Category Archives: Contemporary romance spotlight

Feisty, fun and smart, contemporary romance reflects real women today

Contemporaries to covet in December – and a giveaway with a twist!

This week I’m doing something a little different. Instead of hosting an interview and giveaway with an author, I want to tell you the contemporary romance novels I’m looking forward to in December and do a giveaway with a twist.

I’ll choose one person who leaves a comment to win a $10 gift certificate to the online book retailer of their choice AND I’ll send a $10 gift certificate to the contemporary romance author they mention in their comment, on their behalf.

I want to reward not just my blog readers but the authors they love. Plus, I think a lot of published authors shy away from entering giveaway contests, but c’mon! this is one where the novelists you adore can also win.

I’ll put the nitty-gritty at the bottom of the post. Just make sure you gush about a contemporary romance that’s coming out in December that you really want to read.

So, here’s what I’ve read advanced copies of and can highly recommend.

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Sisters are doing it for themselves

I don’t have any sisters. I have a “little” (i.e. younger, but now well over six feet of muscles that belong on a romance cover) brother. You might remember him from my post The problem with having an alpha male brother.

Sister gets little brother in a headlock

© Christopher Low/istockphoto

My brother and I never got along when we were kids, though I can’t imagine why. I mean, I put so much effort into parenting him because my parents clearly weren’t doing a good enough job of it. As his big sister, I made sure he knew exactly what he was doing wrong at all times. He didn’t know as much as I did, and I pointed out all the things he was ignorant about so he’d learn.

Yes, I was the kid who spent weekends playing “school” and planned lessons for the neighbor kids to sit through. I also borrowed my brother’s motorized mini police car and drove up and down my street handing out tickets to kids who rode their bikes too fast.

In other words, I was a friendless loser for much of my childhood. And my little brother has always been the exact opposite.

Having another girl in the house would’ve been torture. I had to be the best at something, and if I couldn’t be the best at making friends then at least I could be the best girl in the house. No one else could be a girl the way I could—that meant shopping with Mom and my grandma, going on dates with Dad, and just generally smelling good and avoiding roughhousing.

If I’d had a sister? I’d have had to discover something else to be best at.

Girl pretends to push brother off a cliff

© M. Eric Honeycutt/istockphoto

By having a second child, my parents forced me to suffer decades of sibling rivalry—but I never regretted that it was a boy child (I just, y’know, regretted his entire existence sometimes. Hey, I’m not proud of myself for it).

Growing up with my biggest rival living in my own home and sharing my parents’ love has given me a deep affection for fictional heroines who have to endure bratty siblings—even if those siblings are grown up.
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Why Australia’s the sexiest country in the world

The Power and the PassionMy first introduction to the romance genre was through Harlequin Presents novels, so not only did I learn a whole lot about what boys and girls do when they like each other, but I also got to explore new countries for only a few dollars a month.

That’s how I realized Australia’s the sexiest country in the world.

Lots of the novels were set in London and Australia—places where they called their friends “mate” and lived in flats (which for years I pictured as apartments with lower ceilings).

Both places sounded amazing, but Australia kicked London’s ass on several levels. First, the London novels often took place in offices (*yawn* I’d seen 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton—offices looked like dreadfully boring places to fall in love). The heroes seemed uptight and the heroines wore stockings.

Not the grown-up life I wanted to have.

Australians, on the other time, chased each other through the Outback. They frolicked in the surf. They occasionally encountered animals so bizarre that only funny-sounding words could describe them: kookaburra, wombat, kangaroo.

Okay, maybe there weren’t wombats and kookaburras. I do recall some storylines with kangaroos, though.

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Kristan Higgins interview – and giveaway!

Kristan HigginsWhile I was preparing for this interview, I cruised on over to Kristan’s website and stalked her did some research into her life. I clicked on the link to her blog and ended up spending TWO HOURS reading her posts.

I’ve never spent that long on anyone’s blog before – not even mine.

Kristan’s novels have the same effect on me. They suck me in and don’t let go until I’ve sobbed my way through the happily-ever-after. If you like romance featuring strong, quirky families, lots of dogs and even more smooching, Kristan Higgins is your gal.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Kristan, and for giving away a copy of your latest release, UNTIL THERE WAS YOU!

Absolutely my pleasure, Kat!

1. One of countless things I love about your books is the strong sense of community you build. It makes me think that living in a small town must kick city-life’s ass. Is there anything bad about life in a small town (I ask this as someone who’s moving from London to the vast emptiness of the northern Netherlands, so please say no)? How do your communities challenge your characters and help them grow?

All I Ever WantedAnything bad about a small town? Er, um, of course not! Small town life is perfect! Especially if you love people knowing you perhaps a bit better than  you’d like, eating at the same restaurant over and over and over, being viewed as exactly the same person you were when you were thirteen and threw up in math class, no, there’s not one drawback!

I think life in a small town challenges my characters to be more than they were back when they were puking in Mr. Eddy’s class. But there’s an intimacy and caring that’s very evident in a small town; a person gets hurt, and there’s a spaghetti supper to raise money for medical costs.

I do think that’s true in big cities, too; cities are nothing more than a bunch of different neighborhoods, but there’s something about a small town that invites personal interaction.

2. Most of your novels are written in the first person from the heroine’s point of view, but UNTIL THERE WAS YOU is told in third person and lets us see things from the hero’s perspective too. What made you decide to switch things up for this one?

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May-December romance

Back in the early 90s, when I first started reading romance, I remember reading a few books where there was a big age difference between the hero and heroine. Of course, the hero was always the older one.

In one book, the hero was in his late 30s and ended up with a 19-year-old woman. At the time, that didn’t gross me out because I was barely a teenager…37 and 19 seemed equally elderly to me.  But now that I’m older, that age difference isn’t romantic—it’s grooming.

Bad Boys DoI was thinking about this recently as I read Victoria Dahl’s latest contemporary, Bad Boys Do—a novel that’s sure to be one of my top picks of 2011. The story features 29-year-old Jamie Donovan, a bartender with a bad-boy reputation, and Olivia Bishop, a mid-thirties teacher whose much-older husband left her for a much-younger woman.

Age plays a big role in keeping Olivia and Jamie apart, as she believes he’s someone she can fool around with but doesn’t think he’d want to settle down with her. Jamie, on the other hand, is thrilled to have a relationship that feels like an actual relationship instead of a hook-up. He’s ready to grow up and man up, and being with Olivia encourages him to do both.

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The world’s worst dates

When I was 20, a random guy on campus asked me to go to dinner with him. Being a suspicious girl living in LA, I told him I’d pick him up—why give a potential serial killer your address, right?

On our first date, I found out he had a son. I won’t lie—it was a little surprising, since he was 23 and had sole custody of his six-year-old boy. But I admired him for being a devoted dad.

On our second date, I found out he also had a daughter. She lived in a different state with her mom.

Although I was a little nervous about what I would discover on a third date, I really liked him, so we went out again.

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Interview with Louisa Edwards – and giveaway!

Louisa EdwardsLouisa Edwards is one of my all-time favorite  contemporary romance novelists. Her debut, Can’t Stand the Heat, was released just two years ago, but her sexy chefs and sassy heroines immediately catapulted her to the top of my auto-buy list.

Louisa joins me today as part of my Hearts and Minds giveaway – where you can win books that appeal to your heart and mind. She’s giving away a signed copy of her latest release, Too Hot to Touch, which has the most YOWZA! cover I’ve seen in a long time! She’s also giving away a set of romance trading cards featuring the Rising Star Chef characters.

Giveaway details are below the interview!

1. Welcome, Louisa! First off, what draws you to contemporary romance?

I love the immediacy and relatability of working in the real world, and I’ve found that my voice as a writer works best with modern language and dialogue. And I enjoy worldbuilding when I can use the building blocks of a world that already exists, like the world of professional restaurant kitchens—if I had to figure out my own rules of magic and the paranormal, it would be a disaster!

2. If you had to come up with a recipe for a successful contemporary romance, what would it be (and yes, I’m totally asking for selfish reasons, since I write contemporaries)?

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Keeping it in the family: when a heroine dates brothers

My husband’s the youngest of four boys. If I were a romance novel heroine, that would mean I’d have plenty of dating opportunities if anything awful happened to my husband.

As a real woman, that thought fills me with the ickies.

Dating two people in one family is a common theme in contemporary romance. Kristin Higgins’s The Next Best Thing, for example, is about a woman who starts sleeping with her dead husband’s brother while she’s grieving, but eventually learns he’s more than a way to forget her pain for a while.

One Good Reason by Sarah MayberryOne Good Reason by Sarah Mayberry—released this month by Harlequin Superromance—tells the story of Gabby, who falls in love with her ex-boyfriend’s brother. She’s only recently met Jon, who lived in Canada when she was dating his younger brother Tyler. And she dumped Tyler three years ago. Perhaps these details ease the ick-factor those of us with real-life brothers-in-law feel.

Jon himself is not immune to feeling uncomfortable that the woman he’s having sex with also used to practically live with his younger brother. And the sexual side of their relationship is what he focuses on.

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5 reasons I wish I were a romance heroine

Many of us romance readers wish we had the same things the heroines we read about get: a beautiful man who adores us, a close community of friends, fantastic sex, and a guaranteed happy ending.

But a tweet from Lauren Plude, editorial assistant at Grand Central Publishing, got me thinking. Lauren wrote: “One of the many reasons I sometimes wish I was a romance heroine–they never seem to have to wait for AM laundry delivery.”

Since I read that while working on a really annoying project, I started thinking about all the little blessings romance heroines have in their lives.

Forget the hot heroes; these are the real reasons I wish I were a romance heroine:

1. They never have to scrub toilets, grout or bathroom caulking.

2. Their hero is always willing to pitch in with dishwashing—often insisting on it without even being asked (unthinkable!).

3. If I were a Harlequin Presents heroine, I could own an art gallery in Sydney without actually having to work hard at managing it while I run around with my billionaire lover.

4. I’d have friends with exactly the skills and experience I’d need to rely on for every problem in my life.

5. Perhaps most importantly, though, nine hours at the office could be glossed over in a paragraph.

What are the little blessings that make you envy romance heroines?

This is cross-posted at The Season


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