Love Boxed

Reading books filled with passion is my favorite indulgence, and as a romance author, I get to call it work, too. A great way to sink into reading bliss is multi-author boxed sets, which represent a collaboration of authors, both bestselling and new, usually in the same subgenre or writing with a united theme. For today I’ve looked at two different sets to recommend—a contemporary and a paranormal. Boxed sets allow readers to try several authors, and do so for a fantastic value. Can’t go wrong.


A heads up: some boxed sets are published only for a limited time, so if one piques your interest, snap it up while you can.


Beyond Fifty Shades of Grey

Just as in real life, there are commonalities found in every romance book. One of these is trust. It’s the glue that binds the hero and heroine together in their love for one another. Without trust, the relationship is going nowhere fast. Another component is that one character, hero or heroine, will always have a more dominant personality or mannerism in the story. These two specific commonalities are especially noticeable in books such as Fifty Shades of Grey and Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series. Alpha heroes take center stage in these books, which take the intimacy level between a hero and heroine to a level that has only recently emerged from the shadows into mainstream romance.


Saint Valentine, Love & Chocolate!

We all know February 14th is the day to celebrate love and romance! It’s the one day of the year when Cupid pulls his bow and we get hit! Roses.  Chocolate. Love. Romance.  Can it get any better?


Sure it can!  I’ve got 3 wonderful books to inspire romance for the rest of the month!  Three books that I enjoyed a lot!


First up, To Catch a Cupid: Thomas, by Liliana Hart.


Lovers in a Dangerous Time

I’m a sucker for secret agents.  I love the tension and drama that accompanies a good spy story, and I’m a big fan of the car chase, the shoot-out, and the desperate race to save the president/the girl/the super-secret computer program from falling into the hands of the dastardly government/villain/corporation.


Unfortunately, there’s one element in most spy yarns that doesn’t quite cut it for me, and it’s in the romance department.  All too often, the hero is left with a broken heart as he watches his lover die a gruesome and usually pointless death, leaving him forever scarred.  Not exactly a great reward for saving the world.


LOVE ROCKS: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

If you're like me, you’re probably scratching your head wondering how on earth we find ourselves with only days until Christmas. And if you’re also like me, you’re probably scrambling for those last minute presents or the stocking stuffers.  Hopefully, you’re not.  Hopefully you’re all much more organized than I am and have some time to do things like….READ!


I’ve got a few holiday themed books to recommend, and one that isn’t a holiday book but it’s so awesome I wanted you all to be aware of it!



Love Rocks: The Different Historical Novella

The Christmas season is upon us. You’d like to start a new series. Try something different. But do you really have the time to invest? Especially when your Christmas list is long. And you still haven’t figured out what to get Uncle Bob (He’s always so difficult to buy for.)


I have a soft spot for historical romance novels. It’s what I write, after all. And there’s a wonderful trend that I love—the historical romance novella written as a standalone story that’s part an existing series. Or in some cases, used to launch a new series.


What better way to sample a brand new series that’s caught your eye than to dive into a novella?


Love Rocks: Tis The Season For Holiday Romance

October is probably my favorite month of the year. Not just because the leaves are changing color and there's a brisk rush to the air, but because October is traditionally the month when holiday romances hit the shelves. I'm a sucker for a good holiday romance. Crackling fires, mistletoe, snow falling outside, and the magic of the holidays are all elements that seem to lend themselves perfectly to sexy, emotional, romantic reads. Every year I look forward to finding the perfect story that will get me in the mood to celebrate the holidays.


Love Rocks: Realms Strange and Otherworldly

The days grow colder, nights longer. Halloween decorations fill the shelves, promising fun along with fright, magic with mystery. Out come the vampires and weres, and in paranormal romance, each has their own power to tempt and seduce. In these stories, danger lurks around every corner. Strong protectors use everything they have to hold back the encroaching dark—fists, weapons, wisecracks, and yes, sometimes a kiss. The fights are desperate, stakes high, but ultimately love vanquishes evil when all else seems hopeless and lost. What’s not to like?


Love Rocks: Bright Lights, Big City Romance

I grew up in a small town with Colonial and Victorian era houses and big trees shading the quiet streets.  It was almost picture-perfect, with steepled churches and a town library modelled on a miniature Monticello. But underneath that near-immaculate exterior lurked…well, nothing very sinister.  No Stephen King monsters or cults of Stepford Wives. It was and still is a pretty nice place to live; neighbors look out for neighbors and residents actually care enough about the place to show up to town hall meetings.


That sort of lifestyle is the basis for small town contemporary romance. For many readers, the notion of life in a peaceful, unhurried setting, where neighbor knows neighbor, holds enormous appeal.  In fact, small town romance is so dominant these days that it seems difficult to find contemporary romances with a big city setting.


More Than a Kiss by Stacey Joy Netzel starts with a kiss, one that comes with strings attached—to a handsome and rich LA entrepreneur. 


Novella Recommendations

If you’re like me, your summer is busy and filled with all sorts of activities. Whether you’re at home or on vacation, you may not have a large chunk of time to curl up with a good book like you did during the winter. This is why I love reading novellas at this time of the year. The short format fits my crazy, oh-my-gosh-I’ve-been-interrupted-again schedule.


One-third to one-half the size of a full-length novel, a novella can often be read in just one sitting. If you’re flying somewhere, you can probably finish the story before your plane lands. If you’re at work and you’re a speedy reader, I’ll bet you can start and finish one during your lunch hour. Here are several self-published romance novellas that I’ve recently enjoyed.


What the Pros Read: Impassioned Romance Picks from Great Authors

This week, we have the pleasure of hearing from five fan favorites in the field of Romance fiction, as they offer their selections for recommended reading.  Their picks are certain to spark conversation, and maybe even a few new tricks in one's love life.


Love Rocks: Summer Heat

In summertime, I’m on the hunt for heat.  Heat in the air, heat in my romance, heat in big, high stakes stories.  Big romance & big adventure.  
Today’s spotlight stories deliver on both counts.  Both are romantic suspense, but because everyone likes their heat to different degrees, I’m giving you one that’s heavy on the thriller angle, the other heavy on the sensual heat. But they’re both top-notch self-published romance.

First up, the adventure.


Love Rocks: Angel or Sinner?

Are you a reader who commits the “sin” of reading the back of the book before you start reading? I’m angelic in the sense that I always start at the beginning of a book without peeking ahead. I even read series in order as I don’t want to miss out on this or that tidbit that makes for a fuller read with each successive book.


Now it’s confession time. Recently, I read a series out of order. And it was awesome to become a full-blown sinner when it comes to leaping ahead! So what drove me to risk it all and leap across books in a series? A hero who is as wickedly sinful as they come. But to tell you about him, I have to tell you about the first book’s hero.


Love Rocks: Our Favorite Indie Reads of the Year

The authors of Rock*It Reads are celebrating the first anniversary of their B & N Review column for indie romance, Love Rocks!  For the past year, we’ve been bringing you great recommendations for quality indie-published works. To celebrate our anniversary, we decided to take a look at our favorite reads from the last twelve months.


Monica Burns, award-winning author of spicy historical and paranormal romance, selected London Falling as her favorite recommendation of the year. “This past year has been a treat when it comes to unearthing some lovely gems in the indie realm. I've read some good books in the last twelve months, but my favorite has to be Emma Carr's London Falling.


Love Rocks: Delightful Historicals

I knew from the first couple of pages that Shades of Honor by Wendy Lindstrom was going to be a book I could sink my teeth into. It’s 1870, and the hero, Ranford Grayson, has just returned home to a small town in New York with his shy, damaged four year-old daughter. Little Rebecca’s mother is very plausibly out of the picture, and the child’s caregivers have been less than ideal – the first one, a beloved nanny, abandoned her to start her own family, and the second was an abuser. Ranford goes home to his mother and three younger brothers, knowing it will be best for Rebecca.
But Ranford is not without his own inner demons.

Love Rocks: Exploring "New Adult"

Folks, we’re halfway through February and if you’re like me, the shiny and bright promise of a new year is already a little bit tarnished and we’re dug in, doing what we do, moving forward into 2013.  Working. Playing. Taking care of the kids, family… taking care of ourselves.


For me this new year was all about my writing and making time for things that I enjoy, like reading. And what have I been reading lately?  A whole lot of a newish romance sub-genre, something labeled ‘new adult’.  Which, to me, are stories revolving around the grey area—you know, the one between teenagers and adults.  That block of time meant for experimenting, finding yourself, making life-long connections.  A time where responsibilities are slowly beginning to pile up, but not so much that you can’t have fun.


I love this genre and today I’m going to share a few books I’ve read over that last month or so that, for various reasons, I enjoyed a lot.


Love Rocks: The Elusive Spark

True story: I was assigned to sit next to my future husband in 10th grade Biology. He was tall, gangly, and acnified. He was a new kid that year, and I had been a new kid so many times growing up that I recognized the brand of misery immediately. Age fifteen was the year I’d decided to be cool, in spite of my industrial braces, complete with rubber bands. A back brace would soon follow. On that fateful first day of school, I sat down beside him and asked, “Can I see your schedge?” Short for schedule. Because I was cool. We just celebrated our eighteenth anniversary, and we still joke about “schedge”.


In spite of all the emotional and physical excruciations of being fifteen, an undeniable spark flared between us, and it has held true through the many years we’ve been together.


Today I’m celebrating sparks, and I’ve got two book recommendations that readers should check out immediately. Both are mash-ups of a sort, and both spark all over the place.


What Do You Want to Change?

Have you made New Year’s Resolutions?  I always make the same ones each year:  lose 15 pounds, get more exercise, and wake up at 5:00 a.m. to write before everyone else is up.  My resolutions aren’t always successful, but I still make them.  And I still love the idea of transforming my life.


A great romance always involves characters who change.  As readers, we want to see characters who grow, learn, and then find happiness.  Just as I make resolutions to change, I love to experience it through fiction.  Romance helps give me the upbeat feeling and confidence to know I can embrace change.




Bad Ass Brides and Texas-Sized Romance

The holiday season is winding down! For the last month, you've been focused solely on what to get for everyone on your holiday shopping list, finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones, cooking the holiday meals, wrapping the presents, and making sure everything on the todo list gets done. Exhausting, isn't it? Well, I have news for you. It's nearly over, and that means you can take a breath and take a little time for yourself. And I have some great book selections to help you do just that!


The hustle and bustle of Christmas…

Let’s face it.  You’re busy this time of year.  You love the holiday season, but you’ve got shopping to do, parties to attend (more shopping for clothes to wear to those parties) and the decorations to put up, gifts to wrap. And then there’s planning for that big Christmas feast you’re going to prepare this year.


In between it all, you’re driving around town, singing to the Christmas carols on the radio. (Come on. I can’t be the only one who does this.) And you take in as many holiday movies as I can.


But that doesn’t satisfy a booklover’s soul. No, the only thing that does that is, well, you guessed it.




You love holiday-themed romances—I mean who doesn’t? But you don’t always have time to read when you’ve got so much to do. No worries. I believe I’ve found two holiday gems—novellas, in fact—that I think you’ll enjoy, and add to your holiday cheer.


Panning For Indie Gold


I buy a lot of indie books. I mean, a lot. If you were to examine my reader, you’d probably find a 75/25 mix of indie-to-trad books. Part of that ratio is my desire to support fellow indie authors. Part of it is the very attractive indie pricing. And of course, part of it is the thrill of finding  new and compelling voices. While it’s true that I don’t finish every indie book I start due to quality issues, I do so love the quest!


For my first Love Rocks column, I’m going to profile a pair of authors whose work I know well. They are hybrid authors, having a foot in both traditional and indie publishing worlds, but their indie work truly deserves more attention. 



Not Your Ordinary Chocolate

Bonbons. They’re considered the candy of choice for romance readers by folks who don’t share our passion for the genre. But as readers, we know the truth. We’d rather spend our money on a good book than candy. Okay, so we save a dollar for that Milky Way bar we’ve been craving. But when all is said and done, our favorite kind of chocolate is a good romance book.


So just in time for the biggest candy holiday of the year, I've found a delicious bonbon of a self-published romance. Chocolate doesn’t get any better than Love Letters by Lori Brighton.


Married To The Mob

There's no shortage of villains in the world, but what if the villains were members of your own family? What if your father, brother, or even your husband was the bad guy, someone who didn't think twice about committing murder?


Welcome to life in the Mafia. 


Most romantic suspense novels these days seem to be either police procedurals or serial killer stories, but I recently came across two entertaining thrillers set in the world of organized crime.


Going All In

Bad Beat.




Pocket Rockets.




If you know what all these words have in common, you get a gold star! One of them I had to look up. (Yeah, yeah, I know this is my column but I’m a romance author. Pocket Rockets takes on a whole new meaning when you write romance.) For those of you who are scratching your heads, I’ll fill you in on the secret: the common theme here is poker. Anyone who’s been to Vegas and hung out at the tables has likely heard these words. But if you’re the type of person who doesn’t “get” the hype of poker, doesn’t think it’s interesting or even particularly sexy, then I have a book for you. After reading Text Appeal by Lexi Ryan, you’ll quickly change your mind.


Sweet And Cozy

The transition from summer to fall is one I cherish. Gone are the heat, the constant grind of air conditioning, and the mosquitoes. We can look forward to cooler days, crisp evenings, and leaves that begin to change—the perfect weather for curling up with my Nook.


As a reader, I love stumbling upon a new author whose books I enjoy. I especially love it whenthat author comes with not just one or two titles, but a big, affordable backlist that can keep me immersed for weeks.



Opulent. Sumptuous. Savory. Luxuriant.  Sounds like a rainforest.  


It sounds like historical romance.

Like most readers, I read for different reasons.  Sometimes unrelenting tension and high adventure, sometimes adventures of the home and heart. Fast-paced, edge-of-my-seat read, or a more leisurely story, where the significance of a single look is drawn out, building the tension: “Will he do it, now, here?”   


But no matter how fast the pace or high the adventure, no matter how hot the passion or laugh-out-loud funny the humor, one of the great joys of fiction is being transported..  It’s not just description or scene setting or staging that transport us to a lush story-world.  Nope.  It’s being flown over its map by the author, then kicked out of the plane and dropped down into it. 


Beach Reads You Can't Put Down

Summer brings those precious moments you can lie on a beach towel or sit in a lawn chair and read (while the kids are playing in the sand and no one is asking for a snack).  For summer reading, I look for a book that makes me laugh or one that keeps me glued to the pages, gripped by the suspense. 


Now that I’m a mom with kids, I don’t want my suspense to give me nightmares about what could happen to my children.  I want the page-turning experience, the rush of excitement, the thrill of following twists and turns…but I want to know there’s a happy ending. 


That’s the beauty of romance and romantic suspense where I know I can count on an emotional thrill-ride, but one that leaves me feeling warm and glowing at the end, not devastated.


Never A Dull Moment

Romantic suspense lovers tell me over and over that what draws them to the genre is its constant tension. Conflict comes from two different sources, either in the story's suspense element or its romance element. While this is a key attraction in romantic suspense, I also love the way those two elements twine so closely that a synergistic effect arises -- the suspense intensifying the romance; the romance amplifying the suspense. The result: a novel with constant action, conflict, tension, and emotion. This type of carefully woven tapestry is a true art, one that takes practice, skill, and talent, typically cultivated over time.


The two books I'm highlighting today come from authors with many, many years of experience and numerous awards in their wake. I'm excited that authors of this caliber are stepping into the self-publishing arena to share previously unpublished works with readers; works that would have otherwise stayed under the bed or hidden in the closet, seen by traditional publishers as non-viable for one reason or another.


This is, in essence, Rock*It Reads’ mission -- to bring quality self-published books to readers from authors with years of professional experience behind them.


Will The Real Author Please Stand Up?

After I graduated from college, I rediscovered reading for pleasure. Words were finally fun again. They were wonderful, lyrical escapes, as far removed from textbooks and term papers as college life was from the real world. Words intoxicated me and I read myself drunk on them every day. Armed with a handy-dandy library card because, after all, I’d just graduated from college and though my head was full of knowledge, my pockets were empty, I discovered the work of Victoria Holt.

I loved Ms. Holt’s unique blend of history, gothic elements and suspense and quickly gobbled up The Indian Fan, The Curse of the Kings and My Enemy the Queen, along with all the other Holt titles on my library’s shelves. When I exhausted her backlist, the helpful librarian, who knew me well by then, suggested I try Jean Plaidy.  As it turned out, Victoria Holt and Jean Plaidy were one and the same person—Eleanor Hibbert, who also wrote as Philippa Carr. Earlier in her writing career, she’d used the pen names Eleanor Burford, Elbur Ford and Ellalice Tate, too.


It was my first brush with the publishing phenomenon of multiple pen names and it’s still a common practice today.


Fantastic Fairy Tales

ONCE UPON A TIME . . . I love that timeless phrase. Just four simple words and you know you're about to be transported into the world of fairy tales.


The beloved genre of fairy tales, as we know it, is only a mere three hundred and fifteen years old. And it all started in France when a 17th century French writer, Charles Perrault, dared to do something no one had ever done before. You see, long before the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Disney, Perrault was the first to take folklore that had been passed on verbally for centuries, write them down and add morals to tales such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood, to name a few. He was the creator of The Tales of Mother Goose. It's not surprising, really. He lived in a time and place that was full of the very elements we all love about fairy tales—prince and princesses, elegant lords and ladies, and opulent masquerade balls. A time of high culture and excesses.


July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).