Guest Author: Valerie Bowman & Giveaway!

As you know, I love hosting debut authors on my blog.  I’m particularly excited about today’s guest–she’s historical romance author Valerie Bowman.  Valerie’s first book, Secrets of a Wedding Night, was just released from St. Martin’s Press and it’s been getting great buzz and great reviews.

Let’s turn the blog over to Valerie to hear all about her new book.

The Name that Got Away

Let’s talk about names. My name. Your name. Heroes’ and heroines’ names. What would your name have been if you had been the opposite sex? Or, in my case, if I had been named the name my mother had actually picked out for me, but more about that in a minute.

In my debut romance novel, SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT, the heroine is named Lily Andrews and the hero is named Devon Morgan. I named the heroine after Lily Lawson, one of my favorite heroines in one of my favorite novels of all time, Lisa Kleypas’, THEN CAME YOU. Lisa’s story is actually set a bit later than SECRETS and someone once pointed out to me that as a general rule, women in England were not named after flowers until the Victorian era. So technically, Lily’s name might be a bit anachronistic. But I choose to believe it’s entirely possible that her parents were ahead of their time. Plus, I was more interested in the homage to one of my favorite characters, than in the factuality of the thing to be honest. Hence, my Lily.

Morgan, Devon’s last name, is a nod to the famous Rand Morgan of Laura London’s incomparable, THE WINDFLOWER. Morgan also a family name for me. Devon’s first name just sounded good and popped into my head when I was trying to think of Lily’s hero. Sometimes I just get lucky that way and the name just appears in front of my mind’s eye.

Now, about my own name. Unfortunately, I was born about two months premature and my mother, not expecting to be in labor, had left the list of baby names she’d decided upon back at the house. I had jaundice and was breach and had severe complications. My mother was rushed into an emergency C-section and my father was told that they were hoping to save my mother, not me. Eek.

Ok, so flash forward and I was born and weighed like 4 pounds and was very sick. My mother was still out of it from the anesthesia and the doctors told my father. “You’d better name your daughter quickly or she’ll be named Jane Doe on the death certificate.”

Can you imagine?

So, as the story goes in my family, my dad rushed home to get the right name from the list. My mom had circled the one they’d finally agreed upon. He couldn’t remember! He came back to the hospital and scanned the list and realized none of the names were circled. So he picked the one he happened to like best, the one that had his sister’s name as in the middle: Valerie Gale.

When my mother came to, she realized that my father had picked the wrong name. For the name she had circled on another piece of paper at home. The one they’d decided on was… Mary Grace.

Now, I adore both the names Mary and Grace, but I’ve never quite imagined myself with that name. It just doesn’t seem like me. Perhaps a bit of serendipity was at work that day in June at the hospital in Illinois. Especially given the fact that I made a full recovery.

So, confess, what is the alternate name your parents were planning to name you? One lucky commenter will win a copy of Secrets of a Wedding Night.


Young, widowed, and penniless, Lily Andrews, the Countess of Merrill, has strong opinions on marriage. When she spots a certain engagement announcement in The Times, she decides to take action. She will not allow another hapless girl to fall prey to a man—particularly the scoundrel who broke her heart five years ago. Anonymously she writes and distributes a pamphlet entitled “Secrets of a Wedding Night,” knowing it will find its way into his intended’s innocent hands…


Devon Morgan, the Marquis of Colton, desires a good wife and mother to his son—someone completely unlike Lily Andrews, the heartless beauty who led him on a merry chase five years ago only to reject him. When Devon’s new fiancée cries off after reading a certain scandalous pamphlet, he vows to track down the author and make her pay. But when he learns it’s his former fiancée Lily, he issues a challenge: write a retraction—or prepare to be seduced—to find out how wonderful a wedding night can be…

 Secrets of a Wedding Night is the most charming and clever debut I’ve read in years!” ~ NTY bestselling author Lisa Kleypas

Vanessa, here.  Wow, Valerie, that’s an amazing and scary story!  We are all VERY glad that things turned out okay.  Now, how about you, readers?  Did your parents have more than one name picked out for you?  If not, is there a name you wish they’d given you?  One person who comments will win a copy of Valerie’s wonderful new book!

And be sure to visit Valerie’s website to read an excerpt from Secrets of a Wedding Night and for all the buy links.


Guest Author: Elizabeth Essex & Giveaway!

As you might have guessed by now, I love Regency-set historical romance. But there’s another period that’s dear to my heartand that’s the Georgian period, which immediately preceded the Regency.  It’s a wonderful setting for historical romance, lending itself to swashbuckling adventure and intrigue, and some truly spectacular clothing.

Elizabeth Essex, my guest author today, writes adventurous and sexy historical romance set during the Georgian period.  Her debut book was The Pursuit of Pleasure, which got great reviews:

“Elizabeth Essex’s The Pursuit of Pleasure is elegant, evocative, and absolutely dangerous to a good night’s sleep. Once you pick this book up, you won’t be able to set it aside until you’ve learned the last of its very satisfying secrets.” NYT bestselling author, Courtney Milan

Her last book, The Danger of Desire, was nominated for the prestigious RITA Award.

You’ll be happy to know that Elizabeth has a brand new series called The Reckless Brides, released by St. Martin’s Press:

Bold, brazen and beautiful, the reckless brides refuse to play by society’s rules of courtship. But—come hell or high water—they always get their man.

She’s always ready for adventure. He’s almost ready for love

The first book in the series, Almost a Scandal, is available now.  Here’s what USA Today bestselling author Julianne MacLean had to say about it:

“Elizabeth Essex will dazzle you with her sophisticated blend of vivid historical detail, exquisite characterization and delicious sexual tension. Almost a Scandal is a breath-taking tale of rapturous romance and awe-inspiring adventure!”

Zounds!  Is that not a gorgeous cover?  Here’s the blurb:


For generations, the Kents have served proudly with the British Royal Navy. So when her younger brother refuses to report for duty, Sally Kent slips into uniform and takes his place—at least until he comes to his senses. Boldly climbing aboard H.M.S. Audacious, Sally is as able-bodied as any sailor there. But one man is making her feel tantalizingly aware of the full-bodied woman beneath her navy blues…


Dedicated to his ship, sworn to his duty—and distractingly gorgeous—Lieutenant David Colyear sees through Sally’s charade, and he’s furious. But he must admit she’s the best midshipman on board—and a woman who tempts him like no other. With his own secrets to hide and his career at stake, Col agrees to keep her on. But can the passion they hide survive the perils of battle at sea? Soon, their love and devotion will be put to the test…

I told you, right?  Swashbuckling, adventurous, and sexy!  What’s not to like?  If you’ve never read any of Elizabeth’s books, this series is a great place to start.

For my readers today, Elizabeth is generously giving away two copies of Almost a Scandal.  Wow!  Since Elizabeth has such great covers, let’s talk about that.  What do you like to see on a romance cover?  Do you like the traditional clinch, the elegant lady, or the more discrete hearts and flowers? Two people who comment will win Almost a Scandal.

And don’t forget to check out Elizabeth’s website to read excerpts and find out about all her books!



Guest Author: Gina Robinson & Giveaway!

The lovely and talented Gina Robinson is back on the blog today, with her special brand of humorous contemporary novels full of suspense and romance.  Let’s turn the blog over to Gina, so she can tell us about the latest book in her acclaimed Agent Ex Series, just out from St. Martin’s Press.

Every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies.

–from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Readers often wonder where writers get the ideas for their stories. The short answer is everywhere. My latest release is the second book of my Agent Ex spy romances, Diamonds Are Truly Forever. The title Agent Ex refers to secret agents and their ex, or nearly ex, spouses. So Diamonds Are Truly Forever had to be a reunion romance.

I set up the hero, Drew Fields, as the sidekick of the hero, Ty Miller, in the first book of the series, The Spy Who Left Me. I knew something about Drew, which made writing his book easier in some ways than starting from scratch. I knew he had a marriage that was on the rocks. He hinted at it in the first book. Now I needed a heroine for him, a perfect match, but one who would provide lots of romantic and story tension. And I needed a plot, preferably one that would supply some humor because I write lighthearted, hopefully funny, books.

Before I began the series, I brainstormed a long list of all the downsides of being married to a spy like James Bond, Jack Ryan, Chuck, Michael Westen, or even Max Smart. I also made a list of spy archetypes using everything from the classic The Art of War to former CIA agent memoirs to contemporary fictional spies to humorous sources like Get Smart. For each book, I pick a spy archetype and one of those downsides and run with it to create a story.

For Diamonds, I chose the downside of your husband being a professional liar. Could you ever trust what he said? What secrets could he be hiding from you? The perfect opposite, and hence estranged wife for my purposes, for a professional liar would be someone who couldn’t lie to save her life or his. And so Drew’s wife Staci Fields was born, or created, if you will. As for the plot, wouldn’t it be funny, I thought, if Drew had to go undercover as himself? From there, I just kept spinning the story as I wrote it. Many writers plot out their stories ahead of time, but I generally have an idea of where the story is going, but discover it and more about the characters as I write.

If you were a spy, would you like to be undercover as yourself? Or as someone different? What would you want your cover to be?

Diamonds Are Truly Forever


Staci Fields loves her gorgeous husband—and that’s the honest truth. Unfortunately, her inability to lie is a major liability for the wife of a CIA agent. During a previous mission, her loose lips nearly got her husband killed. So now Staci’s filing for divorce to keep him out of danger—no matter how much her lips still crave his kiss…


Drew Fields knows that his wife doesn’t want to play the spy game anymore. But when he learns that Staci may be a pawn in her stepfather’s secret dealings with terrorists, he has no choice but to step back into her life. This time, the stakes are higher than ever. The closer he gets to Staci, the deadlier the odds. And the more he loves his ex, the more he has to lose…

Vanessa, here.  Gina’s latest book sounds great, doesn’t it?  Be sure to visit her website to get all the details about Diamonds Are Truly Forever, and all her other books.  You can also follow Gina on Twitter and facebook.

For my readers today, Gina will be giving away a copy of The Spy Who Left Me.  Just answer her question above for the chance to win her book! 

Guest Author: Manda Collins & Giveaway!

My most excellent friend Manda Collins is back with us on the blog today.  Manda writes witty Regency-set historical romance with a dash of mystery for St. Martin’s Press.  Her books are simply lovely and fun, and if like historical romance and you haven’t read Manda…well, do!

But Manda is branching out these days, and she’s here to tell us all about it.  Take it away, my lady!

And Now for Something Completely Different

Have you ever felt yourself falling into a rut? Doing the same old same old starts to pall. The tried and true routines that might have given you comfort in the past begin to grate on your nerves. And soon you find yourself searching for something—anything—to change up the sameness of the days.

This is the just the situation that the heroine of my novella, Legally Yours, finds herself in. After years spent raising her younger sister after the death of her parents, Julie Streeter finds herself in the unusual position of suffering from empty nest syndrome—at the ripe old age of 30!

Now, I’ve never been in that kind of situation, but I can definitely relate to the feeling old bit. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you view it), I was one of those kids who was born old. My Great Aunt told me this hilarious story once of how she was riding in the car with my Mom and me (and it was the 70s so like any 4 year old of the era, I stood/sat on the armrest between the two front seats) and I very calmly and precisely told my mother where she should turn, and basically was being a big old back seat driver.

At age FOUR! So, you can imagine what I was like as I got older.

I read somewhere once, that Capricorns—among whose ranks I fall—tend to age backwards. That is, they start out as “old” children and then gradually as they age they become more and more carefree and childish. Not that I will EVER admit to being childish, but I can totally understand how this character assessment could be spot on for me.

When I was a child and a teenager, I was far too busy being a grownup to behave in a childlike manner. The same holds true for my writing career.

Though I’ve applauded and read lots of erotic romance over the years, always something has held me back from trying to write it myself. Perhaps it’s the whole Catholic upbringing thing. Perhaps it’s my family’s lack of respect for romance as a genre (though since I’ve gotten published they’ve gotten more respectful). Whatever the case, something kept me from taking the plunge, so to speak, into the erotic arena.

Now keep in mind, this has NOTHING to do with my respect for erotic romance. I respect the hell out of anyone who writes openly about sex. My reticence has more to do with my own fear of putting myself out there.

But, I realized something a few weeks ago when I turned in the revisions for my third Ugly Duckling book. I am not so very many years away from the big 4-0. And like Julie, I’ve realized that there are some things I’d like to do. Some risks I’d like to take.

So I wrote Legally Yours. And self-published it. And the sky did not fall! (Though we did have that enormous supermoon! Coincidence? Who knows!) So, item one on my own “Before Forty” list has been dutifully checked off! Woohoo!

So, dear reader, what about you? Have you ever found yourself feeling the need to change the status quo? Have you ever taken a risk just for the heck of it? Or, is there something you’ve been wanting to try but haven’t gotten up the courage to try yet? Inquiring minds want to know! I’ll be giving away FIVE copies of Legally Yours to randomly chosen commenters. And one sixth commenter will receive BOTH a copy of Legally Yours and an ARC of my next Ugly Ducklings book, How to Romance a Rake!

Vanessa, here.  Zounds!  What an offer!  Five copies of Legally Yours AND an ARC of How to Romance a Rake!  That is one heck of a deal.  So, readers, get to answering Manda’s question.  Let’s get this conversation going!

Guest Author: Manda Collins & Giveaway!

I’m SO excited to have a special guest on my blog today.  She’s a good friend and a fabulous writer:  Manda Collins, debut Regency-set historical author for St. Martin’s Press.  Manda’s book, How To Dance With A Duke, is a wonderful read.  You can take my word for it, because I had the privilege of reading it before St. Martin’s even snapped it up.  If you like smart, sexy historical romance with a dash of mystery, Manda’s the gal for you!  And she’s here with a great post to tell you all about How To Dance With A Duke.  Notice the tie-in to today’s date!

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Duke

Is there any phobia more celebrated than Triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13? Certainly not in my elementary school days when we reveled gleefully in the superstition surrounding unlucky 13. Kids are like that, I suppose.

But we are adults, and as such, we face our fears head on! (Hahahahahaha.) No, really, we do! And in my own inimical style, I will turn that 13 sided frown upside down by appropriating the thing that is scaring the bejeezus out of us and creating a list of not one, not two, not eleven, but THIRTEEN things. In this case, with apologies to the poet Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at” not a Blackbird, but “A Duke.”


From the side.

In my experience,

Dukes have some seriously excellent profiles.


Hanging with his Regency Era bros.

Conversing over a pint and a cheroot

Is a time-honored means for a Duke to blow off a little steam.

Also, he knows that he shows to advantage, being a Duke.


The Duke of Winterson whirled around the ballroom.

His dancing shoes made no sound

As he held the young lady more closely than was strictly correct.


A lord and a lady are one.

A lord a lady and a Duke

Are best left to the erotic romance novelists.


I do not know which to prefer,

The beauty of a Duke being brought to his knees by his heroine,

Or the beauty of a Duke losing his celebrated sang-froid over a heroine,

The Duke of Winterson kissing her before,

Or just after.


The shadow of the Duke of Winterson

Crossed to and fro before the window,

His jaw clenched in fury at the thought of

How his heroine had defied him.


O Readers of Romance Fiction,

Why do you imagine commoner heroes?

Do you not see how the Duke of Winterson hovers

At the edge of your imagination?


I know noble accents,

And the voice of a hero intrigues his heroine,

But I know too that the Duke of Winterson is involved in

Every story of my trilogy. Really. He is.


When the Duke of Winterson stepped off stage,

He was always still thinking,

Of Cecily, his heroine.


At the sight of the Duke of Winterson,

Striding across the ballroom floor,

Even the Meanest Gel of all, Amelia,

Felt her heart constrict with longing.

Then, of course, she flew into a jealous rage.

Tis what mean gels do.


The Duke of Winterson rode through London

In the carriage emblazoned with his crest.

Once he pulled Cecily against him in the darkness of the carriage,

Kissing her ruthlessly, filled with longing.


Mysteries envelop the situation.

The Duke and his lady must be investigating.


It was hardly a surprise

For the Duke to love his wife.

What was most remarkable, in his eyes,

Was that she finally loved him too.

Life and death excitement can do that to a woman.

For a look at the original poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” check out this version at the University of Pennylvania. Are you a fan of poetry? Why or why not? How about Dukes? Tell us all about it! Inquiring minds want to know!

Vanessa, here.  Told you my pal Manda was smart and witty!  Cool poem, eh?  Now, just answer one of her questions.  One person who comments will win a copy of How To Dance With A Duke.