Hot Summer Nights….

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am EXCITED that summer is finally here! Living in Western New York, I wait all winter long, trudging through monstrous snow storms, slipping on ice, wearing hideous looking boots and drinking gallons of hot chocolate…. JUST to get to these long, hot days of summer! I lay in my apartment at night under three comforters with my heat set to 74 and pray that I don’t wake up to a blizzard. All the while dreaming about sunshine-y summer days, margaritas on the patio, grilled hot dogs and walking my dog without being bundled in twenty layers of clothes. My favorite part of summer is the beach- without a doubt. I sit on the beach, sipping sweet tea and reading good books until my skin looks like a golden delicious apple and there is sand in places where sand should never be! My daughter and I are shameless beach bunnies and I don’t even care what I look like in a bathing suit- it’s all about the rays and the relaxation.

But really, who can name just one thing they love about summer? I’m a huge griller-er and pretty much every single day of the summer I’m grilling at least one meal, if not all three. Everything goes on the grill! I search online and through countless cookbooks looking for new recipes to grill up, and so far I have been pretty successful. For instance, tonight I am grilling hot chicken Italian sausage, garlic corn on the cob and zucchini that I have had marinating in Italian dressing and herbs all day! Doesn’t that sound yummy?

Every year my sisters and I and our 13 children plan a huge camping trip that takes up three camp sites, countless bottles of bug spray and hundreds of juice boxes and marshmallows.  It is absolutely wonderful.  We plan all winter for this big, crazy trip and all of the kids get excited for the bonfires and swimming and hiking!  I will take all of that, if we could somehow make the bugs leave the forest for the long weekend that I am there inhabiting their world :).

I have also discovered very recently that I love gardening, even though I may possibly kill all the poor little veggies that were unfortunate enough to be picked by me at the farmers market. I have been known as the “black thumb” of the family, but that will not stop me from trying! I’m currently trying my hand at growing tomatoes, eggplant, banana peppers, strawberries, basil and thyme. I figure 6 is a nice, round number and if they work out next summer maybe I will plant 12. Baby steps is my way of thinking.

So, how about all of our readers out there? Any other beach lovin’ grill-ers out there?! Tell me your favorite summer activity/recipe/anything you want about summer and be entered to win a copy of Hot Summer Nights by Luann Mclane!

May RRAH reviews ….

Hello my bookworms!!

Have you noticed it’s middle of May already?! This is ridiculous! This year’s just flying away from me…I’m still recuperating from my January fall and felling better some days, and then there are some that just plain suck… The weather’s not helping much either…Some days are outright gloomy, and then some are so warm and sunny that make me want to be a cat and just lazy around the house….

Even with my mood swings I managed to read and review some of the books Nancy from Romance Reader At Heart had sent me, so here they are….

Shall I start with the ones I liked, then slowly end with the ones that disappointed me a bit? Okay, you talked me into it!

LOVE FOREVERMORE by Madeline Baker

The West – it had been Loralee’s dream for as long as she could remember, and Indians were the most fascinating part of the wildly beautiful frontier she imagined. But when Loralee arrived at Fort Apache as the new schoolmarm, she had some hard realities to learn..and a harsh taskmaster to teach her.

Shad Zuniga was fiercely proud, aloof, a renegade Apache who wanted no part of the white man’s world, not even its women. Yet Loralee was driven to seek him out, compelled to join him in a forbidden union, forced to become an outcast for one slim chance at LOVE FOREVERMORE.

“Once in a while, I’ll venture out of my comfy regency ‘zone’ and stumble on a real ‘gem’ of a book. This is the case with LOVE FOREVERMORE.” – Melanie

LORD MIDNIGHT by Donna Cummings

Gabriel DeVault, a dashing highwayman, lives to avenge himself against the uncle who stole his title and tried to kill him as a child. One night’s robbery yields unexpected riches when his uncle’s spirited bride-to-be falls into Gabriel’s arms. Now his plans for vengeance include seduction of the innocent miss, in the home that once was his own.

Marisa Dunsmore is blackmailed into wedding the cold and calculating Edmund DeVault, Lord Westbrook, to protect her beloved aunt. When her attempts to escape the upcoming marriage fail, she turns for help to the man she knows as Lord Midnight, entrusting him with her love, and her future.

Soon Gabriel must choose: saving the woman who stole his heart, or destroying the man who stole his life.

“I’m giving this story a Top Pick rose because it’s well written with three-dimensional characters (and some secondary ones that are memorable as well), fast paced with witty dialogue, and in one word: DELICIOUS.” – Melanie

TEXAS BRIDE by Joan Johnston

Miranda Wentworth never imagined becoming a mail-order bride. Now marriage to a stranger is her only hope of finding a home where she and her two younger brothers can escape the brutality of the Chicago orphanage where they live. With any luck, she can even start a family of her own, once the three of them are settled at Jacob Creed’s Texas ranch. But Miranda has one gigantic concern: Her husband-to-be knows nothing about the brothers she’s bringing along. What if he calls off the deal when he discovers the trick she’s played on him?

Jake Creed is hanging on to his Texas ranch by his fingernails. His nemesis, Alexander Blackthorne, is determined to ruin him. Jake will never give up, but he’s in desperate trouble. His wife died six months ago in childbirth, along with their stillborn son, and his two-year-old daughter needs a mother. The advertisement Jake wrote never mentioned his daughter—or the fact that he has no intention of consummating his marriage. He’s determined never to subject another wife to the burden of pregnancy. But Jake doesn’t count on finding his bride so desirable. He doesn’t count on aching with need when she joins him in bed. And he never suspected his bride would have plans of her own to seduce him.

“I am all in knots waiting for WYOMING BRIDE (Hannah’s story), MONTANA BRIDE (Hetty’s story) and BLACKTHORNE’S BRIDE (Josie’s story). I am not a patient person, so I’m reading all her books while waiting for these to hit the shelves or my Kindle.” – Melanie

PERFECT STRANGERS by Rebecca Sinclair

Gabrielle Carelton is one of Queen Elizabeth’s most devoted ladies-in-waiting. But her loyalty is put to the test when Her Majesty commands her to marry Scotsman Collin Douglas. When Gabrielle is kidnapped by Collin’s twin brother, not even Good Queen Bess can save her.

Dubbed the Black Douglas, devilishly handsome Connor is known throughout the land for his magnificent feats of strength and cunning. But now he is in need of an heir. An English bride will bring peace to the warring nations — and give him the son he craves. What he doesn’t expect is a woman as passionate as she is proud … and a desire that knows no boundaries.

Set against the pageantry and savage splendor of 16th-century England and Scotland, here is the story of a man and a woman who begin as enemies and strangers — and find a love that will triumph against all odds.

“All I have to say is, WOW! This book blurb doesn’t do this book justice.” – Melanie

HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL by Vicky Dreiling

Miss Julianne Gatewick is in a pickle. It started when her brother’s best friend-for whom she’s long nursed a secret tendre-agreed to act as her guardian for the Season, only to seduce her with a risqué waltz. But when the music stopped and the expectant ton waited for Marc Darcett, Earl of Hawkfield, to claim her as his own, he made his disinterest clear. Rather than succumb to humiliation, Julianne does what any self-respecting, recently discarded young miss with a wicked sense of humor would do. She secretly pens a lady’s guide to enticing unrepentant rakes . . . and it becomes the hottest scandal sheet in London.

Every honorable rake knows that friends’ sisters are forbidden. But suddenly Julienne has a spark of mischief in her eyes that Hawk can’t resist. Try as he might to push her away, he spends his days listening for her laughter and his nights dreaming of kissing her senseless. He’s always avoided innocents and their marriage-minded mothers, but has the man least likely to wed finally met his match?

“There’s a lot to recommend this read, but the romance of it would be my first recommendation. The second is the humor; the third, pace; and last but not least are the three-dimensional characters, even the secondary ones.” – Melanie

THE REBEL PRINCESS by Judith Koll Healy

Paris, October 1207. There is nothing that Princess AlaÏs of France wants more than to settle down with her lover, William of Caen, and to reveal to his ward, Francis, that she is his mother. but intrigue is afoot in the palace, and tensions are pushed to the brink when a much prized relic is stolen and young Francis goes missing. frantic for his safety, AlaÏs will risk life and limb to find the boy—donning a disguise to outwit cunning enemies as she makes her way into unfamiliar territory to save her son, and perhaps prevent a bloody holy war that threatens her beloved France.

From the opulent halls of Paris to austere monasteries in the south of France, The Rebel Princess combines history and suspense in an unforgettable tale involving one of the most enigmatic and intriguing female figures in medieval history.

“Where to start? This was a very, very, very long read for me. I would start reading it and stop, then repeat the exercise for the next month and a half.” – Melanie

TO PLEASURE A DUKE by Sara Bennett

It has taken Eugenie Belmont but a moment to decide whom to marry . . .

Unfortunately the gentleman in question, the Duke of Somerton, hasn’t yet offered—a mere formality for a confirmed member of the Husband Hunters Club of Miss Debenham’s Finishing School. Like her friends, Eugenie is unwilling to wait demurely until the perfect mate happens by. And, despite the handsome duke’s imposing reputation, she can feel his heated glances in her direction are charged with desire . . . and possibilities.

Saddled with a dukedom, a haughty dowager, and an irresponsible younger sister, Sinclair St. John is far too occupied with important matters to indulge in romantic whims. But for the first time in his life, a brazen temptress has him utterly distracted. He could—and he should—dismiss her and court someone more befitting his station. But he is irresistibly drawn to this bewitching woman . . . and must match her game of seduction, move for passionate move.

“This is my first ever book by this author, and my last, sad to say.” – Melanie

And there you have it, my bookworms. Now, remember! It’s always possible that what I liked you may not, and vice-versa. These are only my opinions based on what I like, and what I preffer. If you’d like to purchase any of these books, click on the cover and it’ll take you to Amazon.

Now off I go to see what’s left on my Kindle…

Oh, BTW: What are you reading right now and what’s the latest book you’ve read and just couldn’t connect to? Let’s give away a book today, shall we? we still have some left over from RT’s…

*US ONLY sorry*

Fan2Author Interview with…Donna Cummings!

b2bMelanie: Bookworms, please help me welcome Donna Cummings with my first question…

I never read any of your work before ‘Lord Midnight, so please tell us a bit about yourself and your writing career as well as the book. When did you know that writing was what you wanted to do?

Donna Cummings: Melanie, thanks so much for having me here today. I’ve actually had a lot of other careers, including attorney, and retail store owner, and while each job required me to use my writing abilities, it just wasn’t the same as writing romances! So I started writing those to entertain myself while working at jobs that weren’t always as satisfying. But really, what could possibly be as satisfying as writing sexy, humorous romantic stories? That’s a career I’ll always love.

b2b: How cool to find out we have retail experience in common. Although, I never owned  it, I loved working in it.

Donna, Lord Midnight was an enjoyable read from start to finish (bookworms, for my review of it click RRAH). What was the idea behind it? When you write, what comes first, the plot, voice, characters or setting?

DC: I’m so glad to hear how much you enjoyed Lord Midnight. And I love that you called it “delicious”. The story started from a couple of unrelated ideas that crashed into each other in my brain, while I was doing research for something else. I read a newspaper article talking about how tough the job of the U.S. vice president can be, since that person’s future essentially depends on something awful happening to the president. And it made me think what might happen if something dreadful happened to the heir to an English title–and even worse, what if it happened because someone didn’t want to wait their turn?

When I write, the characters usually appear first. They’re typically in the middle of a conversation, chatting away, and I have to figure out where they’ve been before that scene, and where they’re headed. It’s always fun, and almost like solving an intriguing mystery.

b2b: I truly enjoyed the slow build-up of their relationship and loved the banter between them, but what made this such an enjoyable read for me was the friendship that first develops between the hero and heroine and I wondered why you chose that route?

DC: I’m so intrigued that you mention the friendship angle; because I’m not sure I realized it was there until now! I love characters who banter with each other, and I’m a huge fan of witty dialogue, and fortunately I have characters who love to banter and engage in humorous exchanges. I think it’s a great way for characters to get to know each other, and humor also allows people to let down their guard, which is necessary when you’re learning to trust someone, and fall in love.

b2b: Would you mind telling us who inspired your hero and heroine? And speaking of, who is your favorite hero?

DC: I don’t have a specific inspiration for either of them–although there was this one barista at Starbucks with long blond hair, and I kept wondering if his first name was Gabriel. . . Ahem. My favorite romance hero is a Georgette Heyer one, but not her typical Regency heroes, although I adore them too. This one is an English pirate by the name of Beauvallet, and he is witty, constantly laughing in the face of danger, and recklessly doing the impossible to win his lady-love. I just can’t resist that kind of hero.

b2b: Donna, do you think that there is a difference between, and specifically, what sets apart in your opinion the ‘traditional’ regency novels from ‘historical novels set in the regency time period’?

DC:  I actually started writing traditional Regencies, and at the time they were typically shorter books, with witty dialogue, humorous situations, and absolutely no sex in the love scenes. I think readers and writers wanted to explore different aspects of that era, as well as a wider range of emotions and sensuality, so now we have an amazing choice when it comes to what’s available in Regency-set historicals. Lord Midnight was actually my first “non-traditional” Regency, although it’s definitely not the last. I like the combination of humorous and sexy, so I guess I’m writing a blend of the two types.

b2b: What’s up next for Donna Cummings?

DC: I’m working on several things right now. I just finished a contemporary novella which is part of an anthology that came about in a fun way: someone posted a pic on Twitter of a hot guy on a train, and our comments quickly turned into “let’s each write a story based on the concept of a stranger on a train”. I’ve also been posting some excerpts on my blog of a contemporary romantic comedy/mystery titled I Do. . .or Die, and I may self-publish it soon. I’m also finishing up another Regency historical, Lord Wastrel, which is excerpted at the back of Lord Midnight. The hero and heroine — Hugh and Felicia — make me laugh a lot, and they have a wonderful friendship — so I’m hoping that will be an enjoyable read too.

b2b: Donna, thanks so much for coming over to play! I hope you come back often to chat with us! I’m looking forward to it!

DC: Thank you. I will definitely come back to play! I had a great time!

I’ve got an e-copy of Lord Midnight to give away, and it’s available internationally (as long as you can read on Kindle or Nook). Tell me about the romance hero you find irresistible, and why.

Melanie here. Here’s a bit about Donna: “… worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances.

Currently I reside in Massachusetts, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, consuming mojitos for breakfast and wearing flip flops year-round.

You can find out more about me, and my books, here.”

‘Lord Midnight’ by Donna Cummings

GABRIEL DeVAULT, a dashing highwayman, lives to avenge himself against the uncle who stole his title and tried to kill him as a child. One night’s robbery yields unexpected riches when his uncle’s spirited bride-to-be falls into Gabriel’s arms. Now his plans for vengeance include seduction of the innocent miss, in the home that once was his own.

MARISA DUNSMORE is blackmailed into wedding the cold and calculating Edmund DeVault, Lord Westbrook, to protect her beloved aunt. When her attempts to escape the upcoming marriage fail, she turns to the man she knows as Lord Midnight, entrusting him with her love, and her future.

Soon Gabriel must choose: saving the woman who stole his heart, or destroying the man who stole his life.

MINI REVIEW: I’ve never read anything from Donna Cummings before ‘Lord Midnight’, but that will change after this book.

I reviewed this book for Romance Reader At Heart last month (here) and thought to let you all know that I really enjoyed it. I have no doubt that you’ll all fall in love with Gabriel. As for Marisa, she will take your breath away with her wit and charm.

I loved everything about this story, from the pace of the story to the plot of it. It will have you tied in knots and make you anxious for the HEA. I highly recommend it, so make sure you find the time for it.

Mother’s Day….

I woke up this morning a bit sad. It’s mother’s day and there are no little pitter-patter of feet running around the kitchen, trying so hard to be quiet preparing me a ‘surprise’ breakfast. Those feet have now ‘pitter-pattered’ in my son’s case, out-of-state in search of his own life’s  happiness and in case of my daughter, her search of  life’s path. Oh, I’m sure they’ll call me today and we’ll talk and reminisce about my ‘smothering’ as they call it, and we’ll touch on how much we miss each other, but then we all will get back to living our lives apart.

And that is as it should be.  Most of us try to bring our children in a way that we can proudly say that they’re all independent and can choose their own path. That’s how it was with me and my parents, [what was I thinking when at twenty years of age, half way around the world, on a vacation, I called my mother to tell her that after only ONE WEEK I've decided to marry and never return to the States?!] and it was with my parents [what were they thinking to leave their parents behind in a third-world country, old and alone and head out with no money and two kids for the country which language they didn't speak?!], too.

I understand the concept; I embrace it even, but that doesn’t mean that I like it or that it makes me happy. It only means that I’ve come to accept it as years go by. That’s life, I guess, and we should be grateful that we’re all healthy and still around and able to talk, argue and kiss and make up. But what about those mothers that aren’t able to do so? That are all alone today, and I mean truly alone, whose children are lost to them? To wars, crime and illness?

And that brings me to those of us that have lost their own mothers in the past and this year. I know that my mother past away sixteen years ago, and while the pain has subsided, the ‘missing’ has not. At fifty-seven, she died way too young. If she were with me today, I think that, for the lack of a better word, the ‘abandonment’  would not hurt as much.

When I stop and think about all this, I feel ashamed at being sad for mere ‘physical distance’ that’s separating me from my own kids….

To all of you mothers, especially the military ones out there, I send my huge Serbian hug. We should grab what we can, hold it tight and let it go when the time comes. It’s all we can do. We’ve done our part. Now, they can fly and soar to the heights that we didn’t, couldn’t…wouldn’t even dream of.

‘If I Fall’ by Kate Noble

Every great romance comes with a risk…
After a duke’s betrayal, the resilient Sarah Forrester reinvents herself as the Golden Lady: society’s leading light, the beautiful and witty life of the party. It’s all a façade of course-one that protects her from another intimate disloyalty. When her old friend, Lieutenant Jackson Fletcher, returns to London, he is determined to rediscover the true and trusting Sarah he once knew. It’ll take more than a kiss and a promise. It might even call for an innocent and necessary deception.

Then Jackson is enlisted to help capture the lead suspect in a murder– a man who happens to be Sarah’s most ardent suitor. Jack must continue the deception, and weathering this newest and gravest betrayal will be Sarah’s ultimate test. But as Jack’s passion for her grows, he must also reveal his own secrets. And as the killer turns his attention to his pursuers, more than love and trust is put at risk.

I truly love Kate Nobles style of writing.  Her characters have flaws, depth, feeling, emotions, REALNESS.  And I love that!  When I say they have realness, I mean they have realness.  They can be downright annoying at times- not in a bad way but in a “I love you but I don’t like you right now” kinda way!

I loved everything about the characters.  Sarah is beautiful, angry and protecting herself behind a big fat façade.  Jackson is a loyal, wonderful hero for Sarah and I was so intrigued by him. I could have read their story for EVER.  I didn’t want it to end.  The drama, the angst, the suspense, the romance- It all blended together beautifully to make me one happy, happy reader!

I like the development and growth that was visible on every page.  I like my characters to grow together and be better people when they are together and that is absolutely the case with Sarah and Jackson.  They compliment one another, they make each other better people.  They are simply better together- and Jackson fights for her emotions and her love and that made me just LOVE him so much!

And on a side note the cover to this book is just GORGEOUS!

This is my first book by Kate Noble but it certainly will not be my last!  I look forward to searching out more of Kate Nobles books and seeing where she takes me in each of them!

 

Fan2Author Interview with…Kate Noble!

Kristal: Hello Kate!  Thank you for visiting with us on our blog!  We are so excited to have you here with us!

Kate Noble: Thank you for having me!

K: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  Maybe give us a little back ground into your decision to become a writer?  Maybe tell us a childhood dream or two that helped you see out your dreams?

KN: I have always been in love with a good story.  When I was a kid I would devour books, movies, television, plays.  My dream job as a child was to become a Disney animator.  I ended up going to school to study filmmaking, and but I found I gravitated to writing the scripts, as opposed to being behind the camera.  Thus a love of writing was borne.  It’s a little round about, in terms of becoming a novelist, but I got there eventually.

K: I see that you mainly write historical romance.  And I literally gobble up the historicals, they fascinate me.  I’m not sure that I could ever have the creative ability to tell a 300 page story about my fascination, but you do it so well!  How did you come to love that era?  Does it take a lot of research to see your stories come to life?

KN: When I started reading romance novels as a teen, I gobbled up historicals, in particular Amanda Quick.  And when I read Pride and Prejudice, my conversion to a historical lover was complete.  So, it was natural that when I started writing novels, they would be in this genre I adored.

One of the reasons I love the Regency is the rules of the era.  Dancing with someone told the world you were interested in them, the way a lady held her fan could tell you whether or not she liked you.  And taking a lady’s hand was tantamount to an engagement.  Nobody did wanting like the Regency did.

Yes, research is a huge part of the job – after all, research is what creates the place and time the story lives in, and gives it its atmosphere.  But you can’t let yourself get swallowed by it.  When it comes down to it, I’m writing about people, and their relationships.

K: Any favorite movies or books or even music that inspires your work?  I know that I need complete silence to even open a book, but I’m sure there is quite the process to get the juices flowing when writing an entire novel!

KN: Yes, there are movies and music that inspire my work, but it varies with every book.  For instance, I consider If I Fall to have been heavily influenced by the Indiana Jones films and by The Princess Bride.  But my previous novels had their own influences.

As for music, I will usually create a playlist of songs that speak to the plot, the characters, an emotion or any particular scene in the story.  And I’ll listen to that playlist over and over again.  It can be modern music – I’ve put Coldplay and Linkin Park on If I Fall’s playlist – or it can be music from the Regency Era.  For instance, in the book I’m currently working on, Beethoven’s No. 23 piano sonata plays a prominent role – thus, I listen to it almost daily.

K: Have you done any traveling lately?  We’d love to hear about any book tours or just leisurely vacations you’d like to tell us about?

KN: The most recent traveling I did was to Peru.  My boyfriend and I went to Machu Picchu, and it was a truly wonderful, beautiful trip – in fact, I think I’m going to have to write a Peruvian hero in one of my books!

K: What is next for you?  Can you tell us about your new book If I Fall that released in April??

KN: I’m so pleased with fans’ reactions to If I Fall!  Everyone who read Follow My Lead wanted Sarah Forrester to get a story of her own – she was rather cruelly hurt when we last saw her, having her heart broken by the duke she was supposed to marry.  Now, to survive socially, and to protect her vulnerable heart, she has transformed herself into the Golden Lady – the most sought after young woman of the ton, the light of every party.  The only person who can see through this shiny, brittle façade is Sarah’s childhood friend Lieutenant Jackson Fletcher, who has recently returned to London from years at sea.

Jack will do anything to bring back the happy, kind Sarah he once knew – even something as ridiculous as dressing up as her childhood hero, the anonymous British spy the Blue Raven – to wake up the real Sarah.  Unfortunately, the real Blue Raven doesn’t find Jack’s disguise nearly as clever.  But he does need his help in finding a killer, one that might just target Sarah next.

I also have a special e-novella out now too!  It’s called The Dress of the Season, and it’s such a happy little story, about second chances and seeing someone with new eyes. Harris Dane, Viscount Osterley, orders a very fine and scandalously cut dress to be made for a certain lady he wishes to woo. While with the dress designer, he also orders a pair of gloves to be sent to his ward, Miss Felicity Grove, to wish her well for the new Season. But when Felicity accidentally receives the dress, along with Osterley’s affectionate note, it sets into motion a tale of scandalous misunderstandings and love in the last place you look.

K: Any book recommendations for us?  What have you been reading in your spare time?  Im sure we would all love some recommendations for some beach reading!

KN: What spare time?!  All kidding aside, I find it very difficult to read while I’m working on a book, but I do manage to sneak a book in here and there.  The most recent book I read and loved was Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas.   I’ve always loved Lisa Kleypas’s historicals and I’m just now discovering her Texas-set contemporaries.  It’s fantastic!

K: Thank you so much for stopping by and answering some questions for us!!

And now for our Giveaway. b2b will give one lucky commenter Kate’s eNovella “The Dress of the Season” if you tell us what TV/Movie actor reminds you of your favorite hero! Speaking of, who is your favorite hero?!

*Sorry, US only*