Dear Reader: February edition

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Dear Reader,

I’m practically cackling and rubbing my hands with glee at the amazing books we have in store for you this month. You’re going to fall in love with the newest additions to the Carina Press author lineup while enjoying the very best of our returning authors. Forgive me for saying it but…whee! Read on for the goodness…

This month Lucy Parker brings us her much anticipated sequel to contemporary romance Act Like It. Pretty Face returns readers to the highly acclaimed world of the London stage with laugh-out-loud wit and plenty of drama. Iconic director Luc Savage is in for a surprise with his new show—not to mention a May-December romance with its feisty star!

New-to-Carina-Press author Rhenna Morgan kicks off her new super-sexy contemporary romance series with Rough & Tumble. With his badass don’t-take-no-for-an-answer approach to life, Jace Kennedy is everything Vivienne Moore swore she never wanted in a man—especially after the rough lifestyle she grew up in. But Jace sees the hidden wild side in Vivienne, and he won’t give up until he shows her the safest place is in the arms of a dangerous man. By the way, Jace might be a badass, but he’s no alphahole. This is a guy every inch in love with his lady and willing to treat her like gold.

We return to Lauren Dane’s Cascadia Wolves series with Wolf Unbound. We meet Tegan—a Pack Enforcer who, after the death of her mate, thought she’d be alone forever. Until she meets Ben, handsome, dominant…and human.

Amber Bardan returns with a stunning new stand-alone sultry contemporary romance in King’s Captive. In Julius’s world, on his island, he is King. Money and power mean he rules all around him—including her.

In fan-favorite A.M. Arthur’s newest male/male romance, As I Am, scarred shut-in Taz finally braves the outside world for intensely shy Will, but secrets from both of their pasts could destroy their fragile new love.

Fans of Scott Hildreth’s The Gun Runner be prepared! Michael Tripp is back and as bad as ever in The Game Changer. Tripp and Terra are moving toward their happily-ever-after, but first they have to overcome the secrets they’re still keeping from each other—and her mafia family’s inexorable determination to pull Tripp into la famiglia.

We’re introducing three debut authors this month. First, Join Agents Irish & Whiskey in Single Malt, Layla Reyne’s debut male/male romantic suspense. Widowed FBI agent and Irish ex-pat Aidan Talley falls hard for his handsome younger partner, Jameson “Whiskey” Walker, as they investigate cybercrimes and the murder of Aidan’s late husband.

In Mark of the Moon, a hookup with a vampire goes wrong when Dana Markovitz is scratched by a jealous were-cat. You won’t want to miss this sexy new urban fantasy series from debut author Beth Dranoff.  

From debut author Sarah Hawthorne comes Enforcer’s Price, book one in the Demon Horde series. In this romantic motorcycle club romance, Colt is just starting to trust again, but Krista is hiding something big. Can he still love her when she reveals sex and money go hand in hand for her?

Don’t miss this amazing lineup of new and returning authors, and look for their next books in the upcoming months!

Next month: Don’t miss Shannon Stacey’s return to the world of everyone’s favorite blue-collar family, the Kowalskis, with a heart-warming and funny all-new romance that also reunites you with all your favorite Kowalskis.

As always, until next month, my fellow book lovers, here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

Happy reading!

Angela James

Editorial Director, Carina Press

Five Foods to Amp Up Date Night

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February is an amazing month for romance readers, because Valentine’s Day is considered the epitome of romance. Hearts and flowers and romantic candlelit dinners. And speaking of candlelit dinners, food is a great way to romance someone, no matter what time of year it is. In my newest release, As I Am, one of my heroes romances his partner with an in-home candlelit dinner of lasagna and wine, and it’s a huge turning point for the couple. So for my post, I wanted to do a list of (in my opinion) the top five romantic foods.

  1. Italian food (bet you saw that coming). Maybe it’s childhood memories of watching Lady and Tramp share a bowl of spaghetti while being serenaded with a love song, but to me something about this type of cooking hits my romance buttons.


  1. Strawberries. Cover them in chocolate. Dip them in mascarpone cheese. Make a lovely salad with a balsamic reduction and torn basil leaves. Strawberry shortcake. The possibilities are endless with this versatile fruit. Plus, they’re somewhat heart-shaped and red!


  1. Fondue. Because what’s better than dipping bread into hot, melty cheese? Feeding it to your significant other, that’s what. You can also do chocolate fondue and dip fruit/cake pieces.


  1. Oysters. While I’m personally not a fan of raw seafood, oysters are considered one of the most popular aphrodisiac foods out there.


  1. Chocolate. No, not those cheap, super-sugary boxes of chocolate you used to get in grade school. Sensuous dark chocolate truffles. Chocolate bark sprinkled with crystallized ginger. White chocolate with almonds. Splurge on the high-end stuff. The flavor combinations are endless.


What’s your favorite romantic food/meal to share with your significant other?



A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone’s throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland.  She’s been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop.  She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn’t been coined yet back then) with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories. A.M. Arthur’s work is available from Samhain Publishing, Carina Press, Dreamspinner Press, SMP Swerve, and Briggs-King Books.

            When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder.  She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she’s an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments. 

            Contact her at with your cooking tips (or book comments). You can also find her online (, as well as on Twitter (, Tumblr (, and Facebook (


First page critique: Downton Abbey meets Deadwood

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Welcome to our first ever first-page critique. Meant to be a sneak peek into a Carina editor’s brain, and critiqued by a different editor each month, we’re going to post these monthly as long as authors are willing to let us use their work and people remain interested.

The idea here is to give you a quick insight into how we might look at a manuscript as it comes across our desks on submission. We’ll strive to be critical but not mean. Because it’s only one page, the amount of feedback is necessarily limited—we don’t have access to more than one page!

It’s important to note that this manuscript was submitted specifically for the purpose of first page critique on the blog, we do not/will not use random submissions so no worries we’re going to pull your piece out of slush and critique it.

The next opportunity to submit a piece for critique will be open in April 2017, so please watch the blog or our newsletter for more

This month’s editor providing critique is Angela James, Editorial Director of Carina Press.


* * *

The First Page


Author A described this historical romance as Downton Abby [sic] meets Deadwood, taking readers into the heart of New York’s Gilded Age.


Manhattan – 1889

The moment the front door opened, Julia stood just a little straighter.  She made sure to face front and fought curiosity to dare to glance toward the door.  In a few seconds, the new master of the house would be introduced to the 10 members of the household staff that were arranged in line along the hallway by order of rank.  As the older of the two upstairs maids, Julia’s spot in line was second only to Ms. Benson, the lady’s maid; Julia would be one of the first to be noticed.  Her heart beat a little harder, a little faster.  She silently prayed none of them would be dismissed, at least not right away, not before he could see how tight a ship this household was run. Just as in the great homes in London, everyone did his or her part down to the last kitchen maid.  Time was never wasted, not under the stern watch of Mr. Mason, the butler and Mrs. Miller, the housekeeper. They could make a comfortable home for him, if only he’d give them a chance.

“Where is Mr. Bartlett?” Mr. Mason’s voice was stern. Edward, the footman, had passed in front of Julia and presumably took his place in line.

“Weren’t at the station,” Jimmy, the hallboy, announced. His spot was at the end of the line, just behind the two kitchen maids.  He’d gone with Edward to help with the luggage, a rare outing for him.  That he’d managed to get to his spot having had to run to the back of the house, enter through the kitchen, and run upstairs, was a testament to the spry pick-pocket he’d recently been.

“Wasn’t at the station,” Mr. Mason corrected the young lad.  “He was due in on the noon train.”

* * *

The Critique


When we read submissions, we always look at the query letter first, reading for a short description of the work. Query letters and the pitch are an art form in themselves, but can often be the difference between reading a submission immediately and setting it aside for later reading—if it gets read at all past the query letter. Some submissions out themselves as not being what we publish simply from the query letter.

I must confess I am not a big reader of historical romance, though I do read some on occasion, and while I have seen one episode of Deadwood, I rarely watch TV, so have not seen more than that one episode or any episodes of Downton Abbey. However, I don’t live under a rock so lucky for the author, I am familiar enough with the idea of both to kind of get the pitch. I think? I am going into this expecting a lot of cursing, thanks to the Deadwood comparison. Just remember that when you choose to compare your book to other work or other TV shows, you assume the editor or reader has the knowledge needed to make the comparison—and you assume they have positive feelings towards what you’re using as a comparison. Can backfire sometimes! Also, when you use something for comparison, make sure you spell it right, even in the query letter.

All that said, I do have a special fondness for books set around the 1900 mark in New York City, for no reason I can articulate. So the Gilded Age of New York is more of a hook here for me than the high concept pitch, since I don’t care about either of those TV shows and know a minimal amount about them. Still, I probably would have popped this open just to see the first page, based on that description and the Deadwood reference (to see if there was the expected excess of cursing).

Alas, this page didn’t deliver on the cussing, but maybe it will come later, like on page two? I also must say that I don’t believe this is the strongest start for this manuscript. There’s no visible hook that would make a reader want to keep turning the page, unless they’re hoping it picks up. It’s possible reading about a group of people, servants in this case, lining up for a meeting with their new employer could be interesting, but not as presented. I’m thinking that scenario would be more interesting if they were all a bunch of goofballs, aliens or paranormal creatures.

I don’t know how to say this other than it’s kind of an uninspiring first page with some unnecessary narrative naval gazing and random details from the point of view character, Julia. I highly suspect there’s got to be a better starting place, one that would immediately capture the reader’s interest and invite them to find out more. It might be that cutting down this first page dramatically and opening right away with the idea that the owner of the house has missed his train might be that place, since that’s potentially more interesting than people standing in line. I’m not sure, since I can’t see page two, but that’s one possibility.

On the more positive side, I give this author props for having something that’s well-polished, sets a nice period tone right away in the first page, and has no immediately noticeable typos, grammatical errors or awkward sentences that pop off the page right away. This goes a long way to convince me to keep going.

Would I keep reading? Well, a first page is pretty short, and also the author has clearly worked at her craft some, based on those positives I listed above, so the answer is yes, but I would probably start skimming the first pages to see if it picks up and if I can spot a more intriguing starting place (and if there’s the cursing I’m expecting. See how that Deadwood reference created possibly the wrong expectations?)

Do you have questions about my feedback or this first page? Your turn to add constructive feedback for the author in the comments section!  

Authors entering their work for critique can choose to have the blog post comments open or closed. Comments are open this month, so please utilize them to ask questions or to offer your own critique, but please remember to offer useful criticism. Comments will be moderated and deleted if not deemed to be useful or appropriate.

Top 7 Reasons to Love Urban Fantasy!

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From Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural to Dirk Gently and iZombie, stories about magic and the paranormal set in the here and now keep grabbing us. Ever wondered why? I have a few theories…

  1. Kick-ass heroines.

A cornerstone of the urban fantasy genre. Just because we’re happy to have a hot guy help us out in our time(s) of need doesn’t mean we don’t want to see our heroine doing it for herself as well, right?

  1. Guys who can handle strong women.

In real life, it’s not always true. But in urban fantasy? There’s usually at least one guy that is attracted to our lead female because of her strength, not in spite of it. And that’s damned sexy.

  1. Goth

It’s not a requirement, but it’s fun to play with the colors and textures. The dark has a taste, a feeling at the back of your neck and along your spine. It’s velvet and leather, Doc Martens or corsets, red wine and melancholy. Plus there’s the music.

  1. World Building.

One of the things I love about fantasy in particular is that, as an author, I have the freedom and flexibility to create the world and its rules. Unlike historical or contemporary, a fantasy environment is based on my own ideas and stories. Sure, Mark of the Moon takes place in a very real, very urban setting – Toronto – but there are plenty of elements in my books that don’t exist in real life. At least as far as I know!

  1. Questioning authority.

In almost every urban fantasy story, there is some kind of established authority that the hero or heroine needs to confront. An empowerment moment. Even if we’re not so good at doing it in our real lives, we can experience the vicarious rush of our lead character owning her or his own strength.

  1. Urban = Seeing Beyond the Obvious

Going literal with the “urban” theme, living in a city means finding opportunities to find beauty in ugliness as nature pushes through the cracks in the concrete. Add some fantasy to the mix and you realize that anything can happen once you’ve turned that corner, or gone down that alleyway.

  1. Urban = Diversity

I’m a city person. And my city is Toronto, one of the most diverse places you’ll find. Setting any story in this kind of environment is an opportunity to embrace different cultures, highlight our tolerances (or intolerances), and hang with our friends and neighbors from around the world.


Why do you love urban fantasy?


About the Author:

Beth Dranoff lives somewhere in the vicinity of the Greater Toronto Area, Canada with her family, her dog, and more books than she can count. Is it before noon? Then there’s probably a mug of coffee nearby too. Mark of the Moon is her first novel.

Follow her online at:






5 Sexy Ways to Get In Shape

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If you’re anything like me (eating a cookie and swilling a latte) the holidays are over and it’s time to get back on the wagon. Since we are just in time for Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d give you my tips for getting in shape and feeling sexy at the same time.

5. Lap Dances – No joke….wanna be ultra-sexy and work on those leg muscles? Try grabbing a chair (partner optional) and a YouTube video. You can skip the squats at the gym the next day.

4. Cook – I know I’m guilty of grabbing a take ‘n bake pizza at least once a week, but if you start cooking and eating healthy at home, you’ll start feeling better. I know I’m not gonna feel sexy-smexy if I’ve just eaten three slices, but a lean meat and some veggies will keep me interested (and awake) all night.

3. Burlesque Classes – Nothing says sexy like confidence and burlesque dancers have it in spades. Sign up for a local class (they are popping up everywhere!) and learn how to walk and dance with the pros.

2. Muscle Toning – Wanna be better at sex? Don’t neglect to build muscle. Don’t forget about your muscles, though. Toning up your muscles with exercises utilizing resistance bands, weights, medicine balls etc. will give you more muscle control and make sexy times more interesting *cough* if you catch my drift.

1. Go shopping – Nothing makes me feel sexier than cute workout gear I will actually wear. If I feel crappy in my clothes, I’m not going to do anything – and that’s not limited to just gym clothes. We’re all guilty of those jeans hanging in our closet that we’ll wear after we lose ten (twenty) pounds. Donate them to a charity and find something that fits and looks great right now. When you feel confident, it shows all over. Besides, you can count all those steps you took at the mall!

Sarah Hawthorne lives in the Pacific Northwest where she drinks too much coffee, plans a lot of vacations and writes romance novels. Her native habitats include her garden and writing at the local library. Please visit her at