by Michelle Monkou)
Join me every week as I share a few shout-outs on romance author goings-on, related events and recommended reads.
Until I Saw Your Smile by J.J. Murray
What it's about (courtesy of Kensington Books):
At Smith's Sweet Treats and Coffee, you'll find Brooklyn's best house blend and the freshest homemade pastries. It's more than a business to owner Angela Smith. It's her home and her refuge--one she stands to lose thanks to her gouging landlord. Then a new regular offers to cover her rent increase if Angela lets him meet his clients there. If Matthew McConnell weren't such a persuasive lawyer--and so sweet, funny, and sexy--she wouldn't dream of letting him in.
Since he left a high-paying, soul-sucking legal firm to go solo, Matthew has been striking out, professionally and personally. The best part of his love life is regaling Angela with date-from-hell stories over steaming, fragrant coffee. Behind her captivating smile is a smart, sensual woman he'd love to get close to. And when a secret from her past is suddenly exposed, he gets a chance to prove he's the man she needs, in every way that matters. . .
Why you should read it: J.J. Murray is da bomb! OMG, get your laugh on with Until I Saw Your Smile. Chapters two and four will have you doubled over. But don't let the humorous side fool you, this is a romantic story with a dark undertone that pulls on all the right emotions.
With a guy-next-door hero, the trials of dating are played out with realism that stirs a certain amount of sympathy, along with the urge to hit him upside the head. But this vanilla hero, no pun intended, turns into a lovable, colorful embodiment of what a true hero is. Not to worry, Murray writes the perfect partner for this sometimes troubled, romantic journey. Book clubs, definitely put on the discussion list.
Deeper Than Need by Shiloh Walker
What it's about (courtesy of St. Martin's):
Time heals all wounds. Eager to put a dark, troubled past behind her, Trinity Ewing buys an old house that will make the perfect refuge for her and her young son once renovations are complete. The last thing on her mind is finding someone new...but the contractor she's hired is an irresistible distraction--and Trinity can't help but fantasize about all the business they could be doing behind closed doors.
So does one man's touch.
Noah Benningfield thought he'd put his demons behind him. But the moment he lays eyes on Trinity, the temptation he feels is too powerful to deny. Soon the attraction between them explodes into something neither of them could have imagined. But their desire will be put to the test when a shocking local murder has them dodging danger at every turn. Can the beautiful and damaged Trinity trust someone like Noah, whose own past is as haunted as her own? The only thing she knows for sure is that she can't live without a man who makes her feel this good--over and over again...in Deeper Than Need by Shiloh Walker.
Why you should read it: Shiloh Walker's Deeper Than Need is a romantic suspense that is an interesting mix of romance with deep threads of mystery, suspense and thrills.
Wow! The romance between Noah and Trinity is intense, beautiful, and deserves all manner of celebration. Walker has created a couple who couldn't possibly survive without each other. Together they have to solve past wrongs, horrific current happenings, and stop any future ill will. A massive job, given the dark circumstances, that is handled with the right (write) touch.
Good job, Shiloh!
The Colors of Love by K.R. Raye
What it's about (courtesy of J-pad Publishing):
If at first you don't succeed, then try, try again…right?
Only two things matter to Lance, protecting his girls and football. After almost losing the girls, Lance is more determined than ever to safeguard them and fulfill his dream to become a professional athlete. With the NFL draft looming, will his promiscuity derail his dream and endanger the girls again?
Imani, proud and Black, continues along the academic path to a chemical engineering degree and a promising career. Will her racist preconceptions thwart her progress?
A shattered Melody is more determined than ever to find true love at college just like her parents. But will she continue to make the same mistakes that almost killed her?
As they attempt to recover from the unimaginable, can their friendship endure...The Colors of Love?
Why you should read it: The Colors of Love is the second installment to the Colors trilogy by K.R. Raye. Wonderful continued walk through the lives of these three college friends. Coming off the violent heels of the first book, The Colors of Friendship, the story opens with a bang.
This story is rich with unexpected twists and turns that keep you reading to the end. Once again friendships are tested to the max and detours are taken that heighten anticipation of the third book in the series. Raye has a knack for creating interesting, flawed characters. She is expertly developing them and testing them to their limits.
Looking forward to the final installment, True Colors. Stay tuned for next week's blog and my thoughts on that book.
LET'S MEET GOLDEN HEART FINALISTS
Through the next few months until RWA's award ceremony in July, I will introduce you to several Golden Heart finalists from Romance Writers of America's contest for unpublished writers. (For today's featured authors, they were unpublished at the time they finaled.)
Introducing … Nan Dixon
Nan Dixon is a five-time Golden Heart finalist, this time with Poetic Justice in the Short Contemporary category. She lives in a suburb of Saint Paul with her hubby and one crazy cat, keeping track of her five children's lives. She's ecstatic that the corporate world of finance and pharmaceuticals no longer consumes her life and she can write full time. She's been an actress, singer and dancer. Loves to ski, both water and snow, and was the captain of the University of Minnesota golf team.
She's a reformed contest junkie, having won the Contest Diva award for most finals — 18 — for the contest year 2009. You can find her on Twitter (@nancyevertz), Facebook, her blog and www.nandixon.com.
Michelle: World traveler, kitchen remodeling, active family ... how do you do it? Are you ultra-organized? Do you have a writing den to which no one knows the entry code?
Nan: Wow. I like the idea of an entry code on my office door, but I have a hard enough time remembering my passwords. I do have a strong need to organize and track things. Possibly because I was a financial executive in a prior life. Everything was on a timeline. My friends might say I'm obsessed with to-do lists and databases. I love to check off what I've accomplished each day. And if you construct the lists just right — you can check off things like mani-pedis, making dinner and completing tax returns.
In my writing, I use a spreadsheet. I log in and out as I work. It accomplishes two things: helping me understand how long it takes to complete a book and making sure I'm not kidding myself on how much time I spend writing. This year I broke the activities into three sections: 1) Drafting, 2) Revising and 3) Critiquing and MFW work. (I'm the president of my local chapter.)
Michelle: What do you do for fun? How do you celebrate after meeting your writing goals/accomplishments?
Nan: Prosecco. Fell in love with it in Venice. (I guess that's both fun and celebrating!) Also, I love to cook, but since my hubby and I are empty-nesters — finally — I don't cook as often as I like. That keeps my gorgeous kitchen rather clean. In the summer, we head to the lake. (Definitely a Minnesota thing.) There I can see my sisters and lots of family. We swim, Jet Ski and I occasionally water ski just to show up the kids. I'm also on the board of a dance company. I now have kids on both coasts, so we go to see them and explore our gorgeous country. And I'm trying to work in more travel. Next trip will be a European river cruise, but we have to figure out the timing.
I celebrate my writing accomplishments with my family, but my support group is the friends I've found through the Golden Heart groups, my critique partners and my RWA chapter. The first place I go to celebrate is the Golden Heart loops. They get what I'm going through. They cheer on successes and sympathize with disappointments.
And I have big news today. News that I feel would not have happened without having five Golden Heart finalist manuscripts. I just got The Call. April 30. I sold Southern Comforts, a 2013 Golden Heart finalist, to Harlequin Superromance. And my fabulous agent, Laura Bradford, couldn't find me for most of the day because I lost my phone (in my bathrobe pocket!). I told my family, since everyone was home for the weekend. Then I waited through the weekend, chomping at the bit to hit the Golden Heart loops, chapter loops and social media. I didn't want the family to scold me for checking e-mails!
Michelle: Advice to folks thinking about writing a book?
Nan: If you are writing romance, join RWA and your local chapter. People are so gracious about paying forward the things they have learned. I was lucky enough to join a critique group that taught me the craft of writing. Shout-outs and thank yous to Ann Hinnekamp, Greta MacEachern, Neroli Lacey, Ann Holiday, Leanne Farrell and Katherine Kohorst. There are also great online classes if you don't have time to sit in a regular class.
Also, one rejection from an agent doesn't mean you should never send them anything else. I sent my agent four manuscripts before she offered representation. Perseverance and thick skin are necessary in this business.
Michelle: Who do you consider your writing mentors?
Nan: There are so many people who have helped improve my craft. Kathleen Eagle and Mary Brako taught me the basics of crafting a novel. Ann Hinnekamp taught me where to start and end scenes. Susan Elizabeth Phillips said in a keynote: If you want to be a best-selling author, you need to read best-selling authors. So of course I read her. I also read everything Nora Roberts writes and love her ability to create characters I'd like as friends. Kristan Higgins always makes me cry, and I'm fascinated by how she tortures her heroes and heroines. And you can't top J.R. Ward for world-building, hot sexy characters and conflict.
Michelle: Congrats! The Call is ever so special. Here's to many more!
Introducing … Laura Trentham
Laura Trentham lives in South Carolina with her husband, two kids, and a new puppy. She is a first-time (and double) Golden Heart finalist in the Historical category for Wicked Things and A Wild and Wicked Wind, a Regency series. Wicked Things sold to Samhain Publishing and is scheduled for a May 2015 release. Find out more about Laura at www.lauratrentham.com or connect with her on Twitter (@LauraTrentham).
Michelle: What are some fun facts about you?
Laura: I l.o.v.e. college football, especially the University of Tennessee (my alma mater), but I'll watch any SEC game on any given Saturday. Speaking of college, I have a degree in chemical engineering, but I fit in as many English classes as possible as electives. My engineering friends thought I was nuts to get excited about writing a 10-page annotated paper on the effects of Scottish immigrants on Southern literature. But, it was such wonderful change of pace from endless equations and lab reports.
Michelle: On your keeper shelf, what book would cause my fingers to be broken if I stole it?
Laura: Any of my Mary Stewart collection. I inhaled her books when I was in middle school in the '80s. I suppose her books were considered "older" even then, but they're set in exotic countries with a Gothic flavor and opened the world to me. Her heroines aren't weak and whiny either. They take matters into their own hands without the help of the hero. Loved that. I've since amassed them all as hardbacks. In fact, I re-read Nine Coaches Waiting over the holidays. If you take anything from reading this, I command you to go discover the wonderfulness that is Mary Stewart, if you haven't already.
Michelle: Why historical romance? And what type of contemporary is your favorite to write — comedy, romantic suspense, sweet…?
Laura: I've always loved reading historical romances, especially ones with a touch of humor like Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick, or Lisa Kleypas. The Regency period is intriguing and fun. When I decided to write a book, I plotted a Regency in my head before I sat down in front of the computer. I didn't even consider another genre or time period. I took the advice "write what you love to read."
But, as much as I love historicals, I cut my teeth on the Harlequin category romances I filched from under my mom's bed. I'll always have a soft spot for Linda Howard's Midnight Rainbow. I've enjoyed writing about my football-obsessed small Alabama town just as much as Regency England. Even better, no research needed for me! (See question No. 1). Plus, I grew up around an assortment of unusual Southern personalities (ahem … some might even be kin-folk) and injecting that certain something that sets Southerners apart comes naturally.
All my books, whether historical or contemporary, are HOT.
Michelle: Which book for 2014 is a must-read recommendation?
Laura: I hope it won't get me thrown out, but I'm going to recommend a non-romance — The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. It came out in April, but I haven't had time to read it. Her book The Secret Life of Bees is on my keeper shelf, and I've heard fabulous things about her latest.
Michelle: Love hearing the good news about The Call. Congratulations! All the best.
Michelle Monkou celebrates her Evernight urban fantasy digital release, Into the Pride. Her website is michellemonkou.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook.