Guest Author: Alyssa Goodnight & Giveaway!

I’ve got a very special guest on the blog today, one who fits in perfectly with the recent 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice.  She’s Alyssa Goodnight, and she writes delicious and quirky contemporary romance inspired by Jane Austen.  Her first book got great reviews, including this one from Publishers Weekly:

“Jane Austen meets Austin, Tex., in this fast-paced, quirky novel about the unpredictability of love. … Goodnight’s breezy style with a believable heroine, lively conflicts and lots of best-friend confidences elevates this above the usual chick lit fare.”

Alyssa has a new book just out.  Let’s ask her about it, shall we?

Jane Austen meets Austin, Texas, is how Publisher’s Weekly described your previous book, Austentatious. Austensibly Ordinary also plays off Jane’s beloved canon of books. How did you come up with such a great idea?

Honestly, it was quite by accident. I had just started writing the manuscript that would become Austentatious and was trying to incorporate a magical journal into the story. Meanwhile, I was loving all the Jane Austen fan fiction options, and suddenly it hit me: What if the magic in the journal was coming from Jane Austen, match-maker extraordinaire?? I thought it was a super fun idea, and just what the story needed. And honestly, I had such fun writing it and imagining the possibilities if it were actually true… Austensibly Ordinary was just as fun, and and now I’m feeling like I might need to write a few more stories that feature the Jane Austen Journal.

What’s Austensibly Ordinary about?

Austensibly Ordinary is about two best friends, Cate and Ethan, both high school teachers. Cate feels like she’s in a rut and needs a little adventure–maybe even an alter ego… She also suspects that Ethan is keeping something from her–something big–and she’s determined to ferret it out. When Cate stumbles across the journal, intending to use it to chronicle her newly exciting life, she doesn’t realize that its magical messages are about to wreak some serious havoc in her life and relationships. Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, it’s light and fun women’s fiction.

Your first book was a Regency historical romance. Why the switch to contemporary fiction?

For the simple reason that there was a shift in my reading preferences. For years, I read a TON of Regency romances, so when I decided I wanted to try writing a book, my natural inclination was to write a Regency. My Regency novel is Unladylike Pursuits. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I adore the Regency period, but my tastes started to run to chick-lit, and then Jane Austen fan fiction. From there, it just seemed a natural slide into my own Jane Austen-inspired homage.

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently working on the first book in a series of contemporary romance novels set in the Texas Hill Country, tied together with a hint of magic.

There you have it, readers.  For those lovers of contemporary romance, chick lit, and/or Jane Austen, Alyssa’s books are just perfect for you!  For my readers today, Alyssa is giving away a copy of her first book, Austentatious.  For a chance to win, simply tell us which is your favorite Jane Austen novel, or an Austen-inspired movie or TV show.  One person who comments will win Alyssa’s fabulous book!

And don’t forget to visit Alyssa’s website for all her book info.


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?