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.

Best Romantic Movie Moments

I’m a sucker for romance. I love writing romance, and I love watching romantic movies. Here are a few of my favorite moments.

When Harry Met Sally: When they finally realize they’re meant to be together. Love this movie.

Say Anything: Who could forget Lloyd Dobler holding up the boombox?

The Notebook: Young love. Sigh.

Sixteen Candles: When Jake Ryan shows up at her sister’s wedding.

Pride & Prejudice: “You have bewitched me body and soul and I love…I love… I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.”

What’s your favorite romantic movie moment?

About Julie Jarnagin

Julie Jarnagin is a multi-published author of inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and young son who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. www.JulieJarnagin.com

Judging a Book by its Cover

“Why, it’s one o’ the books I bought at Partridge’s sale. They was all bound alike — it’s a good binding, you see — and I thought they’d be all good books. . . . but they’ve all got the same covers, and I thought they were all o’ one sample, as you may say. But it seems one musn’t judge by th’ outside. This is a puzzling world.”
–George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

perf5.000x8.000.inddMarin here, and today I’m thinking about the puzzling world of book covers. Recently I worked with a cover artist–the very talented Rae Monet–to create the cover for my third book.

A cover’s primary purpose, of course, is to convince the reader to buy the book behind it. A great cover not only entices the reader, but captures the story in some way.  Cover artist Peter Mendelsund says “his job is ‘finding that unique textual detail that…can support the metaphoric weight of the entire book.’”   But beyond that, a cover needs to represent the book. The mood of the cover should match that of the book–a couple in a clinch for a romance, something dark and eerie for a paranormal, an illustration for a children’s book. Even things like font matter–you see the font that was used on the Harry Potter books, and you recognize it immediately.  The cover, according to Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, should be a promise to the reader. A promise that the book is as professional as its cover, that it is of the genre depicted by the cover, and that you will enjoy reading it.

There are plenty of sites out there which discuss the elements that make a great cover, and I list a few of them below. But as one of them points out, what really makes a great cover is what makes you purchase the book. I tend to like covers that are more abstract, that hint at the character of the book without revealing too much. Here are some of my favorites (click on the covers to visit the book’s Goodreads entry):

Deanna Raybourn was new to me, and I picked up her book in the library almost entirely because of the cover. The others are authors I know and like and would have read anyway. All of these covers evoke their stories and the genre. I think Julia Quinn’s cover must have worked quite well, because she has used a variation of it at least twice since then…

I asked my fellow Passionate Critters what they like, and don’t like, in a cover:

“I tend to gravitate toward books with real people on the covers. I tend to like couples too. I like feet/legs too–or just bodies with no heads–so I can get the gist of the romance while leaving something to my imagination.”

“I like illustrated covers, too, if they’re well done and not drawn by the author themselves. Actually…it’s easier to say what DOESN’T work. Go here to see some samples: http://lousybookcovers.com/.”

“I like a simple cover which conveys the mood or feel of the story that I’m buying.”

“I’ve always liked Kristan Higgins’ covers. You see a couple but not too much of their faces.”

“I’m the opposite of the others, I love faces.  At least the guy’s face, I’m OK with the back of the girl’s head.  Clinch covers work for me as well.  I want a sense of the time period, what the characters look like, and the overall mood of the book.  From the cover I should easily be able to tell if it’s a romance, sci-fi, fantasy, etc, as well as what era it’s set in, and a decent idea of what the main character, or characters, look like.  I also like to get a sense of who the characters are, is it a brooding alpha male?  Throw him in a tux and make him look angry….or heated…or both.  Character looks are huge for me, especially for the male, and nothing irks me more than grabbing a good book and then having the guy be described as someone I don’t find even remotely attractive.  It kills the whole thing for me.”

“I don’t honestly know.  Some are clearly just bad or rather lousy, but they don’t count.
But of good, well-done covers, where there’s nothing actually wrong with them…hmmm. There’s no type that appeals to me – some just look…right.
I think it’s sort of subjective to a degree – flowers and a wedding dress would put me off, because it screams sweet and I don’t particularly like sweet.
My favorite sort of covers are UF [urban fantasy], which always seem to be very distinctive of the genre, usually a beautiful background, a strong character (all of them, they never seem to have their heads chopped off) often a woman, and a few swirly bits to pretty them up.
I think it’s an arty thing (which is why I struggle) just getting the proportions and colors right and pleasing to the eye.”

“I like real people, faces, and even a bit of setting. I like to see the story. I don’t like the drawn covers–like chick lit has. And don’t get me started on the computer graphics that….are just…not real looking. LOL  But that’s just me.
I don’t like chopped off heads or flowers or wedding dresses or babies.  I don’t know what that says about me.
Oh, I also don’t like floating heads…over cities and stuff.”

Clearly, we all like different things, which only goes to show that you’ll never please everyone, no matter how brilliant your cover may be. What stands out for you in a book cover? Share your favorite!

Some other takes on what makes a great book cover:




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.

Happy Reading

I know there have been a couple summer reads posts on the blog already this month, and this is another one, but hear me out. A Facebook friend posted a “must read” list the other day, and every one of the books was intense–about mental illness, or cancer, or the Holocaust, betrayal, murder, suicide. I asked if anyone read happy books any more, and the answer was no. Really?

I will say that I don’t always read happy books, and I definitely don’t watch happy TV–I’m binge watching Bitten and Penny Dreadful at the moment–whoa. The books I write, although they have happy endings–a requirement in romance, of course–tend to be on the dark side. But every once in awhile, I need something light-hearted–the literary equivalent of an ice cream cone. And when I want to read happy, I’ll usually pick up a romance.

But the Facebook exchange got me thinking. I can’t remember the last time I read a happy book that wasn’t a romance, although cozy mysteries come very close–my faves are the Aunt Dimity books by Nancy Atherton, and the Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen. Browsing through Goodreads, it’s hard to find one–every description seems to contain the words “poignant,” “deeply affecting,” “deeply moving,” “haunting,” yadda yadda, which are usually code for “will make you bawl until snot comes out of your eyes.” I’m sure they’re great books, but they’re not for me.

So my challenge for you, friends, is to help me come up with a list of feel good books for the summer. Happy, but not happy-ever-after. I found a few that look promising, and they’re on my TBR list for an upcoming road trip to Massachusetts and Maine:


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. The title alone is enough. I actually read and finished this book after I drafted this post. Read it. You must, must read it.



The Whistling Season. Aptly demonstrating the power of a good blurb.




My Lady Jane. I’m not entirely sure how happy this will be–Lady Jane Grey didn’t exactly have a happy ending–but I am intrigued nonetheless.





What books do you recommend, or have on your TBR list?

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.

Romeo & Juliet

Ah yes, one of the most re-told stories in my opinion. There are many great movies out there that originate from books, but none touches my soul more than this romantic tragedy.


You can capture this great masterpiece in book form, in movie form, play, or ballet. It is a story that can speak to generations. And while I enjoy the classic telling of the story, there is something to be said for the modernized versions of this tale. How many people found Shakespeare boring before Leonardo and Claire?

ROMEO AND JULIET, Leonardo Di Caprio, Claire Danes, 1996, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

ROMEO AND JULIET, Leonardo Di Caprio, Claire Danes, 1996, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

And I ran across this little image for yet another version that I’ve added to my to be watched pile. has anyone seen this version?


And let us not forget a small shout out to the cartoon versions….


I think seeing the remakes and various tellings of such a classic story really speaks volumes for the work itself. The Romeo and Juliet influence can be seen in many books out there and I for one, will forever be grateful for William Shakespeare.

What is your go to favorite book to movie?

About Kinsey Corwin

Kinsey Corwin, a contemporary romance author who really is drawn to small town stories, beaches, and cowboys (I know, that is quite a mix). She is a single mom of amazing boys, a fan of kitchen experiments, a lover of country music, and a dreamer.

Adele Downs — New Release!!

Best-Selling Author

Lip Service_tent3Some ghosts won’t take “yes” for an answer.

Jack Harris has loved Legs Anderson since they were kids. Now that he has her in his bed, he has no intention of letting her go. Aunt Ada has other ideas, even from the grave.
Orphaned at a young age, Legs Anderson owes her Aunt Ada everything. The stoic old lady raised her, and Ada’s warnings about men—and the Harris boys in particular—have stuck, even after her death. Of course, that could be because Ada stuck around, too.
Patience is not one of Jack Harris’s virtues, and he’s waited too long to start a life with the woman he’s loved since childhood instead of them just knocking boots. Now Ada is interfering from beyond the grave, haunting the old Victorian house she bequeathed to her niece and reinforcing Legs’s fears of commitment. But Jack won’t give up. No matter what trouble may follow, the house will be renovated, Ada will learn to let go, Legs will put her money where her mouth is…and then Jack’ll put his lips everywhere else.

The roar of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle on Rachel’s block and the rev of a throttle in her driveway announced Jack’s arrival. Legs tried to appear nonchalant when he walked through the poolside gate, but the sight of his sun-streaked hair and tanned, muscular good looks nearly knocked her out her seat. She eased her sunglasses down the bridge of her nose to get a better look.
When he stepped into the pool area dressed in black jeans, black biker boots, and a white muscle shirt that framed his pumped-up shoulders and biceps, she caught her breath. Everyone in the group said “hey” and Rachel offered him a cold drink, but his focus had remained on her. He slid his sunglasses on top of his head and nodded in her direction.
Legs remembered his gaze meeting hers before his attention strayed to her gold and black bikini then savored every inch of her skin. An appreciative smirk curled his lips and desire flashed in his beautiful blue eyes. He took a long pull of the soft drink someone handed him and then set the can down on the patio table. He looked her way and said, “Want to go for a ride?”
The invitation came out like a dare. All eyes shifted to her, watching to see what she’d do. They all knew she wasn’t allowed to date Jack Harris. Taking a ride on his motorcycle might not have been the same thing, but there would be hell to pay if her aunt found out.
She stretched her arms over her head and offered a lazy smile. “I guess so.” Though she’d been as nervous and excited as a rabbit, she never let on. She stood and pulled on her shorts and shirt, slid her sandals over her feet, and made her way across the patio to him.
Her aunt’s spies might see her on the road, but she pushed that worry aside. Mere weeks remained before she’d move away to college and the subject would be moot. She’d be gone most of the next four years, and by the time she got back, Jack would probably be married with a couple of kids. Half the women in town had their eyes on him and his brothers.
The idea of Jack marrying someone else made her furious, and more determined than ever to enjoy this rare day alone with him.
His gaze tracked every step of her approach, as if memorizing the lines and planes of her face, learning the shape of her breasts, and tattooing the curves of her waist into his brain. When she reached his side, he smiled at her so intently she almost faltered. Her heartbeat raced when he took her hand. She barely heard her friends say good-bye as they exited the patio door.
His Harley was built in classic style—all black steel and leather with silver chrome, glinting majestically in the sunlight like a god. She ran her fingers over the warm plush seats.
“Ever been on a bike before?” he asked, watching her with eyes so blue she almost missed his question while she stared back.
She pulled an elastic band from her shorts pocket and tied her hair into a ponytail. “Uh. No.” Her hair swung with the shake of her head. He probably knew the answer, but she appreciated the benefit of his question. He hadn’t made her feel like a total geek.
He gave her a tutorial with simple instructions, including the demand that she hold on to him tight and not let go. No problem there. She resisted a fit of giggles, determined to act her age and accept responsibility for her own safety, as tenuous as that might be on the rear end of a motorcycle wearing shorts and sandals.
Yikes. Hormones really did rule the heart.
He slid his sunglasses into place and got on the bike, steadying it with his feet while she scooted in behind him. After shifting her weight to find her center of balance, she wrapped her arms tight around his chest. The solid feel of his body thrilled her beyond anything she’d imagined. He smelled fantastic too, like musk cologne, leather, and sweat tossed with August air and sunshine.
“Ready?” he asked.
Leaning closer for support, she pressed her torso against his back and stifled a gasp at the sensations the friction created. If he never started the engine, and they simply sat together like this, it would have been enough.

About the Author:
Her Immortal Viking - Author PhotoAdele Downs writes best-selling contemporary romance inside the office of her rural Pennsylvania home. She is a former journalist, published in newspapers and magazines inside the USA, UK, and Caribbean.
Adele is an active member of Romance Writers of America and her local RWA chapter where she serves as a past-president. When Adele isn’t working on her current project, she can be found riding in her convertible or reading a book on the nearest beach.
Buy LIP SERVICE on Amazon!

Find Adele Downs’ Books on Amazon!
Visit Adele Downs
Like Adele Downs on Facebook!
Follow @Adele_Downs on Twitter!
Friend Adele on Tsu!
Find Adele Downs on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/httpwwwgoodreadscomAdeleDowns
Join Adele Downs’ Convertible Crew Street Team on Facebook!

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.

  • Our LATEST Buzz!

    Cyn D. Blackburn's Wrapped Up in You releases on November 13. *** The first two books in the Cupid's Cafe series were released in June by Lori Sizemore and Landra Graf *** Lori Sizemore's Infamous was released on December 14. *** Julie Jarnagin's Cowgirl in the Kitchen is available now. *** Bethanne Strasser LETTERS FROM HOME from Entangled Publishing is available now! *** Nina Croft's latest books, Her Fantasy Husband, a hot contemporary romance from Entangled's Brazen line, and The Order Boxed Set, a compilation of the three full length novels, plus a new novella, exclusive to the boxed set, both released in April 2016 *** Debora Dennis's holiday novella, A PROPOSAL & PUMPKIN PIE is on sale for .99 through Thanksgiving.