‘A Regency Holiday’-A Christmas Regency Anthology by Allison Lane, Alicia Rasley, Lynn Kerstan, Rebecca Hagan Lee

STORIES: FOUR Favorite Regency Authors– THREE never-before-in-print Christmas novellas — ONE beloved classic now back in print . . . and a partridge in a pear tree . . .

In ‘COVENTRY’S CHRISTMAS’, Rebecca Hagan Lee offers a charming new story—with Christmas approaching, Amabel Thurston is ordered from the family home by her father’s widow and must seek the protection of her guardian, Deverel Brookfield, eighth Marquess of Coventry. Unfortunately, the Devil of Coventry has little use for Christmas and even less for proper young ladies.

In the never-in-print ‘STAR OF WONDER’, Lynn Kerstan brings her special brand of magic to the page when an exotic and dangerous stranger arrives to disrupt the meager Christmas of Stella Bryar, who has struggled to support the family retainers in the wake of her father’s death.

Allison Lane’s newest Christmas treat is ‘A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING’. When prodigal son Alex Northcote returns from a six-year absence to take control of the family estate, he must run a gauntlet of possible brides, who have all been installed for a holiday house party by his determined grandmother. Avoiding the trap would have been so much easier, if the guest list hadn’t included a quiet widow, who once jilted him for another.

In the classic ‘HOME FOR CHRISTMAS’, Alicia Rasley gives us a Christmas with a bit of intrigue. When Verity receives an unexpected invitation from her estranged father to spend the holidays at his Cornwall estate, she accepts with delight. But, ever mindful of her father’s attention to propriety, she must scramble to find a husband and “father” for her fatherless child. Could a handsome and enigmatic stranger solve all her problems?

REVIEW: Regency Christmas has been one of my favorite themes ever since Charles Dickens, and every year reading stories about Christmas during that period, somehow lifts my spirits up and makes me feel so good, so warm and all seems to look just a bit brighter…

I’ve never read anything by any of these four authors so I was a bit skeptical; however I was in a mood for Christmas stories during Christmas season, so what-the-heck? I took a chance, and it paid off. If you’re like me, during this busy season, I’m only good for a quick and light read and all four of these stories more than deliver. There is nothing better than an Anthology for intro to some authors that you’ve never read.

In the first story, COVENTRY’S CHRISTMAS by Rebecca Hagan Lee, we meet Amabel Thurston who upon her father’s death is forced to seek out her guardian as her stepmother is about to remarry and have her new husband move in a home that Amy always thought of her own. She’s very anxious to meet her guardian, Deverel Brookfield, eighth Marquess of Coventry and is surprised, that after a long journey to his main residence, to find the place shrouded in darkness and the Marquess gone to London. Never one to give up, our little heroine manages to track him down…to a brothel! Well, she’s not aware of the fact, in the beginning, thinking it’s an orphanage and requesting of a Madam that runs the place to help her find her guardian.

Devlin hates Christmas and it is well-known to his staff in all of his residences that NOTHING is to be displayed to acknowledge the season. The reasons for it are very personal and better not mentioned to him, so for a few years now Devlin indulges himself with twelve days of pure and unadulterated lust, which help him take his mind off the painful memories.

With his father’s death, he not just inherited the wealth, but the responsibilities as well which in this case include Amy, his father’s young ward.

This was such a cute little story of a young woman whose strength and ability to love is a wonderful compliment to the hero that has forgotten how to enjoy the simpler pleasures in life.

Second story is ‘STAR OF WONDER’ by Lynn Kerstan and in it we meet Stella Bryar who lives in the country with a couple of servants of whom she’s very protective as after her father’s death, they’re her only family. It’s not easy for our heroine to keep up her only legacy; an old and dilapidated run down cottage, as winter approaches and the money is short. When a man appears at her door, asking after her father, she’s taken aback, and because of her stepmother’s cruelty and greediness, she has a very hard time trusting him, but in the end relents and offers him shelter.

Kiro Viscardi (Radanovic) is a man on a mission. He needs to find a treasure that he believes stolen from his home, but to do that, he must have this young woman’s full coöperation. As he makes plans to ingratiate himself to Stella, he becomes attracted to her, and that is something he hasn’t counted on.

I started off not liking the heroine at the beginning but by the end of the story, I loved her strength and courage. Kiro was also a very interesting character especially when he reveled his origins (Montenegro is still a part of Serbia which is my birth country too) and by the time they reached their HEA, I was happy as well. The story actually brought forth memories of what my country went through under the Ottoman Empire, and I love history, so this one hit a home run with me.

The third story is ‘A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING’ by Allison Lane and her hero is Alex Northcote  who after six years in the army, returns home to a house full of debutantes for his taking-as in WIFE. The reason, for his joining the army in the first place, was his broken heart and he never expected to find the object of his pain and suffering, now employed by his mother as her companion.

Sarah is now a widow with two little daughters and she knows that a lot of things need to be explained to Alex, but will he be able to understand her after so many years have gone by?  This story was so sweet and while Alex woos Sarah and her little girls, we can’t help but fall in love with their HEA!

In the last story, ‘HOME FOR CHRISTMAS’ by Alicia Rasley our heroine is Verity, a single mother who is in a need of a man to pretend, just for the Christmas Season, that he’s her husband otherwise her father will never accept her illegitimate daughter Beth. You see, Verity went all out to ‘legitimize’ her little one by inventing a husband, Captain Eric Randall, who conveniently is never around and always away on his ship.

Jason Brock has spent most of his life on one of those ships and now owns one, but there’s some unfinished family business that he needs to take care of, and answering an announcement in the papers brings him to Verity’s small rose Cottage in makes him feel as if he’s been thrust into an adventure and mystery that is making him uncomfortable yet he willingly participates in this deception to get his own business taken care of.

I truly loved this story whose characters were strong, sweet and funny. To watch Verity and “Eric” as they pretend to be married, was such a treat, especially while they “parent” little Beth, who by the time the charade is over, is calling Jason Papa. The end of this story will leave you in tears.

So, there you have it. ‘A Regency Holiday’ has four not so unique stories, yet all four are sweet and tender; well-developed (as much as any Anthology can be) and well written. This would be a perfect addition to your Holiday read or really, anytime read. It had a bit of everything in it; sweet and tender moments, bad stepmother and heard hearted fathers as well as some cute little ones. I recommend it whole heartedly!

*To buy this book, click on the cover*

*To learn more about the authors, click on their name*

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Calling All Cowgirls – F2A with Cat Johnson!

b2bKristal: Hello Cat!  Thank you for joining us and sharing some of your time answering our questions.  I have been a fan of your books for a long time and we are very excited to have you here with us!   So I am really, truly in LOVE with your Studs in Spurs series.   I hope that you write a hundred of them.   Steamy, steamy, steamy is what they are and what girl doesn’t love a cowboy?!  And never to be forgotten is your Red, Hot, and Blue series.  I cannot decide who I love more Chase or Trey… so I want them both.  Cowboys and all American heroes, a girl could never go wrong.

CJ: Thanks for having me. Yeah, I couldn’t decide if I loved cowboys or military men either, so I just wrote both!

b2bKristal: In your Red, Hot, and Blue series, Cole has just been released.  YAY!  Cole and Lizzie’s type of story really speaks to me on a lot of levels.  I can’t wait to grab a copy and dig in!  Do you have a favorite hero or heroine?  One that really speaks to you?   Or maybe a favorite couple or storyline?

CJ: A good indication of which characters I love most are when they keep reappearing in future stories. You’ll notice Mustang and Chase both keep coming back to have large supporting roles in the Studs in Spurs series because I love them so much. And I truly love when the uber alpha male falls in love and doesn’t know what the hell to do about it.

b2bKristal: I’m going to dive right in here with the ultimate question.  It’s one I am always curious about.  Is it difficult writing them scorching hot love scenes?  Are there times when it’s difficult to drum up the emotion and depth that are needed for a scene like that?

CJ: I find I can’t think about certain people who will be reading the love scenes or it’s nearly impossible for me to write them. I’m not talking about my readers. I’m talking more about my mother, my editor…people like that. If I don’t think about that then I’m fine with writing even the really, really steamy stuff. My biggest fear is getting repetitive. I mean there are only so many positions in the world and I’m always trying to mix things up to keep it fresh for the reader. It may be the characters’ first time together, but at the same time, it could be the reader’s tenth Cat Johnson love scene. I always try to keep that in mind.

b2bKristal: I’m a big paranormal fan and your Love’s Immortal Pantheon series is just amazing.  Taking  gods and making them just like you or me with these great loves, stories, lives and drama was a fabulous idea, in my opinion.  Is there a particular genre that you prefer writing over the other?  What is it like writing some of the paranormal stuff?  Do you find that you can take more of a creative license because “anything goes” in most paranormal settings?

CJ: It really was freeing for a change of pace when I broke from the strictly contemporary western or military romance and wrote those Pantheon stories. There was a little bit of research involved because we were working with established mythology, but the sex really was anything goes. Whereas when writing Unridden for instance, where I had to give my heroine Jenna a believable motivation for taking two cowboys to bed at once, I didn’t have to do any of that rationalization in the Pantheon series. These were the Greek Gods, the most decadent of all beings. They didn’t need a reason to have sex. They didn’t need a reason to do anything. I loved it! Not enough to switch to paranormal as my main genre however. My heart lies in erotic contemporary western and military romance.

b2bKristal: What is next for Cat Johnson?  What new books do you have in the works for us?   Can you tell us a little more about Cole and what we can expect?

CJ: Things are a little crazy right now. Today alone I proofed the sequel to last year’s Texas Two-Step, Cowboy Shuffle. It will release from All Romance eBooks in February. Then I wrote a few thousand words in the sequel to ‘A Cowboy for Christmas’, ‘Valentine Cowboys’, which will be out from Ravenous Romance in February. I also have open on my desktop to work on today book 5 in the Studs in Spurs series from Samhain, which is Garret’s story. And of course, as you mentioned, titles in the Red, Hot, and Blue series are releasing steadily from Samhain. Cole releases this month and then Bobby, the story that completes the Jared, Cole, Bobby trilogy, is up for preorder now for a March 2012 release. The reality show in Pigeon Hollow storyline started in Jared, continues through Cole and wraps up in Bobby. Poor Cole returns home to Pigeon Hollow after ten years away playing in the major leagues to find some pretty major surprises waiting for him—the reality show TV cameras being just one of them.

 Honestly, the best way to keep up with what’s happening with me is on Twitter or on my Facebook page or at my website where there is a blog and a coming soon page.

b2bKristal: With it being the holiday season and my personal favorite time of the year, I can’t let you get away without being a teensy, tiny bit nosey, if I may.  My last question is not about the books, it is about your holiday, of course.   Do you have a special tradition that you and your family enjoy for the holidays that you would be willing to share with the readers?

CJ: The holidays for me have always revolved around close friends. Since I have no sisters, and neither do any of my closest girlfriends, we are as close as family. I always spend lots of time with friends, but even more so over the holidays. Just last week we all gathered at our friends’ house to have dinner and decorate their family tree. Tonight we’re all headed to another friend’s apartment for dinner there and tomorrow, we’ll all be having dinner out to celebrate our friend’s birthday which, unfortunately for her, falls so close to Christmas there’s always the risk she gets overshadowed by the holiday. And New Years Eve we’ll likely sleep overnight at my other friend’s house. Waking up to party leftovers and spending the day in PJs watching trainwreck television with close friends is the best way to start the new year!

b2bKristal: Thank you so much for indulging us and giving us an interview.  We look forward to sharing all of your stories with our readers and hope you had fun answering some questions for us!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

CJ: Thank you! And my best holiday wishes to you and all your readers.

And now, sit and enjoy the book Trailer from Cat! To one commenter, Cat will send one of her backlist book ‘Opposites Attract’ , so tell us …What do you like more…Cowboys or those men in Uniform?

b2bKristal

‘All’s Fair in Love and Seduction’ by Beverley Kendall

STORY: She hopes to gain his affections

For Miss Elizabeth Smith, sharing her first kiss with the charming Lord Derek Creswell is nothing short of a dream come true…that is, until she is spotted by one of the most influential gossips of the ton. With scandal nipping at her heels, to avoid total social ruin, Elizabeth must present a fiancé by the end of the Season. But when the viscount proves reluctant, Elizabeth is forced to employ a seduction of a different sort…

He is determined to ruin her

Viscount Derek Creswell believes Elizabeth set out to trap him into marriage. After all, her sister attempted the very same thing with his brother six years before. Now the delectable Miss Smith expects a betrothal and a ring, while Derek finds her ruination infinitely more appealing…

But as Derek sets out to seduce only her body, Elizabeth is intent on claiming his jaded heart.

REVIEW: I came across ‘All’s Fair in Love and Seduction’ as a free read on my Nook.  Having never read Beverley Kendall’s books before, I did a little research before I started my journey.  The Elusive Lords and ‘All’s Fair in Love and Seduction’ are receiving massive amounts of praise everywhere that I look, so I was very interested to see what all the fuss was about!

Elizabeth Smith has had a crush on Derek Creswell for many years.  After many years and some bad blood between the Smith’s and the Creswell’s, Elizabeth sees Derek again for the first time at a ball.  She is immediately smitten all over again and can’t help but look for him, attracted to him even though she knows she shouldn’t be.  When he steps out of the ballroom into the garden for some air, Elizabeth decides to follow him- I mean what is the harm in that?!

Derek’s is definitely a heartbreaker.  Attractive, titled, kind and sexy he’s basically everything that a girl could ever want- and I’m pretty sure he knows it.  He’s also bull headed and stubborn, as are most men.  And when he is caught kissing Elizabeth Smith silly in the garden outside of a ball (unbeknownst to him), he has no idea that his world is about to be turned upside down by this little country girl. That one passionate, lit up kiss is a game changer and Derek has no idea how to handle this game once it has begun- even if he thinks he does.  He refuses to be trapped into marriage by anyone and he lets the sins of Elizabeth’s family’s past make some of his decisions for him.  There was a time or two that I simply wanted to smack him silly, even though I love his character to pieces.

Elizabeth and Derek tell an amazing story and when everything comes out at the end, as it always does, I’m glad that Derek is a bit humbled by the situation.  There is a lot of depth, emotion and feeling crammed into 130-something pages and to me that speaks directly to the talent of the author.  ‘All’s Fair in Love and Seduction’ is full of angst, sensuality and romance.  I had not even read the first full chapter, before I went to my Nook store and bought the first two books in the trilogy!  And as a special treat, three chapters of Alex and Charlotte’s story (the next in the trilogy) are added to the end of ‘All’s Fair in Love and Seduction’ and they are positively wonderful!  I’m officially hooked on the Elusive Lords and cannot wait for Alex and Charlotte’s story!

b2bKristal

Fall in Love with the Elusive Lords…Beverley Kendall

b2bKristal: Hello Beverley!  Thank you so much for taking a little while out of your schedule to chat with us.  We are so happy to have you here with us.  I hope that you are enjoying your holiday season!  The cover to ‘All’s Fair in Love and Seduction’ is just beautiful and initially what attracted me to the book.  And then, after reading three pages, I went and purchased the other Elusive Lords (‘Sinful Surrender’ and ‘A Taste of Desire’) novels.  I found myself tearing through the pages of the book, LOVING Elizabeth and Derek’s story and insanely anxious for the next book!

Your style of writing is so dynamic, I feel as though I am in the room with the characters, I feel  like their world envelopes me and your love for their story really shines through.

Can you tell us a little bit behind some of the creative process that goes into your books?  Any special things you do on writing days?  Any special music or lighting that helps?  Or maybe special food you may eat like the football players use to get ready for a big game?

BK: Hi Kristal, thank you so much for the wonderful compliment and for having me on your blog today. As for process, I’m a severe plotter. Things only work out when I’ve plotted the upcoming scenes I have to write well in advance. I use the Marshall Plan worksheets to accomplish this. And I need quiet. No tv, no music, just silence.

b2bKristal: This question is pretty simple.  I read on your web page that you are a full-time everything!  How do you balance it all? A child, a job, the books?

BK: LOL. I don’t. To be very honest, it’s hard. I’ve recently given up doing my monthly review ezine so I can concentrate on my writing more. My goal is that in 2012, I’ll be able to complete two full-length novels and one novella. Cross your fingers for me, because it’s a lofty goal.

b2bKristal: Derek and Elizabeth’s story is a wonderful one, full of intense emotion and angst.  Is there a particular moment or situation in the book that really stands out to you as one that brought you to some real life angst or emotion?

BK: Sigh. The end. I love it when a hero is humbled by his love for the heroine and I think Derek does his level best to make up for his very wrong opinion of Elizabeth. His gift to her—both—really got me.

b2bKristal: This next question is one that I am always curious about.  I think it’s definitely the nosier side of me stepping in.  Do you have a specific character that relates to you in some way?  Maybe a character that you found taking on some of your likenesses and characteristics?  Or one whose situation resembles yours on some level?

BK: Hm, that’s a tough one. I think I would have to say that I can relate to Charlotte in ‘An Heir of Deception’. She lives in a world where she doesn’t believe she fits. And in the same breath, I can say that I have this deep affinity to Alex, who is this very bitter soul when we see him five years after Charlotte left him at the altar. It takes a lot for him to trust not just Charlotte again, but himself and his own judgment.

b2bKristal: I cannot tell you how many reviews I have read where people downloaded ‘All’s Fair in Love and Seduction’ and then went and bought the other Elusive Lords books… myself included!  Can you tell us about the idea to make ‘All’s Fair in Love and Seduction’ a free read?  Was that the intention?  And if so bravo!  What a wonderful way to get your books out there!

BK: I really wanted readers to give me a try. I’m a fairly new writer, really small potatoes. I thought I could try free out for a couple weeks and see how I did. My goal was to get readers to buy the other two books in the series if they liked the novella. It worked so well, I decided to keep it free as a permanent introduction to my writing and stories.

b2bKristal: And finally, because I’m sure our readers and me! – want to know… What is next for the Elusive Lords?  How many books do you plan on having in the series?  Any teasers you want to give us?

BK: Yes, I’m hard at work with the final book in the trilogy, ‘An Heir of Deception’. This is Alex and Charlotte’s heartbreaking love story. This is definitely the book closest to my heart. I absolutely ADORE Alex. I’ve loved him since ‘Sinful Surrender’ and knew he had to have a special love story, more angsty, more emotional, more intense. After this series, there will be a connecting series, ‘The Temptresses’, which begins with Charlotte’s twin, Catherine, titled ‘Twice the Temptation’.

Here’s a short excerpt of ‘An Heir of Deception’ by Beverly Kendall:

She had dreamed him again. Alex and their last time together. The tears rolled their course faster. The dream now came with a frequency that frightened her. For two weeks now, it had made its nightly sojourn into her sleep.

She’d woken up hot, her senses acute and overwrought, but now the coldness seeped into every pore despite the warmth of her bedchamber. The dreams always left her this way, chilled and dissatisfied. But tonight there was something else, a prickly uneasiness. It was then she realized the source of her disquiet wasn’t the residual effects of her dream but something based firmly in reality.

Charlotte heard a slight movement to her right. She bolted upright, her hands clutching the counterpane close to her chest. In the darkened chamber, she could only make out the shape of someone—a man—reposed in the chair close to the fireplace.

Fear so effectively gripped her by the throat, all she could manage was a gurgled exhalation, not the bloodcurdling scream that would bring in the cavalry.

“Don’t scream,” a male voice instructed her softly.

For a moment Charlotte was convinced her ears were playing some sort of cruel trick on her. Had she conjured his voice up from her dream? Was she that bad off?

He rose from the chair with an unmistakable ease and grace. Alex.

Seconds later, he was standing by the side of her bed, half his face illumed by the faint light from the fire burning on the grate. Not like the Alex of her dreams, this Alex was solid and real, and darkly forbidding. 

“Alex—Alex what are you doing here?” Charlotte barely managed to croak out the question, hot all over once again.

She could feel his silver gaze scoring her, unreadable, unwavering. After a nerve-wracking pause, he asked in a voice both chilling and calm, “When did you intend to inform me that you bore me a son?”

b2bKristal: Thank you again for chatting with us.  Your visit with us is one that we have anticipated with much excitement! And for all of you bookworms out there, please click on Beverly’s pic, name or the cover so you can join her on her Blog, buy her wonderful books on Amazon, or get in touch with her on her Facebook page!

BK: Thanks again for having me. And I’d like to give away all three of my books to a commenter. 

Why I wrote ‘Borrowed Light’ and ‘Enduring Light’

“I’m probably best known for my Regency romances, having started with that in the mid 1980s at the suggestion of my then-agent. My first novel was historical fiction set in New Mexico’s royal colony in 1680. It did well, but my agent suggested I try Regency romances, which I did, and had a successful career with Signet, earning two Rita Awards from Romance Writers of America for my Regencies, among other stuff. I then started writing Regency romances for Harlequin in 2004, I think.

Trouble was – and this happens all too easily – I was “typecast” as a writer of Regencies. Nobody wanted anything but Regencies from me, because I had a loyal readership. Publishers never like to argue with the bottom line, so it seemed I would have to write Regencies forever.

Or not. About 20 years ago, I came across a wonderful book called Perfection Salad, in a used bookstore in Denton, Texas. It’s a dry read, probably someone’s dissertation, but the subject was fascinating: the rise of so-called “domestic science” in the 1890s and 1900s. One of the proponents of this movement was Fannie Farmer, who pioneered exact measurements (cup, half-cup, teaspoon, tablespoon, etc.), and wrote a famous cookbook in 1896. She also ran the world-renowned Boston Cooking School.

Twenty years ago, I started thinking about Julia Darling, a graduate of Miss Farmer’s school. In my daydreams, she was from Salt Lake City, a Mormon like me, who goes to cook for cowboys in southeast Wyoming, where I was living at the time.

My fictional friend stayed in my mind for years, nestled beside Paul Otto. In Torrington, Wyoming, I worked for the National Park Service at Fort Laramie, and joined the county historical society. Paul Otto was a member. He was an older rancher, handsome in that way of confident stockmen, sitting ramrod straight and not saying too much. I suppose he is long gone now, but I resolved some 20 years ago to use his name some day.

I started Borrowed Light (originally called The Contract), about 15 years ago. What with one book contract and another, and other demands on my time (I have five children), I let it languish.

My husband retired from teaching at a North Dakota university in 2009 and we moved to Wellington, Utah, a small town in Carbon County, famous for its coal mines. I decided then to finish Borrowed Light. I had time between contracts, and I wanted to write a novel for Mormons specifically, but really for anyone who likes westerns and my writing. I finished it, and was fortunate enough to sell it to Cedar Fort, Inc.

I had no plans to write a sequel, none at all. I started hearing from readers who wanted to know more about the charming Julia Darling and the stalwart Mr. Otto. I took a good look, and decided that yes, there was definitely more story. I wrote Enduring Light last summer. H’mm. I’m already getting requests for a sequel to that, but it will have to wait until I finish another book for Harlequin, two more for Cedar Fort, and a memoir of a friend of mine.

I picked 1909-1910 for the setting, because the open range was closing then. Although the West was still plenty wild, there were signs of change coming. Moments when times are changing make the best novels, because there is always conflict, as folks adapt to new ways. By 1910, people were beginning to sound more like we do. Eavesdropping in Mr. Otto’s kitchen would not be as “different” as eavesdropping in a kitchen 50 years earlier. Language was similar, and ideas would be familiar to readers.

My main help in this process was A.B. Guthrie’s novel, Arfive. He has written other books, some Pulitzer-Prize winning, but Arfive is my favorite. He chose that 1880-1914 era when the range was changing, so I knew I could do it, too. By the way, Arfive is a brand, like Double Tipi (TTP) is a brand. The novel impressed me, and I knew it would be the era for me, too.

And I like cowboys. Who doesn’t? My aunt and uncle ranched in south central Montana, and I have Wyoming rancher-friends. I live among rural folk, and I like their hardy, can-do attitude.

The title for Borrowed Light comes from one of the pioneering leaders or the Mormon Church, who admonished church members to gain their own testimonies of the truth of Mormonism. As he said, no one can stand on borrowed light (someone else’s beliefs) forever. We have to know for ourselves. This is probably true of anyone, in any circumstance.

Enduring Light was a logical progression for me. One of the tenets of Mormonism is “enduring to the end,” i.e., remaining faithful to our beliefs through thick and thin. This is where Mr. and Mrs. Otto find themselves, after they marry.”

Melanie here. I want to thank Carla for taking the time today to stop by and fill us all in on the background of these two very, very beautiful stories that will touch your heart and truly inspire you. Possibly make you stronger in your faith, may that be Mormon or Jewesh, Orthodox or Catholic, or Adventist like myself.

As I read both of these stories, one constant phrase kept popping into my head and that was ‘Labor of Love’…You can ‘feel’ it through the prose, but you can almost ‘touch’ it through the story! You’ll feel it while Julia ‘borrows’ her fathers light, then Paul’s; you’ll feel it while Paul ‘gets’ his, but most of all, you’ll be touched by this authors ‘light’ while her ‘labor of love’  through these two stories shines so bright that you’ll have no choice but to let it shine on you.

Ms. Kelly and Cedar Fort will be glad to give one copy to a commenter that can tell us about their experiance with ‘endurance’.

‘Enduring Light’ by Carla Kelly

STORY: Julia Darling never expected to cook for some cowboys in Wyoming, but when she breaks off her engagement in Salt Lake City, it s the perfect opportunity for her to escape. Determined to stick the job out, Julia faces her biggest challenge yet letting go of borrowed light to find her own testimony. Set in the early 1900s, this is one romantic adventure you ll never forget!

STORY: Julia Darling is finally able to marry her Mr. Otto for eternity. But it’s a hard world for a rancher in turn-of-the-century Wyoming, especially a Mormon rancher. And when people start talking, it’s up to Julia to prove she’s her husband’s equal in strength and endurance as she learns to let go of scars on the outside and inside.

REVIEW: To anyone that is considering to read this story before they read BORROWED LIGHT, please STOP and get the first book. You won’t be sorry, as it is the story that started it all. It’s like having a ‘pie’ without the ‘pie crust’! You’ll understand the analogy when you finish the book, but seriously, you’ll appreciate this sequel so much more after reading its prequel.

I am a very new Carla Kelly fan, but she has managed to impress me after only one book, and finding out that she has written a book (or two now) that were not Regencies, intrigued. Finding out that they were LDS based, baffled this ignorant reviewer who wasn’t familiar with ’LDS’ nor did she know what it means. When in doubt, ask is my motto, so I asked Ms. Kelly and she was more than willing to tell me about her beliefs(and if you’re like me, please find a minute to read about them at the end of my review), and the reasons for writing these two books. For more on that subject, tune in tomorrow.

ENDURING LIGHT continues the story of Julia Darling, a woman who in BORROWED LIGHT finds the love of her life on a Wyoming ranch.

As the book opens, Julia and Paul Otto are very much in love, but as he’s freshly minted Mormon, he’s not able to marry Julia for the next six months, or until one year passes from his Baptism. The separation will not be easy for either, as she prepares for their union while in Salt Lake City, and while Paul takes care of ranch business in Wyoming.

The reader is then taken on a journey of these two people who through many trials and tribulations learn the lessons of endurance. Their Father is teaching them to love thy neighbor and thy enemy while turning the other cheek and slowly killing them all with kindness. Trust me, not an easy lesson for us mere mortals to learn, but with His help and with Him at the helm, Paul and Julia, as well as the reader, come away much stronger after the lessons have been learned.

Both Paul and Julia will learn that no matter what life throws in front of them, together they CAN endure, but ONLY if they SURRENDER all of their burdens to their Heavenly Father.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this story. You don’t have to be a Mormon to enjoy it. This is truly a story of love. Love of a woman for her man as much as love of One God for his children, be they good guys or bad. God loves a sinner, and there were some in here that were pretty bad.

I don’t really care which ‘creed’ you fall under, but if you’re looking for an inspirational love story, passing these two up (and you must remember the BORROWED LIGHT, too) would be such a shame.

And now, for all of you and especially for me, Carla Kelly has so kindly written a short and very informative explanation of her faith.

My Explanation of the

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I can understand Mitt Romney’s reluctance to say a great deal about the LDS (Mormon) Church. Beginning with its founding in 1830 by Joseph Smith, church members suffered savage persecution for their beliefs – harassment, murder, rape, expulsion from the then-United States, attempted subjugation by the U.S. government and the loss of the right to vote. Those times are gone, generally, but there remains a certain wariness. Our church means everything to us, and we do cringe at ridicule. Its tenets are sacred to us, and we do not care to see them mocked. It hurts.

We are, indeed, Christian. We believe in Jesus Christ as our personal savior who suffered the atonement on our behalf and died for the sins of mankind. We believe the Bible to be the word of God. Here’s one addition: We also believe that Joseph Smith translated what became known as the Book of Mormon from golden plates given to him by an angel. We believe that Joseph Smith restored the church in much the same form as existed in the early church after the time of Jesus Christ’s ministry on earth.

We are led by a prophet today, Thomas S. Monson. Joseph Smith, the LDS Church’s first prophet, was killed by enemies of the church in 1844. He was succeeded by Brigham Young, who led the Saints west in 1847 to what eventually became Utah. Our church today, as then, is led by a prophet, who is assisted by two counselors. There is a quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who assume a subordinate position to the Prophet, but who are also witnesses of Christ throughout the world. You will note parallels between this latter-day structure, and the structure of the church at the time of Christ. It’s not by accident.

We are not a Protestant church. We did not protest and separate from another church. We are a restored church, which emphasizes leadership by revelation from our Heavenly Father. We believe that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are distinct and separate personages, not a trinity.

We worship each Sunday in meetinghouses called wards, found throughout the world. Church leadership is voluntary and unpaid. For example, the bishop in my ward works for the Union Pacific Railroad. His successor in our ward was a coal miner. The central nature of our leadership means that if you visit a ward in Kenya, it will be very much like a ward in Los Angeles, or Vienna.

Saints also worship in temples. There are some 150+ of these all over the world, where Mormons learn more about their role in life and in the eternities. Temple marriage is marriage for time and all eternity. There is no “until death do you part” in temple marriages. We are united as families for eternity, which give Julia Darling strength after she suffers the death of a beloved sister. Death does not divide Mormons.

As a general rule, Mormons are industrious, kind, generous and well-educated. Mormons can be found in increasing numbers in all areas of influence. Membership is somewhere upwards of 16 million now, worldwide.

I joined the LDS Church in 1965, when I was eighteen. I was married in the Logan Temple in 1968, and have five children. One of my sons served a two-year mission in Brazil. Not all of my children are active in the church today – two aren’t – but they are all excellent people. I have never regretted joining the LDS Church. It pretty much defines who I am. It may have been the smartest thing I ever did (which, incidentally, Paul Otto says of himself in Enduring Light.)

Some of my disappointed Regency readers felt I excluded them, when I wrote Borrowed Light. Nothing was farther from my mind. What I did was finally write the book I wanted to write, no exclusion intended. I figure after 25+ Regencies, I’ve earned the right to craft a book close to my heart. If they want to read it, fine. If not, that’s fine, too. Just don’t accuse me of some nefarious plot to ruin readers.

Ironically, I’m now developing a mystery series set in the royal colony of New Mexico in 1780. The people in this series are very Catholic and very dedicated to the tenets of their religion. Maybe other readers will accuse me of being Catholic and “excluding” them. I can write about religion as part of these people’s lives because in the 18th century, their religion helped define them, the same as it helps define Mormons. What I do understand is the religious experience, no matter the creed.

FYI: If you want to learn more about Mormons, ask a Mormon.

Karyn Gerrard’s Christmas Memories

I’m very excited to welcome this new author, to me at least. I only read two of her books, ‘Timeless Heart’ and ‘Christmas Memories’, and both I loved very much and hope you’ll give her writing a looksy. If you’d like to find out more about Karyn, click on the cover of her latest book or her pic, and you’ll visit her blog or her website!

Here she is to tell you more about her Christmas memories.

Thanks so much for having me here today Melanie!

Over three hot, muggy nights in July with the AC going full tilt, I wrote a Christmas short story.

A handful of e-publishers had submission calls out for Christmas so I wanted to see if I could cobble together a short story under 10,000 words. I never attempted a short story before.

Where to begin?

I started thinking about what I liked about Christmas, and how certain music,TV shows and movies can trigger Christmas memories. The light bulb came on and I started to write!

My hero as always is a bit of a tortured soul. He has past Christmas memories he would like to forget.

He accepts an invitation to spend Christmas at a wilderness lodge with some other guys. He hopes to play poker and let Christmas pass unobtrusively. He didn’t count on my heroine, Karin Kellegher!

I started to think, what is my favorite Christmas music? Even though I love hard-driving rock, I don’t like rock or pop in my Xmas music. (The lone exception, John Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War is Over).

The Christmas music I prefer is easy listening, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Andy Williams to name a few. If I were to choose one album, it would be THAT CHRISTMAS FEELING by Glen Campbell. No, it is not country, Glen croons on this album to rival Sinatra. It was released by Capitol Records in 1968 and has been out of print for years. The MP3′s are available on Amazon. (I remember when Glen had his own variety show! I think I just aged myself. I was a very small child!)

My dad was Xmas shopping in ’69 when he heard the album being played in the department store. He liked it so much he bought it and Glen has been a part of our Christmases ever since. My parents still have the album and my two siblings and I made CD’s from the album complete with hiss, pops and scratches. We all love it and it evokes such wonderful memories every time I listen to it. I mention this album in my short story and when it is played it pulls the hero into Christmas memories of his past.

So what other Christmas theme brings back those warm, fuzzy memories? The next thing on my list was 1966 cartoon of Dr. Seuss ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’ I haven’t missed a Christmas watching this in decades, I love this!

Thanks to DVD’s, I can pop it in anytime and watch it UNCUT and relive all those Christmas memories.

In my story, my hero Jimmy can recite the Grinch right along with Boris Karloff and in doing so, charms the woolen socks right off my heroine.

I never fail to get a lump in my throat when the Grinch carves the roast beast. It seems when it comes to Christmas, I am a total softie. I am a firm believer in tradition, love to decorate and cook the big-ass turkey dinner. Christmas is also when the hubs and I fell in love. Awwww. To me, it’s magical and I treasure all my Christmas memories.

So my question is this, do you have any favorite Christmas music, movies or TV shows that bring back any warm, sentimental Christmas memories? Let me know! I have a PDF copy of CHRISTMAS MEMORIES from Silver Publishing up for grabs!

And Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings or whatever! Cheers :)

‘Christmas Memories’ by Karyn Gerrard

STORY: Jimmy is at the top of his game, but his life is empty. Karin has resigned herself to a Christmas alone in her wilderness lodge. A spur-of-the-moment holiday trip brings Jimmy to her doorstep on Christmas Eve. Will these new Christmas memories be enough to heal a painful past?

REVIEW: The short blurb above doesn’t do this short e-novella justice at all. Karyn Gerrard managed to pen such a touching story that will have you cry by the time you reach the HEA, and then wish for more!

Jimmy Doyle is a thirty-six year old actor/male model who is determined to ban Christmas this year and every year from now on. The reason behind it is very personal and haunting, not to mention painful to a point that just thinking of Christmas would have him in cold sweat trying to outrun the feeling of guilt.

When the chance, to literally ‘run away’ from the memories and all the ‘bullshit’ Christmas Season is bringing,  presents itself via a buddy’s invitation to an ‘all male card marathon’ getaway, he jumps at a chance to get himself ‘lost’ for a few days of male companionship.

Karin Kellegher runs the large lodge surrounded by smaller individual chalets with her father, who this Christmas will be spending with his brother at Vermilion Bay. She was glad of it and of the prospect of getting some extra money from the group of men that were about to arrive for their ‘male bonding’ weekend getaway.

Her Christmas Tradition of getting cozied up with her favorite music and movies of the season is something she was really looking forward to, so Jimmy Doyle and his ‘baggage’ was something she never expected to deal with, yet once she met the guy, she couldn’t help but be drawn to him.

‘Christmas Memories’ is one of those stories that in no time will be bringing to mind your own Christmas memories, and with that some tears at them and at the story itself.

The author has deftly managed to cram up a lifetime of happy and sad memories in this short story, which is heartbreaking as much as uplifting. The love story within was tender yet sensual, heartwarming and romantic. Just perfect for this time of the year!

I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend you read it this holiday season. It will have you thinking of your own Christmases past and hoping for good Christmas to come.

“The Hunger Game’ Trilogy Guest Review by Diane Dacko

STORY: Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives. In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.
Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

WINNING WILL MAKE YOU FAMOUS. LOSING MEANS CERTAIN DEATH.

REVIEW: In this first book the Author Suzanne Collins introduces the reader  to the main character and heroine Katniss Everdeen.  In a post apocalyptic North America set many years into the future, the survivors of a devastating war and society have formed what is called Districts; there are 13 in all.  The main governing body is called The Capitol whose ruler is a heartless dictator and governs over the rest of the districts, determining food supply and the quality of life.  Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year-old girl from District 12, a mining district.  The story begins with a description of Katniss’s life in the district, examples of the terrifying and oppressive dictatorship and how the people, including her family, struggle to survive.  When years earlier the Districts unified and chose to rebel against The Capitol’s oppressive leadership, the near destruction of District 13 and the news that it was obliterated sent fear through the rest of the Districts causing them to surrender.  As a punishment for their rebellion, the Capitol created a yearly game designed to intimidate and prevent any future uprising. Each year every child that is between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district, a boy and a girl, are randomly selected from a pool of names to take part in a Gladiator meets Running Man (Schwarzenegger movie) nationally televised event called The Hunger Games.  Each selected child becomes a tribute to their district, and must fight to the death in a deadly arena becoming killers in order to survive.   At the end of the games, there can be only one victor.   The prize of course for the victor and it’s district is very enticing.  The district earns food and special treatment for all it’s citizens for a whole year, and the victor and it’s family for the rest of their life.  But at what cost?

We get to know Katniss Everdeen.  We spend all our time in her thoughts, her emotions, and experience her fears.  We learn that she spends most of her time in her district doing what her father taught her best, hunting for game by bow and arrow.  In a bleak District 12 hunting is illegal, and Katniss has found a way to sneak out of the protective fence daily to do her hunting.   In the neighboring forest, Katniss meets a young male named Gale.  The two form a camaraderie, and begin hunting together.  Because they share the same grim reality in District 12, the time they hunt together becomes special to them, and helps them stay focused while providing food for their families. As they become keen hunters working together for the others benefit, an unspoken fondness forms between them.  Gale becomes Katniss’s personal confidant, and she his.  Together they are each others spark among the dismal conditions that await them back at District 12 when they return from their hunts together.  As readers we realize how rare this must be in the District, as there is so much wanting, needing, and fearing.  There is little time to form close personal relationships.

It’s a painful reality for all the families in each district that have to give up their children in the games each year without the knowledge of whether they will ever see them again, and the horror that they may have to witness their death live on television.  The reality also befalls the children who each year must stand in wait in horror to find out if they will be the next tribute, to find out what other child and possible friend in their district they will have to kill to survive.  This year, during the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen will be one of the children standing.  Her name being submitted in the pool for her district many times over since she turned twelve.  This year, Katniss’s  sister, the recently turned twelve Prim, will also be among those children.  However, the one comforting thought for Katniss and her Sister is that Prim’s name has only been entered once, while others have their names submitted dozens of times.  The odds are in Prim’s favor.  In a last-minute twist, Prim is chosen as District 12′s tribute.  Disbelief and horror overwhelms Katniss and she does what she promised herself she will never stop doing for Prim.  Katniss promised to always keep Prim alive, and she chaotically scampers to take her place.  She volunteers herself into the game.

At this point Katniss is thrust into a new world.  A world of the Hunger Games.  Being a tribute is nothing like being an onlooker.  The Capitol wants the odds to be in every child’s favor, and extremes are taken to make sure each has a fighting chance.  As readers, we are immersed into a story of survival, courage, and deep unexplainable love.  The other tribute chosen from her district, Peeta, has made a historic impression upon Katniss’s heart.  One that can prove fatal for her in the games.  We are thrust into this story and realize quickly the admiration between both Peeta and Katniss.  As the story heats up, we are dragged through the arena with Katniss and Peeta and the other 22 tributes to experience the depth and pain of such monstrous games.

The next two books Catching Fire, and Mockingjay continue to mesmerize us and immerse us in the darkness that is The Capitol and the Districts.  There is never a moment to cease wondering where the next chapter will take us, as the story becomes more convoluted and disparaging.  Just when one finds hope in a moment, that moment is flitted away by the perverse acts of The Capitol.  We as readers are taken through a roller coaster of emotions, and truly get to experience the tale of a war stricken oppressed nation that finds hope in one-act of defiance.  That act of defiance comes from a young insignificant teenager named Katniss Everdeen from District 12, whose inner suffering and rage is channeled into acts of courage, strength and perseverance.  We are challenged to empathize with this young heroine, as Katniss finds herself in a mess of emotions over her love for Gale and Peeta.  But so do we.

I really enjoyed these three books by Suzanne Collins.  Although it wasn’t a typical book I would pick up to read, it quickly challenged me to think about the nature of war, love and loss, and the perverse nature behind reality t.v..  It’s probably one of the few stories that have made me actually cry while reading.  It kept me deeply riveted and constantly coming back for more.  I read the entire trilogy in about 12 days.  I have to say that although the first two books really captured my attention, I was a bit more cynical midway through the Mockingjay.  There were periods of bewilderment for me as I tried to piece together all the intricate stories that Collins developed.  Some threads were a bit looser then others.  The last book was exceedingly dark as it concludes the desperation of all the Districts and The Capitol, the pivotal role Katniss plays in their liberation, and finally the ultimate finale which is hardly anticipated.  This trilogy will amaze and excite you as you become immersed in the characters’ flaws as well as strengths.  I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Hunger Games and try it out, it’s one of the best stories I’ve read in a long time.

Diane Dacko

‘Notorious Wolfes’ with Janette Kenny

First off thanks to Melanie for asking me to blog today.  This is one site I’ve bookmarked and visit often, just to discover what awesome titles she’s reviewed as well as the titles of ones recommended by top authors.

‘The Trophy Wife’ is my sixth novel for Harlequin Presents, a line I’ve read and adored all my life.  It’s also the sixth novel in the Notorious Wolfes series.  Please sit back and let me tell you a bit about it.

I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to participate in this continuity series and loved each of the other titles in the series. The trailer gives you a taste of the passion and drama packed in each title.

Wealth.  Privilege.  Beauty.

They have everything they need at their fingertips.  They can go anywhere they want.  They can buy anything they desire.

What if you were born into a rich, powerful dynasty yet cruelly denied your paternity from birth?  Instead of the wealth due you, you were forced to dwell in poverty.  Instead of having doors instantly open for you, they were slammed in your face.

That was what fate had handed my hero in ‘The Trophy Wife’.

Rafael de Souza is a Wolfe by blood, yet carries his mother’s name because his father refused to acknowledge him.  Her shame of succumbing to one night with her rich powerful employer is Rafael’s cross to bear.

As a boy, Rafael only wanted to be accepted.  To be loved.  He didn’t know what went on behind the closed doors of Wolfe Manor.  He only knew he was horribly lonely, the unwanted one, the bastard.

Thanks to the largess of one brother, Rafael found the siblings he so longed for.  With steely determination, he used his wits and clawed his way to the top.  He became a rich powerful man in his own right.

Rafael earned respect.  But he was still the boy at the back of the fence, aching with loneliness.  Until he met beautiful super model Leila Santiago.

They say money can’t by happiness and it was true for Rafael and Leila.  They had everything at their fingertips.  They’d each made their own fortunes.   They were in love.

Fame, wealth and a glorious future ahead of them.

So how could something so perfect as marrying the love of his life ever be shaken?  How could Rafael suddenly find himself on the brink of losing the one person he loved beyond reason?  How could he reclaim the passion and the love to last an eternity?

How can two people who came together in passion and need realize that to achieve what their hearts’ desired they must trust their hearts and souls and finally let go of the demons that have crippled their pasts?

I hope you enjoy reading Rafael’s and Leila’s turbulent journey to love and happiness as much as I enjoyed writing it.

What about you?  Do you like reading family dramas or continuing series? What are your favorite family drama series?  I’ll give away the winner’s choice of one of my Harlequin Presents back titles to one commenter.