****-Me Pumps, A Behind the Scenes Look at Shoes and Toys in “The Dom Project”

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Hi, I’m Heloise Belleau! Today on the Carina blog, I’ll be talking . . . shoes! Coming from a background writing M/M, I was jumping at the chance to write a sexy and sexual heroine–especially her fashions! It was part satisfying to my Barbie-doll-dressing-up childhood self, and part to my attracted-to-well-dressed-women adult self. One thing I particularly enjoyed was picking out her shoes for every scene, whether we ultimately described them or not. Robin uses shoes as a source of sexual confidence, as a form of self-expression, and even to give her a boost in her professional life. Of course she has a varied collection, and as a penniless writer myself, I had a great time vicariously shopping for designer shoes.

Today, I’d like to share with you all a few links from my list of “visual references”, also known as “shoes I wish I could own”.

Let’s start with the basic day-to-day look. Robin’s short and self-conscious about it, so her shoe of choice for work is something classic, neutral . . . and with a hidden platform, like these Prada shoes.

When she heads to the BDSM club Miss Kitty’s, she tells her blog followers to look for “the petite sub in Louboutins.” Maybe these? They certainly do fit the bill for couture-meets-kink!

And for one of her sessions with John, a scene with a decidedly “red” feel from Robin’s lingerie right down to the toys they play with (those last two links NSFW!), there’s nothing sexier than this pair of shiny, mouth-wateringly candy apple red pumps. Don’t those metallic spike heels just add the right amount of edge? These definitely aren’t wholesome ruby slippers.

Dressed in vintage style for a sex party wearing a long string of vintage pearls, she opts for this pair of “understated” pink kate spade new york pumps. Yeah, “understated”, okay Robin. ;)

One of our goals writing The Dom Project was to write a heroine we’d like to read about–one we really respected and empathized with. So while Robin is a fashionista, and a submissive, she’s so much more, too: she’s a respected, driven professional. She’s type-A and brainy, but her best friend is a tech-geek slacker who’d rather watch old movies than spend a moment in a library. She loves clothes, but she edits her collections so she never needs a walk-in closet. She knows what she wants sexually, but she’s having a hell of a time finding it. She’s not an ideal heroine or an ideal submissive . . . but she does have the ideal shoe collection. Well, we’ve all got something.

What about you? Does a heroine’s fashion choices add to the fantasy and the wish-fulfillment . . . or is it just a silly, materialistic distraction from what matters? Any well dressed heroines or heroes you’ve enjoyed in romance or elsewhere? Got a pair of shoes you dream about but are way too expensive to ever own? Tell us all about it!

The Dom Project is a friends-to-lovers BDSM and is out December 23rd from Carina Press and all your favorite e-tailers. And be sure to check out its sequel, The Submission Gift by Solace Ames, coming out next year from Carina!

By day, Robin Lessing has a successful career as a university archivist. By night, she blogs about her less-than-successful search for Mr. Tall, Dark and Dominant. Living up to her handle “The Picky Submissive,” she’s on the verge of giving up and settling for vanilla with a side of fuzzy handcuffs when she discovers her best friend and colleague has a kinky side, too.

Sexy, tattooed techie John Sun is an experienced Dom who never lacks for playmates, male or female. If he can’t satisfy Robin’s cravings, maybe no one can—after all, he knows her better than anyone. So he offers to help her master the art of submission for one month.

Robin eagerly agrees to John’s terms, even the pesky little rule forbidding any friendship-ruining sex. But rules are made to be broken, and once they begin their stimulating sessions, it’s not long before she’s ready to beg him for more—much more…

For more erotic romance, visit Solace Ames and Heloise Belleau online!

A simple grey pearl necklace plays a large role in the story, and in Robin and John’s relationship. Enter our giveaway to win this baroque grey pearl set! The necklace length is 17″ while the bracelet measures 7.5″.  Both pieces close with a sterling silver lobster claw and eyelet.

Just click the link below for instructions on how to enter.

Giveaway by Rafflecopter


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For a mountain girl, there isn’t anything better: Hard-bodied men who brave the outdoors, work in and with nature, have their character molded by their environment. They rise before the sun, always smell of fresh-cut wood and have arms like steel. My favorite part of their bodies has got to be the rough hands that cradle you gently, yet masterfully handle an axe or saw to fell a massive 100-foot tree.

Yes, I married a lumberjack. Sort of. He’s been in the lumber industry for well over 25 years and filled a number of positions, all of them outdoors and blue-collar. He was raised in the business, really, since his father is still a logger, forester and anything else that the company needs him to be. I’ve heard every dirty joke out there about hard wood.

I decided it was finally time to write what I know. I took my love of my home state of West Virginia and combined it with my knowledge of the timber industry. The series, COUNTRY ROADS, kicks off with TAKE ME HOME and Matthew Shaw, the lumberjack with the heart of gold and a dark secret. Everything about him, from the saw-dusty clothes and muddy boots, screams “man of the mountains”.

But there is a new woman on his mountain, one whose very presence gives him trouble as much as she gives him wood!

Logging manager Matthew Shaw is wary when Kayla Edwards, the owner of Mountain Specialty Spices, hires his firm to harvest timber on her Appalachian property. It’s a place he knows better than the back of his calloused hand—it’s his family’s old homestead, lost years ago in a painful foreclosure. He’s hauled himself up from dirt-floor poor since then, and resolves to stay professional…but Kayla’s vivacious beauty makes it hard to focus on his job.

Home. That’s how army-brat-turned-foodie Kayla feels about her new mountain hideaway. What’s more, the hottest lumberjack ever to swing an axe has agreed to manage her timber crop and get the old maple syrup operations back on tap. Matt’s ruggedly sexy ways and passion for the land have her falling hard.

The heat between them grows wild…until Kayla discovers that Matt hasn’t been up front with her. She feels devastated and, worst of all, used. How can Matt prove it’s her he wants and not her land?

TAKE ME HOME is available at CarinaPress.com and all participating ebook retailers.

INEZ KELLEY was born and bred in the mountains of West Virginia. Although you can never take the hillbilly out of the girl, her knight in shining armor transplanted her to the Midwest along with their teenage drama queen, Spawnetta, and the Demolition Duo – Damien and his twin, the Omen.

Sign up for Inez’s newsletter to get sneak peeks and contest entries. You can visit her at her website http://inezkelley.com/  Follow Inez on twitter at @Inez_Kelley or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/inez.kelley

The Muses

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Sometimes, a writer has a muse. I happen to have a few — four to be specific — and I thought it might be fun to introduce them to you.

First, there are Jake and Ryan. They hang out on a pink Barbie couch on my desk….along with Bella. Originally, it was just the two guys, but then my daughter thought the guys needed a friend and Bella joined the couch.

I tend to have a lot of dark-haired heroes in my books. Perhaps that’s Jake and Ryan’s doing. Though in my latest book, All In with the Duke, I bucked that trend. One of the heroes – Tristan – is a ginger-blond. Umm…I need a ginger-blond boy Barbie now.

Then there are the princes – Prince Phillip #2 and Prince Siegfried—who hang out on a shelf above my desk. I adore their formal attire (complete with boots, though neither unfortunately is wearing a cravat), just as I adore Regency men’s attire. If I could find a Regency Ken doll, I’d be such a happy girl. But until then, I have Phillip and Siegfried.

They aren’t allowed out on the desk, though. They’ve stayed in their boxes—I don’t want them to meet the same fate as Price Phillip #1 and the Prince. Kidlet got a hold of the first princes. Their clothes disappeared, then they disappeared into the nekkid Barbie bin, never to be seen again. At least they were together.

As a kid, I had only one Ken doll (yes, I was very deprived). Shortly after I got him, he lost his pants. And his shirt. All he had to wear was a maroon velvet smoking jacket. So that’s what he wore while hanging with the Barbies in the town house. I don’t think he minded.

Did you have a Ken doll as a kid? Did he manage to keep his clothes on? …or maybe that was just my Ken, and the first princes, who had that particular problem.


Max Arrington, the Duke of Pelham, vows to never again let a handsome face blind him to a man’s true intentions. But ten months of celibacy and lonely nights drive him to a decadent brothel, where a beautiful young man arouses his illicit passions as never before.

Tristan Walsh has grown tired of being used for men’s pleasure. But his latest client is different: commanding yet generous, Max makes him feel cared for as well as wanted. Yet Tristan knows he’ll never have the choice to leave the brothel and submit only to Max.

So when Max invites him to be his guest at his country estate, Tristan eagerly agrees to his terms—days to do as he pleases while Max tends to the dukedom, and nights spent together in wicked play. But when the “business arrangement” begins to deepen into something more, Tristan must face the fact that he has no true place in Max’s life—or in Max’s guarded heart…

Buy Link: All In with the Duke

Ava March is an author of smoking hot M/M historical erotic romances. She loves writing in the Regency time period, where proper decorum is of the utmost importance, but where anything can happen behind closed doors.

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Let’s Talk It Over

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I once offered to babysit for a friend while she went out on a date with her husband, where they could sit and talk over good food and good wine.

Her response was: we’d have nothing to talk about. 

Yeah, it surprised me, too, particularly as I remembered this couple as being really good friends before they married. Now they barely speak to each other. I noticed that those of my friends and family who had recently separated or divorced had a similar cry – we didn’t/couldn’t talk or agree anymore.

This concept, this lack in effective communication, inspired For Her Eyes Only’. Vicky and Ryan are used to talking, to sharing – but not the important stuff, and that’s lead to a lot of assumptions, and consequently actions and reactions that have created pain and anger, resulting in a deep chasm between the two.

My hero and heroine, Ryan and Vicky, are old friends, and we’ve met them in previous novels in the McCormack Security Agency series. I love these guys – they’re sassy, they’re sexy – and they can be so very good for each other, and yet so very wrong. Here’s a blurb on the book:
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Ryan Brennan has worked plenty of jobs for the McCormack Security Agency, so going undercover at a couples resort to identify a pair of killers should be easy. Except his assigned partner—uh, “wife”—is Vicky Hastings. It takes all his willpower to keep their relationship professional, even when they’re not sharing a secluded cabin.

Finally out from behind her desk, Vicky can’t wait to prove herself in the field. But with Ryan? Their office flirtation cooled when he turned her down after a scorching kiss at the office Christmas party. Working together while sharing close quarters certainly isn’t making it easy for her to stop thinking about him.

 After a series of escalating “accidents,” including Vicky’s near-fatal fall from a tampered bridge, the two have to work together to wrap up this case fast, before more than hearts get broken.

I like to really test my characters, so my first thought was – what kind of undercover situation would be absolute hell for Vicky and Ryan? It didn’t take long to come up with a couples counselling retreat, where every attendee is not only completely dysfunctional in their own relationship, but also a suspected killer.

Conversely, I also had a culprit couple, which was a first for me (and many thanks to Dr. John Barletta for insight into the twisted psyche of a killer couple). Unlike Vicky and Ryan, this couple are totally in sync. They know each other so well, they know how the other thinks, they can anticipate the other’s action, and they provide support for each other. The problem is, they can’t really interact nicely with society on account of all the killing they do together. You know that old chestnut, a couple who kills together, stays together…so how is it that this psychotic couple can triumph where my heroic couple flounder?

I talked to a few relationship counsellors for research for this book, and one resounding element for strengthening a relationship that came out of the research is not just the ability to ‘talk it over’ with your partner, but the ability to actively listen, and then empathise – and how a regular date night can be so very important for reviving a relationship.

I’m the first person to recommend ‘me’ time to my friends and readers, that time where you can do something for YOU, spoil yourself, pamper yourself, take the time out to focus on YOU. In this case, I’m recommending ‘US’ time. Time to focus on you AND your partner, to pamper, refresh and relax as a couple.

Giveaway alert!
What would be your favourite date night? What have you found works well with reconnecting with your partner? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment to enter the draw for a chance to win one of two copies of my new book, For Her Eyes Only, and a special, limited edition  ‘For Her Eyes Only’ Date Night Have-A-Chat conversation starter kit!

If you can’t wait for the announcement, you can get your own copy of ‘For Her Eyes Only’ here.

I love to hear from my readers, so please feel free to get in touch with me:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Shannon.Curtis.Writers.Ink

Twitter: https://twitter.com/2BShannonCurtis – or follow @2BShannonCurtis

Website: http://www.shannoncurtis.com/

Blog: http://shannoncurtis.wordpress.com/

The Story behind the story of “First and Again”

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I had the idea for FIRST AND AGAIN several years ago. Since I come from a small town, and I’ve always had ambivalent feelings towards it, I wanted to write about a woman with similar feelings. I wanted her to be in a hurry to leave her small town no matter what or who she left behind. But when her career and her marriage fall apart, she finds she has nowhere left to go but home. And she’s not happy about it.

I wrote the first drafts of this story sometime before 2009. In October of 2009 I attended the Surrey International Writer’s Conference in Surrey, British Columbia. There, I had the chance to talk to Susan Wiggs in a Blue Pencil session. She told me I had the makings of a good story – not only the conflict between my character Bridget and her first love Jack, but also the tension with her sister and her mother. Ms. Wiggs suggested I move the setting of the story from my home province of Saskatchewan to the US. After some careful thought, I decided to take her advice. I picked up my fictional small town of Paradise and moved it a few hundred miles south to North Dakota.

The story went through a couple of drafts between 2009 and 2011. It also sat waiting patiently on my harddrive for months at a time as I worked on other novels. But finally in January of 2012, as one of my goals for the year, I took it off the back burner. This time I polished it to the point where I knew it was ready to be submitted somewhere.

And then I let it sit on my harddrive again. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. Should I send it to an agent or one of my current publishers? A new publisher? I was busy writing a new novel, not to mention working at the day job. And okay, I admit, I’m something of a procrastinator. I figured I’d get around to sending it somewhere. Eventually.

Eventually finally arrived in the fall of 2012. I heard that Carina Press was having a feedback week. Writers could send in their completed novels and the editors promised to look them over and get back to the author with their thoughts about the work within six weeks. Since I happened to have a completed novel lying around, I thought I’d send it in. Feedback from a Harlequin editor would be really valuable.

We get a lot of telemarketing calls, so when the phone rang about six weeks later, I almost didn’t answer it when I didn’t recognize the area code. But I’m very glad I did. Angela James from Carina Press was phoning to let me know that they wanted to publish FIRST AND AGAIN. I almost fell out of my office chair! The moral of the story is that sometimes procrastination is a good thing!

Are you a procrastinator like me? What do you procrastinate about all the time? Has something you procrastinated about ever turned out better than you expected because you took your sweet time getting it done?

Bridget Grant is back in Paradise. Paradise, North Dakota, that is.

She’s swallowed her pride and moved back to her hometown with her daughter after her divorce and the loss of her catering company. Now she’s trying to navigate the strained relationships she’d left behind – including her first love, Jack Davison.

Jack never forgot Bridget, or the day she left town – and him. When Bridget caters a lunch at Jack’s tourist ranch, old flames reignite. They have more in common than ever – Jack’s also a single parent. Though they both try to keep things casual, Bridget, Jack and their girls are starting to look a lot like a family.

But Bridget’s only planning to stay in Paradise until she’s saved enough to relaunch her business. Jack’s invested too much in his ranch to leave. And with their daughters involved both have a lot more at stake than heartbreak. How can they risk falling in love?

To read an excerpt, please go to my website. FIRST AND AGAIN is now available for purchase at Carina Press.

The Art of Titling Books

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The original title for Witch Bound was Runed which I thought was a clever play on words because runes are so important to the story. Witch Bound is based on Norse mythology where runes are used not only for communication but also for spell-casting and divination. Raquel is a witch with enormous potential but she has trouble controlling her gift. She’s only able to cast small spells through the use of bind runes. The hero, Fen, is an artist who helps her to design a runic tattoo that allows her to better control her gift.


I was overruled. In the end, I think it was a good call because titles are supposed to interest people enough to buy the book and Runed really only makes sense after you’ve already read the story.

At Carina Press, what they do when they don’t like the original title is send you a retitle worksheet. They ask for lists of key words and phrases, comparable titles within the same genre and suggested replacement titles. Here’s my keyword list:

1. Runes

2. Wards

3. Witch

4. Hound

5. Gate

6. Power

7. Portal

8. Wedding

9. Clan

10. Magic

11. Demons

12. Hunt

Witch: Enchant, Bewitch, Spell, Bespell, Charm, Becharm

Hound: Beast, Shifter, Hunt, Chase

We came up with Witch Bound which I love because it refers back to the central romantic conflict. Fen is a virgin because hounds are magically bound to the first woman they have sex with and he’s never wanted to give someone that much power over him until he meets Raquel. The problem is she’s engaged to marry his best friend through an arranged marriage that was signed before she was born. So, Witch Bound. It fits well, don’t you think?

Anyone care to test their book titling skills? What would you have come up with?

About the Book:

Raquel Lindgren knows what her future holds. An arranged marriage. A new home in Ragnarok, Iowa, with another clan of refugees from Asgard. She should be happy. But there’s a mental block preventing her from tapping in to her true abilities as a witch. And she’s more attracted to the best man than she is to the groom…

Fen can’t believe he’s falling for his best friend’s future wife. As a hound, a wolf shifter, his duty lies with the pack. He’s seen too many hounds destroyed by love, and he’s sworn never to take a mate, never to have children of his own. He can’t deny his desire for Raquel, but she deserves more than he can offer her.

Raquel’s been raised to trust in magic, her clan and her destiny. But when a vengeful demon threatens to break out of Asgard and destroy the clan, Raquel learns she must trust in love if she is to take the future into her own hands.

About the Author:

Eleri Stone was born and raised in New Jersey. She graduated from the University of Iowa, married her college sweetheart, and settled in the Midwest where she still lives with her husband and their three children. A lifelong fan of fantasy, she started reading romance as an adult and was instantly captivated by the strong female protagonists, character-driven storylines and guarantee of a happy-ever-after. Writing fantasy and paranormal romance, she is the author of the Lost City Shifters series (shapeshifter paranormal romance), the Twilight of the Gods series (paranormal romance based on Norse mythology) and the Spellcraft series (secondary-world fantasy romance).


Love Letters Volume 2 Inspiration

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We asked the ladies of the Love Letters anthologies to share their inspirations for Love Letters Volume 2: Duty to Please, and this is where the magic began:

E Is for Entice by Emily Cale

My husband comes from a small coastal town and has several friends who still live there. Last time we were visiting, I got to hang out at the 9-1-1 call center with one of them for several hours. Most of the calls ended up being pushed through to the Coast Guard. When we decided Volume 2 would be military themed, I knew I wanted to focus on a hero in that branch. Most people don’t think about the Coast Guard, but anyone who spend a lot of time around the water knows how important they really are.

That’s when Evan Marshall showed up. He had managed to leave town only to return years later with the Coast Guard. In the middle of reuniting with his high school sweetheart, he ends up needing to put his own needs aside in order to save a few others.

F is for Fallout by Ginny Glass

My inspiration was military in a roundabout way. I wanted a hero who wasn’t a typical soldier or airman (even though those are just as yummy!), so I went with an embedded reporter. I’ve always wondered about the men who travel with our troops to cover all of the action – how do they keep from going crazy in the down time between segments?

Well, my hero, Spencer Corwin, sneaks a letter from the rejected pile of a “pal a soldier” program, and just when he thinks it’ll be a good way to pass some time, he unexpectedly falls for the letter’s author — a woman named Ginger who is (according to the enclosed photo) every man’s inflatable blonde fantasy. Too bad she’s actually Josephine Tate, a redheaded artist who thinks that she’s getting her correspondence from a bonafide hero.

Spencer’s not a soldier, Jo’s not a Baywatch model. When the convoy he’s part of gets attacked and he’s sent back stateside, they’ll both have to deal with the fallout from their little white lies — and maybe live up to the contents of their red hot letters.

G Is for Gun-Shy by Christina Thacher

A friend of a friend is a high-ranking something-or-other in the Ministry of Defence (yes, the Brits actually spell it that way). He holds one of those jobs–you know, the kind that if he told me what he actually did, he’d have to kill me. (So sexy. He’s a bit out of my league, though.) One thing that amused me was that he had to spend some time at the Pentagon, dealing with the U.S. military analysts. I started to think about Americans and Brits discussing strategy.

Just like that, I was picturing a gorgeous British analyst, Davina Gunn, working closely with a young colonel, Jack Travis, who’s been shipped from from Afghanistan because of the wound in his leg. As soon as I could, though, I got them away from the Pentagon (so not sexy) and stuck in a house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Even out of their respective uniforms (hers being silk blouses and trim skirts), Davina and Jack have a lot to learn about each other. Nothing better than to be hands-on in your job…!

H is for Hotshot by Maggie Wells

I’ve always had a fascination with smoke jumpers. Okay, maybe not always, but I have nurtured a fascination with them since I saw the movie…Always. In it, Richard Dreyfuss plays a daredevil pilot and Holly Hunter as the spitfire of a woman who loves him. Humor, heartbreak, and a love everlasting.


I love all sorts of uniformed heroes. Tyler Prescott, my hero from D is for Detained (Love Letters Volume 1: Obeying Desire ) is a police officer. I have a sexy firefighter story called Rescue Me in coming in another collection this July. I adore a sexy SEAL or a forceful FBI agent. But with wildfires sweeping through the western half of the States last summer, I jumped at the chance to write the story of sexy smoke jumper Luke Whitehawk and his sassy chopper pilot, Tara Ferris!


Love Letters Volume 2: Duty to Please by Ginny Glass, Christina Thacher, Emily Cale and Maggie Wells
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available NOW at the Carina Press bookstore or your favorite ebook retailer!

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Research on the Sly

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In The Rebound Girl, my heroine is a plastic surgeon opening a medical spa with her friends. Because I like to be thorough (and because it’s never a bad idea to start thinking about Botox), I figured it would be worthwhile to visit a medspa to get a feeling for the setting. I wanted to know how the business was set up, what kind of services they offered, the technology they used… You know. The usual.

I assumed a few local places would be willing to help. I mean, I’m not exactly famous, but who wouldn’t want a chance to help a romance author out? I pretty much live for the rare opportunities when someone asks me a question I actually know the answer to. Who doesn’t?

Medspas, apparently.

I called half a dozen places in my area—and got shut down each time. The people I talked to on the phone were nice enough, but there was always some sort of legal or business complication in the way. It went against HIPAA regulations. It was company policy. There were issues of sanitation to consider. Tours were open to prospective clients only.

CUE THE SCREECHING HALT. Prospective clients, huh?

Now, I’m not proud to say that I lied and coerced my way through the doors, but that’s exactly what happened. With a professed interest in liposuction (which, let’s face it, carries a respectable plausibility), I booked my tour and got to see all the dirty secrets.

I know it wasn’t fair of me to take up the receptionist’s valuable time when I had no intention of actually having any work done. And the poor woman probably thought I was a touch crazy, scrambling to take notes and drawing an eerily detailed map of their facility while I was there. But research is an author’s best friend, right? No matter what lengths she must go to get it?

Hey—we should all just be glad I didn’t have a police ride-along turned down. Can you imagine what I might have to do to sneak a ride in the backseat of a cop car?


Plastic surgeon Whitney Vidra knows all about getting over a cheating ex. She followed her boyfriend halfway around the world before she found out about his infidelity. Now she’s focusing on her career and her friends, and using men just for single-serving, no-strings fun. Until she meets charming Matt Fuller.

Newly single Matt is captivated by the vibrant Whitney, in every way the opposite of his cheating ex-wife. When he confesses to Whitney that he hasn’t had sex since his divorce, she volunteers to be his rebound girl. But Matt’s not a no-commitment kind of guy—he’s either all in, or all out.

Whitney is determined to remain attachment-free, but Matt is equally determined to prove to her that what they have is more than just a rebound fling.

Available at Carina | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks and most ebook retailers


Tamara Morgan is a contemporary romance author of humorous, heartfelt stories with flawed heroes and heroines designed to get your hackles up and make your heart melt. Her long-lived affinity for romance novels survived a B.A. degree in English Literature, after which time she discovered it was much more fun to create stories than analyze the life out of them.

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What’s in a (Character’s) Name?

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As an adoptive mom, I didn’t get to name my children; at ages 4 and 7, my darlings already had names when they joined our family. Good thing for me I get to create plenty of names for characters!  Sometimes I put a lot of research into names, choosing them based  on their etymology and past usage in literature and history. But sometimes the sound of something strikes me and I can’t call a character anything else. I almost always check a name’s meaning to make sure it doesn’t clash with the character’s personality.

Click the image to find out more about How Beauty Loved the Beast

For The Tales of the Underlight, coming up with Jolie’s name was easy. She comes from Houston, Texas—right near the Louisiana border. Her family moved to Texas out of Acadiana (southern Louisiana), so her name reflects the French influence of that area. Beauty and the Beast is a French fairy tale, after all! Jolie means “beautiful,” and Benoit (pronounced Ben-wah in her family’s case) is a French surname that means “blessed.” I like the way Jolie Benoit sounds, and it makes sense for the character. I had also thought the last name a rarity…and then a fellow Carina author and I had a laugh when we discovered the heroine of her book releasing the same day as my series opener How Beauty Met the Beast (the amazing Undercover Professor—if you like contemporary romance, check it out!) was also named Benoit. What a wild coincidence!

Naming hero Wesley Haukon, or “Hauk” as everyone calls him, was a little more complicated. Since he is Heathen and worships the Norse gods, I decided to pull from Scandinavian names instead of French for him. Though Hauk is a working class hero, his last name is an Americanization of Håkon, from Norwegian royalty, and means “noble son,” a reference to his status as the prince of the tale. It also allowed me to use the nickname “Hauk.” As he is our beast, I wanted to use an animal-related name just as I used the word “beautiful” for the beauty of the tale. Plus he has a phoenix tattoo to represent him rising from the ashes of the fire that scarred him, so I liked the idea of using a bird instead of a more traditional furry beast. (Hauk is the opposite of furry, after all, as his burn scarring doesn’t allow hair to grow!) His first name has a far simpler origin. I paid tribute to one of my favorite movie heroes of all time—farm boy Wesley from The Princess Bride.

What are some of your favorite names? Does the meaning of a name matter to you, or is the sound of it more important?

Jax Garren is descended from Valkyries and Vikings (she’s part Swedish) but was raised a small town girl in the Texas Hill Country. She graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in English and a minor in Latin then found her own Happily Ever After with a handsome engineer who is saving the world through clean energy technology. Jax loves meeting new people, so if you see her out and about say hello! She’s always happy to raise a glass with her readers (or anyone else) to toast courage, adventure and love.

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I have a website—now what?

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When people see me walking down the street, they immediately rush over and ask: “Patty, what can I do to make my website better?”

First, I smile and tell them, “Get out of my dream, silly.” Then I wake up and see the cat from next door trying to open my window with his paw. Every. Single. Day.

Seriously though, as a member of the Harlequin.com team, I am surrounded by wise web wunderkinds (alliteration high five!) who always ask the question “how can we make our site better, more accessible, more user friendly?” Here are a few key principles we’ve been following for the last few years:

1. Offer your audience new content regularly. You don’t have to blog every day or tweet every hour. Work off a weekly or semi-monthly schedule, if you’d like, so your followers know you’re around and will keep you top of mind. There are some content management systems like WordPress or Tumblr that will allow you to schedule content in so you don’t have to worry about remembering to post once in a while. Placing your tweet stream on your home page is also a great way of bringing new content in.

2. Make sure your readers can subscribe to your updates with one click. Keep your newsletter subscription button on the home page and “above the fold”.  Make your Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads icons large enough to spot on the header or footer.  This way, your audience can connect with you without the hassle of rooting through your whole site to find that info.

3. Keep your page design fresh and up-to-date. Rule of thumb is usually a new look every two years and it doesn’t have to be the whole site. Consider updating your header graphic or your background image to start. Honestly, it doesn’t have to be expensive either. There are also low cost template options available if your site is running on WordPress or Joomla.

4. Speaking of design, keep your site uncluttered and be generous with your white space. The busy home page went away with the nineties. A simple design with a good text-to-background colour ratio for easy reading will engage your site visitors and keep them on your site longer!
(Note: Web usability experts are united in saying that white space improves comprehension, at least 20%!)

5. Are you using analytics? It’s a lot easier than you think, with services like Google Analytics (free!) and Woopra (free for non-commercial use). Find out how people are finding your site (i.e. search terms, or where they’re clicking through from) and what they gravitate toward. How do your readers/followers use your site? Do they read your updates or are they stuck on the home page? Are any of your promotions leading potential new readers to your site? These analytic tools not only help you understand your site visitors, they also provide handy charts and graphs to help plan your own brand/marketing efforts.

Whether you’re published or aspiring to be published, a solid web presence is always a good thing to have. Building a following—a community, if you will—takes time but at least you have a professional, up-to-date site to use as a launch pad for all things YOU!

Now it’s your turn: what’s the best website tip you’ve ever received?


Patty Anasco (@pattyanasco) is Assistant Manager, Website Operations for Harlequin.com and is juggling simultaneous addictions to Candy Crush, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Voice. An intervention is imminent.