Welcome! Kick off your shoes, get comfy and join in as we chat about books, romance and the ups and downs of everyday life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Today's Special - - Cathy Maxwell



New York Times bestselling author and good friend Cathy Maxwell joins us today with the first of two thought provoking blogs.  The author of more than thirty published novels, Cathy is one of my auto-buy authors with many titles on my keeper shelves.  Cathy is a woman of many talents. As stated in her website bio, in addition to writing, she also spent six years in the U.S. Navy - where she worked at the Pentagon and did a tour with Naval intelligence - managed a watch factory, was a news broadcaster and was in charge of costumes for a local theater.  She's also smart, savvy and is one of the kindest and funniest people I've had the pleasure of meeting.  Please give her a warm Romance Dish welcome!






Scarlett and Superwoman
by Cathy Maxwell

For some mysterious reason, the subject of Scarlett O’Hara has come up on the romance panels I’ve sat on over the past year. The question?  Is Scarlett a good romance heroine?

And the question annoys me in the same way I grow testy when people act as if Romance readers don’t read anything other than this one genre.  (Excuse me while I climb onto my soapbox.  No, don’t excuse me.  I’m glad to do it.) The truth, Romance readers are avid readers in general.  They eventually gravitate to Romance because 1) they need more books to read. They want great stories and lots of them and I’m proud to say my genre delivers.   2) Stories about relationships intrigue them (even murderous ones). Romance readers are discerning readers, but voracious ones.

So where does Scarlett come in to all of this?  Well, first, some people don’t get the Romance genre.  They think any female character who can attract males and knows what to do with them once she has them is a “Romance” heroine.  Not true.  The “happy ending” is a strong expectation but so is the honorable heroine.  However, honorable does not mean uncomplicated.  GONE WITH THE WIND is not a romance but I could see Scarlett as a heroine of a romance novel, with tweaking, of course.  GWTW is a story of survival; the Romance novel is a tale of commitment.  These are not mutually exclusive concepts.

A heroine is true to her own code of conduct—and this is very true of Scarlett.  I don’t mind a heroine who is feisty or who makes mistakes out of immaturity or who needs to grow into the woman she must become. My most memorable characters in literature, and also the people I most admire in life, are those who are willing to make mistakes.  It is one thing to save the world but it is even more important to learn how to save yourself.  And when do people truly become interesting—when they are doing what is expected?  Or when they risk being themselves flaws and all?

Or have we at some point homogenized our heroines?  Is there a one size fits all “fantasy” of what readers expect out of characters.  I believe it is important to honor the happy ending, but I’m not convinced readers have a carbon copy idea of the sort of heroine they want, especially in this genre.  Look at the Romance section.  This genre takes in vamps and vampires, shape-shifters and missionaries, nurses, teachers, PHDs, administrative assistants, Regency virgins, and nuclear physicists and these books are all bestsellers. 

I’ll warn you now that this is a two part blog.  I’ve written a character that has annoyed readers, and then I tried to redeem her in the second book of the series. In truth, I’ve actually played with heroines in several of my books.  You know that “Well behaved women rarely make history” adage?  I believe it.  However, I have had my strongest feedback ever over Tara from THE BRIDE SAYS NO and THE BRIDE SAYS MAYBE.  I will have some numbers to add to the discussion when we yak next month.

In the meantime, let’s talk heroines.  I’m interested in your thoughts.  Feel free to disagree with me on Miss Scarlett or any of my ramblings.  When you think of the word “heroine,” what comes to mind?  Is she perfect?  Or is she perfect in her imperfections?  Does a reader have time to watch a character grow?  Even a character involved in a series of books?  What makes a character fresh and vibrant to you?  Who are the heroines that still resonate strongly with you?


Cathy Maxwell believes each and every one of us is the heroine of her own life.  She is the bestselling author of over thirty historical romances in which she celebrates men and women with a passion for life.  www.cathymaxwell.com



What happens when a bride says maybe?
She’d once been the toast of London, but now scandal has brought her down. Still, pretty, petted Lady Tara Davidson can’t believe her new fate. She had wanted to marry for love . . . but her profligate father has promised her hand to none other than Breccan Campbell, the “Beast of Aberfeldy” and laird of the valley’s most despised clan! Well, Tara may have to marry him, but Breccan can’t make her love him—can he?  
What happens when the groom insists?
Breccan Campbell is nobody's fool.  He knows that Tara is trouble.  Yet he's determined to reform the Campbell name even if it means forging an alliance with the arrogant beauty. There's no doubt that Tara is a challenge, and Breccan loves nothing more. For he's vowed to thoroughly seduce Tara--and make her his in more than name alone.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review - - Wallflower Gone Wild

Wallflower Gone Wild
London's Least Likely - Book 2
By Maya Rodale
Publisher: Avon
Release Date:  March 25, 2014



All she wanted was to fall in love and get married but with her unfortunate nicknames of "Prissy Missy" and "London's Least Likely to Cause a Scandal" plus her overbearing mother dogging her through the ballrooms of London, it looks like Lady Olivia Archer's fourth season won't be bringing her any closer to her goal than her first. And now her parents have tired of waiting on her and have betrothed her to a man who terrifies her: Phinneas Cole, known as the Mad Baron, a man believed by all of society to have murdered both his first wife and his brother. True, he's handsome and there was a mutual fascination when Olivia encountered him at a ball but that was before she knew who he was and what he had done.  At Lady Penelope's Finishing School for Young Ladies of Fine Families, Olivia and her friends were told that if they followed The Rules they would find husbands and happy marriages. Since that's not happening maybe it's time to change the rules.

Phinneas Cole has come to London for two reasons: to complete the Difference Engine (an early type of computer) he's building in time for the Great Exhibition and find a sweet, biddable wife who will leave him in peace to continue his scientific endeavors.  He thinks he's found her when he encounters Lady Olivia Archer at a ball.  She's quiet, refined and elegant; the opposite of his late wife and exactly what he needs.  No need to waste time.  He contacts her father and Olivia is presented with a fait accompli.  But once engaged, the sweet, quiet woman disappears, to be replaced by a wallflower gone wild, flaunting the rules at every turn.

Olivia believes the rumors about Phinn and is determined to cause enough havoc to cause him to break the betrothal.  Phinn had enough drama in his first marriage to last a lifetime but the more mischief Olivia causes, the more fascinated he becomes.  He sets out to woo her though he's woefully inept at it and unfortunately the advice he receives from his well-meaning but clueless friend only reinforces Olivia's beliefs about him. But Phinn is determined and slowly Olivia comes to realize there's more to the man than meets the eye...if only there wasn't that pesky murder rumor in his past.

I really enjoyed this book.  Rodale has created characters that are complex, engaging and just plain fun. It was delightful to watch Olivia blossom as her betrothal rebellion slowly changes her from a quiet young woman who wouldn't dream of breaking her mother's or society's rules into a confident, strong woman who has learned to make rules of her own.  Phinn is a hero I'd take home any day. I adored him and while his efforts to woo Olivia often went off course, he finally got it right for a happy, sigh-worthy ending.

Wallflower Gone Wild is the second book in Rodale's London's Least Likely series. It reads well as a stand-alone although the primary couple from the first book, The Wicked Wallflower drop enough hints about their own journey that, like me, you'll probably want to start reading their story as soon as you turn the final page of Wallflower Gone Wild.  I'm now counting down the days until the release of the third book in this series.  What a Wallflower Wants will hit the shelves in September.

~PJ

Do you enjoy wallflower heroines?  How about nerdy heroes? Do you like to see them grow into strong, confident characters or do you prefer that they remain true to their roots?  Or can they be both? With the help of her friends, Olivia dreams up some crazy schemes in her attempts to convince Phinn to break their engagement.  If you were a wallflower gone wild in Regency England, how would you break the rules?

I have a print copy of Wallflower Gone Wild for one lucky person who leaves a comment today. 
(U.S. and Canadian addresses only)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Today's Special - - Rebecca Hagan Lee


It's my pleasure to welcome Rebecca Hagan Lee to TRD today. An award-winning author, Rebecca has received the Maggie Award from Georgia Romance Writers, various Romantic Times awards and has been a Romance Writers of America RITA® finalist.  Her books have been published in nine languages and are currently being re-issued in English by Amber House Books.  
You can find more information about Rebecca at her website and connect with her online at Facebook.  

Please give Rebecca a warm welcome!







Thank you, PJ and Andrea for inviting me to talk about A HINT OF HEATHER, my latest release from Amber House Books.

Set in the highlands of Scotland in 1716, A HINT OF HEATHER is the story of one clan’s desperate struggle to survive the harsh British occupation following the first Jacobite rebellion. Or to use my publisher, Teresa Medeiros’s, tagline: “If a spirited Highland lass kidnaps an English earl, does she get to keep him?”

It’s the story of Lady Jessalyn MacInnes of Clan MacInnes and Neil Claremont, a major in His Majesty’s Royal Corps of Engineers. Jessalyn and Neil find themselves in an unlikely alliance when she becomes the new Laird of the Clan and her well-meaning clansmen decide to abduct a bridegroom for her—and not just any bridegroom, but an English earl and the grandson of “the King-maker”, the powerful Marquess of Chisenden.

Neil is Jessalyn’s wedding gift from the “Ancient Gentlemen of the Clan.”

When I think back on the writing of A HINT OF HEATHER, I realize that the idea of the story was a gift to me. I was sitting in a workshop on writing a bestseller at a Romance Writers of America conference when a scene popped into my head. Like watching a Technicolor movie, I saw a British major hanging upside down and tied across the back of a Highland pony being led by a group of Scottish Highlanders. Neil Claremont’s story had begun…

During a recent move, I came across the description I jotted down of that scene amid the notes of that RWA workshop while packing up my office. Like BRIGADOON and HIGHLANDER or BRAVEHEART and ROB ROY, or the Scottish Highlands, A HINT OF HEATHER was the story I had to tell in order to share my love of Scotland and all things Scottish.  It was as magical and rare as the beautiful purple and white heather on the Scottish hillsides.

Unfortunately, the original publication of A HINT OF HEATHER never found its readership. But my friend, Teresa Medeiros, CEO of Amber House Books, thought A HINT OF HEATHER and I deserved a second chance.   

You see, once upon I time, I dreamed that writing romance novels readers wanted to read was enough. But after writing and publishing fourteen full-length romance novels and two novellas for Berkley Jove and winning several awards, my career had come to a standstill. I spent the next six years writing and re-writing and submitting proposals and a full-length women’s fiction contemporary to my agent without success. I was told no one wanted to read what I wrote. No one wanted to read Americana westerns or Regencies or late Victorian settings or Scottish books.

I thought my dream was over. Then three things happened to give me hope.

Debra Dixon invited me to write Regency novella for a Christmas anthology. I sold a book to Berkley Sensation. And Teresa Medeiros approached me with her desire to start a boutique publishing house for the purpose of “Entertaining  readers. Empowering Writers.”

Since July 2013, my dream and my career have been reborn. Teresa Medeiros and Amber House Books have enabled me to entertain my original readers and to gain new readership. She’s re-branded and published my Americana westerns, GOLDEN CHANCES, HARVEST MOON, SOMETHING BORROWED, and TWICE BLESSED as “The Borrowed Brides Series” and added A HINT OF HEATHER to the list.

I’ve not only been empowered, I’ve been inspired…



The films I mentioned inspired my love for Scotland. What Scottish films or settings inspire YOU?


Rebecca would love to give one Lucky Commenter today a $25 Amazon gift!  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review -- Risky Game

Risky Game
Out of Bounds—Book 2
By Tracy Solheim
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: May 6, 2014






By the look of things, football star Brody Janik has it all. He is the star tight end for the champion Baltimore Blaze. He is wealthy and gorgeous, and has women practically throwing themselves at him. But, he’s hiding a secret that could put his career in jeopardy.

Enter Shay Everett. She is an intern working within the training department in the Blaze organization. She is working toward her PhD in nutrition at Johns Hopkins and needs the internship for college credit. Shay works several jobs to pay for college and lives a very frugal life. When she overhears Brody’s health concerns, she is almost tempted to sell it to a popular online gossip blogger who specializes in publishing secrets of NFL players (including several Blaze players). She lets it slip to Brody that she knows and he is furious. This leads him to believe she is a snitch. 

Shay doesn’t want Brody to ruin her possibility of earning her degree and he doesn’t want anyone finding out his secret . . . so they strike a deal. He won’t tell on her and she will help him with his nutrition regimen. Brody adheres to the motto “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” and decides to do just that with Shay. To keep her close, Brody suggests they act as boyfriend and girlfriend. Shay‘s not onboard with the idea but doesn’t have much choice after he kisses her in public. They go through with the charade, but how long will it last? 

Tracy Solheim is a new-to-me author and I really enjoyed Risky Game. It is part of a series, but that didn’t affect my reading of this book whatsoever. In fact, it made me want to read the other books in the series! This is great because I seem to be reading a lot of sports-themed books lately and must admit that football is my favorite. *g*

Brody is a simply wonderful hero. You’d think that because he is a huge football star he would be arrogant and egotistical, but he’s not. He is confident, and there is a difference. Plus, he loves his family and is very respectful of his mother and sisters. Lately, Brody has found himself wanting the happiness his married teammates enjoy in their relationships. He wants to find someone who wants him for him and not his star status. When he meets Shay, he doesn’t know what to think at first. He is drawn to her and sees her as a conundrum, and as Brody puts it, he is “fascinated by conundrums.” Shay, on the other hand, hasn’t had it as easy as Brody has. She has a twin sister (Teryn, who is a cheerleader for a pro team) that others say got all the looks while Shay got all the brains. Everything came easy to Teryn, but Shay has always had to work her butt off for what she wanted. She is such a genuine, relatable character and I love that about her. She’s the type of heroine you want for a friend and the type that you can’t help but root for. I enjoyed watching as Brody slowly brought her out of her shell. 

Risky Game is an absolutely delightful contemporary romance that I definitely recommend. And don’t worry . . . even if you aren’t a fan of sports, you will enjoy this one. I can’t wait for Ms. Solheim’s next book, but in the meantime, I’m going to check out her backlist.



~Andrea

Friday, April 18, 2014

Today's Special - - Nancy Northcott


I'm always happy to welcome Nancy Northcott back to The Romance Dish. Nancy was here earlier this week as a guest reviewer but she joins us today to blog about her newest story, Sentinel. A novella in Nancy's Light Mage Wars series, Sentinel is a wonderful prequel to her debut book, Renegade. (read Janga's review of Sentinel here and PJ's review of Renegade here) This contemporary fantasy series, set in modern-day Georgia, has pulled me completely into the complex and fascinating world of Nancy Northcott's creation.  I highly recommend these books.

Welcome back, Nancy!  Please tell us about Sentinel.  





Secrets and Lies


How far would you go to protect someone you loved if you believed that person were wrongly accused of a crime?  How much deceit is justified to penetrate a family’s veil of secrecy and apprehend a mass murderer?

These are the questions at the heart of my new contemporary fantasy romance, Sentinel.  The heroine, Caroline Dare, has a brother, Griffin, who was once a shining example of all a mage should be.  Until he killed a councilor in a room full of witnesses.  He has supposedly killed other mages since. 

Yet Caro and her parents believe there must be another explanation for his actions, no matter how bad the situation looks.  Because no one will believe them if they speak up in his defense, they maintain a united front of silence in the face of all queries, opinions, and hints.

Reporter Rick Moore, also a mage, believes the Dare family must be shielding Griffin.  Mages are capable of magically locating and watching anyone who isn’t behind a magical screen.  There’s no way Griffin Dare could’ve maintained such a screen 24/7 for the three years since he went rogue.  Mage power is limited and requires periodic renewal, and the deputy reeves, the mage equivalents of US Marshalls,  searched for him around the clock for weeks.  He couldn’t have eluded them without help, and the logical candidates are his family.

Rick’s freelance job as an arts reporter gets him into Caroline’s first showing of her tapestries.  Although she is blind, she has the magical ability to sense color by touch.  Her work blows his preconceptions out of the water, but he still has a job to do. He tries to get an interview with Caro, who reluctantly rebuffs him despite the attraction between them.  She has learned that no good comes of dealing with reporters.

When a critic questions her ability to create her tapestries because of her blindness, she turns to Rick for PR help.  As they work together to protect her reputation, the attraction between them grows, but their secrets and his lies stand between them.

Griffin's story
Rick’s father was wrongly accused of a magical crime, and the accusation ruined family’s lives.  If he can get the goods on Griffin Dare, his editor at MageWire.com, the leading news source for mages in the southeastern US, will push for an investigation into his father’s case.  But of course Rick can’t tell Caro that, or she won’t open up to him, won’t give him what he needs to clear his father’s name.

At the same time, the fact that he’s lying to her bothers him more every time they’re together, especially when he begins to have his own doubts about her brother’s guilt.  The more he cares for her, the more her stonewalling about Griffin bothers him, and not only because of his story.

The truth eventually comes out, as it has a way of doing, and Rick’s lies may have destroyed his relationship with Caro forever.





Have you read other romances or seen TV shows or movies where one character pretends to be something he or she is not?  If so, tell us a bit about it. 

One commenter today will receive either a Kindle download or a paperback copy of Sentinel.

Twitter: @NancyNorthcott

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3468806.Nancy_Northcott





Thursday, April 17, 2014

Today's Special - - Laura Griffin


I'm delighted to welcome New York Times Bestselling and two-time RITA® Award winning author Laura Griffin to The Romance Dish today.  Laura is one of my go-to romantic suspense authors and her new book, FAR GONE received a 5 Star review from Dish guest reviewer, Manda Collins.  (read the review here) I have a copy of FAR GONE tucked into my bag and, as you read this introduction, I will most likely be lost in Laura's thrilling new story as I relax on the beach during spring break. That comes pretty darn close to my idea of a perfect day.  You can find more information about Laura and her books at her website and connect with her online at Facebook and Twitter.  

Please give Laura a warm Romance Dish welcome!






Hi, Laura!  Welcome to the Romance Dish!  You’ve just released your first hardcover, FAR GONE.  Please tell our readers what they can expect from this book.

Thanks for inviting me to visit!

FAR GONE is the story of Andrea Finch, a homicide detective in Austin who is on leave from her job when she gets an S.O.S. call from her younger brother. Fearing something is very wrong, she goes out to west Texas to investigate and ends up crossing paths with FBI agent Jon North, who is working undercover to solve a murder case that may be linked to a broader plot. Jon believes Andrea’s brother is involved.

The anti-government militia storyline of FAR GONE is a danger faced by many countries these days.  What kind of research did you do for this book?  How was writing a story with potential national impact different from your usual “local” storylines?

The idea for this story came when I was visiting an FBI office and the special agents kept making reference to April 19, which was just a few days away. I asked what the big deal was and they explained that April 19 marks the anniversary of the Waco fire and the Oklahoma City bombing, and also the opening battle of the American Revolution. The day is significant to many militia groups, so law enforcement agencies are on alert. I starting thinking about creating a suspense plot around this date.

What scares me most about this villain—the homegrown terrorist—is that he could be anyone. He’s from Middle America. In this case, the character is from Texas, but this is a story that could happen anywhere in the U.S.

What would you like readers to understand about your hero and heroine, Jon and Andrea?

Jon is drawn to Andrea immediately because she is so fiercely independent. Andrea is attracted to Jon, too, but very wary because he is investigating her brother and she knows he is using her to get inside information. Andrea wants to convince Jon that her brother’s not involved in a vicious murder plot, but Jon believes he is. This distrust gets in the way of their relationship from the beginning and they have a lot to overcome throughout the story.

When Manda Collins recently reviewed FAR GONE for us, she shared who she had cast as Jon North in her mind while reading the book (Thomas Gibson).  Who would you cast as Andrea and Jon?  Did you use any photos or real-life people as inspiration while developing the characters?

I can see why she would think of Thomas Gibson. I like that! Before I sit down to write a book, I have to get some visuals in my head. I put together what I call a storyboard that is a collage of images.... people, settings, plus maybe a few quotes that relate to the story’s theme. For the FAR GONE storyboard I had pictures of Rooney Mara and Jon Hamm, who remind me of these characters. But readers probably have their own visual images based on their interpretation of the story... I love to hear the different names that pop up.

Your books sit on the keeper shelves of many romantic suspense readers (me included).   What books do you enjoy reading? 

Thank you! Personally, my reading tastes are all over the map. I read thrillers, romance, literary fiction (usually for my book club). I love to read non-fiction, too. I read lots of research books about topics such as crime scene investigation, forensic anthropology, criminal profiling, that sort of thing.

Will you be attending any conferences or book signings this year where readers will have the opportunity to meet you?

Yes! I’ll be at RT in New Orleans next month, then at RWA in San Antonio this summer. I always love to meet readers at RWA’s big Literacy Autographing, which features hundreds of authors and thousands of book lovers. Hope to see you there!

Where can readers connect with you online?

I’m at laura@lauragriffin.com, www.lauragriffin.com, www.Facebook.com/LauraGriffinAuthor or Twitter @Laura_Griff. Drop me a line!

What’s next?

I’m writing the newest book in my Tracers series. This story focuses on Derek Vaughn and Elizabeth LeBlanc, who first met in the book SCORCHED. Readers have been asking for their story and I’m happy to say it’s on the way!

Thank you for visiting with us, Laura.


A question for you, dear readers! Do you like to cast real people in the hero and heroine roles of the books you read or do you prefer to let your imagination create an image?







Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Today's Special - - Jennifer McQuiston


I'm happy to welcome Jennifer McQuiston back to The Romance Dish!  I first met Jennifer at the 2011 RWA National Conference in New York City when Nicki Salcedo invited me to join a group of Georgia writers for dinner at the Carnegie Deli.  Over dinner, as we chatted, it was clear to see that this was a woman brimming with wit, charm and intelligence - qualities that are on full display in the historical romances she writes.  Jennifer's third book, MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND was released on March 25th and tells the story of Patrick and Julianne, intriguing characters readers first met in earlier books in McQuiston's "Second Sons" trilogy.  

Jennifer recently answered some questions regarding her new book...and more.  Please join me in giving her a warm welcome!





Thank you for visiting with us today, Jennifer.   Congratulations on the release of your newest book, MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND.  I’ve been looking forward to Patrick’s book since first “meeting” him in your debut, WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND.  Please tell our readers what they can expect from MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND.

PJ, thank you so much for having me on. I always love visiting with The Romance Dish and engaging with such an active community of readers!

MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND is the third and final book in my debut “Second Sons” series. It is a mix of several different types of stories: there is a marriage of convenience lurking at the forefront, an enemies-to-lovers storyline, and a murder mystery to solve. 

Eleven months ago, Julianne’s statement to the authorities wrongly implicated Patrick, the new Earl of Haversham, in his older brother’s death. The chit is as much trouble as her red hair suggests, and just as captivating. Now she has impetuously tracked him to the wilds of Scotland, insisting that he return home to face a murder charge and save his family from ruin. A clandestine wedding may be the only way to save her reputation—and his neck from the hangman’s noose.

Julianne has no objection to the match. More and more she’s convinced of Patrick’s innocence, though when it comes to igniting her passions, the man is all too guilty. And if they can only clear his name, a marriage made in haste could bring about the most extraordinary pleasure…



But perhaps the best way to get a sense of the book is by watching the book trailer.







I was intrigued by Julianne while reading SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS.  I thought she had potential but was still on the fence so I was happy when I heard she was slated to be Patrick’s heroine.  Did you have her in mind for Patrick from the beginning or, like me, did she grow on you during Caroline and David’s story?

That is such a good question…no, I didn’t specifically have her in mind for Patrick at the beginning of book #2, but she grew on me quite rapidly, and quickly developed into a character I found intriguing. I love the challenge of taking someone who isn’t outwardly likeable and finding that one thing that makes them heroic as a story unfolds. I have to believe there is a hero lurking in all of us, and I think that is true for the characters we write as well. In SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS, the hero, David, is portrayed as a bit of a borderline villain in the first book, so it’s a challenge I embrace regularly. J In Julianne’s case, she can be vain and spoiled, but at her core, she is defined by loyalty. She is more complex than she seems at first blush, and that gives you a lot of material to work with as an author.

Patrick, the hero of MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND is a veterinarian, as are you.  What challenges did writing a character with whom you share a profession present?  Was it easy or did it put more pressure on you to make sure you didn’t miss any details?

I think the veterinary profession during the Victorian era was quite different than modern veterinary medicine. Historically, veterinarians worked more on horses and cattle than dogs. They would have used some of the same methods as doctors of the time period, including application of leeches and resorting to amputations
Photo Credit:  Anita Jones
rather than risking gangrene. Near the beginning of the book, I show Patrick amputating the limb of a dog who’s been struck by a coach. The time period for MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND is in the pre-anesthetic era, so the table-top surgery scene I crafted had to happen very quickly without the crutch of ether. I recall initially writing that scene using a crude form of anesthesia, and then cursing when I realized it didn’t exist yet and had to rewrite it all.


But I did draw on SOME of my personal experiences in the writing process. Two of the dogs in the book are modelled after my own pets. J Gemmy, Patrick’s 3-legged terrier, is modelled after my family’s yellow mixed breed dog named Koda. And Skip, the Border Collie in the surgery scene, is physically modelled after our family’s dog Emma.

What do you want readers to understand about your main characters, Julianne and Patrick?  What did you like best about them?   What challenges did they give you as their creator?

One of the challenges (and most lovely parts!) of being an author is that we can do terrible, horrible, unconscionable things to our characters and then rub our hands in glee at the chaos that ensues. I confess, I’ve done a bit of that to Julianne and Patrick.  Or rather, I’ve made them do it to each other.  Julianne has—for better or worse—accused Patrick of murdering his brother. She’s the only witness to the purported crime, but now she is beginning to doubt what she saw that day, and is trying to make amends. But how do you apologize for ruining a man’s life? Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t going to come anywhere close.

And Patrick—for better or worse—marries Julianne for a pretty terrible reason. He doesn’t trust her. He doesn’t even like her. On the surface, he pretends to be heroic and save her tarnished reputation (after all, she’s come to Scotland without a chaperone. Oh, the scandal!) But in reality, he marries her to destroy her potential as a witness, because a wife can’t be compelled to testify against her husband. 

Of course, he doesn’t tell her that.

These two levels of betrayal are pretty hard to overcome. Worse, their personalities really come out in the aftermath of their hasty wedding, and it was dreadful fun to write. He’s a total slob, dripping in manure most of the time (a hazard of being a veterinarian, as I can personally attest).  She’s fastidious and fashionable and shudders at the thought of a little dirt.

It’s a marriage bound for failure.

And that’s even before I throw a killer in their midst.

Here’s a bit of their wedding night scene to give you a flavor of the conflict these two face:

***
Patrick set the lamp he had carried from the kitchen on the top of his bureau, then shrugged out of his coat. He tossed it over a chair littered with open books and periodicals, causing a small army of paper to slide onto the floor in an ungracious heap—not that a few more made much difference on his hazard-strewn floor. The brewing altercation made the blood in his veins contract. “I asked you to wait in the hallway for your safety, Julianne.”
“You didn’t ask me to wait.” She smiled, and he was struck again by the sense that despite the graciousness of the gesture, she was merely baring her teeth. “You ordered me to. And I confess some surprise to hear you care about my safety,” she continued, “given that you derided Gemmy for greeting me with any measure of affection.”
Christ. Is that was this was about? There was no denying she was a bloody, beautiful mess when she was angry. Indeed, she appeared nigh on luminous in her nightclothes, her unbound curls twitching about her shoulders. But there was nothing of affection in his reaction to such a sight. Did she expect platitudes and whispers of love?
Because if she did, she had sorely overestimated his esteem.
“I like you well enough, Julianne,” he replied, his voice a cautious drawl. And he did. Or rather, he liked her as a solution to his problem. He supposed he should soften his tone, but the woman brought something out in him. It seemed they were always sliding on the razor’s edge of a row, her words as sharp and cutting as any knife.
She stared down at his unmade sheets, and her brow pinched in thought. “When was the last time your bed linens were changed?”
“Are you offering to wash them for me?” He began to work the buttons of his shirt. “Because you might want to wait until after we’ve soiled them properly.”
Her eyes met his in an ominous flash of green heat. “I’ve seen stables with cleaner floors than yours. For heaven’s sake, you’re likely to give Gemmy fleas. You need a housekeeper.”
“I’ve a wife now.” He shrugged out of his shirt and tossed it away, perversely enjoying the way her eyes widened to follow the article’s deliberate, ceremonious path to the floor. “I’ve been told they are nearly one in the same.”


Now that you have three books under your publishing belt, how has the experience of writing and releasing a book changed, both personally and professionally?

It is such an evolution, when I think back on it. I naively thought being an author was just a whole lot of writing when I started on this journey, but the amount of work it takes is far more complicated than that. You have to be a business woman first, strategic and social, and that is an aspect of the profession no one teaches you! It is a trial-by-fire sort of learning process, and it leaves you bruised and exhausted.

Writing is a more agonizing process for me now that I write under deadline and know that I have people waiting for me to do a good job. Before I sold, I breezed through books because I didn’t know any better. Now I find myself more consciously agonizing over words. Sometimes I think back to how much I enjoyed blundering my way through a story and want to go back there.

But no one would want to read it. J

And personally? I am now heading into two solid years of lost sleep, getting up at 4am to write. But I still wouldn’t go back, because when I hear from readers they’ve loved a story, I can’t help but want to do it again.

Where can readers connect with you online?

I love hearing from readers! I am on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jennifermcquistonauthor) and Twitter (@jenmcqwrites). I also have a website (www.jenmcquiston.com), and regularly send out a newsletter with sneak peeks and contest information (https://www.facebook.com/jennifermcquistonauthor/app_208195102528120).

What’s next?  Will we be visiting the characters from your first three books again or is it time to bid them farewell and move on to something new?

I am incredibly fortunate that I have signed a contract with Avon for another 3-book series, and I believe the first book, DIARY OF AN ACCIDENTAL WALLFLOWER, will be out in early 2015. Briefly, London’s reigning “It” girl sprains her ankle on the evening of the biggest ball of the year and is relegated to the wallflower line—only to discover that there is more to life than dukes and dancing. It is a brand new series, but the hero of the first book is Dr. Daniel Merial, who made a brief appearance in MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND.

I am also toying with the idea of writing a novella to revisit two characters whom readers have vociferously demanded have their own stories… William MacKenzie (the hero’s brother in WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND) and Penelope Tolberton (the stammering sister in SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS) seem like they might make a good match… but that will depend on my time and sanity!

Where will readers be able to meet you this year?  Will you be attending any conferences or book signings?

I will be at the RT Book Lovers Convention in New Orleans, attending May 15-17, 2014. I won't be at the literacy signing, but will be at all the Avon sponsored events, and would love to see you there! 

I will be attending the Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio, July 23-26th, 2014. There is a large book signing open to the public, and it is always a fun time!

And on August 27, 2014, I will participate in my very first Lady Jane's Salon in Raleigh-Durham NC.

Thank you, Jennifer!  Would you like to ask our readers a question today?

Question: MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND features a heroine who many see as spoiled and vain, but who is fiercely defined by loyalty. What qualities do you find most admirable in a romance hero or heroine?


One person leaving a comment on today's blog will receive a signed print copy of either WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND or SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS (winner's choice).  (U.S. addresses only)


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Guest Review - - The Collector


The Collector
By Nora Roberts
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: April 10, 2014

  

Writer Lila Emerson enjoys a comfortable, if nomadic, existence as a house sitter.  When in Manhattan, she entertains herself by watching the neighbors through their uncurtained windows and making up stories about them.  It’s a harmless hobby until she witnesses one of those neighbors being murdered.

Ashton Archer, a successful artist, is the go-to guy for his extended and somewhat dysfunctional family.  He has so many siblings, half-siblings, and step-relatives that he needs a spreadsheet to keep up with them, but his affection and concern for them all is one of his defining traits.  When his brother Oliver appears to have killed his lover and then himself, Ash refuses to believe it.  He goes to the police station to pick up Oliver’s effects and meets Lila, the sole witness to the woman’s murder.

Ash’s need for answers and Lila’s compassion for his pain bring them together. Lila joins Ash in his quest to find justice for his brother.  Their search is complicated by a priceless artifact Oliver secretly sent to Ash.

They soon realize the artifact and others like it have left a trail of blood behind them, and a ruthless man will stop at nothing to obtain the one Ash now holds.

This latest outing of Roberts’ is a little different from her recent releases.  It’s set mostly in New York City instead of in a small community, and she uses the urban hustle and bustle at key points in the story.  The plot is also different in that it’s tied to historical mysteries and legends.  Last year’s Whiskey Beach used a family legend, but this story looks at a broader historical stage.  It plays nicely off of the story of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, thought to have survived the massacre of the Romanovs until DNA evidence demonstrated otherwise, and the priceless, lost eggs created by Fabergé for the tsar’s family.

Ash and Lila are engaging and sympathetic.  Lila,  who grew up on military bases, carries a Leatherman multi-tool and prides herself on her independence and her ability to fix almost anything that breaks.  Ash runs his family’s personal affairs but not without periodic exasperation. His determination to have justice for Oliver and Lila’s desire to help are believable, as is their attraction to each other.

The secondary relationship in the book involves a high degree of coincidence, which will bother some readers and not others.  Some may not like the fact that Ash, like Seth Quinn in 2004’s Chesapeake Blue,  is a young and phenomenally successful artist who intends to paint the woman he’s attracted to.  Others won’t care.

The opening of the story is a little slow, perhaps because Lila is content, with no hint of any looming problem.  Once the murder occurs, however, events move along at a good pace.  Ash and Lila’s strategy for dealing with the man behind his brother’s killer is clever and credible.

The biggest group of secondary characters are the Archer family members.  They have various temperaments, personality clashes, and agendas and varying degrees of affection or tolerance for each other.   The uncle for whom Oliver worked is a bit more prominent and very well drawn, as are Lila’s friend Julie and Ash’s friend Luke.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, engaging story.

~Nancy Northcott

A former attorney who never outgrew her love of comic books, science fiction and fantasy, Nancy left the legal profession to pursue her dreams of creating her own action adventure stories.  Check out her terrific contemporary romances set within a fantasy world in present-day Georgia.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Today's Special - - Juliana Stone


PJ here.  It's my pleasure to welcome Juliana Stone back to The Romance Dish.  I've been a fan of Juliana's writing since the publication of her debut and eagerly await each new book she writes. Whether it's paranormal, contemporary or young adult, Stone's character-driven stories never fail to engage and satisfy me. Describing herself as an "80's geek," Juliana indulges her passion for music by singing in a band in which her husband plays guitar.  A Canadian, Juliana also has a passion for hockey.   

You can find out more about Juliana and her books at her website and connect with her online at Facebook and Twitter. Please give Juliana a warm Romance Dish welcome!




Welcome back, Juliana!  Congratulations on the release of The Day He Kissed Her, the third book in your Bad Boys of Crystal Lake series.  Please tell our readers about this series and what they can expect from the new book.

Bad Boys of Crystal Lake - Book 3
Hey PJ! Glad to be back at one of my favorite online places and thanks for the congrats.  I think a lot of people were looking forward to Mac’s book and I’m so glad it’s finally here!  The idea for the series came about after I decided to write a trilogy based on three Bon Jovi songs.  This last book, The Day He Kissed Her, was originally titled Lay Your Hands On Me.  This tied in perfectly with my tortured and abused Mackenzie Draper. I wanted to write about three guys, lifelong friends and this series was perfect for that.

I love the bond that these friends share and you can count me among those who have been waiting for Mac's story.  I didn't know about the Bon Jovi tie-in!


Mac and Lily are both complex, emotionally wounded characters with no interest in a happily-ever-after.  What would you like readers to understand about each of them and what convinced you that they belonged together? 

I’ve always been attracted to books and movies about broken people. I’m one of those readers who loves to cry when they read. And this series has dealt with some pretty intense subject matter.  Death. Broken families. Lost love. Childhood abuse.  Abuse in a marriage.  The trick is to balance the darkness with some light and that’s what I love about writing contemporary romance.  For Mac, he’s been the victim of abuse at the hands of his father and he truly believes that if he had a family he would become his father. So, he’s decided it’s not for him. And Lily, well, she’s had her own demons as well, rooted in a very dysfunctional family. On some level she doesn’t believe she’ll find true love and with Mac thinking he doesn’t deserve it, they’ve got some challenges. That’s what makes their HEA all the more satisfying. Watching them grow (especially Mac) and finally accept that love does have a place in their lives and that even though a lot of us are a product of our upbringing, there are those strong enough to break the chanins.


You'll be happy to know that I cried right along with you while reading Mac and Lily's story.


Bad Boys of Crystal Lake - Book 1
I’ve fallen in love with the people of Crystal Lake and would love to see more of certain secondary characters still in search of a happy ending.  Will there be more books in this series?  Any hints about future stories that you can share?

Well, your timing is impeccable. We’re just now talking about more books so I’ll have more information on that in a few weeks, but for me personally, I’d love to see Becca (Mac’s sister) find a man worthy of her love.  And how about our mayor, Blair Hubber?

Yay!  You've made me a very happy reader!  :)


You’ve shared your thoughts about your characters.  Now let’s flip the tables.  What would your Crystal Lake bad boys – and their lovely ladies – have to say about you?  Anything that readers would be surprised to discover about you?

Oh!  Good question.  I think they would find a girl who loves family, friends and red wine! LOL, I love baseball, hockey and I hate peas. I talk to myself (a lot) and would like to skydive one day.

I think we’ve all fantasized about stepping into the shoes of our favorite heroine or being romanced by our favorite hero.  If you could step into the life of any fictional character (with an escape hatch back to your current life, of course) who would you choose and why?

Have you read the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning? (if not you’re missing out on the best urban fantasy ever) The hero Jericho Barons is freaking off the charts alpha hot.  I would love to be Mac, the heroine just so that I could have some alone time with the very lickable Barons.

Ooh, good choice!  KMM writes some incredible heroes, doesn't she?  


What’s your current favorite book by an author other than you?

Alexander from The Bronze Horseman. Oh that man gives me the swoons. Again, if you’ve not read The Bronze Horseman you need to!

I have a copy but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Still looking for those extra reading hours in the day so I can work through my tbr mountain. 


Bad Boys of Crystal Lake - Book 2
Will you be attending any conferences or book signings where readers will have an opportunity to meet you this year? 

I am going to be in New Orleans for RT, and will be signing my young adult novel, BOYS LIKE YOU as well as The Day He Kissed Her (I believe)  I’ll also be in Texas for RWA and will be signing there as well (and looking forward to seeing you PJ!)

I can't make RT but I'll be at RWA.  Looking forward to catching up!


What’s next from Juliana Stone? 

Lots!  I just finished writing my second young adult novel and am working on JACK, which is book 2 in my self published series, The Family Simon. After that I am looking at more Crystal Lake books!

News that makes my reader's heart happy. :)

Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Juliana.  Would you like to ask our readers a question?

I’d love to know what their most anticipated read of the year is!

Great question!  Readers, one person who leaves a comment on today's post will receive a copy of The Day He Kissed Her