimberly, welcome back to the Lair! Pull up a chair by the fire. Cookie? We are awash in them these days. Really, take three, they’re small. Sven, can we get some eggnog over here? Thank you. So, we’re talking billionaires and cookies today instead of Disney princesses?

I am so excited to be back with you guys again this month! I had a lot of fun considering everyone’s choices for which Disney character they’d be when we released A Season For Romance. So, pralines and something that goes well with pralines (vodka tonic, maybe?) to you, Caren, for letting me come hang with you guys twice this month. Thanks!

Sven, cancel the eggnog! Looks like we’re having vodka tonics – olives, no lime, please. That should be divine with pralines! Well, maybe not, but it is my go-to drink. Anywho, back to the cookies and billionaires!

When Caren told me we’d be celebrating the 12 Bandita Days of Christmas with holiday recipes, the only thing going through my mind was 11 pipers piping. OK, well, I was humming it anyway, while wondering what recipe I could share, because I love to bake. And baking over Christmas is the best! Some of my favorite memories are of baking gingerbread cookies with my grandmother.

But what recipe? Irish Cream Truffles take 3 days (and about as long to explain the process). Pralines, as I rediscovered this morning while testing the recipe for you, are not easy. Butterscotch Shortbread…ooh, my favorite cookie this year!

My favorite thing about this cookie dough is that, unlike sugar cookie dough you have to refrigerate for half your life before you can struggle to roll it out and cut it, you can work with this dough immediately.

Now that’s my kind of cookie!

Butterscotch Shortbread

 1 cup (2 sticks) butter (Yes, butter. It’s Christmas. It’s Shortbread. It needs butter.)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

4 Tbls white sugar

2 cups, plus 4 Tbls flour

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300° F. Cream the butter and sugars together. Mix in flour and salt. When it’s done you’ll have well-mixed clumps of dough. You should be able to form a ball with it.

Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment or wax paper to 1/4 inch thick. I’m guessing on that. Roll it until it’s cookie thickness because these guys don’t spread. Cut with your favorite cookie cutters. My kids like to decorate the cookies with sugar and stuff at this point, but this cookie tastes fantastic without the added sugar.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 15 minutes or until set. You need to be careful with these guys because they don’t like over-baking. At all. The original recipe called for them to bake longer, but for my over, it’s 15 minutes. It could be as many as 25 minutes depending on how thick you roll the dough. Keep an eye on them because due to the color of the dough, it may be hard to tell that they’re browning.

This ends the cookie portion of our presentation. Now, Kimberly, let’s move on to the billionaire bachelor!!

What better to go with a cookie, than some reading material? So here’s the opening to The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge. It’s my second book, and the first in a Northern California trilogy I began one day when I was homesick. It’s a reunion story because I’m a sucker for a reunion. Not sure what that says about the men in my past. Here’s the opening scene, my Christmas gift to you.

Meg looked up at the man who hated her almost as much as her father did, and said the four words that would change her life forever. “I need your help.”

Evan Alton’s slate blue eyes flashed like a cat who just received a mouse for Christmas. But he didn’t slam the door in her face. Which was either a really good sign, or the end of her peace on earth. Guessing which was more likely, she plowed on. “May I come in?”

“Why?”

She brushed her wet hair off her forehead. “Because it’s raining and you’re a nice guy.”

Evan let out a grim laugh. “I haven’t been a nice guy for a long time. And I don’t have meetings at home on Friday nights.” He shot her a pointed look, which she completely ignored. She’d passed proud months ago.

“I can’t imagine you have many at the office since you won’t take phone calls.”

“Most people would take that as a hint.”

She didn’t say a word. Nothing she could say would change anything.

“Give me one reason why I should listen.”

“Because you loved me once and I did the right thing.”

He glared at her again, but didn’t misread her reference. The way she left him eight years ago had been completely unforgivable. She could only hope her recent actions would count for something.

“If that’s the case, why are you standing on my doorstep?”

“Because you won’t let me in.” She gave him a weak smile, and for once was rewarded with one from him as well. Butterflies erupted in her stomach. She should have eaten lunch, but the thought of this meeting had ruined her appetite. The butterflies were not because of his grim smile.

“Evan, please.” Her gaze locked with his and didn’t waver. She couldn’t afford to back down. There was too much at stake. “If you’re the devil you’re claiming, making me stand in the rain is hardly payback. It’s just frustrating for me and costly for you to keep the door open.”

 ”Currently it’s money well spent.”

 Meg blew out a harsh breath. This was going worse than she’d imagined in the thousand possible scenarios she’d run through over the past week. She’d counted on his curiosity, but apparently that had disappeared over the years.

 ”You’re the only one I can turn to,” she blurted.

He raised an eyebrow. Just one. The glint in his eyes told her he remembered how much it irked her. He was playing with her. Fine. She could play too. She stood quietly, matching his gaze, and waited. It was like playing chicken with a lion. She just prayed he didn’t extend his claws before she begged for help. She didn’t kid herself. It was going to take begging. And from his vantage point, after the way she’d left him, she deserved it.

His other eyebrow joined the first, and he stepped aside to let her in. A small victory, but she took it. Meg gave a mental sigh of relief before walking into the lion’s San Francisco County lair.

Stepping into the foyer, she brushed her wet locks off her face again, and tried to ignore the puddle she was making on the hard wood floor. Evan walked towards the living room, then paused. “Aren’t you coming?”

She could see the gleaming white carpet from where she stood. “I’ll make a mess of your floors.”

“I’ve got a service. If you want to talk to me, you’re going to do it where I’m comfortable. It’s been a long day.”

Meg watched him walk away and swallowed hard. The man was as sinfully built as she remembered, especially in the suit pants and crisp, white shirt. His black hair grazed his pristine collar. He’d shed his tie and undone a few buttons, teasing her with a hint of his strong chest. And now, looking like a drenched rat, she was facing down the one man she’d hoped never to have to see again in her life. Wonderful.

She grumbled to herself about not bringing a raincoat with her. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t heard the weather report this morning. But as usual, she ignored common sense and rushed out the door. She hadn’t planned on having to track Evan down at home.

Coming here was crazy, but he was the only person who had both the money and a reason to help her now. No one else would take her calls. Not that he had either. Her name was tainted and no one wanted a Taylor anywhere near their business. She didn’t blame them.

She slipped out of her heels, as much for her own safety on the slick floor as for the floor itself. The Celtic design of light and dark woods had clearly been hand-laid by a master and she couldn’t bear to leave wet footprints across it. Not that her wet stocking feet were doing much better.

Meg followed the path Evan had taken into the living room that was three times the size she’d thought from the entryway. The walls were stark white, and blank, except for a Chagall in one corner. It was as if the house had recently been purchased and the owner didn’t know what to do with the room yet. But she knew he moved in several years ago. The only thing breaking up the room was a wall of solid windows, giving her a phenomenal view of the rocky California coast and Pacific Ocean below. From here you couldn’t tell the city was fifteen minutes away.

That wasn’t what she was here for. She shook her head and tried to get her thoughts in order. Evan’s interior decorating –or lack thereof – wasn’t her problem.

She turned and jumped. While her mind had been wandering, so had he. From the bar to her. His eyebrow floated again. “Nervous?” he asked as he handed her a glass.

Irish whiskey. He remembered? She only drank it with him. Only when she was worried. This was never going to work if she was that transparent.

She took a sip. “Thank you. You’ve got a beautiful home.”

“You didn’t come here to talk about the house, so get on with it so I can say no and get back to the game.”

Meg glanced at the black TV screen, but didn’t contradict him. All the words she’d practiced left her and she was unsure how to begin. She’d already said what needed saying. And, years ago, a lot of things that didn’t. That bridge was toast, but there was nothing she could do about it now. “I need you to buy into Jennings.”

Ooh, I love that part! This really is a fantastic book. The conflict and stakes are so high. I was rooting big-time for these two strong-willed people to get together, but they had all those darned ethics forcing them to live by their individual codes of honor! You’ll love them, too. Promise! Oh…back to Kimberly.

Happy Holidays, everyone! Tell me your favorite thing about the holiday season and you’ll be entered to win a free Kindle copy of The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge. Even if your favorite thing is Christmas carols in October (that would be Snarky Daughter’s answer)!

And don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more of the 12 Bandita Days Of Christmas! (Plus, you need to check the Treasure Chest to see if you are a winner from one of the previous days.) We are building up to our Christmas Day giveaway of a huge bundle of books and goodies from Banditas and friends like Lydia Dare, Dianna Love, Liz Carlyle, Annie West, Deb Marlowe, JD Tyler, Addison Fox, Sabrina Jeffries, Miranda Neville, Marquita Valentine and Sandy Blair. This is big, people! :-D

Lights, Camera, Action! with Nancy Robards Thompson and Katherine Garbera

I’ve got a real treat for you all today! Good friends Katherine Garbera and Nancy Robards Thompson are going to interview one another and give away their great new releases TEXAS CHRISTMAS (Nancy) and CALLING ALL THE SHOTS (Katherine).

TEXAS CHRISTMAS (Harlequin Special Edition) sounds like the perfect read for this time of year. Debbie Haupt at RT Book Reviews said, “Featuring both new and familiar characters from past tales, Thompson’s holiday romance will stay with readers long after the end. Her protagonists are clearly meant for each other from page one, and you’ll love how she brings them together.” Here’s the blurb:

Busted! When Pepper Merriweather’s superwealthy daddy is arrested for fraud—and the family fortune is kaput—just before the holidays, Pepper suddenly finds herself in need of a job. Despite her high-society connections, no one wants to give her a chance—no one except gorgeous billionaire recluse Robert Macintyre.

When he proposes a position that comes with more strings attached than a symphony orchestra, Pepper knows it’s an offer she should refuse. But beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, Pepper knows she has what it takes to rise to the challenge—but does she have what it takes to keep her hands off her irresistible new boss?

CALLING ALL THE SHOTS (Harlequin Desire) sounds like great fun too. Harlequin Junkie said, “The more that you get to know these amazing characters the more you fall in love with CALLING ALL THE SHOTS. If you are looking for a fun, sweet, romantic read then this is the book for you.” Here’s the blurb:

The irony of working on a matchmaking reality TV show hosted by the guy who broke her heart in high school has producer Willow Stead tied in knots. Not only that, but Jack Crown even has the nerve to ask her out. Should she risk taking him up on his offer?

Jack sees Willow Stead all grown up and has to have her. Soon passions erupt that rival the drama on the show. But does Willow have a trick up her sleeve that will throw the celebrity pitchman a major curveball?

You can find out more about Nancy and her books at her website: http://www.nancyrobardsthompson.com/my_weblog/

You can find out more about Katherine and her books at her website: http://www.katherinegarbera.com/k/Home.html

Kathy: The two of us have known each other for more than fifteen years. So it was a nice surprise when we discovered we both had third books in a series out this month. Not only that, but both of our stories are set in the world of reality TV.  

We got the ideas for our books because we’ve both worked behind the scenes of a television show. That leads to another happy coincidence of our friendship: we both realized that we worked on the same show, THE NEW MICKEY MOUSE CLUB, but at different times.

Nancy: Gosh, that seems like another lifetime ago, but it was definitely one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It was fun and always changing. Still, I wouldn’t trade my writing career to work in TV and movies, but I’m glad I had the opportunity. How did you get the job on the MICKEY MOUSE CLUB, Kathy?

Kathy: I was part of the opening crew for the Disney-MGM Studios and we were hired about three months before the park opened so we recruited audience members at the Magic Kingdom each day and then took them to the Studios for the tapings.  Everyone was new to the show including the cast so we all sort of hung out together.  Since I was 18 I wasn’t that much older than most of them.  But Nanc, the Mouse Club wasn’t your only job in that industry was it?

Nancy: No, my time on THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB was bookended by two movies.  I helped with extras casting on the movie D.A.R.Y.L. and then I was on set when Michael Damian (The Young and the Restless) and James Best (Dukes of Hazzard) filmed the short HOUSE OF FOREVER. I wasn’t employed by HOUSE OF FOREVER‘s  production company. I was in public relations for the non-profit organization that owned the set where the film was made. I was the nonprofit’s contact person. So, I was on set every day. Even though each TV/film project I worked on was distinctly different, the action going on behind the scenes had a bit of the same feel. You know what I mean? Not to be cliché,  but the lights, camera, action bit gave each project the same feel.

Kathy: I know exactly what you mean, Nanc.  I also worked on the set of SUPERBOY which was filming at the Disney-MGM Studios before it moved to Universal (bit of rivalry back then).  My fav memory is when my pal Judy and I were sent to pick up a prop on the production golf cart.  We were goofing around on it and got it stuck in a ditch.  Boy was that fun to explain!  But you are right in that behind-the-scenes feels very similar the only thing that was different was when I worked on WWF’s MONDAY NIGHT SMACK DOWN and the game show TEEN WIN, LOSE OR DRAW! Because the action wasn’t scripted necessarily.  On the game show I was stationed in the audience to remind people not to call out the answers while we were taping.  If they did, we had to start that part of the show all over again.

Nancy: Working in TV and movies is definitely a hurry-up and wait game. Depending on your job, there can be a lot of standing around and waiting… and the days are usually long and demanding of your time. One of the biggest challenges I faced was when I handled the extras for D.A.R.Y.L. I actually had to book people to be extras in the movie. At first people were excited because they were going to be in a movie AND they were going to get paid for it! Woot! Woot! After the first few days of shooting reality set in that they were getting a flat fee for a very long, boring day. I think they got something like $50 or $75 for each day that they worked. Call time was early and the same for everyone, but I couldn’t tell them if they would be there one hour (if their scene was in was shot first thing) or if it would be a twelve or fifteen hour day (if their scene was toward the end).  A lot of people would get upset because they had to sit around and wait for hours on end. The director wouldn’t let me release them and they couldn’t leave even for a few minutes. If they were there during a meal time craft services (the catering truck) provided their meals. So, really their compensation was a flat fee and sometimes up to three meals. On long days, I had a lot of cranky extras on my hands. Sometimes, I had to do a lot of tap dancing and sweet talking to appease them. If I remember right – that was a long time ago – my portion of the project lasted about a month. Toward the end, it got very hard to get people to agree to be in the movie.

Kathy: Haha! That’s something I never thought I’d hear anyone say that they had to beg people to be in a movie.  We had to beg people to be in the audience for the NEW MICKEY MOUSE CLUB at first because it was a new show.  We didn’t pay them but gave them complimentary tickets to come back to the Disney parks.  One of my favorite memories was of when I got to sit in on the table readings for the show.  It was so interesting to the kids take direction prior to shooting and then really show their skills when taping started.  What was your most memorable experience on the set, Nanc? 

Nancy: In D.A.R.Y.L., there was a car chase scene. When they were filming they closed down a portion of the highway between 2am and 4am. We needed A LOT of extras with cars who were willing to come out in the wee hours of the morning and drive. This is really a two-part memory – first, because I was so intrigued by the way they shot the scene. They had the extras drive 10mph so that when the “fast cars” drove by at 35mph, they looked like they were driving at breakneck speeds.

Kathy: What was the other memory? You said this was a two-parter.

Nancy: Oh, yes! The other fond memory is of the woman who started complaining about having to go to the bathroom the minute we got on the highway. Once we were there the director wouldn’t let anyone leave because we only had a very short period of time to shoot the scene (before they reopened the highway to regular traffic). There were no bathrooms and the exit ramps were blocked off by the police to keep cars not involved with the movie off the road. If she’d walked away to take care of business, her car would’ve been in the way of the shot.

Kathy: Oh, no! If only I’d been there since I was a Production Page I would have asked her before we left!   Seriously, Poor woman! What did she do?

Nancy: Umm…I found a cup for her. I’ll let you figure out the rest.

Kathy: Oh. Sorry I asked.  To change the subject… that’s a picture of me in my official MICKEY MOUSE CLUB jacket and Nanc is somewhere in that group shot.

Nancy: It’s sort of like “Where’s Waldo,” right?  Actually, I’m standing just to the right of center (in the very center of the picture). I’m wearing a yellow blouse near that person in green and sandwiched by the people in pink. Haha! We were a colorful bunch, weren’t we? Look at some of those hairdos! We won’t talk about how long ago that was…

Kathy: Reliving all these memories has been fun! We’d like to ask Romance Bandit readers to share a memory of their favorite job or something unusual they’ve done. Nancy and I will select one lucky winner to receive signed copies of our books.  

Ooh, great prizes, girls! Thanks for the great interview! Get commenting, people!

Comfort Read

I used to live in the Midway area of the Twin Cities–so named because it lies midway between St. Paul & Minneapolis on I-94.  It’s the kind of neighborhood where a local artist has done all the sidewalk planters in gorgeous mosaic tiles.  It’s also the kind of neighborhood where the local gang can steal & strip your car in fifteen minutes or less.  

It was a colorful place to live, & now that I’m up in the suburbs I miss it.  Oh, I don’t miss everything.  It’s nice that I can throw a Superbowl party now without fearing for my guests’ cars.  But I miss the Axe Man.

What is the Axe Man, you ask?  The Axe Man is one of those stores where you can buy anything.  So long as you don’t want anything nice, new or typical. 

You need a set of weighted dice to rig the craps table at casino night?  They’re at the Axe Man.

You need a whole bunch of left-handed rubber gloves?  They’re at the Axe Man.

You need half a mannequin for your Halloween haunted house?  It’s at the Axe Man.  (Not a whole mannequin, mind you.  Just half.)

And you know what I found there the other day?

Romance novels.  

Old school romance novels, a whole stack of them.  Harlequin Presents, Loveswepts, Silhouettes, the whole shebang.    I spent a quarter & bought the one published in 1984–a Candlelight Ecstasy!–by Barbara Andrews.  It was called Happily Ever After, & set at  a thinly-disguised Romance Writers of America conference in New York City.  

The heroine was a divorced romance writer, and all but a virgin due to her ex-husband’s ham-handedness in the sack.  The hero was a book store owner, an eighties-style alpha male full of punishing kisses.   He manipulates her into a publicity tour for her latest book, & seduces her along the way.   This included a great many of the aforementioned punishing kisses from the hero and a great lot of  no-but-maybe-yes?-ing from the heroine.

I spent a delicious three hours gobbling it up, & when it was over I thought to myself, “Now where are those old Iris Johansen Loveswepts from the 80s?”  Because I man, did I love those.  The Trustworthy Redhead?  And the Desert Blooms?  Good stuff.  

See, I spent my entire middle school career–from 13 to 15, let’s say–reading exclusively category romances.  And since this was the mid-eighties and I was on a library-only sort of budget, I was reading books published mostly in the 70s.  There were a lot of mustaches and very few liberated women.  (And, yeah, the phrase liberated women was used a lot, which tells you something.)

But somehow, I turned out fine.  I don’t care for punishing kisses in real life (I don’t think so, anyway, never having experienced one), and I’m liberated enough to have skipped shaving my legs for a good ten years somewhere in my twenties.   I do stay home with my kids, but my husband does the dishes, so I’m calling that a wash.  

No, what my trip to the Axe Man reminded me of was just how much I love a good category.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a pure 70s, alpha/passive pairing, or a 2012 kick-butt heroine & her beta-male boyfriend.  I can always count on a category to deliver 180(ish) pages of pure, sexy banter.  

Yum.  

So tell me, who’s your favorite go-to category author?  I know we have some awesome ones here in the Lair but I haven’t branched beyond my fellow banditas lately.  So share!

Dice image courtesy of Posterize at freedigitalimages.net.

Reaching Out to Sarah Mayberry

by Anna Campbell

Squee! Squee! Squee!

No, there’s not a mouse in the lair, although sometimes Paolo does a pretty good impersonation of a mouse when there are doings afoot in the lair and he’s SCARED! Hmm, Paolo, are you a man or a mouse? SQUEAK to me!

One of my all-time favorite writers is here with us today and she’s giving away THREE packs of her fabulous books to commenters. Note to visitors today – COMMENT!!! By the way, this lovely shot is from the recent Romance Writers of Australia conference at the Gold Coast and Sarah is at the Australian Romance Readers Association signing with fellow Aussie superstar Ally Blake.

For most of you, Sarah Mayberry needs no introduction. She writes some of the best books out there, contemporary romance that’s funny, sexy, heartfelt and packs an emotional punch that always has me crying somewhere in one of her marvelous stories.  Today, she’s in the lair to talk about her latest masterpiece, WITHIN REACH.

Here’s the blurb:

Being a single dad was never on Michael Young’s agenda. Yet with the sudden loss of his wife, that’s exactly the role he has. On his best days, he thinks he can handle it. On his worst… Luckily, family friend Angie Bartlett has his back, easily stepping in to help out.

Lately, though, something has changed.

Michael is noticing exactly how gorgeous Angie is, and how single she is. She’s constantly in his thoughts and he feels an attraction he never expected. Does he dare disrupt the very good thing they have going? If they have a fling that goes nowhere, he stands to lose everything—including her. But if they make it work, he stands to gain everything!

You can read more about Sarah and her books on her website: www.sarahmayberry.com

Sarah, welcome to the lair! I’m so excited to have one of my all-time favorite authors visiting. Congratulations on the release of your latest Harlequin SuperRomance WITHIN REACH. Can you tell us about this story? 

This is a story about three people, really. Billie, Angela and Michael. Billie and Angela are best friends,  like sisters, really, and Michael is Billie’s husband. Tragically, Billie dies in the prologue (I don’t think I’m giving too much away by revealing this!) and Michael and Angie are bereft without her. Fast forward eight months, and Angie realises that Michael is in a real slump, doing the bare minimum to look after his two children, Eva and baby Charlie. So Angie gives him some tough love and a kick in the pants and Michael starts to claw his way back into the land of the living. What neither of them bargain for as they work through their grief and get on with life  in the ensuing months is that their friendship will become something more. They both fight the attraction, but eventually they give in. I won’t give away any more, but it was a very emotional book to write and I so wanted these two people to find their happy ever after.

Sounds fantastic. What were the inspirations behind this book?

I was inspired by something I read after 9/11, about how some of the firefighters who had lost colleagues in the tragedy “adopted” the family of a fallen mate and helped the widow to pick up the slack left by the missing husband. I’m not sure if this is accurate or not, but apparently some of these firefighters fell in love with their adopted families. Not a necessarily happy story for some people in this picture, but it got me thinking about people who reluctantly fall in love. And then Billie and Angie and Michael popped into my head and I was off and running.

As you know, I adored HER BEST WORST MISTAKE,  your  first venture into self-publishing. I think it’s one of the best romances I’ve read this year. (Here’s a link to a review I did for the Romance Dish: http://www.theromancedish.com/2012/07/a-great-mistake.html) For any of our visitors who don’t already know about this story, do you want to tell us about it? I love to spread the good oil about a great read.

I’m so thrilled you enjoyed HER BEST WORST MISTAKE. I had sooo much fun writing it. It’s a classic enemies to lovers story, basically. At the beginning of the book, Martin is engaged to Elizabeth, who just happens to be Violet’s best friend. Martin and Violet dislike each other and always have – he thinks she’s too loud and out there and party-girlish, and she thinks he’s got a stick up his bottom, he’s so conservative and old before his time. Then Elizabeth bails on her marriage to Martin just 8 weeks before the big day and Violet finds herself feeling sorry for him, even though she knows she should be happy that she never needs to see him again. She visits him to let him know she’s thinking of him, and he doesn’t appreciate her pity, and things explode from there. As I said, I had so much fun exploring these two stubborn, smart people. And because it was self-published, I got to work with the cover designer myself and do lots of other cool (and sometimes confusing!) things to get my book out there.  So far, it’s been a great experience. The book is paired to my last Blaze novel, HOT ISLAND NIGHTS, which tells what happens to Elizabeth when she takes off from London and travels to Australia to discover herself.

I loved HOT ISLAND NIGHTS too. What’s next for you?

I have another Super Romance out in November, SUDDENLY YOU. This one is a sequel, of sorts, to ALL THEY NEED, a book I had out last year. This one tells the story of Harry, the brother of the heroine, Mel, from ALL THEY NEED. Harry was a lot of fun to write, a bit of a Peter Pan who falls in love with a woman who comes with lots of baggage. It’s a bit lighter than WITHIN REACH, but hopefully emotional in its own way.

I’m also about to start writing my next self-publishing venture. This one will be a tomboy story and part of a linked series of books, but I don’t know much more than that at the moment because I need to sit down and think about my characters before I start writing any further forward.

I love the emotional depth of your stories. Is that something that comes easily to you or do you have to work on it? Do you have any hints for writers wanting to add that extra zing of emotional punch to their work?

I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters before I start writing. I’m a plotter, so I usually have a plan for each chapter – not that I don’t sometimes go off the map, you understand, and get horribly lost or discover some gem, but basically there’s a plan. In order to create that plan, I like to know what makes my hero and heroine tick. I particularly want to know what they are afraid of. I tend to write about characters in their thirties, and I always ask myself why these two people are unattached at this point in their lives. Why haven’t they fallen in love with someone already? What’s stopping them? Or did they fall in love and it all went horribly wrong? How has that scarred them? What do they want out of life? And so on. I do find this stuff comes to me relatively easily. I guess I’m an emotional person – I cry at Kleenex ads sometimes! – and like all writers I’m nosy and curious about people, and I like to delve into the why behind people’s reactions and decisions. If I could offer one bit of advice to writers, I think it would be to try to think beyond “device” in your story to what might really happen between real people. Keeping things small and real makes it easier for readers to walk in the heroine or hero’s shoes, I think. At least in contemporary romance, anyway!

What fantastic advice. Madly taking notes here! A little bird tells me (a very besotted little bird) that you’ve got a new member of the family. Can you tell us about the delightful Max and perhaps share a photo? We do like to look at handsome men in the lair, you know!

Max is our new and delightful Cavoodle – a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a miniature Poodle. He is, in fact, curled up beside me on the couch as I write this, proving that he is, indeed, woman’s best friend. He is exactly the sort of dog I didn’t want – small and very cute and fluffy. I figured a romance writer with a small fluffy dog was waaaay too much of a cliche. But somehow we ended up in a pet shop holding him and he looked into my eyes and that was it – instant love. He has us firmly wrapped around his furry little paw, but he is so awesome we barely notice. He hardly ever barks, is incredibly loving and affectionate and playful, and everyone who meets him wants to smuggle him out in their luggage, which we figure is the highest compliment possible. And yes, more than happy to share pictures. Let the deluge begin!

You’re just besotted with that pooch, my friend! And I can see why. Do you have a question to get the Banditas chatting?

My question for readers today is about love. Feel free to answer both or just one of them. Do you believe in love at first sight, eyes meeting across a crowded room and all that? Do you believe we only truly love once in a lifetime, or that if we’re lucky, we have several chances to fall in love? I’d love to give away some books today – three sets of WITHIN REACH and HER BEST WORST MISTAKE (which is e-book only). Fire away, can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Sarah has VERY generously offered commenters today the chance to win one of three (3) packs of her books comprising WITHIN REACH and the fabulous HER BEST WORST MISTAKE (ebook only). International! If you know Sarah’s books, you’ll want this prize. And if you don’t, you’ve got such a treat ahead of you. Good luck!

Annie West Is Undone!

by Anna Campbell

I’m delighted to welcome back lair favorite and fabulous writer Annie West who is here to tell us about her latest North American release UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH. UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH recently received a glowing review from RT Book Reviews magazine where they called it “an emotionally compelling read.”

Annie’s books are receiving accolades all over the place. At the recent RT Reviewers Choice Awards, her wonderful PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE was chosen as best Harlequin Presents Extra of 2011 and RAFE’S REDEMPTION recently placed in the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Write Touch Readers Awards.

Congratulations, Annie! I’m not surprised. Your books are fantastic.

You can find out more about Annie and her books on her website: www.annie-west.com

You can also find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annie.west.9619

To buy a print copy of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH, just click on the cover below.

Kindle edition: http://www.amazon.com/Undone-Touch-Harlequin-Presents-ebook/dp/B007BBVEJC/ref=sr_1_5?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338847220&sr=1-5 

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Undone-by-His-Touch-Annie-West/9780373528691

Welcome back, Annie. Congratulations on the North American release of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH, your latest Harlequin Presents Extra. Can you tell us about this story?

Hi, Anna, and thanks so much for having me back to visit the Bandits. I’m so pleased I haven’t worn out my welcome. I’m waving to Banditas and friends, and putting in my order for a long glass of bubbly if there’s one in the house.

UNDONE is about a scarred, reclusive hero whose main interest is in finding the woman he blames for his brother’s death. Declan is determined to wallow in regret and guilt until Chloe, his new housekeeper, drags him, protesting, to the realisation he’s not ready yet to give up on the world. In fact she makes him feel emotions he’d never expected to experience. She brings him hope. But Chloe’s no plaster saint. She’s got problems of her own and dealing with an anti-social boss is one of them. Until she sees beneath the surface to the man of integrity and honour who’s struggling to find a foothold in a world that’s changed around him.

Of course I had to make it interesting by ensuring each was the worst possible person for the other to fall in love with! That’s where the fun began – and the intensity and passion.

I had a ball writing this dark hero who eventually finds the light.  I’ve been having fun lately, thinking of who I’d cast in the role of sexy but prickly recluse and I’m torn between Clive Owen and Hugh Jackman. I think either would be perfect as Declan.

Here’s the back cover copy:

Cast into a world of black, Declan Carstairs is a man in torment. Consumed by guilt, he sees no way out of the darkness his world has become. Only one thing drives him – finding the woman who caused his brother’s death, and the accident that took his sight.

Housekeeper Chloe Daniels refuses to pity her devastatingly gorgeous boss, but treating him as the strong, capable man he is soon proves dangerous. As Chloe falls deeper under Declan’s spell, awakened by his touch, she forgets all about the secret she keeps that may destroy them both…

I loved this book. I think it’s one of your best. What inspired you to write this story?

Maybe it’s your influence rubbing off on me, Anna – the fact that when I read your books I’m so often reading a Beauty and the Beast style story. Who knows? But I can tell you I had two ideas in my head for a long time. One was of a dark haired man with intense eyes and a bad attitude, who’d turned into a recluse after his brother’s death in a climbing accident. The other was of a love triangle between the brothers and a woman. The woman was rather shadowy but fortunately she came to life when I started to write. It just took me a couple of years to pull the various ideas together.

I should add that the settings were part of my inspiration for this book. I had vivid images in my head of both the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, and of inner city Sydney too. I’ve sent through a couple of photos to share with this piece so you can see why the mountains in particular are one of my favorite places to visit. It’s a world heritage site – perfect for bushwalking, climbing and canyoning. But as well as that it’s a plateau studded with quaint villages and gorgeous gardens. It’s just perfect for visitors. I love to go there and pretend I’m fit by tackling one of the walks and then relaxing in a coffee shop or bookstore and feeling I’ve earned a treat.

By the way, thank you for sharing these beautiful photos. You need to add photography to your list of talents! Can you tell us about your next release?

I’d love to. Next cab off the rank is called DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY. It’s out in the U.K. in October but I’m waiting for news on the North American release. The title is a little misleading. Yes, the hero is from the Middle East, but most of the book is set in western Europe – principally France. And boy, did I have a wonderful time with that setting!

It’s a story that owes a lot to the Tristan and Iseult legend. The hero is sent to Paris to bring back the woman who’s been betrothed to the king, ready for a royal wedding. What he doesn’t expect is to fall for the king’s fiancée or to discover she’s falling for him too. Now that spells trouble! Add to that the fact that my hero is absolutely loyal (the king is like a father to him) and my heroine has strong reasons of her own for needing to go through with the royal wedding and the scene is set for drama and high emotion. 

I’ve had a sneak peek at this book and it’s a classic Annie West. Romantic, dramatic, emotional, a real page turner. Readers will love it! Can you give us a sneak peek at what you’re currently working on?

I’ve just handed a book in to my editor. Superstitiously perhaps, I don’t want to say too much about it until I’ve had some editorial feedback, but I can tell you it’s a story with quite a twist. It features a very suave and self-assured Italian hero and a heroine who’s just starting her life again after the most horrendous ordeal. Lucy refuses to let anyone, especially a bossy businessman, dictate to her. Lots and lots of sparks in this one, but I hope, plenty of tenderness too.

We’ve had you as a guest so often on the Banditas and I don’t think I’ve ever asked you what you do when you aren’t writing. What sort of things do you like to do to refill the well?

I’m wary about admitting that I do anything other than write, since I don’t want that to get back to my editor. I’m trying to persuade her I’m glued to the computer, slaving over a hot story! Actually I am, most of the time. But as you say, it’s important to fill the well occasionally.

I count my visits to you, Anna, as one of my well-filling activities. Good company, good food, good wine and far too much chat, make for a wonderful time. They always leave me energised to tackle almost anything.

Actually that picture of us together is from a lunch out near when I live when you were up. Always lovely to see you. What else do you like to do?

Other than that, in my down time I like to do some of these:

Reading! Actually, I think you could put this down for my top 5 pastimes.

Walking, preferably in the bush (wilderness if you’re not in Australia) or by water.

Visiting new places (I’m dreaming about another Europe trip). If I can’t travel, then hearing about someone else’s trip or poring over maps and pictures of far away places is fantastic.

Cooking – not the just home and must get dinner organised cooking – that’s no treat. I mean cooking when you’re actually in the mood for pottering and trying something new, or tackling an old favorite. I love it when people ooh and ah over home made baklava for instance, and even better, when the family gets involved in the cooking with me.

Cross stitch. True to my recent resolution I’m trying to find time to get back into the sewing I haven’t touched for years.

Movies. Love them, particularly (yes, I know I’m predictable) if they leave me feeling good. Theatre fits in here too – a real treat.

Long bubble baths with a good book, especially if someone else is cooking dinner while I relax and soak in the tub.

Ooh, lots there to inspire new stories which is what we dedicated fans like to hear. Annie, is there anything you’d like to ask the Banditas and Bandita Buddies?

Since we’re talking about refilling the well, can you share your favorite activities that leave you relaxed and rejuvenated ready to tackle the daily grind? Is there one perfect experience that still makes you smile and feel better every time you think of it? Right now, my favorite perk me up experience is remembering a marvellous high tea at Claridges Hotel in London. So refined, so luxurious and so yum!

Thanks, Annie. Get commenting, people. There are two separate prizes today – a signed copy of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH and a signed copy of Annie’s RT Reviewers Choice Award winner PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE. Great reading! Good luck!