The Rogue Not Taken is HERE!

You guys! It's here! It's finally finally here! The Rogue Not Taken is out today and I am so excited to introduce Sophie and King to you! 

I've said before that the book is my homage to many things: Romancing the Stone (or any enemies-to-lovers story); roadtrip romances; men who don't know what's hit them; women who want more than what they *should* want; gossip magazines; the Knowles sisters, the Kardashian sisters, and the Middleton sisters; hedge-mazes; handsome doctors; and heroes who end up on their knees for love.   

I cannot wait for you to read it and tell me what *you* see in it! 

To celebrate the launch of the Scandal & Scoundrel series, which (as it progresses) will have a few interesting connections to my earlier books, I'm giving away a signed set of all my previous romances--the three books from Love by Numbers and the four books from The Rules of Scoundrels series. Apologies, but due to shipping costs, this giveaway is US only. 

YAY! So...TO WIN...comment below and tell me which of my books is your favorite (or which one you're most intrigued by!)! Winners will be chosen at random next Tuesday!

If you haven't already, I hope you'll consider ordering a *signed* copy of Sophie & King's story, which comes with very cool goodies, from my local indie bookstore, WORD (they ship worldwide). Or order from AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksBooks-a-Million, or your local indie

Thanks, as always, for reading -- and for sharing your thoughts on Twitter & Facebook and your reviews on Amazon and other places. I'm always so floored by your generosity. 

Now, I'm heading back to my writing cave to work on the next book in Scandal & Scoundrel, A Scot in the Dark!  

 

 

The Rogue Not Taken is Nearly Here!

I'm so so thrilled to finally tell you all about The Rogue Not Taken

This book is the first in my Scandal & Scoundrel series, which is a spinoff from my Rules of Scoundrels series -- close readers will see all sorts of little references to characters from my prior books...with more to come as the series progresses.  

Here are a few fun things that I can share with you without spoiling it!

1) This is a road trip romance...an homage to the big old-school romances that we all loved so much. You know the ones--the old Julie Garwood Scottish Medievals with the handsome brutes who are sent to England to fetch a winsome beauty to bring her back to Scotland to marry another handsome brute? But the fetcher is the most...well...fetching? *sigh* 

In honor of those wonderful old road trip romances, I asked mapmaker Amy Solomon to design a map of the journey that King and Sophie take together -- all the way to the Scottish Border. Here's the map, which I think turned out beautifully. Click to make it larger and have a look at my annotations -- a little taste of each of the locations. 

I love everything about this map -- so much so that all preorders from my local independent bookstore, WORD, will come with a reproduction of it (without the annotations, of course), along with signed copies and artisanal honey (which will make sense when you read the book). 

2) Road trip romances make for delightfully rompy circumstances and even more delightfully close quarters -- even better if they include a classic I-hate-you-I-hate-you-oh-wait-no-I-don't-oh-no-I-love-you set up (one of my very favorites), which this does. Essentially, what came to pass was what I like to call "Romancing the Stone in the Regency."

Romancing the Stone with fewer crocodiles and more Kardashians, but a very similar obsession with shoes.

3) You read that right. When I conceived of the series, I wanted to take today's celebrity gossip and reframe it during a time that was equally obsessed with scandal--the 1830s. I wanted put an historical twist on US Weekly. Sophie is the youngest, least interesting sister of a family of sisters all named with S, who are famous in the ton for...well...being famous. Suffice to say, they should be Kept Up with. The book begins with a Met Gala-style bash, China-themed, and a disastrous encounter between Sophie and her brother-in-law, that will echo an elevator incident from a few years ago. 

If it all sounds too modern, I would point you in the direction of the scandal sheets of the 1800s, which I happily researched at The British Library (where I'm headed in the Spring to find more fodder for my future books). Hollywood Royalty and US Weekly? Forget it. They have nothing on the 19th Century Aristocracy and the media that obsessively tracked it

All that, and it was a ton of fun to write

If you haven't already, I hope you will consider preordering The Rogue Not Taken--it will be released on December 29th, and it might be the perfect addition to your New Year's Day sloth (or am I the only one who has New Year's Day sloth?). You can preorder it wherever books are sold, including AmazonBarnes & Noble, iBooksBooks-a-Million, or through your local Independent Bookseller.  As I mentioned, if you order through my local indie, WORD in Brooklyn, you will received a signed & personalized copy of the book and a special gift (if you order before 12/15, you even get something special from me for any Christmas stockings you might be stuffing). 

You Deserve a Bookish Weekend

FYI! There's an awesome giveaway below! 

Being an author means I get to do some pretty cool stuff now and then, and next month (in just over 3 weeks!) I am dong something very pretty cool. I'll be participating in a two-day reader conference in New York City sponsored by the lovely people at BookRiot.com.

BookRiot LIVE will be held November 7th & 8th in New York City, and will be filled with remarkable, remarkable people... from Laurie Halse Anderson and Jason Reynolds to Alexander Chee and Margaret Atwood (!!!!) ... and the best part? This is going to be a tremendously fun, not at all snooty conference -- there are going to be SO MANY great romance voices there! Beverly Jenkins, Alisha Rai, Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books, and me! 

It's going to be so fun, you guys. I'll be talking with Bev, poet Jill McDonough & William Johnson (editor of LAMBDA Literary Review) about writing relationships, playing a rousing game of Slash with Sarah and the amazing Alexander Chee, and guest-hosting an all-romance episode of the Get Booked! podcast with brilliant Amanda Nelson from BookRiot (speaking of, if you have romance-related recommendation questions, send them to Amanda at getbooked@bookriot.com, and we'll happily answer them!). All this, and MARGARET ATWOOD. I'm so so excited. 

You should come. I so firmly believe that, that I'm willing to buy one lucky winner a pass to this awesomeness! Here's the deal -- if you can get yourself to New York on November 7th & 8th (or maybe you live here already?), please comment below and tell me what you're most excited about seeing as part of BookRiot LIVE, and be entered to win a free two-day pass to the event!

I'll choose one winner randomly (don't forget to include your email address!) and happily pay for your two-day pass to BookRiot Live! Please don't enter if you don't think that you can be in New York City that weekend (travel and lodging are NOT included in this giveaway -- it's ONLY the ticket to BookRiot itself). But maybe you've got a friend here who you've been dying to visit? Or maybe you live here already?

Anyway -- I hope to see you there!  

(Prize includes a two-day pass to 2015 BookRiot LIVE, November 7-8, 2015 in New York City. Travel, lodging and incidental expenses not included. Entrants must be 18 or older. Younger entrants should have a parent or guardian enter for them. Giveaway ends October 23, 2016)

Romances with Jewish Main Characters

A few weeks ago, as the romance internet discussed a deeply problematic book in the genre (I encourage you to read more about that at Katherine Locke's tumblr), I realized that I was able to name more romances with were-bear heroes than I was able to name romances with Jewish main characters. Luckily, Twitter was there to fill the gap in my romance knowledge. I didn't want those recommendations to disappear into the Twitterverse, so I culled them into a reading list for myself--and for you, if you'd like it! Here are the recommendations that Twitter provided, in no particular order. Full disclosure: I haven’t read many of these, but I’m working on it! What other books must not be missed? 

Historical:
KJ Charles, Think of England (m/m)
Rose Lerner, True Pretenses 
Liz Carlyle, Never Deceive a Duke 
Hope Tarr, Tempting 
Eva Ibbotson, The Morning Gift (WWII)
Carola Dunn, Miss Jacobson’s Journey
Nita Abrams’s The Spy's Kiss
Alyssa Cole's 'Let it Shine,' a romance short in The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology

Contemporary
Lora Leigh, Maverick 
Deirdre Martin, Chasing Stanley 
Sarina Bowen, Blonde Date (new adult/novella)
Allison Parr, Imaginary Lines (new adult)
Yeal Levy, Starstruck (2 love stories in one book)
Peggy Bird, Lights, Love & Latkes (novella)
Megan Hart, Naked (and more) (erotica)
AJ Pine, If Only (new adult)
“All of Susan Isaacs’s books” 
Astrid Amara, Miracle of the Bellskis (m/m)
Sarah Wendell, Lighting the Flames 
Tiffany Reisz, The Siren (erotica)

Other
Gini Koch’s Alien Series (sci-fi/romance series)
Simone Elkeles’s How to Ruin series (YA)
Heather Rose Jones, License to Ensorcel (urban fantasy)

Also, check out these awesome lists at Goodreads, Heroes & Heartbreakers & Smart Bitches Trashy Books (thanks to Rose Lerner for the heads up!). 

Four Thoughts on Writing

norawriting

Throughout June I offered weekly writing advice through the Romance Writers of America newsletter, The End: Writing Wisdom. I'm not entirely certain that it was "wisdom" per se, but I was happy to share four ideas that I keep in mind as I work. While the newsletter was only available to RWA subscribers, I'm happy to share those four ideas here, for anyone to find. 

I have all of these thoughts on post-it-notes on my office wall, just to remind myself of them. Every page. All the time. And I still blow it a lot more than I get it right on any given day. So, keep writing. That's the best advice anyone could ever give you. Don't believe me? Listen to Nora.  

Here they are, my far less profound thoughts:

Torture Builds Character.

We've all heard it: if you're bored writing, the reader will likely be bored reading. While I don't necessarily ascribe to this theory (writing is a job, and sometimes you wish you were playing, not working), I do ascribe to the idea that exciting books come from exciting characters—and nothing builds character faster than torture.

As you're thinking about your characters, try to get deep into their psyche—think about what many call a character's 'deepest wound.' What is their greatest fear? What is the worst thing that could happen to them over the course of the book? Force them to face it. If you have a crusty duke terrified of scandal, make him the center of an unbearable scandal. If you have a heroine who has hired a hero to be her fake boyfriend, have it all fall apart at the exact worst time. If you have a character who thinks of himself as a protector, put him in the position of not being able to save the day.

All of these things will spur your character to action, enhance the conflict in your book, and keep the pages turning!

Why Can’t They be Together?

At the heart of every romance novel is the breathlessness that comes with the question of whether or not these two characters will ever, finally, get together. The most satisfying books keep readers on their toes until the very very end of the book.

What makes romance writing so difficult is keeping the hero and heroine on the page together while keeping them from their happily ever after. As writers, we have to be careful not to resolve one conflict without introducing a new one, ensuring that readers (and our characters) will be put through the wringer, uncertain of the final resolution of the story.

Try asking yourself after every scene, 'Why can’t these two be together right now?' If the answer isn’t clear, or (worse), if the answer is that they can be together—consider the possibility that something is off, and take a moment to go back and fix it.

The Heroine Is Always Proactive

We hear it all the time: 'I couldn’t finish the book because the heroine was too stupid to live.' Well, the truth is, too stupid to live is often in the purview of inactive heroines. Life just happens to them. They are recluses who open the door to discover that a man has arrived on their front porch, and he just happens to be the man of their dreams. They are sleeping beauties, clever and witty (we hope), but basically just lying around until their Prince Charmings show up to kiss them awake.

The best books are the active ones, where things are constantly changing, wrenches are always appearing in plans, and heroines (and heroes!) are taking action. They’re doing what they think is best, they’re acting in the moment to change their circumstances and their world. And that action is the best way of ensuring that readers love them. And their story.

Who Stands to Lose the Most?

We’ve all been there, happily writing away, surprised and a little giddy that this book is moving so well! So easily! Finally, finally, we have mastered this writing thing! And then—BAM. We hit a wall. For me, this usually happens partway through a scene, when I’m writing dialogue and thinking: Nothing is happening here. Why isn’t anything happening? Is it getting boring? Oh my gosh. It’s getting boring. I can’t write anymore. I’m terrible at writing. This whole book is terrible.

And then I look at the little post it note on my computer that says, 'Who stands to lose the most?' And, invariably, the answer is 'Crud. The other character.' Meaning, I’m writing the scene in my hero’s deep POV, and it should be in my heroine’s. Or vice-versa. There’s a classic writing adage that says something like, 'Every character should want something in every scene. Even if it’s just a glass of water.' So, think about what the characters in your scene want, and choose your POV based on who wants the most important thing. We want to be inside the head of the character who stands to lose the most in the scene. We want to know everything they’re thinking about, everything they’re hiding from the other character, every move in the game they’re playing. And we want to know why it’s so important that they win the scene.

If you can work this out before you write each scene, you’ll get stuck a lot less than I do!

 

 

That time I had brain surgery

Truefax.

Truefax.

I'm guessing that few people noticed that I've been offline and out of contact with the world for the last few weeks, which is something that makes me rather pleased with myself, as my whole goal was to drop out of sight and return, just like this, with an announcement about where I'd been and why some of you might have heard a thing or two about my next book, The Rogue Not Taken, being moved back in the calendar. You see, I didn't want to tell anyone what I was up to until it was over. 

It was just this minor thing. I had a little bit of brain surgery. (NB: My surgeon would interrupt me here to tell me that I'm lying to you. It wasn't really brain surgery it was vascular surgery. But he cut a hole in my skull and went spelunking in there, so I'm going to point to my lack of a medical degree and say, if there's a hole in my skull it counts.) 

A few years ago, during a routine MRI, the doctors found a small, asymptomatic aneurysm (most aneurysms are small and asymptomatic, which is why they're so scary -- because you don't find them until it's late and scary and you might die). But I wasn't going to die. It was small and I was possibly pregnant, so my neurologist suggested we watch and wait and see. And so we did. And then, in late March of this year, we watched and suddenly it was much bigger than it had been. Within days I was meeting with a neurosurgeon, and I was scheduled for what's called an open craniotomy, which my friend Meghan has basically told me I should never say out loud because it sounds scary. Essentially, they planned to cut a big hole in my head, clip the aneurysm, and "obliterate it." Suffice to say, I liked my Dr. very much when he said that part. I like obliteration as a solution to problems.

So, I won't bore you with details. We'll leave it at this -- on Wednesday, I went in and had it done. The surgery took a few hours, and I was out and in the incredible care of the Neurology ICU staff at NYU Hospital. On Thursday, I lost the ability to use all my numbers. Not some. Not just math. All of them. No dates, no counting, nothing. And then, 36 hours later, on Friday, everything came back. Like a switch. As though it had never happened (though, to be honest, I am going to have Eric read this blog post before I post it, in case I've lost all my skill at writing, which, it occurs to me, might have happened. This could all be jibberish and just sound coherent and interesting to me). Come to think of it, it could just sound interesting to me if it is coherent, so I'll get on with it. 

The morning of the surgery, I turned to Eric in the cab, and said, "I'm ready. This is going to be an adventure." I think it was probably more of an adventure for him than for me. I was unconscious and then very out of it for four days. He had to entertain family, text friends, and pretend like he was totally not freaked out by my losing my numbers for a day and a half. And now that I'm home, he has to take care of a kiddo, make sure I don't hurt myself, and also, you know, be a human. We'll leave the fact that I love him more every day, and that I'm not quite sure how I landed such a top notch guy, here.

Man, do I feel lucky -- Not only because my family and friends have overflowed with generosity. Not only every time my phone rings with a text message from a friend checking in. Not only every time beautiful flowers arrive from thoughtful people. I feel so lucky to live in New York City, where one of the most brilliant aneurysm surgeons in the world also lives. I feel so lucky to have health insurance. To have access to this entire world of research and study. To have been randomly tested for something else entirely and to have stumbled upon this scary thing. 

I feel very lucky to have this scar. It runs about seven inches just inside my hairline--once I'm healed, people won't know I've had surgery unless I choose to tell them. I could have told you that my book was just late. It wouldn't be the first time I'd written one that got moved because I'm a slow writer. But I'm proud of this.

This scar is my badge of honor and, compared to the scars that others bear, it's not that impressive. But it's mine.

It's my fear. The mark that makes me more me than I was two weeks ago. The mark that reminds me that sometimes, you stand up, you say yes. You take the risk. Because the reward is worth it. And because risk is where growth happens. Because the you on the other side of risk is very likely better than the you on this side of it.

There are lots of marks on my body right now -- pin pricks and bruises that are fading from black to purple to yellow and aches and pains, some that I expected and some that I didn't. It's weird to look at myself and think, this time last week, my head was open. My brain was in the air. My world was in the hands of a man I'd met twice. A man I've promised to dedicate my next book to.

Because that's what I'm doing today. Thinking about my book. And my future.

And feeling very very lucky. 

31 Books of Love – Can’t Stand the Heat

I was destined to love Can’t Stand the Heat, the first in Louisa Edwards’s Recipe for Love series, from the start. You see, I’m obsessed with contemporary romances set in urban settings…almost as obsessed as I am with all things relating to chefs and restaurants.

The heroine of this book, Miranda, has had a tough go of it – raising her younger brother after their parents died, trying to keep him happy and healthy while building her own career. When she gets a shot at writing an expose in a NYC kitchen, she jumps at the chance, not expecting to fall hard for the guy who runs it – smokin’ hot chef Adam Temple.

What ensues is a kind of Hepburn & Tracy style battle of the sexes which allows for some pretty delightful moments between the two … one particular scene where Adam teaches Miranda to poach an egg is pretty fabulously fabulous. There’s also a terrific secondary love story between Miranda’s younger brother and the sous-chef in the kitchen, who is pretty badass himself.

Once you’ve read this one, you won’t be able to stop yourself from reading all the others – and then, for something a little sweeter, you can try Edwards’s small-town contemporaries, written under the name Lily Everett.

Can’t Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards
St. Martin’s, 2009
Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, IndieBound  

31 Books of Love - Dark Lover

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I’ve said this before, but without JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, my Scoundrels probably wouldn’t exist. It was Spring of 2010, and I was headed to London for a week of bonding with my mom. I needed a book for the plane, and my sister recommended Dark Lover, the first in the series – the love story of Wrath, the reluctant Vampire King, and his Beth…but mostly the story of this tremendous band of badass Vampire guys who would die protecting each other.

Suffice to say, I bought the UK editions of the rest of the series at Waterstones. Immediately. And I read the first five books in the series while in London, thinking about what I was going to write after the Love By Numbers series. I kept asking myself, what would this book look like in the Regency? Who are these men in the 1800s? And what is their story?

The Rules of Scoundrels were born.

Thank you, JR Ward.

Dark Lover by JR Ward
Signet, 2005
Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Indiebound

31 Books of Love - Waking Up With the Duke

So, as a romance writer, I often think about deal breakers. The things that make a hero or a heroine unforgivable. There are a few that I can think of -- all pretty twisted. But there's one that many many readers identify as their personal deal breaker -- Cheating. 

Infidelity is a big no-no in romance, and it's understandable, in part because there's this sense that once the hero and heroine meet, they should only have eyes for each other. It takes a very clever, very very skilled writer to make a romance about infidelity work. 

Waking up with the duke

Hear me, readers -- if this is your personal deal breaker, I dare you to read on. Because Lorraine Heath is that writer. Waking Up With The Duke is that book. And it is one of the best romances I've ever read. Easily on my top-5 of all time list. Here's why: 

At the start of this book, our heroine, Lady Jayne, is a Marchioness in a loveless, sexless marriage. It is loveless for a number of reasons, but it is sexless for only one: her husband was in a carriage accident years earlier, during which he lost use of his lower body. Including pertinent parts. 

The person driving? Ransom, Duke of Ainsley. So, when the Marquess goes looking for someone to give his wife the child she's always wanted, he turns to Ainsley and basically says, "You owe me." (In actual fact, he says "You owe me a cock!" Which is an awesomely shocking and perfectly apt line in the scene. Ainsley, wracked with guilt for both his cousin and Jayne (whom he's always had a bit of a thing for), agrees to the arrangement. 

Jayne is horrified that she's been bartered, basically, but she does want a child...so she, too, agrees, with the caveat that 1) There will be no kissing and 2) There will be no pleasure. 

Yeah. Good luck with that, considering this book is part of Heath's London's Greatest Lovers series. 

But here's the thing. This is a Victorian-era romance. Divorce isn't a thing. So, if Ainsley and Jayne fall for each other, there's no possible way they can get their happily ever after. Of course, in Lorraine Heath's hands, it all works out. And you will be rooting for these two from the start. 

Waking Up With the Duke, by Lorraine Heath
Avon/Harpercollins 2011
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Books-a-Million, Indiebound

31 Books of Love - Roulette

I promised new releases! I know I’ve been waxing poetic about Kleypas and Mallory and McNaught…but I swear, I read more recent books as well. In fact, as you might know, I write a monthly romance review column for the Washington Post, and it’s the best job ever, because all I have to do is read romances and pick my favorite three of the month. This month, one of my picks was Megan Mulry’s Roulette.

Here’s what I wrote for the Post column, which this month focused on the power of duty and responsibility in a romance hero:

At the heart of Megan Mulry’s Roulette is a daughter’s duty. When Miki Durand arrives in St. Petersburg for a week-long visit with her father, she has the perfect job, the perfect man and the perfect future. But when her father dies, leaving Miki a multimillion-dollar business to run, perfect seems neither possible nor desirable, especially when the business comes with a handsome, billionaire French media mogul as a partner. Jérôme Michel de Villiers is everything Miki isn’t: bold, jet-setting, risky and irresistible.

What follows is a delicious tour of the bright lights and larger-than-life personalities of Paris, Hollywood, Cannes and St. Petersburg as Miki becomes inexorably entwined in Jérôme’s lavish world. But when Jérôme’s personal responsibilities force him to make business decisions that threaten Miki’s future, she chooses family over love, leaving readers to wonder how the author will ever get these two together.

So, there’s a lot in there that I love. That said, there’s something else about this book that really sucked me in – which is the authenticity of Miki’s voice. I don’t know if Megan Mulry has experience being a jetsetting billionaire daughter of a Russian mogul and a French actress, but man, I believed every bit of Miki. The book is written in the first person, so perhaps it was partly that? I’m not really sure. But whatever Mulry writes next, I’m in. 

Roulette, by Megan Mulry
Amazon/Montlake 2014
Available only from Amazon
 

31 Books of Love – A Kingdom of Dreams

kingdom of dreams cover

Oh, Judith McNaught. You are the greatest. I reread your entire catalog while writing every one of my books, and I always end with A Kingdom of Dreams. Here’s why – I am a sucker for the black moment. I adore the moment when the hero and heroine are both broken in their own way, and they – and the reader – can’t imagine how this love story will ever work out.

And nobody – NOBODY – writes a black moment like Judith McNaught. So I read her over and over, and I try to figure out how she does it. In my mind, there are two tremendous McNaught Black Moments. One is Perfect – her contemporary about an escaped convict movie star and the teacher he abducts into the Colorado mountains. The other is A Kingdom of Dreams. Since I am trying not to repeat authors during 31 Books of Love, I flipped a coin. It was tails. I’m booktalking A Kingdom of Dreams.

The book begins with the abduction of the heroine and her subsequent marriage to the hero (Remember, we’re talking about an old school romance here, so abduction is par for the course). Jennifer is from the Scottish Clan Merrick, and utterly, blindingly loyal to her clan (more on that later). Royce Westmoreland (known as “The Wolf”) is a virtually undefeatable English warrior. Jennifer vows never to be loyal to him and somehow extracts a vow from him never to hurt her family, a vow that will come back to hurt them both in the aforementioned black moment.

There’s all sorts of dramatic, ermagerd kind of stuff in here…there’s a loyal steed, a tourney, a devastating betrayal, a misunderstanding to end all misunderstandings, and the final, on his knees/on her knees kind of black moment that will have you wishing this book would never end.

Outlander, shmoutlander. 

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
Pocket Books, 1989
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Indiebound

31 Books of Love – One Night is Never Enough

One Night is Never Enough is one of those books that I read the first time because I love the author (Anne Mallory is one of the unsung geniuses of historical romance), the second time because I loved it so much that I couldn’t stop myself from the reread, and the third-through-nth time because I still can’t figure out how to write a book that is so compelling and so so well crafted.

The story is deceptively simple – the heroine, Charlotte, is at the mercy of her father, who is basically penniless and has only one thing that holds any value…his daughter. In an insane night of gambling, dad puts up one night with his daughter against a fortune, sure that he’ll win. But he doesn’t, of course. Instead, Roman Merrick, gaming-hell owner and notorious rogue, wins. And Charlotte, utterly noble—even in the face of her horrid father’s horrid decisions—accepts her fate. The rest of the book, you can imagine…Roman and Charlotte fall in love. But it’s not nearly as simple as you’d think.

What Anne Mallory does better than anyone writing romance today is this: She makes falling in love feel at once breathlessly intense and nearly excruciatingly deliberate. During the night they spend together, Charlotte and Roman while away the hours in his bedchamber, playing chess. The scene takes a long time – nearly 30 pages. There is no smooching. No sex. Only chess and conversation. And at the end, you feel rewarded and exhausted…as though you’d just read the greatest love scene ever written. And perhaps you have. 

Basically, the takeaway here is – One Anne Mallory book is never enough. Lucky for you, there are a few.

One Night is Never Enough by Anne Mallory
Avon/HarperCollins, 2011
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Books-a-Million, Indiebound

31 Books of Love - Sins of A Wicked Duke

Long before I loved Sophie Jordan so much that I dedicated a book to her and long before she dedicated a book to me, I loved Sophie's books, and when I got that first, fateful email from her, saying that she was coming to New York City, I got so excited as a reader...not knowing that she would eventually become one of my best friends. I called my sister and squeed.

This book is why. 

I love all of Sophie's books, but Sins of a Wicked Duke is my very favorite. I'm not sure I can tell you why. It might be because it plays on my very favorite romance trope -- heroine masquerading as male at the beginning of her relationship with the hero. It might be because the heroine, Fallon is brave and bold and wonderful, even when the hero--a true, nearly reprehensible rake--discovers that his footman is no kind of footman. Or, perhaps it's because of the moment when he discovers it -- a scene that is so scorchingly hot, that it makes me want to write a bathtub scene just to try and get close to the amazingness that is that scene. 

Right now, Sins of A Wicked Duke is on sale in all eFormats! 

Sins of A Wicked Duke by Sophie Jordan
Published 2009, Avon/Harpercollins 
AmazoniBooksBarnes & NobleBooks-a-MillionIndiebound

31 Books of Love - Evernight

I have struggled with Steampunk in the past. I can't really tell you why, as I love historical romance (obviously), and I love the aesthetic--I have a particular obsession with clockwork jewelry and elaborate corsets. 

But for some reason, if you'd asked me over the summer, I would have told you that Steampunk just isn't my thing. But in September, I read Kristen Callihan's Evernight. And now I totally get it. Boy oh boy, do I get it. Evernight is the fifth in Callihan's Darkest London series, but I hadn't read the rest of the series when I read it, and it didn't really matter--the book stands alone really well. 

Here's the premise. Our hero, Will, is part demon, and the victim of a fairly horrific torture earlier in his life that resulted in his being given a clockwork heart. Now, the metal that makes up the heart is taking over Will's body and mind, and in order to survive, he needs the person who made the thing in the first place. The woman who made the thing in the first place--Holly Evernight. Holly is an elemental--she can manage metal with touch, literally driving it back to Will's heart from where it threatens his life and his sanity. You can imagine that this touch bit is pretty central to the romance-y parts of the story, and you'd be right, but even more than you think. You see, Will isn't wild about the woman who was complicit in his being fitted for the heart in the first place, so there's a great amount of conflict between the two even as they have to touch all the time. 

It's SO GOOD. 

If you, like me, are hesitant about Steampunk, try this one. I dare you. I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

Evernight, by Kristin Callihan
Published 2014, Forever
AmazoniBooksBarnes & NobleBooks-a-MillionIndiebound

31 Books of Love - Hot Head

I read around, y'all. If it's got great conflict and emotional connections, I'll read it and love it. We started this with a classic historical and a classic contemporary -- but now it's time to mix it up.

Today's pick is Damon Suede's Hot Head, which is a particular favorite of mine, in large part because it was the first M/M romance I read and really, truly adored. The romance is deeply emotional, the conflict is tightly written, the worldbuilding -- New York City Firehouses, post 9/11 -- is terrifically well done...oh, and the sex? Scorchingly hot. Which is in no way a problem for me. Obviously.

The two heroes, Griffin & Dante, have been best friends since they were kids, and serve together on the New York City Fire Department. They've been through the ringer -- both of them having served at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Griffin is falling hard for Dante, who is a straight-up ladies' man...or is he? The conflict is beautifully drawn -- aside from the "is he or isn't he into me" question that both the heroes struggle with, there's also a very real sense that their love won't be accepted by the fire department, by their friends or by their families.

Damon Suede does a beautiful job telling this story, and making readers understand his characters and their emotional struggle all while entertaining us with a terrifically hot, unputdownable romance.

Hot Head, by Damon Suede
Published 2011, Dreamspinner Press 
AmazoniBooksBarnes & NobleBooks-a-MillionIndiebound

31 Books of Love - Nobody's Baby But Mine

I know, I know...I talk about this one so much that using it as a booktalk this month should really be considered a cheat. But in case you are one of the 13 people I've met in my entire life who has not hear me wax poetic about this book...read on. 

Let's get this out of the way: Susan Elizabeth Phillips's Nobody's Baby But Mine is utterly crazy pants. In all the best ways. Here's the basic premise: The heroine, Dr. Jane Darlington, is a genius physics professor who basically was Dougie Howser without the cool best friend. She's socially awkward and has very few friends because she's, well, a genius. But her biological clock is ticking, and Jane wants a baby. She considers a sperm donor for a minute and a half, but decides against it because lots of med students donate to the clinic nearby, and she's afraid of cursing her baby with her genius x2. She wants someone idiotic. Someone who is all brawn and no brain. Someone like Cal Bonner--NFL Quarterback. So she sets out to steal a baby from him. The plan works. But not nearly the way she intended. 

That's all I'm going to say about this book except, all of the above happens in, like, the first 15 pages. And the rest of the book is so incredibly good, you must go read it now. 

Ok...wait. I know I said I wouldn't say any more...but I have to add two things: 1) This is the book that I recommend to people who have never read a romance novel. Don't believe me? Listen to this podcast. And 2) The scene where Cal finally sees Jane naked might just be the most perfect scene in all of romance novel history.

And...added bonus! The Kindle version of NBBM is on sale! 

Nobody's Baby But Mine, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Published 1997, Avon/Harpercollins
AmazoniBooksBarnes & NobleBooks-a-MillionIndiebound

31 Books of Love - Dreaming of you

I can't believe that it's already December! I may be having a terrible time coming up with gifts for the people on my list...but here's the thing: I have no trouble at all coming up with romance novels that I wish the whole world has read. That said, I thought I'd spend the month of December recommending 31 Romance Novels that I love beyond measure. And maybe...just maybe...you'll love them, too! 

I will do my best to make as broad a list as possible -- historical, paranormal, contemporary, new releases, old classics, and more. Feel free to comment and tell me what you thought of the books if you've read them yourself! 

Without further ado....Book I! 

As you know, I've just finished writing an historical series set in a pre-Victorian era casino, so it should come as no surprise that some of my very favorite romances have gambling at their heart. There will be a few of these as we go forward, but I figured I should start with the one that I've read the most of all -- Lisa Kleypas's Dreaming of You

Published in 1994, Dreaming of You is one of Kleypas's early novels, and one of her most perfect, I think. The heroine, Sara Fielding, is a writer who has made a living writing fictional accounts of the life of those who live in the dark corners of London--prostitutes, thieves, etc. But she's never experienced those corners themselves--and she arrives in London eager to research them, sure that the research will make her books better. Of course, on page one of this book, Sara is in a pickle, and needs rescuing from a not-so-nice pair of gentlemen. Her rescuer is Derek Craven, who, frankly, owns my heart (don't tell my husband). 

Derek is not an aristocrat. He isn't even gentry. He's a bastard who grew up on the filthy streets of the East End, and pulled himself out of the gutter to become the owner/operator of a casino that draws its clientele from the wealthiest of Londoners. Derek has worked to lose his accent, but it comes back when he's emotional -- and boy does Sara make him emotional. He doesn't believe in love, or in happiness, or anything good, really...because the world is cruel. But when he tries to prove that to Sara, she goes ahead and proves just the opposite.

This book is amazing. And it will leave you weeping like a child in the corner when it ends, because nobody--NOBODY--tortures a hero the way Lisa Kleypas does. Nobody. After you read this, you'll know why the entire romance reading community plotzed when they heard Lisa was going to write more historicals. And you will buy her entire backlist. Be warned.

Dreaming of You, by Lisa Kleypas
Published 1994, Avon/Harpercollins
Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Indiebound

Avon Holiday Recipe Loop!

It's that time of year again -- time for the Avon Recipe Loop! A few years ago, I shared the recipe for English Shortbread, but this time, i thought I'd try something more savory--and still something that makes an appearance on every holiday table in our house. Caramelized Brussels Sprouts. 

Now, let it be said that I adore the Brussels sprout. I could eat it boiled, roasted, caramelized, hot, cold, in ice cream...however you want to feed it to me, I want to eat it. But my husband does not feel the same way. In fact, when we first met, the Brussels sprout was not his favorite. And then he had these -- and now he's a sprout convert. 

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts:

  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed (halve large ones)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 lemon, juice & zest
  • leaves of 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Put butter, maple syrup & thyme in baking dish (large enough for one layer of sprouts), allow to melt in oven.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients (season generously with salt and pepper). Once butter is melted, put sprouts in dish, toss liberally. Roast until the sprouts are tender (the best way to test is by tasting), 20-25 minutes, stirring the sprouts once during roasting -- the edges of the sprouts will start to brown. You want that.

Once these guys are done, taste to make sure they are salted & peppered correctly, and that you don't need any more lemon. Serve immediately. Win the side competition at your holiday gathering. 

For dessert, why not try Katharine Ashe's Double Chocolate Kisses? Which sound AMAZING?!

Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover Release Day Excitement

You guys! It's here! It's finally finally here! Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover is out today and, while I am so sad that the series is over, I'm so so happy that I finally get to share this book with you. This book has been a secret for three years and four books -- and there's so much in here that I've been waiting to show you, to talk about, and (hopefully) that you will enjoy as much as I do. 

I've spent much of my spare time over the last week (i.e., time when I'm not working on my next book, which is coming along and due out next fall!) answering what feels like a million blog questions and writing what feels like a million blog posts...all talking about this book that I love so much.

I cannot wait for you to see Georgiana & Duncan's story unfold. Once you've read the book, I'll be answering any questions you have over in this spoiler thread -- so feel free to head over there and ask away! 

But let's get down to brass tacks. As it is the end of the Scoundrels series, I think we should have an epic giveaway, don't you? Let's do it! Comment below for a chance to win signed copies of both the Love by Numbers and the Rules of Scoundrels series, along with a collection of goodies, including Rules of Scoundrels notebooks made specifically for Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover! In addition, three winners will receive signed copies of the first three books in the series--A Rogue By Any Other Name, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, AND No Good Duke Goes Unpunished! Apologies, but due to shipping costs, this giveaway is US only. 

YAY! So...TO WIN...comment below and tell me which of my Scoundrels is your favorite (or which one you're most intrigued by!) -- Bourne, Temple, Cross or Chase -- and why! Winners will be chosen at random on Friday!

If you haven't yet, you can order Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover from at the iBookstoreBarnes & NobleBooks a Million, your local IndieHarperCollins or Amazon, or for your Nook or Kindle! You can also order signed or personalized copies of all my books online at my local indie: WORD Bookstore!

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover Spoilers

Ok...so you've read Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover (thank you!) and you want to talk about the book...the series...and Chase's secrets. I want to talk about those things, too! If you leave your comments and questions below, I'll happily answer questions beginning Tuesday, all week long! 

BE WARNED: If you haven't finished the book...there are likely spoilers in comments! Click and read at your own risk!