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Guest post: Kate Meader’s recipe for the sexy in FEEL THE HEAT? Humor!

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I’m so excited to have one of my Beta partners on my blog today, Kate Meader! Her debut novel released just last week from Grand Central’s Forever imprint, and boy-howdy is it awesome! I first came across her in the blog hop Six Sentence Sunday, and as soon as I started reading her snippets, I was hooked on this story! Not only did it have a scrumptious hero, but it had fantastic humor; my kind of read! So we struck up an online friendship, and I Beta read Feel the Heat, and she Beta read Must Love Breeches and have been Beta partners since. Given that her brand of humor is what attracted me to her writing, I asked if she could touch on humor in her writing. So take it away, Kate!


Thanks to Angela for hosting and letting me talk about Feel the Heat, the first book in my Chicago-set Hot in the Kitchen series about an Italian restaurant owning family and the sizzling, sexy chefs who love them.

Have you ever read those “survey” results in Cosmo or the like where a woman will rate what she thinks is most important or sexiest to her in a man? They never say that he has to be built like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson or that he has to have more jaw than necessary. Sure we won’t throw that guy out of bed for eating chips but invariably, it’s intelligence, compassion and—ding ding ding!—a sense of humor that rises to the top of the list. Every woman (and plenty of guys) want a man who can make them laugh. The fantasy guy of romance novels might be the brooding alpha who’s so tortured and possessive that he makes his lady’s life miserable, only compensating for his assholic behavior by burning up the heroine between the sheets. But for women IRL, a guy who brings the funny gets us every time.

Well, lucky for you, dear reader, the hero of my debut foodie romance, Feel the Heat, brings the best of both worlds—I had to make him a little arrogant after all. And British. (Same difference, I hear some of you say.) Jack Kilroy is an amazing chef, a born leader, a man who has women eating out of his hand. Often literally. So he also has a few insecurities, mostly about whether people want to use him for his fame and his wealth, but he’s what I call “happy alpha”. He doesn’t dwell on his problems too much and he certainly doesn’t hesitate when it comes to Lili DeLuca. Jack is sure he wants to date this smart mouth woman—and viral videos of steamy kisses, butts with their own Twitter accounts, and his bitch fork-wielding fans are not going to stand in his way.

What makes these two so perfect for each other is that Lili is rather unimpressed by Jack’s fame and is unafraid to take him down a peg or three. Oh, his assets are undeniable but if he thinks he can sway her with those gorgeous green eyes and his disruptively handsome cheekbones, he can think again. When they first meet, Jack has made a shambles of Lili’s restaurant kitchen, so she jumps into clean-up mode—and takes a jab at Le Kilroy while she’s at it.

She glanced down at his hand resting on her golden skin. By the time her eyes had made the return trip, she was shooting sparks. Back off. Hooking a stray lock behind her ear, she returned to her task—cleaning up his mess and making him look like an arse. A cloud of unruly, cocoa brown hair pitched forward, obscuring her heart-shaped face and giving her a distinct lunatic vibe.

It would take more than a death stare and a shock of crazy curls to put him off. Teasing her was too much fun.

“I’m pretty fast, love, and if you can move with superhero speed, we’d get it done in a jiffy.”

Another push back of her hair revealed a pitying smile. “Don’t ever claim to be fast, Kilroy. No woman wants to hear that.”


Best of all, he’s not afraid to look silly to get her attention. Here, Jack shows up at Lili’s apartment after screwing up royally (as only a guy can do):

The sound of a scuffle bounced through the intercom followed by more foreign babbling. A full minute passed.

“All right, you’re going to be sorry,” he said, inducing a flap of panic in her chest. Would he try to break in? Bang on her door until one of the neighbors called the cops?

If only. It was worse. Much worse.

Jack Kilroy started to sing.

The caterwauling made by the most deluded of wannabe contestants on American Idol had nothing on this. Hearing such a sound blasting from her TV was one thing; listening to it through her intercom was quite another. His voice had not improved any since the last time she’d heard him mangling a tune, right before she clocked him with a frying pan.

“Lili, I just met a girl, she’s called Lili…” This, to the tune of “Maria” from West Side Story.

Someone on the street cheered. Encouraged, Jack raised his voice a couple of inadvisable octaves. Another voice punctuated the lyrics with shouts of “Lili” a half-beat late. There was a pause as Jack told his accompanist in no uncertain terms to shut the fuck  up.

Who doesn’t love a guy who will sing for his woman on a busy Chicago street? Jack is a balls-out passionate guy and his single-minded focus combined with his great sense of humor slowly breaks down Lili’s defenses. So we won’t say no to the handsome lug but if he isn’t making us smile, then forget about it!

Tell me about the funniest guy you ever dated. Did you keep him or did you let him get away?

During the Feel the Heat release tour, I am giving away foodie-related swag: one Grand Prize and five smaller prize packs! Details and pics on my website. Enter using Rafflecopter!



Hot in the Kitchen, Book 1


Photographer Lili DeLuca spends all her time managing her family’s Italian restaurant, instead of following her dream of getting an MFA. When famous British chef Jack Kilroy unexpectedly challenges her father to a cook-off, Lili decides she’s tired of playing it safe and vows to seduce the tempting Brit. But once a video of her and Jack kissing goes viral and her luscious butt starts trending on Twitter, Lili fears she’s cooked up a recipe for disaster.


Jack Kilroy’s celebrity has left him feeling used and used up. While Lili’s oh-so-sexy moans when she tastes his delicious creations turn him on, he’s even more aroused by how unimpressed this beautiful, funny woman is with his fame. He knows they could be amazing together, if she could only see past his bitch fork-wielding fan base. Now, as he’s about to start a new prime time TV cooking show, can Jack convince Lili to realize her own ambitions – and turn up the heat in his kitchen?

Amazon – Barnes & Noble

KateMeader-authorAbout Kate

Kate Meader writes contemporary romance that serves up delicious food, to-die-for heroes, and heroines with a dash of sass. Originally from Ireland, she cut her romance reader teeth on Catherine Cookson and Jilly Cooper novels, with some Mills & Boons thrown in for variety. Give her tales about brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron, and she’s there. She has a bachelor’s in law (useless), a master’s in history (not as useless), and another master’s in library and information science (yay, using). When not writing about men who cook and the women who drool over them, she works in an academic library. Her stories are set in her adopted home town of Chicago, a city made for food, romance, and laughter – and where she met her own sexy hero. For news, excerpts, and recipes, check out her website at

Ways to stalk her:

Facebook –  Twitter – Goodreads –  Blog


Monday Hunk Who Reads – John Cusack

John Cusack [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

John Cusack [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

John Cusack

It’s the first Monday of the month and I’m also back to my regular blogging schedule, so what does that mean? It means a new hunk who loves books!

Darling of romcoms, there’s more to Cusack than the aw-shucks looks. Take a look at what books he likes! Oprah interviewed him for her feature Books That Made a Difference, and here’s what she found out:

Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 made the list. Here’s what he says:

His mixture of artistic sensibilities with journalistic excellence, all to find the core of truth—I thought that was pretty incredible. Mostly, I admired the ferocity of Hunter’s mind.

And living in Alabama as I do, I can’t fault him at all for having To Kill a Mockingbird on the list. Also making the cut were Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One, The Great Thoughts, From Abelard to Zola, from Ancient Greece to Contemporary America, the Ideas that have Shaped the History of the World, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, and Modris Eksteins’ Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age. The latter he said:

It’s probably got as much insight and wizardry as any book I’ve ever come across. If you read nothing else, read chapter ten, ‘Spring Without End.

Here he is at last year’s LA Times Festival of Books. He was there promoting The Raven, but went on to mention books he’s reading:

In which he mentions his two recent faves are Nick Tosches’ In the Hand of Dante and Mark Layner’s The Sugar Frosted Nutsack. Wow, what a title that last one is! He also mentions having read another Eksteins book Walking Since Daybreak : A Story of Eastern Europe, World War II, and the Heart of Our Century.

So that’s this month’s Hunk Who Reads. Reading is sexy people!

For further opportunities to idolize men and books:

Do you have any photos of male celebrities reading?

Come back next month to see the next Hunk Who Reads…

*previous Ovaries Exploding Award winner


Are You an Obsessive Series Reader?

If you read and enjoyed Book One of a series, do you then have to read all of the rest? I just finished reading all eleven books in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series–I started on March 29, and chewed through all of them by this past Saturday.

As I step out of this Ward fog, life is still going on around me. And I’m kind of relieved actually. I really have other things I need to be reading, but more importantly–doing. Because when I get my teeth on a series like this, I’m reading when I don’t normally read. Barring something unusual going on, I read every day, but within certain time allotments. But this past month, I was reading in the mornings on weekends, or coming home from work and reading, when I should be concentrating on writing or revisions.

But I also miss the Brothers! I love getting immersed in a world like that, with an author who delivers. I’m not usually someone who tears up reading romances, but man, the emotional rollercoasters she executed were quite something, and more than once had the ol’ tear ducts working. I think my favorites were V and Z stories, and my heart just broke for Qhuinn. And Lover At Last was my first M/M Romance. I think my least fave was Phury’s, which was disappointing because I was really looking forward to his.

Reading them also had a side benefit–they were a great lesson in Deep POV writing. If you’ve been wanting to see Deep POV in action and don’t mind walking on the dark side for your romance, you can’t go wrong reading these.

What about you? Do you chew through a series that grabs you to the exclusion of other things you should be doing? Have you read the BDB series? Which were your faves?


Announcing a new Paranormal Group Blog!


Super excited to announce the launch today of Paranormal Unbound, a new group blog dedicated to exploring the paranormal genre in books and pop culture! I’m proud to be one of nine published authors making up this blog! The others are Amber Belldene, Celia Breslin, Lexi George, Erica Hayes,  Suzanne Johnson, Lisa Kessler, AJ Larrieu and Elisabeth Staab! All week we are giving away copies of our book to celebrate. Stop on by and check us out!

Also, I wanted to let y’all know that I’m rededicating myself to posting regularly here again. The break was needed, but I need to get back into the swing o’ things! See ya around!


Cover Reveal for NEED by Stephanie Lawton


By Stephanie Lawton

Published by Inkspell Publishing

Release date: May 17, 2013

Want cover wYay! Am super excited to be a part of the blog reveal today for fellow Mobilian and writer Stephanie Lawton! This is the followup to her debut novel WANT, released last year. WANT is a YA set in Mobile, and this sequel, I am told, is most decidedly NOT YA. I think the cover artist did a wonderful job not only matching the first cover, but also showing that this is indeed an adult novel–how sexy is that tie-grabbing?

Want to know more? Here’s the scoop:


Isaac Laroche is cursed. All he wants to do is hide out and feel sorry for himself. Never mind that he got caught sleeping with his seventeen-year-old piano student, or that he abandoned her when the truth was exposed.

Isaac’s feisty high school sweetheart has different plans. Heather Swann has returned to their hometown of Mobile, Alabama, to regroup after breaking up with her troll of a fiancé. She’s restless and looking for a diversion, but she bites off more than she can chew when she sets her sights on rehabilitating Isaac with her unorthodox sexual, mental, and physical plans.

The two quickly reconnect, but their happiness is threatened by family secrets, old vendettas and the death of a beloved father-figure.

Can Heather handle Isaac’s baggage, or will her own come back to haunt them both?

Author bio:

photo 3After collecting a couple English degrees in the Midwest, Stephanie Lawton suddenly awoke in the deepest reaches of the Deep South. Culture shock inspired her to write about Mobile, Alabama, her adopted city, and all the ways Southern culture, history and attitudes seduce the unsuspecting.

A lover of all things gothic, she can often be spotted photographing old cemeteries, historic buildings and, ironically, the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast. She also has a tendency to psychoanalyze people, which comes in handy when creating character profiles.

Links for stalking!

Author website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads



Congrats Stephanie! So proud of you!


Book Monday: Guest Author Donna Cummings and I Do… Or Die

Today I’m super excited to bring you Donna Cummings whom I’ve gotten to know via various online methods, and whose sense of humor and advice has helped me through several writerly journey bumps. She’s also a valued Beta reader. Writers talk about the need to have other writer friends to go to when they’re feeling out of sorts (or panicked) and Donna’s become one of those for me. Thank you, Donna!

Today, for Book Monday, not only is she going to give us an excerpt from her new release, but she’s also going to confess a habit she has regarding books. Take it away, Donna!


I’m always curious to see what people are reading. My neck can stretch giraffe-like just to get a peek at the title of a book they’re carrying. If someone is engrossed in a book while at Starbucks, all of a sudden I need to walk past them on my way to get a refill. Of napkins.

When I’m visiting someone’s home, the first thing I seek out is their bookshelves. I’ve learned to hide my glee when I see rows upon rows of books displayed for my viewing pleasure. And I never, ever say out loud (well, not anymore), “Oooh, wonder what they have that I need to take home with me!”

Seeing books lined up on shelves, or piled on tables, or teetering in a big stack on the floor, it’s easy to determine which ones have been read more than once, and which are just for show. This is trickier to accomplish when e-readers are involved, although if someone is on Goodreads, we can poke through their virtual shelves to see which books they’ve read, or want to read–and way too many of those end up in my own lists as a result of my rigorous “research”.

The heroine in my current release, I Do. . .or Die, tries to figure out the hero from viewing various items in his home, including the bookshelves. Shelby has been shot at, twice — the first time at her friend Alexa’s wedding. Shelby has to spend the night at Detective Ryan Nichols’ house for her protection, and this is her first time checking out the inside of Ryan’s home:

It was a place designed for a man’s comfort, not to impress female guests. A honey colored leather couch took up a large portion of the room, flanked by a couple of matching club chairs that were obviously well-used, probably whenever his policeman buddies dropped by. A large—no, make that a really large—flat-screen TV covered most of one wall.

Alexa and I had just been discussing the correlation between the size of a man’s flatscreen TV and his—

Detective Nichols was a very tidy person, with not even a single random burst of clutter. That was distressing. People who had everything in its place kind of freaked me out. For one thing, how did they find time to keep everything in its place? And for another thing, why would they want to spend all their time doing that?

He leaned against the closed door, his arms folded across his chest, watching me stroll around his sparse living room.

I trailed a finger over the police league softball trophies covering the fireplace mantel. Another flaw. He probably liked to work out all the time, while I—well, I did try to lift my martini glass with alternating hands, so I could evenly develop my bicep muscles. But I couldn’t do that every day. My liver was too delicate for that kind of exercise regime.

Detective Nichols cleared his throat. “Think this will do for the night?”

I nodded, a little sad, yet relieved, that I’d uncovered these deal breakers. Not that it really mattered, since I’d only planned on getting in bed, not getting involved, with him. Still, a girl needs to have standards, even with flings.

“Are you letting me get accustomed to my surroundings?” I asked. “Like a new puppy or something?”

His lips turned up in that way I found too sexy, and my stomach did all kinds of silly flip-floppy things. “As long as I don’t have to swat you with a rolled-up newspaper, I think we’ll be fine.”

“Beats the hell out of bullets.”

I halted, peering at him as the words sank in. It always came back to that. No matter what else happened, I still had to deal with the shock of being shot at. Twice. In one day.

At a wedding. And then in a police car.

“You know, Shelby, you’ve got a pretty good sense of humor about all of this.”

“Oh, that’s only because I’m in that numb phase right now. Wait till I get a good night’s sleep and realize how incredibly insane all of this is.”

I wandered over to a bookcase, something he’d probably gotten from the Ikea catalog and put together himself. I loved to see which books people had, and which ones were never going to be read, based on my assessment of their personality.

This man loved mysteries. Thankfully for me, it looked like he’d actually read a lot of them, so he would know how to solve the one I was embroiled in. Or give advice to the detective he’d be handing me off to in the morning.

Do you like to investigate other people’s reading materials? Please tell me I’m not the only one!

Official Blurb:

“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” is Shelby Atwood’s personal credo. She’s managed to avoid commitment all her life – no pets, no plants, not even a long-term lease. Heck, she’s had colds last longer than her romantic relationships. How could she be any other way when she has a gigolo for a father?

But then gunfire erupts at the latest wedding she’s agreed to be in, and it ends up being the best thing to happen to Shelby’s love life. Detective Ryan Nichols is assigned to the case, and when the shootings don’t stop, he becomes her 24-hour bodyguard. Shelby wouldn’t mind except Ryan is too appealing, too sexy, and too happy to remind her of the raucous bachelorette party when she mistook him for a stripper.

Shelby’s plan is simple: find the shooter, have a fling with Ryan, and return to her non-committal life. Unfortunately, the shooter is very elusive. Shelby’s feelings for Ryan are way more than adrenaline-fueled lust. And returning to her normal life is now impossible since, despite her lifelong resistance, she’s managed to put her heart smack dab in the line of fire.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ARe | BookStrand

About Donna:

6a011168847f76970c0147e0d1c81c970b-200wiI have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances.

I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton.

In addition to I Do. . .or Die, my available books are Summer Lovin’, a free romantic comedy novella, and Lord Midnight, a Regency romance. My contemporary novella, Back on Track, part of the Strangers on a Train collection, will release from Samhain on April 2, 2013.

How to stalk her:

Website/blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest


Monday Hunk Who Reads – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

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Gordon-Levitt reading | Photo courtesy of

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Like any child actor, he’s fighting against his earlier portrayals and looks, but one thing’s for sure, he’s turned into a cutie. He also reads:

The movies I watch and the music I listen to and the books I read – those are important to me. It’s very important to me, and I don’t know what I would do without those things. [source]

In this article, he was asked about his role in The Lookout, and he related:

Well, I did a fair amount of research. I did some reading. My favorite book I read was called ‘The Man with a Shattered World‘ which was about a veteran coming back from World War II.

According to, his favorite book is J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and if there are any gaming geeks out there, he loved reading and playing Dungeons & Dragons when he was growing up. At the same website, he’s quoted as saying this about his role in Mysterious Skin:

I didn’t read the book till after I read the script, but probably more than any other movie I’ve ever been a part of, the movie turned out the way I thought it should look based on the script and the book.

He’s also friendly to authors, because when the author of Mysterious Skin tweeted that his book had gone on sale, he RTed it.

But guess what? If you didn’t know this already, he’s a part of the book world, by way of curating and editing. He has an online production company called HitRECord  that inspires users across the world to come together and create singular works of art, and it was through that site that the genesis for his Tiny Book of Tiny Stories came about, as well as other collaborations:

  • The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1 From hitRECord, the immensely popular open collaborative production company, and its founder, Golden Globe-nominated actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, comes The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1. The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories. To create The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, known within the hitRECord community as RegularJOE–directed thousands of collaborators to tell tiny stories through words and art. With the help of the entire creative collective, Gordon-Levitt culled, edited and curated over 8,500 contributions into this finely tuned collection of original art from 67 contributors. Reminiscent of the 6-Word Memoir series, The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1 brings together art and voices from around the world to unite and tell stories that defy size.
  • The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 2 One of the most ingenious and successful projects to come out of Gordon-Levitt’s online creative coalition hitRECord – an international collaboration of artists and writers – The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 2 offers more quirky, delightfully small, ingeniously illustrated haiku-like tales, proving once more that the universe isn’t made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories. The best things do come in small packages
  • HitRECord Recollection Vol. 1 Hardbound 64-page Book, DVD & CD. ‘RECollection: Volume 1′ is the very first anthology of hitRECord’s work, featuring the contributions of 471 collaborators. The eight-inch square, cloth-bound tome is a well-crafted and meticulously-designed piece of art. With equal attention given to each medium—video, audio, image, text—this relic of our records is rich in detail and a feast for the senses.
  • Little Red Riding Hood: Redux (The hitRECorderly #1) A beautiful book of hitRECord’s adaptation of the classic fairy tale – complete with artwork, essays, and paper doll cut-outs!

This LATimes interview talks more about HitRECord and Gordon-Levitt’s role.

Want more? You can follow him on Twitter and Goodreads!

So that’s this month’s Hunk Who Reads. Reading is sexy people!

For further opportunities to idolize men and books:

Do you have any photos of male celebrities reading?

Come back next month to see the next Hunk Who Reads…

*previous Ovaries Exploding Award winner


Book Monday: SHRAPNEL by Stephanie Lawton – Excerpt

by Stephanie Lawton
Publisher: Evernight TEEN (January 17, 2013)

I’m so excited to host my friend Stephanie for her blog tour of her new YA release, SHRAPNEL. I don’t know if she remembers this, but we first “met” on Twitter over this book in the fall of 2011. I’d just joined Twitter and scoured it for local writers and others to follow and found her, among others. She soon tweeted asking for something quick that could be flammable during the Civil War era. I replied with some suggestions and we struck up a convo. She then invited me to the Mobile Writer’s Guild and we’ve since gotten to know each other. Turns out that tweet was for a scene in this book :) This past fall I Beta read an earlier version of it, and oh boy did I love it! It’s just dripping with voice, y’all, and so deliciously atmospheric. (tweet this) I was on the edge of my seat. Seriously!

Anyway, this is a long-winded explanation about why I’m so pleased to have her on my blog today for Book Monday! First lets give you the blurb, so you know what’s going on:

It’s been six years since Dylanie and her family visited a Civil War site and the place came alive with cannon fire. Problem was, no one could hear it but her.

Now she’s sixteen, her dad’s moved out, her mom’s come out of the closet and Dylan’s got a spot on Paranormal Teen, a reality TV show filming at historic Oakleigh Mansion. She’ll spend a weekend with two other psychic teens—Jake and Ashley—learning how to control her abilities.

None of them realized how much their emotional baggage would put them at the mercy of Oakleigh’s resident spirits, or that they’d find themselves pawns in the 150-year-old battle for the South’s legendary Confederate gold. Each must conquer their personal ghosts to face down Jackson, a seductive spirit who will do anything to protect the gold’s current location and avenge a heinous attack that destroyed his family.

Intrigued yet? I’m now turning it over to Stephanie for more SHRAPNEL!


Angela and I have many things in common, which is part of why I’m so excited to be on her blog today. Not only do we live in the same city, but we’re on the board of our local writers guild together. We both write quirky, strong heroines, and we both love a bit of humor mixed in with our steamy stuff.

Below is an excerpt from Shrapnel, my upper-YA mutt of a novel set at Oakleigh Mansion in Mobile, Alabama. Dylanie is a foul-mouthed tomboy, but making an attempt at being girlie. Her helper is a smarmy Civil War-era ghost named Jackson. Here, she’s seeing her new look for the first time.

I’m not prepared for what I see. Standing in front of me is … a girl. A noise makes me turn. My Army bag has fallen over and the contents are spread out on the bed, almost like someone rifled through them. Closest to me are my brush and the make-up bag Mom doesn’t know I own. She’d probably break into song and dance if she did.

“Okay, Jackson, I get the hint.” He doesn’t appear, but he’s here somewhere. Ten minutes later my hair’s under control, I’ve managed to smudge on some color without looking like a clown, and I have to admit, I look a little bad-ass. Like a girl, but in a don’t-screw-with-me kind of way. I reach for my red Converses. Just as I’m about to tug on the first one, the door on the right side of the ugly wardrobe swings open on a squeaky hinge. I chuckle when I see what’s inside.

“Are you kidding me? What are the odds that they’re my size? They’ll probably crumble into dust if I even touch them.”

“You doubt me?” Jackson’s sudden appearance sends me stumbling backward.

“You can’t just do that! You scared the shit out of me.”

“I wouldn’t have to appear if you were a good girl and did as you were told.”

I grit my teeth while weighing my options. My earlier urge to injure him loses to my need to say, I told you so.

“Fine.” I march over to the wardrobe and yank out the musty, old boots, ignoring Jackson’s lazy grin that sends my stomach into a tailspin. Except … the boots aren’t musty. Yeah, they look old, but they’re in perfect condition. The leather is supple and shiny, and the laces have been replaced with smooth, black ribbons. I don’t know whether to wear them or worship them.

Jackson makes up my mind for me when he scoots me onto the bed and lifts my foot onto his knee. I chuckle, thinking of the old man with a bad comb-over at the children’s shoe store close to our house. He used to kneel and place our feet on his knee, too, when fitting us for a new pair. I’d stare at the top of his shiny head and the greasy strips of hair carefully gelled into place.



“Hmmm.” Jackson loosens the laces then tips the boot so I can slip in my toes. He maneuvers it until my foot and calve are perfectly encased in black leather. His fingers linger at the back of my knee.

“Seems like you’ve done this before.”

“Perhaps,” he says as he tugs the ribbons tight. “Other foot.”

He repeats the process, but this time he doesn’t release my leg when he finishes. “Lovely,” he breathes, then shakes his head as if to clear it. “Are you ready to go downstairs?”

I shrug.

“Give them a try.” Jackson takes my hand and pulls me off the bed so I’m standing on two-inch heels, a far cry from the flat Chucks I’m used to. The boots are surprisingly comfortable. “Stand up straight, shoulders back.”

“You sound like my mom.”

He smirks. “Now walk.” I feel like a horse being led around a ring as Jackson keeps me steady. “Don’t lock your knees. Use them to help you walk naturally, heel to toe.”

After a few adjustments, I’ve got the hang of it. “Like this?”

“Mmm, excellent.” I swear his dead eyes just got warmer. Is that possible? Something tells me that isn’t the kind of thing I can ask Riley. His raises my hand to his lips and leaves a small kiss that sends tingles all the way up my bare arm and beyond. “I think you’re ready, sweetheart. Do not forget to pay attention to what you learn today. I’ll be nearby.”

“Yeah? That’s pretty damn creepy, you know.” My heart begins pumping out a cocktail of Oh, crap when he crosses his arms and stares at me. Guess that was the wrong thing to say. As the seconds stretch out, I count my blinks. After six, he still hasn’t broken eye contact. My toes wiggle inside my boots. Then my leg starts bouncing. “Okay, maybe not creepy. Maybe protective is more like it. Or concerned. Or, I don’t know, sweet? You know it was just a joke, right? I always say stupid, sarcastic stuff.”

Still, he doesn’t answer.

“Are you mad at me?”

Jackson takes a deep, unnecessary breath. “Is that how I appear to you, creepy?”

“Well, you are dead.” He nods. “And you can appear and disappear whenever you want.” He nods again, so I keep prodding. “And you can … um, touch me. Even though you’re not real. So yeah, that qualifies as creepy.”

I watch, mesmerized, as a crooked grin slowly softens his face. “And yet you’re not running for the door, pulling out your hair and screaming like a hysterical schoolgirl.”

“No, um, that would be—” I point in the direction of Ashley’s room.

Jackson rewards me with a genuine laugh. “And that is why I chose you, not her. I can’t promise I won’t be creepy, but hopefully I can be a number of other things to you, as well.” He takes a step toward me, while I take a step back. “Intriguing, perhaps? Helpful?” He eyes my boots and takes another step closer. “Educational, even?”

His eyes land on my lips, and even a novice like me can tell where this is headed.


photo 3After collecting a couple English degrees in the Midwest, Stephanie Lawton suddenly awoke in the deepest reaches of the Deep South. Culture shock inspired her to write about Mobile, Alabama, her adopted city, and all the ways Southern culture, history and attitudes seduce the unsuspecting.

A lover of all things gothic, she can often be spotted photographing old cemeteries, historic buildings and, ironically, the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast. She also has a tendency to psychoanalyze people, which comes in handy when creating character profiles.

Where To Find Stephanie:

Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Where to get your paws on SHRAPNEL:

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (paperback) | Barnes and Noble (paperback) | Evernight Teen | All Romance ebooks (digital) | CreateSpace (paperback)


Book Monday: Gifts for Book Lovers – Literary Board Games!

Over at Flavorwire last week, they collected ten board games for book nerds, and I thought I’d share them, but with the links to purchase. I also found some more!

The sharp eye of a fellow Austenite alerted me to the article, due to this:

pandpgameA Pride & Prejudice Board Game!

Totally want. Want one too? You can get it for $36 + shipping. Here’s the official blurb:

Attend a ball at Netherfield, take tea at Rosings or stroll through the gardens at Pemberley as you experience Regency life and test your knowledge of Jane Austen’s most beloved novel. Will you linger in Meryton or pine for the amusements of London? Perhaps you’ll astound your opponents with your superior knowledge of the book. Alas, your progress may be deterred by anything from a bit of slipped lace to a scandalous elopement.

Marriage is the Object
Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Bingley, Lydia and Wickham or Charlotte and Mr. Collins–pick one of four couples from the novel and maneuver them separately or together through town and countryside. Be the first to collect all game tokens, then race to the Parish Church to marry and win the game!

Here’s more!

Which ones do you want? Which ones would you like to see be a board game?


Book Monday: New Releases in paranormal, time travel & contemporary romance

Today for Book Monday, I thought I’d highlight the recent releases of fellow authors who are Beta partners of mine (we swap our stories for critique).

In no particular order…

Melting the Millionaire’s Heart by Linda Morris (Contemporary Romance–Dec 2012, Entangled)

Love a good snowbound romance? Try this sexy new release! Here’s the official blurb:

Special-needs teacher Kayla Johnston writes off any shot at New Year’s Eve romance when she’s summoned to a fundraising event for her school at the remote estate of a wealthy would-be-donor. But when a massive snowstorm hits and Kayla careens off the road, the sexy stranger who rescues her brings to mind cozy fireplaces and steamy midnight kisses…among other things.

Reclusive entrepreneur Ryan Langford may be missing his own fundraiser, but being marooned in a cabin with Kayla beats ducking a room full of people after his money any day. Too bad she’s so irritated with the ” gazillionaire” who ruined her New Year’s Eve that he feels like he has to lie about his identity. But when the sparks fly and they fall into each other’s arms, Ryan knows he’s made a big mistake. Will she be able to trust him once the snow melts and the truth comes out?

I Do . . . Or Die by Donna Cummings (Romantic Comedy–Dec 2012, Crimson)

Looking for a contemporary romance awash in humor, with a dose of suspense?

“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” is Shelby Atwood’s personal credo. She’s managed to avoid commitment all her life – no pets, no plants, not even a long-term lease. Heck, she’s had colds last longer than her romantic relationships. How could she be any other way when she has a gigolo for a father?

But then gunfire erupts at the latest wedding she’s agreed to be in, and it ends up being the best thing to happen to Shelby’s love life. Detective Ryan Nichols is assigned to the case, and when the shootings don’t stop, he becomes her 24-hour bodyguard. Shelby wouldn’t mind except Ryan is too appealing, too sexy, and too happy to remind her of the raucous bachelorette party when she mistook him for a stripper.

Shelby’s plan is simple: find the shooter, have a fling with Ryan, and return to her non-committal life. Unfortunately, the shooter is very elusive. Shelby’s feelings for Ryan are way more than adrenaline-fueled lust. And returning to her normal life is now impossible since, despite her lifelong resistance, she’s managed to put her heart smack dab in the line of fire.

Seal of Destiny by Traci Douglass (Paranormal Romance–Jan 21, 2013, Crimson)

This one we didn’t swap the whole novel, just chapters, but what I critiqued, I remember enjoying!

Mira Herald is having the worst life ever. Not only is she plagued by horrific nightmares starring the Devil himself, she’s now the target of a power-hungry, rogue minion, freshly sprung from Hell and bent on her destruction. To complicate matters further, she’s acquired a stalker. One who insists he’s a divine warrior sent for her protection because she houses an ancient relic with the power to unleash Armageddon. Last time Mira checked, she wasn’t insane. Still, all this celestial mayhem is enough to drive a girl crazy.

Kagan is a member of the Scion, an elite team of immortal warriors selected by Divinity to aid mankind and save the world. After a century alone, Kagan is summoned for a new mission. He’s eager to begin. Eager until he’s informed his mission consists of protecting a woman with no clue to the power she wields. Plus, his briefing fails to prepare him for his new target’s cosmic-sized attitude problem. As Divinity’s sworn servant, he’s required to fulfill his duty. His oath, however, does not require him to be enthusiastic about his new assignment or warm-and-fuzzy toward his new compatriot. He plans a wham-bam rescue and a quick return to solitude.

The minion attacks – with the backing of a mysterious organization – and all Hades erupts, putting a fast end to any whirlwind escapes. Accustomed to staunch independence, Mira’s survival now requires full cooperation and an unwavering belief in Kagan. The battle-hardened warrior is also forced to chose: between duty and desire. Amidst the turmoil, Kagan and Mira’s undeniable passion draws them closer to each other and down a path neither expected but both yearn for, more than they ever knew.

Will love save the day? The world’s fate depends on the answer.

Two more to pimp…. These aren’t Beta partners, but we’ve gotten to know each other in writerly loops and I’m super excited for them. I’ve got them loaded on my Kindle and am eager to read!

Blood Vine by Amber Belldene (Paranormal romance–Jan 2013, Omnific)

In Blood Vine, bites are an inconvenient bliss, exiled vampires are wasting away, and the fate of their kind depends on the perfect PR campaign.

When public relations pro Zoey Porter arrives at an enchanting California winery, she discovers her sexy new client is the almost one-night stand she can’t forget. After her husband’s suicide, Zoey has vowed never to risk her heart again. But can she walk away from the intriguing winemaker a second time?

Driven from Croatia by his ancient foes, vampire Andre Maras has finally made a blood-like wine to cure his fellow refugees. Now he needs Zoey’s PR expertise to reach them. After his wife’s death, Andre has a vow of his own—never to risk another painful blood bond. And one taste of the tempting Zoey would bind him to her eternally.

His secrets stall her PR plans. Her jealousy is stoked by the blissed-out beauties leaving his bedroom. At every turn, he utterly fails to resist her. When she discovers he is a vampire, will she be lost to the golden-eyed Hunters, or lose herself to the emptiness in her heart, before she can help him save his kind?

Wishing For A Highlander (Highland Wishes) by Jessi Gage (time travel romance–Dec 2012, Lyrical)

Highland Wishes, #1

For Melanie, “Be careful what you wish for” becomes “Be careful what you wish on.”

While examining Andrew Carnegie’s lucky rosewood box, single-and-pregnant museum worker Melanie makes a tongue in cheek wish on the artifact–for a Highland warrior to help her forget about her cheating ex. Suddenly transported to the middle of a clan skirmish in sixteenth-century Scotland, she realizes she should have been a tad more specific.

Darcy, laird in waiting, should be the most eligible bachelor in Ackergill, but a cruel prank played on him in his teenage years has led him to believe he is too large under his kilt to ever join with a woman. He has committed himself to a life of bachelorhood, running his deceased father’s windmills and keeping up the family manor house…alone.

Darcy’s uncle, Laird Steafan welcomes the strangely dressed woman into his clan, immediately marrying her to Darcy in hopes of an heir. But when Steafan learns of her magic box and brands her a witch, Darcy must do what any good husband would–protect his wife, even if it means forsaking his clan.

WARNING: A pregnant museum worker, a sixteenth-century Scot, and a meddlesome wishing box.

Read any great newly-released romances lately? 


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