Why Romance?

It’s Valentine’s Day today. Ironically, despite being a romance writer, I can’t stand this holiday. I heartily dislike the idea that my loved ones must be forced to tell me they love me once a year (and vice versa). Please explain why this isn’t happening naturally throughout the year? It’s a retail driven holiday that puts pressure on singles and couples alike, and it sucks.

*Off soap box.* That said, since today is (supposed to be) about love, I think it’s a good day to share my thoughts on something. With a handful of decades reading romance and now 10 years of writing it behind me, the question I still get asked most often is why romance?

I tend to answer with a couple of different reasons. Here are my top 4:

It’s my chances to put a little happiness in a world that has way too much of the opposite.

I can hardly stand to turn on the news these days. It is a rare thing that the stories don’t display a world in chaos filled with hate and violence. By writing romance–stories inherently about HOPE–I am taking the creativity God gifted me with and putting a little happiness back into the world. Out of curiosity, what are you doing to make this a better place?

It makes me happy.

I write and read romance because it…wait for it…makes me happy. I love the interaction between the characters and their growth on the page. I love seeing how finding love makes them happy. And, again, I love the HOPE. For dragon shifters and cowboys and billionaires and nerds and outgoing peole and shy people and people who are hurting alike, the opportunity is out there. Immersing myself in things that turn out beautiful and lovely is a wonderful way to spend some hours. 

Why not? Why aren’t you reading it?

Love is at the center of all relationships (or it should be). It’s at the center of making babies (or it should be). It’s not a female-only past time (guys do feel something other than lust, I hope). And it’s not just escapism for women. Not when mysteries and action/thrillers are also out there. I don’t see most men running around beating up bad guys and solving crimes. Just saying. 

So if these books are about hope and reflecting something that everyone on this planet has the capability to experience. And the have a wish to experience it (traditional forms or not). Please explain to me why more people  don’t read romance? Maybe if more people did, this would be a happier, more hopeful world than it currently is.

Finally… The voices in my head won’t shut up, so I give their mouths something to do. 😉

Come on. You always suspected writers were crazy. I’m just saying…you’re right.  To sit in front of a computer for hours/weeks/months/days/years torturing myself and my characters isn’t exactly an easy task. But I love what I do, and the people I get to meet because I do this, and the happiness it brings. So I guess I’ll continue to put up with Valentine’s Day and sing the praises of love and romance the other 364 days of the year. 

Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxo

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Cover Reveal & Preorder | Taming the Troublemaker

The cover for Taming the Troublemaker is up with preorder links! Isn’t it gorgeous!??! This one is hands down the cutest book I’ve written yet, and it’s coming March 21st with Tule Publishing!!!

The Hills of Texas are back, this time with Autry Hill. The playboy of the family has something to prove, but getting tangled up with Beth Cooper might give him some trouble. This book stands alone with its own HEA.


TAMING THE TROUBLEMAKER

THE HILLS OF TEXAS #3
One daring kiss with the playboy tempts the good girl, but can she tame him?

Autry Hill may be a cowboy to his boots, but he’s also gained quite the reputation as a charmer and playboy. His parents aren’t sure he’s ready to take the reins of the family’s prosperous Texas ranch, so they set up a challenge: No women or scandal for the next six months and the ranch house he grew up in is his. Easy peasy, Autry thinks. He’s already tired of late nights and romancing, until elementary school teacher Beth Cooper happens to cross his path. Suddenly Autry is losing his heart, his mind, and what’s left of his reputation.

Good girl teacher Beth Cooper is far too practical to fall for Autry Hill, even if she had a crush on him way back when. The man’s been breaking hearts since middle school. But when he becomes her unexpected champion and then they work together to help one of Beth’s troubled students who’s about to lose everything, she sees a different side of Autry – serious, compassionate, determined and dedicated. And that Autry is nearly impossible to resist. Does she need to?

PREORDER

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Tule Publishing | Coming 3.21.2019!!!


$10 Amazon GC Giveaway! 

To celebrate, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon GC (along with eBook copies of Saving the Sheriff and Resisting the Rancher from my Hills of Texas series) to a lucky someone who goes to the post on my Facebook page and enters!

It won’t get you an entry in the giveaway, but any shares/loves are always hugely appreciated and don’t forget to preorder! Not only is sharing caring but so is commenting and telling me how much you love the cover.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

If I Couldn’t Be a Writer?

If I couldn’t be a writer, what would I do?

I think I’ve been asking myself this question since I was old enough to know that there was a choice. One might say that, due to the staggeringly low chances of making a living at this gig, I should have a backup plan.

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There are the practical choices. Ones I’ve already taken at various points of my life. I have a degree in technical writing and did a year long internship. I’ve used that degree in almost every job I’ve had (everyone needs manuals and no one likes to write them). I also have an MBA somewhere in there.

I spent a year as a corporate trainer. I spent five years in a start up web design company doing HTML, graphic arts, and project management. I spent ten years at a major tech company doing business and customer analysis (living in spreadsheets and numbers) and project management again. And now I own a company (Authors On A Dime) where I put all those together with my passion.

I feel like I have the practical covered. That leaves the impractical, which I think is more what this question is about. If I dreamed another dream, what would it look like?

Honestly, I love being a writer so much, it’s a bit of an obsession. But…

I would LOVE to be one of the film historians/introducers/researchers/hosts at TCM (Turner Classic Movies).

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I have watched classic movies all my life. I’m not like 1980s. I’m talking all the way back to the beginning of film. It started with musicals, but that just led me to all the other fantastic films out there. The stories, the acting, the golden age of Hollywood. Love it all! I would be in hog heaven being able to delve into classics, talk about them with other classics lovers, view them, analyze them. In fact, in high school, that was my top job pick. I just had no idea how to go about getting that job.

But…sigh…it’s too late now. Guess I’ll just have to stick with this dream!

What about you? What would you do if you weren’t doing what you do? 😉

Holidays & Traditions in World Building

Today is February 2nd. You know what that means. Groundhog Day!

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Every year, my husband is so excited to get to rewatch the cult classic movie. That’s our Groundhog Day tradition. Maybe one year we’ll actually go to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to experience the day in style and in person.

Anyway, let’s be honest that this is a bit of a weird holiday/tradition. We listen to a large, though extremely adorable, rodent to see if we get more winter. Living in Texas where it’s already creeping into the 80s by February, I have to say, the significance is even less impactful. 

And it got me to thinking as a writer. It seems every culture is going to have unusual holidays/traditions that might seem weird from the outside. Even from the inside.

Writing contemporary romance, I think that means doing my research on any culture I’m including. In fact, I think of the research as fun. An opportunity to try to go experience some of those traditions when I can, or, at the very least, have my mind and heart opened to new ideas. It also means incorporating those traditions or holidays that are ones I don’t practice myself with as much sensitivity as possible.

As a paranormal romance writer, that means possibly creating my own unusual holidays and traditions that my characters might celebrate. What if my big, bad dragon shifters had a day when smaller animal shifters helped predict something important to them?Obviously, I wouldn’t just randomly stick a tradition in a story. I’d give it some history of its own and a particular meaning to or impact on the story.

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For example, if you look at the history of Groundhog Day, you’ll find it didn’t just arbitrarily happen. 

According to the history channel, Feb 2nd falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and was a significant day in several ancient and modern traditions.

As Christianity spread through Europe, the day evolved into Candlemas, a feast commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the holy temple in Jerusalem. In certain parts of Europe, Christians believed that a sunny Candlemas meant another 40 days of cold and snow.

Germans developed their own take on the legend, pronouncing the day sunny only if badgers and other small animals glimpsed their own shadows. When German immigrants settled Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought the custom with them, choosing the native groundhog as the annual forecaster.

It makes more sense if you look at it from that angle. And, when you incorporate it into a story–like the movie Groundhog Day–it makes the story that much more special. 

This is something I’ll have to consider more as I incorporate world building into all my books–contemporary, paranormal, or whatever.  But I’m already starting to think if there’s something I can do in my current WIPs–in paranormal that would be Fire’s Edge #3, and in contemporary my 5th and final Hills of Texas book. You’ll have to wait and see what I think up!

Worst Writing Advice I Ever Got

Worst writing advice I ever got? Honestly, this is a hard question because if someone is giving it as advice, it’s because that tip worked for them, or is a standard for most, if not all, writers.

For me, just like in most life situations, there is no BAD advice. There is advice that is given with bad intentions, or without all the information, or with a perspective that doesn’t work for the situation. Those can all apply to writing, too. There is also taking good advice and going way overboard.

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That is what I find happens the most with writing. Taking a good rule, and being so rigid or methodical about it that you end up with bad writing or a boring story.

Here a few examples…

No Adverbs

The rule is to try to not use adverbs because it’s “lazy” writing. That there are better verbs you can use or a better way to describe that scene.

The girl walked slowly. 

The sentence gets the point across, but let’s be honest it’s pretty basic and even boring. An improvement would be to use a better verb.

The girl plodded along.

But what about this example?

Her screams abruptly cut off as her lips sealed shut. 

Is the sentence boring? Does it seem poorly written? Or too beginner-ish? I don’t think so. Sure you could cut the adverb and get the point across, but personally I can hear the aburpt end to sound with it in. You could reword the sentence, but part of the impact is that the sentence is as abrupt as the action happening. If you try to reword it, you’d get something like:

Her screams cut off in an abrupt manner as her lips sealed shut.

This fix makes it awkward and rather stiff or overly formal.

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Her screams cut off, the sudden silence almost jarring, as her lips sealed shut.

If the goal is to keep the sentence abrupt as well, you start losing that feel with the addition.

So yes, there are ways to remove every adverb, but they’re not always better.

Remove Every Instance of “There is” “There was” “It was”

This one I do search for and kill as many as I can. The idea is that both the noun and the verb are lazy/boring/vague. You can use a stronger noun, a stronger verb, or both. But there are (snicker because I just used those words) instances when killing it just makes for an awkward sentence. I find this is especially true if it’s related to spoken dialogue. Or even internal dialogue.

How about this one…

There was more?

Sure you could reword it. But you might lose some of the meaning or make a worse sentence.

More was to come?

Too formal in most instances.

More, there was?

Okay, I went a little Yoda there.

No way could she handle more.

Now it’s no longer an internal dialogue moment, and internal dialogue can be important. You can break up long descriptions with it, convey the characters inner turmoil with it. So cutting it just to reword a sentence seems pretty dumb.

While we’re on the topic, I’d like to point out that, one of the most famous opening lines in literature breaks this rule:

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. 

Try rewording that and see if you get the same impact.

Don’t Use Verbs for Dialogue Tags

This is one I will get in a knock down/drag out with editors over, particularly with my paranormal romances. I have editors who insist you can NOT use words like moan, bark, choke, gasp, and so forth, as dialogue tags. They insist that, for example, one can not both speak and moan at the same time. That it’s physically impossible.

I disagree! Ask me demonstrate next time you see me. Lol.

It’s not that the character is physically doing both things. It’s describing how the words are coming out. Does the tag help the reader hear how those words are being uttered? I say YES!

Example my way: “Right there, John,” she moaned.

She’s moaning the word as she says it. She could be moaning in pleasure or pain. The scene would set that up. But next time you see Meg Ryan do that famous orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally, tell me she’s not moaning some of those words.

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Example without: “Right there, John.”

Sounds so emotionless, right? No oomph.

Example how editors want to fix it: “Right there, John.” She moaned.

Uh. Now she’s saying the words matter-of-factly, and then moaning after the fact. This particular fix gets even funnier with dialogue tags like “barked.”

“Drop and give me twenty,” the drill sergeant barked.

vs.

“Drop and give me twenty.” The drill sergeant barked. 

Aahahahahaha. Don’t tell me that works. It makes it sound like he’s barking like a dog after he says the words. Meanwhile, changing the dialogue tag to a standard “said” is so boring. So is “ordered” IMO. But barked… you can hear that, can’t you?

My way is clearly better. 😉

My point is, rules and advice are made or given for good reasons (usually). But always remember that when you are writing, YOU own that story. Rules are there as guides, but if I feel bending or even breaking them will make my story better, damn strait I’m going to do that.

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$0.99 Sale | Resisting the Rancher

Haven’t had a chance to pick this one up yet? Get it for only $0.99 today! Fall in love with Williams Hill as he falls for Rusty Walker. This book stands alone and does not have to be read in order.$0.99 – Jan 18-26 ONLY  


Rusty Walker has spent her entire life trying to earn her tough, ranching father’s respect and approval by learning the business inside and out. But now her uncompromising parent has decreed she must marry if she wants to inherit. Worse, her husband has to be someone who can help her run the business. As if she needs it!

Williams Hill kissed Rusty in a bar in an act of temporary insanity, and lost his heart to her on the spot. Despite the complications to his own rodeo stock business, he agrees to marry the feisty red-head, hoping to woo her once they’re hitched. But she only views him with suspicion and resentment.

Can this soft-spoken Texas cowboy convince his proud wife, who’s never known unconditional love, that she is everything he wants?

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How Far Back?

How far back does your earliest memory go? 

My most vivid memories start around the ages of seven and eight. Before that, it’s mostly snippets or specific moments. Special occasions like Christmases and birthdays. Family visits. Tea parties my mother would put on for my neighborhood friends. My first watch–Mickey Mouse. The different houses we lived in before settling in Texas. 

Grandmother

My very first memory, though, goes all the way back to when I was probably about two years old, at a guess, and involves my grandmother.

My dad’s mother lived in Texas in the same town as us, so I was lucky to get to spend time with her. She and my grandpa also owned the family house we all vacationed at in Estes Park, Colorado. And, if you know me, you know that’s my favorite place on the planet. Fitting that this memory is also tied to that place. 

My grandmother was very proper. Manners were important. Thank you notes were expected for all gifts. And we’d better call her “Grandmother.” Not Grandma, or Nana, or, heaven forbid, some southern version like MeeMaw. Children were to be heard and not see. That was harder when we were younger, but she was so lovely as I hit my teens and twenties, always sharing stories of growing up and her life with Grandpa.

But maybe you can picture her–always dressed beautifully and a little on the formal side.

In this earliest memory of mine, I’m sitting on her lap in a rocking chair in that house in Estes Park. I can picture exactly where the chair was, beside a large window that looked out over mountains. That ugly red and orange and green shag carpet. The wood panelling on the walls that would give you splints if you touched it, and the red wallpaper with the eagles.

I can picture Grandmother–slender and lovely, with her short gunmetal grey hair worn in teased curls. Although, it’s harder now to separate what she looked like when I was older from what she must’ve looked like then–younger than I’m picturing I’m sure. She would have only been in her mid-fifties at the most, which, as I’m only a decade or so away, seems super young to me these days. 

My being about two years old sounds right, because I remember my parents along with several aunts and uncles vaguely being there. Everyone was watching me with Grandmother. So probably one of those moments of a grandparent and grandchild with lots of pictures.

Grandmother, at the time, wore glasses and she always had them on one of those chains so she could wear it around her neck. And in this memory, I reach for the chain. And every single adult (except Grandmother), shout, “No! No! No!” Now, I doubt they were actually shouting. But to a child that young, that’s how the memory works. Grandmother, meanwhile, very calmly and gently took the chain from my grasp. 

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That’s my earliest memory. Kind of a funny memory to have. You’d think my earliest would be of a parent, or maybe a sibling. But no. A simple memory, too. Just a small moment.  A drop in the bucket compared to an ocean of many other moments of my life.

As a writer, memories like these are not only precious for personal reasons, but also for professional reasons. Those little details are characteristics I could write into a grandmother in one of my books, or a scene I could add with a grandmother and baby granddaughter. Those small memories give those scenes and characters in my books a realism that I think would be difficult to imagine otherwise.

I’m smiling even as I write this because it’s so real to me. I miss Grandmother. 

Cheat Sheet for Great Beginnings

Beginnings and endings are my favorite parts of books to write. Not just because with one I am starting a new exciting journey and the other I’m finally crossing the finish line. Endings we’ll talk about another time, but beginnings…

Beginnings I love because I get to use a relatively small amount of real estate to get readers invested while setting up the entire rest of the story.  I’m not talking about the first page, but the first roughly 10%. Sounds like a lot, but it’s not. Which is what makes it so exciting as a writer. It’s a challenge I love to dig into.

In the beginning

So… what goes into writing a great beginning?

That is a HUGE question. And we could spend days/hours/many, many blogs on things like GMC (goal, motivation, conflict), building/establishing/developing characters, setting up your plot, and so forth. All fantastic tools to use as a writer, but for this blog, I’m going to assume you’ve practiced all of that (or at least know what it is). 

For me, once I’d learned/read/taken workshops/watched videos, it helped to have a “cheat sheet” of reminders pulling from those teachings and putting them together with my own personal preferences and experience.

Here’s my cheat sheet for great beginnings:

Wait… first I have to share this…

The PIXAR Example

The best help I’ve ever had with beginnings I came across just this year. It’s a short video from Michael Arndt on his website, Pandemonium Inc. Michael is a writer at PIXAR who examines great beginnings in this video. Watch and thank me (and Michael) later…

Beginnings: Setting a Story in Motion from Pandemonium

Okay, now that I’ve shared that, HERE is my cheat sheet great beginnings:

1. Start with Action

I critiqued a beginning written by my friend Mia Darien once, and it has stuck with me for years. Why? Because she immediately kicked the beginning off with a scene full of action, but, layered in that action, we met interesting characters, got a bit of background, and set up quite a bit of conflict.

We didn’t need to meet the characters first and learn their entire history to understand why this scene was important to them. She made it obvious within the scene. But that action was so gripping, I can still close my eyes and picture it. I still want to know what happens next. 

In other words… JUMP IN to your main character(s) life. Don’t bore the reader setting up every detail of that life first with a ton of internal thought, exposition, or you (the writer) telling the reader who this is. 

2. Equilibrium

This was the first ah-ha for me from that PIXAR video. Show what your main character (or characters) lives are like/worlds are like now. However, this isn’t just things like they eat breakfast, get dressed, and go to work (unless this is The Matrix and that info is critical to the story). Show them in their world doing what they love most / what they are about to lose / what’s about to change. 

BTW… by doing this you’re also getting in setting, introducing your character(s), and even a bit of backstory. Add to the action, and readers will be hooked. 

3. Fatal Flaw

Show your character(s)’s fatal flaw. Only this isn’t that they swear too much or don’t wash their hands. This is something that is going to impact them in a major way and eventually bring about their troubles/conflict/downfall. Is your hero arrogant or brutally honest? Does your heroine struggle with speaking her mind too much, maybe not at all? Want a list of possibilities?

Even better, tie the flaw to what they love most, what they are passionate about, or what they want.

For example, in The American President, the flaws are pride & popularity – Sydney is good at what she does and loves it, takes pride in it. Meanwhile, the President has a high approval rating which he needs to get his job done.

4. Limited / Purposeful Backstory – The “Salt” of the Story

On Writers Helping Writers, James Scott Bell shares a terrific article on incorporating backstory (and agrees with my immediate action thing, too). James and I both agree that backstory should only be shared if it’s important to the scene/story. Also, think of backstory like salt. Sprinkle it a little here and there. Don’t overwhelm the food with it.

I love James’s suggestion to go back through your beginning and highlight all the backstory. It will help you see when you’ve put in too much in one section.  My advice is to limit backstory mentions to 1-2 sentences at a time. I’m not always successful, but keeping that in mind helps.

5. Save the Cat

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is a book recommended to most writers, and I’ve found it very helpful to help me tighten my plot. There a ton of plot points to consider, but for my cheat sheet on beginnings, I always try to remember to save the cat.

This is especially true if one of my main characters is a tough one (love me those antiheroes and snarky heroines). By having them do one small act of kindness (doesn’t having to be literally saving a cat), I immediately make them human/likable/relatable in the reader’s eyes. 

6. The Meet Cute

I write romance, so this is important to me. The meet-cute is that moment when the hero and heroine meet. It is critical to the romance and (usually) happens pretty quickly. Longer books (like historicals) might stretch it out. Personally, I love it when the meet cute happens fast. 

I have a list of things I try to incorporate into the meet-cute.

  • Fitting for the book/characters.
  • Unusual or unique in some way.
  • Snappy. I want it to move quickly.
  • I want witty banter that sets up the H/H interaction for the rest of the book.
  • And I especially love it when the meet cute can also be incorporated into other aspects of the beginning–like it’s also the inciting incident (#7) or the insult to injury (#8).

7. Inciting Incident

This is one of those basics, but your entire story hinges on you getting it right. By the way, the inciting incident , just by rule of thumb, should hit about 10% into your book. This means you’ve set up quite a bit before you yank the rug out.

Your beginning doesn’t end until the conflict for your character has been “incited” (challenge accepted). Which means you need to know the conflict so you can set it up. What is going to kick that off? This is an event that is going to send your protagonist(s) down a new path into the main action of the story. 

Without an inciting incident, we’re just watching a character keep doing what they always do. One of the best examples… Katniss volunteers as tribute in The Hunger Games.

8. Tie #6 to the Grand Passion

Remember the video. If you can tie the inciting incident to the character’s grand passion (what they love or want most in this life–that you established in the equilibrium), it makes the turn of events that much more gripping for the reader. This was a huge “ah-ha” for me (thanks Michael!).

You take that passion/love/interest/need already established and then you twist it, flip it, throw a fly in the ointment, or take it away altogether.

Back to my Hunger Games example. Prim is who Katniss loves most. Only her name being selected could make Katniss step up that way.

9. Add Insult to Injury

This was a fun ah-ha from Michael’s video for me. What is your inciting incident and what would make it worse for your character? Rub salt in that wound. In the video, Michael’s example is that not only is Mr. Incredible no longer allowed to be a hero (because he saved someone being a hero), but now he works in insurance. That just…sucks for him. 

I have to say I have a great time coming up with ways to add insult to injury. Torturing characters is really fun. 

10. Less Is More

This is the hard part. With each and every element above as well as other elements like dialogue, descriptions, internal thoughts, showing the GMC (goal, motivation, conflict), you don’t need to write a dissertation for each piece. Think of it as a playing a piano. If you hit the same note over and over, listeners will tune you out pretty quickly. The goal is to play lots of different notes in a way that makes music. Same with your words, especially at the beginning when you have to establish so much.

Like James’s suggestion with backstory, read through your beginning multiple times. Each time focus on one element to tighten/trim/perfect/whittle as needed.


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So when I start a new book. On top of established my GMC, plot points, and various other character development notes, I also list out the following for my beginnings:

  • Beginning Action
  • Equilibrium for Hero
    • Love/Need/Want
    • Fatal Flaw
    • Save the Cat
  • Equilibrium for Heroine:
    • Love/Need/Want
    • Fatal Flaw
    • Save the Cat
  • Meet/Cute and Inciting Incident 
    • Tie to Love/Need/Want
    • Tie to Fatal Flaw
    • Insult to Injury
  • Remember to…
    • Limit Backstory
    • Read several times to see if any one element is in there too much or too little

I highly recommend to writers that you spend time look at books like Save the Cat and and taking workshops on GMC and other techniques. Writing a book takes many tools in an author’s kit. It’s also incredibly personal. This cheat sheet is what works for me. Put together your own of things that work for you. (Feel free to borrow!)

Author Spotlight: Jessica Lauryn

Y’all know how I love to spotlight my fellow authors, and Jessica is such a sweetheart. I know you’ll love her latest release!

A Sultry Performance

Chris Gordon, stage manager at Rabourn Theater, suspects his late wife’s hit-and-run was never an accident. He believes the man she was having an affair with, Oakley Sutherland, was responsible and he vows to get Evelyn justice, igniting a plot to ensnare Oakley, working through Oakley’s fiancée, Victoria.

A well-known exotic dancer by night, Victoria Morrow has been fighting to make a better life for herself, and she won’t be taken advantage of. But when the most handsome man at Rabourn Theater takes an interest in her, she finds herself spiraling down a path she never expected to. Can Victoria resist Chris’s charms? Or will both of them fall prey to the danger that lurks in the wings?

AMAZON | B&N


EXCERPT

“I’m fine.” Victoria hid her eyes.

Chris tucked a disheveled wave behind her ear. “You don’t look fine. You’re trembling, and you look as though you’ve been crying.”

Victoria did her best to hold it together, like she always did. But seeing the compassion in Chris’s eyes, compassion that ran deeper than anything she had ever been on the receiving end of, the emotions welled inside of her. As the tears spilled down her face Chris took her into his arms. His strength surrounded her. He brought her inside of it, brushing one strong hand up and down her back.

“Victoria,” he whispered, “why are you marrying that man?”

Victoria tried, but couldn’t think of a single reason why she was. For years, she’d been telling herself that she was humoring Oakley, biding her time with him until she could approach him from a position of power. But the more time passed, the more she questioned whether that day would ever come. The night Oakley had asked her to marry him, there hadn’t been any question in her mind that she was going to say yes. Such had been the way of their disgusting farce of a relationship. She presented a hard-edged front to the world, but when it came to the man who’d been manipulating her for half her life, it was as though she had no power at all, as though she might just as well be nothing more than a mouse.

Avoiding Chris’s eyes, because she couldn’t possibly hide the truth from him if they were looking at each other head-on, Victoria simply said, “I love him.”

Chris’s arms stiffened and Victoria froze in turn, barely breathing as he took her by the shoulders, saying, “Victoria, that man just embarrassed you in front of two hundred people. He berated you, he manhandled you and he exploits you every night of your life. How could you possibly love a man like that?”

Victoria gnawed her lip, completely at a loss for words. She had no defense for the man in question and by aligning herself with him she was sacrificing more of her identity every day. Not that the life she’d led had made her crazy about relationships in general, but she wasn’t even opening herself to the possibility of another man’s companionship, to his soothing words and soft touch. Was it so wrong to want these things, so impossible to have them? Bringing Chris into the middle of her relationship with Oakley was liable to prove dangerous for both of them. But Chris was strong. He had to be, to have survived the loss he had.

Cautioning herself not to allow her thoughts to get away from her, knowing that Oakley would probably kill a man he perceived to be a serious enough threat to him, Victoria lifted her chin. “I know what it looks like, but I couldn’t count the things Oakley has done for me over the years. He’s protected me, and I sleep soundly at night knowing that no one is going to hurt me. He makes me feel safe.”

She realized right away that she shouldn’t have put things in those terms because the twinkle in Chris’s eyes told her exactly what his reply was going to be. She ought to run. He was giving her a chance to do just that, but her legs refused to stand. Instead, they eased sideways, leading the way like the smokestack on a train as her body leaned helplessly into that of the man sitting beside her.

“Tell me, Victoria—” Chris looked into her eyes, “does Oakley Sutherland make you feel like this?”  


ABOUT JESSICA LAURYN

#1 BookStrand bestselling author Jessica Lauryn has been writing since before she could hold a pen. Her days of storytelling through the art of playing with dolls inspired her to write romantic suspense novels The Romance Reviews describe as having “Just the right amount of passion and romance!” Villains often reform in Jessica’s stories, and just may become heroes themselves! Jessica is an avid antique collector, as well as a proud member of Romance Writers of America and her local chapter, New Jersey Romance Writers.

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My Favorite Thing I’ve Written

Often, the last story I finished is my favorite thing I’ve written. I think it’s because, with each new story, I’m always learning and growing. However, some stories are harder to write, some characters harder to get to know. And some are easier.

My favorite contemporary romance I’ve written, unfortunately isn’t quite out yet. But good news! It releases March 21st!!!

Why is Taming the Troublemaker my favorite (at least so far)? Several reasons.

Mostly it comes down to the hero and heroine. Beth and Autry are an unlikely couple, but just worked so well in my head and on paper. They are fun and funny together, but also become each other’s biggest, unexpected partners. In fact, this was originally titled Partnering the Playboy for just that reason.

I also loved writing in several scenes that had me laughing out loud as they came to me. Incidents which fit these characters and yet drive them. Most of these scenes I drew from my own real life experiences–including a skunk and a scene with a purse in a car. (You’ll see.)

Finally, I used a different technique while writing this book. One that served me so well, I intend to use it on all future books, because I think it helped me craft a smoother, more polished first draft which resulted in easier revisions.

I will be very curious to see if readers love this one just as much as I do!

Look for Taming the Troublemaker this March!!!