Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Hopeless Romantic by @karilemor #RomanceGems

This was a post I wrote six years ago on my original blog The Hopeless Romantic. Back before I had anything published and had absolutely no people who knew who I was. I thought it might be nice to revisit.  It was one of the most romantic things to ever happen to me!

Feb. 14, 2014
So it’s Valentine’s Day.  That means we must discuss love and romance, right?  Of course.  I originally had this plan for my blog to make a list of the things that I found very romantic.  But when I woke up this morning, my plans changed.  Why did they change?  My husband.  He’s not some debonair Romeo who swept me off my feet or some Valentino with smooth moves.  He’s just a regular guy.  But sometimes he does something so amazing it just blows my mind.  And it happened again today.
Let’s go back in time and I’ll fill you in on our history.  Nothing glamorous.  We met in college in a History class.  He sat in front of me and would always turn around to hand me the attendance sheet.  He’d smile and I’d smile.  I really never saw much except the back of him.  But he had great hair and *ahem* a really cute butt.
I had a weekend job and so during the week I always went to the library every night, to the third floor (the quiet floor) and settled into the cubicles.  Some nights he would show up and sit near me.  It wasn’t until years later, he confessed he wasn’t there to do work.  Unless you call trying to get my attention work.  And often, on Monday nights, I would invite him back to my room to watch Remington Steele.  No, not in reruns, these were the original episodes.  Yes, that makes me very old.   Remember this little tidbit as it will come up again.

So flash forward a few years (okay maybe more than a few) to Christmas and he and I and our three children are sitting around the Christmas tree.  They are unwrapping gifts and he has gotten each of them some dvd from the $5 bin at WalMart.  I open mine, wondering what he has picked out for me.  I stop and stare and the kids just nod and go on opening.  But my heart stops, too.  He’s gotten me a whole season of Remington Steele.  He remembered.  Seriously remembered.

Flash forward a few more years to our 25th Anniversary.  We had a huge party (orchestrated by my oldest with the help of her younger siblings, and apparently my husband) but the thing I loved most was the card he got me.  Here it is:
Yup, cute little picture, but the sentiment is what has made me keep it still.  The inside reads:  
Turns out the millionth kiss is even better than the first.  Happy Anniversary.
But then my husband continues to write:  
Especially knowing there are a million more to come.                 *swoon*
Okay, so I’ve established he has his romantic moments.  No, our marriage wasn’t filled with little things like this every day, but they pop up every now and then.  So let’s fast forward to today.  No, actually I need to give you a tiny bit of backstory first.    I started reading romance novels when I was twelve and loved anything to do with romance.  I had a friend in High School who always teased me about it but one day gave me a cute little poster with a cartoon character riding in a hot air balloon throwing hearts out to scatter and float in the bright blue sky.  The poster was titled:  The Hopeless Romantic.
Yup, that’s where I got the name for this blog.  It describes me perfectly.  I had mentioned this poster one time to my husband when I first started the blog and said I wished I could find something similar again. I honestly didn't think he was listening.
Okay, now we can flash forward to this morning.  It’s yucky with snow and ice, and I’m groggy so when Hubby says good bye in the morning, I haven’t realized it’s Valentine’s Day.  Once I get up and get going, I head to our spare room (now that the kids are all gone we actually have one) and sit down at my computer.  It takes me a while, but I realize there is something leaning against the wall.  It’s a painting.  And as I get closer, I realize it is a hot air balloon with someone throwing hearts to flutter in the wind.  And one of the hearts has some words on it:  JM to KL, Forever and Always.  That’s also what it says on the inside of our wedding rings.
The painting is by my niece who is an artist and it’s obvious my husband has conspired to have her do this.  I had no idea.  And the thought and consideration, and LOVE that went into doing this astounds me.  And I feel guilty because with all the snow we’ve gotten here lately, I haven’t even had a chance to get him a card.  But he has been so amazingly supportive of my writing that I figure a great gift will be my writing something for him.
So here it is.  Thank you, hon, for almost twenty-seven years of marriage, three beautiful children, a life of love, fun, and romance and making me always feel like the sexiest woman on earth (which I know I’m not).  You are the rock that grounds me and gives me strength in times when I feel I can’t go on.  Thank you for loving me as you do and putting up with all my quirks and bad habits.  I love you very much and will continue to love you Forever and Always.
And thanks to all who stuck around for this much too long blog.  Have you any romantic stories to tell?  Let me know.  I’d love to hear them.

Shameless plug: If you happen to be near Jacksonville, Florida, I will be signing books at JAX Bookfest at the Main branch Library on Sat. Feb 29 from 10 - 3.   I will have copies of my new book, True Dreams, even though it's not technically out yet!! Hope to see you there!

Last But Not Least!

Our February Giveaway is in full swing! Check out these great prizes:

First Prize  - ~$20 Amazon gift card

     Second Prize - ~ $15 Amazon gift card
  Third Prize - ~$10 Amazon gift card

 Fourth Prize - ~5 Amazon gift card

Enter to win HERE

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Happy Anniversary, Romance Gems by @ConstanceBretes #RomanceGems

Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary, Romance Gems! I’m a little late in the wishes, and that’s because I was out of commission December and January. I had a new release scheduled for December, but was unable to get it to release day because of illnesses.

I’m doing much better now and am happy to be back in the saddle again.  On February 7, Romance author “Jan Scarbrough” did a blog talking about second  chances at love. I enjoyed reading that blog because it kind of resonated with me. I too, like to write second chance romances. Not all my books are written in that troupe, but this upcoming new release is one about second chances. My publisher and I have not agreed upon the blurb yet, so I’ll give you the tentative blurb that I’ve drafted up. I’m not sure when we will release this book, this month, or next, but it will be soon.

Rekindled Christmas Mystery

She left him 12 years ago, now she’s back. Can he forgive her?

12 years ago, Liz Grey left town, disappointed and discouraged, and went to Los Angeles to start over, leaving behind Aaron Mansfield, with a broken heart.

Now she’s back working at the Maverick County Sheriff department after a disgraceful end of her career at the L.A. Police Department.

Sent to a town to investigate a possible murder, she runs into Aaron, the man she left behind and whom she still loves.

Aaron spent years living quietly, caring for his community and his dog. He was surprised to see Liz Grey back in town. But can he ever forgive her for sneaking off during the night and leaving him?

Romance Gems is celebrating a one year anniversary. Be sure to check out all the fun stuff we have going on, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter for some great prizes.
Until next month….

Friday, February 14, 2020

Celebrations of Love by @BonnieEdwards #RomanceGems

Again, as I write this, I'm preparing for a trip to sunny Portugal where Valentine's Day is not celebrated in the same way as it is in North America.

While running errands surrounding our trip my husband disappeared in the mall. Not a surprise, plenty of men do this, particularly when -ahem- the wife decides she must check out the store with 70% off. By the time I came out of the store with a new camisole and leggings he'd gone on some mysterious quest of his own.

I found him in the card section of a store. You see, he won't be able to buy me a Valentine's card when we're away. Portuguese men are not nearly as well-trained on this celebration as North American men. A lack, I think, of foresight from the women in Portugal.

In fact, the only thing we'll be able to do to celebrate Valentine's Day (in public, anyway) is go out for dinner. Why? Because the restaurants have embraced the day reserved for love and lovers while card makers and touristy stores have not.

It's even difficult to find birthday cards! And wouldn't you know it, my birthday falls shortly before Valentine's Day.

So he had to find not one, but two cards that show his undying love and support of me: the wife.

Be aware please that I did not prod him to go card hunting before our trip. He wants to avoid all the tramping around from store to store he did last year. He's learned that if he wants the romance to continue, he needs to plan ahead.

Good man. Well trained. Is yours?

A quick update on my year's plan (posted last month): I'm working on adding words to Christmas to the Max! This is the Christmas story that I’ve set in Welcome, WA.

DH is a late sleeper and I'm an early riser so those couple of hours are all mine to write, after I do my short morning yoga practice.

If you enjoy a good second chance romance and feel like grabbing a bargain (who doesn’t?) you might check out my story Whole Lot o’ Love This is a book about a woman with a new start and an old love...and another old love... and it’s only 99 pennies.

Please don't forget to enter our Monthly Giveaway for your chance to win. You can also go directly to the entry form by clicking HERE.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Why Do We Love Tiny Things? By Connie Vines

Little puppies, Little kittens, little baby goats.  Humans love cute little things.

Etsay/ Poodle
Miniature doll houses are gaining in popularity once again.

The reason for this interest may be tied to the fact that, in psychological terms, dollhouses and miniature play are safe spaces that encourage total control. "For children," the antiques expert Eve Kahn wrote for the New York Times in 1994, "doll houses can make the universe seem obedient." If your own environment is chaotic, poverty-stricken, miserable, beset with domestic woes or traumatic, dollhouses offer the direct opposite: a universe entirely at your command. The famous psychologist Dr. Ruth had a therapy dollhouse with which she helped children to work through serious issues

Dollhouses and the miniature also offer safe environments for darker explorations. Forensic investigation at the beginning of the 20th century was greatly influenced by the work of a woman named Frances Glessner Lee, an expert in forensic science who taught crime scene detection skills through meticulously recreating crime scenes as doll-scale dioramas.

The New York Times, reporting on the craze for "miniacs" in 2016, reported collectors who specialize in tiny pistols that actually fire, miniature skulls and working electric chairs.

While I love to gaze at these lovely do-it-your-self projects, and several of my friends are long-time hobbyists in the craft of creating dollhouses, I am an admirer.  I, too, like tiny things.

Wikipedia/Common use photo 

I gaze at the objects for story ideas, a physical, visual story-board, so to speak.  It helps me develop my scene (and much simpler than trying to place myself in the environment—no underground tunnels for me, thank you).

 https://miniatures.org/ShowList  If you would like to visit a local show in your area check out the 2020 displays.

I have also discovered some perfect mini stuff to make your work (writing) life better.

Everybody has different tastes. You can shop around to find the miniature pieces for your desk that speak to your personality--there's everything from fake game consoles to opera glasses and fishing poles.

Need a few ideas to get you started?  (Google away) Here are a few concepts:

Filing cabinets that can hold business cards, paper clips, etc.

Jars filled with food-oriented erasers (e.g., donuts, cookies)
coffee and donut erasers/Pinterest

Plastic recycling and trash bins for your pens and pencils

Mini Zen garden

Post-It dispenser that looks like a typewriter

USB-powered beverage fridge for a single can

USB-powered "vacuum" for crumbs and pencil shavings

Mini toolbox for scissors, paper punch, etc.

Mini hanging message chalkboards

Mini games (e.g., chess, pool, card decks).

Let's not forget Valentine's Day!


Remember mini things can be fantastic stress relief valves, according to psychology. But when life gets you down, just remember, in the grand scheme of things, most things we stress over aren't that big, anyway. It really is, as Richard Carlson writes, all small stuff.

Are you someone who creates DIY miniature dollhouses?  Or someone who likes to surround yourself with cute tiny things?

Happy Valentine's Day!

What Woman Doesn't Love a Cowboy?

Remember to sign up for our Romance Gems February Contest!


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Between Once Upon a Time and HEA by Laura Hunsaker

Around Valentine's Day we always see these awful articles about "Trashy" Romance novels, "bodice rippers," and Fabio. Fabio hasn't even been on a Romance cover since the early '90s. I mean, seriously?

So I wanted to try the opposite of one of those articles.

I want to talk about how we are the opposite of the stereotypical bodice ripper with Fabio starring front and center. Let's talk about how different Romance novels are.

One thing I love is how much variety there is in the Romance World (or Romancelandia as we affectionately call it).  If you want a book about a surfer heroine who time travels to Scotland and meets her hero? There's a book for that (Highland Games by Laura Hunsaker). What if you want a Navy SEAL whose platoon was sold out and is trying to clear his name but also has an investigative journalist dogging his steps? There's a book for that (Off the Grid by Monica McCarty). What if you want a fallen woman who was done wrong but her hero respects her and shows her what love really is? There's a book for that (The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan FREE). What if you want a hero who looks like bearded Captain America who falls for the good girl? There's a book for that! (Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder). What if you want a vampire/ angel/viking who falls for a human lawyer, well, you guessed it, there's a book for that (Kiss of Temptation by Sandra Hill). If you want a book that has demons, angels, magic, and an Arabic feel to the mythology, there's a book for that! (Fate's Match by Elysabeth Grace).If you want it, I'm sure there's a book for that.

One thing you'll notice, no matter how much people cry "formulaic!" or "cliche!" or "tropes!" is that even the ones that have similar tropes, are different. It's what's in the middle that's important.

If you want a book about a damsel in distress rescued by her prince, it's out there. But...what if your damsel in distress rescues herself?

What if, in between your "Once upon and time," and your "they lived happily ever after," something unexpected happens? Something that sets the reader's world on its axis. Something that creates a romance fan for life. This is what we Romance fans live for; that middle part, that in between part. I know each Romance novel I pick up is a promise of "happily ever after," but it's how those characters get to that point that keeps me flipping pages. That journey is what makes each Romance novel different, and that difference should be celebrated instead of poked fun at for clicks during Valentine's Day.

Instead of trashy and lurid, Romance novels are uplifting and happy. They can be everything. They can be empowering, entertaining, and enjoyable. They can be intense, dark, light, easy, fluffy, and fun. I really wish people would leave the stereotypes out of the picture.

We've even taken back the term "bodice ripper." (quick side note: If you ever get a chance to visit L.A. you should stop by the Ripped Bodice, a bookstore dedicated only to Romance, and seriously, they are amazing! They do a lot of author events, and a lot of good in the community).

And we not only have taken back bodice rippers, we're taking back Valentine's Day. We refuse to let trashy clickbait articles about guilty pleasures take over a day celebrating love. You want to celebrate love by reading your favorite comfort read, go for it. You want to read something new and out of your comfort zone, do it! You want to read an old bodice ripper? You rip that bodice! But you want to poke fun at Romance novels when you haven't read one since 1972? Nope. Come back after you've read anything written in the past 5 years. You need some recs? I gotchu.

Here's a twitter account you might enjoy, especially since it's Black History Month here in America: @WOCInRomance

And Sarah MacLean has a great list here

For some of The Romance Gems' amazing stories, check out our Bookstore, but don't forget to enter the February Giveaway here!

And if you want a Scottish blacksmith vampire try my short story The Broken Highlander which is free this week on amazon :)

$.99 on all other platforms

Previously published in the charity anthology Shades of Pink Volume 2, The Broken Highlander is the prequel to Highlander Reborn.

In the darkest hours after waking from death to his life as a vampire, blacksmith Nevin MacLachlan must learn to adjust to his new existence. While he adapts quickly to his enhanced senses, he hates the vampires that took everything from him. Forsaking the Nightkind, he plans to survive on his own.

No one said it would be easy.

For centuries he tries to blend in with humans, but what kind of blacksmith only works at night? After being chased from his home time and time again, Nevin no longer has compassion for the humans he once knew.

The only things keeping him from becoming completely feral are his sense of honor, and the teasing memory of the woman who changed him. With no clan to belong to, human or Nightkind, Nevin finds out survival isn’t the only thing to live for, and that eternity is a long time to hate what you’ve become.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

COUNTING DOWN TO VALENTINE'S DAY By Kathleen Lawless @kathleenlawless #romancegems

My honey might roll his eyes when I pull out the Valentine’s decorations in early February, but I know he secretly enjoys my passion for the day when one hundred and fifty million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged worldwide.  Not to mention it is a great excuse (as if I need one) to drink champagne and eat chocolate.

And yet Valentine’s Day is not just another day brought to us by Hallmark.  From early days to modern times, poems and songs have been written, stories have been penned, and rings and vows have been exchanged.  Which sent me on a quest for romantic poetry.  Here are a few classics to get you in the mood.

“Love is a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”  Aristotle

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk through my garden forever.”  Alfred Tennyson

“How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.”  Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Age does not protect you from love.  But love, to some extent, protects you from age.”  Anais Nin

“Love is like quicksilver in the hand.  Leave the fingers open and it stays.  Clutch it and it darts away.”  Dorothy Parker

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart.”  Helen Keller

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep: the more I give the more I have for both are infinite.”  William Shakespeare. 

I don’t know a single romance writer who doesn’t embrace Valentine’s Day because in our world every day rivals Valentine’s Day as we write about love and romance and happy endings.   

I am thrilled to announce the upcoming release of BARRON'S BRIDE, Book 6 of my sweet western historical series, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, as soon as I get it back from the editor.  Readers have waited long enough to see Barron meet his match, and in this classic "enemies to lovers" tale he has not cooperated with me or with poor Lily, although she gives as good as she gets.  Here is a sample.

          Barron should be no stranger to weddings, what with five of his brothers having recently taken the plunge.  So why did he feel so uneasy standing here listening to his twin pledge himself to Rose till death?  Sounded like one heck of a long time. 
          He glanced reluctantly at Rose’s sister, Lily.  There was something about the woman he didn’t trust.  Far better for everyone if she high-tailed it some place far, far away.  He knew, sure as he drew his next breath, that if Lily stuck around she was bound to raise havoc on all their lives.
          He didn’t buy any part of her story other than she had been kidnapped, and only because Rose claimed to have seen the whole thing.  When they found her, Lily pretended like she’d lost her memory, along with her ability to speak.  Pretended to not even know her own sister.  Convenient how fast her memory returned when it suited her.
          He started when his arm was pinched, bringing him back to the present.  Lily stood next to him, practically on top of him.  “The ceremony is over, in case you hadn’t noticed.  This is where you take my arm and we follow the bride and groom down into the yard.”
          “Right,” he said with a near growl.  Just his luck to be best man to Lily’s maid of honor.  As if the woman before him had any sense of honor. 
          Not that he was exactly anyone’s idea of a “best man”, given the things he’d seen and done.   
          He gritted his teeth as Lily tucked her arm through his.   
          “The receiving line will be over here.  In case you weren’t paying attention the other day.”
          Barron’s breath hissed between his teeth.  Why did the woman irritate him so much every time she opened her mouth?  “I paid attention.  It’s not exactly my first time at the rodeo, you know.”
          Once they had taken their places in line, she said. “I hope you have your speech all prepared.  I’d hate to see you make more of a fool of yourself than usual.”
          He ground his teeth together and clamped his lips tightly shut.  Lots of things he’d like to say to her, none of which was appropriate on his twin’s wedding day.  

If you've been following this series, you'll want to preorder here        https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZCBP1VR

And in honor of Valentine’s Day, Check out this collection of Valentine’s Novellas from an amazing line-up of Harlequin authors.

8 brand-new Christmas Town novellas from some of your favorite Harlequin Heartwarming authors. Valentine’s Day—and Christmas Town—will never be the same!

Calling all bachelors!

The Knotty Elves decide a Valentine’s Day Bachelor Auction kills two birds with one stone – raising money to save the library while working their matchmaking magic. From a personal chef to the town’s snow plow operator, there’s one thing all these handsome, homespun heroes have in common: they’re about to find love, Christmas Town style.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!  And remember to enter our Rafflecopter Draw here.  http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/21df08a234/

Monday, February 10, 2020

The "Misconception" of Romance Novels by @SatinRussell #RomanceGems

Ah, February. It seems like every time this month rolls around, there are think-pieces written about the romance genre. Some of them are thoughtful, such as this piece highlighting Helen Hoang, author of The Kiss Quotient.

Others…not so much. (And why must they always reference Fabio? Fabio was 1987, for crying out loud! We don’t all run around and refer to The Facts of Life or Growing Pains when we talk about sitcoms. But, I digress…)

I was recently asked by a reporter what I thought the “misconceptions” of the romance genre were. He was highlighting a romance author panel that I’ll be speaking at on February 13th at the Salisbury Public Library. If you’re in the area, you can find the event here: Romance Author Panel

Honestly, when he asked me, I didn't know how to respond. Not because I couldn’t think of any misconceptions, but because there were so many things I wanted to say and I knew he was not prepared. Really, he was looking for a convenient soundbite.

You see, the "misconception" of romance is a topic I could probably talk about for hours. In fact, I have given whole presentations on the subject. I'm not the only one. There are countless books and articles discussing this. (One that I would highly recommend is "Dangerous Books for Girls" by Maya Rodale.)

First, it's important to consider how the romance genre has been referred to throughout history. Bodice rippers. Trashy novels. Fluff. Guilty pleasure. Formulaic (on a good day, if the person is trying to sound academic and not just biased.) Trite, vapid, mommy porn...
the list goes on, right?

Why have these stories historically been discounted as "not real literature?" I think it's predominantly because this genre is female-based. Meaning, it puts the female experience at the center of the story.

Historically, this genre was women writing stories for women...about women. And those women tended to be aspirational. Protagonists are strong, pursuing their life goals and dreams, and not settling - be it in their careers, relationships, or sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

That last one tends to be a particular sticking point for much of society. Throughout the ages, women who own their own sexuality and pleasure have been painted as harlots and sluts. In the past, our roles were relegated to pristine virgin, wife, mother OR the cautionary tale of a spinster, fallen woman, forbidden fruit.

The idea that a woman can have her own agency, or that she could inhabit a space in between these two polarities - for example, a woman who is both a mother and also a sexual being who pursues her own pleasure - is not a narrative our society tends to be comfortable with.

And yet, that is where most women reside. Which is why we see romance as one of - if not THE – best-selling genres in publishing. Obviously, there are people who are reading these books!

As our society has evolved, so too have our stories. This is due in large part to the advent of self-publishing. Back before Amazon reinvented the industry with the Kindle, the only way to get stories to readers was through traditional publishing. There were a few main publishing houses; Hachette, Harper Collins, MacMillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster, to name a few.

Another romance author event for anyone local.
In essence, there were a limited amount of people who were the gatekeepers to our society's narratives. And while most of the editors were women, the people who had the money and made the decisions were predominantly men. So, if your story didn't fit their world-view, if it was considered morally corrupt or not proper enough, or if they couldn't see themselves in the characters (thereby making it unmarketable) then they weren't going to publish it.

You can see some of those biases represented in older romance novels. That's WHY the tropes of damsels-in-distress, strong stoic heroes, and "bodice rippers" really came about. Only the romances that stuck within well-understood gender norms were making it through the gauntlet.

Now with the advent of self-publishing, that has started to change. Don't get me wrong. Marginalized voices, POC and LGBTQ+ authors and characters are still massively under-represented. If you question that, simply look at everything that has been happening in RWA Nationals this last month and a half.

However, things are beginning to open up and Romancelandia has been in an ongoing conversation about the concept of who deserves love. In a word: everybody.

This can be seen in the sheer number of sub-genres that romance has to offer. Yes, there are the tried and true categories of contemporary romance and historical romance. There is also a spectrum in the genre from "Clean" (meaning no sex) Christian and Amish romances to "Sweet" (meaning limited or closed-door sex) to BDSM erotica (the door is WAY open. Heck, sometimes there isn't a door!) There are also combinations of genres, such as paranormal romance, romantic suspense, even science fiction romance.

This diversification within the genre is the trend romance should be taking because there are an infinite number of ways people meet, connect, and fall in love. Our world is full of romance stories. They walk hand-in-hand down the street. They sit in restaurants over glasses of wine. They struggle to figure out who's going to pick up the kids from school.

Every day, people with different histories, baggage and expectations find a way to be better together. I think those are stories worth telling.

I’d love to hear what you think! Do you believe there are “misconceptions” about the romance genre? Have you experienced them first-hand? If so, what are they?

Looking for the perfect Valentine's Day read? Check out our Valentine's Book Fair!

Also, don't forget our Romance Gems monthly contest. You can find the details on our Monthly Giveaway Page.