Tag Archives: Victoria Dahl

How a small community can smother your characters

As a contemporary romance writer, I know that series set in small towns and tight-knit communities are insanely popular.

But there’s also a danger that, as a series grows, those communities can begin to smother the vibrancy of later novels and their characters.

This isn’t just a danger with small-town contemporary romance. It can happen in any series that focuses on a particular community, whether that’s the ton in Regency romance or a fantastical world completely of the author’s creation.

Here are the ways communities can alienate me, the reader, and my thoughts on how to avoid it.

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Filed under Contemporary romance spotlight, Writer's toolbox

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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Review: Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl

One of the best contemporary romances I’ve read this year.

Real Men WillSix months ago, uptight Eric Donovan went to a business expo and had a steamy night of passion with the manager of a local erotic boutique. Problem? He used his bad-boy younger brother’s name. For one night, he wanted to be someone else, without all the responsibilities and worries weighing him down.

When Beth Cantrell walks into the Donovan Brothers Brewery months later, she pretty swiftly realizes that the cute young bartender everyone’s calling Jamie isn’t the guy she slept with. Beth is furious and tries not to feel the shame and humiliation that she experienced the last time a man used her. But she struggles to hold onto her anger toward Eric as the attraction between them explodes again—only this time, they both want more than one night.

I love Victoria Dahl’s contemporary romances, but she’s really at her best when she’s writing characters who have spent their adulthoods trying to overcome the trauma of their childhoods. Beth Cantrell is one of those characters. She’s hiding who she really is in an attempt to become the person she thinks she should be—a sexually adventurous woman comfortable with all kinds of experimentation. In reality, she just wants a man she can let her guard down with, a man she can trust.
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Winner of the Victoria Dahl giveaway!

Bad Boys DoThanks to everyone who commented on my interview with Victoria Dahl, and a big thanks to Victoria for giving away a signed copy of BAD BOYS DO!

The lucky winner is…Patti W!

Patti, I’ve emailed you asking for your address. If you haven’t received it, please check your spam folder.

This week you can win one of Jeannie Lin’s luscious historical romance novels. She’s giving two of them away – BUTTERFLY SWORDS and THE DRAGON AND THE PEARL. So leave a comment to enter!

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Interview with Victoria Dahl – & giveaway!

Victoria DahlVictoria Dahl could scribble a grocery list on a Post-It and I’d clear my schedule to read it. Her books are full of the same kind of sarcastic, witty people I like to surround myself with in real life. And her novels are emotionally gripping but still manage to be so hot I’ve found myself blushing and glancing furtively around when reading in public.

Her contemporary series this year is set around the Donovan Brothers Brewery in Colorado. The first, Good Girls Don’t, was released last month. The second, Bad Boys Do, comes out this month, and the last, Real Men Will, is released next month. I’ve had the privilege of reading them all, and it’s without a doubt one of my favorite series of the year.

I’m so glad you’re here, Victoria! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thanks so much for having me! And thank you for the very kind words about my writing.

1. You first got published writing historical romance. What made you decide to write contemporaries as well, and how do you manage to be so prolific and still so awesome in both?

Talk Me DownWell, at first, my historicals didn’t sell. I couldn’t get a contract. Then my paranormals didn’t sell. Finally, my wonderful agent suggested I try my hand at contemporary. I thought she was mad. I was terrified. But I tried it out, and that book was TALK ME DOWN, my first contemporary.

As for being prolific –I’m sure I can’t speak to awesomeness- going from contemporary to historical, and vice versa, is a bit like a palate cleanser. The change makes it easier to write faster. Just looking forward to the change makes it easier.

2. What would you say are the biggest differences between writing a successful contemporary and a successful historical romance (other than making sure you’ve set it in the right time period, of course!)?

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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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Who will win the RITA for best contemporary romance?

Since the Romance Writers of America announced the finalists for the RITA award back in March, I’ve been reading all of the nominated novels in my favorite category: contemporary single-title romance. Some of the authors are old favorites of mine, and some were new to me.

The winners will be announced on July 1, and I’m lucky enough to be in New York for the party. They’re fantastic novels, and I can’t wait to see who wins.

Best of luck to their authors!

Not That Kind of Girl by Susan Donovan

Not That Kind of Girl coverRoxanne Bloom launches a man-hating blog after overhearing her ass-hat boyfriend denigrating her bedroom skills to his friends – men she has to work with. Her now-ex breaks into her house and threatens her, until her man-hating pit-bull-Boxer mix nearly rips his throat apart. Roxie finds herself being sued and fighting to keep her dog alive. The only person she can count on is Eli Gallagher, the hottest dog whisperer around.

Eli’s used to being top dog, but can he help both Roxie and her dog feel secure enough that they let go of their angry aggression?

Read more about Not That Kind of Girl

The best parts

Susan Donovan does an amazing job of creating emotional intensity between her hero and heroine. Almost all the novels of hers I’ve read feature couples who spark immediately, and the flames grow hotter and deeper as the story develops. Plus, this novel contains the canine equivalent of a Regency rake: a pit bull most people think is irredeemable but who turns loving and loyal thanks to a woman’s devotion.

Still the One by Robin Wells

Still the One by Robin WellsWhen she was 17, Katie Charmaine had a summer fling with Zach Ferguson and ended up pregnant and boyfriendless. She gave her newborn daughter up for adoption – a heartbreaking experience she never revealed to anyone except the man she ended up marrying. But after her husband dies in Iraq, leaving her childless and grief-stricken, Zach returns to town with their 17-year-old daughter – a girl who’s pregnant and desperately needs parents.

The best parts

I cried. No, I bawled. The tenderness and conflict between each of the characters is realistic and satisfying. I loved that the author allowed Kate to have a wonderful relationship with her late husband, and that Kate struggles to overcome her grief before falling in love with Zach.

And One Last Thing… by Molly Harper

And One Last Thing coverWhen Lacey Terwilliger discovers her husband Mike is screwing his artificially enhanced secretary, she doesn’t just get mad; she gets online. Having sacrificed her own career to support his business, she writes one last email newsletter to his clients, family and friends, telling them exactly what a dickless wonder Mike is. Her revenge backfires, though, and she flees to her cabin to get away from her nagging, gossiping neighbors.

Fortunately for her, a hot author named Monroe lives next door. Can she convince him she’s not another psycho divorcée like all the others who’ve thrown themselves at him?

Read more about And One Last Thing

The best parts

Molly Harper’s voice rocks. She’s like a twisted version of Kristan Higgins. Her characters are witty and clever – except for the morons you’re not supposed to like. This novel is funny, tender, sweet and sexy, so it hits all the right spots. If you have a thing for Hugh Jackman, read this book. That’s all I’m sayin’.

One Fine Cowboy by Joanne Kennedy

One Fine Cowboy coverPsychology grad student Charlie Banks is sent to observe a horse whisperer in Wyoming. Unfortunately, the horse whisperer, Nate Shawcross, has no idea his ex-girlfriend took people’s money and promised them Nate would run a horse clinic. He’s shocked when cute Jersey girl (and PETA activist) Charlie shows up on his ranch, hauling her attitude with her. Nate’s ranch is in trouble, though, and he can only save it by putting on a good show for the group of greenhorns that arrive for his clinic. And he desperately needs Charlie’s help to make the clinic a success.

Read more about One Fine Cowboy

The best parts

This novel is the closest I can remember coming to a hero who was abused by a former partner. Although Nate’s ex-girlfriend didn’t hit him, she manipulated him so severely that his personality and confidence are shot. His insecurity when it comes to women is so endearing, and I loved the scenes written from his point of view. He wants to please Charlie, but he struggles hard to find ways to do so. Massive kudos to Joanne Kennedy for such a daring—and well-written—portrayal.

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Simply IrresistibleIn one week, Maddie finally gets rid of her abusive boyfriend, loses her job because of it, and finds out her mother has died. Though she and her mother were estranged, Maddie and her two half-sisters inherit a falling-down inn on the coast of Washington.

Maddie’s learned that trusting men can be a dangerous thing, but when she hires the sexiest contractor for miles around, she learns that love starts with that trusting herself.

The best parts

The hero, Jax, is among the best contemporary heroes I’ve ever read. He’s strong without being obnoxiously alpha. He’s supportive without being a pushover. And he’s thoroughly addictive. For the last couple of months, I’ve returned to this novel over and over, rereading my favorite parts. It’s so high up my keeper shelf no one will be able to touch it.

Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl

Lead Me On by Victoria DahlJane Morgan is the ultimate professional woman, but she hasn’t always been. In fact, she has completely turned her life around from the chaos she experienced growing up. She’s full of secrets—like that most of her relatives are convicts and that she earned herself a reputation when she was far too young—but there’s one thing she can no longer deny herself: hot sex with a tough-looking man.

But as her perfectly composed life begins to unravel, William Chase proves he’s a hell of a lot more than a working class stud service.

The best parts

Victoria Dahl’s contemporary characters break all the molds, and it’s truly a joy to see their layers peeled away to reveal people who are unlike any others I’ve seen in romance. Jane’s shame over her past decisions is gut-wrenching, and her growth over the course of the novel is painful to experience but all the more satisfying because of that. Chase may look like an ex-con, but he displays the stalwart character of superman as he supports Jane through her struggles. This is such a beautiful, sexy, funny story that I took the bus to work because I couldn’t bear to put it down.

Nothing but Trouble by Rachel Gibson

Nothing But Trouble by Rachel GibsonHockey player Mark Bressler made his living on the ice, but when his Hummer hits a patch of black ice and flips, Mark’s career instantly ends and he’s left in excruciating pain to watch his team win the Stanley Cup. No wonder he’s pissed at the world.

But when failed actress and assistant to B-list celebs Chelsea Ross is hired to nurse him back to health, Mark’s pity part is over. With her bossy manner, she soon has Mark frustrated in altogether more pleasant ways.

The best parts

The sex. Rachel Gibson writes very hot contemporary romance, and her hockey players are among the sexiest professional athletes in the genre. Mark Bressler and Chelsea Ross have such a strong connection that it’s explosive when they get together.

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Happy Ever After by Nora RobertsFour friends run a wedding business. They plan a lot of weddings.

The best parts

This is the last in a quartet about women who run a wedding business. There’s at least as much focus (if not more) on the women’s friendships as there is on the romance between Parker and Malcolm. The hero doesn’t even feature in the back-cover text. But if you like reading about wedding details—from cakes to flower arrangements—you’ll probably like this book.

Have you read any of these? Who do you think will win?

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