Category Archives: Golden Heart Finalists

Congratulations to the 2016 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense Finalists!

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Today is one of my favorite blog post days of the year. It’s the day the Kiss and Thrill authors introduce the 2016 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense finalists. And this year’s RS class includes two previous winners and a double finalist. All of the stories are different with as many twists and turns as a Daphne Du Maurier novel. And they all sound wonderful!

Because I know many of these women personally, the following list is in alphabetical order by author last name. 🙂

dianaDiana Belchase is celebrating her third Golden Heart nomination. The first book in her Born to Spy series, The Spy in the Mirrorwon the Golden Heart in 2011. Escape from the Harema sequel to The Spy in the Mirror, is a finalist in this year’s Romantic Suspense Category.

Sent on a cruise ship as bait for a ring of kidnappers, Trina Bianchi has been guaranteed the trackers in her clothing, and the team of operatives following her, will keep her safe. When the mission goes haywire, she ends up abducted for real— imprisoned in a Sultan’s harem along with seven other American women. 

Armed with nothing more deadly than a steak knife, Trina must rescue her fellow captives. But when she makes the ultimate sacrifice, only her boyfriend, billionaire Preston Grahame, can save her and help her bring a terrorist to his knees.

SW: What a great premise, Diana! Can you tell us more about how you came up with it?

DB: I love spy stories and am seriously addicted to James Bond. But something about male spies leaves me yearning for more. Why is Bond such a womanizer? What happened to his late wife? I wanted to write a story with an alpha female who has problems in life like we all do — best friends with breakups, dating quandaries, and family issues. She is also the character that lets me explore all the things in life I’m too scared to do — skydiving, climbing mountains, wearing slinky dresses and dancing with mysterious men. It’s been a hoot writing this story and I can’t wait to see my characters finally come to life when the book gets published.

Each of my books is based on a nugget or gem of fact. When I’m inspired by the news, stories immediately start spinning in my head. For Escape from the Harem, I was horrified by the worldwide incidence of female abduction. 136 women are sold into sexual slavery every hour! Add to this another news article about a young woman who went missing on a cruise ship, and a prince from Brunei who was keeping actresses and models hostage in his palace after inviting them for a holiday, and the wheels started spinning. While my books are not dark, the ability to draw from the truth, to inform, and to use what is real, sparks my imagination and hopefully makes my stories interesting.

 * * *

2015-10-17 CRW Glam Party -cropOur next finalist, Tracy Brody, won the Golden Hear in 2015 and this year she’s a double finalist in both the Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance categories.

THE SNIPER’S SECOND SHOT – Contemporary Romance:

Sergeant Mack Hanlon thought he could beat the odds, despite knowing that a Special Ops career and a stable, successful marriage don’t go together as well as peanut butter and jelly or even guns and ammunition. His wife left him and the Army life, but when Mack meets Black Hawk pilot Kristie Donovan, he believes he’s found a woman who can support him and his career choice. However, he soon finds he’s battling more than regulations prohibiting romantic relationship between the ranks.

After losing one husband in combat, Kristie’s sworn she’ll never fall for another man in his dangerous profession. Mack’s persistence and charm in pursuing her are accomplishing his mission to win Kristie’s heart until his ex-wife threatens to expose their relationship if Mack won’t let her move out of state with their girls. Kristie ends their forbidden romance to protect their careers and keep Mack from losing contact with his daughters. But, after insurgents bring down Kristie’s aircraft and take the crew hostage, Mack’s team rushes to rescue Kristie and her crew. If he can save her, he still has to find a way to give them both a second shot at love.

SW: Can you tell us more about how you researched this book? It sounds fascinating!

TB: This book was inspired by the CBS television show “The Unit” and originally planned as a single title. When an online friend asked if I was going to write a series, like Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series, I originally said no. But as I wrote the book, I fell in love with each of the guys on the team and began thinking of stories for them. I named my team, the Bad Karma team after the MP company of my friend (and awesome source for military info) Dale, who I met through a fan board for the show “The Unit.”

The first draft of this book was 142.250 words. Yes, it’s okay to laugh. It’s now at 94K with probably over 100K words cut with other deleted scenes through numerous rewrites. To have this book now be a Golden Heart finalist after all it’s been through is pretty special and I still love the characters and their happily-ever-after.

 SW: I’m glad I’m not the only one who writes long books.  Tracy’s second finaling book, In the Wrong Sightsfinaled in the Romantic Suspense category.

A patient’s deathbed confession landed nurse Cassidy O’Shea in witness protection. However, her unauthorized trip to Fort Bragg for her ex-stepfather’s funeral necessitates putting her under temporary protective custody after learning he’d actually been murdered. The Marshal Service turns to her late stepfather’s friends, the Army Bad Karma team, to keep her safe.

A dedicated soldier, AJ Rozanski is supposed to be protecting Cassidy, not falling for his former mentor’s stepdaughter. But her acceptance of his career choice is a refreshing change from his parent’s disapproval of his military service and his ex-fiancée’s inability to handle his erratic deployments.

Cassidy going back into Witness Protection puts an end to their hopes for something beyond a few days and romantic nights together—until an assassin locates her and she flees to AJ and the Bad Karma team. Can they give her back her life—and a future with AJ?

SW: I love this plot line. How does AJ’s story fit into the series?

TB: My hero, AJ, was not originally part of my Bad Karma Team. His story idea came to me while I was working on the second book in my series and bumped up in priority over several of the others on the team. I went back in and add him into scenes for the first two books in the series.

 * * *

headshotOur third finalist is Diane Holiday who finaled with her book Love in Hiding. 

Prima ballerina Sarah Baker needs to disappear. She flees cross-country to hide from an obsessive stalker and winds up working side-by-side at a horse ranch with a former Navy SEAL. On the run, with a fake identity, Sarah isn’t looking for love. All she longs for is a normal life and to dance again.

Bruce Thompson is a horse trainer who runs a therapy program for amputee vets. He has no interest in another relationship after the tragic death of his wife. That is, until Sarah shows up and jump-starts his guarded heart. But Sarah has secrets, and he intends to find out what threat might follow her to the farm. His protective claws come out as he is determined to keep her and his clients safe.

While Sarah and Bruce fight their sizzling attraction, an unknown threat lurks in the midst. This one, closer to home. Will they find love and uncover the deadly plots before it’s too late?

SW: I love Women in Jeopardy novels! Can you give us a hint as to where it takes place?

DH: An interesting fact is that I am an avid boater and love the beach. I drew on my experience of boating on the Chesapeake bay to describe some of the romantic scenes in the book.

* * *

Arianna James - Author PhotoArianna James is next with her book The Truth is in the Tango

 Simone Richman is a by-the-book CIA operative, but when her sister is facing jail time after being conned out of over a million dollars of her employer’s money, Simone’s family loyalty forces her into a rogue mission to track down the missing funds. A money trace leads her to the Buenos Aires-based company of Nate Beldin, a man suspected of conning the rich and powerful out of art, jewelry, and cold hard cash until he supposedly gave it all up to walk the straight and narrow. When Simone gets to Argentina, she finds the situation is far more sinister than a simple con job—with Nate at the center of it. And as she gets to know him, delving deeper into his past and present, one thing becomes painfully clear: she’ll have to choose between her love of the law and the love of her life.

SW: This story sounds like it could be a season of Homeland! And I love the tango aspect. Did you do a lot of research for that?

AJ: When I was writing the manuscript, it was so important to me that the tango scenes (of course my characters actually tango in the story!) were accurate that I watched hours and hours of videos – everything from professional ballroom tango to genuine Buenos Aires street tango to tango lessons. I even almost signed up for ballroom dance classes!

* * *

Novak_Melanie HeadshotOur next finalist is Melanie Novak with her book Ruby Red.

When a multi-million dollar ruby belonging to Marie Antoinette is stolen from Lamont Auction House, Addison Merritt’s career—and the survival of the boutique house—is on the line.  Addison teams up with sexy U.S. Marshal Michael Wright, but they are not the only ones looking for Rosette’s Ruby.

And others are willing to kill for it.

As the danger mounts and time runs out, Addison takes a bold gamble and risks everything—including her heart—to recover the ruby.

SW: I love books with historical mysteries woven in. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea?

MN: I first got the idea to write a novel about a female auctioneer after spending a few Saturdays on the western Pennsylvania estate auction circuit.  I was helping friends auction off the contents of some very old, very beautiful country homes and farms. I was fascinated by the things people would buy.  I saw a man in his fifties buy ten boxes of dirty naked baby dolls.  I saw women pay hundreds of dollars for antique salt and pepper shakers.  The auctioneers had the incredible ability to whip people into bidding wars over everything from gorgeous hand carved furniture to broken VCRs. This was a unique skill.  The ability to determine an item’s worth, the showmanship, the fast talking.  And what did it say, all those items being passed from one estate to another?

I thought for sure there was a book there.  But Ruby Red came out much different than I’d first imagined.  My heroine, Addison Merritt, auctions off historical artifacts, famous paintings, and one-of-a-kind jewels to the aristocrats of New York.  The book became about how she refused to let her career—or her life—go under when she discovers that the most valuable piece in her collection—a ruby once belonging to Marie Antoinette—is stolen.  It became a novel about bad guys and car chases instead of a quiet novel about what happens to our possessions after we’re gone.

But I still like to imagine Addison, long before the novel opens, cutting her teeth and learning her craft selling log splitters, snow shovels, and costume jewelry to those bidding in five and ten dollar increments rather than millions. And I’m still mad I couldn’t figure out a way to work those dirty naked baby dolls in.

***

Layla Reyne - Author PhotoFinally, I ‘d like to welcome Layla Reyne and her book Four Tragedies.

University professors are dying in Hanover, North Carolina, and their murders bear a striking resemblance to the deaths of Shakespeare’s wronged heroines. Police Chief Charlie Reddmann is on the case, which becomes complicated when her ex-fiancé, FBI Agent Hayes Keller, joins the investigation.

Hayes was forced to leave Charlie behind two decades ago when his parents threatened to expose a secret that would destroy her family. Since he’s been gone, Charlie’s done everything in her power to keep that secret buried and protect, at all costs, the son Hayes doesn’t know exists. But as the case Charlie and Hayes are investigating leads closer and closer to home, the tightrope they’re both now walking is stretched taut under the weight of their past and their secrets. If it snaps, the free fall will be deadly.

SW: What a fascinating premise! Can you tell us more?

LR: The fictional town of Hanover featured in Four Tragedies (and the planned series to follow) is a mashup of the coastal Carolina towns where I spent many summers growing up. If you’re familiar with Wilmington, Southport and Oak Island, you’ll definitely recognize some landmarks! Another fun fact… Four Tragedies is a story I started in college, and I’m still carrying around the same paperback, scribbled-on version of Shakespeare’s plays from my freshman year almost two decades ago.

Congratulations to the 2016 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense finalists!

Now it’s your turn? What is your favorite type of Romantic Suspense story?

Congratulations to KaT’s own 2016 GOLDEN HEART Finalist, DIANA BELCHASE!

  • popping champagne corkThe Kiss and Thrill ladies would like to congratulate one of our own, the fabulous DIANA BELCHASE for being a finalist in the prestigious 2016 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart awards!

Her manuscript, ESCAPE FROM THE HAREM, is a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category.

The Golden Heart is to unpublished authors what the Academy Awards are to actors and actresses. It’s an incredible honor that thousands of authors aspire to. But only a handful ever become finalists, and even fewer actually win. Diana has done both! She has won the Golden Heart before, and we’ll be rooting her on this year to win it again! But win or not, just being a finalist puts her at the top of the pack, the cream of the crop, a writer who stands out from others as being extremely talented with a very bright future ahead of her.

CONGRATULATIONS DIANA!

We all love you very much and are so proud of you.

Here is the announcement about the finalists, excerpted from the Romance Writers of America website.

Romance Writers of America (RWA), the trade association for aspiring and published romance fiction authors, announces the finalists for the 2016 Golden Heart® Awards. The Golden Heart recognizes excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts.

The 2016 winners will be announced at a black-tie awards ceremony at the 2016 RWA Annual Conference.

DIANA BELCHASEDiana at Viennese Ball 2-2012

Diana is a truly kind, intelligent, wonderful person and we are all so happy for her. Below is a list of just some of her writing accomplishments, in addition to this year’s Golden Heart final!

Daphne Du Maurier Nominee 2015 (By the Skin of Her Teeth)
Daphne Du Maurier Nominee 2015 (His Brother’s Child)
Daphne Du Maurier Nominee 2015 (At Midnight)
Golden Heart Winner 2011 (Spy in the Mirror)
Golden Heart Finalist 2012 (Spy in the Harem)
Silver Quill Winner 2011 (Spy in the Mirror)
Wisconsin Fab Five Winner 2011 (Spy in the Mirror)
Jack Reid Award 2010 (The Spy Next Door)
NEORWA Cleveland Rocks 2nd Place 2009 (The Spy Next Door)

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(Above three pictures courtesy of Sharon Wray. From top down, left to right – 2012 Golden Heart Finalist class; Diana with Lena Diaz at an RWA conference; Diana, Rachel Grant, and Sharon Wray at an RWA conference)

20110630 GH RS Finalists

(2011 Golden Heart Finalists, left to right: Rachel Grant, Diana Belchase, Gwen Hernandez, Sharon Wray, Sarah Andre)

And now for some words from some of Diana’s fellow KaTs!

“Congratulations, Diana! No matter what happens at the awards ceremony, you’re already a winner. I’ll be cheering for you.” – Gwen Hernandez

“Dear Diana,

You’ve worked so hard to reach this highest-of-writer pinnacles. The nomination is a testament to your patience and perseverance. You’ve faced down more hardships than any other friend I know, so take a moment to just sit with this awesome accomplishment. Enjoy San Diego! My most heartfelt congratulations.” – Sarah Andre

 

“Diana is such a hard worker but she’s also extremely talented and generous. So it’s wonderful to see her get the recognition she deserves. Congratulations, Diana!” – Manda Collins

 

“One of my fondest memories was spending the day with Diana on the Kiss of Death tour of the LAPD Academy. She lovingly forced me out of my shy shell and I had the absolute best time and made a friend for life. Diana is one of the smartest, kindest, most interesting people I know. And she’s one hell of a writer. Congratulations on your latest achievement, Diana!” – Lena Diaz

 

“Diana is one of the most generous women I know. Besides being a wonderful writer, she’s a true and trusted friend who will always answer the phone to help you with your problems (both plot-wise and personal). Her advice (again both with plots and personal problems) is always honest and straightforward. She has a way of knowing what needs to be said even if it’s not necessarily what one wants to hear. But because she’s so diplomatic and kind, you know her comments come from the heart. Her only intent is to help make your writing shine and offer a sounding board when life becomes overwhelming. Meeting Diana is one of the reasons I so value the Golden Heart contest. Without that opportunity, I never would’ve met Diana or any of my Golden Sisters. Sisters who, like Diana, have changed my life for the better. Congratulations, Diana! I am so very proud of you!” – Sharon Wray

Congratulations Diana! One reason I’m so happy for you is that I know you are always happy for others (including me). When others succeed, you are the first in line with a big grin and an atta girl! When others face disappointment or a setback (including me), you are there with a big hug, a sympathetic ear, and advice on how to move on to the next goal. I’ll never forget the way you helped me prep for my panel at Thrillerfest when I was a bundle of nerves, or all the fun we had at the FBI writers day, or introduced me to all your friends when I knew no one. In short, Diana, you are true blue and I’m so happy you are my friend. I can’t wait to hug you at RWA. I’ll be the one cheering loudly and embarrassing you in front of your peeps. Congratulations!” – Carey Baldwin

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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