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Sep 16 2015 4:30pm

First Look: Kate Meader’s Playing With Fire (September 29, 2015)

Kate Meader
Playing With Fire (Hot in Chicago #3)
Pocket Books / September 29, 2015 / $6.99 digital

From popular romance author Kate Meader comes the second novel in Hot in Chicago, a brand-new, sizzling series that follows a group of firefighting foster siblings and their blazing hot love interests!

As the only female firefighter at Engine Co. 6, Alexandra Dempsey gets it from all sides: the male coworkers who think she can’t do the job, the wives and girlfriends who see her as a threat to their firefighter men, and her overprotective foster brothers who want to shelter their baby sister at all costs. So when she single-handedly saves the life of Eli Cooper, Chicago’s devastatingly handsome mayor, she assumes the respect she’s longed for will finally come her way. But it seems Mr. Mayor has other ideas…

Eli Cooper’s mayoral ratings are plummeting, his chances at reelection dead in the water. When a sexy, curvaceous firefighter gives him the kiss of life, she does more than bring him back to the land of the living—she also breathes vitality into his campaign. Riding the wave of their feel-good story might prop up Eli’s flagging political fortunes, but the sizzling attraction between them can go nowhere; he’s her boss, and there are rules that must be obeyed. But you know what they say about rules: they’re made to be broken…

I try to use the same philosophy my husband has with wines when choosing romances: don’t just go for the pretty label. I mean, if the sexy men on the covers would hand-deliver the books to me that would be a different story. But Kate Meader’s new contemporary romance, Playing with Fire, has a cover that piqued my interest. My little town in North Carolina might be Money Magazine’s #1 Place to Live in America, but we don’t have any female firefighters. I was curious to know if this second story in Meader’s Hot in Chicago series was just as forward-thinking as the cover suggests.

[There's nothing like a hot man who knows how to tame fire ...]

Aug 25 2015 11:00am

Hidden Gems from Old Favorites like Crusie, Donovan, and More!

Knock Me Off My Feet by Susan Donovan

The world is full of terrifying, gruesome, depressing headlines … often. It’s one of the reasons I love the romance genre. Of course there’s the romance and the sexy time, and the hot alpha heroes, but mostly it’s the potential—the hope—for a happy ending. Hope fixes a lot of things. Hope keeps you going.

My go-to subgenre is romantic suspense, but I also love contemporary romances. On a broad scale, contemporary means, “existing, occurring or living at the same time; belonging to the same time.” When referencing art, contemporary art is “art made and produced by artists living today … [who] work in and respond to a global environment that is culturally diverse, technologically advancing, and multifaceted.” And when referencing contemporary romance, we’re talking about “novels that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship.” Great contemporary romances reflect this time in which we live.

There’s a lot of leeway in the genre, and probably as many great contemporary romance authors as there are stars in the sky. Here are a handful of my favorite contemporaries, with a couple suggestions for you to check out on your own.

[Can't go wrong with contemporary romance...]

Jun 2 2015 6:00pm

First Look: Katie Reus’s Shattered Duty (June 2, 2015)

Shattered Duty by Katie Reus

Katie Reus
Shattered Duty (Deadly-Ops #3)
Signet / June 2, 2015 / $7.99 print & digital

A new novel from the author of Bound to Danger who “has the amazing ability of pulling the reader onto the front lines of the action and drama.” (The Reading Café)

When his wife was murdered two years ago, Special Agent Levi Lazaro turned his back on everything he cared about. Ever since, he has thought of nothing but vengeance. Now he's finally uncovered the identities of those who killed his wife—and he's ready to destroy them at any cost. He won’t let anything stand in his way—not even a beautiful NSA agent on a mission of her own.

Special Agent Selene Wolfe prides herself on being the best. Her fearlessness and quick-thinking make her the perfect person to take down a deadly terrorist cell. But she needs Levi’s help, and the moment he shows up, Selene knows her objectivity—and her heart—are in trouble.

As the two strike an uneasy alliance, Levi finds himself tormented by his desire for Selene—a feeling he thought long dead. But when their mission takes an unexpected turn, he finds himself at a crossroads. Can he put aside his need for revenge to save the woman who’s reawakened his soul?

I love a tale of retribution and angst and vengeance … particularly when it’s all wrapped up in a sexy romantic thriller with a hopeful ending. Katie Reus has it down to a science, and her latest installment in the Deadly Ops series, Shattered Duty,is sure to make your heart race.

[Let's get the adrenaline pumping then!]

May 13 2015 4:30pm

Sex (and Suspense) with the Ex in Susanne Matthews’ White Carnation

The White Carnation by Susanne Matthews

Once upon a blogpost, I asked readers if they’d ever seen Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk to Dawn… an unexpected vampire tale. But I can also ask if you’ve ever read Catherine Coulter’s classic romantic suspense, The Edge. It’s also got a fantastic unexpected plot twist. If you like either of those, then Susanne MatthewsThe White Carnation will be like catnip.

I love any story that has an investigative journalist as a key character. And an investigative journalist who’s been demoted because of scandalous happenings? Ohmigod, count me in. Faye Lewis is foundering in the society pages of the Boston Examiner, despondent as her IQ plunges with every story she writes about dog-show judges and their patrons.

Until eighteen months ago, Faye’s life was all smooth sailing. She was a top-notch investigative journalist with a great newspaper, with a sharp mind and killer instincts. Engaged to the handsome detective Rob Halliday, who met her after she’d been stabbed while covering a story. Theirs had been a combustible introduction that had burned bright and hot … and ultimately out.

Out of the blue one day, she gets a call from her best friend’s mother with an urgent request to visit: “I wouldn’t bother you, but I can’t think of anyone else who could help me.”

And we all know how that goes … DON’T GO! But Faye’s able to work in a trip to Lucy’s apartment on her way home from covering a society assignment. Her biggest cheerleader at the Boston Examiner is Jimmy, a young photographer.

He’d been her shadow for almost a year until the debacle that cost her a spot on the crime beat. Now, he joined her as often as he could, but there really wasn’t anything too exciting in the world of dog shows or debutantes.

[Will her old flame be able to help her out of a deadly situation?]

May 11 2015 4:30pm

Love in Action in P.A. DePaul’s Shadow of Doubt

Shadow of Doubt by P.A. DePaulIf you love a fast-paced romantic suspense series, then man, does P.A. DePaul have one for you. Shadow of Doubt is the second in her Sweet Briar Group series about a group of assassins for hire, and once the action starts, it keeps on going.

The story opens with a flashback to when Michelle Alger was on a college research trip in Columbia, South America.

She counted her blessings every day at the opportunity of being an exchange student from the University of California for a semester. To study the ecosystem of the Amazon directly was a dream come true.

Only, paradise isn’t so dreamy when you’re running for your life in the middle of the jungle and a drug cartel is chasing you. As Michelle’s small research group moved deeper into the jungle, transferring from the relative ease of ATV travel to hiking through thicker underbrush, they scattered when a terrifying group of cartel thugs appeared out of the jungle, chasing them across an old wood-and-rope bridge spanning the space between two rock cliffs. Michelle was last to make her way onto the bridge—and the only one kidnapped by the cartel.

Fortunately for Michelle, a team of Green Berets was already in the jungle to stage a raid on the Osvaldo cartel. Captain Jeremy Malone was preparing the final briefing for the assembled SEAL, DEA, ATF and other government entities when he learned the Osvaldo cartel had branched out into kidnapping. The fact that they’d already had an American woman in captivity for two days, Jeremy (“Cappy”) moved quickly to try and save Michelle. Though Cappy saved her life, her brutal imprisonment and deadly liberation changed them both irrevocably.

[But led them to each other...]

Mar 27 2015 2:00pm

First Look: Cynthia Eden’s Broken (March 31, 2015)

Broken by Cynthia EdenCynthia Eden
Broken (LOST Series #1)
HarperCollins / March 31, 2015 / $7.99 print, $4.99 digital

Ex-SEAL and LOST founder Gabe Spencer is accustomed to the unusual in his job. But when knockout Eve Gray steps into his office, he's rattled. For the mysterious woman is a dead ringer for the heiress thought to be the latest prey of the serial killer who goes by the name Lady Killer.

When Eve awoke in an Atlanta hospital, her past was a blank slate. Then she recognized her own face in the newspaper and vowed to learn the truth. Determined to confront the nightmares hidden in her mind, she never expects to find a partner in Gabe.

As Gabe and Eve work together, their explosive attraction becomes irresistible. Gabe knows that his desire for Eve is growing too strong, bordering on a dangerous obsession, but nothing pulls him away from her. And when another Eve lookalike disappears, Gabe vows to protect Eve at all costs. While Eve may have forgotten the killer in her past, it's clear he hasn't forgotten her.

I feel a real affinity with the heroine in Cynthia Eden’s new romantic suspense, Broken. Eve Gray is mysterious and beautiful, vulnerable yet strong … and most importantly, in the wake of escaping a brutal attempt on her life by a serial killer, she is NOT broken.

Broken has set the stage for what promises to be one kickass series. Straight out of the chute this book made my heart race.

[Will there be twists in this series?...]

Mar 26 2015 3:15pm

First Look: Rebecca Zanetti’s Total Surrender (March 31, 2015)

Total Surrender by Rebecca ZanettiRebecca Zanetti
Total Surrender
Forever / March 31, 2015 / $8.00 print, $2.99 digital

A fight he must win . . .

Piper Oliver knows she can't trust him. They warned her that the tall, dark, and sexy black-ops soldier Jory Dean would try to win her over with his steel-gray eyes and deadly charm, but she won't be conned by this man they call a traitor. All she has to do is figure out the science necessary to save his life, and she's done. Something isn't adding up, though, and she won't rest until she uncovers the truth-even if it's buried in his deep, dangerous kiss.

A passion she can't resist . . .

Jory will do anything to reunite with and save his brothers-even kidnap the gorgeous woman who's working to deactivate the deadly chip in their spines. But the forces determined to destroy his family won't let them go so easily. Keeping Piper alive is more than he bargained for—and so is his burning desire for her. But with every second bringing him closer to certain death, can he afford to lose himself in her hot and willing embrace?

Did you ever see the Kurt Russell movie, Soldier? I’m a longtime fan of Russell, harkening back to his Snake Plissken days. I think that’s why I love Rebecca Zanetti’s Sin Brothers series about a trio of hot soldier brothers with enhanced abilities. Here are three men who have never known softness or love or compassion from the laboratory where they’ve been reared or the commander who’s overseen their lives. Yet they have created their own family, forged by blood and sweat and tears…and have allowed their nature to trump the nurture they never received.

The boys don’t know who their mother is: “Who cares? We paid for eggs from extraordinary genetic pools, and those women never wanted the ensuing children.”

[Which brings us to Jory Dean and Total Surrender...]

Jan 21 2015 2:00pm

First Look: HelenKay Dimon’s Playing Dirty (January 27, 2015)

Playing Dirty by HelenKay DimonHelenKay Dimon
Playing Dirty (Bad Boys Undercover)
Avon / January 27, 2015 / $7.99 print, $4.99 digital

As an elite Alliance agent—the joint undercover operation of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, and the CIA—Ford Decker lives for the adrenaline. But when he befriends sexy property manager Shay Alexander in hopes of finding her cousin, a known national security threat, Ford crosses the line, getting to know her better . . . in bed.

After being burned by her last relationship, Shay wants to take things slow. Yet she can't keep her hands off the drop-dead gorgeous hottie who's moved into her apartment building. So when Ford's identity as an undercover agent is exposed, his betrayal cuts deep. Shay never wants to see him again, but Ford can't let her go, not when her life is still in danger. He will sacrifice everything to protect her, then be prepared to walk away from the only woman he's ever loved, even if it breaks him.

My mother retired from General Motors after 31 years, and when I started working in the marketing department of an international telecommunications company, she was constantly floored with the flexibility I had. During the heyday of telecom, before the dot-com bust around 2000, my Canada-based company spent millions of dollars on product demos and rollouts without blinking. I had to be available 80% of the time, which meant I worked about five hours to cover eastern to pacific time zones, and then a couple more hours in the middle of the night to pick up project teams in Europe and Asia Pacific. It took me YEARS to break the habit of being hyper-productive in the middle of the night. My mother couldn’t even fathom how I considered it a “traditional” workday (because her workday looked like the administrative staff in Mad Men).

[Work hard, play hard—and play dirty!]

Jan 6 2015 10:30am

First Look: Catherine Anderson’s Silver Thaw (January 6, 2015)

Silver Thaw by Catherine AndersonCatherine Anderson
Silver Thaw (Mystic Creek)
Signet / January 6, 2015 / $7.99 print, digital

After years of living in fear of her husband, Amanda Banning has left him and moved to Mystic Creek, Oregon, for a fresh start. But she’s having a tough time providing for herself and her six-year-old daughter. Writing her secret yearnings on slips of paper and sending them into the wind helps her cling to the hope that things will get better…and that she can find happiness again.

Jeb Sterling has no idea that the handwritten messages he finds scattered across his land are the first hints that his life is about to change. Nor does he understand why he feels so compelled to help Amanda Banning and her daughter when a cold snap leaves them temporarily homeless. Maybe he’s inspired by Amanda’s courage or perhaps by her beautiful brown eyes. Either way, the man who once renounced love suddenly finds himself willing to do anything for the pair. Amanda seems to have given up on her dreams, but Jeb refuses to quit until he makes her every wish come true.…

I spent most of the fall in a hurry. Regardless of where I was going or what I was doing, it was always fast and five minutes too late. Could be why I was so focused on working my way through a handful of romantic suspense novellas. They were right up my alley: exciting, romantic, sexy … and fast. But I slowed down a bit over the holidays, with family in town and my son on a two-week break, and took advantage of the slower pace to enjoy Catherine Anderson’s new contemporary romance, Silver Thaw. It’s the restful Aaron Copeland to my typical restive Dave Brubeck.   

[That's sounds peaceful...]

Nov 20 2014 5:30pm

First Look: Eva Siedler’s Las Vegas Layover (November 25, 2014)

Las Vegas Layover by Eva Siedler Eva Siedler
Las Vegas Layover
Samhain / November 25, 2014 / $3.50 digital

One night in Vegas could be their ticket to love.

Coastal Airlines mechanic Sebastian Brisbane is on his way to Las Vegas to fix a broken jet. But after one look at his sexy, travel-sized seatmate, he’s more concerned with revving her engine than fixing the plane’s.

Clara Howe will do anything to fulfill her aunt’s last wishes to have her ashes spread in Vegas. A one-night stand isn’t on the itinerary, but when Clara accidentally pricks Sebastian’s temper, along with his passion, only one thing is certain: It’s bound to be a bumpy ride.

My husband, son, and I are great outdoor enthusiasts. We love to travel, and choose new locales based on the kind of “adventuring” we’ll get to experience. Arizona is great for hiking, from Sedona to the Grand Canyon. Belize offers extraordinary snorkeling and free diving, and beautiful hiking through the lush tropical rainforests. But despite the bounty Mother Nature has to offer, I still find myself fascinated with Las Vegas. My husband went for business last year and hated it. Thought it was over-crowded, over-priced, over-smokey...over-hyped. I don’t care. I want to go to a casino and gamble; I want to go to a dancing show at the Tropicana, where the girls are topless and wear 200-pound headpieces. Hell, I want to get married by Elvis at a quickie roadside chapel. I think that’s why I enjoyed Eva Siedler’s contemporary romance novella, Las Vegas Layover, so much.

[A good gamble, then!]

Sep 26 2014 3:00pm

First Look: Shiloh Walker’s Sweeter than Sin (September 30, 2014)

Shiloh Walker
Sweeter than Sin (Secrets and Shadows)
St. Martin's Press / September 30, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital

It took years for Adam to stop drowning his regrets in alcohol, and running the local bar doesn’t make it any easier—especially not when everyone he knows gathers there to discuss the shocking allegations that have shattered his hometown. When another murder rocks sleepy Madison to its core, it becomes chillingly clear that even more vicious wounds are waiting to be exposed.

Nothing is sacred anymore, and no one is safe, least of all the mystery woman who shows up in town out of the blue, looking like every fantasy Adam’s ever had. She may have her own dangerous secrets, but she can’t ignore the urgent heat between them any more than he can. As a killer’s quest for vengeance explodes into violence, Adam is tempted to lose himself in the delicious promise of her body—until he realizes he’ll risk anything if she’ll give him her heart…

The second installment of Shiloh Walker’s Secrets and Shadows series, Sweeter than Sin, makes you ponder if the choices we make as teenagers—the experiences we have as a child—carve the paths of our lives.

[Where does the path lead?]

Sep 25 2014 4:30pm

First Look: Katie Porter’s Snap (September 30, 2014)

Snap by Katie PorterKatie Porter
Snap (Command Force Alpha)
Samhain / September 30, 2014 / $5.50 digital

Captain Laurence Madigan is an anomaly—a levelheaded risk taker who learned the dark side of life in Manchester’s slums. He needed those skills to survive fourteen months as a prisoner of Firebird, a shadowy Russian cartel.

When rescued, he receives less than a hero’s welcome. He’s considered a wild card—or even a double agent. After enduring agony and degradation for Command Force Alpha, he’s determined to clear his name and bring Firebird down…even if it means escaping CFA’s London facility with a very personal hostage.

Oxford-educated psychologist Gemma Calloway should fight her abductor tooth and claw, but loyalty to her old friend wins out. Isolated in a rustic hideaway, she tends his wounds and can’t help staring at his scars and prison tattoos.

Their impromptu safe house becomes a haven of uneasy trust and potent, gathering desires. As they sort present dangers from past affection, Gemma realizes she’s in over her head…and up to her heart with longing for a good man whose last reason for living could be revenge.

My husband has always warned against buying a bottle of wine because the label is pretty, and I’ve learned the hard way to apply that same logic to romance novels—quite often, the story does not match the sexy man on the cover. Katie Porter’s Snap, is the textbook example of not judging the book by its cover. The sexy red stilettos with handcuffs clipped to the heel fall short at the robust military romance inside. It’s like renting a little Vespa, driving into a tunnel, and coming out on a roaring beast of a Harley Davidson and leaving the Sons of Anarchy in your dust.

[You're revving us up!]

Sep 15 2014 9:30am

First Look: Anne Calhoun’s Afternoon Delight (September 16, 2014)

Afternoon Delight by Anne CalhounAnne Calhoun
Afternoon Delight
InterMix / September 16, 2014 / $3.99 digital

Sarah McCall, food truck co-owner and recent Manhattan transplant, savors each moment of her new job—whether it’s refining the truck's menu, learning the city, or spending afternoons in bed with the hot paramedic who's fast becoming her favorite customer.

Tim Cannon spends his days sprinting from one emergency to the next. He eats like he works—at top speed—somewhere along the line he lost his ability to enjoy life's simple pleasures. Hooking up with Sarah is just another way to cope with the stress of his job, until their afternoon trysts coax Tim into enjoying everything he's avoided. Can Tim learn to balance his job saving lives with the everyday delights that make life worth living? If anyone can teach him, it’s Sarah….

As a general rule, I’m a Black Keys, White Stripes, rock'n'roll kind of woman. But I found myself grinning ridiculously and humming the Starlight Vocal Band’s perennial favorite, “Afternoon Delight,” while reading Anne Calhoun’s enjoyable novella of the same title.

[Sky rockets in flight!]

Jul 1 2014 1:00pm

First Look: Kara Braden’s The Longest Night (July 1, 2014)

The Longest Night by Kara BradenKara Braden
The Longest Night
Sourcebooks / July 1, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital

Years ago, former Marine Captain Cecily Knight fled her dark past and the nightmares forever haunting her nights. Alone in the remote Canadian wilderness, she survives day to day...until Ian Fairchild comes storming into her life and shatters her protective seclusion.

Aloof but intriguing, defensive but undeniable, Ian is everything Cecily shouldn't want but can't ignore. He watches her with shrewd blue eyes, as if determined to decipher her secrets...and for the first time in years, she finds herself coming alive beneath the hands of a man with too many scars to count.

Here in North Carolina, we have our fair share of deployed soldiers. Between Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point, we represent all branches of the service and are proud to be one of the sources of the Army’s Special Forces (the Green Berets). In the last ten years, troops from North Carolina (active duty and reserves) have refreshed the battle arenas of the Middle East at a high rate. It’s been interesting to follow along with the news and witness the changes occurring in the military—most notably, female soldiers who continue to be closer to the front lines. These women are often categorized differently than their male counterparts, but experience many of the same traumas while deployed.

[Equal opportunity trauma.]

Jun 28 2014 2:00pm

First Look: Stephanie Tyler’s Vipers Run (July 1, 2014)

Vipers Run by Stephanie Tyler

Stephanie Tyler
Vipers Run
Signet / July 1, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital

Former Army Ranger Christian Cage Owens joined the Vipers Motorcycle Club for its sense of brotherhood. In return, he pledged to live outside the law, protecting club members and their families, as well as keeping other MCs out of Skulls Creek. But when Cage discovers that a rival MC—one Cage has an all too familiar past with—plans to push meth into his town, he calls an old Army buddy turned private investigator who’s helped the Vipers in the past. By doing so, Cage endangers both his friend and Calla Benson, a woman who works in the PI’s office. Now he’s made it his mission to track Calla down and do whatever it takes to protect her.

Thanks to the phone call with Cage, Calla knows she’s formed a deep connection to a dangerous man. She quickly discovers that although he may live by a different set of rules, Cage is an honorable man who wants to be more than her protector—if only she can accept his dangerous lifestyle. But Calla comes to Skulls Creek with her own set of secrets…secrets that threaten to tear her and Cage—and the Vipers MC—apart. As they put their newfound love to the ultimate test, Cage will risk everything he cares about to save her.

I’m fascinated by this “joiner culture,” for lack of a better term. I was never a joiner. No sororities, no PTA, no motorcycle club. I’m an only child who has an only child. I joined the Romance Writers of America when I started getting serious about publishing, and my husband and I played many seasons on an over-25 co-ed soccer team—but otherwise, nada.

[Join us!]

May 29 2014 2:00pm

First Look: Kimberly Kincaid’s Gimme Some Sugar (June 3, 2014)

Kimberly Kincaid
Gimme Some Sugar (A Pine Mountain Novel)
Kensington / June 3, 2014 / $6.99 print, $5.99 digital

Desperate to escape the spotlight of her failed marriage to a fellow celebrity-chef, Carly di Matisse left New York City for a tiny town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The restaurant she's running these days may not be chic, but in Pine Mountain she can pretend to be the tough cookie everybody knows and loves. Until she finds herself spending too much time with a way-too-hot contractor whose rugged good looks melt her like butter...

Jackson Carter wasn't looking for love. But he's not the kind of man to walk away from a worksite—or from a fiery beauty whose passionate nature provides some irresistible on-the-job benefits...

It's the perfect temporary arrangement for two ravenous commitment-phobes—except that Jackson and Carly keep coming back for seconds...and thirds...and fourths...

My favorite subgenres in the romance world are suspense and contemporary. Whereas the racing heart in romantic suspense tends to come in the form of hulking, brooding Navy SEALs and terrorists kidnapping an ambassador’s daughter-turned-chemist bent on saving the world, I find that the ordinariness of a great contemporary hero can also make the heart go pitter-patter. Take, for example, Jackson Carter, carpenter extraordinaire and head hottie in the second book in Kimberly Kincaid’s Pine Mountain series, Gimme Some Sugar. Hellooooo tool belt.

[Who doesn't love a man good with his hands?...]

Mar 10 2014 4:30pm

First Look: Susan Meier’s Her Summer with the Marine (March 10, 2014)

Her Summer with the Marine by Susan Meier

Susan Meier
Her Summer with the Marine (A Donovan Brothers Novel)
Entangled Bliss / March 10, 2014 / $.99 digital

The last person Ellie McDermott wanted to run into after returning to her hometown is Finn Donovan, her high school nemesis and the guy she crossed the line from enemies to lovers with one night years ago. Now ex-military, tattooed, and still sexy as hell, Finn is a complication Ellie doesn’t need—she needs to concentrate on saving her family business.

Finn’s entire life, Ellie was there, going head-to-head with him in every class, bee, and test. So it’s no surprise she’d show up just as he was about to take over her father's struggling business. It is a surprise, though, that his attraction to her is even more explosive than it had been. Acting on their attraction is one thing, but Finn has to turn a profit to save his own family, and nothing—not even love—will get in his way.

Benjamin Franklin once said “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Half of that concept is important in Susan Meier’s new contemporary romance, Her Summer with the Marine.

[Ben Franklin—secret romance fan?...]

Feb 26 2014 3:00pm

First Look: Kimberly Kincaid’s Turn Up the Heat (March 4, 2014)

Turn Up the Heat by Kimberly Kincaid

Kimberly Kincaid
Turn Up the Heat
Zebra / March 4, 2014 / $6.99 print / $5.99 digital

“It's not you.”

There are only so many times a girl can hear those words before she believes that it is, in fact, very much her. Unexpectedly jilted by her locally famous boyfriend and haunted by a boss who makes Attila the Hun look like a lap dog, Bellamy Blake does what any self-respecting girl in her shoes would do. She rounds up her two best girlfriends and makes plans to get the hell out of Dodge. . .

But Bellamy's escape plan takes a nose dive on the side of rural route 164 when her transmission self-destructs, leaving her in the middle of a cell phone dead zone with nothing but her wits. Oh, and Shane Griffin, the hottest mechanic who's ever checked under her hood.

Yet this small-town man isn't all he seems. Can Shane and Bellamy prove that sometimes the most unlikely ingredients make the most deliciously sexy mix?

If I had to describe Kimberly Kincaid’s contemporary romance, Turn Up the Heat, it would be: charming. Seriously, I smiled the whole time I read this story.

We are introduced to Bellamy Blake, a “real estate analyst for the second largest bank in Philadelphia” with a boss who “made Attila the Hun look like a lap dog.” And she’s having an epic bad week. First, she and her boyfriend break up … after she learns about his big move while he’s on the air (he’s a local anchorman).

[There are several Will Ferrell quotes that we're stifling right now...]

Feb 20 2014 12:00pm

Seducing, One Punch at a Time: Gina L. Maxwell’s Fighting for Love Series

Seducing Cinderella by Gina MaxwellI was born to have a boy.

When I was pregnant sixteen years ago I thought, “I hope I have a girl,” because I’d been a girl for 25 years. How did I know what to do with a boy? But when our son was born, I looked into his sweet little face and fell head-over-heels in love with him. And knew, with the clarity of a lightning bolt to the head, that I was born to have a boy. Over the years I’ve watched our friends with daughters and secretly sighed for the relatively drama-free, gonad-toting child of mine. Some might say it’s an abomination of my feminist outlook; I say it’s divine providence.

Perhaps that’s why I connect with romantic heroes a little easier than heroines on occasion. Take, for example, Gina Maxwell’s Fighting for Love series. It’s a rare series that is connected by the lives of the men AND the women, but here we’ve got two sets of siblings and three MMA fighters to keep it all in the family.

In the majority of romance, it’s the heroes who are flawed. I don’t know if it’s because romance is predominately written and read by women, or if men are inherently less complex in their emotions and more transparent to write, but the men are usually the half of the couple unwilling (or unable) to commit. But Maxwell has written a series that has, so far, managed to have remarkably flawed women. It’s a little hard to read, these whiny, guarded, high-maintenance, neurotic women. I like strong personalities—in men and women—that shoot from the hip, in life and in fiction, so I found myself siding with Maxwell’s guys. That’s the sign of a great writer, I think!

I read the first story in the series, Seducing Cinderella, last fall. But it wasn’t until I read all three back-to-back when I realized that Maxwell writes a fabulous alpha hero. These men are far from meat-headed fighting lugs; they are lush, layered, compelling, men brave enough to stick with women who attract them like fireflies to flame. Who knows if they’re just gluttons for punishment, or just remarkable enough to let the surface gruffness mellow over time; these men are worth your time. They love the women in their lives with abandon, and are happy to take the first step toward a happy future. Don’t you just love this genre?

[What's not to love...]

Feb 7 2014 4:43pm

First Look: Elle Kennedy’s As Hot As It Gets (February 11, 2014)

As Hot As It Gets by Elle KennedyElle Kennedy
As Hot As It Gets (Out of Uniform)
Samhain / February 11, 2014 / $5.50 digital

After watching his teammates settle down one by one, Navy SEAL Jackson Ramsey is ready to say goodbye to the single life. He’s even met a woman who intrigues him, challenges him, and turns him right on—Mia Weldrick, the funny and beautiful gardener he can’t wait to get to know better.

Except Mia isn’t interested in dating him, which means it’s time for Jackson to unleash his Texas charm and do some serious wooing.

With a teenage brother to raise, two jobs, and, frankly, a complete disinterest in sex, Mia has no room in her busy life for a six-foot-five SEAL with a naughty streak a mile wide. But one hot kiss from Jackson has her imagining all the dirty ways she could fit him in.

It isn’t long before their no-string fling transforms into something more. As desire unearths emotions and deeply buried secrets, Mia has to decide whether to give love a chance to grow, or let it slip it away.

Aside from a few years when my mom and I lived in Germany while my dad fought in the final vestiges of the Vietnam War, I’ve lived in the South, and I can attest to the hotness of our fellas. Could be it’s one of the reasons I really enjoyed Elle Kennedy’s latest installation of her Out of Uniform series, As Hot As It Gets.

[Bring on the hotness...]