Birthday Gifts for the Reader in Us All

This month is my birthday. I’ll be 43, a rather middle of the road, nice-early-forties birthday. No biggie. Which is all the more reason to celebrate by sharing some monumentally cool gift ideas for the reader in your life–you, me, whoever!

Romeo and Juliet Cover Earrings

I’m not a huge fan of Romeo and Juliet. They were too young and it’s not a romance by any stretch of the imagination–Happily Ever After, anyone?

All the same, when I came across these earrings, I couldn’t resist how beautiful they were. And, hey. It’s Shakespeare and a classic. We’ll bend just a little to own these beauties.

Romance Novel Notebook

I’ve had my eye on one of these for years and I think I may just indulge myself this time…

Who doesn’t love 80s romance novel covers? They remind me of the books my grandmother devoured a book a day. I never read this one, but it speaks to the nostalgia in me, plus it’s spiral bound. It’d be perfect for dropping in your purse to jot down notes.

By the way, what is she wearing? A pantsuit? In denim blue? Clearly at work, since there’s a desk and that ginormous leather briefcase in her hand. And, seriously? That hair. Bangs for the win!

Jane Austen Pendant Necklace

Getting serious again, I absolutely love this necklace. The quote rings true for any avid reader and, come on–it’s beautiful. I’d be happy to wear this anywhere. And, honestly, for $14.18, it’s a steal!

 

Literary Cofee Mug

Last but not least, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include a mug. You may not know, but I collect mugs and hang them all around my kitchen. I also collect mugs just for drinking. It is such a great way to start my day by asking myself, which mug will I start the day out with? Is that weird?

Anyway, I love this quote. It’s a shoutout to book lovers and a demand to be accepted on our own terms. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Did you see anything you just had to have? If so, let me know in the comments, share your finds, or even your own cool book lover swag. I’m all about the book swag.

Have a great July!

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.

Cupid’s Cafe: What’s That About?

Hello, my friends in Romancelandia. I wanted to write a little about my new release (coming June 20th) titled Exactly Like You and the premise behind the series.

My book, about a depressed, former social worker who rehabilitates feral cats and a sexy fireman widower, is the first book in the Cupid’s Cafe series. The books are all standalone. Landra Graf‘s Painting for Keeps (the second book) will be out June 27. They can be read in any order or pick your poison. The common thread is the cafe and the universe in which the story is set.

Cupid’s Cafe is a fictional, mystical coffeehouse in Lousiville, Kentucky. It’s fully functional with lots of patrons and exists, in the stories, on Bardstown Road, an eclectic and exciting part of town.

The characters in the story are usually invited to the cafe by the mysterious Mr. Heart. They receive a letter with a date and time to show up. They don’t know it, but it’s a “date” with someone from their past and their last chance at love.

The manager, Angel, is definitely an omniscient supernatural being and guides the invitees to their appointment with fate. A sense of serenity falls over them when they walk in the door (which tends to make my heroine, Roxie, a little uncomfortable–she never feels “serene”). There’s a beautiful, hand carved bar with mermaids at each end. The baristas may or may not be demi-gods from ancient mythology. They serve everything from coffees to pastries to alcoholic beverages. Anything is possible at Cupid’s Cafe, including a second chance at love.

Exactly Like You

Homeless and jobless, ex-social worker, Roxie Fisher, is convinced she’s cursed to never find happiness and an invitation to Cupid’s Café isn’t going to change that. All the same, against her better judgment, she gives it a try. What else does she have to lose?

After the death of his wife, accountant-turned-firefighter, Aidan Craig, can’t stop taking ridiculous risks and never turns down a dare. So an invitation to Cupid’s Café is an offer he can’t refuse. What he doesn’t expect is to meet the social worker who helped him through the darkest days of his life. Now she’s the one struggling, and he’s compelled to help.

The two of them experience an immediate attraction, but Aidan swore to never become involved in another relationship, and Roxie can’t imagine daredevil Aidan being interested in a boring, cat-rescuer like her.

Will they resolve the problems tearing them apart or lose their last chance at true love?

This is the first book in the Cupid’s Cafe series, a Kismet book, from After Glows Publishing. Would you be interested in writing for this series? Email me at lori (at) lorisizemore (dot) com.

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.

Decades of Love and Life ~ #DecadesofLove #LynnCrain #amwriting #amreading

I really hate missing my blog date like I did last month. It always causes me some angst but last month was the month for angst. Now I’m not saying this for sympathy or anything but to let you know where my mind has been then you’ll understand my cause for the later celebration.

My beloved husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. He’d had his required colonoscopy for people our age and had been having gastro problems for a while. We were told immediately after the test on January 3rd but the diagnosis wasn’t finalized until the next week. All through January, it was a flurry of tests and things to see what the prognosis was and so on. I am happy to say, his prognosis is 100% cure with about 8 rounds of chemo and two surgeries to remove the two tumors they found. Yippee!

One of the things we did during that month was re-evaluate our lives and what we’d been doing. That included a long hard look at writing and what I did for a living. I am also a life long learner and had been waiting to go back to college for some classes I wanted then onto a Masters in Writing program so I could teach more. Writing and teaching others about writing are the two things I love most.

Anyway, after many discussions my husband told me adamantly that no matter what happened, he did not want me to give up what I was doing as far as writing goes. He loves the fact it makes me happy and told me he wouldn’t trade it for the world. He then told me to plant the butt into the chair and make sure I did these things. This was one of the reasons I married him all those years ago.

Fast forward to today and I’m pleased to announce my next release, the anthology Decades of Love. It’s all about Vegas, baby! And there were moments that I never thought it was going to happen. Why? Because I was the ebook producer and the print formatter for it. And those things were due in January. I announced to the group right away my life issue and they were all so supportive. I was truly blessed with such a great group of authors and found it within me to get everything done only about five days late. But enough about me…here’s a little more about the book…

Love hits the jackpot in these six seductive tales, each set in a different decade in the hottest, wildest, most sinful of cities – Las Vegas.  In Elizabeth Spaur’s Miss Atomic Bomb, a beauty pageant brings a cowboy and city girl together.  A desperate singer finds new hope with a not-so-jaded casino owner in B.A. McIntosh’s Home at Last.  In Lynn Crain’s, Hooked on a Feeling, two Vietnam vets get a second chance at love while facing enemies at home.  A rodeo star falls hard for a showgirl in Diane Deeds’s Total Eclipse of the Heart.  In Kay Phoenix’s An Unexpected Knight, a hero on a mighty steed captures the heroine’s heart. A good girl learns that being bad can be very, very good in Tami Cowden’s It Happened One Vegas Night.   Mobsters and G-men, cowboys and showgirls, singers and dancers, and even a knight in shining armor all find that Sin City is not just a place to have fun – but  also a great place to fall in love.

It is a truly amazing collaboration of authors and talents. You should check it out at the pre-order price of just $0.99 at Amazon. We’re also during a release event on February 28 at our Facebook Page. Come join us for fun and prizes! We’d love to have you.

I also need to say a very big thank you to the Passionate Critters group, you know, the ones that bring you this blog every month. These ladies have been my support for many years and I am so blessed to have each of them in my life. They’ve allowed me the latitude to figure out this huge life challenge by talking to me about anything and everything. Cancer is definitely one of those big life issues and it’s only when you have the great support of wonderful friends that you can overcome even the most horrendous thing you’ve ever face. These ladies are those friends, through thick and thin…and I love them all!

Like they say, when life gives you lemons…make lemonaide…and it’s so true. I am so blessed with an amazing life, author friends and a husband who believes in me. See you next month!

About Lynn Crain

Award winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest and she’s just returned from her latest adventure of living in Vienna, Austria while her husband worked his dream job. You can find her hanging out online at www.lynncrain.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrainAuthor, and on Twitter, @oddlynn3. She loves hearing from her readers at lynncrain@cox.net.

Release Day for Tempting Mr. Jordan!

Today is release day (happy dance!) for Tempting Mr. Jordan, an historical romance set primarily in Maine in 1871.  The heroine in this book is Julia Tenwick, who we last saw in Stirring Up the Viscount as the hero’s precocious little sister. Now she’s all grown up, and heads off to America for one last adventure before settling in to life as a spinster and doting aunt to her brother’s children.

As usual in romances, she meets a man who throws a wrench in her plans–the arrogant, reclusive painter from northern Maine, Geoffrey Jordan. Geoffrey isn’t based on any one person, but I imagine him a curious hybrid of John Thornton (played to swoonworthy perfection by Richard Armitage) from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, Frederic Edwin Church, a 19th century American painter who spent a lot of time in Maine, and any number of arrogant, talented men I’ve met in my life. There have been a few…

One of my favorite scenes in the book comes from a sketch I saw at the Cleveland Museum of Art a couple of years ago. It was in an exhibition called “Maine Sublime,” which featured landscapes by Church and other members of the Hudson River School. In it, there was a sketch he used to paint one of his more famous paintings, Twilight in the Wilderness.

Twilight in the Wilderness, Frederic Edwin Church, 1860

Twilight in the Wilderness, Frederic Edwin Church, 1860

I wasn’t allowed to take a picture of the sketch at the museum, and I can’t find it online, but it looked a bit like this one:

Sketch by Frederic Edwin Church, 1853

Sketch by Frederic Edwin Church, 1853

It was a rough sketch of the scene, accompanied by the names of colors here and there. Church used descriptive sketches like these to paint later. It inspired me so much I hurried home to write this scene:

Marin McGinnisJulia pulled her cloak around her shoulders and left by the kitchen door. Soft snowflakes danced lightly around her head as she made her way toward the water. She loved the crisp air, the snow, the scents of wood smoke, salty waves, and pine. She walked around toward the lighthouse, imagining how much her brother would love it here. He’d have his sketchbook tucked under his arm, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice when the mood struck.

The snow began to fall faster, swirling around as she clambered over the large rocks at the water’s edge. The sky was streaked with red, orange, blue, and gray, and she stopped, perched, just to watch.

“Get out of the way!”

She jumped at the strident tone, nearly toppling into the water. Regaining her balance, she turned carefully, and sighed.

Geoffrey Jordan sat on a neighboring rock behind her, sketchbook in hand. His expression was darker than the sky had been when she started on this walk. Julia was unable to stop herself from stepping back in surprise. Apparently there were bears near the shore as well.

“You’re blocking my view.” The muscles of the man’s face settled into a grimace which Julia found only marginally less frightening than his scowl.

“All right, I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there.” Julia took another step back and cried out in pain as her foot slipped into a crevice between the rocks.

Geoffrey swore and tossed his sketchbook to the side. He strode over to her and held out a hand.

Given his expression, Julia considered whether it might be safer to remain where she was. Geoffrey stuck his hand out again, waving it impatiently.

Julia finally realized she was more annoyed than afraid. “How am I supposed to grab your hand when you wave it about like that?”

“Oh, for God’s sake!” He reached down with both hands and grabbed her waist, pulling her to her feet. She ignored the tingling of her skin where he touched her and focused on her anger instead.

“I don’t know why you’re so angry at me. It’s not my fault I fell. You startled me.”

“You stepped into my line of sight. And now the sunrise is nearly gone, I’ve missed it, and it’s entirely your fault.”

Julia realized his hands still rested on her hips, and she pushed them away. “You sound like a petulant child.”

He returned to his sketchbook and sat down again. He started scribbling, ignoring her. She ignored him as well and gingerly ran a hand over her throbbing ankle. Her stocking was torn, and a shallow cut showed through it. Deciding she should return home to clean the wound, thanks to this odious man, she slowly made her way across the rocks past him. She caught a glimpse of his sketch as she passed. Intrigued, she stopped and bent at the waist, looked over his shoulder.lighthouse-1039189_1920

“You’re barely drawing anything at all. What does that say?”

He scowled again, but he answered, “Scarlet.”

She pointed at the corner of the drawing. “And that?”

“Azure. I thought all proper English ladies could read.”

“Your handwriting is terrible. What does that say?” She pointed again.

“Orange.”

She peered closer. “It does not. It looks like ‘crindle.’”

He laughed, and she turned her head to look at him. He was much less frightening when he laughed. Handsome. She blinked and unbent.

“‘Crindle’? What on earth does that mean?”

Her cheeks warmed. “Well, I don’t know, do I? It’s your drawing.”

“And it says ‘orange.’ What are you doing out here anyway?”

“I wanted to go for a walk.”

“At the crack of dawn?”

“I didn’t think I would see anyone.”

“Why didn’t you want to see anyone?”

She sighed. “Because conversation tires me, sometimes. This one in particular.”

“I don’t disagree.” He stroked his pencil across the paper a few more times, and she craned her neck to look.

“Why didn’t you just paint the sunrise? Why describe it?”

sky-1599469_1920“Because the sunrise is a fleeting thing. It never lasts long enough for me to paint it, so I sketch the scene and write the names of the colors, to jog my memory when I am in my studio.”

Julia turned to look at the sky. It was gray now, with little wisps of blue and white streaked across it. All of the stunning red and orange hues were gone. She suddenly felt terrible for ruining his view.

“I am sorry I got in your way. I don’t suppose you could try again tomorrow?”

He shrugged. “A sunrise like that one is rare.”

Now she felt even worse. “Well, I am sorry.”

“Where did you think you were going? The rocks lead out into the water, and the tide will be in soon. What if you’d fallen when I wasn’t here to help? You’d have drowned.”

Shame was quickly replaced by annoyance. “I wouldn’t have fallen if you hadn’t startled me!”

“Well, it was careless.”

Julia placed both hands on her hips and stared at the insufferable man. “You haven’t a very high opinion of my intelligence, have you?”

“I have no opinion of your intelligence at all. I think you take risks that a lady shouldn’t take.”

“I was hardly doing pirouettes out here! I would have been fine if you hadn’t yelled at me.”

“I didn’t yell at you.”

“Yes, you did!”

“Fine! I’m sorry I yelled at you. Now go home, before you truly hurt yourself.” Before she could reply, he tucked his sketchbook under his arm, stood, and scrambled away across the rocks like a crab.

She watched him go, annoyed with him and herself in equal measure. Well, mostly with him. Insufferable man. She gingerly followed, lifting her skirts higher to avoid the rising water. The tide was indeed coming in.

She hated that he was right.

You can read more about Tempting Mr. Jordan–including buy links, should you be so inspired–at my website. And should you find yourself in northeast Ohio, you can see the original of Twilight in the Wilderness, which hangs in Gallery 206 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Perhaps it will inspire you too.

And if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads, you can enter to win this great Maine-themed gift box, offered by me and author Becky Lower.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Falling Down the Christmas Romance Rabbit Hole

It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays and my favorite thing to do at Christmas, besides watch Christmas movies or bake cookies is read Christmas romances. There is nothing like a good Christmas romance anthology. Over the years I’ve read many, and each season a new one becomes available for the masses.

There’s the historicals, which are always marvelous because who doesn’t love seeing how in a time when couples had difficulty falling in love in the first place, let alone being alone together, a pair of romantically matched people find themselves declaring love for one another in less than forty thousand words.

Here’s a few of my favorites:

Christmas in the Duke’s Arms by Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, Miranda Neville, and Shana Galen ~ All the tales occur around an inn, in a small town. My favorite is a friends to lovers tale. twg-final-large

The Heart of Christmas by Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick, and Courtney Milan ~ Delicious romance with rakes, benefactors, and unlikely heroes

All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke by Valerie Bowman, Vivienne Lorret, Tiffany Clare, and Ashlyn Macnamara ~ Dukes. Need I say more?

I’m mighty proud of the fact I’ve offered you stories by 11 different Historical romance authors, and they are all fabulous. This is just the tip of the romance iceberg because several other historical authors offer up full-length Christmas tales, including an entire series from Theresa Romain, which right now they are all together as a Holiday Pleasures Bundle in an ebook steal deal.

Then I have that ‘but wait; there’s more’ moment. Because I haven’t discussed contemporary romance. There is plenty of holiday joy to be shared around there. The ones I fell in love were the typically full length and the run the gauntlet from sweet to steamy. Regardless, they are all romances and feature Christmas in some capacity.

A few more favs:

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis ~ first in the Lucky Harbor series.maybe-this-christmas

Last Chance Christmas by Hope Ramsey ~ part of the Last Chance series.

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan ~ a friends to lovers tale and part of her Snow Crystal series.

And, if you haven’t heard a fellow HSG blogger/author, Jennifer Shirk has her latest release in the Christmas contemporary romance category. Check out Wrong Brother, Right Match. A shameless plug, but I’ve already got it pre-order and on my list of holiday romances to indulge in.

Of course, as with all things, these are just a handful of Christmas romance books available. I’m leaving out Maisey Yates and her cowboys, and Jessica Lemmon with her Bad Boy for Christmas book. I could go on and on, but I do believe that will cut into my reading time.

Do you have a favorite Christmas romance book? If so, tell me, I’d love to add it to my list.

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.

Lead Me On

We talk often about what makes a good romance hero. And honestly, who doesn’t love it? I could go on for hours about what makes the perfect book boyfriend.

SONY DSCFor the sake of this discussion, what about the female lead? What is that something special about her that makes you want to buy into the story and keep reading? Strong motivation is absolutely vital, but I’m thinking more about personality. How does this person approach a challenge? What does their self-talk sound like? How do they treat others and what tack do they take when they interact with people?

Should they be sweet, smart, or sexy? From the hero’s POV, there’s no doubt they are all that and a bag of chips. But like it or not, as readers (and yes authors, but that’s a whole other kettle…) we feed into that equation. What draws a reader to fall in love with a character? Who do we enjoy or identify with? This is such a subjective thing, let’s do this – I’ll tell you my favorites if you tell me yours…

For the most part, I prefer what I call kick-ass with a heart of gold. Yes, they are considered “Strong”, but they are so much more IMO. Occasionally I love a funny, sweet, kind of ditzy character, yet I find myself consistently drawn to these serious types with a hint of darkness more often than not.

  1. Eve Dallas from the In Death series.
  2. Anita Blake from the Vampire Hunter series (mostly the earlier ones).
  3. Claire Fraser from Outlander.
  4. Alexa (Lex) Parrino from the Beyond series.
  5. Beth from the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

At the moment I’m having fun with May Wexler from Wrong Number, Right Guy. She’s just funny, all the way around.

So now it’s your turn. Who are some of your favorite female lead characters, and why?

About Sutton Fox

Sutton Fox has been published by Lyrical Press, Gypsy Shadow Publishing and wrote a bi-monthly column for an auto racing magazine for several years. She traded life in Bluegrass Country for life in the Windy City in a home she shares with The Man, a lonely cat, and her beloved dog, Lucy. When she’s not working the edj, you can find her writing or spending time with her extended family.

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