Romance novels are filled with all types of dashing male leads. But what does Marie Force, author of the newly released I Want to Hold Your Hand, have to say about the hero trope? In this latest novel in the Green Mountain series, sweet and caring Nolan attempts to win the love and trust of Hannah, whose heart still mourns the husband she lost to war. In a guest post, Marie shares what it takes to be considered a true hero.
As a romance author, I spend a lot of time with “heroes,” the word we use in the romance community to describe our male protagonists. I’ve written all kinds of heroes in my 30-plus contemporary romances. Some are "alpha," some are "beta," some have swagger and others are just downright hilarious. All of them have qualities that endear them to the women who love them in the books—as well as the women who love to read about them. However, I think Nolan Roberts, the hero of my latest book, I Want to Hold Your Hand, might be the most heroic of all.
Several years after the death of his close friend Caleb Guthrie in Iraq, Nolan realizes he has feelings for Caleb’s widow, Hannah. Nolan, Hannah and Caleb grew up together in the fictional town of Butler, Vermont, and their friendship endured into adulthood. After Caleb’s death, Nolan and Caleb’s wide circle of friends are a source of comfort for Hannah, who goes out of her way to keep up the traditions her late husband enjoyed so much with his unruly tribe of friends.
Over time, however, it becomes clear to Hannah—and her very large and nosy family—that Nolan has special feelings for her. In All You Need Is Love, Book 1 in the Green Mountain Series, we see the Abbott family take great pleasure in delivering Nolan’s frequent messages to Hannah.
In Nolan’s mind, a quiet, unassuming town mechanic doesn’t stand a chance with the woman who was once married to the larger-than-life Caleb Guthrie. He also wonders what Caleb would think of Nolan having feelings for Hannah, even if he’s never acted on them—until one significant night when everything changes between them. Afterwards, they can no longer deny the attraction that has simmered between them for quite some time.
I think it takes a special kind of man to step into this situation with his eyes wide open to the emotional battlefield he’ll need to navigate to bring this woman into his life. Nolan puts Hannah's happiness, well-being and needs so far above his own, it's as if his own needs don't exist. Nolan also puts up with her huge and interfering family who want to celebrate the fact that their beloved Hannah seems to be taking an enormous step forward with a man they love and respect, while torturing him with their special brand of Abbott “involvement” all the same.
Nolan never blinks an eye, even when Hannah’s father and grandfather “kidnap” him to gauge his intentions towards Hanna. He puts up with her twin brother’s grilling and the concerns of townspeople who have stood by Hannah during her darkest hours and want only the very best for her. He stays steady in the face of the emotional reaction Caleb’s brother has to hearing that not only is Hannah dating again, but she’s seeing one of Caleb’s closest friends.
Through all of this, Nolan never wavers in his love for Hannah or his determination to see her happy again, no matter what it takes. His love for her is the one true thing in his life, and that, more than anything else, makes him the most heroic of heroes.
Thanks Marie! Readers, will you be checking out I Want to Hold Your Hand? Find our more about Marie and the book on her website.
The men of Melissa Cutler's Catcher Creek series are irresistible, including the gorgeously rugged oil rights attorney Matt Roenick, hero of the third book, How to Rope a Real Man (out now!). He's certainly caught the eye of Jenna Sorentino, a single mom trying to get her act together and escape the tiny New Mexico town. In this guest post, Cutler shares her affinity for writing about strong, independent women and offers a sneak peek at Matt and Jenna's chemistry.
Melissa Cutler here, and I'm so excited to be on Bookpage talking about my latest western romance, How to Rope a Real Man. One thing that I hoped to achieve with this story—besides the most entertaining, engaging romance I could possibly write that left readers with a squishy, happy good-book high when they finished it—was that it would take a feminist stance. Even before this book, it was important to me that every book I write—from Harlequins to Westerns to small-town contemporaries—contain positive female relationships. And last year, I made a conscious choice to make sure all my books moving forward pass the Bechdel test (that, within the story, two women have a conversation about a topic other than men).
I’m not trying to write Message Books, but, rather, reflect our modern-day reality. The reality is, women are smart and capable. We form strong bonds with other women with whom we talk about things other than men; we often provide for our families financially; and we handle our shit. So in How to Rope a Real Man, single mom Jenna Sorentino is doing just that. She has strong relationships with her sisters and her best friend. She’s about to graduate college and has a job lined up that’s a strategic career move (with medical benefits, too!). And it was important to me to give Jenna a book hero who finds all those amazing qualities attractive. In fact, country lawyer Matt Roenick is my answer to the flood of alpha asshole heroes that have been all the rage lately.
I’m known for writing steamy romances, so you might ask: sure Matt is attracted to Jenna’s brain first and foremost, but is their physical connection present in the story? You bet. Do they have mind blowing sex? Heck, yeah. But like the vast majority of real life women, Jenna can’t easily orgasm during intercourse. Is that a problem for Matt? Nope. Matt has enough, er, tools in his toolbox that getting creative about Jenna’s pleasure is not an issue. Does it make their sex any less hot? That’s for readers to decide, but I think it makes those scenes even hotter.
I hope you’ll give How to Rope a Real Man a read. At its core, it’s a fun, heartfelt emotional journey of two people who are figuring out what they want out of life and falling in love in the process. Jenna is one of my favorite heroines, and Matt, one of my favorite heroes. Happy reading!
Here's the scene to whet your appetite:
With his eyes on the road, Matt cracked the knuckle of his middle finger and said, "I have a question I've been wanting to ask you. And I bet you've been asked it a hundred times."
As far as transitions went, this one was about as smooth as a dirt road after a rainstorm, but she decided to follow his train of thought around the mental U-turn. "You want to ask me about Tommy's father."
"That obvious, huh?"
She grinned and offered a shrug to show him she didn't mind. "He's not in the picture at all. Never has been, never will be."
Matt's breath gushed out in a whoosh and his torso folded in as though he would've doubled over if not for the support of the steering wheel. "What an idiot. I can't understand men like that."
One of Jenna's greatest sins was letting people believe Tommy's father wasn't around because he was a deadbeat. The truth was, the reason Tommy's father wasn't fulfilling his fatherly duties was because she'd never told him she was pregnant with his child. And unless she were to divulge the whole story of why she'd made that choice—which she'd never do because lives and livelihoods were at stake—then she came across as a borderline criminal, keeping a little boy and his daddy apart for no good reason.
“How are you coping with it? It's none of my business, but does the creep at least pay child support?"
Child support would've been nice. The money might have helped her cut down on her waitressing hours and given her more time with Tommy when he was little. "Tommy and I have managed all right. Rachel's helped a lot and now we've got the oil money coming in regularly." She touched his arm because gratitude was a good excuse to get her hand on him. "Thank you for being concerned about us."
He eased his arm away from her. "You almost told me something earlier but stopped yourself. You said you were juggling being a waitress and mom and something else."
It took her a lot of blinks to catch up with his second directional shift in as many minutes. And this time, she didn't like where they were headed. Not at all.
Her first instinct was to follow his lead by changing the subject. Then she thought about what a ridiculous conversational dance they were doing, twisting around every sensitive topic. How did she ever expect him to open up to her if she refused to do the same?
She scooted sideways in her seat, her heart pounding with a sudden burst of adrenaline. "I'll tell you something about me I've never told anyone, but it can't get around. Not even to my family . . . "
Thanks, Melissa! Readers, will you be checking out How to Rope a Real Man? Find our more about Melissa and the book on her website.
(Author photo by Tessa Desharnais)
After a nearly 20-year career and millions of books in print, best-selling romance author Brenda Jackson has reached an impressive milestone with the publication of her latest novel, A Madaris Bride for Christmas—her 100th book!
Back in 1994, Jackson's first novel, Tonight and Forever, introduced the Madaris family. Matchmaking matriarch Mama Laverne has helped the Madaris men and women find everlasting love over the years, delighting and entertaining countless readers along the way. In A Madaris Bride for Christmas, Lee Madaris, one of Mama's grandsons and owner of one of the hottest hotels in Vegas, is determined to find a woman on his own, and has his sights set on pastry chef Carly Briggs.
With memorable characters, lots of sizzle and a few twists and turns, A Madaris Bride for Christmas is sure to satisfy fans of the series, hook some news ones and leave all readers looking forward to Jackson's 101st novel.
Lori Foster is one of the most prolific romance writers out there. Her first book, Impetuous, was published in 1996, and since then, she's released between six and 10 new books each year, landing on multiple bestseller lists along the way.
The main (and titular) character of her latest, Getting Rowdy, will be familiar to devoted readers of her Love Undercover series. Rowdy Yates is a bona fide hunk, a charismatic woman magnet—who'll have readers under his spell despite (or because of!) his bad-boy behavior.
In this guest blog post, Foster writes about how she created this delectable hero who is the perfect balance of bad boy/good guy:
Rowdy Yates, the lead male protagonist in Getting Rowdy, is a street rat. He comes from a background of neglect, and then abuse. When his parents died in a car wreck, his biggest concern was losing his little sister to the system. He was free of one worry, but faced with an even bigger concern.
When I started the first book in the Love Undercover series, I knew Pepper Yates would have a brother, and I knew he’d have a secret and be street-smart and tough as nails. But I didn’t know him until I started to write the book and Rowdy began telling me his story. He became a much more complex character than I had expected.
That’s the way it is for me. The characters reveal themselves to me almost in the same way they get revealed to the reader. Little by little. Secret by secret. I knew, no matter his harsh background and subsequent life on the edge, Rowdy would have an innate sort of honor, because I couldn’t write a non-villain character who didn’t possess positive qualities. But wow, Rowdy surprised even me.
He is a sexual animal, but that makes sense because, given the harshness of his life, he takes pleasure in carnal activity. Sex, he finds, can blunt the demons of his memories. When the ugliness of his life starts to crawl in and steal his breath, losing himself in a woman’s soft touch could give him relief. I don’t fault him for that, but you can imagine how the “right woman” might see it.
I’m a big believer that love influences us in amazing ways. For Rowdy, despite the awfulness of his life, he had his little sister, and it was his love for her (and hers for him) that kept him from total darkness. He put all his focus on keeping her safe, helping her to feel secure, making a transient lifestyle an adventure instead of a hardship. He suffered—but he ensured that she did not.
Eventually, of course, Pepper found love—but where did that leave Rowdy? At the end of the first book, his sister had a big, badass cop as her husband, which left Rowdy without the purpose of his life, the center he’d always used to stay grounded. With Pepper rooted to one spot, Rowdy found he needed to set down roots as well.
And that’s how Getting Rowdy gets started. Rowdy is faced with a whole new life, and maybe, just maybe, it won’t be as trying as he figured.
In fact, with the “right woman” around, settling down turns out to be easier than he’d ever imagined. Rowdy finds—moment by moment—that he has friends he deserves. And he has those who consider him family—like Pepper’s husband who is, of course, grateful for the way Rowdy had kept her safe. Good people, I believe, recognize other good people, regardless of their background.
Rowdy, despite his faults hewn from a harsh life, is definitely “Good people.” Happy reading!
" src="http://www.bookpage.com/the-book-case/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Sherryl-Woods-Photo-c-Nina-Subin-250x314.jpg" width="200" height="251" /> Sherryl Woods
[/caption]If you're counting down the days until summer arrives, we have just the books to make the wait substantially more enjoyable. Well known for creating compelling characters whose lives are relatable and realistic, best-selling author Sherryl Woods returns with a new Ocean Breeze trilogy, which follows three generations of the Castle family. In a guest blog post, Woods explains how the new series—set on the coast of North Carolina—came about.
Several years ago a dear friend loaned me her time-share home on the North Carolina Outer Banks. It was my first trip to Nags Head, but it hasn't been my last, and the area served as an inspiration for my new Ocean Breeze trilogy of novels, which kicks off with Sand Castle Bay (out now), followed by Wind Chime Point on April 30 and Sea Glass Island on May 28, all from MIRA Books.
Though these books are set in the fictional coastal community of Sand Castle Bay, I've tried to capture the atmosphere of Nags Head, Manteo, Corolla, Duck, Kill Devil Hills and all the other small communities that comprise the barrier islands along North Carolina's coast.
Ever since that initial introduction, my large extended family and I have rented a house on the ocean in Nags Head for a week each summer. There are seventeen of us now. We've added two babies since we started these vacations, and we take full advantage of the beaches, miniature golf, seafood, fishing charters, minor league baseball games, ocean kayaking, and visits to the wild horses on the beach at Corolla. If there's an activity available, someone in our group is always eager to give it a try.
Of course, with ages ranging from, well, mature to infancy, we spend a lot of time just hanging out by the pool or on the beach. I always have a stack of books which make the rounds among the adults. And we play Scrabble. A lot of Scrabble! I had to laugh when it was recently reported that Prince William and Kate never finish a Scrabble game because somebody always gets angry and walks off. We're a lively, competitive bunch, but none of us has walked away from the table yet! Give up? Not a chance.
As a now-frequent vacationer in the Outer Banks, I wanted to give readers a taste of this relaxing atmosphere, but from the point of view of a family that calls the coast home. The Castles, the core family in the series, have owned a restaurant in town for years. The series heroines—sisters Emily, Gabriella and Samantha—have all fled in search of fulfilling careers, but when a hurricane strikes home and damages the restaurant, they rush home to help . . . and one by one find that everything they really need is right there in the town they left behind.
I think many women will relate to the desire to try their wings, as well as to the discovery that sometimes home truly is where the heart is. I hope you'll enjoy this new series and that you'll almost be able to smell the salt in the air and feel the ocean breezes on your cheeks!
[author photo by Nina Subin]
Forget Paris or New York City—Smithville, Texas, is the town to visit if you want to add some drama to your life. The filming location for several Hollywood hits, it's also the setting of Beth Wiseman's new novel, The House That Love Built, which goes on sale today and was reviewed in our April issue. In a guest blog post, Wiseman explains why Smithville makes a terrific setting for stories.
I love writing stories that take place in Texas small towns. I chose Smithville as the locale for The House That Love Built because of the quaintness and friendly people. Lots of movies have been filmed in Smithville—Hope Floats and Tree of Life, just to name a couple.
The town is charming and filled with historic sites. It’s the perfect place for my hero to start over and purchase a turn-of-the-century house to restore—complete with a secret bunker! It was fun to write a romance while also weaving in the mysteries surrounding the house. My inspiration for the secret room actually came from a house in the small Texas town of Schulenburg. A friend restored his house, and in the basement, there was a bookshelf that opened into a secret room.
I enjoy a good love story, but I write the way I like to read—with more going on than just "boy meets girl." I like to get into the heads of all the characters. This story has a secondary romance, an eccentric uncle, the town’s teenage troublemaker and even a finicky cat. Smithville was the perfect place to set this fun story.
Smithville’s claim to fame is two-fold. It is the first city in Texas to receive the “Film Friendly City” designation from the Texas Film Commission, and the city is also home to world’s largest gingerbread man, earning a place in the Guinness World Records in 2008. The giant cookie weighed over 1,300 pounds, and the mold used to make “Smitty” is on display next to the Chamber of Commerce office. Smithville is about 30 miles from my house, and it always makes for a good day of shopping and lunch.
The House That Love Built is about second chances, the power of forgiveness, and how God puts people in our lives, even though we can’t always foresee His plan.
Thanks, Beth! For more about Beth Wiseman, visit her on Facebook or explore her website. You can also check out the quaint town of Smithville online. And don't miss our review of The House That Love Built.
With This Kiss is the second feel-good romance novel in Bella Riley's Emerald Lake series. The story is about an innkeeper, Rebecca Campbell, who falls for her ex-fiance's brother. A strong romantic attraction doesn't equal an easy happy-ever-after, though. There are secrets between the couple that stand in the way of a relationship . . .
It's always interesting to learn a "behind-the-book" story. Riley has generously shared five fun facts about her latest novel:
guest post by Bella Riley
1. Emerald Lake, the setting for With This Kiss, is modeled after the lake in the Adirondacks where my husband’s family have lived for generations. I love the history and closeness of the community and have wanted to set a series there for several years. My husband and I now take our kids to a 100-year-old log cabin in Adirondacks every summer. I love the beauty of the mountains and the water; the chance to take long swims from one end of the cove to the other; and the fun of walking down the beach to a friends house just to say hello for a few minutes.
2. The women of Emerald Lake gather every week at Lake Yarns partly to knit . . . but mostly because we all need our girlfriends. Female friendships are so complex, supportive and nurturing. Isn't that what all those studies show, that women live healthier, longer lives if they have lots of friends?
3. When I was writing the Emerald Lake books, I learned a lot about knitting communities and yarn stores. And everything I learned made me want to knit incessantly! I even took a nine month "Knitting Boot Camp" class, which was so much fun. My daughter's teddy bear has an awesome purple sweater now.
4. I'd love to spend a day back in the '20s with Celeste, the grandmother in With This Kiss, just to see what life was like back then. Was it more romantic? More difficult? Simpler? Or just plain exhausting to wear those clothes?
5. Small town heroes are compelling and sexy because they not only care about their family and their neighbors, but they never seem afraid to get a little dirt under their nails. They fix their own plumbing, tune up their own cars. There's something sexy about a man who takes care of himself and his things, because it's easy to imagine he's going to take care of the woman he loves, too!
Thanks, Bella! Readers, what setting do you think would make for a wonderful romantic story? Now that the temps are in the '80s in Tennessee, the Adirondacks sound just about perfect . . .
guest post by Larissa Ione
Okay, single ladies, raise your hand if you've ever seen that tiresome criticism that goes something like this: Single women who read romances will develop unrealistic expectations of men.
Ha! And again, ha! Reading romance novels when I was single helped me recognize that no man is perfect (not even those in romance novels) and that I didn't have to put up with idiots. Unrealistic expectations? Really?
Did I mention the ha?
We women know the men in romance novels are fictional wonderful guys. But in the real world there are also nonfictional wonderful guys. So I was well aware of the fact that I wasn't going to find Joe Mackenzie from Linda Howard's Mackenzie's Mission while I was in the Air Force, but that didn't mean I had to put up with jerks, cheaters, abusers or morons.
There were certain things I was going to demand from a man, the same as a good romance heroine does. Things like respect. Like fidelity. Like honesty.
So did reading romance set me up with certain expectations? Maybe. But unrealistic ones? No way. I was in no hurry to get serious or get married, and in the end, I got my own hero who is in no way perfect, but he's right for me.
So, single ladies, this February treat yourself to a romance novel full of hot guys who ultimately treat their heroines with respect, and know that there are real men like that out there.
For some reason, during the month of February, I'm drawn to contemporary romances, and some of my personal favorite Valentine's Day re-reads are Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard, Prince Joe by Suzanne Brockmann, and Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
What about you? Any personal favorite re-reads that remind you that romance novels can be utterly unrealistic while at the same time delivering a real, feel-good read?
Larissa Ione is the author of Immortal Rider (Grand Central), the second book in her Lords of Deliverance series about the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Her next paranormal romance, Lethal Rider, comes out in May 2012. Learn more on her website, larissaione.com.
In case you didn't know it, Christie Ridgway not only manages to review multiple books a month for our romance column, but also writes best-selling romances herself. Her latest series is set in a winery in Napa Valley, and like Tasha Alexander, Ridgway manages to make us all wish we had some research to do. Here's a writer's take on touring California wine country.
I’m a California native and it seems natural to use my home state as a jumping-off point for my stories. I’ve geographically taken my single title contemporary romances up, down and sideways, from Big Sur to San Diego to a fictional island just off the coast (modeled on Catalina). This time, I’ve written a trilogy of stories set in the Napa Valley—the wine country. The action centers on a failing winery named Tanti Baci (Many Kisses), and the three Baci sisters, who find love as they struggle to keep their 100-year-old legacy afloat. The second in the series, Then He Kissed Me, is out this month. [Read an excerpt]
What’s a writer to do when the setting for her stories is not only romantic, but also just a short plane ride north? Research, of course!
In honor of our wedding anniversary, my husband and I spent a long weekend at a B & B in the middle of a vineyard, soaking up atmosphere and, uh, fermented grape juice (you know, wine!). During those few days, we learned a lot about a tasting getaway.
The tasting rooms generally open at 11 a.m. This turns out to be way too early for me to start drinking, though a tasting pour is 2 oz. and it’s perfectly acceptable to spit. However, you usually are presented with several tastes at each location and then if you visit several wineries… We found that tasting after lunch suited us better and we didn’t drink at every place we stopped. Our last day, we ran into a couple who said they take a day off from tasting for every two they imbibe.
Awesome food everywhere! And even the historic hamburger stand in St. Helena (Taylor’s Refresher) has an amazing wine list. Crusty bread, good cheese, yummy cookies in every deli. Sidewalk cafés by the dozen.
I confess, tasting in the afternoon made me sleepy by 5 p.m. We’d booked reservations at a renowned place for our anniversary dinner and were so drowsy we didn’t think we’d truly appreciate it. Instead, we bought a bottle of wine at the local market, a roasted chicken, and a couple of deli salads and picnicked on our patio overlooking the vineyard. Romantic enough!
If you can’t visit California’s wine country
Plan a tasting party at home! To establish the right mood, watch the movie Bottle Shock, which tells how the Napa Valley became famous for wine. Or read a nonfiction book about the area and the industry like James Conaway’s Napa or A Tale of Two Valleys: Wine, Wealth, and the Battle for the Good Life in Napa and Sonoma by Alan Deutschman. Of course, if you really want to romance the vine, imbibe in my Three Kisses trilogy, which begins with Crush On You and continues with Then He Kissed Me.
Thanks, Christie! You can find out more about Christie and the Three Kisses Trilogy on her website. Read all the reviews Christie has written for BookPage.