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Nina Crespo: Summertime means vacations, getting away from it all, escaping everyday life for fun and adventure. What do you like about the warmer months and what’s on your list of summer fun?
Nicole Elizabeth Kelleher: That’s a tough question for me to answer. I’m one of those people who has reverse SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I revel in cold winter nights and dreary spring days. What better time is there to cuddle up with a good book, or my family, usually both? The super hot summer months have me hiding out in air-conditioned bliss—also cuddling up with a good book!
Readers, if you’re looking for a summertime read to escape into, read Nicole’s historical romance, The Queen’s Dance. Enjoy!
Lady Claire is the brightest addition to the queen’s retinue, but she hides a secret that could change the fabric of Aurelia: she can foretell another’s fate. This curse has only brought her sorrow, and because of it, she vows never to give her heart to anyone. But Trian, a shy Aurelian Guard, has fallen hard for Claire, and when King Godwin assigns him to escort her across the realm, he jumps at the chance.
When they are thrown together, Claire discovers that Trian may be the one person who is immune to her powers, and friendship takes hold. Trian teaches her his unique way of seeing the world, and Claire tutors him in the healing arts. She realizes too late that she has done that which she promised she would never do: she falls in love.
Her greatest fear is realized when Trian is knocked down by deadly quarrels. His assailants transport Claire far from Aurelia to the foreign lands of Nifolhad. To return home, Claire will need to cross the most treacherous parts of the kingdom, from the merciless desert to cities where spies listen to every whisper. She allies herself with the women from the Fenrhi Temple, who possess powers beyond Claire’s comprehension. Their customs and secrets seduce her, while plots and machinations drag her into the very heart of the battle for Nifolhad’s throne.
If she ever hopes to return to those she loves, Claire must overcome the most perilous challenge of her life and embrace her curse as a gift.
Lark wondered why he had never before noticed the clouds of Cathmar as he lay flat on his back staring up at a sky so pale and thin that, if he could just reach it, he could rend it open one-handed. Mere wisps, the clouds were, nothing like the billowing masses drifting over the rest of the realm. The blue of the northern sky looked stretched, as if the expanse might rupture with the slightest breeze. Of course, there were no breezes in Cathmar. Only wind. Lark took a great gulp of air, his lungs unclenching as his own breath was returned to him.
He heard barking laughter above him, but turned instead to see Trian holding his own against his cousin Cordhin. It had been Terrwyn, Trian’s older brother, who’d knocked Lark flat. That was the way of the Cathmarans: any reason to brawl was a good one. Lark loved Trian’s family. And that Terrwyn attacked him so ruthlessly was testament to the fact that they counted Lark as one of their own.
His bear of a friend was locked in combat with Cordhin, neither one gaining nor giving ground. Though nearly as tall as Lark himself, Trian was a mere cub compared to his barrel-chested male relatives. Cordhin was greater in size and strength, but Trian was faster, both in body and in wit. It had been his friend’s wit that had started this trouble.
Lark grimaced. He had been enjoying the thick grog the Cathmarans preferred, and was feeling quite at ease. He and Trian were due to depart the next day, and Terrwyn wanted to send them off properly, pouring round after round into their cups.
Aside from being apart from his wife and daughter, the only disagreeable aspect of their journey had been Cordhin. The cousin was a constant needle, jabbing Trian at every opportunity with choice words and veiled insults, usually having to do with Trian’s proportions.
Here at Cathmar, where girth of chest was more important than height, Trian was the brunt of many a jest—delivered more oft than not by his cousin. Cordhin had just proclaimed that Trian was the runt of the house, smaller even than some of the women. Trian, with his ever-calm demeanor, took each sting with a serene expression. Lark knew better.
To forestall the coming storm, Lark had suggested that Trian test him on his knowledge of the rugged dialect that was still spoken in the remote states of Cathmara. It had put Cordhin off, at least for a short time, while Lark provided translations to the words Trian threw his way. Then Trian gave Lark the word dhin. Simple enough. It meant “tiny” or “small”. Terrwyn smothered a smirk that left Lark wondering.
“And corai?” his friend asked.
“Spear or sword, if I’m not mistaken,” Lark answered, unaware that, next to him, Cordhin was turning purple. “And if put together,” he continued blindly on, “you get coradhin, or ‘little dagger.’”
Terrwyn blew out his grog. When Trian winked, Lark grasped the meaning of Cordhin’s name, and his laughter echoed off the castle walls. Like all Cathmaran women, Cordhin’s mother had a wicked sense of humor. Trian held up his pinkie and wiggled it to renewed gales of mirth
And that was how Lark found himself staring up at the heavens. Cordhin had launched himself at Trian, and Terrwyn at Lark. Not because of familial honor, either. No, Trian’s eldest brother and heir to Cathmara attacked Lark for no other reason than that he enjoyed a good scuffle.
About the Author
A graduate of the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and Arts, Nicole E. Kelleher studied French Literature and Language, Spanish and Chinese. During this time, she attended classes at the University of Michigan’s School of Art with an emphasis on drawing, watercolor and photography.
She resides in Virginia with her children, husband, and Tully the Dog. When she is not writing or taking care of her family, she volunteers at a local organization helping the less fortunate. She encourages her friends and readers to do the same.
Nina Crespo: We’re almost to the official start of summer, my favorite time of the year. What do you like about the warmer months and what’s on your list of summer fun?
Heather Hiestand: I love how endless the days seem in the summer. It’s no big deal to go out for a walk or even run errands at times in the evening that would be unthinkable in the winter months. I enjoy catching up on my reading in the evenings on the deck, when it’s much nicer outside than in for a couple of months, even in the Pacific Northwest. I’m looking forward to getting my son away from the screens and electronics and be outdoors. My heroine in Wild Image, Kasee Kean, enjoys the minimalist clothing that warmer weather brings, and she meets my hero on the street where he’s trying to take photographs, but that short skirt creates quite an “oops” moment on the pavement!
Readers, how do you like to spend the long, lazy days of summer? If reading is one of your favorite ways to relax, Heather’s contemporary rom-com is a must for your TBR pile.
Blond, bubbly, and single-minded Kasee Kean is a reality TV star, holding onto her celebrity status by the tips of her manicured fingers. Dion Hamilton is a professional photographer in search of a subject. When the two meet outside of Pat’s Irish Pub one sultry spring night, sparks fly and careers are re-ignited.
Losing her mind on camera during her divorce cost Kasee her featured spot on the Ladies of Baltimore television show, but she has a plan to regain her post. A romance manufactured for the tabloids will put her back on top. But what happens when she wants her made-for-television romance with sexy Dion to be real?
Dion isn’t sure what kind of person Kasee is underneath her perfect exterior, and all parts of his life aren’t camera-ready. Still, he can see her vulnerability, and she does have a way of punching excitement into his life. Is this a relationship he should keep turning into cash, or is there a chance she’s the one?
“Quick,” Kasee whispered to Louise. “What do I have to do to get a picture?”
“They aren’t interested.”
“They want to make quick money. They all do. If I’m memorable enough…” she trailed off. “Maybe if we wait by the door? I can drape myself over anyone we recognize. That would get me in the blogs.”
“Do you care if they are married or not?” Louise asked, her gaze following a town car was stopping in front of the bar.
“Because that’s Sky Mitchell.” Louise pointed at a handsome man with dark hair and tight jeans, in a crowd of others, who had just exited the town car.
“Strange that he’s going in at the front. He’s family to the Collinses.” Kasee finger-combed her hair, refusing to second-guess herself. “Here goes.”
Watching for a break in traffic, she stepped into the street, then raced across on her heels, narrowly missing the back of a motorcycle. Louise squealed behind her, but Kasee ignored her friend as she barreled straight for Sky.
The famed rocker held out his muscled arms as she attempted to hug him. He held her off, her arms wheelbarrowing in an attempt to throw them around his neck.
“Come on,” she called. “Just give me a hug, Sky. It’s Kasee Kean.” She attempted to fling her arms upward again, but someone grabbed her around the waist and hauled her back.
The man pulling her sent her flying backward. Her right heel, stiletto thin, snapped against the rough pavement. The impact jolted her from ass to brainstem as she hit the sidewalk. Nerve endings in her hands began to scream. She glanced down and realized she’d attempted to catch herself on her hands. When she picked them up, her palms were scraped and bloody, and her nails were mere shards of their former glory.
“Sky!” she screamed, her jostled brain still on its former path. “I’m Kasee Kean. Please, I need this.” Sitting there, legs spread wide apart, displaying her black silk underpants for the world to see, she began to cry.
Three men surrounded the superstar and pushed him into Pat’s. Kasee stayed on the pavement, legs splayed, hands bleeding. And only then did she see photographers had crossed the street and were finally taking her picture.
About the Author
Heather Hiestand was born in Illinois, but her family migrated west before she started school. Since then she has claimed Washington State as home, except for a few years in California. She wrote her first story at age seven and went on to major in creative writing at the University of Washington. Her first published fiction was a mystery short story, but since then it has been all about the many flavors of romance. Heather’s first published romance short story was set in the Victorian period, and she continues to return to historical fiction as well as other subgenres. The author of many novels, novellas, and short stories, she has achieved best-seller status at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. With her husband and son, she makes her home in a small town and supposedly works out of her tiny office, though she mostly writes in her easy chair in the living room.
Nina Crespo: I’m making plans for the summer and I know you are, too. What do you like about the warmer months and what’s on your list of summer fun?
Andie J. Christoper: I love the summer months because I feel like everyone comes alive when the temperature warms up. My favorite thing to do in the summer (after the words are written, of course), is head over to my local Mexican restaurant patio with my dog, Gus, and drink a (large) margarita in the sun.
Readers, I’m sure you can jump on board with Andie’s plan. Who can resist a good margarita? You’ll want to heat up your summer with Andie’s sexy contemporary romance, Dusk Until Dawn. Enjoy!
“How do I know that?”
“Because, if it was, I wouldn’t consider a ten thousand dollar suit a small price to pay for seeing you smile with satisfaction.”
She laughed. “I’m sorry about the suit.”
He shook his head and a few strands of the hair she’d pulled out of his ponytail hit his face. “No, you’re not. But I don’t want you to be sorry. I want you to say yes.”
“Why? Give me one good reason.” She didn’t know whether she was rooting for him to fail or rooting for him to succeed.
He cocked his head to one side and licked his bottom lip. Lech. “Remember what I said when I promised to let you go?”
Of course she did. Nothing about that conversation had faded from her memory. “That this doesn’t mean that we’re not still friends.”
Although, she set aside writing fiction for a while, her love of romance novels stayed with her through college, law school, and multiple cross-country moves. During one long East Coast winter, she decided writing a book would be a good excuse to avoid braving the elements. It was love at first write. Her heroes are dirty-talking alphas, and her heroines traded Esprit for Free People. (None of them would turn down a Campari, though.)
I love summer with a passion. Although I had fun shopping for winter clothes and stocking up on a few nice pairs of boots, I’m ready to get out of the cold. Dreams of blue sky, sunglasses, cute sandals, and ice-cold cocktails give me goose bumps. I’ve already started building my summer fun to-do list.
Here are some of the activities I’m planning:
*A weekend birthday barbecue with my favorite cupcakes for dessert
*Attending the RWA National Conference and connecting with friends as well as meeting new people
*Visiting the Library of Congress
*Traveling with my husband
Admittedly, I could have done a couple of these things earlier this year, but something about experiencing them with the sun warming my face or with the welcome of a nice ocean breeze makes it even more special.
What about writing? Yes, I’ll have a full writing schedule. In fact, I’m going to make an announcement, very soon, about who’s publishing my next two contemporary series in my newsletter. Sign up for it if you’re not already a VIP subscriber and be one of the first to help me celebrate the big news.
Over the next few weeks, I’m talking to authors about their summer plans and their latest books. Find your next summer read on my blog under the feature title, Nina Crespo Presents: Authors’ Summer Fun. Feel free to share what you’ll be doing this summer in the comment section. I’m including some video inspiration below to get you in the mood. Close your eyes. Relax. Daydream about all of the fun coming your way. Until next time….
Nina Crespo: What’s your current guilty pleasure? I know you have some!
J. L. Lora: Anything with Nutella in it and chemistry between two characters. The Nutella because … it’s Nutella. I can’t explain it any other way. The chemistry because, be it a book or a show, when two characters just have off the charts attraction to each other, I can’t stop reading or watching if their story grips me and doesn’t let me go.
Readers, can you relate? Feel free to share your favorite characters in the comment section. J.L’s new book will fit right in with your secret cravings. Check it out!
Now available from J. L. Lora!
Determined to avoid the violence that claimed her family and friends, Carissa Elliott flees her hometown with a dangerous plan. She has proof that Calum DeMateo killed her father—now she just has to catch him. To do so, she’ll have to transform herself from small-town ingénue to New York crime boss.
When her path crosses with Alec McLean, the sexy stranger with whom she once shared a steamy nightclub kiss, things take an unexpected turn. Alec heads his family’s criminal organization, the kind of made man Carissa should want nothing to do with. But he also has a plan to take down Calum, and the flames that flicker between them are irresistible.
Will their vengeful quests jeopardize their chance at lasting love?
The night, with its clear Miami skies, the air fragrant with lady of the night, whispered excitement.
But not for her.
“I’m ready for a shot,” Carissa yelled at her friends over the music and left the dance floor. She couldn’t spend another twenty minutes getting bumped by drunks. She couldn’t spend another second around a rum-breathed guy without planting her fist in his stupid, grinning face. She couldn’t spend another instant listening to the grief gnawing at her stomach, jagging her nerves.
Her friend Mel caught up with her at the bar. “You OK? I know it’s hard being out and all with your mom gone.”
Carissa bobbed her head and ordered shots. “I’m buying.” She didn’t wait for Mel to respond. “I’m OK. I just need to breathe something fresher than Bacardi and mint.”
Mel put her hand over Carissa’s. “We can all leave if you want.”
The bartender placed the shots in front of them. Carissa wanted to shout yes, let’s get the hell out of here, already picturing her pajamas and the plush hotel bed. Instead, she said, “No. We can stay. I’ll just rest, then we can go dance again. Bottoms up.”
Mel held up a finger. “Carissa, this weekend getaway is about you. If we go back to our room, Gia may pout for a while, but she understands. She won’t be mad for long.”
“You think so? Look at her on the dance floor—hair flipping, that come-get-me smile—she’s full on flirting. And isn’t that the guy from the other club?”
Mel looked over to Gia. “Yeah, that’s him. That spot was nice, but this one’s sexier. Finally, Braeden recommended something classy and not some ass-shaking shack.”
Carissa threw back her shot of whiskey, grimacing at the liquid lava. She shifted her feet, hoping it would ease the throbbing in her toes. Hell’s flames would lick over her skin before she went back to that dance floor. People-watching sounded heavenly, safe, breathable. She held up two fingers for another round.
Mel watched her, worry lines etched on her forehead. “You know, my mom died seven years ago. I still miss her every day.” The slight tremble in Mel’s lips, blink-of-an-eye brief, implied a pain that never faded.
Her voice, soft and so un-Mel-like, yanked at the loosened threads of Carissa’s heart. She forced back images of the hospital, the smell of antiseptic, the whoosh-click of the ventilator. Carissa shook her head.
“We all knew about Mom . . . It was inevitable. Brae was pretty great during that time, though. He stood by me like a shield.”
“It kills me to admit it, but your little jerk of an ex-boyfriend makes a good friend. I’m glad he was there to protect you from the patron saint of all assholes.” The fire dimmed in Mel’s eyes. “But Calum. That fucker needs to die. What kind of shitty-asshole-from-hell makes a move on a woman at her mother’s funeral?”
The anesthetic effect of the whiskey buzzed through Carissa’s skin, numbness embracing her body. Jesus, that felt good. “Yeah, he needs to die. But who’s going to do it, Mel? Us? Are we teaming up again? Is this another adventure for the Powerpuff Girls? Do you still have your costume?”
Both women laughed hard enough to blur the sadness, picked up another shot, and downed it in one move. This one would do the trick.
“Calum won’t stop calling. That’s why Braeden insisted I get away for a few days.”
Mel leaned her elbows on the bar and rested her chin in her hands. “Tell Braeden I don’t 1,000 percent hate him anymore.”
It had to be the alcohol. Carissa turned her face to the sky and then looked around the outdoor lounge. “Hell has frozen over.”
Mel gave her a slight shove. “Let’s go dance.”
“No way. If someone steps on my foot one more time, there will be blood. Lots of it.”
“Ladies, you’ve been invited to a VIP table.”
Carissa whirled around to face a tall, dark-haired man whose muscles went past impressive to downright intimidating. Dressed in a black T-shirt one size too small and tight, dark pants, the man screamed security guard.
“Not interested.” Carissa turned back to Mel, whose eyes bulged in an are-you-out-of-your-damned-mind? look.
The security guard tapped Carissa’s shoulder. “It’s Noah’s table. He says you would be more comfortable there since you’re taking a break from dancing.”
“The guard pointed to a roped area where a man sat watching the dance floor. She couldn’t see his face. Only his thick, wavy hair. “Who’s Noah?”
The guard tilted his head toward the dance floor. “The man your friend is dancing with. That’s his brother at the table.”
About the Author
J. L. Lora was born in Dominican Republic and came to the United States just at the age of 13. Her goal in life was always to be a writer. As a child, she told stories to her family and friends and wrote fiction about historic figures. Today, her stories explore the dark side of good characters, people who are backed into corners and how they react to it. She loves strong heroines and their equally powerful love interests. She currently lives in Maryland while pursuing her dream of writing compelling, sexy, can’t-put-down stories about empowered, bad-ass heroines and take-your-breath-away heroes.
Nina Crespo: What’s your current guilty pleasure? I want details!
Wren Michaels: Binge watching Vampire Diaries and Lost Girl. One of my latest characters is based off Kenzie from Lost Girl because I have a girl crush. LOL
Hey readers, tell us what you’re binge watching in the comments below. Also, take a moment to read aboutWren’s latest and discover your next book crush!
Now available from Wren Michaels!
Catherine ‘Cat’ Marek has a sociology paper due on dissecting the laws of attraction. Project Panty Drop will case study two different men; one she’ll go after in person and the other she’ll attempt to charm online. Hiding behind her beauty, she tries to cover up her true geeky side, and the fact that she’s partially deaf.
Jaidev ‘Jai’ Sankar needs to knock out a paper for his online sociology class. After an encounter with the Texas Tease, Cat Marek, he decides Project Friend Zoned will be the ultimate topic, proving a guy can remain in the friend zone with a girl he finds attractive.
As Cat puts the moves into overdrive, Jai finds it harder to remain in the ‘friend zone’ with her. The only thing keeping him from letting go is the fact his hardcore Hindu parents have a wedding scheduled for him. When neither can resist their attraction, the fight no longer becomes about their papers, but about the freedom to love each other.
Her face haunted me. The adorable dimple pitted in her cheek caught my eye first. Sexy full lips that folded into a gorgeous smile just about took my breath away. I did my best not to continuously stare at her, managing to throw just a few glances here and there hoping she got the message. But she didn’t take the bait. Instead, she gave me a ‘too good for you’ glance while she plowed down a server on her way to the bathroom, probably to restock the toilet paper in her bra.
The Texas Tease, I called it. Lots of girls at UT had it—this one in particular—in spades. Shorter than my normal tastes, her alluring doe-eyes caught me off guard. The memory of her petite frame sashaying as she worked those sexy, black pumps played on a loop in my head. Along with the way her long, brown hair bounced with every step like a damn shampoo commercial.
She drove me insane, and I didn’t even know her name. At least Mick confirmed she was a student at UT, apparently in one of his Economics classes.
She intrigued me, sitting in a sports bar drinking beer while her prissy friend sipped wine. I even caught her glancing at the Longhorn game on the big screen. A cute girl who likes beer and football? Every guy’s dream. If only she weren’t a snob. But, I’d put her in her place. And I had the perfect plan.
The ring of my Skype alert disrupted my plotting. Incoming message from Kanti, my best friend.
Kanti: Hey …
Me: What’s up, brat?
Kanti: You busy?
Me: Never too busy for you.
Kanti: Stop with the sugar, you’re giving me diabetes.
Me: LOL Better get used to it.
Kanti: Ugh. Don’t remind me. Quick, what do you want for your birthday? You got the new Mortal Kombat release already?
Me: Yeah, of course I do. But you don’t have to get me anything. You know that.
Kanti: I can’t NOT get you anything.
Me: Tell me you talked to your parents and the wedding’s called off. That would be an awesome present.
Kanti: Seriously? You know that isn’t even in the realm of possibilities. So shut it.
Me: I can dream, can’t I?
Kanti: Yeah, and I know what you do in those dreams. Not even going there.
Me: You’re such a bitch. Why do I love you?
Kanti: Because we’re best friends.
Me: Well, there’s that.
Mick yelled through the door. “Jai, you comin’ down or what?”
“In a minute,” I replied.
Me: I gotta go. Kegger tonight and we’re hosting.
Kanti: Email me and let me know what to get you.
Kanti: LOL Kiss Kiss
Me: Whatever. LOL TTYL
I closed the lid on my laptop as Mick flung the door open.
“People are starting to arrive. You’re on keg duty first.”
I tossed him a nod. “Yeah, I know. I’m coming. Just finishing up some notes on my Sociology project.”
“I thought you dropped that class?” He folded his arms, leaning against the door-frame.
“I was going to until Professor Wilkinson agreed to let me take it online, since it’s the same time as my cinematography course.” I pulled out a notepad. “What’d you say that chick’s name was again? The one we saw at the bar today.”
“Catherine Marek. But I think she goes by Cat.” Mick shrugged. “Why? I thought you said she was a snob, and you weren’t gonna pursue her?”
“Oh, I’m not. I got my sights set on another girl I’ve been talking to for a little while. But I think that Cat chick will make for a perfect target on my sociology paper.” I wrote down her name and underlined it five times. “I’m calling it, Friend Zoned.”
Mick laughed. “Oh, this ought to be good. What’re you gonna do?”
“It’s what I’m not gonna do that’s going be the best part. I’m going to act like I’m interested, then when she takes the bait, I’ll friend zone her. I’m going to prove that a guy can be sexually attracted to a girl who’s interested in him and still remain only friends. I’ll be the best ‘friend’ she’s ever gonna have.”
About the Author
Wren hails from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin where beer and cheese are their own food groups. But a cowboy swept her off her feet and carried her below the Mason-Dixon line to Texas, where she promptly lost all tolerance for cold and snow. Fueled by coffee, dreams, and men in kilts, Wren promises to bring you laughter, sexy fun time, and action that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The easiest way to her heart is anything to do with the Green Bay Packers, Doctor Who, or Joss Whedon.