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Archive for July, 2012

Hi friends! For those of you don’t know, the national RWA conference was in Anaheim last week. (RWA being the Romance Writers of America.) I got to go(ish) last year in NYC, and had wanted to this year, but it didn’t work out. Hopefully next year in Atlanta! Anyway, I’d been emailing back and forth with Valerie Bowman, and here she is sharing a recap of the conference with us! Yay! Hopefully with more recaps to come!

#RWA12 Conference Wrap up
by Valerie Bowman

I’m back from the land of palm trees and Disney. Oh, wait. I live in Florida. Ok, so I flew all the way across the country for essentially the same scenery, but it was fabulous seeing friends, authors, agents, speakers, and various industry muckity mucks at the Romance Writers of America 2012 National Conference in Anaheim, California.

Without further ado, let’s hit the highlights.

I’d say the biggest news of the conference was Carina Press winning its first RITA. As Carina’s blog puts it, “Fiona Lowe and Carina Press became part of publishing history with a win for Boomerang Bride in Single Title Contemporary Romance.” This is BIG news because a strictly e-publisher has not won the prestigious award before. Carina Executive editor, Angela James, gave a terrific acceptance speech saying that two years ago when Carina opened its doors, she was asked where she saw Carina in five years. “Winning a Rita” was her reply. And they did it! In two! Congrats to Fiona, Angela, and the entire Carina staff.

Second biggest pieces o’ news?: The PAN rules have changed ($5000 self-pub earnings will make an author PAN-eligible now). The Golden Heart and Rita categories have been streamlined (goodbye to the Regency category [sob] and the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category) and the Golden Heart contest will be electronic next year.

Ok, so what else went on? There were tons o’ workshops about social media. We get it, don’t tweet BUY BUY BUY links to our books on Twitter. There was a workshop on the English Country House (which I adored) and one about the History of Contraception (which I missed, dang it!). Workshops on surviving disaster, ER Trauma 101, and how to write emotion and subtext. There were terrific book giveaways and signings. I, myself, got to participate in my very own first signing EVER with St. Martin’s Press where I gave away signed ARCs of my debut Regency romance novel, SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT. And it was every bit as fun as I thought it would be!

Bowker gave a presentation to the Published Authors Network (PAN) and informed us that the average reader thinks $5.31 is a reasonable price for a novel-length ebooks. Food for thought, indeed.

BookEnds Lit Agency had a meet and greet in the conference hotel lobby for anyone interested. You could pitch and meet the agents. I thought it was a great idea. Van Gogh Vodka had an extremely well attended History of the Cocktail session where they were handing out free drinks. Woot!

The Literacy Signing raised $50,963 for ProLiteracy Worldwide . I think about half of that came from me. Avon handed out bags to those who walked in the door. Convenient to store your loot. Uh, it about tripled my purchases!

When the awards came around, Ann Aguirre did a hysterical “interpretive dance” when she won the RITA in Young Adult for her novel, Enclave. In a touching moment, Jo Bourne, Historical RITA Winner, thanked all her teachers.

Stephanie Laurens delivered a keynote speech complete with a slide show about how the big NY publishers need to change with the times, and Robyn Carr’s speech was amazingly sweet and inspirational. “Success is not measured by fame or fortune or power. Success is measured in moments of satisfaction,” Ms. Carr said. The lovely and gracious Barbara Vey was thrilled with her 2012 RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Award for promoting the romance genre. And on Saturday night, Brenda Jackson won the lifetime achievement award to multiple standing ovations.

Also, Leah Nash, a photographer for the NY Times was busily snapping photos of the whole event and I heard an NPR reporter was there too, interviewing authors. She snapped away at the Beau Monde’s Regency soiree where there was dancing, drinking, and whist aplenty.

There was a PubIt Answer bar, which was new this year, where authors could ask their self-publishing questions. A sign o’ the times, no? There were conference CDs being sold, RT magazines subscriptions for sale, and there was even a massage table in the hallway which had a very full sign up roster.

My conference highlight might have been stepping out of my hotel room door and seeing Nora Roberts. I must have looked twice. “Hi Nora Roberts. Good to see you,” I said. Smooth, right? “Hi. How’s it going?” she answered. I think she’s so lovely for attending every year and giving so much back to the industry. She had a party in her room two nights later that I SO wanted to crash but I controlled myself. I could just imagine hotel security being summoned to escort me off the premises.

All in all the conference was fabulous and I can’t wait until I hit the road for 2013 in Atlanta!

Bio: Award-winning author Valerie Bowman writes Regency-set historical romance novels with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging storylines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands! Valerie’s debut novel, Secrets of a Wedding Night, will be published by St. Martin’s Press on September 25, 2012.
Secrets of A Wedding Night is the most charming and clever debut I’ve read in years! ” –Lisa Kleypas

Guest what else? Ms. Bowman has very generously offered up her conference tote bag as well as a few books to a lucky commenter! So, what’d you think of the post? I especially love the anachronistic one where Valerie is drinking her beer in costume. Have you ever been to a conference? Would you go to the RWA signing? Which author(s) would you most like to see?

 

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Hi friends! Off schedule today but that’s okay. Today we have the very last author spotlight! Possibly ever! (AAD just didn’t happen for me this year and I dunno – I don’t really see it in the future either.) But! As you see we have last but not least, author Mia Watts visiting with us. She’s also got a question for all of you, so you know the drill!

Free bird at NOLA by Mia Watts

Raise your hand if you’re going to New Orleans this August for the Authors After Dark convention. Keep them raised if you’re secretly hoping to sneak out and explore some of NOLA’s voodoo district. Yeah, I thought so. You aren’t alone because I’m so gonna be there!

Stella Price (event coordinator and goddess of all things #AADNOLA) thoughtfully arranged for us to have our evenings free of panels. I’m not sure if I want to jump right in to voodoo territory, or work my way up through a beignets-chewing stroll in the central square, digging through street vendors. Or the cemetery! Now that’s something I could get into. Figuratively speaking. I have no desire to die while I’m there, even though we will be in prime Katrina timeframe (pack you water wings, y’all).

A haunted tour sounds like fun too. Except for the droning guide, “And over here, you’ll see the lady in white. Wave to her, wave to her. There ya go. She died of a broken heart (don’t they all?). Maybe I should just toured by myself so the spooks can just sneak up on me.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no interest in playing it loose with another culture’s religion. I respect it far too much for that. No one knows the power of another person’s faith and frankly, voodoo scares the crap out of me.

But then so does a progression of breast-flashing coeds. Thankfully, not the season for that.

Travel is one of my favorite things about going to conferences. Some move around the country and others stay still, but between the travel, the food and the company, I’m a sucker for the experience. This one allows us the added benefit of hanging out with other writers and readers, bloggers and reviewers. Are you going? You should be! Plan on it next year.

As you can see from that bit of tourist squee up there, writers don’t get out much. We’re solitary, writing in our living rooms or offices. We giggle at clever turns of phrases, love a good pun, are amazed with each other’s work and saddened by pirates. We do it all in the privacy of our homes, yet we’re united in craft and passion. Getting together is like a free-for-all field day with cookies and milk. Or rather lots and lots of coffee and wine. Yeah, that’s more like it.

So if you see us there, ignore our youthful exuberance for being “let out”. Have patience if one of us trips in our untried high heels. Smile and nod when we talk about formatting and margins, even if your eyes glaze over. If, after it’s all said and done, you still love us? You have a fan for life.

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Liz’s Review

Double Down by Katie Porter
Contemporary romance released by Samhain Publishing on July 31, 2012

Vegas Top Guns, Book 1
Desire as reckless as a fighter jet in freefall…and just as dangerous.

As part of the 64th Aggressor Squadron, Major Ryan “Fang” Haverty flies like the enemy to teach Allied pilots how not to die. The glittering excess of the Strip can’t compare to the glowing jet engines of his F-16. But a sexy, redheaded waitress in seamed stockings? Now she gets his blood pumping.

Cassandra Whitman’s good-girl ways haven’t earned any slack from her manager ex-boyfriend, or prevented a bad case of frazzle from holding down two and a half jobs. She sure wouldn’t mind letting the handsome Southern charmer shake up her routine.

Their wild weekend lives up to Sin City’s reputation. Especially when they discover a matched passion for role-playing. For Cass, it’s an exciting departure from her normal, shy persona. But for Ryan, it triggers memories of a time when his fetish drove away the woman he loved–leaving him reluctant to risk a repeat performance.

Except Cass refuses to settle for ordinary ever again. She’s about to show the man with hair-trigger hands that she’s got a few surprise moves of her own.

Warning: This book contains dirty-hot role-playing, featuring an all-alpha fighter pilot and an ambitious waitress with a fabulous imagination. Also: dressing-room sex, a plaid schoolgirl skirt, and a sprinkling of spankings.

I’m not even really sure where to start talking about this book.  It’s just an incredible story on so many levels that putting one first seems almost impossible.  Katie Porter, I’ve come to learn, is the name of the writing team of Carrie Lofty and Lorelie Brown.  I haven’t read anything by either author prior to this collaboration, so I had no expectations going into the story except to – hopefully – enjoy myself and I really, really did.  I haven’t read many role-playing books before this one, usually finding the odd “dress like a cheerleader” request in the romance novels I normally choose, so picking this one that has role-playing as a central theme was new for me.  When I think of role-playing I automatically think about the French Maid costume, but Katie opened up my eyes with this story, weaving a tantalizing tale about a man who isn’t sure he should like the things he does, and a woman who really would do anything for the right man.

As a girl who enjoys a man in uniform (my hubby was in the navy), Major Ryan Haverty already had brownie points with me in the hotness category.  His odd fascination with waitress Cass’ seamed stockings as she took his order at the restaurant where she worked started the first of many quirks that came to define him as a character.  Ryan, known to his fellow soldiers as Fang, is a dual personality – one part of him is what he perceives as normal and the other part kinky, specifically into role-playing.  In Ryan’s case, he’s desperate to keep the kinky part of himself well hidden, so deeply buried that it won’t ever come out.  The problem with secrets, as we all know, is that eventually they come out and Ryan was ill prepared for the fall-out.  Ryan’s reasoning for squashing his kinky fantasies is two-fold.  One, he’s an officer in Air Force, stationed at a nearby base, so indulging in role-playing in public could cause problems with his job.  And the other is that he once got his heartbroken by a woman that he revealed his kinkiest needs to and swore to not do that again.  What I really found fascinating about Ryan’s development in the story is that just one taste of fantasy for him and he slowly unraveled into a downward spiral of self-loathing and recrimination.  As the reader, we’re treated to his POV, and the disgust he feels for his suddenly increasing fantasies involving Cass roll off the page.  You can feel how much he hates himself, how much he wishes he didn’t like to role-play, how frightened he is when it clearly overwhelms him and pushes at the careful boundaries of his ordered life.  On the outside, Ryan is a hero and a leader, a man with loyal friends who has seen battle and lived to tell about it.  On the inside, however, Ryan is a festering mess of conflicted feelings, desires, and needs.

Cass was positively brilliant.  When challenged, she proved herself to be up for anything.  She was a heroine that I could get behind and cheer for.  What I found most interesting about her character was her background and family.  Her family is wonderful and amazing, but very smothering and insistent that she helps with the family business.  You get to see the way she feels pulled in separate directions – one for her passion of art and the other to support her family – and it’s not until Ryan’s influence that she begins to see herself as the independent woman she really is.  Her character flowered spectacularly.  There were no abrupt changes of heart or sudden decisions, but a gradual bloom that seemed real and earnest.  When her heart is breaking, her chin is held high and her belief in herself keeps her from accepting anything less than everything she deserves.  For that reason alone, Cass has become one of my new favorite female characters.

Secondary characters include Cass’ parents, her sister, brother-in-law and niece and Ryan’s fellow Air Force pilots.  Cass’ parents are the overbearing sort that expect their children to be happy living the dreams of their parents and not their own.  Their tour company is in trouble and the guilt comes out in buckets when Cass tries to improve her position at an art gallery so she can do what she loves for a living.  I loved to see her take her own life by the horns and make a stand for herself.  It’s one thing for a woman to stand up to a man about what she will and will not tolerate in a relationship, but it’s an entirely different, earth-shattering thing for a woman to stand up to the people who raised her and do her own thing.  Ryan’s two pilot friends, Tin Tin and Princess, are colorful and fun.  Tin Tin comes from money and comes across as an arrogant pretty-boy that would toss a girl aside when he’s done with her.  While it may be true in some ways, he shows his true nature when he stands by Princess’ side while she’s heaving up her drinks in the bathroom.  Now, who doesn’t want a guy like that?  And as for Princess, she’s got some serious issues.  Wound as tight as a spring, she seems to have no off-switch, flipping from calm and controlled to wild and berserk with no stops in between.  Both characters have their own stories in this series, and I think their characters are well worth looking into and deserve their own stories.

I can’t review the book without talking about the sex.  Holy role-playing Batman!  This book is just packed full of fantastic sex.  Each scene is unique as they move forward in their relationship, switching between sweet vanilla sex and kinky sex, initiated most often by Cass.  Cass has an internal radar that seems to sense whenever Ryan is turned on by something, and she turns the tables on him as often as she can.  Ryan struggles internally throughout the role-playing.  Like a dieter who eats a big piece of cake, he loves it at the time and hates himself afterwards, afraid that if Cass would find out the depths of his desire for role-playing that she would walk out on him.  I can’t even tell you the crazy things that they do without giving up too much of the story, but suffice it to say that although the book starts off with a bang (literally), the characters and the storyline don’t suffer for the attention to sexy details.  Well balanced, the loving is exactly what the story needed to ratchet it up a few million notches, from a romance about a pilot and a waitress to a sizzling story about just how much fun two consenting adults can have when they open their minds to the possibilities.

When I first began reading the story, I wasn’t really prepared for how much I would like the characters and become invested in their lives.  The story grips you by the neck and doesn’t let go, while you watch the lovers dance.  This story has got so much going for it, between the role-playing, the family issues, and the characters coming to terms with what they want in their lives, this book is full to the brim with heat and passion.  Unlike other stories in this vein that might focus solely on the sex, Porter broadens the scope to share the life-altering decisions that both Cass and Ryan make as they explore the kinkier, darker side of pleasure.

Grade:  A-

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.

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Hello! We’ve got author Rosalie Lario here with us with another Author Spotlight! She’s also offering a giveaway, so pay attention to what she’s asking! [Hint: Anyone who calls this an interview is disqualified from the drawing. :X] I’ll leave her ending as is though, because she’s got a great question for you all!

The Conflicted Hero

I’ll admit it, I’ve always had a bit of a thing for a conflicted hero. I think it all started when, at the tender age of 12, I read Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. Louis was the epitome of the tortured hero, from the beginning of his immortal life—when instead of being granted the death he seeks, he’s given eternal life—to the moment when he is “interviewed” by the reporter. Despite all his years on Earth, he never found comfort with what he was. He hated the monster inside of him, the one that needed to feed on humans to ensure his survival. Something about his inner torment resonated with me. It made an admittedly powerful creature vulnerable. It humanized him. And thence began my obsession with conflicted heroes.

I think readers automatically tend to empathize more with a hero who has had a difficult past. I know I do. This makes the man who’s always fighting his personal demons the perfect hero, especially for the genre I write in: paranormal romance. The paranormal romance hero may be something more than human—perhaps humans are even his prey—but he cannot help but fall for one. Seeing the hero overcome all obstacles to find true love is very emotionally satisfying.

In my paranormal romance, Blood of the Demon (Book 1 in my Demons of Infernum series), half-demon Keegan is an interdimensional bounty hunter who’s vowed to stop a demon with plans to bring on the apocalypse. Not because he sees himself as a hero…but because the demon is his father, an evil, vicious man who abused him and his brothers. When we first meet Keegan, he has vowed to do whatever is necessary in order to stop his father.

Then he meets Brynn…the key to the apocalypse, and the very woman he may have to kill in order to stop his father. She’s vulnerable but brave, and she takes him totally by surprise. Suddenly he’s forced with a very tough decision: keep his vow and stop his father…or protect the woman he’s falling in love with.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the book:

Keegan lives to exact revenge on the evil demon who sired and abused him. When his father devises a plan to bring on the apocalypse, he and his three half-brothers, interdimensional bounty hunters for the Elden Council, are charged with capturing and delivering their father for punishment.

Art gallery owner Brynn Meyers has no idea that her ability to read memories embedded in objects and drain people of their life force means she has demon ancestry. Unfortunately for Brynn, she’s also the key to raising an ancient zombie army, which puts her on every demon’s Most Wanted List.

And no one wants her more than Keegan’s father.

Keegan must protect Brynn from his father by any means necessary, but he’ll have to learn to harness the other half of his genetics—the far deadlier, uncontrollable half—when he starts to fall for the one woman standing between him and the vengeance he so desperately seeks. The one woman he’ll never be able to resist.

Keegan stood outside Brynn’s door, staring at it like some lovesick schoolboy.

What was wrong with him? She was just a woman. A human woman. But his body didn’t seem to care who she was or what he might have to do to her. It liked her anyway.

He’d given up lying to himself about not being attracted to her. Oh, he was. And the more he learned about her, the more he liked her. Earlier tonight, after he’d dropped the bombshell about the Book of the Dead, she hadn’t believed him. Judging by the way she gaped at them, she thought they were a bunch of psychos. But she didn’t freak. She listened when he explained to her that supernatural forces existed, and then she said she needed time to think about it, before picking up her fork and finishing her meal in silence.

Brynn was strong. Stronger than he’d imagined any human woman could be. But would she take it in stride when he told her about her ancestry, or when she learned that demon blood flowed through her veins?

The practical part of his brain wondered why he should bother telling her. After all, it didn’t change anything—either they’d find it before Mammon did and discover a way to destroy it, in which case Brynn would be free to return to her normal life, or they wouldn’t.

And then he’d have to kill her.

But he refused to take the coward’s way out. He’d tell her as much as he could without damaging her sanity. He owed her that much, at least. He might be many things, but he wasn’t a monster.

He wasn’t his father.

Find out more about Blood of the Demon at Entangled or at my website.

Bio: Rosalie Lario practiced real estate law for several years before finally admitting to herself that negotiating contracts wasn’t nearly as fun as dreaming up stories. When not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son in their home state of Florida, as well as searching out things that go bump in the night. Follow her on: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

I’d love to offer an ecopy of Blood of the Demon to one person who responds to the following question: Do you read paranormal romance? If so, who’s your favorite paranormal romance hero?

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Hi friends! We’ve got Pamela Palmer visiting with us as one of the last few AAD authors!

See You in NOLA!

The last time I visited New Orleans, I was there for less than twenty-four hours. In February of 2011, Avon Books sent me on book tour with the amazing Jeaniene Frost. My fifth Feral Warriors shape shifter book, Hunger Untamed, had just been released as had Jeaniene’s fifth Cat and Bones book. Our last tour stop was the lovely Garden District Bookshop in New Orleans. We arrived early afternoon the day of the signing and headed out first thing the following morning. But even a quick trip to New Orleans is a delight.

Before the signing, travel-tired and hungry, we grabbed a quick dinner in the hotel across the street from ours. But New Orleans is just too much fun and we weren’t about to miss a visit to Bourbon Street, so after our evening book signing we hailed a cab and went in search of beignets. We wound up at Café Beignet where we snacked on those warm, tasty treats, chatted, listened to the live music, and watched the throngs of people already pouring into the city a few days before the start of Mardi Gras. I’m looking forward to spending more than a day this time!

It was on that trip that Jeaniene first told me about AAD 2012, and I can’t wait to attend. In addition to the Late Night Sweets party that I’m hosting with Jeaniene, I’ll be doing several panels, talking about my Feral Warriors and my latest release, A Blood Seduction, the first book in my new Vamp City series.

Vamp City is a departure for me, a multi-book romance/urban fantasy. Prior to A Blood Seduction, I’d written only classic paranormal romances. My Feral Warriors story has one escalating, continuous story arc, but that outer story is told through a series of romances, each book focusing on one of the shifters as he finds the woman destined to be his mate. Not so my Vamp City books. A Blood Seduction is just the beginning of a continuing-character story that will eventually be either a four or five book romance, the tale of Quinn Lennox and the dark, dangerous vampire, Arturo Mazza.

A Blood Seduction, Vamp City book 1:

Vampires live only for lust and pleasure in the eternal twilight of Vamp City. But the city’s magic is dying. The only person who can restore it? A beautiful woman from the mortal world…one who knows nothing of the power she wields. Quinn Lennox is searching for a missing friend when she stumbles into a dark otherworld that only she can see–and finds herself at the mercy of Arturo Mazza, a dangerously handsome vampire whose wicked kiss will save her, enslave her, bewitch her, and betray her. What Arturo can’t do is forget about her–any more than Quinn can control her own feelings for him. Neither one can let desire get in the way of their mission–his to save his people, hers to save herself. But there is no escape from desire in a city built for seduction, where passion flows hot and blood-red. Welcome to Vamp City…

See you in New Orleans!

Have any of you read anything by Ms. Palmer before? Either her Feral Warriors series, or the Vamp City novel? Pamela is at RWA right now, but she expects to have internet access, so feel free to ask her any questions – she’ll stop by and respond when she can!

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Ladies! (And Gentlemen? Are there any?) we have another AAD Spotlight! We’re coming to the end. Which makes me happy and sad. Happy because, we’re almost done! Sad because I’m freaking not going. Yes, your friend Limecello is a damn idiot because she’s doing this regardless. Anyway, Cat Johnson is visiting with us today!

Author Cat Johnson on AAD NOLA – Bring Bail Money!

I’m eyeball deep getting ready for the Authors After Dark convention being held in New Orleans in August. Putting together a costume. Packing promo and giveaways until there’s no room left in the luggage for my clothes. And anticipating all the fun that can be had within walking distance from our hotel on Bourbon Street. One is the Bourbon Cowboy across the street from the hotel where I’ll be the author stationed for the Pub Crawl Saturday night. There’s a mechanical bull. It should definitely be interesting.

There’s one more thing I did to get ready for AAD NOLA—I wrote and self-published a short story set (you guessed it) on Bourbon Street. I’ve posted the blurb and an excerpt below. Check it out (it’s only 99cents!) and get in the mood because New Orleans awaits! And don’t forget bail money.

A maid of honor, pretending to be a stripper, encounters the best man, pretending to be the groom, and things really heat up…

When I agreed to be my best friend’s maid of honor, I thought it would be fun. Maybe I’d even meet a nice, single guy at the reception. But now the bride is missing, I have the hang over from hell and it seems I may have accidentally had sex with the groom last night while pretending to be a stripper to spy on him at his bachelor party… Or maybe I didn’t.

It’s hard to tell since I can’t remember much past drinking that last Hurricane on Bourbon Street. There’s also this matter of the groom’s identical twin brother and the fact they have a habit of switching places.

I do know one thing, nothing is what it seems in New Orleans. Anything can happen…and it usually does.

I made the supreme sacrifice and lifted my head to try and see the rest of the room. After all, I was the maid of honor. I suppose checking to see if I’d lost the bride was the least I could do.

There was a lump under the covers in the other bed. Unless I’d picked up a stranger and brought him or her home, at least one member of our party was accounted for.

“Beth?” Wishful thinking on my part, but I croaked the possibly missing bride’s name as loudly as my pounding head and scratchy throat would allow, hoping the lump would respond.

“Ugh. Holy hell, I feel like crap. Did I get run over by a truck last night?” Marci’s muffled voice preceded the arm that snaked its way out from beneath the covers.

“I have no idea. Where are Jen and Beth?” I braced myself on one elbow and tried not to sway since the room seemed to be doing enough moving on its own.

“I don’t know.” Marci lifted the covers and peered under them. “Christ, my feet are sore.”

Come to think of it, I was pretty achy too, but it wasn’t my feet that were sore. It was a much more intimate area—one that hadn’t been used in quite a while. Not since I’d had my last steady boyfriend. Uh, oh.

“You guys okay?”

I heard the disembodied voice come from the vicinity of the bathroom. “Jen?”

“Yeah. I seem to have slept on the bathroom floor. But judging by what’s in the toilet, that was a good thing.” There was the sound of a flush, and then Jen stumbled out of the bathroom, holding on to the wall. “Hurricanes don’t look as good in the toilet the morning after.”

Phew, another one accounted for. Now all I needed was to hear Beth’s voice and I’d be the happiest hung over girl in the world. “Beth didn’t happen to be in the bathroom with you, did she?”

Jen frowned. “No. She’s not out here with you guys?”

Marci leaned over the edge of her bed and checked the floor. “Nope. Ugh, that was a bad move.” She pressed her hand to her head.

“I think we lost her.” I looked from Marci to Jen, starting to really panic now. “What do we do?”

“Call her family?” Jen suggested.

I let out a snort. “And tell them what? I got drunk and misplaced their daughter? That I possibly left her somewhere to get killed or kidnapped?”

“Jen or I could call. We just have to be a little sneaky about it.” Marci glanced from me to Jen. “One of us can call their house and pretend we’re not with the others and ask if Beth’s there. I mean she grew up in New Orleans. That’s why we all had to fly our asses here from all over the country for the wedding. Maybe she went home to her family’s house last night after we passed out.”

“Let’s try calling her cell phone first.” I didn’t think any one of us currently had the capacity to lie to Beth’s parents, forget about her Marine Corps fiancé.

“Good idea.” Jen, who was already standing, stumbled from the wall to the dresser where a purse sat next to the lamp. I recognized that purse. It was mine. That was good. One more piece of the puzzle found. When Jen pulled my phone out of it, my hopes rose a bit higher. She squinted at the readout, then hit a few buttons.

A vibrating in my pocket had me jumping. I may have been moving a little slowly but a feeling of dread descended upon me the moment Jen’s call to Beth’s phone made my ass vibrate.

“Crap.” I reached beneath me and pulled out a cell phone. “Why do I have Beth’s phone?”

“Wait, I remember that.” Marci held up a hand.

“Me too!” Jen nodded, then pressed her hand to her head and groaned.

Thank God. At least they could remember something. “What do you remember?”

“Beth was drunk and pissed at John for lying about having a stripper at his bachelor party. So you took Beth’s phone so she wouldn’t call her ex-boyfriend in retaliation.” Marci’s words started slowly but sped as the pieces started to fall into place.

I nodded. That did sound like something I would do. “Okay. That makes sense.”

“Wait. I remember more.” Jen squinted, as if it would wring the memories out of her alcohol soaked brain. Her gaze swung to me.

“So do I.” Marci stared at me now too.

I started to get a little worried. “What?”

“You don’t remember?” Marci asked.

“No.” Crap. I looked at Marci. “Why don’t you just tell me?”

Jen answered for them both. “Since you’re the only one John has never met, we sent you into his bachelor party as a spy dressed as a stripper.”

Uh, oh. This was starting to sound familiar to me, but in a detached kind of way. Kind of like it was the plot of a movie I’d watched only I couldn’t remember the ending. I glanced up and found them both watching me, wide-eyed. I glanced down at myself and noticed for the first time that though I was in my own pants, there was a corset making my boobs look two cup sizes larger. It was definitely stripper-worthy.

I noticed an uncomfortable presence between my ass cheeks and wiggled a bit. Reaching down I confirmed my suspicions. I was wearing a thong. I didn’t own a thong. And definitely not a red lace thong that matched the corset, which was the discovery I made when I peeked down the front of my jeans.

“Rose, what happened at the bachelor party?” Jen asked.

Memories swirled like a kaleidoscope. Music. A party. A man’s hands on my body. I didn’t have a chance to piece it all together before a knock on the door broke my concentration.

“Maybe it’s Beth.” I glanced at Jen and Marci.

Jen moved to open the door. When she backed into the room, a man I was pretty sure I knew though I couldn’t be sure followed her inside.

“It’s John,” Marci mouthed to me.

John. The groom. Probably looking for his missing bride because as the door slammed closed behind him it was pretty clear he’d come alone. Beth wasn’t with him.

His gaze found me. Self-consciously I tugged the top of the corset higher, but my boobs only popped up more so I decided to cut my losses and let my hands drop.

“Rose. Thank God, you’re awake.” He came directly to my bed and sat on the edge. Concern was written all over his face as he took my hand in his. “Are you all right?”

I managed a nod, but that was about it.

“I was so worried about you last night.” He cupped my chin as he leaned in and pressed his lips to mine.

I pulled back to find the room silent. Jen and Marci looked about as shocked as I was.

“Um, all right. What the hell happened last night?” Marci finally asked.

Since the groom was kissing me the day before his wedding while the bride was missing, I figured that was as good a question as any. And I certainly didn’t have the answer.

You can read more about it here… which actually is also what she shared here.

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Today we’ve got an exclusive excerpt from Carina Press author Christi Barth. We’re going back to a slightly more regular schedule. Isn’t that exciting?

Hopeless romantic Ivy Rhodes

and

anti-Cupid Bennett Westcott

request the pleasure of your company for

their disaster of a courtship

Wedding planner Ivy Rhodes is the best in the business, and she’s not about to let a personal problem stop her from getting ahead. So when she gets an offer to star in the reality TV show Planning for Love, it doesn’t matter that the show’s videographer happens to be a recent—and heartbreaking—one-night stand.

Bennett Westcott can admit that he didn’t handle his encounter with Ivy very well. But looking at her beautiful smile—and, okay, great body—through the lens of a camera every day? He can’t be faulted for suggesting they have a little no-strings fun.

The more time Bennett and Ivy spend together, the more he realizes that Ivy isn’t the wedding-crazed bridezilla he’d imagined. But if he doesn’t trust himself to make a relationship last, how can he convince Ivy to give him another chance?

“Bennett Westcott, you’re the bravest man I know.”

Ben took a long sip of his wine. Then another. By the fourth sip, Ivy wondered if she should try matching him drink for drink. Clearly Sam had been right on the money when he begged her not to say anything to Ben. She’d assumed it to be a guy thing, a way to allow him to keep his emotions under lock and key. But Ivy couldn’t keep her admiration to herself. Even went so far as to assume Ben would be elated to finally discuss the true version of the day that turned him into a pariah. As the chasm of silence widened, Ivy began to wonder if she’d managed to set a record for quickest ruined date ever.

With the harshness of fingernails down a chalkboard, the scrape of metal chair legs against concrete rent the air. Ben shoved back, tossing his napkin on the table as he stood. He sucked in a deep breath, expanding his already wide chest. Then he scrubbed his hand from his forehead all the way down to the nape of his neck. Still staring out at the lights twinkling on block by block across the city skyline.

“Trust me when I say I’m about as far away from brave as this planet is from Pluto—all I do is make it through the day.” Finally, he directed his gaze straight at Ivy. “But I’m honored and humbled you think so. It goes a long way toward mending the tattered shreds left of my so-called pride.”

Ben bent from the waist to drop a soft kiss in the middle of her forehead. He pulled back, looked at her with those slice of summer sky eyes. Ivy held her breath, afraid the smallest puff of air would break the cobweb of intensity spinning ever wider between them.

“Damn. I was planning to save this for the fireworks.”

“Save what?” She didn’t understand, and she almost didn’t care. Who needed the power of cognitive thought when a handsome man held you tight in the unwavering tractor beam of his eyes? “What fireworks?”

“Gib told me there’d be fireworks in about an hour. Because of Memorial Day. It’s why I brought you here—for the view.”

Her heart flipped. Turned right around in a somersault like she used to do down the grassy slope at her grandparents’ house.

“On the other hand, why should I wait for the City of Chicago to light up the sky?” He framed her face with those big, wide palms, tilted her head back. “Let’s make our own fireworks.”

Before she could savor the sexy promise in his words, Ben kissed her. A gentle touch for the space of a heartbeat—well, three beats at the rate Ivy’s heart raced—and then he sank into her mouth, as if it were a feather pillow to cradle him. Firm, deep kisses that somehow contained the richness of melted chocolate, the kick of a strong margarita, and the undeniable allure she’d succumbed to all those months before.

The earth tilted on its axis. No, it was Ben bracing his hand on the back of her chair, tipping it back for a better angle. Her feet dangled in the air. She hooked them around the chair legs in an attempt to anchor herself. Silly, really. The floor had dropped out from under her the minute his tongue slipped in between her lips, tasting, questing. And she knew without a doubt those strong arms wouldn’t let her fall.

Her hands reached out to feel them, to caress the tight, corded steel beneath his jacket. A quiver grew deep in her core at discovering she couldn’t wrap her hands all the way around his biceps. Muscles like that belonged to a broadsword-wielding knight. One who carried her off on a white horse while the crowd cheered.

The crowd cheered. It wasn’t just one of her flights of fancy. Ivy pulled her concentration from where it lay, writhing, somewhere close to the edge of her red lace panties. The roof deck had erupted into applause, catcalls and whistles. Her eyes flew open. She tapped her toe against Ben’s calf, wrenching out of the lip lock.

“We’ve got an audience.”

Undeterred, he nuzzled just below her ear. “Put on a good enough show, maybe we’ll get a free meal out of it.”

Ivy kicked once more, this time aiming the hard point of her sandal against his shin. But she made sure to let the laughter in her throat burble through. “Enough.”

With a gentle tap he lowered the chair to the ground. Then he ran the side of his thumb across her lower lip, setting off one last chain of sparklers in her veins. “Nope. Nowhere close.”

For a man who eschewed romance, he sure managed to say the right things. While Ben straightened his coat and sat back down, Ivy let her brain catch up to her speeding pulse. What the heck just happened? Hadn’t she just spent two endless months trying to get Ben out of her system? To no avail?

It was one thing to accept his invitation to dinner, to try and work through the white hot…whatever that flared through her system every time she looked at him. She’d banked on a couple hours of basic conversation in a noisy restaurant to lay a groundwork of knowledge about what made Bennett Westcott tick. Her master plan for tonight only played out through the end of dinner. A simple dinner between colleagues. With a side order of chemistry sizzling loud enough to drown out the shouts of Opa as a waiter walked past with a platter of flaming saganaki cheese held aloft.

You can read an additional excerpt here.

Bio: Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance. Christi lives in Maryland with her husband.

So what’d you think? Does this sound like your kind of romance? P.S. She’s doing a giveaway!! 😀 

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