Posts tagged with: Romance

The Magic Christmas Guy

This was a fun story to write.  I’m a sucker for holiday decorations, and I enjoyed creating a situation where the decorations played a central role.

There used to be a young man in our neighborhood who decorated his small house and yard to the max every Christmas.  He had “Merry Christmas” spelled out in lights on his fence, outlined his entire house (including the windows) in lights, and had inflatables in his yard and on his roof.  We loved his Christmas kitsch so much that we drove by several times each year to admire it. Never having met him, we didn’t know his name. We just referred to him as Christmas Guy.

barcelonadecorations1I don’t have any photos of Christmas Guy’s magnificent efforts, but I like this photo of a hotel in Barcelona, Spain, when the city was decorated for Christmas. The red lights at left, about halfway up, are made of light strings in loops, several of them hanging together.  Apparently Antoni Gaudi, the famous architect, used a similar device to create in inverted arches.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for decorations.  Unfortunately, lights don’t always photograph clearly on my little camera.

Anyway, getting back to the story…

Because I so enjoy decorations, I knew I want them to play a big part in “The Magic Christmas Guy,” and the title obviously had to have Christmas Guy in it.  And I wanted to use the town of Wayfarer from my Light Mage Wars series because small towns make a bigger thing of their Christmas celebrations than big cities.

christmastree1The small town near my high school had a Christmas parade every year, and our band marched in it.  My hometown had a big pine tree on Main Street that was decorated with lights every year–until Hurricane Hugo took it out.

So this was going to be a story set in Wayfarer, and the perfect foil for Christmas Guy was a woman who didn’t celebrate the holidays.  She’s not a grinch, but her family suffered a holiday tragedy that led them to avoid all things Christmas-related as much as possible.

Here’s the description:

A Heart Scarred by Loss

Who knew that the small town of Wayfarer, Georgia, was freaking Christmas Central?  Accountant Jenny Bridges, haunted by the Christmas Eve death of her twin sister, plans to ignore the twinkling lights and festivities and focus on her new job, which she desperately needs. Her boss, however, insists that Jenny help her hunky neighbor across the street—who just happens to be a mage like she is—with the town’s annual holiday carnival.

A Magic Man

Deputy Mike McLean loves Christmas. Every wreath, every colored bulb, every ho, ho, ho. Each December for decades, his family has hosted the town’s annual charity carnival at their old Victorian home, and this year his pretty new neighbor adds extra zing. Lo and behold, she’s a mage, too, but as the attraction between them sparkles like the lights on the holiday trees, Jenny sees it, and him, as a betrayal of her sister’s memory.

A Season for Miracles

What Jenny doesn’t know is that along with holiday spirit and magical gifts, Mike has patience in spades. Can the hope of the season heal her wounded soul, and make the kind of magic that lasts forever?

And here’s a look at Mike and Jenny’s first meeting:

Chapter 1

the-magic-christmas-guy-finalMaybe moving here was a mistake.

As the grocery checkout line moved forward, Jenny Bridges steeled herself for the conversation at the register. How could anyone guess that Wayfarer, Georgia, a town famed for its love of New Age woo-woo, would also be totally gaga for the holiday that had scarred her soul?

Anyway, it wasn’t as though she’d had a lot of choices about where to start over. She’d been tarnished by association after her unexpectedly scuzzbucket ex embezzled from a client of the Atlanta accounting firm where they both worked. On top of that, he’d billed hours he hadn’t worked. Jenny’s own records had been scrutinized like a new microbe in a plague zone. They were clean, of course, because she was honest. That had saved her from being fired, but the taint persisted.

Even worse, word had gotten around in the professional community, as word always did, and Jenny had become about as desirable an employee as a mangy dog. If her uncle hadn’t approached an old friend who ran a firm here in Wayfarer, Jenny would’ve been caught in the limbo of a disgraced employee with no chance for advancement and no alternate prospects.

“Merry Christmas, Lissa,” the cashier said to the thin, graying woman picking up her bag. “Happy Solstice, too. Y’all havin’ a party?”

“Not this year. We’re goin’ to my sister’s. Merry Christmas to you, too, Estelle, and Happy Kwanzaa.”

Lissa Whoever moved on, and the lanky guy behind her with the gold wire-rimmed glasses and unruly mop of brown hair stepped up. His easy smile lit his lean, solemn face and made him downright handsome. “Y’all getting ready for Christmas, Estelle?”

“Working on it, Reverend. How’re things at the shelter? You gonna have a full house for the holidays?”

“I hope not. People are happier when they’re settled somewhere.”

He must be the director of the community shelter. Jenny’d heard good things about it in the six weeks she’d lived here. She tuned out the conversation. Two more people ahead of her.

Two more holiday conversations, and then she was up.

But her family’s loss wasn’t these well-intentioned, friendly people’s problem. So she would do what she always did during the Christmas season, suck it up and deal. She would smile and say something neutral and hide the grief that had never gone away.

And she was definitely buying her groceries in big loads until the holiday was over. If she hadn’t forgotten it was her turn to bring the office coffee, she wouldn’t be here this morning.

At last, Jenny reached the register. She set the coffee on the cashier’s stand and braced herself.

“Well, hey, Jenny. That’ll be thirteen ninety-three, please. You all set for Christmas?”

“More or less.” Relaxed, easy tone, smile in place. All good. Jenny passed over the money. “My parents are coming, but we don’t really celebrate the holidays, so there isn’t much to do.”

Estelle didn’t need to know that the Christmas Eve death of Jenny’s twin sister twelve years ago, when they were fifteen, had pretty much demolished the holiday at the Bridges house. Nor could she know that Josie’s death had been caused by the dark magic users known as ghouls. No Mundane, or normal person, could know that. Or that ghouls kidnapped mages and Mundanes as breeders or snacks or just to torment for the hell of it.

Whatever the ghouls had intended for Josie, at least she’d escaped that.

Smiling, Estelle bagged the coffee and handed it over. “Well, there’s a lot to be said for a quiet day or two. You have a good one.”

Jenny thanked her. Hurrying toward the market’s glass front, she let out a relieved breath. That wasn’t so bad.

People did mean well, and the difficult part of the year lasted about a month. If everyone else was as laid back as Estelle, Jenny could deal. She’d come to like this pretty, friendly, somewhat eccentric town.

People were so informal here. The cashier at her grocery store in Atlanta had never learned her name. But cashiers there tended to come and go. Jenny’d heard that Estelle had run the register at Wayfarer Market for more than twenty years.

A man in the khaki shirt, green trousers, brown ball cap, and leather jacket of the Wayfarer County Sheriff’s Department was on his way in. He stepped back, holding the front door for Jenny. Before she could thank him, a faint magical vibe brushed her skin as it resonated with her own power.

He was a fellow mage. What were the odds that she would meet another mage in this town?

When she looked up in surprise, he said, “Hey, neighbor.”

His familiar face stopped her in her tracks, and her heart did a pit-a-pat. “You live across the street from me.”

“Sure do.” He let the door swing shut and extended his hand. “Mike McLean. I’ve been meaning to come say hello, but I’ve been on the night shift. Makes for a weird schedule.”

“I bet.” She shook the offered hand, and the contact generated a little buzz of excitement that had nothing to do with both of them being mageborn.

“I’m Jenny Bridges,” she added, recovering. She tugged at her hand, and he released it. His warm smile, though, said he’d been reluctant to let go and didn’t care that she knew it. He was confident.

And way too attractive. Glimpsing him from across the street, she’d found the view very appealing. Up close, he was seriously hot.

She continued, “The few times I’ve seen you, I’ve been running late, so I didn’t introduce myself.”

“We’ve fixed that now.” He grinned, and Jenny naturally grinned back. He was one of those people whose mood was infectious. His open, friendly smile was such a contrast with her sleazoid ex, Grant’s, calculation.

Mike also had sheer, male presence to back up his broad-shouldered, muscular build and rugged features. The short, brown hair and brown eyes didn’t hurt either. The intense interest in those eyes made Jenny’s heart flutter.

Scrambling for something intelligent to say, she came up with, “Your house is so gorgeous. Victorian, right?” Set on a huge lot, it was a warm shade of slate blue, with white gingerbread trim along the eaves.

“That’s right, and thanks. I grew up there.”

“I imagine you’ll be glad when all the work on it’s finished.”

“Work?” He looked baffled.

She raised her eyebrows. “You know, the electricians and bucket trucks and carpenters and even landscapers in your driveway?”

“Oh, them.” He smiled, and his eyes held a glint of humor. “You hadn’t heard that I host the Wayfarer Christmas Carnival?”

Christmas. Oh, no. Jenny forced a smile. “No wonder things have been so busy over there. I’ve heard enough to know the carnival is a big event for the town.” It was an annual fundraiser for the town’s library and community shelter, but she hadn’t paid much attention. “I’m surprised no one at work mentioned that it was across from my house.”

“Maybe they figured you knew.” He shrugged. “It’ll all be done this afternoon, though. I’ll have the lights on at seven. Swing by, and you’ll see it all.”

“I’m sure it’s beautiful, but I don’t really celebrate Christmas. Thanks, though.”

His smile faded a bit. “Sure. If you change your mind, you’re always welcome.”

“Thanks.” The disappointment in his face was subtle and definite. And flattering. Her own regret was sharper than she’d expected. But no way was she immersing herself in something that celebrated all she’d lost with Josie’s death.

An elderly couple who looked past retirement age started out of the market. Mike grabbed the door for them. They exchanged greetings, and he introduced Jenny. The couple, Bert and Sally Dickson, moved on with a “See you tonight, Mike.”

Mike turned back to Jenny. “You on your way to work?”

“Yeah. I imagine you have, er, perps to catch or something.”

“Not many perps in Wayfarer.” He grinned again, making her pulse, unfortunately, skip. “We mostly get neighborly disputes, the occasional kid shoplifting to see if it feels cool, and some out-of-towners speeding. But I should get back to it. Good to meet you at last.”

“You, too.”

Opening the door again, he doffed the ball cap and jammed it into his back pocket.

Jenny hurried back to her car. He was friendly and hot and a mage, but hosting the carnival meant he was also, unfortunately, a serious Christmas Guy. Just what she didn’t need. He was the first attractive guy she’d met since dumping Grant, and he was all wrong for her. Absolutely.

Too bad.


So that’s a brief look at “The Magic Christmas Guy.”  In the real world, we got our Christmas tree today, though we won’t decorate it until the weekend.  That’s when we’ll also pull out the boxes of decorations accumulated over the years and dig out the wrapping paper and really dive into the holiday.

img_1707One of the decorations I always make sure actually goes on the tree is pictured at left, a plastic reindeer I saved when my parents downsized.  I think he used to have eight companions, but he was the last one left.  I saved him because he’s a piece of Christmases past, a tangible reminder of holidays long gone by.  My parents probably got him at a dime store (what we had before big boxes like Target), but he has lasted a long time.

I’ll be back the day after Christmas, aka Boxing Day, hanging out and chatting with whoever drops by.  I hope you’ll be able to pop in. Today, though, let’s talk decorating.  What’s your favorite holiday decoration, either at Christmas or for another season or you celebrate?

Introducing Nichole Christoff

My guest today, Nichole Christoff, is making her Lair debut.  I discovered Nichole when I saw a reference to her debut novel, The Kill List, on an RWA loop.  It sounded like my kind of book, so I grabbed it, devoured it, and started jonesing for more.  Nichole’s protagonist, Jamie Sinclair, combines the ability to kick serious butt with a very vulnerable heart.  Jamie’s fourth adventure, The Kill Sign, is out tomorrow, so Nichole is celebrating with us.

Welcome, Nichole! Who is Jamie Sinclair?

nichole-christoffJamie Sinclair is a private-investigator-turned-security-specialist with a long list of high risk, high profile clients who call her when calling the police is out of the question. Jamie is also the only child of a retired two-star general who’s now a US Senator. In many ways, she was the son he never had so she developed quite a skill-set during a childhood spent at his side. As a result, Jamie’s rough-and-tumble on the outside, but with a failed marriage behind her, she’s quite soft on the inside. There’s a vulnerability to Jamie and a strength I admire.

How did you come up with her background?

thekilllistcoverAs the spouse of a US military officer, I often attended events at embassies and diplomats’ residences. At the fringes of events like these, security teams, charged with keeping the diplomats and their guests safe, keep watch. These teams are mostly made-up of highly-trained men, but among them are highly-trained women as well. By the time I began to work out the crime in what would become The Kill List, I knew I needed a heroine possessing the professional capabilities of those interesting women who’d safeguarded me, if my protagonist were going to get the job done. And that’s how Jamie was born.

We love call stories in the Lair. Will you share yours?

Sure! One ordinary April afternoon, my awesome agent, Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein of McIntosh and Otis, called to say we had an offer from Random House’s extraordinary Kate Miciak. You might know Kate for acquiring and editing Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, plus she’s edited half the books on my keeper shelf. Kate and I got right to work on the first novel in the Jamie Sinclair series, and now the latest one, The Kill Sign, arrives December 6th!

the-kill-shotWhy do Jamie and Adam Barrett cross paths?

Jamie and Lieutenant Colonel Adam Barrett first cross paths in my debut novel, The Kill List, when her lying, cheating, army officer ex-husband begs her to track down the kidnapper who snatched the diabetic daughter he fathered with another woman. For the sake of the child, Jamie won’t say no to the job, even though it means returning to the army post where she grew up and putting up with her ex-husband again. But the FBI and Adam Barrett, the post’s military police commander, aren’t too happy to have a private eye like Jamie stepping on their toes.

Jamie, however, isn’t reckless. She’s smart and she’s capable, and Barrett’s a man who appreciates those qualities. Now, if Barrett gets his way, crossing paths with Jamie just might become a permanent arrangement.

the-kill-boxPlease tell us about the first three books in the series.

In all the Jamie Sinclair novels, Jamie faces professional challenges, but she also faces personal ones, too. We meet Jamie in The Kill List, and to keep a little girl safe, she’s forced to trust again. In The Kill Shot, Jamie’s overbearing father requests the one thing he’s never asked for in his life: Jamie’s help. But when Jamie takes her father’s case, she finds herself in a dangerous game of international cat-and-mouse that could cost her her life.

In The Kill Box, Jamie rushes to Barrett’s hometown when a cold case from his past threatens their future, but everything goes wrong when a killer sets his sights on Jamie, and she meets a man who just might give Barrett a run for his money.

How does The Kill Sign build on these?

For Jamie, the stakes couldn’t be higher in The Kill Sign. She’s at a crossroads in this novel, both in terms of her relationship with Barrett and in regard to her career. In both instances, she can see the road not taken, and she has to decide what she’s going to do about it.

Would you like to share an excerpt from one of the books?

thekillsigncoverI’d love to. This passage is from the newest novel in the series, The Kill Sign. After a dirty bomb destroys a riverboat casino and nearly takes Jamie and Barrett down with it, she tracks a notorious gambler to a private hunting lodge in the Deep South, and he sends his enforcers to get rid of her. His men pile into all-terrain vehicles to chase Jamie through the woods with guns blazing, and this is what happens next:

Instinctively, I leapt for thick brush and safety. Bullets tore the leathery leaves of a wild magnolia as I hammered past it, intent on finding a new way to the main road and my SUV. And just as I began to put some distance between my tender hide and the ATV racing along the lane, a second all-terrain vehicle burst from a thicket, digging into the leaf litter in front of me and cutting off my escape route.

I turned on a dime, fled down a slope where hardwoods grew few and far between. Cypress dotted the landscape instead. I stumbled and fell on the hip still sore from my encounter with Monique. Momentum carried me down a muddy embankment. I tried to right myself, but I tumbled.

Head over heels, I splashed into the shockingly cold waters of a marsh.

My arrival set off ripples through the scummy bracken. Cattails, the color of winter wheat, stirred and parted. A massive S-wave flowed toward me and one word formed in my brain: Gator!

Wow, talk about ending on a hook!  What do you enjoy most and least about writing?

I love to get lost in another world for a while, and for me, that’s what writing is. Of course, pushing through a complex plot problem can be stressful, but in the end, it’s always worth the effort.

What’s next for you?

I’m thrilled to say I have another Jamie Sinclair novel on the way. Also, I’m working on a brand-new project with a whole new cast of characters. I can’t wait until the day I can tell you more!

For more information about Nichole and her books, visit her website,  You can also connect with her on Twitter, where she’s @NicChristoff, Facebook, and Goodreads, and you can find her books at Random House.

Nichole is giving a copy of The Kill Box to one of today’s commenters.  You must live in the US to win.  So tell us, what’s your favorite book or movie about a strong woman or your favorite private investigator book or movie?






Come….Walk with the Witches of Haven Harbor!!

Well, its been a while, but I’m finally ready to release a new book!  What, you say?  A new BOOK???  It feels like it’s been ages since Banditas Suz and Nancy and I released Capitol Danger – but wow, between the first Woman Candidate and all the brou-ha-ha, we were hot on the trail of current events with Capitol Danger, weren’t we??

But back to the NEW BOOK!!!  I was supposed to have this cover reveal last week, on my regular day of September 8.  But alas, my hard drive crashed.  **Wince**  I have such a love/hate relationship with computers, don’t you?  Arrrrrgh!!

But I’m back online and rarin’ to show you what I’ve been up to!  I’m so excited, as I said. Here’s the fabulous cover by designer Lyndsey Lewellen!  Don’t you just love it?  It’s so atmospheric and fun.  The story is set in the fictional town of Haven Harbor, Massachusetts…

Here, the blurb tells it better than I could.

thewitcheswalkfinalWelcome to Haven Harbor, Massachusetts!
In 1691, a group of renegade witches fled Salem in the dark of night, escaping the desperate evil that spawned the Witch Trials. They struck out to form their own town, with their own rules. Three hundred years later, their descendants celebrate by retracing those steps, but this year, a new evil stalks the Witches Walk…

It’s Time for The Witches Walk!

She’s got a plan. Burned out, beaten down, and on the brink of a career implosion, event management dynamo Mari Beecham bypasses the contract of a lifetime to take a job in a community known for its strange, spooky happenings. She doesn’t buy into the story line about the witches founding the town, but it’s great publicity. Bottom line? If she can make the annual Witches Walk a top destination event, she’ll save her career and, maybe, find some balance. She’ll do it, too, if “First Son of Haven Harbor” Peregrine Hestworth will stop interfering.

He’s in her way. As Town Council chair, Pere is serious about the safety and welfare of his people. He doesn’t want to like Mari. Even if he didn’t suspect his meddlesome mother of weaving a matchmaking spell, he still would have voted against hiring the petite whirlwind with a spine of steel. His visions of fire and death moving to Haven Harbor along with Mari are too deadly to ignore.

As trouble brews and the event stalls, the attraction between Mari and Pere bubbles like a cauldron. When a woman is attacked, and another disappears, Pere knows his unreliable foresight has hit the mark this time. An old evil is rising, with a new vendetta, and if they can’t work together, the devastation Pere foresees will take his town, along with the woman he’s coming to love.

The Witches Walk
A Haven Harbor Romance, Book 1

I’m so excited about this story.  It was fun to write and all my beta readers have said that I surprised them.  Ifacebook-icon LOVE doing that!!  Here’s a little excerpt from the beginning chapters of the book.  Mari is settling in to the Walk office, and Pere Hestworth stops by to make a little trouble….The current Walk director, Gus Wilkerson is trying to make Mari uncomforatble enough to leave, and he’s furious that she and the Town Council have authorized and audit of the Walk’s books. Carol is the Walk secretary. Ready? Here goes!

“Oh, hey, Ms. Beecham?” Carol hurried over as she came out of the ladies room, anxious to impart her news. “Mr. Gus had to leave. Something about his one of his other businesses, you know, the No Colds Barred Urgent Care Centers? He has a couple, and the U-Store-It and the car wash too. Anyway, he said he’d meet you here tomorrow morning, nine sharp. Um, if that suits you, of course.”
The last had been added for her benefit, Mari was sure. She’d lay odds Gus had said no such thing.
“Thank you Carol, and please, call me Mari. Save the Ms. Beecham for when the sponsors show up. Otherwise, we’re working this together, right? You’ve got a lot to teach me, and I’m ready to learn.”
Carol straightened, and her nervous hand twisting disappeared.
“I thought you’d be mad,” she blurted, then blushed. “That he left.” She blushed even more. “And then he gave Ms. Geneva your office.”
Mari made a snap decision, based on that look in the office. “Power play,” she stated and watched Carol’s eyes widen.
Mari just smiled, letting the young woman work it out. Gus wanted to give her a thimbleful of information, then deny her any more until he was ready to dole it out. Damned if she’d let that stop her.
“Let’s get some lunch,” she suggested. They invited Geneva along, but she demurred, waving at two dusty boxes. “If I can get through these first two years today, I’ll have made progress.”
Still wide-eyed at being invited, Carol walked with her to the nearby deli. They came back to the office to eat. In that short hour, Mari got more information from a bubbling, enthusiastic Carol than she’d gotten in nearly three hours with Gus.
“Time for more meet-n-greet,” Mari said when they finished. She slipped her purse out of her briefcase along with her car keys. “I’ll be back before you leave at five. I’m going to stop at Lydia Webb’s shop, then drive out to Mr. Hestworth’s Micro Mechanics Gaming Company to see the Walk’s end point.”
“I’ll wait till you get back then,” Carol said with a smug look of her own, turning back to her desk, “before I lock up and all.”
“Sound’s good,” Mari said. “I’ve got meetings in Boston tomorrow with Boston Chamber, and with the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce people. Their promotions committee is having a dinner and they invited me.”
Carol looked shocked. “They’ve never asked Mr. Gus to come to Boston.”
“Gus didn’t run an event at the Fogg Museum for four hundred of the country’s top CEO’s. I made some friends in Boston last time I was here.”
“Wow.” Carol’s grin about split her face. “That is majorly awesome.”
“Yeah, it was pretty cool. And on that happy note, I’ll head out.”
Mari turned to the door and ran right into the solid, sexy form of Peregrine Hestworth.

Visions of smoke, fire and blood assaulted him the minute Marisol Beecham’s hands hit his chest. Off balance and startled, her attempt to back away warred with the forward motion of her pivot, leaving them both stumbling, and with her nearly helpless in his arms.
He smelled expensive perfume and lush, powerful woman. It reinforced the echo of the vision’s smoky warning.
fb-logo-3What the hell?
The hint of foresight passed as quickly as it had come, as they all did, leaving him breathless and hyperaware of the woman in his arms. She was a tidy package of femininity and force. Fairly petite, she’d emphasized her gorgeous legs with stylish heels and a slim skirt. He didn’t know what the fashion was called, but it made the most of every curve.
His body’s instant reaction to her shape, and scent could be chalked up to recent celibacy, he was sure. Still, she was attractive with a wealth of dark hair and snapping dark eyes.
“I beg your pardon, Mr. Hestworth,” she said, untangling herself and pushing away. It wasn’t a shove, but it was a sure warning that she stood on her own two feet.
“No, I should be begging yours, Ms. Beecham,” he replied, and enjoyed the confusion that washed over her mobile features. “I brought you these,” he dangled a ring of keys, shiny and newly cut, between them.
“And these are?”
“Oh!” Carol, who had come to the door when she saw them collide, interrupted, pointing at the keys. “The office, the four temporary storage spaces over at the U-Store-it, the supply closet, and,” she frowned and came forward to tap the last brass key on the ring. “What’s this one? Is that to the big closet in Mr. Gus’s office?”
“It is,” Pere confirmed, resisting the urge to ruffle Carol’s hair as he had when she was younger. She’d hate him for treating her like a kid so he smiled, and nodded his approval. “Keen eye, Carol. Ms. Beecham, you had asked to look at all the financial records, as well as the list of vendors from the past couple of years. Has Gus gotten you those?”
“Yes and no. While I did see the modified version that was used for the Request for Proposal, I’d like to see the final you actually used.” It surprised him that she turned to Carol with the explanation. “Looking at the financials will tell me where we can maximize profits, looking at vendor lists can tell me who’s come before that we might entice back.”
He caught the undercurrent of excitement from Carol. Marisol Beecham had somehow managed to see what few others had, that Carol was brilliant, but it was overshadowed by her need to please and her nervous fear of doing the wrong thing. Pere had tried to hire her at MicroMechanics, thinking some of his staff could encourage her, but Carol had stubbornly clung to her position at the Walk office.
“Ah, that seems…logical.” Carol said the last bit almost as a question.
“I think it will prove to be, if the records are good.”pumpkin-carvings
“I’ve asked Gus to be sure you have them before the end of the week.” Pere approved her proposed methodology. “The records are a good place to start. How was your morning? Did you find everything you needed?”
Puzzled by the almost fearful look Carol shot Marisol’s way, he frowned. “Office not to your liking?”
“The auditor is using the second office at this point. She’s in there now with the first two years of the Walk’s records, so I’ll take them next. Is that the office you meant?” Marisol inquired with a tilt of her dark head. He could see something in her eyes, but whether it was temper or amusement, he couldn’t tell.
“She’s using your office?” he said, going around her to open the door to the office behind them after a brief knock.
Obviously her look had been suppressed temper, because his own temper flared in an instant at the sight of the box-filled room and the startled looking woman who sat at the desk now covered with stacks of paper in manila file folders.
“Good afternoon,” he said, modulating his irritation to a smile. No need to antagonize the woman just because he was pissed with Gus.
“Well hello,” she said, with a surprised note in her voice. “You must be Mr. Hestworth.”
They exchanged introductions and pleasantries, with her assessing him the whole time. Everyone expected him to be older, or weirder, given that he ran a gaming company. It irked him, but he let it pass. He’d had a full plate of that throughout his morning meetings regarding a buyout. He’d escaped as fast as he could, using the keys and the Walk as an excuse.
“I’ll let you get back to it then, Geneva,” he said, using the given name she’d encouraged him to use. “Thank you for being here.”
“Of course, I’m happy to help,” she said, smiling as she sat back down. She might be surprised at his age or his lack of gamer-vibe, but she was serious about her own work. He was pretty sure she’d already forgotten his presence before the door shut.
“Damn it,” he growled as he turned to the two women watching him. “Carol, where’s Gus?”
“Uh, he’s gone, Mr. Hestworth, had something at No Colds that needed his attention he said.”
“He left while I was in the ladies room,” Marisol added, that same tilt to her head, that same watching gaze. Now, he realized, she was waiting to see if he was on her side, or on Gus’s team, since he hadn’t voted for her.
“Idiot,” he murmured, turning away from the door. He shot a look Carol’s way. “Don’t repeat that, Carol.”
Mutely, she shook her head, shifting her nervous gaze from him to Marisol and back again.
“This is ridiculous.” He tapped a finger on his chin, then stopped when he recognized the habit again, one he’d adopted from his father. A solution occurred to him, and he snapped his fingers, making Carol jump. “Perfect. Carol, get Truett Powers on the phone, please.”
“The space next door?” Carol said, going on alert. He nodded, appreciating her quick jump to understanding what he’s decided on the spur of the moment.
“Exactly. Then, call Marcus.” When Carol looked puzzled, he added, “Tell him he’s got a job waiting over here, and to call me for confirmation.”
Carol cocked her head to one side for a moment, an imitation of Marisol’s waiting pose. It was such an obvious hero-worship move that he had to repress a grin. True to form, Carol got his plan within seconds.
“Oh,” she said, glee echoing in her voice. “I get it. Mr. Powers to rent, Marcus to renovate. Should I call your main office or mobile?”
“Mobile. Thanks. Now,” he said, turning to Marisol. “I heard you say you say you were headed out to MicroMechanics after visiting Lydia’s place. Mind reversing the order? I’ll get you back before Lydia closes.”
“That would be fine.” He could practically see her running possible scenarios in her mind. But all she said was, “Where is Mr. Power’s space?”
Before he answered, Carol piped up. “Over on that side, back of the conference room. It’ll make a great office for you for now, and storage, and a second conference room, and then, uh, maybe for an assistant next year.” The last bit came out in a rush and Pere caught a glimpse of Carol’s ambition. Gus would never have considered an assistant, or given a thought to Carol as a candidate.
“Ah, I see,” was all Mari Beecham allowed. He was pretty sure she did see, both the politics and Carol’s hopes. He hoped Mari took his immediate action to solve the problem as him being on her side.
He was. Sort of.


So?  What do you think??? 

I finally wrote a Jeanne-Halloween-y story!  Let’s celebrate!  fall-foliage

SVEN!!! Pumpkin punch and pumpkin pie, all around!  You have to taste Sven and Paolo’s special September Cocktail…OMGosh, it’s GOOOD!!

The book will be out September 20th – so come back for the LAUNCH PARTY that day!!

In the meantime, what’s your favorite thing about FALL???

Crossing Genres with Alexandra Christian

My guest today is a writer and editor Jeanne and I met at ConCarolina last year.  Alexandra Christian, a South Carolina native, writes in various genres, including romance, and has published novels, novellas, and short stories. Recently, she become a small press editor.  

Welcome, Alexandra! What led you to start writing?

me-and-amy-2I come from a family of writers. My older sister is romance novelist Lucy Blue and the women in my family are incredible storytellers. We’re also avid readers in my family. My grandfather did not graduate from high school, but he read 3-5 books a week. So I grew up wanting to tell stories and imitate the people whom I held in such high regard.

Romance isn’t the only thing you write. Please tell us what your other interests are.

I prefer to call myself a “genre” writer rather than a romance writer because I like to use elements from the whole spectrum of speculative fiction. I’m an avid reader of horror, so I find myself blending elements of the supernatural in everything I do. Recently, I’ve also gotten into writing science-fiction and fantasy which was never something I set out to do when I began writing. I’m also a huge Sherlock Holmes fangirl and have become obsessed over the last year with writing Sherlock Holmes stories.

What is Huntress about?

Huntress is a story about a woman who really doesn’t have a place in the world. She’s consumed by guilt because of the death of her protégé and finds herself in the middle of political intrigue and ultimately confronting her own destiny.

Huntress_1_fullsizeWho are the hero and heroine of Huntress, and what keeps them apart?

Thalia, the heroine, is a dragonslayer and our hero, Malik, is a dragon. I know, I LOVE impossible love stories. Of course, Malik isn’t really a dragon, but a cursed prince who can take a human form. But naturally their relationship is volatile. Not to mention that Thalia is being used as bait by Malik’s conniving brother.

Oooh, dragons–fun! Would you like to share an excerpt?

“Come here so I might see you better.” As she approached, the dragon sniffed the air, taking in her scent. “Hmm… you smell of the Fae.”

“Is that good?”

“I’ve no idea. Perhaps. Fae are very tricky. Ungrateful little beasties.” He quieted, staring down at her with his head cocked to one side as if concentrating very hard. It made Thalia very self-conscious, and she shuddered again. “Are you cold, Mouse?” Not knowing what else to say, she nodded. “Well, why didn’t you say so?” Without another word he turned his head and breathed a plume of fire into the pit beside him. Immediately the coals inside ignited into a spectacular column of flame. Though she was afraid, Thalia moved closer in an almost involuntary movement. She was desperate to find warmth and held her hands out in front of her. “A thank you wouldn’t be inappropriate,” the dragon said.

“Oh,” she said, feeling her cheeks blush hot with embarrassment. “Thank you.”

“No need to be embarrassed. You are, after all a slayer of Tarkin and not used to being gracious to dragonkin.”

“You said yourself that you’re no ordinary dragon.” It was a bit disturbing that he could almost hear what she was thinking. She made a note to ask him about it later if she lived that long. Thalia had never encountered a dragon that could read minds.

“Indeed I am not.” He settled back down with a lazy sigh. Thalia stared at the enormous creature. He was definitely the largest dragon she’d ever seen. And certainly the most intelligent. She’d never encountered one that could speak, much less one schooled in etiquette. Now that the fire was high, she could see the dragon and was fascinated by its body. Glints of color shimmered on his scales in the changing light, but they did not look wet. Underneath, they lightened to the color of ashes but there was a dim illumination visible beneath the armor. It must be burning beneath the skin. Perhaps this was where he drew his fire from.

As she drew closer, she could see that his wings were like those of a bat: leathery with a hard ridge of veins that extended from the sharp talons. A number of horned protrusions highlighted his sharp, serpentine face that was surprisingly expressive. Suddenly, he opened one enormous eye and stared at her. Thalia could actually see the muscle in his eye expand and contract as it focused on her. She got the distinct impression that he was staring as his eye narrowed and his entire body stilled. Finally he spoke. “Do you plan on standing there gawking at me for the rest of the night?”

SHA_finalVery cool! Your release prior to this one was in a very different vein.   What was that project?

I’m so glad you asked! This past year I’ve been involved in editing a Sherlock Holmes anthology called “An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” for Mocha Memoirs Press under the name A.C. Thompson. It was a labor of love and so much fun to work on! Every story is worthy of Conan Doyle but with an added spooky element of the supernatural.

What’s next for you?

Well I’m primarily publishing my romance in a joint self-publishing project with my sister called Little Red Hen Romance. We release 2-4 stories each month, normally short story length, and offer them for 99 cents. Huntress was LRH’s first full length release! But those stories keep me very busy. Later this month, we’re releasing two Sherlock Holmes mysteries with a romantic slant that should keep our readers busy. I’m also continuing to work on a sci-fi novel series that follows Cage St. John, a shapeshifting superspy.

For more information about Alexandra, check out her website and other social media links:

WordPress Site:



Little Red Hen Site:

For now, though, let’s chat!  If you have a question for Alexandra, now’s the time to ask!  Or tell us about your favorite dragon, Holmes, or spy story.






Continuing Love

Have you noticed how the definition of romance has broadened in the past couple of years?  Suspense has made room for grittier stories.  Paranormal/fantasy has become more hospitable to serious otherworldly powers, extended plots, and sometimes even other worlds.

Contemporary has accepted some light paranormal elements, and historical has veered away (sometimes to my sorrow) from incorporating so much history all the time.  Books are sometimes even written in first person point of view.

One of the biggest changes, though, is appearance in the Romance section of couples whose romantic arcs continue through several books.  I hear this is most common in New Adult and Erotic Romance, but I haven’t read enough of either to know for sure.

Unknown-1One of the biggest names writing a continuing couple, albeit in books labeled Suspense, is J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts.  I would bet that the continuing romance of Eve and Roarke has been one of the biggest attractions for female readers of that series.

With Thankless in Death, one of my personal favorites, some of the longtime conflicts have been resolved.  They’ve settled the question of his involvement in her cases and come to sort of agreement about how far to bend the rules in pursuit of justice.  Yet the continuing risks inherent in her job cause tension in the relationship.

Unknown-2I recently discovered Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunters series.  This series launched after her Psy/Changeling books were well established, so maybe she had the leeway to experiment some.  The first book in the Guild Hunters, Angels’ Blood, introduces Guild vampire hunter Elena Devereaux and the Archangel Raphael, ruler of New York.  The next two books center on their relationship and the external conflicts they face.

Some of you may remember that I used to be allergic to vampires as heroes.  One of the books that got me past that was Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost.  This was the first book in her Night Prince series.  There are three books out so far, and they all center on the evolving relationship between Vlad and Leila.

Unknown-4The Night Prince books led me to Frost’s Night Huntress series, which appeared first.  The seven books in this series, which debuted in 2007 with Halfway to the Grave, all center on half-vampire Cat Crawfield and Master Vampire Crispin “Bones” Russell.  Continuing couples were less common seven or eight years ago, but this series rolled along strongly until Frost wrapped it last year.

Unknown-3Thea Harrison has also revisited her original couple, Pia and Dragos from Dragon Bound (Book 1 of The Elder Races), in Lord’s Fall (Book 5), which centers on them.

If you look at this listing, it’s hard not to notice that most of these books are paranormal.  They include, sometimes strongly, urban fantasy elements and so maybe appeal to crossover readers of both PNR and UF.  The non-paranormal series in this bunch, the In Death books, is not marketed as romance.

Many authors have taken to giving readers a peek at prior couples in their series’.  These scenes usually don’t involve a continuing arc for the couple, only a look at their lives.  As  reader, I always enjoy them, but they’re not the kind of continuation I’m thinking about here.

In mystery, especially in cozies, continuing couples abound (Our own Kate Carlisle is setting up a great romantic conflict arc in her Fixer-Upper mysteries), though settled couples often don’t have ongoing romantic conflict or a continued romantic arc.  But romance still centers on one couple per book more often than not.

What about your reading?  Do you like series that continue one couple’s arc over several books, or do you prefer a new lead couple in every book? Have you enjoyed any series with the same couple’s arc continuing over several books?

Foanna’s 2014 Reading Roundup – Part 1

rr 1Happy new year, Banditas and Bandita Buddies! I hope 2015 is fantastic for you.

That’s enough of the looking ahead. Let’s look back to 2014 and some great books.

I thought I’d devote my spots on the Romance Bandits for January and February to listing some of the wonderful reads I found last year. After all, we all love recommendations for our towering TBR piles, don’t we?

Today, I’m going to talk about romances. Next month, I’m going to talk about books that aren’t romances (or at least not primarily – I find my favorite books nearly always include some sort of romantic plot, even if only as a subsidiary). You’ll notice that I’ve steered clear of books by my tremendously talented Bandit sisters – if I included theirs, we’d be here all year!

rr 2I blogged a couple of months ago about how I was on a major Nora Roberts kick. That looks like it might continue this year. Of the many Noras I read in 2014, my favorite is THE WITNESS, her story of a super-intelligent, high achieving teenager who finally kicks over the traces and rebels, only to be forced into a living nightmare when she witnesses a mafia killing. The woman grows up, always on the run, always smart enough to stay alive – but what happens when she falls in love with the local police chief? Is it time to stop running and finally face her enemies?

This one has two wonderful central characters (I love Abigail’s dorky but smart take on life), a lovely romance and some seriously good suspense. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you grab it now! For a peek at some of the other Nora books I read this year, here’s my blog on the subject:

rr 3The next book, THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT by Kandy Shepherd, is by a friend of mine. It just happens that some of my favorite reads last year are by people I know – they’re all well worth picking up! Summer is simply gorgeous, a lovely story about two damaged people who were in love as teenagers and reconnect after life hasn’t been kind to either of them. It’s a story about bad timing turning into forever after. I laughed and cried in this one – and you’ll fall in love with the town of Dolphin Bay where the book is set. You can read an interview with Kandy here:

The next sooper-dooper read for you is THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, the debut novel by Vanessa Barneveld, another friend of mine.

rr 5This YA is a beautiful story about coming to accept who you are and finding the right person and learning that life is a mixture of happy and sad. It’s also a darn good ghostly mystery story as heroine Keira struggles to answer the questions surrounding the death of high school hero Jimmy and in the process realizes that she’s always loved his older brother Dan. Even if you’re not usually a YA fan, give this one a go. You won’t be disappointed. You can see where Vanessa visited the lair and gave us the lowdown on her book here:

With my next recommendation, I’m cheating slightly as it’s a series of six, M.C. Beaton/Marion Chesney’s The Travelling Matchmaker books. These are trad Regencies full of wit and romance and classic period touches like duels and highwaymen and marriages of convenience.

rr 4When housekeeper Hannah Pym unexpectedly receives a bequest from her late employer, she determines to seek the adventure that her quiet life in domestic service has so far prevented. She sets out on various stagecoaches and meets danger and excitement and young lovers and a chance to discover talents she never knew she possessed. These books are such fun – definitely a series to put a smile on your face. Here’s a link to a more detailed review of the six books that I did on the Romance Dish:

My next choice from 2014 is a corker of a steamy reunion story from lair favorite Annie West. For some reason, I couldn’t link this one through the cover, but here’s the Amazon link:

rr 6I love all Annie’s stories but this one really hit it out of the ballpark for me. Orsino Chatsfield and his estranged wife Poppy have so much passion between them that when they come together in a glamorous French chateau, they set the Loire Valley aflame! This is part of the Harlequin Chatsfield continuity but you can read the story as a stand-alone. Give it a go – these characters are unforgettable. Here’s a link to where Annie visited the lair to talk about this book:

My last favorite book of the year is one I read in December. Who doesn’t like a Christmas charmer? Mary Jo Putney‘s collection of four Regency novellas plus a contemporary, CHRISTMAS REVELS, is uber charming. All the stories are great, but my particular favorite is The Christmas Cuckoo where a capable young woman who believes she’s on the shelf collects the wrong man from the local inn and takes him home for a family Christmas. A lovely story about life delivering some gorgeous surprises just when you think your chances have run out. And you’ll fall in love with Jack Howard just like Meg does.

So that’s my romance round-up. I’ve got a mixture of women’s fiction and mysteries and nonfiction coming next month so make sure you check in.

In the meantime, what were your favorite romances of 2014? I’m always looking for recommendations.

1BanditBootyAnd because I love to share my friends’ books, I’ll give one commenter today their choice from THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT by Kandy Shepherd, REBEL’S BARGAIN by Annie West, or THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE by Vanessa Barneveld. The prize is available internationally. Good luck! 

Love and Money

BridesGuidePhoto3If you’re a regular here, you might remember my post from last October about slogging through the rain in Portugal.  A high point of the slogging was meeting a fellow romance reader and Georgette Heyer fan, Helen Fordham, amid the academics.  Helen was kind enough to send me an article she and her colleague Barbara Milech wrote together, “Romance, romantic love, and ‘the want of a fortune.'” I enjoyed it so much that I asked Helen if they could condense it to be a blog.

barbara_milechHelen and Barbara (whose short bios are tucked in at the end) came to write this paper because they share an abiding interest in love, romance and women’s literature. The genesis of this paper was a conversation about love and relationship formation in contemporary society and a musing over how accurately this was depicted or distorted in television shows like The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and The Farmer Takes a Wife [an Australian reality show that has been cloned in the US].

Welcome, y’all!  Please share your observations about romance and its economic underpinnings.

We begin with a confession: we are closet viewers of reality television programmes like The Farmer Takes a Wife, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. The latter two of these programmes, now, respectively, in their seventeenth and nineteenth seasons, present the adventures of youngish men and women finding true love – all staged to formula, all recorded on camera, all geared to a (paltry) $250,000 reward for finding love.

UnknownWe connect our closet addiction to life-long reading of bourgeois romance in all its forms – from high-class iterations like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice ([1813] 1995) to popular ones like Georgette Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage ([1934] 2013). The connection between the two – Austen and Heyer – is telling. For popular romance is a potent contemporary genre that traces its origins to the rise of the novel in mid-eighteenth century when it emerged as a key expression of the concerns and assumptions of a rising middle class and as a reflection of the changing status of women.

prideandprejudice2Implicit in novels like Pride and Prejudice is the idea that even women are full individuals possessed of inalienable human rights, and thus marriage is a compact between consenting partners. What we did not always track when reading these romance novels, however, is how thoroughly romance fiction’s representations of women’s lives, loves and sexuality are tied to economic considerations – or, as the opening line of Pride and Prejudice ([1813] 1995) elegantly put it early on: ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a fortune, must be in want of a wife’.

In our article published in the August 2014 issue of the Australasian Journal of Popular Culture we explore the connection between how romance represents individual female lives, loves and sexuality, and how they function to sustain bourgeois capitalistic social structures. Our sense is that bourgeois romance in its formulaic iterations obscures the mighty tensions between those two imperatives, even as it seeks to reconcile them.

19148pstrRepresentations of idealized love have changed over time in response to evolving social and economic conditions. Medieval or courtly romance, which imagines ideal love as a heterosexual relation comprised of intense physical attraction, deep emotional communion, and enduring personal love emerged at a time when such individual “needs” were unlikely to be met by a spouse because marriage was firmly anchored in dynastic and power arrangements.

This ideal of love gave way to a bourgeois notion of ideal love which Christopher Grau defines as an expression of a human yearning ‘to be loved in a way that transcends our properties’ (2010: 252). This is a love that is imagined as a heterosexual passion that is transformative, unbreakable, and beyond reason. Yet, at the same time (and especially within eighteenth-century constraints when women still needed to marry in order to have some form of independence), romance novels connect this ideal to an economic imperative to marry to gain social acceptance and status. And romance fiction is rather brilliant at negotiating the resultant tensions.

bouquet-of-red-roses-10040119In contemporary society the narrative of romance is played out in a variety of different formats and genres, including reality television series like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.  The generic formula is familiar: a woman finds true love (in marriage) against all odds. Yet the dual imperatives of romance are clear in the penultimate episode of each programme, the proposal scene that follows the last rose ceremony, and delivers the hero or heroine a quarter of a million dollars.

It is easy to find this performance of romantic love risible, if only because it so blatantly ties romantic love to its economic underpinnings. However, these performances are also instructive precisely because of their popularity and transparency in regard to the imbrication of ideal love and economic considerations.  In the dream of love represented in The Bachelor and The Bachelorette true love (personal happiness) is reconciled with finding security in marriage (procreativity in the context of economic security).

In this contemporary dream, marriage is both severed from but tied to economic well-being. Thus, like all good social dreams, romantic fiction serves to reconcile the conflicting, often paradoxical demands on women: true love is selfless yet passionate; it is caring yet beyond reason; it is transcendent yet anchored in marriage, economic security and community; it gives each partner full subjectivity and sexuality yet expresses a traditional femininity.

ID-10011919In the space of this contradiction romance fictions like the The Bachelor and The Bachelorette provide spaces of pleasurable instruction, spaces to speculate why some behaviours and attitudes are rewarded by love (or by society) and others are not, spaces in which to compare fictional characters and choices to personal situations and options —spaces for both compliant and critical engagement.

Thus viewers of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette find, not only something to laugh at, but also Artistotle’s ‘pleasure felt in things imitated’— a pleasure related to imaginative rehearsal  of what one is prepared to do for love, and how one might reconcile the conflicting expectations of women embodied in the genre.

Perhaps, then, the appeal of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette lies not so much in a fantasy of finding transcendent love, but in the way in which romantic fiction serves as an intimate laboratory for individual readers to rehearse how they will be in the world.

(bouquet of roses by twobee, champagne flutes by m_bartosch, both from

Helen Fordham researches in the area of Media, Communication and Cultural Theory and is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Public Relations at the University of Notre Dame Australia and Professor Barbara Milech is an Adjunct Professor at Curtin University (Perth, Western Australia) and her research interests fall within the areas of literature, gender studies and creative writing, and draw on narrative, cultural, feminist and Lacanian studies.

Do you watch The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or The Farmer Takes a Wife?  If so, what role do you think money (or fame that brings the potential of money) plays in motivating contestants? Do you enjoy marriage of convenience stories, romances based purely on passion, or something in between?  What was the last romance you read in which money played a role in getting the h/h together?

Tell us your thoughts or, if you have a question for Barbara and Helen, fire away!

Are you a book nerd? Or a book ninja?

You’ve seen them.  The quizzes that tell you which Disney Princess you are, or which 60’s Sterotype you are.  I see quizzes like this on Facebook constantly and generally do not take them.  I say it’s a matter of time but I wonder if I fear I won’t get the answer I wish.  Apparently, that is the concern of many people taking those quizzes, so I am here to say…


There is no science behind the quizzes.  They are just fun.  And the final answer you receive is likely to be a feel good, complimentary answer no matter how you score.

stack of booksSo I tried it with this quiz from Buzz Fee called “Can you quess the Famous Book from the First Line?”  While many of the other banditas are better read than I am, I do study first lines of a number of books.  I scored “book nerd.”  Not bad and probably accurate.  So I retook the quiz and purposefully chose the wrong answer (although I quessed correctly at three works that I didn’t recognize) and I scored a “book ninja.” I like that as well.  So you can’t go wrong.  Take the quiz here.

While researching quizzes like this, I saw a statement that the vast majority of people that took the quiz “What State Do You Actually Belong In?” received the answer:  Wisconsin.  So many in fact, that more people got that answer than actually live in the state!  Barbara Vey would love that.

Still working the book theme, how about this one.  Can you guess these banned books by their emojis?  Now I had to look up emoji, but it’s pretty obvious from the quiz.  An emoji is the ideogram or smiley used in Japanese electronic messages and webpages, the use of which is spreading outside Japan.  Basically, it’s this 😛  or maybe this :mrgreen: . So now that we know the terminology, do you know the books?banned

Sorry, no neat labels go with that one – just a number score.  I question, though, if all those books were truly banned books – or if they were titles that inspired easy emojis.  I swear I had a number of those books as assigned reading in high school.

And finally, just to give a smile to your day and include a little romance in the blog, we have “What Kind of Man Turns You On?”

Johnny Depp

Gotta say – they nailed me 🙂  (while I like Johnny Depp, the photo is purely for Tawny 🙂  )

Thank you Buzzfeed for the fun quizzes.  Now how did you score?  Did you try the quia a second time to see if you could get a different answer?  Did you like your ideal man?  Let’s chat!

Oh – and for any historical authors or there (or fascinated readers), I’ve started uploading my research books on fashion, etiquette, undergarments, locations, etc. to my pinterest page.  It’s an ongoing project – I have a ton of books and I’ve barely scratched the surface – so check back frequently!  🙂

The Perfect Kiss Payoff

These days, there is a lot of explicit sex on offer. You can watch guarded versions on network TV or incredibly explicit versions on cable TV. It is available in movies and even in books. It makes me shake my head in wonder at the sort of romance novels I started out reading. The payoff in those? A single, perfect kiss.

Barbara Cartland coverI cut my romance baby teeth on dozens of Barbara Cartland’s Regency romances. These slender volumes invariably featured beautiful, but impoverished, heroines with heart-shaped faces. The heroes were tall, dark, very rich noblemen who somehow managed to see past the heroine’s shabby clothes and unfashionable chapeau to the natural grace and beauty underneath. At the end of these sweeping, sweet romances, the hero and heroine shared a glorious, much-anticipated kiss. Generally, this followed after the declaration of love and proposal of marriage.


Game-of-Thrones-sex-3This notion of waiting an entire book for a single kiss is hopelessly old-fashioned these days. With shows like Game Of Thrones and Masters Of Sex (both excellent, by the way) showing us people getting busy every which way, who would waste their time reading 150 pages to get to that incredibly sweet first kiss?

North and South kiss


I still find myself, though, enjoying the build-up. Even in books where the hero and heroine are definitely headed toward the boudoir, I love the sexual tension. The awareness. The breathless anticipation of the will they, won’t they? We can pretty much guarantee, these days, that the hero and heroine will definitely do a lot more than kissing. But waiting for that first kiss is something I still really enjoy. (And yes, that IS Richard Armitage and that fabulous kiss on the train from North and South!


gustav-klimt-the-kissI’m not sure if my enjoyment of the anticipation is because of all those Barbara Cartland novels or because I simply love falling in love right along with the heroine. My “new love” days are long gone and so far in the past now they are difficult to recall sometimes. But when I read a great romance novel and find myself longing for the first kiss along with the heroine, I get to fall in love all over again.

Do you enjoy the build-up to the first kiss in a romance? Have you ever read a romance where a kiss was the ultimate romantic payoff? And do you require a fully-consummated romance or do you think the heat of the romance depends on the couple and their story? I can’t wait to find out!

I’m in the Mood for Love…and Nora!

nora 1
We’re all readers here so I’m sure I’m not going to be alone when I confess to being slightly obsessed with a particular author. It happens to all of us!

I seem to have developed an insatiable appetite for books by Nora Roberts. Rarely a week goes by when I’m not reading one and usually more books by the master (I can’t call her the mistress!).

Obviously like most of us, I’ve read Nora’s books for many years. I think my introduction to her work was the Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy. Isolde Martyn brought JEWELS OF THE SUN back from the 2000 RWA conference in Washington D.C. where she was the first Australian to win a RITA® Award for her wonderful historical THE MAIDEN AND THE UNICORN.

nora 5I think my favorite of those early reads was the Chesapeake Bay Quartet – amazing emotional punch in those stories and great romances. Stupidly I lent those to a friend and they never came back. Grrr.

I tried the J.D. Robb books – perhaps it was the mood I was in at the time, but while I enjoyed NAKED IN DEATH, I didn’t have a burning desire to read more in the series.

No, it seems I’m a classic Nora in her original incarnation girl.

Luckily she’s got a huge backlist! I’m in awe of her productivity and I have no idea how she manages to keep the quality up the way she does. Her books are never less than a good read and more often than not, they’re a fantastic read. Perhaps she has an army of little elves wearing Turn the Page Bookstore T-shirts in her basement!

nora 3I really feel that there’s nobody better for a certain style of emotional contemporary romance.The characters are real – you can imagine most of them living next door, even the witchy ones. The dilemmas they face are intriguing. The love scenes are lyrical and sexy. And she does setting brilliantly. You really feel that you’ve been to the wild Monterey Coast with the Donovans or County Mayo with the Cousins O’Dwyer or a rocky island off the Maine coast with the three wyrd sisters.

The more I read, the more I appreciate her work. In the last six months, I’ve read the Three Sisters Trilogy, the Donovan Legacy Quartet, the first two books in the Cousins O’Dwyer set, BLUE DAHLIA (and I’ve ordered the next two in that set!), WHISKEY BEACH, NORTHERN LIGHTS and THE WITNESS.

Nora 7Two particular faves are NORTHERN LIGHTS and THE WITNESS. Both feature really interesting central characters, burnt-out city detective Nate Burke who takes a posting as police chief in Lunacy, Alaska (NL) and Abigail Lowery, on the run from the Russian Mafia after she witnessed a murder as a teenager (TW).

Both are stand-alones and have a strong mystery/suspense plot. Both are longer than her series books that I’ve read. But my goodness, they’re fabulous stories. I couldn’t put down either when I started them. And given they’re both over 500 pages, that was a lot of hermit time! I wrote a detailed review of NORTHERN LIGHTS for our friends at the Romance Dish back in January:

nora 8It suddenly struck me last week why I had such a reader crush on Nora at the moment – aside from the obvious quality of the books she writes. And what a lightbulb moment that was!

One of the things I loved about JEWELS OF THE SUN is that it’s about a woman who takes a chance and reaps the benefits. Frances Jude Murray leaves her dead-end job in America to live in her grandmother’s cottage in Ireland and to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. This single act of courage leads to a fulfilling new career and a lifelong love.

This theme of the main character seeking a new life and finding love and renewed purpose in his or her altered circumstances is central to so many of Nora’s books.

nora 6Right now I’m in the process of packing up the home my parents lived in for their last years. I’ve lived here for ten years since my mother passed away in 2006. It’s a lovely house but it’s never really been suitable for a groovy singleton (ahem!) and I’ve finally got up the oomph to tackle moving. So the next year or so is going to have a lot of changes for me too. Some large, some small. But all a little daunting in the still watches of the night!

Nora’s message of courage finding its own rewards and a new start offering a whole fresh look on life is just what I need at the moment.  Clearly I need it, given the number of her books I’m ordering from the Book Depository!

nora 4So are you glomming any particular author at the moment? Is it an old favorite or someone who’s a fairly new discovery? Is there a reason this particular author is striking a chord for you? And what books of Nora’s do you recommend I turn to after I finish the In the Garden trilogy?




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