Oct 26, 2014

Sunday Smooch with Rachel Bailey

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from  Rachel Bailey's Cover Story, but first...

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway is ..... Can you please email Stefanie (at) Stefanie-London (dot) com to receive your copy of Breaking The Bro Code. 

And a bonus winner announcement: the winner of Jennifer St George's Giveaway is Lyn! Can you please email jstgeorgeauthor (at) gmail (dot) com to receive your copy of Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Rachel Bailey's Cover Story.

Tobi Fletcher's career is going places. Just ask her. Any day now, she's going to write the story for her Sante Fe newspaper that will Make A Difference. Of course, Pulitzer prizes and the like will soon follow.

Unfortunately, her editor doesn't have the same vision. His vision has her investigating a series of gnomicides. Yes, gnomicides---the wanton murder of garden gnomes.

It's a nightmare for Tobi. She's spent her life working towards a career she can be proud of---and proving she's nothing like her mother. She's intelligent, independent and so uptight she can't even let go to sneeze properly---and, unlike her colleagues, she certainly can't appreciate the funny side of the situation. She wants to work on the big story---a cover-up in a Senator's office.

Reluctantly, she interviews Simon, the man who reported the 'incident' to the newspaper---clearly a lunatic---his four-year old daughter, and the other residents of the street. Along the way, Tobi discovers there are many truths and secrets to be uncovered---other people's as well as her own. The question is, will the truth really set her free?

Scene set-up: Tobi and her sister are at a fair celebrating all things gnome, when she runs into Simon. Simon, his daughter and Tobi's sister all buy a stick of cotton candy / fairy floss, but Tobi's never liked it much. While his daughter and Tobi's sister stroll around, Simon and Tobi take a seat on a park bench away from the action and he tells her he hasn't looked at another woman since he met her...

My heart missed a beat. “Y-you haven’t?” My vocal cords were unaccountably uncooperative, but my eyes were following orders—they transferred focus to my shoes.

“No, and I keep asking myself why. It’s not like you’ve given me an ounce of encouragement or even been pleasant on more than a couple of occasions.”

“Well . . .” It was true, but it didn’t sound so good out loud.

“Although you do run from me a lot, and that tells me something.” I could hear a smile in his voice. “And you did drag your sister away from me earlier. If you didn’t care, I don’t think you’d react so strongly.”

Why did this man find it so easy to see through my every action? Despite feeling a little cornered, I was intrigued enough to probe a little. “Did you come up with any answers, when you asked yourself why?”

“At first, I wondered if it was because you seemed unattainable. I haven’t been with anyone since Isabel died, and so I figured my subconscious had picked someone I couldn’t have.”

It sounded plausible, like one of Grace’s psychobabble theories, and the knowledge was devastating . . . until I remembered he’d said “at first.” I raised my head and looked into his eyes and saw the heat lurking there. “But you don’t think that now?”

“Nope.” He moved closer on the bench seat, close enough for our thighs to touch. A shiver shot up my spine.

“W-what do you think now?”

“Now I think it’s that you plain turn me on.”

That flame that had been simmering low in my belly since we’d run into him leaped back to life. I had to restrain a shiver as Simon kept talking.

“There’s something about your uptightness that makes me want to be the one to make you lose control.”

I swallowed.

His voice dropped to a hoarse whisper even though no one was near. “I want to see you in my arms, so out of control that you’re writhing and screaming with the pleasure of it.” He picked up my hand and raised it to his lips. He kissed my palm gently, eyes not leaving mine. “I want you mindless with wanting me.”

He laid my hand back in my lap, then plucked a piece of cotton candy from the stick he still held. Almost too slowly, he reached forward to put it in my mouth. My lips opened and he placed it on my tongue.

The spun sugar melted almost immediately, leaving an intense sweetness coating my taste buds. It was something that would normally make me turn up my nose, but for some reason, the effect fanned that internal flame more.

When I could get my voice to work, it came out huskier than I remembered. “Are you having some?”

His eyes were still on mine as he nodded and bit into the pink cloud. His tongue looped out to pull the pink mass into his mouth and, dammit, I was jealous of cotton candy. He plucked another piece and held it out to me and I reached forward, this time brushing his fingers with my lips. My breathing had become shallow and fast and, as the sweetness melted in my mouth again, I glanced at Simon’s chest. It was moving in a similar rhythm to mine, although it was much more muscular and framed by nicely defined shoulders. I had another flash of him in T-shirt and boxers on my couch and almost groaned.

My gaze drifted back to the cotton candy and suddenly, I wanted the sweetness in my mouth again. I felt something fall away—possibly good sense—and wanted to experience everything I’d been denying myself. Now.

I wrapped my hand around Simon’s on the stick and moved it closer to his face, my own following closely behind. My cheek brushed his roughened one as I bit into the soft candy. As the sugar dissolved, I could feel Simon’s breath—hear his intake of air. His scent mingled with the sugar and filled my senses. Nothing existed besides him, me and candy.

Then I turned and opened my mouth to more cotton candy—and Simon. The combination of the heat of his mouth and the unbearable sweetness melted any remaining reserve I had. His lips moved over mine, his tongue tasting, entwining.

I ran a hand over his shoulders, feeling the strength I’d seen there. Electricity tingled in my fingertips as they made contact with his skin, and the charge traveled up my arms and through my body. Was that normal? Maybe there was static electricity in the air. Who cared?

The faint sound of the cotton candy landing on the ground was followed by his newly freed arm wrapping around me, pulling me into his lap. I went with extraordinary enthusiasm.

He pulled back and sank his face into my neck. “Tobi, I want you so much.”

Want? Whatever I was feeling went far beyond want. Beyond any simple desire I’d ever felt before. Beyond the nicely contained version of sexual itch I was comfortable with. This was Hollywood-style lust. Without reason. Without sense.

Without control.

For a few more days, Cover Story is available at a special price of 99c at Amazon and iTunes, but you'll have to be quick if you want to grab it before it goes back to normal price. I have one copy to give away, and I'd love to hear if you think there's a food that's suited to kissing. Feel free to be inventive since I don't think Tobi would have guessed cotton candy would work for her!

Come back next Sunday, when the winner of today's giveaway will be announced and a smooch from Annie West will be posted!

Smooch Graphic by WebWeaver

Oct 24, 2014

Christmas is coming....


My gym instructor reminded me this week that it's less than nine weeks to Christmas (*dodges missiles*)...I know, I know....it's only October, but we do need to plan!

With Christmas comes the vast array of christmas-themed books. When I was asked to write one I was thrilled- everyone loves Christmas, right? When I was asked to write another one immediately after it I was like...oh, Christmas again? So soon? But needs must and so I have two jolly Christmas books coming out this year in November and December respectively.

Due to publishing schedules it is necessary to write Christmas books a few months in advance. So there I was researching snow (one book is set in London) and cold things to do in UK...in the middle of a particularly hot summer. Weird. Plus, it's hard to get Christmassy when it's nine months away!  Still, I hope I imbued both books with a sense of festivity!

Anyhoo, I thought I'd share the covers of the books. I see Christmas lights on the US one! (I had hoped for santa or something...)

Enemies With Benefits:
US cover
UK Cover
Aussie cover
And the blurb...Poppy Spencer has discovered that there's one thing worse than Christmas alone in her flat, and that's spending it with Isaac Blair - her sworn-enemy-turned-reluctant-flatmate! That's not just because he knows all her secrets, but because his sexy-as-sin smile is making her all hot and flustered... But maybe a casual hook-up is just the thing she needs. It'll certainly break the simmering tension between them. The trouble is that with their history, this is going to be anything but casual!

A Baby On Her Christmas List:

Even more bizarrely I brainstormed this book on a hot summer weekend on a vineyard with my gorgeous writing pals (waving at lovecats Barb and Sue!)- definitely no Christmas inspiration in March (although there was lots of wine)! And, ooh, look- I'm sharing a 2-in-1 with Sue Mackay! How lucky am I? But no christmassy covers? No santa hats or baubles....

UK cover
US cover
The blurb for this is...Best friends…to parents? 

Nurse Georgie Taylor has just one thing on her Christmas list: a baby! But she never expected her best friend, broodingly handsome Dr. Liam MacAllister, to offer to be the father… 

Liam's heart has always been strictly off-limits—a baby is the last thing on his Christmas list! But he'll do anything to make Georgie happy, and seeing her pregnant with their miracle baby ignites feelings that he just can't ignore…feelings that could destroy a beautiful friendship—or result in so much more!

So, what about you? Can't wait to read this year's themed-books, or  are they not something you particularly look for? Any favourites?

Oct 22, 2014

Inspirational Quotations

Do you have a favourite quotation? One that struck you with particular meaning when you read it and has stuck in your head ever since?

I do. It’s this one:

For me, this quotation can stop me procrastinating and motivate me to Just. Get. Started. I remind myself of it whenever I’m faced with an overwhelming task. Getting started is by far the hardest part, but once I’ve taken that first step it doesn’t seem so daunting.

No matter how big the task seems, no matter how insurmountable it appears, we have to make a start and continue from there. Writing a book, losing weight, gaining a qualification, breaking a habit, getting fit - most things in life are accomplished in small stages, not in huge giant steps. Any task, broken down into small pieces, seems much easier. Without the first step, the journey will never happen. Somebody who dreams big but never acts will never make their dream come true.

Other quotations that I like include:

"Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." - Carrie Fisher

"If you want the rainbow you have to put up with the rain." - Dolly Parton

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." - Joseph Campbell

What about you? Do you have a favourite quotation? Any that resonate strongly?

Oct 20, 2014

When One Door Closes Another Opens

Like many young girls I studied ballet from an early age. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t my favourite type of dance at the time. I’m not the most graceful person (ok, I’m the person most likely to fall over and hurt myself) and I found tap and hip hop more fun and better suited to my less-than swan-like movements.

However ballet fascinated me despite my lack of talent.

I went through several years of exams and performed to a lot of the staple ballet music pieces such as Greensleeves and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. I wore tutus (those things are scratchy as anything), learned to apply my own stage makeup, and practiced – though never mastered – pirouettes.

There was one thing that I never did: wear pointe shoes.

Sadly my proneness to injury got the better of me in my teens. I had terribly weak ankles caused by injuries (one of which involved me falling in front of a huge audience and having to be carried off stage – not fun) and flat feet. My podiatrist warned me that training in pointe shoes could very well mean a broken ankle and further damage to my feet.

I cried and cried and cried when I gave up ballet. Though I knew I had no real dance career ahead of me, seeing all my peers move forward while I was forced to give up was very upsetting (type-A sixteen year old girls do NOT handle this stuff well!)

 However, my years of ballet study did come in handy when I started writing. In 2012 when I sat down to start my very first book (which later became Only The Brave Try Ballet.) I drew on all that fascination, experience and knowledge to write my professional ballerina heroine, Jasmine. I drew on the angst I experienced all those years ago when I was unable to continue dancing as well as my experience of some terrible injuries (one which put my out of actions for several months) to make Jasmine’s conflict and character more believable.

These days I keep my fascination and appreciation for ballet in my writing and in my spare time. Last year I saw La Sylphide (fun fact: although lesser known than other ballets, it was originally choreographed in 1836 and is one of the world’s oldest ballets) and I often spent time watching dance-related videos on YouTube.

 Both of my current books for Harlequin KISS feature former professional ballerinas as heroines because it’s something I love writing about.

 Question: are you a ballet or dance fan? If not, what was your favourite hobby growing up?

Oct 19, 2014

Sunday Smooch with Stefanie London.....

Welcome to another LoveCats DownUnder Sunday Smooch!

Today we have a smooch from Stefanie London ___ but first 

... the winner of last week's Sunday Smooch Giveaway will be announced next week.

And now for today's Sunday Smooch from Breaking The Bro Code by Stefanie London........

Off limits…and oh-so-tempting!   

Elise Johnson has more important things to concentrate on than men…saving her struggling ballet studio for starters! So when gorgeous Col Hillam—her brother’s best friend—saunters back into her life, she’s none too keen.

He might be proposing a purely professional arrangement, but the last time they got carried away by their crazy attraction it ended in disaster! Col knows Elise is off-limits, but it only makes her more tempting….

With chemistry this hot, surely that bro code is now null and void…?

[Scene set-up: Col has returned to Australia after the passing of his estranged father. He has to clear out his father's house and Elise has gone along to provide moral support despite the fact that she's still angry at him for leaving her five years ago.]

Smooch - 

“I thought I was over this. I thought I was over him.” The last word came out as a growl as he hurtled the photo against a wall.

The glass exploded in a shower of tinkling particles. Elise watched them fall to the floor as if in slow motion, the sound of her heart magnified in her ears.

“I’m sorry, Elise. You shouldn’t have had to see that.” He turned his pain, palpable in the air around him, inwards. His chest rose and fell too quickly as he clutched at self-control.

“It’s ok.” She was frozen, rooted to the spot.

“I shouldn’t have brought you here, I know you don’t want to talk about the past–”

She couldn’t comfort him with words, but she needed to ease his pain. So she did the only thing which she could do, the only thing that felt natural.

Her hands found Col’s neck and she dragged him down to her, her open mouth ready for his. Their tongues met with force, lips pressing hard. This wasn’t a comforting kiss. Hell, it wasn’t even a distracting kiss. It was a full-on, all-barriers-down, forget-everything-else kiss.

One strong arm wrapped around her waist and lifted her so she could wind her legs around his waist. He moved and her back hit the wall, knocking the wind out of her. Col’s teeth came down on her lip, his hips grinding into her open legs.

“My god, Elise,” he groaned against her hair as her lips found the lobe of his ear.

He had her pinned and she couldn’t have found anything sexier at that point. The hard length of him had all her senses firing at high speed, his hands cupping her arse to hold her in place.

She writhed against him, eliciting a guttural moan from the back of his throat. Up close his scent invaded her, making her dizzy with lust and memories. His short hair was silky against her palms; she gripped it and tugged his head down. His tongue flicked against hers, his faint minty-taste drawing her in to keep the kiss going on and on.

“I’ve missed you,” he breathed.

The air was sucked out of her, reality crashing down like a derelict building – ugly and grey and harsh. “No.”

“No?” He pulled his mouth away from hers, his dark brows crinkled above his nose.

She pushed against his chest until he released her, her sneakers hitting the ground with a thud. “You don’t get to say that to me.”

To go into the draw to win a copy of Breaking The Bro Code, leave a comment to this question.....

Elise and Col are reunited after five years away from one another. It isn't always smooth sailing but they do find their HEA. When have you been reunited with someone? It could be a partner, a friend, a family member or even a pet.

Come back next Sunday when the winner will be announced and a smooch from the fabulous Rachel Bailey will be posted!

Once Upon A Bride Winner.....

The winner is  Holly Marks!

Please contact me on mail (at) helenlacey (dot) com to receive your copy of Once Upon A Bride.

Oct 17, 2014

Once Upon A Bride.....win a copy!

My latest release for Harlequin Special Edition, Once Upon A Bride, recently hit the shelves and I’d like to share an excerpt and give away a copy to one commenter – either paperback or ebook – winners choice.

I often have animals in my books and in Once Upon A Bride the hero and heroine begin their fraught relationship by watching over her brother's needy French Mastiff for a week while her brother is on his honeymoon.

Here’s the cover and blurb  -

When Gabe Vitali escapes to a fresh start in Crystal Point, Australia, the former physician isn't looking for a storybook ending. For the first time he's living in the moment. His new five-year plan does not include serious relationships. But he doesn't anticipate his unavoidable next-door neighbor…and an undeniable attraction.

Bridal consultant Lauren Jakowski wants marriage. She's just sworn off love and sex! To avoid getting burned again, she's looking for safe and forever-after. But they're not Gabe's to give–for reasons he can't share with anyone, least of all this pretty complication.

Gabe and Lauren don't figure on a fairy tale. But fate has other plans…. 

(She’s just arrived at his house to pick up her brother’s dog)

  “Are you coming inside or do you plan on camping on my doorstep all night?”
  “All night?” she echoed, mortified that color was creeping up her neck. The idea of doing anything all night with Gabe Vitali took the temperature of her skin, her blood and pretty much every other part of her anatomy up a few notches. “Of course not.”
  He dropped his arms to his sides and stepped back.
  Lauren crossed the threshold and walked into the hall. He was close, and everything about him affected her on a kind of sensory level. As much as she didn’t want to admit anything, she was attracted to him. And worse luck, he knew it.
  Her vow of celibacy suddenly seemed to be dissolving into thin air.
  She walked down the short hallway and into the huge, open-plan living area. The furniture looked new and somehow out of place in the room. And sure enough, on the rug in front of the sofa, was her brother’s one hundred and fifty pound French Mastiff, Jed. Fast asleep and snoring loudly.
  “Thanks for picking him up from my brother’s place,” she said as politely as she could. “When       Cameron called this morning, he said the housesitter had left quickly.”
  He nodded. “Her daughter is having a baby. She took a flight out from Bellandale after lunch and said she’d be back in a week.”
  Lauren bit down on her lip. “A week?”
  “That’s what she said.”
  A week of dog-sitting. Great. As much as she liked Jed, he was big, needy, had awful juicy jowls and a reputation for not obeying anyone other than Cameron. Too bad her parents had a cat that ruled the roost, or she would have dropped him off there. She had to admit the dog seemed comfortable draped across Gabe’s rug.
  She looked around some more. “So…you’ve moved in?”
  “That was the general idea when I bought the house,” he replied.
  Lauren’s teeth ground together. “Of course. I hope you’ll be very happy here.”
  She watched his mouth twist with a grin. “You do? Really?”
  “Really,” she said and raised a disinterested brow. “Be happy, or don’t be happy. It’s nothing to do with me.”
  His blue eyes looked her up and down with way too much leisure. The mood quickly shifted on a whisper of awareness that fluttered through the air and filled up the space between them. A change that was impossible to ignore, and there was rapidly enough heat in the room to combust a fire.
Warmth spread up her neck. He had a way of doing that to her. A way of heating her skin. “I need to…I need…”
  “I think we both know what you need.”
  That’s what he was thinking. Suddenly, that’s what she was thinking, even though turning up on his doorstep had nothing to do with her lacking love life or her vow to stay celibate. Lauren’s cheeks burned, and her knees trembled. “I don’t know what—”
  “You don’t like me much, do you?” he asked, cutting her off with such calm self-assurance, she wanted to slug him.
  “I’m not—”
  “Or is it because you do like me much?” he asked, cutting her off yet again. “And that’s why you’re so rattled at being in my living room.”
  Conceited jerk! Lauren sucked in some air, pushed back her shoulders and called Jed to heel. By the time the dog got up and ambled toward her, she was so worked up she could have screamed. She grasped Jed’s collar and painted on a smile. “Thank you for collecting him from Cameron’s.”
  “My pleasure.”

  Pleasure? Right. Not a word she wanted to hear from him. Not a word she wanted to think about in regard to him. And when she was safely back in her own home, Lauren kept reminding herself of one thing…Mr Right was not Mr Right-Next-Door.

Have you ever read a book where the pets played a memorable role within the story? 

Leave a comment and I'll draw a winner tomorrow. 

Oct 15, 2014

Reading by Subscription, Yes or No?

When I received notification that my backlist would be available to Scribd subscribers as part of a new Harlequin deal, I was rather pleased.  More opportunities, potentially more readers, is always satisfying for an author.  And with 15,000 backlist titles available, including many by Harlequin's most popular authors, this sure sounded attractive for readers,

I've been a Harlequin reader for a LOT longer than I've been a Harlequin author, so my heart rate sped up.  Was this an opportunity to glom backlists of all my favourite authors? To catch up on missed titles, to re-read favourites, to revisit the books and times and places which shaped my love of romance?

Slightly wary of the geo-restrictions which prevent me from acquiring these titles from Amazon, I re-read the announcement.  The first sentence of this quote from the press release [emphasis mine] sure makes it seem as though all readers around the world can access the Harlequin titles:
 Our readers around the world have come to know Scribd as the leading destination for romance books, and we’re delighted to bring them even more of the content they crave,” said Trip Adler, CEO and cofounder of Scribd. “The subscription model is unlocking powerful changes in reading habits and this is most prominent within the romance genre. With this many Harlequin titles, available only on Scribd, we know our romance fans will read their hearts out.”
Good enough for me, Trip.  I signed up.  Searched for a few of my favourites.

The grey strip across the top of every title?  Reads "NOT AVAILABLE." *Sigh.*  In the FAQ's/Help I found this small print: "not every title is available in every country; <snip> It's unfortunate that not every book is available worldwide. In many cases book publishers have international sales agreements which prevent their titles being offered everywhere."  I KNEW THIS but I always hope it will change.  That backlist will be available globally and not selectively.  *Sigh.*

On a happier note, the first month is a trial and I can unsubscribe (although I will check which publishers' titles I can access.)  And the search for which authors/titles were available in the Harlequin backlist gave me a happy smile and got me thinking about which of those old favourites still excited me, which titles I now want to find and re-read, which authors I wish were still writing as I'd grab anything new on release day.

So, Love-Cats aside, which Harlequin author's backlist would YOU love to grab and re-read?  Also, does the idea of a reading subscription service appeal to you (small print aside)?

NOTE:  If you are in a country without the Harlequin geo-restrictions which apply in Australia and New Zealand, the Scribd subscription might be your cup of tea.  Cost is $8.99 per month, with a one-month free trial, and access to loads of books from other publishers as well.