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."
Robyn Carr has been sharing the stories of heartwarming romances in her wildly popular Virgin River series for 30 years. The 20th book in the series, My Kind of Christmas, is our December Top Pick in Romance. It's a tale of the fierce attraction between Navy pilot Patrick Riordan and Angie LeCroix (Jack Sheridan’s attractive niece, if you're familiar with the series), both of whom have survived serious trauma.
We chatted with Carr in a 7 questions interview about favorite characters, the Virgin River setting and much more.
My favorite question to ask romance authors is always, "What are the sexiest scenes to write?" And if you weren't reading Carr before now (first off, you're crazy), her answer will probably convince you to start:
"Not the sex scenes, actually, but the scenes that lead up to the sex scenes—the caress, the touch, the shiver of expectation, the kiss. The seductive words and the growing expectation that it's the right match, the perfect possession."
There was one thing Angie did remember—almost dying. Seeing her grandmother on the other side. Seeing herself lying in an emergency room covered with blood. The only person she told was her neurosurgeon, Dr. Temple, because she wanted to know if she was crazy. He had said, “I hear that sometimes, about deceased loved ones helping with the crossover.”
“Is it real?” she had asked him.
“I don’t know,” he had answered.
She hadn’t told anyone else in the family.
Angie had been the passenger in a car one of her classmates had been driving on a cold, drizzly, slick March evening. A car on the opposing interstate lane had lost control, crossed the median and hit two oncoming cars. It could’ve been a flat tire or avoiding another car, but there was no villain; no alcohol or drugs to blame; it was an accident. That driver had been killed, everyone else injured, Angie the worst. Her classmate, Shelly, had multiple broken bones but was fully recovered now except for an ankle she said got strangely cold—she blamed the plates, screws and pins.
Angie had a couple of serious fractures for which surgery had been required, she lost a spleen, there was a collapsed lung and she had a titanium rod in a femur, but the big issue was the head injury—there had been an impressive laceration on the back of her head and while there was no open fracture, her brain began to swell and the neurosurgeon implanted a shunt to drain the edema. She had some memory loss which had slowly come back, except, thankfully, not the details of the accident. She had been in a coma for three days and then had to fight her way back to the world through a post anesthetic and pain med haze. They had wondered for weeks if this bright, driven young medical student would have any mental handicaps.
She did not.
She was forever changed, however.
This was where she and her mother had their impasse. Her parents were educators, professors, and the parents of three very smart daughters. To say they monitored their education and pushed them along trajectories they thought were in line with their desires and skills would be an understatement. And Angie had been happy to meet their expectations—she was proud of her academic accomplishments. She often felt it was the singular thing she could be proud of—she wasn’t athletic, musical or pretty. The only place she had real confidence was in her intellectual achievement.
She was fully recovered from her accident and could have gone back to school in September, but she chose not to. Her father, sitting cautiously on the fence, thought a brief break was within reason but her mother disagreed and wanted her back on that horse.
Angie wasn’t sure any more. Of anything. For one thing, she was done having her parents, mostly her mother, decide things like this for her. Angie grew a backbone and said, “I might not want to continue medical school! I might want to make macramé flower pot holders for the rest of my life! Or grow herbs! Or hitchhike across Europe! But whatever it is, it’s going to be up to me!” Donna accused her of undergoing a personality change because of her head injury and Angie suggested she’d finally found her personality and it was remarkably like Donna’s.
No one else in the family thought she was different excepting the fact she had grown wonderfully stubborn. And having Jack, Mel and Brie on her side didn’t thrill Donna.
Angie didn’t go back to medical school, though the dean did tell her she would still have a place with them if she didn’t wait too long. She didn’t discuss it with her parents or her Virgin River cheering section. She’d had a close-up of how unpredictable and tenuous life could be. One minute you’re buzzing along the freeway, singing with the radio, the next you’re looking down on yourself, watching as medical staff frantically worked to save your life and you see your dead grandmother across a chasm of light.
Once she realized she had barely survived, every day dawned brighter, the air drawn into her lungs more precious, the beat of her heart weighing heavy in colossal importance. She was filled with a sense of gratitude and became contemplative, viewing the smallest detail of living with huge significance. Things she took for granted before had grown in magnitude. There was no detail she was willing to miss; she stopped to have long conversations with grocery store bag boys, corner flower peddlers, librarians, booksellers and school crossing guards.
Our Top Pick in Romance is the newest contemporary romance from Lisa Kleypas, Dream Lake!
Writes romance columnist Christie Ridgway, "Alex Nolan is in the process of losing his home, a good portion of his construction business and, perhaps, his sanity—the latter because he’s being haunted by a stranger’s ghost. While coming to grips with all that’s gone wrong, Alex takes on the job of rehabbing a home for baker Zoë Hoffman, whose sweetness and optimism he worries will be damaged by his dark edges. But Zoë can’t help but be drawn to Alex. . . This is Kleypas at her contemporary best: The writing wows and the ending evokes happy tears."
I chatted with the talented (and good lookin', if you don't mind me saying) Kleypas about romance and writing in a 7 questions interview. Love her answer to my question, "What's the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you?" Read her answer!
Read on for an excerpt from Dream Lake (more here):
At the sound of Zoe's scream, Alex reached her in a few seconds. She had bolted from the galley-style kitchen, her eyes huge in her ashen face. "What is it?" he demanded.
"S-spider," she said hoarsely.
"It's here," the ghost called out from the kitchen. "Damn thing just jumped from one counter to the other."
Dashing into the narrow space, Alex grabbed the antique eggbeaters and killed the spider with a few decisive thwacks.
Pausing to look more closely, Alex let out a low whistle. It was a wolf spider, a species that tended to hide during the day and hunt for prey at night. This particular specimen was bigger than anything he'd seen outside of a zoo. A touch of humor quirked one corner of his mouth as he thought of how Sam would have reacted to the situation. Sam would have found a way to capture the spider without harming it and safely transport it outside, all the while lecturing about respect for nature. Alex's view on nature was that any time it ventured inside, it was going to find itself confronting a big can of Raid.
His gaze swept across the kitchen. A loose collection of webbing was anchored at the corner of the ceiling. Spiders spun webs near food sources, which meant there had to be a big supply of insects attracted to the moisture from leaks in the wall.
"Alex," came the ghost's urgent voice from the other room, "Something's wrong with Zoe."
Frowning, Alex left the kitchen and found Zoe in the center of the main room, her arms wrapped tightly around her middle. She was breathing in airless pants, as if her lungs had collapsed. He reached her in two strides. "What is it?"
She didn't seem to hear him. Her eyes were wide and unfocused. She was shaking in every limb.
"Did it bite you?" Alex asked, looking over her face, neck, arms, every exposed inch of skin.
Zoe shook her head, wheezing as she tried to talk. Alex found himself reaching out for her and snatching his hands back.
"Panic attack," the ghost said. "Can you calm her down?"
Alex shook his head automatically. He was good at making women angry, but calming them wasn't in his repertoire.
The ghost looked exasperated. "Just talk to her. Pat her back."
Alex gave him an appalled glance. There was no possible way to explain his unwillingness to touch her. The sure knowledge that it would lead to disaster. But Zoe swayed on her feet, looking like she was about to pass out, and there was no choice. He reached for her, his hands closing lightly around her arms. The feel of her skin against his palms, the texture of her flesh, sent a thrill of heat through him, which, in light of the circumstances, was nothing less than depraved.