Romance Reviews

KISSING KATIE By Babette James — Hot Jersey Author

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My latest read in this series of hot authors from New Jersey is Babette James whose contemporary romance, KISSING KATIE, is the perfect balance of sexy and sweet.

Katie Vanburen and Matt Powell once spent summer after summer together in scenic Lavallette, NJ, but the friends lost touch after Matt’s parents divorced.

Years later, Matt rents the beach house that once belonged to his grandparents, noting that the house next door appears to be occupied by new owners.  He is caught off guard when a beautiful woman runs over from the neighbor’s yard and throws her arms around him.  It’s his long-lost Katie, all grown up.  A widow whose deceased husband’s memory is soiled by a history of cheating, Katie has had a hard time moving on.  Matt, a high-powered lawyer with huge offers from three different firms, isn’t sure he’ll be able to devote time and attention to a serious relationship…but soon he knows he has to try.  Once he kisses Katie, he knows he can’t bear to be separated from her again.

This super sweet romance put me right at the Jersey shore.  James’s setting descriptions are immersive, and her love story is heartfelt.  My favorite are scenes that include changing weather.  These fine brush strokes reflect not only the romantic elements of this book but the playfulness of the characters who are rediscovering their youth.  Matt and Katie felt more like real people than characters to me, and I really enjoyed spending time with them.  This is the perfect, relaxing beach read for the summer!

Here’s a link to Babette James’s website: http://babettejames.com/

Michelle Joyce Bond

Romance Reviews

KNOCK OUT By Michele Mannon — Hot Jersey Author

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Next in this series of hot romance authors from New Jersey is Michele Mannon whose sports romance, KNOCK OUT, will do just that–knock you off your feet!

Kean O’Shea is an ex-marine mixed martial arts fighter with a dark past who the reader can’t help but want to heal.  Throw in a smoking-hot body, drive to seduce the heroine, tortured interior monologue, and–Oh.  My.  God!   Kean is a dark hero you won’t forget.

At first, the headstrong heroine, Logan Rettino, seems like the worst possible match for Kean.  A renowned ballerina, she was at the height of her career when she literally fell from grace, breaking her ankle in the process.  Now, she’s determined to earn enough money for a lawyer so she can crush her thieving, ballerina-dropping ex and win back her life.  When Logan’s new job as an MMA octagon girl is in jeopardy, she strikes a deal with her sleazy boss to convince Kean to fight in the championship.  She won’t debase herself by offering her body in the bargain, but little else will standing the way of Logan getting Kean to detox from his excessive drinking and train to for the matches.  That is, except Kean himself.

First off in a long list of reasons why I loved this book is that the hero and heroine are both larger-than-life characters with Type A personalities.  Logan and Kean’s POV were both strong and their voices unique.  Kean in particular has such a brutal exterior and tortured past that it was incredibly entertaining watching Logan (and other men ogling Logan) push him to the breaking point.  I also liked how Logan could keep up with Kean both mentally and physically, literally running around the city with him as he trained for his bouts.  Both are athletes, their mutual appreciation of each other’s toned physiques and skills adding an incredible amount of heat to the romance.

The subject matter itself made the book interesting for me since I normally don’t touch sports-themed anything with a ten-foot pole.  I knew nothing about MMA fighting, but Mannon sprinkled definitions of fighting terms through her book at the beginnings of chapters in a way I found fun and which set the tone for each chapter.  My husband was laughing at me because I started looking up clips of MMA fighting and octagon girl competitions.

Finally, as an author, I really enjoyed Mannon’s clean writing style and well-crafted scenes, each ending fabulously in an explosive climax.  If you want to read a book for an example of good craft, pick this one up.  But seriously, just pick it up anyway, because it’s an incredible, steamy romance that will keep you hooked until the end.  I couldn’t get anything done until I finished this book.  I couldn’t write.  I just had to sit on the couch until it was finished.  And what a good ending it was. 🙂

Here’s a link to Michele Mannon’s website: http://www.michelemannon.com/

Michelle Joyce Bond

Romance Reviews

COUNTRY ROADS by Nancy Herkness — Hot Jersey Author

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Next in this series of hot romance authors from New Jersey, I bring you Nancy Herkness who turned the heat all the way up in her contemporary romance, COUNTRY ROADS.

The novel begins with our heroine, Julia Castillo, stranded on a country road on her way from the big city to a small town.  Julia has her artwork in tow, striking paintings of dark horses that won’t sell according to her manager uncle.  Handsome Paul Taggart, layer and former mayor, sweeps in to save her, getting her to town and the art dealer who is convinced Julia’s work will rock the art world.

Julia isn’t used to being outside of the sheltered world her family created for her, but she soon develops a taste for this new independence and for the man who rescued her.  Their passion roars to life with a heat that catches both off guard.  Julia, who has always been protected due to her epilepsy, worries that Paul will find out about her condition and treat her as her family did, like a broken doll.  Paul is tied to his home town by an alcoholic brother who is struggling to retain custody over his son.  Will the power of the whisper horses for which Sanctuary is so famous be able to help these lovers overcome their odds, or will Julia and Paul ultimately part ways on these country roads?

One of my favorite things about the book was Herkness’s vision of Sanctuary, a fictional West Virginian town with enough charm to make the reader want to linger and whisper horses to boot. I love fish out of water stories, so it was fun to follow the big-city artist to this place.  The perspective switches between Julia and Paul, and Herkness worked hard to make both of these characters equally complex.

So if life may be troubling you, stop by Sanctuary where the whisper horses may hear your troubles and help you find your way. 🙂

Here’s a link to Nancy’s Herkness’s website: http://www.nancyherkness.com/

Michelle Joyce Bond

Romance Reviews

INTIMATE DANGER by D.C. Stone — Hot Jersey Author

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Next in this series of incredible romance authors from New Jersey is D.C. Stone whose romantic suspense, INTIMATE DANGER, wet my appetite for crime dramas.  Stone’s wit, detailed setting, strong heroine, and dangerous antagonist had me hooked from the first chapter!

Tough, no-nonsense detective Charlie Lopez is tackling the case of her life.  A string of break-ins targeting women has rocked her quiet hometown.  As the peeping Tom’s crimes escalate, the reserved, sexy FBI agent, Trent Rossi is assigned to help with the case.  Soon, he’ll find that Charlie is as protective of her heart as she is of the town.  She has suffered enough losses to put up a wall against Trent, but this man’s sharp mind and hot touch threaten to take everything down.

Stone has done a beautiful job painting the small town of Nyack that is the backdrop to this drama.  The characters are sharp and memorable, especially her complex heroine, Charlie, whose history and presence in that town make her all the more believable.  I enjoy strong female protagonists, and it was a pleasure watching Charlie go head to head not only with the delectable Trent Rossi but with the bad guys.  Another feature I loved about this book was how Stone was unafraid to get into the head of the depraved antagonist–a man whose identity remains a secret until the end.

I hope you enjoy this sexy, heart-stopping read!  Here’s a link to D.C. Stone’s website:

http://www.authordcstone.com/

Michelle Joyce Bond

Romance Reviews

THE MIDNIGHT RAKE by Anabelle Bryant — Hot Jersey Author

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My latest read in this tour of hot romance authors from New Jersey is Anabelle Bryant whose latest title, THE MIDNIGHT RAKE kept me up well past the witching hour.

Phineas, a.k.a. Viscount Fenhurst, is so adverse to marriage, he mentally recites an anti-marriage mantra whenever a female threat looms.  However, he is caught completely off guard when he collides with an unexpected houseguest, a beauty who smells of vanilla and sparks a feeling he is unable to dismiss–a passion that will soon consume him.

Penelope has come to London in order to seek out the man who left her waiting at the alter while he robbed her house and took everything of value she had left in the world.  She came under the protection of Phin’s mother, the Countess of Fenhurst, but it is Phin who agrees to help Penelope find her mystery man.  In order to do so, he will need to take her to balls and other social events–places he usually escapes at the first opportunity.  As each night passes by, he grows closer to this innocent beauty, and his carefully constructed walls begin to crumble.  Penelope does not know the trouble she’ll meet, wandering the dark halls in her gossamer night clothes.  Soon this perfect gentle man will become a perfect rake.

This is my first Bryant book but the third in her Three Regency Rogues series.  One of the things I loved best about this book is how perfect Phin and Penelope were for each other from their first encounter…and each heated encounter after that.  🙂  They compliment each other so well that when their happily ever after comes, I can imagine their story continuing well beyond the pages.  Bryant’s complex sentences and word choice enthralled the English teacher in me, and her London settings spilled like paint over the pages.

I hope you enjoy this gorgeous historical!  Here is a link to Anabelle Bryant’s website:

http://www.anabellebryant.com/books.html

Michelle Joyce Bond

Romance Reviews

UNTANGLE MY HEART by Maria K. Alexander — Hot Jersey Author

untangleNext in this series of incredible romance authors from New Jersey, I’m pleased to present Maria K. Alexander, author of UNTANGLE MY HEART.

When Edward sweeps in to help Kate and her family design a new family restaurant, Kate is completely set against becoming involved with the dashing Brit again.  But their short fling is blooming into something more as Edward is drawn closer and closer to her.  This is despite Kate’s dark past: an abusive marriage that ended in tragedy.  Kate is afraid to risk her heart again, but Edward is determined to win her over.  Her strength and the warmth of her close family are things Edward is missing in his life, the history of his own cold, British upbringing leaving wanting for something more.  Will he be able to untangle her past and win her heart?

I fell in love not only with Alexander’s complex characters but with the family life she depicts in this heartfelt, sexy novel.  There is a subplot in which Kate is considering adopting an orphaned boy that really tugged at my heartstrings.  Both Kate and Edward are working through their pasts, and it was wonderful to watch them develop together, growing into one another.

Something that really set Alexander’s writing apart was the tension created by and underlying threat that ran through the book.  Kate is being stalked, and as her past catches up with her, both she and Edward will need to fight against it.

Untangle My Heart builds to a gripping, satisfying conclusion.  Don’t miss this powerful love story!

Maria K. Alexander’s website: https://mariakalexander.wordpress.com/books/

Michelle Joyce Bond

Romance Reviews

A SPY UNMASKED by Tina Gabrielle — Hot Jersey Author

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Next in this series of incredible New Jersey authors, I’m pleased to present Tina Gabrielle whose historical romance, A SPY UNMASKED, delivers so much more than a smoking hot cover.

Sexy, smart, and laced with historical curiosities, A SPY UNMASKED is multifaceted and beautifully done. As the title hints, our hero has more to him that originally meets the eye…and so does the book.

Robert Ware, a spy in service of her majesty the queen, teams up with Lady Sophia Merrill, the daughter of an inventor, in order to solve the mystery of her father’s murder.  Disguised as a betrothed couple, they infiltrate a secret society of inventors, attending an elaborate, week-long retreat at the odious Lord Delmont’s estate.  Here, the safe-cracking spy and scientific-minded lady hope to uncover the clues they need to expose the killer.

One of my favorite things about this book was the fun Gabrielle had tying in technological and scientific curiosities of the time as well as a budding pre-Victorian spiritualism.  The way she describes events, characters, and settings evokes a neat precision that I really enjoyed in Gabrielle’s writing.  What’s behind the mask?  A romance that’s as smart as it is sexy.

Here is a link to Tina Gabrielle’s website.  Enjoy!

http://www.tinagabrielle.com/

Michelle Joyce Bond

 

Stick Figures

May the Muse Be With You: What I Do When She Is

imageYes I do imagine my muse to be a tiny Woodstock-sounding thing, buzzing about my shoulders, and she won’t shut up.  Just before NJRW’s February writing challenge, she ripped me away from a speculative WIP to write my first contemporary YA since high school.  I won’t give specifics now, but I’m feeling very good about this one and thus owe a lot to that buzz in my ear.

Usually, I will take months to plan a book, but with the writing challenge so close and the muse so insistent (swatting the air over my shoulder), I decided to take the plunge and just write.  With only two days of intense planning under my belt, I wrote, mapping out scenes as I came upon them and then drafting in earnest.  This was how this book wanted to be written and written fast.

My last WIP, in contrast, felt like a long push uphill.  For this paranormal romance, I spent a long time mapping out characters, plotting, re-plotting, creating scene cards, etc., so when it came to the actual writing I felt constrained by that structure.  I had to tear everything down more than once and even started the manuscript over, dumping 15,000 words in the process.  Currently, I feel very good about this quirky paranormal, but it was a long haul.

Lesson learned?  Some books will be a push no matter what, but it helps to leave more breathing room than I’ve been as of late.  My characters will always find a way to undermine my best-laid plans because they want to drive the plot, and more power to ’em.

How insistent is your muse?  Is she monotone or melodic–does she push you in the same manner through every book?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Romance Reviews

THE RIGHT CHORD by RoseAnn DeFranco — Hot Jersey Author

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I’m beginning a new series of posts where I’ll be featuring some incredible romance authors from New Jersey, and I’m pleased to start with RoseAnn DeFranco whose latest title, THE RIGHT CHORD, kept me up late last night. (Super hot–had to finish!!)

DeFranco’s voice immediately leaps off the page.  She loves to stick her characters into humorous situations as well as push them to their limits, presenting them with their greatest dreams and worst fears.

Kit, a talented musician-turned-professor, returns to her home town after falling short of fame in the music industry.  Vince, her ex-boyfriend and super hot handyman, hopes to make a new life for himself and his daughter after his divorce.  Kit is determined to avoid the man who once broke her heart, but when Vince turns out to be her next door neighbor, avoiding him becomes impossible.  In fact, Vince cannot resist her, his rhythm matching hers beat for beat–stroke for stroke in music, in life, and in love.

I read this book first but will definitely go back to pick up the other books in the Audubon Springs Series.   There are so many parts to THE RIGHT CHORD that are laugh out loud enjoyable that I am struggling now not to mention in this post because I don’t want to give them away.  Check out the opening and you’ll see what I’m talking about. 🙂

Here’s a link to her site and her books: http://radefranco.com/books/

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Going Contest Crazy

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Alright, maybe not “crazy,” but I’m doing the Charleston because I’m really excited about entering these contests.  Until this point, I’ve been focused solely on craft and doing my best to stand out in the slush pile.  Recently, a writer friend of mine pointed out that another great way to set your writing apart is to participate in contests.  She even found her first agent that way.  So here we go. 🙂

This week, I entered three contests advertised in the RWA’s trade publication.  They are:

  • The Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest
  • The Fire & Ice Contest
  • The California Hooker Contest

There’s a contest through the RWA’s young adult chapter that I’ll submit to in March–very excited!

Now, I need your help!  I want to enter more contests, but I’m being picky because I know there are a lot out there–some more reputable than others.  I’m wary of reading the fine print when entering my work in anything like this (are you guys?).  I’d love to find a contest for unpublished writers–particularly those writing YA, romance, or paranormal.  If you know of any good ones, please post below!

Michelle Joyce Bond