romance novel

20 Victorian Romances (Plus a Kindle Fire) Are Up for Grabs

victorian-romance-kellyIt's been a busy few weeks (and looks like there are a few more busy ones on the horizon) so I'm going to keep things short today. I've got a fun surprise for my readers. More than 20 historical romance authors and I have teamed up to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS one lucky reader is going to win a Kindle Fire!

I love events like this because readers get to discover new authors that could be the next on their instabuy list — and this one's even more fun for me because all the authors write Victorian romance.

You can win my novel The Governess Was Wicked, plus all those other books by entering this giveaway:

The contest runs until Monday, November 7, so be sure to enter!

Good luck!

What They Wore: The Governess Was Wicked

I love historical fashion from pantaloons to pelisses, and over the years more and more of it has made its way into my books. Clothing can be a wonderful way to ground a scene in a time and place, and it can also tell you a lot about a character.

Afternoon dress, ca. 1855, French, cotton, from @metmuseum

A photo posted by Really Old Frocks (@reallyoldfrocks) on

When I started writing Elizabeth Porter, the heroine at the center of The Governess Was WickedI knew I'd set myself a particular challenge. Governesses typically wore simple clothing in a limited range of colors (think functional colors like greys and dark blues and greens) and with few embellishments. She would have had a few dresses including her "best" dress that would have been worn to church or on special occasions. Otherwise, her clothing would have had to last as long as possible to maximize on cost.

Dress, ca. 1856, British, from the Metropolitian Museum of Art

Most of what we see in museums are beautiful examples of exquisite — and exquisitely expensive — gowns. The more workman-like dresses weren't necessarily preserved for history. That means that you'll see a lot more of Mrs. Norton's wardrobe when you go to museums than you will Elizabeth's.

While her clothing might not have been as luxurious and fashion-forward as the woman whose children she educated, a governess did share something in common with her mistress: they both wore the same silhouette.

Cabinet photograph, Aug Linde (photographer), 1850-1860, from the Manchester City Galleries

The late 1850s was characterized by large, bell-shaped skirts that flared out from a tightly cinched waist. One big development in undergarments allowed women to achieve these huge skirts: the cage crinoline. Up until this point, ladies would have piled on petticoats to create a full effect. Although they look horribly impractical to us, crinolines of wire covered with cotton actually created a structure for a dress to lay on top of and flare out from the body.

Cage crinoline, ca. 1862, British, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Crinolines were relatively inexpensive, so women of all classes eventually adopted them (although the massive yards of fabric needed for truly huge skirts would be a fashion statement only very wealthy women could afford).

Dinner dress, 1855–59, British from the Metropolitian Museum of Art

The shape crinolines created was so popular that reports were 200 pound of product was lost in the Staffordshire potteries in 1863 due to the wide skirts of working women accidentally sweeping shelves clean.

Cabinet photograph, H J Whitlock (photographer), 1850-1860, from the Manchester City Galleries

If you're interested in fashion history (or just really like all of the pretty pictures of dresses I've shown), join my Facebook group Really Old Frocks and follow my @reallyoldfrocks Instagram for more beautiful old-fashioned fashion.

And last but not least, I'm giving away two huge prize packs to celebrate The Governess Was Wicked thanks to a little help from my author friends. You could win ebooks, signed paperbacks, audiobooks, and an Amazon gift card!. All you have to do is enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

BONUS: I had to include this stereoscopic picture I ran across in doing my research for this article. It's both creepy and flirtatious with the older gentleman kissing the hand of a young woman who is fending him off coquettishly with her fan.

Stereoscopic photograph & stereograph, 1851-1860, from the Manchester City Galleries

Valentine's Rewind

Thanks for stopping by and celebrating the unofficial holiday of romance novelists — Valentine's Day. This year, more than 20 authors have joined together for the Valentine's Rewind blog hop. Today I'm revisiting Chris and Annie, my couple from "The Wedding Week" in One Week in Hawaii. I hope you enjoy!


"A Day All Their Own"

February 13

Annie Kalani stood in her kitchen, coated in flour, and wondered what the hell she’d been thinking. In front of her lay the scraps of her second failed attempt at handmade pasta. The first was half on the floor and half in the brushed stainless steel trashcan that sat to the side of her island.

She pushed a hand through her hair, no doubt leaving streaks of white through her haphazardly pulled back ponytail that was starting to escape its elastic. It had looked so easy when Chris had made her pasta last Valentine’s Day. He’d kneaded the dough with smooth, confident strokes and fed it through the hand-crank machine almost lovingly. Food seemed to come to life in his hands.

The same couldn’t be said for her.

Annie was a competent cook—she’d give herself that much. On nights when Chris worked late at his restaurant and she was too tired to drive down to join him for a meal at one of the tiny back tables, she could whip up something for one with the usual efficiency she employed in the rest of her life.

But apparently she needed more than competence to make what was supposed to be a stunning Valentine’s meal.

Annie braced her hands against the island’s glossed stone countertop. “Okay, you win,” she muttered, admitting defeat. She had a backup plan — steaks grilled on the little barbecue that sat on her balcony — she just hadn’t wanted to use it. But Annie could tell when she’d been beaten.

Her hands were full of broken pasta strands when she hear keys jangling outside her door. Her eyes darted to the clock. How was it ten already?

She dumped the pasta in the trash and brushed her hands off on her apron as best she could as Chris pushed the door open. He hadn’t even crossed the threshold when he stopped, his eyes fixed on her.

She spread her arms wide, more than a little sheepish. “Dinner may be a disaster.”

Without breaking his gaze, he set his keys down in a bowl on the side table and let the messenger bag she knew would be packed with his clothes for the next day fall to the floor. He closed the gap between them in a few steps, and her whole body flushed with warmth. After a year and a half he could still make her blush like a sixteen-year-old girl with a crush.

His hands slid around her waist, and she tilted her chin up to catch his lips. He kissed her like he hadn’t seen her in months, his tongue slipping between her lips. She tasted sweet basil and the sharp tang of vine-ripened tomatoes, the ghosts of the dishes he’d been preparing at the restaurant.

Annie sighed against his chest, the tension in her shoulder relaxing just a little. This was where she wanted to be. Always. This was where she belonged.

“Hi,” he whispered against her lips as he smoothed a lock of her hair back behind her ear.

She closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against his. “Hi. How was work?”

“Busy. We’re getting ready for the big day tomorrow.”

They’d long ago reconciled themselves to the fact that theirs was never going to be a conventional Valentine’s Day. Chris was a chef and she was an events planner. Love was good for business, and they’d both be working at least a sixteen-hour day on Valentine’s. He would man the kitchen at the restaurant, and she would be caught up in coordinating a seemingly effortless romantic wedding at one of the island’s resorts a Los Angeles-based couple. If Chris and Annie were lucky, the might stumble into bed at the same time the following night.

That’s why February 13th was their day—a fake Valentine’s that meant so much more because they had it all to themselves.

“So what’s this disaster?” he asked, pulling back to peer over her shoulder.

“Remember that beautiful saffron-infused pasta you made me last year?”

He nodded.

“Apparently I’m not very good at making pasta. It keeps flaking and breaking apart,” she said.

He reached up and brushed a thumb over her tawny beige cheek. “I’ve always liked my women covered in flour.”

She swiped at her cheeks and her forehead. “Damn, I thought it was just in my hair.”

He laughed. “Babe, it’s everywhere.”

She stuck her tongue out at him.

“Are you hungry yet?” he asked.

“I’m not starving yet, but I could get steaks going if you are.”

“And give up on this? Not a chance. We’ll need to let the dough rest, but if you don’t mind a midnight dinner—”

She laced her fingers through his. “I’m not tired.”

“Come on.” He tugged her by the hand toward the island. “Let’s do this together."

Chris reached for the oversized mason jar of flour Annie kept on the counter and began mounding flour in front of them. “How about beating a few eggs?”

She nodded and pulled three eggs out of the refrigerator, cracked them into a bowl, and whipped a fork through them until they were a uniform golden yellow. Then she handed him the bowl and watched as he poured the eggs into a well he’d made in the flour. Keeping one hand clean, he mixed and gradually pulled more and more flour into the eggs until the dough formed.

“Could you take over kneading for a minute?” he asked, throwing a glance over his shoulder. “I’m just going to change my shirt. I smell like a kitchen.”

She raised an eyebrow. “If you think you can trust me not to destroy the pasta.”

He brushed his lips against her cheek as he switched spots with her. “Always.”

She focused on kneading, enjoying the slightly giddy sensation of happiness that had wrapped itself around her. The dough was already silky to the touch, the apartment smelled like cooking and food and home, and Chris was here with her. It was enough.

Annie was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn’t realize he was behind her until his arms circled her waist. Instinctively, she let her head fall back to his shoulder as he dropped a kiss to her collarbone.

“You’re good at that,” he said with a nod to the pasta dough in her hands.

“Now you’re just flattering me because it’s almost Valentine’s Day.”

A laugh rumbled through his chest.

“Besides, do you know how much pressure it is cooking for a chef?"

“Even in your own kitchen?” he asked.

“It’s easier here than at your place,” she admitted. “At least I don’t feel like I’m invading your space.”

His left hand stroked down over the soft cotton of her top and along the side of her stomach, just glancing over the hem. “What if your space was my space?”

Her hands paused. “What do you mean?”

He held up his right hand and uncurled his fingers. Two brass keys hung from a simple silver key ring. Her stomach jumped to her throat in anticipation.

“So I’ve been thinking—”

“You’re asking me to move in with you?” she asked in a rush, spinning in his arms and planting two doughy hands on the front of his shirt. He didn’t seem to care.

“I know we haven’t talked about it much, but I have a patron at the restaurant who’s a real estate agent. He’s been keeping an eye out on the market for me and took me around to see this place before prep today.” He let out a breath and shook his head. “Annie, it’s amazing but if you don’t like it we can have him keep looking. That is, if you want to live together.”

She looked from him to the keys and back again. Her new business, his restaurant, their growing relationship — things had been going so well for the last eighteen months that she hadn’t wanted to disturb their flow. But now Chris was standing before her with keys in his hand. Moving in with him would be a huge leap of faith but, in some ways, hadn’t they already done that? She’d given up the security of her wedding coordinator job at the Kuhio Resort & Spa and he’d walked away the opportunity to man a five-star restaurant at the same hotel. In some ways, they’d committed to one another before they’d even said “I love you.”

“Where is this dream apartment?” she asked.

“Kolohala Street.”

Her brows shot up. Kolohala Street ran through the heart of Waialae Kahala — an affluent neighborhood of older Hawaiian homes and newly built beachfront mansions. It was the sort of place where people put down roots. Where people started families and carved out lives together.

“Really? A rental in Waialae Kahala?” she asked.

Chris cleared his throat. “It might be a rent-to-buy property.”

“Is that right?”

He shot her a sheepish grin. “And I should probably warn you, it’s actually a dream house and not a dream apartment.”

“And when do we have to let your friend know?” she asked, inwardly smiling at how much he was trying to reign in his enthusiasm and failing.

“We have the keys until Monday. I figured since both of us will be off, we could drive over in the morning.”

It was all so simple. So straightforward. She could imagine them driving up, looking at the house, and just knowing. There would be paperwork and budgeting and all of the complications that came along with moving, but in some ways none of that mattered. She was already sure of one thing: Chris.

“Well then,” she said with a smile, “it looks like we’ve got a hot date to see a house.”

“Really?” he asked, practically vibrating with excitement.

She looped an arm around his neck and brought him down to her. “I’d be happy to move in with you, Chris Benson.”

He grinned a little wider. “This dough has to rest for at least an hour. Want to go makeout?”

She brushed her lips to his. “I think we can get a whole lot more creative with an entire hour ahead of us. Besides, it’s Valentine’s Day.”


Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed revisiting Chris and Annie, failed pasta making and all! If you want more stories like this, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. The next stop on the hop is the wonderful Rebekah Weatherspoon. Be sure to comment on each story to be eligible for the massive giveaway at the end. Thanks for joining us for #ValentinesRewind! ♥

The Love in Food

2An earlier version of this post appeared on the One Week in Love website. I grew up knowing that food is love. My mother taught me how to cook. I remember standing in the kitchen on weeknight, following her around as she showed me how to roast a chicken, or bustling around at a dinner party, making a stew stretch to feed an unexpected guest. My father taught me how to bake. He would let me kneed bread dough and roll out pie crusts with my childish hands, making me feel very grown up because this food was actually going to feed people.

Later, in college where dorm cafeteria meals are meant to get you through the day rather than satisfy the inner foodie in you, I would cook for my friends. Big pots of spaghetti Bolognese and chicken noodle soup would come steaming off of my dorm’s tiny electric stove. We would pile up mismatched plates and bowls to eat together in the lounge with our eclectic family chosen out of the people we loved best at school.

When I moved to New York for graduate school and then work, I learned to cook in a miniscule New York studio apartment in Morningside Heights with a kitchen that didn’t have an inch of counter space. I’d host little dinner and cocktail parties, feeling very grown up that all of my plates and dishes matched. That I had glassware was seen as a sign of maturity.

Now I cook for my boyfriend, a man doesn’t turn on the stove except to insist on making me a hot breakfast before I head to work. I started cooking for him within a few weeks of us meeting, teaching him little things here and there in the kitchen because he wanted to learn. But more than anything, I wanted to feed him. All my life, I’ve understood that we feed the people we care about because food is about more than sustenance.

Right in the middle of my novella “The Wedding Week”, Chris cooks for Annie. He’s a chef, so I knew it would be important for him to show his love of the heroine through food. It’s his language. I wound up writing a scene I think of as being deceptively intimate. Right in the middle of the book, Chris rolls out of Annie’s bed and makes he tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. But the scene isn’t just about amazing, post-coital food preparation. It’s an early sign of what the reader already suspects: Chris is already falling for Annie.

I’ve gotten a couple of requests from early readers to share Chris’ romantic but simple tomato soup recipe, so here it is. I only hope you will make it for someone you love whether husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, child, parent, or friend.


Tuscan Roasted Tomato Soup

Adapted from 5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Recipes, by Claire Robinson 


1 pound vine ripened tomatoes, seeded and quartered*

2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil

One 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1 ½ cups water

1/3 cup basil leaves, chopped finely

Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat over to 400.

Toss chopped, fresh tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Add whole garlic cloves. Roast in oven for 15 minutes until tomatoes start to shrivel and their sweetness concentrates.

While tomatoes are cooking, add San Marzano tomatoes and water to a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add basil and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce head to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Once tomatoes are done, remove from oven and reserve garlic cloves. Add to the pot with all cooking juices. Smash garlic with the flat of a knife, and chop finely into a paste. Add to soup. Simmer for another three minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately alongside grilled cheese sandwiches.

This soup freezes well.

*I often make this recipe in the winter when tomatoes are out of season and the greenhouse grown ones are prohibitively expensive. During those months, ripe grape tomatoes sliced in half make a great alternative.

You can order One Week in Hawaii from Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo

One Week in Hawaii is Out Now!

One Week in Hawaii is now out at all major digital retailers and in print! This is sexy collection of four novellas with four couples you're going to absolutely fall in love with.

Another Sneak Peek of One Week in Hawaii!

One Week in HawaiiLast Wednesday I gave you an exclusive look at One Week in Hawaii and introduced you to Annie and Chris. If you need to catch up, you can click here because today we're picking up right where we left off.  

Annie strode across the room, gripped Mark’s shoulder, and spun him around. A three-inch rip gaped at the back of his fine cotton tuxedo shirt.


“How bad is it?” asked the panicking groom as he tried to twist to look.

“Do you have a backup?” she demanded.

His lips pressed into a thin line. “Karen doesn’t like it. It doesn’t fit as well.”

Of course it didn’t. She looked at her watch. Nineteen minutes to ceremony. “Take it off.”

The groom and his party all stared at her.

“I have a sewing kit in here,” she explained, fighting to keep the exasperation from her voice. “Take the shirt off, and I’ll sew it back together. But someone’s going to need to iron the backup just in case.”

Mark started to unbutton the torn shirt as she looked around the room at more blank faces. “Not a single one of you can iron?” she asked.

Gary, the New York lawyer, shrugged. “Camilla won’t let me near the iron after I burned a hole in my brand new Brooks Brothers shirt a couple years ago.”

“I can do it.”

Chris stepped forward and unbuttoned his tuxedo jacket, letting it slide down his arms. She was one hundred percent positive that if she peeled his shirt off him she’d find strong, wiry muscle underneath there. Muscle she might have let herself indulge in thinking about if it wasn’t for the clumsiest groom in Hawaii.

“Good,” she said with a sharp nod. At least one of them could fend for themselves. Her mother always said that a real man was one who could cook, clean, and keep a house. A man who was the opposite of her father—often drunk, sometimes incarcerated, and rarely present.

She took Mark’s torn shirt, but not before fixing the other groomsmen with a hard stare. “You will each take a boutonniere. Then you will go to the ceremony location. You will stay at the ceremony location. No detours. No stalling. No more drinks until after the wedding vows are exchanged. Is that clear?”

The men murmured their agreement and shuffled out of the hotel room. She half expected them to hold hands, pairing off into field trip buddies like little kids.

She moved to her kit, a suitcase she’d planted in the room that morning. “Mark, how much have you had to drink today?”

“I had a scotch a couple hours ago,” he said shakily. “I was too amped up for anything else.”

“Good. Pour yourself another—a small one—and watch the game. I’ll be done with this in a moment.”

The groom shot her a grateful look and scuttled over to the couch.

She pointed at Chris. “You come with me.”

She moved fast, ripping the dry-cleaning bag off the backup shirt that hung in the closet and sliding it from its hanger. When she turned back, Chris had the ironing board out and was in the bathroom filling the iron’s water chamber.

They worked in silence for a couple of moments, her repairing the shirt with tiny stitches and him moving methodically to iron the backup crisp and smooth.

“You’re good at that,” she said, tipping her head in his direction.

His crooked smile slid over his face again. “Courtesy of my first job. I did all the grunt work at my stepfather’s restaurant. If I was late or broke a dish, I got stuck ironing napkins. He wanted sharp corners, the same way every single time.”

“Is spending all that time in the restaurant what made you want to be a chef?” She didn’t know why she asked it. After tonight, she wasn’t going to see this guy again, but he was helping her. Asking felt right.

“Mark mentioned that I’m a chef?” he asked, flipping the shirt so he could do the second front panel.

“I have a file on all members of the wedding party.”

His eyes widened. “That’s not sinister at all.”

She shrugged. “During one of the first weddings I ever planned, I didn’t realize that one of the bridesmaids had an ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend in the wedding party. The men started brawling during ‘The Cha Cha Slide.’”

He barked a laugh—a sound as rich as chocolate and just as sinful. “You’re kidding?”

The beginnings of a smile tugged at her lips. “The bridesmaid wound up sobbing into my lap in the bathroom. That’s why I try to find out as much about you guys as I can beforehand.”

“So what else do you know about me?” he asked. The question should have been casual, but the low rumble of his voice made it sound like a promise of so much more.

She squeezed her thighs tight. She was at work. That meant no lusting after guests.

“I know enough about you,” was all she said.

“That’s a cop-out.”

“I’m like the CIA. If I told you what’s in the dossier, I’d have to kill you.”

He put the iron down. “And what’s the CIA’s policy on dancing with a guest? Hypothetically speaking, of course.”

Annie nearly jabbed herself in the thumb with the needle. There was no way she was going to dance with this man. She wouldn’t survive the feeling of his body pressed up against hers no matter how much she wanted it.

“Generally the CIA frowns on such activities,” she said stiffly.

“Generally?” The look he sent her might have scorched the panties off her if she hadn’t held herself back. Because she needed to hold back. She could never let herself slip. No matter how much she wanted to.

“Exceptions are made if the man asking is a widower over the age of seventy-five.”

“You’re a tough sell.”

She concentrated on the shirt in her hands. “I’m not looking to buy.”

Oh, but she wanted to. He smelled like he’d just gotten out of the shower, with a hint of salt and masculine spice underneath the soap. Her whole body hummed with awareness, and she couldn’t help but want to know what it would be like to have those full lips on her skin. She had rules, yes, but this man was ice cream on a diet. TV on a school night.


This was getting out of hand. She wasn’t a bridesmaid cliché looking for a wedding fling with one of the groomsmen. She was one of the most in-demand wedding planners in Hawaii, but a long time ago, she’d realized that she needed to be smarter, sharper, better than everyone else. She didn’t have the connections that some planners had. She didn’t have the bred-in taste or knowledge of etiquette of the ones who had old Hawaiian society roots. Instead, she had hard work, grit, and determination. That was how she’d made it this far, and it was how she was going to stay at the top of her game. Men like Chris? They weren’t in her plan. She would not throw herself at a man just because he had some scruff and scars and talked a good game.

After putting in the last stitch on Mark’s shirt, she tied the thread off and snipped it. Barely a seam. “Not too bad.”

Chris turned off the iron and rounded the board. “Let’s see.”

Before she could hand the shirt over, he ran his finger over the thin seam of stitches, pressing the fabric into her open palm. She fought a shiver as he said, “Looks good to me. I think you’ve saved Mark from passing out from stress.”

She scooted along the bed and pushed up to standing a few feet from Chris. “Time to get the groom dressed. Again.”

Chris laughed. “Are you going to use that schoolteacher voice on him?”

“What do you mean?” she asked with a frown.

He closed the gap between them until she had to tilt her chin up to look into those deep blue eyes of his. “You marched those men out of here like they were five. You get shit done, Annie Kalani. I like that.”

Then he took that slow, delicious smile of his and walked straight out of the room.


Can't wait for more? Preorder One Week in Hawaii at Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo now. You can also get more exclusive content like this by signing up for my newsletter:

One Week in Hawaii Book Trailer


I'm getting really excited that One Week in Hawaii is almost here! One of my anthology partners in crime, Alexandra Haughton put together a gorgeous teaser for us. You can see the full trailer with excerpts by clicking here:

And don't forget that One Week in Hawaii is in preorder now! It releases on May 19th on all platforms including Barnes & Noble and print.

Amazon: iBooks: Kobo:


Upcoming Workshop

Boston Conference LogoJust a quick invitation for those you going to the New England Chapter RWA Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference. Audra North and I will be teaching a workshop about the ins and outs of building indie box sets and anthologies. What: How to Publish a Boxed Set or Anthology: A Practical Workshop

When: Friday, April 24, 2:30 PM

Where: NECRWA Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference, Boston Marriott in Burlington, MA

There are some fantastic speakers at this conference like Loretta Chase, Sabrina Jeffries, Lauren Dane, and Megan Frampton. Check out the full schedule online now. We can't wait to see you Friday!

Do You Have to Get to "I Love You?"

One Week in WyomingAn earlier version of this post appeared on the Contemporary Romance Writer's blog and in the RWA-NYC April Keynotes. One of the cardinal rules of romance is that a story has to end with a happily ever after. But does that mean a couple has to say, “I love you,” at the end of every romance? Maybe not.

It’s a question I asked myself when I wrote “Seduction in the Snow”. The story unfolds over a week at a ski resort. Both Evan and Lydia tell themselves that their sexy hot tub encounters are just a vacation fling. Lydia is particularly tough to sell on the idea of love. Having seen relationship after relationship fall apart after a few short months, she’s scared of the big “L” word.

Of course, this is a romance so we all know where the story’s heading—for the happily ever after—but given Lydia’s resistance to the very idea of love, I didn’t feel that a big, “I love you,” exchange at the end of the novella would be fitting with her character. Instead, I decided that Lydia and Evan should show us their deep commitment and potential for future happiness in a different way.

As authors we have a responsibility to really get to know our characters. What are their fears? How can we push them out of their comfort zones? Would they actually say the words that we’re writing on the page? While “I love you,” is the backbone of many happily ever afters, it doesn’t have to be if it doesn’t fit with your character’s personality.

Another thing to consider is your book’s timeline. Romance authors tell stories that unfold over decades, months, weeks, days. There’s such vast variation in the timelines in our genre that a one-size-fits-all approach to the happily ever doesn’t always work. If a character is more in touch with their emotions and open to the idea of falling in love, the, “I love you,” exchange rings true. But we know our heroes and heroines will continue to grow after our stories are complete. If that’s the case, “I love you,” may realistically take them longer to get to.

Whether you decide to have your hero and heroine say, “I love you,” or not, the most important thing to remember is that it’s our job as authors to write a convincing love story. That means you’re not just telling the reader that the hero and heroine love each other. You’re showing their deep commitment through the actions and emotions. Write your story with that in mind, and you’ll have your readers falling in love.

My novella "Seduction in the Snow" appears in the sexy, contemporary romance anthology One Week in Wyoming. For more posts like this one, follow my blog or sign up for my newsletter.

Author Branding on First Draught Tomorrow!

A quick reminder for you that First Draught is coming up tomorrow at 8:30 PM EST! Alexis, Mary Chris, and I are very happy to be welcoming Laura von Holt and Amy Jo Cousins on for a discussion about building your author brand. We'll talk about why branding is important, how you should go about creating your online and in real life presence, and why it's important to start now even if you don't have a book out. RSVP to our live event to be sure you don't miss a minute of our live conversation. If you can't make it on Tuesday, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel or check out our brand-new First Draught website!

Laura Von Holt HeadshotLaura von Holt is a marginally famous writer and performer from Hawai’i who lives in New York. She writes paranormal romances about mermaids, and literary fantasy about the dark side of fairytales. She is also a Pulitzer-nominated playwright and the Co-Artistic Director of Little Lord, a Brooklyn-based theater company. Laura is best known as her pinup and performance artist alter ego, von Hottie. When Laura is not on the ground, she is in the air as the sparkly half of the international aerial comedy duo, Flaming Mermaid Broken Star, which creates and performs "stunning feats of how-dare-they" on the regular.

Visit Laura's website:

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Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series.

Fun facts: Amy Jo can get back into a kayak in the open water if she falls out of it, taught herself and her son how to say I love you in seventeen languages, and once ran the table in a game of eight ball.

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Hot for Friday: Book Boyfriends Cafe

Hey there, blog hoppers! Today I'm participating in the Book Boyfriends Cafe Hot for Fridays. This week they've asked us to share a swoon worthy line from our hero. I'm road testing a little sneak peek of my upcoming book One Week in Hawaii and introducing you to Chris and Annie. He's a hot, young chef from LA who is a guest at the wedding that she's planned. And it turns out both of them have a taste for moonlight beaches, classic movies, and champagne. 


Chris wasn’t ready when Annie said, “No one’s ever brought me champagne before.”

He stared at her. How was that even possible? “Then I’m glad I’m the first.”

“It’s part of being a wedding planner,” she gave him that small smile again, as though the admission were an apology. “We’re usually the ones coordinating the big gestures.”

“Well, tonight you get champagne.” He pulled the glasses out of his pockets and handed them to her. “Do you mind?”

She took them from him with a raised eyebrow. “Not at all.”

He set about peeling the foil off the champagne’s cage.

“Does this make you William Holden?” she asked after a moment’s silence.

His hand stilled. “William Holden winds up with glass in his ass. I’m Humphrey Bogart.”

“You know Sabrina?” she asked, a little incredulous as he stuffed the cage into his pocket and eased the cork out of the bottle. It sighed—one of the best sounds in the world.

“I know Bogey. A man’s man.” He poured out her glass with a flourish before moving on to the other one. “Besides, there’s a whole culinary school b-story in Sabrina. It’s practically required watching.”

When he glanced up at her, she was smiling. A real smile that lit up her whole face. “You could just admit you love the movie.”

He laughed, clinking the edge of his glass against hers. “Or I could just admit I love the movie.”


If you liked this little preview of Chris and Annie, sign up for my newsletter. That way I can let you know as soon as the book (and its sexy cover) are up for preorder and sale. And don't forget to check out Book Boyfriends Cafe for all of the swoon worthy heroes you can handle!

October Reading Wrap Up

Sometimes you just need a good binge read. This month has been full of historical romances for me, and I've got a couple to recommend as well as a book that touches the paranormal, fantasy, literary, and romance genres.

The Duke and I

by Julia Quinn


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I bow down to the mistress of Regency romance dialogue. That is all.

The Wicked Wallflower

by Maya Rodale


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Around mid-October I was looking for something fun to read. I picked up The Wicked Wallflower and subsequently binge read six of Maya Rodale's books in a row. I loved The Wicked Wallflower because it's fun, light, and features a pretty fantastic rake of a hero. There's also a Hunger Games-based house party which amused me to no end.

A Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches


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When a friend pops up on your gchat and demands that you read a book because she loved it so much and wants someone to gush about it to, you do. My friend Caitlin got lost in A Discovery of Witches, so I decided to give it a shot too. It follows a historian named Diana who is on a research trip to Oxford who calls up an enchanted manuscript. Diana is a witch and not happy about it, so she tries to ignore the manuscript but it sets a series of supernatural events into motion that she can't stop. Throw in an erudite, attractive, alpha vampire love interest and even I -- not known for being a huge vampire fan -- was sucked in. I bought the second volume in the trilogy on Tuesday and plan to use it as my post-NaNoWriMo reward.

First Draught: The Old is New

I'm zooming along the rails of the mid-Atlantic to make my way to Richmond for a little retreat with Mary Chris Escobar and Alexis Anne. They're probably going to be sick of my voice by the end of this weekend because this past Tuesday we got together thanks to the power of the interwebs for a First Draught chat about going back to abandoned manuscripts.

We're always happy for suggestions of what to talk about, so if you've got a topic you'd like us to explore just let us know by leaving a comment!

What We Talked About This Month...


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Amazon | B&N | iBooks


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Cover Reveal: Returning Home by A.L. Parks

I've got something fun for you today! A.L. Parks's new cover for her book Returning Home is out, and she' s letting me give you a sneak peak! 10426734_346808562155690_2678846790220747995_n


How gorgeous is that? I love this cover designed by Amber at Book Beautiful (Amber did our cover for One Week in Wyoming too). I'm also pretty sure I own a close approximation of that outfit.

Returning Home is book 4 in the Return to Me series. It releases on October 28th. Here's a quick look at what you can expect:

Clarissa wants nothing to do with her father – even in his death. But she can’t escape returning to Newport to settle her father's estate. The safe world she has established starts to crumble and secrets she has locked away threaten to be exposed. Meeting Griff, her father’s partner, provides the only peace and happiness in the darkness that suddenly surrounds her.

Griff has built his custom bike shop from nothing into a thriving success. After the sudden death of his silent partner, Griff finds himself in a fight to save his business from the grieving widow. But falling for his partner's headstrong daughter may cost Griff everything.

Brandi has become accustomed to certain amenities in her life - money and men. She refuses to allow the death of her philandering husband to inconvenience her comfortable lifestyle. Setting her sights set on her husband’s very young, very sexy partner, nothing will get in the way of what she wants - even if it means destroying Clarissa to get it.

While you're waiting for the release, check out A.L. Parks's website to find out more about the rest of the Return to Me series and her other books!

Novella Release Date Set

young lovers kissing on the couchI'm happy to announce that my first novella is now available for preorder with iBooks! One Week in Wyoming is a sexy contemporary anthology of four stories set at a luxury ski lodge in Jackson, Wyoming. I had the pleasure of working with Alexis Anne, Audra North, and Alexandra Haughton on this project, and we couldn't be happier to be sharing these couples' stories with you. Here's the blurb for One Week in Wyoming:

Four couples, seven hot winter nights...

When best-selling romance author Joan Halliday invites four single female writers to stay at her family's luxurious Wyoming lodge, she's counting on a quiet week of bonding on the slopes and in the spa.

Bruce Halliday was looking forward to a relaxing reunion with his college buddies in the wilds of Wyoming…but when his wife's group meets Bruce's unattached friends, the sparks start to fly.

And here's the description of my story, Seduction in the Snow:

When a gorgeous, glasses-wearing winemaker sits next to Lydia Reed on a flight to Wyoming, she starts fantasizing about a vacation fling. It isn't until she finds out they're staying at the same lodge that she realizes that they can have their few nights of fun in the snow.      

Evan Sullivan's so wrapped up in his winery that he can't even think about a relationship.  But when he falls into bed with Lydia, everything changes. Now he has just a few days to convince the headstrong writer that it's worth taking a chance on him. 

The book officially releases on all platforms on September 9th. For the very latest update be sure to sign up for my newsletter!

Cracktastic White Tigers

Taming Lord RenwickCan an author escape having a blog? Probably not. Especially not in the romance world where the distance between author and reader seems to be shrinking thanks to Twitter and Facebook. So here we go. Time for my own blog!

I started writing romance because, like so many other authors, I was a reader first. I remember the first time I got my hands on a romance novel. I was a pre-teen at one of those remaindered bookstores that was dedicated to selling of the entire inventory of every bankrupt Crown Books in Los Angeles. Books are in my family's blood, so when my mother let my sister and me loose it was only natural that we should start poking around the stacks. Then 12-year-old Julia wandered into the romance section and fell in love.

The book that did it was a Zebra Regency Romance called Taming Lord Renwick. I can't explain why the absurd cover featuring a Jane Austen stand in gazing into the eyes of a mulleted man in britches did it for me. Oh wait, there's a giant White Bengal Tiger lying next to them. When you're 12 anything with tigers on it is an instant win. Then and there I decided I had to get my hands on what I would eventually come to call "romance crack."

And crack it was. Yes, there is a White Bengal Tiger. Yes, there is a mullet. But get this... Lord Renwick is BLIND so his tiger is really a giant, scary seeing eye dog. Romance crack!

From there it was a slippery slope. I've always read fast, but I found that I could rip through a romance in a few hours. From Zebra Regency I made a big jump in steaminess to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I discovered I have a deep love of Westerns thanks to The Trouble with Josh from Harlequin. When I picked up Nora Robert's Midnight Bayou I was officially an addict.

During all those years of reading I started scribbling. I'll tell the story of my first unfinished manuscript another day (it's only somewhat horribly embarrassing). It took until I was in graduate school for me to decide to give writing a romance novel a serious shot. I looked up from my very serious master's project and thought, "I've got to do some fun writing or I'll lose my mind." The scribblings that I made that first night would three years later wind up in my first book.

That first book is a historical, and it's the one that landed me my wonderful agent Emily Sylvan Kim. Agent Emily encouraged me to try my hand at contemporary romance too, so I've now got a book I'm rewriting for submission. If you had asked me a year ago whether I thought I would have two books and an agent under my belt I would have laughed so hard I would have teared up. That will teach this skeptical author.

Like any unpublished author I'm waiting for The Call. One day I hope to join the ranks of women and men who write the wonderful romance novels that keep me reading late into the night when I should have turned the light off. For now, however, I am eternally grateful for the romance community on Twitter who has been nothing but supportive while I'm waiting.

So, here's to new beginnings and white tigers and cracktastic fiction!