Monday, November 20, 2017

Believe in My Heart


Giveaway Alert!


This holiday, love is on the menu.


Culinary arts student, Hope Mastriano, is down on her luck. Homeless on Thanksgiving Day, she’s caught trying to break into her cousin’s apartment by her sexy boss and lifelong secret crush.

Since getting dumped seven months ago, head chef Vinnie DiFrancesco has been in a frustrating holding pattern. He returns relaxed from a retreat, but his life is sent into a tailspin when he offers Hope, the event coordinator at his family’s trattoria, temporary housing.

With the trattoria’s traditional Italian Christmas Eve charity dinner slated to be featured on a local TV segment and things heating up in his apartment, the two must set aside their different visions to make the event a success. When a computer glitch threatens their plans, Hope proposes a risky solution. Vinnie must believe in Hope and his heart in order to secure the future of the restaurant and make it a Christmas to remember.

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Excerpt from Believe in My Heart:
     The snow had tapered to a light flurry, and the inch on top of what was already there was enough to disguise the shabbiness of the faded brick building.
     He jogged up the stairs to the fifth floor. Turning into the main hall, Vinnie made his way toward his apartment while digging in his pocket for the key and almost collided with three suitcases and a stack of boxes blocking his path.
     Someone was moving out…or in, given the person was fiddling with the lock—with a hanger. He had moved in a couple days before his trip to California and hadn’t met any neighbors, but he did recall seeing a tall blonde woman walking out of this apartment one morning as he came in from his morning jog. This one was a few inches over five feet, and although he couldn’t see much, dark hair peeked out of the white knit cap on her head.
     “Hey, can I help you?” he called.
     She shrieked and dropped the hanger. “I can’t find my key and locked myself out.”
     He knew that voice. “If that’s the case, why don’t you call the super?”
     “My phone’s dead, and I don’t have his number.”
     Vinnie pulled out his phone. “Then it’s a good thing I have it. I’ll give him a buzz.”
     “No!” she cried and turned to face him.
     Wide brown eyes framed by long brown lashes stared up at him.
     “Hope?”
     She pushed back the cap and brushed aside the bangs that fell into her eyes. “Vinnie. Funny meeting you here.”
     “Same goes. You don’t live here,” Vinnie countered, surprised to be faced with one of the pantry chefs from where he worked.
     Hope raised her hands. “I know how this looks, but I can explain.”
     “You can explain why you’re trying to break into this apartment?”
     “It’s my cousin Faith’s place. And I wasn’t breaking in.”
     Vinnie raised an eyebrow and shifted his gaze to the hanger on the ground.
     “Okay, so maybe it seems as though I was breaking in, but the key she gave me no longer works.” She reached in her coat pocket and withdrew a key similar to Vinnie’s.
     “Did you try calling your cousin?”
     “Gee, no, I didn’t think of that,” she sneered. “She’s on a cruise and then staying in Florida a few days for business. I wasn’t kidding about my phone dying and not knowing the super’s number.”
     Vinnie felt a pain in his temple. Probably from not having enough to eat or drink on the red-eye from LA. “Fine, let’s get your stuff in my place. You can use my phone.”
     Hope grabbed a handle of a suitcase. “Thanks, Vin. You’re nicer than people at work say.”
     He paused while unlocking his door. Well, hell. Is that what they say about me? Guess he needed to do damage control with his staff. Even though his parents owned Trattoria DiFrancesco, Vinnie was the head chef and in charge of hiring of anyone who worked in the kitchen.
     Including the pretty spitfire who had just swept past him, Hope Mastriano.
     He hoisted the stack of boxes and followed her inside. When she headed back out, he perused the hall to see how much more stuff she had.
     There were two more suitcases and a pet carrier.
     “You run away or something?” Vinnie asked.
     “Moved out of Steve’s place. I’m done with that deadbeat.”
     “On Thanksgiving Day and with nowhere to go?”
     “It’s been long overdue. Besides, I thought I could crash at Faith’s until I figured out my next step.”
     “And in there?” He nodded to the carrier.
     Hope raised it up a few inches. “This is Lucky, my cat.”
     Vinnie was not a fan of cats, with their sharp eyes and sneaky ways. He peeked inside and into the green eyes of a white cat. He closed the front door and stepped around Hope’s stuff, including the cat, which she pulled out of the carrier. Lucky leaned forward and sniffed him before letting out a soft mew.
     Between the pixie-haired cutie and the cat, the peace and relaxation he had found out west was a distant memory. By the time he got to the trattoria for Thanksgiving dinner, Vinnie was going to need a beer or glass of wine.
     Possibly both.

About Maria K. Alexander
Maria K. Alexander is an award-winning author of Contemporary Romance. When not writing, Maria loves to read, bake, downhill ski, visit the beach, and watch romantic comedies. Maria lives in New Jersey with her husband and children, and writes in her “spare” time between juggling a full-time job and her kids’ busy schedules. You can keep in touch with Maria at http://mariakalexander.com.


Giveaway
Name one food you look forward to indulging in over the holidays. One winner will get a digital copy of BELIEVE IN MY HEART.

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Nov. 21st. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email maureen@JustContemporaryRomance.com with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway. US residents ONLY.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Mail Mishaps


Congratulations to "Dana G.", the winner in Stefanie's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

Mail mishaps. We’ve all had them. Items that arrive damaged, boxes that have been opened by someone else…or mail that doesn’t turn up at all.

The idea for Trouble Next Door started with a single thought: what if you ordered something online that you didn’t want anyone to see and it accidentally went to the wrong address? In the case of this story it’s a box of adult toys.

Totally embarrassing, right? I know, we authors are so mean to our characters. It’s one of the perks of the job. This scene takes place right after McKenna discovers that she accidentally typed the wrong address for her order and that the parcel has not only been delivered to her apartment building, but that it’s been picked up by the guy who lives in the apartment she accidentally sent the box to. She has no choice but to go to his front door, red-faced, and hope that he hasn’t opened it.

But what would be too easy, wouldn’t it? Here’s Beckett and McKenna right after she realizes that he has opened “the box of shame” as she comes to call it…



“Oh God.” McKenna dropped her head into her hands. “Can this day get any worse?”
How could she possible have had her box of sex toys delivered to the wrong address?
She forced herself to lower her hands and make eye contact. Now was not the time to regress to toddler-style denial. Did he have to be so good looking? That really was making it much harder.
Beckett towered over her and he was built like an athlete. Strong and solid, lean.  He had wavy dark blond hair that was cut short and neat, the hint of stubble just breaking through along his jaw.
He looked like someone her mother would have picked out for, and yet her body never failed to sing when he was around. And no church hymns, either. Oh no.
Right now they were singing some Marvin Gaye-level shit.
“I’m not judging you,” he said. His expression was difficult to read, but it didn’t sound like he was lying.
“You can, it’s a pretty ridiculous scenario.” Her gaze darted to where her package sat on his expensive-looking dining table. The corner of a pink sex toy box poked out of the top. “Have a laugh when your girlfriend gets home. I promise, I won’t be offended.”
“That won’t happen.” He shook his head, a crease forming between his brows.
McKenna snorted. “You’re a better person than me, then.”
“I meant that she won’t be coming home.”
“Oh.” She wasn’t sure what else to say, but Beckett was staring at her as though he expected something. A reaction, or maybe some solidarity. “Uh, is it permanent?”
He shook his head, looking every bit the picture of male bewilderment. “Who the hell knows?”
“If it makes you feel any better, I just got dumped, too.” She jerked her head toward the box. “Hence the toys.”
Beckett’s brows creased and it looked as though he was about to lecture her. God, how did the man manage to look sexier than sin while wearing an expression better suited to an angry school principal?
Clearly your ex screwed with your head so much you no longer know what or who you’re attracted to.

TROUBLE NEXT DOOR

McKenna Prescott is the queen of picking the wrong men. When her latest boyfriend dumps her, she decides to devote her time to “exploring herself” (read: drinking wine and ordering sex toys online) and starting her freelance makeup business. That is, until an embarrassing delivery mix-up puts her sexy, gruff neighbor in her path…

Beckett Walsh is married to his job…which is a deal-breaker for the woman he’s supposed to be marrying. Even worse, his would-be father-in-law has pulled support from Beckett’s startup and now Beckett stands to lose everything. But the gorgeous, crazy makeup artist from down the hall has an equally crazy but mutually beneficial idea: if he convinces his sister to hire McKenna for her high-society wedding, McKenna will teach him about what women want so he can get his fiancĂ©e back.

All he has to do is make sure he doesn’t fall for the wrong girl.



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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How Do You Take Your Coffee?

With: Kadie Scott

Congratulations to "Bn100" and "Breanna P.", the winners in Kadie's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!


I can’t drink a lot of coffee because basically my coffee is dessert given the amount of sugar I put in it. That means I’m not a coffee aficionado. However, Max Carter, the hero in my new release, is a tad bit obsessed with coffee. Not only that, but he’s OCD, and therefore particular about his coffee.

So, I had to research my coffee, including how to make the best coffee you can. Here’s what I learned…

1. Pick the Right Bean for You

Different types of beans have different flavors to them. According to Consumer Reports 
.        Light Roast – light brown bean, more sour taste
       Medium Roast – medium brown bean, brighter with undertones like floral, fruity, berry, etc.
·       Dark Roast – darker bean with some oil on the surface, a more bittersweet aftertaste and undertones of caramel, nuts, or baked goods
·       Darker Roasts – shiny black beans, anything from slightly dark to extremely charred

2. Consider the Bean Source

Do your research and look at both the region and the source (grower) of the bean. Regions famous for their coffee include:
  ·       Columbian
  ·       Sumatran
  ·       Kona
  ·       Kenyan

3. Keep It Cool

Store your coffee in a dark, cool location away from the oven. Don't pick a cabinet on an outside wall if it gets a lot of sun during the day.

4. Store It Right

Invest in an airtight ceramic, glass, or non-reactive metal container. If you buy coffee in large amounts, divide it between two containers, keeping the larger, unused portion airtight until it is needed.

5. Purchase Smaller Amounts

Coffee beans, like everything else, can go stale or lose its freshness. Buy coffee in amounts that last approximately 2 weeks for optimal freshness.

6. Freshly Ground

Don’t buy already ground coffee. And don’t grind it all at once. According to Consumer Reports, the best coffee his freshly ground before brewing.

7. The Right Temperature 

Finally, when brewing your coffee, make sure you (or the coffee maker) each 195 degree to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. The best temperature in that range differs by bean type.

Picky enough for you? Poor Max in The Attraction Equation must somehow manage to order his optimal cup of coffee from a (heaven forbid) an outdoor coffee cart while not coming off like a total diva. Good thing he can be charming when he wants!
Personally, I’ve never paid much attention to the details. I drink my coffee as a latte with...wait for it…a pump of caramel, a pump of vanilla, and a pump of white chocolate. (Yes. It’s basically coffee flavored sugar.)
How do you take your coffee?

To read about how Max deals with is persnickety coffee order, read The Attraction Equation now! This #HolidayRomance is a standalone book.




The Attraction Equation 


A LOVE UNDERCOVER ROMANTIC COMEDY

She’s the exception to his every rule…


AttractionEquation_500 FBI agent Max Carter lives his life by a strict set of rules—rules that don’t allow for distraction, deviation…or a relationship. But tell that to his matchmaking mama. To avoid yet another set-up, he announces he has a girlfriend. And now has to produce said girlfriend at Christmas dinner. Maybe Santa has a suitable actress in that red bag of his…

Gina Castillo is about to break her building’s iron-clad “no pets” policy to give her little brother the perfect Christmas gift—a dog. Too bad Max, the most inconveniently sexy tenant in the building, catches her red handed. Gina expects to be evicted, but instead finds herself blackmailed into playing the role of his girlfriend.

Two lies plus one dog should equal a hot mess of a holiday, but attraction and Christmas magic might just defy the rules…



About Kadie Scott:
Award-winning contemporary romance author, Kadie Scott, grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. She attempted to find a practical career related to her favorite pastime by earning a degree in English Rhetoric (Technical Writing). However, she swiftly discovered that writing without imagination is not nearly as fun as writing with it.

No matter the genre, she loves to write witty, feisty heroines, sexy heroes who deserve them, and a cast of lovable characters to surround them (and maybe get their own stories). She currently resides in Austin, Texas, with her own personal hero, her husband, and their two children, who are growing up way too fast.

Connect:
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Monday, November 13, 2017

My Top Five Second Chance Romances

With: RC Boldt

Congratulations to "Ami S.", the winner in RC's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!


My November release, He Loves Me…KNOT, is the story of Emma Jane Haywood who skips out on her own wedding only to discover, eight years later, her new boss is none other than her former fiancĂ© at the altar. Since this is a second chance romance, I thought I’d revisit my all-time favorite books which are also the same trope.

My Top Five Second Chance Romances:

·       The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks
·       The Choices I’ve Made by J.L. Berg
·       Jilted by Sawyer Bennett
·       Love Story by Lauren Layne
·       Wild Card by Lora Leigh

My favorite part about second chance romances is the angst the reader feels, the way we cross our fingers and toes in hopes that the characters will be able to mend their differences, to heal their emotional wounds, and move on to finally—FINALLY—gain their own happily ever after. I love the continuous push and pull, the tumultuous and conflicting emotions the characters often feel in books like these. In He Loves Me…KNOT, both Emma Jane and Knox experience this ten-fold as they acclimate to their lives intertwining once again, with unfinished business hovering amidst them.


HE LOVES ME…KNOT  


Sometimes love needs a second chance…

I never looked back after skipping out on my own wedding, even if it did leave me estranged from most of my family. Eight years later, I have the life I’ve always wanted. As an advertising account executive, my world is damn near perfect.

Until I come face-to-face with my past. With the man I once loved. The man who holds my future in his hands. The man who’s hell-bent on getting even with me for leaving him at the altar.

Even with all the unfinished business between us, I still love Knox Montgomery. The only problem?

He loves me…KNOT.

Buy Now: Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo

About RC Boldt:
RC Boldt currently lives on the southeastern coast of North Carolina, enjoys long walks on the beach, running, reading, people watching, and singing karaoke. If you're in the mood for some killer homemade mojitos, can't recall the lyrics to a particular 80's song, or just need to hang around a nonconformist who will do almost anything for a laugh, she's your girl.

Follow RC:  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter |

Giveaway:
RC will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift card along with an ebook from her backlist to one lucky reader leaving a comment or email entry!

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Nov. 14th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email maureen@JustContemporaryRomance.com with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway. US residents ONLY.

Friday, November 10, 2017

THE ONES WHO GOT AWAY

With: Roni Loren

Congratulations to "Laura H.", the winner in Roni's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

It's been twelve years since tragedy struck the senior class of Long Acre High School. Only a few students survived that fateful night—a group the media dubbed The Ones Who Got Away.

Liv Arias thought she'd never return to Long Acre—until a documentary brings her and the other survivors back home. Suddenly her old flame, Finn Dorsey, is closer than ever, and their attraction is still white-hot. When a searing kiss reignites their passion, Liv realizes this rough-around-the-edges cop might be exactly what she needs…

Liv's words cut off as Finn got closer. The man approaching was nothing like the boy she'd known. The bulky football muscles had streamlined into a harder, leaner package and the look in his deep green eyes held no trace of boyish innocence.


Excerpt:
She bit her lip. Of course with his authoritative tone, her mind put him in a uniform and some aviators. She’d never had a particular fetish for men in uniform, especially after her own run-in with the police. But the thought of Finn wearing one and manhandling her a bit had her reconsidering. She would definitely get out of the vehicle. Maybe even let him cuff her. And as inappropriate as the thought was, considering the circumstances, it was a welcome respite from her nightmare. She cleared her throat. “I think you pull it off just fine.”
His dimple appeared beneath the stubble. “You’re blushing, Arias.”
“I am not.” She tipped up her chin. “I’m just…still flushed from all the adrenaline.”
“Uh-huh. Or you’ve got a secret cop fetish.”
“Stop flirting.” She pointed a finger at him.
“Am I flirting?” he asked innocently.
“Yes. And that’s not allowed. You yourself said that kiss was a mistake. So don’t come prancing around here half-dressed with your Batman abs and talking about where to put my hands. No one likes a tease, Dorsey.”
His grin turned roguish. “I said that kiss was a mistake, not a regret.”
“Finn.”
“And Batman abs?” He grabbed the lapels of the robe like he was going to open it and check. “These old things?”
She stretched out her leg and kicked his thigh. “Stop it. You’re terrible.”
He lifted his palms in surrender and laughed. “At least you’re smiling now.”
“Yeah, well, there’s that.”
It seemed even after all the years had passed, Finn still had the ability to get her mind off things. When her mom was going through chemo and everything was doom and gloom at home, Finn could somehow figure out ways not just to make her laugh, but to do so in a way that didn’t make her feel guilty for feeling a moment of happiness.
She leaned forward, bracing herself on one hand, and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you.”
“For what?”
She looked up, meeting his gaze, and realized how close she still was. Close enough to see the flecks of gray in his green eyes, close enough to kiss him. She wet her lips. “Being you. I’ve missed that guy.”
His Adam’s apple bobbed, his gaze flicking to her mouth before sliding upward again. Her heart picked up speed, and his hand closed around her upper arm. “Liv…”
“I…” Whatever she was going to say died on her lips because the way he was looking at her made her forget her words. There was want there in those green depths—lust—but there was something else. Something that made her breath stall. Need mixed with something more dangerous. A wildness.
A curl of heat went up her spine, twining with unease. So much of her wanted to give into it, to see what exactly was simmering there between them. Just grab him and say to hell with it all and make the sheets even sweatier than they already were. But as much as he was drawing her in with that look, he was also warning her off. She didn’t know how she got that sense, but it was there, loud and clear. Push me away. Run. He wanted her to stop this.
He’d told her outside what he had to offer—nothing but a one night stand. And though right now that sounded all kinds of enticing, she wasn’t going to go there. He didn’t want this. Plus, even sober, it would be too close to how she’d handled her anxiety in college. She didn’t need to chase away her nightmare with a hook-up she’d regret in the morning. She wasn’t that girl anymore.
“Finn.” The word was strained.
“Yes?”
She swallowed past the dryness in her throat. “We should get my stuff moved. It’s late.”
He stared at her for a moment and then his grip on her arm softened, his breath tickled her hair. “Right. Of course.”
He released her and she climbed off the bed with shaky limbs. She wouldn’t let herself look at him. She needed a task—something, anything, to get her mind off the man sitting on her bed. She packed up in record time, and Finn retrieved his gun from the drawer, tucking it in the pocket of the robe. No words were exchanged. When she was done gathering her things, he helped her roll her bag down the hallway to his room.
He let her inside and quickly rounded up his own stuff. He moved with quiet efficiency, awkwardness creeping into the silence between them and spreading into every corner of the room.
She leaned against the dresser, watching him, hating the growing divide. “Hey, Finn.”
He looked up, his hands full of computer wires.
“I know the kiss was a mistake and things have gotten a little weird and a lot personal tonight. But this—you and I having some time to talk—it was good. I think that’s what I missed the most when everything happened. Losing you as a friend.”
His stance relaxed. “Yeah?”
She crossed her arms and shrugged. “Yeah. We were good at the kissing, but we were better at the talking. I never had to fake stuff with you.”
His eyebrow arched.
She laughed. “That’s not what I mean, Mr. Mind-In-the-Gutter. I mean that things were easy between us. That’s hard to find with people. I’m realizing that now. I don’t…have that.”
He tucked the computer cords in his bag and straightened, his watchful gaze making her fidgety.
 “And that’s not your problem, obviously.” She was rambling now but couldn’t bring herself to stop. “But I opened that stupid time capsule tonight and got to see a big long list of things I wanted to accomplish in life and haven’t. I was supposed to this. I was supposed to that.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m going to name my freaking autobiography Supposed To by Olivia Arias.”
He frowned. “Liv.”
She shook her head. “It’s fine. It is what it is. But all I’m saying is that I don’t want another regret added to the list. So I just thought you should know that you meant—mean—something to me. And maybe you could give a flying flip about me. I have no clue what your life looks like now, but I would rather not leave Long Acre later today and go back to being strangers. Because people you don’t have to fake it for are hard to find. So…yeah, that’s all I wanted to say. I’d like us to stay in touch.”
The corners of his mouth twitched. “That’s all you had to say?”
“Hey, I’m a photographer not an editor.”
“I thought you were a web designer.”
Her lips parted, closed.
He smiled. “Maybe you’re already making more changes than you think.”
She let out a breath. “Maybe I’m just tired.”
Finn stepped around the bed and held out his hand. “Give me your phone.”
She was confused for a second, her brain running on too much adrenaline and too little sleep, but eventually his request registered. She reached into her bag to pull out her cell.
He took it from her and typed a few things and then handed it back to her. “You can always call me, Liv. For anything.”
She took her phone back, her hope sinking a bit. “Right. Thanks.”
He kissed the top of her head and then grabbed his stuff. “I’m going to get out of your way so you can shower and rest. If you need anything before breakfast, give me holler.”
“Thanks.”
He stepped out into the hallway without a backward glance and headed to the room they’d left, obviously more than a little eager to get the hell away from her. She didn’t blame him. She’d apparently become the queen of awkward conversation tonight.
With a sigh, she locked her door and made her way over to the bed and collapsed onto it. Spent. Exhausted. And a little frustrated.
Finn had taken her words like she wanted someone to call when she needed help, but she wasn’t in the market for a therapist or a savior. She was in the market for a friend.
But maybe she was grasping for something that didn’t exist with Finn anymore. Maybe she was just being nostalgic. They weren’t in high school. They didn’t live in the same place. They couldn’t just hang out. The time for that had past. She needed to be okay with that.
If he wasn’t interested in keeping in touch, she wasn’t going to chase him.
She checked the time on her phone to see how many hours she needed to kill before breakfast. But instead of seeing the time, she saw the address book entry Finn had made.
His phone number.
Filed under Batman.
And a note beneath: You will never be a stranger to me.

Giveaway:
Roni will be giving away a signed copy of THE ONES WHO GOT AWAY to one lucky person leaving a comment or email entry.


Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Nov. 11th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email maureen@JustContemporaryRomance.com with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway. US residents ONLY.

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