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Category: I Love Books

Excerpt Party: Unwrapping Romance-Claiming Her

Happy Holidays, Historical Romance Lovers!

One of the best parts of the holiday season is gifts. And romance readers know the best gifts often come between the covers of a romance novel.

A group of my historical romance author friends & I have collected these fun, exciting excerpts from our stories to help you find great books to kick back with this hectic holiday season.

It’s some of the best historical romance out there!

This one’s from CLAIMING HER, a big, sexy, enemies-to-lovers romp through Elizabethan Ireland.

If you love alpha heroes, fun banter, & scorching hot sexytimes, you’ll love CLAIMING HER.

Here’s an excerpt from the second surprise from the opening scenes.

Aodh Mac Con Rardove has returned to Ireland and taken the castle the Queen of England refused to give him.  He intends to conquer everything: the castle, the lands, the lady. 
Unfortunately, this lady has no intention of being conquered. 

He must find a way to win her…or lose everything he’s fought for his whole life.

(Note: Hero’s name is Irish, and pronounced like the beginning of ‘Aidan.’)

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

…She stepped back, her lips parting. The paleness in her cheeks went even paler. He’d shocked her.

The realization caused a small, strange tinge of disappointment, that a woman who’d held an English castle beyond the Pale with only ten men would be shocked by such a thing. It seemed somehow…diminishing. But then, Aodh had a taste for rebellion today, and nothing but more of the same would serve.

Still.

A movement at the far end of the hall caught his attention. One of his captains, Cormac, poked his head through a door, caught his eye and nodded, then ducked back out. Good. They’d made it to the north side, which meant they’d secured the entire castle. Rardove was his.

And so where was the hot satisfaction of conquest? The rush of triumph? Where was…everything?

Lying at the bottom of the same cold pit that had marked his life for too many years to count, no doubt. Intrigues, battle, courtly maneuvers, it was all the same: naught.

Apparently even coups of castles did not rise to the level of interest anymore.

He turned his attention back to Katarina. “My lady, if you will—”

All he saw was a blur of green silk, then her small, bunched fist smashed into his face.

The impact, hard and square, landed directly on his jaw.

Caught utterly unaware as he’d never been before–never, not even when his father’s head had been cut off—Aodh reeled sideways.

The retreat gave enough room for her to launch herself forward. She slammed her shoulder directly into his ribs so hard and fast he grunted. He stumbled backward and hit the ground, her on top, twisting and kicking.

She jammed a knee into his bollocks, and he doubled over protectively, at which point she grabbed one of his fingers and twisted it back almost to breaking. Her other hand—so sinuous and slender it was all but ungrippable—snaked between their writhing bodies and tugged his accursed dagger out of its sheath.

Disappointed, indeed.

With a roar, he lunged up off the ground, lifting her with him. Predictably—dimly, he noted he was already predicting things about her—she wrestled like a hellcat. Whirling hair, arms, legs. Kicking, biting, punching, swiping with the knife.

First things first.

He caught hold of the feminine fist snaked around the hilt of his blade and slammed it to the wall above her head, gripping her wrist so hard she cried out, but she did not, of note, stop fighting.

He finally had to pin her to the wall with his entire body, her toes dangling half a foot in the air, their faces pressed together, cheek to cheek, until he stilled everything that was writhing and flailing and kicking on her curving, rampant, berserker body.

Fire burned in his veins, urging him to smash and destroy. He reached over with his other hand and wrenched the blade out of her grip, then tossed it to the ground behind him.

He inhaled slowly, forcing himself to calm. They stood like this for a moment, her body pinned between his and the wall. He supposed she could still kick his shins, but she’d impact against his greaves, and it would hurt her far more than him.

She seemed to agree. At least, she didn’t move.

He pulled back a few inches and let her feet drop to the ground. Breathing fast, she flung her head, spraying hair across her face. It was pale and beautiful, with slim, dark brows arcing over what appeared to be intelligent brown eyes. A shocking discovery.

“If you were a man, I would kill you right now,” he said in a low voice.

He waited for her response—everything now was a test, every moment a potential tipping point. Would she recoil? Be wise and retreat, apologize, surrender, run scared?

Would she be like everyone else?

She shifted the only thing he didn’t have restrained, her left hand, and laid what turned out to be the cold edge of a blade against the side of his throat.

“If I were a man, sir,” she whispered back, “you would already be dead.”

Goddammit.

It was his dagger, one of many strapped to his body. In the mêlée, she’d succeeded in getting it free. In the distraction of staring into her eyes, trying to ascertain if she was mad, she’d succeeded in lifting it to his throat.

A rush went through him, hot and intense. “You are left-handed,” he observed grimly.

“When necessary.”

A humming filled his stomach. He’d come for battle, and that this slim audacious woman had given it to him–undefended, in a hopeless situation, outmatched and overpowered–bespoke great boldness. Of a kind he’d not seen in a long time.

Either that, or idiocy.

She did not appear idiotic. Of course, she’d not appeared reckless either, out in the bailey. She’d seemed calm, clever, pale, and beautiful. Then she’d launched her body into his and turned into a bold, roaring-mad hellcat.

Perhaps everything in her was latent. Who knew, idiocy might rear its head at any moment. Or more boldness.

Although it was difficult to see how she could become more bold than she was at the moment.

Small wisps of hair brushed beside her mouth. Aodh knew battle and fights; her lips ought to be dry with fear, parched and tight. But they were wet. Parted and wet, her chin up, her cheeks a sort of hot red. Her slim body was pressed hard against his, female curves barely detectable through his armor. But the vivid flush of her was clear.

Her mad, energizing, fearless self was the clearest thing on his mind.      

That and the blade pressed against his neck.

He laughed low in his throat. It had been a long time since he’d felt this hum inside him. Since he’d felt this energized, this vital.

He leaned closer until his mouth was an inch from hers, until he felt the honed edge of his own blade indent the flesh of his throat.

“Do it, lass,” he whispered. “Or drop it. Now.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

I wonder if she’ll drop it….

WANT MORE??

AMAZON | iBOOKS  |  NOOK  | KOBO

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♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Time to check out all the other amazing excerpts!

Hop over to each one and enjoy the romantic surprises.

KRIS KENNEDY-Medieval & Elizabethan Romance
https://www.facebook.com/kriskennedybooks/

ELIZA KNIGHT- Scottish Medieval Romance
https://www.facebook.com/elizaknightfiction/

CATHY MACRAE-Scottish Historical Romance
https://www.facebook.com/cathymacraeauthor/   

ERICA RIDLEY-Regency Romance
 https://www.facebook.com/ericaridley  

COLLETTE CAMERON-Regency Romance
http://facebook.com/collettecameronauthor

TAMARA GILL-Regency Romance
https://www.facebook.com/tamaragillromance/  

LORI ANN BAILEY-17th Century Scottish Romance
https://www.facebook.com/LoriAnnBaileyauthor/

LAUREN ROYAL-17th century Historical Romance
https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChaseFamilyReaders/   

EMMA PRINCE-Scottish Medieval
 https://www.facebook.com/EmmaPrinceBooks/   

JULIE JOHNSTONE-Medieval Romance
https://www.facebook.com/authorjuliejohnstone

CECELIA MECCA-Scottish Historical Romance
http://www.ceceliamecca.com/unwrappingromance/

MADELINE MARTIN-Regency Romance
https://www.facebook.com/MadelineMartinAuthor/

KATHERINE BONE-Pirate Romance
https://facebook.com/authorkatherinebone

Go find some new historicals to love!

 

Storytelling: Predictability Will Kill Someone (possibly your story)

I love talking Story with other writers and teaching classes on it, so this post is for the writers among us.

When your story gets predictable, it’s dead.

It’s not like romance is some avant-garde, structure-free genre, where you never know what’s going to happen next.  It’s not literary fiction, where the writing often takes precedence over storytelling.

And it’s not like we don’t know what’s going to happen at the end.

HEA happens at the end. (Happily Ever After)  Or at least HFN (Happily For Now).

It’s how you get the reader there that counts. 

If the reader knows what’s coming next–and how you’re going to get them there–you’ll lose them. (Readers, amiright?) 

Related Point: Although not the focus of today’s post, it’s important to note that if we’re not deep inside the character so we feel their pain too, it’s going to be less compelling, especially for romance readers!  We’re reading for character and emotion.  We want the angst and the hurts and the laughter and the passion.  You don’t get that by reversals and unexpected events per sé. In short, delivering unexpected, unpredictable events & reactions is not enough. But it is vital for exciting, page-turning storytelling.

Where Should Your Introduce Unpredictability?
  •  Character reactions/inner thoughts/observations/insights
  • Events in the outer story world

That’s it. That’s all we’ve got.  Let’s mine it.

Today, I’m just going to focus on the latter. Events in the story we didn’t expect, that the hero/heroine now has to respond to.

Unpredictable Story Events

What’s the most reasonable thing that could happen next in the scene you’re writing today? The thing the reader will expect?

And…did you do that thing?

Stop that!

Okay, yes, sometimes you can do what we expect.  But let your characters be tested more than they probably are. Throw them some curve balls and let’s see how they respond.

Does he say the funny, sweet line…and the heroine laughs?

Hmmm.

Does she get the job offer she expected?

Hmmm…

The more you deliver what we knew was coming next, the less we need to read the story. We already knew it.

Bonus points if it ties into the hero’s inner arc! More on arcs in another post.

My caveat: foreshadowing has serious power. More on foreshadowing in another post.

But in the main, you want your readers saying, “OMG, what’s going to happen next??” or “How are they going to get out of this one??” or “Oh no he didn’t!” or “Holy shizzle, she’s going to lose her mind when she finds this out. Can’t wait to see it.”

We don’t want them saying, “Well of course…. I knew that was coming.”

Photo: Daniil Silantev

As I said before, we know where this romance is going. We already bought the map. It’s going to HEA or HFN.

We’re along for the ride because of how you get us there. It’s a journey.

Don’t take us on the interstate.

Take us on the back roads, where cars break down and hotels don’t have running water and mountain roads dwindle into nothing and bears show up at moonrise.

Take us where adventure lurks.

We’ve read a hundred romances.  We know the tropes, we know the conventions, we  know the story

It’s how the author delivers the oft-told tale that makes it a memorable page-turner, or a forgettable story we may or may not get to the last page of.

Today’s Tricks & Techniques For Incredible Romance:

If you have a scene you feel is lackluster, or a whole sequence of scenes, maybe a dragging, sagging middle, these exercises can inject life and spine.

You can do these in a plotting mode, or if you’re a pantser, do them on rewrites. 

Exercise #1

  • Look at the scene you’re writing right now.
  • What would normally happen next? What did you plan to have happen next?
  • Reverse it.  If it was going to go bad, make it go great. Or, if it was going to go bad and you really need it to go bad, well…make it worse. (The next exercise can help with this)
  • Now, write THAT scene.

Ramp up or reverse real world events with unexpected complications or bonuses.

The heroine doesn’t just get offered a job: she gets offered a job with the hero’s arch-rival. Or one that makes her the hero’s boss.  Or she works for the hero’s mother. Or she finds out she didn’t get the job…because her criminal history check had some scary stuff in there no one knew about. Heck, maybe not even her!

Exercise #2

  • Look at the scene you’re writing right now.
  • Write down 5 things that would intensify it or complicate it or make it bigger or funnier or more of whatever it already is.  5 ways to make the real world events worse or more complicated or more intense (including better) than it currently is.  Make something unexpected happen.  Write down 5 curve balls you can throw your hero or heroine.
  • Now write 5 more. Push yourself.  Make things burn and explode if you have to.  Recruit your most bloody-minded, cruel, heartless beta partners and friends to give you ideas.  (Note: These people are gold.  Get them chocolate or whisky or something as soon as you’re done this exercise.)
  • Now, cross out #s 1-3.  Write a scene where one or more of the things on your list from 4-10 happen.

Does the hero walk into a room and people say hello?

Well heck, what if they all got up and walked out?  What if the heroine called him on the carpet for being five minutes late?  What if his father is sitting there and announces he wants a seat on the Board?  What if the fire alarm go off and the sprinklers burst open and the heroine’s all wet now….  :) 

What if…what if..what if….

What if you mixed it up??

Pro Tip: Sometimes all this requires is moving scenes around.  Consider moving & combining scenes before you wrote something entirely new. Don’t worry if it’s from a later point and you wanted to save it. As a crit partner once told me: Don’t ever save the good stuff.  Pile it on. Make it worse.  Make it insanely better. Make it hurt. Make it happen sooner or later than we expected, so we’re surprised.  We’ll love you for it.

Exercise #3

  • Look at the scene you’re writing right now.
  • How do the other people in the scene react or respond to the main POV character?
  • Reverse or intensify their actions or reactions. 
  • Make a list of 5 things that would amplify the reactions of the other characters in the scene.  Ramp up their emotions, the things they say, &/or the things they do.  If someone feels hurt, can you make them feel crushed?  If a secondary character is all skeptical, “Okay, dude, whatever you say…” make him say, “If you do that, I’m quitting.”  

Fun fact: This can be a great back-door way to build stakes..

Make the h/h’s actions have a bigger impact on the lives of those around them. 

If a secondary character is tepid or unaffected by something the h/h does, MAKE THEM CARE.  How? Make it affect them personally.  It doesn’t have to be sad -> bad.  It can be ‘positive’ emotions.  Say a secondary character (or the other h/h) is happy by something the POV character said or did. Well, make them REALLY happy. Like, crazy happy, so happy the POV h/h is all, “Ummm…yay?”  They don’t understand the unsurpassed joy…until that character explains something that ups the stakes for your POV h/h.

The heroine goes in to tell her roommate she’s moving out because of a new job.  Expecting the roommate to be angry and desolate, your heroine is shocked when she jumps up and hugs her, explaining now they can sell the apartment and move out too, because actually, roommate’s been wanting to for a long time…

Well that will have an affect on your heroine, won’t it?  All this time, Bestie Roommate wanting to move out and not saying anything…? Why?  This is going to tap on that inner arc.  Trust me, it will.

And now, at a plot level, when the Black Moment hits and the heroine loses her job and the h/h have their horrid moment of realizing it’ll never work,  guess what?  The heroine has nowhere to go.

Oops.

Obviously those are just examples. The point is to amplify the reactions & responses of secondary characters and you can often build a more rich, complex world for the h/h to live in.

Exercise #4

  • Look at some bit of information  you reveal in the opening 1-3 chapters about your hero or heroine. It can be an angsty backstory, their true goal, or their motivations/stakes (the reasons WHY they’re pursuing XYZ goal). Could be what they do for a job or a family or friend connection. Whatever. Just pick something you thought important enough to spend at least a sentence explaining to the reader or presenting on the page in Chapters 1-3.
  • Cut it.
  • Move it 50 to 100 pages later, at a point where you need to story to ‘turn’ or need to complicate/ramp up the external world or romantic conflict.

Delaying the reveal of information can be a great source of conflict and really deliver the ‘unpredictable’ goods. 

When you present information or backstory in a natural…let’s say polite manner, you often lose power.  “Hey there reader, I’d like you to meet my hero, here are All The Things about him…”  Yeah, that can be somewhat…meh.  Information presented early on in the story often has little power. Why?  Because we don’t yet know the character well enough to care about them, and we don’t understand the full scope of the story world yet, so we don’t know how those little factoids are going to come into play.

Basically, it’s just information.  

Why not make it emotion

How?  By delaying its reveal until it matters to the unfolding story.

Delaying that information can make it matter a whole lot more. When it throws us for a loop, when it connects dots we didn’t see before, when it complicates something that looked easy, you can get huge benefits.  The character can have known it, they just didn’t reveal it to the reader before.

In this way, you can turn something that used to be just ‘information” into something pivotal.

Another bonus: it can also help unbloat earlier scenes, when the story may have dragged as you tried to explain backstory or stakes.

So maybe in the opening chapters, you only tell us the hero is a P.I., but you delay revealing he’s paranormal P.I.  on an assignment to hunt down fairies. 

My second caveat: Don’t go for cheap tricks to manipulate reader emotions.  Delaying information has to work for the story & the characters.  Don’t do it just to get a story jolt. Do it because it works.

Why The H*%^Am I Doing All This??

To push yourself–and your characters–to face an unexpected events. To test them.  To make them face things they didn’t expect, things that test them and push them and force them to change.  To see if they’re up to the challenge.

Hint: They are.  It’s inside of you, to do this thing, and to see them through it. They can handle it,  So can you.

 Try it. See if it opens up any portal of creativity for your story, lets you see the characters in a new way.

Pro Tip:

This may well mean rewriting previous scenes to build the storyline or stakes differently, or stitching together a network of relationships differently. It can also mean rewriting later scenes.

Here’s the thing: whatever you came up with for these exercises, it came from within YOU.  You’re the creator or conductor for this story. Digging deeper like this, tweaking our first inclinations, reversing the course of the story, dredging into deeper emotions or more difficult circumstances, will reveal a well of depth and story connections that were already there, you just never saw them before. And in this way, you can weave far more potent turning points for your story.

My bet?  If you do this exercise, even if you don’t actually use the material in your story, you’ll find all sort of things that will have you saying, “Omg, I never saw this before, but it fits perfectly!”  

Okay, go do some of the exercises, and leave a comment to let me know how it goes!

Release Day! King's Warrior

King’s Warrior is all yours!

“‘Knight and Day’ set in the Middle Ages!”

Amazon | iBook | Kobo | B&N | GooglePlay

(Some vendors are taking awhile to get the book up. I’ll update when they go live.)

 If you’re in the mood for a big bad Irish warrior with questionable intentions, a rollicking, non-stop, scorching hot medieval adventure, here’s your fix.

King’s Warrior, your one-stop, did-they-just-have-sex-against-a-wall historical romance thriller.

Just what you wanted on a grey Tuesday in February, yes?? 

France, 1193. Tadhg O’Malley is a wanted man.  (pronounced /tie-g/) Outlawed & on the run, he’s got very little to lose. Except his contraband, which can win a kingdom for whoever gets it first. But that innocent merchant standing on the quay?  She means nothing.  Nothing except his only way out.

Magdalena is a proper merchant who abides by all the rules, all the times.  Even the unfair ones. Especially the unfair ones. She knows better than to get mixed up with dark-eyed strangers. But when one saves her one night, she’s utterly and inadvisedly charmed.

But she’s about to discover the true consequences of joining up with outlaws: they might do anything. Anything at all.

Including drag her into a terrifying, exhilarating adventure of a lifetime.

King’s Warrior is out in the wilds, so go hunt it down.  Tadhg is waiting for you.

Amazon | iBook | Kobo | B&N Nook | GooglePlay

(Some vendors are taking awhile to get the book up. I’ll update when they go live!)

Want an excerpt?  Of course you do!

♥♥♥♥

…Voices broke out from the other end of the quay. They turned. The reeve’s assistant was coming back along the quay with an even more officious-looking man in his wake. On their heels stalked several armed men.

Goddammit.

“Mother Mary,” she said in a desperate whisper. “What more can go awry?”

Tadhg shared the query.

There was nothing for it. He made his decision in a heartbeat. Sliding his hands up her arms, he spun her and almost flung her up against the side of the nearest building, then reached up and tore off her headdress.

“Good heavens,” she cried, her hands flying up to capture the silky veil, but he’d already pulled it off and was tugging off her distinctive cloak next.

“Mon Dieu,” she gasped, grappling for the cloak, but he fisted it together with the veil, down by his hip, then stretched out his other hand and planted it on the wall beside her head, blocking her face from the interlopers hurrying down the quay.

“Kiss me,” he ordered.

Her shocked face stared up at him. “I b-beg your pardon?”

“Kiss me, then run.”

“What?”

“If you kiss me, you’re a whore. If you stand there staring, you’re a merchant with a pouch of stolen buttons in her hand.”

A second’s pause, then she pushed up on her toes and pressed her lips to his.

Dizziness and heat swooped in like hunting birds for Magdalena, dispelling sense and reason and anything else that might have been of use to her at the moment. She had barely touched her lips to his when he descended without mercy, his mouth hard and slanting. There was no prelude, no warning, no kindness or care, no quarter given. She was a whore and he was having her.

He played the ruse exceptionally well.

He plowed her mouth open with teeth and tongue, explored the depths of her mouth with sinful abandon. She could do nothing but cling to him, her hands around his neck, her head forced back, her spine cupped, her body…thrilling.

Madness. Madness, all.

The hand not holding her cloak and wimple closed around her hip and began to tug up her skirts. She made a feeble attempt to stop him, but his grip grew fierce, and he yanked the gown, dragging it up the side of her leg until she felt cool air on her shin and calf.

Her head spun as if she’d been twirled like a top. Picked up by a bird and sent flying.

Her knees grew weak, but she did not break the kiss. She could not. He’d become a field of energy, the way a metal was pulled toward iron, or how one drop of water clung to another. She was affixed to his kiss, to his chest, which she’d somehow pressed up against, to his shoulders, which she’d somehow wrapped her arms around, to his tongue, which was tangled with hers, his hot male breath, his cunning male hand, his hard knee now making all manner of incursions between her thighs, and she, she, reveling in it.

Then—it might have been an hour, or five seconds—he pulled away, took his heat and his kiss and his hard hands and that soaring sensation, took it all away and broke the kiss.

For a second, his head hung beside hers. “What is your name?” he asked softly.

Her name? What was her name? “M-Magdalena.”

He repeated it, “Magdalena,” so it became a hot, accented breath of her name, then he slid his hands down to her elbows and pushed her away. She stood wavering, bereft, panting against the haberdasher’s wall.

“Run,” he said.

 She stared. “I—”

He gave her a little push. “Run.”

♥♥♥♥

Don’t worry, he’s going to find her later, and make her pay for being a trusting soul.

And then, she’s going to steal the one thing he never knew he had: a heart.

Seriously, go get it!

Amazon | iBook | Kobo | B&N Nook | GooglePlay

(Will update vendor list when all sites go live)

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