Guest Author: Lena Diaz & Giveaway!

Talented romantic suspense author (and truly wonderful friend) Lena Diaz is visiting with us once more.  She’s going to tell us all about her latest book from Avon.  Take it away, Lena!

Vanessa, thank you so much for hosting me on your awesome blog. As you know, I’m a contemporary romantic suspense author. But like so many romance readers, I love many genres, including – of course – historical romance. Since your blog is focused toward historical romance, I wanted to talk about some of my favorite historical romance novels and authors today.

I just recently read Vanessa’s latest release, My Favorite Countess, and LOVED it. (You can read my review on Amazon.) I’ve got Sex and the Single Earl on my TBR list, and am looking forward to whatever else Vanessa serves up in the future. (Vanessa, here.  I told you that Lena was awesome!)

You might be surprised to hear that I only started reading contemporary romances in the past few years. Before that, I ONLY read historical romance. We’re talking hundreds, probably thousands, of historical romances that I’ve read in my lifetime. The first ones that I can remember were those classic gothic romances by Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. Oh my gosh, talk about atmosphere. I loved the darkness, the creepy castles on desolate cliffs, the danger . . . hey wait, maybe I can see a connection here. Those sound like elements in my romantic suspense novels – minus the castles of course.

Setting is so important in historical romance, and it’s important in my latest novel as well. Simon Says Die is set in Savannah, Georgia, a town I love to visit and that has such incredible atmosphere and history. Naturally my heroine lives in the historic district, in an old house with secret passageways. And I couldn’t resist writing a scene set in one of the old cemeteries as well. Creepy cool!

But I digress.

Back to my favorite historical romances and authors. After Holt and Whitney, I moved on to sexy historicals by Rosemary Rogers. Who can forget Sweet Savage Love? And then I discovered the Queen of Romance, Kathleen Woodiwiss. Oh. My. Gosh. I own every one of her books – in hardback. My favorites include The Flame and the Flower, Shanna, A Rose in Winter, and my all-time favorite historical EVER – Ashes in the Wind. Woodiwiss built the historical romance genre from the ground up. So many authors were able to follow along and develop this amazing genre, only because she paved the way first.

Those purple-prose novels of the eighties gave way to a newer style of writing which was cleaner, leaner, and in many cases – humorous. Even though I love my romantic suspense to be dark and gritty, when I read historicals I often pick up ones with a light, funny bent. Julia Quinn is one of the best authors at making me laugh. I love the way she can turn a phrase, and her dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny. My favorite? How to Marry a Marquis. When I first read that book, I laughed so hard there were tears rolling down my face. I say FIRST read, because I own all of Julia Quinn’s novels and frequently re-read them. Yes, they are THAT good.

Another favorite historical author of mine is Amanda Quick, pseudonym for the amazing Jayne Ann Krentz. The Quick novels include all that delicious historical atmosphere and the settings we love so much, along with a smart, accomplished heroine. Which leads me back to Vanessa Kelly as my newest favorite historical romance author.

When I read My Favorite Countess, it literally blew me away. The dialogue is witty. The characters are complex and intelligent. And the situations in this novel are unique and so real I felt like I was back in the Regency era truly experiencing the ‘real’ life of these lords and ladies.

Kelly doesn’t dress up the gritty reality of how hard life really was back then. She shows it like it is (or was). To me, she’s a maverick in the historical romance genre. Using a turn of phrase from the regency era, Vanessa Kelly is a true original.

So what about you, reader? Do you have some author or book recommendations you can share with me? I’m always looking for a great new romance to read, in any genre.

Thanks again for hosting me Vanessa!

Vanessa, here.  Lena, you are supposed to be talking about your own book, not mine!  Thank you so much for your kind words.  And readers, it’s clearly up to me to tell you how wonderful Lena’s books are.  If you like romantic suspense, you will LOVE her.  Check out the blurb for Simon Says Die below, and also hop over to Lena’s website for her news and excerpts.  

Lena is giving away one e-book copy of Simon Says Die to one of the commenters in a random drawing (via either B&N or Amazon – reader’s choice).  Just tell us what your favorite setting is for a creepy suspense book or movie for a chance to win her book.  Do you like isolated settings like a scary manor house on a windswept coast, or do you go things like gritty urban settings, a la Law and Order?

Here’s the blurb for Simon Says Die.  Readers can read the prologue and first chapter on Lena’s website.

Simon says: I’m watching. Simon says: I’m coming. Simon says: Die.

Madison McKinley knows someone is stalking her. The police tell her she’s imagining things, and they’re too busy trying to find the “Simon Says” killer to investigate. But day by day, hour by hour, Madison’s terror grows stronger, and not even the return of FBI Special Agent Pierce Buchanan into her life can calm her fears. Besides, how can she ask Pierce for his help after the way she ended things between them?

Pierce still wants Madison’s love, and his drive to protect her is more powerful than ever. He believes she’s in danger, even if the cops don’t. Finally, as more people start dying and the evidence mounts, the police turn their attention to Madison—as a suspect. Was Pierce a fool to trust her again, or are they both caught in a complex game that neither will survive?


Winners & Another Great Contest For Romance Readers!

The winner of Lena Diaz’s new book, He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, is wendybooks.  Congrats, Wendy!  I’ll be in touch soon.  Lena is also giving away five sets of trading cards to the following readers who commented on the blog:  catlady, Natasja, Robin D, librarypat, Christine Leone.  I’ll also be in touch you ladies for your addresses.

And for new visitors to my blog, I’d like to tell you about a fabulous contest I’m running with a group of fellow authors, which includes giveaways of entire backlists of your favorite romance stars.  I’m giving away paranormal and romantic suspense author Cynthia Eden’s backlist, and other prizes include the backlists of authors like Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas.  Yowzers!  You can find the details on how to enter this mega-contest here.

Have a great day, everyone!  Stop back tomorrow for another #SampleSunday excerpt of my V.K. Sykes contemporary romance, Hardball.


Guest Author: Lena Diaz & Giveaway!

I’m so pleased to have a good friend of mine on the blog today – debut author Lena Diaz.  Lena’s romantic suspense novel, He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, is one of the launch books for Avon Impulse, the new Harper Collins digital-first imprint.  Exciting stuff!

Lena is a truly talented writer, whose manuscripts were winning accolades even before publication.  She’s won the Tara, the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Romantic Suspense, and finaled in the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious contest for unpublished authors, The Golden Heart.   I’m going to turn the blog over to Lena now – she has some thoughts about heroes she’d like to share with us!

What Makes A Romance Hero Romantic?

Vanessa, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog! I’ll jump right into my topic, which is — What makes a romance novel hero romantic?

Recently, two of my friends critiqued a scene I’d just written. Without seeing each other’s comments, they both highlighted the same line of dialogue, and they both said it was so romantic. I was surprised, because that line seemed ordinary, nothing special. What was it about that one line that sounded romantic? Neither of my friends could explain why it felt romantic. They just knew that it did.

I looked back through the scene, which was the first meet between the hero and heroine. I tried to figure out why that line seemed so special. All through the scene the hero was cold, almost to the point of being mean, because he despised the choices the heroine had made in her life. But at the very end of the scene, he couldn’t walk away without offering the heroine some kind of consolation. He had to say that one little line, trying to make her feel better.

That one line of dialogue showed the hero’s true character, his compassion. It gave the reader a glimpse into the hero’s true self. In that one line, we saw that the hero cared for the weak and downtrodden, even if he didn’t want to. The line itself wasn’t romantic. The reasons behind the hero’s words were romantic.

Let’s look at a scene where the hero and heroine dance together. By itself, the scene is nothing special. But let’s change it up a bit. Let’s say the heroine just got dumped by her boyfriend, very publicly, and he walks across the dance floor with another woman. Our heroine is sitting alone, humiliated. Other women she knows are giggling and making fun of her at the next table. They’re also flirting outrageously with our gorgeous hero.

Disgusted at how the women, and the boyfriend, treated the heroine, the hero asks the heroine to dance. He treats her like a princess, lavishing her with attention. By dancing with her, he gives her revenge against everyone who treated her so badly, and he helps her self-esteem.

Suddenly that scene is far more romantic. Or, at least, it is to me! The hero is no longer just a cute guy. He’s sexy, hot, appealing, romantic–not because of his looks–but because of the person he is inside.

So tell me, what do you think makes a romance novel hero romantic? Is it all looks? His voice? The way he gazes into a woman’s eyes, as if she’s the only person in the room? Or is it his character, his moral convictions, his compassion for others? Or something else entirely? I’d love to hear your opinions!

He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not

Four years ago, Amanda Stockton was forced to play a serial killer’s twisted game of chance. Since then, she has retreated from the world, bearing the scar from her ordeal and the burden of a terrible secret. But when another woman is found dead, clutching a long-stemmed red rose, Amanda knows she can hide no longer.

If there were any other way, Chief Logan Richards would never ask the only surviving victim for help. But it’s clear this killer will not be stopped and Amanda is the only link. Torn between catching a madman and winning the trust of the woman he’s come to love, Logan is caught in a dangerous game with Amanda. And there’s no guarantee they’ll come out on top.

Vanessa, here.  Lena will be giving away one copy of He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, to one of my readers today.  Just answer her question to win!  But that’s not all.  Five readers who comment today will also win a set of Lena’s romance trading cards.  There are four cards to a set, including this dreamy one of her romantic hero, Logan Richards.  Yum!

Never heard about romance trading cards, the latest thing sweeping through romancelandia?  You can check them out on the romance trading card website.

We Have A Winner!

The winner of Katharine Ashe’s book, Swept Away by a Kiss, is Sharyn L.  Congratulations!  I’ll be in touch soon.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by.  Don’t forget that for every copy sold of Katharine’s new book, In the Arms of a Marquess, Avon Romance will donate 25 cents to its K.I.S.S. & Teal Campaign to support research into Ovarian Cancer.

Next up on the blog?  My pal Lena Diaz, whose debut book, He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, was just released by Avon Impulse.  Lena will be hear tomorrow!