Archives for November 2012

Naughty or Nice Blog Tour

Cara Elliott and Jennifer Delamere are here today, chatting as part of their Naughty or Nice tour. Help me welcome both ladies to the blog!

Jen: I really enjoyed both of your books. I’ll admit, I usually gravitate toward the naughtier end of the spectrum, but tell me about why you chose the heat level you did for your stories.

Jennifer: I love reading all sorts of romances, whether “sweet” or spicy. However, I never could picture myself writing the more graphic love scenes. One of my favorite authors, Mary Stewart, could get a lot of mileage just from the moment the hero and heroine kiss. My favorite classics, including books by Jane Austen, evoke lovely and sigh-inducing romances with even less. My goal was to write books that were rich with the sizzle and excitement of romance while leaving the more explicit details to the reader’s imagination.

Jen: Jennifer, I didn’t realize until after I finished with your book and visited your website that you are an inspirational author. Talk to me about the place spirituality has in your books and what made you choose to incorporate that into your writing.

I didn’t actually set out to write an inspirational romance. In truth, it was after my book was underway that I realized that’s what I was writing. I’ve been a Christian and avid student of the Bible for many years. It’s so intrinsic in my life that I see now it was bound to flow out in my writing.

I think An Heiress at Heart could be better described as a romance with inspirational elements, and it should easily appeal to everyone. Basically, I decided to write the kind of book that I personally would want to read. I took inspiration from all the things I loved–the rich vocabulary of the classics, the bubbly fun of romantic comedies and Hollywood musicals, and the heady emotions of romance. The inspirational elements stem from the characters’ own Christian world view, which was prevalent among the Victorians. I just allowed the story to follow its own path.

Jen: Do you think there’s a place for sex in inspirational romance?

Jennifer: I do, actually! Obviously, though, there are caveats. As a romance writer, I don’t want to shy away from exploring the very real emotions and physical reactions that are a natural part of falling in love. There’s plenty of room for what I call the “sizzle” without the characters actually making love. Readers of inspirational romance expect sex to take place in the context of a marriage, and I prefer to write that way too. As it happens, in my next book the hero and heroine are married, but it is a marriage of convenience. What that book will have in common with traditional romances is that when the hero and heroine finally make love, it won’t be gratuitous. It will be a significant moment when they realize their love and commitment to each other. It may not be described as graphically as in many traditional romances, but I believe the reader will not be disappointed.

Jen: Cara, Writing sex: fun or challenging? Or something else? How do you tackle writing a love scene?

Cara: Oh, that’s a very interesting question. Actually it’s a little of all three! Showing the growing physical attraction and “chemistry” between my hero and heroine as they fall in love is, for me, an integral part of their relationship, and how they are right for each other. The challenge is to make the scene resonate with their deepening emotional engagement, rather than sound like an instruction manual for, um, assembling a lawn mower—if you know what I mean! So it’s a delicate balance of describing the intimacy, yet keeping it very romantic.

Jen: Cara, A lot of authors tend to use euphemisms in those scenes. Are there any you hate? Make you laugh when you’re reading?

Cara: Well, “throbbing manhood” is one euphemism that always makes me roll my eyes. But you know, I feel that it’s a real art to write an explicit scene well. A great one creates a magic that has the reader thinking about the special moment, not the actual words used.

Jen: To both authors: Give everyone one reason to love your hero and your heroine. Why will we want them to find their HEA?

Jennifer: Lizzie comes from a poor but respectable family, but she has a “past.” She made the mistake of falling for a wealthy rogue, who in the end seduced and abandoned her. That was a lot to overcome in Victorian England, especially if later you find yourself in love with a clergyman…. Unlike Lizzie, who has known love (and heartbreak), Geoffrey has just fallen in love for the very first time. He’s dealing with a lot of emotions he’s never felt before. Unfortunately, Lizzie is (supposedly) the widow of his deceased brother. The laws in England at that time would not have allowed them to marry, and Geoffrey is amazed at himself for seriously contemplating going against the mores of the day because he cannot bear the thought of living without Lizzie. Those are some pretty serious roadblocks standing between two wonderful people and their happily ever after.

Cara: Both my hero and heroine made decisions in the past that drove them apart, but they have the courage to overcome their fears and try again for happiness. Life can be very daunting at times, so I think we all love the idea of second chances, and take heart in believing true love can triumph over past mistakes and misunderstandings.

Thanks to Jennifer & Cara for visiting the blog today! Be sure to check out Heiress at Heart & Too Dangerous to Desire this month!

Review: An Heiress at Heart

Reviewed by Jen

I had no idea when I started reading this book that it was an inspirational romance. I tend to like my romance with a sexy kick –and frankly, the last thing I am looking for is a sermon or even a “message” while I am trying to get my lovin’ going on.  Had I known this could fall under that category, I would have never picked it up. But I would have missed out.  This was a sweet love story and I actually enjoyed it.  I didn’t really miss the sex (*gasp*) and I never felt beat over the head with a lesson to be learned.

The story follows a young woman named Lizzie who fled London with her brother after she was shamed by an affair, and her brother shot the man in a duel. They made a new home for themselves in Australia where fate put her in the path of a woman who could be her twin.  A woman who Lizzie came to believe truly was her half sister.  Sadly, the woman –Ria– and her husband died in Australia, along with Lizzie’s brother, but not before Ria could convince Lizzie to return to London and assume her identity. Ria had left town in an elopement a decade earlier and she hoped to make things rights with her family through Lizzie. Having no one else –and really believing that she was part of Ria’s family– Lizzie honors Ria’s wish.

The deception goes amazingly well. But there’s a big hitch.  Lizzie falls in love with a man Ria could never have.  Geoffrey was younger brother to Ria’s husband.  And he turns to Lizzie for answers about what happened to Edward. He thinks he is getting close with his brother’s widow, who could never be his. Yet he can’t fight his growing feelings.  Neither can Lizzie.

You know it’s only a matter of time before the secrets and lies are exposed, but it’s hard not to empathize with the main characters. Lizzie’s motives are understandable and her feelings for Geoffrey are true.  And Geoffrey is trying so hard to do the right thing, but his heart belongs to the woman he thinks was his brother’s wife.

The writing is good, even if the story plays out in a somewhat predictable fashion.  The characters are likeable, though I wish Geoffrey, especially, had been a bit more fleshed out. It’s a sweet and gentle romance with a feel good ending and just a liiittle bit of a message.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Forever via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
An Heiress at Heart
by Jennifer Delamere
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: Forever

Review: My Fair Dork

Reviewed by Jen

Size really does matter. But bigger isn’t always better. No one understands that more than Harold.  There’s really no gentle way to say it.  His dick is really, really big.  So big, in fact, that it has been a constant source of embarrassment. It’s also, however, what drew Owen’s attention in the dorm shower room.

Owen has always known he was bisexual. But it has always been easier to just act on his attraction to girls.  After his eyeful of Harold’s goods in the shower, though, he can’t stop thinking about the awkward and somewhat dorky kid from England.  He decides to focus his energies on helping Harold find a bit of a cool-factor.

It doesn’t take long for Owen’s well-meaning experiment to cross the line of friendship.  And once they begin to get physical, Owen must decide whether Harold is worth outing himself on campus.

I can’t say this was my favorite among the Holsum College books, but it’s pretty in keeping with the rest of the series. It has the same strengths: a sweet coming of age gay love story and smoking hot sex.  It also has the same weaknesses: a relationship that develops at lightening speed with conflict resolution that is just as fast –plus the L-word way, way too soon.  Sadly, that’s my biggest romance peeve, so it drives me nuts over and over again.

I keep reading, though. Because the characters are sympathetic and the love stories are easy to root for.  Oh yeah, and the sex is super-good.  (*sigh*) If only these guys could wait more than two weeks to pick out matching china patterns…

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by author for review

My Fair Dork
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: October 13, 2012
Publisher: Siren

Review: Heart of the Dragon’s Realm

Reviewed by Jen

Princess Kimri’s people have been at war for many years.  The neighboring kingdom of Helsmont makes the finest swords in the land.  In a bid to overpower his enemies, Kimri’s brother trades her hand in marriage to Helsmont’s King Thathan for the valuable weapons.

Understandably, Kimri is horrified and angry to be treated as such a commodity. Yet things begin to change when she meets her betrothed.  Helsmont is very different from her homeland.  The secluded, simple kingdom is said to be guarded by a dragon. It’s people are open and welcoming. And Tathan is not what she expected. He is intriguing, fair and kind.  He further surprises her when he offers her a year’s betrothal to determine if they will be well suited.

Of course, it barely takes half that time for Kimri to figure out that he is the man for her. Only, things aren’t all that simple.  The ongoing wars won’t let them be.  Kimri must figure out where her true allegiance lies and who her heart really needs in order to survive.

I liked this story and the voice of the author.  Kimri is a little immature and a bit snobby at times, but she is ultimately a good person. I liked what I saw of Tathan, but frankly, I didn’t feel like I got enough of him.  Kimri is really the only character that was developed.  As a result, I didn’t really feel deeply emotionally connected to the romance, even while it was a pleasant read.  I did appreciate, though, that the love story developed over time and the romance wasn’t rushed.

There’s only one sex scene and it’s not very explicit.  The story is more about Kimri’s emotional journey than anything else.

Nice for a short afternoon read.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Heart of the Dragon’s Realm
by Karalynn Lee
Release Date: October 29, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: Down for the Count

Reviewed by Allison

When Lacey goes to search out her new husband on the night of their wedding, she’s shocked when she finds him in flagrante delicto with her best friend and bridesmaid, Becca. As if her hours old marriage exploding in her face wasn’t humiliating enough, a crowd starts to gather…including Cat, her other best friend. Cat’s older brother and her childhood (lifelong, really) crush is in the crowd too.

Luckily, Cat takes charge and gets Lacey out of there. Unfortunately, it’s by means of Galen, the previously mentioned stud, and his very sexy bike. In her first daring act as a woman scorned, Lacey rips off her wedding dress, hops on the back of Galen’s bike and crashes at their family cottage for the night. While attempting to take her mind off the disaster that is all of a sudden her life, Galen busts out the alcohol and conversation turns to truth or dare: “I dare you to take your honeymoon”

And so it begins! Not only does Lacey take her paradise honeymoon to San Juan, Puerto Rico (take me with!) but Galen tags along. I think you, Dear Reader, can see where this leads. If not, I’ll spell it out for you: First taste of freedom + a sinfully sexy and willing man + mojitos, waterfalls, and PARADISE = an incredibly sweet, sexy love story with a power couple you can’t get enough of.

I loved watching Lacey grow into herself as a person and a woman. It wasn’t unbelievable because she didn’t jump all in, she dipped her toe in the pool of wild and crazy and inched in like a normal person. She even sucked at it sometimes! She was real.

Galen wasn’t too hard to read about either. He was sinfully sexy and fell for Lacey so hard I couldn’t help but swoon. Although the amazing places they visited in Puerto Rico made me want to book the next flight out!

Down for the Count was a fantastic read, yet another score by Christine Bell. As it’s the first in her new “Dare Me” series, I can’t wait for the next one!

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Down for the Count
by Christine Bell
Release Date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Review: A Reason to Believe

Reviewed by Jen

It’s been more than a year since Matt lost his partner and lover, Brad, in a senseless shooting. Since then, he’s been going through the motions of life.  He was outed to his boss in the aftermath of the tragedy and ever since, has been relegated to a desk job instead of working the streets as a police detective –that is, until now.  His first real case centers on the disappearance of a little girl… one who decides to appear to him as a ghost at her murder scene.

The thing is, Matt doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he can’t deny that little Abby’s spirit is what lead him to her body.  It only makes matters worse when he admits the truth to his boss –and he is forced to take time off and see a shrink.

After he confides the truth to his sister in law, Sheila, she drags him to see a touring psychic.  Matt is skeptical, but Kiernan zeros in on him right away.  The handsome tv star offers his services to help Matt solve the case, and as they work together, a romance is born.

I liked this book.  I thought both Matt and Kiernan were extremely likeable. Matt, especially, is very sympathetic as he tries to deal with Brad’s death.  The sexual tension between the two men is strong, and the love scenes were just right: sexy, detailed, and believable.

As for the mystery end of the story, I thought that was well done too. I had a sneaking suspicion on the identity of the killer, but the why of it was a good surprise. The ghost part was cool and vital to the story, but I don’t think the paranormal element overshadowed the story.  There is real danger to Matt and Kiernan as the murderer tries to stop their investigation… as well as great us-against-the-world vibe, which helps draw these two closer and closer together.

The characters were fleshed out and supported well by a few secondary players, like Sheila and  Kiernan’s sister. My only small beef: the L-word in four days.  I Would have still believed in their future without it, and I could have skipped an eye-roll. But otherwise, I liked the book a lot. Worth checking out.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Reason to Believe
by Diana Copland
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: Blood by Moonlight

Reviewed by Jen

This anthology features three PNR/UF stories all loosely tied to Halloween.  The stories are pretty short… the total number of pages was a little over 100 pages.  Here’s how they break down:

Of Monsters and Men – Jocelynn Drake takes us back inside her Asylum world for a new adventure of Gage and Trixie.  This short story is set after the events of Angels Ink.  And it’s really designed to show just how deeply Gage has fallen in love.  Jack –the werewolf who Gage turned in a chihuahua in the novel– is in need of help.  The Winter Court of the Fae is about to unleash the Wild Hunt on his pack.  He knows Gage has the juice to stop them. But when Trixie is threatened, we see just how far Gage will go to keep her safe.

I enjoyed revisiting this series and I like seeing this edge to Gage.  I’m not completely invested in the romance, but I really like the world building –and the fact that hero is not all black or white.

The Ghoul Next Door – This short is from new-to-me author Terri Garey. It follows the efforts of an angry witch (Cassie) as she tries to drive the new owner out of her family home.  She has no idea, though, that James has his own powers and his own reason for living there.  And it doesn’t take long before she realizes that there is a thin line between love and hate.

I liked the writing in this one and the story was pretty good. My only beef is the speed that these two go from enemies to soul mates… and that is saying nothing about the make-out sessions while being held hostage.   The romantic resolution is just too rushed to really satisfy.

Trick or Treathen – Jenna is a human, desperate to rescue her sister –who has been kidnapped by a sadistic master vampire. Her only hope for help is through another master vamp, Treyne, who has she has become friends with over the past several months.  Now, she’s tired of waiting, so she tries to force Treyne’s assistance. What ends up happening instead, is that she lights the powder keg of sexual attraction that has been brewing between them since day one.  They are on the verge of sealing a bond between them that neither wants… or do they?

I had a couple of problems with this one.  First of all, I felt like I was jumping into an established series, the way the past between the hero and heroine was characterized.  I’m glad they have a history –don’t get me wrong– because it gave a basis to all the feelings these two have over a short number of pages.  The quick about-faces they do would have been even worse without it.  I didn’t like the small time jump at the end.  But on the plus side… the sex was well done in this story, IMO.  And while it was a different vampire world, it felt similar in tone to the first Blood Rose book I read from Caris Roane not too long ago.

Overall Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Blood by Moonlight
by Jocelynn Drake, Terri Garey, Caris Roane
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Guest Post & Giveaway: Regan Summers

My favorite love story comes from a James Cameron movie.

Hey, where are you going? Come back! I’m not talking about Titanic.

I’m talking about The Abyss. The 1989 science fiction movie is best known for the water effects and for how parts of it were filmed in a 7,000,000 (that’s right, seven meeeeellion) gallon tank at an unfinished nuclear power plant. And that is remarkable.

But the heart of the story is Virgil “Bud” Brigman, played by he-of-the-piercing-blue-eyes, Ed Harris. He’s a gruff foreman running an experimental deep sea oil rig. And Virgil’s heart, in turn, is in the hands of the abrasive Dr. Lindsay Brigman, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Do you see where I’m going with this?

They come from disparate backgrounds. He’s a roughneck and she has a PhD. He gets all greasy fixing the machines on the rig. She designed the rig. They married for convenience, truly fell in love, but then combusted and separated. Fate, aliens and the U.S. military throw them together thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean in a veritable pressure cooker, and they fall in love again. They’re both competent, intelligent, passionate people who will do anything for the other person. And I do mean anything.

Twenty-three years is long enough, right? I’m not going to spoil this for anyone? Okay, if you haven’t seen this movie, skip the remainder of this, and the next two paragraphs. Otherwise…the big sacrifice, the one that influences the aliens to spare humankind, is delivered softly. It’s Bud, relaying a poorly-typed message saying that, when he went out to try to defuse a bomb, he knew it was a one-way trip. He reassured Lindsay and the crew when he left, but he understood he wasn’t coming back. It’s a great moment, really, but the two scenes that made my heart grow three sizes were these:

One: When Bud hears that Lindsay’s coming down to his ship after months (or years) apart, he pulls off his wedding band and throws it into the toilet. Then he realizes that, no matter how much she frustrates and angers him, he loves her. He retrieves the ring and, since the toilets are specialized, they’re full of neon blue water. His hand is stained blue, a larger, more noticeable exhibit of his love than the ring. Awwww.

Two: Bud and Lindsay are trapped in a failing mini-sub, which is rapidly filling with frigid water, far from the rig. They’ve only got one survival suit. Lindsay calculates the oxygen, water temperature and their relative strength, and determines that one of two things will happen. Either they’ll both die, or she has to die so that Bud – the stronger swimmer – can drag her back to the rig. It’s the only chance for at least one of them to survive, and it’s an intense scene. The sub’s tiny, so Bud’s right there, holding her as she drowns, not knowing if he can bring her back.

*blows whistle* Okay, all you people who’ve been meaning to watch a movie for TWENTY-THREE years but haven’t gotten around to it, come on back. This is the love story that made me believe in love stories. It’s probably why I’m addicted to paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Situations are highest possible stakes intense. Differences between love interests can be vast. We’re talking different species or millenium-old enemies. It’s fantastic.

Love has to find a way through massive odds, threats of violence and magically-induced divisions. When it’s tested, it’s put way past the red line. In the Night Runner series, Sydney Kildare and Malcolm Kelly are, for everything going on around them, taking things slowly. As a vampire, Mal has all the time in the world, but because of a serious mistake in the past, he’s indentured to a stronger vampire. He’s learned to value things like time, freedom and choice, and wants to make the most of all three.

In RUNNING IN THE DARK, Sydney’s stepping deeper into the vampire world – a world she’s skirted for years as a courier – and she’s not liking what she’s finding. With the exception of Malcolm. For someone who’s learned to mistrust men and been taught to distrust vampires, this is a difficult realization.

So when they discover a substance that’s threatening vampires and humans alike, they both want to find and destroy it. And that’s when Malcolm’s past springs open like a Pandora’s Box with a malicious sense of humor, upping the stakes and making the danger very real, and very, very personal.

What is Malcolm willing to give in order to protect Sydney? What is Syd capable of doing when a band of vampires rises between her and Mal?

Santiago, Chile After surviving a vampire turf war in Alaska, vampire courier Sydney Kildare is back behind the wheel and working under an assumed name in Chile. She doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know the city and—worst of all—has to drive a crappy car.

What she does have is Malcolm Kelly, her sort-of boyfriend and manager of the city’s vampire population. But with Malcolm preoccupied by bloodsucker business—and a gorgeous vampiress from his past—Sydney feels more alone than ever.

But Sydney has more than her love life to worry about. She’s got vamps on her tail, mysterious deliveries that leave death in their wake, and old enemies targeting her to get to Malcolm. Turns out he’s got a history more deadly than she ever imagined, and she’ll have to use every skill in her arsenal to stay alive…

About the Author
Regan Summers lives in Anchorage, Alaska with her husband and alien-monkey hybrid of a child. She is a huge fan of the low profile. She likes books, ottomans with concealed storage, small plate dining, libraries, Corporal Hicks, some aspects of pre-revolutionary France, most aspects of current Italy, and books.

Her Night Runner series, including Don’t Bite the Messenger and Running in the Dark, is available wherever e-books are sold.

Website  –  Twitter  –  Facebook  –  Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Carina Press

Want to give this series a try? Enter the Rafflecopter form below. The two winners can select either Don’t Bite the Messenger OR Running in the Dark.

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Review: My Scandalous Viscount

Reviewed by Jen

I had high hopes for this book.  Gaelen Foley really wow’ed me with the last installment in The Inferno Club series, but this one just didn’t have the same effect.  It felt really slow moving at first and the “issue” between our hero and heroine felt overblown and not nearly strong enough to justify the angst that ensued. The pace picked up in the second half, but I was never really bowled over by the romance.

We saw the groundwork for a relationship between Carissa and Beau in My Ruthless Prince.  Essentially, Carissa is a gossip.  We come to learn it’s because she has a secret of her own that she wants to ride herd over.  She isn’t a virgin. And the cad who took her virginity blackmailed her family into keeping her secret.

Beau has secrets of his own.  None have to do with sex –everyone knows he gets around.  His big secret is that he is a spy.  Unfortunately, Carissa stumbles over that secret and the only way he can think of to make sure she keeps her mouth shut, is to make her his wife.  Of course, there was already an attraction between these two, so the spy-secret was really just a convenient way for them to get together.

Beau is in trouble with the local government, which is looking into allegations that the Order has gone too far in its pursuit of Prometheus.  There are sinister forces afoot that want to ruin Beau and his brethren.  Carissa takes it upon herself to “help,” which at times does more harm than good.  This storyline was much more interesting than the romance, in my opinion.

The trouble in paradise stems from the fact that Carissa hides her non-virgin status from her husband. She keeps it to herself because she is afraid he’ll leave her.  He hides the fact that he knows the truth because he wants her to tell him on his own.  Not much of conflict, especially since these two are so clearly crazy about each other.  And kind of hard to take seriously, since Beau was a giant man whore with plenty of Order secrets of his own.

The wasn’t bad, but it was slow at times and it was difficult to emotionally invest in a couple that felt like it had a pitiful problem.

On the plus side, we get a fitting ending for the men of the Inferno Club. The conclusion doesn’t just feel like the end of Beau’s chapter, but a last hurrah for everyone.  The heroes and heroines from the previous books all return and we see their futures before the story is over.  I just wish the love story here had been a bit stronger.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
My Scandalous Viscount
by Gaelen Foley
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Guest Post & Giveaway: HelenKay Dimon

Thanks for having me here today to talk about my upcoming release, LEAN ON ME.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the hero, Mitch. Actually, I tend to concentrate on the heroes in romance novels when I’m reading. Yes, I know there are heroines in there, too, and plots and all that. I love it all, but there is something special about the romance hero – all flawed and attractive and delicious.

I thought I’d tell you about some of my favorite contemporary romance heroes. There are others, of course, but these stick out in my mind:

1. Johnny Harris from Karen Robards’ ONE SUMMER – He’s a bad boy, rides into town on a motorcycle and makes a play for the woman he had a crush on in high school. *swoon*

2. Alex Markov in Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ KISS AN ANGEL – He’s commanding and difficult and possibly Russian royalty…and I adore him.

3. Levi Warner in Lauren Dane’s SWAY – He’s older than the heroine and very naughty. I couldn’t resist this guy.

4. Lucky Doucet in Tami Hoag’s LUCKY’S LADY – This is an all-time favorite. Cajun hero. Bit of a player. Rough and tumble type. Irresistible.

Any heroes you would add to this list? 

Answer HelenKay’s question in the comments section below to enter to win your own copy of Lean On Me.  

This contest is closed. The winner is: JYL22075.