Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading, Romance, Sob-Inducing Stories, Tule Publishing

Responding to Reading: Tempting the Deputy

Heidi Rice‘s Tempting the Deputy

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Tough, taciturn and wounded in ways that no one else knows about, Marietta rancher and part-time Deputy Sheriff Logan Tate is a man in total control of his life. Until he catches British photographer Charlotte Foster hitchhiking and ‘insists’ she gets a ride into town in his squad car… 

After her run-in with Deputy Hardass, Charlie Foster is ready to ride her thumb right back out of Marietta the very next day. But that night, a trip to Grey’s Saloon fires up her imagination – and her wild side – when she overhears the town’s first responders panicking over how to come up with the money needed to repair Harry’s House in just 90 days. 

Charlie has an ingenious solution to their problem, that might just require her to photograph twelve smokin’ hot guys naked. And, as luck would have it, also involves getting some much needed payback on Deputy Hardass–who isn’t too enthusiastic about participating in the calendar shoot.

But as he spends more time with Charlie, Logan can’t ignore the chemistry sizzling between them. Can a man who lives by the rules fall in love with a woman who breaks all of his?

So I’m not entirely certain why it’s taken Heidi Rice so long to write a cowboy hero.  As heroes go, they’re usually fairly alpha – without fitting into the overbearing Christian Grey mould – fit as f— and are part of a close-knit community; all traits that I’ve seen in previous Rice heroes…but Logan is her first.

And is he a good one?

The short answer is yes.  He’s a great hero.  He’s kind, a little clueless about his own feelings at times (which I find unbelievably adorable) and has a backstory that makes your heart ache.

How about our heroine?  Charlie Foster’s a British photographer, passing through the adorable town of Marietta, who takes on a photography project to raise some money for a local cause.  Of course, it means she has to see certain male members of the community in various states of undress, but she’s not particularly complaining.  They’re all fairly easy on the eyes, and it’s good exposure for her work.

But the thing I really like about her, is her frankness.  She’s straight talking and there’s a scene where they’re out in the “wild”, with her taking photos of him, when she starts telling him what she wants to do with her.  Aside from it being rather hot (which all the sex scenes are – my eReader almost combusted in my hands!), it’s also something innately honest and open.  And there’s nothing quite as alluring as the frank articulation of desire.

The story itself has great heart.  There’s a moment when Logan comes in the door and smells Charlie cooking a dish his mother used to cook him, and that really resonated with me.  The smell and taste of food is something that can resurrect memories both good and bad, and I love how that simple moment was woven into the narrative.  It encapsulated all that Logan had lost, and all that his life could be.

And the ending made me cry.  This isn’t something that’s unique to this book – Rice is to blame for a large number of tears shed over the years – but it’s something that I appreciate nonetheless.  It’s the kind of catharsis that Aristotle refers to in Poetics that makes me very grateful for the romance novel.

Reading, Romance, Small Town Perfection, Tule Publishing

Small Town Perfection: Jumbuck Springs

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Amy Andrews‘ Outback Heat series follows four siblings as they grow up and start developing more relationships; as well as running sidelong with a narrative about forest fires and the impact that it can have on small rural communities.

In Some Girls Do, Lacey is fed up of being stuck out in the city.  Her mother has recently died and she wants to go home – even if her brothers are insistent that she finish design school!  So when she gets Cooper to bring her home, she finds herself pretending that she’s pregnant, in order to stay.  The only thing she didn’t expect, was for Cooper to stand up as her fake baby daddy!

Jarrod hasn’t really had a proper relationship since Selena left, all fifteen years ago.  In fact, when she comes home in Some Girls Don’t, he doesn’t want anything to do with her; so when they finally meet, that spark of chemistry is a shock to both of them.

Some Guys Need A Lot of Lovin’ sees Marcus batting PTSD after one of the young boys he coached dies in the forest fire that decimates their local community.  The last thing he wants, is to have to see a psychologist – even one as sexy as Juanita…

JJ grew up with Ethan, and she’s been in love with him for just as long!  But when they end up sleeping together in Some Girls Lie, after his ex-wife gets remarried, she’s terrified that they’ll have ruined their friendship.  But with her abusive ex back in town, and his ex wanting custody of his daughter, a fake engagement may be the best way to resolve all of their issues!

I think one of the real strengths of this series – aside from the writing and its deliciously sexy scenes – is its ability to engage with risks that real Australian rural communities face.  Outstanding.

Reading, Romance, Sob-Inducing Stories, Tule Publishing

Small Town Perfection: Marietta

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Marietta is the setting for a number of Tule Publishing books, but my favourite series is The Great Wedding Giveaway.  Set in ranching land in Montana, the town seems to see a spate of romances burst up, set around a very interesting Wedding Giveaway!

The prequel to the series, Jane Porter‘s The Tycoon’s Kiss, follows Marietta’s librarian Taylor and its most eligible bachelor Troy, as they’re pushed into attending the Valentine Ball together, and sets the scene for the rest of the series!

Ella’s furious when her father puts an ad in the local saloon, trying to find a husband for her in, What the Bride Wants by Kelly Hunter, and so she retaliates with an ad of her own – for a lover!  only she didn’t expect newcomer Cam to take her ad quite so seriously…

Second Chance Bride by Trish Morey takes place across the Globe in Australia, where Scarlett – dumped by the boyfriend she flew across the world to be with – is trying desperately to get back to Marietta – but will Mitch Bannister be able to persuade her to stay?

Scarlet’s sensible sister Tara discovers that her fiancé’s been cheating on her in Sarah Mayberry‘s  Almost a Bride, and so she decides to go a bit wild!  And on her list is acting on her suppressed feelings for Reid.  But Reid is a wanderer by nature, and Tara’s a Marietta girl through and through…

Emma’s a British nanny that finds herself in the wilds of Montana in The Unexpected Bride by Joanne Walsh, looking for a job.  And Laurent definitely needs help as between his out of control kids and his crazy job, he’s being driven to the very edge!  Will Emma be able to settle so far from home, and with a man who’s scared of letting her in?

In Katherine Garbera‘s The Cowboy’s Reluctant Bride, Risa has escaped to Marietta and restarted her life – trying to leave trauma behind her.  Only she can’t forget Monty, the handsome and protective Marine that she left without an explanation, and when he appears in the small town, she doesn’t know how to explain herself!

Family weddings have always filled Emmy with dread, but in A Game of Brides by Megan Crane, she’s got no choice but to attend her sister’s.  So when she bumps into Griffin and the spark that was always between them flares, she decides to have a little no strings sex.  But is he really completely disentangled from his fiancee?  And is she really so detached herself?

Kathleen O’Brien‘s The Substitute Bride sees Marly return home to Marietta jilted and pregnant.  She’s stuck in tiny apartment with her disapproving mum, and then the bane of her teenage life, Drake appears on the scene…

Cole’s been all about responsibility for as longs he can remember.  So when he upped and got married in Las Vegas last year, it couldn’t have been more out of character,  Only in Last Year’s Bride by Anne McAllister, his wife Nell has appeared in Marietta, complete with romantic reality television program!

Andie can’t quite understand how the entry she made for Marietta’s Wedding Giveaway got entered in Make-Believe Wedding by Sarah Mayberry – it was only wishful thinking!  Only now she and Heath are having to pretend to be engaged to spare her humiliation…

Marietta’s absolutely charming, and I love the idea of the town having a little Wedding Giveaway competition – it’s the sort of thing that would only ever happen in a small town!

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Q&A, Reading, Tule Publishing, Writing

Q&A with Ally Blake

I first blogged about Ally Blake, back in 2013, whilst I was more than a little obsessed with the Modern Tempted (aka Harlequin KISS or M&B RIVA) line.  Since then she’s written a book via Facebook and released a number with Tule Publishing.

Her latest, Love Me Tender, is the first full length novel in her Cinderella Project series, and after inhaling it, I caught up with her to ask some questions.

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Serafina Scott is loyal and intelligent, making sacrifices for the father that she loves. What comes across is her incredible strength; what do you think makes a #StrongRomanceHeroine?

Truth.

From a light, perky, shoulders-back-and-smile-through-it-all heroine to a tough, abrasive, no-backing-down-for-anyone heroine, a heroine who is true to herself will always be a strong one.

Serafina’s truth is her love for her dad.  He’s been her staunchest supporter and she’ll always be the same for him come hell, or high water…or true love.

Being part-Italian, I really loved the way that tiny details imbued Sera’s heritage; what made you decide to make her roots Italian?

Oh yay!  I’m so pleased that rang true for you.

Since watching The Godfather I knew I was going to marry an Italian :).  The language, the dark features, and all that innate swagger. Sigh…  My husband is half-Italian so I did just fine.

For all that I’d never purposely intended for Serafina’s father to be Italian.  He simply appeared on the page watching Toto movies on his tablet.

That last part (and many of the “tiny details” I added along the way) definitely came via my Italian father-in-law.  He had zero interest in the internet until he realized the connections it gave him to his Italian roots.  He’s already Skyped a zillion more times than I ever will!

Conflict is always central to any romance’s narrative, but the tragedy in Murdoch’s past makes him really stand out. How do characters’ internal conflicts and histories jump fully formed into your mind, or do they surprise you as you write?

My characters ALWAYS surprise me as I write.

I might have a tiny inkling at the beginning as to where their conflicts spring from, but their deeper truths are revealed to me as they are revealed to the reader.  Piece by piece, layer by unpeeled layer, until they are laid bare and vulnerable.

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One of my favourite characters in the novel is interfering fairy godmother Hazel. How important do you think secondary characters are within romances?

For me, secondary characters are of utmost importance.

The hero and heroine are two-dimensional to one another when they first meet, as they are to the reader.  Seeing them with their families, co-workers, and best friends lets us see who they really are once their guards are down.

The hero and heroine also reveal so much more of how they are feeling to those close to them than they will to one another…which makes for delicious fun!

Love Me Tender is part of The Cinderella Project, (the prequel being Kiss Me Quick). Are we going to get to see other characters star in their own books?

You bet!

Hazel – along with her new match-making business (The Cinderella Project) – is the through line: after trying to take over Kiss Me Quickshe simply refused to be left behind.  And as readers keep getting in touch asking when this character is getting a book, or that one, what had started out as a one book story has fast morphed into a half dozen in my head!

As for now, Tell Me True is due for release early next year with Hold Me Now coming a couple of months after that and already a few favourite characters have put in appearances 🙂

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Love Me Tender and its prequel, Kiss Me Quick, are available now.

Ally Blake has spent more than ten years in romance publishing. In that time she has travelled the world with her ever-patient husband researching fabulously noveliscious locations, had three bright bumptious kids, happily represented the romance genre on The Project and A Current Affair and in New Idea and eaten more M&Ms than should be medically possible.

To find out more about Ally – and release details for the next books in the Cinderella Project series – check out her website, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Exploits of a Chick Lit Aficionado, Reading, Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading, Tule Publishing

Respond to Reading: Claimed by the Warrior

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I first discovered Joss Wood with the launch of Modern Tempted (or KISS, as it was called in the US), back in August 2013. My review of that novel, If You Can’t Stand the Heat, was accompanied by a Mills & Boon boy (one of my male friends caroused into posing with the book) and so a love affair began.

I love Joss’ writing, which is one of the reasons why she’s an autobuy author for me. Her characters have heart and sass and there are plot twists which I love.

Claimed by the Warrior is no exception.

It’s got a typically Wood-ian hero in Jed Hamilton (yes, I`m making that a thing): a man who is strong and fiercely independent, who doesn’t usually rely on anybody else. I’m a sucker for these heroes, partly because my own fiance’s incredibly similar. There’s something swoonworthy about someone who won’t open up to anyone but the heroine; it helps create a special bond between the characters that is impossible for either of them to deny forever, however much they may want to.

And to go along with this (rather delicious) hero is McKenna Dixon. I love the way that she interacts with Jed, calling him out when he unintentionally upsets his little sister`s wedding dress shopping and standing up to him when she doesn’t think he’s being upfront with her.

The chemistry between the two of them is sizzling from the outset, with a particularly steamy scene at a restaurant standing out, but the thing that’s most apparent to both the reader and the characters, is that there’s genuine tenderness and affection amidst the heat.

In addition to all this, there’s a thriller-esque element to the story, with Jed stepping up when he realises that McKenna has a stalker, and the eventual revelation at the end came as a bit of a surprise (in a good way – I like that writers can still surprise me sometimes). Romantic suspense is a sub-genre of romance that I’m beginning to enjoy more and more, so I was delighted t see this kind of writing from Joss.

All in all, a delightful read, with Wood’s strong characterisation once more at the forefront of a darn good read.

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Q&A, Reading, Tule Publishing, Writing

Q&A with Amy Andrews

One of the very first authors I blogged about, way back when, was Amy Andrews, and I’ve followed her career and novels ever since!

Her latest novels are the quartet Outback Heat, and I caught up with her to find out all about them!

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Some Girls Do is the first a quartet of books set in the outback, and starring Lacey Weston and her three older brothers. How did you make sure that each of the siblings explored a different experience of love?

You know, I didn’t deliberately set out with that in mind, it was more of an organic thing but it certainly worked out that way! Lacey and Coop’s story is an older brother’s BFF thing, Jarrod and Selena have a reunion romance fifteen years in the making, Marcus and Juanita’s relationship explores themes of mental health and PTSD and Ethan and JJ’s story is that of friends to lovers.

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The series is called Outback Heat, and you’re pretty well known for your intense sex scenes… Where d’you write them?  In your office plied with wine, or on a sunny beach in glorious weather?

Lol – I wish! Neither unfortunately. Well, in my office, yes but stone cold sober. Mostly. If I’m writing into the night then there may be some wine involved! What’s that thing they say – write drunk, edit sober?

I think that has a lot of merit particularly where sex scenes are involved for those writers who feel inhibited when writing them. I don’t. For the record.

Are there any dos and don’ts that you follow for writing sex scenes?

Hmm. Good question.

Nothing hard or fast (pun not intended :D) Don’t force them – it took me 7 chapters to get a couple into bed once but they just wouldn’t go!

Don’t have sex scenes there just for the sake of it (although I’ve probably been guilty of that….) Do remember that sex scenes are about the emotions not the mechanics (something I forget occasionally when swept away in it all).

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Do avoid flowery euphemisms for genitals. Sex is fairly base and I think base language and descriptors appropriate to the genre work best.

Do forget about your mother/grandmother/your high school English teacher/priest. Do be mindful of the particular demographic/readership of the particular book.

And don’t, under any circumstances use the term moist or cleft in relation to the vagina….

Lacey’s fiercely stubborn and independent, but more than that, she’s incredibly strong. What do you think makes a #StrongRomanceHeroine?

Thanks for that, Ali. Lacey was tough to write, to strike a balance between her being young/grieving/acting out and irresponsible/reckless. She is stubborn and trying to be independent but lacks the maturity and skill to pull it off. She wants to be but her social conditioning with her three older brothers often wins out so she’s a strange mix of I’m all grown up I can do this, damn it and please come and bail me out.

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Some reviewers have said that Lacey is bratty and irritating so clearly, a strong heroine is in the eye of the beholder and something readers obviously differ on. As such, these contrasting views makes it kind of hard for an author to write a strong romance heroine who is universally loved. One reader might call your heroine tough and assertive and love her and another might call her emasculating and a ball breaker and despise her.

Personally, I think what makes a strong romance heroine is in what she does, not what she says. It’s her actions or rather, what she learns from those actions that will define her.

Now, that doesn’t mean she won’t screw up. A strong romance heroine isn’t some perfect, flawless goddess – she’s as fallible as the rest of us. But I think she has a strong sense of self. Or finds one throughout the book and has the gumption to stand up and say I know what I want and I’m going to go out and get it.

Whether that’s kicking ass Lara Croft style,  or taking on a school board or renovating a house with a baby of a hip and no man with a tool belt in sight. Strength comes from inner belief.

What’s your current project, and what will we see released by you next?

I’m involved in my first indie project which I’m really excited about! A boxed set of novellas with six other authors that comes out on October 19th (it’s a crazy month!) Natalie Anderson, Avery Flynn, Michele De Winton, Robin Covington, Carmen Falcone, Talia Hunter and myself have teamed up to give the seven mortal sins our own special twist.

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It’s called Seven Sins (funnily enough) and there’s something for everyone for only 99c! I’m doing gluttony and it’s my first foray into BDSM J You can pre-order here!

The first two Outback Heat books are available now:  Some Girls Do and Some Girls Don’t.

Amy Andrews loves good books, fab food, great wine and frequent travel – preferably all four together. She lives on acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane with a gorgeous mountain view but secretly wishes it was the hillsides of Tuscany.

To find out more about Amy , check out her website, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.