Writing Sensuality into a Story

no ordinary homeGuest blog by Mary Sullivan, author of No Ordinary Home

I’m so happy to be here! Thank you loveromancepassion for having me.

I want to talk today about raising the sensual stakes in a novel without littering the book with endless love scenes. To my mind, it’s important to have the characters yearn for each other long before the consummation of their attraction. It makes that first sex scene so much more satisfying to read. The concept of delayed gratification is a sound one on so many levels. LOL

In my October Harlequin Superromance, No Ordinary Home, it was hard to envision what that attraction would look like and how it would grow because the characters were so very different from each other.

While the hero, Austin Trumball, might have had a rough start in life, he was saved with the help of a good-hearted sheriff and left behind those bad habits that surely someday would have led him to a jail cell. He’s grown up to be a deputy sheriff in my fictional town of Ordinary, Montana. The heroine, Gracie Travers, is a drifter. She’s been living the homeless life for six years. She has her reasons and feels no need to share them with law enforcement.

So, how was I to make their attraction to each other believable? How could a deputy sheriff ever find a homeless woman attractive? I started with character. Austin grew up to be salt-of-the-earth dependable, a trustworthy man on whom anyone can rely. Gracie has known so little of that in her life. Fiercely independent, she is nevertheless tempted by his dependability and stability.

Gracie might appear to be rough around the edges, but she has an innate kindness that life hasn’t managed to beat out of her. During her travels, she stops at nursing and old folks homes to give free manicures and pedicures to the aging residents. Then she sings old classic songs that they all love. Austin likes that about her. As a child, he was asked to grow up too quickly by an extremely dependent mother. He admires Gracie’s staunch independence even as he wants to help her.

As far as their physical attraction went, I built it in slowly, in small ways.

Austin has given her a few meals and her pride compels her to pay him back somehow. She has no money, so offers to cut his hair.

She approached uneasily, regretting now that she’d offered to do this. In her need to pay him back, she hadn’t realized this could be dangerous to her.

Touch. Six years of deprivation. She’d been starving. She craved touch. Had known too little of it, even before she’d run away.

She settled the towel across his back and broad, muscled shoulders. The warmth of his body seeped into her through the slightest touch.

Good-looking, fit, kind, generous, decent. The man was perfect in every way, or would have been in another time, under different circumstances.

Guard your heart, Gracie.

Then, in another scene, Austin drops her off in a small town where she is going to pick up money owed to her. It will (they think) be the last time they will see each other.

 “I guess this is goodbye,” he said and grasped her hand in his much larger one, engulfing her fingers with his calm, sure strength.

Why did she feel like crying, as if maybe she was walking away from the best man she would ever know? Certainly, he’d treated her well, but so had others. Some others. Not all. Not many.

Holy mac and cheese, how could a handshake be so devastating?

He tugged, gently, and she yearned forward. He leaned close, closer, his breath a caress on her cheek. Then his lips were on hers, warm and tender and firm.

In his kiss was the heat of summer, the shimmer of sheet lightning, the earthiness of morning dew.

His palm cradled her cheek, his thumb and forefinger angled her chin where he wanted her. His tongue played hide-and-seek with hers, so sweetly.

A dangerous kiss, it whispered intimate promises to her naïve daydreaming heart, promises that would hurt when they weren’t fulfilled.

She slid her lips and hand from Austin’s, slowly, memorizing the feel of him, to take out one month, one year, one decade from now when she was living alone and hiding from the world, and feeling the lack of love in her life. She almost certainly would live alone. In the future, how could she possibly ever find another man as good as Austin? She would need a memory to sustain her. Like this. Of him.

In the end, there was only one thing to do. Walk away.

She gets out of the car and walks away, but we see a little of what Austin feels about that kiss…

 “Goodbye, my left nut,” Austin muttered. After that kiss? That bit of perfection that should have been a beginning instead of an ending?

The beginning of what?

He didn’t have a clue, but he couldn’t leave her to walk away, not until he knew for sure she was safe. Then he would consider it.

Then, and only then, he would really say goodbye. Maybe. After he explored more of whatever it was that had built between them.

Later still, long before their first sex scene, Gracie ends up in terrible danger and Austin saves her. She has been able to save herself while on the road for six years, but the man attacking her is drunk, high and too strong for her. For once in her life, she is glad that someone else is there to help her. Gracie had let her pride get the better of her common sense. Austin is furious that she put herself into such a dangerous situation by sleeping in a back alley when she could have been safe in a hotel room with him, no strings attached. He loses his precious control around her. He takes her back to the hotel and she is glad to go.

 “What are you doing?” she whispered.

“I’m going to kiss you.”

“Why?”

“Because I have to do something or I’ll yell this place down. You frustrate me, woman.”

“Woman? You sound like a caveman. I have a name.”

“Quiet. You talk too much.”

Before she could protest, his lips were on hers, seeking and demanding.

Gracie felt his kiss to her toes, felt it everywhere, as though bubbles were dancing in her stomach and diminutive fairies were jumping for joy in her brain.

More, they shouted. Give us more. They danced jigs. They threw fairy dust into her bloodstream.

When he pulled back, she said, “I don’t talk too much.”

“You do.” He kissed her again. Just what she wanted.

The fairies whooped and danced some more. The fairy dust in her blood floated and twirled. The fairies sang love songs. “A kiss is just a kiss,” she told herself.

But no.

Not this one. This was THE kiss, the one that would go down in every history written from this point on, in the annals of romance, as the best kiss ever.

Austin drew away and Gracie sighed. He knew his way around a woman’s lips. “You’ve been practicing.

He picked up his shaving kit and dropped it into this bag then walked toward the door.

What—? Where—?

“What are you doing?”

“Going to get a room of my own. I can’t stay with you tonight.” He walked out of the room.

His rejection stunned her. It shouldn’t hurt. It did.

Fine. She didn’t want sex with him, anyway. Truly.

The fairies disagreed. They pouted, railing against the unfairness of life that they should be left excited and eager and wanting, while Austin had apparently felt nothing. They crossed their little arms and stomped their tiny feet.

Holy Hannah, how was she supposed to sleep tonight?

Again, Austin’s reaction to that kiss. We get his POV the following morning…

 After he’d kissed her last night, he’d had to leave the room because he wanted to make love to her badly, but not like that.

The first time he and Gracie made love—and they would—it wouldn’t be with him full of anger. It wouldn’t be while he was ready to burst with frustration because of how much she pissed him off.

It would be because of how much he liked her, just honest to God liked her spirit, her honesty and her generosity.

That day when he’d seen her singing with the senior citizens, he’d seen an angel in action, a woman who cared.

It will still be a while after this scene before Austin and Gracie make love and I hope that I built up the tension enough that it is as satisfying for the reader as it is for my hero and heroine.

NO ORDINARY HOME is in bookstores today!

Currently, I’m writing a short Christmas story, a free read to send out in my December newsletter. I have a real weakness for many of the romance plotlines that are considered clichés. The short story is about a man and a woman stranded in the middle of a snowstorm in a small cabin in the woods, alone, without electricity, with only a quilt in front of the fireplace to keep them warm. Well, you can guess what happens next!

You can sign up for my newsletter through my website. I send it out only three to four times a year.

MY WEBSITE: www.marysullivanbooks.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/mary.sullivan.1460

TWITTER: @MSullivanWrites

Buy: No Ordinary Home

Review: In Your Dreams (Blue Heron, Book 4) by Kristan Higgins

in your dreamsReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Emmaline Neal is a police officer in Manningsport New York.  She has an extracurricular activity that most women don’t do.  Jack Holland puts on a brave face but he has some personal demons he has to deal with.  Right from the start this author will have you laughing and if you’re having a bad day, or even a bad week, this is a great pick-me-up.

As the story begins there are circumstances that will have you feeling sorry for these two.  Even though Em has a job most of us wouldn’t have, this author has made her a woman that you can identify with.  There’s a couples bonding scene that had me wishing I were an actual spectator.  And then the scene ends with me laughing – sorry I just couldn’t help myself.

Our author shows her readers how some of the “beautiful” people can be so self-absorbed.  She also shows how cruel people can be toward those that are “different”.  This would be a perfect book to read while you sit by a fire – jealous – having a mulled wine or cider along with your favorite throw or animal.  One thing I loved about this story is that the author didn’t create one picture perfect character.  It made them more believable and some more relatable.  There are even some readers who may also be able to identify with a few of them.  Jack is what might be called brooding and not everyone will like his character but that just adds to his persona.

This is a series that each book could probably be read on their own but it’s my hope that you are reading them in order.  It’s a town you will fall in love with and wish you could visit while on vacation.  If you do find that place and take reading material with you, make sure to take this series along for the ride.  It will be interesting to see if we get another look into the lives of the residents of Manningsport – I certainly look forward to finding out.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: In Your Dreams (The Blue Heron Series)

Get into Bed with Kelsey Browning (Author Interview)

Kelsey Browning - HeadshotKeira: What’s the best way to keep a secret… secret?

Kelsey Browning: Hmm…this is a hard one for me because I’m pretty much an unfiltered, open book. LOL. But I think the best way to keep a secret is to realize what’s at stake for the person who has the secret. And the other way would be never to tell another single person. A secret is hard to contain once even one other person knows. :)

Keira: What would make you break a promise to keep a secret?

Kelsey: If the secret could hurt either the person keeping the secret or hurt someone very close to me.

Keira: Eden Durant, your heroine in Problems in Paradise (Texas Nights), also has secrets, that have her starting over. What does she feel are the best and worst things about starting over?

Kelsey: The best and worst for Eden is probably the same thing—that no one really knows the real her. It keeps her “safe,” but it also keeps her from getting too close to anyone. Keeps her from having the relationship that—deep down—she craves.

Keira: Have you ever started over in your life? What did you find the best and worst about starting fresh?

Kelsey: Oh boy, have I. My family “started over” when we left Texas to move overseas to Doha, Qatar (a small country just off Saudi Arabia). The best was experiencing a new adventure and leaving behind so many of the expectations about the way we were supposed to live our life. The worst was being without family and friends from home. It was tough being half a world away from so many of the people we love.

Keira: Name three not-so-secret-secrets she might only tell the hero, Beck.

Kelsey: All the restaurants where she worked between California and Texas. Why she dresses like a color-blind toddler. :) How she really feels about sex.

Keira: Ladies love a man in uniform – how did Beck get his?

Kelsey: Deputies (including the Chief Deputy, Beck Childress) serve at the pleasure of the sheriff. Beck was hired by the current Crockett County sheriff when he moved home to Shelbyville after leaving a career on Wall Street.

Keira: Beck is also running for election. When and why did he decide to do that?

Kelsey: Let’s just say if you read the first scene in Problems in Paradise (Texas Nights), you’ll know the answer to that. ;)

Keira: How do you define love? What makes it real and work?

Kelsey: You like to ask the easy questions, huh? LOL I think love—at least romantic love—is a combination of attraction, respect, and trust. Other than that, it’s a mystery. As far as making it work for the long term, I think the trust and respect are critical. And learning how to be a good listener—something I’m still learning after 20 years of marriage—is a biggie.

Keira: Is it ever okay to keep a secret from a spouse or loved one?

Kelsey: Yow – you’re on a roll today! A big, ugly secret? No. A surprise party? Yes.

Keira: Now for the hardest question. ;) What are you working on next?

Kelsey: I’m working on a new Texas-set contemporary series and book two in The Granny Series!

Problems In Paradise Cover - FinalBook Summary:

Eden Durant hasn’t always been Eden Durant. She’s made a fresh start in Shelbyville, Texas, far from her mother’s notoriety. Running the Paradise Garden Café is as much excitement as Eden wants—or it was, until she meets Beck Childress. Although he’s the one man who could expose her past, she’s willing to open up enough to see if he might be her future.

Chief Deputy Childress is determined to get to know the real Eden, when he isn’t busy cleaning up after the sheriff and running in the election to replace him. When several men fall sick after eating in Eden’s café, he investigates even as her mysterious past raises both his suspicions and his protective instincts.

As their relationship heats up, so do the pressures of Beck’s campaign. When Eden’s secrets are revealed, jeopardizing his dream of becoming sheriff, he’ll need to choose: serve and protect the town he loves or the woman who makes it home.

Buy: Problems in Paradise (Texas Nights)

Author Bio: Kelsey Browning writes sass kickin’ love stories and cozy Southern mysteries. Originally from a Texas town smaller than the ones she writes about, Kelsey has also lived in the Middle East and Los Angeles, proving she’s either adventurous or downright nuts. These days, she hangs out in northeast Georgia with Tech Guy, Smarty Boy, and Bad Dog. She’s currently at work on the next book in her Texas Nights series and The Granny Series.

Connect with Kelsey: Email / Website / Newsletter / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest

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Review: The Dog Year by Ann Garvin

dog yearReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Dr. Lucy Peterman is a woman who’s not very happy right now. Her life seems to be on the downturn. Lucy lets the reader see a true account of what her life is like since some personal issues happened. People tend to have a preconceived notion that a doctor’s life is so glamorous. But they are human and tragedy can even happen to them. It also reminds us that not everyone is perfect and that’s ok.

This book shows the reader that not everyone deals with tragedy the same. Sometimes people just need a little push, or intervention, to help put them back on track. Some people notice subtle changes in personality, maybe how the person looks, or even on how they behave.

Mark Troutman knew her way back when. There’s a scene where they’re catching up and she’s Miss Personality. And this is one thing that I like about this book – Lucy’s not perfect and that’s what makes her seem human. And then a dog and Sara came into her life. They all seem to be good for each other – they all have significance in Lucy’s life. Will Mark be able to have a place in there too? You’ll just have to read and find out for yourself.

This book would be a great book club read. Our author also graciously put discussion questions at the back. I can also picture sitting in a beach chair down at the beach staring out to sea and then getting hooked into Ann’s book. I hope you will enjoy the book as much as I did.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Dog Year

Review: Kick Start (Dangerous Ground, Book 5) by Josh Lanyon

kick startReviewed by Sharon S.

Will is finally braced to bring Taylor home to meet the folks. Unfortunately, not every member of the Brandt clan loves Taylor the way Will does. Then again, not everyone loves the Brandts. In fact, someone has a score to settle — and too bad for any former DS agents who get in the way when the bullets start to fly.

Let me just say Josh Lanyon writes great thrillers that combine fast action, emotionally engaging characters and passionate romances. I adore his Adrien English mystery series, but I haven’t had the chance to read his Dangerous Ground series about two Diplomatic Security Agents who seem to find trouble where ever they go. Their friendship is strong, but one of them, Taylor McAllister, is secretly in love with the other. Unrequited love anyone? Yes, please!

Kick Start is book #5 in the series so if you like to read in order to avoid spoiling you don’t want to start here like I did. This is definitely a transition book. The first four books close out the main story arc and a new one is beginning for the two guys. And it starts with meeting the parents!

(If you don’t want relationship spoilers for the series now is the time to stop reading and pick up book #1 Dangerous Ground…shoo!)

Will and Taylor’s new business adventure isn’t going well and the guys are still adjusting to living together when Will needs to go home and see his brother. It is time for Will to come out to his family and introduce them to the man he is going to spend the rest of his life with. Who takes the news well and who doesn’t? Not going to tell, you have to read to find out. And it wouldn’t be an action story without bad guys trying to hurt the people Will and Taylor love. There are touching moments between all the characters and lots of humor with Cousin Denis.

This is a novella, but it read way too fast for me. It was over before I knew it! I did have a hard time picturing the guys and keeping their names straight at first because I wasn’t familiar with them, and it is written with the assumption you’ve read the first 4. But I soon picked it up and was able to picture them in my head. I loved the characters Will and Taylor and can’t wait to start this one at the beginning of the series.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Kick Start (Dangerous Ground 5)

Review: It Had to Be You (Lucky Harbor, Book 7) by Jill Shalvis

it had to be youHeroine: Have you ever been broken up with by a text message? Well, Ali Winters sure has. When trying to give him a piece of her mind, she finds out her boyfriend, Teddy, has been cheating. When had they gone from being together to being roommates? Now he’s claiming she stole money from his office during a fundraising event and the whole town believes him. To top it all off, she’s about to be kicked out of her house, because the cheating louse of a boyfriend didn’t tell her the lease was up until it was too late.

Hero: Detective Lieutenant Luke Hanover returns to his hometown after a particularly nasty case with a three-ring media circus. He’s going to use the downtime to fix up his house and discovers Ali Winters naked inside. What’s going on and why is this female in his home? She’s an interloper! When she tells him what is going on, he finds himself doing the one thing he was certain he wasn’t going to do – investigate. But he can’t not help!

Review: Luke is a great alpha hero – he’s a gogetter, tough, strong, kind, and tender. He plays the role without being an overbearing blockhead in the process. Ali is also tough. For a gal that was dumped, homeless, losing a job, and about to be arrested for something she didn’t do, she kept herself pretty together. She didn’t give up even when she was feeling really down. And when it gets to be too much, Luke is there to pick her up. For two people who see the end coming before they start, they find they can’t help themselves. Then they find they are both willing to do what it takes to make it stick. Hot!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: It Had to Be You (Lucky Harbor)

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Review: To Catch a Princess (Gambling on Love, Book 2) by Caridad Pineiro

to catch a princessReviewed by Sandra Scholes

For the woman who has it all…or so it would seem. Princess Tatiana does have it all, wealth, family and a career, but she has remained unmarried for a while, and to her horror, her parents have decided to arrange a marriage for her to another royal. She sees it as an affront on her modern ways, but her parents see otherwise. A jewel thief is roaming around and threatens to ruin any plans she has for her exhibition.

The story starts with the jewel thief pulling off a Mission Impossible style deal with a top banker. It’s easy for Shea posing as Mr Smith to interact with him, and even gets another job for being so good at getting him what he needs. The next job he does will be high profile with lots of celebrities, rich and royalty attending so it is sure to get in the news if he performs the heist the way he wants it. The reason Shea is doing this job is he wants to settle down and change his ways – even thieves need to live a normal life some time, and with the money he would get from this heist he will be able to retire for good.

The Prince’s Gamble (Gambling on Love #1) was the first book in this series but to be honest it can be read as a stand alone novel rather than a continuation, and this I think is rare considering how much stock is put on sequels to successful novels. In today’s times no girl wants to be married off to a perfect stranger, so I could feel how bad this would be for Tatiana to bear as she only wants an ordinary life where she can live it without any interference from others. In this case who can blame her for having this feeling as it’s not everyone who wants to be a fairytale princess living the high life with endless dinners and knee deep in jewels. Tatiana being an ordinary girl is what is part of the magic of this novel, as she comes across as honest and appreciative of others being around her, but only for the right reasons.

Peter is her assigned body guard, but she longs for a time when her family aren’t meddling in her life, and she can settle down with the man she wants to be with rather than being married off to make them happy.

Caridad is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling paranormal and romantic suspense author who wrote her first novel while in the fifth grade. Since then she has been writing until her first novel was released back in 1999. Over ten years later, she is still writing some of the most fun and engaging novels when she isn’t an attorney and wife and mother, not to mention fashionista.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: To Catch a Princess (Entangled Ignite)

Review: Run the Risk (Love Undercover, Book 1) by Lori Foster

Run-the-RiskReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Pepper Yates is trying to ignore her hunky neighbor. He won’t let that stand in his way. You can feel the heat the minute they come into contact with one another. Logan Riske is a man on a mission. But along with the reader, he can’t figure out what’s up with Pepper. It seems that the female characters have something to hide in this series.

It’s very interesting that these two seem to have an agenda that involves the other but I don’t think they realize that the agenda has changed. I’m waiting to see if they realize it and that helps to turn the page. Personally, I don’t like her brother Rowdy. He seems to have a double standard. He has no restrictions but Pepper has too many to count. I also find it interesting that his story, Getting Rowdy, is due out in September – let’s see if I change my mind after reading his tale.

I read this book after reading Bare It All and if I could have a do-over, I would read this one first because this is where the reader is first introduced to Reece and Alice. You don’t have to read this one first but it would make better reading to follow the characters from the beginning. I loved this book just as much as book two but as soon as I finish this series I plan on reading this series in order. This is definitely a series that you want to have in your library.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Run the Risk (Love Undercover)

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