#WeNeedDiverseBooks, All About Pride, Romance

All About Pride: Not Otherwise Specified

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Hannah Moskowitz‘s Not Otherwise Specified is a coming of age novel that follows Etta as she struggles with the categories that people want to put her in…

She’s not quite tiny enough for ballet, she’s not quite gay enough for her group of friends the Dykes – even though she’s always been open about being bisexual – she’s not quite sick enough for some people to take her anorexia seriously, even if she is in recovery, and she’s a black girl in a whiter than white Nebraska…

And it isn’t until she’s drawn to straight, white, Christian Bianca in her therapy group that she starts questioning her role within the labels that people have assigned her.

I think what’s truly remarkable about this book, is the strength of Etta’s voice. She’s funny and witty and goes off on tangents in a way that is really very endearing. Moskowitz approaches the darker issues with levity and practicality, and shows light onto the shadow. Utterly charmed by this book!

#WeNeedDiverseBooks, Reading, Romance, Small Town Perfection

Small Town Perfection: Winslow

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Piper Huguley‘s Migrations of the Heart is a heartwrenching series set in during the First World War in a small town in Georgia, following African American heroes and heroines.

The eponymous Ruby in A Virtuous Ruby, is hardworking and outspoken – exactly what a woman shouldn’t be, especially one who’s just had an illegitimate child.  But she simply can’t stand injustice, and that’s what drives her through the prejudice.  All Adam Morson wants, is to take Ruby and her child out of the toxic atmosphere he finds her in, but will she choose to stay to save the heart of her hometown?

In A Most Precious Pearl, journalist Asa returns home from the war with an amputated leg, and only one purpose:  to get Mags Bledsoe out of trouble.  But soon he discovers that there’s more to Mags that meets the eye, especially when he begins to uncover the truth about lynchings in the South…

A Treasure of Gold sees Ruby and Mags’ youngest sister, Nettie, head away from the small town of Winslow, to Pittsburgh, to do work for a charity kitchen.  But the big city is very different from the small town that she’s used to – and that definitely includes reprobate Jay Evans.  Jay really doesn’t need any help from a do-gooder, but he needs help with his daughter until his wound heals, and Nettie may well be just what he’s looking for!

Huguley has a gorgeous writing style, and I love the way she weaves her romance naratives with larger societal issues of the time.  Definitely worth a read!

#WeNeedDiverseBooks, Mills & Boon, Reading, Romance, Small Town Perfection

Small Town Perfection: Gauthier

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Farrah Rochon‘s Bayou Dreams series is set in the small Louisiana town of Gauthier

When a family tragedy brings Mya home in A Forever Kind of Love, she’s determined to avoid the man who broke her heart fifteen years before.  But Cory’s determined to win back his first and only love!

In Always and Forever Phylicia can’t quite believe how close she came to buying back her family home – until Jamal, a restoration specialist, managed to buy it out from under her!  But when he asks her to help him convert it into a B&B, will their working relationship become a more intimate one?

Historian Tamryn West is brought back to Gauthier, trying to uncover the secret of her grandmother’s past in Yours Forever, only to stumble upon even more scandalous secrets – secrets that Matthew Gauthier has spent years trying to keep from coming to light…

Forever’s Promise sees Xavier’s attempts to mend his broken heart whilst working as Gauthier’s ER doctor interrupted when he meets Shayla.  Shayla’s helping care for her nieces after a family tragedy and has opened a coffee shop, but will Xavier inspire passion?

When widowed mother of two Leslie gets caught up in a clash between the progressive new principal of Louisiana’s elementary school and the local community in Forever with You, she’s determined not to take sides.  Only that’s a little more difficult when there’s such explosive chemistry between her and Gabe…

When the Gauthier community comes under threat in Stay with Me Forever, it’s up to Paxton and Sawyer to save the day, and help prevent flooding – if only they can stop thinking about the passionate night they shared three years ago!

I love the fact that these Bayou natives face real risks and threats to their community in this heartwarming series!

Mills & Boon, Romance, Whatever Happened to Modern Tempted?

Whatever Happened to Modern Tempted? A Spotlight on…Shoma Narayanan

In 2013 Mills & Boon relaunched their RIVA line with Modern Tempted (called Harlequin KISS in the States), an imprint that held echoes of the Temptation novels of the 80s and 90s, and the sexiness of the Modern Heat series from the 00s. 

Whether as RIVA or as Modern Tempted, I adored the books and was incredibly upset when the line stopped publishing two years ago.

So this month I’m taking a look back at the authors of Modern Tempted, at the books they wrote then, and what they’re up to now…

Shoma Narayanan

Take One Arranged Marriage is a fantastic example of taking a trope and playing with it:


When Tara Sundaram learns that her father has found her the perfect husband she is not convinced.

She may be from a traditional Indian family, but she is far from conventional…  Perhaps she should check out her future husband in secret (just in case!?)

Bumping into Vikram Krishnan – all six feet of deliciousness – Tara’s blushes betray her outward coolness – maybe marriage to Vikram will have its perks!

But before she says ‘yes’, Tara has a few little rules for her husband-to-be.

 

Shoma Narayanan was the first of India’s Mills & Boon authors to be published internationally, and so provides a unique insight into traditional arranged marriages.

I love the fact that both Tara and Vikram secretly meet up to see what the other’s like, and realise that they’re strongly attracted to each other.  They work together to try and find a marriage and relationship that’s going to work best for the both of them.  Plus he’s gorgeous and she’s modern and sassy.

Narayanan’s other Modern Tempted books include:

  • Monsoon Wedding Fever  (Riya did not expect to trip over Dhruv, the guy who broke her heart, in her living room.  He’s back in town for her flatmate’s wedding, and to consider a marriage of his own…)
  • The One She Was Warned About  (When Shweta bumps into Nikhil, the bad boy from her past, she finds herself still drawn to him and to those spine-tingling kisses!)
  • Twelve Hours of Temptation  (Copywriter Melissa should be at an awards ceremony – she’s the reason they’ve been nominated after all, but she’s still stuck in the office!  So when her boss Samir offers to driver her himself, they’re in for a long journey together…)
  • An Offer She Can’t Refuse  (Darius can’t understand why Mallika would turn down the job of a lifetime…especially when it comes with him attached!)

So what’s Shoma been up to since the end of Modern Tempted?

She’s written a book called It’s Complex about two neighbours who are thrown together:

When Jai and Nikita have a dramatic encounter the night that he rescues her from a near-fatal accident, they sudden fall into a relationship that’s full of ups and downs…

Shoma started reading Mills & Boon romances at the age of eleven, borrowing them from neighbours and hiding them inside textbooks so that her parents didn’t find out. At that time, the thought of writing one herself never entered her head — she was convinced she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. When she was a little older, she decided to become an engineer instead, and took a degree in electronics and telecommunications. Then she thought a career in management was probably a better bet, and went off to do an MBA. That’s a decision she’s never regretted, because she met the man of her dreams in the first year of B-school —fifteen years later, they’re married, with two adorable kids whom they are raising with the same careful attention to detail that they gave their second-year project on organisational behaviour.

A couple of years ago, Shoma took up writing as a hobby (after successively trying her hand at baking, sewing, knitting, crochet and patchwork), and was amazed at how much she enjoyed it. Now she works grimly at her banking job through the week and tries to balance writing with household chores during weekends. Her family has been unfailingly supportive of her latest hobby, and are also secretly very, very relieved that they don’t have to eat, wear or display the results!

Find out more about her and her writing on her Facebook page.

Mills & Boon, Romance, Whatever Happened to Modern Tempted?

Whatever Happened to Modern Tempted? A Spotlight on…Nicola Marsh

In 2013 Mills & Boon relaunched their RIVA line with Modern Tempted (called Harlequin KISS in the States), an imprint that held echoes of the Temptation novels of the 80s and 90s, and the sexiness of the Modern Heat series from the 00s. 

Whether as RIVA or as Modern Tempted, I adored the books and was incredibly upset when the line stopped publishing two years ago.

So this month I’m taking a look back at the authors of Modern Tempted, at the books they wrote then, and what they’re up to now…

Nicola Marsh

There’s nothing quite like a marriage of convenience – especially when it’s as cleverly written as it is in Nicola Marsh’s Marrying the Enemy:

Jewellery designer and heiress Ruby Seaborn will do anything to save her family’s company from financial ruin. And she means anything. Including proposing a strictly-business marriage to diamond mine magnate Jax Maroney – the only man able to restore the Seaborn jewellery empire to its former glory!

She needs his money, he needs her socialite credentials – it’s a win-win solution. And if they indulge in certain…fringe benefits of their marriage along the way, that’s fine. Because luckily Ruby’s heart is as unbreakable as the precious gems she works with…isn’t it?

 

The issue I often have with using a marriage of convenience as a romance trope, is that there’s a clear inequality between the both of them.  That’s not the case in Marrying the Enemy.  I love the fact that both Ruby and Jax need something from each other.

It’s also good to see characters with real career issues, as opposed to ones that seem to trivialise the businesses that they work in.  There’s real depth to their business decisions, which only adds to the depth of their relationship.  And, of course, the steaminess of their other connections…

Marsh’s other Modern Tempted books include:

  • Deserted Island, Dreamy Ex  (Kristi’s looking forward to being shipwrecked for reality television show Stranded, until she realises that she’s going to be stuck alone with Jared, the guy who broke her heart)
  • Sex, Gossip and Rock & Roll  (Charli’s never met anyone so infuriating as Luca Petrelli – and she works as a tour manager for demanding stars!  But will her frustration evolve into something else?)
  • Interview with the Daredevil  (Ava’s finally free and single, after being the perfect political wife, and she’s managed to land an interview with gorgeous sports legend Roman.  But in order to be with him, she’d have to step back out into the spotlight…)
  • Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?  (Rory can’t quite believe it when he discovers Gemma chained up in protest against his development plans for the local beach.  Rory is every thing Gemma has sworn to avoid, but will she be able to resist him?)
  • What the Paparazzi Didn’t See  (Liza’s been living in the spotlight to protect her little sister, but when Wade comes knocking, wanting a bare all autobiography, will she let him see the real Liza?)
  • Wedding Date with Mr Wrong  (Archer needs a date for his brother’s wedding, and who better to ask but his gorgeous ex Callie…?)
  • Romance for Cynics  (Cash needs a fake girlfriend in order salvage his reputation, and gardener Lucy seems to be the perfect option…)

So what’s Nicola been up to since the end of Modern Tempted?

She’s written the New Adult World Apart series:

  • Walking the Line  (Prequel, novella.  Finn’s Irish luck seems to have run out by the time he makes his way to Sydney, leaving him no option but to get a job bartending.  His boss, Ellie, is ten years older than him, but that’s not going to stop him from pursuing her…)
  • Crossing the Line  (Mia’s fed up of being good and, home for the summer, decides to have some fun.  Kye’s been working for Mia’s dad at his tennis academy, but will he be able to resist the boss’s daughter?)
  • Towing the Line  (Dani is the ultimate party girl, but one mistake too many and she’s been flown halfway around the world to spend a couple of semesters in Australia.  That’s where she meets Ash, and he’s everything she isn’t…)
  • Blurring the Line  (Annabelle’s excited to be completing her degree in Denver, when who should be her mentor, but Joel.  Joel once rocked Annabelle’s world, but what will happen when she wants to go home?)

She’s also written a Young Adult fantasy series, called Soul Retriever:

  • Vanish  (Alyssa’s life is turned upside down when her boyfriend kills himself after she dumps him.  Devastated, she moves to New York to live with her aunt, a Wicca High Priestess, and start anew.  But will the ghosts of her past continue to haunt her…?)
  • Banish  (Alyssa doesn’t believe in the supernatural, even though she sees a dead body in a music video and she’s the only one who can see it…)

There’s also the Bollywood Billionaires contemporary romance series:

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  • Busted in Bollywood  (This was supposed to be simple.  Shari was supposed to pretend to be Amrita, go to Mumbai, and ditch the finance her best friend’s parents had chosen for her.  Only she’s been mistaken for a famous Bollywood actress, stalked by a Lone Ranger wannabe, courted by an English lord, and busted by the blackmailing fiance!)
  • Breathless in Bollywood  (Desiree’s interior design company will take Mumbai by storm, if only she can land the Baron Hotel expansion project… But when Jarryd Baron ends up blackmailing her into being his girlfriend for a week, and the press falls in love with the idea, will it become more permanent?)
  • Brazen in Bollywood  (Due for release in January 2017.  Nik Shah needs a wife, preferably one with plenty of money!  But when a case of mistaken identity lands him with Australia Elena Cook, will their business dealings turn to more?)

And the new Redemption series:

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  • Saving Sara  (Sara is starting over.  She’s inherited a cottage in the small town of Redemption and she’s making a clean break.  Jake’s found himself looking after his nephew, and he’s come to Redemption to ask for his Aunt Cilla’s help; but soon her quiet neighbour intrigues him…)
  • Redeeming Rose  (Rose and her son Olly need a quiet, stable life, and she thought that coming home to Redemption would give her that.  But not everyone’s pleased to see her.  Not Caden though.  He was always far more drawn to Rose than a son of a preacher should…)

She’s also just had a new book accepted by Mills & Boon, and so I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s going to bring forth soon…

USA TODAY bestselling author and multi-award winner Nicola Marsh writes flirty fiction with flair for adults and riveting, spooky stories for teens.

She has published 60 contemporary romances with Harlequin, Entangled Publishing and indie, and sold over 7 million copies worldwide. Her first mainstream romance Busted in Bollywood was nominated for Romantic Book of the Year 2012. Her first indie romance, Crazy Love, was a 2012 ARRA finalist.

She currently writes women’s fiction for Amazon’s Lake Union imprint.

Her debut young adult novel, a supernatural thriller Banish, released with Harlequin Teen August 2013, and her YA urban fantasy Scion of the Sun won the 2014 National Readers’ Choice Award for Best Young Adult novel.

A physiotherapist for thirteen years, she now adores writing full time, raising her two little heroes, sharing fine food with family and friends, and her favorite, curling up with a good book!

Find out more about her and her writing on her Facebook pageTwitter, on her website.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks, Guestpost, Release Post, Romance, Samhain Publishing

Guestpost – Piper Huguley and Guys and Dolls

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Thank you for having me here today on your blog, Ali!  I’m trying to remain calm as my latest novel A Treasure of Gold is released. I’m looking forward to letting it out there in the world, because I think romance needs more diverse historical romance, and more 20th century historical stories.

Guys and Dolls was a major influence for A Treasure of Gold, my 1923 story of a buttoned-up pious country girl who meets the big city numbers kingpin in Pittsburgh and she’s forced to question her entire world.  I remember seeing the live musical at a high school first and then watching the movie of Guys and Dolls when I was a teenager. I always loved the whirlwind romance between gambler Skye Masterson, who knows the Bible thoroughly since the only book he has access to is the Gideon Bible, and Sister Sarah Simpson, the prim mission “doll” who ends up being changed by the so-called “bad boy.”  She’s convinced she can convert him to a better way of life, and he’s unexpectedly impacted by her wholesome nature, ironic since what got them together was a bet—something Skye cannot resist.

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The movie musical features Marlon Brando as Skye Masterson. Who could resist hottie Marlon Brando in his sharp cut suits? Guys and Dolls is known as the one and only movie where Brando sings. I don’t care what anyone else says, I like it.  I think that Jean Simmons’s Sarah liked it a whole lot too, since she falls hard and fast for her gambling man.

In Treasure, Nettie grew up in the country in the middle of a whirlwind family of girls, and her place in the family was always made special because her family thought of her as sickly and close to death, so she has a very close relationship with God.  Jay, who wants nothing to do with religion, lost his wife two years before.  He vows never to fall in love again because the pain of losing his deceased wife is more than he can bear. He has a problem.  He can’t keep nannies for his precocious little girl. When they come across one another by accident, Nettie’s belief systems are challenged as she sees what the little girl needs, in the questionable profession of the child’s father. Once Nettie is with them, she cannot help but be drawn in and love happens.

If you’ve never seen the Guys and Dolls, rent it and try not to swoon at Marlon Brando. The short stories that Guys and Dolls is based on are by Damon Runyon. These short stories about street life in the 1920’s and 1930’s are real treats for readers as well. In A Treasure of Gold, I hope readers will enjoy my different take on the good girl, bad boy romance. I believe my story is all about how the power of love transforms us and make us feel renewed all over again.

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Named in 2015 as a top ten historical romance novelist in Publisher’s Weekly, Piper Huguley is the author of the Reconstruction era “Home to Milford College” series. She is a 2013 & 2014 Golden Heart finalist for two novels in the “Migrations of the Heart” series about the Bledsoe sisters and set in the early twentieth century.

A Treasure of Gold is out now from Amazon, Google Play, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

For more information about Piper, check out her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

#StrongRomanceHeroines, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, Giveaway, Guestpost, Mills & Boon, Writing

Guestpost – Jenna Kernan and #StrongRomanceHeroines

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Have you ever dreamed for the impossible?

My heroine, Snow Raven, is a Western historical character of the Crow nation who feels trapped by her role as a woman.  She does not like preparing hides, preparing meals and preparing lodges.  All she wants is to hunt and raid like her brother and the father who raised her.  In short, she wants to be a warrior.  Now this would be impossible in many cultures.  But many Native American tribes were more tolerant of differences.  A man could take on the care-giving role of a woman or stay home and paint medicine symbols on shields and lodges.  And, rarely, a woman did decided to follow the way of the warrior.  The question is how will she become a warrior and earn her place among the brave protectors of her tribe especially after she is captured by an enemy warrior.

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Snow Raven is one of my strongest female characters (#StrongRomanceHeroines).  I am always striving to make my heroes rugged and my heroines resilient.    Both my primary characters are tough and powerful, yet with hidden vulnerabilities.

I’d like to share a short excerpt from the opening of RUNNING WOLF, July 2015, where you can see my heroine in action.

Raven lowered herself flat to her horse’s neck and gave Song her head. They fairly flew over the ground.

As she tore over the animal trail, she noticed a tanned-colored lump lying in the path. A fawn, she thought as Song snorted and jumped the tiny obstacle. Raven gaped when she saw that the carcass was a village dog with one arrow sticking from its ribs. At a glance she recognized that the fletching on the shaft was not like the ones of her people.

The hairs on her neck rose.

Raven opened her mouth to scream a warning to her brother, but another scream filled the air, farther away, one coming from their fishing camp. Her brother straightened in his saddle and then did something she had never seen him do. He slapped his open hand on his horse’s broad muscular shoulder. The horse lunged forward as Raven slowed.

“The camp!” she yelled.

“Run,” shouted her brother as he surged past her with Little Badger and Turns Too Slowly on his horse’s flank. Raven wheeled her horse to flee but then thought of the women, caught between the lake and attack. Song seemed to know her mind before Snow Raven did, for her mare raced after the other horses. They broke from the trees into chaos. The men in the village were fighting from the ground as mounted warriors ran at a gallop through the camp upsetting cooking kettles and trampling lodges. She saw that they were Sioux by the cut of the enemy’s war shirts and because they wore their hair in twin braids, like a Crow woman.

Her brother gave a whoop and charged, drawing the fight to them while giving the women and children time to flee in the opposite direction. The Sioux were outnumbered but they were mounted and had the advantage of surprise.

Snow Raven drew up at the woods, calling to the women, telling them to flee in this direction where there was good cover. Raven watched in horror as she saw two of the Sioux break away from the fight to follow the retreating women.

She saw her old grandmother hobbling along at an ungainly trot. Truthful Woman had raised Snow Raven since the time of her mother’s death, but could no longer run because she was bent and her joints were puffy and stiff. With each moment her grandmother fell farther behind, the Sioux in pursuit.

Was that their aim, then, to take captives? Or was this a fight over territory, as her brother had said? Either way they could easily kill her grandmother on their way to the younger, more useful captives.

Raven pressed her heels into her horse’s flanks and gave her first war cry. She swung her bow over her head and reached back for an arrow. The lead warrior dressed in a red war shirt trimmed with long strands of trophy hair grabbed Truthful Woman by the multistrand shell and bead necklaces that circled her throat. Raven vowed the red-shirt would not harm her grandmother, though he was upon her already. Truthful Woman was dragged backward against her enemy’s horse. Her hands went to her windpipe and her face turned scarlet. The warrior shook his hand, further strangling Raven’s grandmother.

Snow Raven screamed again and notched her arrow but was too close to shoot.

She dropped her bow and rammed his horse with hers. Song’s muscular chest collided with the other horse’s flank, causing the beast to skitter sideways. The necklaces broke away in the Sioux’s hand and Truthful Woman dropped to her knees choking and gagging.

Snow Raven launched herself from her saddle onto the warrior’s chest. The thud jarred her teeth as they toppled together from his horse.

Raven landed on top of the warrior. The jolt robbed the wind from the man’s body and gave Raven the moment she needed to draw her skinning knife and lift it above her head. Today she would send this snake to his ancestors and take her first war trophy. The warrior’s wide eyes stared up at her as she thrust, preparing to lodge the knife into the center of her enemy’s throat.

 

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I hope you enjoyed that short snippet from RUNNING WOLF and that you love #StrongHeroines and rugged men as much as I do!

GIVEAWAY:

I’m giving away a free copy of Running Wolf, chosen from the comments.  You can make any comment you like or answer this question….Who is one of your favorite strong female characters?

Jenna writes fast-paced romantic adventures. Set in out-of-the-way places and populated with larger-than-life characters, Jenna’s stories pit independent heroes and heroines against the forces of nature.

Happily married to her college sweetheart, Jenna shares a love for the outdoors with her husband. The couple enjoys all types of treasure hunting and this pursuit has taken them to many remote locations. They have dredged for gold in rivers in North Carolina, Colorado and California, dug for diamonds in Arkansas, searched for sapphires in Montana, by bush plane to the Brooks Mountain Range north of the Arctic Circle searching for gold nuggets and most recently screened for shark’s teeth in a Southern river.  Jenna now writes both Western and paranormal romance for Harlequin.

For more details about Jenna’s stories, visit her EXTRAS page, subscribe to her newsletter on her website, visit her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.