Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Writing Wednesday: What's in a Name?

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the proliferation of odd names cropping up in romance these days?

You kind of expect odd names in fantasy or science fiction. Different races, different worlds, different names. Makes sense and adds to the fantasy.

But in a romance where the hero is above the age of 25?

How many guys do you know in real life who have names like Blaise, or Deek, or Rafe, or Jase, or Zak with just the k, or Derk with an e, or Chance...

Okay, I do have a cousin named Chance. But he's ten years old.

And heroines? They all seem to have fancy names and saucy nicknames. Personally, I know there are more Emmas and Emilys and variations of Kathy in my kid's high school than there are Anastasias, and half of the moms seemed to be named Susan. In fact, there aren't any girls named Anastasia at the high school. But I've read two books in the last month where the twenty-something heroine's name was Anastasia. And none where there's a character named Susan.

My point is, I think sometimes authors try a bit too hard to find a "unique" name for a character, without thinking about how "real" it sounds. Then again, in today's multicultural world, maybe these names are more common than I think they are and I'm living a sheltered New England life.

What do you think about recent trends with names? And how do you go about choosing a name for your hero? Your heroine? Your secondary characters? Is it all the same process or different formulas for different types of character?

What does your character's name mean to you?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday Book Review: Words and Dreams by Laura Strickland

Words and Dreams, by Laura Strickland
Published April 2017 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
Dorothea Sinclair has left her small home town in Maine and come to Boston to begin a career as a newspaper reporter. But so far her job on the Guardian has proved disappointing. More skivvy than reporter, she’s even been subjected to a humiliating proposition from the chief editor’s son. She needs a break but never expects it might come from a chance meeting with an Irish ruffian.

There’s a great deal of injustice in Boston, and O’Hare, embroiled in his fight for equality on behalf of Boston’s Irish, is well aware of it. When he rescues Dorothea’s hat on the waterfront, he’s surprised to learn she’s a reporter. And when she offers him the opportunity to state his case in the Guardian, what can he do but accept? It’s the perfect chance to put his dreams into his own words—and the only sure way to see her again.

My Take:

This historical romance is set in Boston in 1871, a time of upheaval and unrest among the classes. Irish immigrants were clamoring for equal pay and equal rights,  at the same time that women all over the country were asking for the same.

Dorothea Sinclair left her hometown in Maine to pursue a career in journalism at a Boston newspaper. When she arrived at her new job, she found herself delivering tea and warding off advances from her boss's son instead of reporting news. Finally at the end of her rope, a tall dark stranger helps her pull it back together and gives her fresh purpose.

Hare O'Hare -- which of course isn't his real name, but that's not important right now -- was born in the United States, but his mother was a poor Irish immigrant and he relates with the immigrant plight. A tradesman by day, he also helps organize the dock workers who seek equal pay and fair treatment. With Somewhat of a Robin Hood-type legend, O'Hare gets a lot of blame and bad press.

Dorothea sees an opportunity for him to tell his side of the story, and in the process make a name for herself as a reporter. But not everyone in Boston is happy with either of those outcomes, and there are forces determined to keep both the Irish and women in their proper places as second class citizens.

Words and Dreams is an interesting, well-written read, and kept me turning pages and rooting for both justice and a happily ever after. The glimpses of the everyday work life from two hundred years ago were truly fascinating, as so many historical novels are set in the lives of upper-class heroines with social --but not necessarily societal -- woes.

This is a sweet romance, with barely a kiss let alone any sizzle, but an engrossing read nonetheless. If you like your historic romance with more history than heat, give Words and Dreams a try. Trust me. You won't be sorry!

Grab a copy on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Should You Read Your Own Reviews?

I recently returned from a vacation in Mexico (yes, it was wonderful and fabulous and you should all be uber-jealous) and during the first week I got a lot of writing done on my young adult WIP. It's the third book in my Son of a Mermaid series, and I'm pretty excited about the way the action is moving along.

But then...

Sometime in the second week (again, go ahead and send all those jealous curses my way. It was worth it.) I got a Google alert about a new review on Goodreads.

I made the mistake of clicking the link.

It was not a good review.

And yes, I read it several times, trying to parse it out. Feeling worse each time I read it. The sinking feeling in my gut had little to do with the tequila I'd had the previous night, and more to do with self-doubt. Why was I wasting my time trying to get my characters to cooperate?

I didn't open my manuscript for the last few days of the trip, nor have I returned to it since getting back home. Now, granted, I've been crazy busy catching up with work that piled up at my day job, as well as organizing the bake sale for the high school musical and cooking dinner for 50 for the drama department fundraiser and opening the pool for the season.

But I've found enough spare time to read 5 other books and write two reviews.

Just not work on my WIP.

Has this ever happened to you? What do you do to snap out of it? How do you let the criticism roll off your back - or do you?

How do you deal with negative reviews? Please share your strategies, because I need a boost.

And chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday Book Review: Her General in Gray, by Linda Nightengale

Her General in Gray, by Linda Nightengale
Published April 2017 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
Autumn Hartley purchases Allen Hall at a steal, but the northern lass gets far more than a beautiful plantation in the South Carolina Low Country. The house comes complete with its own ghost, a handsome and charming Civil War General—for the Confederacy. The stage is set for another civil conflict.

John Sibley Allen died in battle from a wound in the back, the bullet fired by the turncoat, Beauregard Dudley. The traitor’s reincarnation is Autumn the Interloper’s first dinner guest. Sib bedevils her date and annoys her with fleeting, phantom touches, certain he can frighten her away as he did previous purchasers. As time marches on, her resident ghost becomes more appealing while her suitor, Beau, pales in comparison. Autumn finds her ability to love didn’t perish in the divorce that sent her south seeking a fresh start.

After over a century in the hereafter, Sib discovers he is falling for none other than the feisty Yankee girl, but what future could a modern woman and an old-fashioned ghost possibly hope for?

My Take:
This short novel jumps right in without much preamble, presenting us with a Yankee heroine confronting the ghost of the Confederate general who haunts her Southern mansion. Just what every new homeowner dreams of, right? Well, maybe, but only if all ghosts could be as handsome and charming as General John Sibley Allen.

Autumn Hartley moved to South Carolina to start over, never considering the ghosts of someone else's past might also come haunting. General Allen was shot in the back by a traitor and his angry spirit is unable to move on. Which doesn't fully explain why he's so drawn to the new owner of his ancestral home. The pair have natural chemistry, and with every passing moment they spend together, their relationship grows stronger, but actually being in love with a ghost from a different time period? An interesting concept to explore in a romance for certain!

This sweet novella is told in alternating points of view, between the General and Autumn, and makes for a fast fun read. I hope the author writes more with these characters because I'd totally love to see where this romance leads.

If you like ghostly romances, check this one out. Grab a copy on AMAZON

Monday, May 15, 2017

#HunkstotheRescue - Preorder Today! #Giveaway

Title: Hunks to the Rescue
Authors: Margo Bond Collins, Author Krista Ames, Raine English, Tamara Ferguson, Aileen Harkwood - Author, Lynda Haviland, Katie O'Sullivan, Author, Constance Phillips, Romance Author, Stephanie Queen, Nancy Segovia, Emily Wilder, Jan Romes, Debbie White Books, Michelle Jo Quinn

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
Add the book to Goodreads ➜

Heroes by Day…Sinful Bad Boys by Night
Fantasized about being rescued by a red-hot hunk? Indulge in this box set of alpha rescuers with a delicious talent for romance. 15 stand-alone novellas from New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning authors will steam up your nights and leave you begging for more.
Whether the hunk you lust for is military, a firefighter, first responder, FBI agent, cowboy, bad boy mafioso, or that sexy, everyday guy who plucks you from danger only to kiss you senseless, this bundle has your hero.

15 hunks. 15 heart-pounding rescues--13 brand-new stories. Get ready for a passionate and thrilling ride!

Saving Necessity by Margo Bond Collins. For this cowboy, risking his life to save a movie star from a fire is easier than risking his heart.

An Unexpected Twist by Krista Ames. Used to fighting wildfires, Boone Michaels isn’t prepared for the sexy stranger who blows into town fighting battles of her own. Nor for the twister that tries to blow her right back out again.

Destiny’s Secret by Raine English. Eden Wright’s fixer of a Savannah mansion comes with two unexpected extras, a not so friendly ghost, and a hunky paranormal investigator whose agenda includes seducing her.

That Unexpected Kiss by Tamara Ferguson. Can an undercover FBI Agent rescue the woman he loves, when she’s targeted by his father’s killer?

Unreachable Heart by Aileen Harkwood. Mountain rescue expert Hart Renker isn’t counting on sharing a tent in a blizzard with the stunning survivor he pulls from a plane crash, but the heat between them could melt the bitterest cold.

Dark Current by Lynda Haviland. When Ben Kane hitches up to the dock at her troubled marina, with a murky past and a body hotter than the Florida sun, Willow Vega can’t tell, is he destined to be her savior or her downfall?

Unwrapping Treasure (A Granite Lake Romance Novella) by Jody A. Kessler. Two paramedics, one disastrous night shift, and a sexy holiday vacation that changes everything.

Breaking the Rules by Katie O'Sullivan. Undercover at a 5-star resort, police detective and rule-breaker Jake Campbell finds the prime suspect impossible to resist.

Falling for Captain Hunk by Stephanie Queen. Always one to go for the wrong damsel-in-distress, Captain Colin “Hunk” Lynch worries his attraction to a fellow law-enforcement professional could be the mistake of his life…if it prevents him from saving hers.

Fire and Ice (A Sunnydale Days Novella) by Constance Phillips. If only someone warned injured firefighter Brian his old flame, Charlene, would walk into his physical therapy session. He should still be angry with her, but instead, he wants nothing more than to rekindle the flames of passion.

Two More Miles by Jan Romes. Keith Miles, rescues Ava Beckenridge after she falls at the gym, and the chemistry between them is undeniable.

Come Hell or High Water by Nancy Segovia. Stranded on a rooftop with first responder Dwight during a hurricane, Maisie’s resolve to swear off men weakens as she finds some promises are meant to be broken.

Coaching the Sub by Debbie White. Substitute teacher Shannon has her hands full with bullies in her classroom until Coach "Brock" Andrews gives an assist, while also teaching Shannon a thing or two about love.

Path to Grace by Wilder and Quinn. Daughter of a mob boss, Carina wants nothing to do with the family business until she becomes a target in need of a rescue. Enter Matteo, the Family's “cleaner,” tasked with handling messes of the dangerous variety, and the passion between them is most definitely messy.

Hunks to the Rescue Website:

Margo Bond Collins

Krista Ames

Raine English

Tamara Ferguson

Aileen Harkwood

Lynda Haviland

Jody A Kessler

Katie O’Sullivan

Constance Phillips

Stephanie Queen

Nancy Segovia

Debbie White

Author Quinn

Emily Wilder

Pre-order your copy of Hunks to the Rescue (releasing June 13), and get a second box set FREE right now. Beyond Hunks includes 12 novels and novellas by the Hunks to the Rescue authors not normally published as a set, with a combined value of $26 individually. Don’t wait too long, however. This BOGO offer expires June 12, when Beyond Hunks will no longer be available. Details here:
Orlando Universal Giveaway
We’re giving away a boatload of fantastic prizes during our pre-order giveaway, including a $700 Universal Orlando Theme Park Family 4-Pack, which includes 1 day passes to 2 parks and a special welcome at the park from Hunks to the Rescue author Lynda Haviland. To find out the details, click here

Monday, May 8, 2017

Monday Book Review: Luke's Redemption by Anni Fife

LUKE'S REDEMPTION, A King Security Novel
by Anni Fife
Published November 2016 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
Red-hot sex. Searing betrayal. A passionate and elusive love...

Chased by her criminal kingpin father, Katya Dalca runs to New Orleans and straight into the arms of Luke Hunter. Sucked into the carnal world of the French Quarter, she succumbs to Luke’s potent sexuality. He not only steals her breath, he steals her heart and the only leverage she has against her father. She is left with no choice except to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life alone.

Undercover DEA agent Luke Hunter thought his newest assignment—recover a stolen flash drive to gain the trust of the Russian mob—was like any other. But his target brings him to his knees, and after one taste of her intoxicating beauty, he's in too deep. Doing his job means walking away, leaving his heart behind with nothing but a promise to reunite. It's a promise he can't keep.

When Katya's past reaches out and her world unravels, her only hope is the one man she is most vulnerable to—Luke.

My Take:
This sizzling romance will take you on a roller coaster adventure filled with sex, violence, and betrayal, but ultimately lead to a happily ever after. Hot, steamy, and HEA, what more could you ask for?

Twenty-something Katya has just run away from home to avoid an arranged marriage when she first meets Luke. Except he's undercover at the time, just trying to get back something she stole from her mobster father on her way out the door. She spends one perfect day with him before he disappears, taking both her virginity and her heart. She moves on with her life on the run, raising their daughter alone until circumstances bring them back together to face the danger she thought to leave behind.

The story is told in alternating points of view, with only Katya's chapters told in first person, which I found a little disconcerting at first but quickly adjusted. Actually, more disconcerting was Katya's repeated overuse of exclamation points, which I know is a common device in steamy New Adult novels, but I felt like these characters were a little old for so many exclamatory statements.

Regardless of the punctuation, the story line barrels along at breakneck speed from one narrow escape to the next. The sex scenes are steamy, urgent and powerful, the chemistry between the characters palpable. The language and dialogue are also raw and urgent, and if you're looking for a sweet romance or are easily offended, this isn't the book for you. However, if you enjoy sizzling heat and nonstop action, give this new author a try. You're in for a wild ride.

Okay, that's then end of my official review, but I need to add a few critical words - the cover? I don't really like it. I do like the "King Security" logo, and think it'll be a great way to brand this series, and fits in well with others in the genre. But the purple flower petals? Umm, where's the dislike button? They seem to imply a paranormal flair that's not anywhere to be found. They made me expect witches -- or voodoo, with the New Orleans angle. Nope. After I finished the book and looked at the cover again, it surprised me because I forgot it was like that. I also think the muscular chest should be a little more in focus. A little more sizzle-worthy - because this book is ALL about the sizzle.

But that's it. The extent of my complaints. Take away the purple flower petals, and maybe a few of the exclamation marks and this book is a winner all the way. Totally on my recommend list, but make sure you're sitting next to the pool or the ocean because you'll definitely need a way to cool off after reading this steamy suspense. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Grab a copy on Amazon. No really. Grab one for your beach bag now.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Writing Retreats and Wordcount

This week I've traded in my beloved coffee mug for a tall glass of endless margaritas.  Yup, I'm in Mexico.

Going on an "official" retreat is always something I've wanted to do. Writers always say how productive they get on these kinds of trips.

Well, until the kids are all out of the house, I can't even think about it. But I can dream.

And I can do a mini-retreat, even if it's not official.

As of Saturday, I've been in Mexico with my husband (sans kids). We flew down early for a company event/retreat that starts this coming weekend.

And I brought my WIP with me that needs to be finished for this summer. Fingers crossed.

The last time I was alone in a hotel room with my computer and book, the words wouldn't come. But I did end up reading through, finding plot holes and problems and writing out an outline of how to fix it. Which I've accomplished in the last month. Unfortunately, in the process, I lost 2,500 words despite writing lots of new ones. Yup. Had to cut that much. Hopefully the word count goes in the opposite direction over the next week.

My goal? At least 50,000 new words by the time I return to the U.S. Or half that and a solid outline of how to finish. 

Have you ever been on a writing retreat, official or not official?

What worked for you - what didn't? How do you get the most out of the experience?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Monday Book Review: Cooking with Kandy, by Peggy Jaeger

Cooking with Kandy
By Peggy Jaeger
Published 2017 by Kensington Press
About the Book:
Sugar and spice and everything sexy make the perfect recipe for romance in this brand-new series by Peggy Jaeger. Look for exclusive recipes in each book!

Kandy Laine built her wildly popular food empire the old-fashioned way—starting with the basic ingredients of her grandmother’s recipes and flavoring it all with her particular brand of sweet spice. From her cookbooks to her hit TV show, Kandy is a kitchen queen—and suddenly someone is determined to poison her cup. With odd accidents and threatening messages piling up, strong-willed Kandy can’t protest when her team hires someone to keep her safe—but she can’t deny that the man for the job looks delicious. . .

Josh Keane is a private investigator, not a bodyguard. But with one eyeful of Kandy’s ebony curls and dimpled smile, he’s signing on to uncover who’s cooking up trouble for the gorgeous chef. As the attraction between them starts to simmer, it’s not easy to keep his mind on the job, but when the strange distractions turn to true danger, he’ll stop at nothing to keep Kandy safe—and show her that a future together is on the menu. . .
My Take:

I've been a fan of Peggy's writing for a while now and was so excited to be offered a chance to review an ARC of her latest release in exchange for my honest review. Her characters are always so real and her stories never fail to satisfy. Cooking with Kandy is no exception, and I'm very excited that this will be a series of books.

First let me say, I'm not a fan of this cover art. I don't think it does either of the main characters justice. Reading the story, I imagined them both slightly older. Kandy's hair should be darker, her curves more pronounced. Josh should be rougher, with more planes and angles... and bigger biceps. Much bigger. But on to the actual story and writing.

Kandy Laine is a celebrity chef who's written a few best selling cookbooks and has the top rated cooking show on television. She's the oldest daughter in a tight knit yet slightly dysfunctional family, and takes pride in the fact that her relatives all pull their weight in her food-based empire.

Success breeds envy, though, and someone has been threatening her... so her cousin, who is also her personal assistant and planner and right-hand woman, decides to hire a private investigator to figure out if its simple harassment or something more. Enter Josh Keane, an ex-cop turned PI who takes the bodyguard/investigative position.

Sparks immediately fly between them as the tension quickly ratchets up. The harassment turns from annoying to dangerous and  Josh becomes Kandy's shadow to keep her safe.  Kandy feels the heat in his every look, despite his insistence on keeping his distance. But will he be able to keep his focus on his job and keep her safe?

Told in alternating points of view, the story moves at a satisfying pace, with lots and lots of sensual tension sizzling between the main characters. The cast of characters and multiple red herrings reminded me of some of Jennifer Crusie's romantic suspense novels. Humor, heart, and sizzle wrapped into a puzzle to be solved.

If you like a touch of suspense with your romantic tension, give this novel and this series a try. You will totally be glad you did.

Grab your copy on AMAZON.