About ktgilbertromance

K.T. Gilbert is a busy mum to two gorgeous kids and an effective sounding board for her slightly workaholic partner. She loves good food – both cooking it and eating it, action movies, chocolate and wine, but most of all she loves to read romance. She is currently working on her first contemporary romance.

Romance Wish List for 2018

It’s the start of a new year, and it got me and a couple of my Twitter friends thinking about what we’d like to read in 2018. Let me introduce The Book Queen (TBQ) who is a well-established book reviewer and blogger and Jen, an avid reader and fantastic reviewer who posts her reviews on The Book Queen’s Book Palace. Here we go…

KT: Okay, so I think it’s fair to say that 2017 has been a bit of a shit-storm. Politics has divided people on both sides of the Atlantic. The Weinstein story broke and women everywhere looked at each other and rolled their eyes, because we’ve always known that this is what life is like being a woman, right? But a really positive outcome was the #metoo hashtag on Twitter that finally gave millions of people a voice.

Jen: After reading just the first sentence, I have to say, “A bit” is doing a lot of work. All the work. So much work. Lol. I’ll stop being a smart ass now. I agree that social media has changed the way we’ve heard from all sorts of marginalized voices, and I’m grateful for that.

KT: I’m British – I say “a bit” a lot. We’re reserved like that. Lol!

So, reading has always been an escape from reality, but in 2017, more than ever, that was the case for me. However, along with reading more, I’m trying to read more selectively. I love reading romance, but I think we all know that it has its issues. The main ones I’m taking away from this past year is that people of colour (POC) aren’t represented enough in this genre, authors of colour (AOC) aren’t supported enough, and misogyny is still alive and thriving. This got me thinking about what I want to read in 2018.

Jen: I read a lot of non-romance, too. And halfway through the year, I decided to just stop reading all literary fiction by allocishet white men. I think I’m going to need to keep that up in 2018. It’s amazing how toxic I find those novels.

KT: ‘Literary fiction by allocishet white men’ – you should see my face right now! That is the OPPOSITE of what I want on my wish list.

I want more dominant heroines of any colour. I’m not talking as extreme as Kristen Ashley’s The Honey series, although I did enjoy that, but women who direct the bed action instead of following the man. I want women giving directions like “get on your knees and…”, or “hold still while I tie you up”, or “did I say you could do that?” I have more filthy ideas! Lol!

TBQ: You are speaking my catnip language. My kingdom for more dominant, and especially sexually confident and dominant heroines! There’s just not nearly enough in the genre. I enjoy watching a character, heroine or otherwise, come into their confidence, particularly when it comes to their sexuality. But I also want to see more stories where they’re already *there*, know what they want, and give zero fucks about demanding it. CONSENSUALLY, of course!

KT: Consent is ALWAYS sexy.

I remember a tweet from a female reader a while ago who said, “I don’t want to read extreme kink. I just want to read what I like in bed.” And I totally understand what she wants. Sexually dominant heroines seem to generally appear in erotic romance and they’re often in the role of a dominatrix. What I’m looking for is a strong female main character (MC) who takes that dominant streak into the bedroom, without the leather, whips and chains. It doesn’t need to be erotica, although I won’t pass that up, I want a contemporary romance that shows a loving couple where the man is submissive in bed sometimes, but equal in the relationship. I think it’s more realistic to switch it up, sometimes he’ll lead too if she lets him 😉

Jen: Agreed. Just like it doesn’t have to be virgin or whore, or these extreme dichotomies, it doesn’t have to be dominant or submissive. I’m glad that exists in stories and for people to read, but I am interested in strong, equal women that are clear about what they want, and their partners are responsive to it. It doesn’t have to be extreme.

KT: I think this sexual confidence could be linked to age, giving less fucks and knowing what you like after failures in previous relationships. So, along with dominant heroines I want to read older MCs. The gender of MCs is not important here. I just want them older – in their 40s ideally. I want MCs who have changed as they and their relationships have aged. Women want different things in their 40s than they did in their 20s. Right? Or maybe it’s just me who feels a little more like I want to read about a man willing to get on his knees, rather than demanding the woman gets on hers?

Jen: That last sentence. Forever and ever.

TBQ: *makes incoherent sound* Yes.

beginner's luckKT: Lol! I’m totally over cold, asshole alphas as well. I’ve read some amazing cinnamon-roll heroes in 2017 (Kate Clayborn’s ‘Beginner’s Luck’ stands out). I still like an alpha male but just stop being a twat! I thought Kristen Ashley had a return to form with ‘The Hookup’, and there wasn’t an asshole in sight. I want cinnamon roll heroes – MCs who love to care for their lovers, MCs who are gentle and cuddly as well as hot and sexy. Olivia Dade collated a list of books with cinnamon roll heroes. She also coined the phrase, which works for me. We want more, please!

Jen: I’m pretty sure I have a higher alphahole tolerance than others, because I’m mostly in it for the heroines. I can pretty much read whatever as long as she’s his match. But I definitely NEVER WANT TO READ ABOUT ANOTHER BILLIONAIRE. EVER.

KT: I hear you, sister! I haven’t read a billionaire story all year.

Jen: I want books that expand readers’ understanding of social justice issues. This is important to me, and I’ve talked about it before on Twitter. Sometimes, the push back I get is that “I just want romance to be fantasy.” Honestly, this just seems like such a shitty cop out to me. We all know that romance has dramatically changed the way it deals with consent, sex positivity, and body issues. Not all books do it well, but the goal posts are in a different place than they were 10 or 20 years ago. But my guess is that 20 years ago, people complained about changes being made. Remember when it was a big deal to have characters talk about protection and test results before jumping into bed together? I remember some readers complained about that, “But it ruins the mood!” But that has changed. Now it’s weird and upsetting when an author skips that safe sex conversation. And it’s a model for how people can have those conversations with their real life partners. That stuff matters!

KT: Great point. It feels weird to me now if the MCs don’t use a condom or have a safe sex talk beforehand. In fact, I start to get anxious!

Jen: So why is it so hard to imagine that every book about a cop would mention de-escalation training or issues around race and policing? Think about what a difference that could make in the minds of readers. We know that reading fiction makes people more empathetic. I wish more authors were in tune to the differences they could make in the world.

Illegal Contact coverAnd I don’t think that it has to be a major plot point. I was just reading ‘Illegal Contact’ by Santino Hassell. The main character that’s a football player mentions how he has to grapple with the ways football will damage his body and brain. He mentions that there is racial injustice in endorsements, etc. It’s not heavy-handed! I want more books like that. I’m stealing a line from an upcoming review of mine that doesn’t come out until mid-January: I can’t help but wonder if the books, movies, and television shows that refuse to talk about social justice have created millions of people who refuse to do the same.

KT: I think there’s a fine balance to be achieved because reading romance is an escape for some readers, BUT that doesn’t mean that authors can’t introduce more social issues. Like you say, Jen, some authors do it with a light hand already and, like the safe sex issue 20 years ago, I believe others will follow. In another few years, hopefully, it will seem just as normal as the hero rolling on a condom.

Jen: I was really pissy at the end of the year when I started counting statistics for “Best of” lists from USA Today Happy Ever After blog. The 6 columnists recommended 93 books by 82 different authors, and as far as I can tell, there were only 5 authors of color on the whole list (and by the way, 3 of those were for YA books that aren’t romances). To put that in perspective there were 4 male authors on the list. There were almost more MALE authors on the list than female authors of color! This is a list of best romances, and there are more men on your lists? And Santino Hassell was not one of those men? There were only 3 queer books, and only one was by an #OwnVoices author. Those stats are dismal and infuriating, and for a publication calling itself USA TODAY, a fucking embarrassment. I want white readers to stop reading books only by white authors. I want them to recognize that those worlds create a harmful and false narrative about the world. I want READERS to do better. And I for the life of me cannot fucking figure out how to make that happen.

KT: My horizons have been broadened immensely by Twitter, but the percentage of readers on there must be so small. Main media outlets need to pick it up. Maybe submit some ideas to them?

Jen: I don’t want USA Today to hire me. They don’t need another white lady like me, no matter how great I am (lol, JK), they need to hire multiple women of color to be columnists for them. I mean, obviously, I want a wider readership because I like my work and have an ego. But working for USA Today I’m interested in, and it’s not the answer. The greatest thing about working for someone else is that I actually have NO IDEA how many people read my reviews. Sometimes TBQ will send me a little note that says, “Oh, 200 people read that!” and that sounds like a lot to me. But I have no idea and that works for me just fine.

TBQ: LOL! Honestly it has no real relevance outside of “this post did great, this one didn’t get many views”; I have no idea what other sites see for page view numbers, and frankly I’m okay with not comparing myself to them — or at least trying not to! But I totally get your point. Just wanted to explain the numbers things a bit. 🙂

Jen: I like the comparing our numbers to ourselves. Like we’re competing against our own best time, or whatever the appropriate sports metaphor would be.

TBQ: Exactly!

One thing I would love to see more of is curvy/fat characters — and not just limited to heroines! — across the board. BODY POSITIVE stories, not some fatphobic, body-shaming bullshit. But you know what I really want? A good romantic suspense with a plus-size heroine; maybe she and the hero are FBI or CIA or something similar. Because if a skinny heroine can say “Oh no, I’m so out of shape, I eat doughnuts every day and never so much as take a quick jog!” and still manage to run from the bad guys A “FAT” WOMAN CAN TOO. So don’t go giving me that shit as a reason why only skinny heroines belong in romantic suspense.

When I did the post for curvy heroines earlier in the year, I had a ton of suggestions from readers . . . and literally, zero romantic suspense with curvy heroines. So yeah, that’s what I want.

KT: Give me some cellulite, stretch marks and less than perky bits while fighting crime!! I would totally read that.

Jen: I actually think this one is related to yours, TBQ. Which is I wish that everyone wasn’t perfectly beautiful and I especially wish there were non-gorgeous men. I feel like every guy is just the most handsome man ever, and I would love to read a book with just like a regular looking guy.

TBQ: Yes! Give the “average” guy a romance, too! I don’t need all the heroes to be supermodels. Seriously, I rarely even pay attention to the physical descriptions, never really imagine a specific actor or whatever, so just give me the normal guy’s story, too, authors!

KT: Yep. This may be going off on a bit of a tangent, but I’m REALLY over the book covers that just show a male torso. There have been some great covers recently that have caught my eye specifically because they don’t have a naked male torso on them. Shelly Ellis’ new series ‘Maclaine Girls’ really stands out as a brilliant example, alongside Elyse Springer’s ‘Seasons of Love’ series. A million male torsos have long since merged into one in my mind. Publishers need to know, that more often than not, I scroll past them now.

TBQ: This is more trope related than anything else but I want more rivals-to-lovers romances. All gender pairings. Give me rival chefs or bakers or, I don’t know, mechanics or something. ANYTHING. This brought to you by my reading of Hassell’s ‘Down by Contact’ which has this trope (football players) and it reminded me how much I adore it. It’s out there, of course, but I just want mooooooore.

The Hating Game coverJen: Having just read and loved ‘The Hating Game’, I can only concur. Enemies to lovers is SO GREAT and I would read it all day long.

TBQ: *happy noise* That book . . . Okay, don’t get off track again, TBQ. Stop!

KT: ‘The Hating Game’ is a ridiculously brilliant example of my favourite trope and Hassell does a fantastic job of it in ‘Illegal Contact’. I’m with you 100%. Give me more.

Jen: I’m trying to think about what other tropes I am thirsty for. Maybe bodyguards? I love a good bodyguard romance. I would LOVE a bodyguard romance with a female bodyguard and a nerdy little dude. He is in possession of some coding thing and a mega-corporation wants to kill him. She has to protect him, but he finds hidden reserves of strengths, and together they bring down the bad guys.

Okay, other things I want in no particular order: books with female athletes rather than male athletes; people with cats as pets instead of dogs; MCs with jobs other than CEOs, chefs, or tattoo artists; more books with loving parental figures and happy families; more interracial or multi-ethnic families and partnerships; and finally, more sex in elevators and libraries so I can write more posts about them. But I think that’s it.

KT: You can never have too much sex in elevators and libraries – lol!

Okay, so to sum up… reading back over what we’ve talked about, the main thing that jumps out at me, is that we want to read books that are in a sense more realistic. We don’t necessarily want to read about people who look perfect, because we don’t and we’re more than okay with that. Our world is far from ideal, so we want people to write about that, and show us that love can and will prevail despite it. A lot of what we want already exists. We just want more of it, please. More diversity, more sexually confident heroines, and less ignoring the shit that happens, the struggles that people face and the social injustices in our world. This can be done without depressing the hell out of readers. We still want the romance to be the central story, we just want the world around those MCs to reflect what’s going on in our own.

2017 was a great reading year. Here’s hoping or wishing that 2018 is even better. 

Let us know what you’d like to read in 2018.

Whatever you choose – happy reading!

****

You can find Jen ,  The Book Queen and KT on Twitter talking about all things romance.

 

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Best New-To-Me Authors 2017

Well, 2017 has been a difficult year for many reasons and so it would be easy to move into 2018 feeling despondent and pissed off. However, one thing gives me hope… all the amazing books that romance authors keep producing.

I found some great new-to-me authors this year, and that’s what I’m going to share with you here, along with my top picks of their books. The books weren’t necessarily published this year, but they’ve all meant a great deal to me as I’ve read them through the shit-storm that has been 2017.

So here goes in no particular order…

Key: m/f = male / female pairing     m/m = male / male pairing

Emily Larkin (Baleful Godmother series) – Unmasking Miss Appleby. Historical with a touch of magic plus woman dressed as man trope m/f – Emily Larkin is my find of the year! This book is free, so if you don’t do anything else today, click on this link and have a look at this book. It’s awesome! I’m working my way through the series and they’re all wonderful.

unmnasking miss appleby

Robin CovingtonHis Convenient Husband contemporary m/m. NFL player and male ballerina – marriage of convenience trope. I loved these guys and the cast of diverse external characters.

Santino Hassell & Megan Erickson (Cyberlove series) – Fast Connection contemporary m/m – older man / younger man trope. Hot and steamy but packed full of emotion. This whole series is fantastic.

Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn (Art & Soul Book 1) – Permanent Ink contemporary m/m – older man / younger man trope. Sexy, tattooed, bearded, silver fox. Did I mention sexy? Just check out the cover below.

permanent ink

Anyta SundayLeo Loves Aries contemporary m/m – roomies fall in love. This book is SO sweet. This is still free at the time of writing.

Lucy ParkerAct Like It contemporary m/f – enemies to lovers in London’s theatre world. Wonderful, witty banter between the MCs and a heroine you can’t help but root for.

Talia HibbertBad for the Boss contemporary m/f interracial office romance. Beautiful black woman / Asian man. Sexy, real and endearing characters with a great storyline.

Kati WildeGoing Nowhere Fast NA contemporary m/f – road trip, enemies to lovers and best friend’s brother. What more could you want?! £1.79 at the time of writing – DEAL!

Kate Clayborn’s debut – Beginner’s Luck contemporary m/f – shy introvert scientist falls for the man trying to recruit her to a big company. Ben is one of the most beautifully written beta heroes I’ve read this year.

beginner's luck

Zoe York (Pine Harbor series) – Love on a Summer Night contemporary m/f – this whole series is great, there was just something about Zander Minelli *sigh* that put him on this list.

Mariana ZapataWait For It, Under Locke contemporary m/f – slow burners with grumpy, alpha heroes who have soft centres. Both of these books are on my reread shelf. I love them.

Adriana Anders – (Blank Canvas series) – Under Her Skin contemporary m/f – an intriguing retelling of Beauty and the Beast. He’s a blacksmith and she’s running from her past. An amazing debut from this author and it’s 49p at the time of writing and free on audio.

liberating lacey

Jeanette Grey – (Art of Passion series) Nine Kinds of Naughty erotic romance m/f – she’s the boss, he’s her assistant until they get in the bedroom, then it’s role reversal time. Really well written, sexy and emotional. I loved it.

Anne CalhounLiberating Lacey erotic romance m/f – I couldn’t stop thinking about this book for weeks after I read it. AC’s writing is beautiful and the story was mesmerising.

 

 

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There you have it. I hope you find something on my list that tickles your fancy. Here’s hoping that 2018 is an improvement on 2017.

Happy holidays and happy new year!!

KTx

 

First Touch

first touch

She was feeling a little reckless tonight.

Maybe it was the Christmas spirit? Maybe it was the end of another year?

The beat of the music had worked its way through her body until she could feel her pulse pounding in rhythm with it. Sweat trickled down her spine, long hair stuck to her neck, and she knew her makeup had melted off hours ago. She didn’t give a shit. Nobody knew her here. Nobody cared if the normally calm and sedate Natasha Harper was letting loose, wearing clothes a little too tight, a top cut a little too low. Here, she fitted right in. These people were her tribe, even if she was an anonymous member of it.

She was never more aware of her body than when she danced. Every swing of her hips, every turn of her shoulder, every lift of her arms brought her pleasure. She closed her eyes and felt the music permeate her skin and move into her muscles. Her hips moved, every bounce on the beat, as she felt her shoulders and back, roll and flex.

God! It felt good. Powerfully good.

Her every sense was alive and it was almost too much.

Once a month she left her life at the nightclub door and dived into the sound, the energy, and she forgot for a short time what people expected of her. She forgot about everything she couldn’t have.

And every time he was here.

Opening her eyes to that thought her hungry gaze sought him out.

Dressed in a dark t-shirt and jeans, he was completely still in an ocean of moving bodies. A couple of fingers held the long neck of the beer bottle nonchalantly by his side.

Dampening her lips, Natasha waited for him to take a drink. She loved to watch his head go back, his throat muscles move as he swallowed. She wanted to taste him there, salt and cologne, as she ran her tongue over his skin. She might even take a bite.

The bottle lowered, but his eyes didn’t. She wanted him to watch and that’s what he did. His heated gaze stayed locked on her as she turned around. She knew he would follow her hips as they swayed and rocked. His own personal metronome, beating out an untouchable rhythm.

Closing her eyes, she raised her arms in the air and felt her body stretch and undulate, reaching for and holding every beat of the music, before she let it go and took hold of the next one.

She danced for herself, she danced for him. And it was enough.

It had to be enough. Anything else would mean breaking every rule she’d set herself when she decided to come here for the first time. Arrive alone. Leave alone. No strangers could know who she was outside of here.

Natasha turned to face him, needing to see him. Knowing he was watching seemed… insubstantial tonight – she had to see his eyes. Continuing to dance, she found herself closer than she’d realised. Somebody bumped into her back, pushing her forward a little more until she was less than a couple of metres away from him. She watched his eyes widen a little, watched as he turned and placed his beer bottle on a table beside him. Waiting.

As he faced her once again, she could see the hard line of his lips and the dark freckle on his cheekbone, just above the shadow of his stubble, leading to his neat ears and the curls that peeked out behind them.

Her stillness could have been a warning or an invitation. All she knew was that she couldn’t look away. She couldn’t not look at him. She didn’t want to blink. Her body, that had felt so fluid while she danced, now felt tense and ready for flight.

He wouldn’t come to her. She knew that. They had never been this close before while she danced, still, she knew that he would wait for her to make the final move. For how long, she didn’t know, but this game they played seemed to live without an expiration date. She only knew that one day he wouldn’t be here. Only then would she know it was over, that he couldn’t wait for her anymore.

A sense of panic flashed through her body, her chest a clenched fist. The reality of her life, of what she’d allowed herself to become, threatened to suffocate her.

In this place, there was no room for the fears and anxieties of her real life. Here, the dark lights and the music set her free. Here, she could be everything she wanted to be.

So she walked towards him. She saw the question in his eyes but she chose to ignore it. She didn’t want words, she wanted him to touch her, with his mouth on hers and she wanted to taste his skin. She needed to know what it would feel like to have his big hands on her body. She ached to know what it would feel like to be held in his arms.

Now the floodgates had opened, her desires drowned out the rational part of her brain, half-hearted arguments swept away in its reckless, rushing flow.

Standing before him, the music beating in her blood, she lifted her hand and cupped his beautiful face. Her thumb traced lightly over his cheekbone, coming to rest on the freckle that she’d fallen in love with the first time she’d seen it.

His eyes were so intent on her, they looked so deeply inside her that she imagined he knew her every thought, her every fantasy. How she’d danced wanting to feel his hand on her hip, his lips on her neck. How every flex and move had been for him, leading to this moment.

When his fingers closed over her hand on his cheek her heart jolted. Did he not want her to touch him? Was this the cruel rejection she had always been terrified of?

He did lower their hands, but his grip remained firm as he turned and pulled her towards the back of the club. Her heart stumbled into another unsteady rhythm as she wobbled slightly on her heels, desperate to stay with him. The crowd that had seemed such a comforting presence only minutes before now seemed to stand in her way. He pulled her close until her hand came to rest on his back. The supple movement of his lean muscles under her touch sending the heat of arousal flooding to her cheeks.

He swung her into an alcove behind a dark velvet curtain. She had no idea how he’d known it was there. Her nipples brushed against his chest, tightening into hard points as she moved past him. Until her back pressed against the wall in this small cocoon, the music’s beat muffled but still singing in her blood.

She watched the hard line of his lips open a little. There was a softness there now, a willingness to surrender to whatever this was. Her eyes moved up to his, her head fell back as she was pinned to the wall by the hunger in his gaze. This risk that she took didn’t magically disappear with the heat of his body against hers. There was anxiety snaking through her desire for him, but she recognised it for what it was – fear to take what she wanted – fear that she didn’t deserve it.

A silent but powerful “fuck you” rang out in her brain and heart, strong enough this time to push the little shitty doubts back into their box and turn the key.

Tonight, she was going to be reckless. Tonight, she was going to take what she wanted.

She watched her hand curl around the back of his neck. She felt an initial resistance, a final hesitation before he gave in to the pressure she exerted. His hand landed on the wall beside her head, the other came to rest in a burning rush of heat on her hip. Then his lips were on hers, soft and light. A break to pull back, to check. Always so cautious, before, she pulled him back in and took his mouth how she’d longed to for so long.

It was her hunger that drove her. The primal need for contact, to touch and be touched, to lick and taste, to feel that need returned. Her skin was electricity. Sparks of initial discomfort where he touched her starved body, morphed into heated sensation that rapidly became addictive. She couldn’t get close enough, kiss him hard enough.

She felt him say her name against her lips before he nudged her face to the side so he could move to devour her neck. Eyes closed, her knees nearly gave out when he hit a spot halfway down. Her fingers gripped his hair. She didn’t know if she wanted to push him away or hold him against her forever. Her nerve endings sang with agonising delight. It was too much and not enough. She wanted more but never wanted to leave this exact place or this exact moment.

Him.

His lips moved to the shell of her ear, his breath a warm caress.

“Tell me you want this.”

Turning her head, relishing the weight of him against her body, her lips rested against his ear.

“Yes.” There was no hesitation. No going back, not now that she had had this first touch.

“I’m taking you home.”

“Yes.” God, yes, please!

His breath warm on her skin.

“To my bed.”

Her tongue licked into the shell of his ear before she whispered, “Please.” His growl of approval vibrated through his hard chest into her heart that beat so strongly against his.

He drew back to look at her. “Natasha, you know I have to resign.”

She jerked a little as real-life slapped her around the face. It was a statement rather than a question. She’d hoped they could have this night before he brought it up. No matter how prepared she was, the thought of him no longer being her bodyguard hurt her in ways she didn’t know how to deal with. Regret attempted to seep into her mind, but she tried to hold it at bay.

“I know you do,” she replied, really hoping he didn’t notice the way her voice trembled, or that she was struggling to meet his eyes now. Fear was such a bitch. It took all your pleasure, your happiness, your certainty and turned it into cold, grey ash.

“Look at me, Tasha.” Fingers of one hand pushed into her hair, the other cupped her face as her reluctant gaze met his. “I’m not going anywhere. Do you understand? Nothing in this world could keep me from being by your side – if that’s where you want me to be.”

The honesty and pure emotion with which he said those words swept through her mind and body leaving only warmth and light in its wake.

It had taken three years, but she couldn’t regret any of the doubt or loneliness. Not when this was her reward. Not when she finally had the freedom to tell him everything. All the little things: how she loved that his eyes danced with laughter over a shared joke, even when he had to keep a straight face in public. Or the big things like how he always made her feel welcome in his space, like by being there she made his world better, brighter. And how that meant everything.

His eyes smiled into hers. “I need to make up for all the times we denied ourselves. I want to move aside your blouse and kiss your collarbone while you’re writing, wrap my arms around you whenever you look sad, eat breakfast together, drink decaf coffee before bed, hold you close as you fall asleep each night.” His thumb ran across her lips. “I want to watch you come undone for me, Tasha. I want to see what happens when we don’t have to hold back anymore.”

She shivered with anticipation, suddenly unable to wait another second.

“Take me home, Jack.”

His mouth tipped up in a smile of satisfaction that mirrored her own as he took her hand and pulled her out of the alcove towards the exit.

Sometimes being a little reckless paid off and sometimes it was good to kick out the old and welcome in the new. It was a feeling of hope that carried her so swiftly through the crowd this time. Their hands locked together, their lives entwined as they moved into the cold, starlit, winter night.

****

Happy holidays, everyone!

KTx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone Needs A Little Help Sometimes

For various reasons, writing has been hard for me this year. I finished my first manuscript early in the year and took a bit of a break before I started planning my second.

I’ve never been a very thorough planner. I’ve had vague outlines before, but I’ve always been a pantster at heart. For this second story I set about finding a good way to plan, because everything I’d tried before had fallen flat. My main aim: to write faster.

romancing the beat coverLike every aspiring writer,  I’ve read various blog posts and books about writing craft, but nothing really seemed to fit writing romance. Then during my Twitter time, I noticed that several published authors who I read or follow on Twitter kept recommending Gwen Hayes’ book, ‘Romancing the Beat’ – Story Structure for Writing Romance. Or as Gwen calls it ‘Writing Kissing Books‘.

To say that this book is a revelation is an understatement.

I bought the paperback because I like to highlight and write on stuff. I could’ve highlighted the entire book! Her writing style is funny and often irreverent. She’s a successful romance author in her own right, as well as an editor to others. So, as far as I’m concerned, she’s the person I wanted to be ‘talking’ to.

An extract from the blurb captures the uniqueness of writing romance: “Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre—something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc—not the other way around.”

A lightbulb went off in my head and suddenly everything made sense. Gwen then takes you through twenty romance beats, split into four easy to follow sections. I duly bought some index cards in four different colours –  they’re so pretty – and planned my second book.

Below is an example of the first phase of beats:

gwen c

PDF available on her website just click the image

It still wasn’t easy to plan my writing because I struggle to see the story very clearly until I’m writing it. I’m pretty sure that’s something that I’ve just got to accept about myself. However, I have now got a SOLID outline and I know where my MCs need to be emotionally at each beat in the story.

So as I’m writing, I can change and fiddle with the setting or characters in a scene without altering too much because I’m following the overall plan. It’s genius, really.

I thought that planning meant I couldn’t be flexible and go off on an interesting tangent if I wanted to, but actually, it gives me the freedom to do that, knowing that I’m not going to get lost.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you’re trying to write kissing books.

Happy writing,

KTx

Laid Bare

Daisy Morris tapped her fingers on the porch railing, took a long drink of her wine and continued to fume. It might be freeze-your-nips-off weather here in North London, but she wasn’t feeling the cold. Her ire was evaporating the snow in mid-air.

She’d had to drag herself out to her parents’ annual Christmas party tonight. If it hadn’t been six months since her previous visit, she probably would’ve bailed. She’d stared at her PJs for ten minutes, before, with a little pathetic sob, she’d shoved them under her duvet and got dressed to come here.

She hadn’t wanted to come because she’d known – oh, she’d known – what would be waiting for her here. Every year it was the same, just in different outfits. Cardboard cutouts of what her mother thought she should be doing with her life. And every cardboard cutout that was presented to her carried a placard saying: ‘Your life isn’t good enough.’

You aren’t good enough.

This year it was financial advisor Kevin Shaw, with his side parting, chinos and checked, button down shirt. She’d lasted just under five minutes before she’d snorted in disgust and walked away. She didn’t have to look at her mother to see the angry disappointment in her eyes. The familiarity of it was tattooed in her brain. The knowledge of it a tight knot in her chest.

“What are you doing out here? It’s freezing.”

Matt O’Connor, great. Her humiliation was complete. Daisy closed her eyes and prayed for patience.

Not bothering to look at him she said, “I’m fine. Go back in.”

Completely ignoring her, he stepped beside her. “I saw you talking to Kevin what’s-his-face. I timed it: you lasted four minutes and twenty-nine seconds.”

Still not looking at him, she huffed out a laugh and muttered, “I knew it.”

“Would I be right in saying he didn’t ring your bell?”

“Please, don’t talk about my bell.”

Matt laughed softly. It was like the palm of his hand stroking over the curve of her behind. Rolling her eyes discreetly, she stomped her feet and shook off the feeling.

After a quiet moment he said, “Jesus, your mother is relentless. You need to tell her to stop.”

“What? You mean you don’t think I should be more accommodating?”

Matt snorted his amusement.

“Jack’s laying bets that you’re going to stop coming around.”

Her brother could well win that bet.

“Tell your best mate he can sod off.” She tried to take another drink and realised it was empty. She needed a refill. “And I want fifty percent of any money he makes off me.”

Finally turning her head to look at him, she found him grinning, his dark blues eyes sparkling down at her.

“Will do,” he said taking a drink from his bottle of beer.

It took a while for him to look away.

She rolled her shoulders.

They both stood quietly looking out at the softly falling snow. The white blanket covering the ground looked pristine and perfect. She wanted to run through it and churn it all up.

“What are you going to do?”

“About my mum?”

“Yeah, she needs to back off or she’s going to lose you.” He cleared his throat and took another drink. “I can see how close you are to saying ‘fuck it!’”

“Wouldn’t you?”

“Probably, but then I have the opposite problem. No one gives a shit who I date.”

She’d bet money there were words literally carved into the tip of her tongue.

Instead, she said, “Lucky you.”

He shrugged as he raised the bottle to his mouth. “Not so much.” Taking a final drink before setting the bottle down on the table beside him.

Her head turned at his overly nonchalant tone.

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself!” she snapped. “No-one’s questioning your life choices, your career, your age, your single status. No-one’s pressuring you to get married and have a kid or six. No-one’s looking at you and pitying you. No-one’s interfering in your goddamn life.”

She took a deep, shaky breath. “You can do whatever the hell you want and no-one will question it because you’ve got a dick.”

“Hey! Leave my dick out of it. Especially when you’re so angry. He’s scared and doesn’t know how to deal with that much aggression.”

She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing and gave him the side-eye. “Well, your dick’s blatantly never lived. There’s nothing wrong with a good bout of sexual aggression.”

“Is it weird that that turns me on?”

“Oh, forgodsake, Matt!” She laughed, her eyes drawn to him. She hated how he always made her feel better.

He waggled his eyebrows. “I can just see you in heels and a corset with a crop in your hand, right now.”

Ok, hold on, there’s no way he could know about that, right?

She gave what she hoped was a convincing laugh. “You wish.”

“I do actually.”

Her heart stopped. Literally stopped. Then did a huge, alarming thud in her chest before continuing to pump an overload of adrenaline around her body.

“You might have to work up to the crop though.”

“What the hell?” she said quietly as she turned to him.

“I think we should start off steady. You know go out on a few dates before you-”

“This isn’t funny,” she whispered hastily, finally meeting his eyes. The humour she’d expected wasn’t there. Well, it was, but it was muted. There was an intensity though that made the hairs stand up on the back of her neck.

What was happening?

She suddenly felt laid bare, naked, under a spotlight on a stage; her needs and desires available for everyone to see. To be dissected and analysed, pitied and dismissed.

“I don’t know what you think you know, but…” She watched a snowflake melt from his hair and run down his temple, “… you don’t know it.”

Well, that told him.

His cheek creased in a smile and the drop of water ran off on a different course.

“I know plenty, Daisy Morris.”

“No. You. Don’t.”

She dared him with her eyes to push this. Normally it worked. This time, she was more than a little shaken to see that he was picking up the gauntlet.

His body turned and moved into hers. She wanted to step back but the body that she’d always prided for its control remained rigidly still. Waiting.

She watched his hand move slowly towards her face and flinched when his cold fingers touched her cheek, sliding over her cheekbone to her temple, and into her hair. Every millimetre of her skin felt like it was suffering from a static shock. Too much sensitivity: too much anticipation.

There had never been a moment when she didn’t want him, but after watching the third, fourth, fifth sweet, unassuming girlfriend paraded past her, there had come the realisation that she would never be what he needed. The loneliness that had taken up residence in her heart a long, long time ago was a permanent fixture now. A deep crevasse with his name on it. That was the price she’d paid for refusing to compromise who she was and she was more than ok with that. Most of the time.

But now he was touching her and looking at her like she was more than just Daisy Morris, his best friend’s sister.

What the ever loving hell?

“What are you doing?” She wished her voice sounded stronger.

“What I should’ve had the guts to do years ago.”

She shook her head. “No! You don’t get to do this. You don’t get to mess everything up.”

His other hand came up to hold her head still. “Nothing’s going to get messed up.”

She’d never seen him so intent, so serious. Her gaze was locked with his and he could see everything. She could see the knowledge in his eyes.

She tried to pull away. A last ditch attempt to respond to her survival instinct that was telling her to get the fuck out of there. “I can’t do this.”

His fingers tightened infinitesimally.  A flicker of fear within the deep blue. She realised she could see everything too.

She held very still, her eyes burning with the need to blink, but she wanted to see it all. The tension around his eyes, the firm set of his beautifully shaped mouth, the tick in his cheek that revealed his clenched jaw.

She blinked and whispered. “What is this?”

His nostrils flared a little as he took a deep breath, but his eyes never left her face. She felt them travel over her lips, felt the skin burn in the winter night.

“This is me trying to persuade you that we should be together, that you should take a chance on me. I want you just the way you are, Daisy. I don’t want you to change a goddamn thing.”

“Oh.” The wave of acceptance stole her breath and her words.

His dark eyebrows shot up. “Is that it?”

Her brain stuttered. “I need a minute.”

“Why? We’ve already wasted years.” He stepped closer, his warm breath a cloud between them in the cold night air. “Kiss me, Daisy. Don’t think right now, just please give me what I’ve needed for so long.”

She didn’t know what to do with the burst of excitement that shot through her body. She was worried she wouldn’t be able to harness it and she’d scare him away, but she couldn’t take her eyes off his mouth.

She was going to have him. She was finally going to kiss him. Here on her parents’ front porch in the freezing cold. Their lips would probably freeze together. Maybe they’d be better off going full Eskimo and rubbing noses? She tried to suppress the slightly hysterical laughter that wanted to escape.

He must have seen the hysteria because his fingers spread behind her neck and began to draw reassuring circles. They felt good, but the worry she saw in his eyes didn’t.

Her spine straightened. Her eyes fixed on his and she let him see her decision. She didn’t want there to be any doubt. She watched the lines of tension around his eyes relax. She watched his lips soften and open a little, felt her mouth water with anticipation.

“Come here.” Her words clear and sure.

Stepping into him, she brought their bodies together and curled her hand around the back of his neck. She briefly felt the juxtaposition of his familiarity and the strangeness of holding him as a lover, but it soon passed as she concentrated on his mouth. She felt his hands fall to her back, holding her close.

Bringing their mouths together, feeling the soft heat of his lips, she fell into their kiss.

He followed her lead, opened his mouth and let her taste him. He gave her a little moan to keep when she pressed him closer, kissed him deeper. She couldn’t go easy. It wasn’t a pretty kiss, teeth clashed and lips were bitten. Eventually, she pulled back to see his glazed eyes and trace his red, puffy lips with her thumb. His tongue flicked out to lick the tip and she had to lock her knees.

“You want this?”

“Yes,” he breathed.

Reading the certainty in his eyes, she made her decision.

“One hundred percent or nothing. Do you understand?”

He nodded. “I’m all in. I just want to be yours, Daisy.”

Jesus! She was humbled by his openness. She was going to give him anything he wanted. She could just see it.

“Can you drive?”

“Yeah, I only had that one beer.”

“Good. Go inside and say your goodbyes. I want you at my place in thirty minutes.”

The excitement and eagerness he couldn’t hide made her laugh softly. She watched him walk into the house. He’d need to get better at hiding that.

 

O’Shea’s #8 – Into Dust (m/m)

I am writing a series of flash fiction pieces set in O’Shea’s Pub. See Romantic Flash Fiction Anyone? for more information. Here’s the eighth one. Older brother’s best friend trope (male / male). It’s a little longer than the others. I hope you enjoy it.

osheas-edited

Each step Sam had taken from home to O’Shea’s had dredged up every idiotic, stupid thing he’d ever done in front of Nate Jackson. Why, oh why, he thought, as he stomped his way down the street, couldn’t he have just declined the invite for this birthday get together tonight?

Nate was his brother’s best friend, he would’ve gotten over it. Maybe.

Nate would more than likely bring his latest boy and he’d be wide eyed and stunning like all the rest, and Sam would end up sitting there, smiling and resorting to quietly plotting gruesome deaths for the latest characters he was writing.

It didn’t help that there was a little masochistic voice in the back of his head saying, “It doesn’t matter that he remembers your spotty phase, or that time you accidentally mooned him when the elastic went on your trunks… and he saw your pride in tatters when Josh Hardy dumped you just before Valentine’s Day in 2005. You’re going to see him for the first time in six months. That’s all that matters. Seeing Nate.”

Six months. They’d never gone that long without seeing each other before. But after the last time he’d just had enough.

He couldn’t deal with seeing him and not being able to… God! What did he want? To call Nate his? To know he had the right to touch him – to go home with him – wake up with him?

They’d talked and laughed over a few pints of beer; the banter had been amazing. For the first time in forever they’d both been single and in the same city at the same time, he’d thought, he’d really thought that it might be their chance.

Then a couple of his friends turned up from work and one of them was a jacked blonde who blatantly had his knowing eyes set on Nate. Sam had felt such a heavy wave of weariness wash over him. Looking back he realised it had taken him under and swept all the fight out of him.

He’d given up. He wasn’t proud of that and it triggered the uncomfortable thought that maybe he’d given up too many times over the years.

Now, Sam wondered if that wave had washed all the good memories away, leaving him with only the embarrassing moments catalogued in his brain. They ran on a loop as he made his way into O’Shea’s and apparently there was no way to hit STOP.

With pale cheeks already flushed from the cool Spring wind, they immediately started to heat up from the rush of warmth in the Irish pub. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was going to be beyond excruciating.

He needed beer and lots of it – maybe even tequila.

Dragging himself to the bar, he tugged off his grey beanie, finger combed his short black hair into some semblance of respectability and shoved it into his coat pocket, purposefully not looking around. He needed a minute to gather himself and find his smile.

A chaotic mixture of emotions swarmed through him, anger at missed opportunities, devastation each time he’d watched Nate with another man, joy for all the laughter and good times they’d shared. Hell, he’d probably still be stuck in a closet somewhere if it weren’t for Nate.

His clenched fist pressed against the cold ache in his chest. He needed some tequila fire – stat – and he needed to get over this shit and move on. Some budding form of what felt like resolve started to straighten his spine.

Enough was enough. Maybe tonight could be the start of a new phase, a cleansing of all the emotions that held him back?

Ben, O’Shea’s bartender headed over with a smile.

“S’up, Ben.”

“What can I get for you?”

“Tequila me!”

Ben’s dark eyebrows shot up. “What’s got you riled up?”

“I’m about to put myself through hell. I need some help.” He slapped his hand on the bar. “Lay it on me.”

“Make that two,” demanded a low voice behind him.

Sam closed his eyes and winced. Struggling to swallow in his dry throat, he tried unsuccessfully to look nonchalant as he turned to greet the man who was spurring him toward tequila.

“Hello, Nate, How’s it going?”

Barely able to meet his dark brown eyes, Sam couldn’t stop his gaze from taking in every beloved detail of Nate’s familiar face. The stubble on his strong jaw that outlined his full lips made Sam lick his own, he couldn’t help it.

The light dusting of freckles high on his cheek bones that he’d always wanted to trace with his tongue. His stomach lurched as he was reminded how completely out of reach Nate was. Turning back to the bar he took hold of the salt that Ben had set up for him, licked the inside of his wrist and tapped a bit onto his moist skin.

Nate coughed. “Give a guy some warning, would you?”

Frowning, he stopped his arm as it was halfway to his mouth and glanced over his shoulder again. “What?”

His big, warm hand took hold of Sam’s forearm. “I want to lick it off.”

He couldn’t have heard him right. A grating, awkward laugh slipped out of his mouth and he shrugged Nate’s hand off his arm; a strange mix of uncertainty and excitement shimmering over his skin.

“Get your own tequila, buddy.” He licked the salt, maybe, possibly a little slower than he would’ve done normally and tossed the tequila back, welcoming the familiar warmth through his body and into his empty stomach. Closing his eyes as the sourness of the lime exploded in his mouth, he wondered what the hell to do next.

“I’ve never wanted to be a slice of lime more in my life,” Nate said roughly.

“Pardon?!” Sam coughed out. “Are you drunk already?”

“Come on,” he demanded, taking Sam’s hand. “We need to talk.”

“We do? Nate! What is wrong with you?” He hissed as Nate dragged him through the crowd back to the door of O’Shea’s.

Outside the cold blast of air mixed strangely with the warmth still coursing through his body from the tequila. He felt outside of himself, like an observer to whatever drama was about to unfold. Nate’s warm, rough hand gripped his own and Sam didn’t understand why he had hold of him so tight, but it felt good so he left it there.

Allowing Nate to lead him around the corner into a narrow alley, Sam eventually felt the rough wall at his back as the hot wall of Nate’s body moved towards him. He tore his stare from Nate’s broad chest up to rich, brown eyes that were looking pretty heated.

Sam narrowed his eyes at him. “Why are you so pissed off with me?”

Nate narrowed his eyes back. “Why are you so damn blind?!”

His eyes widened in surprise. “What?”

Nate shoved his hand through his thick, unruly hair. “Why did you need that tequila?”

“I-”

“Why is it hell for you to come see me for my birthday?”

A stab of guilt. “Nate-”

“I haven’t seen you for six months, Sam. Six months. We’ve never gone that long without seeing each other.”

“I’ve been busy,” he answered sharply, and I didn’t want to know if you went home with the blonde, he thought bitterly. Pissed off with himself for even making that a possibility when he’d left so suddenly that night. The anger in Nate’s words vibrated like an arrow in Sam’s chest. He felt a knot of irritation start to form where the arrow pierced him and his defenses rose.

He took a breath in preparation.

“What do I have to do to get you to see me?”

Sam blinked and exhaled a gust of air as Nate’s soft words crashed through his brain. Too late he saw the hurt in his eyes and the tension around his beautiful mouth. What the hell was happening? What had he missed?

“Nate, I…” He shook his head, trying to figure out what this meant, but a lifetime of doubts and longing, unrequited feelings and humiliating attempts to get his attention were blocking his synapses.

“Shit!” Nate shoved his hands in his jean pockets and hunched his shoulders. “I thought… I thought this was the right time. Looks like I was wrong.”

He took his eyes away from Sam to stare at the wall behind him. Sam felt goose bumps spread over his skin and a painful jolt of panic made his heart thud as Nate began to turn away.

“Nate,” he whispered. Barely believing.

“Don’t worry about it, Sam, I… just forget I said anything, ok?”

Nate’s brittle smile hurt his heart as he began to move away from Sam, along with a burst of indignation.

“Hold on a minute!” He puffed out a frustrated breath when Nate stopped but didn’t turn to face him. “You can’t just spring this on me and expect me to instantly know what to say. When have I ever known what to say in mortifyingly awkward situations?”

Slowly, so slowly, Nate turned to him with his eyebrows raised. “Mortifyingly awkward? Gee thanks,” he said dryly.

Sam shrugged nonchalantly, but inside he was just starting to think about pumping his fist in celebration. “I need you to be a little clearer, Nate. I’m not admitting anything until you’ve stated plainly exactly what you want.”

He could give him that at least.

“So you’ve got things you want to admit then?” He asked, clearly stalling and looking a little hopeful.

Sam waved his hand dismissively. “Tell me what you want: slowly and clearly, please.”

Nate took a step closer, then another. “You want it slowly and clearly?”

“Yeah,” Sam said a little croakily. God he was just so… Ungh!

A gust of wind swirled down the alley, plastering Nate’s dark grey t-shirt across his torso and whipping his hair into disarray.

His hands came to rest on the wall either side of Sam’s head and he felt every last ounce of that resolve crumble into dust at his feet. He gave it an enthusiastic kick and scattered it in the wind.

“You’re sure you can handle another mortifyingly awkward moment?” Nate asked softly with a glint in his eyes.

Sam felt his whole body go pliant and loose, but managed to nod as Nate’s head lowered until his lips rested by Sam’s ear. His eyes closed as Nate’s warm breath caressed his skin. A long, sumptuous shiver stroking down his spine.

Finally, he said the words Sam had waited a lifetime to hear.

“You. I want you.”

 

 

A List For Those Who Love A Librarian In Their Romance

librarian

A while ago, I put out a quick request on Twitter for librarian heroes and heroines. My phone nearly exploded with comments and RTs! I love Romance Twitter – everyone is just so enthusiastic about sharing their love of books.

I got so many recs that I decided to make a list and share it. Some I already had, but over 25 came from Twitter. So if you’re in the mood for some sexy librarian action – this is the list for you.

I’ve already read several of these books since they were recommended to me, and they were all great. I particularly loved Anne Calhoun’s ‘The Seal’s Rebel Librarian’.

I hope you find something that you’re looking for…

Enjoy!

****

Don’t Stop Believing by Gwen Hayes (m/m)

Olivia Dade’s Lovestruck Librarians series:

Broken Resolutions

My Reckless Valentine

Mayday

Ready To Fall

Driven To Distraction

Hidden Hearts

Taking The Heat by Victoria Dahl

Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl

Fanning The Flames by Victoria Dahl

Hard Times by Cara McKenna (m/f)

Breathe by Kristen Ashley (m/f)

Taken with you by Shannon Stacey

Best Kind of Trouble by Lauren Dane

What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss

Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy (fantasy)

The Gift by Tiffany Reisz (can’t find the link for some reason).

Busted by Shiloh Walker

Rock Addiction (Rock Kiss series) by Nalini Singh

A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles (bookseller m/m)

Falling For Trouble by Sarah Title (Librarians in Love series)

Laws of Attraction by Sarah Title (Librarians in Love series)

The Undateable by Sarah Title (Librarians in Love series)

Jaded by Anne Calhoun

The Seal’s Rebel Librarian by Anne Calhoun

Louder Than Love by Jessica Topper

In Too Deep by Portia da Costa

Addicted by Charlotte Stein

Junk by Josephine Myles (m/m)

The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers

Rocky Mountain Devil by Vivian Arend

Deceptions by Cynthia Eden

Royally Matched by Emma Chase

Mister Hockey: Hellions Angels by Lia Riley