Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why I love the reserved British hero...

When you think of a British hero, who comes into your mind? For me, it’s Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, definitely, and Daniel Craig as James Bond. Benedict Cumberbatch in Parade’s End; Sean Bean as pretty much anyone from Eddard Stark to Richard Sharpe. These chaps are true heroes, with all the virtues of strength, integrity, and the ability to handle themselves in a crisis. They also have that other quality, once praised, but now often looked down on: British reserve.

In former days, being reserved meant being the “strong, silent type,” able to deal with hardship with stoicism and a stiff upper lip. There’s been lots written about why the British are famous for their reserve. In the second world war, for example, the British government put out a poster urging people to “Keep Calm and Carry On.” At times of stress, there’s a positive to not being overwhelmed by emotion, and British heroes epitomise the stoic approach.

That’s why, when it comes to romance, I love nothing better than a reserved hero who, in a moment of high drama, finally expresses his feelings of deepest love for the heroine. Who could forget Mr Darcy’s impassioned words to Lizzie, “You have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love... I love... I love you. And I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.”

His words have so much more impact because at the start of the novel he’s seen as cold and reserved. When we finally get to discover there’s actually a deep well of emotion buried beneath the proud exterior, it’s a revelation.

I fall in love with the reserved hero at the drop of a bowler hat. When it came to writing this type of character, though, I realised just how difficult it is to portray a reserved man in a sympathetic way. There’s a danger that strong, dignified silence can be interpreted as cold and unfeeling. Mr Darcy hardly comes off well at the start of Pride and Prejudice. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s a bit of an arse.

In my case, Paul Farrell, the hero of my novel A Way from Heart to Heart, has a very particular reason for having to repress his emotions over a long period of time. Paul is forced to keep silent, and the heroine, Kate Hemingway, totally mistakes his character at the start of the story and dismisses him as a stuffed shirt: “So full of reserve, you could stuff him and put him in the British Museum.”

It’s hardly surprising Kate misjudges Paul, but underneath the quiet exterior is a very different person to the one she imagines. The day comes when Kate finally discovers what lies beneath Paul’s reserve, and when she does, everything changes in an instant and it’s…well, I won’t spoil the story!

How about you? Do you like the “strong, silent” type of hero? Who’s your favourite British hero of books, film or TV? If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!

A Way from Heart to Heart 
Released by Accent Press on 18th November.

After the death of her husband in Afghanistan, Kate Hemingway’s world collapses around her. Her free time is spent with a charity for teenage girls in London, helping them mend their broken lives - which is ironic, since her own life is fractured beyond repair.

Reserved, upper-class journalist Paul Farrell is everything Kate and her teenage charges aren’t.  But when Paul agrees to help Kate with her charity on a trip to the Yorkshire moors, he makes a stunning revelation that changes everything, and leaves Kate torn.

Can she risk her son’s happiness as well as her own?


Helena Fairfax writes engaging contemporary romances with sympathetic heroines and heroes she’s secretly in love with. Happy endings are her favourite, and when one of her novels won a reader competition for "The Most Romantic Love Scene Ever" it made her day.

Helena was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She's grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in Yorkshire, near the home of the Brontës. After many years working in factories and dark, satanic mills, Helena has turned to writing full-time. She walks the Yorkshire moors every day with her rescue dog, finding this romantic landscape the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.

Social links
Twitter: @helenafairfax 

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Royalty Trope

Hello! I’m Diane Alberts, but I also write as Jen McLaughlin! I am here today because I just released a new book in my Shillings Agency series with Entangled Brazen! It’s called SEDUCING THE PRINCESS, and it’s the third book in the Shillings Agency! The first two are TEMPORARILY YOURS and STEALING HIS HEART.

In SEDUCING THE PRINCESS, I play with the royal trope…but instead of the usual prince sweeping a normal girl off her feet, I did the opposite. This time, it’s the princess who woos a commoner…in this case, American bodyguard Gordon Waybrook. 

That’s something I had a lot of fun with! It’s almost always the prince with all the power in the royalty trope, but the princesses ten to be saved for Disney movies. Why is that? I don’t know, but I decided to break that pattern!

I think, as women, some part of us tends to fantasize about a prince charming type of guy sweeping us off our feet, and whisking us away to a royal palace, so we tend to like those books. But why can’t the princess, aka us, whisk away the prince? ;)

What’s a book that you read recently that broke the usual pattern—and did you like the change, or miss the old trope?


He’ll give her exactly what she needs…

Protecting a princess is not what former marine Gordon Waybrook signed up for when he joined the Shillings Agency. But instead of the spoiled, regal little creature he expects, Isabelle VanGuard is a fiery, sexy-as hell woman who’s been denied what she needs for too long. And he’s just the man to break through her frozen public facade and give it to her.

When she’s with Gordon, all Isabelle can think about is pleasure. Their blistering chemistry is immediate and intense, but volatile. In fact, the only thing they agree on is that their one night together is just that—one night. Even after it becomes more. But tempers and temptation can’t disguise reality. Isabelle is a princess, and hot, hard, and tattooed bodyguard isn’t the Prince Charming her country expects…even if he’s exactly what she needs.

Author Bio:

Diane Alberts is a multi-published, bestselling contemporary romance author with Entangled Publishing. She also writes New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling new adult books under the name Jen McLaughlin. She’s hit the Top 100 lists on Amazon and Barnes and Noble numerous times with numerous titles. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. Diane is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

Diane has always been a dreamer with a vivid imagination, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she put her pen where her brain was, and became a published author.  Since receiving her first contract offer, she has yet to stop writing. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and a cat. Her goal is to write so many fantastic stories that even a non-romance reader will know her name.

Author Blog:
Author Twitter: DianeAlberts
Author Facebook:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What’s your Favorite Type of Heroine?

With: Nina Croft

Congratulations to "Colleen C.", the winner in Nina's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

One of the things I loved most about writing Taking Control, my recent contemporary release, was getting to know Jess, the heroine, a whole lot better.

Taking Control is book 3 in my Babysitting a Billionaire series, and Jess had already made an appearance in books 1 and 2. The series follows three friends, Kim, Dani and Jess who all work as bodyguards for a security firm. Jess is ex-army. She’s tough and she’s developed a bad-ass attitude to protect a vulnerable center. Jess had her heart broken at a young age and she’s determined that no one will get close enough to do it again—certainly not the man who broke it the first time.

Heroines come in many different types and that’s how it should be. But we all have our favorites, and I love a story with a strong heroine.

So what makes heroine strong?

For me, it’s a woman who knows herself, who understands her own strengths and her weaknesses, a woman who is pro-active and goes after what she wants, even if it’s not what she ultimately needs (and I love the transformation as she discovers the difference.)

Someone who is willing to accept that maybe they are wrong and face the consequences of that and then try to put things right. And Jess does all of that in Taking Control.

So here’s a few reasons I love strong heroines.

·         When I read a book, especially a romance, I want to identify with the heroine. When I was little (a long time ago) I wanted to grow up to be an assassin, or a spy or an explorer… well you get the picture. So it stands to reason that I identify with tough women (even if in reality I turned out a bit of a wimp).
·         And I want to fall in love with the hero. How can I fall in love with a man I don’t respect, and how can I respect a man who falls in love with a wimp, even if she is beautiful!
·         I want the heroine to be worthy of the hero. If I can’t have him then it’s because some great woman who truly deserves him has captured his heart, not some whiny, too stupid to live, beautiful young thing, who has absolutely no clue how to fight for her man.
·         Long gone is the time when we were happy to wait for some man to come along and save us, or the world. These days, if there’s anything at all out there in need of saving, then we want to be the ones to do it.
·         And finally, I love the moment when a tough heroine shows her vulnerable side, the side that only the hero gets to see, and only after he’s proved he’s worthy.

So what’s your favorite type of heroine? Sweet and vulnerable? Strong and daring. Or something in between? Let me know for a chance to win an ecopy of Losing Control, book 1 in the series.


Why play nice when you can be naughty?

Jessica Bauer is aces when it comes to security, but the PR side? Not so much. Now she has a chance to take over Knight Securities―if she plays nice with the next client. Unfortunately, that client happens to be Declan McCabe. And it’s too bad someone wants him dead, because after he broke her heart ten years ago, Jessica would have cheerfully murdered him herself.

Declan has taken his dad’s not-so-reputable company and turned it around, and in the process, he’s attracted the attention of some vicious killers. The only perk is being reunited with Jessica, who Declan still wants so much he can barely see straight. But Jessica has a plan of her own. She’ll protect Declan. She’ll have unbelievably hot sex with him. And when the job is finished, she’ll move on. Except that this time, Declan isn’t so willing to walk away…

Author Bio:
Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia, which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of nine-to-five work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.
Nina writes all types of romance, often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

Author Website:
Author Blog: N/A
Author Twitter: @Nina_Croft

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Dec. 18th. 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 with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Five Naked Truths About MAKE ME, TAKE ME

Giveaway Alert!

  1. There is more sex in MAKE ME, TAKE ME than in any book I’ve ever written…and my editor and I took out one sex scene and combined two more. No matter what happened, Quin and Betsy just kept getting naked in new and different ways that were totally necessary to the plot and conflict, I swear. But there’s so much naughtiness, I felt a little weird about dedicating the book to my sister!
  2. Speaking of sisters, my big sister and I know every word to Kenny Rogers’s Gideon album, and the hero of MAKE ME, TAKE ME was inspired by these lines from “No Good Texas Rounder” written by Kim Carnes and David Ellingson. “He was a fiddlin’ man, and they’re not nice/He took your mama, now you’re payin’ the price, girl…” Quin plays guitar, not fiddle, but Betsy definitely pays the price, especially when he says “Once I get you started, you go all night. Let me go with you. I promise I won’t tell anybody, and I won’t try to buy your bar, either. Let me spend the night inside you, and we both win. Just say the word, and I’ll give you everything you want, any way you want it.” Yup…naked.
  3. My fiancé and I lived in NOLA after we graduated from culinary school, and we got married in the French Quarter. I put all of my favorite NOLA food and drinks into the book, mango daiquiris, chargrilled oysters, beignets, three-beer gumbo, shrimp po’boys, pralines…and Quin and Betsy enjoy some of them…naked. My favorite food scene is the one where Quin says, “Put your plate on my chest, and I’ll introduce you to the culinary equivalent of snorting coke off a stripper’s ass.”
  4. The tea leaf reading in the book really happened! Just before I got married, I had my tea leaves read at The Bottom of The Cup Tearoom in the French Quarter. Almost everything Madame Rousseau says to Betsy was said to me, including the lions, doves, and royalty. However, I had a note in the margin of MAKE ME, TAKE ME that said, “Put in romance, you idiot. Duh.” I wasn’t looking for love when I got my leaves read; I’d already found it, so that changed the reading just a bit! Hence all the naked.
  5. Readers helped me brainstorm the book. The blog tour grand prize for INTO THE FIRE, the first book in the Hot Nights series, included naming the hero of MAKE ME, TAKE ME and giving him a personality trait. Thus the sexy and sarcastic, guitar-playing hero, Quinton James, was born! The runner up prize included picking a dish to go into the book, so I created Blackened Chicken on a Stick. It’s very spicy, so I do not recommend getting naked until after you wash your hands. That recipe, along with many others from my books, can be found on my website.
There you have it! Five naked truths! MAKE ME, TAKE ME isn’t all bare skin, though. There’s heartache and family and fighting in the mix, too. Here’s a little taste of the conflict:

            She glanced over her shoulder and stepped into the alley, shutting the door behind her. He took note of her crossed arms and guarded expression. “So we’re back to this, are we?” he asked.
            “What did you expect?”
            “More than a note. It would have been nice to wake up with you, kiss you good morning, and start the day off right, but there’s always tomorrow for that.” He reached to stroke a finger across the faint red whisker burn on her neck, stifling a smile when she pushed his hand away.
            Her eyes were dark. “What do you want, Quin?”
            “I want you back in my bed tonight. Or this afternoon.” She’d shut him out, but he knew how to reach her.
            “You don’t always get what you want.”
            “I do when you want me, too. Let’s dispense with the preliminary round of ‘will we or won’t we’ so we can get down to the when will we.”
            She rolled her eyes. “How about never?”
            “Haven’t I warned you about saying no? Denial is dangerous. Deny what you want, and your subconscious will fuck you ten ways to Tuesday making it happen anyway. Life is much easier if you figure out how to get what you want on your terms. State your terms. What do you want?” If he knew that, he’d be in.
            “I want you to leave me alone.”
            “Really? Because you’re leaning toward me, and your lips are parted. I think you want me to kiss you.” He trapped her against the alley wall with one hand on each side of her body. “I think you want me to do more than kiss you.”
            She stiffened. “I’m working. I don’t have time for this.”
            “I’m working, too, but the coffee machine is broken. Help a neighbor out?” He bent to kiss her, opening her mouth with his lips and stealing inside. He growled in pleasure as her tongue met his with greedy strokes, and she lifted her hips against him. Just as fast, she broke their kiss. He grasped her ass before she could pull away and rubbed against her, watching her eyes. When her pupils dilated, he stayed right where he was and rubbed harder.
            “If I give you a cup of coffee, will you leave me alone?” Her words were slow and ended on a moan.
            “Until later.”
            She broke his hold. “Then find your own damn coffee.” Her back was poker straight as she stalked toward the door.
            The sight of her walking away filled him with steely determination. “I planned to stay in town until the grand opening, but I could arrange to stay longer. How many weeks of us crossing paths in the alley every day and me eating sandwiches in your café would it take to get you back in bed?”
            She turned to glare. “Blackmail only works once with me.”
            When she slammed the door, he laughed. She didn’t know much about blackmail.


He’s every fantasy she’s ever had...

Betsy Mouton knows that easy doesn’t last forever. She’s working her butt off to launch the Last Call Café so her family can leave the New Orleans bar business—and its heartaches—behind forever. That is, until the hottest one-night-stand of her life shows up next door, twice as uncompromising and two million times hotter, offering to buy the bar and send the Moutons to Easy Street.

Hotelier Quinton James has never forgotten the unbelievably hot night he and Betsy shared. Never forgotten how beautifully she submitted to him, or how he found the only peace he’s ever known in her arms. Now that Betsy is the only thing standing in the way of his new hotel, she’s the one in control. But there’s more at stake than her cafe or laying their past to rest—Quin wants a future. With her. All he has to do is convince sensual command at a time.

About the author:
Amanda Usen knows two things for certain: chocolate cheesecake is good for breakfast, and a hot chef can steal your heart. Her husband stole hers the first day of class at the Culinary Institute of America. They live in Western New York with their three children, one gerbil, four fish, a Russian tortoise, and a beagle. Amanda spends her days teaching pastry arts classes and her nights writing romance. If she isn’t baking or writing, she can usually be found reading a book and trying to get out of cooking dinner.

For book news, contests, and hot recipes, visit Amanda at:
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Can I Be My Heroine?

When I was growing up, I was far from the ‘it girl’ of my school or my neighborhood. As the youngest of three sisters, my clothes were often hand-me-downs. But honestly, even if my wardrobe had been cooler, I wouldn’t have been. Because I didn’t have that elusive quality of fabulousness.

There was that one girl that all the boys chased and all the other girls wanted to be friends with. Her confidence was evident in how she walked, how she talked, how she dressed. She’d even formed her own entourage, all by the tender age of eleven or twelve. 

I think as we grow older, we develop our own style, accept ourselves and others more readily. The cool kids stay cool, but those of us who weren’t find our niche. Yet that elusive sparkle that makes everyone in the room gravitate toward  one person seems to remain with the lucky few. Which is why I try to create that in certain characters. Like Lucy, the heroine from my new release, The Surrogate Husband

Yes, I admit it—I want to be her. 

Okay, so she has a few issues. Her parents’ marriage was a complete wreck, so she doesn’t keep guys around any longer than she would a quart of milk. And yeah, she’s got an intense fear of drowning because…well, long story. 

But she owns the hottest lingerie store in South Beach. She has a killer body and can wear satin and lace every day to work. Instead of a boring car, she tools around on a motorcycle. Heck, she even dyed her hair hot pink! Her mom is her best friend, and works for her part time. 

Oh, except that her mom’s gotten her into a mess. And now she has to pretend to be married to her uber hot accountant. So yeah, I still want to be her. 

The Surrogate Husband

Wild child lingerie store owner Lucy Hamilton is a happily confirmed bachelorette. As far as she's concerned, men are something best enjoyed in small doses, never to be allowed too close. Then Lucy's mother tells her Aunt Bev that Lucy has eloped and is married—a tiny lie only meant to appease the dying woman...until Aunt Bev miraculously recovers. Now Lucy needs to find a “husband” for an upcoming family wedding, and fast.

Fortunately, Lucy's ridiculously hot, ridiculously straitlaced new accountant Dex Levian is willing to be her stand-in spouse for the weekend. And that's when the trouble really begins. For starters, Dex's “involvement” with a client―no matter how irresistible―might ruin a merger he hopes will make his career. Worse still, the chemistry between Dex and Lucy is more than convincing―it's sizzling. But for Lucy, falling for her fake new husband is the most dangerous thing she can do...

“Each box is tabbed so you can jot down expenses, broken down by category.” Pointing to the spreadsheet, he explained where she was to write in this and that. “I’ll email it to you so you’ll have it on your computer.”

God, that voice. It was like he’d just said, “I’ll email you naked pictures of myself and then come over with a jar of honey and a can of whipped cream.” It was so unfair that he had to look as good as he sounded.

Available at Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Entangled | Goodreads

Author Bio: 
Wynter Daniels has authored more than two dozen romances, including paranormal, contemporary and romantic suspense books for several publishers including Entangled Publishing, Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave, Loose Id and Red Sage. She lives in sunny Florida with her family and two spoiled cats. After careers in marketing and the salon industry, Wynter’s wicked prose begged to be set free.

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Monday, December 15, 2014


With: Rebecca Yarros

Giveaway Alert!

When I was nineteen, I met this gorgeous green-eyed boy in a karaoke bar. A song later, I realized he was a soldier, and I nearly backed away. After all, as the daughter of two Lieutenant Colonels in the Army, I knew that the military lifestyle wasn’t anything I wanted for myself, or for my future kids to grow up in. Man…that boy was everything I’d dreamed love-at-first-sight to be. But was he worth the risk? Military life meant long TDY’s, moving every few years, possible deployments, and a lot of time alone. Yet all of that faded away with the way he looked at me when he said my name. Well, fifteen years later, that green-eyed boy is a gorgeous man, and our oldest son has those same green eyes. 

Sometimes, you take a chance, and it’s the biggest kind of payoff. 

My latest novel, Eyes Turned Skyward, is all about risk. Twenty year-old Paisley has the same heart condition that killed her older sister, and yet she takes constant risks to feel alive. When she almost drowns completing her bucket list, Jagger Bateman pulls her from the ocean, and breathes more than life into her — he sets her soul on fire. But Jagger is in flight school, and Paisley isn’t just the daughter of the commanding general, she’s also the girlfriend of his biggest rival. Suddenly the risks she’s taking aren’t in spite of her heart, they’re for her heart. 

If we’re taking risks, shouldn’t love be the biggest one? Jagger argues that love is the most worthwhile risk to take.

Excerpt From Eyes Turned Skyward:

“What’s your favorite part of being in a relationship?”

“That’s an odd question.” I almost jerked, but his hands kept me steady.

“It’s mine to ask.”

I sighed. “Right. Quid pro quo. Well, I guess I love the ease. I know what his reaction will be to most things, so everything is just…comfortable. Effortless. He knows my worst qualities and doesn’t run screaming, and he knows my past because he was there for it.” He knows I could drop dead at any moment. “What about you?”

He tensed. “I don’t know. I’ve never really had a functional relationship.”


“Ever. I’ve seen it though, with my friends.” He took a deep breath, raising and lowering my head slightly. “I think I admire the connection between them. They have this…pull, an utter drive to be close to each other, like even a breath separating them is too much.”

An ache resonated from my heart that had nothing to do with my condition. “That’s what you want.”

Four heartbeats passed. “Yes, eventually. I’ve seen love burn someone to the ground, and I’ve seen it make sense of the ridiculous. I won’t settle for less than that kind of fire.”

That was the most irrational thing I’d ever heard, and something in my soul seemed to flicker awake and take notice. “Steady doesn’t do it for you? You’d rather chance destruction?”

“If it’s between being numb the rest of my life, or exquisitely burning for even a moment, I’ll take the burn. The best things in life are worth the burn, the risk.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat like he hadn’t just altered my world.
Risk is something we all have to take to really live. Stepping out of our comfort zone is where the magic happens, where we stretch our wings and our limits. Fifteen years ago, I risked my heart and my future on that green-eyed boy, and a name-change, four deployments, and six kids later? My greatest risk has become my foundation, my safe harbor, my net at the bottom of the trapeze we dangle from. And besides, you know what they say, right? The greater the risk, the greater the reward. 

Here’s to the greats. 

Want to win a $5 amazon gift card? Just comment below and tell me what your greatest risk has been! 


A new adult novel from Entangled's Embrace imprint...

Life's too short to play it safe...

Since her sister's death, twenty-year-old Paisley Donovan, who shares her sister’s heart condition, is treated like delicate glass by her parents. But nothing will stop her from completing her Bucket List—even if it kills her. And it almost does, until Jagger Bateman pulls her from the ocean and breathes more than air into her lungs—he sets her soul on fire.
Jagger is enrolled in the country's toughest flight school. He's wickedly hot, reckless, and perfect for a girl looking to live life to the fullest. Except that Paisley is the commanding general's daughter, and her boyfriend is Jagger's biggest rival. Now Paisley must decide just how much to risk for a guy who makes her heart pound a little too hard.
They're flying through dangerous territory—and one wrong move could make them crash and burn...

Amazon | Entangled

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Dec. 15th. 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 with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Barefoot In Pearls

Giveaway Alert!

Book: Barefoot in Pearls
Author: Roxanne St. Claire
Release Date: January 30, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance

As her two best friends settle into their happily ever afters, destination wedding designer Arielle Chandler is beginning to wonder if the promise of “The One” – one true love, meant only for her – is merely folklore passed down from her Native American grandmother. But when a mysterious man nearly mows her down on a hill overlooking Barefoot Bay, the legend of destined love suddenly feels very real. That is, until Ari learns of Luke McBain’s plans to demolish a piece of land she believes is sacred.

Luke isn’t proud of the fact that he spent ten years as a mercenary warrior, fighting battles for another country. With those dark days behind him, he’s focused on creating a new life instead of destroying others, so he’s moved to Barefoot Bay to launch a contracting business and build a house for an old friend. But when an enigmatic dark-eyed beauty steals his attention and stops his progress with her announcement that he is about to flatten a native burial ground, Luke has a new battle to fight.

While their immediate and potent attraction grows complicated, Luke and Ari discover the hills of Barefoot Bay could be hiding something far different – and even more valuable – than ancient art or graves. They are determined to discover the truth, but that will come at a cost. Will they risk their chance at once-in-a-lifetime love to uncover secrets that could change the landscape of Barefoot Bay forever?

Teaser Excerpt

He wasn’t handsome, not in any conventional way. Just rough and dark with heavy whiskers over a jaw that looked like it might have met a few fists in its day. His nose was a little off center and maybe broken once or twice. His chest and shoulders dwarfed her, with no tattoos, no chest hair, just tanned, sweaty skin covering rolling, ripped muscles.

“Really sorry,” he said again. But he didn’t sound sorry, or look it, either. He scanned her face and made no effort to unlock his grip on her wrist.

She should yank free. She should step away. She should stop staring.  She should...breathe.

But right that minute, bathed in sunlight and pinned by a green-gold gaze the color of oxidized copper, Ari Chandler couldn’t do any of those things. Because her whole body was kind of tingling and buzzing and sparking, like she’d just stuck her entire arm in an electrical socket.

“You sure you’re okay?” he asked. “’Cause you look like I rung your bell.”

He rang something. There was no other explanation for how lightheaded she suddenly felt.

“I...I’m...I think...” Words failed her. No chance of a coherent sentence.

His brows pulled into a frown as he gently turned her arm and placed a thumb over her pulse, which hit warp speed.

“Whoa. Your heart’s racing more than mine.” He started to lower her back to the ground. “Sit down. I have some water in my truck. Let me get it.”

“No, no, I’m fine.” But Ari let him guide her down, sitting as he crouched in front of her. “Who runs with their eyes closed?”

“I was trained that way.”

“For what? Suicide missions?”

“Something like that.” His voice, low and charged with mystery, sent another cascade of chills down her spine, a shocking feeling that had no place dancing over her in this heat and humidity.

“Really, what are you doing here?” she asked. “Not very many people on Mimosa Key even know how about this place.” Only dirt roads led to this acreage, which was marked at the perimeter as “Private Property.”
He glanced around. “I’m checking it out.”

“With your eyes closed?”

He almost smiled, just enough to show a hint of dimples and straight white teeth. Just enough to take the edge off his face and turn it into something arresting. She needed to look away, but all she could do was blink at the white lights flashing behind her eyes.

Had she hit her head or...or...oh, no. No.

“No,” she murmured. “No, this isn’t…you can’t” This wasn’t possible.

“No…what?” he asked, leaning in to get closer to her. “I can’t check the place out? I have the owner’s permission. Do you?”

But it was possible. He could be...  No, that was her imagination, not the universe answering her plea. Right? “No,” she managed to say.

For one long, suspended second, the world around her crystallized, making her hyperaware of every color, scent, and sound. Everything was magnified. Like the slow roll of a bead of sweat trickling over a scar on his temple. And the flecks of color that somehow mixed to make his eyes a haunting blend of emerald and topaz. Even the timbre of his voice, baritone and sweet, and the rhythmic sound of his breaths as the run caught up with him. He smelled like sunshine and the sea, and his hand, still wrapped around her wrist, was like a hot brand of man against her skin.

Everything about him was…right.


She tried to nod at him, letting the very real possibility of what was happening sink in.

“Hey.” He snapped his fingers in front of her face, making her jump. “Do you know your name?” he asked sharply.

“Arielle Chandler.”

“Place of birth?”

“Sacramento, California.”

“Husband’s name?”

“I don’t have one.”

His eyes flickered. “Phone number?”

She paused, but not because she couldn’t remember it. But because his smile went from almost to full force, and the impact actually hurt.

She could practically hear Grandma Good Bear on her deathbed describing exactly these feelings.

“No way!” She shook her head, still not believing it.

“Hey, it was worth a try.” Still smiling, he leaned back on his haunches.  “Since you’re coherent enough to turn me down, I guess you’re okay, Arielle Chandler. In fact, you’re…” He let his gaze drop over her.  “You’re fine.”

And every cell in her body just went numb.

Author Biography

Roxanne St. Claire is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of more than thirty novels of romance and suspense. She is the author of the Barefoot Bay contemporary series as well as two very popular suspense series, the Bullet Catchers and the Guardian Angelinos.

A six-time nominee and one-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award for the best in romantic fiction, Roxanne's books have also been awarded the National Readers Choice Award for best romantic suspense three times, as well as the Daphne du Maurier award, the Booksellers Best Award, the Award of Excellence, the Maggie, the Holt Medallion and many more. Roxanne's books have been published in dozens of countries and are routinely featured as selections in the Doubleday and Rhapsody book clubs.

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