by Michelle Monkou)
The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin
First, congratulations are in order for the ascendance of Jeannie Lin's The Lotus Palace onto the USA TODAY best-sellers list. Twitter blew up with the news, and I wanted in on the action. I had to read The Lotus Palace to judge for myself. After all, Lin is on my auto-buy list after I read The Sword Dancer, one of my top five books in 2013.
Oh, goodness me, I gobbled up The Lotus Palace. Before we get to the story … the imagery … wow! Lin has a way with words. Her descriptions are more than colorful adjectives strung together. With breathtaking prose, she makes the setting come alive with vibrancy and freshness. As each character is introduced, they walk onto the stage and claim their space. Every part of this story moves with the right rhythm and pace. Within these covers are history, intrigue, suspense, and romance.
Lin literally lifts you from wherever you're seated and takes you on an epic ride, as a time traveler, to be part of the Tang Dynasty. The romance is told with a delicate touch that is still strong and mindful of the boundaries of the era. And yet, love does conquer all. We fall in love with this couple with the same gentleness that occurs between them. And with this magic, Lin sets the stage for the next in the series (March release), The Jade Temptress.
Here's the blurb (provided by Harlequin):
Maidservant Yue-ying is not one of those beauties. Street-smart and practical, she's content to live in the shadow of her infamous mistress-until she meets the aristocratic playboy Bai Huang.
Bai Huang lives in a privileged world Yue-ying can barely imagine, yet alone share, but as
they are thrown together in an attempt to solve a deadly mystery, they both start to dream of a different life. Yet Bai Huang's position means that all she could ever be to him is his concubine-will she sacrifice her pride to follow her heart?
The Rossellini Family Series by Nikki Walker
Nikki Walker combines two stories of the Rossellini family under one cover. Fans of family intrigue and suspense will be in for a treat. With this introduction to the family where the past and present collide, and where hurts and sacrifices come to bear, romance and new beginnings promise a hopeful path. Walker writes with this message at the core of these heartfelt stories. Here's to more installments of the Rossellini family.
Here are the blurbs for The Rossellini Family Stories I & II (courtesy of the author):
Professional organizer London Quarles knows how to keep her world and the world of others in order. She makes a living at it. When she agrees to help her best friend, Edwina get an inherited property ready for sale, she comes face to face with the first man ever to turn her world upside down. She must find a way to face her fears so that she can fully embrace love.
When Gianni Rossellini left home ten years ago to find refuge in his family's birthplace, Italy, he was the black sheep of his family. After an unexpected windfall, he decides to return to the States to restore his Aunt Giadora's home, the place of his family memories, where he has to confront the lie that sent him packing in the first place. In the process of restoring the estate, will London and Gianni also be able to restore their faith in family and love?
The Sweetest Love
Edwina's (Winnie's) best friend and boss, London is honeymooning with her cousin, Gianni. While they're away, she is managing the professional organizing business started two years ago. Winnie finds herself in a bit of a dilemma when she takes on the account of the man that fled 10 years ago, leaving Adele the mother of his daughter, Adrianna, pregnant and alone. This sets up his then best friend, her cousin, Gianni, to become the victim of a malicious lie. Things are further complicated when Winnie finds it increasingly difficult to fight the growing feelings of attraction for him.
Riccardo Conte returns to Virginia for the first time in ten years to set matters straight with why he fled, all while neutralizing the threat made against the Rossellini family--namely Adrianna. Will he be able to redeem the hurt and pain that he incurred against the Rossellini family? Can he convince Winnie he can protect her heart as well as her life!
Marrying the Cowboy by Trish Milburn
In Marrying the Cowboy by Trish Milburn, the immediate threat and eventual ravages of a tornado push up the stakes from the first page. Loss plays a central theme throughout this sweet and heavily emotional story. Milburn digs deep with her characters as they fight their way through their fears to find love. I found myself immediately falling for this town and this close-knit community. With so many suffering from winter blues, Marrying the Cowboy is the perfect read to push the Escape button.
Here's the blurb (provided by Harlequin):
Living with the Cupid of Blue Falls, Texas—her aunt Verona—Elissa Mason should be married by now. Or so her friends tease. But Elissa is wedded to the family nursery she's turned into a success. Following a devastating tornado, she has to rebuild and nothing's going to distract her. Not even her new feelings for neighbor-turned-roommate Pete Kayne.
Deputy Sheriff Pete Kayne understands having a dream and doesn't want to get in Elissa's way. Especially after the tornado has taken his house, his truck, everything but his horse and his friends. All he's got left to share is his heart. He has his own ambition: a chance to join the ultimate in law enforcement—the Texas Rangers. Elissa was his friend. That would have to be enough.
LET'S MEET TRISH MILBURN ...
Michelle: You write contemporaries for Harlequin, YA for Belle Books, indie published women's fiction and romantic suspense, what's next on the horizon?
Trish: I have a continuity book coming out from Harlequin American Romance in July. The Texan's Cowgirl Bride is book two in the six-book Texas Rodeo Barons miniseries. I'm also in the midst of writing three new books in my Blue Falls, Texas, series for Harlequin American Romance, though I don't have release dates on those yet. I have some other things in the works but nothing to announce yet.
Michelle: What are some rituals you do to get ready to write or brainstorm?
Trish: I don't have a lot of rituals other than I have to first sit down in the morning and check my e-mail and social media while I eat my breakfast. I need to know I'm caught up on e-mail and anything pressing before I shift gears to writing or editing. Now brainstorming is a different animal. I do that various ways — sometimes when my husband and I are on a car trip and we can brainstorm together; sometimes when I meet with the three other gals in my brainstorming group; and sometimes I just go for a walk (when it's warm) to get the neurons firing.
Michelle: What is a memorable/funny/touching fan moment?
Trish: I've had a good amount of lovely e-mails from people, but the one thing that made me scratch my head was something I got through the mail. A lady was upset that my characters ate meat and suggested that I write vegan characters. She even sent me the packaging from some of the vegan foods that she ate. I have absolutely nothing against vegans, but for the setting of that particular story (rural Tennessee mountains), I'd say the carnivores vastly outnumber the vegans.
Michelle: What events/conferences will you attend this year?
Trish: I'll be at the RWA National Conference in San Antonio in July and DragonCon in Atlanta over the Labor Day weekend.
Michelle: Message to your readers for 2014 ...
Trish: I truly appreciate each and every person who spends their hard-earned money on one of my books. I know money doesn't grow on trees, so for someone to decide that one of my books is worthy of some of what they make is very touching for me. So, thank you!
Let's meet Angela Benson, author of Delilah's Daughters
Michelle: What are the themes or motifs in Delilah's Daughters?
Angela: Delilah's Daughters explores the thin line between selflessness and selfishness in relationships and the even thinner one between loving someone and wanting to control them.
Delilah's Daughters is about the challenges of love and family. It's about the protective love of a mother for her adult daughters. It's about the tender, yet unbreakable, bond between sisters. It's about the endearing love of daughters for the father they lost too soon and the mother they cherish. It's about a father's love that extends beyond the grave. And it's about that love that binds the hearts of a husband and wife.
Michelle: Which character was the most difficult to create?
Angela: The most difficult character for me to write in Delilah's Daughters was Rocky, the father. Why? Because he is dead when the story begins. It's much easier to work with characters who are alive. All kidding aside, Rocky was a lot of fun to write, but he was also a challenge.
Michelle: What brings you joy in your writing career or the process?
Angela: I get joy from knowing that readers enjoy and are blessed by my stories. The mail I get from readers means more to me than anything else. I write to touch people's hearts, to bring hope into situations that may seem hopeless, and to bring encouragement to hearts in need. The mail I get from readers confirms that my stories are doing what they were meant to do.
I also get joy from the personal blessing that God gives me with every book I write. With Delilah's Daughters, I was blessed to see how important acceptance is to love. Perfect love cannot exist without acceptance.
Michelle: Share a touching moment with a fan, please.
Angela: My most touching moment as a writer has been with a reader's mother. After receiving one of my newsletters that had been sent to her daughter, the mother wrote me back and told me that her daughter had passed recently. She went on to tell me the delight her daughter had taken in my stories and thanked me for giving her daughter some enjoyment during her final days. That mother's letter reminded me of the power of story and great gift authors have been granted to touch hearts and lives.
Michelle: What is your favorite Bible verse or inspirational quote?
Angela: Jeremiah 29:11 is my "go to" Bible verse for all situations. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (New International Version.)
Michelle: Any events or conferences that you'll be attending in 2014?
Angela: In the spring, I'll be attending the Romance Slam Jam Conference (New Orleans, May 7-11) and the Southern Christian Writers Conference (Tuscaloosa, Ala., June 6-7). Readers can find details of all my upcoming events on my blog at www.angelabensonblog.com.
Michelle: After months of writing, the book is completed. How do you celebrate?
Angela: I confess that I don't have a book completion celebration ritual. When I turn in my manuscript to my editor, I breathe a deep sigh of relief and gratitude. I'm always amazed that I've actually finished another book. I reach a point with every story where I begin to wonder if I'll be able to pull it all together. The good news is that I always do. I count finishing each book as a blessing straight from God to me.
Angela Benson can be reached at www.angelabenson.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter (@eAngelaBenson).
Heart Melter by Sophia Knightly
Sophia Knightly drops another hot, sexy installment in the Heartthrob series. Heart Melter is exactly that, with gorgeous hunky Ian MacGregor and his Scottish brogue to melt your heart. I love this romance, which has an overarching suspense story and lots of wonderful surprises to keep the pace at an optimal level. As for the heroine, Natasha, she is no slouch, either. Great characters going for the second chance at love with a lush Scottish setting and a romantic castle make the happy ever after complete. Truly a sexy, suspenseful, and sweet read from an author with the right touch.
Here's the blurb (provided by the author):
When dazzling Broadway star Natasha White lands in Dr. Ian MacGregor's office wounded, the healer in him can't turn his ex-fiancée away. Still bitter over their break-up, Ian tries to deny the combustible attraction that re-ignites as he becomes her fierce protector.
Natasha White has no idea why anyone would knife her on a crowded street in Times Square. At first she thinks the cut on her thigh is an accident, but as frightening events unravel, she learns the mob is after an incriminating flash drive they think she has.
After their break-up years ago, Natasha never stopped loving Ian and when he whisks her away to his Highland castle, their hot chemistry consumes them as they dodge impending danger. Ian will do anything to guard Natasha, but will their love be strong enough to survive the shocking secrets revealed?
Michelle Monkou celebrates her new Evernight urban fantasy digital release, Into the Pride. Her website is michellemonkou.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook.