Monday, October 20, 2014

Male On Monday - Jake Ballard aka Scott Foley

Today at The Pink Heart Society, columnist Jenna Bayley-Burke extols the virtues of Scandal's Jake Ballard, who is played by actor, Scott Foley.

Do not be fooled by his appearance on TV's Scandal

Jake Ballard is as vivid as any book boyfriend in romancelandia. Because really, you wouldn't want to run into him in real life. Unless it is in a bedroom. For an hour.

Jake Ballard strode onto the screen on Scandal with a purpose - learn all he can about Olivia Pope. And has he ever, inside and out. This soldier has made it his mission to protect her, body and soul. The only thing more attractive than that is the way he looks in full military dress. Or shirtless. Both equally effective.
Played by actor Scott Foley, who I've crushed on forever, Jake had an edge over President Grant from the beginning. Smart, hot, and without that pesky adultery thing that annoys me to no end. 

Why is the most powerful female lead on television settling for less? Star-crossed lovers and twisted motivations aside, Olivia Pope is no one's side piece. That Jake Ballard realizes this is just one of the things I love about him.
I look for the romance in all stories - novels, television, movies, gossip at the grocery store. If it's not a romance, I'm likely making it one in my head. Jake Ballard is a beautiful bastard in many ways; he is the ideal romance hero.
The soldier. The spy. The lover. The protector. The sexy guy wearing nothing on the beach but a smile. Complicated, determined, and yet gentle enough to look at his woman and say, "Save me."
Let's all share a sigh, shall we?

Do you watch Scandal? Are you a Jake Ballard fan? What is it about him that does it for you? And what about the actor who plays him-Scott Foley? Are you a long-time Scott fan? Let us know in the comments!
Jenna Bayley-Burke's latest release is a reissue of her first book, Just One Spark. European readers loved it back in the day, but North American readers couldn't get theirs eyes on the sexy rom-com until now.

For more info on Jenna and her books you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekend Wildcard - Lazy Weekend's Reading

USA Times Bestselling author Amy Andrews has joined the Pink Heart Society today to talk about her ideal lazy weekend - complete with reading recs!

I rarely have lazy weekends but if I did they would go something like this.

Wake up sometime after seven, preferably closer to eight, bliss if it’s closer to nine. Husband brings me an omelette and cup of tea in bed. Because he’s that kind of guy. Plus he knows where the sex comes from. Settle in for an entire day of reading. As in, only getting out of bed for bathroom stops.

If it’s raining, more’s the better.

Sounds like bliss right? So I think we should all just do it. Today. Just shut out the world and stay in bed. And I have some great recs for your reading pleasure too!


This is a freaking great book. I just could not put it down once I’d flicked open that first page. For a start, it’s incredibly well written – funny and zingy and witty. And really hot. But it’s the characters and the way Wendy has written them that really shine.

You see Emma, our heroine, is a plus sized woman.  Now, I’m not talking curvy, or voluptuous or all the other euphemisms we writers use for women who have an hourglass figure but are essentially never going to have trouble going into a skinny girl shop and buying a dress off the rack.  I LOVE that about this book. 

I love that Wendy didn’t shy away from Emma’s size to make it more “palatable” to readers. Emma is truly a large woman – she has thighs and a butt and a tummy that she worries about and she has the large breasts that tend to go hand in hand with that type of figure. 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. I also love that, like a lot of women Emma’s size, she’s adjusted her expectations of what she can realistically achieve as far as men go. I love it because that’s so true to life. And I love it because the hero Brody, “The Bull” Bullock, just comes right in and blows all that crap away.
Originally found on Pinterest

As a pro wrestler, Brody’s used to fighting but not for a woman who blocks him at every turn. Women usually throw themselves at him – but not Emma. The thing is though, he’s smitten, he’s desperately smitten and the patient way he woos her, the way he convinces her that she sexy and beautiful and everything he wants in a woman will just melt your heart into a big gooey puddle!

Really – if you can only play hooky from your life for a couple of hours on Saturday then you should so read this book. And if it was ever to be made into a movie then I so reckon plus size model Tess Munster and her hunky guy Nick Holliday should play the starring rolls!
 

Another sexy novella from the amazing brain of one of my favourite authors. I have never read a Kelly Hunter I didn’t love – this one is no exception. With a hunky dive instructor hero and an assertive photographer heroine and a whimsical style that seduces you to keep reading, you really need to snap this book up. It is the second in a trilogy so I suggest you get The Honeymoon Trap and read it first – not that you need to but just because it’s also bloody good!


 

I loved this witty contemporary romance. Considering its set in and around a sports team (Baseball) that’s a major feat for me! 

But the snark, banter and sizzle between Maggie and Alex had me eagerly turning the pages and the major eye candy in the form of the other two men who will be getting their books too (Angel in Armani out in Dec) has me eagerly awaiting the others. 


 

I lapped this book up – stayed in bed until two in the afternoon to finish it. A grouchy guy who wants to be left the hell alone, a damsel in distress that he can’t seem to resist and New York. Perfect! I loved the slow burn between May and Ben and I loved how the city became another character, I could feel it pulsing around me, its grit and its wonder all rolled into one.




I am a recent convert to Ms Dahl. What the hell I was thinking taking this long I have NO idea because I’ve read several of hers now and I’ve adored all of them. My most recent one is this sexy little novella. Why did I love it? It has all the usual Dahl trademarks - great banter, fabulous characters, laugh-out-loud lines. 

But I really love this one because it’s a book with older characters finding love again after the death of a spouse and divorce and I especially love the “off-limits” trope. Jake and Lauren’s ex-husband were friends. I love that whole – I want to but I shouldn’t push and pull. Plus the coitus interruptus scene where they get caught by Jake’s adult daughter is just fabulous!

So, there you go – plenty of choice for your Saturday of playing hooky. Also, there’s my new book too, No More Mr. Nice Guy, if you want to give that one a whirl. Just sayin’…

So tell me – have you read any good books lately?  What's your idea of the perfect lazy weekend? 

Amy's latest novel - No More Mr Nice Guy - is out now, and climbing up the bestseller charts:


He's done playing the nice guy...

Newly single school counselor Josie Butler just made herself a Sexy To-Do list (featuring Bad Boys only). To her mortification, her best friend's gorgeous older brother Mack finds it…and laughs. But when Josie goes looking for some sexy fun, Mack's nice guy side turns all hot bad-assery, and suddenly she's pinned against an alley wall. Hottest. Sex. Ever. 
Veterinarian Mack Kennedy can't believe Josie wants to ditch her sweet, girl-next-door lifestyle. Even worse, that she'd consider doing it with anyone but him. When she leaves for London they'll go back to being 'just friends' but until then, he's going to show her just how bad nice guys can be.
And it's the perfect plan, as long as no one finds out... and no one falls in love.

For more information about Amy and her writing exploits, check out her website, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Facebook and Twitter

Saturday, October 18, 2014

3 New Authors, 6 books sold, 1 Line Closed - What's Next?

Today at The Pink Heart Society we introduce the #3Amigas - Newbie authors Amber Page, Nina Milne & Bella Frances who will be sharing their journey with us while they navigate the rapidly changing landscape of the book industry. 

One of our heroines will be joining us each month with an update and in between you can follow their progress on Facebook and Twitter. 

Hello, amigas! I'm Amber Page and it’s lovely to meet you…although I must admit, I don’t feel quite worthy of being in such esteemed company.
In fact, I still have trouble believing I am a published author at all! Why? Because All’s Fair in Lust and War, my debut novel for Harlequin KISS was the first novel I ever wrote.
And I finished the first draft in five days. Really.
See, I entered my first chapter into the 2013 So You Think You Can Write competition, never dreaming I’d make it to the semi-finals. But I did. And when I got word that I’d made the cut?  Three chapters were done.
But I wasn't about to give up without a fight, so I took the rest of the week off work and embarked on my very first writing binge.
The end result was not publishable. But it was good enough to catch an editor’s eye. Two drafts and four months later, I had a two-book deal.
All’s Fair in Lust and War was released in September, and the follow-up, Dating the Enemy, will hit eBookshelves on January 1, 2015. For those of you keeping score, that means I went from zero completed manuscripts to two finished books in less than a year.
It’s been busy.
I’m not quite sure what’s next. Harlequin KISS/Modern Tempted is no more, and I don’t have a new home yet. But I will find one—and you can follow my journey here, on my blog and on Twitter
I look forward to getting to know you!
Amber lives in Indiana, USA with her husband and daughter. When she's not writing, she's an advertising copywriter. You can find out more at her website or on her Facebook page.
Hi, I'm Nina Milne and I cannot believe I am here on the PHS, a blog I followed as an aspiring author. As a huge added bonus I'm here as one of the #3Amigas alongside the extremely talented and exceptionally lovely Bella Frances and Amber Page

This definitely counts an up moment on the roller coaster world of writing. Years ago I climbed aboard the roller coaster armed only with the dream of becoming an M&B author – I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Rejections, requests, revisions, the plummeting falls and the soaring towards the skies - round and round the loop I went, all by myself. Then I found wonderful blogs like this one and discovered the existence of a romance community out there. Who knew? There were other people on the roller coaster with me. I truly believe this made such a difference.

In February 2014 I got THE CALL and I was superbly happy. A two book contract with KISS…I’d done it… I could step off the roller coaster. Dream achieved. Right? 

A scant few months later it turned out that KISS was closing down.

I’d be lying if I didn't say there was much drinking of wine, the rustle of multiple chocolate wrappers and the gnashing of teeth in the Milne household.   

But since then there have been some amazing UP moments…. Such as the release of my debut How to Bag A Billionaire – seeing it adorn the virtual Amazon shelves and the actual shelves of retailers was indescribable. Then there was the acceptance of my second KISS book Breaking The Boss's Rules, which is out in December.

I loved that UP and I’d like me some more. I am working on a manuscript aimed at another line within M&B and I am hatching other writing plans…the publishing world is a changing one and that means authors have to adapt right alongside it.

There are a lot of opportunities out there waiting to be visited.

So, I've bought a brand new roller coaster ticket and I’m damn well going to enjoy the ride.

Nina lives in Sussex, England with her husband and three children. Prior to becoming an author, she worked as an accountant and a recruitment consultant. To find out more you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

And I'm Bella Frances. My first blog for the Pink Heart Society could be titled ‘Rocky Road? Getting there – the Hard Way’, or ‘If at first…’ or ‘Are you STILL trying to get published?!?’ or any other number of titles that would give you some indication of long I've been tappety tapping away on my, I think typewriter, then A4 Notebook, then giant desktop PC and finally my treasured iBook (and iPAD for travelling).  

There was possibly a hieroglyph on some parchment way back at the start too!  But it has been so worth it.  And I’m still thrilled that I persevered.

Now please don’t think in the years between idly dreaming about being a romance author until now I was churning out masterpiece manuscripts, or even mediocre manuscripts; most of the time I was reading, dreaming, doing a little bit of writing, and then repeating that on an annual basis.  I wished I kept a notebook like ‘proper authors’ did.  (I've still never got round to that).  I wrote poetry, very very badly.  I wrote a children’s book, I wrote a script.  I wrote a couple of ‘ok’ short stories.  I wrote a review.  I wrote in the mirror.  You could call it a scattergun approach, but that would be to assume there was even a target in mind.

I have never confessed this before but it wasn't until I read J.K. Rowling’s Sirius Black (in a tug of war with my son; I won) that I suddenly knew I wanted to write a bad, damaged hero.  I’d always loved romance books and noticed that some heroes were becoming very, very bad.  I had to try.  So I did.  Ever lain awake in your bed kicking yourself, squirming and hiding under the pillow?  If anyone showed me that manuscript right now I would have to light a fire.  The standard letter of rejection was quite precise.  My ego was quite deflated.

But I am fairly resilient so I stopped all the other outpourings of drivel in various genres and started to think more seriously about how to improve upon the lowest grade of rejection letter.  I began to dream of getting a more personalised rejection letter.

So I wrote ‘the book of my heart’.  And I never sent it away. 

How pathetic is that?  I couldn't bear for anyone not to love it as much as me.  I knew that it didn't fit any of the Mills and Boon lines perfectly and so I just kept it, like your child’s old blankey.  You wouldn't show it to anyone, but you’d never, ever part with it.

Work, children, work, children and work then stalled my ‘flow’.  

Rubbish.  I got lazy.  I got distracted.  I made excuses.  I watched the telly.  I saw a programme about the inimitable Sharon Kendrick tutoring in Tuscany.  I longed to go.  But I couldn't get time off work. 

I read more and more Harlequin M&B.  I became more and more convinced I could write romance.  I got a new job (had been teaching) and suddenly got holidays out with term time.  I went to Tuscany.
Talk about an epiphany!  Travelling to the Watermill where Sharon tutors, I learned that at least four of the other guests were either published or soon to be.  Groupie Nerves overcame me, but my sole mission was to find out from Sharon if she thought I could do it.  If she said no, I was going back to garret of bad poetry.  She sent me an email that was so positive I think I was almost as high as when I got ‘The Call’.  Honestly!

Thereafter it was a bit of a smooth ride, with one unwanted platform change.  I sent in the first three chapters, as you do.  The full MS was requested.  Seriously!  That was even better than a personalised rejection!  I waited almost seven months.  Then it was rejected – but with personalised comments that were encouraging.  I was to submit another novel.  And I tried.  I really did.  But I was rubbish.  I took up triathlons instead.  Hint: not a lot of inspiration from them – best not.

Then SYTYCW13 happened.  I thought, OK!  I do TICW!  I submitted a first chapter.  I got to the Final 50 so they requested the rest.  I hadn't written it.  I contemplated coming clean: “Sorry, I lied, I haven’t got a book”. Option 2 was writing it in five days.  I tried the latter. 

Never, ever do that.  By the last few chapters I think I was just writing strings of nouns, he sat on the chair, table, rug, slipper, football and stared at her eyes, ring, curtains, fishtank.  Awful.  I didn't make the top 10.  Sigh. Deep inhale.  Tears? Probably. And then the loveliest editor in Christendom called me.  

Flo Nicoll works for Harlequin M&B and ‘liked my voice’.  She thought it perfect for Modern Tempted.  I wanted to tell her I didn’t know there was a difference between Modern and Modern Tempted but who was I to argue?

Flo helped me to craft Dressed to Thrill, from my SYTYCW entry and it was bought in February 2014.  I was in a Sainsburys car park.  I remember a lot of orange bags and then returning to my desk slightly delirious.  My next book A Scandal Behind the Wedding will be released in January 2015.  Flo’s advice and guidance have been outstanding.  

Only now there will be no more KISS/Modern Tempted L

What to do, what to do?  Give up?  Don’t be crazy.  I am currently on word number 41,279 of what I hope will be my third book.  And my best.  I haven’t changed my voice – it is still squawky, but I am pitching hard for Presents.  I have to hitch up the emotional intensity, but as I am on a constant rolling boil of emotions, that part I might pull off.  The very, very strong willed heroines and very, very bad heroes though?  I just hope they can make the jump with me.

Bella lives in Scotland with her family. To find out more you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Was there a time you felt you'd achieved your dream but then had to change your plans? Do the rapid changes in the publishing industry scare or excite you? As a reader will you follow an author you love regardless of where they publish their books? Jump to the comments and join the discussion!

And don't forget to follow the #3Amigas on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Fun - The Relationship Self-Help Guide for Men


Relationships take two, and Jennifer Rae's got all the advice for today's modern man in her Self-Help Guide on the Pink Heart Society... 

I love books. I love the dusty, papery smell of an old book and the crack as you bend the spine of a new book to flick the pages all the way through. I devour every word. From the dedication and author note right through to the back cover blurb. I even read that bit that no one reads. The name of the publisher and the MXIIICM business. I love all books. Romance, mystery, classics, thriller, non-fiction. 

I am a completely mad, passionate, shameless book lover. But there’s one type of book I can’t warm to. The only shelf in the book shop I veer right away from, avoiding them all as if the minute I walk past and glance at them they’ll hurl themselves at me and demand I buy them. Which genre is it that I could so callously shun?

Self-help.

There. I’ve said it. Not a fan. I know, I know. Eat Pray Sleep is an inspirational masterpiece. Dr Phil has taught people how to finally ‘get real’. Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus has changed lives. I know, I know. 

But I can’t help thinking these books are mainly directed at women. The relationship ones anyway. And that irks me. I mean – is it really all our fault? 

Why are we the ones who have to read the books and understand and forgive and allow love into our hearts. It takes two to peel a potato – if you know what I mean and I reckon there should be a self-help guide for men. A practical, no nonsense, let’s-get-amongst-it guide to The Things Men Could Do Better in Relationships. And by jingies, I think I might just be the woman to write it. 

So here goes.



The Relationship Self-Help Guide for Men from the Woman who Hates Self Help Guides.  

It’s a working title, but you get the idea:

8.  Flowers. Pick em. Grow up. Order em. Have em delivered. Girls like flowers. Don’t be skimpin’ on the flowers. Just sayin'.

7.  When we say the gutters are full/the bins need taking out/Jimmy has to be picked up from soccer – it would be really great if you could perhaps manage to sort that within the next few hours – not years. Seriously. Divorce rates would drop like a big-bottomed lady in a nightclub.

6.  When you take a lady out on a first date: Open the freakin door. Offer to pay. Compliment her frock. We ladies may love a bad boy but he’s gotta be hiding a good boy under there somewhere. Never underestimate the sexiness of good manners.

5.  If we text you, please text back. Immediately. Or within minutes. You see, us gals are Queens of the Overthinking. Within 30 seconds we're thinking, that’s cool. He’s probs just a slow reader. After a minute; tiny balls of sweat are forming on our brows but – it’s ok, clearly he’s just thinking of what to write back. By the time it hits two minutes our heart rate is starting to rise and a nervous twitch has appeared in our eye. He’s with someone, that’s why he’s not responding. He’s got another sodding woman in his bed and cannot text me back because she’s right there
Original Source

By five minutes a pounding headache has formed, we’ve broken at least three glasses, kicked the cat and are now sitting with a very large glass of chardonnay, playing Adele loudly, tears running down our face, wondering how it all went wrong. Trust me on this one. Text. Her. Back.

4. Three days is too long to wait before contacting us post-sex. The government approved amount of time you must wait before sending us a text or giving us a call after we have sex for the first time has been analysed and researched by a highly qualified team (of myself and my best friend Meegs over a bottle of wine and packet of Burger Rings) and the amount of time we have come up with is…as soon as you feel the rush of wind on your face outside our door. 

It’s not creepy, weird or clingy to send us a text as you’re leaving the house. And if you must wait a few hours (perhaps you’ve broken your texting fingers or something) the question “How are you feeling gorgeous?” pretty much guarantees you a round two.

3.  If you meet a girl, think she’s cute, go talk to her and she throws you a curly comment, don’t stamp your feet, call her a name and walk away – defeated and stung by rejection. 

Her curly comment isn’t rejection. “Stop talking to me, go away,” is rejection. “Which homeless person did you need to rob for that shirt?” is a test. She wants to know if you’re up to the challenge. Can you make her laugh? Are you her intellectual equal? Does your wit and charm outweigh the fact that your nose hairs are too long? 

You see, we women are quite forgiving creatures. We don’t mind a tubby tummy or thinning hair or an outrageously bad Hawaiian shirt. We know we can sort all that later. What we need to know is if you’re going to make us happy or break our heart. Simple as that. 

By responding with “You have no idea about fashion, this is like a totes vintage original,” and retreating in a huff pretty much guarantees you’re the King of The Douche and you’ll break our heart. “His name was Bruce. He fought the good fight but in the end the best man won and to the victor go the spoils,” delivered with a smile and the offer to buy a drink would definitely peak my interest and encourage me to tease a little more. 

You may not end up with the girl but I can assure you that if you find a way to make her laugh you are 99.9 percent there already, friend. Laughter is the world’s most under-appreciated aphrodisiac.

2.  Sex is a journey not a destination. Let me pop that in caps. 

A JOURNEY. 

As in…take the time to explore, it’s fun to sometimes get lost down the side roads and it’s ok to stop and ask directions every now and again. After all, you want to make sure she arrives at the destination at around about the same time you do. No one wins if you’re sippin’ champagne on the balcony while she’s busy parking the car. If you know what I mean.


1.  Fall in love with us every day. Find something to love about us. 

Remind yourself of what it was that you loved and tell us. Women are by nature a loving species. 

We want to love you. We want to make you happy. But we don’t like to be crossed, disrespected or ignored. 

So put down the self-help books and immerse yourself in wild, crazy, weird, passionate love with us. Trust me, you won’t need any help once you’ve won the love of the woman you love back.

So there it is. The Relationship Self-Help Guide for Men from the Woman who Hates Self Help Guides. But I’ve only included my top 8. 

What would you include in my brilliant self-help book? What things have men done to completely stuff up your first impression or first dates? 

Jennifer's latest book release is Sex, Lies & Her Impossible Boss, where her heroine routinely focuses on the relationship self-help in her tv show:


'There's no such thing as "just sex", Cash'

When the new boss of Faith Harris's TV station, the famously ruthless and annoyingly gorgeous Cash Anderson, tells her he'll be cancelling her sex and relationships show she knows she's in for a fight. She's worked her silk-clad butt off to get her high ratings, and no man's going to take them away from her - however hot under the collar he secretly gets her...

But sugar's better than vinegar any day, so Faith decides to prove to Cash just how meaningful her show really is. The only trouble is, it's also rather... risque. And there was enough chemistry between them even before Faith set about proving just how riveting sex can be...!

To find out more about Jennifer and her books, you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook or Twitter.