Day 3 – Juliana Gray

Romantic Encounters

I encountered my first romance novel when I was about thirteen years old, and it was a doozy. November had just settled in, and I was earning my pony’s board by bringing in all the other horses from the pasture each afternoon and doling out feed. While they ate, I was allowed to take shelter in the stable owner’s basement, where his college-age daughter stashed all her romances.

Well. I picked up Lady Vixen––”A golden heiress living a lie…in a stormtide of rapture and romance!”––by Shirlee Busbee, and each afternoon those forlorn horses were left to lick the bottoms of their feeding troughs while I followed my auburn-haired minx Nicole Ashford from her days as a stowaway cabin boy, to her passionate nights in the bed of notorious privateer Captain Saber, to her waltzes in London ballrooms, where Captain Saber had transformed into aristocrat Christopher Saxon, complete with golden eyes and sardonic smile.

Eh, hooked? You think?

As the raw Seattle winter dragged on, I lost myself in Civil War romance (blonde identical  twins, one good and one evil, sort of Sweet Valley High meets Gone With the Wind), Napoleonic war romance (something about spies), Gothic romance (Cornwall, dead first wife), and Louisiana plantation romance (more identical twins). It was my scandalous basement secret: me, the studious second child, the fuzzy-haired bespectacled bibliophile, who never met a rule she didn’t obediently follow and a human being she didn’t yearn to please. I received a thorough (if possibly flawed) sexual education at the hands of Busbee and the Avon ladies, while my unsuspecting classmates played Pac-Man and watched Growing Pains. Bulging manhoods––goodness me! Oral sex––who knew? If the boys passing me blankly in the hallways of junior high didn’t quite measure up to the superb masculine standards of Captain Saber, I didn’t care. I had a hero and a sparkly rainbow orgasm waiting for me, somewhere.

Then high school. Then college. Whenever the boys didn’t quite measure up, whenever the sparkles and rainbows didn’t materialize, whenever I was overlooked and turned down and passed over and dumped, I turned back to romance. Whenever I encountered a thorny term paper or a thorny professor, a parental divorce or a resume rejection, I sieved through the shelves of the local bookstores until I found solace, until I found that solid rectangular doorway into another body, another time, another world. And when I emerged again from that doorway, I was a little bit stronger, a little more heroic. A little more able to face down the slings and arrows of real-world fortune. (Which is, after all, the point of all human storytelling.)

And this story ends happily, never fear. I did find my hero, and plenty of sparkles and rainbows, and a baby epilogue too. For many years, I stopped reading romance entirely; I was occupied from dawn to dusk with the immensely satisfying epic of my own life. But when life’s little setbacks inevitably arrived, I knew where to turn. A whole new generation of romance authors, a whole new generation of Captain Sabers, lay waiting for me at the bookstore. Then and now, they turn me back into my heroic self.


Questions for the Author:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

As I have four children, the list is endless! Leaving them out of it, for the longest time I kept this bizarre miniature plastic bathroom scene my mother inexplicably gave me one Christmas. You pushed various buttons on the diorama and it would emit the corresponding rude bathroom noises. My mother isn’t a vulgar person, so I have no idea why she sent it. A menopausal moment, maybe? Anyway, I hid it in a closet for years, because how can you throw away a present from your mother? I think we “accidentally” put it in the Goodwill box when we moved.

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

Fifty Shades of Coffee. Starring Rachel McAdam on a really bad hair day.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

I’m a huge Patrick O’Brian fan, and my husband pulled some strings for our fifth anniversary and got tickets to the London premiere of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. (We were living in London at the time.) It was the official Royal premiere of the year, so Prince Charles was there, a few seats away. It was amazing. I wore the most fabulous dress I owned. When we left the after party, there was this crowd of paparazzi outside, waiting for someone famous to pop out, and an embarrassing silence settled around the doorway as they tried to figure out who we were. Then a single flashbulb went off. So that was my moment, LOL.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

Oh. Gosh. The problem is, I’m usually most in love with the couple I created last, so I’ll have to go with Princess Emilie and the Duke of Ashland in my latest book, HOW TO TAME YOUR DUKE. As for romance novels in general, I do so love Sarah Maclean’s A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME, which just won the RITA for Best Historical (hurrah!!). (*I haven’t read A ROGUE, but One Good Earl Deserves a Lover is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I do not envy the RITA historical prelim judges for 2014. Amazing titles this year! ~Bobbi)

As for recommending another romance author, it’s so hard to choose! I absolutely love Meredith Duran, though. The quality of her writing is just superb.

Juliana Gray is  generously donating three signed copies How To Tame Your Duke  to give away.  U.S. only, apologies to international readers.  To enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 3 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


 

Juliana Gray began writing as a child to relieve the tedium of being sentenced to her room, and later turned to romance to relieve the tedium of unsatisfactory suitors. Sadly, despite five years’ residence in the most exclusive areas of London, she never met a single duke, though she once shared a taxi with a future baron.

Juliana’s debut romance trilogy, A Lady Never Lies, A Gentleman Never Tells, and A Duke Never Yields, won widespread acclaim, including the RT Book Review’s Seal of Excellence and Best First Historical award. Her latest novel, How to Tame Your Duke, earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and a Top Pick rating from RT Book Reviews. As Beatriz Williams, she is also the author of Overseas and A Hundred Summers from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. She enjoys dark chocolate, champagne, and dinner parties, and adores hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.julianagray.com.

Buy Juliana’s books and Beatriz Williams’ books on Amazon.

Day 3 – Nina Rowan

Romance – A Journey of Discovery

I like to eat. I like the juiciness of a well-seasoned steak and the sweetness of chocolate mousse. I like that the world has such an endless array of different foods. I like spices, flavors, aromas, textures. I like watching cooking shows and pretending that maybe one day I’ll be able to cook like that. And I especially like knowing that there will always be something new and interesting to discover about food, whether it’s the Chinese broccoli (kai-lan) that I found at the store, or the fact that there’s a dark chocolate version of a Reese’s peanut-butter cup.

And that, my friends, is why romance matters. Because romance is all about discovery. Romance speaks to the explorer, the adventurer, the daring heart in all of us who knows that love is complicated, beautiful, and a little scary, but ultimately well worth the risk of exploration.

Romance is about seeking out and finding all the nuances of another person, about looking beyond ourselves and taking chances. Romance is about hoping for your perfect happily-ever-after ending, while figuring out how to chart a course and being prepared to struggle. Romance is about having courage when faced with the unknown.

But back to the food. The connection between food and romance has been touted by writers and gourmands throughout history—both for the aphrodisiac qualities of certain foods as well as the fact that the exploration of both territories involves all five senses. The taste of a kiss, the scent of a man’s skin, the touch of his hand, the sight of his smile, the sound of his voice…all give us a sense of pleasure and anticipation that we also find in a much-loved meal.

Trying new foods and indulging in favorite dishes elicits the same kind of anticipation and enjoyment that we also discover on the path to romance. But there’s disappointment too, like when we try a new food we don’t like, or work hard on a recipe for a cheese-and-bacon soufflé that falls flat.

That may be a far less-intense disappointment than a romance gone wrong or an unrequited love, but the essence of the attempt is the same—we’ll try again (and again, and again) because we know in our hearts that the successful result will make us so happy. That’s the reason we love the exploration, the discovery, the challenge. We want that perfect dish. We want our own happily-ever-after.

*

What about after the happily-ever-after? Under the name Nina Lane (www.ninalane.com), I’ve self-published a romance series about a passionate couple who are already married! Liv and Dean are wildly in love, but when secrets and temptations rise to the surface, the fallout threatens to break them apart. They are a couple determined to fight for their love and marriage—and for their second happy ending.

I’m also in awe of Laura Navarre’s (www.lauranavarre.com) historical romances, a combination of lush, sensual prose, compelling characters, and fascinating settings of the Tudor court and Anglo-Saxon England. The Devil’s Mistress centers on the brilliant Allegra Grimaldi, an Italian apothecary forced to infiltrate the court of Henry VIII. In By Royal Command, a courageous woman must choose between a fierce, Viking warrior and a mysterious, passionate baron. Navarre’s deft interweaving of intrigue, romance, and suspense will captive you.


 

Questions for the Author:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

A dirty, stained, torn, well-chewed, one-eyed, stuffed pig that was my son’s favorite toy as a newborn. I will never throw it away.

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

Title: Crazy Blessed
Actress: Rachel Weisz (ideally!)

What is the best non-monetary gift you’ve ever been given?

My family. Aside from my family, the best gift I’ve ever received are two Russian icons that my grandmother brought with her when she emigrated from Russia to the US. The icons were very much a part of our family life, and have since been passed on to me. I treasure them deeply.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

My Nina Lane books are all about the passionate, intense relationship between medieval history professor Dean West and his cherished wife Olivia. Their happily-ever-after doesn’t end with “I do.”

And I love the scene in my Nina Rowan book A Study in Seduction when Lydia marches into the crowded meeting hall with her troupe of genius mathematicians in order to save Alexander, the love of her life. She does it with both her brilliance and her determination, both awesome qualities in a heroine!

Nina Rowan and Grand Central  are generously donating two sets of Nina Rowan books (A Study in Seduction and A Passion for Pleasure) to give away, and Nina Lane will give away one set of her Spiral of Bliss novels (Arouse and Allure).  U.S. only, apologies to international readers.  To enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 3 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.



Originally from California, Nina Rowan holds a PhD in Art History from McGill University, Montreal, with a specialization in 19th century French and Russian art. A PASSION FOR PLEASURE is the second book in her Daring Hearts series with Grand Central/Forever Romance. A librarian-at-heart, Nina loves both reading and organization, and she found a happy avenue for both by pursuing a degree in Library and Information Sciences at the University of Wisconsin. She lives in Wisconsin with her atmospheric scientist husband and two children.

Buy Nina Rowan books and Nina Lane books at Amazon.

Day 2 – Jayne Ann Krentz

Romance Unlimited

“Are you ever going to write anything besides romance?”

I get that question a lot – possibly because I’ve been writing romance for a while now – under three pen names, no less:  Jayne Ann Krentz for contemporaries, Amanda Quick for historicals and Jayne Castle for futuristics.   The short answer is, no.  I love writing in the romance genre and I’ve still got lots and lots of stories to tell that fit within it.

The longer answer, of course, is that I will move on if and when I discover that I cannot write what I want to write within the romance field.  But that day has not arrived and I honestly don’t think it ever will.   The reason?  Romance is the deepest, and most unlimited of all the fiction genres.  What’s more, unlike some genres, it is not static or hidebound.  It is always in the process of reinventing itself.  At the edges it is very fluid;  constantly changing; constantly engaged in experimentation. Successful experiments within romance frequently spill over into the other genres and exert a strong influence.

There is room in romance for many different kinds of stories and settings.  There is  space for everything from dark, edgy romantic thrillers to light, entertaining who-done-its.  From vampires and werewolves to novels of contemporary small town community relationships.  From sweeping historical sagas to Regency comedy-of-manners.  From stories that deal with post traumatic stress disorder to stories about long-kept family secrets. There is Young Adult romance. And New Adult romance.  There is gay romance. There is over-the-top erotica and there is sweet, wholesome, religion-infused romance.  There are stories set in the past.  Stories set in the present.  Stories set in the future.  Stories set in other dimensions.

Know what else I love about this genre?  The readers.  The audience for romance novels is very open-minded; always willing to try something new.  What is more, romance readers read widely outside the genre.  That is because they simply love to read.  They buy a LOT of books – all kinds of books. 

Start a conversation with a romance reader and you will soon find yourself discussing the latest thriller at the top of the bestseller lists or the newest literary book club selections.  You’ll talk about the blockbuster novel that everyone is reading and that little gem of a book that defies any label, the one almost no one else has heard about.  But you’ll always come back to the new books in the romance genre because the appeal is so enduring; so fundamental.

At its core, romance derives its power from the ancient heroic traditions, not modern angst.  In the romance novel values and virtues such as courage, honor, determination, optimism and a belief in the healing power of love truly matter.  They are crucial to the story – and important to the reader.

Really, when I think about it, I can’t imagine writing in any other genre.
If you are looking for another romance author to read, I’d like to recommend Cat Devon and her recent book  SLEEPING WITH THE ENTITY,  a wonderfully warm, humorous take on the paranormal romance story.  All I will say is that it involves vampires and red velvet cupcakes. (*Cat Devon provided a short R-A-R M note, too. You can find it here.)

Jayne is generously donating a signed copy of Mystery Woman by Amanda Quick as a giveaway (U.S. only, apologies to international readers.) To enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 2 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


The author of over 50 New York Times bestsellers, JAYNE ANN KRENTZ writes romantic-suspense, often with a psychic and paranormal twist, in three different worlds: Contemporary (as Jayne Ann Krentz), historical (as Amanda Quick) and futuristic (as Jayne Castle). There are over 35 million copies of her books in print.

When she’s not writing, Jayne can be found on Facebook posting messages to her readers. Read more about Jayne and her books at jayneannkrentz.com

(Photo credit Marc Von Borstel)

Search for Jane’s books on Amazon
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Day 2 – Beth Kendrick

Romance, The Best-Ever Gateway Drug

Romance is a gateway drug.

You start out, as a reader and/or a writer, telling yourself that okay, you’ll just try this one story. One first kiss. One leap of faith. One happy ending.

But one is never enough, is it? Next thing you know, the floodgates are open and you’re still reading and/or writing romance, but somehow romance has proliferated into many other varieties of love: bonding with a critique partner, talking to strangers at writing conferences, joining a book club, sharing your favorite novels with your mother and your sister, helping to organize fundraisers for worthy causes, taking in stray puppies you find on the street… Where will this madness end?

Well, the madness never ends, because love never ends. It perseveres, getting exponentially stronger as we bring new recruits into the fold. In real life, as in books, romantic love does more than fulfill the lovers. Romantic love leads to friendship, charity, forgiveness, piety.

  Every time I read the last page of a great romance, I feel a subversive little thrill, because the author and I know the truth: love really IS the meaning of life. Love really can empower us, heal us, protect us. Romance is so much more than tales of hot sex with guys who have angst and six-pack abs. A compelling love story requires trust, loyalty, passion, conviction…plus a lot of other people. Love cannot take hold and thrive in a vacuum. The supporting characters push the hero and heroine together, or pull them apart. They listen. They advise, they challenge. They provide the friendship and devotion that emboldens the hero and heroine to do the thing they think they cannot do.

Even if a heroine finds the best romantic partner in the world, she still needs her female friends and confidantes.  I love writing about female friendship because our friends are the family we choose for ourselves. I consider my good girlfriends to be my bonus sisters. Especially my writer friends. We love and support each other unconditionally. (SPOILER ALERT: It’s because we’re all crazycakes.) Romance readers and writers truly are a close, caring community. I hit the “clueless newbie writer” jackpot with several patient and generous mentors who helped me more than I can ever hope to repay. But I do my best to pay it forward, and I’m so excited to shamelessly name-drop my writing buddy Marina Myles, whose paranormal romance debut, Beauty and the Wolf, was just published by Kensington. (Read more about Marina and her book at www.marinamyles.com.)

And the readers! Romance readers deserve their own private island, complete with a vast romance-centric library (booze, chocolate, and comfy chairs available 24/7) and zero haters. We’ll call it the Republic of Romance Readers, every room will have an ocean view, and the weather will be 84 degrees and sunny every day. Who wants to be on the planning committee? My wonderful readers make me laugh, make me think, and make my books better. Facebook fans have nominated themselves–and their dogs–for cameos in my books. They’ve chosen a name for a heroine’s little red convertible (Scarlett) and put together the ultimate bitter breakup playlist featuring songs from all genres. Were it not for readers, I might have wasted my whole life without ever listening to the musical genius that is Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City.”

Love connects us, in all its variations, until we are unsinkable. Love prepares us to reach our potential and be a good partner to somebody else. And that’s what romance is really about: Belief in one’s own intrinsic worthiness. Faith in things unseen. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway, because you know someone will catch you if you fall.

(Although, let’s be real, a little hot sex with a guy with six-pack abs never hurt anyone.)


 

Questions for the Author

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

Craziest would be my giant red mutt, Friday. He’s not the smartest dog in the world, but he compensates by being extra loopy. When he first wakes up in the morning, he likes to roll over on his back, thrash around, and open his gigantic jaws. We call him “Gator Friday” because, well, he sort of looks like a furry red alligator.

Now that I’m actually typing this out, it doesn’t make 100% sense, so let’s just move along, shall we?

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

“Deadline Jail: The Beth Kendrick Story”.  It would be a gritty thriller shot in grainy black and white, full of exultation, despair, and futile escape attempts.

I would cast Chris Hemsworth (see also: hot men with six-pack abs) as Beth Kendrick. I hear he’s a method actor, so he’d have to come to my house, immerse himself in my world, really connect with me on every level. These are the sacrifices we make for art!

What is the best non-monetary gift you’ve ever been given?

My author bestie Kresley Cole dedicated a book to me. I shed a little tear when I first saw it. But don’t tell her I said that.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

Grab The Week Before the Wedding and enjoy the fireworks. Ryan, the hero, strode in on the first page, all swarthy and badass, and commandeered the whole story. I always get a little crush going for my heroes, but this guy took it to another level. By the end of that book, I was like, “Ryan Lassiter, WHY AREN’T YOU REAL?!?”

Two words: bathtub scene. You’ll thank me later.

Beth is generously donating three copies of The Week Before the Wedding to give away (U.S. only, apologies to international readers.) To enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 2 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


 

Beth Kendrick lives in Arizona with her trusty rescue dogs, Roxie Hart and Friday. She is the author of nine women’s fiction books, including The Week Before the Wedding, The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service, and Nearlyweds, which was made into a Hallmark Channel movie. Find out more about Beth at www.bethkendrick.com

Search for Beth’s Books on Amazon

Day 2 – Joyce Lamb

Saving the World, One Romance at a Time

Hi, everyone! Joyce Lamb here. Thank you so much, Bobbi, for inviting me to participate in Read-A-Romance-Month with all these amazing authors! What a wonderful event you’ve put together, 31 days of reminding us all why romance matters. (*Happy to have you, Joyce and thanks for all you do at the HEA blog! ~B)

Personally, I believe that if more people read romance novels, the world would be a much nicer place. Like the old “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” ad, I’d hand a romance novel to every driver who’s freaking out from road rage, every impatient co-worker, every rude person I’ll meet this week. Nothing like a happy ending to cheer up a cranky soul.

Plus, there are these benefits:

Resolving conflicts: Like life in general, romances are packed with conflict. Usually, the hero and heroine are at such intense odds that it seems as though they’ll never work it all out. But they do. Every time. And it takes compromise and acceptance on both their parts, the ol’ two-way street. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.

Getting over it: Heroes and heroines always, always have baggage. Lots of it. So much of it, in fact, that Bill Gates would have trouble paying all the checked-bag fees. To get their happy ending, they usually have to get over something, or at least learn how to cope. We could all use some help in that department.

Learning how to say you’re sorry: Heroes and heroines often do and say horrible things to each other over the course of their romance. When all is said and done, though, they say they’re sorry. “I’m sorry” can heal myriad emotional wounds. I’m thinking the world needs a whole lot more “I’m sorry.”

So the next time someone gets cranky, consider handing that person a romance novel. (And if it’s a road-rage-y driver, try not to throw it at them.)

 

Since we’re all always looking for good books, I’d like to recommend new author Ana Barons, especially for anyone who loves romantic suspense.  www.AnaBarrons.com  Her first book, Wrongfully Accused (Carina Press), came out in January, followed in July by Son of the Enemy (Samhain) and Betrayed by Trust (Carina Press). Sizzle-y, suspense-y and sexy … it’s there in all three books in spades.


 

Questions for the Author:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

I have a white, life-size ceramic cat that doesn’t go with the décor yet sits in a prominent place of honor. I keep it because it was my grandmother’s, and I think of how fun she was every time I walk by it.

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

Happy Ever After, because that’s the name of the romance novels blog I do for USA Today.
Betty White would definitely play me, not because I’m in my 90s and have white hair, but because I adore her and she’s so funny. I’m sure she’d agree to star in a heartbeat.

What is the best non-monetary gift you’ve ever been given?

The book Boo: The Life of the World’s Cutest Dog. Because it sits on my desk at work, and when I get stressed, I pick it up and flip it open to a new page. Instant relaxation! (Always accompanied by a heartfelt “awwww, so cute!”)

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

I would recommend Sam and Mac from True Shot, the third book in my True trilogy (you can read it as a stand-alone). Sam’s a super spy and Mac’s a snarky journalist. She’s alpha, and he’s beta (at least in the beginning of the story), and I love the back-and-forth between them. And when Mac’s inner alpha comes roaring to the forefront to protect Sam – kills me every time.

For romance novels in general, J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas and Roark are my all-time favorite couple. They’re the perfect combination of heat, conflict and swoonworthy schmoop.

Joyce is generously donating a copy of True Shot to give away (U.S. only, apologies to international readers.) To enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 2 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


 

Joyce Lamb is a three-time RITA finalist for romantic suspense and curator of USA Today’s Happy Ever After (HEA) blog devoted to romance novels, their readers and their authors.

You can find out more about Joyce and her books at joycelamb.blogspot.com. or connect with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AuthorJoyceLamb) and Twitter (@JoyceLamb).

Read Bobbi’s post on the USA Today HEA blog here. (If you love romance, you should keep an eye on that blog!)

Search for Joyce’s books on Amazon.