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Romance Authors' Holiday Recipe Series: Lin Stepp

Continuing our 4-part series, popular romance authors share their favorite holiday recipes--some even inspired by their novels--to help you with your holiday entertaining (part 1, part 2). Up next is Lin Stepp, author of the Smoky Mountain series. Her latest work can be found in the holiday collaboration, When the Snow Falls.

WhenthesnowfallsIn my short novel A Smoky Mountain Gift, Veda Trent makes up a recipe of her Aunt Rita Jean’s Christmas Cookies with the eager and excited help of eight year-old Pamela.  They cut out sugar cookie shapes of trees, stars, ornaments, snowmen, Santas, and reindeer, and then lavishly decorate the baked cookies with colored icings, candy sprinkles, silver balls, and cinnamon dots.  The book’s happy scene reminds Veda of loving times with her Aunt Rita Jean baking cookies in the same farmhouse kitchen. The scene also brings back memories of my childhood days making sugar cookies with my mother and of later decorating warm, fragrant cookies with my own eager, excited children … The recipe below from mountain storyteller Rita Jean O’Neill is also my recipe passed down from my mother.

 

        RITA JEAN’S CHRISTMAS COOKIES

Ingredients:

2/3 cup solid shortening                            

3/4 cup sugar                                                           

1 tsp vanilla                                                  

1 egg

4 tsp milk

2 cups plain flour

1/ 4 tsp salt

1 and 1/ 2 tsp baking power                                                             

Directions:

Thoroughly cream shortening, sugar, and vanilla by hand.  Add egg. Beat until light and fluffy.  Stir in milk. Sift together dry ingredients – flour, salt, and baking powder – and blend into creamed mixture. Chill for one hour; then roll out the dough 1/ 8 inch thick on lightly floured counter. Cut with Christmas cookie cutters.

Bake cookies 6-8 minutes at 375 degrees.  Cool slightly, and then remove. 

Decorate with colored icings and add assorted sprinkles, silver balls, cinnamon dots and decorative outlining as desired. … And above all, have fun!!!    

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Romance Authors' Holiday Recipe Series: Nancy Bush

Continuing our 4-part series, popular romance authors share their favorite holiday recipes--some even inspired by their novels--to help you with your holiday entertaining (part 1). Up next is best-selling romantic suspense author Nancy Bush. Her latest novel, Nowhere to Hide, is on sale now.

Nancy BushHere’s a favorite recipe that we make at my house at least once every holiday season.  It’s called MISTLETOE SALAD, but no, it’s not made out of mistletoe, which my main character in White Hot Christmas, Jane Kelly, lets everyone know is a parasite, and, well, is poisonous to boot.  However, this salad’s made with broccoli, tomatoes, and a whole lot of holiday love.  It’s red and green and absolutely delicious. 

 MISTLETOE SALAD

 Ingredients:

4 lbs. broccoli

2 large tomatoes (cut into ¾ inch cubes)

2 T. finely chopped red onion

1 ¼ cup mayonnaise

1 T. soy sauce

2 t. fresh lemon juice

2 t. season salt

Salt and pepper to taste

2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

½ cup raw or roasted cashews

 Instructions:

Steam broccoli 3 to 5 minutes, drain.  Pour cold water over broccoli to stop it from cooking any further.  Place drained broccoli in a large bowl and add tomatoes and onion.  Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.

Mix dressing ingredients together in a small bowl: mayo, soy sauce, lemon juice, season salt and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Mix individual servings of broccoli mixture with ¼ cup dressing, then place salad on plates in front of each diner.

Serve the chopped egg and cashews in small bowls to pass around the table as a garnishment for the salad.

Happy holiday eating!  

Nancy Bush

Romance Authors' Holiday Recipe Series: Fern Michaels

In our 4-part series, popular romance authors share their favorite holiday recipes--some even inspired by their novels--to help you with your holiday entertaining. Up first is Fern Michaels, best-selling author of the Sisterhood series. The latest Sisterhood book, Eyes Only, is available for pre-order now.

Eyes onlyMy kids called this our "Happy Happy Christmas Candy Roll" when they were little.

The ingredients are as follows:

1/2 cup butter

2 (1 oz.)  squares of milk chocolate

1 1/2 cups of sifted confectioners  sugar

1 egg beaten

1 cup of chopped pecans  (you can use any nut you prefer if you don't like pecans)

4 cups miniature marshmallows

1 (3 1/2 oz.) flaked coconut  (1 can)

 Instructions:

Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Stir in egg and sugar and blend well.  Stir in pecans and marshmallows and mix until coated thoroughly.  Divide the mixture in half.  Shape each into 12" rolls.  Carefully dredge with flaked coconut.  Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap, sealing tightly.  Freeze.  To serve, thaw and slice into 1/2 slices.  Or thicker if you prefer.  1/2" slices. Makes app 48 servings.

Enjoy!

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Shannon Stacey's Favorite Holiday Reads

New York Times bestselling author Shannon Stacey and author of "Her Holiday Man" shares her favorite romance novels…with a holiday twist.

Her holiday manThe holidays and romance novels. To me, they’re like peanut butter and jelly or hot cocoa and marshmallows—they’re wonderful individually, but together they make something extra special. There’s nothing like the holidays to make a romance’s theme of love and family really pop. I’ve read many over the years because they’re my favorite, and here are just a few of the holiday romances that have stood out for me.

Crime Wave in a Corset by Stacy Gail

A hero bent on revenge. A stolen Fabergé egg. A thieving heroine who will die if she doesn’t get the egg back by Christmas morning. Stacy Gail’s outstanding narrative voice makes this sexy, atmospheric (almost Dickensian) steampunk novella a delicious holiday read.

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan

This single-title romance from one of my favorite category romance authors was an instant keeper for me. Set in snowy Vermont and written in Morgan’s warm and witty style, Sleigh Bells in the Snow blends love and laughter and family and romance for the perfect holiday story.

Holiday Bound by Beth Kery

This unique story of sexy submission from a contemporary romance favorite definitely spiced up my holiday reading list. Beth Kery brings her trademark emotion and eroticism to a “snowed-in” cabin romance, making Holiday Bound a sizzling holiday story I’ve read more than once.

Dear Santa by Karen Templeton

This Silhouette Special Edition from 2007 offers a classic category romance story—emotionally walled-off hero who’s suddenly a single father, a small child and the woman who will love them both—but Karen Templeton’s distinctive voice and masterful storytelling elevate Dear Santa to an exceptional, emotional holiday read you won’t want to miss.

Christmas with Her Boss by Marion Lennox

Coming from New England—the land of white Christmases and sleigh rides and hot cocoa—I’ve sometimes had trouble connecting to holiday romances set in tropical locations or in Australia. But this sweet, heartwarming, funny story of a woman whose big-city billionaire boss is stranded at her small family farm instantly became my favorite and most recommended holiday romance of all time.

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Kindle Editor Q&A with Julie Kenner

Kindle Editor Alyssa Morris sat down to interview J. Kenner, winner of the first ever RITA award for erotic romance. The author discusses the challenges and benefits she faces writing in various genres, as well as how her past career as a lawyer inspires her writing today.


J kennerAlyssa Morris: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. You write in a ton of different genres. What are the challenges and benefits of writing in all of those different genres for you?

J. Kenner: The challenges are keeping your readership and recognizing that the readers who like the really steamy stuff may not like the light and funny stuff. And even more likely, the people who like the light and funny stuff might not like the steamy stuff. So just to know that you have different readers. But that also expands your readers. I’ve been surprised at how many crossovers there are, really, which is great. Time, also, obviously. I like all sorts of stories. If I could write in every genre in the whole wide world, I would be such a happy camper. But you have to kind of rein yourself in at some point. So that’s a benefit, it’s fun for me. And also, like I just had an indie-published demon hunting soccer mom book come out, which is a series I love. I was very sad when it was traditionally orphaned and the series ended so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to bring it back to life. And it’s really nice because I’m doing this super steamy stuff on the Random House side with my Stark trilogy and my Most Wanted, but sometimes you want a palette cleanser. So I was able to finish doing some edits on the demon hunting soccer mom in the midst of that and it kind of gives you a break and lets you get back into the really intense characterization of the erotic romances that I write. Because they’re very—the characters are messed up and the plots are very emotionally driven, so sometimes you want just a really light and funny break. Not that the demon series is totally funny, it’s got issues. But it’s a different vibe to it. So it’s nice to have that change and just get into the different mindset.

AM: Definitely. As a Texan, are you happy to be in San Antonio?

JK: I am! Although I have to say, it’s always fun to go someplace else. I’m looking forward to New York next year because who isn’t. I love New York, so that’ll be fun. And I love to travel, so one of the cool things about conferences is travel without guilt, because I’m going for work, so on the one hand I really like to go someplace that I’ve never been before, you know, maybe someplace on the west coast which RWA doesn’t go to very often. But on the other hand San Antonio is a really cool town. The River Walk is a lot of fun. I’m already used to the heat, so it’s not as big a deal for me, and I can drive. So I have all my stuff in the back of the van instead of having to deal with suitcases so that’s a benefit and makes it a lot of fun.

AM: Talking about travel, I talked to Julia London yesterday and saw you guys were just in London together?

JK: We had so much fun! Yeah, we had a blast. I had gone—we had talked about just doing a vacation together and going to London over the summer or this year, really, and then I had the opportunity to go to the Edinburgh signing that RARE did (Reader and Author Romance Events) and it was a wonderful event, but I had told Julia since I’m already gonna be over there I don’t really want to make that flight twice, so let’s meet up. So that’s what we did. And we shopped and we ate and we went to this wonderful cabaret and met some lovely ladies who were having their hen ‘do, which is their version of a bachelorette party. So we danced with them and just had a fabulous time. Really fun. Too much shopping, too much eating, lots of walking. Lots and lots of walking.

AM: So there are, as far as I can tell, a ton of romance writers who used to be lawyers.

JK: It seems to be a breed, yeah.

AM: Like you. So does that influence your writing at all?

JK: It does. Not as much as you would think. I originally wanted to be a writer and when I got serious about it I thought I must be John Grisham because I’m a lawyer, and that didn’t work out so well for me. That wasn’t really what I wanted to write. So I’ve done some characters who are lawyers, I’ve done some characters who are just in the legal world both real and imagined in a paranormal series that I had. But directly relating to the writing, it’s not so much. It’s more—lawyers live by deadlines. You have to have papers turned in on such and such a day, you know, the trial will start on such and such a day, the motions will be heard on this date, so that makes it very, coming into the world especially of traditional publishing when you have your deadlines, it makes it much, it feels normal. And you learn to work towards a deadline, You get that very clear, so yeah, it impacts everything. I’m pretty detail-oriented. You know, certainly used to being edited for trying to get—I’ve done Supreme Court briefs and everything so you edit those, you really edit those. So yeah it makes an impact.

AM: Are there any genres you haven’t written in that you’d like to explore sometime?

JK: I’ve written romantic suspense but I’d really like to take it up a notch and write it a little bit more thriller-esque because I just love reading those. Now whether or not I would ever make that a career I don’t know but I think it’d be fun to do. I have an idea for a mainstream women’s fiction, not even really women’s fiction. Whatever genre you would say like Water for Elephants is in, that kind of a book. Kind of spread over a lifetime, almost literary but very readable. Commercial literary I guess you’d call it The idea, I love it, but it doesn’t make sense for me to write it right now, so you’re kind of going oh. I would love to write YA because my kids are aging up and I would love for them to have something to read that I wouldn’t have to say no, no that's not appropriate. Here, go read my demon series. So yeah, apparently there are a lot of them! I just did a horror short story for Cemetery Dance and that’s a lot of fun, you know, but. You can spread yourself so thin and you can’t always grab the new shiny. It’s like oooo squirrel! (laughs) Which I have a tendency to do because I get so excited about the stories and I want to write them, but if I had Hermione’s time turner or something it would make life a lot easier. But I don’t.

AM: I just read Wanted, I read it in one sitting, I got totally sucked in, so what’s next in that world for you?

JK: Heated came out June 3, so it’s out and doing really well and I really love that character. And then Cole’s story, Ignited, came out September 2nd. So I’m excited about that. So that’s a lot of fun. And then next, I’m actually going back to the Stark world, so I’m excited about that, too. That’ll be a lot of fun.

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Kristan Higgins On Finding The Humor In Romance

New York Times best-selling author Kristan Higgins shares her favorite moments, and difficulties, writing humorous romance. Her latest novel, "In Your Dreams," is on sale now.

InyourDreamsDo you think of yourself as a humor writer?

Sure! Why not? I think there’s a wry tone to my books, an emotional honesty and acceptance that the characters have about themselves…self-deprecation combined with a genuine goodness. But just as important as the humor are the bittersweet or genuinely sad moments, because I think the best books have a wide range of emotions.

Why do you think readers love humorous romance novels?

There’s a quote from Audrey Hepburn: “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills.” I think, too, when a book makes us laugh, it suddenly feels as if we’re best friends with the character (and sometimes the author), sitting in a cozy kitchen, giggling over the same thing. It’s an added bang for the buck, humorous romance—not only will you fall in love with the characters, watch them strive for and ultimately get that happy ending, they’ll also make you laugh out loud.

Is it hard to write funny scenes?

It can be! Sometimes, I’ll know in my head that a scene is going to be funny, but it needs a lot of work before it gets there. I call that the furniture-moving stage…you have to get all the physical things out of the way before the scene can really shine. Other times, the scene just flows. Whether it’s hard or easy, the trick is to make every funny scene relatable. Otherwise, it’s just slapstick—Three Stooges, if you will. But if readers can really understand the character’s motivation and conflict in that moment, and see just how things have escalated (or deteriorated), then they’re right there with the character.

What are some of your favorite funny scenes from your own books?

Oh, that’s a tough one. The Best Man has a scene when the heroine gets stuck trying to climb out a bathroom window; that one was pretty funny. I love the scene in Waiting On You where the heroine tries to make dinner for the hero and ends up with smoke inhalation. And In Your Dreams has a scene involving bathing suits and chicken cutlets. I laughed till I choked when I wrote that one.

Got any funny authors to recommend?

As a matter of fact, I do! Tracy Brogan, Marian Keyes, Carl Hiaasen, Elinor Lipman and Sophie Kinsella all make me laugh out loud. And I’m extremely grateful to them for it.

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How Lark O'Neal Finds Her Cover Art

Romance author Lark O'Neal gives us insight into the challenges authors face in choosing their unique cover images. Her latest release in the Going the Distance series, "Brilliant," is available for pre-order now. 

BrilliantOne of the great challenges for an indie author is getting the right cover art. We do not have access to entire departments of artists and graphic designers with decades of experience in designing covers for books. On my journey through indie publishing, I’ve made just about every mistake you can, but I’ve also had some great covers on indie books.

How do you know when a cover works? The book sells. With my New Adult  Going the Distance series, I knew the first two covers for Random and Stoked  weren’t working because…well, they weren’t moving. I loved the font choice and the basic design of the cover—it was the photos that were not right.

The challenges in getting covers right are numerous—font, photos, typography, design and layout; making sure the cover looks great in both thumbnail, medium scale, and paper editions; making sure the cover appeals to the right audience and doesn’t look too similar (or too different!) to other covers in the same arena.

I loved the font choice and the basic design of the cover—it was the photos that were not working. You can’t build a great cover without great art, and every time I found models or poses I loved, someone else had already used it for a cover.  The other problem was that I needed several covers with the same model or models, and similar tone, and I’m fussy about lighting.

One night, after I’d sifted through yet another thousand (million) photos of models who were not right, I realized I already had a photo I loved of the main character, which I’d put in a collage:

Collage

The photo of the girl looking at the camera kept me focused. (This is actually a collage I made for Epic).  I found the photo on Deviant Art, a site packed full of fantastic, experimental, vivid art of all kinds. This photo had been on my desk top for months—and a light bulb went on. Maybe I could approach the photographer and see what else she might have and if she’d be willing to work with me.

A couple of friends told me some of the DA artists didn’t want to be on romance novel covers. Another problem was discovering that sometimes the artists had not checked in for a long time, maybe years, and even if I adored a photo, I wouldn’t be able to use it.  (This happened with a great shot that eventually represented my idea of Kaleb in the series.) 

But I got lucky. It turned out that the young Danish photographer, Amanda C Johnson, whose photo so inspired my character, had done a lot of self-portraits. Not selfies, but beautiful, moody, elegantly-lit shots of a stunning young woman who could easily play Jess in a movie.  They also have their own voice and tone—shaped by the way she uses light and sees the world, which would be great for branding my series. I sent her an email through the site, crossing my fingers that she still checked in.

Luckily, Amanda was willing to work with me, and within a few weeks, we’d worked out a deal and I licensed the photos for a period of time.   These are the covers we created, all Amanda’s photos:

Random Stoked Epic Brilliant

Gorgeous, right?  I also love the fact that I am supporting the vision of a young artist, on a series about new adults.

Perfect circle. 

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When Fictional Alpha Male Supernaturals Ask An Author Questions

Authors Michelle M. Pillow and Mandy M. Roth wanted to share a little bit more about themselves and what they write. Before thinking better of it, they each allowed an alpha-male shifter character from one of their series to ask the questions.

Dragon lordsPrince Zoran from the Bestselling Futuristic Romance Series, Dragon Lords by Michelle M. Pillow interviewing author Mandy M. Roth:

Zoran: Queen Mandy, We would like to create an alliance with your army of warriors. But, first, what is involved in becoming an Immortal Op?

Mandy: Prince, you don’t have to call me queen. I’m just me. And to answer your question on what is involved in becoming an Immortal Op—several labs, a half-dozen or so nutty scientists bent on world domination and creating super soldiers and a devil-may-care attitude. If you’re lucky, you come out the other side in one piece and ready to fight the good fight…or you come out a wererat. No promises. I’ll pass on to the ops that you called them an army of warriors. Be warned, a few of them will get this put on t-shirts.

Zoran: Empress Mandy, Why aren’t any of your operatives dragonshifters? You let a wererat in. I’m sure you earthlings have heard the many legends of my fine people’s great prowess.

Mandy: Okay, Queen Mandy it is. The PSI and IO are equal opportunity supernatural employers. They have an interesting blend of many different types of paranormals—shifters of all kinds, vampires, Fae, etc. There might even be an operative who can shift into a dragon coming soon—with that legendary prowess and all, who could resist. I will give a little series teaser—marine life shifters are on their way to appearing in the Immortal Ops Series World.

Zoran: Queen Mandy, as a commander I am most curious about your operatives and when they will lay siege to the enemy’s castle. I should like to observe their tactics.

Mandy: Well, the Ops don’t really attack any castles per se but they do go after the bad guys in a big way. Act of Mercy is a great example of the ops storming “the castle” or in this case Donavon Dynamics’ labs to help free an op being held prisoner there.

Zoran: Queen Mandy, It has just come to my attention that Captain Corbin Jones of the PSI is a catshifter. I’m sure you’re familiar with my people and their long-standing feud with catshifters on our planet. How could you have aligned yourself with the enemy?

Mandy: Sorry, I was going to answer this myself but one of my ops is shouting from the other room. Striker would like me to tell you that “while Corbin may be a Bloody-English-Bastard-Out-to-Steal-His-Country he’s a stand up lion shifter and team leader”. He’d also like it noted that he’s aware his motherland decided to stick with England and no, he doesn’t want to talk about it. He’d also like me to tell you, he respects your decision to wear a loincloth to represent your people and that he is considering one—but for now he’ll stick to his kilt.

Zoran: Thank you, my queen. As you have humbly requested, we will send this Striker an honorary loincloth.

ImmortalopsStriker (Dougal) McCracken from the Bestselling Paranormal Romance Series World, Immortal Ops by Mandy M. Roth interviewing author Michelle M. Pillow:

Striker: Lass, you write a good deal about men from other planets, why is that so and do you nae like us Earth guys?

Michelle: I’ve always loved science fiction, fantasy and the paranormal. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when thoughts of dragonshifter men from other planets made their way into my brain and then onto paper. It wasn’t long after “their” neighbors, the catshifters, wanted in on the action. Then it was the guys who actually piloted the space ships, and well, it’s spiraled. Frankly, I can’t get them to be quiet about it. I think they believe having books will attract Earth women to want to mate with them.

I also find Earth guys tend to protest the loincloth unless it’s Halloween. I’m not sure why. But I see you’re wearing a kilt, so how you doin’?

Striker: A wee bird told me you enjoy traveling. Do you find it helps your muse? Once I was in England, this was centuries ago…och, best you just answer and I avoid incriminating myself.

Michelle: OMG, that was you?

Striker: Lass, does the Galaxy Brides Corp make deliveries? If they do nae, why? Inquiring lycans what to know.  (I’d like to place an order for a fiery redhead.)

Michelle: Um, sorry, Galaxy Brides Corporation doesn’t import brides to Earth. In fact, they call us Old Earth and they don’t really import much here at all. They tend to think we’re taken over by wild animals. I think that might have something to do with I-Ops team member spottings. Though, they wanted me to tell you they’re thinking of starting a husband line…if you’re interested.

Striker: Say one was to come into possession of a spacecraft. How does one pilot it? And, where, exactly, is the serial number so I, erm, they could file it off, and do the aliens have a way of trackin’ it? Askin’ for a friend and all. Nae me, of course.

Michelle: A “friend” eh? Well, tell your “friend” who he wants to talk to is the Space Lords series crew. Those guys know all the ins and definitely the outs of intergalactic law, especially how to get around it. But, whatever you, I mean your “friend” does, don’t listen to the pilot Rick. You will be arrested, or set on fire by heretics, or possibly end up the love prisoner to five women.

Oh, I have to go, my ride is here and I want to board before the UFO chasers turn it into another Area 51.

Striker: Lass, I’m off to call Rick. I’m verra open to being a love prisoner to five women.

Readers: Michelle M. Pillow and Mandy M. Roth hope you enjoyed this tiny, fun take on glimpses into their characters and worlds.

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Distressed Damsels Inspire Hannah Howell's Latest Novel

Romance author Hannah Howell talks about how the ever-popular damsel in distress archetype inspired her latest novel, "If He's Daring." Plus, the author gives us an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming 2015 release,"Highland Guard."

If hes daringThe inspiration for If He’s Daring came from a news report about a missing child. As I marveled at the speed the Amber Alert went out (even to the electronic sign boards along the highways), I found myself wondering how people might have dealt with the theft of their child in earlier times, like say 1790. Lady Catryn Gryffin deWarrenne has the advantage of knowing who took her child and why when she sets out after the man who stole her son. When her horse falls lame, Lady Catryn steals Sir Orion Wherlocke’s carriage to continue the pursuit and he becomes a useful ally.

The unique Wherlocke/Vaughn family in this series came about after my long fascination with psychic gifts.  I chose the late-Georgian time period (part of The Enlightenment and The Age of Reason in Britain) because it was past the time of the worst of the persecutions against witches, but superstition was still strong enough to establish a need for families to be secretive and cautious, yet continuously battle disbelief and ridicule. It also made families tightly knit to protect each other even as the study of science and logic matured.

In If He’s Daring, Lady Catryn’s troubles require all of Sir Orion’s unique gifts and skills.  Sir Orion has a psychic gift, as do most of the members of his expansive family, and he believes himself eminently qualified to help her even as his interest in her deepens. He shares her determination to save her son from her late husband’s brother, who want’s the boy’s inheritance, no matter how many obstacles are tossed in his way.

Highland guardExcerpt from Highland Guard:

    “M’lady!”

    Annys started at the shout from the door yanked her out of her thoughts and she stared at the tall, too-thin young man who had burst into the solar.  “What is it, Gavin?  Please don’t tell me there is more trouble to deal with.  It has been so blissfully quiet for days.”

    “I don’t think t’is trouble, m’lady, for Nicolas isn’t bothered.”  Gavin scratched at his cheek and frowned.  “But there are six big, armed men at the gate.  Nicolas was going to open the gates for them and said I was to come and tell ye that.”

    “I will be right out then.  Thank ye, Gavin.”  The moment Gavin left, she looked at Joan.  “How are six big, armed men nay trouble?”

    “If they come in answer to your message?”  Joan hastily tidied Anny’s thick braid.  “There, done.  Now ye look presentable.  Let us go out and greet our guests.”

    “Guests don’t come armed,” Annys said as she started out of the room, Joan right at her side.

    “They do if they come in reply to a lady’s note saying help me, help me.”

    “I didn’t say help me, help me.”

    “Near enough.  No gain on talking on it until we actually see who is here.”

    “Fine but I did nay say help me, help me,”

    Annys ignored Joan’s soft grunt even though she knew it meant the woman was not going to change her mind.  She stepped out through the heavy oak doors and stared down the stone steps to the bailey only to stop before she reached the bottom.  The man dismounting from a huge black gelding was painfully familiar.

    Tall, strong, and handsome with his thick long black hair and eyes like a wolf, he had been a hard man to forget.  She had certainly done her utmost to cast him from her mind.  Each time he had slipped into her thoughts she had slapped his memory away.  Writing him that message had brought his memory rushing to the fore again, however.  Seeing him in the flesh, looking as handsome as he had five years ago, told her that she had never succeeded in forgetting him.  Annys began to regret asking him for his aid no matter how badly they needed any help they could get at the moment.

    She fought to remind herself of how he had ridden away from Glenncullaich all those years ago without even a quick but private farewell to her.  It had hurt.  Despite knowing it had been wrong to want that private moment to say their goodbyes, despite the guilt that wanting had stirred in her then, and now, she had been devastated by his cold leave-taking.

    Harcourt looked at Annys and his heart actually skipped a beat.  He would have laughed if he was not so filled with conflicting emotions.  Such happenings were the stuff of bad poetry, the sort of thing he had always made jest of.  Yet, there he stood, rooted to the spot, frantically thinking of what to say and how to hide the tangled mass of emotion that was nearly choking him.  He nodded a greeting to her and watched her beautiful moss-green eyes narrow in a look that did not bode well for an amiable talk later.  Talking was not what he was thinking about, however.  He was recalling how soft that long blood-red hair of hers was, how warm her pale skin felt beneath his hands, and how sweet those full lips tasted.  That was a memory he needed to smother and fast. 

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Heather Graham's Top 5 Halloween Reads

Best-selling paranormal romance author Heather Graham gives us a spine-tingling reading list to help celebrate one of her favorite holidays. Her latest book, "The Betrayed," is on sale now.

51-KVC4lWFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays—as it was with my family. I grew up in an Irish household, so the stories abounded, and when they ended, there were more wonderful stories told by brilliant authors from way back—and during our own time.

Choosing the five I love most? Impossible! But I’m going to give it a try.

First, I’ve recently reread Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, A Modern Prometheus—since I decided to make use of the historical “year without a summer” when Shelley wrote that story in one of my own, Waking the Dead. What I love about Frankenstein isn’t just the shivers—it’s Shelley’s tug on human emotion as we see the tragedy befalling the innocent—and the monster.

Then there’s Hell House by Richard Matheson. What can I say about such a master? Once again, characterization is key—and fear creeps down your spine as you read.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub—the book is both scary and heart-wrenching. As you can tell, “slasher” flicks aren’t my favorites—I love a lot of emotion with my fear!

For a vampire tale? They Thirst, by Robert McCammon. I couldn’t put the book down—and jumped several times in broad daylight.

Ghoul by Michael Slade. It’s tremendously…ghoulish!

Okay, quitting is hard. And I’ll cheat a bit by mentioning a few more. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, The Keep by F. Paul Wilson, anything by Poe and Lovecraft, and of course, there’s Dracula...

Finally, (forgive me) I can’t resist mentioning my own The Betrayed, out now and set in Sleepy Hollow at Halloween!