A Chance Encounter

978-0-263-90896-1Guest post by Jennifer Hayward, author of Changing Constantinou’s Game

What would you do if one life-changing event made you realize you’ve been living your life on the sidelines? What if it changed everything?

As writers we often get asked where we get our inspiration from. “How do you come up with all those stories?” For me, true life is often stranger than fiction and many of my ideas have come from a newspaper story or a tale a friend has told. Sometimes, my inspiration comes from a subject I love – such as wine with my debut Delicious De Campos trilogy. Not only do I love consuming it, but I find the art of making it fascinating. And finally, my inspiration comes from my own experience, my own life.

For Alexios and Isabel in Changing Constantinou’s Game, my inspiration began with a flight home after a vacation where I sat beside a marine biologist from the Great Barrier Reef. He was charming, very attractive and charismatic and we chatted most of the flight. He was visiting my hometown and kept throwing hints my way I could show him the sights. I was young and frankly a bit shy about taking an attractive, worldly man I didn’t know sightseeing. And I didn’t.

I thought of him as the ‘one that got away’ at the time. Except he wasn’t really because then I found my Swedish Viking many years later when I was ready to settle down. That chance encounter with the marine biologist, though, got me thinking. I hated that I didn’t have the guts to go for it and show him the town. What if I had? Would things have unfolded so differently for me? Would I be living in the Great Barrier Reef instead of Toronto? Or would he and I have discovered that night we weren’t compatible at all?

With Izzie, I wanted to create a heroine who comes across that charismatic, beautiful man in her travels, is overwhelmed by his pure presence, but this heroine doesn’t shy away from the opportunity. No – she sucks it up and does what many of us wish we would have done. She goes for it!

The only problem with Izzie’s Carpe Diem moment is that she’s a driven young Manhattan television reporter and her hot one night stand turns out to be the story she needs to land an anchor job. She had no clue the Alexios she met in London is the Leandros she was looking for. Alexios thinks she’s lied to him and is using him for career gain. It puts Izzie in impossible situations, tests her character and forces her to grow and make decisions that define her as a person. It makes her question everything she’s ever believed about herself and success. And love.

To me, she is a most courageous heroine who doesn’t take the expected routes. She learns to follow her heart. I loved writing her. She’s the gutsy heroine I always wanted to be.

Here’s a scene from the night in London where Izzie decides to take her leap with Alexios:

Izzie focused on forking the small amount of food she thought she could consume into her mouth at the small candlelit table Alex had set on the terrace. The herbed pasta was delicious, but it was hard to eat when her heart was still pounding and her hands trembling so much negotiating a fork seemed like a new and highly complex activity. And why wouldn’t it when she had literally jumped into the deep end and invited the most spectacularly good looking man she’d ever met to kiss her–and he had!  Not to mention the fact that the kiss had been the most incredible of her life and all she could think about was experiencing more of the bone-meltingly delicious heat that had coursed through her veins. It was like every nerve ending in her body had been switched on for the first time and she wasn’t sure whether to revel in it or be completely terrified of what she was feeling.

She swallowed hard, forced down the food. The fact that she’d been right–that Alex was attracted to her–made her head feel like it was going to blow off.  Maybe Jo was right. Maybe it had been her defensive attitude that had turned men off in the past and not the fifteen extra pounds she’d been carrying. Which had always been her excuse.

She took another sip of the rich, full Cabernet that was going a long way to mellowing her out. But the wine didn’t seem to be having the same effect on Alex who’d glowered at her throughout the entire meal-as if she’d committed a crime rather than simply kissed him.

She risked a quick glance at him.  He was still watching her with that same, implacable frown on his face, that penetrating blue gaze of his impossible to read. And it occurred to her she hadn’t fully thought through her plan. She had the mind numbing confirmation he was attracted to her…the question now was what was she going to do about it?

Her heart pounding in her chest, she set her fork down with an abrupt movement, and the sound of metal clattering against fine china echoed in the still night air.

He gave her half-empty plate a narrowed glance. “That’s all you’re going to eat?”

“It was delicious, thank you. I think that’s about all I can handle.’
“All right.” He laid his fork down with a deliberate movement and pushed his plate away.  “Let’s talk about what happened.”

Gladly.  She took another sip of her wine to fortify herself and set the glass down.

“That kiss shouldn’t have happened.”

She was ready for that one.  “Why not?

“I’m much more experienced than you, Isabel. I’m not interested in relationships, in fact mine never last longer than a few months, and the women I date are well aware of that.”

“So?”

He did a double take at the belligerent note in her voice. “You’re also probably still in shock from what happened today.”

“I’m absolutely fine,” she countered.  “In fact I feel like I have more clarity right now than I’ve ever had in my life.”

He sat back in his chair, his gaze on her face.  “What kind of clarity?”

She twisted the stem of her wine glass on the table, watching the blood red liquid shimmer in the candlelight. “That was my worst fear today. Facing it-getting through it-” she paused, looking up at him, “–it’s made me realize how much of my life I’ve lived in fear…how many times I’ve not gone after what I wanted because I was afraid I wouldn’t get it or it would explode in my face.”

He gave a wary nod.  “That’s a good realization.”

She shook her head.  “I’m not looking for a relationship, Alex.” A husky laugh escaped her.  “In fact, that’s the last thing I need right now.”

His eyes narrowed. “Then what are you looking for?”

“I don’t want to live with any more regrets.”

He shook his head, a wry smile curving his lips. “You’re twenty-five, Isabel. How many regrets can you have?”

She took a deep breath, meeting his gaze head-on. “I will regret it if I walk away from tonight without exploring the attraction that’s between us.”

A muscle jumped in his jaw.  He sat there completely silent, staring at her.  “I’m not sure you know what you’re doing.”

She shook her head.  “I know exactly what I’m doing.”

A long moment passed, it might have been four, five seconds, she wasn’t sure. All she knew was that she was holding her breath, sure at one point he was going to reject her. The warm night air pressed so heavily against her lungs she thought they would burst.  And then something shifted, morphed on the air between them. And she got her answer in the darkening of his eyes.

Thank you so much for having me! I’d love to know about a leap you’ve made in your life? Or one you wish you’d taken?

B - Jennifer Drogell - Wide ShotJENNIFER HAYWARD has been a fan of romance since filching her sister’s novels to escape her teenaged angst. Her career in journalism and PR, including years of working alongside powerful, charismatic CEOs and traveling the world, has provided perfect fodder for the fast-paced, sexy stories she likes to write, always with a touch of humour. You can find out more about Jennifer and her books at her website.

Buy: Changing Constantinou’s Game

Audio Review: The Tattooed Duke (The Writing Girls, Book 3) by Maya Rodale

tattoed dukeHero: Sebastian Digby, the Duke of Wycliff, is in need of a wealthy bride. His newly inherited dukedom is full of responsibilities and short on cash. All he wants to do is travel and discover Timbuktu. Unfortunately for him, all his dirty laundry is being aired by The London Weekly negating any chance he has at finding a suitable bride. He can’t prove who it is, but he suspects either his cousin or an employee.

Heroine: Eliza Fielding hasn’t had much to write about for her boss at The London Weekly. She’s about to be fired unless she can produce some scandalously meaty prose. Her undercover disguise as a housemaid in the duke’s household is perfect for getting close to the duke… in more ways than one. But as she gets to know this tattooed duke, Eliza has to wonder if getting her own dream – a column of her very own — is worth more than helping Sebastian obtain his dreams.

Review: This historical romance has a very modern edge. It worked for me where it might not work for others. I bought this book as an audiobook and I enjoyed the narrator, Carolyn Morris, immensely. Her accent work really placed me in the story and gave a sense of sophistication and Regency glamor. Sebastian Digby (whose last name, I must have missed… ha!) is a different duke than you’re used to meeting. He doesn’t want the duchy if it means curtailing his own desires for adventure, but it’s not exactly something you can just pretend isn’t yours. The scene where Eliza sees his tattoos for the first time was deliciously steamy (pun intended.) Eliza is a feisty heroine, who because she’s not gentry, can do things most well-bred young ladies can’t… like hide in plain sight of the hero she’s covering for her newspaper. Sebestian thinks the leak in his household is Eliza, but refuses to really give it credence because he doesn’t want it to be true. Overall a great listen!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Tattooed Duke

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How’d I End Up Here? The Journey of an Erotic Romance Writer

CARINA_0114_9781426897863_PurelyProfessionalGuest blog by Elia Winters, author of Purely Professional

Hi folks! Thanks to Love Romance Passion for hosting me today. I’m excited to be sharing my story with you.

Like most writers, I’ve been writing stories ever since I could remember. I set out to write longer works in high school, cutting my “novel teeth” on two book-length monstrosities of mediocre Star Wars fanfiction. (I still have them. Please don’t ask.) In my budding curiosity about sex and love and relationships, though, I realized the scenes I really wanted to write were far too naughty for traditional fiction. I’d already started sneaking my mother’s romance novels, but I wasn’t invested in the stories; I’d just skim them and look for the sex scenes.

Much of my sexual education came from these illicit paperbacks left on the coffee table. I knew the mechanics of sex: I’d had the standard mediocre sex education common to America’s public school system, and my mom had given me The Talk when I was nine. I didn’t understand why people had sex, though, until I read The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel back in 8th grade. I probably had no business reading that book, but it sparked my curiosity, and within a year I was well on my way to filching Nora Roberts romances and skimming for the juicy parts whenever my mom wasn’t around.

It wasn’t long before I tried my hand at writing romance. Not whole books, not yet, but scenes. The first ones – *cringe* – were Star Wars fanfiction, just like my first novels. (My geekiness runs deep, in case you weren’t sure.) Soon after, though, I started branching out into fictional characters of my own creation and actual detailed sex scenes. This collection of stories made the rounds in my high school social circle, handed off to friends between classes and read discretely during study hall, always one step ahead of the administration of our conservative Catholic school. I still can’t believe we were never caught.

I continued to write novels all through college and beyond, but I didn’t settle on erotic romance as a genre for quite some time. I wrote a little of everything: fantasy, young adult, science fiction, even horror. An avid participant in National Novel Writing Month, I soon ended up with a dozen or so novels tucked away in the digital junk drawer of my hard drive. Finally, I decided to write a novel just for me, indulging all my whims and fantasies in one text. The resulting first draft became Purely Professional, just released from Carina Press.

It’s been easy to continue writing erotic romance. I love the stories, the characters, the hot sex and the happy endings. I still enjoy reading and writing other genres, too, and might someday revise some of the other novels lying in wait in my hard drive. In the meantime, though, I can’t seem to stop writing erotic romance, and you can expect a lot more of it from me in the future.

About Purely Professional

Columnist Bridget Hartwell agrees to write about BDSM to impress her new executive editor at Sultry, the “sex-positive magazine for sex-positive women.” Unfortunately, it’s a topic she knows absolutely nothing about…but if she ever wants that promotion, she’ll need to learn the ropes, fast.

English professor Max Harlow is active in the Dom/sub scene, but only for casual play—he’s never found his ideal partner: a woman who is his equal, but sexually submissive. When he’s asked to explain the lifestyle to his cute but obviously inexperienced neighbor, Max is certain it’s best to approach it academically—to keep things purely professional.

Until Bridget’s first article is a huge hit, giving her the perfect excuse to delve deeper into the naturally submissive side of her sexuality. But as their encounters intensify and each of her boundaries is skillfully pushed, Bridget must decide what this all means… for her identity, her career, and, most importantly, her future with Max.

Buy: Purely Professional

elia_avatar_highresAbout the Author

Elia Winters has always been a New England girl, despite having spent much of her childhood in Florida. She holds a degree in English Literature and teaches at a small rural high school.  She dabbles in many genres, but erotic romance has been one of her favorites since she first began sneaking her mother’s romance novels. Elia currently lives in New England with her loving husband and their odd assortment of pets, where she balances her love of the outdoors with a bottomless well of geekiness.

Elia has a virtual life as busy as her real life. In addition to her website, you can find her on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Buy: Purely Professional

Review: Sophie’s Turn (Rock Star Romance, Book 1) by Nicky Wells

sophie's turnReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

This story is written in the first person.

Sophie Penhalligan gets a marriage proposal while on a carousel. But Sophie has a problem, she is already engaged. But this is the Prologue and we need to go back in time.

Sophie is on her way to a date with Tim Renfrew. Because she’s in England, Sophie’s traveling on the Tube. I would love to add this to my bucket list – be an observer and watch the other passengers as we travel on the Tube route.

Nicky reminds us how different men and women are when it comes to remembering dates. I also can’t figure out what Sophie sees in Tim – well they do say that love is blind. The more I read the more I mentally yell at her to “dump him, dump him”. He reminds me a little bit of my older brother – clueless. Sophie also lets us know who her favorite band is – Tuscq.

Sophie is like a lot of young women, and girls, she has a thing for the lead singer of the group. If you like to listen to music as you read, you may want to put on some of your favorite music. Me – I would love to listen to some Michael Buble.

Rachel is the perfect friend for Sophie. I can picture her with these little horns that poke through every once-in-a-while. She’s also a great person to have around when Sophie needs to bend someone’s ear. Rachel also has me laughing every so often. When I go traveling, it would be great to have someone like her along for the trip.

I love how Nicky puts temptation in Sophie’s way – like the apple was tempting to Eve, Dan is tempting to Sophie. He knows how to go after what he wants. And having Sophie’s occupation as a journalist is perfect. What could be more ideal then putting a journalist and a band together. The only disappointment I had was that there was no audio – I would have loved to listen to some of Tuscq’s music while reading this book. Maybe someone will develop an ipod/e-reader combination. In the meantime, I’ll just continue to listen to Michael.

If I ever travel “across the pond”, I’ll plan on taking Sophia’s story with me. It would be interesting to travel to all the places mentioned in the book. This way, I would get to experience some of what Sophie got to. But I may have to find out what band may be traveling in the same vicinity of where Tuscq was playing in the book. If not – pack lots of CDs.

This was a great book to start this series off with. The ending was not something I was expecting – it’s a great lead in to the next book coming out. I’m looking forward to see what happens to Sophie next in Sophie’s Run. You can also check out Nicky’s web site, http://nickywellsklippert.wordpress.com/, to keep up with the series.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Sophie’s Turn (The Rock Star Romance)

Review: Changing Lanes by Kathleen Long

changing lanesReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Abigail “Abby” Halladay and her fiancé purchased a condo in Paris, New Jersey. She’s at her parent’s house when she meets an old friend, Mick. Kathleen writes a great scene where Abby’s back in her bedroom for the first time in a long while – reminds me of some of my days that I’d like to forget. There will be several times during this book when Kathleen will have you in stitches. – just make sure you don’t have food in your mouth at the time.

Mick O’Malley has come back to Paris to take care of his mom. Kathleen has written a story that I think some people will be able to relate to. She also has Abby’s mother keeping a special type of journal that she writes in – I think this is a great idea for a parent to do (you may want to steal the idea if Kathleen doesn’t mind).

A reoccurring theme is the fact that a lot of the characters like to reminisce. This is a great way to connect with your past and to remember the people we love and those no longer with us. Spend as much time as you can with the people you love because you don’t know how much time you’ll have with them – look at what happened in Sandy Hook and Boston.

I found this a hard book to put down – you come to care for the characters and want to know that everything works out for Abby. Frankie is the teenager that you may have been when you were that age. Nan is the grandmother I miss and long to see again. One character that I can really relate to is Detta.

Detta is a woman with the beginning signs of dementia. My mother had a disease that is similar but different. She had what’s called Lewy Body’s disease. Think Alzheimer’s but with hallucinations. My mother had a problem when we watched the cooking shows – she thought they were cooking for her. She had a stroke which just complicated things. Kathleen’s story brought tears to my eyes as I remembered what we saw my mother go through the last three years of her life. But I also appreciate that this character was there.

I think that we need to stop getting angry at people and telling them that they don’t understand. Instead, we need to educate people and hope they make a donation that will help to find a cure – or at the very least to slow the progression of this terrible disease. Statistics show that only five percent of people ages 71- 79 have dementia and it then jumps to twenty four percent for ages 80 – 89. What’s more surprising is that there are five million people, in the United States alone, that have Alzheimer’s.

This is a very inspirational story. There’s love involved but romance is not the main theme. This is Abby’s life and how she had the chutzpah to make a change. The book has no sex in it and it doesn’t need it. Kathleen was smart to leave it out because it would have changed the path of the book if she had included it. If you have any imagination, you can always add your own scenes in. I hope you will give this book a try – you just might start reminiscing about your own family.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Changing Lanes

Review: Compromising the Marquess (The Forsters, Book 1) by Wendy Soliman

Compromising the Marquess(1)Heroine: Leah Elliot and her sister are near destitution and live by the grace their graceless aunt and well-meaning but easily subdued uncle. They lost everything when their father died in a fire. His precious and expensive book collection went up in smoke. When Leah’s sister got sick, Leah turned to a family friend and started selling ton secrets to his gossip rag to survive. Knowing that their lives are not as stable as they seem, Leah is tempted to sell a few more secrets from their uncle’s country estate. The juiciest ones around seem to center on the Marquess.

Hero: Hal Forster is the Marquess of Denby. He worked for the British government during the reign of Napoleon as a spy. His secrets may be juicy, but they are meant to stay secret. When his French asset is killed, Hal rescues the man’s son and the manservant who helped smuggle the boy to safety. Not fooled by Leah’s disguise as a boy, Hal keeps a close eye on her. When her gossip opens up the possibility of social damage he convinces her to help him undo it.

Review: I love the cross-dressing heroine trope. It’s always fun and quirky. Not that the girl on the cover of the book could ever be mistaken as a boy, but the idea is still cute. I could have done without the sick and fragile sister. A healthy sister over her sickness would have been fine. I loved Hal’s willingness to aid Leah and uncover what really happened with her father. As far as the main mystery goes, I loved who the traitor ended up being. I figured it out two seconds before the big reveal. Wow. I also liked how Leah reveals clues to Hal about her location and what he might encounter when he comes to the rescue.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Compromising the Marquess (The Forsters)

Review: Color of Loneliness by Madeleine Beckett

Color of LonelinessReviewed by Sandra Scholes

The Story: A young copy editor, Myra has to make a life changing decision to move to Oregon as she has no remaining family where she is after a recent death. Her hope is to find comfort around others, and make herself feel better after this soul searching period in her life. She also has no need to stay where she is anyway, as it isn’t as though her ex-boyfriend, Trent is any good for her when she hears gossip about him having cheated on her.

Myra Sommers: As the title suggests, Myra’s moving to a new location means she has little or no contact with others in her neighbourhood, and that is what makes her feel so lonely, and isolated, and through the story that grows, which makes it a bit depressing. Her lonely life is about to be lifted though when she has to get a man around to do work on her house, and that is when she meets Dylan.

Dylan Lawson: He’s not happy about all the women in the town lavishing him with unwanted attention. He acts like a man who doesn’t like to talk to others, and has a bad attitude that he uses to put the women off of him immediately, but that doesn’t seem to happen to Myra.

Is It Any Good? Madeleine makes the readers wait until the main characters get into a romantic clinch, but there is nothing wrong with that when the story fills in most of the characters traits. As I mentioned before, it is in some ways depressing, but that is the writer showing how her character is coping with a move that could cause her more problems in the long run.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Color of Loneliness

Review: Going to the Bad (A Lily Hawkins Mystery) by Nora McFarland

Going to the BadReviewed by Karin

I was offered this book by LRP. It is not really a romance. It is more of a mystery. This is the third in a trilogy, that may include a fourth book at some later time.

I have not read the first two books. There were a few hints within the book of situations in the other books, but not a lot of catch-up. The book can stand alone.

I thought perhaps it might be as funny as the Stephanie Plum books, but surprisingly there was very little humor, at least in this book.

The story
Lily Hawkins is a TV ‘shooter’ — shooting video as a TV reporter in Bakersfield, CA. The action all takes place in approximately one day from 8 am Christmas Eve day to 4 pm Christmas day.

And then she finds that her beloved Uncle Bud has been shot in her own home. It is clear that he likely will not survive. He has a shady side to his character, but his charisma has always got him through.

Meantime she uncovers a story that goes back 50 years that involves Bud.

The characters’ lives intertwine in surprising and interesting ways. Her fellow reporters at the TV station are all somewhat eccentric, but she has all the station’s facilities at her disposal as she tries to figure out the twists and turns.

Bodies pile up.

Be aware
Parts of the story involve meth addiction and the production of meth; also mention of childhood sexual abuse; elder abuse and dementia/Alzheimers.

No romance
Lily’s boyfriend Rod comes across, to me at least, not particularly likeable. He has made a promise to Bud when he found him shot. He assumes this will keep Lily safe and allow her to continue to love Bud, even though she knows he has flaws. In many ways he’s not really there for her. (I don’t know the back story.) But also Lily is not particularly warm with him. She is concerned when she finds him missing. But it isn’t what she assumes, and in the meantime she is fighting for her life.

My take
I found it sort of dark and gothic. There’s a creepy, decrepit farmhouse. A lot of the action takes place in fog.

Have you read any of her books? Have you read this one? How does it compare?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Going to the Bad (Lilly Hawkins Mysteries)

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