Diversity, Thy Name Is Not Romance Novel

As a writer-of-color, I do appreciate the study recently conducted by The Ripped Bodice. It puts a spotlight on the sad state of racial diversity in romance publishing. Whether it changes anything is the challenge moving forward.

Nielsen did a similar study in the past and presented the report at the Romance Writers of America’s Annual Conference in 2016. The statistics then, as shared by Publishing Perspectives, were even more dismal.

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I guess we can rejoice that the 2% non-white writers previously reported has ballooned to 7.8% in 2016. But, different research bodies, different samples, different methodologies make comparisons statistically invalid.

I am happy someone is pursuing the issue. I have long complained about the dearth of representation for Asians in the novels I read. That’s why I’m writing my own. But, I’m not going to sit around waiting for some publishing house to suddenly email after six months telling me that they’ve finally unearthed my manuscript from the depths of query hell and they now need me to increase their diversity numbers.

The truth is I want to control the setting of my novels, the design of my covers, the date of my publication, and the amount of my share of the sales, no matter how minuscule. As I can’t do those things with traditional publishing, I’m going indie. I’m sure many writers of color like me have the same mindset.

That doesn’t help improve future data for The Ripped Bodice’s study, but maybe they could expand it by investigating racial diversity in self-published romance in the future. It is almost a sure thing that it would yield more positive results. Perhaps instead of harping on traditional publishers to improve their inclusion, they should embrace independents more. Just my two cents.

 

Here’s the full report:

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Happy Book Birthday! The Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne

Kerrigan Byrne’s latest book, The Scot Beds His Wife, is out today and I’m so excited for y’all to read it.  The Scot reinforces my love of the Victorian Rebels series. It has all the elements that I adored in the four earlier books – loads of angst, electric chemistry between hero and heroine, sizzling lovemaking, heart-pounding action, and most especially, the far-from-perfect and diverse characters.

What Scot has more of that the others don’t is the lightness of humor balancing the heaviness caused by all the tragedies that are constantly befalling the Rebels and their loved ones. I specially liked the development of the romance between the foul-mouthed, gun-toting American heroine Sam and the Scottish rogue of an earl Gavin. Their exchanges, particularly in the beginning of the book, were laugh-out-loud funny. Lastly, I adore the secondary characters- from Callum, to Eleanor to Calybrid and Locryn, even The Rook. I can’t wait to read the next three (???) coming books in the series.

 

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The Scot Beds His Wife is the next lush, captivating Victorian romance in the Victorian Rebels series by Kerrigan Byrne.

They’re rebels, scoundrels, and blackguards—dark, dashing men on the wrong side of the law. But for the women who love them, a hint of danger only makes the heart beat faster.

Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne, is a notorious Highlander and an unrelenting Lothario who uses his slightly menacing charm to get what he wants—including too many women married to other men. But now, Gavin wants to put his shady past behind him…more or less. When a fiery lass who is the heiress to the land he wishes to possess drops into his lap, he sees a perfectly delicious opportunity…

A marriage most convenient

Samantha Masters has come back to Scotland, in a pair of trousers, and with a whole world of dangerous secrets from her time spent in the Wild West trailing behind her. Her only hope of protection is to marry—and to do so quickly. Gavin is only too willing to provide that service for someone he finds so disturbingly irresistible. But even as danger approaches, what begins as a scandalous proposition slowly turns into an all-consuming passion. And Gavin discovers that he will do whatever is necessary to keep the woman he has claimed as his own…

The Scot Beds His Wife is available at:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2r4wmNm
B&N: http://bit.ly/2s3Dd8Y
iBooks: http://apple.co/2qWqfw
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2rXU25P
Google: http://bit.ly/2r42eS0

 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. pro_reader_120

I Love My Book Club – OSRBC Rocks!

The first rule of Book Club: You do not talk about Book Club. The second rule of Book Club: You do not talk about Book Club.

“What happens in the book club, stays in the book club.”

 

Ha! I’m going to break these alleged rules and blab about the Old School Romance Book Club. So there!

OSRBC is a Facebook group created by Best-selling author Sarah MacLean in July 2014.

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Description

We choose one romance novel (published pre-2000, the crazier the plot, the better!) at the beginning of every month to read and discuss, but we talk all kinds of romance all the time.

I joined in August 2014 while I was in Bangkok, one of the first 50 to do so. Three years later, the group has 5,300+ members from all over the world. In the club are some of my favorite romance writers: Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Kerrigan Byrne, Lorraine Heath, and Cathy Maxwell. Many of my co-members have become my personal friends, not just on Facebook, but in real life as well. Mostly women, we are military spouses, doctors, lawyers, teachers, librarians, nurses, full-time housewives and mothers, artists, students, writers. All of us are readers.

This group is my tribe. They speak my language, they understand me. There is no book-shaming, everyone’s opinions are respected. The group members are respectful, fun, and funny. They reinforced my love for my old school loves: Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Lisa Kleypas, Sandra Brown. They introduced new-to-me authors who have become instant favorites. Aside from the ones I already named as members of the club, I also discovered Tessa Dare, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Courtney Milan, Kate Meader, Sherry Thomas, and Laura Florand.

More than enabling my book addiction and thereby causing my to-be-read pile to become a mountain, OSRBC is the reason I became a writer. This group put the idea in my head that I can turn one paragraph into a whole novel. This book club encouraged me and cheered me on as I pantsed my way around NaNoWriMo in November and Camp NaNo in July.  They believed I can do it. Because of their confidence, I too, believed and completed my first novel.

This week, I’ll be doing final self-editing before I send Boracay Vows to a professional editor (a co-member at OSRBC, naturally). After that will be securing an ISBN, engaging a cover artist, more revisions and proofreading. Then, my book baby will be born.

One thing I will always remember is that it was conceived with the help of the Old School Romance Book Club. And that is why I love my book club. OSRBC Rocks!

 

Photo credits: I Love My Book Club -cafepress.com, Rules of Book Club – Tumblr.com, What happens… – Zazzle.com, OSRBC logo – Facebook.com

 

ARC Book Review – East In Paradise

I’ve read and loved thousands of romance novels for over thirty years. My biggest complaint and the reason I’m writing my own series is that I haven’t read MY story yet. Right now, I can honestly say Tif Marcelo’s East in Paradise, Book 2 of her Journey to the Heart series, has come the closest.

A Filipino-American heroine. Check. Military Veteran hero. Also check. Heroine has a younger sister. That’s me as well. Our first date was at Napa Valley, quite similar to the setting of Paraiso Retreats.

I can say though that you don’t have to be a Filipino to relate to the characters and enjoy this book. East has a feisty, resolute heroine in Bryn, who has a goal and knows what she has to do in order to achieve it. It has an admirable hero in Mitchell, who served his country and has a great sense of responsibility towards his family’s legacy. This book is about dreams, family, and love.

The conflicts are very current, very real in the world we live in today. The secondary characters are well-rounded with both good and bad mixed in. The hero and heroine are characterized realistically with strengths and weaknesses.

Where it might have faltered for me a bit is when Bryn appeared to be too aggressive and Mitch didn’t assert himself fast enough. I knew they were going to get their happily-ever-after eventually, but it was an uncomfortable feeling reading it so close to the end without their final and most explosive conflict being resolved.

Overall, I enjoyed East in Paradise, especially the celebration of Filipino culture in the food and relationships. I give it four solid stars.

Note: I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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About The Book:

When an entrepreneur and an Army reservist end up in their own reality show fauxmance, they have to decide whether their love exists just for the cameras…or if it’s for real in this warmhearted romance, perfect for foodies and wine lovers!

Bryn Aquino, the former manager of a Filipino restaurant, knows the value of hard work. With a shiny new MBA in tow and an investor, she’s ready to start her own business: a culinary retreat where visitors can relax, cook, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Dubbed Paraiso Retreats, she leases the childhood home of army reservist Mitchell Dunford—who returned from Afghanistan to revive his family’s vineyard—but finds herself in a bind when her investor pulls out of the business.

When the retreat catches an internet live stream producer’s eye through social media channels, Bryn is offered the opportunity of a lifetime—to document her journey in exchange for a hefty paycheck. Excited, Bryn happily agrees to the arrangement…only to find out that she’s going to have to fake an onscreen romance with her indifferent landlord in order to keep her audience interested.

As Mitchell and Bryn put on a show for the cameras, they find their romance isn’t hard to fake. They’ve got more in common under their bluster, banter, and doubts. As their relationship heats up and the cameras keep rolling, the line between show and reality blurs. And when the pressures of family, business, and the audience stack against them, will their romance survive internet stardom? Or was it just for show?

East in Paradise is available today from the following retailers:

Amazon
B&N
Kobo
iBooks

 

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One Liner Wednesday – What Happens Next

The Magician’s Curse kept me turning page after page – I wanted to see what happens next.

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Book Cover for ‘The Magicians Curse’ by Author Linda G.Hill

I gave Linda Hill’s The Magician’s Curse four stars on Goodreads and Amazon. This was an entertaining read. Oftentimes, if you’ve read as many books as I have, you’d be able to predict what’s going to happen next. With The Magician’s Curse, I couldn’t. That’s what kept me turning page after page – to see what the characters will do next, what will happen to them. It’s certainly different from the typical books I read and a great palate cleanser. It’s not cookie-cutter or formulaic at all. I don’t normally read books with young characters (18/23) anymore, but I made an exception for this. I’m glad I did because the heroine and hero (Herman and Stephen) are mature for their age. I’d recommend this book for those who are looking for a fresh voice in New Adult Paranormal romance.

 

 

 

Note: Photo credits: What Happens Next – wloy.org; The Magician’s Curse – Linda G. Hill; One Liner Wednesday Badge – Dan Antion

 

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Happy Book Birthday: Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses by Lorraine Heath

Several of my favorite romance authors have book launches today, but I want to spotlight Lorraine Heath’s Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses. I’ve only discovered her in 2015, when Old School Romance Book Club chose Texas Destiny as our June Book of the Month. I loved it. It was incredibly well written and brought me to tears. Since then, I’ve collected as many of Ms. Heath’s books as possible. It helps that she’s from Texas and the Used Bookstore I go to, The Book Rack, has several of her collections on their shelves. I love the Leigh Brothers series and enjoyed London’s Greatest Lovers, but my favorite series of hers is what I call her St. James Universe. There are actually three series in it: Scoundrels of St. James, Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, and Hellions of Havisham.

Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses is the latest in the Scandalous series and it’s a novella. I requested the title from Edelweiss for early review and Avon gave it to me in exchange for an honest opinion.

I was pleasantly surprised by it. I have started pigeon-holing Lorraine Heath as a writer of super-angsty romances, but this book is funny and sexy, another quality that I hadn’t attached to her work before. This proves her versatility, something I always look for in my favorite authors. Although it is not a full novel, it felt complete. It’s full of substance. The character growth for both Andrew and Gina is there, so with the development of their love for one another. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

gentlemen_prefer_heiresses_d400Lord Andrew Mabry, the second son of the Duke of Greystone, has no desire to marry. As the spare, he has no obligation to provide an heir and he rather enjoys spending his days and nights in play with the demimonde. But more and more of late, he finds himself wanting to play naughty games with the American heiress, Gina Hammersley.

After her scandalous older sister marries a marquess, Gina Hammersley suddenly finds herself the darling of London with beaux a plenty calling on her, sending flowers, and filling her dance cards. Unfortunately, the one she desires most is the one who has no wish to be caught in the marriage trap: Lord Andrew Mabry.

But when they are discovered in a compromising situation, this unlikely pair must decide whether to face scandal or discover if the passion they’ve always felt is strong enough to lead them into love.

Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses is available from the following retailers:

AvonBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, Google Play, Apple iBooks

 

Note: Featured Image photo credit – annadelmar.com.

 

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Sun And Moon

Today, August 21, 2017, there is a Total Solar Eclipse – the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, at one point totally covering the sun and turning day into night.

Today is also the 12th anniversary of our church wedding. For the special occasion, we put together a CD of our favorite love songs that we played during the ceremony and the reception afterwards. One of the songs is Sun and Moon from the musical Miss Saigon. American military husband, Asian wife – it fits. Of course, our story turned out better than that of Kim and Chris. For truly, we have been blessed, my husband and I.

 

KIM
you are sunlight and I moon
joined by the gods of fortune
midnight and high noon
sharing the sky
we have been blessed, you and I

CHRIS
you are here like a mystery
I’m from a world that’s so different
from all that you are
how in the light of one night
did we come so far?

KIM
outside day starts to dawn

CHRIS
your moon still floats on high

KIM
the birds awake

CHRIS
the stars shine too

KIM
my hands still shake

CHRIS
I reach for you

BOTH
and we meet in the sky!

KIM
you are sunlight and I moon
joined here
bright’ning the sky
with the flame
of love

BOTH
made of
sunlight
moonlight

 

 

Book Recommendation: Irresistible You by Kate Meader

My book recommendation of the week is Kate Meader’s Irresistible You. I love sports romances and this one is hot, hot, hot. I reviewed it for NetGalley and this is what I posted on Goodreads and Amazon.  pro_reader_120

“Five icy-hot stars. Kate did it again! She delivered another book with a delicious hero one can’t help but fall in love with, a strong heroine you can relate to, a fascinating story you enjoy following along, and fully fleshed-out secondary characters whose future books you’re looking forward to reading. Irresistible You is funny, but also addresses several heavy issues like sexism and violence against women. It’s super sexy and incredibly fun to read. I love both Remy (He cooks! He reads Pride and Prejudice!) and Harper and enjoyed their journey into love. I also love the team, the hockey, the sisters, and the DuPres. The pacing is just right and the situations were realistic. Although many characters were introduced, none of them detracted from the fact that this is Remy and Harper’s book. That’s very well done by Kate Meader. This is truly a wonderful first book in her new series. I can’t wait to read the rest.”

 

About the book:

IRRESISTIBLE YOU
Chicago Rebels series, Book 1
Kate Meader
Pocket Star EBooks
August 14, 2017
$1.99 (August 14th – August 27th, 2017)
$5.99 (After August 27th, 2017)
ISBN 9781501168550

“Meader’s strength is creating characters who live, breathe, and jump off the page; Remy and Harper shine, and the supporting cast of characters, including Harper’s half-sisters, is very strong. The mix of sexual tension and emotional decisions will lead Meader’s series launch to many a keeper shelf.”
—Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW

“Meader takes her readers on a breathtaking, non-stop, glorious ride. The sex scenes are lyrically written with fresh, descriptive prose. Enough is included about hockey to add its fast rhythm to the book. Remy’s family is multi-faceted and fills the pages with joy. Readers will love the relationship between Remy and Harper, and will be excited for the next story — Isobel’s.”
—RT Book Reviews Four and a Half Star TOP PICK

IRRESISTIBLE YOU kicks of the all new, scorching Chicago Rebels hockey series by Kate Meader, featuring her signature “steamy sex scenes, colorful characters, and riveting dialogue” (Romantic Times). Three estranged sisters inherit their late father’s failing hockey franchise and are forced to confront a man’s world, their family’s demons, and the battle-hardened ice warriors skating into their hearts.

Harper Chase has just become the most powerful woman in the NHL after the death of her father Clifford Chase, maverick owner of the Chicago Rebels. But the team is a hot mess—underfunded, overweight, and close to tapping out of the league. Hell-bent on turning the luckless franchise around, Harper won’t let anything stand in her way. Not her gender, not her sisters, and especially not a veteran player with an attitude problem and a smoldering gaze designed to melt her ice-compacted defenses.

Veteran center Remy “Jinx” DuPre is on the downside of a career that’s seen him win big sponsorships, fans’ hearts, and more than a few notches on his stick. Only one goal has eluded him: the Stanley Cup. Sure, he’s been labeled as the unluckiest guy in the league, but with his recent streak of good play, he knows this is his year. So why the hell is he being shunted off to a failing hockey franchise run by a ball-buster in heels? And is she seriously expecting him to lead her band of misfit losers to a coveted spot in the playoffs?

He’d have a better chance of leading Harper on a merry skate to his bed…

IRRESISTIBLE YOU is available at:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ktKuiM
Nook: http://bit.ly/2ktBFkU
iBooks: http://apple.co/2k4aYXk
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2jy3E2D
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2k0sZW5

About the author:

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Kate Meader was raised on romance. An Irish girl, she started with Catherine Cookson and Jilly Cooper novels, and spiced it up with some Mills & Boon. Now based in Chicago, she writes romances of her own, where sexy contemporary alpha heroes and strong heroines match each other quip for quip. When not immersed in tales of brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron or a fire hose, Kate lives on the web at katemeader.com.

 

 

 

Ye Are Blood Of My Blood, And Bone Of My Bone

Today is my and my husband’s 12th wedding anniversary, the first of two we celebrate – one civil, the other church.

This special time always makes me think ooutlander wedding vowsf wedding vows from romance books. One of my favorites is the Gaelic Wedding Vow.  This has been used in many romance books, especially those set in the Scottish Highlands, most famously Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. One of my favorite new authors of Historical Romance, Kerrigan Byrne, also used it in the first book of her Victorian Rebels series – The Highwayman.

“She looked up at him with those eyes, and Dougan experienced a pang of love so intense and ferocious it felt as though it didn’t belong in this holy room.
He began the incantation he remembered from watching once from behind his mother’s skirts when he was young.

‘Ye are blood of my blood, and bone of my bone.
I give ye my body, that we two might be one.
I give ye my spirit, ’til our life shall be done.’

Farah needed a bit of prompting to remember all the words, but she said them with such fervency that Dougan was touched. Slipping a ring of a willow herb vine onto her finger, he recited the sacred olde vows with perfect clarity, but translated them into English for her sake.

‘I made ye my heart
At the rising of the moon.
To love and honor,
Through all our lives.
May we be reborn,
May our souls meet and know.
And love again.
And remember.’

She looked lost and mystified for a moment, then announced, “Me, too.”

 

I’ll be writing a wedding scene for Book 2 of my Carpe Diem Chronicles series and this certainly has given me inspiration.

 

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Camp NaNo Winner 2017

Winner again!

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I wrote and completed the first draft of my debut novel in November 2016 during NaNoWriMo. I started without an outline, without a plot. Nothing but one page of a scene I wrote in 2003 and never finished. I only knew two things that first day of NaNo: 1) I will set it in Boracay 2) It will be a multicultural romance. Yes, I was a Pantser. One month, two titles, three name changes, and 54,000+ words later, I had a complete book. Not finished, only completed. It had a Beginning, a Middle, and an End.

Naturally, first drafts are the worst. It went through four more revisions with Beta readers chiming in and editors turning it down. The verdict is clear: they want more conflict. Fine, I said. This July, I joined CampNaNo and with the support of my Old School Romance Book Club cabin mates, I wrote, rewrote, retitled, and edited my first book. As a result, I now have a 58,000-word sixth draft with a little more drama, a lot more love.

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On to more beta reading, more editing, more polishing, and hopefully soon, on to Publishing.

Carpe Diem!

 

Note: Photo credit to Chippy Ledesma. Location: Boracay Island, Philippines.