Booktopia Romance Buzz
March 2014 | Edition Eleven
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Welcome to the MARCH Romance Buzz!
Kat MayoHello, romance book lovers!

This month's Romance Buzz features some AMAZING reads - you are so spoilt for choice. I talk about some of the hottest new books this year, and one of my autobuy authors, Meredith Duran, answers our Nine Naughty Questions (check out her dad's reaction to her debut novel). Her latest book, Fool Me Twice, is absolutely thrilling!

But first, the most exciting news has been announced: the 2015 Australian Romance Readers Convention will be at the Rydges Lakeside in Canberra from March 6 to 8. Save this date and start saving up because this is the biggest event for Australian romance readers. More details to come, so watch this space!

In the meantime, it's not too late to grab your ticket for the Australian Romance Readers Awards dinner in March. You can find all the details on the ARRA blog. Helene Young will be the guest speaker - scroll down for more on her latest book, Safe Harbour. Former Romance Buzz editor Kate Cuthbert and I will again be judging the Bling Off, so make sure you come at your sparkling best!

What I just finished: Safe Harbour by Helene Young - Scroll down to read more about this book.

What I'm reading now: Her Galahad by Melissa James - A category romantic suspense featuring a part-Aboriginal hero!

What I can't wait for: Where do I start?! The King by J. R. Ward, The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie, Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long, and Night Broken by Patricia Briggs - it's going to be a massive reading month!

Until next month - happy reading, and may romance endings be ever in your favour!

Kat Mayo

Cracktastic Book Pimp (bling pending)
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HOT PRE-ORDER - COMING IN MAY
Click here for details or to order OUTBACK BLAZE
by Rachael Johns

 
Ruby wasn't looking for love, Drew wasn't looking to stay... until they found each other. Can their fling survive the darkness of Ruby's past and Drew's desire to move on?

Ruby Jones was always an optimist, but the trauma of her past had made her wary. So when she flees to the small rural community of Bunyip Bay to start afresh, she has her sights firmly set on establishing her horse-riding business and rebuilding her life. The last thing Ruby wants is a romance. In fact, after all she has been through, she can't imagine she will ever believe in love again.

Police officer Drew Noble has no intention of staying in Bunyip Bay - he is just an outsider seeking temporary refuge. But as the charm of the town sways him, Drew finds himself increasingly drawn to more...

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BOOK OF THE MONTH - A DANGEROUS DUKE MEETS HIS MATCH
Click here for more details or to orderFOOL ME TWICE
(Rules for the Reckless, Book 2)
by Meredith Duran

 
Put simply, this book made my reading month. Olivia Mather accepts a housekeeper position in the Duke of Marwick's home with the purpose of stealing papers that she can use to blackmail a powerful man who wants her dead. Alastair, Duke of Marwick, is undergoing a deep emotional crisis and only Olivia seems able to rouse him out of his funk. They have a common enemy, but the only way Olivia can guarantee her safety is to expose Alastair's darkest secret.

This is an intense and angsty read - the kind where secrets are revealed in increments and the characters are laid bare layer by layer. I particularly love Alastair's internal conflict when he begins contemplating an affair with a member of his household, and Olivia's ability to stay true to herself even when she knows she's falling headlong into an affair that could ruin her.

Nothing about Alastair and Olivia's romance is easy, and that's exactly why I loved this book.

(P.S. Don't forget to check out author Meredith Duran's answers to our Nine Naughty Questions at the end of this Buzz!)

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It's best to read this book in series order, so make sure you also pick up a copy of That Scandalous Summer , which introduces characters you'll meet in this book.

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GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUNDS
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by Jane Ashford

 
When Clare Greenough comes into an unexpected inheritance, there's only one problem: her spiteful cousin is a trustee, and the only way to escape his control is to get married. But Clare is determined to be independent, so she makes a deal with Jamie, Baron of Trehearth-she will provide him with the funds to save his estate from ruin, and he will agree to let her keep control of her inheritance.

This marriage of convenience develops into a complex relationship augmented by some interesting supporting characters (and a secondary romance), including Clare's companion, Selena, and Jamie's twin sisters.

Jane Ashford tackles alcoholism, the precarious fate of women, and the responsibilities and difficulties of being an aristocrat. Historical romance readers who love independent-minded heroines struggling against social and legal constraints will find this story a welcome change from what is usually found in Regency romance.

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BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND IAN EVERSEA
by Julie Anne Long

THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X
by Eloisa James

WALLFLOWER GONE WILD
by Maya Rodale
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THE MAID OF MILAN
by Beverley Eikli

MOONLIGHT ON MY MIND
by Jennifer McQuiston
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Adelaide Leeson wants to prove herself worthy of her husband, a man of noble aspirations who married her when she was at her lowest ebb.

Lord Tristan Leeson is a model of diplomacy and self-control, even curbing the fiery impulses of his youth to preserve the calm relations deemed essential by his mother-in-law to preserve his wife's health.

A visit from his boyhood friend, feted poet Lord James Dewhurst, author of the sensational Maid of Milan, persuades Tristan that leaving the countryside behind for more...

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To ruin a man's life once takes a regrettable mistake. To do so twice takes a woman like Julianne Baxter.

Eleven months ago, Julianne's statement to the authorities wrongly implicated Patrick, the new Earl of Haversham, in his older brother's death. The chit is as much trouble as her red hair suggests, and just as captivating. Now she has impetuously tracked him to the wilds of Scotland, insisting that he return home to face a murder charge and save his family from ruin. A clandestine wedding may be the only way to save her more...

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Moonlight on My Mind

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SUSPENSE
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by Helene Young

 
When Darcy Fletcher rescues a stranger from a stricken yacht, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery that threatens the peace in Banksia Cove and her relationship with best friend and local police sergeant Noah Moreton. Safe Harbour doesn't always follow the conventions of romantic suspense. Rural policing constrains the scale of the suspense plot-though it's no less dramatic-and the relationships between Darcy, Noah and their mystery man is more love triangle that I usually care for. Romance readers might feel slightly short-changed, but there's certainly enough suspense to keep the momentum to the end.

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RESCUE NIGHTS
(eBook edition)
by Nina Hamilton

CONCEALED IN DEATH
BY J.D. ROBB

DASH OF PERIL
by Lori Foster
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ALWAYS WEAR YOUR GOOD UNDIES TO GAOL
Click here for more details or to order LINGERIE FOR FELONS
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by Ros Baxter

 
Ros Baxter takes almost all the conventions of the romance gene (except for the most important one, never fear) and breaks them to tell the story of Lola, who refuses to compromise her ideals for love. Lola dumps the love of her life for selling out and, over the next fifteen years-through heartbreaks, threats of gaol (while wearing unsuitable underwear) and life-changing events-comes to realise that choosing love can require as much courage as, well, saving the whales.

The story is told all from Lola's perspective, which makes the central romance feel very precarious at times. Its strength is Lola's voice and the non-linear timeline, which provides many opportunities for unexpected revelations that gradually add depth to the story and characters. Humour is a tricky beast, but there's an honesty and vulnerability to Lola that grounds even the most over-the-top moments.

This is a romance that doesn't sugarcoat the milestones to be faced and conquered by women. Lola is my favourite kind of heroine-one who refuses to be diminished.

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Click here for more details or to order TAKEN WITH YOU
by Shannon Stacey

 
Hailey Genest has seen most of her friends marry and have babies, and she's happy for them, but it was a lot easier before she hit forty. She's spent her entire life in Whitford, Maine, and if she hasn't found her Prince Charming by now, she has to accept she's probably not going to. When a new friend suggests they go on an adventure and embrace being single, Hailey agrees.

Surviving in the woods is game warden Matt Barnett's idea of a relaxing vacation. But when he meets two women in need of help, he leads them back to safety-a task that proves more fun than expected, thanks to a certain hot blonde. He can't resist pushing her buttons, even though she's made it clear that more...
 
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CATCH 'N' KISS (eBook edition)
by Rhian Cahill

TIME WILL TELL
by Fiona McCallum

THE HEART OF BALI
(Novella)
by Rebecca Raisin
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CAROLINA MAN
by Virginia Kantra

WAITING ON YOU
by Kristan Higgins
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Marine Luke Fletcher is determined to do his duty first to his country and now to his ten-year-old daughter, the unexpected legacy of a high school girlfriend. But his homecoming to Dare Island in North Carolina's Outer Banks challenges his plans for the future and forces him to face everything that's missing in his life. He wasn't prepared to lose his heart to this child he never knew. Or to fall hard for coolly reserved small town lawyer Kate Dolan.

Former military brat Kate knows Marines can make lousy fathers...and she's got the scars to more...

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Does being nobody's fool mean that you're nobody's love?

Colleen O'Rourke is in love with love... just not when it comes to herself. Most nights, she can be found behind the bar at the Manningsport, New York, tavern she owns with her twin brother, doling out romantic advice to the lovelorn, mixing martinis and staying more or less happily single. See, ten years ago, Lucas Campbell, her first love, broke her heart an experience Colleen doesn't want to have again, thanks. Since then, she's been happy with a fling here and there, some elite-level flirting and more...

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MILLS AND BOON
Click here for more details or to order HOLIDAY WITH A STRANGER
by Christy McKellen


Connor Preston comes home to find a naked stranger in his bed. Josie Marchpane is on forced sabbatical from work when her boss's brother walks in on her, post-shower. Neither wants to leave so they settle for a somewhat antagonistic truce, which eventually leads to an affair that begins to mean a lot more than they bargained for.

The love/hate dynamic in the first part of the book can be exhausting, but readers who love emotionally unavailable alpha heroes will be barracking for Connor. His grand gesture at the end is both sweet and satisfying.




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PRETENDER TO THE THRONE
by Maisey Yates

WAKING UP PREGNANT
by Mira Lyn Kelly
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A duty to the past... 

After fifteen years in self-imposed exile, the haunted rebel prince Xander Drakos must walk back through the palace gates and assume the role he once abandoned.

Only one woman can restore his good name-the woman he left behind. But when Xander finds Layna Xenakos, he's horrified to see the effects of the turmoil he left behind written in the scars across her body.

But her scars have given her more...

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Pretender To The Throne

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Waitress Darcy Penn is the smart, sensible type - flirting with the extremely cute guy in the bar just isn't her usual style. As for ending up in his hotel room? Definitely not! Sneaking out to avoid the post-sex awkwardness? Much more like it. But if Darcy had stuck around, Jeff Norton could have told her about their 'epic latex fail'...

So he shouldn't be quite so shocked when months later, Darcy turns up with a bad case of morning sickness. And she's here to find out what he's going to do about it!

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Waking Up Pregnant

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AWAKENED BY HIS TOUCH/ FINDING FAMILY...AND FOREVER?
by Nikki Logan, Teresa Southwick

SUDDENLY EXPECTING
by Paula Roe
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Awakened by His Touch

Laney Morgan may be blind, but she's no pushover. When Elliot Garvey walks into her life, wanting to globalise her family business, she plans to make him work for it. But the chemistry between them is undeniable; yet their relationship's supposed to be strictly business...

Finding Family...and Forever?

Kidnapped as an infant, Emma Robbins has come to Blackwater Lake to more...

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Awakened by His Touch/Finding Family...and Forever?
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The tabloids love Sophie Jackson. But hunky sports star turned TV presenter Marco Correlli has always had her back. Now, after a night of indiscretion, Marco has just become a key player in the Sophie saga, because he's about to become the proud papa of her child.

Sophie can't fathom why she slipped up and slept with Marco. She'd always managed to resist his admittedly irresistible charms. But when Marco takes her to his private island to regroup, it's time to face the truth - this is way bigger than best friends!

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Suddenly Expecting

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ALL AB-OUT THE COVER
You know the saying 'Don't judge a book by its cover'? It really doesn't apply to these books. Judge away, my fellow readers!
REAPER'S VOW
by Sarah McCarty

HOPE IGNITES
by Jaci Burton
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A breed of werewolf soldiers engineered to kill on command, The Shadow Reapers went rogue at the end of the Civil War. Now, exacting justice by their own code, they long to feel human as they contain the beast within . . .

Ever since his cousin Adelaide disappeared, Cole Cameron has been searching for her - and for Isaiah Jones, whom he blames for her kidnapping, after a hellacious fight in town involving - if the stories of drunken saloon goers were to be believed - men who changed more...

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Logan McCormack likes his isolated life on the ranch, until a movie crew starts filming there. When actress Desiree Jenkins blows into his life, she wrecks it harder than the Oklahoma winds with her brutal honesty and soft touch. Des knows this is a temporary stay, but she loves the open freedom of the land, and for the first time in her life, Des feels like she might have found a place she can call home, with a man she might be falling in love with. But Logan's heart is tougher than the soil beneath them - can she convince him that they belong together?

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TWISTED
by Emma Chase

WILLING SACRIFICE
by Shannon K. Butcher

SMOKIN' HOT
by Lynn LaFleur
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PARANORMAL
Click here for more details or to order THE KING
(Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 12)
J.R. Ward

 
Guys, getting an advance copy of this book was beyond my reviewer superpowers, and no wonder-this is the most anticipated book of the year for BDB fans. The King continues the story of Wrath, the hero of the series' first book, and his shellan Beth. Beth wants a child, but doing so risks death and threatens the life she has built with her mate.

Every BDB fan I know is dying to get their hands on The King, so save yourself the anxiety and pre-order now!
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At the very least, you need to have read the first book of the series, Dark Lover, which is the story of how Wrath and Beth first met and fell in love. After that, you'll be hooked on the book crack that is the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, so you might want to grab the set now and save yourself some time...

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Click here for details or to order BITE ME
by Shelley Laurenston


Livy Kowalski has no time for idiots. When you shapeshift into a honey badger, getting through life's irritants is a finely honed skill. Until she gets stuck housing her nutso cousin and dealing with her dad's untimely and unexplained demise. That's where Vic Barinov comes in - or his house does. Vic can't step outside without coming back to find Livy devouring his honey stash and getting the TV remote sticky. It gets his animal instincts all riled up. But he'll have to woo her at high speed: all hell is breaking loose, and Livy is leading the charge...

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Click here for more details or to order NIGHT BROKEN
(Mercy Thompson, Book 8)
by Patricia Briggs

 
Urban fantasy isn't my go-to genre, but throw in a solid romance with an alpha hero who knows how to take care of a strong heroine without forcing her into submission, and that's going into my autobuy list.

In Night Broken, Mercy faces a rival for Adam's affections-his ex-wife Christy. Oh, authors and their love triangles! Why must they torture us so? Christy is on the run from her boyfriend, who might just be powerful enough to tear Mercy's world apart.

Be warned: trusted sources tell me that the ending will have us counting down to the next book. But then, I've come to expect that from this series!

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HEALER OF CARTHAGE
by Lynne Gentry

WEREWOLF IN LAS VEGAS
by Vicki Lewis Thompson

SHADOW SPELL
by Nora Roberts
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TURN UP THE HEAT
It's been a scorching summer this year, and it will only get hotter with these new erotic romance titles!
Click here for more details or to order AFTERBURN & AFTERSHOCK
by Sylvia Day

 
Never mix business with pleasure. Never bring politics into the bedroom. In a way I did both when I took Jackson Rutledge as a lover. I can't say I wasn't warned. Two years later, he was back. Walking into a deal I'd worked hard to close. Under the tutelage of Lei Yeung, one of the sharpest businesswomen in New York, I had picked up a thing or two since Jax walked away. I wasn't the girl he once knew, but he hadn't changed. Unlike the last time we'd drifted into each other's lives, I knew exactly what I was dealing with...and how addictive his touch could be. The inner circle of glamour, sex, and privilege was Jax's playground--but this time, I knew the rules of the game. In the cutthroat business world, one adage rules all: keep your enemies close and your ex-lovers closer.

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MASKED INNOCENCE by Alessandra Torre
THEIRS TO CHERISH by Shayla Black
UNWOUND
by Lorelei James
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DOUBLE BLIND
(eBook edition)
by Heidi Cullinan

LOVE BETWEEN MEN
by Shane Allison

TOO BUSY FOR LOVE
(Novella)
by Tamsin Baker
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Nine Naughty Questions with MEREDITH DURAN
When  Meredith Duran was recommended to me by a fellow reader on Twitter, I picked up Written on Your Skin and it was a keeper. I don't think I've read a Meredith Duran book I didn't like, so I'm in the process of collecting her backlist, but I'm doing it slowly so I can savour all the stories. Her latest book, Fool Me Twice, is our romance book of the month (see my review at the top of the Buzz) and had me captivated and at the edge of my seat from beginning to end.

You can find out more about Meredith and her books by visiting her website at www.meredithduran.com , liking her on Facebook, or following her on Twitter at @MeredithDuran. And now, over to Meredith...

Photo credit: Jason Birnholz

1. Headless washboard abs, a torrid embrace, the sprawling homestead, an elegantly dressed décolletage, or the vaguely kinky object against a dark background - what's your favourite type of romance cover and why?

I not only write historicals, I'm a massive fan of them. No surprise, then, that I adore covers that put the focus on a truly splendiferous ball gown: something lavishly silken, embroidered and pearl-studded, dripping with lace. All the better if said gown is worn by a woman who's making bold eye contact with the reader!

2. What is the secret life of a romance writer? What goes on between you and your keyboard (or quill) behind closed doors?

Curses, brawls, feuds... Ha! I've got a little room where I go to write. The desk is cluttered with odd totems, like the Care Bear figurine I toted to the library every day back when I was five years old. (That was the year I announced I would be a writer one day.) The walls are covered in Hindi film posters and prints from Victorian-era fashion magazines. It's a wonderful working space... but I only use it half the day.

You see, when it comes to my computer, I'm a serial cheater. I bounce from my Mac to my Alphasmart (a lightweight device originally intended for elementary school students learning to type - no internet connection!) to an old-fashioned notebook several times a day. And I play hooky on all of them with a stack of ever-changing novels - I never read so much fiction as when I'm in the thick of writing a book. Reading recharges me like nothing else.

3. At the heart of a romantic story is the way in which Click here for more details or to order the main characters reveal their true natures to each other. How much of yourself do you put into your characters, and have their stories been affected by your personal experiences?

My characters lead far more eventful and emotionally dramatic lives than I do. Thank goodness for that! I'm quite glad I've never had to dodge an assassin...much less cope with falling in love with one!

That said, writing the first draft of a novel always feels a bit like method acting. I grow so absorbed by the characters that my moods tend to follow theirs. So, if I'm inside my heroine's head and she's furious, I tend to be scowling as I type. If she's anxious, I have butterflies. I'm told my books veer toward the darker and angstier side of the spectrum. Fair enough - 'first draft angst' is a real and diagnosable condition in my household!

4. I'm interested in how you differentiate between romance fiction, erotica and porn. Are romance readers getting naughtier?

I certainly think that love scenes in romance novels have become more explicit since I started reading them in the early 1990s. That said, let's not forget that Susan Johnson was an early trendsetter in this regard. All my high school friends were simultaneously scandalized and delighted by the language in her books-no euphemisms for Susan! (Also, shout out to all the amazing footnotes she included to substantiate her historical research. I'm a mad fan of writers who know their stuff!)

As far as discriminating between the three genres, I can only generalize with regard to how they're classified by the publishing industry. Porn generally comprises stories written for the express purpose of titillating the reader. In erotica, sex is usually the chief narrative strategy whereby two (or more!) people come together and the plot advances. And romances are tales about how a couple meet, discover an attraction, encounter difficulties that complicate their developing romance, and ultimately overcome these obstacles in order to be together.

Click here for more details or to order5. Please tell us about your latest novel! Did you have a secret alternative title while you were writing it?

Fool Me Twice was my original title-I was delighted when the marketing department at Pocket approved it! Set in London in 1885, the book follows two characters introduced in my last release (That Scandalous Summer ): Olivia, a redheaded bluestocking who's not what she appears; and Alastair, a dark, tortured duke whose sanity is hanging by a thread. As our enterprising heroine, Olivia is determined to win her freedom from a villain who's been hounding her for years. She has cause to believe that the weapon she needs is in the personal files of the reclusive Duke of Marwick, so she infiltrates his household in the guise of a maid. What Olivia doesn't count on is Marwick himself-a man bent on revenge, who has surrendered any pretension of honor. In his eyes, an interfering, busybody servant is fair game-not only for revenge, but also for seduction. Indeed, why not both...?

6. What's the most memorable reaction you've received after a friend or family member read one of your books?

The funniest reaction would be my dad's - he handed me back the printed manuscript of my debut novel with a gruff, "Great book." But the manuscript felt a little light to me. I flipped through it and realized there were entire passages missing! I found out later that my mother had stripped out all the pages with sex scenes before passing the book onward to my dad. Ha! I still give him a hard time about that!

Click here for more details or to order7. Romance writers are sometimes denigrated and asked when they'll write 'real' books - what do you tell the haters?

On the very rare occasion when someone makes such a remark to me, I generally laugh and invite them to try to write a romance novel of their own. It only takes a few minutes at a keyboard to realize that any writing is real writing-and none of it comes easily!

8. Romance readers love discovering new authors. Please tell us about five books you recently read and loved to bits.


Absolutely! From the historical romance section of the bookstore, I read and adored The Luckiest Lady in London, by Sherry Thomas, and The MacGregor's Lady, by Grace Burrowes. In non-fiction, I read a haunting book about California's infamous Donner Party of 1847, called The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride, by Daniel James Brown. (I really haven't felt so spooked by a book since I read Krakauer's Into the Wild .) And In YA, I'm reading and loving Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell, and Vortex, the second book in S.J. Kincaid's SF trilogy. Full disclosure: S.J. happens to be my sister!

Click here for more details or to order9. Please tell us your favourite scene from your latest book, and why it's particularly delicious!

You know, I've been asked this question about every book I've written, and I have never, ever answered by naming a sex scene. But this book is different. I'm going to have to say that my favourite scene is the very first love scene, which happens in the library - if you can call it a 'love' scene, at that point. I've never before written a hero who would do and say such things. The scene surprised me, even as I was writing it. It definitely stands out.
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