Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why Read Romance?

Today our regular contributor, Annie West, shares her thoughts on why Romance, instead of all those other genres.

How long have you been reading romance? Are you a newcomer to it or have you, like me, been reading it since your teens? If you're a long time reader you may have encountered some of those comments from non-romance readers. You know the ones, usually made with raised eyebrows and a little titter -  references to bodice rippers or porn for housewives (said as if the word housewife was in some way an insult), or pulp fiction as opposed to 'real' books. 

Fortunately I haven't had too many of those but enough to know that for some romance books are so 'other' they feel the need to mock, usually without having read them. I have a theory that part of the reason is that romance is mainly written by women for women. Therefore it's seen as in some way less than other forms of fiction, just as historically professions dominated by women haven't been recompensed as well as others, possibly because they're seen as less important. But don't let's get distracted on that subject.

Instead of focusing on what people think might be true about romance stories, I wanted to talk about why I read it. I read outside the genre - a lot. But I keep coming back to romance again and again.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the reasons I like to pick up a romance:

1) Some of the best writers I know write (or wrote) romance. I love a well-crafted story that can move me and I find that in the genre again and again.

2) Mr Darcy and Rupert Carsington. Need I say more?

3) Romance writers aren't afraid of emotion. Romances are all about emotion - overtly portrayed or simmering beneath the surface. How characters feel about what's happening in their world is important to me as a reader. I don't need it thrashed out in huge detail in words of one syllable, but I do want to believe the people I'm reading about feel and react. In fact, I want to feel what they feel - the highs and the lows and of course, the triumph and pleasure at the end.

4) Romances are essentially optimistic. Awful things happen in romances and often characters find themselves facing terrible odds. But these books reinforce the idea that it's okay to keep trying, to respect yourself enough to search for love and expect others to treat you with respect too. They defy the cynical idea that love is corny or outmoded. The desire to have someone who is special to you, who cares for you and whom you can care for, is a pretty basic instinct.  I love reading about that.

5) Characters in romances grow. They're forced to learn, adapt and improve to deal with the issues facing them. As a result they're often admirable, despite being flawed. But as we've all got our flaws, that's fine.

6) Many romances are about characters triumphing despite overwhelming odds. The heroine who's facing a mountain of problems, the hero who doesn't know the meaning of love. Take your pick. There are plenty more. I adore it when the underdog wins and in romances you've got two winners.

7) I feel better when I've read a good romance. Maybe it's endorphins, maybe it's relaxation, maybe it's escape to a world where hope is often justified and there is a belief that happiness is possible, but I feel the benefits, physically and mentally, when I've had time out with a good romance.

How about you? Why do you read romance?

Annie is currently writing her 25th book for Harlequin Mills and Boon and loves the fact that she's a romance writer as well as reader. It's a wonderful career and a great excuse to indulge in plenty of romance reading! 

She's looking forward to the new year when her Desert Vows duet hits the stores. In the meantime Annie's current release, REBEL'S BARGAIN is out now wherever Harlequin books are sold. Here are some quick links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Harlequin

Look out next month for her 2nd Hot Italian Nights novella called BOUGHT BY THE ITALIAN. Buy links will be available soon from her website. Here's a taste:

She's up for sale and he's the highest bidder.

Gennaro De Laurentis might prefer motorcycle leathers to Armani, but when it comes to what he wants, he's as ruthless as any corporate raider in a killer suit. And he wants Chiara, the unforgettable woman who denied the passion sizzling between them and walked away without a backward glance. Now he has the high society princess back in his power - and he'll risk everything to make her his.

When glamorous fashion designer Chiara Armati goes up for auction, she's selling her company over dinner for charity. Nothing else. As bidding rises to astronomical heights, she gets nervous. Yet only when she discovers her purchaser's identity does she realise she's caught in a trap. She's never stopped wanting Gennaro or forgiven his betrayal. Now she's at his mercy - and he's as irresistible as ever!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Fun - Do Readers Really Want Realistic Heroines?

We're delighted to invite Wendy S. Marcus to the Pink Heart Society today, to talk about realistic heroines, complete with an exciting GIVEAWAY...  
First off, thank you to the lovely ladies of The Pink Heart Society for inviting me here today to discuss my new Cosmopolitan Red Hot Read from Harlequin, The V-Spot, more specifically, to introduce you to its heroine, Emma.

When I first got approval for The V-Spot, I was thrilled that Harlequin/Mills and Boon had agreed to my ‘big girl’ heroine. I’d requested a beautiful, full-figured, woman for the cover. What I got was a beautiful, thin woman in a bulky sweater. Since I LOVE the cover it was a compromise I happily accepted!

In the story I describe Emma as ‘…a woman at least a dozen pounds past pleasingly plump’ and ‘…a size-fourteen woman – well, a size sixteen Spanxed-down to a fourteen…’ and readers used their vivid imaginations from there. 
Weight is a touchy subject, and reviewers have been rather passionate in expressing their love/hate for the way I portrayed Emma and issues pertaining to her weight/body image.

The positive have been very positive, with USA Today Bestselling Author, Amy Andrews, even recommending it on the PHS last month“This is a freaking great book… I love that Wendy didn’t shy away from Emma’s size to make it more ‘palatable’ to readers. … And even better – she’s not a depressive lunatic cot case. Sure she has the same negative internal monologue pretty much all women do (regardless of their size) but she’s got her head screwed on straight and I LOVE that.”

And Sara from Harlequin Junkie, gave The V-Spot the prestigious HJ Recommends seal: “There was something about Emma that struck a chord with me. She was terrific at her job as a nurse, full of confidence in her abilities. But when it came to the opposite sex…she had been put down and treated badly too many times to have a high level of confidence socially. As a woman, I can totally understand that.”
How about my everyday readers?
Liz: “I really dug Emma. I thought she was hilarious and real and had a good grasp of how the world works. See, she's a self-proclaimed "big girl" and big girls have to navigate society in a different way. I liked the fact that she didn't hate herself and that she wasn't constantly dieting or disparaging herself. She didn't feel bad for herself or have a pity party every other chapter. She was who she was.” 

Nas: “THE V-SPOT is a very sexy and sensual read. The reality of being a plus size woman looking for a date and love is shown sensitively.”  

Here are some quotes from readers who didn’t love Emma – even though the majority still enjoyed her story.

Kjen: “If you are into stories with a very plus-sized lead female, this will be fine for you. I didn't necessarily think that the 'curvy' mentioned in the synopsis meant there were a lot of body image issues involved.” 

Maggie:  “How come when the female lead of a romance is overweight or even just not super skinny authors feel the need to mention it all.the.time? While I appreciate characters that look like average people (and sadly the average American is overweight) I am also so tired of hearing about the poor fat main character who's somehow managed to catch the eye of the super-muscled hot guy.” Of note, after this Maggie went on to call The V-Spot a fun read.

Kelly: “This book is fun in so many ways, and I enjoyed reading it except for one thing (but that one thing is kind of a big deal for me.): I had a problem with the way the word "fat" is used in the book. …. I wanted to ask the author if she's ever seen a size 14 or 16 woman. I wanted to ask the author if she meant to pass on all that fat-shaming to any women sashaying around in size 14, 16 (or, God help them, 18 or above) dresses.”  

Okay, so OUCH!!!

And now I’ll ask you. If you’ve read The V-Spot, what did you think about Emma? 

If you haven’t, what’s your opinion on realistic heroines in romance novels? Do you like heroines who look like you or your neighbor? 

Do you like to know the good, the bad and the ugly of what they’re thinking deep down? Or do you feel realistic heroines ruin the escapism quality of romance novels?

One lucky commenter will be chosen at random to receive an e-book copy of The V-Spot.

Before I leave you, here’s The V-Spot blurb:
How hot is your night going to get? Take the quiz and find out!

1. You're a curvy, cute and practical nurse, ready to unleash your inner naughty nymphette for your 25th birthday. You start with...
a. Chocolate cake.
b. Champagne. Lots of it.
c. A blind date set up by your daring best friend. 

2. Your guy turns out to be popular (and insanely hot) wrestler Brody "The Bull" Bullock. You...
a. Run for the door.
b. Admire his hotness, then run for the door.
c. Imagine him naked.

3. You're meeting Brody at The V-Spot, a "Voyeur Motel." What are you wearing?
a. A cute sundress with wedge sandals
b. You're not going anywhere without Spanx
c. Doesn't matter. Brody is sexy enough that it's all coming off!

If you selected all of the above, you're in for the night of your life...

You can find excerpts for The V-Spot and my upcoming release Loving You Is Easy (Dec. 9th) on my website:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Time Out Thursday - The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Today Pick Heart Society editor and Harlequin Superromance author Jeannie Watt talks about her love of costuming and attending the Great Dicken's Christmas Fair.

Imagine spending the day in another era, in a “Victorian Christmas card come to life”. That is Dicken’s Fair, one of my favorite events of the year!

My family at a pub in Victorian London
Costumes are not required for Dicken’s Fair, but I love to sew, so there was never any question as to whether or not my family would blend in with the Victorian crowd. 

The first time my family attended the fair, I began planning our costumes a year in advance, ordering wool and shirting, taffeta and crinoline. I haunted eBay for acceptable patterns and knew exactly what I wanted to make. I didn't, however, start sewing, until early September,  because I always underestimate the amount of time needed to accomplish practically everything in my life.
Needless to say, it was a race to get everything done in time for the Fair. I managed to make two dresses and two full men’s outfits—two frock coats, two shirts, two pairs of trousers, one vest. 
When I hit a serious time crunch, I made my husband bring a vest from his closet.
Even without making the second vest, I was sewing buttons onto trousers on the drive to San Francisco and hemming dresses on Thanksgiving Day.
My daughter and I didn’t have hoops that first year, but after a day of dragging our skirts through sawdust and the like, we invested...
...which introduced a new set of challenges. 
The car. Bathroom stalls. Narrow hallways.

Last year I made a dress for my son’s lovely girlfriend and he attended wearing the deer stalker and ulster I made the previous year, thus creating a strong resemblance to a certain detective.

Dicken’sFair is a magical place and if you ever get the chance to attend, either in street clothes or period costume, I high recommend it. Here’s a video showing the transformation of the Cow Palace as well as some of the actors who partake in the event. Many of them are generational.

Have you ever attended a costumed event or reenactment? Do you have any recommendations for these events?

Jeannie Watt writes fast-paced character-driven romance novels, often set in the American west. Home on the Ranch: Nevada is a two-book compilation of two of her earlier releases--The Horseman's Secret and The Brother Returns. To find out more about Jeannie and her books, please visit her website.  To find out more about her love of retro sewing, please visit her sewing blog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Writer's Wednesday -- Best Writing Advice?

Today Pink Heart Society editor and Harlequin author Jeannie Watt talks about writing advice.

It's been almost nine years since I received The Call, but I've never stopped collecting writing advice. I guess it's the teacher in me, but I don't think we ever hit a point where we have nothing left to learn. With that in mind, I'd like to share three of my favorite pieces of writing advice.

1. Finish the book.  I think that this is the best piece of advice I ever got, but it took some time before I understood that it meant to finish the book, warts and all. There was a time when I thought “finish the book” meant finish it well. I would write chapters 1-3, or if I was really on a roll, chapters 1-5, then get hung up, think of a different idea and take off on a new chapters 1-3. My excuse for not finishing the first  book was that I hit a snag, so the story obviously had problems and therefore I needed to start over. I repeated that scenario about thirty times before I finally, finally! got it through my head that I needed to skip over  the snag and continue the story. Then I could go back and fix things. It didn’t have to be perfect the first time. 

2. Every scene must have a purpose. This seems like a no-brainer now, but there was a time when I didn’t know that every scene had to either move the story forward or show characterization. I once wrote a great scene in a book that I was submitting and resubmitting to an editor while on my journey to be published. (It did turn out to be my first sale.) The scene was dynamic and fun and I loved it. The editor--not so much. She thought it was well written, but didn’t see the point of it. Point of it? Wasn’t it enough that it was well written and fun to read? Alas, no. It needed to move the story forward.

3. Use adverbs if necessary. We’ve all been taught to avoid adverbs and told that we should show the tone of voice, etc .instead of resorting to the lowly adverb...however, sometimes it's easier, quicker and cleaner to just use an adverb.  My editor once told me that she was tired of people using seven words to avoid an adverb instead of just using the adverb and getting on with the story.

That's some of the advice that has helped me with my writing career. What's the best writing advice you ever received?

All for a Cowboy is Jeannie Watt's seventeenth release. To learn more about Jeannie and her books, please visit her website

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday Talk Time: Meeting the Faces Behind the Voices that Bring Me Joy!

The Pink Heart Society's superfan Desere Steenberg is talking all about what it's like to meet those authors you've always loved and admired...
Recently the lovely South African author Romy Sommer invited me to attend the first ever Romance Writers of South Africa ( ROSA) convention.
It was an experience I shall never forget! I got to meet the faces behind the voices of the people who bring me heartache, joy, passion, intrigue and characters I fall in love with over and over again. 
First there was the lovely Marie Dry, who writes for Black Opal Books, her latest release Alien Mine, is a paranormal like no other. Alien warriors taking what and who they want all wrapped up in a sizzling hot romance. 
Next up I met the amazing HarperImpulse author Romy Sommer, she writes the books all little girls dreams are made of. Weddings, beautiful fairy tale dresses and handsome princes, but with much more of a kick, trust me this author makes Snow White's Prince Charming look like a mere schoolboy. 
Of course every one that knows me, knows how much I adore my Mills and Boon reads, so of course I was over the moon delighted to meet the one, the only, fabulous Joss Wood! If you need to escape into a world of hot , arrogant men, strong and feisty heroine's set in utterly gorgeous locations, pick up a Joss Wood book, you will never look back. Getting all tongue tied when I spoke to her, is a story for another day , because let's face it I don't think I have ever been that embarrassed. 
I also met some faces I never heard of before, which am happy to report are now on my radar! First up was Jo Watson, a SYTYCW winner, who writes the most captivating stories. There was also the incredibly talented Erich Viedge, a man of many talents and remarkable ideas. I would love to list all the other many wonderful authors, but this post will simply then have no end. 
Now on to what I learned , everything and anything I ever wanted to know about the authors who's stories have captured my heart and taken me on voyages I shall never forget. Most importantly I learned all about the intricate process authors have to go through before us readers/ fans get that very shiny end product.

From the first spark of an idea, to writing it down, building the plot, shaping the characters to taking the reader into the heart of their minds. But that's not all, no authors have to go through a lot of twists and turns after they write those magical words " The End". 
Rejection after rejection, editing, deleting complete scenes, renaming of characters, being told the book is just not good enough, finding agents and publishers willing to take a chance, the list goes on and on.  
It a long, hard road author have to walk before us readers get to sit down and be transported into a world of romance and glam. Therefore with this post I would like to thank each and every author for their persistence, hard work and courage! And for those that have not reached our shelves yet: "Keep pushing, never give up one day it will be worth it!"
Tell us in the comments if you've ever met any of the authors whose books you have read. Did you get all tongue tied like I did? Or did you ever stop to think about the process they have to go through before you get to escape with one of their books?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Male on Monday: Jimmy Fallon

Donna Alward is back for a Male on Monday that is perhaps a little unconventional, but with a certain funny-bone appeal...

When I was trying to come up with a Male on Monday candidate, I thought of all the actors etc. that have tickled my fancy lately. Tom Hiddleston. Stephen Amell. Any of the Avengers. But they've been done, really, and suddenly it hit me. Who do I see nearly every day in my FB feed? Who makes me laugh, who is really talented, and kinda sexy to boot?

Easy. Jimmy Fallon.

I think Fallon is A-MAZ-ING. He can sing, he can dance, he can make me laugh, he can laugh at himself, put his guests at ease, and is game for anything. And he's good looking. WOW, right? Not bad for a boy from Brooklyn who grew up loving SNL. And while comedy is his thing, it's neat to see him in guest roles too. Who knew he'd end up being a jeep driver in an episode of Band of Brothers, for example?

Pictures really don't do him credit, so instead I'm going to post some Youtube clips that I just adore. Because it's not all about the looks. What makes a man sexy and Male On Monday worthy? I think a sense of humour with a dash of humility and a good helping of intelligence goes a long way.

And if you haven't seen the alter-egos of Sara-with-an-h and will, (AKA mir,, have a watch and prepare to laugh.

And for something just a little more serious, an emotional Jimmy paying tribute to Robin Williams.

Who do pops up on your newsfeed everyday?  Is Jimmy Fallon your favourite late night show host?  And do you prefer funny over traditionally good-looking?

Donna's latest release is THE COWBOY'S CHRISTMAS GIFT, the first in her Crooked Valley Ranch trilogy from Harlequin American:

Returning to Crooked Valley is more terrifying than the battlefield to ex-soldier Duke Duggan. Still, Duke has an important reason to be back—to take control of his late grandfather's ranch. But being thrown headfirst into his old life makes Duke feel like a fish out of water. That is, until he sees Carrie Coulter again. Twenty years may have passed but the chemistry between them is stronger than ever.

When Duke threatens to sell the ranch, Carrie, the foreman, realizes she could lose her livelihood. But no decisions will be made until after the holidays. Until then, they have time to explore the feelings that draw them to each other. Together, can they come up with a way to keep the ranch…and the burning love between them?

Find out more about Donna Alward at her website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

NaNoWriMo Update

We catch up with our #NaNoWriMo participants:

Ali Williams ~ In some ways I've had an absolutely disastrous NaNoWriMo.  Work hit me with a mass of "this needs to be done now" stuff first week in, and my momentum never quite recovered, and now I'm kind of blocked.

Like I said, disastrous.

However, I'm not feeling too bad about it.  I've made a pretty decent start and planned out an entire novel which I'm going to keep working on.

I've found out that I can indeed capture the sense of a place far better than I realised.

And also, it's been fun.  Oodles and oodles of fun.

I've met and spoken to other #NaNoRomMoers and #NaNoWriMoers that I've never met or spoken to before.  I've been part of a community that's funny and engaging and supportive, and I've learnt so damn much.

So yeah, I might not be a winner in the traditional #NaNo sense, but I don't mind.