H&H Reads <i>A Breath of Scandal</i> (5 of 6) H&H Reads A Breath of Scandal (5 of 6) Elizabeth Essex Ready to be reckless? Join us for a read-along of Elizabeth Essex's A Breath of Scandal <i>The House on Blackberry Hill</i>: Excerpt The House on Blackberry Hill: Excerpt Donna Alward "He felt a shiver of anticipation that had...everything to do with the client." <i>The Billionaire Biker</i>: Exclusive Excerpt The Billionaire Biker: Exclusive Excerpt Jackie Ashenden "Her best friend. Her first lover. And the boy who’d left her..." <i>No Sunshine When She's Gone</i>: Exclusive Excerpt No Sunshine When She's Gone: Exclusive Excerpt Kate Angell "He liked holding her, he realized..."
From The Blog
April 17, 2014
The Appeal of Gritty Romance in Skye Warren's Wanderlust
Cara McKenna
April 16, 2014
Hot Small-Town Contemporaries
Jennifer Proffitt
April 16, 2014
Falling in Love with Paranormal Romance
A. C. Arthur
April 15, 2014
Sacrificing Heroines from Higgins, Carr, and More
Leigh Davis
April 14, 2014
Top 5 Romance Novels Influenced by the Bard
Apr 17 2014 11:00am

Hard Time by Cara McKenna

Today we welcome Cara McKenna to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Cara’s Hard Time came out earlier this week, and it features a convicted felon hero who courts the librarian heroine via clandestine love letters. An ex-con falling for a librarian is not the easiest tale to tell, and comes with some pretty intense moments. Cara is here to share some of the reasons (and recommendations) that gritty is oh-so great. Thanks, Cara!

Darren, Michigan, is a struggling former factory town, home to my most recent book, Hard Time, and the fictional Cousins Correctional Facility. Darren’s a pretty bleak little working-class city, short on both industry and hope. Recently, I asked friends and readers on Twitter what their favorite gritty romances from the past year were, and got loads of excellent recommendations. I picked four that I intended to read and reference in this post, but then something messed that plan all up.

A something called Wanderlust, by Skye Warren.

I’d not read Warren before, but a friend came over for pizza and gossip and told me about it. I caught key words—dubious consent, trucker, kidnapping—and promptly one-clicked.

The trouble with my original plan is that since I started Wanderlust I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I don’t want it out of my head yet, like a flavor I’m a little worried I won’t ever taste again, so I’m hesitant to wash it away with some other meal, no matter how lovely the new tastes might be. It’s beautiful, and it’s so, so, fucked. And wonderful. And fucked. And so not for everyone. Let me explain some of the ways in which it’s fucked.

[Would you say it's f***ed?...]

Apr 17 2014 9:30am

Trinity Stones by L.G. O'ConnorL.G. O'Connor
Trinity Stones
She Writes Press / April 22, 2014 (U.S.) / $18.95 print, $4.95 digital

Between a hostile work environment and an impossible romantic situation with her longtime friend and first love, Dr. Kai Solomon, anxiety-ridden New York investment banker Cara Collins has little to smile about on her 27th birthday. But before the day ends, she learns she has inherited $50 million—a windfall that she must keep secret if she wishes to keep the lives of those close to her safe.

As Cara unravels the truth surrounding her inheritance, she makes a startling discovery: angels walk among the living, and they're getting ready to engage in a battle that will determine the future of the human race. In the midst of these revelations, she meets mysterious and sophisticated Simon Young, who offers her the promise of romance for the first time since Kai.

When Kai and his daughter are kidnapped by dark forces, Cara must choose: accept her place in a 2,000-year-old prophecy foretold in the Trinity Stones as the First of the Twelve who will lead the final battle between good and evil . . . or risk losing everything she holds dear. In doing so, she realizes that not only her heart but also her destiny is entwined with the two men in her life.

Angels! Vampires, succubi, demon kings, and other bad boys of the supernatural realm get a lot of press, but where’s the love for our winged protectors from on high? Oh, we have J.R. Ward’s irreverent Fallen Angels, who somehow manage to find themselves in a lot of decidedly wicked situations, as well as Sharon Shinn’s more PG-rated Angels of Samaria. I’m sure there are others I have missed. But for whatever reason – I suspect that many authors prefer to steer clear of the explicit religiosity implied in the term – angels have tended to get somewhat short shrift in romantic fiction.

Now, however, fans of things angelic will sing a hearty “Gloria!” to learn that Trinity Stones, the first installment in L.G. O’Connor’s Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, has arrived. O’Connor has created a complex and fascinating world full of passion, intrigue, and bravery in the eternal battle between good and evil. Fans of the “angel” subgenre will want to check it out.

[Be an angel and keep reading, won't you?...]

Apr 17 2014 8:15am

Paranormal romance and urban fantasy have long had characters who have gotten tattooed, not just for cosmetic purposes, but because their tattoos hold power. More recently, many New Adult and erotic romance characters have sported ink, in line with how many people in real life seem to be getting skin art.

If you were to get a book-related tattoo, what would it be? If you already have one, let us know in comments!

Photo by Word Made Flesh

Apr 16 2014 4:30pm

Talk Me Down by Victoria DahlSmall-town contemporaries have been a niche subgenre going on for decades now, but I have never been gladder that they turned up the heat than when I picked up my first Victoria Dahl. Talk Me Down was a reading revelation. Here was a sexually confident, erotic author, who had set her cap at the small-town chief of police of Tumble Creek, Colorado. The book was full of kisses behind closed doors (and in the cab of the cruiser), a little bit of suspense, and a sense of illicitness that only an affair in a small town could create. It’s a book that I have passed down from friend to friend when I want to get them hooked on romance—and it works without fail.

But it wasn’t until recently I realized that while I may have moved to the big city, my heart (or at least my reading preferences) stayed in a small town. I would gladly stay in Tumble Creek for all of my days, but of course all good things come to an end, and eventually I had to move on to another small town, so to Ruthie Knox’s Camelot I went.

[And what did you find there?...]

Apr 16 2014 3:00pm

Deep by Kylie ScottYou saw pieces at Aesta's Book Blog, Totally Booked Blog, and Shh Moms Reading. Now, Heroes and Heartbreakers is pleased to reveal the fourth and final piece of the puzzle, and to present to you the full cover for Kylie Scott's Deep in all its sexy rock-god glory! What do you think?

And here's the official description for bassist Ben's long-awaited tumble into love in the conclusion of the Stage Dive series:

Don't miss a beat with the fourth and final novel in the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Stage Dive series from Kylie Scott.

One by one, the members of Stage Dive are falling in love. David, Mal, and Jimmy have all taken the plunge, and now it’s Ben’s turn—only he refuses to fall into that trap. The sexy bassist enjoys his no-strings-attached lifestyle. But when Ben is forced to keep the one girl he's always had a weakness for out of trouble in Sin City, he quickly learns that what happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay there.

Deep will be available in e-book just in time for Christmas on December 23, 2014, while the paperback will be released on March 10, 2015.

Dying to get your hands on a new Stage Dive novel? You're in luck! Lick and its sequel, Playare out now, and the third book in the series, Lead, will be out in e-book this summer, on July 29.

Learn more about Deep by Kylie Scott:

Buy at Amazon

Apr 16 2014 12:00pm
Elizabeth Essex

A Breath of Scandal by Elizabeth EssexToday, we're excited to bring back our H&H Reads program, with the book that introduced us to the Jellicoe clan—A Breath of Scandal!

Every Wednesday and Sunday from now until April 20, we'll be posting A Breath of Scandal in six easy-to-read (if not so easy to wait for!) parts. Right before each new part goes up, we'll be taking down the previous one, so make sure you don't miss a single piece of the book. Whether you're a long-time fan of Elizabeth Essex, or brand-new to the world where dead men don't talk, we hope you'll read along and then discuss each section of the book with us!

Want to be alerted when future parts of the book are live on the site? Log in or register here to be added to the H&H Reads Alert List! Want more Elizabeth Essex? Log in or reigster here to stay up to date on all the news!

Don't think you can wait? Catch up on the whole story now. (See the links at the bottom of this post for more info on where you can get your copy of A Breath of Scandal.) Then, come back to share your thoughts!

Forced by her family into an engagement with a man she can never abide, Antigone Preston knows only a scandal will save her from a loveless marriage. But knocking a man down to the ballroom floor with her fists brings dangerous consequences. She may have ruined her reputation, but now she’s endangered her heart…

The son of an earl and a career navy man, Captain William Jellicoe has no interest in the frivolities of London—and even less in the institution of marriage. But there’s something steering him toward Antigone. He has never met anyone as brazen and unconventional as…himself. But will he risk it all for a woman who still has the breath of scandal hot on her lips?

Well, damn him for an arrogant fool.

Lord Aldridge. All this time—all this time that Will had been with her, holding her and kissing her and thinking about a hundred and twenty-four ways of having her—she had been engaged, or about to be engaged to Aldridge. And there Will had been, dashing about the countryside thinking he was saving her. Clearly, she had no desire to be saved.

And yet, she had said, “He is nothing to me,” with such feeling, with such desperate determination, he could not reconcile the words with the inconvenient fact.

[Log in or register to read all of Part 5 from A Breath of Scandal...]

Apr 16 2014 10:30am

Mine to Claim by A.C. ArthurH&H is pleased to welcome A.C. Arthur, whose paranormal New Adult e-book trilogy Shadow Shifters: Damaged Hearts kicked off with Mine to Claim last week. A.C. writes sexy shapeshifter romances because she's a fan of them herself, and today she joins us to talk the irresistible pull of alpha shifters as well as to share some of her favorite series. Thanks, A.C.!

From the moment a romance novel is opened, a reader is searching for one thing: that belly-dropping, spine-tingling, whirlwind thrill of falling in love. Oftentimes that thrill is found in a contemporary setting with a very sexy alpha male and a feisty, independent female. On other occasions, the fall into love will take a scandalous duke by storm, or entice the proper lady to let go of her inbred reservations and give in to passion. And then there are the times when a reader simply wants to shift the scene entirely.

Hot, sexy, alpha males combined with the DNA of deadly animals. It’s not a new combination of hero, and yet the depths of the current shapeshifters are pushing the envelope of desire and passion and oh-my-I-need-a-fan-while-I-read elements in paranormal romance.

[Just us or is it getting hot in here?...]

Apr 16 2014 9:30am
Donna Alward

The House on Blackberry Hill by Donna Alward

When a young woman inherits a rundown mansion, the last thing she expects to find is the key to her heart…

Abby Foster is a fish out of water in the Maine coastal town of Jewell Cove. The crumbling Foster estate, left to her by a relative she never even knew, has everyone’s eyes on her—an eerie reminder of the long-buried family secrets that have haunted her…forever. Single, stunning, and sometimes too strong-willed for her own good, Abby’s plan is to sell the house and hightail it back to Nova Scotia. But another part of her is intrigued by the idea of starting over somewhere new—and finally learning the truth about her heritage.   


Enter Tom Arseneault. The best contractor in Jewell Cove, Tom is determined to restore the beauty and prestige of the Foster mansion—and maybe even work his charms on its beautiful new heir. The attraction between him and Abby is undeniable, and the more time Tom spends on the house the more he wants to be in it with her. But Abby’s not sure she can trust him—or anyone in Jewell Cove who seems to know more about her family history than she does. Home: Is it really where the heart is after all?

Get a sneak peek of Donna Alward's The House on Blackberry Hill (available April 29, 2014) with an exclusive excerpt of Chapters 1 & 2.

Chapter 1

Abby Foster didn’t want to like the town of Jewell Cove. It was just her bad luck, then, that the place appeared annoyingly cheerful and quaint; a postcard-perfect sea town on the Maine coast dotted with colorful buildings nestled above the pristine inlet of Penobscot Bay. In response to her irritation, she cranked up the radio and rolled down the window. The breeze blew her hair back from her face, and she gave her head a toss as she continued into the town, tapping her fingers on the steering wheel along with the music. She had to be here. She didn’t have to like it.

But she couldn’t put the trip off any longer. Something had to be done with the house. The estate was paying the taxes on the damned place but her aunt Marian’s lawyer kept pestering her about the condition of the property and what she was going to do about it. The constant correspondence made it impossible to pretend the house didn’t exist. So she finally put in for a deferred leave from her job as an elementary school teacher and decided to deal with the family mess once and for all.

[Log in or register to read the full excerpt of The House on Blackberry Hill...]

Apr 16 2014 8:46am

Maybe you've followed a favorite author into a genre you don't normally read. Perhaps you were intrigued by a book blurb. Or like the cover. Or there was a sale.

You probably had expectations about the genre, which is why you don't normally pick it up. But whatever the reason for breaking out of your usual reading, we want to know: what genre was the biggest surprise? Do you continue to read in that genre?

Gif from emotiongifs.com

Apr 15 2014 4:30pm

Her Best Laid Plans by Cara McKennaCara McKenna
Her Best Laid Plans
Harlequin's Cosmo Red Hot Reads / April 15, 2014 / $3.99 digital

Experience Ireland—the dramatic beauty, the warm hospitality…and the smoking hot local guys!

Imagine nursing a pint in a cozy, authentic country pub, far from Cork's busy city pulse. Getting here took you a plane, bus, taxi and…um, bicycle. But just as you're resigning yourself to drinking beside grey-haired farmers, you see him—a man with the looks and charm to soothe any heartbroken girl.

He's your bartender. Your really, really gorgeous bartender.

For American Jamie Webb—recently dumped and housesitting for two weeks—Connor Kelleher is like a six-course feast after a 23-year starvation diet. But it's gotta be casual. She's just begun rerouting her life after a three-year man-related detour. Still, a sexy romp (or twenty!) with Sexy McBartender?

But what happens when Jamie's best-laid plans for no future plans with any man begin to change?

I've enjoyed the Cosmo Red Hot Reads that I've gotten my hands on, and Cara McKenna's Her Best Laid Plans was no exception. I really liked how the focus was on our heroine, and how there was just a bit of a twist near the end.

[A twist, huh? Do go on...]

Apr 15 2014 2:00pm

Today we welcome not one, not two, but six authors to talk about why they love athletes. This week, Carina Press published six new sports romances, each featuring a different sport: football, tennis, baseball, hockey, mixed martial arts, and rugby, and we're happy to welcome Rebecca Crowley, Rhonda Shaw, Kate Willoughby, Michele Mannon, Allison Parr, and Kat Latham to discuss why they love athletes.

Commitment, passion, tenacity…athletes have a slew of traits that we romance readers adore.  We are here today sharing just a few of the reasons we love athletes—in 18 charming gifs.

They’re great dancers.

Duchene handshake gif courtesy of nhlgifs.tumblr.com

[It really IS about the motion on the...ice rink...]

Apr 15 2014 12:00pm

Otherwise Engaged by Amanda QuickAmanda Quick
Otherwise Engaged
Putnam Adult / April 22, 2014 / $26.95 print, $12.99 digital

One does not expect to be kidnapped on a London street in broad daylight. But Amity Doncaster barely escapes with her life after she is trapped in a carriage with a blade-wielding man in a black silk mask who whispers the most vile taunts and threats into her ear. Her quick thinking, and her secret weapon, save her . . . for now.

But the monster known in the press as the Bridegroom, who has left a trail of female victims in his wake, has survived the wounds she inflicts and will soon be on his feet again. He is unwholesomely obsessed by her scandalous connection to Benedict Stanbridge—gossip about their hours alone in a ship’s stateroom seems to have crossed the Atlantic faster than any sailing vessel could. Benedict refuses to let this resourceful, daring woman suffer for her romantic link to him—as tenuous as it may be.

For a man and woman so skilled at disappearing, so at home in the exotic reaches of the globe, escape is always an option. But each intends to end the Bridegroom’s reign of terror in London, and will join forces to do so. And as they prepare to confront an unbalanced criminal in the heart of the city they love, they must also face feelings that neither of them can run away from. . . .

Jayne Ann Krentz has been writing under the pseudonym Amanda Quick since 1998, so long-time readers know what to expect inside the covers—a unique-for-her-time heroine about to set off on an adventure of a lifetime, accompanied by an honorable, principled and dashing (at least to her) hero. And that is exactly what you will find in Ms. Quick’s latest release, Otherwise Engaged.


Apr 15 2014 9:30am

Recently in my post about family ties in romance, I talked about the impact of families, or lack thereof, on the heroine and hero. Basically, they—the hero and heroine—were either the recipient of a good or bad family situation. But what if we changed the focus a bit, and looked at how the heroine’s or hero’s actions affected their family.

Now we have all read books where the hero or heroine gives up the other for one reason or another—he thinks she hasn’t had the opportunity to experience life, or he has a wonderful career opportunity, and the heroine knows that she will tie him down. But what about the hero or heroine that makes sacrifices for a family member. Do you remember the embryotic romance between Sarah and Karl in the film Love Actually? Sarah and Karl both work at the same graphic design company and she has been in love with him for years. And it’s not like it is a secret; everyone in the office knows. But Sarah has a mentally ill brother. And just when the relationship with Karl is about to go to the next step, she picks her brother over Karl. Luckily our heroines are not like Sarah, because they do have a happy ending in their future. So who are these heroines?

[Poor Sarah was just the tip of the iceberg, but maybe an HEA to come...]

Apr 15 2014 8:03am

It's the day taxes are due in the United States, and for many people, this is a time when we are acutely aware of our finances.

(Spoiler: Not many of us are billionaires).

Who's your favorite dirt-broke hero, and what does he economize on the best?

Apr 14 2014 4:30pm

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny HanJenny Han
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Simon & Schuster / April 15, 2014 / $17.99 print, $10.99 digital

Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Jenny Han's young adult novel To All the Boys I've Loved Before expertly blends heroine Lara Jean's development into an empowered young adult with her first taste of love for a sweet and memorable coming-of-age story.

[Love letters for everyone!...]

Apr 14 2014 2:00pm

Beyond Repair by Charlotte SteinCharlotte Stein
Beyond Repair
Ellora's Cave / April 16, 2014 / $5.95 digital

When Alice Evans finds a bona fide movie star on the floor of her living room, she has no idea what to do. Ordinary men are frightening enough, never mind someone as famous and frankly gorgeous as Holden Stark.

However, once she realizes that Holden is suffering behind that famous facade, she knows she has to help. He needs someone like her to give him a taste of sweetness and desire and love. He needs normality. The only problem is—Alice is hiding a secret that is far from normal. In fact, her name isn’t even Alice at all.

And once Holden finds out, the intense connection they are just beginning to build may well be torn apart.

Beyond Repair is hands down my favorite Charlotte Stein book so far. Period. We are introduced to Alice, a 20-year-old, hermit by the beach, as she encounters heartthrob Holden Stark, a.k.a. Captain Amazing. Stein has created a great timid-girl-meets-messed-up-movie-star story. The title, Beyond Repair, does not just apply to the messed-up movie star hero, but also the painfully shy heroine whose secrets we discover later on.

[Could they be a perfect match?...]

Apr 14 2014 12:00pm
Jackie Ashenden

The Billionaire Biker by Jackie Ashenden

Wild and reckless, and more at ease with his biker gang than his business partners, Sean Morrow has always longed for Abigail Prescott, whose life he ruined when an innocent friendship turned into a night of red-hot passion back when they were in high school. Now that his brother, Jax, has decided to hire Abby to work for the Morrows, Sean can no longer ignore his old demons—or his desire.

It took Abby time to get over Sean Morrow…and then he walked back into her life. And even though she can’t forget the pain, she can’t stop fantasizing about their one erotic encounter…and she still craves his touch. What she feels for Sean is deeper than need. It’s pure, blind lust—and the feeling is mutual…

Get a sneak peek of Jackie Ashenden's The Billionaire Biker (available April 15, 2014) with an exclusive excerpt of Chapter 1.

Chapter 1

Sean shifted uncomfortably in his chair, trying to resist the urge to pull at the tie currently strangling the life out of him. It didn’t help that he was being watched by two sets of blue eyes. Morrow blue eyes. His half-brothers Jax and Donovan, the former studying him from behind his desk, the latter sitting on the corner of the same desk with a critical look on his face.

Sean gazed back. He hadn’t seen either of them for five years but if they wanted to play this game, then he was more than happy with it.

[Log in or register to read the full excerpt of The Billionaire Biker...]

Apr 14 2014 10:54am

Joffrey and Margaery in Game of Thrones Season 4, episode 2This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones, including last night’s Season 4, episode 2, “The Lion and the Rose.” Enjoy!

It’s official. “Rains of Castamere” is the worst earworm ever. If you hear it, grab your wine and leave the wedding at once. Also: In Westeros this season, purple is the new red for weddings.

More on this later…

We start with Ramsay Snow trying to beat out Joffrey for most disgusting human being in the kingdom. He’s hunting a servant, Tansy, who was kind to “Reek” (Theon Greyjoy) but was just following Ramsay's orders, and while the first arrow is put in the girl's leg by Ramsay’s jealous squeeze, he’s the one who releases his hunting hounds to tear Tansy to pieces.

[Charming lad, that one, isn't he?...]

Apr 14 2014 9:30am

The Game of Love by Edith LaytonApril 23, 2014, will mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, and Shakespeare lovers around the globe will be celebrating the occasion throughout the month of April with lectures, conferences, readings, and parties. The most famous celebration is probably the one in Stratford-on-Avon where they will be serving birthday cake to visitors April 25-26. Now I’m no Shakespeare expert, but I am an English major with four courses in Shakespeare on my transcript and a generalist who spent a portion of each year for more than three decades teaching one of a dozen of his plays. (Twelfth Night was my favorite to teach, and I blush to confess that the last time I taught Hamlet to a class of general studies high school students we had a party to celebrate not Shakespeare’s birth but Hamlet’s death.) I think my experience with Shakespeare is sufficient for me to hold my own celebration: a rereading of my top five Shakespeare-influenced romance novels.

[Journeys end in lovers meeting...]

Apr 14 2014 8:00am

In honor of April's being National Poetry Month, we present Tom Hiddleston reading “May I Feel Said He” by e.e. cummings (And for more, visit the site Hot Men Reading Poetry).

Do you have a favorite poem? Share in comments!