Friday, September 30, 2011

The Character List

So, today I'm going to tell the story of how I got over my fear/prejudice/book hangup about the character list.

I think the reason I used to avoid books which started with character lists was that I just didn't think I'd be able to follow a story which required a three page list at the beginning. And I don't think I understood why an author should feel the need to list - third pageboy in the House of Denmark*, as a character I might be remotely interested in.

Anyway, it happened in 2003 - yes I can be that specific. I was a big fan of the Stephanie Plum novels and Janet Evanovich was in London doing a panel at Crimescene. She was doing a conversation panel with Lindsey Davis. Now I admit - to my shame - that at this point I had never heard of Lindsey Davis or the Falco novels. BUT - Lindsey Davis was so good in the panel, and made her books and characters sound so interesting, that I decided at the book signing afterwards I'd look at her book and if I thought I'd like it, I'd buy it and ask her to sign it.

So I go into this area the Crimescene people have cordoned off, where they have the latest books from Lindsey and Janet, and I pick up The Accusers and open it.

OMG, the first page is a character list. :(

I'm really disappointed, because I wanted to find out about this character Falco. Then I read the list, (a little of which I've excerpted below).
M. Didius Falco - a principled informer (who needs the money)
Helena Justina - the guardian of his ethics
Julia Junilla and Sosia Favonia - their children (never ill; never naughty; never loud)
And I'm smiling - and that's only from reading the character list. How good is the book going to be, if the character list is making me grin? And my book hang-up is defeated. I'm not saying I suddenly like all books with character lists, but I have never since that time rejected a book solely because it had a character list. To prove my point, this year I bought Game of Thrones which has an ennooooorrrmous character list - though it's conveniently located at the back of a book in an appendix.

To finish the story I will just mention, that The Accusers is the 14th book in the Falco series, so before I actually got round to reading it, I had to buy and read the 13 previous books. But it was well worth it and it remains one of my favourite series. For anyone not familiar with the series and wondering at the strange names, it's set in Ancient Rome.

So - do you have any books that you'd recommend even though they come with a staggering amount of characters. Or are there books you've been discouraged from reading because you thought you wouldn't be able to keep up with the cast. Please let me know in the comments.


* - another made-up book. :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Hangups

I was originally going to title this post - The Bits of Books That Scare You - but that was a bit of a mouthful, so I decided to make it a little more compact. Though this post is really about the things that when you've found a book in the bookstore and have read a fantastic blurb, make you want to scream when you open the cover and discover all is not as you thought it would be. Kind of like if a dead spider fell out when you flicked to page 1.

The things that have you putting a book back on the shelf faster than Usain Bolt can do the 100m (actually probably faster than that).

I'm the first person to admit that I have quite a few hang-ups/prejudices when it comes to book buying. Some of them I've overcome - the first person narrator I've come to love - others I just can't let go of, no matter how hard I keep trying - present tense narration for example, leaves me feeling like my brain's draining out of my ears.

So, please excuse me if this post and those of the next two days, seem like a little bit of a moan. But I hope that in the comments you'll share some of your hangups, whether you've got over them yet, are still trying or have given up.

Ten years ago, I was reading a lot more books that I am today - probably why I currently have such a large TBR pile. It wasn't unusual for me to buy ten or eleven books every weekend. And I needed to have some kind of elimination policy because I used to browse so quickly. If I didn't have some kind of selection process I could have easily gone to twenty or thirty books.

So some of the reasons I'd discard a book were:-

1. First Person Narration - I don't want to get into the characters head. What if I can't identify with them? How will I enjoy the story?

2. Glossary over 5 pages long. I don't mind a short glossary especially if the book is written in a dialect that I'm not familiar with. But please, if your heroine is called Clodpeppa*, don't try and persuade me that it should be pronounced Chloe, she's always going to be Clod-pepper to me.

3. Character list over 3 pages long. Eeeekkk! Generally I can remember hero, heroine, villain and a few secondary characters. I think one of the scariest and most intimidating things a reader can be faced with is a loooooonnnnng character list.

4. Books written in the present tense. I have read books in the present tense, but I always seem to read them with my brain constantly saying there's something not quite right here. I don't know if it's being used to reading books in the past tense, but this is one hang-up I've never managed to get over.

In my two remaining posts I'll be talking about two of my hangups and the books that helped me get over them.

* - I should add here that Clodpeppa is a made-up heroine. Lol. I'm sure there are plenty of heroines and heroes that fit this description though. Love to hear about your pronunciation quibbles in the comments too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Answers to Hero/Heroine Quiz and Lucky Winners!!!

I'm impressed!!! SidneyKay here from Kay's Blog and in case you want to know, here are the answers to both quizzes AND the lucky winners! Hope you’ve had some fun testing your character skills and remembering some of your favorite heroes and heroines! And let me tell you, there were a couple of you who were really scary...because you know your heroes and heroines!!! And there was one person who answered both quizzes correct...I have decided that she will get a journal also. Delia, you got all of them right!!! You are scary!! Now, for the other two winners - Hilicia and Melanie - congratulations!!! And, I expect some great writing from all of you!!!
Delia, Hilicia and Melanie contact me at Sidney.kay.s@gmail.com and let me know where you would like your lovely journal sent.

Heroes
1. Sebastian, Lord Dain - Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase, 1995
D. “ (─) was heavy artillery, she thought. Nothing (─) or anyone else could have told her could have prepared her. Coal black hair and bold, black eyes and a great, conquering Caesar of a nose and a sullen sensuality of mouth – the face alone entitled him to direct lineage with Lucifer…. …(─) had told her (─) was a very large man. She had half expected a hulking gorilla. She had not been prepared for a stallion: big and splendidly proportioned – powerfully muscled, if what his snug trousers outlined was any indication. She should not have been looking there, even if it was only an instant’s glance, but a physique like that demanded one’s attention and drew it…everywhere”

2.Derek Craven - Dreaming of You, Lisa Kleypas, 1994
E. “It’s the truth,” he countered lazily, relaxing before the fire in his apartments, stretching his long legs. With his black hair and tanned face, and features that were neither chiseled nor coarse but somewhere in between, he was handsome…almost. His strong white teeth were slightly snaggled, giving him the appearance of a friendly lion when he smiled. Nearly irresistible, that smile, although it never reached his hard green eyes.”

3. Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent - Devil in Winter, Lisa Kleypas, 2006
I. “ (─ ), was the complete opposite of her dream lover. There was nothing kind, sensitive, or remotely boyish about him. He was a predator who undoubtedly liked to toy with his prey before killing it. Staring at the empty chair where he had sat, (─ ) thought of how (─ ) had looked in the firelight. He was tall and lean, his body a perfect frame for elegantly simple clothes that provided a minimum of distraction from his tawny handsomeness. His hair, the antique gold of a medieval icon, was thick and slightly curly, with streaks of pale amber caught in the rich locks. His pale blue eyes glittered like rare diamonds from the necklace of an ancient empress. Beautiful eyes that showed no emotion when he smiled. The smile itself was enough to steal the breath from one’s body…the sensuous, cynical mouth, the flash of white teeth…Oh, (─ ) was a dazzling man. And well he knew it.”

4.Wulfric, Duke of Bewcastle - Slightly Dangerous, Mary Balogh, 2004
A. “He was tall and well-formed and dressed with consummate elegance in a coat of blue superfine over a waistcoat of embroidered gray with darker gray pantaloons and white-topped, shining Hessian boots. His neckcloth was tied neatly and expertly but without ostentation. His starched shirt points hugged his jaw just so. Both garments were sparkling white. He held a tall hat in one hand. His hair was dark and thick, expertly cut and neatly worn….

5.Fitzwilliam Darcy - Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin, 1813
F. “Tall”

6.Anthony Bridgerton - The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn, 2000
G. “The (─), (─) noted with irritation, was blindingly handsome. Dressed in stark black and white, he eschewed the garish colors that had become popular among the ton more foppish members of the ton. He was tall, stood straight and proud, and had thick chestnut hair that tended to fall forward over his brow.”

7. Christian Jervaulx -Flowers From the Storm, Laura Kinsale, 1992
B. “... the deep blue eyes intense, frozen cobalt rage: a caged and bound pirate, a brute at bay. He lowered his face a little looking at her from beneath his eyelashes. Wariness, anger, a deep and powerful passion – they were all in his face, in his stance...”

8.Jamie Fraser - Outlander, Diana Gabaldon, 1991
J. “The thick red-gold hair had been brushed to a smooth gleam that swept the collar of a fine lawn shirt…Well over six feet tall, broad in proportion, and striking of feature he was a far cry from the grubby horse-handler.”

9.Calvin Morrisey - Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie, 2004
H. “Dark eyes, strong cheekbones, classic chin, broad shoulders, chiseled everything, and all of it at ease as he stared out over the bar.”

10.Phineas Tucker - Welcome to Temptation, Jennifer Crusie, 2000
C. “He had broad shoulders, mirrored sunglasses, and no smile, and Sophie could hear ominous music on the soundtrack in her head as her heart started to pound. His fair hair shone in the late-afternoon sun, his profile was classic and beautiful, the sleeves of his tailored white shirt were rolled precisely to his elbows, and his khaki slacks were immaculate and pressed. He looked like every glossy frat boy in every nerd movie ever made, like every popular town boy who’d ever looked right through her in high school, like every rotten rich kid who’d ever belonged where she hadn’t.”

Heroines
1.Jessica Trent
- Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase, 1995
C. “ Under the monstrous bonnet was a perfect oval of porcelain white, flawless countenance. Thick sooty lashes framed silver-grey eyes with an upward slant that neatly harmonized with the slant of her high cheekbones. Her nose was straight and delicately slender, her mouth soft and pink and just a fraction overfull. She was not classic English perfection, but she was some sort of perfection and, being neither blind nor ignorant, (─) recognized quality when he saw it.”

2.Sara Fielding - Dreaming of You, Lisa Kleypas, 1994
A. …”he stared at her uncovered face. This was what she had kept hidden beneath the old-maid disguise…Pale, luminous skin, a mouth shaped with surprising lushness, a pert nose, marked at the delicate bridge where the edge of her spectacles had pressed. Angel-blue eyes, pure and beguiling, surmounted by dark winged brows. She was beautiful. He could have devoured her in a few bites, like a fragrant red apple.”

3.Evangeline Jenner - Devil in Winter, Lisa Kleypas, 2006
G. “He found it odd that he had never noticed her, when there was a great deal worth noticing. Her hair, the brightest shade of red he had ever seen, seemed to feed on the firelight glowing with incandescent heat. The slender wings of her brows and the heavy fringe of her lashes were a darker shade of auburn, while her skin was that of a true redhead, fair and a bit freckled on the nose and cheeks. … She had unfashionably full lips that were colored a natural rose, and large, round blue eyes…pretty but emotionless eyes, like those of a wax doll.”

4.Christine Derrick - Slightly Dangerous, Mary Balogh, 2004
H. “She was dressed far less finely than any of the other ladies. Indeed, when he had first set eyes - or eye - upon her, he had mistaken her for a servant. Her muslin dress was decent enough but not by any means in the first stare of fashion. Neither was she particularly young. She was well into her twenties, at a guess. She had a pretty, wide-eyed, rather round face, which – it had been impossible not to notice – was sun-bronzed. And, if that were not bad enough, there was a dusting of freckles across her nose. Her hair was dark and short and curly .”

5.Elizabeth Bennet - Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin, 1813
I. “I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”

6.Katherine Sheffield - The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn, 2000
F. “She was not at all what he’d expected…. She was certainly no ape-leading amazon; it was only when compared to Edwina, who barely touched five feet, that she would appear so tall. In fact, Miss (─) was quite pleasant-looking with thick, medium brown hair and dark eyes. Her skin pale, her lips pink, and she held herself with an air of confidence he could not help but find attractive.”

7.Maddy Timms - Flowers From the Storm, Laura Kinsale, 1992
B. “Her hair is tarnished gold where the candlelight touches it, and where it doesn’t …richer – more like the light through dark ale as you pour it. She has it braided and coiled around her head. I believe she thinks that it’s a plain style, but she doesn’t realize the effect. It shows the curve of her neck and her throat, and makes a man think of taking it down and letting it spread out over his hands.”

8.Claire Randall - Outlander, Diana Gabaldon, 1991
E. “You look wonderful by candlelight, you know. Your eyes are like sherry in crystal, and your skin glows like ivory. A candlelight witch, you are. Perhaps I should disconnect the lamps permanently.”

9. Minerva Dobbs - Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie, 2004
D. "She was fun to look at when she wasn’t scowling: smooth milky skin, wide-set dark eyes, a blob of a nose and that lush, soft, full, rosy mouth…"

10.Sophie Dempsey - Welcome to Temptation, Jennifer Crusie, 2000
J. “…concentrating on the older sister’s shortcomings so he could forget about her mouth. She’d had the potential to be as attractive as Amy - all that dark curly hair knotted on the top of her head, and a good enough ivory-pale face with those big brown eyes – but the tension had radiated off her so hard that it had been exhausting just standing next to her.”

Music for Windows in E Minor

SidneyKay here from Kay's blog. I suspect - and I might be wrong - but if you are a reader of this blog or blogs similar to it, you are either a published author, a looking-for-an-agent writer, a struggling writer, a rejected writer, a hid-it-in-a-drawer writer, an afraid-to-show-your-friends writer or an I-have-a-brilliant-idea-I-wish-I-could-write writer. It doesn’t really matter which one you might be, for there is one thing that everyone has in common - a preponderance of ideas. These ideas can come out of anywhere, anytime, anyplace. You might see someone running inside to escape a storm, or be sitting in a theater and someone walks by smelling of the cold outdoors. You look out a window when it’s snowing and watch a flake slide down the pane. The smell of baking bread. Cloths hanging to dry. Anything can trigger a thought, a feeling; and a writer can take those small things and enlarge upon them until there is a 300-page masterpiece. Just remember that handy dandy journal/notebook/notepad better be close at hand or you’ll forget all your momentous idea!

Now, I happen to fall into the “afraid-to-show-my-work-to-my-friends, I’ll-stuff-it-in-a-drawer-and-wait-five-years-then-reread-it-and-groan” group. But that doesn’t stop the old light bulb from going off or stop me from getting up at three in the morning to scribble some illegible brain storm down.

As I said earlier, those brilliant ideas can come out of anywhere and one of the things that send me off into the realms of imagination is music. Just put on Loreena McKennitt and my brain’s working overtime. Sometimes it’s the melody and sometimes it’s the lyrics. In my opinion, there’s nothing like a lyric, good or bad, to create all kinds of visions flitting around in your mind. I am especially fond of old standards and I’m going to share some of those songs that always make my light bulb bright. Just so you know, I like windows – looking through a window to the world beyond is full of all types of possibilities. The world can be anything you want it to be. You may see something funny, sad, or frightening. Most of my scenes start with a character gazing out/in/through a window.

“I wanna be around to pick up the pieces
When somebody breaks your heart
Some somebody twice as smart as I.”

The I Wanna be Around…to Pick-up the Pieces window moment. It’s raining. At the window is a little girl, probably 8 or 9 and she’s crying. Then the crying stops. She watches as two teenage boys come into view. One is her brother and of course the other is her nemesis. The cruel boy, who just broke her heart, told her she had freckles, told her she was a baby and he didn’t want to play with her. She plots revenge. She’ll never ever forgive what’s-his-name; someday she’ll get even. Maybe when she grows older she’ll fall from trees when he’s having a romantic moment with someone else. I can see her complicating his life as they go through childhood together. And, I can see him being over-protective of her when she enters society. Maybe rescuing her or maybe, just maybe, she’ll rescue him. Of course, he won’t know that he needs to be rescued.

“I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new

I’ll be looking at the moon

But I’ll be seeing you.”


The I’ll be Seeing You window moment. The red-headed woman is leaning against the window; her eyes are moist with unshed tears. Her hand slowly caresses her swollen stomach. Has she just received news of her husband’s death? Disappearance? Or was she not even married? Did she have a passionate encounter with a tall, dark, mysterious stranger? Will she ever forget him? Or will he show up like a bad penny? How many years will go by before these two will meet again? And, what kind of disruption will their future meeting bring? Maybe she will have married; maybe she’s in love with her husband. Maybe her husband is a beta hero and the passionate guy is an alpha. Are the two men brothers? Could be an interesting struggle.

“Gone is the romance that was so divine.
Tis broken and cannot be mended.
You must
go your way,
And I must go mine.

But no
w that our love dreams have ended…”

The What’ll I Do window moment. This time we have a dark window, and standing below it looking up is a large, handsome man with silver streaks in his hair. Maybe he has a scar. He stares intently up at the window, willing someone to come. Is he remembering a smiling beautiful face – a welcoming face full of love? Is he filled with guilt and afraid to enter knowing that what he has to say will only bring pain? Maybe they were once lovers, but he has been cursed and must stay away from her or risk turning her into a vampire like himself…

“Life is so crazy
And love is so unkind.

Because she came first
Will she hang on your mind?

You’re part of m
e
And you don’t even know it
I’m what you need
But I’m too afraid to show it.”

The If I were Your Woman window moment. Sitting comfortably in the window seat are two young women laughing over a book they’re sharing. Hovering over them is there lifelong, childhood/friend/neighbor – Hank. Now we are about to enter one of those areas as a reader I never been particularly fond of, but, hey it’s my vision; maybe I can improve on it. Anyway, the girls are sisters. Hovering Hank is their best buddy, but he has a secret…he’s in love with the oldest sister. And of course she doesn’t know it. The youngest sister is in love with Hank and he doesn’t know it. The older sister knows the younger sister loves Hank and the younger sister knows Hank loves the older sister. These are nice sisters, none of those nasty sisters for me. In fact everyone here is nice, nice, nice. This could be a light fluffy read or I could take things into a dark corner. There are so many twists and turns we could do. He could go off to war and come back only to find that his love, the idea which sustained him during those horrible nights away, has married another. Or that the older sister is now interested in him, but he realizes it’s the younger sister he favors after all that time away. He might be bitter, filled with rage and wounds no one can see. Or not. I do like funny stories.

“Do I ever cross your mind
Uninvited when you’re lonely
Or does that only, only happen to me
And don’t you e
ver wonder
What became of all the time

And darlin’ do I ever, ever cross your mind”


The Do I Ever Cross Your Mind window moment. Sitting on the windowsill is a cat watching a little girl cry as the child looks out the window at her mother, sitting alone in the garden, weeping. That cat has tried everything a cat can do to bring the young girl out of her mood. You see, the little girl’s parents are separated, have been separated for over a year. Now, if this were a contemporary a divorce would be on the horizon; if it were historical, a divorce would be out of the question. Or perhaps it is a ghost who gazes longingly out the window, watching his wife and child play, wistful to be in a world where he no longer exists…

“I was dancin’ with my darlin’
To the Tennessee Waltz
When an old friend
I happened to see

I introduced her to my loved one
And while they were dancin’

My friend stole my sweetheart from me.”


The Tennessee Waltz window moment. Silhouetted by the window, a beautiful woman views the scene outside. Her hands clutch the drapery and a sneer appears on her lips. The sneer is on her lips because of the loving couple cavorting in the snow below. In case you didn’t get it with the sneer, she is an e-v-i-l woman. She is plotting. She wants that man – very much. Will she succeed? Will he be stupid like other romance heroes and not see the evil that lurks behind the lovely shell? Will she be able to seduce him away from his wife/fiancée/girlfriend? Will the other woman catch on in time? Will she be a doormat or will she put up a fight? Now, the big question! What color hair do the women have? Red hair for the evil woman with big boobs or red hair for the good woman with freckles? Heroines always have a dusting of freckles.

So, there you have it - some of my favorite songs and the window visions they create. What about you? Do you have a song that makes your mind whirl with ideas every time you hear it? Or do other things make your imagination run wild? A smell? A sound? Snow falling, wind blowing? The crunch of leaves in autumn? Two girls walking down the street – maybe twins – maybe not, but so different. What makes your light bulb go off?

Songs mentioned: I Wanna be Around…to Pick-up the Pieces by Sadie Vimmerstedt & Johnny Mercer, I’ll be Seeing You by Sammy Fain & Irving Kahal, What’ll I Do by Irving Berlin, If I were Your Woman by Pam Sawyer, Clay McMurray & Gloria Jones, Do I Ever Cross Your Mind by Dorsey Burnett & Michael Smotherman, Tennessee Waltz by Redd Stewart & Pee Wee King.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Find Your Heroes' Soul Mates

SidneyKay again from Kay's Blog.

You didn’t think we’d let those hunky guys float out there all by themselves did you? Now it’s time to see how well you know what their soul mates look like. Remember, those men are dangerous, they cannot be trusted out there on their own. They need the love of a good woman and they are out there floundering around, probably taking up with loose women… they need their mates!

So, here’s what you need to do - just match the heroine with her description. That’s all! Anyone who participates in this quiz will qualify to be randomly selected as the winner of a lovely leather-bound writing journal (with Celtic designs). Winner will be announced Saturday, September 24 along with the answers. So have fun and don’t cheat!

1. Jessica Trent
Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase, 1995

2. Sara Fielding
Dreaming of You, Lisa Kleypas, 1994

3. Evangeline Jenner
Devil in Winter, Lisa Kleypas, 2006

4. Christine Derrick
Slightly Dangerous, Mary Balogh, 2004

5. Elizabeth Bennet
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

6. Katherine Sheffield
The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn, 2000

7. Maddy Timms
Flowers From the Storm, Laura Kinsale, 1992

8. Claire Randall
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon, 1991

9. Minerva Dobbs
Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie, 2004

10. Sophie Dempsey
Welcome to Temptation, Jennifer Crusie, 2000

A. …”he stared at her uncovered face. This was what she had kept hidden beneath the old-maid disguise…Pale, luminous skin, a mouth shaped with surprising lushness, a pert nose, marked at the delicate bridge where the edge of her spectacles had pressed. Angel-blue eyes, pure and beguiling, surmounted by dark winged brows. She was beautiful. He could have devoured her in a few bites, like a fragrant red apple.”

B. “Her hair is tarnished gold where the candlelight touches it, and where it doesn’t …richer – more like the light through dark ale as you pour it. She has it braided and coiled around her head. I believe she thinks that it’s a plain style, but she doesn’t realize the effect. It shows the curve of her neck and her throat, and makes a man think of taking it down and letting it spread out over his hands.”

C. “ Under the monstrous bonnet was a perfect oval of porcelain white, flawless countenance. Thick sooty lashes framed silver-grey eyes with an upward slant that neatly harmonized with the slant of her high cheekbones. Her nose was straight and delicately slender, her mouth soft and pink and just a fraction overfull. She was not classic English perfection, but she was some sort of perfection and, being neither blind nor ignorant, (─) recognized quality when he saw it.”

D. She was fun to look at when she wasn’t scowling: smooth milky skin, wide-set dark eyes, a blob of a nose and that lush, soft, full, rosy mouth…

E. “You look wonderful by candlelight, you know. Your eyes are like sherry in crystal, and your skin glows like ivory. A candlelight witch, you are. Perhaps I should disconnect the lamps permanently.”

F. “She was not at all what he’d expected…. She was certainly no ape-leading amazon; it was only when compared to Edwina, who barely touched five feet, that she would appear so tall. In fact, Miss (─) was quite pleasant-looking with thick, medium brown hair and dark eyes. Her skin pale, her lips pink, and she held herself with an air of confidence he could not help but find attractive.”

G. “He found it odd that he had never noticed her, when there was a great deal worth noticing. Her hair, the brightest shade of red he had ever seen, seemed to feed on the firelight glowing with incandescent heat. The slender wings of her brows and the heavy fringe of her lashes were a darker shade of auburn, while her skin was that of a true redhead, fair and a bit freckled on the nose and cheeks. … She had unfashionably full lips that were colored a natural rose, and large, round blue eyes…pretty but emotionless eyes, like those of a wax doll.”

H. “She was dressed far less finely than any of the other ladies. Indeed, when he had first set eyes - or eye - upon her, he had mistaken her for a servant. Her muslin dress was decent enough but not by any means in the first stare of fashion. Neither was she particularly young. She was well into her twenties, at a guess. She had a pretty, wide-eyed, rather round face, which – it had been impossible not to notice – was sun-bronzed. And, if that were not bad enough, there was a dusting of freckles across her nose. Her hair was dark and short and curly .”

I. “I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”

J. “…concentrating on the older sister’s shortcomings so he could forget about her mouth. She’d had the potential to be as attractive as Amy - all that dark curly hair knotted on the top of her head, and a good enough ivory-pale face with those big brown eyes – but the tension had radiated off her so hard that it had been exhausting just standing next to her.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

So, You Think Your Know Your Romance Heroes?

Well let’s just see, shall we? SidneyKay from Kay's Blog here and I am always amazed when I’m around romance readers who can remember names. Lord So-and-So from Love on the Roof written in 1972…wasn’t he the dreamiest with those emerald eyes? Exxxccuse me! Who? When? I’m even more amazed (and jealous) that some readers can even remember what these characters looked like. So, I had a thought: wouldn’t it be fun to have a quiz? Oh what a brilliant idea! Anyway, the first thing I did was visit All About Romance and select the 10 favorite romance novels (from the top 100 list) as voted by romance readers. I’m not sure what I was thinking; I thought it would be easier to find the descriptions of the hero and heroine. Ha ha, the joke’s on me! After lots of digging, in a couple of cases from prequels, I compiled my list. I even had to read two contemporaries! Oh, the humanity!

So, here’s what you need to do - just match the hero with his description. That’s all! Anyone who participates in this quiz will qualify to be randomly selected as the winner of a lovely leather-bound writing journal (with Celtic designs). The winner will be announced Saturday, September 24 along with the answers. So, have fun and don’t cheat!



1. Sebastian, Lord Dain
Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase, 1995

2. Derek Craven
Dreaming of You, Lisa Kleypas, 1994

3. Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent
Devil in Winter, Lisa Kleypas, 2006

4. Wulfric, Duke of Bewcastle
Slightly Dangerous, Mary Balogh, 2004

5. Fitzwilliam Darcy
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

6. Anthony Bridgerton
The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn, 2000

7. Christian Jervaulx
Flowers From the Storm, Laura Kinsale, 1992

8. Jamie Fraser
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon, 1991

9. Calvin Morrisey
Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie, 2004

10. Phineas Tucker
Welcome to Temptation, Jennifer Crusie, 2000

A. “He was tall and well-formed and dressed with consummate elegance…. His hair was dark and thick, expertly cut and neatly worn. His shoulders and chest looked broad and powerful beneath the exquisite tailoring, his hips slender in contrast, and his thighs very obviously in no need of a tailor’s padding. But it was not so much his impressive appearance that held (─) silent and rooted to the spot…. It was more his utter assurance of manner and bearing and the proud, surely arrogant, tilt to his head. He was clearly a man who ruled his world with ease and exacted instant obedience from his inferiors, who would, of course, include, almost every other living mortal.”

B. “... the deep blue eyes intense, frozen cobalt rage: a caged and bound pirate, a brute at bay. He lowered his face a little looking at her from beneath his eyelashes. Wariness, anger, a deep and powerful passion – they were all in his face, in his stance...”

C. “He had broad shoulders, mirrored sunglasses, and no smile, and (─) could hear ominous music on the soundtrack in her head as her heart started to pound. His fair hair shone in the late-afternoon sun, his profile was classic and beautiful, the sleeves of his tailored white shirt were rolled precisely to his elbows, and his khaki slacks were immaculate and pressed. He looked like every glossy frat boy in every nerd movie ever made, like every popular town boy who’d ever looked right through her in high school, like every rotten rich kid who’d ever belonged where she hadn’t.”

D. “ (─) was heavy artillery, she thought. Nothing (─) or anyone else could have told her could have prepared her. Coal black hair and bold, black eyes and a great, conquering Caesar of a nose and a sullen sensuality of mouth – the face alone entitled him to direct lineage with Lucifer…. …(─) had told her (─) was a very large man. She had half expected a hulking gorilla. She had not been prepared for a stallion: big and splendidly proportioned – powerfully muscled, if what his snug trousers outlined was any indication. She should not have been looking there, even if it was only an instant’s glance, but a physique like that demanded one’s attention and drew it…everywhere”

E. “With his black hair and tanned face, and features that were neither chiseled nor coarse but somewhere in between, he was handsome…almost. His strong white teeth were slightly snaggled, giving him the appearance of a friendly lion when he smiled. Nearly irresistible, that smile, although it never reached his hard green eyes.”

F. “Tall”

G. “The (─), (─) noted with irritation, was blindingly handsome. Dressed in stark black and white, he eschewed the garish colors that had become popular among the ton more foppish members of the ton. He was tall, stood straight and proud, and had thick chestnut hair that tended to fall forward over his brow.”

H. “Dark eyes, strong cheekbones, classic chin, broad shoulders, chiseled everything, and all of it at ease as he stared out over the bar.”

I. “There was nothing kind, sensitive, or remotely boyish about him. He was a predator who undoubtedly liked to toy with his prey before killing it. … He was tall and lean, his body a perfect frame for elegantly simple clothes that provided a minimum of distraction from his tawny handsomeness. His hair, the antique gold of a medieval icon, was thick and slightly curly, with streaks of pale amber caught in the rich locks. His pale blue eyes glittered like rare diamonds …. Beautiful eyes that showed no emotion when he smiled. The smile itself was enough to steal the breath from one’s body…the sensuous, cynical mouth, the flash of white teeth…Oh, (─) was a dazzling man. And well he knew it.”

J. “The thick red-gold hair had been brushed to a smooth gleam that swept the collar of a fine lawn shirt…Well over six feet tall, broad in proportion, and striking of feature he was a far cry from the grubby horse-handler.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why You Should be Reading Kaki Warner

I first heard of Kaki Warner through Kate last year when she read Pieces of Sky. At first I thought, western? I don’t know. And then I heard the sex scenes were pretty much fade to black, and kind of pushed the book away. (Bad Smexy!)

A little while later I received an arc of the second book, Open Country and maybe I was just in a different mood, but I tried it. And I LOVED it. I went back and read Pieces of Sky and then devoured book three, Chasing the Sun when it came out. Then went into a depression because the trilogy was done. No more Wilkins brothers. *sob* This series is just so romantic and adorable. There is always a little action in each book, but what really stands out are the relationships, not just between the hero and the heroine, but the three Wilkins brothers.

But my sadness didn’t last long, because Kaki Warner started a new trilogy this year and the first book is fabulous. Heartbreak Creek is the start of her Runaway Brides series and is just as smart, funny and romantic as her previous books.

Getting back to my “fade to black sex scenes” comment – yes,  we are not privy to what happens when the lights turn off. But Kaki puts so much romantic gestures in these books, that I really have no complaints in the romance department. Okay, maybe teeny tiny part of me wants to see the whole package. But I would have missed out on an excellent series of books had that stopped me.

I’ve noticed Penguin is rereleasing her Blood Rose Trilogy in Mass Market Paperback. Pieces of Sky will come out in this format October 4th, with Open Country and Chasing the Sun coming November and December respectively.
Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner: Book Cover
So giddy up and give these a try!

~Mandi/Smexy Books

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Comeback of the 'Stache

Hold onto your lips, it’s happening.

The mustache that was so prominent in the 70’s and 80’s, is returning. Okay, so maybe not on people’s faces, but at least in stores. I can’t go into a store or peruse blogs without seeing some type of mustache merchandise.
For example:
Gentlemans Tea time Sugar and Creamer Pot Mustache set handpainted

Mustache  typography art print   letterpress style poster Kiss Me Right Under My Mustache A3
Awww…also could turn naughty if you start drawing mustaches in certain places.



What time is it? It’s mustache o’clock.

Grey and Black Mustache Bearded Beanie
I think we all need this with the cold weather ahead.

Even my son came home from school wearing a mustache:
Mandi Schreiner
For more mustache décor, check out Etsy.

And a certain someone who is a fellow DIK blogger sent me this!!




Thank you Kris. As I told her, my hubs ripped off a mustache post-it note and stuck it right on my face. *giggles* And with the pen I can doodle ‘staches all day.

So will this ‘stache frenzy find its way to romance books? Yes, Kaki Warner gives us some great mustached heroes in her historical western books. But I’m waiting for the mustached contemporary hero. Who is with me?

Anyone?

~Mandi/Smexy Books

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Favorite reads...

At the end of each winter I seem to go through a re reading glom. It's not quite spring, the days are getting longer and lighter and maybe it's the nostalgia of saying goodbye to winter, but I binge on my favorite re reads. So, I thought I'd share a few of the lovely re reads that I've devoured over the past month or so over the next two days.

Bound and Determined by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow. This is such a sexy BDSM read. I loved it the first time and enjoyed it just as much on the 4th re read! I love the chemistry between Sterling and Owen and the ramping up of tension. It's a little drama and woe, but I liked it a lot!
Hot Head by Damon Suede was a great re read and while I know I have issues with pacing, drama and some of the dialog, there is just something about firemen doing the nasty that floats my boat. Well worth a 2nd read!
Manly by Dale Lazarov and illustrated by Amy Colburn was a gorgeous re read. This was the first piece of work that I'd read from Dale and I really like his books. It's sexy, smart and I just loved this art work in particular, it's incredibly appealing.
Collision Course by KA Mitchell, seriously, I've re read this book so many times it's ridiculous. I'm at the point where I can quote bits. I need to get out more. It's just not healthy!
Finally, my ultimate winter re read is Lord of the White Hell 1 & 2. Magic. These books just get better and better and I seriously want the author to write more. In fact, please Miss Hale WRITE ME SOME MORE WHITE HELL (I'm shouting, cause my voice has to get all the way from here in NZ to her over there in the US... heh)

So, what have you re read over the winter/summer? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A national obsession.

So, here in NZ at the moment the Rugby World Cup is on. I live in a nation obsessed. It leads the news on all channels every night and dominates talk at work. I've never been a huge fan, but I must admit that I've kinda been watching the odd game and quite enjoying it. The atmosphere is a little infectious! I guess Rugby is to NZ, what Super Bowl is to the US o what the Soccer World Cup is to... everywhere else!
I watched Canada play Tonga last night and found myself quietly cheering on the rugged, beardy bunch from the north. As a beard aficionado, I could not help but marvel at the voluminous nature of Adam Kleeberger's facial hair. Goodness!
I also found myself standing and cheering at the loss of Sonny Bill's shirt, which was ripped in a maul and he then had to change on the field. Augh! Clip below...
Tonight is the big game between Russia and the USA. Miss Russia is here to support them along with some billionaire who sells vodka. Should be super exciting!
So, if it's the middle of the night over your way and you've nothing better to do, have a nosey through your sport channel and see if you can watch some of the magic games and even more awesome thighs! I feel a sports romance novel binge coming on :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

kris' bookfessions #2 - #5

Because I'm a sharing and caring kind of gal, I thought I'd post some of my favourite admissions from the Bookfessions site.


This has nothing to do with my laziness whatsoever.


*cough*


Instead, it is all about discovering, knowing there are other readers out there who feel exactly the same way that you do about books. 


Which, I think, is one of the greatest things about this online reading community we have.  


That feeling of finding kindred spirits.  


Now I have something in my eye...


Dammit.


kris' bookfession #2




To those people who think we readers are weird?  The feeling is totally fucking mutual.  Idiots.


kris' bookfession #3




Sorry Mumma!  I love you!


kris' bookfession #4




It's not my fault if a shop hires dickhead staff, who have absolutely no fucking idea how to shelve books by their correct genres.  I say there should be a special law allowing bookstore owners the right to corporal punishment so that their employees have a hope of getting a bloody clue.


Erm, sorry Mumma.


Again.


kris' bookfession #5




Amen.  :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

kris' bookfession #1*


*A few people have already read this, but I reckon they overreacted so I'm trying it out with a broader readership.  Make sure you get it right this time.




I'm not sure if you've seen a project going on called 'the burning house'? It's where people take pics of what they would take with them if, well, their house was burning down. It's fascinating so go check it out if you haven't already.


Another cool meme type thingy is 'bookfessions'. I love these. As a bibliophile I can totally relate.


So, these concepts got me thinking about which books I would take with me if my house was burning down.


For those of you who know me from my old blog it's a no brainer. The books I would save are those by my beloved *hand to heart* Sir Terry Pratchett.


*moment of silent awe*


Of course, the possibility of loosing my Sir Terry's to a fire caused my anxiety and OCD levels to rise to astronomical levels, therefore I started to prepare a disaster plan.


As you would.


Which, naturally, led me to a dilemma and then to this realisation:


Kris' Bookfession #1


If my house caught on fire, I'm pretty sure that I would save my Sir Terry's before my boy kittehs. 


Yeah, I might regret and stuff, but still... it's Sir Terry.  


Nuff said.


What would you do?  And be honest... I bet a whole heap of you thought about grabbing your ereaders before you even thought about the kids or pets, right.


Ha!


Case closed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: The Rifter Part 7: Enemies and Shadows by Ginn Hale

Like the previous part in this serialised novel, part 7 has a quiet, reflective feel about it at first. Much of the action happens towards the end and before that the story deals with the tricky politics surrounding the possible imminent war between Jath’ibaye and the Gaun'im of Southern Basawar. Much of the plot is taken up with discussion and intrigue, and whilst this meant that the action was slow, I was still immersed in the story because there's a constant tension. This tension gave the tone of writing an uneasy feel as Kahlil and Jath’ibaye strive to find a way to avert war or face the possibility of mass slaughter.

One of the beauties of this book is the way that dialogue is used to further the plot and that is certainly the case in this section which is taken mostly from Kahlil's point of view. He's a good observer of people, having spent most of his life observing John grow up, and this seeps into the way he views people and body language. Sometimes this is slightly humourous - for example as he watches Hirran use her feminine charms on the one of the Gaun'im noblemen - and sometimes it's deadly as he waits for the right moment to kill. We find out a lot about Kahlil in this section, especially about what he has been forced to do in his role as The Kahlil. This leads to comparisons with Ravishan, especially when we see Ravishan's innocence about the world when compared to Kahlil's world-weariness.

Towards the end of the section, in a scene which is both terrifying and compelling, the action is ramped up to maximum. This 'heart in your throat' moment shows us the versatility of Ginn Hale as an author in directing the pace, in this case from quiet intrigue to all out action and horror. About 20 pages before the end the action ends on a chilling note leaving the reader with a cliff hanger when we are suddenly thrown back in time to be with John and Ravishan. I have to admit I let out a wail of protest at this point and felt severely disgruntled! It wasn't long before I adjusted to John's point of view though, and if I have to be honest, I like John's point of view more than Kahlil's so once I got over the shock I settled into the narrative of John and Ravishan's escape from John's attempted murder on the Holy Road. It was interesting to see the contrast here between the earnest love of Ravishan for John when compared the the more mature feelings that Kahlil and Jath’ibaye have for each other. Both are passionate but the naivety of Ravishan seems almost painful next to Kahlil now that we've spent the last 200 or so pages in his head.

In the final 20 pages the pace again shifts to quiet moments between John and Ravishan which leaves the section on an emotional, rather than action based high. As a reader, I already know much of what is going to happen between them now because we have been told of Ravishan and John's future during the parts from Kahlil's point of view, and I wonder how much more of John's point of view can be sustained without repeating what we already know. However, I've trusted this author so far to deliver a tightly plotted story and I'm sure I won't be disappointed. With only 3 more parts to go, things surely must start to move towards what promises to be an exciting dénouement and I'm very much looking forward to the events in part 8.

You can either buy this seventh part - and then any of the other parts - separately for $3.99 each, or buy the whole book at $29.95 and each month the new part will be sent to you via email. More information about this and the buy now page can be found HERE.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

And The Winner Is:

You Won!


Don't cry - it's a happy event!

The winner of Katie Reus's new release is:

Diane

I have your email address so I will pass this on to Katie and have her send you the book.

Congratulations!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Anyone Up For A Vicarious Vacation? Let Christi Barth Be Your Cruise Director!

As a writer, I find that the creative side of my brain never turns off completely, even on vacation. Or should I say especially on vacation. Something about travel fires up my neurons into overdrive. I guess it’s the sense of newness and possibility about someplace unfamiliar. This creative spurt is actually what started my writing career. Years ago I was on vacation with my husband in Charleston, walking down a cobblestone street lined with magnolias and oozing history. All of a sudden it hit me what a great setting the city would be for a novel. At the time I was on a romantic suspense kick, so I decided to write one (as with most things, the idea was far simpler than the actualization).

Fast forward two completed books and a few years, and I started to think about setting a book on a cruise ship (chalk it up to watching The Love Boat during my formative years). A cruise ship hits so many romantic stereotypes. You’ve got brilliant starlight, a balmy breeze, the gentle lap of the waves…and a feeling of absolute freedom from your everyday life. The setting makes it so easy to throw caution to the wind, give in to lust, and fall in love.

Coincidentally, my husband and I went on a cruise when I was only a few chapters into my new manuscript. Yes, I spent time lazing on a deck chair reading and hiking through a rain forest, but I also thought about my story constantly. Every deck, every shore excursion, every peek over the railing was another visual I wanted to cram into the manuscript. While the cruise ship itself was spectacular, I also fell in love with every stop we made. The Caribbean is a treasure trove of beautiful spots.

In my books, setting is very important, and often acts as another character. My goal is to transport my readers, and drown them in sensations and experiences. I want you to finish a chapter, look up, and be genuinely surprised that you’re in your living room, instead of walking along the walled city of San Juan, or snorkeling in St. Maartens. I mean, look at these pictures - how on earth could I choose a single location for my story? Well, I couldn’t. Instead I added an island-hopping scavenger hunt to the story, to give me an excuse to share with readers every single island I visited. It turned the story in a completely different direction, not to mention making it much harder to write, but I had to do it.

So my latest book, Cruising Toward Love, is meant to be a vicarious vacation for everyone who reads it. Enjoy the brilliant sun without getting burned, and the endless buffets without gaining a pound. Pour yourself a piña colada and dive into this blurb to get you started:

When her sister is left at the altar, small town librarian Zoe Balis jumps at the chance to take the bride’s unused ticket for the honeymoon cruise. But she didn't count on sharing a cabin with the man who broke her heart ten years ago!

Army medic Nate Hyatt never told Zoe goodbye when he enlisted - or the real reason why he dumped her on prom night after a year as high school sweethearts. And he never stopped dreaming about the girl he left behind. Could this voyage be his chance to fix the worst mistake he ever made? After all, a Caribbean cruise should be romantic… if he can convince her to move past ten years of bitterness and hurt.

Once aboard the luxury liner, Zoe befriends a bored Internet mogul with more heart than tact. Nate vents his problems to a ship’s photographer battling PTSD. The four team up on an island hopping treasure hunt. The stakes grow higher with each of Zoe’s mysterious brushes with death. They race to discover why she's a target and who's behind it, while still competing in the treasure hunt. Zoe’s never gotten over her first love, and is tempted to let Nate back into her life. But she already lost him once. She’s not willing to risk loving a man whose career keeps him in a combat zone. Can Nate breach her defenses and suture her broken heart? Grab a deck chair and see if they survive the stormy relationship seas as they cruise toward love!

For more information, visit www.christibarth.com
 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two in One

Please welcome D.R. Hildebrand to the Island!

I’ll be honest: I had never heard of this lascivious (I mean quaint…) little island of yours until the day I was invited to visit it. I did some research, of course, and it seems I’ve entered quite the competition. Your favorite books and your favorite men. It’s a hard life you have here. Does it come with a massage?

Well I’m not intimidated. I’ll gladly compete. In fact, I’ll match your charming fantasies with a little deep-tissue reality of my own. You see, I’ve combined your two desires into one. I’ve taken your good-looking guys, pulled them smack-dab out of New York’s modeling world, intertwined their lives, and slapped them down on three hundred pieces of page-turning paper. It’s called Walking Marina and it’s everything that only an insider could share about modeling—male modeling. It’s raw and it’s racy and you can thank me later. (Surprise me.)

So I suppose it would be rude to not give you at least a glimpse of it. You have, after all, invited me over. And I was raised to come bearing gifts.


In the hopes of whetting your appetites without ruining your panties I decided I’d go easy on you and take it from the top:

It was midnight in late spring in a condominium on Central Park. A middle-aged woman with an appetite for extremes straddled wide over her bed and a boy. She planted her knees at his waist. She paused in control. Then she lowered herself, hard, to entirety. The boy closed his eyes. The woman breathed deep. She arched her back. She moaned. The bed began to rock. She moved slowly and evenly in effortless aches until her thighs flexed tighter, her panting came quicker, and she stared glazed with a smirk in the mirror. Her breasts and buttocks bobbed wildly with enhancements as her hair slapped across her face, splashing sweat and saliva at the man filming everything beside them.

The night continued until the sheets were soaked and the woman was satisfied. Without a word, she strolled naked from the bed through the condo. She set an envelope by the door, fixed her favorite martini, then took her time in the bathroom as the man fell asleep and the boy dressed in silence. The following morning, each returned to society. The man ordered scotch aboard a flight to Los Angeles. The woman walked comfortably through Central Park. And the boy, red-eyed, unkempt, clutching a brand new portfolio, sat quietly in the corner of a casting—waiting, watching, thinking about things few would ever imagine, before bringing his envelope to the bank.





Thanks so much for having me, ladies! Please don’t hesitate to share with your friends. You can find Walking Marina online in paperback and e-book, and you can find me at: www.drhildebrand.com

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Katie Reus eBook Giveaway

Katie Reus is giving away 1 ebook copy of her new release from Carina Press, Deadly Obsession


The chilling words of a killer: This is just the beginning…

Ten years ago, Lilly Carmichael left town without an explanation, breaking Braden Donnelly’s heart. The death of her aunt has brought Lilly home–and face to face with memories she thought were long buried. Still getting over a traumatic incident from her work as an NSA agent, Lilly initially dismisses the face at her window as a figment of stress-induced paranoia.

Now the sheriff of Hudson Bay, Braden has spent the last year hunting a sadistic murderer. But his investigation is turned upside down when new evidence indicates that Lilly is the killer’s next target. Determined to protect the woman he’s never stopped loving, Braden must race against the clock to trap a dangerous psychopath—before it’s too late


Excerpt:

Chapter 2

Lilly snapped her laptop shut and slid it into her carry-on bag. After glancing around the shabby room one last time, she rolled her carry-on and suitcase to the door. As she placed her hand on the door handle a thunderous explosion ripped through the air. 

The ground shifted beneath her. Pain fractured through her skull. She rocked back on her feet to keep her balance but it was useless. Lilly tumbled over her carry-on and slammed into the dresser, stomach first. As the wind rushed from lungs, she shook her head. A low buzzing rang in her ears and she tripped again. This time she landed on the floor, face first. Trying to steady herself, she sat up, but weaved back and forth.

She pressed an unsteady hand to her head. A bomb must have gone off. Shit! Before she could contemplate getting out of there, shouting and staccato gunfire erupted outside her room.

Everything sounded as if it was in a tunnel. Since she couldn’t stand, she fell to her belly and crawled toward the bed. Find a weapon! Hide! The words echoed in her brain. Before she’d made it two feet, her door burst open.

Two men in black ski masks and guns stormed the room. They shouted at her, but she couldn’t understand what they were saying. With incredible force, one of the men slammed the butt of his gun onto her thigh.

A piercing sound reverberated through the room. She finally realized it was her own screams. He lifted the gun again. She covered her face, knowing what was coming—

Lilly jolted upright in bed, choking on a scream. Despite the cool temperature, sweat rolled down her face and back. She shoved the heavy cover off and forced herself upright. Would these nightmares never end? Sitting on the edge of the bed, she practiced the breathing techniques her counselor had taught her until her heart rate returned to normal.

A glance at the clock told her it was five. She still had time to sleep but knew no matter how much she wanted it, trying would be useless. Once she’d splashed water on her face and brushed her teeth, she’d stopped shaking enough to make a pot of coffee.

She looked through the peephole of the front door before tugging on a robe and slippers. If she remembered correctly, her aunt had a key hidden out front and there was no way on earth she was leaving it there. Her aunt might have been trusting, but after Braden’s—rather Sheriff Donnelly’s—warning, Lilly wasn’t going to take the chance. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought about it until now. Jet lag was her only excuse.

An icy blast of January air hit her as she stepped onto the front porch. It was physically impossible, but she swore her heart jumped into her throat when she saw an unfamiliar vehicle in the driveway. It took a second until she realized Braden was sleeping in the front seat of the truck. What the hell was he doing? Wrapping the robe tighter around herself, she hurried down the stone steps and tapped on the window.

He reached for his pistol, until his dark eyes locked on hers. For a man of the law, his brown hair was a little shaggy around the sides. It reminded her of the way he’d worn it when they were younger. Back then he’d been a football star, but he hadn’t been a typical jock. If anything, he’d been more bookish than her.

An unexpected but incredibly vivid memory of their first kiss flashed in her mind. It had been in the front seat of his wintergreen, 1979 Ford pickup. The heat hadn’t been working and he’d told her he knew the perfect way to warm her up. Not exactly original, but it had sure worked on her. Barely sixteen, she’d never kissed anyone before, but he’d known what he was doing. Even if he hadn’t, she wouldn’t have known any better.

Even with the cold, a slow building warmth filled her. Despite the way they’d parted, she held too many memories of Braden close to her heart not to still feel something for him. It was unavoidable, she supposed.

Lilly stood back as he stepped out of the vehicle. “Were you here all night?”

He stretched his arms above his head and yawned again. “Just about. You got any coffee?”

“Follow me.” She decided to wait until they got inside before she started firing questions at him.

As they walked up the front steps she bent down by an oversized stone frog and stuck her hand in its mouth. Sure enough, her fingers clasped around the same magnetic key holder that had been there for years.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

She held out her hand as she stood. “Getting this.”

“Your aunt had a key outside?” His mouth pulled into a thin line and Lilly had another flashback of how those lips had kissed every inch of her body once.

An involuntary shudder skittered down her spine, but she fought it off. “I know. I told her to at least hide it in a better place, but you know how she was.”

“Yes, I do,” he murmured.

Once inside, she took off her aunt’s old robe and hooked it on the coat rack. She regretted the decision immediately. Although she wore a long pajama set, the heat in the house was temperamental and she was suddenly very aware that she wasn’t wearing a bra.

Well, she couldn’t put the stupid thing back on without looking crazy so she led him to the kitchen. “Black, right?”

He nodded and sat at the kitchen table. After pouring them both a mug full, she slid onto the seat across from him. “Why were you sleeping outside?”

Braden’s jaw tightened in that familiar way and she knew whatever he had to say, she wasn’t going to like it.
“I know I told you that this killer is targeting people close to me but I left out that we found another victim before I came to see you. She was a woman I went on a couple dates with.”

She frowned as he continued. “There have been three—four—killings with the same MO over the past year. I always suspected that the first three were personal, but I wasn’t sure until last night. The woman we found didn’t live here but as far as I can tell, I’m the only connection to all the victims.” He took a sip of his coffee as she digested the words.

“So that’s why you slept outside last night?”

“I didn’t plan to fall asleep, but I think whoever’s doing this is a local. If they are, they’ll know about our history. I don’t want to scare you, but you need to be careful.”

“It’s been a decade since we’ve seen each other. Do you really think someone would come after me?” She wrapped her hands around the steaming mug to keep them from shaking.

“I went on two dates with the woman we just found. She didn’t mean anything to me. You mean—meant a lot more.” His last words came out strangled, but she didn’t miss the blatant male interest in his eyes when his gaze strayed to her chest.

Heat spread up her neck as her nipples involuntarily pebbled under his intense stare. The man looked…hungry. It was written in every line and groove of his face. She wished she could be offended or feel some sort of outrage that he was staring at her with such deliberate desire, but it had been a long time since a man had looked at her like he wanted to strip her naked and take her right on a kitchen table.


Leave a comment on this post by 7:00pm on 9/9/11 to entered to win.
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