Friday, October 09, 2015

Friday Fun - Barb Talks Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher

Pink Heart Society columnist Barb Han is talking about how an injury made her reassess her pace of life...

Presently, I’m reading The Killing Floor by Lee Child, which (if you don’t already know) is the first Jack Reacher book (his 20th came out last month!). I don’t know why I’m so late to the game except to say that my reading list has been full—very full—bulging, in fact, for the past two decades. And, so, it’s taken me awhile to get to Reacher. And, oh-la-la, he is worth the wait!

Reacher is a former United States Army MP Major. He finds himself out of a job at age 36, and out of place in a country he’d sworn to protect but hasn’t really ever lived in (his father was military, so the family moved around a lot growing up!). He has no real home. Instead, he roams the U.S., finding himself in the center of deadly situations. 

He travels the U.S. alone.

Did someone say "Loner"? I can already feel my knees getting weak. Oh, and what about the fact that he can snap a bad guy’s neck at least 6 ways in less than thirty seconds? *swoon* 

Photo courtesy of

This man, Duncan Munro, won Random House’s international competition to find a Jack Reacher look-a-like. He definitely does the character justice. And, heck, I wouldn’t mind helping him wrestle his demons…

But I digress.

In 2012, Reacher was played by one of my personal favorites, Tom Cruise, in a major motion film (by Paramount) based on the book, One Shot. There was a lot of controversy surrounding Cruise playing Reacher. After all, Reacher is 6’5” and comes in at 230 lbs of muscle and ex-military manliness. Cruise is 5’7” and older than the character by more than a decade. 

But, come on, it was Tom-Freakin’-Cruise. I mean, look at him…

 Photo courtesy of
His star power alone brings his height to at least 6’4”. It doesn’t hurt that he nailed the part. And this is one man who seriously gets better with age. 

What about you? Tell me about a fictional character brought to life on the big screen that you loved, or didn’t.

Barb's latest book, Texas Prey, is out now:

The hunted becomes the hunter as the past threatens a small Texas town once again… 

Rancher Brody Fields stops cold when he receives a plea for help from Rebecca Hughes. The onetime love of his life, who was abducted along with her brother fifteen years ago, now believes the kidnapper has returned to tie up loose ends. Rebecca needs Brody's help bringing the kidnapper—or killer—to justice. 

For Brody, the job is risky, but the real danger is their unexpected Texas-sized attraction. As they uncover answers to difficult—and deadly—questions, Brody has a question of his own: Can he trust the woman who once shattered his heart?

You can find out more about Barb Han's writing on her website and Goodreads. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest for regular updates and pretty pics!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Time Out Thursday - Walking to Work

Pink Heart Society regular, Kate Walker, is talking about her love of walking...

The PHS list of daily themes says that Time Out Thursday is the day when writers discuss what they do when they’re away from the keyboard.   Fine – OK...

Hmmm  . .  . Right now I’m on a deadline for the latest book, so ‘away from the keyboard’ is rather an alien concept.  Even finding the time to write this post has been difficult.  I’m even delighted to see that the autumnal weather – or the tail end of Hurricane  Joaquin we were threatened with has meant that to rain is pouring down outside, the cats are safe inside, staring grumpily at the water running down the windows, and I’m more than happy to stay inside.  At the keyboard. All I want is for the word count to keep mounting. . .

But this morning  the weather was very different.  It wasn’t warm – but it was mild, and dry. And there was a heavy mist that hung over the place like cotton wool cushioning every sound and making the woods seem strange and eerie.  I was out in those woods  so I know.   Because there is one activity that I don’t miss out on even when I have a deadline  looming over me and that’s  my daily ‘walk to work.

Most mornings I go for a walk - I call it walking to work' because without it I would probably settle at my desk and stay there and rarely, if ever cross over the threshold of my home. I go out of the back door and when I’ve finished my walk I come home and go in through the front door – that makes me feel as if I’ve arrived ‘at work’ and puts me in the mood to be work-focused rather than thinking about doing home-based things.

So I go out and walk and then I know I can sit for hours if I want/need to and it won't matter. I've already done those magic 10,000 paces that the doctors tell us will keep us fit and healthy.

One of my favourite aspects of my walk is the fact that, being early in the morning, and so quiet before many people are up, I can spot wildlife and I also meet the dogs out for their walks - and their owners along with them. So this morning I saw the robins, hordes of magpies, a woodpecker, three squirrels and a whole family of rabbits.

Dog wise, there was the German Shepherd, several springer spaniels, the gorgeous golden Labrador who was swimming in the park fountain, the gang of terriers who come with the lady in a mobility scooter (and they occasionally get a ride in the basket, specially the oldest one.) There were the two Dobermans and the big bearded collie with her owner who looks almost exactly like her. OK, she (the owner) doesn't have the beard but the curtain of streaked brown hair and the heavy fringe are so similar that I wonder if she thinks she'd looking in the mirror when she looks at her dog! 

There was my favourite cocker spaniel Ellie, and the smooth collie Tilly (I originally thought her owner called her Silly and believe me it fits

perfectly!) and the Jack Russell who normally carries a stick about three times her size but today had picked up a conker and wasn't going to let it go.

Sometimes I have my own canine company  - when I borrow my friend's lurcher Jack.  He's big and imposing, but yet he's really a lovely gentle sort of dog. He's also a very calm and silent type who
just walks quietly at heel - so he's  not likely to disturb the essential peace and quiet of my morning walk.

Some days the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the trees  just beginning to start to turn into their glorious autumnal colours.  Then it’s a great way to start the day.  But I still love it when it’s grey and misty or even when it’s deep in winter, when the trees are skeletal and dark and the snow has fallen. (I only seem to have photos of my walking route on the snowy days - but I'll share those with you.)

But there's the other wonderful benefit of these early morning walks. I have peace and quiet and some solitary time when I can think through the plot of my latest story and get to grips with that eterna‘why?’  one of my characters does something.  It clears my thoughts wonderfully and as I always take my phone with me,  I’ve even been known to  makes notes,  record snatches of dialogue and  important points in the story – then I can email them home and they’re there waiting for me when I get to my desk., Which makes me feels as if I’ve already begun to work, even before I  sit down at the keyboard.
lly problematical question

 The interesting thing is that this morning  I saw all these creatures and people and many of them - human and canine - said hello as we walked past each other. But none of them spotted the tall dark, brooding Spaniard, with  the shadowed past who went on every inch of that walk with me, talking to me as we went.

Perhaps it's just as well, considering some of the things he was telling me!

My  latest romance  is Olivero's Outrageous Proposal published in April in Harlequin Presents and Mills and Boon Modern Romance . Coming next is  Destined For The Desert King  which is published in December this year.

Then there's the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance, the newest edition of which is available on Kindle or a revised and updated paperback edition now available on and

However, if you're in Australia things are a little different - Destined for The Desert King is still out in December but Olivero's Outrageous Proposal is now scheduled for January 2016. But there's the complete Alcolar Family Trilogy published  in September with the title The Notorious Alcolars.

Kate Walker's website is here and up-to-date news can be found on her blog or on her Facebook page

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Writer's Wednesday - Composition

New Pink Heart Society columnist, Nicole Locke, is talking about the difficulty of getting love just right...

Last weekend, I came across an article about the Ivuna meteorite being displayed at the National History Museum. Landing in Tanzania in 1938, Ivuna has a composition similar to the sun and is a primordial example of our solar system. 

Although Ivuna, in essence, is a small lumpy black rock, I was seized with some unknown internal immediacy to view it. So I went to the NHM with two teenage boys (who were vociferously not seized with a passion to see a rock), only to be told by the friendly assistant it wasn’t there.

The. Rock. Was. Not. There.

In my glee, I didn’t read the fine print. Ivuna was only available for one night. In fact, since I read the article the day after the event, I didn’t even have a chance to see it. My heart-sinking loss baffled me until I realised somewhere in my romance writing brain, I equated this rock with Love. 

After all, isn’t Love a mysterious black lump that falls from the sky? Certainly those struck by it would believe so. There are those, no doubt, who would like to chuck it back to its primordial beginnings. 

For me, the connection is the mystery of the rock; the extraordinary discoveries behind its rare and various composition. And oh my, does Love have extraordinary variances and mystery. So much so it about does my romance writing brain in. 

I’ve tried to explain to non-writing folk how difficult writing romance is. They often look at me with amused fear (a similar look is given by teenage boys witnessing heartbreak over a missed rock sighting).

But Love is mysterious. Unknown. Vast. With the right variances and composition, Love exists, and sometimes if you don’t read the fine print, it doesn’t. 

For example, I have a friend who proposed and was accepted while crossing a street. Much to the fear/amusement of his wife, I thought it incredibly romantic.

His proposal was unexpected. Like finding a rare rock in Tanzania. Then came my musings on his proposal’s composition. How were they crossing the street, and what time of day was it? Were they going someplace or returning? Why was it that moment seizing his heart with some unknown immediacy to propose? Because it could have been lost. They could have crossed the street at a different hour. He could have been looking at a window glinting with street lamps. Instead, he was looking at her and he knew it was right. 

Love is just as mysterious when writing about it. My latest romance story is finished, except, the characters aren’t truly in love. 

I missed some variance in the chemistry between the characters, and if I can’t find the right composition their story is lost. But almost worse, if I do change the variances, and it is enough for them to fall in love, I know it’ll be in a completely different way than I imagined. Same characters, same setting and yet, it’ll be a different love story. 

This is why writing romance does my head in, but the mystery of it all is also why I write with glee.

For when Love’s found, or when the writing of it feels just right - when it seizes you with some internal unknown immediacy - well, there’s just something extraordinarily primordial about it.

Do you find the intricacies of love difficult to replicate in words sometimes?  Join the discussion with Nicole in the comments.

Nicole's latest novel, Her Enemy Highlander, is out now:

In the wilds of Scotland...

Impulsive Mairead Buchanan’s only goal is to track down the man responsible for her brother’s death. Until a shameful encounter with Caird of enemy clan Colquhoun proves a distraction she can’t ignore...

Nothing could prepare Mairead for the path she’s thrown onto when the secrets of a jeweled dagger are revealed and she finds herself kidnapped by this sexy highlander! With Mairead’s recklessness a perfect foil to Caird’s cool command, can these two enemies set their clans’ differences aside and surrender to the desire that rages between them?

To find out more about Nicole Locke, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Tuesday Talk-Time - The Call That Changed My Destiny

We're delighted to welcome Taryn Leigh Taylor to the Pink Heart Society, as she shares her call story with us...

It was January 15, 2015. A date that is indellibly carved into my brain. It's the day that my long-held dream of becoming a published author became a reality. And I totally missed it.

See, here's the thing about me: I'm a dedicated call screener. When my cell phone rang while I was at work that day and I didn't recognize the number--Ontario? Who would be calling me from Ontario?--I just put the phone back on my desk. Stupid telemarketers.

But as I turned back to my computer, some optimistic, hey-wait-a-minute-I-have-a-manuscript-on-submission-with-Harlequin-and-haven’t-heard-anything-back-yet-and-where-are-the-Blaze-headquarters-located-again? part of my brain kicked in. Blood rushed out of my head, an eerie numbness settled over my body, and then a weird tingling started to bloom in my heart. My hands were shaking as I opened up a fresh Google search window and began typing in the number that had appeared on my phone.

And with a deep breath for courage and a click of the search button, Google showed me a listing for Harlequin Enterprises Limited in Ontario, Canada.

Oh. My. Gawd.

Obviously my phone had stopped ringing by this point, but I was staring at it anyway. My stomach was full of combat-boot-wearing butterflies. Then the new message icon appeared at the top of the screen. It took me two attempts to type in my voice mail password.

“Hi Taryn. This is Adrienne Macintosh calling from Harlequin Blaze. You’re probably at lunch right now, but I’d like to talk to you about your submission. I’ll give you a call back in an hour or so.”

Ohmygawd, ohmygawd, ohmygawd!

For a moment, I convinced myself I could play it cool. It WAS lunch time after all. Adrienne would never need to know that I screened the call I’d been dreaming about since I decided I wanted to have my name on a book back in the second grade. I held out for seven full seconds before I called her back. Okay, fine. It was six seconds.

Truthfully, it’s a bit of a blur after that, although I do remember Adrienne was lovely despite my stammering. What can I say? Eloquence is no match for a literal dream come true. Needless to say, I won "worst employee ever" that day, as I spent the rest of my afternoon calling everyone I knew and meandering about the office with a dazed look on my face.

And now almost an exact year after I entered So You Think You Can Write 2014, my debut Harlequin Blaze, Kiss and Makeup, is on shelves and available digitally. It's been a crazy year of highs (my name is a dot-com!) and lows (tight deadlines forced me to try my first energy drink...NEVER again!)

Kiss and Makeup is a sexy farce about travel delays and mistaken identities. It's funny, sexy, romancy, and it contains inappropriate language. I hope you'll check it out!

Huge thanks to the Pink Heart Society for inviting me to tell you my call story! Thanks for reading.

Taryn's first book, Kiss and Makeup, is available now:

A hot shade of lipstick calls for a hot, sexy guy… 

Makeup artist Chloe Masterson has a look for every occasion. Flying home for your sister's wedding and family torture? Easy. Bring out the sarcastic wit and black eyeliner. Bonus—the look catches the eye of the corporate hottie sitting beside her on the plane. Turns out Ben has the exact same last name, and everyone assumes they're married. 

When they get stuck in a hotel room together, Chloe decides to accept the gift the Fates have bestowed upon her. (Tip: a bold lip color does wonders for seduction.) But as their lies begin to snowball, Chloe and Ben find it harder and harder to distinguish between what's real and what's all just smoky eyes and mirrors.

Taryn Leigh Taylor likes dinosaurs, bridges and space, both personal and of the final-frontier variety. She shamelessly indulges in cliches, most notably her Starbucks addiction, her shoe hoard and her penchant for falling in lust with fictional men with great abs. She also really loves books, which is what sent her down the crazy path of writing one in the first place. For more on Taryn, check out, or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Male on Monday - For the Love of a Rugby Player

Pink Heart Society editor, Ali Williams, is swooning over the England rugby squad.

I'm totally biased.

I feel that this is important to point out pretty quickly.  I'm a massive rugby fan and I couldn't be more excited about the World Cup - especially when it's been held over here.

And I'm an England fan, which means that I usually bleed tears from the thorns that accompany following the English rose.  By the time the piece goes live, it may well be all over, and I shall be crying in a corner at the dashed hopes of a nation. 

But until then, I shall continue to swoon over the England rugby squad, who I think would make for the most dashing of romance heroes...

Chris Robshaw

Let us start with Chris Robshaw, England's captain.  Flanker, 29, plays for (my own beloved) Harlequins at club level.

Anthony Watson

Watson, 21, plays in both wing and fullback positions for Bath, and wing for England.
Brad Barritt

South African-born Barritt, 29, plays centre for both Saracens (at club level) and England.

Courtney Lawes

Courtney Lawes, 26, plays in either the second or the back row for Northhampton Saints, and plays as lock for England.

James Haskell

Captain of the London Wasps James Haskell, 30, is a flanker for the England team.

Jonathan Joseph

Jonathan Joseph, 24, centre for England, won the RPA's 'Player's Player of the Year' and 'England Player of the Year' awards for his performances for both Bath (at club level) and England during 2014-2015.
Do you have a crush on a rugby player?  And who do you think would serve as inspiration for a rugby hero?  Join us in the comments!

Ali Williams grew up in Croydon and spent her teenage years in a convent girls’ school. She then fled to university where she discovered champagne cocktails, a capella singing and erotica.

These days she blogs about perceptions of romance, chick lit and women in society and spends the rest of her time promoting #StrongRomanceHeroines on Twitter, and cracking on with her first novel, Breakfast in Tunford.

Editor for the Pink Heart Society, guest blogger for Mills & Boon and Harper Impulse, and occasional columnist for For Books' Sake, she defies you to slam romance novels within her hearing!

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Weekend Wildcard - My Fascination with the Past

Pink Heart Society columnist, Melinda Curtis, is talking about her fascination with history, and how it effected her storytelling...

I have a fascination with the past. I love antiques. I love old photos. I love to listen to stories about the old days.

My great grandmother owned a hat shop. She was rather particular about appearances, but during the Great Depression she couldn't sell any hats and had to close her shop. She moved in with her daughter (my grandmother) and her husband (my grandfather) and had to eat crow (so to speak). My grandfather always claimed to have seen the depression coming. He sold their house in downtown Oakland, California and moved the family to a small farm in the Oakland hills. I think Great Grandma (pictured to the right with the fabulous hat) was grateful to have food on the farm to eat.

On the other side of the family, my grandparents were outdoor enthusiasts. They hiked up mountains to ski down them. They took cross-country driving trips. They weren't independently wealthy. My grandfather was a manager in the forest service. At one time, he managed all the western state parks (including parks in Hawaii). Here's a picture of my grandmother's gear she had to lug up the hill to ski down. You had to really want to ski back then. Would you be up to it? I would volunteer to stay at the bottom of the hill and make dinner.

Then there was the story my dad told about how when his brother was 15 and he was 13, his parents (the outdoor enthusiasts), let them drive the car to Yosemite...Alone!!! Dude, drive three hours from home to camp alone? I don't think so. I used to tell my kids not to get any ideas. I don't think this is the car they took (it might have been my great uncle's - there's a story about him in Yosemite, too), but I like looking at it.

That's where my love of storytelling grew - from my family. And since my family had small town sensibilities, I think that's why I'm comfortable writing about small towns or small communities in the big city. 

One of my latest releases is Boycotting Christmas, which is only available in a set of sweet holiday romances from the authors at Sweet Romance Reads. My story - Boycotting Christmas - is about a woman who loves her family's holiday traditions, but she decides to boycott the holiday when her dad decides to marry her best friend. That's a story for the generations!

Do you have a family story you cherish and would like to share?

Friday, October 02, 2015

Friday Fun - For the Love of the Inexperienced Hero

We're delighted to welcome Maisey Yates back to the Pink Heart Society as she talks about the things that can make a work/life balance impossible.

Since it’s Friday Fun here at PHS, I decided to talk about a topic I always find fun: Heroes!

I love a playboy hero. What’s not to love? They’re wicked and devilish, and the idea that a man who can (and has) had any woman on earth, but wants you, is an intoxicating one. 

Prince Pato in A Royal Without Rules by Caitlin Crews is a fantastic example of a fun playboy, as is Crews’s Lucas Wolfe in The Disgraced Playboy

My August release Bad News Cowboy has a shameless playboy hero, Jack Monaghan, and a tomboy virgin heroine, Kate Garrett, which made for a fun and fabulous contrast. 

But the rare unicorn of romance heroes is definitely the inexperienced hero. My hero Connor Garrett in Brokedown Cowboy, married young and hadn’t slept with anyone but his late wife, so the first woman after her was a big deal for him. 

But, even rarer still, though, is the virgin hero. I’ll be honest, I love a virgin hero. But I think often there can be a mental block about them because…well, it’s hard to fantasize about a guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing. But that, to me, isn’t the appeal of the virgin hero. 

To me, the appeal is much the same as the playboy hero. How so? Let me explain. It’s all about the heroine being different. The playboy could have anyone, yet chooses her. The virgin has had no one, yet chooses to change that pattern when he meets her. 

For my heroes, virginity is usually about control, not insecurity. In my Harlequin Presents A Royal World Apart, sexy bodyguard Mac is a virgin widower, who spent all of his marriage caring for his wife, and never forsaking his marriage vows. He was a virgin because of honor, which to me, was why it was sexy. 

Tarek, in Bound to the Warrior King is a virgin because he’s sworn to forsake earthly pleasures so that he can be the perfect weapon his country needs to protect them. So when Olivia awakens passion in him for the first time and breaks the control that defines him, it’s a pretty epic moment. 

I also like a damaged virgin hero. Hunter from Taking Him, by Jackie Ashenden has abuse in his past and resists being touched and avoids intimacy at all costs. But he’s tested by his best friend’s little sister, who is absolutely determined to fulfill her fantasy of…well, taking him. But the heroine Ellie doesn’t know that Hunter is a virgin, and after they have sex for the first time has to be my one of my favorite scenes of all time since Ashenden takes that common “WHAT? YOU’RE A VIRGIN?” scene and subverts it so that it’s the heroine who’s shocked to discover she’s just deflowered the gorgeous object of her fantasies.

One of my other favorite virgin heroes is Wes, from Nicole Helm’s upcoming release, All I Am. Wes has PTSD and serious anxiety issues, coupled with an injury sustained in Afghanistan. His heroine, Cara, is confident in her sexual appeal, while Wes really isn’t. (Though, he’s a hot, bearded man who rocks flannel, and he’s definitely sexy!) Watching him slowly come into his own and gain confidence is hot AND emotional. 

One of my favorite things about romance in general is the variety. I love that I can read a book centered around a motorcycle club, or a sweet small town, or a fated mates story about shifters. And I love the variety in heroes too. 

Basically, as long as I find him sexy, playboy or virgin, it’s all good for me. That’s what makes it fun. 

How about you?  Do you like inexperienced heroes?  And are you a fan of the variety of the heroes available to romance readers?  Join our debate in the comments!

Maisey's latest virgin hero, Tarek, can be found in Bound to the Warrior King, out now:

The warrior she tamed… 

 Wild and untamed, Tarek al-Khalij was never meant to rule Tahar. More familiar with a sword than a crown, this lethal warrior must now heal the suffering his brother's rule inflicted. To do it, he needs his most precious—and dangerous—weapon yet…a royal bride! 

The widow he conquered...

Elegant and poised, Queen Olivia will educate Tarek in the civilized art of political warfare. But in exchange, Tarek unleashes an unrestrained, primal passion she could never have guessed at possessing. Soon Olivia realizes that she has become inescapably bound…to the warrior king!

To find out more about Maisey Yates and her books, check out her website and blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.