Outlander, Jamie Fraser, and the TV Show I Refuse to Watch

So I have a dilemma. Or maybe it's not a dilemma, since I've pretty much made up my mind that I'm not going to watch the Outlander TV series. And even though including a photo of the actor who plays Jamie Fraser would probably be most welcome here, I am not going to do it. In fact, when I went to the STARZ site to copy the series link, I squinted so that I wouldn't be able to make him out.

I've been told by a number of people that the show is lush, well-done, and true to the books, and that I would love it, but I can't do it. Already the few images of the actor playing Jamie have begun to superimpose themselves over the version of Jamie I have in my head, and that just won't do.

I have loved Jamie Fraser, the hero of Outlander, since 1994, when I wandered into a bookstore and picked the mass market paperback edition off the shelve.

My beloved original copy.

I hadn't heard a single word about the series at that point, though the second and third books were out by then. Was I too out of it to know about the cult following (soon to be a full-on following) it was generating? Perhaps. I had just graduated from college and was feeling a bit lost as I hung around my college town with no idea what I would do with my life and only a part-time job to fill my days.

I'd graduated with a degree in Social Thought and Political Economy, a cool interdisciplinary major that led me to great classes, but I wasn't prepared for anything. I wanted to write, but that was still a vague notion. I certainly wasn't making plans to do it for a living. I didn't know what I would do for a living.

College students these days are way more forward-thinking than I was then. Times have changed and you need to have a plan if you're going to make it in the working world. But it would take me a few years to get it together. Until then, I made it up as I went along.

Outlander was just what I needed at that time, though really, it would have been just what I needed no matter when I found it. It's the perfect escapist book and I completely lost myself in the story of Jamie and Claire's love. Nothing could touch me while I was reading it.

Maybe the show would expand my love for the story and give me another way to experience the characters. But I can't go there yet. I'm not ready to give up the Jamie I've loved so long for the guy who plays him on TV, no matter how pretty he is.


Sexy poetry for your reading pleasure

So this past Wednesday I went to a poetry reading by Billy Collins, who opened the Sunken Garden poetry series at the Hillstead Museum in Farmington, CT. They do it every summer and I highly recommend it if you live nearby and like summer and poetry and picnics. Or even two out of the three.

Before I turned to writing romances I wrote poetry, and one day I discovered Billy Collins in a literary journal I was reading. I was working at Border's Books (the defunct brick and mortar bookstore of yore), and I marched right over to the poetry section and plucked him off the shelves. I bought several more of his books over the years and would often re-read my favorites. 

But I haven't read him in years and I'd forgotten there was a poem called "Japan," until Wednesday night when Billy Collins read it. I fell in love all over again.

JAPAN

Today I pass the time reading 
a favorite haiku
saying the few words over and over.

It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again.

I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.

I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.

And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

It's the one about the one-ton temple bell
with the moth sleeping on its surface,

and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.

When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.

When I say it at the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.

And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed. 




And now I'll share a poem I wrote during that same timeframe. I make no claim to greatness, but perhaps my kindred romance readers will appreciate the sentiment. 

Reasons for ROmances
                
At the bookstore we strip the covers
off mass market books
and send them to the publishers.
The rest gets thrown in the trash,
but one woman has papered her office
with the rescued inner flaps
of romance novels, the dim white paint
now a froth of pleated pastels and tousled hair.
We laugh and point to our favorite men,
our taste for hairless chests
and tight breeches revealed.
But when no one's around,
I gaze seriously at those lovers
on prairies and in coaches.
My desire is equally absurd
and sure to remain unrequited.
Oh, to be seduced like a virgin
in a world without consequences.





A Marriage of Convenience

In December of my sophomore year of college my grandmother treated me, my cousin Jamie, my mother and my aunt to a Caribbean cruise. My grandmother was practically a professional cruiser by this time, and she had no intention of taking her granddaughters, both of us a tender nineteen years old, on one of those enormous Carnival ships where we could get into all kinds of trouble. Instead she booked us passage on a smaller ship with much less to do.

But that was okay with me, because the main attraction was our waiter:


This is Ivan (pronounced Ee-van). 

Ivan was our waiter for all three meals. I'm not sure when he slept. But I didn't want him to, anyway, I wanted him where I could see him. And it wasn't just me, all the women at our table were equally enthralled. That was the point. All the waiters—and in fact nearly every male member of the staff—were young and hot. 

They were also from war-torn or impoverished countries and were working on the ship because they didn't have better options. They also didn't have the papers to live anywhere outside their own country, so they were stuck on the boat watching us devour three meals plus a midnight buffet each and every day. Loads of fun, no doubt.  

One day Ivan told us he was from Yugoslavia and couldn't go back home or he'd be drafted into the army, and that he hadn't heard from his mother or young daughter in weeks. 

The whole thing was tragic and I felt terrible for him. He seemed kind and stuck and I wanted to save him. So I did what any nineteen-year old college sophomore would do: I told my mother I wanted to marry him so that he could get off the boat and live in the U.S. 

Perhaps I'd read a few too many romances.

I knew it was far-fetched, of course, and frankly I'd have been terrified if by some freakish turn of events my mother agreed and Ivan agreed, etc. But I had to at least mention it. But bless her, my mother didn't laugh at all. In fact she answered me quite seriously, in part I think because she was half in love with him also and felt for him like I did. But she pointed out that it would be all too obvious to immigration officials that we didn't have a real relationship, given the way we'd met. It just wouldn't fly. So that was that. 

It was Ivan's job to keep us happy that week we were on the ship, but I like to think he had some affection for us, as we did for him. 

Our goodbye kiss. Check out how good he is at kissing and how clueless I am. 

When I left the ship I had details of how I could reach him, and I did write to him once. There isn't much to say when you barely know someone and their experience is so far beyond your own, and I was conscious of a certain ridiculousness on my own part. But I confessed the plan I'd had, offering it up in a half-joking way to see what he'd say. I suppose I wanted him to know I cared. 

In his reply to me he said I was "the best part of his long and stupid ship life." And that's where it ended. There was nowhere to go after that.

I wish I knew his last name. I hope he's doing well, wherever he is. I hope he found his own happily ever after.



Re-Reading the Handmaid's Tale

You've probably heard about Hulu's new series, The Handmaid's Tale, which is based on Margaret Atwood's novel of the same title. Maybe you've read the book. I read it years ago, so long ago that I don't remember much beyond the main premise. Except that after all these years a gorgeous phrase from the book has stuck with me, an observation Offred makes when looking at a dark purple flower in the garden, its color "like black cat ears in the sun."

Gorgeous, right?

I want to watch the Hulu show, but I decided to re-read the book again first a) because I think it's an important book and b) because I wanted to know the book better before I watched the show, which will inevitably make changes to the original story.

Here's the thing. The first time I read it I didn't find it nearly so grim or difficult to take. I don't know why it's different now, maybe it's just that I'm older, but it's suffocating in a way I didn't experience before. I think it's Atwood's intention for me to feel this way, but it's not pleasant, and so guess what? After a couple chapters I put the book down and started reading Strange the Dreamer instead—escaping from a dystopian future into fantasy.

Sometimes I just don't want to go there, which I guess is why I'm such a big fan of all things romance. Certain books do a number on me. I'll be horribly unhappy and then realize it's because of the book I'm reading. This happened recently with the wonderful Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. But I consider this a failing on my part, to some extent, because some of the most moving and gorgeous books out there will also make you sad, or uncomfortable, but I'd be missing out if I skipped over them. 

Which is why I always have a romance on deck to pull me out of the emotional depths and into the light of a happily ever after. 






Kindred Spirits

It's fitting that last week I blogged about Anne of Green Gables, because she was all about finding kindred spirits and I have just finished Rainbow Rowell's short story of the same title.

I've been waiting for this story to become available, because it was originally released only in the UK for World Book Day and none of us non-Brits could get our hands on it. But at last it's available to all her fans the world over.

It was worth the wait.

Anyone who loves Rowell's books will love this little gem, but if you also happen to be a Star Wars fan (as I am) you will appreciate it on that level too, because the two main characters meet in line for the first Star Wars sequel. I loved the characters and dialogue and Rowell's unique voice. And you can't help loving Elena, the heroine, who says that her favorite movie is Empire Strikes Back because of the kissing.


Oh, yes.

I'm assuming that Rowell is working away on another book, so this little chocolate truffle of a story will have to hold us all over until the next one is released. And then we'll gobble that one up, too, knowing we should slow down because we'll be sorry when it ends, but loving it too much to do anything but read until the end.

I keep a list of favorite authors so that I can periodically check if any of them has a new book out. That's what I was doing when I discovered that Kindred Spirits was released worldwide. So now I need to keep moving down the list—and hoping that the authors I love write a lot faster than I do.






My Old Friend Anne

When I was eight or nine my mother gave me a stack of used books for Hanukah, along with a grown-up brown leather wallet. That was after she and my dad divorced and before she got remarried and landed a better-paying job, so times were tight. But back then kids we knew didn't get crazy gifts for Hanukah, plus I was a big reader, so books were always cool with me.

Anne of Green Gables was in that stack, and I lived and breathed it and read the whole series of books over and over. The romance between Gilbert Blythe and Anne was one of the great romances of my early life, second only (chronologically anyway) to Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder. 

I still have that first copy of the book, but it's fragile now and the cover fell off years ago, so I recently bought a fresh copy I could break in anew. This past week I was sick as a dog and did nothing but cough and blow my nose and take my temperature (I need up-to-the minute intel when I'm sick), and my fever left me feeling wiped out and dull. I needed the comfort of a beloved book, and so I put down the new Laini Taylor book, Strange the Dreamer (which I will blog about when I finish) and picked up Anne. 

I'm so glad I read it when I was really young, because there's no way to go back in time and have the full effect of a book if you miss the window when you're young. There are so many books I didn't read when I was a kid—many of them because my brothers read them, which made them boy books and therefore to be avoided. I never read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or A Wrinkle in Time as a kid, and by the time I wanted to, there was no way for them to be magical. I could appreciate them, but that's different than living and breathing them. 

But luckily I found Anne at the right time, and I'll always have that. Every night since I started it again, I've gone to bed smiling.






New Adult is for Everyone

So my current book project is a new adult romance set in college, and while I was hesitant to read other new adult novels while writing one for fear that I would discover that another writer was covering similar territory, in the end I couldn't help myself.

Earlier in the year I read Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend you do. Even if M/M romances aren't generally your thing, my guess is you'll like reading about two hot hockey players who fall for each other. It's really smart and realistic, and did I mention HOT?

Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen write both adult and new adult romances on their own, and I recently read The Year We Fell Down and The Year We Hid Away, the first two books in Sarina's The Ivy Years series. Both were excellent, but The Year We Fell Down was especially moving because the heroine is partly disabled from a hockey accident. It's handled so well and the hero—another hockey player—is perfect. If you start reading Sarina Bowen you'll find that there's a lot of hockey going on.

I started reading one of Elle Kennedy's college books and the heroine had the same name as mine does, so I put it down. I'll pick it up again when my book is done.

My husband and I just bought our first house last spring and now we have a mortgage to pay and hedges to trim (seriously, I can't believe we have hedges to trim), so going back in time to my college years as I write is particularly fun. Much to my surprise, I've even discovered things about myself at that time that got translated to my heroine, so it's been pretty cool.

Also cool: writing about first kisses. Like, first first kisses. So fun.








Alpha Female


A few weeks ago everyone in my office filled out a DISC assessment questionnaire, the answers to which would determine what sort of behavioral profile we fall into, particularly in our work. The idea being if we understood ourselves and our coworkers better, we would be a stronger team.

There are four profile categories: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. You can be predominantly one area or a combination of two.

We had a workshop last week where the woman who conducted the assessment gave us our individualized reports and discussed what the categories meant. I thought I would end up in the category where the warm, charming, accepting, thoughtful people ended up.

Not so much.

Apparently, I am a DC, so I have some of the C characteristics, like wanting to make sure work is accurate, taking time to look at data before making a decision, that sort of thing, and I have aspects of the other categories, but the personalized report I got back emphasized characteristics like strong-willed, fast, blunt, results-driven, impatient, skeptical, and willing to take on a challenge.

Now, I knew I had these qualities to some degree, but I never gave them a whole lot of thought. I mean, I’m actually a pretty warm person--if you’re not incompetent or wasting my time. 

 

Basically, I’m just like my mother. 

My mother can be a little much, but she’s also pretty kick-ass, and she had high-powered jobs and was great at them. So there are worse people to take after. And now that I’m clued into these tendencies, I can temper them when appropriate. Also, using this sort of behavioral profiling will be a great tool for character development.

As for my husband, he didn’t seem all that shocked when I told him I was a D for Dominant. Then again, he can handle it.

Top Ten

In the grand tradition of New Year top ten lists, I present my own top ten favorite books of 2015. All of them are fiction, but not all are romances. Additionally, many of them came out before 2015 and I just happened to read them this year.


Drum roll please...

1.) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

2.) How the Marquess was Won by Julie Anne Long

3.) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

4.) The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

5.) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

6.) The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

7.) Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

8.) Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

9.) Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Book One) by Leigh Bardugo

10.) The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

Overall it was a great reading year, and I am currently reading another book that will probably make my top ten list next year. Stay tuned for a review in the weeks to come.

On a different note, I celebrated the New Year today by finally watching the second Magic Mike movie, and I cannot believe how good it was. I really liked the first movie, but the second one was even better. Sexier, funnier, more tender, smarter. And even more sexy dancing from my boyfriend, Channing Tatum. If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. I streamed it for $3.99 on Amazon and it was so worth it. I only wish I'd made it to the theater to see it on the big screen. Yum.

Image result for channing tatum

Happy New Year everyone! Here's to another year of tasty heroes, both on and off the page.

The Ultimate Escape

I think most of us love romances for a variety of reasons, but one of them is the wonderful escape it affords us. Had a foul day? Crack open that romance and you'll soon forget all about it. Fight with your guy? Go into the other room and read about a man who would never do whatever yours just did.

I have been reading historical romances since high school, and one thing I love about them is the extra layer of escape they offer. Not only do I get to read about some delectable man and a happily ever after--with a few spicy bits thrown in--but I get a whole other time and way of living. Petticoats and corsets and the men who take them off.

But I confess to feeling let down the last few years by the historical romances out there. With a few exceptions they just have not been doing it for me, and I have been reading mostly contemporaries because of it. Judith Ivory was a wonderful discovery a couple of years back, but has she has not written anything in years, so there's nothing left of hers for me to discover.

One of the things I love about Judith Ivory is the way she stays in a scene and lets it unfold detail by detail, lets the characters notice each other in that heightened way people do when they are first falling for one another, building the tension until you're madly turning the pages, dying to know what happens and waiting for them to kiss.

Both of the below books have just this element to them, and it made me so invested in the story and characters that I couldn't stop reading even though I wanted to slow down and make them last.

I discovered the first when a friend emailed me to say she had just finished Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale and I should check it out. I'd had the book in my to-read list for a couple of years, so I decided I'd waited long enough. Thank goodness I finally gave it a try. It has wonderful, complex characters and a rich, unpredictable story. It also has some of the most sensual scenes I've read in a long time, and that's saying something. There was nothing cliched or generic about the hero or heroine, and in fact the plot is really unusual. But all the complications and obstacles the h/h face flow organically from their characters, and it's so satisfying. It's sexy and heart-pounding and I loved it.

My other discovery was How the Marquess was Won by Julie Anne Long. I had never heard of this author, and then I saw her recommended online somewhere and decided to check her out. This book is somewhere down the line in the Pennyroyal Green series, but I decided to start with this one because the reviews just raved about it. I loved it more than any historical I can remember reading since Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels. The heroine has smarts and spunk, and the hero is so delicious and wonderful and unexpected, I wanted it never to end.

Not everyone gravitates to historical romances, but if you have even the slightest interest, I recommend these two writers, as well as Judith Ivory. They are sophisticated, beautiful writers and I am betting you won't be sorry you tried them.




They're playing our song

So I'm in the middle of writing a new novella, which means a new hero, a new guy to fall in love with. But I'm having this problem.

I'm not over Jesse.

I fell hard for Jesse when writing Slow Burn, and the last hero I write about always sticks with me until the next one I write. Like how you don't completely get over one boyfriend until you have another. The problem this time is that Jesse was inspired by the musician Ryan Bingham:









and I listened to his music throughout the entire writing process. I imagined Jesse singing songs like his, so now every time I hear one of RB's songs--usually when I'm driving, my thoughts drifting along--I start reminiscing about Jesse. I miss him. I have this nostalgia about him like he's a lost love, as if we were really together and something came between us, leaving me with this bittersweet longing.


I don't listen to his music round the clock like I used to. Just an album every now and then, or the occasional song when my iPod is in shuffle mode. I listen and let that pleasurable ache bloom, and think of how things were until the song fades into the next one.














The Bacon Product that Changed My Life

 Yes, I am breaking my long silence for bacon.

I just had to share, because I didn't know it could be like this. Nothing had prepared me for what I found two days before Thanksgiving in a specialty cheese shop where I went to get some upscale hors d'oeurvres for the big day.

There I was, browsing the shelves filled with olive tapendades and fancy crackers while waiting my turn for help with selecting the perfect cheese. My gaze fell upon a humble-looking jar with the word "bacon" on the label. Bacon Spread.


People, you can buy this little jar (or something like it), and then anytime your little heart desires bacon, such as on a BLT, all you do is open the jar.  Maybe this is a bigger deal to me than to most people. I have a gluten intolerance, and as such, I cannot get a BLT just anywhere. Precious few restaurants serve both BLTs and gf bread (though there are more every day), and I don't know any where we live now. I'm seriously deprived, in other words. And I don't buy bacon very often, because my husband doesn't eat it and you get a lot all at once and I don't especially enjoy cooking it. It's messy and sets off the smoke alarm.

But now I have this.

Granted, it's not crispy and greasy and it doesn't fill all of bacon's duties, but it goes a long way.

Apparently, this sort of heavenly spread is called "bacon jam" and there are recipes out there for it. So you have options. This particular jar isn't cheap if you think about how small it is, but when you consider how far a spoonful will go and how happy it will make you, I say it's a bargain.

Holy crap, it's been along time since I blogged.

But here's the reason: I got a new job, which I started three weeks ago, and in order to take this job, my husband and I needed to move. Which meant weeks of packing and then unpacking and days learning a new job and coming home so tired I could hardly think straight.

It's a good job, one I am oh so grateful to have, and the new house is cozy and wonderful, with my own room for writing (as opposed to my former nook), and more space in general. Even better, it's warm. Our old house was pretty and had lots of character, but it was also old and drafty and I was always cold. Here I am finally warm.

So it's all good, except for one thing. What with the move and the new job and the distraction of it all, I have not written anything in months. Or nothing worth reading, anyway. Usually after finishing a book I take a month or so to recharge, and then I get back at it. But this time around I started a job search just after finishing Slow Burn, and anyone who's done that will know what a time suck it is. And then I actually got a job and, well, there you have it.

So that's where I'm at. Luckily, I'm in the middle of reading my critique partner's manuscript, and I love it so much I'm feeling inspired again. Plus, things have settled down now. I still have a few things to do, like get a new license and registration and fun things like that, but I can start focusing now on other things.

Like writing and romance and hot sex.

Finally, in case any of you are unaware, check out #hotdudesreading. It makes me so happy.






The Meaning of Life

Bacon Candy



If you like bacon, those are the only two words you need to know. I made this yesterday for our family gathering and I nearly ate the entire pound of bacon. Everyone else seemed to like it, too. I worked a lot harder on a pear tart that wasn't nearly as delightful.

Bacon candy is insanely easy to make. There are probably a lot of variations, but this recipe calls for light brown sugar and chili pepper to coat the bacon and then bake it on 400 until it's crispy and carmelized and you groan in ecstasy at the salty, sweet first bite. Then you get the little kick from the chili pepper that keeps it from being too sweet.

See the recipe at Food & Wine. I can't think of anything easier to make, or one that will bring so much joy into the world.


Bon appetite!

Think Like a Man

All of my books so far have been written in third person from both the hero’s and heroine’s point of view (POV). This is  standard in contemporary and historical romance,  principally because we all love to read about how the hero views the heroine. And of course we get to see what’s holding him back or making him act like an idiot. It gives us a way to understand what he's going through.

But that means writing from a man’s POV. Writers have always written from the perspective of the opposite sex. I mean, you can’t expect a woman writer to only write from a woman’s POV and vice versa. In romance, most of us are trying to write something that feels authentic, but there’s also an element of fantasy, or idealism at least, in our portrayal.

So, how does one write from a man’s point of view? My approach has always grown out of each individual character. For instance, Ian (Tempt Me and Keep Me) is a smart guy, but I didn't make him overly sensitive or perceptive. He really cares about Nina but he's often at a loss as to what's going on in her head and what to do about it. Jason (Stirred Up) is a teacher who understands people pretty well, and he's probably the most sensitive guy I've written, though he's also lusty and crazy hot for Cheryl. Cutter (Set Loose) is stoic, so while he's pretty perceptive, he says a lot less than he feels. This is true of most men. 

I often think about my husband when I'm writing a man's character. While he can read me pretty well, he's not comfortable articulating emotions or even telling me what's on his mind at lot of the time. Pretty typical. Oftentimes after we've had a fight (which of course are always his fault) instead of apologizing he shows me he's sorry by being attentive – turning up the heat so that I'm warm enough, making dinner. He's more comfortable with action than words.

For most men, less is more, so when revising I often cut back dialogue that goes on too long. Or I take out parts that make them sound too evolved. If a guy's too perfect, there's less tension and confusion, and less to write about.

I'm writing the kinds of books I like to read, and given that they're written for women, I'm under no illusions that men will read them and think, "Yes, she got that exactly right." But I'm trying to make men who feel real and jump off the page. I now have a male beta reader, so if I do something that work for him, I expect he'll point it out. As does my critique partner, Abby. For instance, in my new book I had Jesse thinking to himself that he was stinky, and she pointed out that he wouldn't use a word like that. She was totally right, and I changed it to sweaty. (Jesse works up a good sweat when he's on stage.)

I read a book not too long ago by an author I really like, and in it the hero noticed that the woman was wearing a beautiful blue sheath. As in dress. Just that one word choice took me right out of the story because no man, unless he’s a fashion designer, is going to think the word “sheath.” Few women would either, for that matter. It's amazing how one little word or detail can throw a book off or make you doubt the author. I can only hope that doesn't happen with my books, or that if it does, my readers forgive me. (Please forgive me!)

I read many stories where the heroes are amazing and insightful, understanding so much from their beloved’s face just by the look in her eye. I love that kind of thing, but sometimes it can go too far and it’s hard to believe the guy is for real, even for a romance. But where’s the line? 

I suppose it all goes back to the characters and the story the author created. Maybe a guy is too good to be true. And let's face it, if it's a romance, that's pretty much always the case. As long as the book feels true and makes us swoony, it's all good. 

Very, very good.


New Release!!!

After a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears, I can finally announce that my new book, Slow Burn, is coming out December 19th. I am pretty much madly in love with Jesse, the sexy lead singer hero. He's a bit rougher around the edges than my other heroes, but that's exactly what my heroine (and I) needed.

So the good news: it's available for pre-order now from Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble, and if you buy it before December 19th, you get the special pre-order price of $.99. Once the release date comes it'll go to its normal price of $3.99. 

Intrigued? Here's more:


Beth Levine left her Ohio hometown and cheating fiancé behind, determined to shake things up. She succeeds beyond her wildest dreams when she finds a job touring the country with a band she’s never heard of. Because even uptight, rule-abiding accountants need to live a little.

Everything about Jesse Rhodes is larger than life, including his rattlesnake tattoos. He’s sexy as sin, but Beth’s got a front row seat to all the girls who throw themselves at him, and she’s not interested in vying for his attention. Besides, all the sexual chemistry in the world won’t make her and the lead singer right for each other.

Jesse takes one look at Beth’s pin-up girl curves and wary eyes and knows he’s in trouble. But Beth isn’t looking for a fling, and with his career taking off, a few sexy weeks are all he has to offer. As soon as the tour is over they’ll go their separate ways. At least, that's the plan...but some things are easier said than done.

Slow Burn is a 61,000 word contemporary romance novel.

Excerpt:

Her stomach was turning itself inside out as the reality of what she’d signed up for sank in. What had she been thinking? Surely there were other ways to find adventure. She couldn’t even remember the last time she saw a band live, and now she was supposed to help run one?

She was so immersed in her doubts she didn’t realize anyone had shown up until there was a knock on her window. She gave a stifled yelp, feeling like a fool as she looked up at what had to be the sexiest man she’d ever laid eyes on.

Jesse Rhodes, in the flesh.

Dark, mussed hair under a beat-up cowboy hat, dark eyes bright with amusement, and a smile that could have curled a nun’s toes. And she was no nun.

“Hey, honey. You waiting for us?” he asked, his deep, raspy drawl like a match against sandpaper.

Hearing it through her laptop’s tinny speakers had been enough to spark discussion of panty-dropping, and it was nothing compared to the real thing.

The real thing coming out of the real man.

Her gaze dropped, unable to hold those laughing eyes, and she found herself looking at a tattoo of a rattlesnake coiled around each finely muscled forearm. They were artful, almost delicate, the black ink shading lighter and darker in a realistic diamond pattern.

Here were the snakes, just like in the song. Would there be scorpions inked onto the lean muscles hiding under that t-shirt of his?

This man was too good-looking, too sure of himself. She could feel the pull of him through glass and metal. He seemed to be waiting for her to get out of the car, or at least roll down the window.
Part of her wanted to remain in the safety of the car, maybe even drive away and forget the whole thing. Then she pictured the alternative – sitting in a cubicle at another accounting firm without having tried anything new – and she got out of the car.

Heat billowed up from the parking lot’s freshly tarred surface, and instantly she was drenched in sweat. Jesse stepped back and looked her up and down without even trying to hide it. His smile widened.

Maybe she should have worn something else. Like a potato sack.  Her sporty aqua tank dress wasn’t cut low or overtly sexy, but standing next to this man she was suddenly aware how much of her skin was on view.

“You must be Beth,” he said, holding out his hand.

It was a big hand. She took it, hating how aware she was of everything about him. She was tall, but he had her by several inches. It was more than that, though. Even in a t-shirt, cargo shorts and running shoes the man had presence. No wonder he was making a name for himself.

“You must be Jesse,” she said, shaking his hand in a firm, business-like way, hoping to make a point.

“That’s a real firm handshake you got, Beth,” he said, his eyes teasing.

_____________________ 


So there you have it. Now that Slow Burn is out I'm thinking about my next project, and I have an idea that I think will make a lot of people happy. But since I have a tendency to change my mind, I won't say anything until I'm well into the book and can say with confidence that it's going to happen. 

Watch this space.....





Working Away

There is a book in the works, I swear. That's part of the reason for my intermittent radio silence. It's going a bit slower than I'd hoped, though, and the publication date will probably be in early December, though I'll confirm that closer to the date. Here is the ms as of today.


See, it's a real thing! I am at the stage in revisions where I'm going through it in hardcopy. The title is "Slow Burn" and I'm in love with the main character, Jesse. Then again, I'm in love with all my heroes, naturally. He's got more of the bad boy thing than my others do though, which is wickedly fun to write. He's got a Texas drawl and some very cool tattoos, also a first for my heroes. I'm a big fan of sexy arm tattoos (my husband has some good ones), so it was about time I had a hero who sported some ink.

Stay tuned! Soon I'll have a sexy cover to show you.

Birth of a Romance Reader

We can set the blame for my romance addiction squarely on the head of my grandmother. (Though let's face it, I'm sure I would have gotten there on my own at some point.)

The summer I was thirteen, just about to turn fourteen, by grandmother came to visit us from where she lived in Florida (where all the Jewish grandparents went if they could). With her she brought a bag full to the brim of Harlequin romances. My mother, grandmother and I all read them, passing them along after we'd finished them.

I remember several of them fairly well, oddly enough. One was about an 18 year old girl whose father dies and leaves her under the guardianship of a smoldering thirty-something man with thick stubby lashes. It was pretty sexy, actually, but these days you'd never see that plot in a contemporary romance.

Then there was one by Violet Winspeare. Just to impress upon you how old-school these books were, the "heroine" was this beyond passive wimp of a woman who married a cold-hearted man for some reason of convenience I cannot now recall. She loved him even though there was no reason on earth she should, since he bullied her and slept with her in circumstances that are murky now but might reasonably have been called rape, though there was nothing graphic.

And yet I kept reading. Yes, I found some of it distasteful, and I knew that was not how men and women should be together, but my understanding of sex and romance was still vague enough that I ate up anything that had anything to do with them. I even went through all the (non-romance) books on the living room bookshelves looking for the sexy parts, and I found some good ones. It was quite an education.


But the weirdest romance I read was about a young woman, maybe mid or late 20's, whose older husband had just died when the book opened. The main thing was that in her marriage the man called the shots. She did what he wanted and he made the decisions. It was like this with the new, younger man who came into her life as well. That was just the way it was in this book's world. It wasn't an issue, just the belief system the main characters shared. Or the woman shared and the new guy had no interest in dismantling. All I can think is that the author felt the same way, so she wrote a book with characters that felt this way.

Nowadays that would be something two characters would role-play, something kinky to try in the bedroom. But that wasn't what this was. And I read it, bemused, confused, but still insatiably curious. The goofiest thing of all though was a scene in which the heroine takes a shower, then wraps the towel around her waist. She hears someone come in the house and walks into the hallway to see the hero standing there. They talk for a minute before she suddenly remembers that she's standing there bare-breasted.

It could happen to anyone, right? There you are, chatting with some guy, completely unaware that you're flashing your boobs.

God, those books. They were so wrong, and yet they were edited and published and sold to millions of women (and girls) around the world who gobbled them up.

Harlequins were my gateway drug.

Mind you, none of my grandmother's books were ever discussed between us that summer. What did my mother and grandmother, two of the strongest women I've ever known, think of them? I have no idea. We read them as if it were a secret, as if we weren't supposed to acknowledge we were doing it. Or maybe it was the fact that I was so young, and they had no idea how to talk about it. There were no graphic sex scenes, so it wasn't that, but ours was not a family that talked openly about those sorts of things. Of course, few are.

But then one day, when I was maybe seventeen, I walked into the kitchen with one of my romances and my mother, prompted by who knows what, said to me:

"You know it's not all stars and fireworks in real life."
"I know that," I said,  mortified.
I was a virgin, as she well knew, and I think she wanted to keep me from having unrealistic expectations. I felt foolish, like she'd seen into my secret yearning hopes, and so I acted like of course I knew that wasn't what sex was like.

Maybe I was impressionable and getting the wrong idea about simultaneous climaxes and whatnot, but what was that going to hurt? I'm all for setting a high bar.

In any case, it didn't slow me down. It was my escape from my nerdy, no dates ever high-school existence.

I soon discovered Annie's Book Swap, a used bookstore chain with an enormous romance section that I and many other women treated as a lending library. Buy five, read them, bring them back a week later and buy more. Of course, you never got as much in trade-in as you paid for them, but by the time I could drive, I was going there every week for my fix. Soon I was also reading historicals. These, too, were unlike the ones you'd find now. Historical romances of the 1980s and 90s were all over the place. The guys were usually serious dicks, stern and cold and alpha male to the hilt, and the women suffered rapes and abuse (sometimes by the heroes but not always) before falling into their arms.

I have occasionally since the old days come upon one of those historicals, and I can tell immediately I'm reading an oldie. Whereas now the stories are tighter and the arc clear, these were more about adventure, which is a fine ambition. But nowadays we want our heroines to be happy and find their power, no matter how out of place that might be in a nineteenth century story. We want the men to be gorgeous and built, alpha and sensitive as well as fabulous in bed. And why not? They're our fantasies, after all.