Review and GIVEAWAY: To Tempt an Heiress by Susanna Craig (Released Today!)

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To Tempt an Heiress
SUSANNA CRAIG
December 6th, 2016
(print $15.00, ebook $3.99)

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ENTER TO WIN A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK!!!

For anyone who has read this blog for more than…well, two minutes…it likely doesn’t come as a surprise that I, Elinor, am a nerd. I’m a nerd by profession, but before that I was a nerd because I just couldn’t be anything else. (Thanks, genetics!) I’ve always loved learning new things. As a kid I made my own dictionary of foreign words because I thought other languages were really cool. I wrote letters to famous historical figures (even though I knew they were dead…obviously) just because I wanted to tell them how much their lives meant to me. I read, read, and re-read every book I could get my hands on (and I still do!). Of all my brainy loves, history ranked at the very top. I was and still am captivated by times past and the cultures and societies that populated them.

At that same time that I was geeking out over ancient civilizations or the Napoleonic Wars I was also falling madly in love with other people falling madly in love. I’ve always found romance fascinating, and have been reading stories about how one person gets lost in another for almost as long as I can remember. From Jane Austen to Sappho to my dad’s letters to my mom, beautifully written expressions of love just slay me.

Imagine, then, how happy I was to find Susanna Craig’s To Tempt an Heiress, a novel that perfectly marries these two parts of myself, the history nerd and the lover of love!

To Tempt an Heiress is just THE BEST. Set in Georgian England and the Caribbean, it tells the story of Tempest Holderin, a young woman of fortune who grew up in the British colony of Antigua, and the happily ever after she finds with the dashing Captain Andrew Corrvan. Tempest is the most eligible of ladies—she’s beautiful, she’s intelligent, and, most of all, she’s rich. This makes her a source of desire for half the men on the island and plenty more throughout the Empire. Many of those suitors (most especially the handsy, way too old, all around creeptastic Lord Nathaniel Delamere) want to use Tempest’s money and her property—and Tempest herself—for less than savory ends.

Herein enters the handsome captain, who, despite his better judgment, accepts a proposition from a close friend of the Holderin family: Andrew must kidnap Tempest, haul her aboard his ship, and transport her to London, where she will be safe from the Delameres of the world. Little does Andrew know that his choice to take up this mad plan will change their lives forever. Far more than simple cargo, Tempest is a kind-hearted, headstrong abolitionist who ignites Andrew’s every passion. Far more than a pirate, Andrew is the Shakespeare quoting, storm-sailing man of Tempests’ dream. By the time the journey to London is over, the two are wildly in love, but unable to set aside their pride or ambitions to give their feelings voice. Thankfully, dramatic events force their hands, and the two are brought together in a wonderfully romantic conclusion.

To Tempt an Heiress has everything I want in a romance novel (or in any novel!)— a wonderful cast of characters, steamy sexual tension between the hero and heroine, exquisite period details, a commendable ethical sub-theme (in this case, an anti-slavery narrative) . . . I could go on for ages! In fairness to those of you who will surely want to read the book yourselves (and that should be pretty much everyone ever), I’ll just say these three things.

1: Everything in the story just fits. The characters are believable, their dialogue seems natural, and they do things that make sense for who they are (individually and together) and for their context.. The book follows its own careful, understandable logical, and I just love that. So many books I read are riddled with inconsistencies, which distract me from my pleasure in reading and often leave me frustrated or—the worst!—feeling like I’ve wasted my time. This book is the direct and most awesome opposite!

2: To Tempt an Heiress is, in many ways, a deceptive book. It seems easy.   You could read it in a few hours if you aren’t careful because it’s just that compelling. But then you realize that all that ease is the result of the hard work of an excellent writer. Craig’s prose and her close—but not labored!—attention to historical detail make everything flow together just as it should. You feel immersed in the world and the lives of the characters, so much so that real life fades away a bit. This is, I think, the most difficult of a writer’s tasks, and one at which Craig excels more than most.

3: The book is HOT. I mean, really: a sexy sea captain and a gorgeous, liberal-minded lady are trapped together in a tiny cabin for weeks on end? And they’re not supposed to get naked but they both really want to get naked? C’mon! What’s better than that?! While there aren’t extended intimate encounters in the book (there are just two bona fide sex scenes, actually), the tension between the characters and what our minds can do on their own is almost more steamy than the actual scenes themselves!

4: I said 3, but I lied.  I need to say one more thing, which is…the cover!

This is my first Susanna Craig novel, but it most certainly won’t be my last!  Needless to say, I’d recommend this book to all people with eyeballs, but especially readers who love great prose, admirable characters, and exceptional (really, exceptional) historical writing. If you’re into explicit sex, this isn’t the book for you, but if you like a good slow burn (as we said in a recent review), then you’ll love Andrew and Tempest.  Get thee to a bookshop, humans! Do not delay!

AND . . . get thee to our giveaway to enter to win your own copy of To Tempt an Heiress!!! You won’t regret it, I promise!

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Review: Married to Her Enemy by Jenni Fletcher

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Married to Her Enemy
JENNI FLETCHER
December 20, 2016
(print $6.50, ebook available Jan 1, $4.99)

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In a land torn apart by war and hate, two people are drawn together by an undeniable attraction…

In Married to Her Enemy, Jenni Fletcher’s absolutely fantastic debut novel, a Norman warrior and a Saxon noblewoman meet as deadly adversaries.  Aediva, our heroine, has plenty of reasons to hate the Normans: they took her homeland, they made outlaws of her people, and they murdered her beloved father.  When a band of their soldiers is sighted making its way toward her village, she knows she has only one choice: she must fight.

When the soldiers arrive, Aediva attacks the first one she sees: a giant Dane-turned-Norman called Svend du Danemark.  Svend, despite his stature and Norman allegiance, is kind to the beautiful and very feist Aediva, responding to her attempt to stab him to death with some ninja-style disarmament skills and only a bit of annoyance.  In classic romance fashion, Svend and Aediva’s tussle results in physical closeness that, despite the charged situation, ignites desire in them both.  *Elinor fans self with book.*

The story that follows this wonderful scene is a classic case of mistaken identity, in which Svend confuses Aediva for her sister, Cilla, whom King William has ordered him to capture.  Aediva continues the charade in an effort to protect her sister, and so off she goes as the hostage/guest of a very handsome, blue-eyed knight.  In the course of their travels the two face illness, rain storms, armed rebels, and a whole host of misunderstandings, arriving to their destination very much in love but still separated by past wounds and hidden truths.  Svend’s discovery of Aediva’s true identity almost destroys their chance at happiness, but a forced marriage and the eventual confession of their love for one another ultimately brings them together for good.  Hurrah for happy endings!

As you’ve surely already guess, I absolutely adored this book.  It’s a funny, poignant, profoundly romantic story set in a world about which I’ve always been very curious (I mean, who doesn’t want to know everything about the aftermath of the Norman invasion?!).  The historical details make that world come alive, as does Fletcher’s clear, precise prose.  I was instantly invested in the burgeoning affections of Aediva and Svend, and deeply moved by the pain they both felt after years of loss and struggle.  Their chemistry is off the charts, and the slow burn of their desire for each other was hugely appealing.   You really come to hope and worry for the hero and heroine and you’re overjoyed when they finally get together.  As a romance reader, there’s nothing I love more than that!

Another thing I love?  That I don’t hate anyone in this book!  (Well, except maybe the terrible King William, who’s referenced here and there.)  Instead, almost all the characters are surprisingly admirable, and may of them are even endearing.  Aediva and Svend are noble, reliable, and courageous, but not so much so they we can’t see them as real people.  The supporting cast is clever and caring, and even the conniving Earl FitzOsbern seems redeemable in his own way.  I was really interested in learning more about Aediva’s sister, Cilla, especially after we discover that (gasp!) she had a secret romance with a Norman nobleman!  (Pssst, Jenni: I really, really hope their story will become a book of its own!)

I would recommend this book to…well, basically everyone, but especially to readers who care more about the story and the characters than explicit sex scenes.  Fletcher does a lot with anticipation and building tension, and the sex scenes are definitely sexy, but if you’re the kind of person who wants graphic consummation this might not be the book for you.  I would also recommend this to lovers of historical romance, as the book is deeply steeped in period details.  I already want to read it again just so I can relish them!

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Also, did you know? We’re giving away a free copy of Married to Her Enemy, as well as FIVE other new releases from Harlequin!! Enter our giveaway here!!

Review: Pursuing Lord Pascal by Anna Campbell

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PURSUING LORD PASCAL
BOOK 4
THE DASHING WIDOWS SERIES
ANNA CAMPBELL
September 30, 2016
(.99 cent eb00k)

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You know that feeling you get when you’re at the very beginning of what you already know is going to be a good book?  The one that’s like the first flush of a new romance, when you’re so happy that someone (or some book) so wonderful exists in the world and that you–you!–get to be with him/her/it?  I LOVE that feeling.  It’s one of the best in all the world, right alongside the joy of jumping into a pile of autumn leaves.

I’m happy to say that this very feeling is immediately available to each and every one of you, and for the minuscule cost of 99 cents.  Interested?  Well, then!  Get thee to Anna Campbell’s Pursuing Lord Pascal, a delightful tale of “London’s handsomest man” and his (ultimately successful–yay!) attempts to win the heart of a beautiful, plucky widow.

When Gervaise Dacre, Lord Pascal lays eyes on Amy, Lady Mowbray, at yet another boring ball, he’s instantly captivated.  She’s gorgeous, she’s a grown-up (unlike all the simpering misses falling at his feet), and, most of all, she’s got a brain in her beautiful head.  Before he can blink, Pascal realizes that he must have her, even if it means putting aside his plan to marry for much-needed money.  Amy, however, can’t imagine that Gervaise is actually interested.  After all, her short marriage to Lord Mawbray (40 years her senior) was much more a meeting of the minds than the bodies, and she’s accepted that her life will be one largely devoid of the joys of the bedroom.  Gervaise makes it his mission to prove her wrong.  Thus ensues a wooing in which Amy, an agricultural genius who’s more at home in muck boots than ball gowns, falls head over heels in love with England’s most eligible libertine. Continue reading

Review: The Bachelor Auction

vandyken_thebachelorauction_ebookThe Bachelor Auction
Rachel Van Dyken
October 4, 2016
($4.99 ebook)

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Once upon a time, there was a poor, kind-hearted girl who spent her days caring for her terrible, ungrateful sisters.  One night, when she least expected it, the girl was swept off her feet (and out of her shoes) by a rich, handsome man, with whom she (eventually) lived happily ever after.

If this story sounds familiar to you, it’s not a coincidence.  It is not, however, the story of Cinderella.  Except, well, it kind of is.  Say what?  Keep reading!

Rachel Van Dyken’s The Bachelor Auction is a modern-day take on the classic fairytale. In her version, Jane (Cinderella), the owner of a cleaning business, meets Brock (Prince Charming), a bajillionaire CEO, at a dance club (the royal ball).  When Jane is knocked to the floor of the club by her drunken sisters, tearing her dress and losing her necklace and shoes in the process, Brock sweeps her into his arms and out of the fray.  This heroic gesture becomes the stuff of Jane’s many fantasies— and, before long, her everyday reality— as she and Brock fall head over heels in love despite their many differences.

The book has its appealing aspects—both a hero and a heroine who are decent, caring people; a billionaire/regular girl fantasy come true; and love scenes that go beyond chaste Disney-style kisses.  The prose is good, and there’s a fair amount of humor that really adds some fun.  That said, I largely found myself unenchanted with this 21st century version of one of my favorite fairytales.  The obstacles that keep the couple apart and the entire bachelor auction gimmick around which the book is structured felt far too contrived.  I liked that part of the story was focused on Jane and Brock learning to set healthy boundaries with their families and the ghosts of their pasts, but I couldn’t get past how annoying the lack of boundaries was in the first place!  I felt like most of the problems that drove the plot could’ve been solved with one straight-forward conversation that none of the characters were willing to have.  All this would be forgiven, of course, if the sex scenes had gotten my glasses even a little bit steamy.  Alas, they did not.

This book didn’t capture my heart, but I do know others who have liked it very much, and suspect that romance readers who really love modern takes on classic tales would appreciate Van Dyken’s version.  I would recommend it to any such readers, as well as those who like a read for humor (one of the book’s strong suits).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.  She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband, adorable son, and two snoring boxers! She loves to hear from readers!

Review: Bedding the Wrong Brother by Virna DePaul

depaul-brotherBedding the Wrong Brother

Virna DePaul

February 12, 2013

($7.99, free on Kindle)

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Melina Parker is many things: a successful scientist, a lover of nature, and a devoted friend.  What she is not is a woman confident in her sexuality.  After several failed relationships, complete with damaging critiques about her performance in the bedroom, Melina comes to the conclusion that she has no idea how to satisfy a man.

Rather than let this setback put her off relationships forever, she does what any self-respecting academic would: research.  After much consideration, Melina enlists Max Dalton–famous magician, childhood friend, and twin brother to her lifelong crush, Rhys–to instruct her in the arts of love.  Max is a bonafide expert in intimate acts, and someone Melina can trust to teach her some new tricks without trying to steal her heart.

What she doesn’t expect is that Max has a few tricks of his own, including fooling Melina into taking her first lesson with the wrong brother, Rhys.  After a night of steamy foreplay, Rhys reveals his true identity to Melina, the woman he has always loved but thought he could never have.  Before she can make herself disappear, Rhys convinces her to spend the weekend in “class” with him instead of Max.  Against her better judgement but unable to resist, Melina agrees.

She and Rhys spend the weekend holed up in a cabin by the lake, where years of tension are finally broken in scenes that left me feeling like I was the one who needed a swim in cold waters.  This part of the book is where DePaul is at her best.  It’s entirely believable that both characters are mad for each other–Rhys’s expressions of desire and emotion are especially realistic–, but that they’re also both terrified of making the wrong move.  I loved the idea that these characters had pined for each other for years, but their insecurities–Melina’s about her curvy body (among others), Rhys about Melina’s potential feelings for Max–have made them afraid to act on their love.

There are, admittedly, some problems with the plot of this book.  Some of the obstacles keeping Melina and Rhys apart–a childhood misunderstanding, their diverse professional obligations–seem contrived, and Melina’s initial confusion of Rhys for Max doesn’t quite hold up.  Likewise, the scene in which Melina handcuffs Rhys in his hotel room veers from scintillating to sketchy in some moments; as a reader, I like when characters, whether male or female, respect a firm “No,” from their partners.

Still, Bedding the Wrong Brother is strong on a lot of fronts, and really appealing for lovers of the friends-to-lovers trope, as well as readers of steamy contemporaries.  I’d recommend this to anyone who likes some teasing and foreplay before the main act, and who appreciates a heroine who can be vulnerable and powerful at once.

Review: The Virgin Intern by Penny Wylder

wylder-internThe Virgin Intern

Peggy Wylder

September 12, 2016

(ebook: 99 cents; free on Kindle Unlimited)

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In The Virgin Intern Peggy Wylder delivers just what one might expect of a book about, well, a virgin intern: an office romance about a young, inexperienced woman and the education she gets from her older, more experienced colleague (who just happens to be ridiculously sexy.

The book opens with a provocative scene in which paralegal Naomi’s altercation with a copy machine leads to her first (very memorable!) interaction with senior partner Andrew.  There’s spilled ink and borrowed handkerchiefs and all kinds of sexually suggestive conversation.  Andrew instantly becomes the lead star of Naomi’s fantasies, but as a brand new (and seriously cash trapped) employee in her uncle’s law firm, Naomi can’t afford to make any mistakes.  As her uncle’s most hated employee, Andrew is definitely off limits.

But, as luck (and very convenient plot structure) would have it, Naomi and Andrew are thrown together on a major case, and their working relationship becomes something altogether more in about three pages.  Their “research” takes them from the bedroom to the pool to Andrew’s swanky office.  By the end of the book, Naomi’s virginity is a thing of the past and her love for Andrew (and his for her) is the basis for an exciting future.

This novella hits many of the right spots for lovers of erotic contemporaries–the sex is hot, hot, hot and a little (or a lot!) on the dirty side.  That said, I wouldn’t recommend it to those who read primarily for plot or character development.  This one is a quick read with good prose that satisfies certain needs, but it isn’t meant for much beyond that.

2 Devoted Readers Seeking Perfect Romance Hero

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2 DR’s (Devoted  Readers) seek PRH (Perfect Romance Hero) for LLA (Lifetime of Literary Adoration).

PRH must possess each the 6 following criteria.*, **  All others need not apply.

*Willing to accept 5 out of 6 under certain–very rare!–circumstances, such as: the hero is too smart to be brave or too bad to be good (on certain sexy occasions).

Please write back to inquire if you meet the requirements for an exception.

1: Brains

Nothing steams up our glasses like a man with something between his . . . ears (get your minds out of the gutter, readers!).  However it manifests–book lover, science nerd, sharp legal mind, or reader of people–our PRH has a very sizable intellect, and he knows how to use it.

2: Brawn

At Anonymisses we like our boys with some brawn.  The bigger the shoulders, the better!  But even more than breadth, we want a man whose physical appeal is so magnetic that our heroine can’t keep her eyes (or hands!) off him.  This doesn’t mean he has to be perfect or fit some movie star ideal.  We just want him to have that special something that the heroine simply can’t resist.

3: Bravery

It’s true, we want a hero who’s brave.  He doesn’t have to charge into battle or win every fight (in fact, we’d prefer a hero who makes love, not war), but he must have the courage to face his fears, whether they’re of heights, spiders, or longterm commitment.  Our hero isn’t afraid to be vulnerable or to let himself fall in love, even when he knows it will change his entire life.

4: Goodness (Gracious!)

If there’s one thing we want our PRH to be, it’s a good man.  None of this questionable integrity, shady behavior stuff.  But that doesn’t mean we want him to be too good.  We love a sweet man who knows how to talk (and sometimes play) dirty.  After all, what’s the fun of having a good man in your life if he isn’t sometimes a bad boy in bed?

5: Heart

Our perfect hero has a big, big heart, even if it’s sometimes hidden beneath a tough exterior.  He loves profoundly, and he’s loyal to those he holds dear.  Even if he starts out as a clammed-up committment-phobe, by the end of the book the hero has learned to process and share his emotions.  Don’t worry, hopefuls: it’s totally acceptable if it takes some help from the heroine to get there.

6: Generosity

We Misses love a man who knows how to give.  Our PRH is generous with his time, his attention, and his affections.  He’ll care more about the heroine’s happiness (and pleasure!) than his own, and will spend his days trying to give her everything she has ever wanted.  And he’ll have enough of Requirement #1 to look for a woman who will do the same!

Additional qualities that indicate excellence are acceptable.  They may include, for instance, a hero who:

a: has an accent (super duper extra bonus points for a Scottish brogue)

b: looks heart-stoppingly good in a kilt

c: could scrub laundry on his abs

and d: would be madly in love with us if he weren’t, you know, not real (sad face!).***

***That’s all just icing on the cake…but who likes cake without icing, anyway?! No one we’d invite to a party, that’s who!

Review: This Love by Lea Darragh

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Lea Darragh
This Love
Released September 19, 2016
(ebook: $2.40)

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Lea Darragh’s “This Love” is a wonderful story of hope and renewal in the aftermath of terrible loss. When her fiance, Ethan, dies tragically in a crash crash on their wedding day, Emmy (short for Emerson) is broken-hearted. In search of peace and healing (and to escape her handsy brother-in-law), Emmy moves from the big city of Melbourne to a coastal town called Cobbler’s Cove. There she slowly regains her strength and determination to live without Ethan. She begins to put her life back together, renting a cottage and taking an interior design job for a restaurant. She develops close friendships with the restaurant’s owners, Aubrey and Finn; the darkest of her days seem to be behind her. But no one can escape the past, and Emmy’s catches up with her in the form of a famous chef and friend of Finn’s who’s hired to draw patrons to the restaurant. In a cruel twist, Emmy discovers that the chef Jack Archer, the same man who was driving the other car in the accident that took Ethan’s life. Emmy and Jack are forced to confront their pain head on, and along with it, their attraction for each other. Eventually, the loss that could have been an obstacle that tore them apart became a source of profound connection between them, and their love flourishes, offering them both a second chance at a happy life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Darragh’s prose is really wonderful, especially compared to many recent books that have a feeling of being churned out in a rush. It flows well and has a kind of lyrical, literary quality that one doesn’t often find in genre fiction. Her descriptions of the characters’ experience of grief and guilt is beautifully done and draw the reader into the story with integrity and sensitivity. The characters are well developed and likable, and, despite the painful circumstances, the book is full of hope and the possibilities of life. I was especially impressed with scenes like the one where Emmy and Jack confront one another for the first time. The emotions seem entirely believable, and the characters are vulnerable and compelling. When they finally fall in love the reader is so happy to see them happy. This is how I want to feel at the end of a romance novel, but I often don’t. Only the best romances produce this kind of feeling. Darragh’s romances is definitely one of the best.

I would recommend this book to most romance readers, especially those who are invested in the interior lives and emotions of the characters and who care about the quality of prose. In general, lovers of contemporary and inspirational (though no necessarily religious) romances should be big fans of this book.

Review: With Every Breath by Maya Banks

w-every-breathMaya Banks
With Every Breath
Published August 23, 2016
($24.99 hardback, $7.99 ebook)
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What do you get when two heavily armed and super sexy security professionals team up to take down a very bad bad guy?

Explosive chemistry!

Get it?! Explosive?!  (I know, so bad! I’m sorry.)

Terrible jokes aside, the chemistry is indeed explosive in Maya Banks’ With Every Breath, the fourth book in her Slow Burn series. The story begins with a terrible phone call: the man who nearly ruined Eliza Cummings’ life—and her sanity—is being released from prison on a technicality. As a teenager Eliza was tricked into falling in love with Thomas, a rich, handsome man who also happened to be a mind-reading, will-bending psychopath. Unbeknownst to Eliza, Thomas had spent years kidnapping women, torturing them in the basement of the house she hoped to someday call home. When Eliza discovered the truth, she turned Thomas over to the police and later played a central role in the trial that put him in prison for life. Until, that is, Thomas bribes and intimidates his way back onto the streets.

Eliza knows that with Thomas out of prison, there’s no way that she can protect the people she loves—her co-workers and friends at the Devereux Security Agency—unless she destroys Thomas … and herself in the process. She leaves a note for her beloved colleagues and prepares to leave town. Continue reading

2 Devoted Readers Seeking Perfect Romance Heroine

practically-perfect

2 DR’s (Devoted  Readers) seek PRH (Perfect Romance Heroine) for LLA (Lifetime of Literary Adoration).

PRH must possess each the 6 following criteria.*, **  All others need not apply.

*Willing to accept 5 out of 6 under certain–very rare!–circumstances, such as: the heroine is too smart to be funny, too funny to be smart, or too independent to have character.  Please write back to inquire if you meet the requirements for an exception.

 1: Brains

There’s no denying it: we misses…errr, DR’s!…love a lady with intellect.  And who doesn’t?  (Not anyone we want to be friends with, that’s for sure!)  Whether she’s a Regency Duchess or an antebellum belle, we want our heroines to excel in the smarts department.  She doesn’t necessarily have to be a book nerd, or a nerd at all; intelligence comes in many forms, and we’re open to them all (a botanist? An engineer? A polyglot? An artist? A people person? All great!).  There’s nothing we admire more than a woman with brains, and that’s especially true for someone whose Happily Ever After we’re planning to hope for from page one.

2: Beauty

It’s true, our heroine must be beautiful.  That doesn’t mean, however, that she has to look like Connie Britton as Mrs. Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights (though this rare kind of shiny golden Southern bombshell angel beauty is always welcome).  Instead, beauty (like intelligence) has a wide range of definitions.  The heroine can be short or tall, curvy or slender, pale or tan, blonde or brunette or redhead.  The important thing is that she has an inner light that the hero finds alluring and that, as he gets to know her, he simply can’t resist.  We want the heroine to be exactly the hero’s type, no matter what that type is, and we want their chemistry to singe the sheets! Continue reading