Less Busy, More Nature

With so many things here in the PNW still closed I’ve spent the past several months getting outside as often as I can. Our weather is often rainy right up until July 5th or so, and some years it’s just not feasible to get out there and enjoy some early summer rays.

I’m grateful that this year we’ve had a fair amount of sunshine interspersed with our typical gloom since I’m now using the great outdoors as my gym, therapist’s office, and entertainment source.

Over the past three months I’ve learned how much nature really centers and, much like creativity, it’s also a balm for the soul.

The lush greenery of Washington is also inspiration for a new series I’m working on. Originally I’d planned to set this series in a bustling metropolis, but the past couple months getting back to nature convinced me to create my own world. One where there’s a small college city nestled in the mountains, near water, and that also boasts a burgeoning nightlife scene.

The town of Cascade Falls, Washington has captivated me and I hope it will enthrall my readers as well. Stay tuned over the next couple months, as I share more about Cascade Falls and the people you’ll meet there!

What Will the Post-COVID Romance Hero Look Like?

I’m a life-long romance reader. And I’m old enough to remember the surge in paranormal romance novels that flooded the market in the years following 9/11.

During that time readers couldn’t get enough of supernatural romance heroes. Successful series that launched during this time include The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward and The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer, (both in 2005).

So why was paranormal so hot in the early 2000s? Because we’d lived through watching real-life heroes like police, fire fighters, and military personnel lose their lives to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Post-9/11 we craved a hero that wasn’t of the same world where the brave can fight valiantly and still be helpless to stop bad things from happening.

a man with glasses and dark hair

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last several weeks, and I can’t help but wonder what kind of hero readers will want and authors will write in a post-COVID-19 world. I can see a resurgence in supernatural or paranormal heroes. I can also envision the rise of medical heroes and heroines.

Above all, I think readers are going to continue to turn to the lighter side of romance, like romantic comedies and romance novels that either dial down the angst or at least balance angst with light-hearted settings and sympathetic characters.

Speaking of, stay tuned because I have a series launching at the end of summer that takes place in a bar (a light-hearted setting, indeed!) and the series is filled with ultra fun and sympathetic characters. More on this new series in the coming weeks!

 

Give Me Another Hit of Nostalgia

I’ve been working on a story for a while now. It’s called Caribbean Caliente and it’s set on a cruise ship during the summer of 2002. I wanted to write the story during this time frame because of the freedom I’d have with characters who didn’t have smartphones, back before social media was a thing.

And, who doesn’t love a big ol’ slice of nostalgia pie? If you’re looking to add to your reading list-and who isn’t these days?-this book is coming atcha on Tuesday, March 31!

For now, I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Caribbean Caliente where my hero and heroine compete in a Dancing With the Stars-esque competition on the cruise ship.

Blurb

She didn’t plan to fall for a man on what was supposed to be her honeymoon…

After Justus Kendall found her fiance cheating on her, she ended the relationship, but took the honeymoon with her best friend.

On a boat, in the middle of the Caribbean, she meets Miguel Amores, a Latin dancer and entrepreneur from Miami. A chance encounter leads to a dance competition and reveals their scorching chemistry. Justus and Miguel soon find out they’re compatible on and off the dance floor, knowing there’s no future, yet unable to deny their attraction.

When the cruise is over they agree to got their separate ways, but neither can forget about those seven days of Caribbean heat.

Teaser

“This round show us you know how to dance to current music. Bust out your newest dance moves. DJ Wild, are you ready?” The DJ let loose with an air horn as an affirmative. 

What’s Your Fantasy by Ludacris blasted through the speakers and Justus felt a blush creep up her neck. She was supposed to dance in front of all these people with Miguel to a song with lyrics that talked about licking someone from their head to their toes? And of course, Mr. Sexy Dancer himself was grinding his hips toward her in a way that made her want to squirm.

As the rap song continued to describe sexual fantasies, she couldn’t help but picture Miguel in some of the scenarios. Miguel with tortoise framed glasses playing the teacher and she the student. Miguel as a sexy vampire and her the helpless human unable to resist his otherworldly charms. Maybe the sexy situations depicted in the song weren’t that far-fetched after all. The music suddenly stopped and she wasn’t sure if she was happy or disappointed. She’d been so intent on the fantasies laid out in the song lyrics she’d danced on auto-pilot. The audience came through for them. She and Miguel made it to the final round. 

“Our last round will be our most difficult,” Antnonio intoned grimly. “We’ll be judging our remaining couples with a full song, and you’ll have to infuse freestyle into this next type of dance.”

“Man, this prize better be pretty sweet. They’re making us work our asses off for it,” she murmured to Miguel. 

He bit back a laugh. “I happen to know what the prize is, and I’m making sure you get it.”

Damn, this man is competitive. 

“DJ Wild, what’s our final dance style? Give us a hint.”

The DJ played a snippet of the song I Touch Myself, and of course, the crowd erupted into cheers at the lyrics. 

“So the dance style is cheesy 90s songs?”

Miguel burst out laughing. “You’re bad, but I like it.” He arched a brow at her and she relished the devilish look in his eye.

“The style, ladies and gentlemen, is solo dancing.” Antonio threw his hands in the air. “I know! We pulled out all the stops with this last dance. So, to be clear you will dance solo, but will be judged as a couple. How do you do that? I’m glad you asked…” he ate up the audience’s laughter. “The couples will dance near each other, but not touching, not together. Imagine if you will that you’re in a crowded night club, you’re dancing…DJ Wild, help me out here,” Antonio snapped his fingers and the DJ put on a thumping track. The assistant cruise director swayed to the beat. “Now imagine you’re in a crowded night club, dancing, alone. And suddenly, across the dance floor you see that one person. Your eyes meet. Come on, ladies, gentlemen, you know what I mean. Make us feel that electricity.”

“Sure, nothing too difficult there, only have the pressure of tons of strangers watching. Oh, and I’m totally sober. Typically if I danced the way he’s talking about, I’d be tipsy.”

“Justus,” Miguel sputtered her name around chuckles. “You should do stand up.”

“I’m not that funny. I’m just snarky.” She shook her head and smiled at him as they took their positions on the floor. “Ready to help me win this thing?”

“Hell yeah.”

When the song about masturbation came over the speakers, at least Justus was prepared for it this time. And, she knew exactly what she would do to win this competition. She turned toward Miguel and held his gaze. The crowd, the noise, the lights, all of it faded away. It was only her, and him, and the music. Justus moved her body and ran her hands up and down her torso. She popped a hip left, then right and tossed her hair over her shoulders. In return Miguel, rolled his hips and stared her down. 

They took small steps toward each other, but danced at least six feet apart. There was no way they could touch each other, but their eyes did all the things their hands and lips couldn’t do in that moment. She bent at her waist, then popped her booty out and ran her hands along the outer edge of her jean clad ass cheeks. Her face flushed and her breathing was shallow and quick. It wasn’t only from the movement. The intense sexual tension between her and Miguel was as thick as a rope. It pulsed between them and took on a life form of its own. 

Miguel matched her sexy move with one of his own. He slowly unbuttoned his shirt, each one coming loose of its hold, his gaze never leaving hers. She was faintly aware of the shouts and catcalls from the women on the sidelines. That was the first reminder she had that people were watching them. That this was all a competition. It wasn’t a real thing. It wouldn’t end with her in his arms, his mouth and body crushed against hers. Her footsteps faltered, but she caught the nearly imperceptible shake of Miguel’s head. He held her stare and freed the remaining two buttons from his shirt and shrugged it off. 

The screams and whistles from the observers almost tuned out the music. Her gaze took in the copper hued skin, stretched taut over muscles. The smattering of chest hair that led to the trail that ended at the waistband of his jeans. God damn, her fingers burned to touch him. It was more than her fingers that wanted to touch him. Her mouth salivated at the thought of the trace of salt she’d taste if her tongue followed the trail of that hair into his pants. She dropped to her knees and tossed her hair back and forth, swaying her torso to the music. The thought of what she’d rather be doing on her knees played out in her movements. Justus looked at him and slowly rimmed her lips with the tip of her tongue. Heat burned in Miguel’s eyes and without breaking their gaze he thrust his hips in a seductive rhythm. The invasive squawk of an air horn broke their lusty spell.

“Wow. Like…wow, right? I’m just speechless. That was crazy.” Antonio fanned himself with his hand and looked at the audience.

Miguel walked to her and extended his hand and helped pull her to her feet. “I’m impressed,” he murmured and pressed himself against her. She felt how impressed he was. Without breaking their gaze he bent and picked up his shirt, but didn’t put it back on. The two of them walked to the side of the dance floor and stood next to the other couple remaining in the competition. 

“As amazing as all our couples have been, there can only be one winner. Are we ready to vote?” The crowd roared. Antonio gestured to the other couple and the crowd broke into mealy applause. That had to be a good sign for her and Miguel, right? Antonio stood in front of them and gestured for the crowd to vote for them. The noise was deafening. 

“Couple eight has won. Now, for your prize.” Antonio treated the crowd to a broad grin, drawing the suspense out and loving it. “You win two free excursion trips of your choice. We’ve got the trip to our private island coming up, so you can do any side trip you want there. Horseback riding on the beach, helicopter tour. Your choice.”

Justus squealed and turned to Miguel. He’d won this for her. Overcome with joy she threw her arms around him and planted a kiss on his lips. Laughter, shouts, and whistles surrounded her. 

What the hell did I just do?

“Well someone’s very happy to win.” Antonio’s Captain Obvious comment was met with laughter. 

Heat flooded her face and she followed Antonio to the side where he took her details and gave her two vouchers for the excursions. She couldn’t even look at Miguel. Yes, they’d performed a semi-pornographic dance routine, but hell, she’d just planted one on him in front of a huge crowd. Surely she’d compromised him in some way, since he taught and gave lectures on the boat. Antonio asked Miguel something and she used that as her excuse to break free from him. She ran across the floor and found Krystal in the crowd. 

“Holy shit. I need a cigarette after watching that.” Krystal treated her to a high five, then wrapped her in a quick hug. 

“Yeah, yeah. I’m mortified. I need to get the hell out of here.”