Reading is Powerful

Recently, I got a lot of bad news. The kind that adds to my already not so great year thus far. When it rains, it pours and that kind of stuff.

I wasn’t sure how to cheer myself up. The books I’d been reading were all fine and dandy, but nothing of the page gripping caliber. Not since that lovely contemporary by Alyssa Cole earlier this year. So when I found myself out of Candy Crush lives, and wanting to do anything besides turn on the television or actually write words (avoiding writing like the plague at the moment) I opened up a book on my Kindle.

Side note: Before I started taking my writing seriously I reviewed books. One, because I liked it. Two, because I would get to read books from my favorite authors months in advance.

Back to the book, which is one of my review books for the month of May. I started it and immediately became enthralled. It’s been a little bit. I’d forgotten the thrill, the rush of emotion. The heart pounding and endorphin rush when the hero and heroine clash.  The anxious clench in the gut before the first kiss. The disappointment when they are so close, followed by the eager drive to read faster just to get to it. Beyond that, it’s the tiny bits of the story – the dialogue, the plot, the tropes, the active writing. Oh, and the conflict.

Regardless, somehow I forgot about those things in the last months of life events, publishing woes, and responsibilities. My , I fell into a rabbit hole of a story. Hours passed and I crawled into bed around 2am with still 50% left. 5 hours later I awoke and I wasn’t tired or exhausted. I was eager. Eager to dive in some more. Dive, drove, devoured is what I did. I finished the book in a little over 12 hours. Life interruptions influenced my finish time. Reaching the end, I was immediately eager to know the rest… and that is the power of reading.

What verbs do you describe with reading? What emotions do you like to experience when picking up a book?

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Then vs. Now: 1950s version

Writing three stories set in 1958 was as much a challenge in many ways as it was fun and different. There was so much research to do, despite the fact that I’ve always loved the fifties’ movies and music. I had to learn the slang, the fashions, and all about old-school Las Vegas. I drew on books, websites, and people’s recollections. I thought I’d share a little then vs. now with you today because the second book in my Viva Las Vegas trilogy, My Big Fat Vegas Wedding, is on pre-order and releases Tuesday.

Cool It, Daddio

The way of speaking was very different. People spoke a little more formally in most instances and their slang was very different. We know words like dude, lit, and on fleek. We all know what these words mean–by definition, slang is a shorthand way of speaking that changes the original meaning of the word(s).

Back in the 50s, people didn’t say someone was crazy–they said loony. A depressing person was “bad news,” a cool person was “hip,” and a clock was a “face.” I looked at some of those words and the meanings have changed today (“deuce” was a 1932 Ford) and some have remained the same, like when someone is being a “drag.”

Be a Man

Gender roles. Wow, as much as we bemoan how women haven’t come nearly far enough in equality (and we haven’t), the 1950s were an entirely different beast.

Back then, women went to college mainly to land a husband (if they hadn’t already done so in high school). Their studies weren’t important because they weren’t really expected to work and, if they did, it was usually only until they were married. A woman’s place was in the home, making sure her husband had a hot meal and his slippers. (I’m sorry, but gag me–his slippers!? Okay, back to the post.) Check out Housekeeping Monthly’s “Good Wife’s Guide.”

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking.

Conversely, men were required to be masculine at all times. There was no place for crying or sentimentality in a man’s world. If someone stepped over the line, they were more likely to use violence to settle their differences. I’m definitely glad things have changed since then (albeit, again, not enough).

My Big Fat Vegas Wedding: Viva Las Vegas, Book 2

So, now, let’s talk about the book. It was fun to write alphas who could go a little farther into alpha territory without being a jerk because times were different. People had different expectations and ideas about what was acceptable. In this book, especially, my heroine is very much a woman of her time. Grace is classy, despite being poor, and has ideas about how to behave properly (which Dominic is constantly pushing her beyond). Here’s the blurb:

He needs roots. She needs money. A whirlwind wedding could solve all their problems…if it doesn’t bring the Vegas mob down on their heads.

Grace Winters needs a miracle in the form of cash. A young widow with a stack of bills and a dead-end job, she’d do anything to save herself, her son, and her mother from the street. Anything but gamble—the Vegas vice that got her husband killed.

Dominic Rosas needs a happy family—or at least the appearance of one—to buy out his father’s shares in the Lucky Star Casino, ousting the vicious man and avenging his sister. When he finds himself wildly attracted to a down-on-her-luck waitress with a stubborn will and a sharp sense of humor, a hasty marriage seems the obvious solution to both of their problems.

To Grace, Dominic seems too good to be true, a kind man with money to burn and an inner strength a world away from her gambling-addicted husband. They share a spark she’s never felt before, giving her hope that maybe this time marriage might work. But when she finds out he’s investing in the Lucky Star, the mob casino where her husband gambled away their future, the dream crashes around her. Dominic swears he can invest in the casino, avenge his sister, and keep her safe, but Grace fears she’s placed her bets on the wrong man—again.

Find it on Goodreads.

Want to pre-order?

Amazon | iBooks | Google Play | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

An Exclusive Excerpt

The house was small and old. The steps up to the porch were crumbling away. Dominic tried to get his pitch ready in his head, like he would for work, but the words all jumbled together. Odd, because he never got nervous before a big pitch.

Grace came back with two glasses. He took one and sipped because his throat had suddenly gone dry. Water with a faint taste of lemon did nothing for his parched throat. Somehow, he still pushed forward.

“I need roots,” he said.

“I don’t know what that means.” She shook her head. Of course she did, because that didn’t make any sense. He was starting at the end instead of the beginning.

He paused, trying to decide where, exactly, to begin. “Let me sum up what I know about you. Please, Grace.”

With a slow breath, she glanced inside the quiet house, then gave him a terse nod.

Okay, he could do this. “You’re a widow, trying to care for your son and mother. Your son is a handful, probably because he doesn’t have a father around.”

Her eyes flashed. He’d made her angry, but he was too far in to stop now. He went on. “You can’t seem to make ends meet, no matter how hard you try. And you always look fragile and exhausted. Am I wrong?”

“I’m not fragile. If I were fragile, I would’ve broken by now. But other than that…no. You’re not wrong. What is this?”

“Please, listen. Let me tell you about me. I have more capital—money—than I’ll ever use because my grandfather was brilliant at investing it.”

“How lovely for you.”

And, I’m trying to buy into the company my father uses for income because he tried to steal from my sister. Worse than that. He tried to have her put away.”

“I remember.” Her voice was soft as she picked up her untouched lemonade, then took a drink.

“They turned me down. They want me, but only if I’m married—a family man.” He took a deep breath. This was it. “I want yours. I want you.”

She stood, stumbling a little on the table legs. “That’s crazy. You should go.”

“No, it’s perfect.” He rose and took a step closer. “We each need what the other has. I can take care of all of you. I’ll buy you a nice house. You can pick it out. You said you didn’t want eventful, but I don’t believe you. You need eventful or you won’t make it.”

Still Not Sure?

You can read the first chapter here. Until next month, I’m wishing you all a happy and proper Spring (with maybe a little less snow?)

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Diversity in Romance #change #readingnewauthors

Greetings Readers

Welcome to spring. It’s officially the end of the first quarter of the year — where does the time go? Too many books and not enough time. Speaking of books, that’s what I want to talk about today, diverse books.

First, before I get started this is not a post on a soapbox, just a post about personal change. Over the last four years I’ve started joining in on the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I say how many books I’ll read and then through the course of 12 months I record via Goodreads what I read and what I didn’t.  One thing I noticed, I was reading the same authors. Now, don’t get me wrong, once I find an author I’ll mine their backlist or buy whatever they put out. But I realized most of the books I was picking up were by white authors.  Is this bad? I don’t necessarily think so, but in today’s climate, political and social I kept experiencing the same messages:

“Be the change you wish to see in the word.” – Gandhi

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. No message could’ve been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change.” – Michael Jackson

Those words, they mean a lot and they come from a place of purity. That being said, one of my personal reading goals for 2018 is to read more books by authors of color. So, far I’m batting about 50/50 and I’ll admit it’s changing how I view other books. I’m looking for diversity in my stories now, looking for the melting pot we live in. I’m trying to be mindful of how I plot my own stories and educating myself in the process.

But back to the books, I’ve found some fun gems and new author’s to read.

Alyssa Cole’s A Princess in Theory about a STEM heroine who falls for a Prince.

Mia Sosa’s Pretending He’s Mine with super hunky, sexy Julian a Hollywood agent and the best friend’s little sister trope. Too bad little sister Ashley is harboring a serious crush.

Alisha Rai’s last book in her Forbidden Hearts series, Hurts to Love You. It’s like diverse Dynasty and I ate it up.

Books on my radar:

  • Vanessa Riley’s first book in the Blackamoor Brides series, The Bittersweet Bride
  • Courtney Milan’s upcoming release, After The Wedding.
  • Hold Me by Courtney Milan
  • The Lady Sherlock Series by Sherry Thomas
  • FIT series by Rebekah Witherspoon
  • The Lawyer’s Luck by Piper Huguley

Now that I’ve regaled you with my list. What’s on your TBR? Any diverse authors or stories I need to check out?

 

 

 

 

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

A Month for Beheadings

February is the month we celebrate Love. Isn’t it funny that Saint Valentine [the first and the second] were both beheaded? So, I did a little digging to find out more…why do we celebrate love and couples and this bond between two people on a day where we also remember the life of people who were beheaded for doing what was right? [so much more on that in a minute, btw!] [Also, excuse the history lesson. I don’t mean to bore you.]

And I read this, “Today is the feast day of St. Valentine.  Did you know St. Valentine was a real person?  Well, actually there are at least 2 St. Valentines in the ancient martyrology of the Catholic church.  While very little is known about Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, we do know that Pope Gelasius declared February 14th his feast day in 496.  He is the patron saint of happy marriages, engaged couples and young people….

It is believed that Valentine was a priest arrested by the Emperor Claudius for marrying Christian couples secretly during a time of persecution in the Church.  Legend has it that while he was imprisoned and waiting for his martyrdom, he sent letters to his fellow Christians signing them, ‘From Your Valentine.'”

Okay. I get it now. It makes me think of this odd world we live in where people are persecuted every day. Through history, since the beginning of time, we have needed a HERO. Someone who would break the rules for justice, for belief. I think, as romance novelists, we see those stories. We find hope in the memory of the people who fight–hero or heroine. Already, I’m thinking of people from the 6th century who wanted to get married but weren’t allowed! LOL 😀 There’s a story there.

I kept reading….and found so much more!

During the Medieval Age, a common belief in England and France was that birds began to pair on Feb.14, “half-way through the second month of the year.” Chaucer wrote in his “Parliament of Foules” (in Old English): “For this was on Seynt Valentyne’s day, When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” For this reason, the day was dedicated to “lovers” and prompted the sending of letters, gifts, or other signs of affection.

Another literary example of St. Valentine’s Day remembrances is found in Dame Elizabeth Brews “Paston Letters” (1477), where she writes to the suitor, John Paston, of her daughter, Margery: “And, cousin mine, upon Monday is St. Valentine’s day and every bird chooseth himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.” In turn, Margery wrote to John: “Unto my right well beloved Valentine John Paston, Squyer, be this bill delivered. Right reverend and worshipful and my right well beloved Valentine, I recommend me unto you, full heartily desiring to hear of your welfare, which I beseech Almighty God long for to preserve until His pleasure and your heart’s desire.”

Such passionate writing for a woman of those times… or is it? The idea that passions are greater now because we are freer now, seems to be a myth, yes? I love hearing stories from other centuries about love and the call to become one with another soul.

It makes me smile to know that humanity is ingrained with the need for a soulmate and meant to share life with a person. Centuries have gone by and more centuries will pass, and romance and love and the pain and conflict that comes with it, will thrive…it will make stories worth reading.

Aren’t you so excited?!

Now, I must go document another wonderful, powerful story of Love.

Have a great week!

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Get Caught Up in the Fifties #MFVB

It’s been two years since I wrote the post about the resources I used to write my trilogy of novellas set in Las Vegas, 1958. Yesterday, the first book debuted and I can’t tell you how much I love these stories.

1958 Las Vegas. She can ruin his career. He can save her freedom. What’s a little blackmail between strangers?

Layla Rosas has been burned too many times—by her cheating ex, her narcissist mother, and now her father who’ll put her in an asylum, for good this time, if she can’t settle down and be a good girl. She needs a quality boyfriend—now—to convince her dad she’s back on the straight and narrow.

Jace Russell is good at his job: keeping the wealthy elite who visit his casino safe and happy. When a photographer snaps career-ending shots of a client, it’s Jace’s duty to do whatever it takes to stop those photos from hitting the press.

Layla didn’t intend to take compromising shots, but that doesn’t mean she won’t use them. When Jace realizes a few fake dates are all she wants in exchange for the negatives, he’s all in—with the added agenda of getting the crazy but beautiful woman between his sheets. But Layla refuses to gamble her heart on the toe-curling kisses of a fake boyfriend. It’s just a few dates. How hard can it be?

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

You can find the first chapter on my website, here.

Fashion plays a big role in my stories because women looked a lot different back then they do now. I can assure you, no one went to the department store in their PJs. For one thing, they had bullet bras, which made the breasts appear to be rather… cone shaped. Think Madonna, but less extreme. Then there were the capris, the pencil skirts, the sweater sets, and the side-button jeans. You can learn all about these staples from the fifties here.

(Fun fact: in edits, my wonderful editor asked me about side-buttons jeans–had I meant to make them jeans? I sent her a link to these retro jeans you can buy from Freddies of Pinewood in the UK. Clothes then were just so much fun!)

And then, there was the lingerie. In the first scene, my heroine’s horrible mother comes downstairs, hair in a bouffant, dressed in an ankle-length negligee and a robe with a full circle skirt. The next day, Mom comes out in a sinfully scant bikini. Which probably looked more like this one from ModCloth than the barely-there bikinis of today.

Can you tell I absolutely reveled living in this world? I hope you’ll check it out and you’ll enjoy visiting as much as I did.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Want a Free Holiday Book? #freebiefriday #fridayreads

Hi, all! Jennifer here.

My fellow Entangled Bliss author, Barbara White Daille has a new release coming out next month!

She has graciously given me TWO ebook ARCs to giveaway! How special am I?

Here’s a little about the book

 

One Week to Win Her Boss

 

Single mom Amber Barnett loves family, kids, Christmas…and unfortunately, her boss, confirmed bachelor Michael DeFranco. It’s a crush she really needs to get over. Except, when she’s temporarily forced from her apartment, her only option is to stay at Michael’s private ski lodge, where she’s the housekeeper. No problem. Her handsome boss rarely visits Snowflake Valley unexpectedly, plus he’s spending the holidays with his family. Or so she thinks…

 A stormy Christmas Eve reunion leaves Michael seeking the solitude of his lodge, where he finds Amber in residence—and in trouble. Attempting to save her from her matchmaking family, he announces they’re a couple. His good deed backfires when they’re instantly included in each and every holiday event in town. So much for solitude. 

 Only the more time he spends with the beautiful, cheery brunette, the more he yearns to make things real between them. But he and Amber want different things, and Michael could never be the family man she’s looking for. 

Find the book:

Interested in reading?

Sign up HERE!

 Winner’s will be chosen by November 9, 2017 11:59PM EST

Good luck!

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her latest sweet romance: CATCH HIM IF YOU CAN

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