With nearly 50 books to her credit, best-selling author Jill Shalvis is back with Always on My Mind, the eighth in her popular Lucky Harbor series set on the picture-perfect coast of the Pacific Northwest. After dropping out of pastry school and getting the boot from a reality tv cooking competition, Leah returns home to Lucky Harbor with her tail between her legs to help out in her grandmother's bakery. While in town, Leah reconnects with her BFF—hunky firefighter Jack—and soon the kitchen isn't the only thing heating up. Firefighters? Baked goods? Sounds scrumptious!
In this charming, BookPage-exclusive video, Shalvis shares her inspiration for the book, why she loves setting her romances in small towns and her favorite writing spot.
What do you think, readers? Are you looking forward to getting wrapped up in Leah and Jack's story when Always on My Mind comes out later this month? In the meantime, find out more about Shalvis, the book and her other series on her website.
Contemporary romance fans know Susan Mallery's fictional town of Fool's Gold well, and the fun continues with our June Top Pick in Romance, Just One Kiss. For single mom Patience McGraw, Justice Garrett is the one who got away. When he returns, she can't resist allowing him back into her life. Romance columnist Christie Ridgway writes, "An endearing romance and intriguing new characters make Mallery’s latest a must-read."
In a 7 questions interview, we asked Mallery why readers love returning to Fool's Gold with each new romance. Her answer:
"Fool’s Gold is about more than the central romance. It’s about the community. Readers love to see who has gotten married, who’s pregnant, who has babies. (Not to mention, they love to see what the septuagenarian troublemakers Eddie and Gladys have been up to!) The Fool’s Gold romances allow readers to see what happens after the happily ever after."
Fifteen years ago...
Patience McGraw couldn't breathe. She placed her hand on top of her chest and wondered if it was possible to have a heart attack and die from fear. Or maybe anticipation. Her mind raced and her throat was tight and here she was on possibly the most significant day of her life and she couldn't catch her breath. Talk about lame.
"The snow's melting," Justice said, pointing toward the mountains just east of town.
She looked up and nodded. "It's getting warmer."
It's getting warmer? She held in a groan. Why did she have to sound so stupid? Why did she have to be so nervous? This was Justice, her best friend since he'd moved to Fool's Gold at the beginning of October last year. They'd met in the school cafeteria and they'd reached for the last cupcake. He'd let her have it, she'd offered to share. She'd figured because he was older, he would have refused, but he'd smiled instead and that day they'd become friend.
She knew him. They hung out together, played video games together, went to the movies together. It was fun. It was easy. Or it had been until a few weeks ago when she'd suddenly looked into Justice's dark blue eyes and felt something she'd never experienced before.
Her mom had reassured her it was normal. Patience was fourteen, Justice was sixteen and it was unlikely they would stay friends forever. But Patience wasn't sure she liked the change. Before, she hadn't had to think about everything she said or worry about what she wore, or how her hair looked. Now she was always thinking, which made it hard to just hang out.
After two months of sweating every word, every thought, every action, she was done. She was going to tell Justice the truth. That she liked him. That she wanted him to be more than her best friend. If he liked her back, well, she didn't know what would happen then, but she was sure it would be wonderful. If he didn't, she would probably die of a broken heart.
Romance columnist Christie Ridgway calls Megan Mulry's debut, A Royal Pain, "a modern love story fizzing with bubbles of Cinderella fantasy."
She isn't kidding about the "modern": Bronte Talbott is a classically independent American woman, and when she finds out that the guy she's dating—cute British doctoral student Max Heyworth—is actually the Duke of Northrop, she's not exactly ready to be swept off her feet. Amid all the falling-heads-over-heels for each other, there are financial differences, a disapproving mother and a ocean-sized question of trans-Atlantic distance.
We chatted with author Megan Mulry—who is not British, by the way—about royal gossip, sexy scenes and what she's reading in a 7 questions interview. When it comes to dinner party guests, I like her style:
"All the best people, darling! Julia Child, Christopher Hitchens, Coco Chanel, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Duchess of Devonshire, Caitlin Moran, Colin Firth, Anthony Bourdain, Vita Sackville-West and some of my real-life friends to round out the numbers. David Gandy would be the waiter."
It was hard to say which one of them had been more flummoxed by the other’s transformation. Having only seen each other in a parade of T-shirts and jeans for the previous days and weeks, when Max opened the door to Bronte’s flat and saw her in the little red Valentino dress, he clasped both hands over his heart, as if to stave off an attack. Bronte was similarly stunned by Max in full, debonair splendor.
His broad shoulders and trim waist were even more appealing in his perfectly tailored navy suit, a few curls of brown hair touched the collar of his crisp white shirt, and he had finished it off with a pale-green Hermès tie. (They were going to have fun with that tie later, Bronte promised herself.)
Max hired a car and driver to chauffeur them around for the night, and Bronte winced slightly at the needless expense. He called her out.
“If you are constitutionally unable to enjoy spending a little bit of dosh on a night out, we need to have a talk.”
She laughed and decided, for one night at least, to let go of her financial hang-ups. “Fine! All right! I give in. Go ahead and spend. I’ll do my best to turn a blind eye to all this wild extravagance.” He obviously wasn’t the starving student she thought he was if that suit was any indication.
Max looked out the window of the relatively grimy dial-a-car and hid his amusement at Bronte’s idea of extravagance. She was in for a few surprises when she came to London. And it was definitely when she came, because as far as Max was concerned, there was no if about it.
They arrived at a small French restaurant and Bronte gave a brief note of thanks to the powers that be that she had never been wined and dined by any Texan suitors at this particular establishment.
“Since you have rescinded financial equality,” Max said after they were settled side by side in an intimate booth and looking over the outrageously expensive menu, “I was thinking maybe I should just take the reins altogether. I think I’ll order for you, feed you, intertwine my arms through yours as we drink a memorable bottle of Léoville-Las Cases . . .”
He brought his water glass to his lips and watched her face transition from brief, affronted shock, to humor, to something seductive and willing.
Right before he took a sip, he said, “Oh, Bron, please don’t look at me like that until we’re finished with dessert.”
"Okay,” she purred with false compliance. “Whatever you say, Your Grace.”
He almost spewed his water at her offhand remark, but instead pretended it had gone down the wrong tube and brought his napkin to his eyes to conceal his surprise.
She patted him on the back gently. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he sputtered, “fine, just excited I guess.”
Bronte finished rubbing his back then put both of her hands in her lap. “Me too. And nervous all of a sudden.”
He took one of her hands in his and gave her an encouraging smile. “Don’t say that. It’s one of my favorite things about you. You are never nervous.”
Her blood sped at the idea that he already had a favorite thing about her—one of many, apparently—then she swatted herself back into reality.
“Everybody’s nervous sometimes.” Bronte reached for her water glass. “Even Kate.”
Max looked at her with confusion. “Who?”
“You know, the Duchess of Cambridge.”
If he had been drinking water that time, Max would have spewed that mouthful for sure. The way Bronte had phrased the sentence made it sound like you know the Duchess of Cambridge. Whom he did, in fact, know.
He paused again, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Either Bronte had spent the past two days scouring the Internet and knew all about his family and connections and had decided to taunt him into confessing, or she just happened to be stumbling blindly into it.
Bronte burst out laughing. “I mean, of course you don’t know her know her. But you know what I mean. She’s always so authentic and calm and pretty and smiling and, you know, perfect.”
How the hell was he supposed to reply to that? Silence was always one of his best allies.
“Oh forget it. You men are all the same, pretending it’s all silly princess worship or whatever. Still, I bet it’s hard work being perennially cheerful all the time, and I certainly wouldn’t want to do that in a million years.”
Well, Max thought, that wasn’t an acceptable alternative either. He smiled suggestively. “I’m sure her position has its . . . advantages, wouldn’t you say?”
Bronte took the bait. “Oh, all right. William is pretty cute, I’ll give you that.”
Max didn’t know whether to laugh or cry that the future king’s cuteness was at the top of Bronte’s list of royal inducements.
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.
Author Beth Kery says that in the romance genre, there is a trend for "more sexual content, more graphic sexual description and more honesty about what happens in the bedroom."
After the success of the Fifty Shades books and Bared to You, it does certainly seem as though readers want "more" of all of the above—and Kery plans to deliver with her new erotic e-serial, Because You Are Mine, about the relationship between a businessman and an artist who live in Chicago.
Starting tomorrow, July 31, Part I of the novel will be available to readers for $1.99. There will be eight parts in all. The installments will be released every Tuesday until September 18. Because You Are Mine will be available exclusively as an eBook published by InterMix, the e-initial imprint of Berkley and NAL (part of the Penguin Group).
BookPage interviewed Kery about her serialized novel, which she hopes will give readers an experience similar to "watching a television show and anticipating the next episode." She said, "I think the small wait—the parts come out weekly every Tuesday—will help to build excitement and deepen an awareness of Ian and Francesca’s love story."
Are you interested in reading an e-serial, or would you rather have the entire story at once? What do you think erotic romance fans should read after Fifty Shades of Grey?
Loved Fifty Shades of Grey and looking for what to read next? Curious about the popularity of erotic romance? Interested in why authors choose to self-publish versus publish with a traditional publisher? Ever wondered how romance novelists keep the romantic chemistry between their characters interesting?
For answers to these questions and more, read our interview with Sylvia Day, author of Bared to You—the newest sensation in erotic romance. Day (an established romance novelist) self-published her novel in April, but the Penguin Group scooped up the rights soon after. The print version of the book went on sale this week.
Bared to You tells the story of Eva, a young woman making her way in New York City, and Gideon, the billionaire entrepreneur who pursues her. Though both characters have painful pasts and are wary of starting a new relationship, their magnetic attraction is undeniable—and their love scenes are scorchers. Read more about this novel on BookPage.com.
Will you check out Bared to You? Have you jumped on the Fifty Shades bandwagon? What would you recommend to readers who loved that book?
Over the summer, Trisha and I met Victoria Dahl at the Romance Writers of America conference in New York City, finally putting a face to the hilarious tweets (and books!) we'd been fans of for quite some time.
Dahl writes both contemporary and historical romance novels, and in the November issue of BookPage she shares some personal info and tidbits about Real Men Will, her latest book. Real Men Will is the third book in a series about the Donovan Brothers Brewery (and it's on sale now).
Check it this hand-written Q&A:
What would you like to ask your favorite author? (Especially a favorite romance author.) Are you a fan of Dahl's books?
Psst: If you haven't already, watch our video interview with Dahl from RWA, where the author chats about her favorite love story and It's Always Been You, a historical novel from her York Family series.