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Barbara Monajem: Lady of the Flames

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About Lady of the Flames

Perfect lady, disgraced lord, traitor, spies, magic with fire, magic with blades and love (of course!).

Magic with is fraught with peril—but so is love.

Lord Fenimore Trent’s uncanny affinity for knives and other sharp blades led to knife fights, duels, and murderous brawls. Five years ago, he faced a choice: marry Andromeda Gibbons, the woman he loved, or find a safe, peaceful use for his blades by opening a furniture shop—an unacceptable occupation for a man of noble birth. The choice made itself when Andromeda turned to another man. The furniture shop prospered, but now Fen’s partner has been accused of treason. In order to root out the real traitor, he may face another unpalatable choice—to resort to the violent use of his blades once again.

Once upon a time, Andromeda Gibbons believed in magic. That belief faded after her mother’s death and vanished completely when Lord Fenimore, the man she loved, spurned her. Five years later, Andromeda has molded herself into a perfect—and perfectly unhappy—lady. When she overhears her haughty betrothed, the Earl of Slough, plotting treason, she flees into the London night—to Fen, the one man she knows she can trust. But taking refuge with Fen proves to mean far more than getting help—it means learning to believe in love, magic, and the real Andromeda once again.

“I love historical romances but add in the paranormal aspect and it is perfect.” 
“It was a quick read for me, mostly because I couldn’t put it down!” 
“A thoroughly enjoyable twist on (a) Regency novel…” 

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SusanaSays3Susana Says

…truly a magical Regency romance: 4/5 stars

A lighthearted story of two lovers kept apart for years by an untruth—or was it something else?—until they are both entangled in a dangerous web of espionage and violence that forces them to confront the truth about each other and those around them.

Ms. Monajem’s skill in combining humor and violence (although not graphic) reminds me of Kresley Cole’s in her Immortals After Dark series. And magic too, as Cuff the hobgoblin is one of my favorite secondary characters and he doesn’t speak.

A perfect selection if you are seeking a historical romance with a touch of the whimsical to read at the beach or on the back porch.

Heat Level: a trifle over sweet, but not really steamy.

About the Author

81O8T58bcmL._UX250_Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic awards, Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. When they grew up, she turned to writing for adults, first the Bayou Gavotte paranormal mysteries and then Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Some of her Regencies have magic in them and some don’t (except for the magic of love, which is in every story she writes).

Barbara loves to cook, especially soups, and is an avid reader. There are only two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and succeed at knitting socks. She’ll manage the first but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

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Captivated By His Kiss

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New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Cheryl Bolen and USA Today Bestselling Author Bronwen Evans are joined by Barbara Monajem, Collette Cameron, Wendy Vella, Heather Boyd, and Lauren Smith in this exciting collection of regency romances. Be Captivated By His Kiss in these seven emotional stories of second chances, scandalous wagers, and the quest for true love. Lose yourself again and again in beautifully written romance.

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Amy Rose Bennett: Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal

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Amy will award a $25 Amazon GC and digital copy of her book to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning. Leave a blog comment to enter Susana’s December Giveaway (see photo at right).

About Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal

A runaway countess finds love when she least expects it…but she can’t hide from her past forever.

Elizabeth, Lady Beauchamp, fears for her life. When she discovers her dissolute and long-estranged husband has syphilis—and he wants to beget an heir no matter the cost—she flees to a remote part of Scotland to begin a new life as the widowed governess, Mrs. Beth Eliott at Eilean Tor Castle.

When Mrs. Eliott unexpectedly arrives on his doorstep, the reclusive and recently widowed Marquess of Rothsburgh is both irritated and intrigued. No longer in need of a governess—his young daughter now resides with his sister’s family in Edinburgh—he proposes the beautiful widow fill a position of a different kind…

Torn between staying true to her marriage vows and her wanton attraction to the devilishly handsome marquess, Elizabeth struggles against the temptation to become his mistress. But living a lie is not easy when you have fallen in love. And secrets always have a way of coming out…

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Excerpt

Set-up: Elizabeth, Lady Beauchamp—after leaving her husband and now in disguise as the widowed governess, Mrs. Eliott—arrives at Eilean Tor Castle, where she hopes to gain employment within the household of James Huntly, the Marquess of Rothsburgh.

At last, she heard the unmistakable sound of bolts being pulled back, and then the door was thrown wide. A bright lantern was thrust toward her face, blinding her. She raised a hand to her eyes in a futile attempt to shield them and squinted upwards. An extremely tall man was holding the lantern aloft; she could discern little else about him as the intense light in her eyes obscured her vision.

Edinburgh castle“What do you want, woman?” The man’s voice was a low growl.

Elizabeth drew a deep breath and summoned her most imperious voice. She had come so far and she would not be cowed by an obnoxious servant. “I seek an audience with Lord Rothsburgh. Is your master at home?”

“What the deuce for?”

She immediately bristled at the insolence in the man’s tone. “I’d have a care to mind your tongue, sir. And lower that lantern. You’re hurting my eyes.”

The light was immediately lowered, and Elizabeth was able to see a little more of the man who seemed to be filling up the whole doorway. He must have been at least six foot four, with black hair that fell across one eye. She also noted that he was informally dressed in a loose, white cambric shirt that was open at the neck, black breeches and boots. The marquess obviously had low standards when it came to fitting out his staff in proper livery.

“Well, aren’t you going to invite me in?” she demanded.

The man—she assumed he was some sort of sloppy butler or footman—let out a snort of laughter. “What on earth for?”

She scowled and drew herself up, raising her chin. She would not be laughed at by the hired help. “I understand there is a vacancy for a governess. I’ve come to offer my services to Lord Rothsburgh.”

“Have you indeed?” There was still an annoying undercurrent of laughter in the man’s voice. Nevertheless, he stepped aside and made a grand sweeping gesture with his free hand. “Then by all means, come in.”

Elizabeth picked up her skirts and started to step forward when the toe of her boot caught on an unevenly laid flagstone on the threshold. With an unlady-like squeal she pitched forward toward the floor—until she was deftly caught about the waist by the vulgar butler. With a gasp of half-shock, half-embarrassment she found her midriff was bent across his muscular forearm, whilst her side was crushed roughly against his wide chest. One of her hands had involuntarily fisted into the linen sleeve of his shirt where underneath she could detect the bulk of a sizeable, iron-hard bicep.

The scent of the man flooded her senses; warm male, whisky and the tantalizing scent of exotically rich soap; it reminded her of sandalwood, leather and a spicy note she couldn’t quite place—perhaps it was cloves. She took all of this in within the instant that she was suspended above the floor before the man righted her. She took a step away, her cheeks flaming. “I’m so sorry, sir. How clumsy of me. And I’ve made you all wet…Mr.…”

The man’s arm lingered across her waist. Perhaps he thought she would fall again. She noticed he had dark eyes; his gaze travelled over her face, studying her. She must look a sight.

“James,” he said, his eyes holding hers. In the dim light she couldn’t work out if they were dark brown or black.

Susana Says

SusanaSays3…sizzling second chance love story: 4/5 stars

Desperate to escape her pox-ridden husband, Elizabeth seeks a position as governess as far away from London as she can. Lord Rothsburgh’s island fortress off the Scottish coast is a perfect retreat…except for the fact that there is no longer a need for a governess.

The position Lord Rothsburgh has in mind for the lovely “widow” has nothing to do with teaching children. But she’s still in mourning for her soldier husband and after his disastrous first marriage, he’s not looking for anything long-term. He should just send her away and forget her. But he can’t quite manage to do that. And she has nowhere else to go, so…

Elizabeth, Lady Beauchamp, is just the sort of strong, independent heroine I’ve always loved to read about. As a tortured hero with a deep-seated yearning for love, James, Lord Rothsburgh is remarkable.

In Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal, Ms. Bennett has created a compelling erotic love story in an authentic Regency setting. Highly recommended.

About the Author

AuthorPic copyAmy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favorite genre. She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.

As an unpublished author, Amy has been a finalist in contests in both Romance Writers of Australia and Romance Writers of America. In 2013 and 2014, she has achieved a place in the top three of Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Award, and her debut Regency romance novel—‘Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal’—was the winning entry in the historical section of two Romance Writers of America Chapter Contests in 2013—the Chicago North Fire and Ice Contest and the San Francisco Heart to Heart Contest.

Amy is happily married to her own Alpha male hero, has two beautiful daughters, a rather loopy Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Devonshire Rex cat with attitude. She is a Speech Pathologist, but is currently devoting her time to her one other true calling—writing romance.

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Selene Grace Silver: The Binding of Adara

A Heroine’s Personal Journey to Claiming Her Power

by Selene Grace Silver

We know the negative stereotype well. The heroine:

  • appears dainty, freezes in the face of violence (interpretation: physically weak);
  • acts indecisive or uncertain, lets a man speak for her (interpretation: intellectually weak);
  • blushes and/or cries easily (interpretation: emotionally weak),

…and therefore, requires repeated rescuing by some self-appointed, protective masculine hero.

Modern readers of romance typically eschew this type of helpless heroine. They even have an acronym for her: TSTL or Too Stupid To Live.

With a history that stretches back to oral fairy tales about Cinderella, heroines of this ilk survived to flourish in the bodice-rippers of the 70s and 80s, and even into the more progressive 90s. It’s no surprise, considering that the readers and writers at that time had grown up in the idealized post-war 50s and early 60s when families lived comfortably on one income, allowing mothers to stay home and raise the children while the fathers ventured out into the harsh world to make money, an ugly business. It was an era in which the mystically handsome and politically powerful Kennedy family defined American strength and sophistication. Like the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, who embodied the perfect feminine ideal, women were expected to be elegant and completely focused on developing their femininity as a pleasing counterpart to their husband’s vigorous, aggressive masculinity.

Ironically, the late 70s and 80s also produced a second women’s rights movement. Women coming of age in the 70s and 80s were living with one foot in the past (their mothers’ world) and one foot in the future (their daughters’ world). Those women began life as young girls who were told that their greatest aspiration should be a good marriage with lots of children. But by the time they reached late adolescence, many had been introduced to feminist ideology through the media and friends. They attended college, where they traded home economics classes for courses in women’s studies, and they read the consciousness-raising magazine Ms. These feminists believed they could have careers and marry and raise families simultaneously, without giving up anything.

Many did it. They had careers, started companies, married, got pregnant, went back to work three weeks after delivery, kept the house clean, raised the children. They were the first superwomen.

Then their marriages suffered, often ending in divorce. They hit the glass ceiling. They felt exhausted all the time. After all, being everything to everyone is exhausting. The passive, approval-seeking heroines of their romance novels needed to evolve (as did the clueless, self-absorbed heroes). The new heroines of the books their daughters would read would have present heroines who were more self-sustaining, more pragmatic.

Out of those rocky social changes, fiction gained some wonderful heroines. Wonder Woman. The Bionic Woman. Charlie’s Angels. (Okay, maybe not Charlie’s Angels. But they could kick villain butt in their high heels and designer bikinis.) The main problem with these heroines is that they had no flaws. They were invincible. They were…not real women, or not completely real women. Their perfection was elusive and out of reach for most women living in the real world.

Eventually, we got iconic and amazing female characters whose stories were so complex that even men wanted to follow their stories—heroines like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Thank you, Joss Whedon.) She was powerful and independent, but she had flaws. We loved her. Hell, we still love her.

But does that mean that every strong heroine now has to be some copycat version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Does she have to be tough, skilled in the art of using wooden stakes, willing to shut down her feelings, give up someone she loves… in essence, be tough exactly in the (equally unfair) way society has always demanded of a traditional man—and all before she’s even a fully grown woman?

As writers, filmmakers, storytellers, we’d be crafting a disservice to women everywhere if the only alternative to the weak, clinging heroine of an earlier time had to now conform into a penis-less version of Rambo.

And how does a heroine develop into a powerful and wise woman anyway? Everyone is young and stupid at the start. Frankly, it’s rare to encounter women (or men) under 30 who never make mistakes or poor choices. I know I wasn’t one. I credit a lot of my strength today to surviving some pretty awful decisions and their consequences when I was in my late teens and twenties. (My friends acknowledge the same history so I know I’m not alone.) And since fiction is as much about showing us how to overcome the adversities of life as it is to provide us with inspiring role models, it’s appropriate, even desirable, for some stories to begin with heroines who might lack confidence or essential life skills, especially when those stories show the heroine growing and developing into a strong and confident woman by story’s end.

I was mopping (a rare event, believe me—I am definitely not a woman of the 50s—but someone has to clean the floors at least once a year) and daydreaming about nothing in particular when the image of a stunning young woman, naked and bound to a platform, appeared in my mind’s eye. She was pale with long black hair, and she was surrounded by a crowd of people whose faces were obscured by shadowy darkness. The scene was contradictorily frightening and sensual at the same moment. It made such an impression on me that I couldn’t shake it. I felt in my bones that she hadn’t wanted to end up on that stage, that situation, yet there she was.

As a writer, I respond to such visions by wanting to shape a narrative. So I sat down to craft the girl’s story. I discovered that her name was Adara and that she was a naïve but resilient young woman. I knew that she was not going to be able to leave that stage until after the ceremony was concluded. I knew she was going to have nonconsensual sex.

Most rape victims are not raped by strangers in dark alleys. They are raped by seemingly regular guys whom they thought were trustworthy but turned out to be something else—their girlfriend’s brother whom they encountered in the family’s downstairs laundry room next the bathroom, a frat brother on a college campus in a house full of other partying students, the church pastor’s cousin who chased them teasingly into the long grass during the summer picnic as the sun set.

Most people become victims because they trust someone who appears on the surface to be like lots of other people they have trusted in the past and, therefore, have no reason to distrust.

This tendency of the young to trust lands Adara in her serious predicament: on that stage where she is about to lose her virginity as part of an ancient pagan ritual. Sure, some characters, say Buffy, would have drop-kicked and karate-chopped their way out of the scene. I am woman! Hear me roar!

But Adara is not Buffy. Buffy would never have ended up tied to a platform about to be sacrificed against her will in the first place. Adara does.

Adara is the character who appeared in my mind’s eye demanding her story be written—the story of a heroine’s journey, from fool to wise woman, from beginner to virtuoso. Adara begins her story an innocent in nearly every way. She is a virgin. She’s relatively uneducated. She doesn’t know what she wants in life. She doesn’t even know she has special powers. Only through adversity does she progress towards understanding, towards laying claim to that power. The strength she develops through the course of the story is less “external master swordswoman” and more “inner spine of steel.” Sort of the way it is for most women in the world.

About The Binding of Adara: Book Two of the Witches and Warlocks of Los Angeles

The Binding of Adara Final Cover half size copyCursed to bear 12 sets of twins in 12 years by 12 different men? That is twenty-year-old innocent Adara Lane’s terrible fate until a reluctant warlock steps in, altering one significant part of the spell, thus creating a new destiny for both of them. Like the heroic knight from her childhood fairy tales, he rescues her at the moment the spell is manifested. While she’s grateful for his help, being bound to an overbearing, controlling, potentially violent man who may never love her, who despises what she is? Well…forgive Adara if she believes she would be better off had he just minded his own business and left the rescuing to someone else. But, this troubled knight-in-tarnished armor seems to need Adara as much as she needs him.
Bowie Marston knows he’s damaged goods. Home from a tour of duty in Vietnam, suffering shell shock, the young man discovers his family destroyed because he wasn’t in L.A. to protect them. After witnessing the senseless deaths of his comrades overseas, the death of his parents only deepens his disenchantment with the world. Blaming his parents’ murder-suicide on their involvement in magick, Bo vows to never use his own latent powers. It’s too late to rescue his family. On the other hand, it’s not too late to rescue a beautiful, young woman caught up in a web of danger. Knowing what he does about witchcraft, can he involve himself in a spell that spans a lifetime, a spell that ties him evermore to a powerful witch…and all her bless’ed offspring? Can he resist?

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SUSANA SAYS: Sensual and compelling story guaranteed to bewitch: 5/5 stars

The setting: Los Angeles, 1970’s

SusanaSays3Alone in the world after her grandmother’s death, Adara finds herself drawn into a cult ritual of witches and warlocks on the eve of Samhain, where, as it turns out, she is fated to be the main attraction in an orgiastic mating ceremony.

A reluctant warlock, Bowie is a Vietnam vet who attends the ceremony only to protect his sister. He thinks! What but how can he stand by when the pretty girl who’s intrigued him all evening finds herself in danger

Adara and Bowie, along with Bowie’s sister Brianna and her cop lover, find themselves facing a nameless group of unscrupulous cult members seeking to use them to accomplish their evil plans. What to do? Who to trust? How does Adara’s mysterious past fit into this scenario? And is this attraction between Adara and Bo real or the result of a Halloween night spell?

It’s a rare talent for an author to create alpha males as well as strong females who can not only manage them, but also combine with them to make one powerful duo. And that’s what Ms. Silver has done here, not only with Adara and Bo, but also with Brianna and Jack from Brianna’s Bewitching.

The sexual attraction between them is immediate and compelling, but the emotional angle requires trust, and that’s not so easy when you’re suddenly thrust into a dangerous world of magick and goddesses and hidden agendas. A happy ending is an exception rather than the rule in this paranormal world, and while they are allies now, there’s no guarantee they’ll be together in the end.

About the Author

Selene believes in two true things: love and the power of stories. Everything else is up for debate.

SeleneBorder-150x150First and foremost, she’s been an avid reader her entire life. True story. In high school, her English teacher told Selene that she was also going to be a high school English teacher (probably because she actually read the assigned novels). Horrified by this prediction (think about it–eternity in high school?!), she fled home for university. She did her best to make it a permanent stay–changing majors back and forth multiple times, completing classes that had nothing to do with any of those majors, transferring to new colleges several times–eventually earning more than double the credits required for a BA in English. She promptly enrolled in grad school, where she managed to stretch a two-year masters program into a four-year MA in Creative Writing. Then, her beloved university life kicked her to the metaphorical street and told her to GET A REAL JOB!

Selene currently teaches English to the brightest public high school honors students in the land. Mrs. Unkenholz was right.

Oh yeah, and Selene writes. Romances to be specific.

Like the HEAs of her novels, her love life has a happy ending. She’s married to a seriously romantic guy (he’s Scottish, folks), travels abroad every summer, and drives a reliable American-built foreign car. The family cats keep the mice away. Life is simple, but good.

She lives in sunny Southern California, but remains a snowy Midwestern girl at heart.

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See also Brianna’s Bewitching: Book One of the Witches and Warlocks of Los Angeles

Brianna's BewitchingSM

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May Williams and “Riveting His Attention”

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May will be awarding a $15 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click the banner to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

About Riveting His Attention

Jim Ferguson hides from his past and focuses on his future until Lady Ella Harwich rivets his attention.

Lady Ella Harwich is capricious. At least that’s what her older brother thinks. However, when it comes to Jim Ferguson, Lady Ella is quite serious. One long, lingering kiss put Jim at the center of her romantic desires and at the top of her list of suitors. And she plans to keep him there. Unfortunately, Jim wants off her list because of a secret past, a career as a shipbuilder instead of a gentleman, and his own inability to resist her. Proving her love—and his worthiness for her love—is Ella’s only way to rivet his attention.

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Excerpt

“Is this about money?” Ella asked. “I have money of my own or will when I come of age. And I know there’s a decent sum set aside for my dowry. My brother has made that clear.”

Cover_Riveting His Attention“I’m not living on money I don’t earn.” Jim’s yearly wages from Edmund’s company were more than his family made in twenty years of running the inn. Money itself wasn’t the issue. He had more than he needed now and the expectation of increased earnings as the business expanded.

“Stubborn. I like a man who knows his own mind. It’s one of the many things I admire about you. Heroic, too. Giving up the woman you love for noble reasons.”

“I never said I loved you,” he said, exasperated. How did women make everything so complicated?

Her eyes widened. “I’ll correct myself for now. Giving up the woman who loves you. Better?”

“No,” he spit out, irritated at himself and her. She’d perceived his weakness and gone in for the kill.

“Because it’s true?” Somehow, she’d made the space between them evaporate. When had she put her hand on his chest and tilted her face up? “Kiss me, and then tell me you don’t love me.”

A stronger man might have been able to resist her. He imagined himself picking her up to set her aside, but he couldn’t. When his hand encircled her waist and tipped her back as though to lift her, he crushed her closer. His other hand sank into the silkiness of her hair, demanding her lips meet his.

A victorious smile crossed her face before their mouths connected, but he didn’t give a damn if she thought she’d won.

SUSANA SAYS: Delightful Victorian romance with a touch of suspense: 4/5 stars!

SusanaSays3Although barely nineteen years old, Lady Ella has the confidence and maturity of a much more seasoned lady. Instead of pouting or planning revenge when the man of her dreams rejects her time and time again, she refuses to believe it’s because he doesn’t care for her and sets about discovering the real reason so that she can eliminate it as a problem.

Of course, Jim Ferguson knows that Lady Ella has lived a charmed life among the wealthy and privileged, so she can’t possibly understand how unsuitable he is to be her husband. And if she should find out the secret of his past, he knows she’ll despise him, as will the rest of the world should the secret be revealed.

In many ways, Ella is rather naive, in that she believes she can win her man by using such stratagems as stalking and flirting with other men. But to Ella’s credit, she never waivers in her certainty that Jim is her soulmate. It is only when that love is tested by adversity and hardship that Ella shows she has the strength of character to withstand anything life throws at her.

Jim’s test is to face the truth about his past and move on with his life. But if the truth comes out, the life he has built for himself may be crumble like a house of cards. He couldn’t bear the pain of seeing Ella tainted along with him. Could he?

This story is well-written, flows well, and the characters are likable—except for the villain, that is. I heartily recommend it for readers who enjoy romantic tales with historic English settings.

Riveting His Attention is the second book in the series. Ruffling Her Skirts, starring Ella’s older sister, is the first, and Raising Her Hopes, which stars Jim’s younger sister, will be coming out shortly. I liked it enough to purchase the rest of the series!

About the Author

May loves romance. Big pink roses, chocolate hearts, sunset walks, but, most of all, she loves romance novels. She’s been reading romances since she first discovered the public library where the librarians didn’t notice or didn’t care what she was checking out even though she hadn’t hit puberty yet.

Since then, May has continued to read every genre of romance, but she writes mostly historical. Places and time periods have stories to tell. And she likes to listen. Her most recent novels are Victorian era pieces where she can imagine beautiful gowns and elegant teas.

When May’s not writing, she manages a houseful of children, pets, and flowers grown in her garden.

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Melissa Foster and “Sisters in Bloom”

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Melissa will be awarding one of three copies of HAVE NO SHAME as Kindle files to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

“Steamy love scenes, emotionally-charged drama, and a family-driven story, make this the perfect story for any romance reader; especially those who have read Book One, Sisters in Love.

— Diane Donovan, Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

About Sisters in Bloom

Kaylie Snow has always been the fun, flirty, pretty sister. Now, her burgeoning baby bump, hormone infused emotions, and faltering singing career are sending her into an unexpected identity crisis. Watching her older sister Danica glide through a major career change and a new relationship with the grace of a ballerina, Kaylie’s insecurities rise to the forefront—and her relationship, with fiancé Chaz Crew, is caught in the crossfire.

Chaz Crew has everything he’s ever wanted: a lovely fiancé, a baby on the way, and soon, the film festival he owns will host its biggest event ever. When he’s called away to woo the festival’s largest sponsor—and the lover he’s never admitted to having—secrets from his past turn his new life upside down.

With her baby shower around the corner, and her fiancé’s big event looming, the pressure is on for Kaylie to pull herself together—and for Chaz to right his wrongs. In a few short weeks, the couple who had it all figured out will learn things about life and love that may change their minds—and their hearts.

Sisters in Bloom is a testament to the bond of sisters, the strength of women, and the pains and delights that accompany motherhood. A book for every mother, sister, and daughter, Sisters in Bloom will resonate with readers who love to explore family dramas.

Excerpt

Chapter One

Kaylie Snow didn’t just have to tinkle, she had to pee. If she wasn’t out of bed in two minutes, she’d very likely not make it to the bathroom, and then she’d have to explain to her fiancé why the carpet was wet. She pulled the sheet over her naked, burgeoning belly, and sat up, watching Chaz’s chest rise and fall with each peaceful breath. She stifled the urge to lean over and kiss his barely parted lips. He’d been working so hard; he really did deserve to sleep in. The morning light streamed through the curtains reminding her of the morning after they’d first met. Surely, her bladder could wait one small minute while she savored those memories. She’d had far too many margaritas celebrating her best friend Camille’s impending wedding, and Chaz had been only mildly tipsy when they left Bar None together and headed to his place. She remembered thinking that she wanted to run her hands through his wavy blond hair, which set off his ocean-blue eyes like jewels. And she’d desperately wanted to kiss him, just as she did now.

She’d waited a long time for that first kiss. They talked until five in the morning, when—tucked perfectly into the curve of his arm, her head against his muscular chest—they’d fallen asleep on the couch in his living room. When she awoke,  the sun was warming the room, and his unkissed lips slightly parted as he slept. She could feel their connection as if it was another person in the room, and she’d known in her heart that she’d found the man she’d one day marry. She reached over now and ran her finger over the prickles of whiskers that lined the chiseled edge of his jaw.

He rolled onto his side, snuggling deeper into the pillow, and shifted just enough to jiggle her bladder. She winced, pressing the heel of her hand on the mattress to push herself to her feet—not an easy task at thirty-five weeks pregnant. As she raised herself off the bed, she felt Chaz’s hand fold into her own.

“Come back,” he whispered.

Kaylie turned, holding the sheet across her heavy breasts. “I have to pee,” she whispered.

“Then come back.” He squeezed her hand gently, and then let her go.

After Kaylie went to the bathroom, she washed her hands and inspected herself in the mirror. Naked Buddha. She turned sideways. Beached whale. She turned to the rear and looked over her shoulder. Oh, God, that’s even worse. What had she been thinking last night, believing each of Chaz’s compliments about how gorgeous she looked? The evening before came tumbling back to her. The phone call from the Denver nightclub, the one she’d sung in for the last two years. Just another in a long line of lost singing gigs that she’d hoped to secure, for after the baby was born. She was a good singer! Audiences loved her and she’d never missed a single gig. She’d always dreamt of being offered a record deal; now, it seemed as if her pregnancy changed everything, like she had a tattoo on her forehead that read, Don’t hire me. I’ll have a baby soon and it’ll make me unreliable. She’d cried for twenty minutes, blaming herself, the baby, and even Chaz. Later, she realized she hadn’t really meant a word of it, she’d just been overwhelmed. Chaz had stuck right beside her, calm and empathetic, and she’d fallen for every one of his lines about how sexy and beautiful she looked, and how wonderful of a mother she’d be. He’d reeled her right into his loving, secure arms, and whisked those worries away.

MEDIA KIT Sisters in BloomLook at me. That’s it! No more sleeping naked. She ran her hands along the pockets of flesh that had somehow gathered above her waist. Jesus, I have love handles? She’d been a size five since she was a teenager. How could she have love handles? Babies grew in the uterus, not above the hipbones. What the hell is this all about? She patted her blond hair into submission—sort of—brushed her teeth, and then grabbed one of Chaz’s T-shirts from his dresser drawer before returning to bed.

Kaylie lay on her back, her legs bent at the knees. She restrained herself from feeling the love handles that now seemed to silently taunt her. Just knowing they were there was making her cranky. She felt her chest tighten, and clenched her fingers around the edges of Chaz’s shirt.

Chaz curled into her, his knees tucked under hers, and his arm across her narrow hips, below her enormous belly. He rested his head on her shoulder, and she listened to his breathing, each breath calming her nerves a little bit more. She felt so safe when she was with Chaz. No wonder she hadn’t put on clothes last night. She believed anything that came out of his mouth.

“Wanna think about names?” he whispered.

“We agreed not to.” When Kaylie first learned she was pregnant, they’d decided not to find out the gender of the baby. There were so few real surprises in life that they wanted the birth of their baby to be one of those moments that really grabbed them by their hearts in a way that nothing else ever could. For that reason, and with her doctor’s permission, she’d only had one sonogram. She wasn’t a high-risk pregnancy, and she was so young that her doctor saw no reason to have more; Kaylie had been relieved. The idea of lying on the table with her baby on that screen—close enough to reach out and touch—would have been too hard to turn away from.

Kaylie was also adamant about not trying out names before it was born. She’d never understood how a child could have a name before the parents had met it. What if a Charles was really a Michael? It would be hard to change the name to fit the personality or looks of a baby if they’d been calling it Charles for nine months.

She and Chaz were so much alike. They agreed on almost everything, and Kaylie had dated enough men to know just how lucky she was. She closed her eyes, thinking about the things she had to do today. She was meeting her older sister, Danica, and her mother, who she hadn’t seen in—gosh—a year? Had it really been that long? Guilt settled in around her. Her mother was once such a big part of her life, but ever since she found out that her mother had stayed with her father after learning of his affair, she no longer saw her mother in the same light. The strong woman she thought she knew seemed weak and almost pathetic. Now that Kaylie was going to be a mother, she found herself thinking of her mother more often, but she had no idea how to handle the anger and disappointment she felt toward her. Once again, she tucked away these uncomfortable thoughts about her mother. They were too difficult to deal with right then. She had other pressing issues that she could not ignore.

Her nerves tightened against the incessant nag in the back of her mind, the one that reminded her that it had been months since her last singing gig. The one that reminded her that her sister Danica would never let her career just fade away, unless that’s what she wanted. Kaylie felt powerless to change the path of her failing career, and determined, fearless Kaylie had never felt powerless in her entire life.

Chaz moved his hand slowly across her pelvis, then traced gentle circles on the underside of her belly. “Gracie?”

“We’re not doing this,” she said, smiling despite her desire to chew on her worry for just another minute or two. She brushed his bangs from his forehead.

“Felix?”

“Chaz.”

He scooted up beside her and whispered in her ear, “Jezabel? Bambi?”

SusanaSays3SUSANA SAYS: Two sisters deal with issues stemming from parents’ breakup: 4/5 stars

Kaylie Snow hasn’t spoken to her mother in a year. She’s angry that her mother put up with her father’s infidelities and lived a lie for so many years. She’s happy to be carrying the child of the man she loves, but she has doubts about what being a mother will do—has already done—to her singing career. And Chaz has a couple of secrets that he knows he has to talk to Kaylie about, but he can never seem to find the right time.

Danica Snow seems to have moved beyond that stage in her acceptance of their parents’ divorce, but then, she does have a fear of commitment. Blake is the perfect man for her. She loves and trusts him. But there’s still a lingering doubt that keeps her from agreeing to move in with him. She wants to reconcile Kaylie with their mother, but she herself hasn’t done much to keep in touch with Dad.

This is a poignant story of two sisters who still struggle with the aftermath of a family that was broken for years before they learned of it. Although they react in very different ways, they both find the past interfering in their own relationships, and both must find their own way of dealing with these fears and insecurities.

Dysfunctional marriages where the parents stay together until their children are grown are not at all uncommon, and Sisters in Bloom makes me think it’s better to cut ties and live honestly than to stay together “for the children’s sake.” Such decisions are never easy, however, and I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer.

What do you think?

About the Author

MEDIA KIT Author PhotoMelissa Foster is an award-winning, International bestselling author. Her books have been recommended by USA Today’s book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, the World Literary Café. When she’s not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on  Fostering Success. Melissa is also a community builder for the Alliance for Independent Authors. She has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine.

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The Women’s Nest (my social network for women)

World Literary Café: Where readers and author unite!

Fostering Success – www.fostering-success.com

“Melissa Foster is a wonderful connector of readers and books, a friend of authors, and a tireless advocate for women. She is the real deal”-— Bestselling Author Jennie Shortridge

“What sets Melissa Foster apart are her compelling characters who you care about… desperately. This  is psychological suspense at its most chilling. I dare you to read the first chapter and not be hooked.”  —International bestseller, M.J. Rose

C.W. Gortner and “The Last Queen”

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About The Last Queen

Juana la Loca, one of history’s most enigmatic 
and forgotten queens, tells the story of her tumultous life…

Daughter of Isabel and Ferdinand of Spain, Juana bears witness to the fall of Granada and Columbus’s discoveries. At the age of sixteen, she is sent to wed Philip, Hapsburg archduke of Flanders, just as her youngest sister, Catherine of Aragon, is sent to England to become the first wife of Henry VIII.

Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her handsome young husband, but when tragedy strikes and she inherits the Spanish throne, she finds herself plunged into a battle for power. Besieged by foes, her intelligence and pride used as weapons against her, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it could cost her everything.

From the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England, The Last Queen brings to life all the grandeur and drama of an incomparable era and the humanity of a courageous princess whose fight to claim her birthright captivated the world.

Excellent trailerReviews

SUSANA SAYS: Fascinating portrayal of Ferdinand and Isabella’s daughter: 5/5 stars!

SusanaSays3As a former Spanish teacher who has studied in Spain many times and loves it well, I have to admit that this story does not fit my guidelines for Susana’s Morning Room or Susana’s Parlour. It’s not a romance. It’s historical fiction. But this is my blog, so I’m allowed to break the rules occasionally. 🙂

There is romance in this story, but since it’s about a historical person, one knows in advance there will be no happy-ever-after. Frankly, knowing that does cast a bit of a shadow as the story progresses.

But as much as I have studied and taught about Spanish history and civilization, I never knew that much about Juana. I remember passing by the tomb in Granada where she lies with her husband and parents thinking it was poignant that they were all together in death.

After reading Gortner’s version of Juana’s history—which seems quite plausible to me—I have my doubts that this is where she would have wished to spend eternity.

Gortner’s trailer is right: women have never been treated well in history, not even royal women. Those queens who succeeded in keeping their thrones, such as Juana’s mother Isabella and Elizabeth I had to constantly defend their right to rule. After reading The Last Queen, I have a much better understanding of why the latter queen chose not to marry.

The Last Queen is a delightful portrayal of a queen who loved her country and was committed to ruling in its best interests, in spite of the plethora of greedy men who plotted to steal her crown and her birthright.

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About the Author

gortnerC.W. Gortner is the author of The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Tudor Secret. He holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.

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Virna De Paul and “Bedding the Wrong Brother”

Praise For National Bestselling Author Virna De Paul:

De Paul is amazing!” —NYT Bestselling Author Lori Foster

This story is beautifully written…I found myself falling in love with every single character from the first pages.”

Susana Says…Sexy and Satisfying Read…4/5 Stars

SusanaSays3Melina is an entomologist insecure about her ability to satisfy a man sexually. Her good friends know she has always had a crush on Rhys, the boy next door who has become a traveling magician along with his twin Max, and suggest that she ask Rhys to teach her what she needs to know. Melina cringes at that…making love with the man she loves with the full knowledge that it’s just sex to him would be torture. But Max…well, Max is another story.

Max, who feels guilty about the nasty trick he played on Melina and Rhys when they were teens—which resulted in keeping them apart—tries to make amends by setting them up. Even though the two of them are identical, Melina is one of the few who can tell them apart. But when Rhys finds out what Melina is up to, he makes it his responsibility to show Melina there’s nothing wrong with her—it’s the guys she’s been with that are the problem.

Rhys has always loved Melina, but it’s not just Max’s fault that he has avoided her over the years. He’s a traveling magician and Melina is the epitome of the white-picket-fence woman. She would hate the show-business life. But after they spend an intimate weekend together, he finds himself wondering if there is some way to compromise.

I love the ladybug theme. Rhys’ pet name for Melina is ladybug, since that’s her favorite insect. When he was in France—before the story began—he bought her a polka-dot bikini that he knew would show off her assets. Proof positive that he’s telling the truth about his feelings for her.

De Paul has a unique way of describing people:

Untitled-1Grace, a career counselor in the university’s humanities department, was class and calmness personified. While Lucy was Cherry Garcia—cherry ice cream with cherries and fudge flakes—Grace was Ben and Jerry’s Crème Brûlée—sweet custard ice cream with a caramelized sugar swirl.

Here are some memorable quotes:

She was tired of men who sucked in bed and blamed her for their suckiness.

Then if your exes found you wanting, it wasn’t because you lacked skill, it was because they knew you didn’t feel that passion for them. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the passion inside you.” I should know, he thought. She’d given him the taste he’d been craving, and it had almost blown his mind.

“You’re as sexy as you’re willing to let yourself be. Always remember that, Melina.”

My previous experience with De Paul’s books have been her Para-Ops series, which I’ve mentioned before on this blog. But after reading this book, I can heartily recommend her contemporaries as well. Enjoy!

About Virna De Paul

Virna De Paul is a former criminal prosecutor and national bestselling author of paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and romantic suspense. She writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, HQN, and Random House. In her off hours, she loves Broadway musicals, spending time with her family and friends, and connecting with other romance readers.

http://www.virnadepaul.com/index.shtml

Virna’s books are available at most ebook retailers.