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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.


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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Releases winner!

The winner of a random book from my prize stash is:

Barbara (who posted at 9:02 AM)

Congrats, Barbara! Please send your full name and address to theromancedish AT gmail DOT com with "Andrea's winner" as the subject and I'll get your book in the mail. Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

Vanessa Kelly Winner

The winner of a copy of CONFESSIONS OF A ROYAL BRIDEGROOM is:

Anita H

Congratulations, Anita!  Please send your full name and mailing address to us at

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spotlight on Tracy Solheim

You meet the nicest people in elevators. During the Romance Writers of America's national conference in Atlanta last summer, another woman and I struck up a conversation during an elevator ride.  That woman turned out to be contemporary romance author, Tracy Solheim. Tracy's books combine two of my favorite things - sports and romance.  It's my pleasure to host her today during her blog tour for A NUMBERS GAME, a new novella in her Out of Bounds series.  

Tracy Solheim has written her share of best sellers and note-worthy books. Unfortunately most of them line the shelves of dusty government offices around the world never to see the light of day. She hopes to change that with her series of contemporary romantic fiction novels published by Berkley Books.

“I guess you could say I’m a frustrated sports writer at heart, but I love writing—and reading—books centered around sports. I can thank my dad for that. He introduced me to Dick Francis novels when I was a teenager and I was hooked. I am also a big fan of the happily ever after endings of romance novels, so it was only natural that I combined the two elements in my fiction debut.”

To find out more about Tracy Solheim, visit her at:

Excerpt from A NUMBERS GAME

A feeling of light-headedness nearly brought Merrit to her knees.  Her eyes roamed over the well muscled arms and beautiful chest to his trim waist, honing in on the small green shamrock tattoo peeking out above the waistband of his shorts.  One that exactly matched the shamrock she’d had tattooed above her own hip bone.  She didn’t bother looking up at his face because she already knew it by heart.  Just as she knew the feel of his firm lips on her own, the taste of his skin, the brush of his unshaved face and his musky scent.  Worse, she knew firsthand the mockery that would be reflected in his coffee eyes.  Mockery she’d once mistaken for something else.
“This isn’t what it looks like,” he was saying, but his words sounded to Merrit as if they were echoing out of the end of a pipe.  “I picked up the wrong keys when I went out for my run and I left my cell phone inside on the charger.  Would you mind if I borrowed yours to make a quick—”
He stopped mid-sentence and mid-stride holding both hands up, palms out.  Merrit realized she was mirroring his pose, her hands at the ready to push him away.  The gasping sound she heard was coming from her own throat as her ribs continued to squeeze tightly around her lungs.  She saw the moment recognition dawned on his face; his lips beginning to form a word.  As if the angels sensed her panic, a surge of adrenalin washed away the cement–like feeling in Merrit’s limbs.  Heart racing, she jumped into her car, jammed the key in the ignition and drove off before things really got messy and she passed out.


Love is worth more than the sum of its hearts…

CPA Merrit Callahan learned early not to let passion unravel her orderly life. Back in college she fell hard for a football player, only to be devastated when she discovered he’d been duping her all along—dared by his teammates to score with his bookish tutor. Now, after her back-stabbing fiancé breaks off their engagement, Merrit flees to Baltimore to escape the fallout.

After eight years in the pros, a series of concussions have forced Heath Gibson out of the NFL. The transition from player to coach for the Baltimore Blaze hasn’t been smooth, but finding himself face-to-face with Merrit Callahan makes the ride even rockier. He’s been filled with regret ever since a stupid team prank caused Merrit to run away from him a decade earlier.

Merrit’s stunned to reconnect with Heath. And despite the authenticity of his reignited feelings this time around, Merrit’s got her mind set on payback. She’ll give Heath a night he won’t forget and then walk away. But Heath’s hold on her heart—and the rest of her body—is difficult to break…

Includes a preview of the next Out of Bounds novel, Risky Game.

Buy links:

Readers, do you enjoy sports-related romances?  What's your sport of choice?  

Tracy is giving away a $25 Amazon or B&N gift card (winner’s choice) to one random commenter during the tour.  Click on "a Rafflecopter giveaway" to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:
April 7- Smexy Books http://smexybooks.com/
April 8- SOS Aloha sosaloha.blogspot.com
(2nd Stop) What I’m Reading http://sillymelody.blogspot.com/
April 9- Delighted Reader http://delightedreader.com
April 10- Romance Junkies http://www.romancejunkies.com/
April 11- The Romance Dish http://theromancedish.com
April 14- Rookie Romance http://rookieromance.blogspot.co.uk/
April 15- Cocktails and Books http://www.cocktailsandbooks.com/
April 17- Romance Reader Girl http://romancereadergirl.com/

April 18- Harlequin Junkie- http://harlequinjunkie.com/