Posts tagged with: Harlequin

Nan Dixon’s Southern Comforts!

Nan Dixon HeadshotWelcome to the talented & amazing Nan Dixon!  Nan’s been a friend of mine for years–she’s the outgoing president of my local RWA chapter, & has been the driving force behind any number of critique groups over the years.  I am thrilled to announced that her debut novel SOUTHERN COMFORTS is being released in mere days–DAYS!–and I’ve invited her here today to celebrate & tell us a bit about her story!  Welcome, Nan!

Thanks for inviting me into the lair, Susan!

I’m thrilled that my debut novel, SOUTHERN COMFORTS, releases in two days!  Even though it’s coming out in December, it isn’t a Christmas story.  In fact, it’s set in beautiful Savannah, Georgia.  I visited Savannah with my sisters and fell in love with the quirky wonderful city.

Nan1My hubby and I met our daughter and son-in-law in Savannah this September.  (I don’t think they realized I was there to research.)  I’ll show you just a few pictures.  First, Forsythe Park fountain. I understand on St Patrick’s Day the water in the fountain is green.   (Savannah has the second largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the US.)

nan2And this is Gracie.  She’s out at Bonaventure Cemetery.  The sculptures in the cemetery are incredible there.  I’ve taken a three hour ghost tour in the cemetery and only been able to cover the highlights.

Right now, Savannah would be a nice escape from all the early snow in Minnesota.  Sigh….


Patio in snowBut I’m here to talk about my book, not moan about the cold.

Abby Fitzgerald along with her two sisters run Fitzgerald House, a bed and breakfast.  Their mother started the process of turning their crumbling mansion into a B and B and the sisters have now taken over.  They still follow Mamma Fitzgerald’s rules and here are a few of them.

SouthernComforts#1 The guests are always right, even when they’re wrong.

#2 Absolutely never get involved with a guest.  It’s not well done.

#5 Never yell at a guest.  Not even under your breath.  (I’ve found the second floor linen closet is pretty soundproof.)

#11 If cleanliness is next to godliness, Fitzgerald House must be heaven.

#32 Smile until your cheeks hurt.

#37 A weary traveler must rest his head.  It might as well be on our pillows.

Of course, when Abby meets Grayson Smythe she struggles with Rule #2.  Gray is a long-term guest who spends his evening eating dinner in Abby’s kitchen—and it’s not long before their attraction starts to sizzle.

Although Gray’s kisses are a delicious distraction. Abby’s priorities are the B and B and the dream of opening her own restaurant.  And Gray definitely has the means to help her.  But when money seems to be all he can offer, Abby suspects she might get burned.

Here’s an Excerpt:

“Actions speak louder than words.”

Tears trickled down Abigail’s cheek.  The ice in her eyes frightened Gray.  “I’m going back to Savannah.  I’m going home.”

“Abby.”  This couldn’t be happening.  Not when he was in love with her.  “Stay.  Please.”

“We’re done.”  She wheeled her bag around him.

Desperate, he blurted out.  “I think I’m in love with you.”

She stopped.  Her shoulders shook.  She turned around, pity filled her face.  “You can’t buy my love, Gray.  That’s not how it works.  It’s something I would have given freely.”

Panic bubbled inside his chest like lava in a volcano about to blow.  “I’m not trying to buy your love.”

She didn’t even stop.

He ripped a hand through his hair.  He’d been trying to help her, for God’s sake. And she’d thrown everything back in his face.  He told her he loved her.  He had the money.  He could fix her problems.  Make her life easier.  Why wouldn’t the stubborn woman let him help?

Oooh, Nan, I like it!  I really have to wait two whole days before I can read the whole thing??  Sigh.  Okay, so do you have a question for our faithful readers today?

Of course!  Here it is:  If you owned your own B and B—where would it be and why?

Comment and win a chance to receive one of two autographed copies of SOUTHERN COMFORTS!  (If not in the US, Nan will send an eBook.)







Stefanie London’s Winner!

1BanditBootyThank you so much for the lovely warm welcome you gave debut Aussie author Stefanie London yesterday. We wish her all the best with her first book ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET.

The winner of the signed copy of OTBTB is:


Congratulations, Louisa. Please email Stef on stefanie @ spaces) with your snail mail details and she’ll get your book off to you. Happy reading!


Sarah Morgan’s Winner!

1BanditBootyThanks to everyone who swung by last week when I hosted Sarah Morgan who was here to talk about her wonderful new release SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. I read it while I was away in Melbourne and it’s brilliant so rush to your nearest bookseller!

I’m now delighted to announce the winner of the signed print copy of SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER:


Sandy, congratulations! Please email Sarah on sarah @ (no spaces) with your snail mail details and she’ll get your book off to you. Happy reading!

Sarah Morgan and Her Summer Place

Sarah 2I’m delighted to welcome back to the lair multi-award winning (including two RITAs!) and bestselling author Sarah Morgan who is here to tell us about SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, the next book in her wonderful O’Neil Brothers series.

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER recently received a Top Pick review from RT Book Reviews, who said, “Morgan’s romantic page-turner will thrill readers…The chemistry between the misunderstood hero and the victimized heroine is combustible. Morgan’s handling of social and environmental issues impresses, her storytelling rocks and her lovemaking sizzles. Brava!”

Sarah 1Here’s the blurb:

Fiery French chef Élise Philippe is having a seriously bad day. Not only have the opening day plans for her beloved café fallen apart, but Sean O’Neil is back in town, and looking more delectable than ever. Last summer, they shared an electrifying night together…and the memories have Élise really struggling to stick to her one-night-only rule! Her head knows that eventually Sean will be leaving, so all she can do is try to ignore her heart before she spontaneously combusts with lust.

Being back in Vermont—even temporarily—is surgeon Sean O’Neil’s worst nightmare. For Sean, returning home to the Snow Crystal Resort means being forced to confront the guilt he feels about rejecting his family’s rural lifestyle years ago. But discovering that Élise has settled in Vermont and still sets his blood racing is a very welcome distraction! Thinking he can persuade her into a replay of last summer is tempting, but remembering how good they are together is going to make walking away more difficult than he could imagine….

SARAH 3You can find out more about Sarah and her fantabulous books on her website:

Sarah, I absolutely loved your 2013 Christmas book, SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW. And now we’ve got the sequel to delight us, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. Can you tell us about this story?

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER is Sean O’Neil’s story. Sean is a talented surgeon, totally committed to his career. He is forging his own path and much as he loves his family, he doesn’t want to be involved in the family business at Snow Crystal, Vermont. But events conspire to bring him back home for a short time and he’s forced to confront his feelings about the place, as well as his feelings for Élise, the fiery French chef with whom he spent one steamy night the previous summer.

Sean and Élise are both strong, passionate people. They have great chemistry, but neither of them is looking for a relationship and they think they have their feelings under control. They are so wrong! These two were meant to be together, but it takes a whirlwind ride of passion and emotion before they realize it themselves. I had so much fun with this book!

sarah 9Ooh, sounds delicious! What were the inspirations behind this book?

I always enjoy writing about characters who have an intense relationship history. In Sean and Élise’s case it was brief, but it left a lasting impact on both of them. I wanted to explore how two guarded, very independent people manage to lower their barriers enough to embark on a relationship, but I also wanted to look at how family pressure had impacted on Sean.

The resort of Snow Crystal has been in the family for four generations and there has been a huge amount of pressure on all three brothers to play a role in the business.  Sean in particular carries a lot of guilt about rejecting the family lifestyle. I wanted to explore how someone with a different life goal, in Sean’s case to be a surgeon, might respond to that pressure and how he eventually reconciles his loyalty to his family with his own needs and ambitions.

SARAH 4In Élise’s case, she has history that has made her very wary of romantic relationships. She doesn’t trust her feelings and Sean has to work hard to help her overcome her understandable reluctance to expose her heart.

What’s coming up next for the O’Neil brothers?

The final book in the series, MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS, will be out in October.  Right from the start of this series I was excited about writing Tyler’s story, probably because he’s the bad boy and we all love a reformed bad boy. Since the injury that ended his career as a medal winning downhill skier, Tyler has been helping with the family business. He’s also a single father, raising his teenage daughter Jess, a situation that brings its own challenges for a man used to putting himself first. He’s had plenty of relationships but only one friendship, and that’s with Brenna who he has known since childhood. Brenna’s feelings go way beyond friendship but she doesn’t think Tyler sees her that way.

sarah 5Tyler’s story is a romance, but it also explores love in its widest sense and what it means to be a father, a son, a brother, a lover and a friend. I can’t wait to see this story on the shelves!

Hurry up, October! What were the challenges and/or pleasures of writing a trilogy of three single-title length romances? Do you know anything now that you wish you’d known before you started?

I’d wanted to write a single title contemporary romance series for a long time so being given that opportunity was very exciting for me. The pleasure was in having the extra space to enable me to explore the characters in greater depth. When I’m writing Harlequin Presents the focus is very much on the hero and heroine. It’s like taking a close up shot with a camera. You focus on the couple and no one else. With single title you have a wide-angle view, so you see the couple in the context of the world around them. You see how they relate not only to each other, but to other people. I enjoyed exploring those extra layers of complexity.

sarah 7One of the main challenges was to remember that I had the space of three books to tell the overall story and didn’t need to cram it all into the first chapter!  I wanted the focus to be three brothers, but I also wanted to explore the complexity of being part of a big, loving family. 

As you know, I’m a huge fan of your Harlequin Mills and Boon Presents stories. Do you have any plans to write more?

I do! In fact I’m working on one at the moment. It’s set in Greece and will be loosely linked to my next single title series, which will be out in 2015. I’m very excited about it. I love the emotional intensity of Presents, and of course it’s always fun to add in the glamour and sophistication that is part of that line.

You’ve written a couple of Cosmo Red-Hot Reads (RIPPED and BURNED). Was it a challenge writing short and super hot? Any plans to write more?

sarah 8Last year I had the opportunity to write single titles that were 100,000 words and novellas of 30,000 and I really enjoyed the challenge presented by the different length of story. The Cosmo Red Hot reads are a very intense, short read and, yes, they are super hot! My books are always quite sexy so I simply stepped it up a notch!

I don’t have plans to write more at the moment, but I wouldn’t rule it out because I had so much fun writing them. My next big focus is my new contemporary series for HQN. I’ll be revealing more about that over the summer. I do enjoy variety and I find it good for creativity to move between projects of different lengths. Learning to write short and tight is a good skill for any writer.

You’re so prolific and your books are of such a consistently high quality. Interested parties (well, me!) want to know your secrets. Do you have any time management techniques that really work for you?

sarah 10I put the writing first. There are so many distractions in this job. A writer could spend all day on different social networking sites. I do use Facebook and Twitter and I find them excellent ways of communicating with readers and also making professional connections, but I try and limit the time I spend. All writers struggle with the balance between promotion and writing, but I always try and remember that without the book I won’t have anything to promote so I make writing the book a priority. I do tend to write every day. If I take time off away from the story it’s harder to get back into the flow.

Sarah, thanks for such a great interview. Do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita Buddies to get the conversation going?

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER is set in the beautiful lakes and mountains of Vermont. Where is your ideal summer destination?

I love mountains and water and my ideal summer destination would involve both those things, so Vermont would definitely be right at the top of my list. Last summer we had a family holiday in Crete, which is very mountainous and also has fabulous beaches. I have two sons and our happiest vacations involve plenty of outdoor activity because boys need to be kept busy!

BanditBootySarah is giving away a print copy of SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER (international) to one lucky commenter today. So get commenting, people. Good luck!

Winner of 7 Nights from the U.K.!

BanditBootyThanks so much to everyone who went all posh and tea-drinking to help me celebrate the release of the U.K. edition of SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED from Mills and Boon in London. I’m delighted now to announce that the winner of the book is:


Megan, can you please email me on anna @ with your snail mail details and I’ll get your lovely purple book off to you. Happy reading!

Debut Medical Romance author Robin Giana in the Lair!

  I’m thrilled to introduce you to a good friend and now debut author Robin Giana.  Robin’s first book, SAVED BY HIS SON’S SMILE, is being released by Harlequin’s Medical Romance imprint.  They recognized a good writer when they saw one. Watch for several new Robin Giana medical romances to hit the shelves in 2014.

Robin, I’ve know you for some time but tell the readers about yourself.

 Robin GianaThanks Donna, glad to be here.   I play piano and enjoy gardening and cooking and am particularly skilled at ignoring clutter in my house. 🙂  I’m lucky to be a part of a big, Greek family that likes to spend time together (and eat a lot of great food by great cooks!) My late father’s parents emigrated from Greece, but my mother’s parents were from England so my Greek heritage was only a small part of my life growing up.  But by chance I married a man whose family is Greek!  My children have grown up with cousins upon extended cousins and wonderful family gatherings that have been a big part of their lives. 

Publishing is all about persistence.   How long did you write before you sold?

 Way longer than I ever expected! 🙂 There were about nine years between when I had my epiphany that I wanted to write romance fiction and when I sold. I wish it had been a shorter journey, but I know that’s not terribly unusual. There was a bigger learning curve than I expected in learning how to write sellable fiction, that’s for sure! Add to that the busyness of life with kids at home, and two years of dealing with my parents‘ ill health, and time can pass by awfully quickly.  But maybe there’s a reason it took so long.  Certainly it makes it all the sweeter when it finally happens! 

We love to hear call stories in the lair, can you share yours? How did you celebrate?Robin's cover

 I’d gone to my son’s track meet and my college-aged daughter had just gotten home from school and joined me. My husband was able to make it and we were standing there in a pretty stiff wind with the crowd cheering for one of the races when my phone rang. It was my agent, Cori Deyoe of Three Seas Literary Agency. I later accused her of being horribly mean, because she teased me at first, implying we’d gotten a rejection. When she told me I’d been offered a two-book contract from Harlequin Mills & Boon, I started shrieking into the phone (her poor ear!) and my husband and daughter could tell what was happening and were grinning like crazy. Problem was, between the wind and the crowd noise, I could barely hear Cori! After we hung up, I feared that I’d gotten it all wrong somehow. That I’d misunderstood, and I was afraid to tell anyone until after I’d spoken with her again! Happily, though, it really was a contract 🙂 

      After the track meet, we went home and my husband chilled a bottle of champagne which we by chance had in the house. My father-in-law was staying with us at the time, recuperating from an illness, so it was fun to celebrate with him there too, clinking our glasses of champagne!

 Robin and I share the same agent.  I can see her enjoying stretching out the suspense  😀 .  I wasn’t surprised to hear you’d sold, but I was surprised by the medical romance imprint.  Why medical romance?

 One of the things I had been working on was trying to break into series romance with Harlequin. I heard about the medical romance line offering a ‘Fast Track’ submission where you could submit just one chapter and a synopsis. That sounded fun, as my husband is a doctor, my critique partner is an ER doc, and I have numerous friends and relatives in medicine. I had a lot of resources I could bother with questions! 🙂 Not to mention that I’ve learned a lot about medicine by osmosis over the years.  The editors liked my first chapter, then the next three, and I submitted the full manuscript in December of 2012, which they apparently liked, too!

Enough about you 😀 .  Tell us about the story. What was your inspiration?

 George ClooneyWhen I first decided to write a medical romance, I figured it would be a good idea to stand out from the crowd by choosing an unusual location, but to still use a popular romance trope so it would feel familiar. I knew immediately that I wanted to set it in Benin, West Africa. Before I met him, my husband worked in a mission hospital there for three months while he was still a med student. The photos he has are interesting and powerful and sometimes tragic, and I knew I would enjoy learning more about it.

 In the story, the hero, Dr. Chase Bowen, is the son of mission physicians and grew up living around hospitals in developing nations.  He knows a family is out of the question for him, because the places his work takes him are too dangerous for children.  Chase is stunned when his former lover from three years ago shows up to work in Benin for an eight-month stint. They’d worked together in Honduras for a year before Dani had asked him to marry her and have a family together.  Chase had no choice but to turn her down flat, despite how much it hurt saying goodbye.

 When Dani arrives in Benin, she has a two-and-a-half year old boy with her, and Chase realizes why she’d asked him to marry her—the child is his!  He tells her he now accepts her marriage proposal, but Dani says it’s too late.  Chase is determined to convince her, and insists their son belongs in the US, where he’d be safer than in places like Africa.  His mission work is his life, but he’s convinced they can make it work with her and their son in the US, and Chase working there a few months a year.  Dani knows how it feels to be unimportant to a parent, and refuses to marry a man she and her son would see only weeks a year.  Can Chase and Dani find a solution that will work for all three of them? Or are their differences too big to overcome?

This sounds AWESOME!  I put an excerpt at the end of the interview so the readers can get a taste of what’s in store.  Meanwhile,  what’s next for you?

  I’m pleased to say that my next book, titled The Last Temptation of Dr. Dalton, will be released in April. It features another sexy mission doctor that readers will meet in my first book, and a spunky heroine who is director of the mission hospital where he is assigned to briefly fill in for a delayed doc.  This story is set in Liberia, which has a fascinating history, and also a tragic one with the recent devastating civil wars.  I hope readers who like this character from the first book will want to read his story.

 I’m now working on a third medical romance, will be working on a medical duet with another writer after that, and plan to spend some time later this year pondering a single title series.  We’ll see!  Pretty exciting to now get to have this writing thing be a real job!

Any words of wisdom for writers chasing the dream?

  My advice is probably the same aspiring writers always hear!  Don’t give up.  Keep working and learning.  Read a lot and write a lot.  Don’t stick with one manuscript and work on it forever—branch out and work on a number of different things.  But eventually, you have to FINISH a book!  It will teach you more than you ever dreamed to have a complete manuscript, and not just ten you’ve written four or five chapters of then tossed aside.  And it will prove to you that you CAN do this crazy novel-writing thing!

 Join an organization of writers—spending time with other writers is so important to being able to keep the dream alive! Not to mention that romance writers in particular are the most generous and lovely people in the world, sharing their knowledge and expertise with others. I honestly don’t think I would have stuck with it if my writing had stayed a solitary journey.

 Know that you’ll get knocked down a lot, and you’ll receive rejections galore. But also know you can learn from those knocks to become a better writer.  And as you become a better writer, your chances of breaking in get better.  And can I say it again?  Don’t give up, and it will happen.

And so Bandita Buddies, I’ve shared a bit of my cultural heritage.  Do any of you have a great ethnic background that enriches your life, or any special family traditions that are meaningful to you?  I’ll send a printGreek Wedding copy of  CHANGED BY HIS SON’S SMILE and a tote bag to someone leaving a comment.  

Here’s an excerpt from CHANGED BY HIS SON’S SMILE:

“Chase.  It’s been a while.  How’ve you been?” 

            Her polite tone sounded strained, and he’d barely squeezed her soft hand before she yanked it loose.

            “Good.  I’ve been good.”  Maybe not so good.  As he stared into the blue of her eyes, he remembered how much he’d missed her when she left.  More than missed her sunny smile, her sweet face, her beautiful body.  

             But he’d known it was best for both of them.  If a family was what she wanted, she should marry a guy rooted in the States.  No point in connecting herself to a wandering medic who wouldn’t have the least idea how to stay within the confines of a white picket fence.

             Apparently, though, she hadn’t found husband and father material, because here she was in Africa.  The woman who had burrowed under his skin like a guinea worm, and he had a bad feeling that her arrival would start that persistent itch all over again.

            “Dani,” Spud called from across the car, “I’m going to take your duffle to your quarters, then be back to help you get—”

            “Great, thanks,” Dani interrupted brightly.  “I appreciate it.”

            She turned back to Chase, and he noted the trapped, almost scared look in her eyes.  Was having to work with him again that horrible?

            “I thought the GPC website said you were in Senegal,” Dani said.  “Are you…staying here?”

            “No, just stopped in for a little day tour of the area.” 

            The twist of her lips showed she got his sarcasm loud and clear.  What, she hoped he was about to grab a cab and head to the next tourist destination?  He couldn’t remember Dani ever saying dumb things before.  In fact, she was one of the smartest pediatricians he’d had the opportunity to work with over the years.  One of the smartest docs, period.

            “Well.  I…” Her voice faded away and she licked her lips.  Sexy, full lips he’d loved to kiss.  Tempting lips that had been one of the first things he’d noticed about her when they first met. 

            “Sooo,” Trent said, looking at Dani, then Chase, then back at Dani again with raised brows.  “Chase and I were about to have a late dinner and a beer.  Are you hungry?”

            “No, thanks, I had snacks in the car.  You two go on and eat, I’m sure you’re starved after a long day of clinic and surgeries.”  She put on a bright and very fake smile.  “I’ll get the low-down on the routine around here tomorrow.  Right now, I’m just going to have Spud show me my room and get settled in.  Bye.”

            She walked back to the other side of the Land Rover then just stood there, strangely hovering, practically willing them to leave.  Well, if she wanted to act all weird about the two of them being thrown together again, that was fine by him. 

            “Come on,” he said to Trent as he moved toward the kitchen.  While his appetite had somehow evaporated, a beer sounded damned good.


            The sound of a muffled little voice floated across the sultry air, and Chase again found himself stopping dead.  He slowly turned to see Dani leaning into the back of the Land Rover.  To watch, stunned, as she pulled a small child out through the open door and perched him on her hip. 

            Guess he’d been wrong about her finding husband and father material.  And pretty damned fast after she’d left.

            “Mommy, are we there yet?”  The sleepy, sweet-faced boy of about two and a half wrapped his arms around her neck and pressed his cheek to her shoulder.  A boy who didn’t have blue eyes and crazy, curly blonde hair like the woman holding him.

            No, he had dark hair that was straight, waving just a bit at the ends.  A little over-long, it brushed across eyebrows that framed brown eyes fringed with thick, dark lashes.  A boy who looked exactly like the photos Chase’s mother had hauled all around the world and propped up in every one of the places they’d lived.  Photos of him and his brother when they were toddlers. 


            But as he stared at the child then slowly lifted his gaze to Dani’s, the obvious truth choked off his breath and smacked him like a sledgehammer to the skull.  He didn’t have to do the math or see the resemblance.  The expression in her eyes and on her face told him everything.

            He had a son.  A child she hadn’t bothered to tell him about.  A child she had the nerve, the stupidity, to take on a medical mission to a third-world country.  Something he was adamantly against…and for good reason.

            “I guess…we need to talk,” Dani said, glancing down at the child in her arms then back at Chase with a mix of guilt and frustration and resignation flitting across her face.  “But let’s…let’s do it tomorrow.  I’m beat, and I need to get Andrew settled in, get him something to eat.”

            “Andrew.”  The name came slowly from his lips.  It couldn’t be a coincidence that Andrew was Chase’s middle name.  Anger began to burn in his gut.  Hot, scorching anger that overwhelmed the shock and disbelief that had momentarily paralyzed him.  She’d named the boy after him, but hadn’t thought it necessary to even let him know the kid existed?

            “No, Dani.”  It took every ounce of self-control to keep his voice fairly even, to not shout out the fury roaring through his blood and pounding in his head.  “I’m thinking a conversation is in order right this second.  One more damned minute is too long, even though you thought three years wasn’t long enough.”




Sarah Morgan’s Winner!

BanditBootyThanks so much to everyone for making Sarah Morgan‘s first visit to the lair such a raving success. Sarah was overwhelmed with the welcome she received. The winner of the copy of SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW is:


Congratulations! Please email Sarah on Sarah @ (no spaces) with your snail mail details and she’ll get your book off to you. You’ll love this story!

Sarah Morgan Rings Our Bell!

SM 1Ooh, color me excited! In fact, color me excited and write it in fireworks and tell the UN!

A couple of years ago, thanks to my fabulous critique partner Annie West, I discovered a writer who has since become one of my all-time favorites. I’m not at all surprised that this particular writer has since won back-to-back RITA awards. Clearly everybody agrees with me that she’s an exceptional talent.

So we have a wonderful author. And we have someone making a lair debut. And we have a Christmas romance – I’m always a sucker for a Christmas romance.

You can see why I’m jumping around like a…jumping thing.

SM 3The brilliant Sarah Morgan is here all the way from the U.K. to tell us about her first full-length contemporary romance SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW. Here’s the blurb:

Once upon a time, Christmas was Kayla Green’s favorite time of year. Now all the workaholic wants for Christmas is for it to be over—as fast as possible! So when duty calls her to snowy Vermont to close a deal with a new client, Kayla is grateful for an excuse to avoid the holidays for another year. 

Jackson O’Neil left a thriving business behind to return home and salvage his family’s resort—it’s in his blood, and he can’t let it fail. Now that he’s got marketing whiz Kayla Green working with him to put Snow Crystal on the map, success is on the horizon. The fact they strike enough sparks off each other to power all the Christmas lights in Vermont is just an added bonus. 

Kayla might be an expert at her job, but she’s out of her depth with Jackson—he makes her crave the happy-ever-after she once dreamed of, and it’s terrifying. As the snowflakes continue to swirl, will the woman who doesn’t believe in the magic of Christmas finally fall under its spell?

SLEIGH BELLS is already creating a lot of buzz. RT Book Reviews called it “a Holiday hit” in a 4.5 star review. Publishers Weekly gave this book a starred review and said, “This touching Christmas tale will draw tears of sorrow and joy, remaining a reader favorite for years to come.”

SM 4You can find out more about Sarah and her books on her website:

Sarah, welcome to the Bandita lair!  I’m so excited about your full-length Christmas romance SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW. Can you tell us about this book? 

Thank you for inviting me to the lair, Anna! It feels like a warm, cosy place to be, especially as SLEIGH BELLS is a winter story! I’m so excited to be here. And I’m excited about my first mainstream novel. I’m driving everyone around me crazy so it’s good to inflict my excitement on someone else for a change. SLEIGH BELLS is a holiday romance. My heroine Kayla hates Christmas. Every year, she buries herself in work and just waits for it all to be over so when she is invited to Vermont by a new client (my super sexy hero, Jackson O’Neil) she thinks it will be the perfect place to escape. A secluded log cabin in a snowy forest away from civilization sounds like the perfect place to pass what is, for her, the worst time of the year. But things don’t go the way she has planned!

Sounds great! What were the inspirations behind this book?

Last Christmas my family and I broke with tradition and instead of staying at home, we rented a log cabin near a lake. It was snowy and perfect but I realised that although for us it was a wonderful place to spend the holidays, it would equally be perfect for someone who found Christmas a difficult time of year and wanted to avoid the craziness of the holiday season.

SM 2A month earlier I’d had a conversation with Dianne Moggy at Harlequin, and she’d been telling me about her miniature poodle Maple. She entertained me with stories of Maple’s antics (hilarious!) and I thought it would be perfect to make Maple part of my story, but I wanted to make sure that the dog wasn’t just window dressing but central to the story and Kayla’s development as a character.

At that point I knew I wanted to write a mainstream romance, but I hadn’t decided on the setting. It was while I was talking to Dianne that I thought – Maple – Maple syrup – Vermont (this is how a writer’s brain works as you well know!) So now I had my setting and a heroine who wanted to avoid Christmas.

SM 6Because we writers are supposed to torture our characters I then had to make her face the one thing she dreaded most – so I surrounded her with a big, noisy happy family. I confess that I love fish out of water stories and there is an element of that in this book. Kayla is a city girl and finding herself in snowy Vermont is a culture shock! And that’s before she starts trying to do business with the O’Neil family who are nothing like her usual clients. I had so much fun with this story.

And I’ve shared with you a photo of the real Maple! If you go to my website and watch the book video for SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW, you can see the real Maple jumping (she does that a lot in the book! She is the most adorable dog).

Noodling around your website, I notice that we have two more books in the O’Neil Brothers series following SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW. Can you give us a sneak peak of what’s to come in the series?

I wanted to write about a big, loving, interfering family so the first thing I did for my hero, Jackson, was give him two brothers. Jackson’s twin brother Sean is an orthopedic surgeon. His story, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, will be out July 2014. Younger brother Tyler is a gold medal winning downhill skier who retired from the circuit after a serious accident. He’s the bad boy of the three! His story will be out November 2014. The three O’Neil men share a close bond, but they’re very different and they each face different issues and challenges. I had fun finding the right heroine for each of them!

SM 5Yum! I notice you have a novella out toward the end of November to tempt us. I’d love to hear more about RIPPED.

RIPPED is part of the new Cosmo Red Hot Reads programme, which is a joint venture between Harlequin and Cosmopolitan. These novellas are fun, super sexy stories featuring strong, independent heroines (my favourite type!). The heroine of RIPPED, Hayley, is an engineer. She’s the reluctant bridesmaid at the wedding of her ex and suffers a major wardrobe malfunction. She’s rescued by the best man, sexy Italian Nico Rossi, a buttoned up lawyer who she believes has always disapproved of her. This story takes place a few days before Christmas and wrapping paper isn’t the only thing to be ripped in this book! I had so much fun writing it. I laughed the whole time. I hope it makes a few readers laugh too!

What else is coming up for Sarah Morgan?

I’m in the middle of writing the second Cosmo story, BURNED, about Hayley’s sister. Then I’m moving on to the last book in my O’Neil Brothers series, which is Tyler’s story. I’m really looking forward to writing this one. There will be a few surprises from Tyler’s past and some issues I can’t wait to explore and I love the O’Neil family (especially Grandma Alice and Grandpa Walter!), so I’m looking forward to being with them for another story. And puppy Maple of course. She will be a year older, but still jumping no doubt!

SM 7As this is your first visit to the lair, we’d love to hear about your writing journey.

I always loved writing (I wrote my first story when I was eight) but I didn’t think it was something that could be a career, so I wrote alongside other jobs for many years. I trained as a nurse so when I started writing seriously it seemed logical to me to write a Medical Romance. As well as writing the love story, I loved being able to control what happened to the patient. I wrote 35 medical romances for Harlequin and because my heroes were so often alpha they suggested I write for Presents, which I did and I loved it! I’ve wanted to write a longer length contemporary for a while so when Harlequin offered me the opportunity to do that I was thrilled. So at the moment I’m playing with different story lengths, novella, category at 50,000 and full length, mainstream (100,000 words) contemporaries. Each demands something different from the writer and I love the variety. Hopefully readers will too.

One of the things I love about your books is that you take the classic Harlequin Presents/Sexy/Modern style and give it a really contemporary twist. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what constitutes a classic Presents and also on how you give your own particular spin to the stories.

Presents is known for its international settings, the glamour, the sophistication and, of course, the alpha hero. For me, it’s important to match just the right heroine with the hero for the story to work. The alpha hero is strong (although not a bully. The hero’s actions should always be well motivated, even when he appears ‘hard’ to the reader). He is the leader of the pack (by virtue of his skills and attributes, not his ability to lose his temper) and winning his heart won’t be easy. I love finding the woman who can do that. I always write strong heroines, but my heroine may not be strong in the same areas as the hero, in fact she probably isn’t but her strengths will compliment his and in the end they will be perfect for each other.

Sarah, huge congratulations on your latest releases. I love that I’ve got so many new books from you to look forward to. Do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita Buddies to get the conversation going?

What is the one gift you’d like to find under the Christmas tree this year? (I want your golden rooster – would he like to come and live with me for a while?)

BanditBootyTake him!  He’s yours!

OK, people, get commenting! Sarah has very generously offered an international prize of a copy of SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW! Now, that’s going to brighten up any Christmas season!

Exclusive Excerpt: She’s Having the Boss’s Baby by Kate Carlisle

A sneak peek at She’s Having the Boss’s Baby by Kate Carlisle

All systems are go!

Ovulation cycle? Check. Estrogen level? Check. Nothing can stop Ellie Sterling’s baby-making attempt at the fertility clinic. Nothing but her CEO boss—and good friend—who offers her an alternative to leaving their island headquarters: let’s make a baby the old-fashioned way. It isn’t that Aidan Sutherland wants to be a baby daddy; he just doesn’t want to lose his senior VP. But Aidan’s plans for romance and candlelight quickly turn business into pleasure. After one night with his pal Ellie, the bikini-chasing billionaire is dazed, confused and—could it be—in love?

The scene was set for romantic sex.

Aidan glanced around the living room of his penthouse suite and approved of what he saw. He had always been a romantic guy and enjoyed the trappings that went along with it. So he felt confident as he instructed his catering guy where to place the ice bucket and the dessert he’d selected for tonight.

If there was one thing Aidan Sutherland knew how to do, it was set the scene for sex. But this time, he had to admit, he was really enjoying himself, picturing Ellie walking in and seeing all this. Candlelight, champagne on ice, chocolate mousse with whipped cream for dessert, soft, sultry jazz playing low in the background, dozens of roses and star lilies arranged in different vases around the suite.

The doorbell rang and he strolled over to open the door. And couldn’t help but smile. Her hair was lifted up off her neck with a few wavy tendrils curling down. He’d never seen her wear her hair like that, but it suited her and made him glad he’d decided to dwell on romance tonight. She wore sexy, strappy sandals and was dressed in a short, colorful sarong-style skirt that wrapped around her waist and a thin turquoise top that accentuated her breasts.

That’s how Aidan saw it anyhow. Now that he’d seen her in that bikini, he was pretty sure everything she wore from now on would accentuate her breasts.

“You made it,” he said, swinging the door wide to let her in.

She smiled. “Did you think I wouldn’t?”

He closed the door behind her. “You looked a little preoccupied in the office today. I wondered if you might be having second thoughts.”

No,” she said with a firm nod. “This is the plan we agreed on and I’m ready to go through with it.”

He pursed his lips in a twisted grin. “There’s no firing squad in here, Ellie. You can relax. In fact, I’ve got just the thing to help us both unwind.” He led her over to the dining area where he popped open the bottle of champagne and poured them both a glass.

“To…success,” he said, raising his glass to her.

She laughed and clicked her glass against his. “To success.” She took a sip of the bubbly liquid and said, “It’s wonderful.”

He took a sip and observed her over the rim of his glass. “You look beautiful.”

She smiled with pleasure. “Thank you. So do you.”

“Thank you,” he said with a grin. She was normally so competent and sure of herself, but now her gaze flitted around, clearly indicating she was nervous. She finished the champagne quickly and he filled her glass again.

“Well,” she said, after another sip. “Better.” As she continued to glance here and there, it seemed to dawn on her that things were a little different. “Oh, you did something.”

“Yes.” He stood by the table and enjoyed watching her make her discoveries.

“Everything looks so nice. You have candles. Oh, and flowers. So many.” She wandered over to the fireplace mantle where the largest vase of roses had been placed. “They’re so pretty. Did you do all this for me?”

“You seemed to like the idea of a little romance.”

“I do.” Her eyes were shining and her mouth was curved in a smile he wanted to taste. “I really do.”

“We aim to please,” he said easily. “Let’s start over here.” He crossed the room to meet her halfway. Taking hold of her arm, he led her back to the table.

“Here, try some of this.” He took the cover off a silver bowl filled with chocolate mousse and dipped the spoon in. He added a small dollop of whipped cream and raised it to her lips. “Tell me what you think.”

“Oh. Oh.” Her eyes closed as she savored the taste. Her tongue lapped at a bit of chocolate on her lip. Aidan’s stomach muscles twisted in a dark coil of desire and he grew rock hard as he watched her expression turn to one of rapture. “It’s heaven.”

When she opened her eyes, he put the spoon down. “I’m sorry, Ellie, but there’s something we need to take care of right now.”

“Oh,” she said, blinking as if she were coming awake after a long nap. “About what? Our custody agreement? Aidan, you don’t have to worry. I already took care of that. It’s been signed and sent back to the lawyers.”

“Good, but this has nothing to do with that. This is about…this.” He took one more step closer and covered her lips with his in a kiss so tender, so sensual, so much sweeter than any chocolate, he found himself in danger of losing it right there. He clamped on tight to his control because there was no way he was stopping now.

“Just had to get that out of the way,” he muttered, running his fingers along the side of her face, his desire to touch her more urgent than the need to breathe.

“Okay,” she whispered and swayed a little unsteadily. “Okay. Good. Practice. Like you said. Probably a good idea, really. Makes perfect sense.” She licked her lips and stared up at him.

That was enough to push Aidan into going for more. The taste of her lingered on his mouth, like a fine wine that made you thirsty for more.

Nancy and Katherine’s Winners!

Thanks to Katherine Garbera and Nancy Robards Thompson for visiting the lair last Friday. And thanks to everyone who contributed such fascinating stories. It’s now my great pleasure to announce the winners:

FEDORA: TEXAS CHRISTMAS by Nancy Robards Thompson

MAY: CALLING ALL THE SHOTS by Katherine Garbera

Congratulations, girls! Fedora, can you please email Nancy on nrobardsthomspon @ (no spaces) with your snail mail info? May, can you please email Kathy on kathy @ (no spaces) with your snail mail info? And happy reading!

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