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Romantic Suspense: It’s Not Just a Grown-up Genre

This year has been another busy year of reading and writing. And like last year, my reading list was filled with all sorts of Young Adult books.

Similar to the Romance genre, the YA genre is broken down into smaller groups. The first division is by age of protagonist (not age of reader!): Upper Middle Grade (age 13-14) Lower YA (age 15-16), YA (age 17-18), and Upper YA (age 18-19).

These age divisions are averages and some books, especially series, will cross the age barrier as the protagonist grows up, like Harry Potter.

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My daughter at a booksigning with YA author Alexandra Bracken.

The next division is by type: sweet romance, summer romance, suspense/mystery, thriller, speculative (incl. dystopian and magical elements), paranormal romance, sci-fi, realistic fiction, historical, fairytale retellings, as well as a few others.

Since I have a son and a daughter, I read a ton of YA in all of the genres. So this year, just in time for Christmas, I’d like to share some of my favorite YA books that had some sort of suspense and/or mystery with an underlying love story.

51xCj8tr7cL._UY250_The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

Amazon blurb: After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

SW: My kids and I read this book, and the sequel The Infinite Sea, in one weekend. And when we heard they were turning it into a movie to come out in 2016, we threw a party. This book won a ton of awards, too many to list, and they were all well deserved. A great science fiction/adventure with a compelling love story woven in so well that my son didn’t even mind it. This is a great book and series for the whole family. This book is YA Science Fiction with Romantic Elements.

The movie opens January 15, 2016 and here is the trailer!

51OkBYoIobL._UY250_I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Amazon blurb: When her best friend, Meg, commits suicide by drinking a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how did she miss the signs of Meg’s depression? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, and some secrets of his own. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

SW: Anytime Gayle Forman writes a book, I cry. There. I’ve admitted it. Just like one of her previous books, Just One Day, I sobbed my way through the second half of this book. It’s heartbreaking and sad and wonderful. It’s an upper YA book, and there is an “adult encounter” between the heroine and hero, but it’s behind closed doors. Still, the adult situation and the topic of suicide was enough to make my daughter want to wait to read this book. (I usually read the Upper YA books first because I know what my kids like and don’t like at this age). But I have no doubt that once she reads it, it will change her forever. Gayle Forman is that kind of writer and I Was Here is that kind of book. This book is Upper YA Realistic Fiction.

51NQkyd6KeL._UY250_In the Afterlife by Alexandra Bracken

Amazon blurb: Ruby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. Only Ruby can keep their highly dangerous prisoner in check. But with Clancy Gray, there’s no guarantee you’re fully in control, and everything comes with a price.

When the Children’s League disbands, Ruby rises up as a leader and forms an unlikely allegiance with Liam’s brother, Cole, who has a volatile secret of his own. There are still thousands of other Psi kids suffering in government “rehabilitation camps” all over the country. Freeing them–revealing the governments unspeakable abuses in the process–is the mission Ruby has claimed since her own escape from Thurmond, the worst camp in the country.

But not everyone is supportive of the plan Ruby and Cole craft to free the camps. As tensions rise, competing ideals threaten the mission to uncover the cause of IAAN, the disease that killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others with powers the government will kill to keep contained. With the fate of a generation in their hands, there is no room for error. One wrong move could be the spark that sets the world on fire.

SW: This is the third book in a blockbuster series that my family and I just loved. This book is non-stop action with the fulfillment of a poignant teenage love story between Ruby and Liam. But the love part is subtle enough not to bother the boys (so says my son who hates romance in his books).  One of the many things I liked about this book is that the parents eventually take control of the chaos and help the teenagers heal. There is one brief behind-closed-doors adult situation, but I don’t think my son even noticed! Beware: once you start this series, you’ll have to clear your schedule to read all three books in the shortest period of time possible. This book is YA Speculative Fiction (Dystopian).

Here is a book trailer for the series.

51aZJUIAE0L._UY250_Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Amazon blurb: With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today’s foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman’s If I StayBefore I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person’s life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

SW: From the first page, I had mixed feelings about this book. I’d read other books by Lauren Oliver and loved them (Delerium Trilogy, Panic, Vanishing Girls), but her debut book was hard for me to get into because I really didn’t like the heroine. Then my daughter told me that I’m not supposed to like her but that by the end I’d be crying for her. And my daughter was so right!

This book was spectacular and has been optioned for a movie. It is a teenage take on Groundhog Day, but much more poignant and powerful. The book does deal with powerful themes of teenage death and redemption and was emotionally hard for me to get through at times, but Lauren Oliver’s prose is so lovely that it carried me when I wanted to hide under the covers. This book is hard to classify but I would say it’s YA Speculative Fiction (Magical Elements).

61mRESZpMwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Midnight Sky by Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann

Amazon blurb: Destiny has chosen Skylar. Now it might destroy her.

Skylar is a girl with extraordinary power. A girl with a mission to use her Greater-Than gifts to stop the makers of Destiny from getting people hooked on their deadly drug. But Sky is still mastering her new abilities, and her first mission to destroy a Destiny lab leaves her best friend addicted to the drug. For a few days Cal will be able to walk again – until it kills him. Time is running out for Sky to save the world without sacrificing her friends, to become truly Greater-Than…

SW: This is the second book in the Night Sky series (my daughter and I recently interviewed Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann about the first book Night Sky), and I enjoyed it even more than the first. It’s another fast-paced, action-filled story with fabulous characters. The love story is lovely and moving and age appropriate (which I appreciate), but so are the relationships between all of the characters. In true Suzanne Brockmann fashion, you’ll end up loving the secondary characters as much as the primaries. The two books in this series would make a wonderful gift for any avid reader! This book is YA Paranormal Romance. 

51YlAW-EW8L._UY250_Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn

Amazon blurb: Imagine a world where your destiny has already been decided…by your future self. 

It’s Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she’s eagerly awaiting her vision — a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they’re meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist. Or in Callie’s case, a criminal.

In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in prison. The only person who can help is her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years. Logan breaks her free, but can she trust him? He’s almost the same boy she remembers, but now he’s a whole lot hotter. And he’s got his own past to deal with. Callie’s falling for him, fast, but she soon learns he has secrets of his own. Secrets that mean they can never be together. Now, Callie’s on the run not only from the government, but also from her fate. If she wants any hope of a future with Logan, she must find a way to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all — herself.

SW: I loved science fiction as a teenager, and this reminded me of Philip K. Dick’s short story Minority Report, but much more updated and far more romantic. It’s a fabulous debut by a new YA author and well worth the time to savor. It’s a harrowing yet deeply emotional story that will keep you guessing until the very end. If you end up with an unexpected snow day, this is a perfect book to curl up with next to a fire with tea and leftover Christmas cookies. Because once you sit down to read it, you won’t get up until you finish. This book is YA Science Fiction Romance.

Here is an official book trailer:

61rQHN6ZwSL._UY250_Champion by Marie Lu

Amazon blurb: The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT!

He is a Legend. She is a Prodigy. Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

SW: Oh. My. Gosh!!!!! This book, the third in the trilogy, made we weep for days. Then my daughter read it, and she cried. Now her best friend is reading it, and she didn’t want to go to school because she was up all night crying. This book, along with the entire series, is a perfect blend of action, adventure, and love. I have to admit that my son hasn’t read this yet, but when he heard it might be made into a movie he moved the books to his TBR pile. I have no doubt he’ll love it too, but for other reasons. There is enough danger and excitement to keep any teenage boy interested. There is one closed-door adult situation scene toward the end of the book, but my kids never even mentioned it so I’m not sure they noticed.  This book is YA Speculative Fiction (Dystopian).

Here is the official book trailer:

51zS7370ldL._UY250_Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Amazon blurb: The third installment in the mesmerizing series from the irrepressible, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray. Mothers can disappear. Visions can mislead. Certainties can unravel.

SW: This is the third book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series (The Raven Cycle) and my daughter and I think it’s our favorite (and we loved the first two!). This book is a paranormal romance with so many twists and turns that you have to keep reading because you have no idea what’s going to happen next. It’s the story of Blue Sargent, a local young woman with psychic abilities, and her relationship with a group of wealthy boys from nearby Aglionby Academy.

Together, they are determined to prove that the ancient Welsh King Glendower, and his sleeping knights, are buried somewhere in Virginia’s Shenandoah mountains. And those who wake him will be granted a wish. To add to Blue’s problems is the prophecy that she is cursed to kill the only boy she will ever love. And of course the boy she’s crushing on is one of the Raven boys. Fabulous series for both girls and boys, but I should note that it’s written at a higher reading level. While the story is very YA, Maggie Stiefvater writing is complex enough that some younger readers may not be able to keep up. This book is YA Paranormal Romance. 

So what books have you read that you loved this year? I still have gifts to buy so I’d love to know!

All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray. Copyright 2015. 

All book covers courtesy of Amazon.

Mothers & Daughters Rock the Night Sky: An Interview with Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann

UnknownToday I’d like to welcome Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann, along with Ellen Wray, for a K&T first: A mother/daughter interview with the NYT best-selling mother/daughter writing team!

How did this all happen? It started with my daughter’s love of YA novels which led to the buying and borrowing of many(!) books.

That led to my reading and falling in love with the YA genre too.

Then came the announcement that my all-time favorite romance author was writing a new YA paranormal romance series with her daughter.

Once I told Ellen (an aspiring author herself) about the series, she asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do a mother/daughter interview with the mother/daughter writing team?”

To which I replied, “Yes!” And because Suzanne is known within the writing community for her generosity, I reached out to her and she said “Yes!” as well.

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The Night Sky series debuted last October, followed by the prequel novella Dangerous Destiny. The second book in the series, Wild Sky, came out a few weeks ago. Upon Night Sky’s release, critics praised the novel for its witty dialog, strong female leads, realistically drawn characters, and a fabulous secondary cast  — not to mention a brilliant new YA world where kids with unusually strong powers must fight against those who would use them for nefarious purposes.

None of this praise comes as a surprise since these are the trademarks of Suzanne Brockmann’s adult romances. For her adult fans, this YA world is an extension of the world from Suz’s paranormal romance Born to Darkness. For younger fans, Melanie’s sharp insights into the minds of teenagers is as engaging as it is hilarious. The Night Sky series is a gripping, fast-paced adventure that Ellen and I have enjoyed experiencing together. And I’m so grateful to Suz and Melanie for sharing their YA world with us.

Now, on to the interview!

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They could be hunting you.
Hunted. Kidnapped. Bled. Someone is snatching girls and draining them for a secret that’s in their blood. A hormone that makes them stronger, faster, smarter. A hormone that the makers of a new drug called Destiny will murder to get their hands on. These girls could be anyone. They could be anywhere.

They could be you.

When Skylar discovers she’s a Greater-Than, a girl with terrifying power, her life will never be the same. The only way to stay alive is to join the fight against Destiny and become the ultimate weapon.

Sharon: Thank you both for spending the day with us! I loved the heroine Skylar, but I fell in love with her best friend Calvin. How did Calvin (who is in a wheelchair yet has a brief moment where he can walk and dance) feel about having to go back into his wheelchair?

Suz: Calvin is a very optimistic person, but he’s also a realist. He knows that his wheelchair is a part of his life. So even though I’m sure he felt a little twinge of disappointment when his stint out of the chair ended, he adjusted gracefully right back to the life he has known for years.

Mel: All I can say is for anyone interested in the relationship Calvin has with his wheelchair, wait until the sequel, Wild Sky.

Sharon: I am reading Wild Sky now and loving the Calvin moments! Were you influenced by any specific YA books?

Suz: Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books, starting with A Wizard of Earthsea, were among my very favorites growing up. And of course, like most of the world, I adore The Hunger Games trilogy!

Mel: I think I read A Wrinkle in Time between fifteen and twenty times. I loved it that much.

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Sharon: For your YA reading, do you prefer physical books or ebooks? Ellen much prefers books to her Kindle. She surrounds herself with her favorite books while she sleeps!

Suz: I’m an e-reading woman. I’m in love with the convenience. (And I have a very old school Kindle, which is almost like reading a book!)

Mel: Either works for me!

Sharon: We caught the Star Trek references, but didn’t read any Joss Whedon references. Did we miss them? (Ellen and I are huge Buffy fans, except she’s Team Angel and I’m Team Spike.)

Suz: Believe it or not, Mel is (whispering) not a Buffy fan. She’s resisted all of my urging and pleas to watch it. I think someday she will, and then her head will explode from the shiny, but until then . . .

DangerousDestiny_Cover1-e1408135458693Sharon: (Not a Buffy fan? Yikes!) In Night Sky, you used one of my all-time favorite quotes of yours, “Do the best you can at the moment”. That quote has gotten me through some difficult times. Can you tell us the story about that quote or why you feel so strongly about it?

Suz: There’s a book called “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz, which is a wonderful outline of a philosophy that I try hard to embrace. One of the agreements is “Always do your best,” to which I added “in the moment.” Because, obviously, your personal best is going to depend quite a bit on what’s happening around you. For example, your personal best while running a 5K is gonna be seriously different if you have the flu versus being completely healthy, right?

This comes in very handy when, as an author, your career spans several decades and dozens of published books. I’ve learned a lot since my very first book, Future Perfect, came out in 1993—in fact, I’m a much, much better writer now. But at the time, that book was my personal best, and because of that, I remain very proud of it!

Sharon: I love that philosophy! Thank you for sharing it. So, whose idea was it to write a book together?

Mel: My mom sent me a cryptic text a few years ago, asking me to meet her at our local Barnes & Noble. I did, and she sprang the idea of the two of us writing a book together. She thought it would be a good idea for us to walk through the store and see what was out there in the YA market. But she wasn’t sure what I would think about the idea of co-writing one. In case it wasn’t obvious, I JUMPED at the idea. J

Sharon: Aren’t moms wonderful? Right Ellen? J

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Ellen tries hard not to roll her eyes, but fails. “My turn!”

Ellen: Why did you put in the song Anaconda by Nicki Minaj? I was really surprised to see it because there are parodies of it all over Instagram and school.

Mel: We tried to imagine what songs would still be around decades from now—and which of those very old songs Calvin would find the most amusing!

Suz: I’m pretty sure someone’s still gonna be singing those lyrics in 2115!

Ellen: I hope so! (grimaces) Do you have a writing playlist or a certain song you listened to while writing?

Suz: I’m a musician, so I have to write in silence. If music is on, my attention is completely taken by the melody and the words of the song, and I get nothing done!

Mel: I have lots of playlists for my other job (personal trainer) – especially for my long runs. But writing is something I need to do without music, too.

Ellen: How do you think strong heroines in YA literature, including Skylar, have influenced readers?

Mel: I know that when I was a young reader, I was inspired by strong female characters. I think that having that kind of role model made me as tough as I am. (The good kind of tough.) J

Suz: I hope hope hope that girls who read both Night Sky and the sequel, Wild Sky, will relate to Skylar and to Dana, too. In a society that so often sends a message that girls must attempt to look and act alike, Skylar realizes what Dana already knows: that being different – not being the same as everyone else – is a STRENGTH, not a weakness.

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Sharon and Ellen reading Night Sky by an October bonfire.

Ellen: Buffy (and Angel) are two of my favorite characters ever. Do you think the current group of strong YA heroines started with Buffy?

Suz: There were strong heroines in pop culture before Buffy, but I have to say that, in my opinion, Buffy is by far the most important female fictional character in the past 20 years. For a smallish, cute, blonde sixteen-year-old to have her strength, courage, and all around kick-ass attitude blasted through so many stereotypes that I think (and hope) that she’ll continue to inspire girls for decades to come.

Ellen: Can you explain the dual writing process? Did you each write certain chapters or was one person responsible for dialogue and the other responsible for description? How did you revise and still love each other?

Mel: We made up our process as we went along, but the general plan was this: Mom and I got together and worked through a detailed outline of the story.

Suz: I’ve been an outliner/planner from way back. So, just like with all of my other books, Mel and I sat and talked and took notes for hours and hours before we started to write. We talked extensively about Sky. As our main character, we really needed to know her, inside and out. Mel spent some time on her own, too, writing some of Sky’s backstory from Sky’s point of view. What that did was really hone Sky’s voice so that we both knew exactly what she sounded like.

Meanwhile, I took all of our random notes about the plot and conflict (we mapped out about three books’ worth!), and I organized them into a structured story outline. And then we sat down again and thought about the best way to introduce Sky and Calvin, and we extensively outlined chapter one.

Mel: At that point, I wrote a first draft, and Mom revised it. (We did it at the same time, though – I would send a chapter, and Mom would revise it as I wrote the next chapter. Then I’d read the revisions before moving on to the next one.)

Suz: Every time we came to the end of the segment we’d outlined extensively, we’d do more brainstorming and figure out the details of the next series of chapters.

Mel: Of course, sometimes we’d shift things around. Sometimes Mom would say, “skip this next scene because I’ll write it—I see it so clearly,” and then I’d revise that scene that she wrote. But one thing was ABSOLUTELY constant – we did not sit together and write in the same room at the same time. We tried that only once. Nope. J

Suz: Yeah, that was awkward! We had to revise a bit of dialogue, and so I turned on my computer and we both pulled our chairs up to it and . . .

Mel: Crickets chirped!

Suz: After just a few minutes, one of us said something, “Let’s not do it this way.”

Mel: And the other said, “Oh, thank God!”

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Two fans (Ellen and her cousin Emily) pretending to be Skylar and Dana from Night Sky by Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann.

Ellen: Wow. Are you familiar with fandoms and shipping? If so, what are your OTPs in the Night Sky world? What is Skylar and Milo’s ship name? Skylo? Milar?

Suz: I’ve bumped up against reader expectations in my romance novels, and while I am a fervent believer in OTPs upon winning (and earning!) an HEA, I like stories that give characters an opportunity to explore the romantic landscape in advance of that HEA.

Mel: I like your suggestion of Skylo! J

Ellen: Thanks! Can boys be Greater-Thans?

Mel: Yes, but many more females than males are G-Ts. You’ll learn more about that in the next book, Wild Sky!

Suz: We introduce one particularly fun new character in the sequel. (Can’t wait to hear what you think!)

Ellen: Will the backstory/worldbuilding be explained more in the next book? (my mom said this was explained more in your adult novel Born to Darkness, but I’m 16 and I’m not allowed to read that yet!)

Mel: Yes – Wild Sky goes into more detail about the world. But there’s always more to learn as Sky learns more! J

Ellen: Will Nicole (a character from Skylar’s past) make an appearance in the next book?

Mel: No, not in the next book, but you’ll find out more about Garrett in Wild Sky!

Suz: Yeah, one of the first rules of writing is “Torture your characters,” so we thought we’d do just that by forcing Sky and Cal to interact rather extensively with football-playing school bully Garrett!

Ellen: My friends and I love to note-card our favorite books. Do you have any suggestions for note-carding Night Sky? (favorite quotes or passages or one-liners?)

Suz: For me, it’s pretty much every one of Cal’s Would You Rather questions! (And there are more of those in Wild Sky!)

Mel: Ooh, I think that’s something that you should share with us! We’d love to hear your favorite lines!

Ellen: I’d love to share! Here are some of my favorite one-liners and quotes:

I lack both a phone and a give-a-d*mn. (p. 380)

And love was still coursing through the air like it had its own individual pulse, but something else was casting a spell that lingered as it blew through the lit candles and brushed against the red rose petals sprinkled across the bedsheets. It was desire. (p. 435)

And I know I complain a lot about my mom. But when it comes to taking care of little girls who’ve been kidnapped and nearly killed? She kinda rocks. (p. 481)

Would you rather . . . ? (Calvin’s question throughout the book!)

And he kissed me. And I’m not talking peck on the cheek, either. (p. 306)

I had so much crap on my mind that my brain actually hurt. (p. 194)

Because life was so dang dangerous now, unlike the incredibly safe and bucolic good old days of the twenty-teens, or whatever ancient but perfect decade Mom had grown up in. (p. 13)

I had a bad case of swamp butt, and my jean shorts were sticking to my backside uncomfortably. (p. 1)

Now Suzanne and Melanie would love to hear from you! Do you have a favorite YA book or character? Or a favorite book one-liner or quote? Or any question about what it’s like to work as a mother/daughter team?

Thank you so much, Suz and Mel, for spending the day with us and sharing your own creative stories. Ellen and I are reading Wild Sky and hope you’ll come back for another interview soon!

Unknown-1Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter, Melanie Brockmann, have been creative partners on and off for many years. Their first project was an impromptu musical duet, when then-six-month-old Melanie delighted Suz by matching her pitch and singing back to her. (Babies aren’t supposed to do that.) Since then, Mel has gone on to play clarinet and saxophone, to sing in a wedding band, and to run seven-minute miles. She is one of Sarasota, Florida’s most sought-after personal trainers. Suz has driven an ice-cream truck, directed an a cappella singing group, and can jog a twelve-minute mile if chased. She is the multi-award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of more than fifty books. Wild Sky is the mother-daughter team’s second literary collaboration and the sequel to Night Sky. Their next collaborative project is an indie movie called Russian Doll in which Mel will star, while Suz executive produces. Each strongly suspects that the other is a Greater-Than.

Suz and Mel love to hear from their fans and you can find them on various social media sites: FacebookSuz’s TwitterMel’s Twitter, Website

Night Sky and Wild Sky are available from the following retailers:

Book/ebook: Amazon/KindleBN/Nook, iBooks, IndieBound, BAM, Kobo

Audio: DownpourAudible, iTunes

All photographs courtesy of Suzanne Brockmann and Sharon Wray.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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

Heather Ashby’s Never Forget: A Suzanne Brockmann Recommendation

I am so excited to welcome back one of my favorite Golden Heart sisters Heather Ashby. Today we’re talking about her newest release  Never Forget and the most amazing author endorsement ever!!!

“A must-read for fans of military romantic suspense. This book is part of a series, but it stands very much alone. If you enjoy my Troubleshooters, Heather’s definitely an author to check out! Amazing book, amazing author, amazing series.”

                                                                                             – Suzanne Brockmann

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HA: Thanks for inviting me today, Sharon. It’s always exciting to visit “Kiss and Thrill.” I’m thrilled to share Book #3 in my “Love in the Fleet” series with your readers.

 Never Forget

 With 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel melted into her bow, what if there are more souls aboard the USS New York than the sailors and Marines stationed there? And what if those souls can help the troops defeat al-Qaeda this time?

When Royal Navy officer Gwyn Pritchard reports for exchange duty aboard USS New York, she’s the only one who sees 9/11 spirits roaming the decks. The daughter of a famous Welsh psychic, Gwyn learns the spirits must complete a mission in order to pass to the other side.

The sole survivor of an IED blast in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor has his own issues. But when he discovers that the British officer sees ghosts aboard their ship, he becomes her confidant—and lover.

Passions rise to fever pitch when New York rushes to liberate British and American hostages in North Africa before al-Qaeda’s deadline. Can the spirits gather the right intelligence to help the Marines save the prisoners? Can Gwyn help the ghosts move on to the light? And can Adam and Gwyn find the love they’ve searched the world over for?

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SW: For my first question I just have to ask, “How did you get Suzanne Brockmann to give you a cover quote?”

HA: I asked Suzanne in person when she presented at our chapter meeting, so I had the opportunity to see her jaw drop when I told her about the USS New York and the 9/11 spirits on board. (Yes, there really IS 7.5 tons of WTC steel in the New York’s bow.) However, since Suzanne is well-known for supporting the troops, I’m sure the deciding factor was that I donate half my royalties to Fisher House Foundation in thanksgiving for my son’s safe return from war. BTW, getting her quote and endorsement on Facebook was a dream come true. It was her Troubleshooters books that got me through my son’s deployments (along with vast amounts of prayer and chardonnay!) And while reading her books, I was inspired to try my hand at military romance.

SW: You are so brave. I don’t know if I would have the courage to ask. When you first came up with the idea of the ghosts aboard USS New York, did you have any concerns or worries?

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HA: I sat on the idea for several weeks, questioning if it was okay to write about them. My concern was for the 9/11 families. Then it came to me that if I didn’t write this story, somebody else would, and I wanted to ensure it was written with the respect it deserved. I am a Navy veteran, Marine Corps daughter, Navy wife, and mother of an Iraq and Afghanistan combat Army vet. I felt I was qualified—and with the victims’ families always foremost in my mind—I jumped in with both feet and wrote straight from the heart.

I realized that if I could give the spirits a voice and empower them with some control over the ship, the crisis, and their destiny, it would allow them to move from victim to victor. Just so you know, I worked on this book for two years and I still get goose bumps. Thus far my favorite reader review is this one on Facebook: “As a member of a 9/11 family, this book is truly inspiring. I’m filled with gratitude for this very special remembrance of my son.”

SW: What a wonderful review! How many people did you share your premise with while you were writing this? Or did you keep it to yourself?

HA: I shared with very few, highly-trusted individuals. For me to keep a secret like this for two years was a big deal, but I felt the story was too special to allow it to be stolen and sensationalized.

SW: How did you come up with your heroine? Why Welsh and the Royal Navy? She’s fascinating and so different from other heroines.

HA: Several years ago my husband and I entertained Royal Navy officers from the HMS Ocean. One delightful Sub-Left-tenant, suggested I write a romance about a Naval officer exchange program between the U.S. and the U.K., which meant two love story threads. In Never Forget, the love story on the British ship, HMS Atlantic, is the link to the first two books in “Love in the Fleet.” The other thread is detailed above in the blurb. Then I needed a reason why only Gwyn could see the spirits, and thought of a country that might have “faeries,” so I made her Welsh. She grew up with a mum who dabbled in “all kinds of woo-woo stuff,” so Gwyn rebelled by becoming a Royal Naval engineer, a profession which uses science and logic. She is therefore mortified when she reports for duty aboard New York and sees ghosts—meaning she has inherited the family “gift.”

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SW: Why were the prisoners in North Africa? Was there any significance in that choice? (It seems so eerily appropriate now)

HA: I chose North Africa because I needed both the American and British ships (with both sets of lovers) to be close enough to rush to the crisis. The USS New York would be on a routine Med cruise and the HMS Atlantic could race from Plymouth, England to join her in trying to free British and American hostages. My USMC advisor and I decided Tangiers was the perfect spot for the crisis because it was the espionage crossroads of the world in the 1940s and 1950s which plays into the story.

SW: Did you have any surprises while writing this book?

HA: The spirits were a total surprise. My stories are “homeported” at Naval Station Mayport, FL. In 2012 I learned that Mayport would be receiving three amphibious assault ships in 2014, so I decided to write about an amphib. While researching the new ships, I read about the World Trade Center steel melted into the bow of USS New York. I literally flew out of my chair, hands to open mouth with “OMG!OMG!OMG!” screaming in my brain!

Next I surprised myself by making one of the two heroes a Marine. I knew nothing about Marines and could just as easily have made him a Naval officer. But something spoke to me. My late father was a WWII Marine. He had some sad issues from his childhood and I decided to work them out through Adam Connor, my Marine hero. Then I was led to a fabulous newly-retired Marine, Christopher Bergeron, who was interested in helping. He said, “I spent my career writing amphibious assault training scenarios and never got to use half of them. I know exactly how to go into your fictional consulate and free those hostages!” Like I could turn THAT down! The fact that Chris doubled as the cover art photographer was beyond awesome!

There are several surprises in the crisis – which is a series of black moments. One scared the living daylights out of me! My brain kept saying, “Play it safe. This is too risky. You can’t do this.” But my ADHD gut said, “Go for it! This is the kind of thing that makes for blockbuster books and movies.” I figured if it was too risky, my editor would slap me on the wrist and make me revise. But she loved it! (It scared her too J)

Although Chris is new to writing fiction, he added in a few surprises that literally had me screaming out “OMG! I didn’t know that!” At first he just gave me Marine Corps “sand,” general information that I could turn into “sand castles.” But his confidence has gone through the roof as he realizes what a brilliant and creative writer he is (my words, not his J) We are exploring the very real possibility of co-authoring book four, Unforgettable.

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SW: Speaking of your covers, Heather, I see they’ve changed. Can you shed a little light on that.

HA: I changed publishers over the summer and am now working with the amazing Teresa Medeiros at Amber House Books. Since it was imperative that this book have a respectful cover, we decided to go with military uniforms for the entire series. My hero son agreed to pose for the covers and Chris shot the photos. My retired Navy husband meticulously researched the ribbons and devices (A.K.A. “fruit salad”) to ensure that the uniforms reflected the age and experience of the hero in each book. It was a true family affair; even my daughter helped out. She suggested a key spy character – “The Lynx” – right before Never Forget went to press.

I feel like I’ve come full circle, Sharon. At 9:04 on 9/11, I knew my son would be going to war. It was one of the most frightening realizations I’ve ever had. I’ve been blessed to have him return safe and whole from combat. Now he helps out as we publish “Love in the Fleet” and donate to causes that support families who have not fared as well as ours in the War on Terror.

Now I’d like to leave a question with your readers: What were you doing when you learned of 9/11 and what was your initial reaction?

 

SW: One lucky commenter will win a copy of Never Forget by Heather Ashby!

HA: Thanks for inviting me today, Sharon. It’s always a pleasure to interact with your readers.

SW: You’re so welcome, Heather. It’s always a pleasure to have you here.

USSNYHeather 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. She now writes military romance novels in the series, “Love in the Fleet.” Her debut novel, Forgive & Forget was voted “Best of 2013” by Suspense Magazine. Forget Me Not is currently a finalist in the Military Writers Society of America’s annual contest. She publishes with Amber House Books, who released Never Forget on September 9th. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her husband and two rescue cats.

You can find Heather at: www.heatherashby.comwww.heatherashby.com/Books.htmlhttp://amzn.to/1lFC9Ua, Twitter: @HAshbyAuthor, and www.facebook.com/HeatherAshbyAuthor?ref=

All photos courtesy of Heather Ashby.

Winner Announcement: And the winner of ALL GOOD DEEDS by Stacy Greena as well as ALL GOOD DEEDS swag  is JB Schroeder. Congratulations JB! Please use our contact page to claim your prize and let us know if you prefer an e-book or print on release day. Please include your email and snail mail addy.

 

 

Book Lists and Lena Diaz’s Tennessee Takedown

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Thank you for helping us build our 2014 TBR lists! We came up with some wonderful suggestions that will keep us busy all year.

These are some of titles on our list so far  (in no particular order):

Do or Die, Suzanne Brockmann  February 4, 2014

Hell for Leather, Julie Ann Walker, May 6, 2014

Dash of Peril (Love Undercover), Lori Foster, March 25, 2014

When Day Breaks, Maya Banks, June 24, 2014

Elle Kennedy, Midnight Pursuits, April 1 2014

The King, JR Ward, April 1, 2014

Dark Wolf, Christine Feehan, January 7, 2014

Styxx, Sherrilyn Kenyon, September 2013

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green

Tenessee Takedown, Lena Diaz, February 1, 2014

The Bodyguard, Lena Diaz, April 15, 2014

Take the Key and Lock Her Up, Lena Diaz, July 22, 2014

Confession, Carey BaldwinMarch 11th, 2014

Labyrinth, Carey Baldwin, Sept 16th, 2014

Why Earls Fall in Love, Manda Collins , January 28, 2014

Why Lords Fall in Love, Manda Collins, July 28, 2014

Withholding Evidence, Rachel Grant, February 2014

Incriminating Evidence, Rachel Grant, Late 2014

Thankless in Death, J.D. Robb, September 17, 2013

The Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz

It Happens in the Dark, Carol O’Connell, August 2013

Lost in a  Royal Kiss, Vanessa Kelly, November 26, 2013

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt, October 22, 2013

The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer, April 9, 2013

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson, April 2, 2013

Far Gone, Laura Griffin, April 15, 2014

Romancing the Duke, Tessa Dare, January 28, 2014

Sweet Talk Me, Kieran Kramer, March 15, 2014

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And please join us next week when our very own Carey Baldwin interviews our very own Lena Diaz!

We can’t wait to hear about her upcoming release Tennessee Takedown from Harlequin!

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New Year, New Romantic Suspense (and others) TBR Pile

IMG_1677It’s a new year, filled with reviews of 2013’s goal lists and resolutions to do so much more in 2014. But I am neither obsessed about where I fell short nor worried about the year ahead because I have always measured my life by my TBR pile. It could have something to do with the fact I am both a librarian and a writer. Every January I diligently review the list of books I’ve read and make a new list for the new year. But as of January 14, 2014 I only have 110 books on my list. So I’ve decided to share just some of the books that fall into the romantic suspense/thriller/mystery category with a few YA’s and a 2013 holdover included just for fun.  IMG_1729

So grab a latte or hot chocolate and please join me in building the list. Last year I read over 250 titles so I could use a few more suggestions!

51XOGF8HHyL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Do or Die, Suzanne Brockmann  February 4, 2014

Book description from back cover:   Navy SEAL Ian Dunn went rogue in a big way when he turned his talents to a lawless life of jewel heists and con jobs. Or so the world has been led to believe. In reality, the former Special Ops warrior is still fighting for good, leading a small band of freelance covert operatives who take care of high-stakes business in highly unofficial ways. That makes Ian the hands-down choice when the U.S. government must breach a heavily guarded embassy and rescue a pair of children kidnapped by their own father, a sinister foreign national willing to turn his kids into casualties. Shockingly, Ian passes on the mission for reasons he will not—or cannot—reveal. But saying no is not an option. Especially not for Phoebe Kruger, Ian’s beautiful and unexpectedly brash new attorney.

Determined to see the abducted children set free, Phoebe not only gets Ian on board but insists on riding shotgun on his Mission: Impossible–style operation, whether he likes it or not. Though Phoebe has a valuable knack for getting out of tight spots, there’s no denying the intensely intimate feelings growing between Ian and Phoebe as the team gears up for combat. But these are feelings they both must fight to control as they face an array of cold-blooded adversaries, including a vindictive mob boss who’s got Ian at the top of his hit list and a wealthy psychopath who loves murder as much as he loves money. As they dodge death squads and play lethal games of deception, Ian and Phoebe will do whatever it takes to save the innocent and vanquish the guilty—or die trying. 51zMbzUGktL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Hell for Leather, Julie Ann Walker, May 6, 2014

Blurb from Amazon:  Only the most urgent crisis could force Delilah Fairchild to abandon her beloved biker bar and ask the surly Bryan “Mac” McMillan for help. What the ex-FBI agent has against her is a mystery…but when the bullets start to fly, Mac is her only chance for finding her uncle alive. Mac knows that beautiful women can’t be trusted, but he has to put his natural wariness of Delilah aside to help her. With the clock ticking, Mac and Delilah find themselves holding on to each other in the wildest adventure of their lives.

51nrr4qRmzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Dash of Peril (Love Undercover), Lori Foster, March 25, 2014

Book blurb from Amazon: To bring down a sleazy abduction ring, Lieutenant Margaret “Margo” Peterson has set herself up as bait. But recruiting Dashiel Riske as her unofficial partner is a whole other kind of danger. Dash is six feet four inches of laid-back masculine charm, a man who loves life—and women—to the limit. Until Margo is threatened, and he reveals a dark side that may just match her own…. Beneath Margo’s tough facade is a slow-burning sexiness that drives Dash crazy. The only way to finish this case is to work together side by side…skin to skin. And as their mission takes a lethal turn, he’ll have to prove he’s all the man she needs—in all the ways that matter…. 51dm0mRre-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

When Day Breaks, Maya Banks, June 24, 2014

Book blurb from Amazon:   Eden is said to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her face has graced countless magazines and her body has sold millions of dollars of clothing. But her fame and beauty has earned her more than she ever imagined. Evil is stalking her, determined to extinguish the ethereal beauty forever. Swanson or “Swanny” as his teammates call him is always up for the next mission. He came back from Afghanistan wounded and scarred. Hardly the kind of man who even belongs in the same room with Eden. And yet there’s something about the quiet beauty that stirs his blood and makes him dream of the impossible. Because Beauty loving the Beast only happens in fairy tales and KGI doesn’t deal in fairy tales. Ever. 51qqXaGt9xL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Elle Kennedy, Midnight Pursuits, April 1 2014

Book blurb from Amazon:  Soldier-for-hire Ethan Hayes is the youngest member of an elite mercenary team. While he may be affectionately nicknamed the rookie, the skills Ethan honed as a Marine make him seriously dangerous. But when a sudden distress call puts him in close quarters with a rival, he finds more than his field skills being put to the test. Juliet Mason stands out as the master thief in a covert group of assassins and spies. Her latest mission is personal—and it’s gone horribly wrong. Juliet may prefer to work alone, but when the rookie comes to her aid in snowy Eastern Europe, she can’t deny they make a good team. But even up against a powerful enemy, their most challenging task yet may be fighting the passion between them…. 516h27EJgUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The King, JR Ward, April 1, 2014  (Okay. Not RS. But I don’t care. I’ve been waiting for this book for YEARS and it’s going on the list. :))

Book blurb from Amazon:  After turning his back on the throne for centuries, Wrath, son of Wrath, finally assumed his father’s mantle–with the help of his beloved mate. But the crown sets heavily on his head. As the war with the Lessening Society rages on, and the threat from the Band of Bastards truly hits home, he is forced to make choices that put everything–and everyone–at risk. Beth Randall thought she knew what she was getting into when she mated the last pure blooded vampire on the planet: An easy ride was not it. But when she decides she wants a child, she’s unprepared for Wrath’s response–or the distance it creates between them. The question is, will true love win out… or tortured legacy take over? 91x0cuCZ4VL._SL1500_

Dark Wolf, Christine Feehan, January 7, 2014 ( I just got this book!!! And it’s on the list and will be read by the weekend!!!)

Book blurb from Amazon:  Skyler Daratrazanoff always recognized the miracle that was Dimitri Tirunul, a man beyond any dream that had ever engaged her nights. But she was human. Vulnerable. He was Carpathian. Nearly immortal. She was nineteen. He was an ancient. Yet she held half his soul, the light to his darkness. Without her, he would not survive. Caught between the two warring species, Dimitri has spent centuries hunting the undead to keep his people free, and humans safe. He had survived honorably when others had chosen to give up their souls. But now, marked for extermination by the Lycans, Dimitri found himself alone, and fearing for his life. But salvation was coming… No Lycan would ever suspect someone like Skyler to dare mount a secret rescue operation. A teenage girl. A human of untested abilities. But she had something no one else had. She was predestined for Dimitri—as he was for her. And there was nothing stronger for Skyler than her desire to see her life-dream come true. Whatever the risk.

51cw9VJsXeLStyxx, Sherrilyn Kenyon, September 2013 (This is my one holdover book from last year. This book is long (848 pages) but in October and I got caught up in re-reading The Mists of Avalon, also over 800 pages. So I got behind. But this is a book I’ve waited for for a long time.)

Book blurb from Amazon: Just when you thought doomsday was over . . .  Centuries ago Acheron saved the human race by imprisoning an ancient evil bent on absolute destruction. Now that evil has been unleashed and it is out for revenge. As the twin to Acheron, Styxx hasn’t always been on his brother’s side. They’ve spent more centuries going at each other’s throats than protecting their backs. Now Styxx has a chance to prove his loyalty to his brother, but only if he’s willing to trade his life and future for Acheron’s. The Atlantean goddess of Wrath and Misery, Bethany was born to right wrongs. But it was never a task she relished. Until now. She owes Acheron a debt that she vows to repay, no matter what it takes. He will join their fellow gods in hell and nothing is going to stop her. But things are never what they seem, and Acheron is no longer the last of his line. Styxx and Acheron must put aside their past and learn to trust each other or more will suffer. Yet it’s hard to risk your own life for someone who once tried to take yours, even when it’s your own twin, and when loyalties are skewed and no one can be trusted, not even yourself, how do you find a way back from the darkness that wants to consume the entire world? One that wants to start by devouring your very soul?

81kauFPTdLL._SL1500_Since I promised my teenage daughter we’d go see these movies, I’m adding these YAs, Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green, to the list as well.

Now for my favorite part of my annual list! As a writer, I am blessed to have so many friends who are successful authors who also (sometimes–hint, hint) offer me advanced copies. So here is a preview of my TBR books from my K&T sisters. I cannot wait to read these!!!

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Lena Diaz: Tenessee Takedown, February 1, 2014,

It can’t be a coincidence that in the past twenty-four hours, three different thugs have tried to kill or abduct Ashley Parrish. Sexy SWAT team leader Dillon Gray saved her, but now he wonders why someone would want to murder the beautiful accountant…and why he finds her so infuriatingly attractive.  Then the FBI comes after Ashley for embezzlement, and Dillon knows he must protect her from a killer and prove she’s being framed. Taking her on a hair-raising run through dangerous terrain barely fazes him. But wanting her for more than just one night scares the hell out of him.

51wjBAS5WeL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Bodyguard, April 15, 2014.

SHE HAD NO ONE TO FIGHT FOR HER—UNTIL ONE POWERFUL BODYGUARD REFUSED TO LEAVE HER SIDE 
Her perfect marriage was a sham and Caroline Ashton had the physical and emotional wounds to prove it. With nothing left to lose, Caroline is ready to walk away—and hires Luke Dawson as her personal bodyguard. But before he can do more than secure her a safe house, Caroline stumbles upon the body of the man she’d fought day and night to escape. Now, confronted with fears beyond anything she ever imagined, Luke is the only man she can trust. Putting her life in someone else’s hands isn’t easy, but Caroline knows survival never is. Besides, Luke’s proven himself to be a worthy protector—one who’ll stop at nothing to see she never suffers again….

Take the Key and Lock Her Up, July 22, 2014 from Avon Impulse is the next thriller Lena’s Nursery Rhyme Series.

51ZuS8rgUwL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-52,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Carey Baldwin: CONFESSION, March 11th, 2014.

For fans of Allison Brennan and Karen Rose comes Carey Baldwin, a daring new name in suspense, with the story of a serial killer out for blood—and the only woman who can stop his reign of terror.

They say the Santa Fe Saint comes to save your soul—by taking your life. Newly minted psychiatrist Faith Clancy gets the shock of her life when her first patient confesses to the grisly Saint murders. By law Faith’s compelled to notify the authorities, but is her patient really the Saint? Or will she contribute to more death by turning the wrong man over to the police?

Faith is going to need all her wits and the help of a powerful adversary, Luke Jericho, if she’s to unravel the truth. But she doesn’t realize she’s about to become an unwitting pawn in a serial killer’s diabolical game. For once he’s finished with Faith, she’ll become his next victim

And LABYRINTH featuring FBI profiler Atticus (Spense) Spenser and Dr. Caitlin Cassidy – whom you’ll meet in CONFESSION– releases Sept 16th, 2014. 

81reRpIwXpL._SL1500_Manda Collins: WHY EARLS FALL IN LOVE, January 28, 2014

Society often makes strange bedfellows—and even more surprising betrothals… Young widowed Georgina Mowbray is settling into her role as Lady Russell’s companion quite well—until the lady’s nephew Dominic, the Earl of Coniston, arrives in Bath for a visit. Georgie’s always found him shallow and too smooth, and trusts him as much as she trusts most men…which is to say, not at all. But Con turns out to be more intriguing than she remembers—and completely irresistible…

WHY LORDS FALL IN LOVE comes out on July 28, 2014!

BoE_72dpiFinally, but not at all the least, Rachel Grant has two releases coming this year.

WITHHOLDING EVIDENCE, a short novel in the Evidence series, will be out in late February or early March…

Military historian Trina Sorensen has a nearly impossible task before her: try to get recalcitrant and tempting former Navy SEAL Keith Hatcher to reveal what happened during a top secret Somalia op five years ago. Recent history isn’t usually her forte, but the navy wants an historian’s perspective and has given her the high security clearance to get the job done.

Keith Hatcher isn’t just refusing to tell Trina about the op, he’s protecting a national secret that could destroy the lives of those he cares about the most. But not wanting to talk about a covert mission doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in spending time with the sexy historian, and the first time they kiss it’s explosive. 

When the past comes pounding on Keith’s door, he’ll do anything to keep Trina safe… Anything, that is, except tell her about Somalia. But with the one thing he must hide at all costs being the key to their survival, Keith must decide who he can trust, and which secrets are worth dying for.

And Rachel’s next full-length Evidence story INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE will be out later in the year. 

So what other titles are you desperately waiting for? What other books can you recommend? I’d love to know!

Rachel Puts Debut Author Elizabeth Heiter in the Crosshairs

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I’m so excited today to introduce my friend Elizabeth Heiter to our Kiss and Thrill readers. Elizabeth and I met in 2008 when we were both finalists in Romance Writers of America®’s Golden Heart® contest. She was an early reader of CONCRETE EVIDENCE and I in turn was extremely lucky and got to read HUNTED, which debuts today.

I absolutely loved HUNTED and Elizabeth’s heroine, FBI profiler Evelyn Baine. This book is intense, scary, and fascinating. If you are looking for a book that will keep you up late and take your breath away with the best fight scenes I’ve ever read, this book is for you!

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed I don’t give books star ratings, because I find stars just don’t capture exactly how I feel about a book. So, as is my wont, I needed to come up with a new rating for HUNTED. Only one symbol fully captures the intensity of this book.

HUNTED gets five crosshairs:

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So now it is my great pleasure to welcome Elizabeth to Kiss and Thrill!

RG: What published author (any genre) turns you into a total fangirl?  Is there a particular book or is this based on their entire body of work?

EH: I’m going to have to say Suzanne Brockmann.  I was perusing the romantic suspense section at the bookstore one day many years back and came across Over the Edge.  Well, as soon as I finished it, I went out and bought everything else I could find by her (I even found used copies of all her TDD books, which weren’t in reprint at the time), and I’ve read everything since then.  In 2010, I entered a haiku contest she was running and I won!  I got the chance to sit down and talk to her at a conference as part of my prize, and it was a fantastic experience.  Not only is she an amazing writer and a very nice person, I love how she uses her success to bring awareness to issues that matter to her.

RG: I think several of our Kiss and Thrill contributors are turning green with envy right now. 🙂 I Have you ever written fan fiction, and if so, what work was it based on?  If you haven’t, what would you be tempted to write fan fiction about?

EH: Yes!  The very first manuscript I ever finished was written with critique partner Robbie Terman (whom I’ve known since second grade).  In early high school, we wrote a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys novel – all in pen, in a big notebook.  During our senior year of high school, we went back and took that basic plotline we’d created and completely rewrote it into our own story, separate from the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys world.  That manuscript got us “Gifted and Talented” credit in high school and showed me that I could finish a book.  There’s still a special place in my heart for Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys!

RG: I love that story! Robbie is the best–you are so lucky you grew up together! And it’s funny – another 2008 GH finalist, Diana Miller, also named Nancy Drew in her fan fiction answer (you can read that post here). Next question, Facebook or Twitter?

EH: Both, and neither.  I was a latecomer to social media, and I still find some aspects of it really bizarre (like when I’m at a restaurant and at the table next to me, everyone has their phones out and are tweeting instead of talking to each other!).  In other ways, it’s quite fun.  I like Facebook because there’s no limit on words (and as a novelist who likes to write 100,000 word books, that’s handy!) and I enjoy Twitter because it’s quick and I really enjoy the randomness of it.

RG: What is the strangest weapon you’ve used to kill off a character, either on or off-scene?

EH: Hmmmm…my villains actually tend to use pretty straightforward methods for murder, most of the time.  It’s the body disposal where they get weird – for example, in more than one manuscript, I have used alligators (either to destroy evidence or as a way for a villain to try to kill off my heroine).  I’ve been intrigued by this idea ever since I went kayaking in the marshes in Georgia and had to sign a piece of paper that essentially read “this company is not liable if, while kayaking, an alligator eats you.”  I think only a suspense writer would be amused by that, but I still took that kayak trip (and I’m alive to talk about it!).

RG: I have been tubing and canoeing down rivers in Florida and I can confirm having alligator sightings every time. Never a dull moment on the river. 🙂 Okay, now for the best part, tell us about your debut release.

EH: My debut psychological suspense, HUNTED, is about an FBI profiler who learns just how deadly it can be to get inside the head of a killer.

In HUNTED, FBI profiler Evelyn Baine gets what looks like a typical serial killer case to profile.  Except when she arrives at the crime scene, the behavioral evidence seems contradictory.  But it does tell her the killer has struck before, and unless they stop him, he’ll strike again.  As she digs deeper into the case, the serial killer she’s tracking begins to track her too.  This time, it may be Evelyn’s turn to disappear…

New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Brockmann said, “This is a really excellent thriller – fast-paced and exciting, with a memorable cast of characters. Well done!”

RG: Okay, now I think my fellow K&T contributors are exploding with envy over the Brockmann quote! Thank you so much for sharing your debut release day with us, Elizabeth! With 2013 ending with your debut release, I know 2014 is going to be an exciting year for you.

Today Elizabeth is giving away a copy of HUNTED in ebook to one lucky commenter. To enter the drawing, tell us one thing you are looking forward to in 2014.

HUNTED
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Julie Ann Walker Celebrates Romantic Suspense!

Julie Ann Walker

Today I am thrilled to welcome Julie Ann Walker back to Kiss and Thrill! The eagerly anticipated 5th book in Julie’s Black Knights, Inc. series released Tuesday, and I’m pretty sure her wonderful fans have already devoured it and are deluging her with requests for the next book. Fortunately for all of us at Kiss and Thrill, Julie has compiled a list of favorite authors to tide us over until book 6!

If you haven’t read Julie’s series yet, but don’t want to start with book 5, here is your chance to get caught up – she’s is giving away print copies of books 1-4 to one lucky commenter!

And now, I’m delighted to hand the blog over to the fabulous and talented Julie Ann Walker!

Let’s Celebrate Romantic Suspense!

AKA: The Authors Who Inspired Me to Write in the Genre

I’ve been wanting to do a shout-out to my fellow romantic suspense authors for quite some time now.  And what better place to do that than here on Kiss and Thrill, the blog dedicated to, run by, and specializing in the RS genre.  (Hi, ladies!  *waves*  Thanks for having me back!)  Because, truly, those of us who write romantic suspense first started out reading romantic suspense.  We fell in love with the action, the mystery, the mayhem, the thrill and chills and, of course, the sexy times.  *wink*  And while I adore the work of all the ladies here on the Kiss and Thrill site – seriously, if you haven’t picked up their books, you’re truly missing out – I wanted to dedicate this particular blog to some of the authors who pioneered the way for us, those wonderful writers who’ve been plugging away in the genre for years, sometimes decades.  I thought I’d do that by listing my top five favorite romantic suspense authors – in no particular order – adding why I love their writing and how they inspired my own.

So, without further ado…

1.)  Sandra Brown

Sandra has been writing romantic suspense since before romantic suspense was even considered a sub-genre.  (Not to give away her age or anything.  It’s obvious she started writing as a fetus.  *winces*  Hi, Sandra!)  But, the thing that always intrigues me about Sandra’s books are her intensely flawed heroes.  I adore them.  They’re unique.  They’re angst-y.  And above all else, they’re real.

2.)  Elizabeth Lowell

Can you say delicious prose, boys and girls?  Because Elizabeth does it like no other.  Rich descriptions, tasty metaphors, scrumptious word choices.  I fall in love with her sentence structures.  Plus, Elizabeth’s books are always a like mini college classes in 400 pages or less.  Her research is phenomenal.  And to read one of her books is to get a crash course in everything from the emerald trade to the collection of old tintypes.  So. Much. Fun!

3.)  Linda Howard

Talk about a pioneer.  Linda’s  first single title was published in 1982!  Her books are always filled to the brim with adventure, intrigue, daring heroes, dauntless heroines, and intensely despicable villains. I like to say Linda writes romantic suspense in its purest, most distilled form. Her books epitomize the genre. I suppose that’s why she’s so long-lasting, eh?  Go, Linda!

4.)  Suzanne Brockmann

Oh, be still my heart.  Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series is the entire reason I started reading the genre.  And the thing that most inspires me about Suzanne is that she’s a rule-breaker.  She writes from multiple points of view – something not done until recently.  One of her heroes is gay – something still frowned upon in some circles.  Her books usually have two love stories – something that editors will tell you is a no-no.  The list of ways she’s pushed the envelope goes on and on.  But my point is, not only does she break the rules, but she does it beautifully, eloquently, masterfully.

5.)  Lora Leigh

Oh, Lora, Lora, Lora!  *fans self*  Does she know how to write one smokin’ hot book, or what?  If you’re a Shades of Grey fan, but like some hard-core action between your titillating sex scenes, then Lora is the gal for you!  She takes romantic suspense to the next level on the heat scale.  Her characters’ chemistry practically sets the pages on fire.  Be sure to set the screen level brightness on your eReader to dim, or else the words might just burn out your retinas.  LOL!

So, thanks ladies, for not only giving me great books to read, but also for giving me the inspiration to pen my own works!  You all rock!

And with that, I’m outa here!  A resounding huzzah to the gals at Kiss and Thrill for having me back.  It’s always such a treat!

One lovely commenter will win print copies of the first four books in my Black Knights Inc. series!  Just answer the following question:  Who is your all-time favorite romantic suspense writer and what is it that you love about their books?

Born-Wild-Book-CoverNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julie Ann Walker dives back into action with the red-hot romantic suspense Black Knights Inc. series!  They claim they’re bad-boy bikers who own custom motorcycle shop, but these special-ops guys–a mix of Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Marines, FBI and more–handle the jobs too tough for the government to tackle.

TICK…TICK…

“Wild” Bill Reichert knows a thing or two about explosives. The ex-Navy SEAL can practically rig a bomb blindfolded. But there’s no way to diffuse the inevitable fireworks the day Eve Edens walks back into his life, asking for help…

BOOM!

Eve doesn’t know what to do when the Chicago police won’t believe someone is out to hurt her. The only place to turn is Black Knights Inc—after all, no one is better at protection than the covert special-ops team. Yet there’s also no one better at getting her all turned on than Billy Reichert. She has a feeling this is one blast from the past that could backfire big time…

PRAISE FOR BORN WILD:

One heck of a riveting plotline… Born Wild is definitely not to be missed!” —RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ Stars

A wild roller coaster ride of a story… Nonstop action.” —Fresh Fiction

“Drama, danger and sexual tension… Romantic suspense at its best.” —Night Owl Reviews, 5/5 Stars, Reviewer Top Pick

Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics, and prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. For more information, please visit www.julieannwalker.com or follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/jawalkerauthor, and Twitter, @JAWalkerAuthor

To Purchase Born Wild:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Discover a New Love | iBooks | Indigo/Chapters | IndieBound | Sourcebooks

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