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!) 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:



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


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.


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


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)


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



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


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. 

About Sarah Andre

Romantic Suspense That Keeps You Up All Night! I live in sunny FL, love daydreaming, reading and chocolate. I write in the wee hours of the morning before my helpless hubby and 2 male Pomeranian pups awaken with their demands. :) My debut LOCKED, LOADED and LYING is available now.

Posted on July 14, 2015, in Author Spotlight, Golden Heart Finalists, Sarah Andre, Sharon Wray and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. Congratulations to all the GH RS finalists! I’m so excited to see you all up there– especially my former GH sisters Sharon (who has double finaled yet again!) and Arlene. I hope NY publishers will gobble you all up so that I can read all the nominated books soon. They all sound like winners to me!

  2. Good morning GH Finalists and thank you SO much for appearing today!

    What’s great about all these first lines is they really capture attention! They aren’t set up lines for the second sentence. I’m always surprised reading first sentence contests how the concept hasn’t connected with many writers. You guys have knock-out first lines and just like in our 2011 year…you all write such DIFFERENT romantic suspense.

    I do have to admit that as a contest coordinator for several chapters I’ve seen Arlene’s work before and died laughing as I wrote up this post. I’d forgotten that line, Arlene. Fab!

    My happy and heartfelt congratulations to all of you. Hope all of you are attending the chaos of the RWA conference, the TGN retreat (you deserve it!) and the excitement of Awards night. Well, by all I mean those on this continent. Heeeelllllooo, Jessica on the other side of the world!

    Enjoy the blog today and all the visitors! Soak in the attention, you’re RS goddesses! 😉

    • Thank you so much for hosting us today, Sarah. You are a goddess. Especially since I know how busy you are with the TGN retreat. I can’t believe the retreat and conference is next week — it feels like yesterday that we got the GH call.

      I love these first sentences as well. But I really love reading the detail blurbs about these books. Those details make me want to read these books even more. 🙂

    • I’ve read Arlene’s work too and was one of her judges in the Romantic Elements category the first year she was a GH finalist.Love her comedic voice. I’m funny in real life but not as much on the page. I was thrilled to see her final then and now and can’t wait to meet all my spectacular GH sisters.

  3. It says “Thrill us with your wit…” about this box. I’ll be back later for that. Got up with my daughter to walk at 7:30 AM. I am not a morning person (I’d rather lay in bed and plot out scenes with sexy heroes) but RWA is a week away and I’m wanting to look and feel good. Thanks for having us here Sarah and KillandThrill ladies. I look forward to meeting y’all (Yes, I’m from the South)

    Love that all of us RS finalists seem to have a thing for a man who serves. I think they’re much more appealing and complex than millionaires. Thanks for the compliment and I agree, all the stories sound great and are all winners.

    • *Above this box. Not about. Told you I’m not a morning person. And you all know how we authors hate to “publish:”something and then not be able to edit our mistakes. Head slap.

  4. Reblogged this on Sharon Wray and commented:

    Today on Kiss and Thrill, my GH sister and debut author Sarah Andre is highlighting all of the 2015 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense finalists.

  5. arlenemcfarlane

    Thank you Sarah, for hosting us today, and for your kind words. Gosh, you made my day. And Tracy, thank you for being such a smart 2011 GH judge! LOL

    On wit, I saw Janet Evanovich interviewed several times and was surprised to see she wasn’t hilarious in person. Gracious, yes. Well-spoken, yes. Serious, yes. Funny, no. But read her books? Kapow! Humor right between the eyes.

  6. Congratulations to all the finalists, especially our own double-finalist, Sharon Wray! Good luck ladies!

  7. Good morning, ladies! Welcome! I can’t wait to read all of these when they’re published! They all sound fabulous in their own individual ways. Glad I’m not a judge cause I’d have a hard time choosing the winner!

  8. ACK! Internet is spotty! (Really? Today?!)

    I’ve also met humorous writers who are quiet and shy in real life. In fact Darynda Jones doesn’t have a snarky comment to anyone but boy, her books knock you over! Same with Kimber Frost (an ER physician) who writes a funny ‘Southern Witch’ series. Must be they (like we with graphic serial killing details) just have that extra something that comes out on the page.)

    • arlenemcfarlane

      Isn’t that the truth, Sarah! I guess we sometimes feel those who write comedy are always going to be “on.” Not always so.

    • It always surprises me when authors you meet are so different from their writing voices. Believe it or not, my books have humor in them even though the heroes are super dark and tortured. But I need the humor to keep me in the chair. 🙂

  9. Huge congrats on finaling ladies! Looking forward to meeting you in NY and I hope you enjoy princess status at the conference. 🙂 There is nothing more fun than attending as a finalist!

  10. Wow, I love the sound of all these books. I love that they all sound so different. Killer opening lines, ladies! I confess I struggle with opening lines – I usually just dive straight into the action. Reading these, I’m thinking *must try harder*. Looking forward to meeting my suspense sisters next week!

  11. Wow, these all sound so great, I know it’s going to be close. I agree with Brynn, opening lines are hard, and these all rock! Hope to meet all of you in NYC!

  12. dianamunozstewart

    I love these first lines! Great job, Dragonflies!

  13. Congrats to all the finalists! Thanks for sharing them with use, Sarah. Good luck to everyone! (Special hugs to my peeps, Sharon and Tracy 🙂 Write on!

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