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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Annette McCleave winner!





With the help of Random.org, Annette McCleave has chosen a winner:

Deb

Congratulations, Deb! Please send your full name and mailing address to annette.mccleaveATgmailDOTcom with "The Romance Dish winner" in the subject line.
Thank you and Happy New Year!

Coming Attractions for January

We're kicking off 2010 in style with a terrific menu of debut authors, interviews, guest blogs, reviews, an invasion and lots of prizes. Check out the coming attractions on our menu for January.

Andrea's back with her list of New Releases on Monday, January 4th. She has all the terrific new books you'll want to add to your collection!

Paranormal author, Joss Ware be here Tuesday, January 5th to talk about her new Awakening Heroes series, set in a post-apocalyptic world. The first three books in the series will be released in January, February and March 2010. The January release, Beyond the Night, is getting terrific advance buzz.

Don't miss Wednesday, January 6th when Gannon chats with Helen Scott Taylor about her newest release, The Phoenix Charm.

If you like historical paranormal adventure romance, you won't want to miss Zoe Archer when she blogs with us on Thursday, January 7th. Zoe's new Blades of the Rose series kicks off this month with the prequel, The Undying Heart, in the Half Past Dead Brava anthology.

Kensington historical author, Beverley Kendall will be here Friday, January 8th to talk about her debut release, Sinful Surrender. Many of you may also know Beverley from her website-blog-forum, The Season.

Trish Milburn will be here Sunday, January 10th with her take on Young Adult romance in Teen Menu.

Join us Monday, January 11th, when Crescent Moon Press will be blogging with us.

Cozy Mystery author, Gayle Trent joins us on Wednesday, January 13th to talk about Dead Pan, the latest book in her Daphne Martin Cake Decorating series.

You'll want to be here on Thursday, January 14th when Harlequin Blaze author and Romance Bandit, Tawny Weber stops by to chat about her January release, You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs, in Blazing Bedtime Stories (Volume III) from Harlequin Blaze.

Warm up your day on Friday, January 15th with January's Hot Dish from Buffie!

Monday, January 18th - Friday, January 22nd is Invasion Week when the Romance Bandits come to play! Don't miss the fun, the laughter and the prizes!

The laughter continues on Saturday, January 23rd when PJ interviews NY Times Bestselling author, Sandra Hill. Viking in Love, Hill's return to straight historical romance, will be released on January 26th.

Don't miss Sunday, January 24th, when Anna Campbell returns with another Second Helping book review.

Join us Monday, January 25th, when award-winning historical and paranormal romance author, Monica Burns will be visiting. Monica's latest book, Kismet, hits the stands January 5th.

We finish out the month on a hot note when contemporary author, Jo Davis joins us Friday, January 29th to talk about Hidden Fire, the latest in her Firemen of Station Five series and I Spy a Wicked Sin, the February 2nd release that kicks off her scorching new SHADO Agency series.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Guest Author -- Annette McCleave

Paranormal author Annette McCleave tried her hand at banking, financial advising, and high tech marketing before finally figuring out how important writing was to her life. Her debut, Drawn into Darkness (formerly Soul Provider), won the prestigious RWA Golden Heart Award for Best Paranormal Romance in 2008! Welcome Annette McCleave to The Romance Dish!

I Heart Paperback Heroes

As I watched the news unfold on the TV these past few days, I was reminded why I read and write the books I do: To spend more time with heroes. This has been a difficult year for many people—and it hardly comes as a shock to end it on such a difficult note. But of all the reports I heard, the one phrase that stuck with me was “subdued by passengers and crew”.

Heroes exist in the real world—they remind us of their presence with their daily acts of bravery—and we need them. They give us hope and bolster our own wavering courage. They make us proud to be human at the very times we doubt the value of our race.

Is it any wonder that we want to recapture those feelings by visiting with heroes in the pages of a novel? Heroes that can save the world—or at least our hearts? :) Heroes who fight against overwhelming odds armed with only the strength of their convictions?

In paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels, evil is extremely powerful and is often a challenge to identify, let alone conquer. Yet, our heroes and heroines leap in, guns ablazing or swords aswinging, determined to do everything they must to beat back the darkness. And they succeed. Good defeats evil, if only temporarily, and love conquers all.

While they are only fictional, these paperback heroes succeed in doing something very real—they remind us that the darkness can be pushed back and that trying circumstances can create heroes out of ordinary people. Information the news only occasionally confirms, but we know in our hearts is true.

Do you think we’re all capable of heroism, given the right circumstance?

In Drawn into Darkness, my heroine Rachel Lewis is an ordinary woman with no special paranormal skills. Yet, when she’s thrust into a world of demons and Soul Gatherers with the life of her teenage daughter at stake, she displays more courage than she thought possible...


Rachel’s breathing had slowed, but her heart still pounded. And it was her heart that refused to let her dismiss the truth. “I can’t leave him to face Drew alone.”

“He won’t be alone,” Brian pointed out. “I’ll be here.”

“Here doesn’t really help him, though, does it?” Rachel scrambled to her feet. “You can’t pass through the barrier. I can.”

Stefan stepped toward her, shaking his head. “What can you possibly hope to accomplish? You are an ordinary woman.”

“I don’t know. I just know I can’t let him do it alone.”

The Romany mage exchanged a pained look with Brian, then sighed. “All right, return to him if you must. But I can’t let you go unarmed. Repeat after me, Irst am dol marga volumchis.”

She mouthed the awkward sounds twice, just to make sure she got them right. “What does that mean?”

“It’s an augmentation spell. If you get within a hundred feet of MacGregor, close your eyes, picture a thick shield encasing his body, and say those words.” He shrugged. “Can’t hurt.”

His eyes dropped to Rachel’s small leather purse, which by force of habit still hung over her shoulder.

“Any spare change in there?”

She shook the purse and numerous coins rattled.

“Good,” said the mage. “If you get really stuck, toss some coins in the air, say, Figa gi bovismir, and imagine them whipping toward Drusus.”

“And here’s a couple of extra crosses,” Brian said, draping more silver chains around her neck. “I just wish I could cover you from head to toe.”

She smiled at the two men, grateful. Then, unable to prevent a brief mental jag into the future, she grabbed the young Gatherer’s hand. “Go with them, Brian, please. Save my little girl.”

His gaze met hers over the flashlight. For once, his eyes were serious. “If it’s in my power, I will. Good luck, Rachel.”

She took a deep breath, hugged her purse to her chest like a life preserver, and dove back through the barrier spell in search of Lachlan.



One of today’s commenters will have chance to win a copy of Drawn into Darkness and spend some quality time with a few of my own paperback heroes. A winner will be chosen at random tomorrow morning.

Thank you for stopping by, and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Guest Author -- Courtney Milan

Debut author, Courtney Milan is a woman of many talents. An attorney who has also worked as a computer programmer and a dog trainer, Courtney is now writing historical romances for Harlequin. Her novella, "This Wicked Gift," in the anthology, The Heart of Christmas left readers wanting more of her fresh and compelling new voice but it's her January release, Proof by Seduction that will secure her position as a rising star of historical romance. Please give Courtney a warm welcome to The Romance Dish!


Writing a historical scientist as a hero for the 21st century

When I set out to write Proof by Seduction, I wanted my hero, Gareth Carhart, to be a scientist. But the more research I did, the more I realized that showing readers my hero was a scientist--instead of merely telling them he was one--was going to be very difficult for one simple reason: Science in 1838 looks nothing like what we think of as science today.

The problem starts with the word, "scientist." Its first use in print, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in 1834. And in 1834, it shows up when someone notes that there is no word to describe "students of the knowledge of the material world collectively.... Some ingenious gentleman proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might form scientist, and added that there could be no scruple in making free with this termination when we have such words as sciolist, economist, and atheistbut this was not generally palatable." By 1840, however, that unfortunate term had gained some grudging acceptance, and so in 1838, I allow my characters to use the word. There is no period substitute.

But this lack only presages the difficulty of trying to show a modern audience science in 1838.

In modern parlance, Gareth is a biologist. In 1838, virtually every aspect of the field we think of as biology, every last thing that today's readers were taught in junior high, had not yet been discovered. Darwin hadn’t yet unveiled the theory of evolution. Mendel, the father of genetics, was barely 16 years old. Nobody knew about DNA or ecosystems. Heck, the theory of cells wasn’t developed until 1839. Science was a gentleman's pasttime, a hobby with few, if any, dividends, and no research or development budgets.

If you peruse the Royal Academy’s archives of the time period, you’ll find that science during 1838 looked like this: “Hey, everyone, I found something new, so I killed it to see if it looked like something old inside.” It was a science of description, not a science that tried to explain. Only a tiny minority looked at the animal kingdom and thought: Physics had rules that explained things. Biology should too. There was a not-so-silent argument running between the people who killed things and cut them open, and the people who believed there ought to be rules and explanations.

My hero was part of that minority who struggled to find rules. You won’t see much discussion of Lamarck and inheritance and rules in the book--it’s a romance novel, after all, not a history of science--but Gareth’s belief that physics had rules, and so everything else should too, colors the world he lives in.

Naturally, Proof by Seduction starts when Gareth meets a woman--a fortune-teller, no less--who will take all the rules he knows and turn them inside out….


She is his last chance for a future of happiness . . .

Jenny Keeble has never let her humble upbringing stop her. She’s made her way in the world as a fortune teller, one who convinces her clients her predictions are correct by telling them what they most want to hear. Business is good… until she meets her match in the form of Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, a scientist and sworn bachelor.

He just doesn’t know it yet.

Broodingly handsome, Gareth is appalled to discover his cousin has fallen under the spell of "Madame Esmerelda," and he vows to prove her a fraud. But his unexpected attraction to the fiery enchantress defies logic. Jenny disrupts every facet of Gareth's calculated plan— until he can’t decide whether to ruin her or claim her for his own. Now, as they engage in a passionate battle of wills, two lonely souls must choose between everything they know . . . and the boundless possibilities of love.


Courtney has graciously offered to give a copy of Proof by Seduction to a randomly selected commenter from today's post. 

Monday, December 28, 2009

Guest Author -- Donna Fletcher

USA Today bestselling author Donna Fletcher has always loved to read. Her mother fed her passion by signing her up for a Young Adult book club, and from then on she was never without a book. Her passion for reading naturally led her to try her hand at writing, but not before she studied every book on writing the library stocked. She first sold to Kensington and has since written for Berkley and now Avon. Please help us welcome Donna to The Romance Dish!

A big thank you to Buffie, Andrea, PJ & Gannon for having me here today. It’s an exciting time for me. Tomorrow is the release date for the last book in my Sinclare brothers’ series, Highlander’s Forbidden Bride. It seemed like only yesterday that the four Scottish Highlanders introduced themselves to me. The brothers immediately stole my heart as did their stories. I couldn’t wait to write about them, and they were just as eager to have their stories told.

In my night dreams and my daydreams they showed me their home in the northern most region of Scotland. They walked with me over the desolate yet beautiful moors that spread around their keep and through the lush forests that bordered their vast land holdings. They shared with me their hopes and dreams and I knew there and then it would be a challenge to find each of them the perfect woman. Especially since their personalities ranged from stoically quiet (Cavan), to overly pragmatic (Artair), to outrageously charming (Lachlan) and finally to the youngest brother (Ronan) who was once playful and kind and who was now bitter and vengeful, though with good reason.

It all starts in the first book, Return Of The Rogue, when Cavan, his brothers and clan members fight a barbarian horde. As the battle draws to an end Cavan and Ronan are captured and no soon as they are, they’re separated, neither knowing what happened to the other. After a year in captivity Cavan escapes, but he swears he will find his brother Ronan.

Cavan returns home a changed man, a man harboring demons, a man not ready to love. However, he arrives home to a surprise, it’s his wedding day. He isn’t ready to deal with a woman, especially one who is weak. He had asked me for a strong, courageous woman and, of course, I gave him what he wanted. It simply took time for him to realize it. Cavan learns his brother Ronan is alive and so the search to find him and bring him home begins.

That search starts Artair’s book, Under The Highlander’s Spell. Word was received that the healer Zia had cared for Ronan and so Artair goes in search of her. He finds her tied to a stake ready to be burnt for being a witch. Being practical, Artair wanted a woman who would make a good wife and mother. Love, he felt, could follow. I gave him exactly what he was looking for in a woman, though with a touch of zeal to her nature. Artair soon learns that being sensible doesn’t help when it comes to love. It is through Zia the brothers learn that Ronan has been taken by mercenaries.

Lachlan’s book, The Angel And The Highlander, finds him on a duel mission. While sent to collect the shrewish daughter, of a neighboring clan laird, from a remote abbey and return her home to enter into an arranged marriage, Lachlan’s to see if the mercenary group in the area holds Ronan. He arrives at the abbey and is shocked to learn that the woman he has come for is dead and that he is much too attracted to a beautiful nun. Lachlan was certain he’d find the right woman for himself without a problem. We all know that love isn’t easy and that was a lesson the charming Lachlan had to learn. The brothers discover that to find Ronan they have to find the daughter of the barbarian who had captured Cavan and Ronan.

That brings us to Ronan’s story, Highlander’s Forbidden Bride. Beaten to the point of not being able to see, Ronan had been cared for by a slave while held captive by the barbarians. He fell in love with her. Sold to mercenaries, he battles to return and free her. He’s too late and when he learns that she has died at the hands of the barbarian leader’s daughter, Carissa; he swears vengeance. Gone is the young playful and kind man replaced by a seasoned and hardened warrior, who intends to have his revenge.

It’s been a long journey home for Ronan. He has so much yet to settle not only with Carissa but with his brother Cavan. His homecoming isn’t easy, just as his brothers have learned neither his love. It’s Ronan’s turn now and he had no particular woman in mind. He told me he simply wanted to fall in love, a deep abiding love. I gave him the perfect woman, yet the most difficult love, for it necessitates forgiveness.

Finding a good love can be difficult enough, but as my heroes and heroines learned it’s recognizing a good love and keeping hold of that love that is the most difficult of all. What do you think it takes to keep love going?

I’m celebrating the end of the Sinclare brothers’ series with a special contest. I’m offering a short graphic novel that details Ronan’s journey home. For details go to my website http://donnafletcher.com/.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

PJ's Winners!

   



                             












 My winners from last Sunday's Book Review blog are:
               
      SKYLA11377

Congratulations!  You've won a copy of Ann Macela's Wild Magic!


   THERESA N
 
Congratulations!  You've won a copy of Donna Van Liere's  The Christmas Secret!


Please email your full name and snail mail address, with the title of the book you have won in the subject line, to theromancedish@gmail.com.  Hope you enjoy the books!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

ELOISA JAMES DISHES ABOUT BAKING AND DUCHESSES

New York Times bestselling author, Eloisa James has graciously agreed to take time out of her holidays--in Paris no less--to spend the day with us at The Romance Dish. Eloisa and her family are living in Paris for the year, and she has so many lovely adventures to share. Joyeux Noel and Bonne Annee, Eloisa!


I’ve been thinking about all the things I get to do that my heroines can’t. For example, yesterday I bought a tin that makes six tiny bundt cakes. When my daughter gets home from school, we’re making cakes with Christmas sprinkles on top. So I’m sitting here in a quiet apartment in Paris, waiting for her to come home so we can bake together, and watching snow falling outside the window.


Let me count the ways that wouldn’t happen for my Georgian duchess heroines. For one thing, they lived in noisy, English houses full of servants. Their children resided in the nursery. Even if a mother was particularly maternal (and my heroines are), I can’t see her snatching a child from the nursery and then making her way down three flights of stairs to the kitchen, displacing the cook to bake a bundt bake. For one thing, she wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to do it – and she couldn’t look on Epicurious.com for a recipe either.

What else couldn’t they do? Well, write a novel with a computer, take a xanax when contemplating Christmas dinner with extended family, drive across the Alps, rollerblade in the park, use a tampon (!)…

We think of duchesses as rich and powerful, beautiful and beloved. In fact, we put them in the category of movie stars and assume they can have everything they want. But take one look at Tiger Woods, and anyone can see that money doesn’t buy happiness. What do you love doing, eating, smelling, tasting – that you couldn’t do if you were a Georgian duchess?







What happened in 2009 that you wouldn’t trade for a coronet?

Please comment! Three commenters will be sent a signed copy of one of Eloisa’s Desperate Duchesses. And please do join Eloisa's Facebook Fan Page to follow her daily adventures in Paris.














Friday, December 25, 2009





The ladies of The Romance Dish are spending Christmas with their families and would like to wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday season!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Take Me Heyer!

by Anna Campbell

In my family, we always pronounced 'heyer' as 'higher' - but actually the joke in the title doesn't quite work as those in the know tell me it's actually pronounced 'hare' like the furry creature with long ears.

Sigh. The world is conspiring to stop me punning!

Having looked at Jane Austen last month, I thought I'd continue my reviews with a story by the other pillar of Regency romance, the immortal Georgette Heyer.

May as well start at the top, I think!

Georgette Heyer (1902-1974) is an Englishwoman (with a surprisingly exotic background as I discovered when I read her biography last year - she was half Russian which seems very odd as her books seem so quintessentially British!) whose first romance, THE BLACK MOTH, was published when she was 19. It's still in print!

Although she set books in the Middle Ages and the Elizabethan and Georgian periods, her most popular stories are set in the Regency. In fact, you could argue the case that she's single-handedly responsible for the thousands of Regency romances that have hit the presses since.

I went to a really interesting lecture that Jennifer Kloester, the author of GEORGETTE HEYER'S REGENCY WORLD, gave at a writing conference recently. According to Jen, when Georgette wrote her first Regency, there were only four nonfiction books about the period from 1811 to 1820 when Prince George (who would become George IV) took over the reins of government as Prince Regent from his incurably mad father George III. Now nonfiction books about the Regency period number in their thousands.

If you're a bookish Australian female of a certain age, odds are you grew up reading Georgette Heyer. She was as much a staple of our culture as cricket in the summer and chucking a shrimp (which we call a prawn!) on the barbie. My mother loved her books and passed them on to me and I can remember reading them over and over in my late primary school and high school years. They were the backbone of any self-respecting school library. I read them again in my late 20s, when a friend of mine collected the complete series. Again, I was captivated.

It is now MANY years since then.

Nonetheless, I was surprised when I picked up DEVIL'S CUB, one of the beautiful new SourceBooks Casablanca editions, how much of the story I'd forgotten. I remembered it was a sequel to THESE OLD SHADES. I remembered it featured a rake. And I remembered the heroine shot the hero. But other details had faded completely.

Something else I'd forgotten was quite how sparkling the prose is. The dialogue is as sharp as the rapier the Marquis of Vidal carries as he wends his rakish way around Georgian London (I'd also remembered this as a Regency story whereas in fact it takes place pre-French Revolution - which makes for some fun fashions, especially for the men who dressed like peacocks in the 18th century). DEVIL'S CUB was written in 1932 but the writing is completely fresh and new. There's no fusty tinge of the museum piece about this story. It's huge fun and Vidal is absolutely gorgeous, if in need of a good kick you know where!

The Marquis of Vidal is the spoilt, debauched, frighteningly intelligent only child of Leonie and the Duke of Avon, who were the hero and heroine of THESE OLD SHADES. He's 24 and running wild, killing men over the fall of a card and cutting a swathe through the ton's ladies. When his attentions turn to a respectable (if very flighty) middle-class girl, Sophia Challoner, scandal threatens. After a duel goes wrong and he has to flee the country, he decides his companion must be the innocent but mercenary Sophia, in spite of his father's warnings against seducing the girl.

Sophia is perfectly happy to be ruined, as long as she can shame the marquis into marriage afterwards, but she has a stalwart older sister, Mary Challoner, who decides to stymie the elopement. However Mary's reckless scheme to save Sophia goes awry when the Marquis decides if he can't have one sister, he'll take the other.

Hmm, you can see why he deserves a bullet, can't you?

The rest of the story covers the hijinks among the various characters as they attempt to sort out this tangle, complicated by the fact that for once in his life, Vidal decides to play the man of honor. What a pity his intended bride won't have a bar of him!

This is a romp, a romp that's as perfectly put together as a Mozart opera. I can see now why so many people choose DEVIL'S CUB as their favorite Heyer. There's wit, there's drama, there's comedy, there's a surprisingly deep hit of emotion amidst all the laughter. And Vidal is the perfect rake - along with most of the women he's ever encountered, I bet you fall in love with him. I sure did, right along with Mary. He's a rogue, but he's redeemable and it's wonderful watching him fall victim to a passion for the last woman he ever thought would interest him. Definitely some sigh-worthy moments there.

Just lately, I've been asked by a few people for my reading highlights of 2009. The best book I read this year comes from 1932 and it's DEVIL'S CUB. If you've never read a Heyer, pick it up and wallow in its delights. If you're a fan already, I know I'm talking to the converted.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Author -- Caridad Piñeiro

Multi-published and award-winning author Caridad Piñeiro's love of the written word developed when her fifth grade teacher assigned a project – to write a book that would be placed in a class lending library. She's been hooked on writing ever since. Today, she has words of wisdom for aspiring authors and shares with us a little about her writing process.


The first thing I tell aspiring writers is that there is only one wrong thing to do in the writing process – giving up!

Other than that, each writer has their own way of creating a story and completing it. What works well for one writer may not be the best way to proceed for another.

For example, some people are plotters and meticulously detail every step in the story arc and the characters before they begin to write. Others are “pantsers” and just have a very basic idea of the story arc and the characters.

I used to be a semi-pantser in that I would start a story knowing three basic plot points – the beginning, the big climax and the end. Everything in between was up for grabs. As for the characters, I would know their basic conflict or “psychic wound”.

Since then I’ve become more of a plotter, forcing myself to layout more of the story line so that I’ve got more time to focus on the conflicts between the characters. I find that by doing so, I can really delve into what makes the characters tick and use that information to amend the story arc in a way that will help highlight those conflicts, bring them to the big climax and then hopefully, to the Happily-Ever-After.

One thing that I have not changed in my writing process is what I do with the first three or four chapters.

I try to suggest to new writers that they should think of those first few chapters as if they were the cornerstone of a building. If that cornerstone is shaky, then the whole building will be unstable. It’s the same way with a novel. It’s key to have a strong idea of the conflicts for the characters and the basic tone and premise for the story in those first few chapters. If they are sound, you will find that the rest of the story will be much more steady and logical.

Thanks for coming by to learn a little about my creative process! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday.

The latest from Caridad:

Sins of the Flesh
Grand Central Publishing
October 27, 2009


Caterina Shaw’s days are numbered. Her only chance for survival is a highly experimental gene treatment – a risk she willingly takes. But now Caterina barely recognizes herself. She has new, terrifying powers, an exotic, arresting body — and she’s been accused of a savage murder, sending her on the run.

Mick Carrera is a mercenary and an expert at capturing elusive, clever prey. Yet the woman he’s hunting down is far from the vicious killer he’s been told to expect: Caterina is wounded, vulnerable, and a startling mystery of medical science. Even more, she’s a beautiful woman whose innocent sensuality tempts Mick to show her exactly how thrilling pleasure can be. The heat that builds between them is irresistible, but surrendering to it could kill them both . . . for a dangerous group is plotting its next move using Caterina as its deadly pawn.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winner!



The winner of the signed copy of Blackmailed Bride, Innocent Wife (the Australian version on Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife) by Annie West is:

Deb

Congratulations, Deb! Please send your full name and address to theromancedishATgmailDOTcom with "Andrea's winner" in the subject line and I'll get your book in the mail!

An interview with author Carrie Lofty


Andrea: Hi, Carrie! Thank you so much for joining us today at The Romance Dish! You have a new release, Scoundrel's Kiss, coming out January 5, 2010. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Carrie: Scoundrel's Kiss is the stand-alone sequel to my Robin Hood-themed debut, What a Scoundrel Wants. When last we saw Ada of Keyworth, she'd just been rescued from the Sheriff of Nottingham and had seriously burnt bridges with her family. She and a young admirer, Jacob ben Asher, head off to what is now Spain. But she's haunted by the unlawful and sickening torture she endured and turns to opium for relief…

Gavriel de Marqueda is a warrior on the verge of taking his vows with the Order of Santiago. Before he can do so, he must pass one final test: save Ada from herself. He's vowed obedience, nonviolence, and chastity, but Ada refuses to be held against her will, even for her own good, and vows to use every possible resource to thwart Gavriel's offer of aid.

Andrea: Why did you pick the 13th century for your books? What is it about that era that draws you to it?

Carrie: I chose the late 12th/early 13th century initially because of the Robin Hood myths that associate him with the monarchy of King Richard the Lionheart. Thus What a Scoundrel Wants was set in 1199. For Scoundrel’s Kiss, I wanted a little time to pass so we could see where Ada went and what trouble she’s landed in.

Later I learned that life in the Kingdom of Castile changed dramatically after a battle in 1212, where they defeated Moorish enemies on the southern border. After that decisive win, when the Christian kings felt more confident about their grip on new territories, rights for women and Jews were curtailed and special privileges for knights were reduced. So I knew that to feature characters like Ada (an educated, independent woman), Gavriel (a warrior monk), and Jacob (a Jewish man at court), I would need to set the story before that battle.

Andrea: What kind of research do you do for your books?

Carrie: Initially, I’m a fan of the internet. I ground myself in what’s possible with regard the story I want to tell. From there I’m all about the Inter-Library Loan! I scour Amazon and website bibliographies for titles, grab them off of ILL, and then go through those bibliographies. My master’s in history wasn’t an accident—I love research. But after a while, I need to tell the story. I write without consulting my notes too much, just trusting that I absorbed the feel of it enough to get through the initial draft, and then I go back through to layer and fact-check when I revise.

Andrea: How has life changed for you since receiving "the call"?

Carrie: I think personal validation is the most important result. I’ve always loved writing, but there was always the little voice in my head wondering if I was good enough. Now, no matter where my career takes me, I have that in my pocket to keep forever.

Andrea: What's your favorite part about being a writer?

Carrie: Being a writer is such an indulgence. I get to make up stories all day. I work out of my house, or out of accommodating coffee shops and libraries. Research is my friend. I meet and work with interesting, engaging colleagues. And at the end of it all, no matter the hard work and industry headaches, I get bright-and-shiny fruits of my labor in the form of a book. How is this not the coolest job in the world?

Andrea: What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Carrie: *struggling to remember* Just kidding. Mostly. I love being entertained, and I think my brain needs it when it’s not busy thinking up (hopefully) entertaining things. So I read, watch movies, search for new music, and plot world domination. I also spend time with my family, and I love to dance. Don’t get me started on how awesome “So You Think You Can Dance” is!

Andrea: Who are some of your favorite authors to read?

Carrie: I love lush, beautiful writing, so my favorite romance authors are Candice Procter, Penelope Williamson, Laura Kinsale, and Patricia Gaffney. They all craft such amazing stories, not simply packed with emotion and fascinating characters, but with poetic language to describe every aspect of the hero and heroine's lives. I read those books and knew that's what I wanted to write. Those are the kinds of stories I love to read, so why not give them a try in my own style with my own unique voice?

Andrea: If you could only have 5 books, what would they be?

Carrie: Oh, that’s just mean! Only five?? OK, this is the best I can do (with apologies to all the magnificent books I’m leaving out): The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Dune by Frank Herbert, Atonement by Ian McEwan, Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor, and To Love and To Cherish by Patricia Gaffney.

Andrea: What's next for you?

Carrie: Last month, co-writing with Ann Aguirre under the name Ellen Connor, I sold a paranormal apocalyptic romance trilogy called “Dark Age Dawning” to Penguin. No word on the release date yet, but you can read more at http://ellenconnor.com/!

Quick six time!
Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate
Soup or Salad? Depends on the weather—salad for summer, soup for winter!
Dogs or Cats? CATS!
Coffee or Tea? Either. Both!
Flats or Heels? Flats. I have feet that protest heels.
Surf or Turf? Surf, as long as it’s lobster. Nom nom nom…

Thank you so much, Carrie!

For more information on Carrie’s previous and upcoming release, check out her website! Also, you can check out my review of Scoundrel’s Kiss here. And here’s a blurb:

When it comes to temptation...

Turning his back on his old life as a rogue, Gavriel de Marqueda has joined a monastic order in Spain and taken a vow of chastity. Before he becomes a monk, he must pass one final test: help a woman who has lost her way. But when he lays eyes on Ada of Keyworth, he is tempted beyond measure by her sultry beauty and dangerous curves...

Rules are meant to be broken...

Far from her home in England, Ada has been battling inner demons for more than a year. When she discovers that her only friend has abandoned her, she has no choice but to grudgingly accept Gavriel's help. But Ada is not fooled. Though Gavriel wears the robes of a monk, Ada sees that he is a virile man who looks at her with a hunger that matches her own--one that begs to be satisfied again and again....

Monday, December 21, 2009

Review -- Scoundrel's Kiss

Scoundrel's Kiss by Carrie Lofty
Publisher: Kensington Zebra
Release Date: January 5, 2010







An opium addict and a monk. When I first read these words from Carrie Lofty about the characters for her sophomore book, I thought, Really? An opium addict and a monk? How’s that going to work? Well, let’s just say she made it work. *g*

Ada of Keyworth hasn’t always been an opium addict. Once, she was a scholar and a respected translator for the Condesa de Valdedrona. Ada first used the drug as a result of a devastating incident in her past. She has since grown dependant upon it and now will do anything to get it: lie, cheat, steal and even kill. When she meets a monk who claims to want to help her overcome her addiction, she scoffs and becomes belligerent at the prospect of someone keeping her from the one thing she craves above everything else.

Previously a slave warrior, Gavriel de Marqueda is attempting to change his life by becoming a member of the sacred Order of Santiago. He has vowed no violence, obedience, and chastity in order to make amends for his past sins. While following his mentor to a brothel in a nearby town, he learns what his final test entails: pick a person in desperate need of redeeming and take them back to the Order for a month to accomplish the task. Against his wishes and despite their rocky start, Gavriel is tasked with helping the disagreeable Ada. Circumstances put them on the run together and along the way it becomes a real battle for Gavriel to help the obstinate Ada and keep all three of his vows intact.

Scoundrel’s Kiss is set in early 13th century Spain and features two convincing and seemingly contrary characters that must learn to trust each other while “on the road”. I say seemingly contrary because Gavriel and Ada are more alike than they (and the reader) first think. Both have internal and external scars due to a tortured past and both have secrets that they are almost too stubborn to ever share. Gavriel is a very noble hero who is only looking for some well-deserved peace in his life. I’m so glad that he doesn’t baby Ada with regards to her problem – he knows that she brought her “sickness” on herself and treats her accordingly.

He retrieved another flask from his own saddle. “Put out your hands. Let me help.”

“Gramercy, I’ll do it myself.”

“Do you think because I’ve taken vows to obey and abstain from violence that I cannot be strong?”

A smile pulled the corner of her lips, dimpling one cheek. The left one. “You cannot fight or lose your temper or lie with a woman? However do you find a release?”

“Prayer and contemplation.”

She reached between their bodies and touched his forearm. Her fingers became snakes slithering up his bicep. “Does that work?”

“Better than opium.”


Touché! As you can tell, Ada is no simpering heroine – she definitely gives as good as she gets. In fact, at the beginning I wondered how Ms. Lofty was ever going to convince me to like her. I could tell that Ada was somewhat of a villain in the previous book, What a Scoundrel Wants (featuring Ada’s sister, Meg), but convince me she did. Plus, I now want to read the prior book, so I’d say Ms. Lofty did her job well. Add some supportive secondary characters, a shifty villain and an exciting, action-packed ending and you’ve got a great read!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Review -- WILD MAGIC

Wild Magic
By Ann Macela
Publisher: Medallion Press
Released: October 1, 2009




Twenty-five years ago: Ten years after their grandfather's death, cousins and magic practitioners, Bruce Ubell and Alton Finster receive their grandfather's diary with instructions that take them to a secret room in the basement of the family mansion. Awaiting them in the dark, musty room is a pouch containing their evil destiny.

Careful, very careful not to touch the contents, he loosened the drawstrings. Holding the bag by its bottom corners, he slid the contents out of their covering and into the bowl.

The two of them sat until dawn, staring at what fell out.

The contents stared back.

With those final two sentences of the prologue, Macela had me hooked. I could hardly wait to find out what happened next!

Present-day Chicago:

Irenee Sabel is the beautiful daughter of a rich, socially prominent family. As a member of the elite group of magic practitioners known as Swords, she has been given her first solo assignment: to find and confiscate the Cataclysm Stone, an evil fifteenth century relic being used for personal gain and evil purposes by ruthless businessman, Alton Finster. While attending a party at Finster's home, she sneaks into his study and is about to open the secret floor safe, where she has detected the relic's presence, when she hears someone picking the door lock. She quickly casts an invisibility spell over herself before the door opens and a handsome man in a tuxedo enters the room. Immediately identifying him as not having magical powers, she's confident he will never be aware of her presence.

She heard him curse before closing the safe and the portrait. His hand still on the frame, he suddenly froze for a few seconds, then whipped around.

And looked right into her eyes.

He could see her.

How was this possible?

As she looked at him, a pulse of excitement ran down her backbone, and she was suddenly filled with a sense of well-being and...joy? Her magic center under her breastbone fluttered.

Jim Tylan, agent for the Department of Justice and Homeland Security, has always been aware of his "hunches" - that little voice in his mind, the tingling at the back of his neck - that warn him of danger and help him solve cases. While searching Finster's study for the second set of financial records that he hopes will help the DOJ finally bring the corrupt arms and drug kingpin to justice, his hunch tells him he's not alone. But when he turns around he's not at all prepared for the jolt of desire that fills him when he sees the beautiful woman standing on the other side of the room...the beautiful, glowing woman.

A man who is not a warlock should not be able to see through Irenee's spell. Jim is invited to the practitioners' campus where it soon becomes evident that he is able to do much more than just see through Irenee's invisibility. He's what the practitioners call a "Wild Talent", with magical abilities of his own. It's all very "woo woo" to Jim and a struggle to accept but this is Irenee's life. As the two join forces to bring down Finster and Ubell, their initial attraction grows and they begin to bond - emotionally, physically...magically. It soon becomes apparent that they are soulmates, two people destined to be one another's mate for life. But, for Jim to accept the "soulmate imperative", he must also accept Irenee's position as a Sword, a position that will always place her in danger from evil forces. Can this man who values control and has been trained to be a protector live with a woman who can protect herself and probably him too?

Ann Macela has written a captivating, suspenseful love story set in a realistic world of magic that I had no trouble believing. The characters come alive in her talented hands, the story flows smoothly with heart-stopping action and villains that give off an aura of such intense evil that I got chills. What stood out the most for me in the book, however, were her descriptions of the magic. They were so vivid, so vibrantly painted that I could easily envision each of the magical acts as they occurred. My only disappointment is that I waited so long to read an Ann Macela book!

~PJ

Do you believe in magic? Have you read any of Macela's books? One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of Wild Magic.

Review -- THE CHRISTMAS SECRET

The Christmas Secret
By Donna Van Liere
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Released: October 13, 2009







When a struggling young single mother saves the life of an elderly woman, she sets into motion a series of events that will test her strength, loyalty and determination - all the while setting her on the path to finding true love.

Christine Eisley is about to lose hope. Never mind Christmas presents for her two young children. She'll be lucky if she's able to earn enough money to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Her louse of an ex-husband hasn't paid a cent in child support for more than six months but continues to harass her while threatening to file for full custody of their son and daughter. Her irresponsible babysitter can't seem to arrive on time and her boss at the restaurant where she waitresses has threatened to fire her if she's late one more time. She just can't seem to catch a break. Then an elderly woman suffers a heart attack in front of Christine's house and the event sets Christine on a path that will change her life in ways she never could have dreamed.

A victim of the economic downturn, NYC accountant, Jason Haybert has reluctantly accepted an offer from his grandfather to spend the month of December working in his grandfather's small town department store. Overflowing with self-importance, Jason has forgotten that there's more to life than big salaries, convenient girlfriends and prestigious corner offices. His grandfather plans to use the gift of this month to teach Jason a few life lessons. But, when Jason begrudgingly agrees to volunteer at a daycare center for underprivileged children, it's the young children in his care who teach him the most important lessons and ultimately lead him to the woman into whose hands he will place his heart.

This emotional Christmas story takes the reader on a young mother's journey from helpless despair to cautious hope and, finally, to love and joy.  Christine is tested time and again and, in desperation, makes some decisions that could have had tragic consequences.   I had a real problem with one of those decisions even though I understand that she feels she has no other choice.  It's indicative of just how alone, and desperate, she feels.  But a strong cast of secondary characters, through their selfless generosity and friendship, pull her back from the brink, teach her how to trust again, to accept help and to believe in miracles.

The Christmas Secret is the fifth book in the "Christmas Hope" series by New York Times Bestselling author, Donna Van Liere. It's a beautifully written holiday story that reminds us of the importance of counting our blessings and extending a hand to those less blessed. Give yourself a gift this Christmas and read The Christmas Secret.

~PJ


Have you read any books by Ms. Van Liere? What's been your favorite Christmas book this season? A randomly selected commenter will win a hardback copy of The Christmas Secret.


Review -- DEAD PAN

Dead Pan
Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Series - Book 2
By Gayle Trent
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Release Date: Nov. 1, 2009




In Murder Takes the Cake, the first book in this series, Daphne Martin moved back home following the end of her abusive marriage and opened a cake decorating business, looking forward to a quiet, uneventful life. That all changed when she was accused of poisoning the town gossip but Daphne turned amateur sleuth and, with the help of a police detective, discovered the real killer and cleared her name. In her new book, Dead Pan, Daphne's ready to put her amateur detective career behind her and return to the kitchen but her creator, Ms. Trent, has other plans.

When the majority of the guests at the Brea Ridge Pharmaceutical Christmas party become violently ill with symptoms resembling food poisoning and poor Fred Duncan ends up in a coma, the police come knocking at Daphne's door. She's positive that the cake she made for the party isn't the reason behind the mysterious illness but the town's still talking about her role in that mess with the murder of the town gossip and the police are keeping their options open. She's promised her sister that she won't place herself in the path of danger again by investigating another murder but when poor Fred dies and his mother begs Daphne to find his killer...well, what's a girl to do?  With the assistance of Fred's young cousin and Daphne's "sort of" boyfriend, reporter and newspaper editor, Ben Jacobs, the search is on to find Fred's killer.   

Trent has penned a light, fun, cozy story with a likeable heroine, quirky secondary characters, a second chance at love, a devious villain and a realistic mystery with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. Mix in some of Daphne's recipes (especially the cake balls) and you have a delicious story that has me wanting more. Luckily for me, the next book in the series, Killer Sweet Tooth, is scheduled to be published in 2010.

~PJ

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Annie West winner!



Annie West has chosen a winner from her blog and the winner is:

Melissa aka jedisakora!

Congratulations, Melissa! Please send your full name and address to annieATannie-westDOTcom with "The Romance Dish winner" as the subject and Annie will pop the book in the mail to you!

Deb Marlowe Winner!





The winner of Deb Marlowe's Her Cinderella Season is:


LISA K!!!!!

Congratulations, LisaK! Please email your full name and mailing address to debATdebmarloweDOTcom with "The Romance Dish Winner" in the subject line.

Diane Gaston winner!



The winner of Diane Gaston's Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady is:

RKCharron!

Congratulations, RKCharron! Please send your full name and address to dianeATdianegastonDOTcom with "The Romance Dish winner" in the subject line. Thank you!

Review -- Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife

Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife by Annie West
Publisher: Harlequin Presents Extra
Release Date: December 1, 2009






Alissa Scott needs money. A lot of money and fast. Her sister requires a life-saving medical treatment and Alissa will do anything to help – including getting married. In order to inherit (and then sell) the Sicilian castle left by her despicable grandfather upon his death, she must marry within a certain timeframe and stay married for at least six months. After arriving at the courthouse, she discovers that her intended groom-to-be is nowhere to be seen. And then she realizes why -- Dario Parisi, the arrogant man her grandfather had wanted her to marry for years, paid him off and is there to wed her himself!

Sicilian playboy and wealthy tycoon Dario Parisi has waited a long time to reclaim the castello stolen from his family years ago. The only way to get it back is to marry the deceased man’s scandalous granddaughter. A six month marriage in name only should be easy, right? Dario finds out just how wrong he is. Not only does he find out that his initial assessment of Alissa is way off the mark, he also stumbles upon something he had not expected to find: love.

I enjoyed Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife, though it took me quite a while to warm up to Dario. From the onset, his character is an arrogant jerk – and I’m fine with that as many heroes I’ve read have started out the same – but I did not expect it to take until almost halfway through the story before I started to like him. When I did finally click with him, the story flowed really well and I couldn’t put it down! Now, Alissa was a character that I connected with right from the start. She’s smart, determined, and thinks of others – just my kind of heroine. Dario and Alissa had to very work for their HEA and get past all of the preconceived notions they had of each other – and in the process, they discovered that they had much in common. So, despite the difficulty I had with Dario at the beginning, Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife is a satisfying read that I recommend.

I have a signed copy of the Australian version of this book, Blackmailed Bride, Innocent Wife, to give away to one lucky commenter living within the United States!

~Andrea

Friday, December 18, 2009

IN GRANDMA'S KITCHEN WINNER!


The winner of a Baking cookbook from PJ's In Grandma's Kitchen blog is...

MONICA BURNS

Congratulations, Monica! 

Please e-mail your snail mail address with "cookbook winner" in the subject line to  
theromancedish@gmail.com.