The Search for Fresh and Original

proof of their sinGuest blog by Dani Collins, author of Proof of Their Sin

I’m still a relatively new author and this is my first organized blog tour. This post is my tenth on Proof Of Their Sin and I’ve written three books and two partials since it was accepted. I’ve been moving the writing of this blog down my To Do List for a few days, mind drooling as I attempted to find something fresh to say about this story.

It’s the same struggle we face when writing the book in the first place. To counter that old argument that all romances are the same, we writers struggle to make this story different and fresh and fun.

But how? Especially when writing for a well-loved line like a Harlequin Presents? At its heart, Proof of Their Sin is a secret baby with a reunion romance. The hero, Paolo, is Italian and rich. I know you’ve seen these elements before and when it comes to certain things—a tone of voice, a heated caress—it’s really easy to fall back on a nice bit of phrasing as common as tycoons and virgins. (She husked, while stroking light fingertips across her keyboard.)

Characters, however are unique products of their personal history and life experience, bringing that stab of freshness we’re looking for, so I thought I’d give you Proof of Their Sin’s backstory.

Before I sold in May of 2012, I was working with Suzy, one of the editors at Mills & Boon. She had recently rejected one of my manuscripts (ouch) and asked me to submit three fresh ideas for consideration. Proof of Their Sin was one of them, sent under the title Kidnapped For Keeps. She wound up suggesting I pair the heroine from one synopsis with the Russian hero from the other.

There’s a whole long epic Russian tragedy about how that story marched toward eventual cold and wintry death. (It may yet see resurrection.) After its demise, I wrote No Longer Forbidden? It was accepted in a two-book contract and I still had this lovely synopsis entitled Kidnapped For Keeps which hadn’t exactly been rejected so I sent it along as my second book.

I already had a jump start on the story with a stunning dress for Lauren and a white tie ball and a revelation of an unplanned pregnancy. Wait, have you seen that in a romance before? Yeah, me too. Fortunately, I had plenty of questions to answer: How does she get in? How did she get pregnant? How does she know Paolo?

Pretty soon I was getting to know Lauren and Paolo. He’s a banker who only succeeds in that field by tempering his natural, high-octane, surf-typhoon-waves-in-Indonesia nature. For all his projection of aloofness, he was incredibly devoted to his best friend, Lauren’s first husband. Lauren is an absolute mouse when the story opens, but she steps into her grandmother’s vintage designer gown and dares Paolo to judge her. In her quiet way, she keeps Paolo on his toes and offers him the excitement he craves.

Due to another epic saga, my first Mills & Boon will release with my third this December, making Proof of Their Sin my North American debut. It will hit shelves in my hometown, on July first. I’m ridiculously excited. (I actually went into a store today to check for it and they groaned in empathy when they saw me. “It’s not here yet.”)

I hope Proof of Their Sin strikes a chord with you. Here’s the blurb:

A beautiful mistake…

Pregnant. Lauren Bradley’s heart stops-there’s only one man who can be the father and it’s not her late husband, the man everyone thinks is a celebrated war hero….

Ravaged with guilt at sleeping with his best friend’s wife, Paolo Donatelli closes his heart to Lauren forever. But in nine months’ time, the proof of their incredible night together will be there for the world to see.

Marriage is Paolo’s answer to avoiding more scandal, but it’s Lauren’s worst fear-she still bears the scars from the first time she said I do. Can she trust Paolo enough to reveal the truth?

Buy: Proof of Their Sin (One Night With Consequences)

What makes a romance stand out from the pack for you? Do you have an example of something really different that worked really well for you—or didn’t at all?

GIVEAWAY: I have a copy of Proof Of Their Sin for one lucky commenter.

dani collinsBio: Dani Collins spent two decades submitting to every publisher with a transom while holding down a day job and raising a family with her high school sweet heart.

When The Call finally came, Dani ran with it, going to contract on eight books in that first year. Along with her Harlequin Mills & Boon titles, she has an epic fantasy romance, The Healer, with Champagne Books and an indie-published rom-com, Hustled To The Altar.

While her stories span very different genres, she always delivers alpha-male heroes squaring off with spirited heroines in a deeply emotional, unforgettable romance.

Buy: Proof of Their Sin (One Night With Consequences)

I’d love to hear from you. Find me at:

www.danicollins.com | FB:DaniCollinsAuthor | @DaniCollinsBook |Goodreads

Buy: Proof of Their Sin (One Night With Consequences)

Review: The Highest Stakes of All by Sara Craven

Heroine: Joanna Veron is somewhere around 19. In her father’s world she plays at being a high maintenance vapid beauty, but inside she’s really just a sweetheart looking for a way out of her father’s lifestyle (without having to go to her perfectly nice uncle) ever since a particularly bad incident when they were living in Australia where they swindled a youngish man named Peter out of a lot of money. She extracts a promise from her father to never use her in such a manner again, but of course Denys doesn’t hold to it for long.

Hero: Vassos Gordanis (I see his name and think vaseline) is somewhere in his 30s. He’s out for revenge against Denys and Joanna (though of course she’s clueless.) When he wins Joanna in a high stakes poker game he believes he has the chance to accomplish both punishments as he believes Joanna is Denys mistress. Obviously he’s not buying the “she’s my niece” they both claimed ever since Joanna joined her father on his jaunts around the gambling dens of the world. (Why does Joanna allow this? Gross.)

Favorite Moment: The first and second time they make love when he learns of her innocence (read virginity surprise!) and then tries to teach her about lovemaking which she tries so hard to hate … There’s flavors of Stockholm Syndrome in this, but honestly it worked for me because there’s also the play on the Persephone myth.

Missed Opportunity:
If I remember right they were talking about her real relationship to Denys, but it could also have easily alluded to her virgin state.

Vassos: Why didn’t you tell me?
Joanna’s answer should have been: Would you have believed me?

It seems like a perfectly standard response, but it never came up.

TSTL Ending: Why did the HEA have to include a flowery all is forgiven resolution between Joanna and Denys? What a crappy way to tie it off. Sometimes splitting family units is okay and in this case her dad is such a scumbag there’s really no way I’d buy his remorse and sudden “Oh shut up” speech to his new wife (whom he married right after Joanna was taken by Vassos to avoid his debts and to get the hell out of dodge, the bastard didn’t even look for her to get her back.)

Rating: ★★★★☆ – I know the rating seems incongruent with the story’s flaws, but I’m also factoring in the *guilty pleasure* I got out of it, because what worked, worked really well for me.

Buy: The Highest Stakes of All (Harlequin Presents)

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Review: Black Ties and Lullabies by Jane Graves

Reviewed by Aggie S.

“A good girl can be bad for one night… but can a bad boy be good for a lifetime…”

Bernadette has a very interesting job being the bodyguard for one of Texas’s most eligible bachelors, Jeremy. She is also responsible for taking care of her mother, who tends to be forgetful most of the time.

Bernadette has decided that she needs a different job, as she is tired of protecting an infuriating man who does what he wants when he wants without regard to anyone’s feelings. Women seem to come and go and this infuriates Bernadette. The two of them banter back and forth and somehow end up in bed with each other. Bernadette ends up leaving his employ and doesn’t tell him why, just lets him think that her boss with the security company is replacing her.

Eventually he ends up seeing her at a charity function, where she is a security guard and she is very pregnant. Apparently there was condom failure. She does tell him its his, and he talks her into moving into his home where she can have help when the doctor tells her she must stop working. He wants to get married and she is fighting it.

I recommend this book as it’s very well written with a lot of humor and heart. Read this story to find out how a good girl and a bad boy take it to the next level.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Black Ties and Lullabies

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My Favorite Tropes: Secret Baby!

Guest post by Carla F.

Secret Baby! The phrase just screams for capitalization and an exclamation point. Of course, this plot is when a couple goes their separate ways without the hero knowing that the heroine is pregnant. (Sometimes the heroine doesn’t even know.) The couple could have been separated by war, controlling parents, a misunderstanding, etc.

It is my impression that there are many readers that dislike this trope. It can be problematic depending on how the author deals with it. Unfortunately, many times these stories involve one or both parties who are Too Stupid To Communicate. The “breakup” could have been avoided if he/she could have just explained their thoughts/feelings. Sometimes just saying, “I love you” (when in fact the person does love him/her) would have made a difference.

Then there are the Contemporary stories where the couple forgets the condom. Sure it happens in real life all the time, but I would like to see at least my romance characters show a little responsibility. Of course, wearing a condom doesn’t always work because they seem to break a lot (or so I have read). This especially seems to be a problem for the millionaire/playboy/tycoon types. In fact, I am beginning to think that these types have extra strong sperm that just busts right through the latex, and someone should develop a new line of condoms just for them.

So why do I like Secret Baby! plots? In most of these the reader knows about the child before the father does. It is fun watching the other shoe drop. (Bad historical example: Duke of Candlewyck: “My portrait gallery is so huge that I had forgotten all about this portrait of great-uncle Basil. I never realized that Sarah’s son looks just him…Bloody hell!”) Then it is interesting to see how the hero deals with this knowledge. How he does this can determine whether you love or hate him.

If the author can avoid the situations that I mentioned above (especially Too Stupid To Communicate), I am ready to go buy the baby shoes and the onesie.

Secret Baby Plot:

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Books that I enjoyed with the Secret Baby! plot include:

  • Everyday, Average Jones by Suzanne Brockmann (Contemporary) - Melody Evans is saved by Navy SEAL, Harlan “Cowboy” Jones, from terrorists. The attraction is immediately and intense, but Melody always wanted to marry someone who is average and not someone who takes risks. Melody and Cowboy return to their separate sides of the US. Yes, yes this is one where the condom breaks but Cowboy’s attempts to convince Melody that he is the man for her is so sweet and sexy that I can ignore that.
  • Texas Wedding for Their Baby’s Sake by Kathryn Albright (Western) - The hero Brandon goes off to fight in Texas after having to watch his brother kiss his secret fiancé, Caroline, in front of the whole town (-10 points for that reaction, Brandon). He is wounded physically and mentally in the war, and he knows that he can no longer marry Caroline. When she receives his letter telling her to find someone else, she heads west to find him.
  • Scandalizing the Ton by Diane Gaston (Regency) - Lady Lydia Wexin is rescued from a reporter that is harassing her by Adrian Pomroy, Viscount Cavanley. Lydia has been hurt and so Adrian carries her indoors, and thing progress from there. The next morning, Lydia insists that Adrian leave because she was already a target of so much gossip because of the death of her husband.
  • No Place to Run by Maya Banks (Contemporary) - When Sam Kelly was undercover, he had a brief affair with Sophie Lundgren. The mission falls through and Sophie vanishes. When Sam next sees her she is pregnant and tells him that his life is in danger.
  • Circumstantial Memories by Carol Ericson (Contemporary) - I had to have one with amnesia as part of the plot. Julia does know not where she was heading when she had her accident. She doesn’t remember anything about her life including who is the father of her baby. After returning from a multi-year assignment, secret agent man, Ryder McClintock, is stunned to see Julia living in his town. When he didn’t hear from her, he thought that she didn’t want to continue their relationship.
  • The Masquerade by Brenda Joyce (Regency) - It is actually the sister that bears the hero’s baby in this one. (Yes, hero.) Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fitzgerald was supposed to meet Tyrell de Warenne (who she has loved since she was a child) in the garden during the masquerade party. A mix-up causes Lizzie’s sister to be out in the garden at the appointed time. The sister and Lizzie go off to have the baby, and when he is born, Lizzie decides to claim him as her own. Things don’t go smoothly when Lizzie returns home with the child.

Ones that I didn’t enjoy so much include:

  • Seducing Simon by Maya Banks (Contemporary) - I really wanted to like this one, but couldn’t in the end. Simon catches the woman he is about to ask to marry him with another man. He comes home and starts drinking a lot. His roommate Toni, who has always loved him, seduces him. Trouble is that he doesn’t remember it the next day. When she becomes pregnant, she puts off telling him for a long time because she is afraid of his reaction. He goes all asshat when she finally tells him, because she didn’t tell him earlier.
  • The Frenchman’s Marriage Demand by Chantelle Shaw (Contemporary) - Millionaire Zac knows that the baby that his mistress Freya is carrying cannot be his so he throws her out. When Freya is in a traffic accident, her grandmother takes the daughter to Zac to watch over because she doesn’t want the responsibility. Zac is not happy about this at all. He insists upon a paternity test and demands that Freya and the child come with him to Monaco. He calls her names and orders her around, but thinks that she will just get back into bed with him because he is so irresistible. Unfortunately, she does.

What are you favorite Secret Baby! stories?

More Secret Baby polls!

Babies, Kids, and Adult Children: What’s your take?

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Offspring in romance is one of those things that really get readers up in arms. We either love them or hate them. Few ride the middle and think they’re okay if the story warrants their appearance.

In general I hate them. No, seriously, I do, despite that I’ve given a few of them 5 Stars. I think they detract and the author spends more time focusing on the newcomer’s relationship to them, on their relationship with their parent, or just on them in general than on the romance.

Below are some polls to get your take on the little hellions.

Do you like children and babies in your romance?

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In romance novels do you like...

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If the hero or heroine has kids do you like them better if they're:

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Secret Baby Plot:

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babyWhat’s your favorite story with children central to the romance? My top two are:

Charming the Prince. For a long time it was my #1 on my favorites shelf. There’s a parcel of brats in this one – nearly a dozen!

Smooth Talking Stranger. Can’t tell you how much I loved that one and the hero and heroine would never have met if it wasn’t for the baby involved.

Photo Credits: creativesam

Review: Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid (Kellington Book One) by Maureen Driscoll

Story: Nurse Jane Wetherby and Lord Edward Kellington have a very brief and hot affair behind enemy lines at the Battle of Waterloo. Jane convinces Edward (Ned) of her widowhood when in fact she’s an unmarried virgin – talk about your virginity surprise! Of course the dunderhead ruins it all by proposing they continue the illicit affair instead of proposing marriage. Jane disappears and because he doesn’t know her real name he can’t find her when he comes to his senses.

They meet again seven years later when Ned shows up in Marston Vale to do his duty and pay to the family, which as we all know means he’s got to get hitched whether he likes it or not and trust me he does not. The bride-to-be in question was loosely arranged between the parents and is an unkind scheming woman Ned has no interest in – though he’s quite interested in the kind surgeon he meets riding in – very interested. Now he’s just got to convince her to marry him!

Review: This is a stunning and beautiful romance. I couldn’t put it down, which I feel is a good indicator of how fabulous it is! :) There’s quite a lot going on in this novel: a second son of a duke turned soldier/spy, mistaken identity, virginity surprise, a bastard secret baby from the union, another woman/arranged marriage, a wicked grandfather, a murder, several attempted kidnappings, one real one, the heroine’s a surgeon, and at least one more thing to tie it all together. I was swept up in the adventure and rooted for the characters from the first paragraph and I think you will be too. Be sure to pick this book up if you like Regency romances and anything else I’ve mentioned to this point. I can’t wait to see what else Maureen Driscoll turns out next! I’m particularly looking forward to Lynwood’s romance.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid (Kellington Book One)

Review: The Italian’s Secret Child by Catherine Spencer

Matteo De Luca is one prideful, stubborn man. He was stubborn at twenty-five and he still is at thirty-five. He’s very wealthy and comes from a blueblood Italian family but chooses not to share this with anyone, especially our heroine until after she is staring gobsmacked at his house in Tuscany.

Stephanie Leyland-Owen married Charles when Matteo broke it off with her 10 years ago and disappeared. She married Charles to protect her unborn child from her father, who is a very prejudice man. Her son, Simon Matthew Leyland-Owen, does not look like Matteo (he actually looks like Matteo’s grandmother) which is how she manages to keep Matteo from guessing the truth.

At twenty-nine, Stephanie would like to think she’s able to stand up to her father and not care about how ridiculous family dimensions are in her house. Her mother who has until midway through the novel been a doormat suddenly grows a spine and starts to talk back. Her one brother is a mimicry of their father. Her other is a nonentity, but is supposedly carefree and charming.

The novel is way to slow moving. The sex is rather pathetic, even the daring one out in the open. I didn’t really feel like the leads were connecting emotionally, let alone falling back in love. Matteo doesn’t believe Stephanie about her behavior from years ago. She never brings him to task not telling her about himself and for letting her father treat him like crap when by all rights he should be squishing her dad like a bug.

Overall it was just very meh.

Rating: 1.5 Stars

Buy: The Italian’s Secret Child

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