<i>Full Throttle</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Full Throttle: Exclusive Excerpt Julie Ann Walker "There was no use trying to hide the hunger in her expression..." <i>Mine to Take</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Mine to Take: Exclusive Excerpt Jackie Ashenden "A subtle heat that rested on his skin like a ray of sun. Dangerous." <i>The Highland Dragon's Lady</i>: Exclusive Excerpt The Highland Dragon's Lady: Exclusive Excerpt Isabel Cooper "His lean body snapped to attention and his eyes blazed with silver fire." <i>Rocked by the Billionaire</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Rocked by the Billionaire: Exclusive Excerpt Mandy Baxter "He (looked) so self-possessed, so goddamned gorgeous after so many years..."
From The Blog
November 26, 2014
Families and Holidays
Lucy Dosch
November 26, 2014
5 Reasons You Need to See Beyond the Lights
Rebekah Weatherspoon
November 26, 2014
Dirty Talking in Romance
Laura Kaye
November 25, 2014
The Busybodies of Romance
Marina Adair
November 25, 2014
Gifts for Your Singular Reading Tastes
Team H & H
Showing posts by: Donna Cummings click to see Donna Cummings's profile
Mon
Feb 11 2013 4:30pm

“Don’t Do It in Animal Masks”: Advice from the Wingman

The Edge of Trust by KT BryanGuys have such an intriguing way of interacting with their buddies, giving each other advice and expressing emotions in ways that sometime seem utterly foreign to women. From dealing with high-pressure situations to frustration at not getting laid to the number and quality of female orgasms, a good wingman is essential for any hero worth his bro. These are some of my recent favorites with heroes demonstrating how they deal with a variety of manly situations:

The Edge of Trust by KT Bryan: Men have an oblique way of showing they've got each other's back. Here, two soldiers are on a difficult mission, with one of them sneaking into a drug dealer's house while the other is giving him assistance remotely via headset. They keep each other grounded during the tense moments by talking about non-mission-related things:

He unhooked his Ka-Bar from his belt, and in one continuous motion, cut the seal around the base of the skylight. After lifting it aside he unhooked the rope. He really needed to hurry. “Jake, time hack.”

“Thirty-two minutes.”

The theme song from Mission Impossible, whistled pitch perfect, came over Dillon’s headset. “Ha, ha. If you’re comparing me to Ethan Hunt, fine. Great, in fact. But if you have Tom Cruise in mind, I’m going to have to kill you.” With a quick loop and a knot, Dillon fastened the rope around the base of the chimney.

“Well, you are all in black. Minus the ever present, very chill, always explosive sunglasses, of course.”

“Don’t forget the oh-so-realistic flying motorcycles.”

“Good point. Much cooler.”

[Just don't call him Tom Cruise...]

Tue
Aug 28 2012 12:00pm

Tickling the Funny Bone(r): Erotic Romance with Humor

Kinky by Justine ElyotFor those who are “erotic-romance curious,” there is an incredible selection of books from which to choose nowadays. And those do include erotic romances with humor.

 Yes, it is possible to have your funny bone and your erogenous zones tickled at the same time. Here are some books I suggest adding to your TBR collection:

Kinky by Justine Elyot — Rosie is dying to know what is going on in the building across from her London workplace. She decides to check it out up close, and to her surprise a curtain has been left open, allowing her to observe a spanking session in progress. Even more surprising, she’s quite envious of the participants. Most surprising of all is when she’s joined by a stranger, Dimitri, a sexy and quirky Russian who discovers Rosie’s secret desires before she can admit them to herself. When Dimitri announces, “I have plan to be professional dominant person”, they join the Kinky Cupcake Club, so Dimitri can learn this new career while practicing with Rosie.

[Because practice makes perfect!]

Thu
Jun 7 2012 12:00pm

Not-So-Ordinary First Kisses from Loretta Chase, Laura Kaye, and Julia Barrett

Sailor Kissing NurseThe first kiss is such an important milestone for romance couples. Most of them have been fighting their attraction to each other, or maybe even fighting with each other. When that first kiss finally occurs, it rocks their world, and often detours their plans for the future.

Even better are the unusual, out of the ordinary, what-the-hell-was-that? first kisses. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

In Loretta Chase’s Silk is for Seduction, the heroine Marcelline is trying to gain entrée to an important social event, so she can demonstrate her stylish dress and increase her dressmaking shop’s visibility. She agrees to a wager with the hero, the Duke of Clevedon: if he loses, he will take her to this exclusive ball, but if she loses, she will have to give him a kiss.

[So in other words: it’s win-win...]

Thu
May 31 2012 9:30am

First Look: Ruthie Knox’s About Last Night (June 11, 2012)

Cath Talarico knows a mistake when she makes it, and God knows she’s made her share. So many, in fact, that this Chicago girl knows London is her last, best shot at starting over. But bad habits are hard to break, and soon Cath finds herself back where she has vowed never to go...in the bed of a man who is all kinds of wrong: too rich, too classy, too uptight for a free-spirited troublemaker like her.
 
Nev Chamberlain feels trapped and miserable in his family’s banking empire. But beneath his pinstripes is an artist and bohemian struggling to break free and lose control. Mary Catherine—even her name turns him on—with her tattoos, her secrets, and her gamine, sex-starved body, unleashes all kinds of fantasies.
 
When blue blood mixes with bad blood, can a couple that is definitely wrong for each other ever be perfectly right? And with a little luck and a lot of love, can they make last night last a lifetime?

About Last Night is described as a “bad girl/good guy” romance, which is one reason I wanted to read it. But what really hooked me was how it feels like a modern-day Regency story, with a rich, aristocratic hero falling for a spirited woman possessed of a much-too-colorful family history.

[Are we talking Hatfields and McCoys colorful or Roseanne colorful?]

Sat
Apr 28 2012 11:00am

Lothaire and Ellie? Romantic Odd Couples: So (Im)Perfect for Each Other

Lothaire by Kresley ColeEvery romance couple has challenges, but some of them have major ones—things that make it seemingly impossible for them to connect, let alone make it all the way to a HEA. These are the couples that make you wonder why nobody jumped up during the ceremony when the minister said, “If anyone has any reason why these two should not be married. . .”

Here are a few of my recent favorite unusual pairings, who somehow managed to end up being perfect for each other:

Lothaire: When I started reading this book, I thought Kresley Cole had finally let me down. Lothaire, the Enemy of Old, is paired up with the Goddess of Death. That makes perfect sense. But wait—there’s more. His bride, Saroya, resides in the very comely body of a young Appalachian woman, Ellie, and our introduction to her, er, them, is when Saroya goes on a killing spree, via this innocent young woman. Ellie ends up in prison. On death row. Lothaire has to save her from being executed, because Saroya is dormant inside Ellie, but at some point he’s going to extinguish Ellie’s soul to let his goddess bride have complete use of the body.

It’s the ultimate in threesomes, only two of them are plotting to off the third one.

[As you do...]

Mon
Oct 24 2011 12:00pm

“This Changes Everything”: The Morning After

Breaking the Rules by Suzanne BrockmannThe “moment after,” when the hero and heroine have finally done it, is one of the most pivotal moments in a romance. There has typically been a lot of buildup and tension before they get to this point, so it’s expected things will change dramatically once they leap into intimacy.

After all, now the characters know nearly everything about each other physically, but there’s a ton of new emotions to consider, including a re-evaluation of beliefs they’ve clung to for the previous couple hundred pages.

Sometimes there are regrets and recriminations to deal with, especially when a couple has a history and/or trust issues. Izzy Zanella, in Suzanne Brockmann’s Breaking the Rules, describes this situation as “[when] the passion segment of their insanity ended and the messy cleanup part began.“

But sometimes this life-changing situation is tender, or funny, or just plain entertaining, as demonstrated by some of my recent favorites:

[Hanging by a moment...]

Wed
Oct 5 2011 2:45pm

Barbara Metzger’s Traditional Regencies: Dogs, Witty Humor, and “Aww!” Moments

An Affair of Interest by Barbara MetzgerIf a book has the words “Barbara Metzger” on it, I have bought it, and it will stay in my Keeper Vault until the end of eternity.

What makes me such a rabid devotee of her traditional Regencies?

First, it’s the humor. I love humorous books. I can tolerate a dash of angst now and then in my reading repertoire, but it’s like eating Brussels sprouts or broccoli. I know it’s good for me to try things I’m not big on every once in a while. However, I want my reading to deflect real-life problems, not reflect them.

I can always count on Ms. Metzger’s books to distract me from the world’s insanity with her Regency-flavored brand of crazy hijinks. Some may consider her stories a bit over-the-top, but she writes them with a giddy delight that is impossible to resist.

I also love Ms. Metzger’s clever wordplay. It seems clear to me she’s having a ball writing these stories, reveling in the witty banter between her characters, and giving her narrative an exuberant twist. There’s often a little wink to the reader, letting us in on the inside joke while she points out the absurdities of Regency society and humanity in general.

[Be in on the joke (and the fun)...]

Fri
Sep 2 2011 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Ashley March’s Romancing the Countess (September 6, 2011)

Romancing the Countess
Ashley March
Penguin, September 6, 2011, $7.99

Sebastian Madinger, the Earl of Wriothesly, thought he’d married the perfect woman-until a fatal accident revealed her betrayal with his best friend. After their deaths, Sebastian is determined to avoid a scandal for the sake of his son. But his best friend’s widow is just as determined to cast her mourning veil aside by hosting a party that will surely destroy both their reputations and expose all of his carefully kept secrets...

Leah George has carried the painful knowledge of her husband’s affair for almost a year. All she wants now is to enjoy her independence and make a new life for herself-even if that means being ostracized by the Society whose rules she was raised to obey. Now that the rumors are flying, there’s only one thing left for Sebastian to do: silence the scandal by enticing the improper widow into becoming a proper wife. But when it comes to matters of the heart, neither Sebastian nor Leah is prepared for the passion they discover in each other’s arms....

[Who doesn’t love a good surprise?...]

Fri
Aug 5 2011 9:30am

Men and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Hot Boys on Hot Bikes

I don’t really like motorcycles. For starters, they’re noisy, obnoxiously so if they have those big pipes that amplify the sound. They can be smelly too, especially when the exhaust fumes get sucked into your air vents. I know I can’t be the only one who gets irritated when motorcyclists weave in between all of us cars stopped on the freeway while they’re zooming towards freedom.

But. . .

Pair a motorcycle with a sexy romance hero, and all my grievances are forgotten, because I am instantly smitten, with the man and the machine. I’ve discovered a few heroines who also succumbed to motorcycle men, for a variety of completely justifiable reasons.

[Aren’t they all justifiable?...]

Sun
Jul 17 2011 11:00am

Out-of-the-Ordinary Proposals of Marriage

Engagement Ring by PLeia2 via FlickrWe’ve seen zillions of those proposals with the hero on bended knee, the heroine’s eyes filled with tears as she listens to his declaration of love. It doesn’t even faze us anymore when someone proposes via a baseball scoreboard, or by hiding a ring in a romantic dessert.  

It’s time to spice things up a bit. Here’s a few out-of-the ordinary proposals I’ve come across recently:

If Looks Could Chill by Nina Bruhns – Bobby Lee Quinn and Darcy Zimmerman are not the primary couple of this story, but in my opinion, they steal the book right out from underneath the real hero and heroine. They are both special ops folks who meet on an operation, and sparks fly, continuously. Several years later they’re still friends-with-benefits, but it’s easier to track down and capture terrorists than to get these two to admit how they feel.

[Then the proposal oughta be good...]

Fri
Jul 8 2011 3:45pm

Who’s on Your Romance Hero All-Star Team?

Shooting Star image by madartists via ImageTrailBaseball is celebrating its All Stars right now, and it made me think we should do the same with romance heroes. I’ll toss out the first pitch, with a few of my favorites that deserve to be on the team.

What makes them All Stars?

These are sexy men who demonstrate exemplary heroic traits, unending devotion to the heroine, and a little something extra that other heroes might consider emulating. I have read their stories so many times I could win a Trivial Pursuit championship without studying ahead of time. These are characters I think of as real human beings—and maybe once or twice I’ve even referred to them as my boyfriends. (Ha ha, not really.) (Okay, really.)

[No worries, everyone has TV boyfriends! Er, right?...]

Wed
Jun 15 2011 1:30pm

The Big Lie: “You’re Better Off Without Me”

Shattered by JoAnn RossAhh, the noble hero. How can you not love a man who is selfless, stoic, and self-sacrificing...well, at least until he tells the heroine The Big Lie, the one that starts out, “You’re better off without me.”

The hero decides, on his own, without consulting the heroine, that it’s best for her to move on with her life, leaving him behind. While he doesn’t do this lightly, and he genuinely wants to ensure she has a better future, his noble actions usually end up breaking the heroine’s heart (not to mention the reader’s).

Let me show you what I mean:

Shattered by Joann Ross—Shane Garrett is an Army Night Stalker pilot, cocky and confident, and completely in lust with Army doctor Kirby Campbell. They spend many hours in bed before he leaves on another mission, and they don’t meet up again until he is brought, severely wounded, to the field hospital where she works. She does her best to patch him up so he can make it out alive to a military hospital. When she goes to visit him there, after his leg has been amputated, he does everything possible to send her away, insisting whatever feelings they’d had for each other were merely a result of the wartime environment. She tries several times to change his mind, but to no avail:

[What does she say? What does he say?...]

Wed
Jun 1 2011 4:30pm

Fancy Meeting You Here: Historical Meet Cutes

Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack in SerendipityIt’s not just contemporary heroes and heroines that get to “meet-cute.” The historical folks have had centuries to perfect this type of encounter. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite cute meets from days of yore:

Emily and the Dark Angel by Jo Beverley: Emily Grantwich is minding her business in town when she collides with a handsome man, Piers Verderan, barreling out of a nearby doorway. His former mistress is not taking the news of her dismissal very well. In fact, she’s lobbing things at him from the upstairs window.

The man began to turn, his hands still on Emily’s arms. The woman reached behind her and threw. A beribboned oval box sailed through the air to knock his hat flying. The box burst open and a pungent cloud of violet-scented powder billowed out over both of them. The woman shrieked with laughter.

The man choked and let Emily go. He stooped, ripped up a tall weed complete with muddy roots and hurled it with deadly accuracy at his attacker. She was still laughing as it hit. She stopped and opened her mouth to start another blistering tirade but after an alarmed look at the gentleman she shut her mouth, retreated and slammed the window shut.

Stunned, coughing and waving away the pungent powder, Emily still had to admire such ability to silence a harridan. When the man turned back to her his face was smoothly expressionless. He coughed again, brushed a volume of powder out of his dark curls, grimaced slightly, shook himself and then turned his attention to Emily.

[When lightning strikes...]

Sun
May 29 2011 2:00pm

My First Romance Boyfriend: Dating Georgette Heyer’s Beauvallet

Beauvallet by Georgette HeyerWhen I first started reading romance, most of the heroes were dark, brooding, angst-filled men. But there was one out-of-the-ordinary hero who instigated a lifelong love affair, not only with him, but with others who share his literary DNA.

May I present to you: Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer.

He is an English pirate of the Elizabethan era who falls in love with Dominica, a spirited Spanish noblewoman. He laughs, constantly, especially in the face of danger. He actually courts danger, probably just so he can have another good laugh. The heroine falls in love with him because of his derring-do, but also because he says he will go straight into enemy territory to get her, and he does, cheerfully risking his life, to rescue this woman he loves.

[A cheerful hero? That’s a welcome change!...]

Tue
May 17 2011 9:30am

Tattooed Romance Heroes: Marked by Love

Vin Diesel + TattoosTattoos can be very sexy, so it's no surprise many romance heroes sport them, and in a variety of intriguing bodily venues. They can also demonstrate something about the hero's personality, whether it's the rebellious mark of a contemporary bad boy, or a symbol of the suffering endured by a historical hero.

When I was compiling some of my recent favorites, however, I realized a tattoo was often a symbol of the couple's relationship status, and/or a springboard to a new level of emotional intimacy. With that in mind, here are some of the best fictional ink:

[Tattoos are forever...]

Fri
Apr 22 2011 5:00pm

Meet-Cutes in Contemporary Romance

Everyone Loves a Hero by Marie ForceMaybe I'm just nosy, but I love to hear how couples meet, especially if they seem mismatched. “Cute meets” are the most fun of all because the characters are going about their business, and then boom! They encounter, in a major crazy way, the person who will completely change their life forever.

1.  Everyone Loves A Hero by Marie Force: Cole is a pilot waiting in line at the airline gift shop where the heroine Olivia works. He has no idea his chivalrous actions will get him punched in the face, as well as a meeting with his future love:

Cole hadn't seen it coming. One minute he'd been standing in line minding his own business behind a guy having a heated discussion on a cell phone. Then he'd watched Big Dude throw a wad of money at the clerk. Cole had tapped him on the shoulder to tell him he was being rude to the girl behind the counter.

'She's only doing her job,' Cole had said.

The next thing he knew, he was looking up at an angel.

[Other favorite meet-cutes, in no particular order...]

Mon
Apr 11 2011 5:00pm

Dark and Dangerous: The Lure of Gothic Romances

The first Gothic romance I encountered was by Mary Stewart, and what an introduction! I was a suburban high-schooler, and had never even come close to a dark, broody man, let alone one with an exotic name like Raoul. How could I resist?

In Nine Coaches Waiting, the heroine, Linda, an English governess, put up even less resistance than I did.  Her first encounter with Raoul was when he nearly ran her over with his car while she strolled near her employer's chateau. Raoul atones for his carelessness by taking Linda out the next night for dinner and dancing, drinks and gambling.  Several hours later, she's a total goner:

It wasn't the brandy; the coffee had drowned that effectively enough. It was a much more deadly draught. There was one thing that stood like stone among the music and moonfroth of the evening's gaieties. It was stupid, it was terrifying, it was wonderful, but it had happened and I could do nothing about it.

For better or worse, I was head over ears in love with Raoul de Valmy.

[Talk about moving fast!...]

Sun
Apr 3 2011 11:00am

The Unwritten Contract: Happily Ever Afters in Romance

Swans form a heartWhen we read romance, we expect a happily-ever-after ending. It's actually part of the unwritten contract, one we enter into with each romance novel: “I, romance writer, do solemnly swear to provide characters a happily ever after (hereinafter “HEA”) so that you, romance reader, can willingly endure the torment you are about to experience with said characters.”

What exactly does an HEA entail? Does it require a wedding and babies and a glimpse into the future for it to be truly satisfying? Or is a declaration of love, and resolution of the conflict, good enough?

The answer is different for everyone, of course, but I want plenty of evidence of a strong commitment between the hero and heroine. I don't want to find out later a rose was given just to ensure a wild erotic night in the fantasy suite. To me, that constitutes a serious breach of the romance genre contract.

[No loopholes allowed!...]

Mon
Mar 21 2011 12:00pm

Make ’Em Laugh!: Heroes with Humor

Nathan Fillion as Captain HammerA hero who brandishes his well-developed sense of humor makes me swoon more often than the one with bulging biceps. Any hero worth a swoon, in fact, knows that humor is disarming.

When characters laugh together, for a moment they see eye-to-eye about something (even if only for a moment!), and they forget about the conflict and tension that usually defines their relationship.

What really makes me weak-kneed is when a hero utilizes humor to deflect the uneasiness brought on by newfound emotions. In Starr Ambrose’s Thieves Like Us, the hero Rocky jokes with his friend about his interest in the heroine being strictly physical, telling himself afterwards:

Crude guy humor was safer than admitting the truth, that he might just want something more with this woman.

[Whatever helps you sleep at night . . .]