#StrongRomanceHeroines, Piatkus, Reading, Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading, Romance

Respond to Reading: The Rogue Not Taken

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I fell across Sarah MacClean‘s writing about two years ago, when I fairly devoured her Love by Numbers trilogy.  I loved the way in which she managed to write about strong women, without drifting away from the reality of a woman’s life in regency England.

So when I heard that she had a new series – Scandal & Scoundrel – I was rather excited.  The Rogue Not Taken, as well as being a fantastic name for historical, didn’t let me down.  MacClean’s ability to highlight the fragility of a woman’s reputation in the regency era is one of the things that lifts her romances up out of the crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a romp where the heroine singlehandedly takes on society and wins as much as the next person, but they’re incredibly unrealistic.  The social disgrace and near ruination of a family, due to Sophie’s flouting of social graces, makes this a far more interesting read.

Sophie’s not the stereotypical heroine.  She’s stubborn, messes up a lot of the time, and the one time she acts without thinking, sets off a catastrophic series of events, and yet you can’t help but sympathise with her.  Her dilemma, as a young lady whose family were given a title, as opposed to having been born into one, seems heartfelt.  She’s got absolutely no wish to be in society, and can think of nothing better than returning to the home of her childhood and marrying the baker’s boy – especially when society is unmentionable cruel to her and her sisters.

Of course, she meets someone who purposefully spends his time scandalising society, and despite the fact that neither of them can stand the other, they end up being thrown together.

As a hero, King’s spent his life furious with his father for a tragedy in his youth and it’s coloured his attitude towards everything.  In short, he appears to be a bit of a dick.  There was a twist, towards the end of the book, that I really wasn’t expecting.  It set on its head an accepted regency romance trope, and forced King’s internal conflict to drastically change.  Suffice to say it was a genius move on MacClean’s part.

In fact, the whole book reads a bit like a social commentary on gossip columns of today; it made me think about celebrity, and in particular notoriety, and was so engaging that I can’t wait for the next book!

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Guestpost, Mills & Boon, Release Post, Romance

Guestpost – Rachel Brimble’s Top Five #StrongRomnaceHeroines

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There are so many strong romance heroines out there but here are my Top Five (in no particular order):

1)  Scarlett O’HaraGone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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Gone With The Wind is one of my all-time favorite books (the only book I have read four times) and I often get into debates with my fellow romance readers/authors about her strength. Some find Scarlett too whiny and needy but, for me, she shows rather than verbalizes her strength. She overcomes horrors and difficulties that most of us (fortunately!) will only find in the pages of this wonderfully epic novel.

2)  Eve DallasIn Death series by Nora Roberts (writing as J. D. Robb)

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Lord, how I love Eve! If you haven’t tried the In Death series yet, make it your mission to start reading this amazing series before Christmas. The books center around Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her ongoing relationship with millionaire, Roarke (not sure if anyone knows if this is his first name or surname!) Each novel brings a new case for Eve to solve and usually involves Roarke or someone she is close to in one way or another. There are a whopping 41 novels so far in the series…

3)  Elizabeth BennettPride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

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I don’t know a romance reader on the planet who hasn’t read Pride & Prejudice and, for me, it’s Elizabeth Bennett’s strength, integrity and passion which makes this novel continue to sell year after year. A timeless romance, hero and heroine that I predict will live in our hearts and the hearts of future generations for many years to come.

4)  Josie O’CaseyA Glimpse At Happiness by Jean Fullerton

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A Glimpse At Happiness is one of my most favorite Victorian romances and the reason I started to write in the genre. Josie O’Casey is a wonderful example of what makes a strong heroine and how they overcome the poverty of their circumstances. This book is about love over adversity, hope over pessimism. A truly gorgeous book and a truly fantastic heroine.

5)  Lucky SantangeloChances by Jackie Collins

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Although Jackie Collins’ books aren’t strictly romance, there is usually a central relationship in her super-sexy stories. I discovered the first book Lucky appears in (Chances) when I was barely into my teens and went on to devour all the books she features in thereafter. A strong, feisty, no holds barred, kind of heroine who demands your attention from the very first page. Tremendous!

Rachel’s latest novel, Christmas at the Cove, has a trsong romance heroine of its own!

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Rachel lives with her husband and their two young daughters in a small market town near the famous Georgian City of Bath.

And when she’s not writing you’ll find her with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family.  And in the evening?  Well, a well-deserved glass of wine is never, ever refused.

Find out more about Nikki and her books on her website; and follow her on her blog, as well as on Facebook and Twitter for regular, nature-filled, updates!

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Guestpost, Mills & Boon, Reading, Writing

Guestpost – Jill Kemerer and #StrongRomanceHeroines in Sweet Romance

 

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I often get asked fun questions when I tell people I’m a romance novelist.

You write Christian romance novels? How do you…you know…write all the sexy parts?

I always laugh and say, “I don’t!”

There are a lot of misconceptions about the genre. For instance, I write contemporary romance novels for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line, which has strict guidelines regarding sexual content and clean language. Does this mean my characters are boring or, worse, weak?

Of course not!

A sweet romance keeps the emphasis on the emotional side of romance. Physical attraction and chemistry is important, but it’s not the main focus—falling in love is.

Characters in a romance show their strength through thoughts, words and actions. I admire heroines who want something really badly and work hard to get it even when faced with setbacks. These women don’t just drift along when life throws curveballs. They fight for what they want.

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A strong heroine doesn’t have to do everything on her own. Part of falling in love is building a partnership. But the journey is never smooth. There’s a reason she believes she can’t have a relationship with the hero, and she tries to avoid getting hurt by protecting her heart.

She also challenges the hero. Sometimes this requires her to evaluate her dreams, to figure out if her goal is causing her to throw away her chance at love. My favorite heroine finds a way to have both—her dreams and the guy.

Her real strength comes when she allows herself to be vulnerable. She takes a chance on the hero. Decides a future with him is worth the risk of getting hurt.

Because in the end, the hero is exactly who she needs. He pushes her to be her best self.

What do you think makes a heroine strong?

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Jill’s latest release, Unexpected Family, is out now and is the perfect autumn release.

Jill Kemerer writes contemporary romance novels with love, humor and faith. A full time writer, she relies on coffee and chocolate to keep up with her kids’ busy schedules. Besides spoiling her mini-dachshund, Jill adores magazines, M&Ms, fluffy animals and long nature walks. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children.

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

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Avon, Guestpost, Reading, Writing

Guestpost – Codi Gary and The Men in Uniform Series

 

I’ve been a huge fan of Codi Gary’s Rock Canyon, Idaho series, (I mean, who wouldn’t love her #StrongRomanceHeroines?!) so I’m super excited about her new Men in Uniform series, set in north California.

I’m lucky enough to have Codi here today, talking about her inspiration for the setting…

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With my Rock Canyon, Idaho series, I pulled locales from the area I live in now, but for the first twenty-nine years of my life, I was a Nor Cal girl.

Growing up in little towns like Mt. Aukum and later, Latrobe, I spent my weekends walking the two miles down the road to the café and video store to grab lunch and a movie, stopping off at the general store for an ice cream on the way home. If we wanted to go to Costco, we had to drive an hour down to Sunrise Ave in Citrus Height, a part of Southeast Sacramento.

When I was a teenager, I was desperate to get my license because my friend’s parents hated driving out to the boonies and up a half a mile bumpy dirt road to get me. In my early to mid-twenties I found myself moving closer and closer to the city, from Folsom to Roseville and then Fair Oaks. For the last few years before our big move, we lived off Raley Blvd. One night, I heard gunshots while my husband was working late and I couldn’t shrug them off as deer season. That was when city life really lost its charm for me, but the Sacramento Area was the perfect setting for my series.

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After all, writing what you know is the author’s mantra, right? I get to write about some of my favorite places in the whole world, places I miss like crazy, especially certain times of year. Like Apple Hill, a twelve mile curvy road with farms and orchards all along it between Placerville and Pollock Pines. I plan on using this for a scene in book two, and letting my characters enjoy some of the apple donuts, and spiced cider that brings back so many warm memories for me. And seeing concerts in Discovery Park!

In One Lucky Hero, Dean Sparks and Violet Douglas meet there for the first time, and it was fun going back to my first concert, remembering the sights and sounds (not necessarily the smell though. In a hundred degree heat with a mass of people, you can get some interesting odors.)

The thing about this area is that in two hours you can be in a completely different terrain and find so many interesting places to explore. Folsom Lake, Grass Valley, Davis, Lockeford, Strawberry…even places only locals know about. And I look forward to helping you explore all of it while my characters find their happily ever after.

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The first book in the Men in Uniform series to explore Sacramento, I Need a Hero, is available now at  Amazon,    B & N, GooglePlay, iTunes and Kobo.

An obsessive bookworm, Codi Gary likes to write sexy small-town contemporary romances with humor, grand gestures, and blush-worthy moments. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading her favorite authors, squealing over her must-watch shows, and playing with her children. She lives in Idaho with her family.

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

#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.
#StrongRomanceHeroines, Harper Impulse, Q&A, Reading, Uncategorized

Q&A with D. R. Graham

I’m delighted to welcome HarperImpulse author, D. R. Graham, as we talk about her novel Rank…  The book has compelling characters, cowboys and more than a little heart.

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What was your favourite scene to write in Rank?

Billy and his brother Cole have a complicated relationship, and I enjoyed writing all of the scenes that show their reluctant loyalty to each other. My ultimate favourite scene in RANK, though, is when Billy and Shae have their first unplanned date. It is so sweet and real. I like how Shae brings out the best in Billy. Here is a sneak peek at how it starts:

I parked facing the fence that surrounded the playground area. Shae-Lynn was sitting on a bench talking to a little boy who looked as if he’d been crying. He nodded at something she said. She held his chin gently and said something else that made him smile. She tousled his hair before he got up and ran over to join some other kids who were lined up to go down the slide. After she watched him for a while, she turned her head and saw me sitting in my truck. Her expression was a mixture of surprise, confusion, and happiness.

I got out and walked over to lean my elbows on the fence. She reached for a pair of crutches resting against the bench behind her, hoisted herself up, and balanced with the crutches under her arms. She was wearing khaki shorts and a white polo shirt that had the logo for the daycare stitched on the chest. She made her way over to me and smiled in a way that made me glad Lee-Anne had sent me to pick her up.

“We discourage strange men from lurking around the outdoor play area,” she said like a teacher.

“I’m here to pick someone up.”

“Do you have some identification? We can’t release the children to just anyone.”

I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket and passed her my driver’s licence.

She nodded as she read it. “William Raymond Ryan from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. You’re a far way from home, cowboy. What is the nature of your visit? Business or personal?

“Both.”

“Do you have a criminal record?”

“Yes.”

Shocked, she looked up at my eyes to check if I was being serious. “For what?”

“Not kidnapping.”

Her expression shifted as if she just remembered something. “Did they arrest you for assaulting Tawnie’s abusive ex-boyfriend?”

Although I already assumed she would hear about that, I shook my head and pushed my hat back to pretend like I was surprised. “Did Rochelle tell you that?”

“Maybe. Don’t blame her. Tawnie’s the one who blabs everything.”

“I didn’t get arrested for that. He did.”

I could tell she was still curious about what I had been arrested for, but she let it go. “Who gave you permission to do today’s pick up?”

“Lee-Anne Roberts.”

“Why?”

“She was busy. You can call her if you don’t believe me.”

“I just might.” She stared at me for a while and smiled as if she were impressed. “Did you just get a haircut?”

“Yeah.”

“And is that a new shirt?”

“Yeah.”

Her eyes scanned down to check the rest of me out. “Nice boots.”

“Thanks. Some girl told me my other ones were ratty.”

“They were.” She smiled, happy that I took her advice again. “Wait here a minute. I have to get my bag.” She turned and pushed off the crutches to make her way over to the door of the daycare. One of the ladies she worked with said something to her and they both looked over in my direction. Shae-Lynn nodded at something that was said and the woman waved at me. I waved back to be friendly. It seemed to embarrass Shae-Lynn. She disappeared inside and came out a different door that led directly into the parking lot.

I rushed over to the passenger side of the truck and opened the door for her. She turned and handed me the crutches. The truck was too high off the ground for her to reach the seat, so I leaned the crutches against the side and lifted her by the waist to help her in. She had to use her arms to pull her legs into the cab one at a time. Once she was settled, I closed the door and laid the crutches in the back.

“Bye Shae!” a little girl shouted and waved from the back seat of her mom’s car.

Shae-Lynn waved back as I hopped behind the wheel. The adoring way she was smiling made her look so beautiful. I was still staring at her when she turned her head to look at me. “What?”

“You seem good at your job.”

She shrugged modestly. “It’s just babysitting. It’s not that hard.”

“You make them feel special. I can tell by the way they look at you.”

Her cheeks turned pink and she stared down at her hands folded in her lap. “Thank you.” She snuck a glance at me. “What are you really doing here?”

“Kidnapping you. You should have followed through on that criminal record check.” I backed the truck out of the parking spot and turned right onto Clark to head to the strip mall…

 

Rank is classed as a New Adult novel – what do you think the definition of the New Adult romance-subgenre is?

For me, New Adult is only a term used to describe an age category of 18-25 year olds. Even before it was a marketing term used in publishing, I wrote stories with characters transitioning out of youth into the independence of adulthood. The late teens and early twenties are such a pivotal time in a person’s development, and although books with protagonists aged 18-25 years have always existed, only in the last few years someone decided to call that age category and life stage New Adult.

Then someone else decided New Adult meant erotic or 18+, which of course isn’t true. There are New Adult books in all genres — historical, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, horror, etc. Book stores and libraries don’t typically have a section specifically for New Adult, so books with characters aged 18-25 years will usually be shelved in the adult section. In my case, because of the crossover appeal to a Young Adult audience, my books tend to be shelved in both teen and adult sections. As a result, I prefer to say I write cross-over stories about young people in love, transition, or crisis.

Your heroine, Shae-Lynn, is described as “the sweet good-girl-next-door”, but there’s a strength to her which is really impressive.  What do you think makes a strong romance heroine?

What makes Shae-Lynn special is her self-assurance. She is grounded in a strong sense of self and values. She’s sweet and sees the good in others, but isn’t a pushover. Very often strong female characters are defined by physical strength and male-like toughness. Although there is nothing wrong with a kickass female character, Shae’s strength is more subtle. She’s unwaveringly patient and quietly determined. She is the perfect person to gentle someone wild like Billy.

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Critics often deride romance as being a light and fluffy, but you deal with any number of darker issues in Rank, including the effect that one event can have on a family, and gambling addiction.  Why do you think it’s important to address these issues within a romance narrative?

When I’m not writing, I’m a therapist in private practice, so my books always have a slightly edgy psychological angle. I like to explore anything that has a strong emotion tied to it — grief, family conflict, personal struggles, and, of course, love. I don’t actually write true romances that follow the traditional arc. I write love stories, and love isn’t only about a partner. Sometimes it’s about your family, your siblings, your self.

In RANK, the brothers struggle to cope in the aftermath of their father’s traumatic death, which is complicated by the fact that Cole has a mental health condition. Billy’s struggles to be a good man and take care of his family make RANK a New Adult contemporary family drama. Finding out whether Billy can earn the love of someone as special as Shae-Lynn is what makes RANK romantic. And I love having both elements in the books I write.

What’s your current project and what will we be seeing from you next?

My current project is a Young Adult horror titled Hitching. The projects releasing next are a three-book Young Adult Action Romance series titled Brampton Beach (HarperCollins) and a WWII Historical Romance titled Interned.

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Rank is out now and can be found at Apple iBooksAmazonKobo and Barnes and Noble.

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D.R. Graham is an author for HarperCollins and Entangled Publishing. She worked as a social worker with at-risk youth before becoming a therapist in private practice. The clients she works with are children and teenagers, and her novels deal with issues relevant to young and new adults in love, transition, or crisis. She is also an award winning columnist for the Richmond News. She currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband.

To find out more about Danielle, you can find her on her website, her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Goodreads.  Her street team can be found here