Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Guest Post and Excerpt and Contest - oh my! The Trouble with Being a Duke by Sophie Barnes

Today, I'm welcoming Sophie Barnes to At the Corner of First and Romance!

Her novel, The Trouble with Being a Duke,  releases today, so go grab yourself a copy (links are below). I've included an excerpt and there's a blog-wide giveaway for some pretty impressive swag - but first, see the inside scoop on how Sophie writes a story!

Take it away, Sophie...


   Last May, when Avon was requesting novella submissions for their Five Golden Rings Christmas Anthology, the idea sounded so compelling that I decided to give it a try myself. The concept that would eventually turn into The Trouble With Being A Duke quickly came into existence and when I submitted the idea to my editor, she soon came back to me with an offer for a three book series that would center around the Kingsborough Ball. It was an incredible moment, but amidst all the excitement, I now had two issues to deal with: coming up with a new plot for the Five Golden Rings, and figuring out how to turn a novella into three books. Basically, I needed two more plots to complete the series. 

   Here’s what I decided: each book would begin at the Kingsborough Ball, after which each plot would continue with a different setting, separating the characters that were present at the ball from each other. Additionally, the main characters (i.e. the heroes and heroines) in each book would not be related. This was to prevent continuous overlaps between the stories since they would be happening in parallel. However, I did want to tie the three together somehow, so aside from reappearing secondary characters, there’s also the Kingsborough Ball shooting at which all the heroes and heroines from the three books are present.

   Once I had all of this figured out, I sat down and began creating a list of characters, their appearances, dates of birth, who their relatives were, their hobbies, childhood friends etc. I made a chapter by chapter outline of each book – nothing overly detailed or anything, but a short paragraph detailing the main events of each chapter. This would eventually evolve, especially for books two and three, but at least it offered a guide to stop me from writing myself into a corner.

   Once writing began (and this is true for all my books), I worked Monday to Friday, writing an average of two thousand words per day. Afternoons and weekends are reserved exclusively for my family unless there’s a deadline looming, but I’m pretty good at pacing myself so I rarely end up stressing over that. And whenever I have a quiet moment to myself, I think about the plot of my current work in progress. In fact, I often solve a plot related problem just before I fall asleep at night, so the trick for me is to remember the solution the following morning =)


To find out more about me and my books, please visit my website at: www.sophiebarnes.com
On twitter at: @BarnesSophie
On Facebook at: www.facebook.com/AuthorSophieBarnes
And on Goodreads at: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5400052.Sophie_Barnes


Author Bio

Born in Denmark, Sophie has spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian.

She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parson’s School of design, but most impressive of all – she’s been married to the same man three times, in three different countries and in three different dresses.

While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion – writing.

When she’s not busy, dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.

Where to Buy

Barnes and Noble
Your local bookseller


   “It’s time, Mama,” Anthony Hurst, the seventh Duke of Kingsborough, said as he strode toward one of the tall windows in his mother’s bedroom and pulled aside the heavy velvet curtains, flooding the space with a bright beam of sunshine. Pausing for a moment, he looked out at the garden. The crocuses were beginning to bloom, adding a cheerful display of yellow and lilac to the dreary winter landscape.

   “Why must you disturb me?”

Anthony turned at the sound of his mother’s voice, gritting his teeth at the lifelessness in it. He hated the morose atmosphere that had swamped Kingsborough Hall for the past year, and he hated how difficult it was proving to move past it. “It’s been thirteen months, Mama—that’s long enough.”

   His mother, still dressed in her widow’s weeds, sighed from her seat in the corner, her light blue eyes squinting in the brightness as he pulled aside yet another curtain. Black did not suit her—it made her look pallid and brought out the silver streaks of gray in her hair. She had aged dramatically during the final stage of her husband’s life. It was almost five years since the first symptom of illness had surfaced—a lump in the former duke’s armpit. Three physicians had been consulted, all of them advising immediate surgery, and with no desire to meet a speedy end, the Duke of Kingsborough had complied.

   Anthony knew it had been a painful procedure, and yet it had only been the first of several. So it had come as no surprise when his father had eventually called him into his study to say that he had refused further treatment—but it had still been bloody hard to hold back the tears in the face of such defeat, knowing without doubt what his father’s decision had meant.

   A month later, however, the condition hadn’t worsened, and Anthony had begun to hope that perhaps it never would. But then, as if from one day to the next, his father’s health had declined with startling rapidity. Nothing could have been worse than looking on helplessly while a loved one had withered away and died, his body wracked by pain at every hour of both day and night. Even the memory of it was unbearable.

   “Is that all?” His mother’s tiny voice was weak, forcing a wince from Anthony as he went over to her and gently took her delicate hand in his. “It seems like an eternity.”
   “Mama,” he whispered, kneeling beside her, his heart aching for the woman who had once been so full of life. “So much more reason for us to end this.”

   Her eyes met his with the same degree of hopelessness that he too had felt for so long. His father had always been so strong and healthy—the sort of man that everyone had thought would outlive them all. Suffering through his deterioration, inheriting his title and eventually taking his place as duke had been far from easy for Anthony. It was now more than a year since they had laid him to rest, and Anthony had decided that it was finally time for all of them to start living again. With that in mind, he had an idea that he hoped would capture his mother’s enthusiasm. “We shall host an event,” he announced, in a voice that sounded too old and serious for his own liking.

   “An event?” His mother looked as if she’d much rather crawl back into bed and draw the covers over her head than listen to one more word of what he had to say.

   “Not just any event, Mama,” he said, determined to make her listen and even more determined to uncover the woman who lay dormant somewhere beneath her beaten-down exterior. He knew she was there—somewhere. “It’s the end of February already, but if we hurry, we can probably manage to arrange a house party in time for Easter.” He saw that his mother was about to protest and quickly added, “It could commence with one of your infamous balls.”

   She stilled for a moment as she stared back at him, time stretching out between them until he doubted she would ever respond. He was trying to think of something to say to break the silence when he saw her stir, understanding flickering behind her eyes. “We haven’t had one of those in years, Anthony. Do you really suppose . . .” Her words trailed off, but not with defeat this time. Anthony couldn’t help but notice a slight crease upon her brow. She was thinking—quite furiously, judging from the fact that she was now chewing on her lower lip. Her eyes gradually sharpened, and she leaned forward in her seat. “Perhaps it will help bring the family back together.”

   Anthony certainly hoped so.

   When his father had stopped fighting for his life, it had not taken long before his sister Louise had married and removed herself to her new home. Anthony had not questioned her motives at the time. She had been of a marriageable age (though perhaps a bit young), the Earl of Huntley had clearly been in a position to offer her the standard of living she’d been raised to expect, and Anthony had given the couple his blessing without much thought on the matter.

   The truth of it was, compared to everything else he’d been faced with at the time—his father’s imminent demise, the payment of physicians’ bills that kept arriving daily, and his ever-increasing duties in regard to running the estate—his sister’s hasty decision to marry had been more of an inconvenience than anything else.

   It was not until after his father had died that he’d wondered if she’d perhaps been looking for a means of escape, some justifiable reason not to face the devastating truth looming over them all on a daily basis. Of course she’d visited a number of times, but she’d given herself a viable excuse to leave whenever she’d had enough. Anthony couldn’t blame her. There had been times when he had longed to flee from it all himself.

   His brother, Winston, had been more reliable. He was two years younger than Anthony, had married Sarah the vicar’s daughter at the age of only twenty, and was now the delighted father of twin boys. To support his growing family, he ran a small publishing house that he’d started with the financial support of their father. Of course there had been those who’d disapproved of a gentleman making such a career choice, but Winston’s love for books had prevented him from swaying in his decision, and his father had given his support—a clear sign that he’d considered his son’s happiness more important than seeking the approval of his peers and a perfect example of the sort of man he’d been.

   Though based in London, Winston had still managed to make the three-hour journey to Moxley once a week throughout their father’s illness. But with Papa now gone, Winston was busy applying himself to the growth of his business, and he didn’t visit Moxley as often as he had. Anthony understood his brother’s reasoning, of course. He just missed him. That was all.

   “I must speak with Mrs. Sterling immediately,” his mother suddenly pronounced, startling Anthony out of his reverie. His eyes focused on her, and he noticed that there was a rather resolute expression about her eyes.

   Anthony blinked. A moment earlier, she had looked as though a single puff of air would have overturned her. Now, instead, her back straightened and she gave a firm nod before pulling her hand away from his and rising to her feet.

   This was what he had hoped for, but he had never imagined how quickly his mother would rally when faced with a project so large that it would require her immediate attention. To be honest, he had feared she might feel overwhelmed and that it would only serve to cripple her even further.

   Clearly this was not the case, for not only had she already rung for her maid but she had also begun pacing about the room, checking off on her fingers all the items that would need addressing, all the while complaining about the limited amount of time Anthony had afforded her to prepare for such a grand event.

   “We shall have to send out invitations immediately,” she gushed between mention of a possible ice sculpture and her thoughts regarding the flower arrangements that would have to be ordered.

   Anthony’s head began to hurt, but he was pleased with the result of his plan. What he hadn’t mentioned, simply because he’d had no desire to excite his mother any further, was that he intended to use the event as a means to improve his acquaintance with the young ladies his mother undoubtedly meant to invite. His father’s demise had put everything into perspective for him, forcing him to realize just how fragile life could be. He needed an heir, and there was really no better time to start planning for one.


   “Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow’d night, give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die, take him and—”

   “Stop that right now,” Isabella’s mother warned as she lifted her gaze from her embroidery—a new set of pillowcases that the butcher’s wife had ordered, with flowering vines trailing along the edges.

   Isabella was supposed to have been practicing her cutwork, but she was finding the process incredibly tedious and had paused to read a little instead. She had just gotten started on her favorite passage when her mother had cut her off as usual—at the exact same point. “But it’s the most romantic thing ever written, Mama.” Isabella should have known better than to goad her mother like this, but she could not help it—it was much too easy.

   “Romantic?” Her mother frowned, her mouth scrunched in a manner that warned Isabella of the derision that lay ahead. “You are aware that the hero and heroine both die because of some ridiculous misunderstanding, are you not?”

   “Of course, but —”

   “Not to mention that the passage you’re presently reciting starts not only with Juliet considering her dear heart’s demise but the prospect of having him chopped up and—”

   “Cut up, Mama—into little stars, so that—”

   “Honestly.” Her mother shook her head as she returned her attention to the rose petal she was stabbing with her needle, as if it had been Shakespeare himself and she meant to make him pay for subjecting her to his play. “I’ve never understood why anyone would think it romantic for a young couple to kill themselves in the name of love.”

   Isabella stifled a grin as she set the book aside and reached for her cutwork. “I do believe you’re the only person I know who can criticize the loveliest play ever written as if Mr. Shakespeare had penned it with the sole purpose of offending you. Considering how much you love Papa, I would have thought you’d be more romantically inclined, yet I’m beginning to wonder if you even know what romance is.” She said it in jest, but when she looked up, her mother’s eyes had widened and her jaw had gone slack. “I’m sorry,” Isabella quickly muttered. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

   Her mother took a deep breath, held it, and then released it very slowly before bowing her head once more to her work. “No,” she said. “I don’t suppose you did.”

   Drat it all, Isabella thought as she drew her needle through the piece of white linen she was holding. It had been neat and crisp when she’d started on it, but it had long since taken on the appearance of a crumpled rag. She shook her head at her carelessness—not in regard to the fabric but because of her mother. She’d unintentionally hurt her feelings, and not for the first time. She really ought to have learned her lesson by now. Glancing at the book she’d been reading, she made a mental note not to bring it into her mother’s presence ever again. It only resulted in trouble.

   She let out a small sigh. All she wanted was a confidante—someone with whom to share her dreams of true love and a happily ever after. In spite of what she’d said, she knew that her parents were happy. It was obvious from the way they looked at each other and the manner in which they addressed each other with cheerful smiles.

   Isabella wished for that, but she also wished for more—she wished for magic. Lord knew she had spent hours on end, dreaming about meeting a gallant stranger—a prince, perhaps—who would declare his undying love for her before carrying her off to his castle on a magnificent white stallion . . . or perhaps in a golden carriage similar to the one she’d imagined Cendrillon riding in the fairy tale she’d loved so dearly as a child.


   Isabella blinked, realizing her mother must have been telling her something that required her attention. “Sorry, Mama, my thoughts were elsewhere. You were saying?”

   Her mother frowned. “I know how fond you are of Romeo and Juliet. I didn’t mean to mock it in any way, it’s just . . . while I do appreciate Shakespeare’s talent, his notion of romance is, in my opinion, lacking—at least in this instance.” Tying off a thread, she folded the pillowcase and placed it in her embroidery basket. “Sacrificing yourself for the sake of love is not romantic, Isabella—it’s rash, thoughtless, and completely meaningless. Real romance comes from small and selfless gestures, from private moments spent in one another’s company or a shared kiss when no one else is looking. It’s showing the person you care about that they’re just as important to you as you are to yourself, if not more so. Most importantly, it’s what tells them that you love them, without the need for words.”

   Isabella stared at her mother, suddenly feeling she wasn’t entirely the person Isabella had always thought her to be. There was a more sensitive side to her than Isabella had ever imagined, or perhaps it was just that this was the first time her mother had ever talked openly about her own thoughts on the subject of romance. Of course Isabella knew that her mother wasn’t a cynic when it came to matters of the heart, for her devotion to her husband bordered on the ridiculous. It was just that her mother did not understand why anyone would choose to write poetry rather than tell the person in question how they actually felt about them, and the idea that any lady might enjoy a piece of music written in her honor seemed silly to her—or at least that was what she’d once said.

   Isabella was about to question her mother about the most romantic thing her father had ever done, but just as she opened her mouth, her mother rose to her feet and said, “You’d better ready yourself in time for Mr. Roberts’s visit. You know he’s never late.”

   It was true. Timothy Roberts was the most predictable man Isabella had ever known. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing—after all, Marjorie, their maid-of-all-work, always knew precisely when to put the pie in the oven so it would be ready in time for his visit. And he had been visiting a lot lately. Every Sunday afternoon at precisely three’ o clock, for an entire year.

   There was very little doubt about his intentions at this point (though he had yet to propose), and Isabella’s parents were overjoyed. Her father, who’d arranged the whole thing, was quite proud of himself for securing such a fine match for his daughter. He should have been too, for while they were bordering on a state of impoverishment, Mr. Roberts was a wealthy man who’d struck up a business specializing in luxury carriages.

   Isabella’s father had worked in his employ for the past five years, test-driving each vehicle before it was delivered to the client, and while Isabella wasn’t entirely sure of what her father might have told Mr. Roberts about her, the man had one day appeared for tea, and had continued to do so since.

   With a sigh, Isabella gathered up her things, feeling not the least bit enthusiastic about Mr. Roberts’s impending visit. Not because she didn’t like him (it was difficult to form an opinion due to his reserve), and certainly not because he had done anything to offend or upset her. On the contrary, he was always the perfect gentleman, adhering to etiquette in the most stringent manner possible.

   No, the problem was far simpler than that—she just did not love him, and what was worse, she had long since come to realize that she never would.


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Monday, August 12, 2013

Cover Reveal: Hard As You Can by Laura Kaye

Once again, I'm so excited to present yet another incredible cover reveal from Avon Romance! (This whole Avon Addict thing has its perks - free books, great new authors, first-look at swoon-worthy covers...When the next window for Addict applications opens, you need to apply!)

Today, it's Laura Kaye and her second book, HARD AS YOU CAN! It's the second book in her hot Hard Ink series (trust me, you'll need to fan yourself surreptitiously for this one...) and is due out February 25, 2014.

From the book:

Ever since hard-bodied, drop-dead-charming Shane McCallan strolled into the dance club where Crystal Dean works, he’s shown a knack for getting beneath her defenses. For her little sister’s sake, Crystal can’t get too close. Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed.

Shane would never turn his back on a friend in need, especially a former Special Forces teammate running a dangerous, off-the-books operation. Nor can he walk away from Crystal. The gorgeous waitress is hiding secrets she doesn't want him to uncover. Too bad. He’s exactly the man she needs to protect her sister, her life, and her heart. All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can-and never let go.

Sound good? Add it to your Want to Read shelf on Goodreads, then head on over to AMAZON or BARNES AND NOBLE and pre-order it today!

And now.....

For the cover itself.....


New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller Laura Kaye is the author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Laura grew up amidst family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses, cementing her life-long fascination with storytelling and the supernatural. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.
Laura is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Maryland Romance Writers. Visit Laura's website to learn more about her books!

Laura Kaye

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cover Reveal: Four Weddings and a Fireman

Today, I am lucky enough to present the cover reveal for the fifth book in the Bachelor Fireman of San Gabriel series -  Four Weddings and a Fireman: A Bachelor Firemen Novel by Jennifer Bernard, due out February 25, 2014 from Avon Romance!

It looks like another winner from Jennifer :)

From the book:

It takes a certain kind of man to stand out among the
Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel.

Firefighter Derek “Vader” Brown is one of a kind—six feet of solid muscle with the heart of a born hero. It’s that protective streak that has him pursuing a promotion to Captain to pay for his mother’s home care. And it’s why he intends to figure out why his sometime girlfriend Cherie Harper runs hot as hellfire one minute and pushes him away the next.
Cherie’s got it bad. Vader sweeps her off her feet—literally—and their chemistry is combustible. There’s just the little problem of a nightmare from her past she was desperate to escape. And then her sister Trixie arrives, causing havoc for Cherie and the male population of San Gabriel. Cherie doesn’t want her past to complicate Vader’s life or his career. But there’s nothing like a firefighter for breaking through all your defenses, one smoldering kiss at a time…

Available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble Booksellers!

About the Author

Jennifer Bernard is a graduate of Harvard and a former news promo producer. The child of academics, she confounded her family by preferring romance novels to . . . well, any other books. She left big city life for true love in Alaska, where she now lives with her husband and stepdaughters. She's no stranger to book success, as she also writes erotic novels under a naughty secret name not to be mentioned at family gatherings.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Meet Mina Vaughn (Author Interview and Excerpt!)

Mina Vaughn, international woman of mystery (and fellow shoe-lover) was kind enough to answer a few questions for At the Corner of First and Romance about her novel and her journey to publication. She's also provided a sneak peek into How to Discipline Your Vampire, which is out August 19, 2013!


Welcome to At the Corner of First and Romance, Mina! Tell us about Cerise - she's a very intense character. She likes what she likes and refuses to compromise! How did you come up with the idea of her?
Ahh, Cerise.  Where did I find her?  In a pair of high heels.  I saw these killer heels at Macy’s, they were pyramid-studded and pointy and absolutely badass and I pictured the type of woman who would wear them.  I’d been fantasizing about writing a really strong, uncompromising female lead for a while and when I saw these shoes, she started to appear.  Loves fantasy, loves kicking ass, confident as all hell but with a silly streak to match. 
I loved William because he struck me as an alpha male, even when he was trying to be a beta. What kind of challenges came up when developing such a complex character?
Well, at the time I wrote this, I’d pretty much had it with alphas.  I wanted to write someone open, willing and subservient.  Then again, I wanted him to be manly and sexy in a strong way, so that may be why he comes off as a little alpha.  He’s a man, you know?  But he’s a sweet, giving type rather than a grabby, possessive trope.  The challenges I mainly faced were to make him sexy and desirable but keep him from being too dominant.  I kept telling myself “Dream man who wants to make your wishes come true”, and the character kept coming to me that way.  It was like my mantra.  He’ll give whatever you want, so come up with everything, you know? 
Erotica is becoming more and more mainstream. What makes an erotica novel different than a romance novel? Would you classify HTDYV as one of these?
Great question.  Because I’ve been lucky enough to get to know erotica superstar Tiffany Reisz, I can answer this without question.  Erotica doesn’t need a happy ending.  Erotica can have multiple partners, some taboos, and can blur lines that traditional romance can’t.  Erotica  isn’t porn—there’s plenty of plot and finesse to be had—and at the end of the day, the sex has to drive the story forward.  How to Discipline Your Vampire is erotic romance, which means it’s very sexual and the sex drives the plot, but in this case it has a happily ever after.
This is unlike many vampire books already out there in that it isn't blatantly obvious William is a vampire, although it's central to the storyline. Was it a conscious decision to make this story different from other vampire romances?
Yes, It was definitely a conscious decision to downplay the vamp.  The story is that of William and Cerise, the power play and the role play, and not as much about the paranormal.  It’s a facet, and it’s important, but I really wanted this to be about them as a couple and growing together.  I write paranormal; it’s just what I do.  I like all things fantastical.  But since this is story driven and not world driven, I decided that it wasn’t in-your-face-vampire stuff.  I do like that stuff, honestly, just not for this story.
How did you obtain your literary agent?
I’m represented by the incredible Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency.  She’s my dream agent and good friend.  Everyone needs an agent, in my opinion, because you need a professional to look out for *your* best interest.  I’m so lucky to have her as my partner on this journey.
From start-to-finish, how long did it take you to write the first draft of How to Discipline Your Vampire?
First draft?  About six months.  Revisions…around a year.  I re-wrote the second half of the book or so, then re-wrote it again.  Drastic changes.  So total time would be a year and a half.
At what point in your writings did you decide that you wanted to be published?
When I was a kid.  We’d be playing in my grandmother’s yard and I would choreograph the entire day with scripted scenes, bossing everyone around like a crazy person.  I started writing creatively then, and I wanted a book on the shelf since I was a child.  I lost sight of that for a while because it seemed pie-in-the-sky, but once I started pumping out fiction on a regular basis, I thought that pie may be a little lower than sky-height.  ;)
What was the most surprising thing you learned as you went through the publishing process?
How nice everyone is!  My gosh. You’d think big publishers and editors, brand name authors and the like would all be ego-maniacs, but in reality they’re the nicest people ever. Ever. This week I went to RWA nationals and met mega-stars, I mean, like the superheroes of romance. Were they nice? Beyond. Hell, I played iPhone games with Alice Clayton and Jenn Probst for cryin’ out loud.  It was amazing.  
Are there more stories like this in the pipeline for you? What's next?
Yes!  I’m currently working on several novelettes with the same themes as How to Discipline Your Vampire.  They’re VERY fun, so keep your eyes peeled for announcements.  :)


      Erin’s chastisement this weekend was a faint memory as I ran my hands over the sumptuous fabric of the black and purple kimono hanging in my bathroom. Unreal, I thought to myself while I unraveled each complex piece of the ensemble. I had done my homework on kimono-wearing during my free period earlier that day. There was the obi, the mae-ita, and the obijime, all finally wrapped around my waist. My outfit was now complete. Instead of putting my hair in a geisha-style bun, I decided to flat-iron it so it fell in long sheets around my face. I used my “winter complexion” pressed powder, clipped in a few black extensions and put on some matte red lipstick to complete the look.
      Look out, Kyoto.
      I smoothed my clothing and walked as steadily as I could in the high platform sandals William provided. He had put on quite a show the past few scenes, so I knew I would have to hide my shock at whatever he had done this time.
      But no amount of preparation could have possibly kept the shock and awe from my expression when I walked into my bedroom.
      Or should I say dojo?
      William had placed lacquered bamboo parquet on top of my hardwoods, giving the room a much brighter feel. There were also about five or six tatami mats in various points in the room. The furniture was gone, as expected, and all that occupied the space was a simple tea set on the floor, and arrangements of fresh cherry boughs and blossoms in every corner. I was breathless at the sight and the smell. It was like a movie set.
      But he wasn’t there. I suppose he was planning on serving me, so I arranged my robe carefully as I sat on the tatami mat closest to the tea setup. I took a moment to inhale and exhale slowly, centering myself for what was to come. 
Geishas had to be graceful, calm, and subtle while maintaining their aura as the center of attention. William had a tough audience today.
      Before I could hear his approach, William stood in front of me, and then bent into a low bow. As he stood, he kept his head and eyes downcast as he poured hot water into the green tea leaves that were in the pot by my feet.  I gave his calves a whack with my fan.
      “How dare you take from me,” I chastised.
      “Cherry Blossom,” he said quietly. “I hope you received my apologetic appeal. Would you allow me to serve you tea today? I understand if you choose to send me away.”
I looked him up and down in approval. He was wearing simple black drawstring pants and a loose black robe. I could see his chest exposed in a long, low V. I was very pleased. “You may serve me tea,” I said simply, and he made me a cup of green tea. 
      He kneeled by my side, wordlessly, while I sipped in contemplation. “Have you decided my fate, Cherry-san?” he asked after I had placed my cup on the floor.
      “I believe I have, servant.  You took from me, so today I will take from you.”  I gave him another sharp whack with my fan.
      His gaze burned, and I had to look away. Focus, focus, I told myself.

Thanks for spending some time with us, Mina! If you're interested in more Mina, you can contact her - she loves reader email, Twitter, and Facebook friends, so definitely give her a shout...and tell her I sent you! 

Twitter: @minavaughn
Email: minavaughnwrites@gmail.com
Website: www.minavaughn.com
Facebook: Mina Vaughn


Mina Vaughn is an international woman of mystery and a shoe whore with a heart of gold. When she's not writing her unique brand of silly smut, she's plundering Sephora for an pin-up girl makeup she can find. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Book Review: How to Discipline Your Vampire by Mina Vaughn

Title: How to Discipline Your Vampire
Author: Mina Vaughn
Publisher: Pocket Books (Simon and Schuster)
Release Date: August 19, 2013
Where to Buy: Amazon Apple's iBookstore | Nook | Kobo | eBooks.com
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

From the book:

Cerise Norrell, Type A substitute teacher by day, is ready to quit being a domme. Despite her best intentions, none of her partners can keep up with her scene fetish and attention to detail—let alone her demand that they have a costume and set waiting every afternoon by the time she’s home from school. 

Over a dozen potential subs have left her in the past year, but just when Cerise thinks it’s impossible—that she’ll have to go back to vanilla relationships, or be alone forever—she meets William, who wants to make all her fantasies come true. He turns her home into a geisha’s dream apartment, a concert hall with a grand piano (which he uses to play an original composition while wearing a tuxedo), and even rents an abandoned loft for a zombie apocalypse scene—complete with canned goods.

But there’s something strange about William. Well, a lot of strange things. He must be absurdly rich, since he can afford to provide extravagant costumes and props on a daily basis without having to leave work early. He must be insane, since he puts up with Cerise’s over-the-top demands. And most importantly, he doesn’t redden when he’s spanked, and his skin is as cool as satin sheets. When Cerise discovers she’s become dome to the infamous “Chilly Willy,” as he’s known throughout the BDSM urban lore, she begins to find out there’s a whole lot more to her handsome submissive than a creative mind and a hard body.

And when it’s William, ironically, who starts pressing Cerise to give him the kind of commitment she’s never given anyone, it’ll take everything she has to work through her issues, confront her past, and learn to be vulnerable.
This book surprised me. I'm not one for vampire romances - or much in that vein of paranormal at all - but I put my preconceived notions aside.

My review:
When I started the book on a Thursday night, I figured I'd read some, put it down, and pick it up over the weekend. But, once I started, I couldn't put it down. The story itself is darkly humorous - Cerise is not a likeable character (at first). She's got some major hangups that immediately had me questioning what her issue was - every sub she gained was lost due to insanely ridiculous, picky reasons (or hilarious ones - taco/salsa breath would be a deal-breaker for most anyone!). She had a pseudo-friend who was just as unlikeable...but something drew me in. I wanted to know why this woman was this way. I admit, my first thought was, If this chick is this angry at the world for no reason, I'm going to be really upset that I wasted my time.

Oh, am I glad I kept reading.

Cerise's reason was BEYOND what I expected. Her event was so traumatic, so life-altering that I lost my breath. Actually couldn't breathe for a moment as I read the scene, which was written so beautifully that I could see and feel what she experienced.

From that second on, I wasn't letting go. I read the entire book in one sitting (I was tired the next day at work, but so worth it) and began to really root for her to realize William was the perfect guy for her.

William was a different kind of character, too - he wasn't an in-your-face vampire. I had a hard time thinking of him as a vampire until it was fully presented to Cerise (I enjoyed the way in which William's past was given to the reader - not drip-fed, and not all-at-once, but captivating in its entirety).

The only vampire-y part came at the end of the book, and by that point I was comfortable enough with the two characters that it didn't bother me in the way I thought it would (being, you know, not a fan of vampire stuff).

I would recommend this story to folks looking for a good read. Be warned, though: It is dark, it is humorous, and it has some moments where you'll want to slap/kick/hug/cry with the characters. All in all, worthwhile for a bit of your time.

And - if you're like me in that vampires aren't your thing - I still recommend you check it out. The story can stand even if you change William from a vampire to an (even wealthier) human, which is not something I can say about other novels in this genre. And for all us language freaks out there, the writing (grammar, sentence structure, plot arc, etc) is flawless and a true joy to read.

(Disclaimer: I was provided an ARC from the publisher for an honest and unbiased review.)