I recently interviewed author Jon Steele about his debut novel, The Watchers. It's a smart, literary thriller with a supernatural twist. Set in Lausanne, Switzerland, the story centers on Marc Rochat, the bell ringer of the cathedral in Lausanne who is drawn in to a series of murders in the city. I asked Steele about his experience of visiting the real-life cathedral for the first time, when he came in contact with the bell ringer.
Steele went on to write hundreds of words on this haunting meeting, a story that I've excerpted here. Below, you can read about the man who rings the bells marking the time in Lausanne--and how he inspired an exciting new trilogy.
For more on The Watchers and Jon Steele--who is also an award-winning cameraman and has written a memoir about working in combat zones--read this Q&A on BookPage.com.
The bell ringer of Lausanne
guest post by Jon Steele
First time I saw the cathedral. Spring of 2001. I was a news cameraman/editor for ITN [Independent Television News]. I’d been working the Intifada on the West Bank and Gaza for six straight months. I was pretty well shot. I went to Lausanne for R&R, stayed at the Lausanne Palace. I didn’t leave the hotel, but I saw the cathedral from my room. It didn’t look like much. More like a grey lump of falling-down rock than a cathedral.
Wasn’t till a couple years later, after I quit TV news. Long story. I was in Baghdad the day the war started. I’d been living there four months. I decided journalism had lost its mind. Tens of thousands of innocent people were about to die. This war was bullshit, and TV was helping Bush and Blair sell it. I wanted no part of it. After 20-some years of covering the sharper end of news, I put my camera on the ground and quit. I wanted no part of this one. I drove out of Iraq as American bombs fell.
I went to the south of France, hid out in a small village for a year. No TV, no radio, no phone. I took long walks in quiet places and wondered, “OK, now what do I do?”
I wrote a novel called Saddamistan: A Story of Love and War. It was my take on what went down in Baghdad leading up to the war. (It’s still in my desk drawer.) After a year of that, I passed through Lausanne again, checked back into the Lausanne Palace.
One night, me and a mate had dinner on the town. Driving back to the hotel, he pointed to the cathedral. There was a light moving around the belfry. My mate told me it was le guet, the guy who spent his nights in the belfry and called the hour over Lausanne. Once upon a time, all cathedrals had such a man in the belfry, to watch for fires and invaders. One by one they disappeared, except for Lausanne. There’s been a man in the belfry, circling the tower with a lantern and calling the hour, from the day the cathedral was consecrated in the 13th century.
I ended up at the foot of the belfry tower, that very night, bottle of wine in hand. Here’s how it works. You go to the cathedral, stand there and call up, “Renato!” Then this shadow of a figure appears at the railings. He lowers down a key on a 300-foot piece of string. You take the key, Renato pulls up the string. You unlock the tower door, go in, lock the door behind you. You wind your way up the stone steps. It’s dark, the air is close. Then you feel the fresh, night air drifting down, you round the steps one more time and you’re standing on the lower balcony of the belfry. Then this little guy in a black floppy hat, carrying a lantern, steps from the shadows of Clémance (the execution bell) . . . and he says, “Hello, it’s only me.”
That’s how I met Renato Haüsler, le guet de la cathedrale de Lausanne. He’s got a funny shaped room between the bells; it looks like something out of a Tim Burton film. It’s where Renato sleeps. There’s a small bed, a small desk. The room is lit with candles. Renato has candles on the brain. He gave me a tour of the belfry. I met all the bells. The biggest is Marie-Madeleine. She rings the hour. There are five more bells in the upper belfry. Renato took us up to say hello. Along the way he told me about the thousand-year-old timbers of the carpentry, the gigantic tinker toy arrangement of ancient timbers from the primeval forests of Lausanne that house the bells. We went back to his room, had a glass and he told me about his vision. He wanted to light the nave of the cathedral with thousands of candles so people could see the place for what it was.
There was a winching sound and the loudest sound I’d ever heard in my life exploded through the belfry. It was Marie-Madeleine; she was calling the hour. The entire belfry trembled. Renato re-lit the candle in his lantern. Told me to follow him. He walked to the east balcony, waited for Marie’s voice to fade. He held his lantern into the night and called, “C’est le guet! Il a sonne douze, il a sonne douze!” (“This is the watcher! It is 12 o’clock, it is 12 o’clock!”) He did the same to the north, west and south. And facing south, there was Lake Geneva, the lights of Évian on the far shore, the shadows of the Alps rising to the stars.
The wheels in my head starting spinning.
Last of his kind lives in a bell tower in a grey falling-down lump of a cathedral. He’s strange, he wears a black floppy hat, carries a lantern . . . he’s got candles on the brain.
There was a story. I just had to find it.
Thank you, Jon! Readers: Will you check out The Watchers? It's on sale this week. Read more about it on BookPage.com.
Today's guest blog post is going to make you want to drop everything and book a ticket to Europe, where you will meander through France, Germany, Austria and end up lounging on the gorgeous Lake Balaton in Hungary. Don't have the time or the money? Just read Emylia Hall's debut novel, The Book of Summers, which is on sale today. As her essay below demonstrates, Hall is a writer who knows how to beautifully evoke a setting.
The Book of Summers is about an Englishwoman, Beth Lowe, and her family trips to Hungary—joyous occasions that are tainted by secrets and a mother's painful decision. The book was inspired by Hall's own family vacations. Here, she describes why Hungary captured her imagination.
guest post by Emylia Hall
In 1990, the year after the Berlin Wall came down, I visited Hungary for the first time. I was 11 years old and my sister was 13. My mother, who was born in England to Hungarian parents, was keen to explore the land of her roots, and my father agreed to drive us across France, Germany, Austria and into Hungary. The trip took a month, and it became the first of many. Every summer, for the next seven or eight years, we’d pack up the car and go to Hungary.
I treasure my memories from these holidays. The journey was an adventure as much as the destination. We’d stay at farmhouse guesthouses in France, eating at communal supper tables and swapping stories with Belgian cyclists over plates of roasted wild boar. In Germany we’d drive through wine country, my father picking small hotels in tiny vineyard villages, the car packed to the gills with local vintages to take home. And we’d whip along Austrian mountain roads, hearing the jangle of cowbells, looking forward to our next stopover and our next plate of Wiener Schnitzel. Meanwhile, Hungary lay like a promised land; we’d visit the artists’ town of Szentendre, with its twisting streets, brightly painted buildings and folksy feel. The endless plains, where mirages rose out of the dust and troops of longhorn cattle and fleet-footed horses turned to watch us pass. And Lake Balaton—my favourite place of all. At 50 miles long and 10 across, it’s dubbed the Hungarian Sea. The sun always seemed to shine brighter at Balaton as I floated on a lilo, a book resting on my chest, my skin growing steadily browner.
These sun-kissed memories became the inspiration for The Book of Summers. Against this backdrop I wanted to capture long, hot days, the sparkle of a new country, the trepidations and excitements of childhood and adolescence. A novel is a wonderful place in which to scatter observations and curious details; nothing is wasted. As I began to write, I found the act of recollection easy, taking myself back to precise yet passing moments; the choosing of a watermelon from a roadside kiosk, or a particular supper at a border-town restaurant, the fire on our plates and in our bellies. Our family photo albums proved helpful—my father always recorded our trips with meticulous detail—but much of the vivid imagery and moments of colour came from simply closing my eyes and remembering, letting myself drift back to those golden days of childhood.
The last time I visited Hungary was in the summer of 2009, as I was working on an early draft of The Book of Summers. I took my notebooks with me, and set myself up on a terrace overlooking Lake Balaton. It was inspiring to be “on location,” and I let as much of the place seep into my writing as possible. But most of all I enjoyed the romantic idea of writing about Hungary while in Hungary, because the old holidays had already proven themselves indelible, and were much more invaluable to the writing process. I think back to those trips now, the child-me, looking around in wonder, little knowing that the sights and sounds that I found so enthralling would one day work their way into a novel. Would, in fact, be its beating heart. For me, there’s something magical in that.
Working in collaboration with Dr. Bill Bass, the forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee, Jon writes the best-selling series of Body Farm novels. The latest—The Inquisitor’s Key—came out today. In the May issue of BookPage, Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney called the novel "both thought-provoking and eminently plausible as the book races toward its unexpected (and highly original!) resolution." Read an excerpt of the novel on the authors' Facebook page.
The importance of setting
guest post by Jon Jefferson
I must be the world’s slowest learner. It took me seven novels to learn what is surely Rule #1 of book research, at least in the rulebooks of smarter writers: Set your novel in a fabulous place, so you can take a fabulous research junket!
Consider novel #1 in the Body Farm series of mysteries, Carved in Bone. Setting: Cocke County, TN, beautiful but hard-scrabble hill country in East Tennessee, where anyone driving a car with an out-of-county license tag is considered fair game—and where hunting season opens at sundown. I set one scene of Carved in Bone at a cockfight, and because I knew nothing about cockfighting, I arranged, through a friend of a friend, to take a Cocke County field trip—with a veteran cockfighter named Rick—to the Del Rio cockpit, one of the oldest and biggest cockfighting operations in the nation. (“But wait,” you might be thinking, “isn’t cockfighting illegal?” Yes, dear reader; yes it is. But the Del Rio cockpit had apparently forged a special, decades-long friendship with the Cocke Co. Sheriff’s Office.)
The fights took place in a gymnasium-sized building, with a large central arena—the pit—surrounded bleacher-style seating for 300 or so. Tucked at one end of the building was a concession stand selling drinks, burgers, fries, and—with no apparent sense of irony—chicken fingers. I spent a deeply disturbing afternoon in Del Rio, watching roosters tear one another to tatters, their natural spurs augmented with strapped-on knives and spikes. Before and even during each fight, spectators would call out amounts they wanted to wager on one or the other of the roosters (“50 on the red!”; “hunnerd on the white!”). After an hour or so, I’d seen all I needed to see—and all I could stand to watch. On the way back to my car, I passed a pickup truck whose bed was filled with the bodies of dead roosters.
Fast-forward six books and six years, to April 2011, when I found myself standing on a rooftop in France, looking down on the lovely city of Avignon, the setting for novel #7. The book, The Inquisitor’s Key, weaves together the stories of a heretic-obsessed medieval Inquisitor and an Apocalypse-obsessed televangelist, both of them driven to murder in the name of God. The conservator of the Palace of the Popes—the biggest Gothic palace in Europe—had agreed to give me a private tour of the place, which was built to house a series of French popes in the 14th century. She took me up winding spiral staircases to the tops of battlement-topped towers; down into the treasure-chamber, with its false floor; through bedchambers and chapels whose frescoed walls were adorned with scenes of miracles and saints—and falconers, fishermen and stag-hunters. In the days that followed, I threaded the labyrinthine streets within Avignon’s medieval city wall for hours on end. I knew the trip to Avignon was only a beginning; I knew I’d be spending months poring over books on Avignon, both medieval and modern: its popes and inquisitors, painters and poets, cops and killers.
Leaving the Palace that first day, I exited through the gift shop and wine-cellar. There, I drank a toast to the architectural, artistic and narrative treasure-trove of Avignon—and to my new-found skill in the art of choosing book settings.
Next stop? Florence and Venice. What’s the story? I’ve no idea . . . but I won’t leave Italy until I find it!
Watch a book trailer for The Inquisitor's Key:
What happens once the honeymoon is truly over? In a new book, Wedding Cake for Breakfast (Berkley), on sale this week, 23 authors—including Joshilyn Jackson and Jill Kargman—offer up their reflections on the first year of marriage. In a guest blog post, three other contributors share some memories of their own unforgettable post-wedding moments...the ones you just can't plan for!
Spending a solid 10 days traipsing around Italy with just the clothes I had on my back made me realize that marriage is a lot like Kansas. With my luggage MIA, I was suddenly stripped of the things I thought I needed—my fancy sandals, my favorite Pucci dress, my jam-packed makeup bag. I saw my unadorned self through my husband's eyes and learned that everything I needed was in my own backyard. I also learned that you should always pack an extra pair of underwear in your carry-on.
—Cathy Alter, author of Ciao, Baggage
The first year of marriage is fraught with the unexpected. Sometimes it's unexpectedly boring and at other times it's so quickly eclipsed by whatever else life presents that you wish it were boring. Either way, there are two of you now to take on whatever comes.
—Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The First Year
While waiting for the flight to our Costa Rica honeymoon, my new husband Jay suggested we sit in the vibrating massage chairs at JFK airport. As soon as the coils started rolling up my spine, I crumpled into a mess of sobs.
"What's going on?" asked Jay.
"I just feel so alone," I moaned.
Welcome to my first year of marriage.
—Abby Sher, author of Juan and Martita
Readers, any first-year-of-marriage moments you'd like to share?
The summer wedding season is right around the corner, and romance fans can get in the spirit with a delightful anthology featuring three love stories, Kiss the Bride. The superstar authors are New York Times bestseller Deirdre Martin; USA Today bestseller Christie Ridgway (you might know her as the romance columnist for BookPage!); and up-and-coming author Laura Florand.
The three love stories star a fashion exec, a wedding planner and a food blogger. These women meet sexy heroes and have wonderful happily ever afters . . . but to go on those journeys, you'll have to check out the book yourself. (It's on sale now.) Here we've gathered three fun wedding stories from the authors:
We were married on Long Island in late August, which can be one of the hottest times of the year. But it was the only time we could book the venue we wanted, so we grabbed it. My husband, who has a big problem with sweating when it's extremely hot out, was having fits the morning of the wedding, since the temperature was supposed to hit 98 degrees, with high humidity. But a miracle occurred! Not only did the temperature never get above 85, but cool breezes blew all day. To this day, we always refer to it as "Our Wedding Day Miracle." So believe it or not, the weather is what made our day extra special!
I wanted to have a small wedding. Family only . . . 25 people, tops. But then my mom got involved and we had 80, including a couple of dogs, as you can see. It was in her backyard, and my brother married us. (He's a financial analyst but has one of those paper ordinations . . . it's completely legal, and he's performed many marriages--without a single divorce!) The ceremony was lovely, Big Brother said wonderful things, but left out maybe the most important words: "Now you may kiss the bride!" The audience had to shout out to remind him.
My own weddings were crazy. Notice the plural! I’ve only been married to one man, my own handsome, sweet Parisian, but we ended up having four ceremonies on two continents. We were trying to make sure each of our families (his French, mine American) could attend, but a surprising number of them ended up flying across the ocean to take part in both. Besides all the crazy, hilarious moments that occur when trying to get two people from two different countries married (four times), the thing that most stands out from our weddings is the amount of love and generosity and enthusiasm our families and friends poured out for us. It was truly special, and humbling. So many funny, touching and often mind-boggling things happened during our own true life cross-cultural romance and the meeting of families, that I ended up writing a memoir about it: my first book, Blame It on Paris.
I always wrote and read romances, but I have to say that before my own, I was something of a skeptic about how close they could come to real life. Now I’m converted. Even the very best romances only just touch on how world-changing and important falling in love is. And how it can affect—for the better—far more than just two people. I’m delighted to share a romantic Parisian that everyone can enjoy in All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate, featured in Kiss the Bride.
Thank you, Deirdre, Christie and Laura! Readers: Do you have a sweet personal wedding story you'd like to share? What's your favorite wedding scene from a book?
Ditch the tour bus, but bring your map!
guest post by Alaya Johnson
I love to travel, but I loathe tour groups. Half-hour breaks for boxed lunches is what you do for the annual office retreat, not your first visit to the Louvre. When I travel, I eat street food—crepes in Paris, huaraches in Mexico City, pizza in Naples. I wander around and take public transportation, and when I stagger into that gelato shop with the precise two euros in my pocket that will get me a scoop of cinnamon, it tastes that much more delicious. Sure, I might miss something in my wanderings, but I get more joy out of uncovering a new city on foot than a comprehensive bus tour.
I've taken this too far, however. I remember arguing in broken French with the receptionist of a one-star hotel I found in the phonebook about the fact that they shouldn't be charging me the rate for a "room with a toilet" when said toilet was not in possession of a seat. Hey, it's still a toilet, she told me, maybe you want to change rooms?
You know, I said to myself, in possession of a new room with a leaky shower and cigarette-dusted curtains, this might have gone a lot better with a plan.
It's taken me a while to realize, but writing works pretty much like traveling in that way. I've had to teach myself when to be flexible and adventurous and when to slow down and figure out where the hell I'm going. Writing a novel is a tricky thing for anyone—the every-scene-with-its-Excel-chart-entry and seat-of-my-goddamn-pants aficionados alike. For those of us who have to swing between those extremes, it sometimes feels like you need a map just to know when it's okay to put it down.
This can be compounded by the fact that the modern publishing industry often requires writers to commit themselves to a direction early. You want to get paid? Hand me an outline, honey. So I write the outlines, but I always tell my editors that they should in no way expect it to resemble the final project. What would be the fun in that? I tell them, with a hopefully winning smile.
Protestations aside, it's sometimes hard to let go of a path when you've set it down on paper. When I wrote Wicked City, I swore up and down I wouldn't feel beholden to my outline, and yet I found myself, 50,000 words in, wondering why exactly I'd persisted in believing it was a good idea to (metaphorically) stay in the hotel that didn't have toilet seats just because I'd already made the reservation.
The relief I felt when I finally gave in and scrapped that unwieldy and useless plotline was equaled only by my resolve to never let that happen to me again.
A first draft will never be a perfectly plotted book (at least, mine will never be). But next time I have to write an outline, I plan to ritually burn it before I start to write. At least that way I'll remember that in writing, as in travel, "Uh, never mind, I'll do something else," is sometimes your best option.
And if that means I find myself at loose ends, I can always comfort myself with cinnamon gelato while I find my way again.
Thanks, Alaya! Wicked City , on sale this week, is Alaya Johnson's second novel set in an alternate 1920s New York City, where vampires and demons haunt the Lower East Side. You can read an excerpt from the novel on her website.
guest post by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
It is somehow fitting that Harry Crews and Earl Scruggs died on the same day, March 28, 2012. While the pugnacious and audacious Southern novelist and the lightning-fast and inventive banjo player lived worlds apart, each had a deep affinity for looking at the world with all its blemishes, seeing through the masks behind which most people hide, and using humor, however sarcastic, to reveal the truth beneath the lies we tell ourselves. We'll miss each of these great artists, but Harry Crews' death brings almost to a standstill the Southern Gothic tradition that started gathering steam when the Dixie Limited, William Faulkner, started rolling down the tracks, picking up Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Larry Brown, James Dickey, Barry Hannah and Cormac McCarthy along the way. Crews was one of the last of a tradition. Thankfully, there has been some talk of reprinting his novels and publishing the memoir on which he was working before he died.
Flannery O’Connor once wrote that when you have to assume your audience does not know what you’re talking about, “then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind, you draw large and startling figures.” Crews, the pugilist whose many novels feature characters trying to make their way in a South much changed from O’Connor’s, follows O’Connor’s dictum. He depicts freakishly grotesque men and women caught in a world where old values have been replaced by new ones, country replaced by city, and where the struggle to know and to hold onto the truth is a violent one. Midgets, deformed individuals and scarred men and women stand at the center of Crews' novels not only because Crews himself bore the scars of an early bout with polio, burns over two-thirds of his body after being scalded from falling into a vat of boiling water at age six, and broken bones from his many bouts in the boxing ring, but also because, as he wrote in his novel Scar Lover, "a scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with."
Pick up any of Crews' novels, from his first, the widely acclaimed The Gospel Singer, to his later novels, such as his less widely praised Celebration, and you'll find a writer baring his soul and trying to get readers to search their own hearts. He once said that if he had done his job right when he was writing, he would "really get you turned back on yourself, and on your own code of ethics or morality or vision of the world or sense of self or whatever. If I get you turned back on yourself, then I done my job. I've done what I set out to do."
Crews always declared that no matter how hard writing was for him—writing 500 words a day was a successful day for him, he once wrote—it was a way of understanding himself. In his most famous piece of advice to writers, Crews delivered advice borne out of his own practice and declared, "If you're gonna write, for God in heaven's sake, try to get naked. Try to write the truth. Try to get underneath all the sham, all the excuses, all the lies that you've been told."
Crews wrote to understand himself and the world, and he had little patience for the business of publishing. In a remark that all book publishers should have framed on their doorposts, he once announced, "If the shoe business were handled like the publishing business, we'd all be barefoot."
Harry Crews' novels might sometimes be hard to read because they're filled with violence, blood sport and grotesque characters, but they shout out, "Pick me up and read me," for they drive us to confront our often grotesque sense of self, the lies we tell ourselves to protect ourselves from harsh truths and the destruction of our society and the world around us under the banner of illusory values. And, man, do we need Harry Crews and his novels more now than ever.
Henry L. Carrigan Jr. is a regular reviewer for BookPage.
guest post by Beth M. Howard
I get asked all the time how long it took to write my book, and my answer is “Three months.” But the fact is I’ve been writing my book over a period of nearly two years. In real time. On my blog.
Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie came about in part because of my blog, The World Needs More Pie. The theme of my blog was about how pie can make the world a better place, how making a pie by hand represents nostalgia and simpler times. In my essays I evangelized about how pie was an antidote to the high-tech world we live in, a way to nurture our overworked souls. In fact, it was an antidote to my own overworked soul. I had had a dot-com job where I spent 16 hours a day in front of a computer. I finally said, “Enough!” The money—all six figures of it—wasn’t worth the stress. I quit and got a job baking pie. And started a blog.
My pie blog entries were charming and light, which was all well and good, but my blog didn’t become important to me—or popular with others—until I started blogging about something else, and nothing to do with pie: my 43-year-old husband Marcus’s death. Because I couldn’t find anyone willing to talk about the love I had lost, I used my blog to vent my feelings, my sadness, my very acute and complicated grief. And then people started writing me emails thanking me for being so open and honest, telling me that my stories about my struggles were helping them. So I kept writing. I kept sharing. I kept blogging.
When people ask "How did you get your book published?" I always tell them that they should start a blog. It’s free. You will get instant gratification seeing your work live in a public forum. Blogging will encourage you to keep looking for story ideas. You will hone your writing skills (hopefully!). You will home in on your theme. You will get feedback from your readers. You will be motivated to keep writing. And then, one day, you’ll realize that you’re ready. Ready to chain yourself to your desk for three months, not bothering to get dressed or comb your hair. Ready to turn down dinner invitations and weekend road trips. Ready to sit at your desk and wrestle with words and sentences and story structure. Ready to commit and realize your dream of becoming a published author.
Beth M. Howard is the author of Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie.
In BookPage, Lori Foster’s romance novels have been praised for their explosive sexual chemistry and their sizzling combination of alpha hero and determined heroine. Just by looking at the cover of one of these scorchers, you could definitely call them “hot”—a description that’s reinforced by Foster’s writing.
Foster's latest novel, A Perfect Storm—book #4 in the Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series—is on sale today. The hero is bounty hunter Spencer Lark, and the heroine is rescued sex slave Arizona Storm, whom we met in Savor the Danger. (Read more on Foster’s website.)
I wanted to know what makes us root for Spencer, or for any hero. Here, Foster explains the must-have qualities of her sexy heroes.
guest post by Lori Foster
I like to mix it up with a variety of backgrounds and occupations for my heroes. In my Buckhorn Brothers series, I wrote a country doc, vet, handyman and sheriff. In my Fighter series I had men highly skilled in MMA—mixed martial arts. (Love that sport, by the way.) I’ve written cops and P.I.s, a remote viewer and a preacher. But there are certain things that all my heroes have in common, because some traits are just too important to ever leave out.
1. Honor. No matter what a hero has in his background, he has to have found his own personal sense of honor. He grows up, he perseveres and he has to know the difference between right and wrong. Mick Dawson, from Enticing, was horribly neglected as a kid, but he became a cop to fight injustice, and to ensure he never blurred the lines.
2. Responsibility—not only for himself, but for others as well. No man stands alone in this world, and capability means you look out for those who can’t look out for themselves. A perfect example is Jordan, from the Buckhorn Brothers. He falls for a single mother of two who is overwhelmed in caring not only for her children, but for her ailing mother as well. The responsibilities that would send some men running instead cause my heroes to dig in with determination to help. I love that about my heroes!
3. Humor. Seriously, who can stand a grim person? Not me. Okay, at times he can be grim—like if a bad guy is shooting at him, or threatening someone he loves. But then he has to lighten up. Think Jackson Savor, from Savor the Danger. No matter what happened, Jackson kept the heroine grinning. That is, when he wasn’t leaving her breathless with his sex appeal.
4. And that brings me to . . . Sex Appeal. He’s gotta be sexy. Confidence, knowledge, daring and awareness of what he wants—which always has to be the heroine, right? I could name any one of my heroes for this.
5. Lastly, he has to have compassion and understanding. If it weren’t for those two qualities, A Perfect Storm never would have happened, because Arizona would have kicked Spencer to the curb. But Spencer is that perfect mix of take-charge Alpha and caring man that can melt even a hard case like Arizona. Once held captive by human traffickers, Arizona is a contrast of skilled determination and stark vulnerability. Compassion not only keeps Spencer from pushing her too far, but it helps him to understand her need to prove herself.
Personally, I enjoy reading about a strong, sexy, caring man who can make me laugh, so I hope you enjoy reading that, too!
Thanks, Lori! Readers: What qualities do you love to see in a hero?
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 . . .