Author Archives: Kerry Ann

What I’m Reading – Romance Edition

I haven’t posted in a while. Life has been busy. A month passed when I read ONE book. (Yes, you read that correctly.) So in the spirit of sharing a few good reads, I’m going to play catch-up an mention a few romances I’ve enjoyed over the last few months. All listed are reccomended. Give one a try!

Destiny’s Captive 
by Beverly Jenkins

Historical – Highly Reccomend

In national bestselling author Beverly Jenkins’ Destiny series, the Yates men play hard and live hard. And when they find that special woman, they fall hard . . .

Noah Yates fully believes in the joys of a happy family and a good wife. But that’s not the life for him. No, he would much rather sail the wild seas in search of adventure, not tied down. But then the unthinkable happens . . . he finds himself literally tied down. To a bed. By a woman.

And Pilar isn’t just an ordinary woman. She’s descended from pirates. And after giving him one of the worst nights of his life, she steals his ship! Now Noah is on the hunt, and he’ll stop at nothing to find this extraordinary woman . . . and make her his.

 

The Marriage Bargain
by Jennifer Probst

Contemporary/Humorous

A marriage in name only…

To save her family home, impulsive bookstore owner, Alexa Maria McKenzie, casts a love spell. But she never planned on conjuring up her best friend’s older brother—the powerful man who once shattered her heart. Billionaire Nicholas Ryan doesn’t believe in marriage, but in order to inherit his uncle’s corporation, he needs a wife and needs one fast. When he discovers his sister’s childhood friend is in dire financial straits, he’s offers Alexa a bold proposition.

A marriage in name only with certain rules: Avoid entanglement. Keep things all business. Do not fall in love. The arrangement is only for a year so the rules shouldn’t be that hard to follow, right? Except fate has a way of upsetting the best-laid plans….

 

Miracle on 5th Avenue
by Sarah Morgan

Contemporary/Humorous

It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York!

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she’s given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn’t expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife’s death looming, he’s isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn’t appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?

 

Everywhere and Every Way (The Billionaire Builders Book 1)
by Jennifer Probst

Contemporary/Humorous

Hot on the heels of her beloved Marriage to a Billionaire novels, New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst nails it with the first in an all-new sexy romance series featuring red-hot contractor siblings who give the Property Brothers a run for their money!

Ever the responsible eldest brother, Caleb Pierce started working for his father’s luxury contracting business at a young age, dreaming of one day sitting in the boss’s chair. But his father’s will throws a wrench in his plans by stipulating that Caleb share control of the family business with his two estranged brothers.

Things only get more complicated when demanding high-end home designer Morgan hires Caleb to build her a customized dream house that matches her specifications to a T—or she’ll use her powerful connections to poison the Pierce brothers’ reputation. Not one to ignore a challenge, Caleb vows to get the job done—if only he can stop getting distracted by his new client’s perfect…amenities.

But there’s more to icy Morgan than meets the eye. And Caleb’s not the only one who knows how to use a stud-finder. In fact, Morgan is pretty sure she’s found hers—and he looks quite enticing in a hard hat. As sparks fly between Morgan and Caleb despite his best intentions not to mix business and pleasure, will she finally warm up and help him lay the foundation for everlasting love?

 

Ready to Fall
by Daisy Prescott

Contemporary/Humorous

Tall, dark, and handsome is an understatement when it comes to John Day. With rugged good looks, his ever present plaid shirt, and a dog named Babe, John is a modern alpha male lumberjack.

After his favorite neighbor rents out her beach cabin for the winter, John finds himself playing fireman and tour guide to Diane Watson, a beautiful brunette with her own messy past and recent battle scars.

Will he be ready to fall in love? Or will he go back to his old, flirty ways?

Hold onto your heart as John Day tells his story in this male POV contemporary adult romance/romantic comedy.

Ready to Fall is the first novel in the Wingmen series, a spin-off from Modern Love Stories. Each book is a standalone with no cliffhanger.

 

One Good Thing (Ten Beach Road Novel) 
by Wendy Wax

Contemporary/Humorous/Women’s Fiction

Embroiled in a battle to regain control of their renovation-turned-reality TV show, Do Over, Maddie, Avery, Nikki, and Kyra find themselves holding tight to the frayed ends of their friendship and relationships.

Maddie must face the realities of dating a rock star once again topping the charts and dealing with her hapless ex-husband, while Avery is caught up in family drama even as she attempts to transform a tiny cottage into a home for the newly impoverished heiress who helped bankroll their last renovation. Put on bedrest, a hugely pregnant Nikki can’t quite believe love can last, or trust in her own maternal instinct. And Kyra, who has secretly put Bella Flora at risk in an attempt to salvage Do Over, must decide whether to accept a desperately needed bail out from her son’s famous father that comes with far too many strings attached…

But friendship is made for times like these, to keep each other—and their dreams—from crumbling.

 

A first-timer’s RWA National Conference adventure (part 2): Working the Workshops

Warning: today’s blog post pics are terrible. I attempted to snap discrete pics with a crummy camera phone. You’ve been warned.

Some writers attend the RWA National Conference for networking, pitching, or parties (which I’ll get to in the next post). While that is a huge part of the draw, my main focus was to suck up every scrap of writing advice, tip, and trick I could get near. That meant workshops.

There was a ridiculous number to choose from. Some hours I had to pick between workshops with Sonali Dev, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Jayne Ann Krentz, or Daman Suede, OR social media expert hour, OR book signings with Grand Central, Harlequin, St. Martins’s Press, or Random House. All scheduled in the same hour! (Note: these books signings featured dozens of authors including the big names all meeting, greeting and signing FREE books. Ack!) And I didn’t even mention the publishing house Spotlight sessions, none of which I attended, but I might buy the audio mp3s.

These workshops were like none I’d attended before. These successful, talented, and hard working authors shared their insights, skills, and stories with honesty and compassion. They wanted us to succeed. They made it clear that means working your ass off.

If you are a member of RWA, you have the opportunity to purchase audio of all the workshops. There’s gold in there. I’ll be buying the audio of several I missed as soon as the individual recordings are up on the RWA site.

So, without further rambling, a (paraphrased) selection of the good stuff I picked up in my RWA 2017 workshops:

Editors Tell All with Nicole Fisher (Avon), Sheila Hodgson (Harlequin), Katie Seaver (Berkley) and Mary-Theresa Hussey

Don’t pay to have your book professionally copyedited before you send it to an editor. A misplaced comma won’t make or break your submission.

It’s all about the VOICE.

That opening paragraph needs to immediately draw a reader into the protagonist’s world. No secondary characters.

 

First Timers’ Orientation with Eliza Knight, Robin Covington, Laura Kaye, Damon Suede, and Dee Davis

Go to the unrecorded sessions (at Nationals). That’s where the real dirt is.

Set goals for after the conference. One month, three months, six months, a year. Then MAKE YOUR GOALS.

Ask yourself what do you want out of your career? Now, what are you willing to trade to get that?

 

Seducing Your Readers in Chapter 1 with Michael Hague

The hero is the heroine’s destiny is because he’s the only guy to see beneath her identity (the false self one creates to protect one’s self from the fear that grew from a long-ago wound) and connect with her at her essence. This is why they belong together. He sees her truth (and vice-versa).

 

PRO RETREAT Roundtables

Eight PRO RWA members + one rock star author. No holds barred.

When to Move on to the Next Idea with Courtney Milan

Sign up for your own lies. It’s branding.

If you are just constantly tweaking your manuscript, STOP IT. Agents/publishers can handle tweaks. Move on.

Revisions with Kristan Higgins

Sometimes it might take 150 pages to get to know your character’s story in a first draft. It’s okay.

Your inciting incident MUST be big enough to carry through the entire story. And it must grow. (And here’s where she mentioned my book!!! SWOON)

Set scenes in emotionally charged places that are hard for the characters.

Set scenes in interesting places (i.e. the pope in the pool).

In scenes with multiple characters, be careful who gets lines and make each line important.

 

How to Gut Your Readers and Make Them Love It with Kristan Higgins and Sonali Dev

 

People will forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.

The more intense the emotion, the more connection with the reader.

We read romance to be able to experience these intense emotions safely.

Tap into reader’s memories–the yearning, the feelings of falling in love again and again.

Readers need to know right away what a character doesn’t have and why she needs it desperately.

Treat each character’s “wound” as a major trauma no matter how minor it might be.

 

Building the Perfectly Imperfect Hero with Jill Shalvis and HelenKay Dimon

It takes Jill at least five drafts to nail her characters and story. First is horrible. Each draft gets slowly better and fills in character.

Heroes can get away with so much more than heroines.

 

Fifty Shades of Funny with Jennifer Probst, Lauren Layne, and Rachel Van Dyken

Don’t describe characters as being funny. Show them being funny.

Keep dialog fast-paced. Make them sound better than in real life.

Don’t let characters ramble. Shorter dialog reads better.

Write what you think is funny. Don’t imitate.

Pull back on humor during dark moments or in sexy scenes. Balance is the key. Don’t be afraid to get serious.

 

Genre Blending: The Sweet Spot between Women’s Fiction and Romance with Jamie Beck & Kristan Higgins

Romance is about finding the one; women’s fiction is about finding yourself. (attributed to Robyn Carr)

Hitting the Sweet Spot: what do readers want?

  • Romance with more depth to the story (career, family issues)
  • More everyday heroes–no alpha-holes, but flawed good guys
  • Sub-stories/plots can play more of a part
  • Multi-generational characters
  • Characters who must overcome their own flaws
  • Finding the one as a result of finding oneself
  • Decreased “plotsy” adorableness, increased theme and struggles

Over-the-top humor is played down. If it’s too funny, it’s missing the emotional depth. (This area is more “sophisticated” than rom com or chick lit.)

The romance could start on page 1 or 200–up to the discretion of the writer.

 

Game of Desire with Damon Suede

TOO MUCH GOODNESS TO SHARE. If you ever get the opportunity to take one of Damon’s workshops, DO IT. Seriously.

A few tidbits:

Don’t write ACTIVITIES. Write ACTIONS. (For example, going shopping because you’re procrastinating/bored is an activity. Going shopping because you need ingredients for dinner is an action.)

Sex should never be an activity. It is always an action.

It’s all about the verbs. Give them power. (adverbs=death)

 

Killer Clichés: Insider Tips on Escaping the Slush Pile with Mary Altman, Cat Clyne, Courtney Miller-Callihan, and Nicole Resciniti

This was the only workshop I attended that took the wind from my sails. (Yes, that cliché was on purpose.) These well-known agents and editors played a game where they went over all the clichés and tropes that spell “insta-death” for your manuscript. Basically, I learned that they will hate me.

What they do want: fresh stories with strong voices.

NOs:

  • terrible trifecta: dumped/cheated, loses job, loses house
  • opening like a bad country song
  • the heroine is “different” from other girls (aka special snowflakes)
  • “Girl you need to get laid” best friends
  • Bambi setups
  • klutzy cuties
  • heroes who must overcome disbelief that all women are evil
  • bitchy other women
  • mirror, mirror (describing oneself in mirror)
  • amnesia
  • rich and bored alpha males
  • opening a book with the character waking up or hung over
  • conflicts that could have been resolved if the characters just talked
  • openings where there’s been an accident
  • electrical currents flowing between lovers
  • rolling eyes, arching brows, letting out a breath she didn’t know she was holding, deep breaths, raking hands through hair, biting lips

So, yeah. If you want to get an agent or publisher, eliminate all of these things.

 

Power Couples: Making Lovers with Damon Suede

I took NINE pages of notes during this intensive, two-hour workshop. Plus he gave out a six-page handout. Crazy amount of info to digest.

Your brain experiences the same things when you READ as when you DO, whether you’re reading about playing tennis for falling in love.

There’s only one plot in the world: things are not what they seem.

Don’t worry about your character being likable. Make her fascinating.

You can outline an entire story using conflicting verbs.

Cast your characters with conflicting verbs.

  • Lizzie: Provoke vs. Darcy: Preserve
  • Katniss: Hunt vs. Peeta: Feed

For more, check out this blog post on Romance University: Add Verbs: Creating Characters that Pop Off the Page by Damon Suede

Want to read more of my RWA 17 adventures? Read And then there was the time Kristan Higgins pulled me aside… a first-timer’s RWA Annual Conference adventure (part 1)

Have you attended Nationals or a major writing conference? What workshops did you find invaluable?

And then there was the time Kristan Higgins pulled me aside… a first-timer’s RWA Annual Conference adventure (part 1)

Where can you take writing classes with your favorite authors, mingle with the rock stars of romance, chat with RITA Award winners, pitch in person to literary agents (without puking), and make new friends from around the world? The Romance Writers of America National Conference, of course.

first time at rwa nationals

For those of you not in the romance reading and/or writing community:

RWA = Romance Writers of America, an organization of 10k+ kick-ass published and unpublished romance fiction writers, publishing industry professionals, librarians, and booksellers who support the romance genre

RITA = the Oscar of the romance writing world

The 2017 RWA National Conference was held here in Orlando last week and I’m still detoxing from experience and information overload. I’d been waiting years to attend. I wish I’d gone sooner.

Crummy through-the-windshield pic, but the important part reads WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE

The first morning I drove to Disney while blasting the Hamilton soundtrack. Not only is it an inspiring work of genius, but if you sing/rap along it loosens the tongue. As I sang along to “I’m Not Throwing Away My Shot” my eyes began watering. I fought back the tears. I was not going to ruin my makeup. But this was my shot. I had two agents to pitch and four days to make a mark. To feel like I belonged. To make a game plan for my career. To believe I was a “real” writer.

I am not throwing away my shot

Friends and family in the real world usually don’t consider you are a real writer if you aren’t published. They believe it’s a cute hobby. Easy. Like crochet, only with no homemade potholders to show off at Christmastime.

Like hell it is.

via GIPHY

There were SO MANY unpublished writers at the conference, all eager to suck up information, hone skills, and gain inspiration. We were not alone.

And the “rock stars” of romance, the hard-working success stories of the writing world, welcomed us with open arms. Literally. These women are huggers. As they embraced me I hoped some of their writing mojo would sprinkle onto me. No, seriously, I’m getting weepy just thinking about it. Beverly Jenkins hugged me. So many others.

There’s only one problem with the whole success by osmosis idea: the number one thing I learned was that there is no secret formula. Just a buttload of hard work.

So, my Kristan Higgin’s story:

The first day I attended the First Timers’ Orientation. Robin Covington, Eliza Knight, Dee Davis, Laura Kaye, and Damon Suede welcomed us newbies and tried to convince us that no one at Nationals eats the young and we’d survive and possibly even enjoy ourselves. Yeah, an easy sell for a bunch of introverts who feel like fumbling ball boys at the World Series. A few big names snuck in at the end of the session to say hello. Kristan, one of the key writers I’d hoped to meet, was one of them.

When the session was over, I waited for my chance to say hello. The girl is popular. Even multi-published authors can’t help to go all fan-girl around her. I finally got my chance to shake her hand and casually mention that she was the reason I was at RWAs and one of the main reasons I write contemporary romance.

She gave me a hug. Said I was making her eyes water.  Then she asked me what I was writing and how it was going. When I mentioned that I was pitching on Friday, her eyes lit. “You want to practice with me?” she asked.

via GIPHY

Yes? No? Of course! I tried not to panic. Or throw up.

While we waited for the room to clear out, she introduced me to all the amazing writers passing by to chat with her. They were all so kind. Welcoming. Treated me like an equal. And they promised me Kristan was very “nice” and wouldn’t make me cry.

When the room finally emptied, she sat across from me. I was so dang nervous I had to read my pitch to her. It was like that dream when you’re on stage and you forget all your lines and Meryl Streep is waiting for her cue. She asked me probing questions about my characters and story. Helped me focus on the more gripping aspects. Fed me confidence.

Little old me. She made me believe that I was just as important as any of the other writers there. She made me believe that if I worked hard enough, I had a chance. By believing in me, she made me believe in myself.

Nurturing. This organization has it down.

via GIPHY

And no, I didn’t get a picture with Kristan.  I was attempting to be a pro. Yes, I’m kicking myself. The next day at the PRO Retreat she used my story as an example. I may have swooned. I felt like a rock star. I only hope I can share the love with other aspiring authors as completely someday.

Virgina Kantra Story:

The scene: Keynote Luncheon with Susan Wiggs. Me and two-thousand or so writers in a ballroom for the third time (first being Golden Heart Award Luncheon, second the RITA Award Ceremony the night before). I wasn’t sure I could take more peopling, so I grabbed a seat a table in the back in case I needed to sneak out. The table filled up, and someone asked if she could grab the last seat left beside me. Sure.

She noticed my first timers ribbon and asked how I was enjoying it. I asked if it was her first time, too. Then she shifted and I could read her name badge…and I noticed the ten RITA pins lining the top. Open mouth, insert foot.

Turns out this lovely latecomer was Virginia Kantra, a ten-time RITA nominee who’d won the Best Mid-length Contemporary Romance RITA the night before. When we weren’t listening to Susan Wigg’s inspiring speech, Virginia peppered us with writing stories, business advice, and kindness. The woman knows how to network. I paid attention.

When she asked if she should bring her RITA Award statue to her signing later that day, we were all like “heck yeah!”

She did. She let me fondle hold it. Inspiration.

Look, Mom–I won a RITA! Someday.

 

Part 2 coming soon!

Summer heat and fun with The Hook Up by Tawna Fenske

Ellie Sanders is over the fairytale, thank you very much. Content with her booming career as a purveyor of Madame Butterfly pleasure aids, she doesn’t need a man for anything—except maybe marketing tips. And, okay, a few fun nights with something that doesn’t require batteries.

Love, marriage, and family aren’t in the cards for Tyler Hendrix. Period. The Navy helped Ty put his tumultuous childhood behind him, but when a sexy single mom walks through the First Impressions door looking to take her business to the next level, he feels his carefully constructed “never-get-attached” walls crack.

As Ty and Ellie maneuver through a minefield of wardrobe malfunctions, plumbing mishaps, and the world’s most awkward accidental dirty talk, discovering they have more in common than scorching sexual attraction threatens to crumble Ty’s walls for good…

Each book in the First Impressions series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Series Order:
Book #1 The Fix Up
Book #2 The Hang Up
Book #3 The Hook Up

I had to laugh once I started reading THE HOOK UP. Not only because it was funny. Holey-double-entendre Batman, it was funny. But because I felt as if I knew our plucky heroine, Ellie the sex-toy selling single mom. Really. Many, many moons ago, one of my employees was a young, blonde single mom with an adorable little boy. She too had a crummy marriage and an ex who didn’t participate in said kiddo’s life.

And she too hosted ladies pleasure aid parties.

Her soiree was the first of the kind I’d been too. Since I was her boss at her regular job, it was a smidge bit awkward. Okay, it was MASSIVELY AWKWARD–I sat next to her MOTHER. But informative. And fun. And this real-life person did indeed have a hook up, but I enjoyed Tawna’s story and hero far more than the real-life version.

So back to that. Ty is a videographer with commitment issues. One thing I like about him (and many of Tawna’s heroes) is that he’s not the typical alpha male. No obnoxious, overbearing testosterone-infused pushiness. Oh, trust me, he’s got testosterone flowing, but it’s pulsing inside a sizzling hot teddy bear. He makes you laugh. And did I mention he falls for the kid, too? Cuteness. Overload.

Ellie is independent, focused on building her business and raising her son and basically has her shiz together. (It’s refreshing to read a romance where neither character is in “need” of the other.) The only thing Ellie and Ty “need” is a hook up. Neither wants commitment, just a few itches scratched.

Of course, it doesn’t work out that way. The chemistry between these two is obvious to us the moment they have their first confusingly hysterical conversation. We know they’re going to work out, even if takes them a little longer.

I’ve read that some romance readers don’t go for the “single mom” storyline, as it’s not a part of their fantasy. (Romances are essentially women’s fantasies.) But I do. I’m a mom. Most of my friends are moms. Some are single again. They’ve been forced back into that complicated dating word and wonder if they will ever find love again. I want to see how these stories can play out. I want to see these women have their Happily Ever Afters.

At 226 pages, THE HOOK UP is just that: a sweet yet sexy and fully entertaining romp. But just like with Ellie and Ty, what starts as a short, no commitment fling will likely lead to something more, and you’ll fall for Tawna’s books, too.

  • Publication Date: July 3, 2017

What I’m reading…

my kind of you

My Kind of You (A Trillium Bay Novel Book 1)

by Tracy Brogan 

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Tracy Brogan is back with a sweet, hilarious series about family, forgiveness, and what it means to go back home.

Emily Callaghan never expected to spend another summer on Wenniway Island. Yet here she is, back in her quaint northern Michigan hometown of Trillium Bay, divorced, flat broke, and dragging along her precocious twelve-year-old. It’s a simple arrangement: Emily, a house flipper, will renovate one of her grandmother’s rental properties in exchange for a much-needed loan. Once a wild child, the reformed Emily also hopes to remodel her reputation and show her family she’s all grown up.

But coming home is never simple. Emily’s dad is more distant than ever. Her younger sister is dating a much older man, and Emily’s worried it’s a mistake. The cottage remodel grows increasingly daunting. And then there’s handsome out-of-towner Ryan Taggert…

Ryan has his own family drama. A smart, ambitious land developer, he’s come to Wenniway to rescue his father from the grips of a new girlfriend and protect their family business. But he’s quickly distracted by gorgeous, witty Emily Callaghan.

There’s no denying the attraction between Emily and Ryan. But will their conflicting interests destroy any chance at love? Or will Emily finally get the chance to rebuild her life—and repair her heart?

 

Anne Wynter might not be who she says she is….

But she’s managing quite well as a governess to three highborn young ladies. Her job can be a challenge: in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play that might be a tragedy (or might be a comedy; no one is sure), and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he’s the first man who has truly tempted her, and it’s getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.

Daniel Smythe-Smith might be in mortal danger….

But that’s not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family’s annual musicale, he vows to pursue her, even if that means spending his days with a 10-year-old who thinks she’s a unicorn. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending….

Listening Length: 9 hours and 36 minutes

Cheers to Jill Hannah Anderson and The To-Hell-And-Back Club!

happy pub day jill hannah anderson
I’m ecstatic to wish my critique partner extraordinaire a HAPPY PUB DAY!!!!!

I can’t even tell you how excited I am. When my copy of Jill Hannah Anderson’s THE TO-HELL-AND-BACK CLUB arrived the other day I actually squeed (and I am not a squee girl), did a little dance, and then saluted this beautiful book baby with a celebratory glass of wine.

I’ve been reading Jill’s THE TO-HELL-AND-BACK CLUB for about three-and-a-half years now. Yes, it takes that long (and often longer) to edit a book, re-edit dozens of times, and find a publisher. At least. And even then you have to be a magical mix of lucky and good. This book is good. I’ve had the pleasure of watching this novel grow from it’s early drafts to the shiny work of PUBLISHED women’s fiction it is TODAY. And I’m overjoyed to help share it with the world.

the to hell and back club jill hannah anderson

Back cover:

In this inspiring debut from Jill Hannah Anderson~ Peyton Brooks, a newly-empty nester with a comatose marriage, loses her three best friends in a car crash, and reaches out to women in the To-Hell-And-Back Club, hoping they’ll help resuscitate her life.

Through the “Hell Club”, Peyton learns that it’s never too late to begin again. These been-there-felt-that women use their sense of humor, strength, and support to help pull her off the couch and back to living her life.

She puts an end to her troubled marriage and rebuilds the life she’d put aside two decades ago. But when Peyton digs up time capsules she and her friends buried years ago and uncovers secrets about those she loved, she struggles to keep her own life-changing secret buried.

The “Hell Club” women help remind Peyton of the strength within her. She finds a renewed hope in life and love when she faces the mistakes and guilt that have troubled her for years. When Peyton’s secret is discovered, she’s going to need the “Hell Club” women more than ever.

The To-Hell-And-Back Club is an inspiring book that reminds us that it’s never too late to start over, and that living a life of regrets is no life at all.

The To-Hell-And-Back Club is a heartwarming story about forging a new path in life when you hit a dead end. Just as empty-nester Peyton Brooks musters the strength to leave her floundering marriage she loses her dearest friends in a car accident. A car she was supposed to be in. Weighed down by grief, guilt, and loneliness, she realizes she must find a way to keep going. She finds the women of the To-Hell-And-Back Club. As the name suggests, each woman there has her own heartbreaking tale. But this club is anything but a downer. Together the women lend not only shoulders to cry on and ears to listen, but strength to build up their backbones and open their hearts.

With the help of these women from all walks of life, Peyton deals with secrets her family and dearest friends have kept from her and the truth she’s withheld from everyone, including herself. She may even discover what she’s been missing in life: camaraderie, laughter, and a second chance at love. This story made me wish for my own To-Hell-And-Back Club, a group of brave women who’ve learned that friendship, forgiveness, and heaps of humor are the keys to moving forward in life.

jill hannah anderson Voted “Most Imaginative” in high school, Jill assumed everyone else looked at life with “what-if” questions too. She lives on a lake in Minnesota with her husband in their rarely-empty nest, where they enjoy their six adult children and ever-increasing number of grandchildren when they come to visit.

Jill has worked at a communications company for two decades and also writes part-time for a Minnesota women’s magazine. Her first women’s fiction novel, THE TO-HELL-AND-BACK CLUB, was released in May 2017. She is a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA), and is currently at work on her second women’s fiction novel, CRAZY LITTLE TOWN CALLED LOVE, featuring a character from her first novel. When she isn’t working, writing, or reading, you’ll find her running, curling, biking, and enjoying the great outdoors.

Connect with Jill!

Website  www.JillHannahanderson.com
Facebook  www.facebook.com/jillhannah.anderson/
Twitter https://twitter.com/JillHannahA
Instagram ~ @jillh.anderson

And buy this book!

The Distance Home by Orly Konig

Congratulations!

A quick congratulatory shout out to Orly Konig on the release of her debut novel THE DISTANCE HOME! Orly is a co-founder and past president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association,  a member of the Tall Poppy Writers, and one of the most supportive women out there in the virtual writing world. This one is going to the top of my TBR pile 🙂 Check it out!

orly

The Distance Home
by Orly Konig

“A powerfully heartwarming and introspective story.”―Booklist

Sixteen years ago, a tragic accident cost Emma Metz her two best friends―one human and one equine. Now, following her father’s death, Emma has reluctantly returned to the Maryland hometown she’d left under a cloud of guilt.

Sorting through her father’s affairs, Emma uncovers a history of lies tying her broken family to the one place she thought she could never return―her girlhood sanctuary, Jumping Frog Farm.

Emma finds herself drawn back to the stable after all these years. It’s easy to win forgiveness from a horse, but less so from her former friend Jillian, their once strong bond destroyed by secrets and betrayals. But despite Jillian’s cold reception, for the first time in years, Emma feels at home.

To exorcise the past, Emma will have to release her guilt, embrace an uncertain future, and trust again in the healing power of horses.                                     (from Amazon)

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This Time Around by Tawna Fenske

happy pub day tawma fenskeHi y’all! Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while. In addition to going on an editing bender I’ve been planning, prepping, and over-stressing over a dream vacation. Yes, I just returned from a magnificent week in Paris–oh la la!

One of my stress hot buttons: which ONE book should I bring along? (Seriously, being trapped on a plane for eight hours with the wrong book would be worse than being seated between two passengers with B.O.)

Luckily, the Advance Reader Copy of Tawna Fenske’s THIS TIME AROUND arrived in the mail the day before departure. Problem solved.

{Photos of THIS TIME AROUND‘s whirlwind tour of Paris at the end!}

THIS TIME AROUND by Tawna Fenske

Allie Ross is not living the life she once dreamed. Her law career ended before it ever started, her parents landed in jail for running a Ponzi scheme, and she just inherited her grandmother’s B&B—which is nice, even if it is full of extra-toed cats. As for her love life…she’d rather not talk about it.

When Jack Carpenter reaches out to reconnect with Allie, the girl who broke his heart in college, his plan is to impress her with the adult he’s become. Sure, he was a deadbeat then, but life has forced him to grow up. And it’s a relief to find out that things didn’t necessarily go the way Allie expected either.

As Allie and Jack get reacquainted, they rediscover the things they loved—and hated—about each other. But who they are now isn’t who they were then, and secrets—old and new—will test whether they have a future together, or if the past is destined to repeat itself.

318 pages –  Montlake Romance (April 4, 2017)

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I have a thing for second chance love stories. And for Tawna Fenske’s always hilarious take on the contemporary romance genre. Put them together and bam–you have a thoroughly entertaining read.

You’ve read the jacket copy above, so I won’t bore you by restating. TTA hits just the right buttons. We’ve all been left wondering what would happen if we bumped into that certain someone from our past. And maybe your life hasn’t turned out exactly as you’d envisioned. (If your anything like me, that’s the understatement of the decade.) Common themes. But TTA gives it a twist with a sexy single dad, his delightful daughter, a flawed, real heroine, and a couple of quirky sidekicks. (Oh, and I can’t leave out the dozen-plus Hemingway cats the descent of woodpeckers.) Because this is a Tawna Fenske novel, hilarity ensues.

Not that it’s all laughs. The story touches on some tougher issues: losing a spouse, motherless daughters, unexpected pregnancies, parents in prison, and the death of a beloved grandmother. There’s guilt. Heartbreak. Loss of trust.

And that slew of laughs, bawdy double entendres, and the naughty bits of humor Tawna’s books are known for. 🙂  Many of the funny bits sprout from the mouth of the precocious Paige, the curious 10-year-old who has no problem asking questions in public sure to make any adult’s face burn red. (Trust me, kids do that in real life.)

THIS TIME AROUND is a stand alone romance that doesn’t feel like your typical romance, full of heart, humor, and a passel of polydactyl cats.

 And now: THIS TIME AROUND’s book tour through Paris!

 

Ready for takeoff (and 8+ hours of in-flight entertainment)

Ready for takeoff (and 8+ hours of in-flight entertainment)

Admiring the view from our Paris apartment

Admiring the view from our Paris apartment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking in the Seine

Taking in the Seine (with Hubby’s man-hand)

This Time Around on Ile St-Louis Paris

With the stately buildings on Ile Saint-Louis

 

 

At Shakespeare & Co. bookstore!

At Shakespeare & Co. bookstore!

 

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at  Musée d'Orsay

at Musée d’Orsay (the hairy hand is my hubby’s)

 

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THIS JUST IN: Now That It’s You (Tawna’s last release) was just announced as a finalist for the coveted RITA Award! That’s sorta like the Oscars for romance writers. Congrats Tawna!! And for you, dear readers, Now That It’s You is on sale on Amazon for only 99 cents! Deal of the day!

I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Love and Romance à la Audiobook

HappyEndingsGuaranteedWhat better day to celebrate romance than Valentine’s Day?

I’m picky when it comes to fiction audiobooks. And I’d never listened to a romance (see previous statement). But I’ve discovered an author and a narrator who will make anyone fall in love with the spoken language of love.

It all started with PARIS IN LOVE. Nonfiction, on my regular audiobook menu. I’ve been dreaming of Paris, gobbling up books about the city as if they were plump, aromatic fresh baguettes. In PARIS IN LOVE, Shakespeare professor/bestselling historical romance author Eloisa James chronicles the year she and her husband took sabbaticals from their professorships and immersed themselves in Parisian life.

I know, sounds rough. But they had two teen/tween kids. TEENAGE KIDS. That alone is enough fodder to fill a book. Her short piece format reads like blog or Facebook snippets, entertaining with humor, heart, and joi de verve.

If her historical romances were anywhere near as smart and delightful as her, I had to give them a read. (Note: I’m ridiculously late to this party. She’s been writing bestsellers for forever.)

Why not listen?

I downloaded ONCE UPON A TOWER. After five minutes, I was in love–with Eloisa’s clever story, spunky heroine, and the talented narrator, Susan Duerden.

I went for hour-long walks four times last week just so I could listen. It kept me company as I filed my taxes, cleaned the house, and toiled over my 2016 Family Photo book. Pure escapism. Well, until the thirteen-yer-old returned home while I was in the middle of a rather naughty scene…. Oops!

Next came WHEN BEAUTY TAMED THE BEAST. Loved it! Witty banter. A head-strong beauty. A  “beast”  of a Duke. (Okay, he has one physical flaw, but his cantankerous personality is all love-to-hate him Dr. Gregory House.) And the same fabulous narrator Susan Duerden.

I’m officially hooked. And you will be, too. Check out this CBS News story that ran this Sunday:

To her students at New York’s Fordham University, she is professor Mary Bly. But to legions of readers, she’s bestselling romance writer Eloisa James, a reigning queen of romance fiction. Faith Salie discusses the English scholar’s surprising double life, and talks with author Beverly Jenkins and with the writer behind the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, as she explores the sex, love, empowerment and HEAs (the “happily ever afters”) of romance novels.

 

ONCE UPON A TOWER by Eloisa James

To win her love…
As an extremely wealthy laird, Gowan Stoughton, Duke of Kinross, can have any of the maidens at the ball he attends. The only problem is they are all English and Gowan is not so certain they are suitable. He is accustomed to the hard-working lasses from his Highlands, not these dainty noblewomen who spend their days drinking tea or some other such nonsense. But then he makes the acquaintance of Lady Edith Gilchrist. Utterly bewitched by the emerald-eyed beauty with lush golden locks, he knows he must have her.

He must free her from her tower…

“Edie” had the misfortune of being dreadfully ill at her debut ball and barely remembers what Gowan looks like. Even worse, she accepted his proposal the following day. Edie’s only true passion is playing music – until Gowan writes a scandalous letter and stirs the most irresistible desire. Yet when they marry, Edie realizes her husband needs a lesson and locks herself in a tower. Somehow Gowan must find a way to enter the tower and convince his new bride that she belongs in his arms.

Listening Length: 12 hours and 17 minutes
Publisher: HarperAudio
Audible.com Release Date: May 28, 2013

 

PARIS IN LOVE by Eloisa James 

In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: She sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. This memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life—discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen’s sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools—not to mention puberty—in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as she overfeeds Milo, the family dog). Paris in Love invites the reader into the life of a most enchanting family, framed by la ville de l’amour.

Listening Length: 6 hours and 38 minutes
Publisher: Random House Audio
Audible.com Release Date: April 3, 2012

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When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James 

Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a Beauty… Naturally, she’s betrothed to a Beast.

Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. And rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.

Linnet is not just any woman.

She is more than merely lovely: her wit and charm brought a prince to his knees. She estimates the earl will fall madly in love – in just two weeks.

If she decides to be very wicked indeed… what price will she pay for taming his wild heart?

Listening Length: 9 hours and 20 minutes
Publisher: HarperAudio
Audible.com Release Date: October 11, 2011

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