Four Love Letters: Sam to Tezza (Serving Side by Side)

This is part of a Valentine’s Day bonus for my fans! Hope you have fun imagining with me how our heroes would celebrate the holiday…which one’s your favorite? Leave me a comment! You can also download these letters as a PDF at the bottom of the page. Enjoy, book buddies! 

Haven’t read Serving Side by Side yet? Curious how I write a character of such few words? You can pre-order the ebook now or read it in Kindle Unlimited on February 23rd! Content warning for death of a spouse and depression on this one, but I promise it’s worth the ride. Sam is one of my sweetest heroes!

Four Love Letters: Edward to Abbie (Chasing Down Her Highness, Breaking Up the Royals)

This is part of a Valentine’s Day bonus for my fans! Hope you have fun imagining with me how our heroes would celebrate the holiday…which one’s your favorite? Leave me a comment! You can also download these letters as a PDF at the bottom of the page. Enjoy, book buddies!

Edward’s adorably nerdy courtship with Abelia is recorded in Chasing Down Her Highness, one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2019 (under its original title).

Princes aren’t used to being ghosted. 

Edward has been patient. Five years. He waited for his best friend (and betrothed) to return home and fulfill the marriage contract they signed. But he can’t wait anymore. Embroiled in a war he fears he can’t win, he must ascend the throne ASAP with Abbie ruling beside him. If he can just reason with her face to face, he knows they can work it out… that is, assuming she’s more reasonable than she used to be.

All Abbie wants is a cup of coffee, her marriage contract voided, and a horse that doesn’t talk. Is that so much for a princess to ask? But when Edward tracks her down, her dreams of a simple, common life go poof. Now she must choose a life of freedom or one of duty. If only Edward wasn’t so dang alluring, the choice might be easier … 

Can an insecure prince and a headstrong princess find enough common ground to fall in love? 

Chasing Down Her Highness is a sweet, modern fantasy take on Cinderella with heart and wit. This five-book series is complete; dive into the mixed-up world of the Rocky Royal Romances today! Content warning: death of a parent. This book was previously published under the title The Ex-Princess. 

It’s reading! It’s aloud! It’s everywhere!

Okay, yes, I know it’s goofy that I had to read you a story for World Read Aloud day, but book buddies, reading aloud is just one of my favorite things ever. I’m looking forward to recording the romance fiction podcast for my next series, Timber Falls, but in the meantime, here’s the soothing sound of my voice. (Quietly, because my kids are asleep down the hall.)

And yes, The Semi-Royal DOES come out next week! Right now, it’s only $0.99, so don’t wait. Whether you’ve been waiting three books for this one or are just picking up the series now, I bet it’ll be one of your favs. And since I got my act together, you can actually pre-order paperbacks for the first time ever! It’ll be cheaper on my website once it comes out, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the links for Amazon and Barnes and Noble…they’re the only ones who’ve got it up as of yet. If you use the Amazon link I’ve provided, I do get a small kickback from them as an affiliate.

HEA Hypothesis: Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray

Hey, book buddy! Good to see you here on my blog. This post is part of a series called HEA Hypothesis, in which I try to dissect and analyze why different scenes in romance novels work well. I was an English major once upon a time, so bear with me as I blow the dust off my skills here. Maybe it’ll even improve my craft? One can only hope.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Our first scene comes from Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray, a Beauty and the Beast retelling set during World War II, which was recommended to me by Helen Kord (@mirabel_chan) on Twitter. She’s also a talented artist, so check out her work! The context is that the parson (part of our couple) has, due to a rainstorm, just visited a very fine mansion, which appeared to be empty. Yet finding the table set and the fires burning with no one at home creeped him out, so he’s decided to head out without eating.

The mist rose high and thick, so that the front wheel seemed to disappear into the fog. The parson felt uneasy as he looked at it, and uneasier still when his gaze fell further and he saw that he could not see his own booted feet in that mist. He looked hastily away. And that was his undoing: for his gaze fell upon the roses again (Chapter Two, Location 138, Gray).

Though we’re familiar with the original story, it’s hard to believe that the author is setting up the meeting of two people (creatures?) who are about to fall in love. Disoriented and afraid, all the parson can see is that he can’t see anything…given that the first level of intimacy is usually checking out the other person’s body, this doesn’t exactly bode well.

It seemed a great pity not to fulfill his promise to his daughter, when there were so many roses here and no one to miss them. The parson propped up his bicycle on the gravel lane, and stole across the grass to the rose hedges lining the drive. The moonlight only enriched their velvet colors. Even in the silvery light the petals glowed wine-red. The parson cupped one red rose in his hand: a flower as vast as a peony, its petals soft as a baby’s skin. His penknife was dull, and it took him some few minutes to saw through the thick thorny stem. His thumb caught and tore on one of the wicked thorns, dripping red blood onto the green grass below.

The author seems to be taking care to show us just how exactly opposite these two are. The adjectives of the dragon’s garden are dripping with wealth symbolism: silvery, velvet, wine, abundance, vastness, softness. Let’s look then at the adjectives surrounding the parson: he steals and props up, sawing like a common laborer rather than snipping or cutting with efficiency due to the dullness of his knife; even his thumb is getting caught like the thief he’s about to be pronounced. Could these two be any more different?

But at last the knife won through. The stem had been sliced jagged, but the rose remained unblemished. The parson lifted it to his nose and took a sniff, and frowned. It did not smell as sweet as he thought it should. But nonetheless he put it tenderly in his buttonhole, and patted it, and turned back toward the path, where the mist shrouded his bicycle. Only one handlebar rose visible above the thick white gauze of fog.

Here’s our poor parson, so poor that he doesn’t even get the victory of winning the rose: the author gives it to the knife instead. What a lovely example of showing instead of telling here: despite the meet disaster that’s about to happen, we’ve just learned that the parson is not easily deterred from what he wants and tolerates imperfection well, with compassion, even. The author gives us just enough hope to get us through the chapter without despairing for these two, and it starts here with revealing his character so beautifully when faced with subverted expectations.

But the moment the parson set foot on the path, the iron gates swung shut. They crashed together with a terrible clang, and the parson stood frozen in surprise and creeping horror. One did not steal the fairies’ flowers either, it seemed. One should not bleed on fairy ground. “Thief!” a great voice roared, and the parson whipped around, looking for the source of it. “Thief! Thief! Thief!” And the parson was covered in shame. Could he have stolen a flower, like a schoolboy scrumping apples? ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I wanted it for my daughter; and your roses are so perfect, I did not stop to think…’

Our parson, faced with his sin, gives us a few truths: he’s sorry (though perhaps only because he was caught?), it was for someone else (true certainly), your roses are perfect (a little cloying, but okay)…but then he does something unexpected: he lies. “I did not stop to think,” he says, even though he overcomes several barriers (the dull knife, the thick mist, an injury to his flesh) in order to succeed at his task, all of which had given him the opportunity to re-evaluate his decision.

Since I have a deep, undying love for beautifully complex, flawed characters, I have a feeling that Ms. Gray and I will get along just fine as I continue to read. If this has piqued your interest, you can get the book in Kindle Unlimited or on Amazon. These are affiliate links, so I’ll get a small kickback if you order them. Very small.

Do you agree with my analysis? Got more to add? Jump into the comments or at me on Twitter and let’s keep the conversation going!

Inking Against Invisibility — Longreads

I loved this. I just can’t even say how much. Yes, it made me cry, because I’ve been there, being told you’re being ridiculous and “that doesn’t happen to people.” But hearing it from someone else’s lips is healing, somehow. And if you haven’t picked up any of Talia’s books yet, I’ll put a link to my favorite at the end.

In the face of chronic pain, invisible illness, and medical discrimination, Talia Hibbert turned to tattoos to reclaim ownership of her body.

Inking Against Invisibility — Longreads