THE BEST BOOKS ARE “FAST-SLOW” READS

Young woman read book relaxing on sofa in lounge

I read voraciously- you probably do too, and it suddenly struck me this week (after thousands of books) that I have an instinctive 4-tiered rating system.

1) There’s the poorly written story I stop reading when it takes too much effort or I find I’m dreading picking up my Kindle. (Dread should never be associated with reading novels!)

2) There are the stories that entertain me all the way through, but it’s still easy enough to put the book down and perform critical human functions like eating and bathing.

3) Then there are the amazing authors who consistently capture me into their world. You know the kind: the writers who make writing look easy. My impulsive story-craft critic never rears it’s ugly head…not even once. These are the stories you burn your family’s dinner trying to read ‘just one more page.’

4) And finally- the handful of authors (and I mean one hand, folks!) who are SO talented that I only pick up their stories when I’ve ‘earned it.’ Perhaps I finished a manuscript. Or I’m finally on vacation with nothing but that story in front of me. I begin them thinking it’s the 3rd-tier I just described. I say goodbye to my husband, because nothing will pull me from the novel. But the plot is profound, the characters and setting are so real that reading the story becomes an experience. In this 4th tier, the further I read, the more I begin to SLOW DOWN. Weird huh?

CRIMINALLast night I finished CRIMINAL, by Karin Slaughter, one of the top police-procedural thriller writers of our time. If she were in my 3rd tier I’d have finished the book in a day-and-a-half. But her phenomenal skill at story weaving puts her in the 4th tier. CRIMINAL took me a week to finish. Let me explain, because it’s so counter intuitive:

When an author is that enthralling I don’t want to be without the story. Those characters enrich my life. I also know I won’t get another new work for a year or more (all 5 of my top-tier authors rarely publish more than once a year.) Therefore, the more the story progresses and the more my soul has completely drowned in the author’s world, the more I’ll only read a chapter or two in one sitting. Miserly nibbling away, because I’m already sorry I’m this far into it. And maybe during the epic final battle (what we writers call ‘the black moment’) I’ll put that book down for a whole day. It’s masochistic, I know.

Ironically, I don’t tend to enjoy thrillers and I hate scary movies! Let me be frank: the thriller part of Slaughter’s Will Trent series is beyond horrific. Her antagonists’ twisted evil defies my imagination- and probably yours too. It’s airplanes-crashing-into-buildings shocking. It simply never occurred to you that a person could think up something this horrific to harm others. And Slaughter is 8 books in, folks. Will Trent and his female partner, female boss and girlfriend make up the gist of the story, but that’s 8 villains so heinous, so much more evil than Hannibal Lecter, that I guarantee they’ll each blow your mind. Nerd alert: It’s the kind of horror that requires me to watch three Bewitched sitcoms before sleeping, so her villain won’t seep into my dreams. :)

karin

Karin Slaughter

Why on earth would I stick her in the 4th tier? Because her hero, Will Trent is so mind-bendingly flawed and so determined to move beyond his disabilities, his past and his faults. His boss has such incredible depth and secrets that in 9 books (I’m including COP TOWN) you aren’t even close to figuring her out- and you know it! His girlfriend is stoic and beautiful and has held up under massive human suffering. It’s the realism of these characters’ lives and their good-trumps-evil spirit that make me slow down and drag the book out.

Initially I did not read her series in order, but I recommend you do. The Will-Trent-experience is far more enriching when you know what happened and what character traits and secrets were revealed in the previous novel. Below is the sequence of the series. And in her brilliant creativity she’s begun weaving the boss, Amanda Wagner’s backstory within the series and as stand-alones, so I’m adding COP TOWN in as a must-read too.  Will Trent isn’t in it, but you need to know this part of Amanda to make CRIMINAL that much more of a 4th tier experience!

Name your top tier authors! One commenter will win a $10 Amazon gift card. (My way of paying for that author’s next book!)

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A pic found on Karin’s FB page. Why yes, I am a stalker-fan. SO?

 

Karin’s Amazon Author Page

WILL TRENT SERIES (links to each book on her website.)

Rolynn Anderson: FEAR LAND

If you’re a KaT regular, you’ll recognize this week’s guest. We’ve hosted her three times and are delighted she’s back today for a spirited discussion about her newest release. Welcome Rolynn Anderson!

cover

CLICK COVER TO BUY

I’m tickled to be back on Kiss and Thrill with you, Sarah.  You’ve hosted coming out parties for three of my romantic suspense novels (LAST RESORT, SWOON and LIE CATCHERS).  Now it’s FEAR LAND, my fifth published novel. I am giving a portion of each sale of FEAR LAND to the Brain Research Foundation (TheBRF.org)

Sarah:  Given the story line, that is a truly wonderful gift! Tell us about your journey to write FEAR LAND.

Rolynn:  Trauma is the topic, the many shades of anxiety. Most of us experience a trauma or two in our lifetimes, suffering symptoms from mild depression and a few nightmares to full-blown post traumatic stress. My own response to a trauma interested me, but I also wanted to know more about PTSD and high suicide rates among soldiers.  I wondered if some children were born anxious. Were all forms of trauma curable? 

Sarah:  Wow, that’s fascinating, but it kind of sounds like a thesis, not a suspense novel.

Rolynn:  I know! We novel writers are researchers at heart. I like to learn and teach with each novel I write, as well. I think the reader will learn a lot about trauma in my novel, but I hope the plot makes it a page-turner.

Sarah:  Start with the hero, heroine, so we know we’re looking at a fiction piece.

Rolynn:  Yes, ma’am! My heroine, Tally Rosella, is a child psychiatrist who has finished one study of anxious kids in Washington State and will begin a second study at a big California college. Her new neighbor, Cole Messer, an Army Major who will teach ROTC at the college, is good at hiding the effects of combat trauma. He’s single-parenting a highly anxious boy; Cole wants to enroll his son into Tally’s new study.

Sarah:  Ah, a couple with conflict, but clearly Tally’s the strong one, here.

rolynn_smallRolynn:  Nope. Now I introduce a modest paranormal feature. You see, Tally hears mind-rants from adults who have strong (usually negative) feelings toward her. These men and women might be perfectly polite, even flirty with her, but their minds are ranting nasty tunes.

Sarah:  Ooo, I wish I had that feature! That must make her a powerful psychiatrist.

Rolynn:  You’d think so. She couldn’t take on a patient who rants at her, because it interferes with her objectivity. That’s why she works with kids. Their minds don’t yell at her.

Sarah:  Now add the suspense…

Rolynn:  I’ll avoid spoilers here. Bottom line: Tally encounters devious colleagues, spurring her on to ‘use’ her elementary mind-reading skill. Trouble is, evil people have a way of taking advantage of good folks, and soon, Tally, Cole and Cole’s son are in danger.

Sarah: Yep! Now we’ve got the suspense. Where can we pick up this mystery?

Rolynn: Amazon Kindle  

BTW, LIE CATCHERS comes out in re-release through Amazon Encore today! And for my other books and events, check out my website.

 

Here’s the blurb on FEAR LAND:

Tally Rosella, an acclaimed psychiatrist who helps children fraught with anxiety, avoids adults because their brains rant at her.  But the chance to start a second child study and connect her findings to PTSD, sets her squarely among devious colleagues at a big California university.

Army Major Cole Messer, Tally’s new neighbor, won’t admit that trauma from combat tours in Afghanistan, destroyed his marriage and hampered his ability to lead.  As a teacher of college ROTC and single parent, he’s focused on enrolling his highly anxious son in Tally’s study and getting back to active duty.

Someone is dead set against Tally’s presence at the university, and blowback from her battles with co-workers put Cole and his son in jeopardy.  Watch what happens when people struggling with shades of anxiety collide with corrupt, revengeful foes.

Here’s today’s question: How astute are you at ‘mind reading?’  Whose mind would you like to read better…and why?  Commenters are entered into a giveaway of an e-copy of FEAR LAND!

Faint RolynnCOMING THIS FALL: FAINT (the 3rd in Rolynn’s Funeral Planner’ series.)

How did funeral planning morph into crime-solving?  Ask free-lance embalmer Trudy Solomon or Pete McDonald, a blind forensic investigator.  They’re solving mysteries of the deceased for their pregnant boss, Jan Keller, while her journalist husband, Roman, is benched by a ten million dollar defamation suit.

A dead client goes missing, and investigating his disappearance forces Trudy and Pete to confront their fiercely independent styles.  When danger stalks them, will they blend brains, brawn and belief in one another?

I LOVE THIS COVER!!!

Summer Lovin’

Boy diving into swimming pool

After surviving my first New England winter, I find myself appreciating summer even more than usual. Here are a few of my favorite things about the warm season, humidity aside.

There’s no snow!

Snow in front of house

Everything is green again.

Minuteman National Park, MA

Going to the farm for fresh produce.

Pick Your Own produce board

Farm produce

Farm produce

cherry tomatoes

Fruit!

watermelon

blueberries

With luck, a trip—or two or three—to the beach.

Shell Beach sunset

Flowers.

Flowers on farm

Sweet William flowers

Sunflowers

Being able to grow plants inside and out. (Our house is so dark in the winter that my houseplants have to crowd around the living room window just to survive.)

coleus plant

dianthus flowers

Did I mention the lack of snow?

Snow on front walk

What are some of your favorite things about summer?

Join us next week when Rolynn Anderson stops by to chat about her new book Fear Land.

And the Daphne Goes to …

We at Kiss and Thrill are incredibly proud to announce that

The Daphne Du Maurier Award

for the Romantic Suspense Category Novel goes to

the one,

the only,

the fabulous,

the amazing,

LENA DIAZ!

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for her novel

TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN

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Lena we’re proud and thrilled for you!

Here’s a blurb from Tennessee Takedown:

A SWAT officer in small-town Tennessee will do anything to protect the innocent beauty whose life has been put on the line in Lena Diaz’s Tennessee Takedown 

It can’t be a coincidence that in the past twenty-four hours, three different thugs have tried to kill or abduct Ashley Parrish. Sexy SWAT team leader Dillon Gray saved her, but now he wonders why someone would want to murder the beautiful accountant…and why he finds her so infuriatingly attractive. 

Then the FBI comes after Ashley for embezzlement, and Dillon knows he must protect her from a killer and prove she’s being framed. Taking her on a hair-raising run through dangerous terrain barely fazes him. But wanting her for more than just one night scares the hell out of him.

Once again, congratulations to Lena Diaz and to all the Daphne winners and finalists!

Mary Behre is ENERGIZED to be with the KaTs Today!

Happy Book Release Day to Mary Behre for Her Paranormal Romantic Suspense Novel, ENERGIZED!Mary_Behre_Author_Photo_330_dpi

Energized_cover

LENA: Happy Book Release Day, Mary! ENERGIZED is your third full length novel in the paranormal romantic suspense TIDEWATER series. I, for one, will be sad to see this unique series end. Which begs a question…IS it ending? Is ENERGIZED the last of this fun series?

MARY: Hi Kiss and Thrill Folks! Thanks for having me back. Ooh, good question! While Energized is the end of the Scott sisters’ trilogy, it may not be the end of the series itself. Right now, I’m working on a spinoff that will focus on the McKinnon cousins. And for those readers asking, yes! Ryan and Ian will get their own stories if this series is picked up.

 

LENA:  For our readers, here’s the back cover copy about ENERGIZED.

In the new Tidewater novel by the author of Guarded, a kiss between strangers draws both into unexpected danger and unforgettable desire . . .

She’s searching for a sign . . .

Hannah Halloran has always believed in her gift. The things she sees through her psychic touch have never led her wrong before. Not when they led her to an unforgettable night with a sexy marine at a bar. Not when she felt a need to leave her home and find the sisters she barely knows. And not now, when she is an unwilling witness to a brutal murder . . .

He’s ready to show her . . .

All Niall Graham wants is some peace. He’s recovering from the horrors of war, struggling to save his family’s restaurant, and desperate to forget Hannah, the beautiful woman who left him with memories of a mind-blowing night together and a bogus phone number. But a quiet life is hard to manage—especially when Hannah strides back into his restaurant with the news that a serial killer is on the loose and lurking closer than anyone could have guessed . . .

LENA: In the first book of this series, you introduced the term “CRIFT”. Can you explain that to our readers? Does Hannah think her abilities are a CRIFT?

MARY: Hahaha! Crift! I love that word. It means a cursed gift. When someone in Tidewater has a psychic power, there’s always a catch that goes along with it, kind of yin and yang thing. 

Until the psychic finds the balance, the ability can seem more like a curse than a gift.

Hannah is unusual in that she never thought of her ability as anything other than a fun ability, until she comes to Tidewater and stumbles into the path of a serial killer.

LENA:  What inspired you to do this series? Is Tidewater a real place and have you lived there?

MARY: The Tidewater series was inspired by the real cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Suffolk. Those cities are sometimes referred to as Tidewater but you won’t find that name on a map.

I lived in the Tidewater area for many years and still refer to it as home. Sadly, I moved away in 2006 but when I started writing this series, I could visit there anytime I wanted, with a few modifications. See, in my books, Tidewater is its very own city nestled right in the middle of Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

LENA: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done as an author?

MARY: Attending the Writers Police Academy has been the coolest thing I’ve done so far as an author. It was before I was published and it was the first time I put myself out there and really asked the questions I’d wanted to ask forever. I got to use fake guns to clear a room, participate in a simulated shootout with a suspect, disarm a knife-wielding attacker, and even won a rat signed by the legendary Ann Rice!

LENA:  By the way, readers…Mary recently won the National Readers Choice Award! CONGRATULATIONS, MARY!

2014 NCRA Award for Guarded from OKRWA

Now, back to the questions. What’s the most challenging thing about being an author?

MARY: THANKS! The most challenging thing about being an author is writing through grief. I lace humor in all my books but I had to write the second novel in this series right after my sister died of breast cancer.

It about ripped me apart to write Guarded, especially the funny scenes with the attack ferret, when I was grieving. But I did it and learned that as hard as it was, it helped me grow as a writer and work through the pain. And as Tom Hanks pointed out in Sleepless in Seattle, “work is good.”

LENA: Mary, I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. Hugs. But so glad you were able to write an incredible book using that emotion. Hopefully it was cathartic. Now, what are some of your favorite books?

MARY: Besides Exit Strategy and Judgment? Secrets of a Runaway Bride by Valerie Bowman, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, It by Stephen King, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Vampire Interrupted by Lynsay Sands, and Visions in Death by J.D. Robb are all books I’ve read at least three times.NRCA Guarded and Lucy

LENA: Ahhhh. Thanks for the shout out for EXIT Strategy (and I’m sure that Carey Baldwin appreciates the JUDGMENT shout out.) Favorite movies?

Mary: Ah, this one’s easier for me. There are only three: It’s A Wonderful Life by Phillip Van Doren Stern and directed by Frank Capra; Elf by David Berenbaum and directed by Jon Favreau, and The Princess Bride by William Goldman and directed by Rob Reiner.

LENA: Favorite pasttime (other than reading and writing)?

MARY: I love to take daily walks, especially early in the morning. I love being out in nature. While I’d prefer to do walks on sandy beaches by the Atlantic, I’m content to do them in my neighborhood.

LENA: Something readers would be surprised to learn about you?

MARY: I’m quite shy. I often volunteer at events to have something to do otherwise, I’m likely to duck out of soirees early because I have no idea how to strike up a conversation. J So if you want to chat, introduce yourself. I’m friendly once you get me talking. 

LENA:  Do you have any pet peeves about romance novels to share with us?

MARY: My biggest pet peeve is when people come up to me and tell me that they love reading my “trashy books.” It’s not a compliment to be called trashy, so I never quite know how to reply.

LENA: Can you share anything about your next project?

MARY: I’ve got two projects I’m working on. The one, I mentioned above is set in Tidewater and centers around the McKinnon cousins of Tidewater Security Specialists. More murder, romance, and psychic mayhem awaits the residents of the coastal city.

The other project is set in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Can’t say much more about it, but there are ghosts, romance, and a quirky heroine definitely in over her head with all the psychic antics.

Thank you Kiss and Thrill for having back today! I love hanging out with these very talented women!

LENA: And now a question from Mary to the KaT readers…

What is the biggest pet peeve a romance reader has when reading a romance novel? 

 

http://facebook.com/MaryBehre.Author

http://twitter.com/MaryBehre

http://MaryBehre.com

 

Join us next Tuesday for another new KaT blog post!

New York, New York: A Kiss and Thrill reunion

Carey, Lena, Diana, Sharon, Gwen, and Sarah at the Death by Chocolate party

Carey, Lena, Diana, Sharon, Gwen, and Sarah at the Death by Chocolate (Daphne Awards) party

Last week, eight of us—we missed you Manda!—attended the Romance Writers of America National Conference in New York City. Ostensibly, we went for the workshops on writing craft, business, personal development, and industry trends offered by some of the best in the genre. Not to mention the chance to network with authors, editors, and agents.

But mostly, I think we attended to be surrounded for just a few days by those rare people in this world who really get us: other romance writers (especially other romantic suspense writers).

There’s nothing as precious as the chance to reconnect with friends, and this year we managed to get nearly all of the Kiss and Thrill women together in one place at one time, some of whom have never met in person!

Rachel, Gwen, and Krista after the Golden Heart/RITA Awards ceremony

Rachel, Gwen, and Krista after the Golden Heart/RITA Awards ceremony

We even watched Lena win a coveted published Daphne award, and Diana take third place in the unpublished Daphne. Congrats ladies, we’re so proud!!

I hope we can get together again soon, next time with Manda. And better lighting. ;-)

An Excerpt from GOOD EARL GONE BAD!

Good Earl Gone Bad (1)While the rest of the KaT gang is off living it up in NYC at the RWA Conference,  I thought I’d share some deets about my next book with you guys.

Good Earl Gone Bad is the second book in my Lords of Anarchy series,  only this time around the Lord of Anarchy is actually…wait for it…a lady! Lady Hermione Upperton to be exact!

But things aren’t so easy for the first female member of The Lords of Anarchy,  and soon she’s teaming up with the haughty gambler, Lord Mainwaring to clear her name when she’s accused of murder.
Coming October 6, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781250061072
ISBN-10: 1250061075

Audacious, extravagant, indulgent-the Lords of Anarchy live at top speed, with nothing to chase but pleasure…at every imaginable cost.…

TEMPTING FATE

Marriage? To a gambler? You must be joking! Yet Lady Hermione Upperton has never backed down from a challenge. When her spendthrift father offers her at the gaming tables, she is given a difficult choice—wed the Earl of Mainwaring, an infamous gamester with no respect for her skills with the reins, or face charges for the murder of a member of the infamous Lords of Anarchy. Either way she’ll have to clear her name. Can she count on her husband’s help the way she has begun to count on his kisses?

RISKING ROMANCE

All Jasper Fawley, the Earl of Mainwaring, wanted was a night of cards. But by the end of the evening he’s walked away with a fortune—and a bride who’s suspected of murder. Jasper knows Hermione is passionate about her unorthodox membership in the Lords of Anarchy, but he’s certain she would never kill to keep it. Can he protect his headstrong wife from prosecution and a ruthless killer without endangering both their hearts in the process?

EXCERPT

“For a club called The Lords of Anarchy,” said Miss Ophelia Dauntry wryly as she scanned the crowded ballroom of Lord and Lady Payne, “they seem remarkably well behaved.”

As the current president of the once notorious driving club, Lord Payne had done much to repair the club’s image in the eyes of the haute ton. And part of that campaign had been the invitation they club had extended to Lady Hermione Upperton, whose membership was the reason for tonight’s celebration. They had even gone so far as to celebrate her induction with a rout instead of what they might otherwise have done—taken the excuse to drink to excess in their favorite tavern on the Brighton Road.

“I think we all know why they are behaving so prettily,” Lady Hermione said with a speaking look. She was under no illusions about the reasons for her warm welcome into the brotherhood. But as a driving enthusiast with a desire to take her place among the sporting elite, she was happy to take whatever chance she could get.

Especially since her father had done his level best to keep her from fulfilling her dream by threatening every other club with a lawsuit if they allowed his daughter to become a member. Only the Lords of Anarchy had ignored the Earl of Upperton’s threats and extended the invitation.

“I believe you should be chatting with your new compatriots,” said Mrs. Frederick Lisle—more commonly known as the celebrated poet Leonora Craven. “Especially since you are looking so lovely.”

Hermione smiled at her friend’s compliment. It was true that she felt far more fashionable than she was normally accustomed to in her deep blue silk gown. The color contrasted with her creamy complexion as well as bringing out the blue in her eyes. And she’d chosen to have her maid dress her dark hair in a newer, softer style which was more becoming than her usual utilitarian chignon. Though she was now a member of a club that was known for its masculine pursuits, she hadn’t wished them to forget that she was still a lady. And as such she would bring a new sensibility to the membership.

“Thank you, Leonora,” she said, suppressing the urge to twirl about. “I was sure Ophelia would faint dead away on seeing me rigged out in such finery.”

“I always knew you had it in you,” Ophelia said primly. Then in a lower voice said, “I’m just happy you chose to put away your dowdy gowns on an evening when there are so many handsome, eligible gentlemen around.”

“Are we interrupting?”

Ophelia’s consternation was almost comical as she realized that Leonora’s husband, Freddy, was behind her.

“Of course not darling,” said Leonora with a twinkle in her eye as she made room in their little circle for both Freddy and the two men flanking him: the Earl of Mainwaring and the Duke of Trent. Friends from school, the three had once been four—with Leonora’s brother Jonathan rounding out the group.

“I am surprised to see you here, Mainwaring,” Hermione said with a raised brow. “I thought you were firmly against the notion of ladies participating in such rough pursuits.”

As if he knew how much it would irritate her, Mainwaring raised his quizzing glass and surveyed her with it. When he lingered in his perusal, she found herself blushing.

Finally, dropping the eye-piece, he mimicked her quizzical expression. “I do not believe you are showing any signs of masculinity, Lady Hermione,” he drawled. “So I suppose I must withdraw my objections.”

His sigh, which was heartfelt, only served to further annoy her.

That he was as handsome as he was provoking vexed Hermione even further. With dark unruly curls that cried out to be tousled and the fine boned features of a Renaissance angel, he would have been called pretty if he were a woman. But he was most certainly not—as his wide shoulders and trim waist attested. Yet, Hermione could focus only on his maddening personality.

“You are the most infuriating man,” she said with a scowl. “Do you really have to enjoy setting my back up so much? It’s most unbecoming.”

Mainwaring gave a shrug. “Perhaps not, but it’s far too amusing for me to give up.”

She wondered idly if it would spoil the party in her honor if she were to start a brawl. Likely not, but knowing that the Lords of Anarchy wanted to rejuvenate their image, she could jeopardize her membership. And though it would feel wonderful to snatch away Mainwaring’s quizzing glass and smash it into tiny pieces, she would not risk her new place, even for him.

“There is more to life than amusement,” Hermione retorted. “In fact, I would find it most amusing to…”

“Children,” interrupted the Duke of Trent “I believe our host is approaching his guest of honor.”

Hermione, without the height of the duke to let her see above the crush, stared in the direction Trent had indicated, and soon saw that he was correct. Lord Payne, accompanied by his lady wife, was headed their way.

“My dear, Lady Hermione,” said the viscount, “I hope you are enjoying yourself. I see that you have found your friends.”

He smiled politely at the circle around her, but without warmth. He and Freddy had crossed paths during the tenure of the previous club President, who was also Freddy’s cousin. And it was obvious there was no love lost between the men.

“I am pleased to see so many of the membership came out to support you, Lady Hermione,” said Lady Payne, her hand lying possessively on her husband’s arm. Hermione wondered if that was for her benefit. It cannot have been easy for her to stand by his side through the wilder exploits of the club. “I do wish you will consider me a friend during your membership. As the only lady, I know it will be difficult for you to find your footing.”

Definitely for her benefit, then Hermione thought ruefully.

Aloud, she said, “Thank you, Lady Payne. That is most kind of you to think of me.”

“Nonsense,” her host contradicted his wife. “I foresee no issues for Lady Hermione with the other chaps. We are not the first driving club to admit ladies, after all. So long as she knows her way around a coaching pair, she’ll be fine.”

Lady Payne flushed in embarrassment. Hermione exchanged a speaking glance with Leonora—there was something very unhappy about that match.

Before Hermione could break the awkward silence, Payne gave a brisk nod. “We’ll leave you to it then. I shall see you later this week at the first club muster of the season in Hyde Park. We meet by the Queen’s Gate.”

And just as quickly as the couple had appeared, they disappeared back into the crush of guests.

“Well, that was awkward,” Mainwaring said once their hosts were out of earshot. “I wonder if he is that charming with all ladies or reserves such bombast for his wife.”

For once, Hermione couldn’t argue with him. But if she were going to succeed in the club, she’d need to accept the bad with the good. Even if it meant suppressing her dislike for the way the club’s President treated his wife.

“Once a bully, always a bully,” said Freddy grimly. “I had hoped he’d become a bit less difficult with my cousin Gerard gone, but it would seem that the leopard does not change his spots.”

“Don’t let’s spoil Hermione’s night with all this dark talk,” Leonora said, linking her arm through Hermione’s. “I see champagne over there. Why don’t you gentlemen go fetch some for us.”

“Ahh, I see how it is,” Freddy said with a much put-upon sigh. “Now that we’re wed, you think you can just order me about.”

“Trent and I aren’t wed to her, but she’s ordering us about as well,” Mainwaring pointed out with a shrug. “I think she just wants us gone so that they can talk about lady things.”

And since none of the three ladies denied the accusation, the three men soon took themselves off to find the champagne tray.

“Are you sure you wish to be part of this club, dearest?” Leonora asked Hermione once the men had gone. “I know you are desperate for some place to show your skill with the reins. And I do most certainly think that you are any of these men’s equal, if not superior. But I cannot like it that you will be associating with Lord Payne. He was not particularly blameless in all that went on with the club when Freddy and I were involved.”

But Hermione had already made up her mind about the group. And though she too found Lord Payne troublesome, she had decided that until she saw evidence that the club was sliding back into its former bad habits, she would give them the benefit of the doubt.

“I know it’s difficult for you to understand,” she said aloud. “But I am doing this wish my eyes open. At the first sign of trouble, I will sever my ties, I promise. But until then, I would like the chance to determine whether a club like the Lords of Anarchy can give me what it is I’m looking for.”

“But what is it that you’re looking for?” Ophelia, who had remained silent until now, asked. “What do you want from them?”

“What every woman wants.” Hermione smiled sweetly. “To win.”

Thanks for keeping me company while I’m holding down the fort! Just for fun, tell me about your favorite romantic suspense series. It can be contemporary or historical or paranormal.  One commenter will win a digital ARC of Good Earl Gone Bad! 

Meet the 2015 Golden Heart RS Finalists!

Many romance writers are busily packing bulging suitcases for next week’s Romance Writers of America national conference in New York City. So what better time to get you psyched for the RWA Awards Night, next Saturday, July 25th. WHY? Because this year RWA is streaming the event LIVE (click the word that night to be linked immediately, or go to http://www.RWA.org!) Now you too can be a part of that magical night of glitz, glam and stunning ball gowns! And one of these remarkable writers will walk up to the podium (in front of 2,500 fellow writers) and accept the coveted 2015 Golden Heart for Romantic Suspense! Let’s meet these lucky women:

Brynn%20Kelly2s

BRYNN KELLY

DECEPTION ISLAND (to be published in mid-2016 by HQN Books!)

In DECEPTION ISLAND, a rogue French Foreign Legion officer and
a Californian conwoman become unlikely allies in a deadly battle
against 21st century pirates and slave traders, in the steamy jungles and azure waters of an Indian Ocean paradise.

As their lives are plunged into danger, their damaged hearts and minds reluctantly begin to open to the possibility of finding love in the most unexpected of places. When loyalties are tested and damning secrets revealed, will their fragile trust in each other be enough to pull them through?

FIRST LINE: Time to get this over with.

Extra detail: I didn’t realize the French Foreign Legion still existed
until a couple of years ago, when I came across a Vanity Fair article about modern-day Legionnaires. What a fascinating concept for a novel—what would prompt a man to walk away from his life, and even his identity and native language, to risk his neck for another country? Thus my hero in Deception Island, Capitaine Rafe Angelito, was born.  

 

                                                                                                                      JESSICA DARAGOJessica Darago - Author Photo

SCANDAL

Renée Norton isn’t sure how she wound up here, in the empty attic of a Bloomsbury town home with a disassembled cell phone in one coat pocket, an SD card full of homemade porn in the other, and her dead best friend’s blood all over her hands, but she knows she has to act fast, before she winds up dead herself.

Cut off from the police and the American embassy by her suddenly violent diplomat ex-boyfriend’s quick maneuvering, she’s left with only one ally, an ex-MI6 agent who calls himself William Gillette. Clever, charming, and—Renée suspects—more than a bit off his rocker, Gillette was not only smart enough to track her down, he’s also discovered her most closely guarded secret: that “Renée Norton” is just another role she’s been playing. And though the last thing Renée wants is to place her trust in another man, she may not have a choice: If her enemies catch up with her, it’s not just her secrets on the line, but the lives of millions.

FIRST LINE:

The mirror showed Renée everything: It covered half of Vilém’s bedroom wall and caught the whole rest of the room in its gaze, from the gaping maw of the walk-in closet to the drapes that shut out the wet, dark London morning and even—especially—Renée herself, sprawled naked and sated on the rumpled bed.

Extra Detail: Every writer should have a Jimbo—though at times, his intervention feels as much like a curse as a blessing. One day—May 2, 2010, to be precise—he simply asked me if anyone had ever written a story about the murder of Sherlock Holmes. I said I didn’t know.

A half hour later, I had a plot; a new setting and context; I had new identities and arcs for the characters representing Watson, Mycroft, Morstan, Lestrade, and Moriarity. I had a way to resurrect my Holmes from the dead—because Sherlock Holmes always comes back from the dead. Because I am, down to my core, a romance novelist, I knew this book would really be about Holmes and the woman. And it would be the most important story I know how to tell: How to go on loving each other when the whole world tries to stop us.

So this is not a book about the murder of Sherlock Holmes…but it almost was. And if those kinds of ideas excite you, I recommend talking to Jimbo.

 

Arlene%20McFarlane%20picARLENE MCFARLANE

MURDER, CURLERS AND CREAM

Valentine Beaumont is in for a hair-raising shock when her spoiled client, socialite Portia Reynolds, is strangled right under her nose. Unfortunately, a dead customer in the beauty industry is not exactly a drawing card, and Valentine feels obligated to find the killer. She learns Portia had more kinks than curls in her personal life and, as she untangles the mystery, she finds out just how nasty Portia was. With Guccis on her feet, a bag of tools-of-the-trade over her shoulder, a hard-nosed cop on her back, and a kooky cast of characters in her midst, will Valentine survive her own investigation?

FIRST LINE“You wound a perm rod around a man’s what?” Detective Michael Romero stood in the middle of the Mediterranean-styled salon, hand on his gun hip, stunning blue eyes piercing me with a look that said now he’d heard everything.
Extra Detail: I combined my experience in the beauty industry with my love of rom/com mysteries, and the Murder, Curlers series was born.

 

                                                                                                                TRACY POOLEIMAG0130%20-%20Copy%20(2)

 A SHOT WORTH TAKING

After stopping terrorists from detonating a dirty bomb, Special Ops soldier Tony Vincenti and FBI linguist Angela Hoffman intend for their next joint mission to involve under-the-covers work, only someone wants to cash in on a contract on Angela’s life. With little evidence to support their suspicions of who is trying to kill her, Tony must convince Angela to violate her own ethics to expose the would-be assassin before they can get a shot at a future together.

FIRST LINEThe fun factor of camping out with eight of even his closest friends only lasted the first month or two, max, of a deployment.

Extra Detail: This is the second MS in my Bad Karma Spec Ops series. When I wrote the first book, I didn’t originally plan a series until a friend asked if I was going to do a series around the team like Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series. At first I said no due to other book ideas brewing in my head, but I changed my mind and fell in love with the rest of the team. This story was adapted from a spec movie script I’d written previously. The (current) first line was actually inspired by an Army helicopter pilot I supported.

 

sharon wray

SHARON WRAY

HOPE CRAVES AN EXECUTION

When Sarah Monroe, a strong-willed historian, travels to a rural Savannah sea island to solve the last unbreakable Revolutionary War cipher, she draws the attention of a ruthless arms dealer. Now her life, and the secret hidden within the cipher, is at the mercy of ex-Green Beret Major Nate Walker. Nate, a man who suffers from seizures, memory loss, and regret, will do anything to save his men and take down the arms dealer even if it means betraying the woman he loves.

FIRST LINE:  Sara Munro adjusted the hood of her field jacket and frowned at the hand-written sign nailed to the ancient oak: Trespassers will be shot. Then prosecuted. No kidding.

Extra Detail: Once I was a Latin student studying ciphers used during the reign of Elizabeth I. (I’d been reading too many Jean Plaidy novels!) Years later, I found an assignment I’d done – a Latin-based substitution cipher based on a Puritan poem by Anne Bradstreet that had been popular during the 18th Century. And suddenly a tortured ex-Greeen Beret, Nate Walker, popped into my head and told me the woman he loved was a historian who studied General Washington’s ciphers and there was one she couldn’t solve. They needed to figure out what the cipher protected before an arms dealer unleashed a weapon last used during the Revolutionary War. Nate’s desperate appeal led me down a writing rabbit hole that ended with this story and led me to my series.

 

SHARON WRAY sharon wray

EVERY UNWORTHY THING

When Madeleine Ashton, a Charleston, SC couturier and socialite, is targeted by an arms dealer in search of a 17th Century secret hidden in tunnels under her city, her last hope to save her family is Alex Mitchell: ex-con, ex-Army Ranger, and the baddest boy she’s ever met. Alex, besides being forsaken by his family and damned by the price on his head, has a secret — he used to work for the arms dealer. And when he’s given the opportunity to do so again, he must choose between a life of unlimited money and power or the prim, proper woman who has stolen his heart.

FIRST LINE:  Alex Mitchell hated waiting.

Extra Detail: When I was sixteen, my future mother-in-law took me on a tour of Charleston, SC. The tour guide told stories of the pirates who plagued Charleston during the 17th and 18th centuries. These ruthless men blackmailed the populace, used secret tunnels to hide their treasure, then ran underground smuggling operations during the Revolutionary War. Years later, I met Alex Mitchell, an ex-Army Ranger just released from prison, who told me the “pirates” were back in Charleston. The woman he loved needed my help to stop a weapons smuggling race between a brutal arms dealer and Alex’s own brother. Hence the next rabbit hole that led to the third book in my Black Ops Brotherhood series. 

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