Blog Archives

Why We’ve “Fallen” for Carey Baldwin

Today I’m speaking with my blogmate and “Best Books of 2014” author, Carey Baldwin. Carey’s book, Judgment was just named a Daphne du Maurier finalist and her newest book, FALLEN, debuts this week! Going with the theme of things that fall, I had a few questions for Carey.

Diana: How many times have you “fallen” in love?

Carey: I don’t really know how many times I’ve fallen in love, but I do believe that we have the capacity to fall in love an infinite number of times. Of course, I had my schoolgirl crushes- I can even remember feeling lovesick in the first grade. I wanted to call the object of my affection and invite him for a play date, but then my aunt explained “Girls don’t call boys.” I was six! Thank goodness times have changed.

But the real loves of my life are deep and many. My husband, my children, my parents, my friends, my patients…Life would be so sad if we were only allotted one love, I think. But, Bill, honey, don’t misinterpret, there’s no “hall pass” in your future! :-)

Diana: What do you think makes a girl fall in love or you “fall” in love.  

Carey: Intimacy. I think the more I get to know the “real” side of someone, the more likely I am to love them. Okay, let’s be honest though. A hot body never hurt!

Diana: Have you ever “Fallen: from a height? What was your worst fall?

Carey: Luckily, I haven’t yet had a truly bad physical fall. And I’m not afraid of heights, though I’m cautious. I love experiencing the thrill of that grand view you get from the top of a mountain, or a zip line. I think my favorite “fall” is the Tower of Terror at California Adventure. There’s something thrilling about a taking a dive when you know you’re safe. And that’s partly why I like to read and write thrillers.

Diana: How does the theme of Fallen people balance with redemption in your book? We have those that fall from grace, from windows, and into love — how do they, or do they, all find redemption in your book?

Carey: Great question, Diana! I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but I will tell you that one person who could be considered “fallen” by most standards, triumphs over not only fear and the evil that’s pursuing her, but also over her own shortcomings. She finds out she is a lot stronger and braver and more unselfish than she ever knew.

Diana: Here’s the blurb from Fallen. I can tell you, it’s a fast-paced, can’t put it down, kind of read with characters you’ll remember long after you finish.

A body just fell from the sky onto Hollywood Boulevard. 

When a beautiful prostitute is dumped onto the Walk of Fame, FBI profiler Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy are called in to solve one of their most baffling cases yet. The media’s dubbed him the Fallen Angel Killer—a crazed murderer who’s leaving the bodies of high-priced call girls in Los Angeles tourist traps.

The killer has raised the stakes, demanding that a mysterious celebrity publically admit to his sinful secrets—or he’ll dispose of his latest kidnapped escort. With every “john” the team exposes in their search for Celebrity X, another Hollywood secret is revealed and another charmed life is left in ruins. With time running out, Spenser and Cassidy will do anything to find the twisted serial killer…before another innocent woman winds up the next grotesque tourist attraction.

For an excerpt, please click HERE.

Sign up for Carey’s newsletter here and connect with her on facebook here.



As a thanks to readers Carey is offering a $10 Starbucks gift card to one lucky commenter. Falling in love is risky. Tell us what would make you willing to take a chance on love?

Unforgettable: A Day Spent with Heather Ashby and Chris Bergeron

Today I’d like to offer a warm Kiss & Thrill welcome to Heather Ashby and Chris Bergeron. Heather, a veteran contributor here at Kiss and Thrill, has combined her amazing writing skills with retired Marine Corps Major Chris Bergeron for the fourth book in the Love in the Fleet Series Unforgettable.

Unforgettable lives up to its title. It’s an amazing book with beautifully drawn characters. Adam, Gwyn, Mike, and Cate have such emotionally touching journeys that when you’re finished with the book you’ll wish they were real, then be sad when they’re not. And that’s what gives this book a special spot on the keeper shelf.


UNFORGETTABLE (Book 4 in “Love in the Fleet”)

The 9/11 spirits aboard USS New York are back! Their mission: help Adam, Gwyn, Mike, and Cate find their happily ever afters—and stay alive. As the only person who can see them, Lieutenant Gwyn Pritchard tries to help the spirits move on to the light. That is, when she’s not helping Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor heal from his PTSD—or falling madly in love with him.

Captain Cate Hawkins, has run from her unconventional childhood by becoming a Marine Corps pilot. But when a mission in East Africa goes awry, she finds herself in a race for her life. After burying the hatchet with Cate, Navy pilot Mike Nikolopoulos wants nothing more than to rescue his new love. If the spirits help him save her, they’ll finally be free to move on. But can Mike overcome a sudden fear of flying to find his way to Cate before terrorists repeat “Black Hawk Down”—with a female American pilot this time?

SW: Welcome to Kiss and Thrill today, Chris and Heather. First of all, I have to tell you how much I loved this book. Second, I’d love to know how you two met.

Heather: When I was brainstorming Book 3, Never Forget about Marines on an amphibious assault ship, I realized I didn’t know anything about either one. My husband was the pool captain at Naval Station Mayport and told me that one of his lifeguards had a mom and dad who met on an amphibious assault ship. Mom was Navy and Dad was a Marine. I invited them for lunch and the magic began.

Chris: LOL. Heather asked me if I could help her out with Book #3, Never Forget and this is what I said: “I spent over twenty years writing training scenarios for Marines and never got to use half of them. I already know how we’re going to rescue those hostages at that consulate.” I was so excited that somebody wanted to hear the crazy ideas I had in my head.

SW: I’m dying to know what it’s like working with a co-author? Can you tell us about your writing process?

Who are these beautiful women? Heather with a few of my K&T sisters--Gwen, Sarah and Lena!

Who are these beautiful women? Heather with a few of my K&T sisters–Gwen, Sarah and Lena!

Heather: It’s pretty interesting since we’re both Pantsers and Puzzlers. We do a basic brainstorm at the beginning – in person before Chris retired, and now via FaceTime. I start writing the book and send Chris a quick sketch of scenes or chapters I need him to run with. It usually entails the bad guy and any Navy ship or USMC technicalities—or emotional issues our Marine protagonist might have.

Chris: It works for me. Not sure I’m ready to sit down and write a novel by myself, but when Heather sends me a framework to fill in with military – or villainous – details, I go to town. Like she said, we’re Puzzlers, so we write the scenes that call to us first and fit all the pieces together later. Somehow a complete book emerges. That’s part of the magic.

Heather: I typically write the relationship portion of the books and Chris writes the bad guys and external conflict, but then more magic happens. We tend to bleed over into the other’s turf and fine-tune each other’s scenes. And it just works. Examples: Chris will add layers of emotions to the characters and think up unique things for the spirit characters to do to help the crew of the USS New York. Yet, once he started back to college he got very busy. I needed him to write a poignant scene in Never Forget between two Marines sharing about a buddy who had died. He wrote back, “I’m super busy. Any way you can run with this one? You’re doing a great job writing Marine emotions and camaraderie.” I took that as the ultimate compliment. In Unforgettable, Chris was drowning in mid-term exams when I needed the final amphibious assault scene written. I knew what I wanted, but no way did I know the details.

ae55d3d601552ac1024213d51370b5c8Chris: I told Heather, “Go ahead and scratch it out, then send it to me and I’ll Marine-it-up.”

Heather: Yet, when I was called out of retirement to teach middle school this past winter, Chris did almost all the writing for two months before his classes started. Then, like in a relay race, I took the baton and wrote the rest when his school began. One of the biggest compliments we’ve received was from our editor, the amazing Teresa Medeiros at Amber House Books. When she got the finished manuscript for Unforgettable, she said, “This book is seamless. I honestly can’t tell which one of you wrote which parts.” I hadn’t thought about it until this moment, but I think trust between co-authors plays a huge factor. That and the fact that there are no egos involved. We totally work as a team.

Chris: Speaking of trust, it’s great working with someone who encourages you to just write. I do my best “writing” while I’m doing PT. That’s military-speak for Physical Training. I’ll head out for a run, or a swim, or a long bike ride—or even skiing since I live in Michigan now—and the scenes will just form in my head. I get all the details like the steamy air our heroine is running through in Kenya, the buzz of the insects on the African plain, and even the shine of the villain’s gold tooth. All the thoughts tumble over each other in my head and when I get home, I dump them into the computer. I don’t worry about grammar or spelling or paragraphs or anything. I just write it down and send it to Heather. She’s always telling me, “Just send me sand and I’ll make sand castles out of it.” I think it really frees people up to write good, creative stuff when they don’t have to worry about mechanics or that some teacher with a red pen is going to point out your mistakes.

c20ae2e6b504df1d99abdcb06df2f836_r8f1SW: Where did you get the idea for this story?

Chris: When Heather and I brainstormed Unforgettable, she said, “The USS New York will be off Somalia, so I’m thinking about a conflict with Somali pirates.” To which I replied, “It’s been done. I think we should do ‘Black Hawk Down’ with a female American pilot this time.” I have the utmost respect for the female Marine Corps aviators I watched take to the skies during my career. They are one of the last groups to brave the old boy network and succeed. I kind of based our heroine on Lieutenant Colonel Sarah “Diamond” Deal, who I had the honor of serving with during my final deployment to Afghanistan. So Heather and I made up Captain Cate Hawkins. Heather wrote her back story and I picked up the reins to shoot down Cate’s MV-22 Osprey and have her running from al-Shabab at the Somali/Kenyan border. I’ve served in East Africa, so it was fun setting the scene for Cate as I repeatedly put her in danger. And, because she’s a Marine, she repeatedly gets herself out.

Heather: Unforgettable has two love stories in it. While Chris was endangering Cate, I was healing another hero’s PTSD. I gave Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor my late father’s issues of having his mother die in childbirth, then be the only survivor of a combat patrol. Talk about survivor guilt. Adam – and my dad – had suffered from it since birth—and war intensified it. (My dad was a World War II Marine who fought at places such as Guadalcanal and New Britain.) The healing aspect of this book is very important to us. My thought was that I may not have been able to heal my dad, but maybe we can guide another Marine—or soldier or airman or sailor or veteran—to seek help for his or her issues. We are already hearing from doctors and readers who are using the “Love in the Fleet” books as a tool for healing. This has been the high point of my publishing career.


 SW: You say this is the final book in the “Love in the Fleet” series, but do you two have plans for any future books?

Chris: We’re both pretty busy right now, but there is the possibility of another book. Just because it’s the end of the series, doesn’t mean we can’t write a prequel at some point. One of the couples in Never Forget and Unforgettable is a World War II U.S. Marine and a Royal Navy WREN. They are elderly ghosts, but I’d like to explore how they met in WWII and how Bud served as a spy throughout Europe during the war. Always got to have your next dream on the horizon. In the meantime, I’m just excited about finishing up college Freshman English. I have to say it was pretty darn cool to lay a copy of my first novel on my professor’s desk.

Heather: We think Unforgettable has something for everyone. Suspense, military action, healing, two love stories, and even ghosts. Below, please find a short excerpt from a chapter Chris wrote. It literally made me jump out of my chair when I read the entire scene. Thanks so much for inviting us today, Sharon.

Excerpt from Unforgettable:

As the sun set, Cate climbed down from the termite mound and slid through the tall grass silently. Thank God, she’d been correct about the small clearing she’d spied. It was a stream—or at least it was a stream when it rained. Right now it was a series of muddy puddles. She submerged one of her collapsible canteens in the muck and strained the water through gauze from her first aid kit. After dropping in two iodine tablets, she drank her fill.

She was still being pursued by al-Shabab, but at least she wouldn’t die from thirst now. She even allowed herself a small smile—but it was short-lived. When she raised her eyes from the canteen, sheer terror twisted her gut. Twenty yards away, two sets of amber eyes stared back at her in the setting sunlight. A pair of massive female lions stood frozen, their gazes fixed on her. Moving as slowly as possible, she reached to her side and drew her pistol. If they charged, she might get one or two rounds off, probably only wounding one—and alerting her pursuers at the same time.

Cate was screwed either way.

She prayed they were more interested in a drink of muddy water than the flight-suit-encased-Happy-Meal she was beginning to feel like. After staring for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only seconds, the lionesses lowered their heads and began to lap at the murky water. Cate hoped they would drink their fill and be on their way. She pressed her elbows painfully to her sides, trying to make herself as small as possible. Both lions turned suddenly and peered in the direction Cate had come. Something had alerted them. They slunk off into the brush.

Suddenly she heard a motor growing closer by the second and she took off running. How could those men drive through the tall grass and brambles? Soon she could make out the sounds of undercarriages and brakes squealing. Surely this had been what had scared the lions away. Cate’s heart thundered as he picked up her pace. At times they would get close enough that she could hear voices as they called out to her: “We know you are out here, Lady America. Make it easy on yourself and give up. We have water and food. We’re not going to harm you. You are worth more to us alive than dead.”

And then, in the moonlit-speckled dusk, she heard another sound that made the whole world stop: the slow, throaty growl of an animal. Cate froze, then lowered herself to the ground. In her attempt to move away from the vehicles, she’d forgotten about the other pair of pursuers. Was it possible she was being hunted by two different sets of predators?

She slid down and lay prone on her belly, then eased herself under the thorny limbs of the closest tree. It was quiet for a few minutes and Cate could hear nothing but the pounding of her heart in her ears. But that was soon joined by the same low growl as before. The tall grass moved in the moonlight. Had to be the lions slinking through the brush. One came into view, crouched low to the ground, and started walking slowly toward her. Cate would lose no matter what. If she shot at the big cat—and even if she could take it down—the men would be on her in an instant.

Her heart hammering in her throat, Cate cocked her pistol. The lion’s head swung to its left. It doubled back in the direction it had come and disappeared from view. She blew out a breath of relief, lying motionless except for the racing of her pulse.

Then she heard what the lion must have heard: sticks breaking as something moved in her direction. And she smelled what the animals had probably smelled, cigarette smoke. Where the lion had stood just moments ago, two men appeared in the gloom. They were armed with what looked like AKs. One had his rifle slung over his shoulder and carried a large machete. His cigarette lit up his face as he took a puff. The moonlight lit the rest of him. Given the mix of military hardware and dark fatigues, these were the men Cate had feared: guerillas of the al-Shabab terrorist group, hunting their American prize. The other man flipped on a flashlight and began searching the ground.

“We’re here to help you, Lady America. So be a smart American lady and let us take you to safety.”

Cate infinitesimally shifted the pistol so it was aimed at the two men. She was about fifteen yards away, not a great shot in the dark, but it might be the best chance she’d get. The first man crushed out his cigarette and began to walk forward. He was not acting as if he could see her, though. The brambles were probably reflecting the flashlight’s beam back at them, and her camouflage flight suit was doing its job. She would let him come as close as possible to get off a good shot.

As he closed the distance, Cate took careful aim across the sights. The pistol butt rested on the back of her hand. Her first shot must be deadly accurate.

Closer . . . Closer . . .

She took the slack out of the trigger and prepared to fire.

Closer . . . Closer . . .

A beast sprang from the left! The man screamed and loosed a burst of rifle fire in the air. With a sick, wet crunch, the lion bit clean through his throat and vertebrate. The man with the flashlight screamed, “Simba, Simba!” and ran into the darkness. The second lion pounced on the body on the ground, grabbing the lifeless legs in her teeth and tearing.

Cate listened in horror to the sounds of slurping and crunching in the dark. She feared she would vomit and give herself away, but she didn’t dare move until she was certain the lions were sated. Then mentally thanking her two new girlfriends, Cate eased away from the bush and melted into the night.

SW: Thank you so much Chris and Heather for sharing that excerpt and for joining us today.

Now Chris and Heather would have a question for you: Besides marriage, tell about a partnership you’ve had in the past that worked like magic. Or one that didn’t work out, but you learned something valuable from the experience. OR tell us what you think of Chris’s excerpt. We have a $10 Amazon gift card for one lucky commenter. 

If readers want to start the “Love in the Fleet” series with Book # 1 Forgive and Forget, it is $.99 through May 14 at all online sites!

Or, if you’re ready for the fourth, Unforgettable is available at: Amazon:  and  Nook:

Small HeadshotAward winning author, Heather Ashby is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for their Army son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to Fisher House Foundation in support of wounded warriors and their families. Her son serves as her cover model, helping to raise money for Fisher Houses around the world. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her retired Navy husband. Unforgettable is the fourth and final book in the “Love in the Fleet” series., Twitter: http://www.@HAshbyAuthor, Facebook:

head shot ChrisCHRISTOPHER BERGERON is a retired Major in the United States Marine Corps, with twenty-four years of service. His ten deployments include combat tours in Desert Shield/Desert Storm; Somalia; Kosovo; Haiti; Fallujah, Iraq; and Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Chris’s travels have covered the globe, including more than twenty countries. He lives with his wife and son in Rockford, Michigan, where he is currently a Communications/Marketing student at Grand Valley State University. Unforgettable is his first novel.

All photos courtesy of Heather Ashby and Chris Bergeron

And the winner for P.A. DePaul’s giveaway from last week is Missy Clifton! Congratulations!!!!

Blessed Are Those Who Weep

Giveaway alert: a Nook or Kindle copy of BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP and a Starbucks card are up for grabs.

Today I’m thrilled to welcome my wonderful friend and fellow Witness author, Kristi Belcamino, to the blog. Kristi has a fascinating and heart-wrenching story to tell you, so I’ll let her do most of the talking, but I just have to say a few words about her new release BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP.

This story grabs you by the throat from the beginning and never lets go. The heroine, Gabriella Giovanni, leads you through a maze of compelling characters and twisting events until you arrive at an ending that will leave you breathless. But it’s not the heart-pounding ending you’ll read for. It’s Gabriella herself. A heroine who’s brilliant yet vulnerable, brave yet all too human. Pick it up today, then kick back with a glass of red wine, a hanky, and a do not disturb sign.

Here’s the blurb:

San Francisco Bay Area reporter Gabriella Giovanni stumbles onto a horrific crime scene with only one survivor—a baby girl found crawling between the dead bodies of her family members. Reeling from the slaughter, Gabriella clings to the infant. When Social Services pries the little girl from her arms, the enormity of the tragedy hits home. Diving deep into a case that brings her buried past to the forefront, Gabriella is determined to hunt down the killer who left this helpless baby an orphan.

But one by one the clues all lead to a dead end, and Gabriella’s obsession with finding justice pulls her into a dark, tortuous spiral that is set to destroy everything she loves …

The Story That Did Me In

By Kristi Belcamino

I’ll never forget the story that did me in.

The one that slayed me and changed my career path entirely. The one that ultimately led me to quit my job as a newspaper reporter.

It was about the perfect family destroyed — shattered — by tragedy.

As a crime reporter, I had been blithely cruising through other people’s tragedies for years. I was moved and haunted by many of the stories I covered — some which caused me to drink and smoke too much — but I was still able to do my job and more importantly, I still loved doing my job.

My two close friends at the paper were just like me. We thought nothing of talking about “floaters” and “decomps” and those words were sprinkled into our ever day conversation.

Not much rattled us. Dead body? No problem.

In fact, I’ll never forget how excited I was one day to get a new copy of a homicide investigator’s manual in the mail. It was chock full of graphic photos of various modes and manners of death, including close-range gunshot wounds to the face and explosions and people crushed to death. Not pretty.

But that didn’t stop my friend C and I from taking the book to a Chinese restaurant and flipping through it over lunch.

C also had seen more autopsies at our county morgue than probably any reporter in the history of our newspaper. She was soft-spoken, drop-dead gorgeous, and fearless.

I only saw one autopsy. A guy about my age who overdosed. I can recognize the smell of a dead body to this day.

C and I were regular visitors at the morgue and I soon got a reputation at the newspaper. Every time an intern started, the editors would tell me to take them to the morgue that first week.

I wonder how many interns were traumatized by the experience? I took one young woman on a day when a young man who died in a motorcycle crash was on the slab as we walked into the room. The first thing we saw was the giant chunk of his skull that was missing at the top of his head.

But none of that bothered me. Not really.

Then I gave birth.

The flood of hormones transformed me into another person. Suddenly, everything I reported on was much too close to home.

All the evil that I had kept at arm’s length seemed to follow me home at night.

I would immerse myself in the seediest, darkest part of life and then come home to the very definition of innocence in my baby. I was having a hard time reconciling these two worlds, but then it got worse.

Right before Christmas, a mother in a wealthy suburb and her two children, who I think were less than a year apart, were walking on a beautiful fall day to get ice cream. They were on a parkway, where a wide sidewalk was separated from the road by a patch of grass.

The kids were either in front of or behind the mother when a suspected drunk driver went careening off the road and plowed into the kids, killing them both.

Not long after, the parents invited the press to talk to them in their luxurious home in a rich subdivision. I sat with other reporters in their living room and looked around at the beautiful couple in their beautiful home.

The mother, who I had imagined would be curled up in the fetal position with dirty hair and slobber on her wrinkled clothes, looked more put together than I ever had in my entire life.

She was gorgeous. Her husband was gorgeous. Without knowing their story and looking at them in their fancy home, you would think they had everything.

And yet, they had nothing. Not anymore. Some drunken fool had taken away their life.

The million dollar house was empty and hollow, haunted by memories of children playing and laughing.

Later, my editors asked me to do a story about what this couple’s Christmas was like. I refused. Or rather, I simply kept forgetting to do it.

I couldn’t force myself to call them. I knew what their Christmas was going to be like. Or at least I suspected. It was going to be a hellish nightmare, just like the rest of their days were right now.

So, I suppose it could have been any story that fall — any tragedy that struck me to the core — but that was the story that did me in. Suddenly as a mother, I couldn’t dip into and out of other people’s tragedies anymore. I just couldn’t do it.

I had always cared about my job and cared about the victims of tragedies and tried to do them justice in the best way I could, but I couldn’t do it anymore. When I became a mother, the emotions struck too sharp and too deep for me to continue doing my job properly.

I quit my job a few months later.

But I am forever changed by my former life as a reporter. I have seen things that help me put everything into perspective.

Luckily most of the people I know live very sheltered lives. When they complain — and cry — about trivial things, I try to understand. II tell myself they don’t know. They don’t understand.

They don’t know how lucky they are. They have a little bubble around their lives. They feel invincible. And maybe it is necessary to feel that way to go on day to day.

But I know something different. I know that bubble doesn’t protect them from tragedy. Tragedy is not picky. It is not discerning. It has a laissez-faire attitude in who it strikes. There is no rhyme or reason.

That’s one thing I know.

I’ve sat in too many living rooms of people who know the same thing.

This knowledge may seem like a burden to some. And in fact, up-close knowledge of that as a crime reporter was more than I could handle as a new mother.

But with hindsight, I realize this knowledge is not a burden, but a gift.

It is a gift because it reminds me to pick my battles, put minor setbacks in perspective and to never, ever take one moment of this precious life for granted.

Kristi Belcamino is a writer, photographer, and crime reporter who also bakes a tasty biscotti.

As a reporter, she’s flown over Big Sur in an FA-18 jet with the Blue Angels, raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca, and attended barbecues at the morgue. Her first novel was inspired by her dealings with a serial killer.

During her decade covering crime in California, Belcamino wrote and reported about many high-profile cases including the Laci Peterson murder and Chandra Levy’s disappearance. And because of her police sources, she was one of the first reporters in the country to learn that the passengers on Flight 93 had fought back on 9/11. She has appeared on Inside Edition and local cable television shows. Her work has appeared in such prominent publications as the Miami Herald, San Jose Mercury News, and Chicago Tribune. She now works part-time for the St. Paul Pioneer Press as a police reporter.

Connect with Kristi on her website, facebook, or twitterprofilecowboy2

Readers leave a comment or question for Kristi. One lucky person will win an e-copy of BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP and a $10 Starbucks card. Good luck!



Yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.

If you’re a romance writer, then you are probably aware of the drama going on regarding the question how much romance is necessary for a story to be classified a romance novel. I think of it as the Great Controversy.

If you’re a reader, hopefully you haven’t noticed.


SInce I’ve always had more romance than plot in my manuscripts, the Great Controversy is something I hadn’t thought much about. Not because I didn’t care but because I know what happens when you try to quantify the subjective.

Fools run errands and those wild geese you’re chasing bite back.

It’s like trying to eat a spaghetti sandwich. It’s possible, but you’re left with a mess and you’ve lost half of your noodles.

So, this summer, I let the Great Controversy go. I left it to others who are more articulate than I to work out the answers. Then I forgot about it.

Until I went to the airport for my flight to San Antonio for the annual RWA Conference and met the Angry Young Man.


Tall. Shaved head. Sharp tongue. His dark tattoos threatened to slash me, but it was his words that cut.

Romance novels?  Pathetic. Formulaic. Pornographic.

I stepped away quickly, not wanting to engage in an argument before boarding a plane.

Yet, despite his derision, his eyes held desperate questions.

Will I ever be loved?

Will I ever love another?

Are Happily Ever Afters real?


My heart hammered and I felt nauseous. I hate conflict. And I had no words at the time, especially since we were on the same flight and might have to sit next to each other. But I was disappointed in myself. How could I aspire to be a romance writer when I couldn’t even defend my profession? I didn’t want to go to RWA anymore. Even if it meant missing the Golden Heart ceremony.

What difference did a Golden Heart final make if I couldn’t take away the pain in that man’s eyes?

Stuck with a non-refundable ticket and in desperate need of chocolate, I snuck away to the far end of the gate area. I searched my carry-on for my emergency dark chocolate with almonds candy bar. Instead, I found my RWA badge carefully tucked around my signed copy of Letters to Kelly by Suzanne Brockmann (which I take to every conference as my good luck charm).

The book dismissed me as a coward. My Golden Heart pins glittered, accusing me.

If my words couldn’t heal the Angry Young Man, then whose would?

Why was I so afraid?


That’s when the truth slammed her fist into my stomach. The Great Controversy had stolen my confidence. All this worrying about my books not being romantic enough had made me doubt my stories, my writing, my career aspirations. I’d thought that by ignoring the Great Controversy, it wouldn’t touch me.

Like a true introvert, I’d just wanted to be left alone.

Instead, I’d left my heart’s gate unguarded and self-doubt had crept in.

My desire for chocolate died, and I watched people move in and out of gates, down hallways, dragging baggage and pillows and kids. But in many of their eyes I saw an emptiness. A sad kind of desperation.

Were they just weary travelers? Or were they in the same kind of pain as the Angry Young Man? Just less obvious?

I heard loud voices nearby and looked up. The Angry Young Man was arguing with the flight attendant manning the departure door. I couldn’t hear his words, but his dark voice made everyone turn. For a second, we all held a collective breath, all held together in the moment. A minute later, a security officer escorted the Angry Young Man away. When he passed me, I met his gaze.

Will I ever be loved?

Will I ever love another?

Are Happily Ever Afters real?


I wanted to reach out and tell him that everything would be alright. That I had the answers to the questions in his eyes.

But he disappeared around the corner and everyone retreated back to their private space. Each person separate again, lost in their own thoughts. But something inside me had shifted, and I took out one of my Golden Hearts and pinned it to my sweater.

Although no one else would know what the pin meant, those mirror-image question marks holding the shape of a heart confirmed what I knew to be true.

I took strength from the heart’s beauty and found truth in its form.

Formulaic?  Romance novels bring order and comfort to the chaos and suffering of the human condition.

Pathetic?  Romance novels offer hope to the seeking, soothe the ill, and give solace to the grieving.

And the other word that’s not worth repeating?  Romance novels prove that true love given and true love received can change the world.

I’m still not sure if my stories meet the requirements of the Great Controversy, but I learned something that day in the airport. The power of a romance novel comes not just from its level of romance, but from its graceful ability to answer the questions of the Angry Young Man.

Will I ever be loved?  Yes. With great passion.

Will I ever love another?  Yes. With great truth.

Are Happily Ever Afters real?  Yes. With great beauty.


Maybe, instead of asking the question of how much romance is in a romance novel, we should be asking if a novel fulfills its promise to the reader. A promise written with great passion, great truth, and great beauty. A promise of a happy ending.

I am proud to be a romance writer. I am proud that my stories offer a mix of adventure, suspense and love. I am proud that my manuscripts–like those written before and those yet to be–end with the same three simple words.

Three simple words which, almost invisible on their own, carry a force unlike any other.

Three simple words which, when strung together, hold the weight of a golden heart, the answers for an Angry Young Man, and the power to heal the world.

So yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.

I, and my books, promise.

Now I’d love to know what is your absolute favorite romance of all time?

I will be offering two books for two lucky commenters: The first, in honor of my last K&T interview with Heather Ashby, will be an e-copy of Heather’s newest release Never Forget.

Second, in honor of my K&T interview coming up, I will be offering an e-copy of Night Sky, a new Young Adult novel by Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter Melanie Brockmann.

(You don’t want to miss it!  My fourteen-year old daughter and I will be interviewing Suzanne and her daughter Melanie for our first ever mother/daughter and mother/daughter interview. It’s going to be tons of fun!)

All photos courtesy of Sharon Wray

If Dogs Could Talk

If dogs could talk it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one~Andy Rooney

Lena Diaz’s adorable dog Sparky

Maybe it’s just me, but I think it would be extra fun if dogs could talk!

Remember Andy Rooney and that delightful acerbic wit of his? I sure do. And I miss his brief, straight to the point rants on the television show 60 Minutes. His segments were fun, and I think a precursor of Jerry Seinfeld’s What’s up with that? routines.

So today in honor of Andy Rooney or Jerry Seinfeld or both, I have a What’s up with that? blog for you.

First the disclaimer: Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. Maybe you can explain it to me, because I feel confident that right here among us are readers who do it.

What is it? You ask. Well, this it. I scratch my head whenever I hear someone say: I really did not enjoy this book, but once I start a book I have to finish it.

Erm. I don’t get it.

Rosie 7

Krista’s adorable dog, Rosie

I realize there are some good reasons to finish books you don’t like. For example, your mother wrote it and dedicated it to you (Shannon I’m talking to you). Your critique partner wrote it (my critique partners only write awesome books, but I’m just sayin’ in case yours doesn’t). You agreed to judge it in a contest. You are a book blogger or agreed to provide a review. Your teacher assigned it, and there’s a quiz tomorrow. I’m not talking about these situations.

I’m talking about someone who feels they must finish a book because they bought it or started it, or just because they can’t quit anything.

Now I’ve sat through a few movies I didn’t like, but that was because I was with someone else, and I didn’t want to make them miss out on something they were enjoying. But I have never finished a book I didn’t like without a good reason. The world is littered with books I’ve begun but didn’t finish, and I don’t feel one iota of guilt.


So here’s my question: What kind of reader are you? Are you a wall-banger like me, who tosses the book at the first sign of trouble? Or do you finish a book no matter what? If you do, please tell us why. Ten dollar Starbucks card to one lucky commenter.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side with Erica Monroe


Erica Monroe writes dark, suspenseful (and well-researched) historical romance. In her atmospheric debut novel A DANGEROUS INVITATION, she takes us out of the ballroom and drops us straight into the labyrinthine alleys and gritty flash houses of London’s East End. Rather than manners and courtship, the first book in the Rookery Rogues series is a story of survival and the transformational power of love. Read on to find out you can become eligible to win A DANGEROUS INVITATION ebook…

Dangerous Invitation Cover

Torn from her life of privilege by her father’s death, Kate Morgan relies on her knowledge of finery to survive in one of London’s dark and depraved rookeries as a fence for stolen goods . The last man she ever expects, or wants, to see again is Daniel O’Reilly, the man who promised to love, honor and protect her, but who instead fled amidst accusations of murder.

One drunken night cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved and the life he’d worked so hard to create. If he ever wants to reclaim that life—and Kate—he’ll not only have to prove he’s innocent of murder, but convince the pistol-wielding beauty to forgive his many sins.

With a killer on the loose, time is running out for them…

KH: Why did you choose to set Kate and Daniel’s story in 1832 during the short reign of King William IV rather than the more commonly used Regency time period between 1811-1820?

ERICA: I studied Victorian literature in college, and then I began to educate myself in the regency period when I started to write historical romances. The 1830’s represents the perfect merging of my two interests—it’s this strange period of social reform yet people are still trying to cling to what they used to have. The trade of corpses in the regency period is a big deal in the underworld, for a resurrection man could make far more selling bodies than he could in the honest work that might be available to an unskilled, uneducated laborer (read, not many jobs at all). The London Burkers (called that because their method of murder for dissection profit resembled that of legendary serial killers Burke and Hare in Edinburg, Scotland in 1828) were arrested in 1831. Two were executed, while another turned State’s Evidence and was released. I knew that I wanted to link my resurrection man villain to this case so I had to set it in January 1832 shortly after the executions. Mid-year 1832, the Anatomy Acts were repealed, and now surgeons had access to more bodies for dissection, so they didn’t have to use grave robbers to advance in their fields of study.

I found the idea of people being stolen from their graves to be sold as medical experiments to be utterly creepy and morbid, and admittedly, being a girl who grew up reading Edgar Allen Poe, I loved it. Resurrection men were considered to be one of the lowest types of thieves, reviled by everyone else in the London underworld. What better villains to use in the first book of my Rookery Rogues series, which centers on denizens of the London slum areas (called rookeries)?

KH: Your descriptions of daily life in the rookeries of London are vivid and create the dark, gritty atmosphere of A DANGEROUS INVITATION.  You clearly spent a great deal of time researching the history, culture and geography of the East End—Bethnal Green, Jacob’s Island, and the St. Katharine Docks.  What unexpected discoveries did you uncover that enriched or influenced the development of the characters and the suspense storyline?


Jacob’s Island, PD-US

R lee [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

R lee [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

ERICA: The new system of policing fascinated me—far more like the Scotland Yard we know and love than the original regency policing system. Prior to 1829, London did not have a centralized police force. You had a bunch of little districts and constables and a Night Watch that really bordered on useless. But 1829 and Robert Peel’s act brought forth a new structure, a more vigilant way of policing. This of course meant that some of the attitudes toward crime in the rookeries changed. The Bow Street Runners (think London’s first detectives) allowed flash houses (meeting places of thieves, often functioning as brothels as well) to exist because it was easy to get at informants when they were all congregated in the same police. The Met Police didn’t really believe in that—they focused on preventing crime instead of solving it. I use this distinction in my next novella, Secrets in Scarlet, which features the Met Police officer I introduced in A Dangerous Invitation. 

I also used the “Catholic Question,” which comes about throughout the 1800’s but really hit a breakthrough in 1829 when the Roman Catholic Relief Act was passed, which removed a lot of the restrictions that were still on Catholics in the UK. This and the Sacramental Test Act were huge in getting rights for Catholics. Prior to this act, Catholics could not hold office. The relations between the English and the Irish were already strained at best. I use this in A Dangerous Invitation as my hero Daniel O’Reilly is Irish, but he has been raised since childhood in Sussex. He feels like a man of two nations. Daniel has been the victim of racial prejudice, for in 1832 the Irish were considered not much better than dogs in the street by a lot of England’s population. This plays into his interactions with Kate and his feelings toward himself. He has to learn that he is indeed worthy of love.

KH: Peelers, dimber morts, crank…uh, translation please :-) Was it difficult to learn the street slang of the period?

ERICA: A Peeler refers to the Metropolitan Police Officers, called Peelers or Bobbies because of Robert Peel, who was the main person behind the bill establishing the new force. A dimber mort refers to a pretty wench, and crank is a cant term for gin (important because of Daniel’s struggle with remaining sober).

I actually really enjoy the slang. I’ve never had an aptitude for foreign languages, but thieving cant to me feels like a secret language based in English so I can understand it. It was important to me that my thieves sound like they grew up in the East End and not posh aristocrats. These are people deprived of formal education, growing up in neighborhoods where they pretty much had to steal to eat. They’re going to have their own set of words for things, jargon that’s been doctored so that the Police can’t fathom what they’re saying.

In writing A Wayward Man, my short story prequel to A Dangerous Invitation, it’s been interesting to write the dialogue for Kate because this is before she ends up in the rookeries. She doesn’t know those slang terms and she hasn’t changed to coarser language. I paid a lot of attention to dialects, trying to properly mimic what people would sound like in different parts. I’ve no idea if I got it all right, but it “feels” more authentic to me, at least.

Illustrated Romance book cover images from Jenn LeBlanc

KH: What is your favorite slang expression?

ERICA: There are so many good ones, and some really, really vulgar ones. There’s about 57 different terms for prostitutes, most of which end up being quite depressing.

Some of my favorite ones that I find can be used in historical romance are “collar day” for being executed at Newgate prison, “dive” meaning to pick a pocket, and Drury Lane ague meaning venereal disease (given that prostitutes often frequented Drury Lane).

KH: What’s next in The Rookery Rogues series?

ERICA: Two things. One, I’ve got the short story prequel to A Dangerous Invitation coming out in February, and it is titled A Wayward Man. This starts before Daniel leaves London, three years prior to the beginning of ADI. It’s about 10,000 words and I will be offering it up for free.

After that, I’ve got Secrets in Scarlet, which is a novella. I hope to have it out sometime around late March.


Here’s the blurb: When a girl is murdered at a factory in one of London’s rookeries, Thaddeus Knight comes in to investigate. But it’s not just the factory owners that Thaddeus wants information on–the devilishly intriguing Poppy O’Reilly is a puzzle he’d like nothing more than to solve. Protecting her young daughter is the most important thing to Poppy, and Thaddeus threatens the false identity she’s carefully constructed. The last thing she should do is allow Thaddeus close to her family, yet she can’t stay away from him. With danger around the corner, will the secrets of a scarlet woman lead to their undoing?

Can’t wait to read more? You can find Erica’s books on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, iTunes, and AllRomanceBooks.

What are the elements you look for in historical romantic suspense? Do you have a favorite time period? House parties vs Ballrooms vs Gaming Hells? Do you like your stories filled with members of the ton? Can a housemaid become a duchess? Tell us what you like to read! Erica is giving away an e-copy of A DANGEROUS INVITATION to one lucky commenter!

Kiss and Thrill Takedown

Lena DiazToday it’s my very great pleasure to take down…I mean interview…Kiss and Thrill’s very own Lena Diaz. Lena is a master story-teller whose stories will rev your heart and melt it at the same time. If you haven’t tried one of her books what are you waiting for? Her latest release, TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN is one of my personal favorites. The story opens with an electrifying office shooting and then never lets up. It’s a thrill a minute coupled with a luscious love story. I adored TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN. Please don’t miss it! (Print release is Jan 21st! Ebook release is Feb 1st!) And now for the interview. Don’t forget there’ll be a giveaway for commenters. More on that later, but now here’s Lena:

Carey: What’s your favorite way to kill a character?

Lena: My favorite method is whatever works but doesn’t leave many clues for the police. Wait, CHARACTER? Sorry, Um. Okay, I admit I’m quite the fan of a good gunfight. There’s just something sexy about the hero diving to avoid a bullet and doing that mid-air maneuver where he twists around and returns fire before he even hits the ground. (shiver) I’ve also used poison, knives, even fire. And in one of the stories I’m writing right now the hero is very dark with a tortured past. His weapon of choice? His hands.

Carey: Shivering back! Let’s talk hunks- who would you want to play Dillon in Tennessee Takedown, the movie? And who for Ashley?

Lena: A younger version of Jeffrey Dean Morgan would be the PERFECT Dillon. (swoon) He’s the actor who played Denny in Grey’s Anatomy. I love his physique–solid, without being a body-builder type. And he has that sexy stubble I love so much, with a voice that could melt butter and eyes that invite you to try him on for size. LOVE him. And since I’m on a Grey’s Anatomy thread here, Chyler Leigh (Lexie Grey) would be a great foil for Dillon. She’s smart, funny, and has that all-American girl-next-door appeal.

Fun Fact Alert regarding TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN: The fictional town of Destiny, Tennessee is one county over from fellow Intrigue author Paula Graves’s fictional town of Bitterwood. And the hero even mentions the Bitterwood sheriff in my book.

Carey: What’s your secret ingredient for an unputdownable book?

Lena: I wish I knew! If I did, I’d bottle it and sell it and make a blasted fortune! I do think the hero is the most important part of a love story, so I put a lot of work into making my heroes smart, funny, sexy and super-alpha. And when it comes to plotting my stories, I constantly ask myself what would most likely make sense to happen next at the end of a scene–and try to do something else. I like to be surprised when I read, so that’s what I try to give my readers.

Carey: Oh I love that twist of the scene! You’re so good at it. Do you prefer writing an action scene or a love scene…and why :-)?

Lena: Action, action, action! Action scenes are just plain fun because they show off some of the best qualities in an alpha male. They add tension and drama and get the heart racing. Love scenes can (and should) get the heart racing too. But, honestly, they are so incredibly difficult for me to write. I agonize over them, for many reasons. Mainly, they are an important turning point in any love story and have to occur at the right moment(s) to ratchet up the tension and change the conflict. I also don’t want to write anything “crass” that would turn off my readers. I want to treat this important part of a relationship with the dignity and respect it deserves, while drawing out every ounce of emotion that I can. It’s never easy, but when it works, it can elevate the story to an entirely new level.

Carey: I love both your love scenes and your action scenes. Guess that explains why! Can you tell us about the Deadly Game series and give us a sneak peek at Take the Key and Lock Her Up?

Lena: The Deadly Game series has that name because the titles of all the books are twisted versions of real childhood games (He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not; Simon Says Die; Ashes, Ashes, They All Fall Dead; Take the Key and Lock Her Up.) Each story focuses on bringing down a serial killer, and the heroes are all Buchanan brothers, except for Logan who is a best friend of one of the brothers.

“Take the Key” comes out this July and features Devlin, known as “Devil” to his brothers. Whereas the other Buchanan men come from law-enforcement types of backgrounds, Devlin has a dark, secret past that, well, let’s just say he avoids police every chance he gets. He’s a super tortured hero who walks a tightrope between his devil-may-care side he shows his family and the darkness that truly lurks in his soul. He’s definitely a reluctant hero, drawn into helping solve some abductions where women are imprisoned for years before ultimately being killed. This book goes back to my roots with the first book in the series in that it’s much more serious and darker than the other two books. Crossing my fingers my readers will love it as much as I do. Redeeming a seemingly unredeemable hero was a really difficult challenge but so worth it in the end.

Carey: I’m hopping with anticipation, Lena. And for good reason! Please tell us about your upcoming series with Avon.

Lena: I’m so thrilled to have sold a three book print series to Avon! The first book probably won’t be out until late 2015, and I can’t really share much about the series yet. But I will say that I sold it based on the tagline “The Bourne Identity meets The Firm.” And I can tell you that this series is a natural spin-off from Take the Key and Lock Her Up. Devlin’s past is integral to the basis for the entire series. He plays an important cameo role in the first book. And readers shouldn’t be surprised if other Buchanan men show up in these books as well!

Time for Lightning Round questions: 

Name your favorites:

Fast food restaurant – Outback! Love their green beans.

TV show – Law and Order SVU

Christmas gift you received this year – My son graduated from college! Best present ever.

Place to vacation – Gatlinburg, Tennessee. LOVE the Smoky Mountains.

Book of all time – I’ll let you choose one or your top three – Straight suspense-Coffin Dancer by Jeffrey Deaver. Romance-too many to name! Two classics I adore are Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss and Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard.

Song on your ipod (go to most played and spill the actual song you’ve listened to most)  – Merry Go ‘Round by Kacey Musgraves.

Carey: Lena thanks for being such a good sport! And now I have to check out Kacey Musgraves. She’s new to me.

Lena: Thank you so much for hosting me, Carey!

Readers, for a chance to win TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN please leave a comment. Lena says: What I’d love to know from the readers is this: How dark is too dark for a romantic suspense? Do you enjoy stories where the hero is almost an anti-hero and has to be redeemed by the heroine? Examples of favorite dark heroes or stories would be awesome!  

You can find Lena on the web here: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Join her mailing list.

Carla Neggers: The Joys of Research

Today I’m delighted to introduce a guest post from one of my favorite authors, New York Times and USA Today bestseller, Carla Neggers. At the end of the post, look for a chance to win a ten dollar Amazon gift certificate from Kiss and Thrill. And now without further ado, here’s Carla’s wonderful guest post. Enjoy!

Neggers_Carla_11_col1-2Writing my Sharpe & Donovan series featuring FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan has allowed me to indulge my interests in art, whiskey, Ireland, the Maine coast, “my” city of Boston, sheep farming, ancient history — and food. Even FBI agents have to eat, right?

In Declan’s Cross, the third book in the series, Emma and Colin are taking a break in Ireland when Julianne Maroney, the ex-flame of Colin’s brother Andy, arrives on the south Irish coast to help set up a marine science field station. Julianne is, after all, a marine biologist. Only problem: the village Julianne has chosen is also the site of a celebrated unsolved art theft, the first of a serial art thief who for the past decade has eluded Emma, an art crimes expert, and her grandfather, art detective Wendell Sharpe. Emma and Colin are on high alert. Of all the quaint Irish villages, why did Julianne pick tiny Declan’s Cross? It can’t be a coincidence.

I love Ireland and have visited many times. My idea of “hands on” research! In fact, as I type this note, I’m tucked in a cottage on the southwest Irish coast working onHarbor Island, my next Sharpe & Donovan novel. In the name of research, I’ve sampled not only a wide variety of Irish whiskey but also many different versions of Irish rhubarb crumble. So good! I haven’t had a rhubarb crumble I don’t like. I’ve tried making it at home and, after some trial-and-error, devised my own recipe. I thought I’d share that with you.DeclansCross_188

Rhubarb Crumble

You will need:
About 4 cups of rhubarb cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/8 tsp salt
12 to 14 T. butter
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a glass or ceramic baking dish and add the cut-up rhubarb. 
Sprinkle to taste with 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (as much as 2 cups if you have a sweet tooth!). 
Combine remaining sugar, flour, oats and salt. (You can use just flour or any combination of oats and flours to make about 2 cups). 
Cut in butter until you have a coarse meal (you’ll still have small pieces of butter). 
Sprinkle over the rhubarb-sugar mixture and bake for about an hour or until the rhubarb is fully cooked and the “crumble” is brown. 
Serve warm or at room temperature, plain or with whipped cream.

FYI, I prefer my rhubarb crumble with unsweetened whipped cream with a touch of pure vanilla extract. I might have to have some tonight! (I also walk a lot in Ireland!)

Enjoy, and thanks for your time. For more information on Declan’s Cross and all my other books, please drop by my website — — and be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Last month I included the recipe for an easy apple-spice cake. All things in moderation, but rhubarb crumble and apple-spice cake are tough to resist. Fortunately, they freeze well.
Happy reading!


You can also follow Carla on Facebook and Twitter
Thanks to Carla for her lovely post. We hope you’re having a wonderful time in Ireland with your ‘research’ :-) !
Readers, since we’re on the subject of food, please tell us if you have a favorite comfort food- mine’s cherry pie, because my mom used to make it for me from scratch, and I remember the special fun of learning to bake with her. One lucky commenter will win a ten dollar gift certificate to Amazon. 

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