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Author Post by Jessica Scott: What We Love About Military Heroes

Jessica Scott, USA Today Bestselling author of the Coming Home and Homefront series about soldiers coming home from war and the families who love them, talks about military heroes.

Military2There’s something about a man in uniform. Some of the most recognized cultural images are of our
fighting men. Nonfiction books by Navy SEALs such as Lone Survivor, The Red Circle, American Sniper and Powerful Peace have large audiences in nonfiction circles and within romance, heroes like Navy SEALs remain a perennial favorite. Not a week goes by that there isn’t another new military romance touting a hero that wears combat boots and has those iconic dog tags draped around his neck.

But what is it about military men that draw readers to their stories time and time again? And what is it about military men that make them such powerful romance heroes? The uniform, the dog tags and let’s face it, there are some damn fine shoulders running around in these uniforms. These are all compelling reasons to be drawn to a man in uniform but ultimately, I think it’s something deeper, something more fundamental about what it means to be a member of the military beyond the physical characteristics. We don’t see a lot of body lifting heroes so clearly, it’s something that transcends the physical domain.

I think it has to do with belonging. Being part of a something bigger than yourself is arguably the most basic human need. We are born needing to connect with someone else. And what is romance if it’s not about connecting at a fundamental level with another human being? Being a member of the military means these heroes belong--they know the strength that comes from being a member of a group. The heroes tend to have a powerful sense of belonging to their group and when they finally fall for the heroine, they bring her into the center of their world. There aren’t many words out there with more power than “you belong to me.” That feeling that there is someone out there that’s waiting for you at the end of the day, who will be there when things are great and when things are not so great. These are ideas at the heart of romance. The other half that makes you whole.

It’s not just belonging, though, that makes military heroes so compelling. It’s also about their willingness to sacrifice everything, even their lives, for those they love. The idea that the romance hero would do anything to protect those they love – that protectiveness ties back to the sense of belonging and creates a powerful bond that transcends all others. And you know that when the military hero says “I love you,” he’s speaking from a place that truly knows the meaning of the word love. A love that is overwhelming in its strength.

Of course, the military hero automatically assumes a physically fit man in his prime and let’s be honest, if you’ve ever done physical training at Fort Benning, the home of the Ranger panty, you’ve seen some very nice future romance cover models running by. But the physical aspects are just one facet of the complex military hero. I think it’s the deeper notes, the subtle underlying tension between his desire for the men he serves with and his desire for the heroine that ultimately completes the military hero. And when he finds that true love, it’s truly the love of a lifetime, something that fills in the piece of his heart he didn’t know was missing.

Just in Time for Wedding Fever - Five Romantic Proposals

Just in time for June weddings, Debbie Mason asked five New York Times bestselling contemporary romance writers how their husbands popped the question:

 

Robyn Carr, author of Never Too Late

Robyn CarrMy boyfriend took me on a little canoe outing down a river in Minnesota, in which the mosquito is the state bird.  The river was speckled with little islands where one could lounge and talk and be romantic.  He brought a pillow and blanket, and the mosquitoes were eating us alive.  I slapped and complained, and we went to isle after isle up and down the river and within an hour looked like we had chickenpox.  There was no lounging, no romance, and I begged to go indoors while I scratched and swatted, which led to a fight, which led to him throwing the pillow at me and telling me I'd complain about a million dollars.  And inside the pillow was a lovely little engagement ring.  We got married the following June and have sworn off canoe trips, especially in Minnesota. 

 

 

Kristan Higgins, author of Waiting on You

Kristan HigginsMcIrish, being a man, is not exactly a master of subtlety. Though we’d only dated six weeks, I knew the guy was crazy about me (it was mutual), and we wanted to be together forever. Unfortunately, the lad wanted to take me to see the full moon rising over the East River.  So we walked over to the United Nations, choking on the exhaust fumes from the East Side Highway, and there, in front of the building that represents, uh…getting along and not fighting and stuff…he popped the question. Forgot to buy a ring. It was okay. I said yes. I’d give him a D for proposing and an A+ for husband.

 

 

 

Brenda Novak, author of This Heart of Mine

This Heart of MineI was only nineteen when my husband proposed (he was twenty-four). We were living and working in Los Angeles—where I knocked on doors, setting up appointments for him to sell insulation on a summer program for college students, which proves true love right there—when he bought me a ring. He had only $600 and bought a ring from a pawn shop, which he carried in his shoe (since he didn't have any pockets) while we were visiting Mexico with a group of friends. I could tell something was going on with him and his buddies, but it wasn't until he took me out to a seafood restaurant that night (a big splurge since we didn't get paid until the end of the summer), and that was where he proposed. We now have five grown children and have been married more than thirty years!

 

 

Jill Shalvis, author of Still the One

Jill ShalvisI’d just had one of those days where I’d locked my keys in my car (while it was running) and I’d been let go at the bank where I worked (low man on the totem pole) and I was pretty sure life sucked beans.  Alpha Man rescued me (and my car) and made me dinner and then we had an earthquake.  A small one, and because this was L.A., neither of us were surprised.  But it was sort of the last straw for me, and I said I was going to go to bed until life straightened up or until someone brought me cookies, whichever came first.  Alpha Man brought me cookies.  And a ring… and said he’d keep bringing me cookies for the rest of my life if I married him.  I’m not stupid; I married him!

 

 

 

JoAnn Ross, author of You Again

Joann RossWhen I was eighteen, my boyfriend bought me a bag of saltwater taffy at Depoe Bay on the Oregon Coast, then we strolled across the street to the sea wall. And as we watched the resident whales, he proposed. 0f course I said yes! (Back then the girl could be had for taffy. LOL) Everyone said it'd never last, but we're celebrating our 50th anniversary this June. We visit often because it's still our most romantic place on earth, which is why I set my Shelter Bay books there. 

 

 

 

 

WeddingBellsatChristmasDebbie Mason is the bestselling author of a contemporary romance series set in Christmas, Colorado.  Her husband proposed to her on Christmas Eve, of course!

Downward Facing Dogs and Half-Cobras in the Sand: Yoga Books for the Beach

This is a guest author post by Suzan Colón, the author of ten books, including the women’s fiction/romance novel Beach Glass, and she’s been a yoga instructor since 2002. She knows her yoga books—and the need for good beach reads.

91s6zZ85sNL._SL1500_My idea of heaven: reading, going to the beach at the Jersey Shore, and yoga. Add a handsome man (in my case, my husband) and a scoop of Brownie Fudge Chunk from Nagle’s ice cream shoppe, and OM-MG, we have nirvana.

Surf, sand, and sun salutations are at the heart of Beach Glass, my novel about a writer who goes on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica and falls in love with two people: a man with a thrill for living unlike anyone she’s ever met, and a new, gutsy version of herself. On the beach at sunrise, she does yoga and watches him surf and thinks, for the first time in her life, that she might just be brave enough to be happy. Yoga does that to you.

If you’re into yoga or just curious about why everyone seems to love it so much, here are a few books for everyone from beginners to OM-tattooed yoginis. 

 

One planThe One Plan by Yogi Cameron Alborzian. Remember Madonna’s “Express Yourself” video, the one with the rather hot male model with the man bob? In a “whatever happened to” story that sounds more like the plot of a novel, supermodel Cameron Alborzian became an expert in yoga and ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of health. In The One Plan, Yogi Cameron is your own personal yoga guru, outlining a program for inner and outer beauty. (It definitely seems to be working for him.) The book also has photos of YC doing an easy-to-follow yoga sequence on the beach. For those new to yoga, it’s okay if you have to meditate on the photos of YC for a very, very long time to get the subtle nuances of the poses.

 

61aVBwjgGeL._SL1500_EnLIGHTened: How I Lost 40 Pounds With a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle-Pointer by Jessica Berger Gross. The title alone will tell you that this book has everything an aspiring yoga person could want, but there’s more. Gross speaks lovingly of her own real-life romance with her husband; honestly about her family issues; and with candid humor about her weight and how yoga brought her to serenity (and slenderness). With illustrations and instructions on simple yoga poses you can do right on the sand—if you can put this sweet book aside long enough.

 

 

 

51VlUzLejWLYoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison. Yoga had a reputation for being uber-serene and taking itself a bit too seriously… Until Suzanne Morrison wrote this hilarious book about going on a yoga retreat in Bali. There, she struggled to find her own inner equilibrium, avoid drinking an unmentionable substance to keep the infamous “Bali Belly” syndrome at bay, and most important, stop herself from becoming yogier-than-thou. Smart and so funny at times you may perform a yoga breathing exercise called “snorting out loud.”

 

 

 

41Z64E3OwJLYoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope. A combination of compelling personal drama, examination of yoga philosophy, and consideration of the science behind yoga and why it makes us feel so good. As a therapist who had his own personal crisis, yoga retreat attendee who never left, and yoga student and eventually teacher, Cope has the credentials and experiences that make this a wise and substantive book to be read over and over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Aloha ‘Oe” or “Until We Meet Again”

Guest author Jill Marie Landis shares the romantic lure of Victorian Hawaii.

Hawaii. Just the word itself conjures up the image of palm trees standing tall against a deep blue sky, trade winds carrying the scent of exotic blossoms, the sound of gentle waves lapping against a golden shore at sunset. What better place to set a historical romance than in a tropical paradise?

Glass beachNot only did the lush backdrop of the islands inspire me as I sat down to write Glass Beach, but I knew two of the essential elements historical romance readers crave were present during the Victorian era; lords and ladies and rugged cowboys.

In the late 1800’s, Hawaiian kings and queens and members of the Hawaiian monarchy emulated the style and grandeur of European royalty. (Hawaii’s Iolani Palace in Honolulu is the only official state residence of royalty on United States soil.) Since 1832 when King Kamehameha III brought in Spanish vaqueros from California to teach his men how to round up wild cattle, Hawaiian cowboys, known in the islands as paniolo, have been celebrated in story and song.

The landscape of the island along with diaries, accounts, and vintage photographs of the late 1890’s inspired scene after scene. It was easy to envision island women on horseback in flowing white Victorian gowns, flowers in their hair or adorning their hats as they rode along a beach or up a pali (cliff) trail.

Young courting couples of standing would have been chaperoned, thus outings included others so a party atmosphere ensued. A luau or traditional Hawaiian feast as well as picnics were as popular then as now, especially when blue skies and balmy breezes invite all to spend as much time as possible outdoors.

Horseback rides took revelers across streams into verdant valleys. They would have picked mountain apples (ohia) along a mist shrouded upland trail, spread blankets in the shade and put out decorative china, wooden calabashes full of fruit, finger sandwiches, sweets and savories. Nearby a fire of lehua wood might be lit, covered with an iron grill over which beef ribs were be grilled. Not only were memories made and romance inspired, but so were stories and songs.

Queen Lili`uokalani, was the last reigning Hawaiian Monarch and an accomplished composer. While touring Oahu during her first act as the newly appointed heir apparent in 1877, she was departing Maunawili Ranch, a secluded estate both she and her brother, King David Kalakaua, often visited for respite. Pausing to look back as she rode through the gate, Lili`uokalani witnessed a young man of the entourage receiving a lei, a wreath of flowers, from a young Hawaiian girl who lived on the ranch. With the girl’s lei around his neck, he returned the loving goodbye gesture with an embrace and a kiss as he bid the girl farewell.   

Inspired by the romantic scene she witnessed, the Queen wrote the haunting melody and lyrics for the song “Aloha ‘Oe” – “one fond embrace, a ho`i a`e au, until we meet again.” Well known authors of the era, Herman Melville, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson all succumbed to the seduction of Victorian Hawaii.

Jill Marie Landis has written over twenty-five novels which have earned distinguished awards and made national bestseller lists including the USA Today Top 50 and the New York Times. Look for her cozy mystery series set in Hawaii, The Tiki Goddess Mysteries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Pairings: Food and Wineaux

You are familiar with Chardonnay, Merlot, and Sauvignon wines. Now, get to know The Napa Wine Heiresses, a.k.a. the daughters of Xavier St. Pierre, the most notorious vintner in Napa Valley, and discover what pairs best with the vinos that share their names…

WinePeople have been fascinated with beauty, fame and wealth for centuries, but don’t hate the St. Pierre sisters because they’re beautiful and their Papa is rich; deep down inside they’re human too. The roads to love and fulfillment (not to mention within the pages of romance novels) abound with potholes, even for the most privileged.  

Char, Xavier’s middle child, is worried her golden girl appearance only adds to people’s impression of her as an empty-headed celebutant. She rebels by embracing her inner athlete, leading her prep school field hockey team to a state championship and competes in a half-marathon against a hunky movie star in A Taste of Chardonnay. Nothing gives Char a jolt of much-needed energy better than chocolate. So which wine does she pour when she dips her silver spoon into molten lava cake? Dark chocolate’s strong, complex flavors are best balanced by dessert wines like Port, and those from the Banyuls region of France. Both of these fruity wines are fortified with comparatively high levels of alcohol and sugar, which helps them hold their own against the sweetly bitter cacao.

Budding jewelry designer Meri is bound to succeed on her own terms and uses a fake name for her business to hide she’s wine country royalty. When Mark Newman invites her to her very first football game with his gang of beer-guzzling friends in A Taste of Merlot, she discovers nothing beats noshing on down-home American cuisine. Sip by sip, Mark and Meri fall in love over wings and pizza, matched up with a strong, Italian red wine like Sangiovese—a muscular, Italian grape, built to handle oil-rich pepperoni. A great second choice to pair with a calzone or grinder is Cabernet Franc.

In an unlikely matchmaking scheme to pair up attorney Savvy and the farm boy next door Esteban, the St. Pierre cook lends her recipe for coq au vin to Esteban’s mom. This classic French chicken dinner is typically made with a full-bodied red wine from Burgundy. Tradition says whatever you use in the pot is what you should drink with the dish, keeping in mind the flavors won’t be the same after cooking, but play off of each other instead. Like all good home cooks, Esteban’s mother substitutes whatever is handy. In this case, it’s Rioja; a Spanish wine in a French dish—much like Esteban and Savvy—turns out to be the perfect blend in A Taste of Sauvignon.

I hope you enjoy my food and wine combinations along with the couples that inspired them!

Cheers, bon appétit, and stay in touch!

Amish Romance, Plain and Simple

Author Jennifer Beckstrand discusses what motivated her to write Amish romances and gives sneak peek into what her eighty-year-old matchmaking grandparents are up to in Huckleberry Harvest.

Q: Why did you choose to write Amish romances?

 A: I fell in love with the romance genre after I read Pride and Prejudice as a young teenager. When my fourth daughter was born, I started writing a Western historical and finished it sixteen years—and two children—later. My agent asked me to write Amish romance because he loved my voice and the way I brought faith elements into my writing. I immediately fell in love with the category. I greatly admire the plain faith and simple way of life of the Amish people. Writing Amish romances allows me to explore aspects of faith while writing funny, heart-warming love stories.

AmishTo research the Amish, I did a lot of reading, and then immersed myself in the culture to get a feel for how they live. I’ve been to Pennsylvania and I have an Amish friend in Lancaster County who helps keep my stories true to their culture. I have also visited Wisconsin Amish country and keep in touch with a friend in Bonduel who sets me straight if I don’t get my facts right. Her only objection to my Huckleberry Hill books, which are set in Bonduel, is that she’s never seen huckleberries grow there. I told her she needs to plant some huckleberry bushes so my books can be more authentic. She’s probably still smiling.

Q: What was your inspiration for the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series? How did you come up with your idea for Huckleberry Harvest?

A: I fell in love with the idea of two elderly Amish grandparents making matches for their resistant grandchildren. Anna and Felty Helmuth—the matchmaking grandparents—definitely have some things in common with my own parents. My mom is a fireball of energy, and my dad cheerfully goes along for the ride. Anna Helmuth knits potholders for potential suitors and regularly tries out recipes from her new international cookbook. Felty eats Anna’s horrible cooking and does a little scheming of his own.

 I always begin a book by thinking of a major conflict, and there are some conflicts very specific to the Amish. In Huckleberry Harvest, an Amish father is an alcoholic, and his family has to find the best way to be true to their beliefs while still supporting their father. One character in particular, is buried in shame and does everything he can to hide his father’s addiction from his Amish friends. It’s a good thing Anna and Felty are there to save the day.

Huckleberry Harvest features a Polish hound dog, a plate of fried pickles, a hay bale tossing contest, and Anna Helmuth’s recipe for potato-lentil-and-green-bean cheese soup. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?

 

 

Guest Post by Brighton Walsh: Contemporary Romance Vs. Romantic Suspense

When I set out to write Captive, I had no idea I was writing a romantic suspense. None. I was blissfully 91T3Y3KgheL._SL1500_oblivious, just truckin’ along thinking I was writing another contemporary romance—a very difficult and time-consuming contemporary romance, but a CR nonetheless. And then a while later, well after I’d turned in my final copy to my editor, I saw a pre-reader classify it on a virtual bookshelf as suspense.

It was a light bulb moment.

The entire time I spent writing Captive, it was an uphill battle. Not because I didn’t like the characters or the world (I loved both), but because it was so different from anything I’d done before. When I saw that virtual bookshelf proclaiming it suspense, it was then that I realized exactly why it had taken me three times longer to write than anything else I’ve written thus far: Writing romantic suspense is hard.

Well, writing anything is hard, but when I compare it to the other genre I know and can speak to—contemporary romance—it’s like night and day. So much so that I’m going to go on record right now and say it’s at least twice as hard for me to write, if not more.

Why is that? Writing is writing, and coming up with characters and worlds and plots all involves lots of imagination and planning (whether on the backend or during writing). The main difference is the content within.

In contemporary romance, nearly everything that happens within the pages of that book could happen to the writer, or may already have happened, whether to them or to someone they know. Romantic suspense, on the other hand, is packed with stressful, sometimes life-threatening situations. Car chases and gun stand-offs and kidnapping and heists. For most writers, our lives aren’t anything like that—well, mine isn’t anyway, and to any writer out there who lives the life of a word slinger by day and a vigilante by night, I tip my hat to you.

For me, when I write contemporary, I just sit down and write. That’s it. It’s not a big production, and I produce a pretty steady stream of words each day. When I write romantic suspense, however, it takes planning. Research. There are stops and starts and fact checking. Whatever I’m writing about within my romantic suspense books is not something I’ve ever endured, nor is it something I can bluff my way through. I have to dig deep to get answers on everything from how long chloroform lasts to how to write a realistic fight scene to how to treat a gunshot wound. And, yes, I’ve researched all of those things. And, yes, I’m probably on the FBI’s list somewhere by now (but hopefully my editor can vouch for me).

While oftentimes difficult, writing romantic suspense also opens up a whole slew of possibilities one wouldn’t otherwise have in a straight contemporary romance. The tension is always higher, the stakes perilous. And that’s where the fun comes in. As a writer, I can make my characters go through the craziest things—events I’ve only dreamed about or seen in the movies. And that makes for a much more adventurous writing—and reading—experience.

'Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off' by Amy Andrews

Ahh, alcohol, the great social lubricant. A chilled glass of white, a long tall beer, a fruity cocktail or a shot of Cuervo can all help our fictitious characters loosen up a little but there's a fine line between loose and frank and there's nothing quite like drunken honesty. 


71mBEUn7GoL._UX250_I seem to write a lot of tipsy heroines. Those who know me would probably say it’s a reflection on my own social drinking habits and it is true, I do love me a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc. But, even more than that, I love the dynamic that develops when a character’s internal filter is temporarily down for the count and we get to see the real person.

I like it when a character says things, does things, they’d never normally say or do. I like it when their subconscious takes over. And that’s where booze comes in. After all, alcohol’s been switching off filters for centuries!

Take Josie, the heroine from my book, No More Mr Nice Guy. Josie’s a super-straight, good-girl just out of a very beige relationship. She’s looking for fun and adventure. She wants to live a little and she’s even bought a ticket to London to get her party started.

Then Josie meets Tequila...

Don’t worry, she doesn’t lose any of her clothes - not at that point anyway. But after a night drinking cocktails with her best friend, Sal, she wakes to discover she’s composed a ten point sexual  to-do list and Mack, Sal’s brother, has not only discovered it but thinks it’s hilarious. To add insult to injury she finds herself having to explain the nearby illustrated sex guide open at The Standing Wheelbarrow.

Good-girl Josie does not write sex lists. She does not perve at books with explicit pictures. But tipsy Josie lets it all hang out and from that moment on, things get really, really interesting.

Score one for Tequila.

And then there’s Sal, who gets her own story in Ask Me Nicely. Sal’s the opposite of Josie. She doesn’t need loosening up. She’s definitely no good-girl. In fact she’s perfectly happy to use alcohol and men to soothe the huge, angry, ball of grief inside her. Yep, she’s sad, bad and mad-as-hell. And Tequila is her friend. 

Until one night Cuervo lets Sal down bad…

Or, so she thinks the next morning, anyway, when everything comes back with sickening clarity. No, her clothes don’t fall off either, but then whoever said you needed to lose your clothes to indulge in a little sexy times with the most inappropriate man on the planet? A man who is your flatmate. And your employee. Oh yes, it seems Doyle can get Sal off fully clothed! Sal who’s been having trouble in that department for quite some time…

Except, bad-girl Sal does not do relationships. She does not do repeat performances. Tipsy Sal on the other hand…

Score two for Tequila. 

So what can we infer from this?

A)     My heroines can’t hold their booze?

B)     I like that Joe Nichols country song a little too much?

C)     I love the way the word Cuervo rolls off the tongue?

Yes. To all three. In fact I definitely chose Tequila as my heroines drink of choice solely because of  B and C. And it’s also true that whilst my heroines may over-indulge from time to time, they are far from lushes. But I think we can also infer that a little alcoholic lubrication goes a long way to a much-needed dragging out of their comfort zones.

And, let’s face it, we all need a little push sometimes… Hic!

Find the Perfect Post-Fifty Shades Romance with M.Q. Barber

You’ve finally read Fifty Shades of Grey and you’re standing at a crossroads. Let M.Q. Barber help you translate the signposts before you pick a direction for further travel.

817CopdtQ8L._SL1500_Is it the wealthy, powerful man who takes what he wants while concealing a deep vulnerability? The billion-dollar deals, the private helicopter rides, the jet-setting vacations and lurking enemies? You’ll want to move on to more alpha billionaire bad boys with Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series, Maya Banks’ Breathless trilogy, Christina Lauren’s Beautiful series, or Jodi Ellen Malpas’ This Man trilogy. These are the perfect picks if you want a book boyfriend who’ll stalk you at your home and office, never give you a moment’s peace, and just maybe be worth calling the cops over.

However, if the peek at Christian Grey’s special interests—spanking, teasing, bondage, sensory deprivation—are what kept you turning the pages, jump tracks to Cherise Sinclair’s Masters of the Shadowlands series. Mr. Grey’s controlling ways didn’t necessarily adhere to the safe, sane, consensual ethos (or even the risk-aware consensual kink standard) affirmed by many responsible kinksters. Sinclair gives her dominants and submissives a healthy dose of reality while still bringing the fantasy to life. Meet the members of the club starting in Club Shadowlands.

Maybe you cared less for Mr. Grey’s specific interests than for boundary-pushing in general. My own Neighborly Affection series straddles that line with a kinky trio. Yes, bisexual, polyamorous people can find love, enjoy kinks, and still end up in closed, committed, and faithful happily-ever-after relationships. Henry, Alice, and Jay start negotiating that road in Playing the Game.

For a steamy-sweet take on the long-term threesome scenario, start with Kelly Jamieson’s Rule of Three series. When a couple in love brings in an old college friend for more than flirtation, three lives are irrevocably changed. For boundary pushing with more raw grit, go straight to Kit Rocha’s Beyond series. This goes double for you dystopian young adult lit fans, who doesn’t want to see a grown-up version? Boundaries will get pushed, but even in the hardscrabble, anything-goes, gang-infested future, love still rules.

When all of Mr. Grey’s serious drama gets you down, hop off the brooding billionaires bandwagon and hang out with more blue-collar gents who can make a woman laugh and melt in the same moment. Rie Warren’s Carolina Bad Boys series marries humor with heart-racing romance, starting with Stone, At Your Service.

Finally, if your reading choices have you itching to be doing, too, get informed before you go inviting anyone to act out fantasies with you. Get help with rope bondage from Two Knotty Boys (Showing You the Ropes), because shibari isn’t just a sensual act, it’s an art form. Explore a loving, real-life power exchange in Living M/s. Start outlining your interests and expectations with The Loving Dominantor The New Topping Bookand The New Bottoming Book. And if you’re going where CDC surveys say nearly half of Americans have gone (yes, heterosexuals too) please pick up Jack Morin’s Anal Pleasure and Healthor Tristan Taormino’s Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women. You’ll thank yourself later.  

Above all, stay safe, have fun, and read what makes you happy.

Interview with Ines Saint on Her Small-Town Romance Series

Q: What inspired you to write a series with a home improvement hook?

A: I spent a few of my formative years in the Boston area and many of my friends lived in historic houses 81-xFE07stL._SL1500_that had such wonderful stories attached to them! My best friend’s house had a tunnel that wound throughout the closets of the second floor bedrooms and it was rumored that Minutemen had hidden from the Redcoats in them. Some of the houses in the area seemed neglected, but their beauty and strength were still palpable. I think we’ve all felt rundown at some point and I thought it would be fun to do a series where characters find love as they rebuild both their lives and the homes they feel a connection to.

The titles came to me that reflected the sentiment: Flipped! (love can not only flip a house around, but also your entire life), Needs a Little TLC (both homes and people need it to survive!), and Fixer Upper (we’re all a bit of a fixer upper, aren’t we?). 

Q: What made you want to base the series in the Rust Belt?

A: My love of second chance stories and a penchant for rooting for the underdog. A few years ago, my husband was offered a great job in Dayton, Ohio…a city that had just recently made it onto a ‘top ten dying cities’ list. I began researching the area and found a region that was anything but dying. Dayton is home to such is a rich, diverse, and interesting history. It’s where the King and Queen of the entire nation’s gypsies settled, where the Roswell aliens were rumored to be stored, where Mound Builders dwelled, and so much more. I tried to sprinkle the fun and magic throughout the stories.

Q: Although you base the story in the Dayton region, the town itself, Spinning Hills, is fictional. Is there a reason for that?

A: I came across blogs and articles about a few historic neighborhoods here that people were working hard to bring back. The before and after pictures of some of the houses (even entire blocks), left me in awe. One neighborhood, The Oregon District, is nearly completely restored. The level of caring, hard work and determination that goes into achieving so much is inspiring. That’s where the idea of three brothers working to restore an entire town came from.

When we moved here, we learned the region was home to a hippie town, the most haunted village in Ohio, and an entire town made up of houses built mostly between the 1920s and 1940s, it looks like it was lifted from the page of a children’s book. I thought it would be fun to create a town that captured a little bit of everything. The result was Spinning Hills, a town founded by wintering gypsies and made up of storybook architecture.

Q: How did you come up with the name Spinning Hills?

A: I saw it on a map of the area, near Spinning Road and the Mad River. Somewhere between Spinning and Mad…I loved it.

I hope you visit Spinning Hills and get to know the Amador Brothers, learn about their “curse” and meet their quirky friends including the meddlesome owners of the Gypsy Fortune Café and Bakery who believe in great coffee, pies with meaning, and that plenty of unsolicited advice can make any situation better.