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. 🙂
Diana Belchase is celebrating her third Golden Heart nomination. The first book in her Born to Spy series, The Spy in the Mirror, won the Golden Heart in 2011. Escape from the Harem, a 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.
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 Sights, finaled 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.
Our 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.
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Arianna 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!
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Our 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.
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?