Opinion and Poll: Secondary Character Romances


I intensely dislike secondary character romances stealing page time from the main couple. In my opinion, secondary characters and their romances should only take center stage in their own romances.

Do you feel the same way or am I alone in this? Most of the reviews I read on books have readers raving about the other couple. Do you ever see the opposite? I can’t say that I see it often.

I understand why they’re part of the genre. Authors create new romances from these characters and sell more and future books. These books become parts of trilogies and series. And, I probably will like one or more of the books in the collection, but still it grates on me.

So why do I hate these upstarts?

  1. The upstaging usually happens only in book one, creating almost equal page time for both pairings. I picked up the book to read about the couple on the blurb, so give me that. Thank you very much.
  2. One of the secondary characters is most likely an annoying sibling. I don’t see the appeal.
  3. If the secondary couple is better on the page than the main, then I have to ask why was the main couple written?

My one exception this aversion seems to be romances set up more like Georgette Heyer’s and Jane Austen’s works. I think because I expect it then.

Over to you – what do you think?

How do you feel about secondary couples getting one-on-one page time in your current book?

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Quiz: Which Type of Historical Romance Heroine Are You?


Authors Grace Burrowes, Katie MacAlister, and Shana Galen would love to invite you to take their historical romance quiz. Below is the quiz written by the authors which asks readers if they are royalty, an operative, or a member of a retinue.

#1 What word best describes you?

a) effervescent
b) nonconfrontational (mostly)
c) stealthy

#2 My favorite hobby is …

a) comparative study of the male form
b) looking after my darling baron
c) target practice

#3 What is the perfect late night snack?

a) bread, cheese, meats, lemon tarts … whatever can be liberated from the kitchen
b) the baron’s kisses
c) ratafia, shaken not stirred

#4 My ideal man must have …

a) a sublime derriere
b) an aptitude for growing hardy, contrary flowers
c) brains

#5 What accessory do you never leave home without?

a) my corset (large bosoms are such a trial)
b) my composure
c) my pistol


TheTruthAboutLeoIf you choose mostly As … then you are as sparkling and resourceful as Her Serene Royal Highness Dagmar from The Truth about Leo by Katie MacAlister. Dagmar may have been raised in a strictly formal manner, but she’s never let that stop her from pursuing anything that catches her interest. She’s a bit quirky, marches to her own drummer, and has a fine, fine appreciation of the manly form.

TheTraitorIf you choose mostly Bs … then you are clearly the stuff a baroness is made of, much like Millicent, from The Traitor. Milly is sweet, fierce, determined, and brave but slow to trust. Sebastian, Baron St. Clair, is ALSO sweet, fierce, determined and brave, and relentless when it comes to protecting those he cares for. Alas for both Sebastian and Milly, an enemy stalks them who is not sweet. By the time Milly is done with Sebastian’s enemies, they are not very brave either. So if you chose mostly B’s, the bad guys better steer mighty clear of you!

LoveAndLetSpyIf you choose mostly Cs … then you are equipped to be a master spy like Jane Bonde from Love and Let Spy by Shana Galen. Jane is smart, cunning, and loyal, but she has her weaknesses too. Her latest weakness goes by the name Dominic Griffyn. Planning a wedding and defeating a villain intent upon the destruction of England is tricky, but if you’re the sort who multitasks easily, then you too have Jane’s unique skills and panache.

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Forget Babies, Here’s Where Love Scenes Come From

dani collinsGuest blog by Dani Collins, author of The Dani Collins Erotic Romance Collection: Mastering Her Role\Playing the Master

One of the most clichéd question we romance writers get is something along the lines of, “How do you research the sex scenes?” It’s one of those things where the people saying it don’t mean anything, they see a clever witticism, but from our end it’s kind of like a stranger walking into my bedroom uninvited. I don’t care if I’m only watering the plants, it’s still an invasion. We writers smile and pretend it’s fine, but we’re always privately thinking, Dude. Not cool.

I’ve had quite an increase in those sly remarks since I came out about the erotic romances I have releasing this August, so I thought I’d talk about how these super-sexy books actually came into being. Hashtag-spoiler-alert: Not based on my own life.

About fifteen years ago, which was a good ten years into my twenty-five year journey to making my first sale, I was super frustrated with all the rejections I was receiving from romance and decided to try my hand at erotica. It was gaining popularity at the time. Ellora’s Cave was the hot publisher of the day, and I was definitely not alone in thinking an erotic ebook might be the wedge that opened the door for other publishing endeavors. In fact, when I mentioned to a writer friend that I was going to write an erotica, she said, “Et tu Brute?” because so many people were doing it.

I was a little hurt, to be honest. It made me feel like she thought I was being a sell-out. Or maybe that trying to do an end run was cheating. I wrote the book anyway. I had what I thought was a fun premise—an alpha Presents-type hero, Jason, who has an alter-ego who’s even more dominant (Dominic). The virgin-like (history of repression) heroine, Arianne, asks to meet this other persona so he can ‘teach’ her to be sexy.

The lessons in intimacy escalated naturally, which made the book fairly straightforward to write. The final manuscript had some problems. My agent at the time suggested I develop the hero more, especially in his Clark Kent guise. I didn’t know how. I actually went to contract on the story, flawed as it was, but wound up with a case of cold-feet, partly induced by that sense of judgment from my friend. I shelved it and moved on to other genres.

Do I regret that decision? Not really. I wasn’t ready in a couple of ways. I wasn’t prepared to start my publishing career as an erotic writer—not because I’m a snob or anything, but my writer friend was right about one thing. I was betraying myself. My heart belonged to straight romance. But I knew I wasn’t ready as a writer. I genuinely didn’t feel I had the skills to do the story justice.

Fast forward fifteen years and a handful of Harlequin Presents under my belt. Given the popularity of Fifty Shades, I figured it was now or never for that erotica sitting on my hard drive. I asked my editor if she’d like to see it and then I had to take a fresh look at the hero’s journey in that book before I sent it to her.

With the experience I’d gained over the years, I was able to see how to expand on the romance and develop the hero and I wasn’t the only one who loved the final product. The team at HarlequinE did too. In fact, they loved it so much, they asked for another one.

One piece of advice I often heard over the years of submitting and getting rejected was to always have a follow up book in mind. “No one wants a one-book wonder,” published authors would say. “They’ll want to know what you’re planning next.”

Well, I always thought it would be fun to have a companion novel to the above, but with the heroine having a secret identity. For any would-be writers in the group, let me state right here that the difference between a premise and an idea is the premise has a story thread you can already follow, eg. How will the heroine learn to be sexy? Questions spring to mind about how this story will play out.

An idea inspires questions like: Who is the main character? Where is it set? What is the premise? After much cogitating, I came up with: Ann is being forced to marry Porter. She isn’t sure she wants to, especially when she’s made-over into the submissive, Violet, and sees the world he inhabits (a BDSM club in Paris.)

Coming up with that was a challenge, but even harder was writing erotic romance again. I hadn’t written one in years. Yes, I had revised one, but the skeleton of the story was there. Those of you thinking erotic romance is just a romance with blunt language and graphic sex are dead wrong. You’re juggling a whole different element. I’m sorry to kill the mystique, but writing erotic romance is work, same as any other book.

Which means I probably should have entitled this post Why I Probably Won’t Write Another Erotic Romance. But I won’t say that because if the right premise comes along, I will write one. (In fact, I wound up writing a novella length one for The Chatsfield Series which is also out in August. My editor gave me the premise. If you enjoy bondage stories, you’ll want to look up The Secret In Room 823.)

Which required a ton of research. Honestly, I think the real reason I get my back up when I’m asked about researching love scenes is the implication that I can’t just use the internet like I do with everything else. No one asks, “Does your husband help you murder people so you get that right?”

Am I being over-sensitive? How would you answer that question? What’s your pet peeve about your job?

I’d love to draw from the commenters for one e-copy of The Dani Collins Erotic Romance Collection.


Two lessons of disguise, erotic pleasure, and liberation from renowned author Dani Collins.

Playing The Master

In a week, timid Ann Parker will belong to the coldly handsome Porter Navarro—a marriage arranged by her vicious stepfather. But when she’s secretly made over and presented to Porter as “Violet,” she is initiated into his world of dark, exquisite delights. One where he is master. But it’s only as Violet that Ann tastes true freedom. And her liberation will cost not only her sensual teacher, but the man she’s grown to love…

Mastering Her Role

Arianne has it bad for her friend and neighbour, Jason. Unfortunately, rumour has it that Jason has a kinky side, and Arianne’s inner freak is still hiding in the closet. So Arianne asks Jason to introduce her to his friend Dominic—a sexually dominant instructor in the ways of pleasure. And so Arianne begins her lessons of sexuality, lust, and being thoroughly and deliciously ravished. But behind his mask, Dominic seems awfully familiar…

Buy: The Dani Collins Erotic Romance Collection: Mastering Her Role\Playing the Master

EXCERPT – Playing The Master:

On the telephone he had sounded like Jason with a British accent. More or less.

The relationship between the two men was something of a mystery. She’d pressed Celine after the woman said with haughty amusement, I thought he would have introduced you to Dominic by now. But she’d only received a smirk in response.

Arianne wondered how much he’d be like Jason as she stood outside the hotel-room door. Until Jason had yanked her into his arms and spoken so explicitly, she’d only suspected what kind of man lurked beneath his quiet exterior. The idea of giving herself over to someone like that made her breath stutter, urging her to back out of this crazy stunt and retreat down the hall.

It didn’t matter how desperately she wanted Jason. He was a man who enjoyed highly sophisticated sex play. She’d never reach his level. This was—

The door opened.

The man who filled the open frame wore black from silk shirt to snug leather pants tucked into tall, well-worn boots that reminded her of Jason’s. She couldn’t be sure of his identity by looking at his hands or face. He wore leather gloves and a silky kerchief thing, cut with eyeholes. It hid the upper half of his face and hair, like a pirate.

Below the mask was a blond goatee. Jason’s hair was dark as a raven’s wing. This man was about as tall as Jason, but Jason had green eyes, while the ones staring at her were brown.

Stop comparing him to Jason, she scolded herself. He looked like the kind of man who wouldn’t put up with that sort of divided attention.

“Too timid to knock? Come in,” he said in that subtle accent, so crisp with authority. He braced the door with a straight elbow, remaining in the space so she would have to duck beneath his arm and brush his body to get by.

Her purse felt slippery in her grip, and she was pretty sure she was going to faint.

When she hesitated, he said, “Would it help to know I don’t intend to touch you? You wanted to meet me, so we’ll talk.”

She managed to swallow and nod then pressed through the tiny opening, feeling the brush of soft silk against her bare shoulder. She hadn’t known what to wear and had settled on this lacy sundress. It was too virginal, she realized. It screamed of inexperience. Timid. Newbie.

But she was here now, looking around the elegant suite. This was a chic boutique hotel, and he’d booked them into one of the best rooms, a suite on an upper floor. It had a lounge area, a small bar and a door to the left that would be the bathroom. The bed sat on a platform three stairs up, next to the hollow of a three-sided window alcove. Across the foot of the ornate king-size bed draped a fringed, peacock-blue sheet. A footstool, also ornately carved and upholstered in red velvet, stood beside the bed next to a discreet black suitcase.

Wondering what the case might contain made her abdomen tense. She jerked her gaze to the drawn sheers over the window that allowed some of the afternoon sun to penetrate, bringing a glow to the polished wood detailing above the empty fireplace. The room was comfortably warm. The air-conditioning, off. No hum. No music, either, just silence as he waited behind her.

She knew she ought to turn to face him, but it was easier to continue studying the room. In one corner stood a screen, black, with an inlay of tile chips. Perhaps it belonged to him, since mosaic nudes in Kama Sutra poses decorated it. Something red hung over the top of it. The rest of the furniture appeared to be hotel issue. Lovely, but not provocative—not like that screen or the suitcase.

“I said I wouldn’t touch you but I have a custom, Arianne. People who play sexual games need signals between them to express readiness to begin and closure at the end. It builds trust. You will kiss me now and again when you leave.”

Was he kidding?

She pivoted slowly, trying to find something reassuring in the cut of his jawline, but he was pure wickedness, lounging so negligently beside the door. She didn’t think she could do it and wound up shaking her head at him.

“I was under the impression you wanted to reset the boundaries you’ve placed on your sexuality. Have you changed your mind?”

Buy: The Dani Collins Erotic Romance Collection: Mastering Her Role\Playing the Master


After a brilliant debut in the UK with No Longer Forbidden, a Mills & Boon Modern Book Of The Month January 2013, Dani’s first Harlequin Presents, Proof Of Their Sin, won the Reviewer’s Choice by Romantic Times Book Reviews for Best First In Series. While her focus is Harlequin Presents, Dani also writes romantic comedy, medieval fantasy, and coming August of 2014, erotic romance. Whatever the genre, she always delivers sexy alpha heroes, witty, spirited heroines, complex emotions and loads of passion.

Enter Dani Collins’ Masked Desires Contest for a chance to express your secret desires from behind a masquerade mask.

Stay current with Dani’s new releases by joining her newsletter or visiting her here:

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Life Lessons as Learned from Romance: Finding Your Partner

jadedGuest post by Ember Leigh, author of Jaded

My name is Ember Leigh, and I’m the author of Jaded from Breathless Press. I write contemporary erotic romance that usually features a lot of emotional conflict as one or both characters struggle to come to terms with being in a relationship.

That sounds like a lot of stories, right? It’s true, romance novels tend to address specific emotional issues (not to mention the sexual aspect) and they typically end HEA or HFN. It’s part of what we love about it – we can count on the arc! But throughout the years, I’ve noticed that romance novels have something very specific to say about that eventual romantic partner.

No, I don’t mean that romances are telling us that this eventual partner is impossibly sculpted and divinely sunkissed and lights a fire worthy of three fire departments in the nether regions. We’d all like that though, right?

Really, I think romance novels are secretly giving us clues about how to find our one and only.

Plenty of readers come to romance novels as an outlet within very happy marriages, but plenty of other readers are single and looking. Perhaps romance novels can help us learn how to, in effect, bring this heavenly-bodied, dangerous-fire-lighting creature to our front doors.

If you can’t read the romance genre like a secret treasure map, don’t worry. I’ve cracked the code and I’ll share with you all of my totally-proven-this-is-backed-by-science-I-swear theories.

What Romance Novels Suggest We Do In Order to Lure ‘The Mate’:

  1. Break up with your shitty ex-boyfriend. This is a great rule for life in general – clearing out the old to make way for the new. And hopefully the new is impossibly toned, amazing in the kitchen and loves whispering in your ear about poetry — or whatever it is that gets your motor running.
  2. Make a vow to never date men again. This might not be the most psychologically healthy response to life situations, but it’s certainly something that happens. Maybe it lasts for a week – maybe for 15 minutes. Regardless, after a certain degree of heartbreak or heart strain, it feels almost smart to plant that foot and say “Men, never again.” Isabella does this in my novel Jaded – and months later, Luke shows up at her door. (Science!)
  3. Do what you love. Get totally lost in your passion and livelihood. As the saying goes, “If you are looking for the love of your life, stop. They will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.” And lots of romance heroine’s find love exactly when they least expect it – because they’re just doing what they do –loving, living, and totally rocking.
  4.  Get trapped someplace. In a snow storm, on a remote island, in an airport, even in an abandoned well. Getting trapped is usually a sure first sign that the love of your life is right around the corner. He might save you, he might ignore you, he might resent you for being the cause of being trapped in the first place – but by god, love and sparks aren’t far away.
  5. Start an epic journey. This might be to a different galaxy, historical time travel, a different continent or simply a road trip. No matter the time or place, epic journeys are a great way to stimulate true love and ensure that a delightful partner crosses paths with you. They’re also a great way to introduce really inventive ways for having sex – in zero gravity, horse-and-carriage trips through 1800’s Ireland, or on top of an RV lost in the Badlands.

In your life or favorite novels, what helped attract that delightful hero and those dangerous flames of desire?

Website: www.emberleighromance.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/emberleighauthor

Book Blurb:

When a construction crew shows up at Isabella’s house for a remodel, she never imagined it would include her love life, too.

After one too many broken hearts, Isabella has sworn off love…and men altogether. When hunky Luke shows up to remodel her house and starts coming on to her hard, she’s sure he’s just a player using the wrong head. With Luke, however, Isabella quickly learns there’s more than meets the eye. Will she let her guard down and let him in, or will she be forever Jaded?

Buy: Jaded

Top 10 Love Lessons from Kick-Ass Heroines

AC_TheInnocentAssassins1600x2400Guest blog by Pema Donyo, author of The Innocent Assassins

My upcoming release, THE INNOCENT ASSASSINS, features a former assassin serving undercover as a spy for the CIA. Along the way, she struggles with her feelings for the assassin organization’s next-in-command. To be honest, kick-ass heroines provide even better love lessons than traditional romance heroines. Starlets of romantic suspense and thrillers are strong enough to defeat some serious bad guys and smart enough to navigate their way through love.

  1. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games): Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. Clever Katniss is careful about who she trusts in a dangerous dystopia. While we may not all live in District 12, we can all use her advice to proceed cautiously into any romance.
  2. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter): Think rationally, not rashly. Hermione doesn’t follow Ron when he decides to leave. While she harbors a major crush on him, she doesn’t let it stop her from helping Harry save the entire wizarding world.
  3. Sydney Bristow (Alias): Bad timing doesn’t mean a bad relationship. The relationship between Sydney and her on-again, off-again love interest Michael Vaughn includes her dramatic fake death, his confusing fake death, and tons of cringe-worthy hairstyle changes. Once the timing is right, they are able to make things work.
  4. Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): First impressions aren’t everything. Or in Buffy and Spike’s case, brutal hatred and a centuries-old mythical struggle. Feelings change over time even if you’re a slayer and he’s a vampire.
  5. Nyota Uhura (Star Trek): Cultural barriers are surmountable. She and Spock come from different planets (actually, though). While there probably aren’t many favorite TV shows they share in common, Uhura doesn’t let a little culture clash keep her from love.
  6. Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones): Don’t let heartbreak hold you back. Partly because she’s awesome as an independent leader and partly because GOT seems intent to destroy every happy couple on the show, her husband dies after she falls in love with him. Nevertheless, does our girl Daenerys continue emerging as a political force to be reckoned with? Definitely.
  7. Princess Merida (Brave): You can save yourself without a man. Merida doesn’t end the movie by choosing a husband; she chooses a life for herself on her own terms. She saves her mother and her brothers by depending on herself, not a love interest. (Also magic, let’s be real.)
  8. Cristina Yang (Grey’s Anatomy): Never let past disappointment keep you from future happiness. After Burke’s last-minute abandonment at the altar, she didn’t let his mood swings stop her from trying marriage a second time with Owen. She “dances it out” and moves on with her life.
  9. Olivia Pope (Scandal): Get your head in the game. The political game, that is. Olivia loves Fitz, but she understands that sometimes love isn’t enough. Between managing her super successful firm and sorting through real sketchy family issues, Liv has enough on her plate. While romance is important, this shouldn’t come at the expense of one’s own well-being and success.
  10. Claire Underwood (House of Cards): Find someone who complements you. Claire and Frank are both equally ambitious and hard-working. They help each other succeed rather than bring each other down. Lawsuits, murders, social climbing – you name it, they’ve supported each other through it.

What lessons from these heroines do you think are missing? What other kick-ass heroines come to mind for you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.


There are three rules to staying an assassin at the corporation of Covert Operatives: (1) your parents must be deceased, (2) your contracts must remain confidential, and (3) you must be under the age of eighteen.

After a murder mission goes awry a month before her eighteenth birthday, Covert Operatives assassin Jane Lu finds herself caught by the federal government and forced to spy for the CIA while remaining in Covert Operatives. Once her spying mission is over, she will be allowed to live a civilian life without facing criminal consequences—a life she’s only dreamed of having.

As Jane leaks information to the CIA, she uncovers secrets with enough power to both destroy Covert Operatives and her own boyfriend, Adrian King, who’s next in line to be CEO of the company. When her identity as a double agent for the CIA is discovered within Covert Operatives, she must decide where her allegiance, and her heart, truly lies.

944577_443747015661779_555683919_n-2 (3)AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY:

Pema Donyo is a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. She currently lives in sunny Southern California, where any temperature less than 70 degrees is freezing and flip-flops never go out of season. As a rising sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she’s still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher deadlines, and… college. Her debut novel, The Innocent Assassins, is signed for publication with Astraea Press in June 2014. Catch up with her latest release information or writerly musings on her blog.

Author website: pemadonyo.wordpress.com