What’s Your Vacation Style? by Samantha Hunter


One thing that my husband and I learned the first year we were married was how difficult a vacation can be if you have different expectations of the time away. On a brief trip we took, he was exhausted from work, and I was bored that summer, so when we went on the trip, we had a nice time, but nonetheless, there was tension when he wanted to sleep in, and I wanted to go go go! :)

Twenty-one years later, we know to check in on what kind of vacation we’re both up for (sitting on the beach and reading, or heading to a city where we want to go go go), but we also have developed our o2014-09-18 16.38.09wn vacation style. Luckily, we are very compatible travelers. We both like to pack as little as we can, but as much as we need (I learned not to over pack on my first trip to California. . .I must have brought enough clothes for a year, and hauling it all was a pain, so I learned the first time). We travel very easily together, and every trip is a learning experience to do it better the next time.

In general though, I’d say our mutual vacationing style is that we are explorers.  While we like a tour now and then, mostly we want to strike out on our own and wander, exploring all the nooks and crannies of our new territory. We like to do some touristy things, but we more often get off the beaten path. We like to stroll through neighborhoods and find surprises, talk to locals, and get a real feel for a place. We usually like to stay somewhere out of the main tourist areas as well. We don’t rush from one thing to the next, but tend to walk a lot and take public transport more often than not.

beachWe took our first resort vacation this past January and I have to say, while the beaches were pretty and the sunshine is never something to complain about in winter, we hated being trapped at a resort. By day two, all we could think of was getting out to explore. Somewhere. Anywhere. And we did, one day, and that was the best day of the vacation.

So that proved to us that a cruise or anything that has regimented schedules or itineraries would not be for us. We would very likely miss the boat, as we got lost exploring!

In March, we head to Paris — with the help of friends, as always, we were recommended to a great apartment, and we can’t wait to spend five days exploring. So exciting! I will admit that the one way my husband and I are different when traveling, is that he doesn’t seem to feel the jet lag as much as I do. He bounces back very quickly, but I tend to really get plowed over by it. I hope the more I travel, that will get easier.

So, what kind of traveler/vacationer aparisre you? Do you prefer to rest and relax, or go go go, or  a mix? Do you like a structured vacation, or do you want to set out on your own and explore? Or what other styles are there?

Share your thoughts, and I’ll choose a winner to receive a souvenir I will bring back from Paris, and a copy of ROCK SOLID, my current Blaze.


It’s His Kiss


eaff757949ba59d20863b087d1e02e5aDo you remember Geli, from Tempted By Trouble and Anything But Vanilla? Well she’s all grown up and taken off to Italy to widen her horizons. The trouble started with a delayed flight, the bad weather hasn’t helped, she’s found an abandoned kitten (already!) and now she’s lost…

Vettori’s Damsel in Distress, out later this year, has reached the semi-final of the Affaire de Coeur “It’s His Kiss” competition!

There’s just one week left to vote!

This is my entry – 
‘Like this?’

She caught her breath as he raised her hand and, never taking his eyes from hers, touched his lips to the soft mound of her palm, just below the dressing he’d applied with such care.

‘Exactly like that,’ she managed through a throat that felt as if it had been stuffed with silk chiffon. ‘I’m not sure why it works—’

‘I imagine it’s to do with the application of heat,’ he said, his voice as soft as the second warm kiss her breathed into her palm. Her knees turned to water and her hand slid from his shoulder to clutch a handful of shirt. Beneath it, she could feel the thud of his heartbeat — a slow, steady counterpoint to her own racing pulse. ‘Is that hot enough?’

Was he still teasing? The threatened smile had never appeared but his mouth was closer. Much closer.

‘The more heat,’ she murmured, her words little more than a whisper, ‘the more effective the cure.’

0adc2e1b050e6d766df0323ee360bd0b‘How hot do you want it to be, Angelica?’ His voice trickled over her skin like warm honey and his eyes were asking the question that had been there since he’d turned and looked at her. Since he’d put his hand on hers and moved it across the map. Since his “permesso?” Her “prego”—

His hand was at her back, supporting her, his breath soft against her lips and her answer was to lift the hand he’d kissed, slide her fingers through his dark, silky hair. This close she could see that the velvet dark of his irises was shot through with tiny gold sparks, sparks that arc’d between them, igniting some primitive part of her brain—

‘Hot,’ she murmured. ‘Molto, molto caldo…’ and she touched his luscious lower lip with her mouth, her tongue, sucking in the taste of rich dark coffee that lingered there. Maybe it was the caffeine — on her tongue or on his —but as she closed her eyes and he angled his mouth to deepen the kiss, cradled her head, she felt a zingy hyper-tingle of heat lick through her veins, seep into her skin, warming her, giving her life.

You can vote here - it’s just a two-click job. The button is just at the bottom of the page. Vettori will love you if you do. :)



Medieval graffiti and a puzzle by Kate Hardy


Kate HardyI think most readers know about my nerdy habit of church-crawling – and we had a really interesting one this Sunday, involving medieval graffiti and a puzzle, plus some gorgeous brasses which I couldn’t resist.






Some of the medieval graffiti is thought to be from masons teaching their craft – such as this daisy-wheel in Litcham, which would have been made using a pair of compasses. (Anyone remember Spirograph? Same sort of thing…)


feb cc graffiti litcham 2


But this is the one I really wanted to see. (Pic not brilliant because it’s preserved behind perspex.) It’s the Litcham Cryptogram. It’s thought to be 15th century. There are two tiers of letters – the top is thought to stand for ‘save (my soul, Jesus), Mary and Joseph’ and the second thought to be MM (memento mori) Wyke Bamburgh – so as a whole it was believed to be a prayer carved by a pilgrim on the way to Walsingham.

But it’s been looked at recently by academics as part of the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti project, and they’re not so sure. They think there are more letters involved… but they haven’t worked out what it means.

feb cc graffiti litcham


We have no idea, either. But we liked the snowdrops in the churchyard.

feb cc snowdrops litcham


We also went to Rougham, where there are some gorgeous brasses including William Yelverton (1510) and his wife Catherine.

feb cc rougham brass

And also of their seven sons.

feb cc rougham brass 2

And the most gorgeous carved bench end of a swan:

feb cc rougham swan


So do you have any very old puzzles near you? Has anyone tried to solve them?

baby to heal their heartsHARDY-BachelorAtHerBidding-SMALLKate’s latest releases are A Baby to Heal their Hearts (the follow-up to Plague Squirrels) and Bachelor at her Bidding (the cake book – out on 27 Feb). You can find out more about the books, and Kate, on her website (http://www.katehardy.com/) and her blog (http://katehardy.blogspot.com/) – or find her on Facebook 


It’s Academy Awards Night


When it comes to television, there are very few things I actually sit and watch live or as they actually appear. With two boys in the house, most of what I watch is pre-recorded.

Two TV events I make time for every year occur at the beginning of the year. In January, it was the Super Bowl and tonight it was the Academy Awards.

Films are just as important to me as books. Both mediums influenced who I am today. I read all of the Star Wars novels and saw the movies but George Lucas’ visual story telling is what stuck with me.

Movies have their own unique ways of telling the story just as books do. I still remember how deftly M. Night Shyamalan put together The Sixth Sense so that the audience wouldn’t see the true story until the last scenes of the movie.



I’m always asked why not the other awards shows like the Tony awards or the BAFTAs. I grew up with the Academy Awards. I still remember when Meryl Streep won Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won Best Screenplay for Good Will Hunting. There are so many good messages passed on by those who had struggled to achieve and won.

I guess I should admire the dresses but that’s not my thing. If someone asked me, would I like to dress up and attend, I would answer ‘no.’ Unless, of course, I could get one of those intelligent actors to escort me . . .

I don’t have any favorites this year but I always make time to watch the Best Movie.

Any interest in the Academy Awards or this year’s nominees?


Abbi :-)

Review my book…Please?


I’ve had two bad weeks in a row. For an author that generally means I had two back-to-back weeks when writing was difficult.



Last week, when frustration hit a new high, I turned on my computer to find an email from someone who had read and loved CHASING THE RUNAWAY BRIDE. She went into detail about why — even compared it to the first book on the series — and told me she was eagerly awaiting the third book. Then she took a guess as to who the heroine was for book 3 of the Donovan Brothers series. We emailed back and forth three or four times and my mood shot up.

I actually got six nice emails that week. Three of them about CHASING THE RUNAWAY BRIDE. Three were about HER BROODING ITALIAN BOSS. It made a really crappy week much, much better.

The same is true with reviews. At the end of December I got a significant number of reviews on Amazon for HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE. I love it when a reviewer says something like they were surprised that they laughed out loud in some places and cried in others. That doesn’t just tell me I did my job. That tells me the stories did their jobs. They took a reader on a fun journey.



I know in this day and age, readers probably feel odd that authors are always nudging them to write reviews. You all are aware, I’m sure, that reviews on Amazon and other sites factor into algorithms that position books for optimal visibility (which results in better sales). But don’t forget the human factor. Reviews are usually our only connection to YOU.

Most people don’t email their love of a story as my wonderful fans did last week. So when I’m down, when a book isn’t cooperating, when I have to fight to keep a story as I’d planned it, I sometimes go to Amazon or Goodreads and read reviews. It’s not an ego trip. It’s a reminder that I have talent and instincts, and if I take a breath and get back to work, I’ll probably pull this rabbit out of the hat too. :)

If you’ve always wanted to be part of the process, to matter, or just to thank the authors of the books you love, leave a review. You have no idea what this will do for the author’s next book. :)


Happy Reading…

susan meier


Curried sausages



Mr Douglas would be happy as the proverbial pig in mud if I served him up sausages for dinner every night of the week. Sausages are his absolute favourite food. Sausages, mash, peas and gravy are his idea of heaven.

You know, the great thing about sausages is that they’re cheap…and versatile. This is one of my favourite sausage recipes. It’s great for when you’re rushed (i.e. on deadline) and very warming on a frosty night.




  • 12 thin sausages (this is what the original recipe called for. I just grill a few extra sausages every time we have them and  freeze them, regardless of their size or shape, until I have a dozen or so saved up.)
  • 1 Tbsp of oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Madras curry paste (or whatever you have. I’ve used vindaloo in the past…and I generally use more than 1 Tbsp too)
  • 1 1/2 cups of beefstock
  • 1/2 – 1 cup of water
  • A little arrowroot dissolved in a little water

If the sausages aren’t already cooked, add them to a pan of boiling water, bring them to the boil and simmer for about 7 mins or until cooked through. Cool. Remove skins and slice into 1cm pieces (1/2 inch).

Heat oil in a large saucepan, add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft. Add curry paste and stir until fragrant. Add sausages, stock and water (I start with 1/2 a cup of water and add more if it’s needed). Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for approx 30 mins. Add the arrrowroot, if needed, to thicken it.

Serve with rice and veggies. Enjoy. :-)



I <3 Tropes – How about you? –Selena Blake


Thanks so much to the Chocolate Box authors for letting me stop by today.


I’ve got a question for all of you.

Have you read the story about the boy meeting the girl, it’s love at first sight, star crossed lovers and all that? Their families are fighting and a whole bunch of people are dead by The End?

Sound familiar? It’s Romeo and Juliet and several of the phrases above are popular tropes.

What’s a trope?

Wikipedia describes it as “describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.”

There are so many popular tropes and we especially seem to like them in our romance novels. Secret baby, wedding of convenience, unrequited love, ugly duckling. The list goes on and on.

What makes tropes so popular? I don’t really have an answer outside of the fact that there are certain types of story lines I just love to read. These are the building blocks that I’m comfortable with and enjoy reading about. Personally, I adore a good make over story. I’m a sucker for a protector and who could pass up a good matchmaker story?

I’ve used tropes in my own work, not as a basis or a formula, but as a reminder of my favorite types of stories. Though they don’t know it at the time, Avery and Hunter from my book Pursued by a Werewolf, pretty much fell in love at first sight.

I’m partial to this trope because I love the idea of two people meeting, perhaps unexpectedly, and wham! They take one look at each other, perhaps giggle over spilled milk, and there it is. Love at first sight.

I used star crossed lovers in my upcoming release Bound to the Vampire. They fell in love against all odds, through family infighting and subterfuge.

150_GoForItt_jpgAnd in my most recent contemporary romance, Go For It, I used another favorite: Friends to Lovers. There’s something so lovely about two longtime friends finally waking up and seeing the light. When they stop resisting an attraction or 17take a look, a good, long hard look, at their friend for the first time, amazing things can happen.

Everyone has their favorites and you’ll see hints of them sprinkled throughout your favorite books. You might even see multiple tropes in a single book.


What I want to know is, what are your favorites? Here’s an amazing list if you want a jumping off point.

I can’t wait to see your list.


Visual Inspiration – Donna Alward


Today I bring you something light. And perhaps not thought provoking. Just sheer entertainment.

I’m writing a new story right now and here is my hero casting. The hero’s a cop. And single, of course. And as he’s being a good Samaritan, he finds out that there is No Room at the Inn. As in The Inn on Evergreen Drive.

I’ll shut up now so you can enjoy the visual feast. You’re welcome.





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