Pamela Clare's Striking Distance is our Top Pick in Romance for November! The story involves a broadcast journalist, Laura, recovering in Denver after enduring 18 months as a terrorist hostage while on assignment in the Middle East, and Javier, one of the Navy Seals from the very team that rescued her. Our Romance columnist calls it "a steamy story filled with action, intriguing twists and an unexpected emotional wallop."
We caught up with Pamela Clare in a 7 questions interview and asked her what she loves about writing romance:
I really love the happy endings I get to create for my characters—something I wasn’t able to do as an investigative journalist. I can start with problems that exist in the real world, truly terrible situations, and I can make them better by the end, ensuring that the hero and heroine get their reward and giving the villain what he or she deserves.
Our Top Pick in Romance for August is Jami Alden's scorching new romantic suspense, Guilty as Sin. Our Romance columnist calls it "a shivery, sensual and sensational read" that finds two former lovers reuniting to find a missing girl—and to heat up the pages.
Kate and Tommy's thrilling story had us begging for more, so we chatted with Alden in a 7 questions interview. Read more about Kate and Tommy, and which scenes Alden believes are the hottest to write:
"For me the hottest scenes are the ones leading up to the first sex scene, including the first kiss. I love when characters are becoming increasingly physically aware of and drawn to each other. It's a great challenge as a writer to find the unique things about each character that the other will be drawn to. Then there's the first contact—the excitement of a first touch, a first kiss. It's something that, once you're in a long-term relationship, you don't ever experience again. It's fun to relive that, even if it's just in my head."
David Gordon's fun second novel, Mystery Girl, is our Top Pick in Mystery for August!
When failed novelist Sam Kornberg's wife walks out on him, he decides to take a job as an assistant to morbidly obese private detective Solar Lonsky. The gig: Following the "mystery girl." The result: A complicated, darkly comedic ride through L.A. with shootouts, murder and a little romance. It's a wild new take on L.A. noir, but it's also packed with clever literary and film references.
Check out our 7 questions interview with Gordon, where we talked about writing and other fun stuff.
Sound like your kind of mystery?
Beth Kendrick's new contemporary romance, The Week Before the Wedding, is our Top Pick in Romance for May. This charming, funny story will appeal to romance fans whether they're married, getting hitched this year or are making the singles' table look good.
The Week Before the Wedding finds bride-to-be Emily McKellips looking forward to seven days of pre-wedding festivities and marrying her surgeon fiancé at a lakeside resort. But who should appear at the wedding but her ex, no longer the wild boy she married on a whim 10 years ago. Emily is forced to choose between the two men in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy.
We chatted with author Beth Kendrick in a 7 questions interview about weddings and hot guys, and her answers are just as funny as The Week Before the Wedding promises to be. We asked her why she loves writing romance:
"Plot problems making you crazy? Deadlines getting you down? Need someone to join you on a 'fact-finding mission' to a male strip club? (Serious research!) Author buddies are there to help."
Mary Burton's new romantic suspense The Seventh Victim is our Top Pick in Romance for February! Romance columnist Christie Ridgway promises it "will keep readers up all night."
Lara Church was the only surviving victim of a Seattle serial killer. Now, the killer is back, and it looks like he's found her in Texas—and Texas Ranger James Beck is determined to keep her safe. If you love books that turn up the sexual tension with plenty of danger, this one's for you.
Read our 7 questions interview with Burton, where we talked about the romantic suspense genre, sexy scenes, her career and more.
Also, read on for an excerpt from The Seventh Victim, when Lara Church and Texas Ranger James Beck meet for the first time (read more here):
In the distance he heard a dog bark. Judging by the animal’s deep timbre, it was big and running in Beck’s direction. Absently, he moved his hand to the gun on his hip. Nice places like this could turn nasty or even deadly in the blink of an eye.
The dog’s barking grew louder. Tightening his hand on the gun’s grip, he scanned the wooded area around the cabin until his gaze settled on a path that cut into the woods. In a flash, a large black and tan shepherd emerged from the woods, its hair standing on end. The animal glared at Beck, barking and growling. The animal was a beauty, but he’d shoot if it attacked.
Seconds later a woman emerged from the woods. She carried a shotgun in her hands and the instant she saw Beck she raised the barrel.
Beck didn’t hesitate. He drew his gun and pointed it directly at the women. “Texas Ranger. Drop the gun now!”
The woman stared at him, her gaze a blend of surprise and wariness.
“Put. The. Gun. Down.” Each word was sharpened to a fine point.
She lowered the tip of the barrel a fraction but didn’t release the gun. “How do I know you’re a Texas Ranger?”
The Texas Ranger uniform was easily recognizable to anyone who’d been in Texas more than five minutes. But that discussion came after she released the weapon. “Put the gun down, now.” He all but shouted the command over the dog’s barking. “Now!”
Carefully, she laid the barrel down and took a step back as if she was ready to bolt into the woods. The dog bared its teeth, but she made no move to calm the animal. She might have surrendered the gun, but the dog remained a threat.
He braced his feet. “If your dog lunges at me, I will shoot him.”
Her gaze flickered quickly between the dog and his gun. She understood he’d meant it. “Okay.” She looped her fingers through the dog’s collar and ordered him to heel close at her side.
“You and the dog step back.”
“Do it!” He glanced at the shotgun, knowing he’d not breathe a sigh of relief until he had it in hand.
“I am not turning around.” Her raspy voice stutter- stepped with panic. “I want to see your badge.”
He studied her. If this was Lara Church and she’d survived the Strangler, fear would be a logical response. “Step away from the gun.”
She drew in a breath and moved back with the dog. He picked up the shotgun and holstered his gun. Slowly, he pulled his badge from his breast pocket and held it up to her.
“Sergeant James Beck,” he said.
He opened the break-action shotgun and found two shells in the double-barreled chamber. The safety was off. He removed the shells. “You always greet people with a shotgun?” He glanced from her to the growling dog.
“When I’m alone, yes. And it is registered, and I am on my land, so I’m well within my rights to carry a weapon.”
As he held her rifle, he glared at her and the barking shepherd. “You know how to shoot it?”
Blue eyes held his. “I sure do.”
Will you check this one out?
The January Top Pick in Romance is the newest in Jayne Ann Krentz's Dark Legacy series, the "imaginative and exciting" psychic romance Dream Eyes.
This sizzling paranormal adventure stars psychic counselor Gwen Frazier, who heads to a small town in Oregon when her slain mentor starts communicating. Psychic investigator Judson Coppersmith joins to help, and sparks fly.
We chatted with author Krentz in a 7 questions interview about favorite scenes, writing and psychic powers. We love her spunk, but maybe she could put her hypothetical psychic powers to better use. . . .
Are you a Krentz fan? She also writes under the names Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle. Do you have a favorite?
Our November Top Pick in Mystery stars a serial killer with a truly fascinating (and ironic) mark: the sole survivors of devastating tragedies. In The Dark Winter, Scottish cop Aector McAvoy is the only guy for the job.
Check out our 7 questions interview with author David Mark, where we talked great books (Beloved) and bad habits (whiskey and cheese). He shares how, as a former crime reporter, he has unique insight not only into police procedure but also the emotional state of a victim's families and witnesses:
"I interviewed a lot of grieving families, right when they were at their most raw, and the characters I write about tend to exist in those moments. I know how the room tastes in that particular situation."
Is David Mark on your thriller radar?
Eloisa James has put her Regency romance twist on a handful of fairy tales: Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, the Princess and the Pea. Her newest novel and our Romance of the Month, The Ugly Duchess, puts a sexy spin on that unattractive duckling (technically—spoilers!—a cygnet) with the story of childhood friends Theodora Saxby and James Ryburn.
Theo and James marry in their teens—Theo for love, but James to save his family's reputation. When Theo discovers the truth, she tosses James out. Years later, James has become a pirate, and Theo is a successful fashion leader. Describes romance columnist Christie Ridgway, "Time brings wisdom, and James returns to his wife, determined to heal the rifts of the past. Can Theo recognize the boy she loved in the commanding man who has returned? Dare she risk her heart once again?"
Author Eloisa James answered a 7 questions interview, where she shares her choice for Shakespeare's most romantic line and this explanation for her love of romances:
"The simple answer is that I love a happy ending. But a more complicated answer is that romance has a rhythm and a promise to it that appeals to me. I know the world is a tough and cold place; I’ve lost my mother and I have a child with a chronic illness. But—and this is a big but—I also know that love and joy make all the difference. Romance reminds me that if there’s a pattern to the universe, it’s one shaped around and by love. We can all use that reminder now and then."
"She loathed her profile almost as much as she loathed the dress. If she didn’t have to worry about people mistaking her for a boy—not that they really did, but they couldn’t stop remarking on the resemblance—at any rate, if she didn’t have to worry about that, she would never again wear pink. Or pearls. There was something dreadfully banal about the way pearls shimmered.
For a moment she distracted herself by mentally ripping her dress apart, stripping it of its ruffles and pearls and tiny sleeves. Given a choice, she would dress in plum-colored corded silk, and sleek her hair away from her face without a single flyaway curl. Her only hair adornment would be an enormous feather—a black one—arching backward so it brushed her shoulder. If her sleeves were elbow-length, she could trim them with a narrow edging of black fur. Or perhaps swansdown, with the same at the neck. Or she could put a feather trim at the neck; the white would look shocking against the plum velvet.
That led to the idea that she could put a ruff at the neck and trim that with a narrow strip of swansdown. It would be even better if the sleeves weren’t opaque fabric, but nearly transparent—like that new Indian silk her friend Lucinda had been wearing the previous night—she would have them quite wide, so they billowed and then gathered tight at the elbow. Or perhaps the wrist would be more dramatic …
She could see herself entering a ballroom in that costume. No one would titter about whether she looked like a girl or a boy. She would pause for a moment on the top of the steps, gathering everyone’s gaze, and then she would snap open her fan … No, fans were tiresomely overdone. She’d have to come up with something new.
The first man who asked her to dance, addressing her as Miss Saxby, would be treated to her slightly weary yet amused smile. “Call me Theo,” she would say, and all the matrons would be so scandalized they would squeak about nothing else the whole night long.
Theo was key: the name played to all those infatuations men formed on each other, the way their closest relationships were with their friends rather than with their wives. She’d seen it with James: when he was thirteen he had positively worshipped the captain of the cricket team at Eton. It stood to reason that if she wore her hair sleeked back, along with a gown that faintly resembled a cricket uniform, all those men who had once adored their captains would be at her feet.
She was so caught up in a vision of herself in a severely tailored jacket resembling the Etonian morning coat that at first she didn’t even hear the pounding on her door. But an insistent “Daisy!” finally broke through her trance, and she pushed herself up from the settee and opened the bedchamber door.
“Oh hello, James,” she said, unable to muster much enthusiasm at the sight of him. The last thing one wants to see when in a melancholic fit is a friend who refuses to attend balls even when he knows perfectly well that all three weeks of her first season had been horrific. He had no idea what it was like. How could he? He was devastatingly handsome, rather charming when he wasn’t being a beast, and a future duke, to boot. This embarrassment of riches really wasn’t fair. “I didn’t realize it was you.”
“How could you not realize it was me?” James demanded, pushing open the door and crowding her backward, now that he knew she was decent. “I’m the only person in the world who calls you Daisy. Let me in, will you?”
Theo sighed and moved back. “Do you suppose you could try harder to call me Theo? I must have asked you a hundred times already. I don’t want to be Theodora, or Dora, or Daisy either.”
James flung himself into a chair and ran a hand through his hair. From the look of it, he’d been in an ill humor all morning, because half his hair was standing straight up. It was lovely hair, heavy and thick. Sometimes it looked black, but when sunlight caught it there were deep mahogany strands too. More reasons to resent James. Her own hair had nothing subtle about it. It was thick, too, but an unfashionable yellowy-brown mixture.
“No,” he said flatly. “You’re Daisy to me, and Daisy suits you.”
“It doesn’t suit me,” she retorted. “Daisies are pretty and fresh, and I’m neither.”
“You are pretty,” he said mechanically, not even bothering to glance at her.
She rolled her eyes, but really, there was no reason to press the point. James never looked at her close enough to notice whether she’d turned out pretty … why should he? Being only two years apart, they’d shared the nursery practically from birth, which meant he had clear memories of her running about in a diaper, being smacked by Nurse Wiggan for being smart."
Romance fans: Why are romances your favorite books?
Our Romance of the Month is the fourth installment in Elizabeth Hoyt's Maiden Lane series, Thief of Shadows. This historical romance is all double identities, forbidden romances and really hot love scenes.
Writes romance columnist Christie Ridgway, "A sophisticated widow and a younger man with a dangerous secret clash . . . Winter tries to distance himself from the sensual lady. Not only is he beneath her socially, he’s determined to remain celibate to devote his energies elsewhere. But Isabel proves impossible to resist, even as she discovers his secret—one that threatens their safety."
Read on for an excerpt from Thief of Shadows:
“Moo,” Isabel muttered to herself just as the carriage door opened to admit her lady’s maid, Pinkney.
“Ma’am?” Pinkney asked, her blue eyes wide and startled. Of course, Pinkney’s blue eyes were nearly always wide and startled. She was one of the most sought-after lady’s maids in London and a paragon of the latest fashion, despite being barely past one and twenty and somewhat naïve.
“Nothing,” Isabel said, waving aside her bovine utterance. “Did you find out why it’s taking so long to move the dead man?”
“Oh, yes, my lady,” Pinkney said. “It’s because he’s not dead.” Her pretty dark blond brows drew together. “Well, not yet anyway. Harold the footman is having a time pulling him aside, and you wouldn’t credit it, ma’am, but he’s a comic actor.”
It was Isabel’s turn to blink. “Harold?”
“Oh, no, my lady!” Pinkney giggled until she caught Isabel’s steady gaze. “Er”—the maid cleared her throat—“the not-yet-dead man is. A comic actor, that is. He’s dressed as a harlequin, mask and all…”
Isabel was no longer listening. She’d opened the door and climbed from the carriage. Outside, the gray day was growing grimmer with the advent of nightfall. Fires flared to the west, and she could hear the rumbling of rioters from that direction. They were very near. Isabel shivered and hurried to where Harold and the other footman were bent over a figure on the ground. Pinkney had probably mistaken the costume or the man or the mask or—
Isabel drew in a sharp breath. She’d never seen the notorious Ghost of St. Giles in person, but she had no doubt at all that this must be him. The prone man wore black and red motley. His floppy brimmed black hat had fallen from his head, and she could see that his brown hair was tied back simply. A short sword was sheathed at his side and a long sword lay by one broad hand. A black half-mask with a ridiculously long nose covered the upper half of his face, leaving his square chin and wide mouth revealed. His lips were parted over straight white teeth, the upper lip a little bigger than the bottom.
Isabel snapped her attention up to her footman. “Is he alive?”
“He’s still breathin’ at least, m’lady.” Harold shook his head. “Don’t know for how long, though.”
A shout came from nearby and the sound of smashing glass.
“Put him in the carriage,” Isabel said. She bent to pick up his hat.
Will, the second footman, frowned. “But, m’lady—”
“Now. And don’t forget his sword.”
Already she could see a mass of people rounding the corner down the street. The footmen glanced at each other then as one lifted the Ghost. Harold grunted under the weight, but he made no complaint.
A crowd gathered at the end of the street and someone gave a shout.
The rioters had spotted the carriage.
Is Thief of Shadows on your TBR list?
There's just something about the Amish. Something about their culture that makes for touching romances and tales of friendship (not to mention a hilarious vampire mash-up). And there's something about all that hard work and neighborly compassion that makes for a really gritty murder mystery series.
Linda Castillo's Gone Missing is the newest installment in her Amish thriller series and our Top Pick in Mystery. Writes Whodunit columinst Bruce Tierney, "With its wonderfully conflicted protagonist, and its incisive look into a society most of us know little about, Gone Missing is the unquestioned high point of one of the most compelling series in modern suspense fiction."
Check out our 7 questions interview with Castillo, where she shared why Amish country inspires her thrillers:
"Ohio’s Amish Country is a peaceful and bucolic place of rolling hills, farms and quaint towns. The Amish make it unique—there’s no place like it in the world. I think the element that makes it such a terrific setting for a thriller is the juxtaposition of the beautiful setting and the introduction of evil into it. That contrast is one of the things that prompted me to set my books among the Amish."