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Guest Blog Post by Heather Graham, Author of "The Hidden"

512Wy4FoskL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_Heather Graham, author of the The Hidden (a Krewe of Hunters novel), reflects on her well-known love of costumes.

I love costumes! Anyone who knows me knows this. It may come from the fact that I started my adult life in dinner theater and that a great deal of what we worked on was historical. I’m still not sure exactly why—but to this day, I love everything that goes with theater and costuming and makeup… Maybe it’s because, for just a few minutes or a few hours, we become someone (or even something!) else. Every year at the RT Booklovers Convention and at the Writers for New Orleans conference, some of my colleagues and friends and I put together a short stage play (always a musical of sorts) and don costumes for the fun of it.

Not only that, my husband, Dennis, and I once wore costumes and modeled for two book covers—Ondine and Tomorrow the Glory. For the first one, we recreated people living in the 1600s, and for the second, the Deep South. Tremendous fun!

My favorite costumes tend to be elaborate—and homemade. I don’t like to purchase costumes that everyone else might have, and if I do buy one, it’s as a base to be accessorized. Of course, I’m very lucky—one of my best friends, Connie Perry of Lafayette, Louisiana, is a costume designer. She makes truly wild and beautiful costumes for Mardi Gras, and we like to tease her that “Have Glitter, Will Travel” should be her motto. When we’re working on something historical, I have to restrain Connie’s love of all things shimmering and shining!

This is not to say that all kinds of costumes aren’t fun, including those that are ready-made. One of my sons has a wonderful Captain America costume and one of his best friends (a Miami-Dade detective by day!) has a wonderful Batman costume. They dress up as favors to relatives and friends when kids have birthday and Halloween parties and thrill the little ones—who get to believe, for a few minutes, that they’re meeting real superheroes.

Some of my friends and I recently filmed a little short, Revenge of the Ghouls. A total spoof—and tons of fun. We had excellent zombies and innocents, and I got to play the wronged one, who needed to find someone to help her put the mayhem to rest.

This Halloween I’ll be heading to New Orleans for the annual UndeadCon and the Anne Rice fan club’s Gathering of the Ancients Ball, put on by Sue Quiroz. I’m still in the planning stages, but I believe it’ll be either Victorian or Steampunk for me this year. Not surprisingly New Orleans is great when it comes to costumes; to accessorize, you can run down to Fifi Mahony’s on Royal Street and find a fantastic wig. At Fifi’s, Brooklyn and Marci and the others design some of the wildest and most impressive wigs you’ll ever see. They might include a model ship in a high bouffant or, for Halloween, scarecrows, bats, skeletons, pumpkins and so on. Whatever I finally decide on as a costume this year, a trip to Fifi’s will be in order.

And for a little while, I’ll get to be someone else. Just as a writer does when he or she is in the throes of creating a character. And readers, when they’re living that character’s life through the medium (so to speak!) of a book… The only difference is that, at Halloween, I get to wear the clothes!

Author Post by Carla Neggers: Romantic Destinations and the Holidays

611QzygHV+L._SX359_BO1,204,203,200_Carla Neggers, author of A Knights Bridge Christmas, writes about her favorite romantic destinations that inspire her holiday stories.

It’s no secret that I love to travel, whether to see new places or to revisit longtime favorites. My husband, Joe, and I have enjoyed visiting some incredibly romantic destinations, from the canals of Amsterdam to a cabin on a lake in Maine. Here are three romantic destinations that have inspired the settings for my holiday stories…and one of them is in my own backyard.



Dublin, Ireland

Most years, you’ll find me at home with my family for Christmas, but a few years ago we packed up and flew to Ireland, landing in Dublin on Christmas Eve. Carolers, bell-ringers and pubs made me think of Charles Dickens! We joined the crowds in Brown Thomas, an elegant, historic department store on pedestrians-only Grafton Street. (I bought socks; I still can’t figure out why.) We wandered through historic St. Stephen’s Green with it shallow ponds and many statues. Friends had warned us Dublin would be cold, dark and wet in December, and they were right! We loved it, and it wasn’t wet every day. Not much is open in Dublin at Christmas, but that makes it perfect for long walks through the city to soak up its romantic atmosphere. To top it off, we discovered the charms of buttery mincemeat tarts and did our very first Irish whiskey tasting. We are always planning return trips to this endlessly fascinating Dublin.

The Cotswolds

I’d heard of “twee” English villages long before my first trip to England, but I never quite knew what that meant until I visited the Cotswolds, a region of rolling fields and honey-stoned houses west of London. Whatever the season, the extensive network of marked trails are a draw, whether for a short village stroll or a multiday, inn-to-inn trek. We discovered a bookshop that sells hats—or was it a hat shop that sells books?—and enjoyed lingering in a tea shop with warm scones, clotted cream and gooseberry jam. So taken with the Cotswolds, Joe and I not only are plotting our return but we have been known to watch Inspector Lewis to remind us of this romantic spot (without the murder investigations, of course!).

Woodstock, Vermont

Just down the road from our hilltop home in Vermont, picturesque Woodstock is situated between the Connecticut River and the popular Killington ski area. It’s been rated as one of the best small towns in the USA for Christmas, and for good reason. Its historic houses lining pretty village streets and its elliptical-shaped town green are a great sight anytime of year, but they’re truly special at Christmas. Billings Farm and Museum offers horse-drawn sleigh and wagon rides, ornament-making and tours of its Victorian farmhouse, decorated for Christmas. Wassail Weekend is a jam-packed few days of concerts, carolers, winter activities and home tours that draw visitors from all over to this romantic village.

I hope you enjoy the holidays as much as my family and I do and that A Knights Bridge Christmas inspires you to think about what the romance of the season means to you.

Mary Jo Putney's Romance Favorites

IndexThere are so many lovely books to look forward too! I'm enjoying Anne Gracie's Chance Sister Series. The Spring Bride came out several months ago, so I have months to wait for The Summer Bride about the last of the four "sisters by chance."

Sharon Shinn is one of my favorite fantasy authors and Jeweled Fire, next in her 51p+ovgtAWL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Elemental Blessings Series, will be released at the beginning of November. Her Archangel is brilliant, a classic of romantic fantasy. She writes great characters and great romance, so of course I always love her stories!

Last but hardly least is Lois McMaster Bujold, she is one of my all time favorite authors. Her fantasy novel Curse of Chalion is brilliant, I've reread it many times, and I love her Vorkosigan Saga (science fiction) just as much. I'm really looking forward to her new Vorkosigan book, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

As a reader, I'm as much a fangirl as anyone else. I wish my favorite writers all wrote faster! But it's worth waiting for new books I know I'll love.

 Mary Jo Putney is a New York Times bestselling author of historical romance and contemporary romance novels.

Football: My Drug of Choice

This is a guest post by Desiree Holt on why she loves sports romances.

For most of my adult life, I was a casual football fan, following my alma mater—the University of Michigan—and nobody else. Then I bought a book by Frank and Lynn Barrett, How To Watch a Football Game, and that was the beginning. I sat down in front of the television, looked at the game, and thought Holy cow! I understand what’s going on. It was better than chocolate and pizza combined…and the players. Wow! To a romance writer, they are both the frosting and filling of cake. They’re my heroes, the ultimate alphas I want to take home and keep forever. The men of my dreams, modern gladiators just flawed enough to be likable.

51G5cM9w7wL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In Texas, where I live, football is a religion—especially high school football. Towns are passionate about their teams, the intensity building throughout the season. Cheerleaders scream, marching bands play, fans stomp their feet on the bleachers. By the final game of the season, the stadiums are packed, the crowd noise deafening. But what happens to the heroes on a championship team when the tumult and shouting fade?

Thanks to Kensington Publishing, the Game On series was born from these musings. It follows a team of high school football heroes fifteen years later. What have they done with their lives?

Forward Pass introduces Joe Reilly, golden boy quarterback retired by an injury, and the woman who has loved him forever. Line of Scrimmage tells of Jake Russell, devastated by a career-ending injury and harboring deep secrets. In Pass Interference,we meet Rafe Ortiz, who retired by choice, and get to explore his contentious relationship with the team owner’s daughter.

This series is a work of love. I’m glad the first book is out just in time for football season. Enjoy!

How Romance Covers Have Evolved over the Years

This is a guest post by Michelle Willingham, who is the author of more than thirty historical romance novels and novellas. She had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at a cover-art shoot for one of her own books. To learn more about the experience, visit her website at

Michelle’s next book, Warrior of Fire, will be available in December 2015.

Romance novel covers are continually transforming during each decade, and it’s always fascinating to see The House of Scissors
the evolution of art over time. Covers that were popular during the 1970s are nothing like the romance covers of 2015. The House of the Scissors by Isobel Chace is an example of a 1974 cover. The heroine’s face is enlarged, and the photographer hero appears to be taking a picture of her ear. Three other sketches hover around the fashion model heroine’s head, and the back cover copy begins with, Why couldn’t he see she wasn’t a child?

Wolf at the DoorThe romance trope of an older hero and a younger heroine continued through the 1970s and early ’80s. Here’s a cover from 1981 titled Wolf at the Door by Victoria Gordon, where the hero appears significantly older and has gray hair.

According to cover artist Robert Papp, “The evolution of cover art has been insane. I am old enough to remember dropping off still-wet canvases at art directors’ offices. Back then, the illustrator was given much more time to create the art. Sometimes there was enough time to read the entire book in order to come up with a great concept. We were taught in school that, while looking at a book in stores, the reader must grasp the concept, characters and a bit of the story in 3 to 5 seconds. In the old days, you could “sit” with a painting to see if there was anything needed to create better art.”

The painted covers remained a trend throughout the 1980s when two different types of covers Defy Not the Heartemerged —clinch covers and floral covers. The model Fabio Lanzoni graced the covers of many popular historical romances, such as Johanna Lindsey’s Defy Not the Heart. Those covers suggested stories of forbidden love, and the clinch cover became a classic trend for hotter romances.

VowsCovers for the sweeter romances of the 1980s often involved flowers or hearts with no couple at all, as on Vows by LaVyrle Spencer. This brought romances into the mainstream with little distinction between contemporary and historical romance.

 As the decade ended and the ’90s covers emerged, more floral treatments continued. These offered a softer focus on the romance for contemporary romances, as on Nora Roberts’s Born in FireBorn in Fire

Another change, beginning in the late ’90s and moving into the new millennium, was to offer more diversity on book covers. Authors Beverly Jenkins, Brenda Jackson, and Jeannie Lin wrote stories featuring African American and Asian heroes and heroines.

Just DesertsThe new millennium brought other cover art trends. Taming the HighlanderNearly headless heroes and heroines left a good deal up to the imagination of the readers. Take Terri Brisbin’s Taming the Highlander, for example, which features a Highland hero whose face is hidden.

Paranormal romances also featured this same style of cover. Larissa Ione’s book, Ecstasy Unveiled, reveals a shadowed, shirtless hero. Half-clad heroes became common for many subgenres of romance, including contemporary and historical. In Ecstasy Unveiledaddition, the painted look that was common to so many covers was replaced by photographic art in contemporary and paranormal romance. Historical covers often still received a painted treatment, to avoid appearing too modern.

Cover artist Carrie Divine of Seductive Designs points out that finding the right Warrior of Icephotograph for a cover has become an even greater challenge. “You would think that since there are so many options, that it would equate to millions of great options, but the really good images are the ones that you see over and over again.”

Moving into 2015, covers are revealing extreme close-up photos of heroes and heroines. Since ebooks are now such a strong force within the book marketplace, covers need to become more prominent in a thumbnail image. My July cover, Warrior of Ice, features the hero from the waist up and little else.

GreyA recent erotic romance release, Grey, by E L James, features an even more extreme close-up photo of only the hero’s eye.

Harlequin art director Krista Oliver has a challenge each month, given the volume of covers required, to stay within the budget while still creating beautiful covers. “I always want to raise the bar on period accuracy; emotional conveyance and authenticity; and beautiful, accurate background detail. I think of each cover like a movie poster in terms of function. It has to communicate the genre instantly.”

As covers keep competing to attract a reader’s eye in the digital marketplace, new trends keep emerging.

Narcissists, Misogynists and Criminals….Oh, My!

This is a guest post by romance authors Laurelin Paige and Kayti McGee about men we love to hate.

A few words from the ladies before their chat: In our co-written contemporary romantic comedy, our hero, Blake Donovan, is an egotistical, self-centered, chauvinist who we can’t help but love. Which got us thinking about the many other bad boys in books that we have fallen helplessly for despite—and sometimes even because of—their awfulness.

KAYTI MCGEE: Definitely a first to come to mind is Naz from JM Darhower’s Monster in His Eyes.  I mean,  Monster in his eyeshe kills people for a living. And also has the best seats in the house for fancy Italian dinners, which is basically all I ever want out of life. But he has a soft side, too. The not-quite reformed bad boy is possibly my favorite kind.

LAURELIN PAIGE: He kills, but it's with and out of passion. The way he uses those skills to be a lover as well as a murderer...well, that's talent.

Another egocentric jerk that we book bonded over, Kayti, is Matt Sky from M. Pierce’s Night Owl trilogy. Not unlike our own Blake, Matt's outside arrogance is just a mask for what he doesn't want to show the world. In Matt's case, it's a very complicated, deep and tortured soul that you want to nurture as much as you want him to do bad things to you in the bedroom.

41CAIgJVNUL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_KAYTI: That's exactly it. You want to slap him and hug him all at once. Someone else I want to slap, but would never have the audacity to hug: Søren from Tiffany Reisz's Original Sinners series. He's so incredibly arrogant and demanding! But the way he loves his companion Nora, and his best friend Kingsley is amazing. And he plays piano, and rescues depressed teenagers.

Kingsley, though, from the same series- now there's a guy whose soft side is well-hidden. He's a former fighter in the French Foreign Legion who loves to proposition strangers in the back of his Rolls Royce. It takes a couple books to see that all of that is the defense he's built around a broken heart.

LAURELIN: Yes! Love Soren and Kingsley.

I don't know about you, but my love for these types of characters goes way back. I am a huge fan of the brooding and mysterious Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre and Maxim De Winters from Rebecca. The storylines in those romances might have been less graphic, but underneath the proper language and the estates, they are very much the same horrid men that I love today. And whether it’s spelled out or not, both Mr. Rochester and Mr. De Winters exude the same intense sexuality.

KAYTI: Intense and mysterious! I love mysterious. And if we're talking Original Book Boyfriends, I know we  41wxDqcP3UL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_ both loved S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I think we loved different characters, though, I remember being utterly entranced with Dally. He was such a tough guy but I just knew I could save him with my teenage love.

LAURELIN: YES! Actually, I had the biggest crush on Dally. But also Johnny because he was a good kid in the wrong life, you know? One more before we close out, Kayti. I say we have to mention one who is not a romance hero—we are both very taken with Severus Snape from Harry Potter. Am I right?

KAYTI: You are so right. We believed in his innocence from the start—not a popular opinion. But it turned out his brutal attitude problem hid one of literature's saddest unrequited loves.

LAURELIN: I thought when we finished this list that we might have a common thread for what it is that attracts us to a bad boy, but we really don’t.

KAYTI: Yeah, we do. The common thread is that even if we know they’re bad for us, we still love them.


Who are the bad boys in books that you love? Pick up an old favorite or grab one of ours today.

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.