Sunday, March 1, 2015

My Recipe for a Romantic Suspense in Provence

Giveaway Alert!

I have always loved reading romantic suspense novels. They are a fascinating genre, having to combine action and romance, mystery and passion. They have to keep the reader guessing until the end, not only about the resolution of the romantic conflict between the hero and heroine, but also about the resolution of the mystery. I usually write historical romances but during a family holiday in the South of France I started thinking of a plot for A SPELL IN PROVENCE. I knew I wanted to write a contemporary romance between an English heroine and a French hero, but I soon realised that I wanted to include danger and mystery too, drawn from the captivating ancient history of Provence. The more I read and researched the area of Lubéron, where the story is set, the more I learned about the Salyens - the Celtic tribes who lived there before the Roman invaded the region - the darker the mystery became ... Juggling the love story and the suspense element was an exciting novelty to me - a little like trying a new recipe!  

So how did I write A SPELL IN PROVENCE? Here is the recipe I made up as I went along...

Take these essential ingredients: 

A naive, but determined, English heroine who buys Bellefontaine, an old provençal farmhouse to pursue the life-long dream of running a guesthouse.

A handsome, enigmatic French hero, the owner of Manoir Coste, a vast estate and luxury hotel nearby, who keeps telling our heroine she is an amateur and is bound to fail. 

An ancient spell binding the lives and the hearts of the ladies of Bellefontaine and the dukes of Coste.

Mix well then add a large spoonful of Provence's ancient history, including tales of a long lost temple and cryptic inscriptions in Latin on village fountains. 

Add a sprinkle of hostility by locals and a drizzle of passion.

Whisk the mixture until the heroine has fallen head-over-heels in love with the hero.

Then add a few drops of doubt and a soupçon of fear, caused by  reports of gruesome murders and eerie sightings of lights in the forest. 

Simmer on slow heat until tension sizzles and bubbles. 

Pour the mixture into a love-shaped tin and bake under the watchful eye of Bona Dea, an ancient Salyen goddess from Provence. When ready, enjoy with a cup of strong, black coffee or a glass of rosé wine!


With few roots in England and having just lost her job, Amy Carter decides to give up on home and start a new life in France, spending her redundancy package turning an overgrown Provençal farmhouse, Bellefontaine, into a successful hotel. Though she has big plans for her new home, none of them involves falling in love – least of all with Fabien Coste, the handsome but arrogant owner of a nearby château.  As romance blossoms, eerie and strange happenings in Bellefontaine hint at a dark mystery of the Provençal countryside which dates back many centuries and holds an entanglement between the ladies of Bellefontaine and the ducs de Coste at its centre. As Amy works to unravel the mystery, she begins to wonder if it may not just be her heart at risk, but her life too. 


Marie Laval Bio
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie studied History and Law at university there before moving to Lancashire in England where she worked in a variety of jobs, from PA in a busy university department to teacher of French in schools and colleges. Writing, however, was always her passion, and she spends what little free time she has dreaming and making up stories. Her historical romances ANGEL HEART and THE LION'S EMBRACE are published by MuseItUp Publishing. A SPELL IN PROVENCE is her first contemporary romance. It is published by Áccent Press. 

He looked down. The light of the rising sun played on his face and made his green eyes seem deep and warm. Time slowed down. The noise from the crowd became muffled and distant, and all she could hear was the crystalline spring water trickling in the old fountain. The spring that ran through the forest between Manoir Coste and Bellefontaine and bound hearts and lives together, or so the spell said … Her heartbeat slowed, or maybe it stopped altogether. It was as if Fabien and she were alone. Desire, fear and another feeling she didn’t recognise overwhelmed her and made her dizzy.

Shivering in the cold breeze despite her shawl, Amy joined the guests lining up to be greeted by Fabien, who in true lord of the manor style, stood tall and imposing at the top of the steps, with torches burning on either side of him. 

He might wear a black dining suit and a crisp white shirt instead of a suit of armour, but there was something untamed, fundamentally uncivilized and proprietary about the way he surveyed the crowd – as if he truly owned everything and everyone, like Frédéric had said, and Amy was seized by an irresistible, irrational and overwhelming urge to flee. She didn’t want to speak to Fabien Coste, didn’t want to put up with his arrogant ways. He could keep his fancy chateau, his contacts and glamorous guests, she didn’t need him. She would walk home. It wasn’t that far. 

She was about to step aside when he looked down and their gaze met. Shadows danced on his face. The torches hissed in the breeze, their flames shooting high in the air and reflecting in his green eyes, giving them a deep, dangerous glow. For the space of a heartbeat, the noise of conversations around her became distant and fuzzy, and all she could see was him. 

He walked down, took her hand and lifted it to his lips. Even though his mouth barely touched her skin, a flash of heat reverberated through her body. 

‘Mademoiselle Carter – Amy, you’re here at last.’ 

It was the first time he’d spoken her first name. He made it sound French, sensual and incredibly romantic. Aimée. Beloved. 

‘Shall I escort you inside and introduce you to a few people?’ 

Panic made her heart flutter and turned her brain to mush. 

‘Well, it’s just that …’ 

He arched a dark eyebrow, looked down, and smiled as if he knew exactly what she was feeling. 

‘You’re here now. You might as well make the most of it.’

Marie will be giving away a digital copy of A Spell In Provence to one person leaving a comment or email entry.

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST March 2nd. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Friday, February 27, 2015


With: Silvia Ami

Giveaway Alert!

After reading a blog post written by my dear friend April about the lack of diversity among book heroes, I started thinking about our specific area of investigation: Romantic Suspense.

Authors and readers chat about the general idea of abused stereotypes in novels quite often. But, is this a new common practice, or is it as old as the world?

I think Authors are constantly elaborating the same pattern again and again, not for lack of fantasy or audacity, but for our need to be reassured by a story. Even if we don't follow completely the Hero Journey's outline sketched by Campbell and Vogler, we can't skip all his archetypes.

I guess Greek Mythology can explain a lot of modern heroes and heroines and not in terms of superpowers. There are traits in our characters' personalites that we use unconsciously to build them. In name of diversity, and trying not to bore you, I'm going to name just two well known heroine' types, avoiding the typical Alpha hero, Athena and Artemis. 

I'm sure you've met a lot of times the typical Athena: strong minded, intelligent and slightly detached. She's the scientist or the agent that can sort out a complicated situation just looking at the clues left by the bad guys.

She is always right, even if she bends the rules in order to save the situation, or tap the culprit.

Then comes Artemis, the huntress: passionate for her own work and detached from the rest of the world. She is the one that can save the situation due her courage and fast thinking. But she can also  get in trouble because her instincts overpowers her rational judgment.

Our heroines can be considered the reincarnation of Greek goddesses, cannot they?

Would you like to read more similarities? Share your thoughts with me posting a blog comment! I'll extract a random winner among the participants.

And before I say goodbye I want to present my own Artemis: Joss Dubois.

TAKE is her and Ethan's story.


“No way am I going to lose another arrest,” she muttered.

“C'mon Josie, everybody knows you found them. Their capture is pure formality.”

“Are you kidding? Wait. Wait. God! It’s about time. I can finally see the patrol car lights in the rear mirror.”
A sigh of relief loosened the vise around Ethan’s chest, but the words died in his throat.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Three gun shots reverberated from the speakerphone.

“Joss!” he bellowed. He could hear muffled sounds and the engine running in high speed, but she didn't answer.

He shouted louder, “Josie!”

“Yeah. Sorry, buddy,” she said, her voice firm but coming from a greater distance. “I had to put the phone down and grab the wheel with both hands.”

“Joss, you're killing me here. Tell me what's happening!”

She chuckled. “Well, there’s a bad guy with bad aim - fortunately, I dare to say - who's trying to hit me. We're exiting the highway... Holy cow! We're in the middle of nowhere.”

Two other shots followed by a loud crash echoed in Ethan’s ear and he froze.

“Shit!” Joss barked after a heartbeat, but for Ethan it seemed longer than an hour.

“What now?” he asked harshly.

“Sorry, Eth,” she said faintly. “I think your left side mirror has just been blown out.” Then he heard her sucking air between her teeth. 

“Are you hurt?” he asked.

“Uh.” Was her reply. “That's nothing.”

He gritted his teeth and swore. “What happened, Joss? Tell me!” No matter what she said about her training and what he had seen with his own eyes about her strength, Ethan wanted only one thing: her safe and sound at his side. 

Not surrounded by flying bullets and shattered glass. 

God, his hands itched because right now he wanted to throttle her like a disobedient kid. But he had to fight his own instinct and let her do her damn job, waiting silently for chunks of information.

She had been quiet for too long. “Josie?”

“Still here. We took a road in the desert. There's nothing here except rocks and dust. I don't know why they didn't stay on the highway. I guess they thought they could stop me better here. At ninety miles per hour, you can't drive and use a gun at the same time. I suppose they know that, too. I think she's holding the wheel and he’s aiming at your poor Wrangler. Since I'm the closer target, they're taking a chance on me.”

Follow your instinct, you moron. Tell her to come back! “Damn. Joss, stop the car immediately.”

“Don't be silly,” she replied. Her words were deadened by the stronger echo of sirens. “The police cars are coming closer so they're done anyway.” 
More shots.


When FBI special agent Joss Dubois discovers that her best friend’s life is being threatened, she volunteers to be the Vegas dancer's official protection. Determined to solve the case before she loses one of the only people she loves, Joss becomes caught up in terrorism, attempted murder, and life behind-the-scenes of the seedy nightlife of Sin City. 

Joss is forced to partner with the security manager at the Desert Casino, former Intel Marine, Ethan Gallagher. Despite her resistance to his charm, and her stubborn insistence on controlling the investigation, Ethan finds himself drawn to the smart, beautiful, tempting FBI agent. But Joss isn’t so eager to risk heartbreak after the tragedies of her past and her job has become the only thing she can count on. 

When the threats against the people they’re protecting turn deadly, Ethan and Joss have to find a way to trust each other to track the hunter who lies in wait for the Desert’s dancers. But trust is a rare and fragile thing to Joss, and Ethan may not be up to the task despite the mutual attraction they can't deny or fight. 

Will their new partnership blow up, or can it survive to take down the predator before it’s too late? 

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST February 28th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Down and Dirty--Dianna Love’s Slye Temp Agents Spill the Beans

Congratulations to "Jonetta" and "JoAn", the winners in Dianna's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

Shhhhh.  Dianna is still in the cave working on a new book, so we decided to come tell our side of the Slye Temp series, but if Dianna asks, we don’t know how you got this information.  Okay? 

Who are we?  The Slye Temp agents, and some significant others who really shouldn’t be here, and, well, one person who just butts in on occasion.

Dingo Paddock:  Hey! Val is not--

Margaux Duke:  (interrupts) I’m first because I’m Dianna’s favorite.  (laughs at all the shouting from behind her, then looks over her shoulder)  Get over it.  (turns back to readers) KISS THE ENEMY is already out, but she’s still got plans for me and Logan in the HAMR Brotherhood series.  (glances around)  Crud.  She really will kill all of us if I tell much about that.  Okay, I’ll make it fair. We can take turns telling on Dianna.  (group starts smiling)

Dingo:  Back off, Margaux.  You and Logan had your story. It’s time for my and Valene’s story in STOLEN VENGEANCE.
Margaux: (rolls eyes) From what I heard, you had your chance and blew it.  I don’t know why Valene would give you the time of day right now. I wouldn’t if I were her.

Dingo: Knock that off. It’s a long story and I don’t have to explain it to you.

Margaux: True.  (grins wide)  But I looked over Dianna’s shoulder when she was writing and you are so not going to like what you have coming up.

Logan Baklanov: (steps up behind Margaux and wraps his arms around her)  Don’t torture Dingo any more than Dianna has already has, babe.  I had something I wanted to show you in our hotel room, but if you’re too busy…

Margaux: (laughs)  Actually, I think Dingo and Valene should tell their secrets. 

Valene Eklund: (yells from across the room)  Dianna must have been out of her mind to think I would waste another second on Dingo after what he did.  Did that stop her? Nooooo.  And look at him over there.   He looks like some late-night desert that would be great eaten naked and… argh!   You know what?  I’m the one who butts in uninvited, and now I’m going to share something on Dianna.  (all heads turn to Valene) Dianna would rather spend the day fishing with her honey bun than travel to Europe.  And one of her favorite fishing spots is on the docks at The Grand Marlin in Pensacola Beach, FL. 

Dingo: (takes a step Valene’s way)  Shush! You can’t say that in public!  You can’t give away where we all hang out. Don’t you realize that’s a security risk?  (sees Valene’s ashen face and stops in his tracks)   Aw, crap.  Listen, Val, I’ll tell one better, so she’ll be mad at me instead of you.  Dianna loves to watch movies with her honey bun and can’t watch a movie without eating popcorn, which is why she’s so grumpy right now. She hasn’t been in the gym for a few weeks and won’t eat popcorn until she goes back.  In the meantime, she’s taking all that grumpiness out on us.  Me, to be specific.

Valene: (jams hands on hips)  You aren’t the only one with battles to fight, mister.  You should see what she has me doing.

Dingo:  I have seen and I intend to have a talk with Dianna as soon as someone takes her keyboard away so she can’t do anything else to me. (studies Valene) At least she left you smokin’ hot.

Valene: (frowns)  Would have been nice if you’d noticed back when we were together.

Dingo: (grumbles under his breath)  I missed nothing about you.

Valene: (Looks away, hurt) Just as I thought. 

Dingo: (frowns, thinking about what he said) Hold it. I didn’t mean it that way.

Valene: (storms forward)  Right, just like you didn’t mean to crush my heart? 

Tanner Bodine: (barges in)  Okay cut it out you two, or we’ll all be doing hard time in the next book. 

Margaux: (grinning even wider) Ah, come on, cowboy.  I was about to send out for popcorn for us.  This is a good show.

Dingo: (looks at Val’s hurt face and glares at the other agents) Knock it off, Margaux.  Never  forget, paybacks are a bitch.

Margaux: (lets out a heavy sigh) Have you ever known Dianna not to give her characters the HEA they deserve?

Dingo:  (still looking at Val) I’m not so sure. She’s obviously not too happy with me. Hell, I’m not too happy with me.

Tanner: (shrugs)  Tough titty. Get out of here until March 30th or Dianna might change her mind about you two. 

Valene: (freezes, then wheels around and takes off) Screw this.

Dingo: (gives Tanner a narrow-eyed look of threat)  You are not helping.

Tanner:  (gives a big cowboy grin)  Maybe not, but I’ve got my HEA and now I get to watch you suffer, sucka. 

Margaux You do know that’s why Dianna writes these romantic-thrillers – to entertain herself—right?

Tanner:  And the readers.  Don’t forget about them.  I think she’d have quit a long time ago if it weren’t for the readers.

Dingo:  You got that right, mate. She’d have quit  for certain after you and I took that little jaunt into North Korea in DECEPTIVE TREASURES.

Tanner:  I’d do it over.  That’s where I found Jin.

Dianna: (walks into room and glances around) What’s going on here?  I didn’t call a meeting.

Slye agents scatter except for Margaux and Logan

Margaux:  Oh, nothing you need to kno…uh..worry about. 

Dianna: (Sticks hands on hips) I smell a rat.

Margaux: (points) Look!  Some readers are here!

Dianna:  (smiles wide, distracted by readers) Oh, hey everybody!  So glad you stopped by! I needed a break from the writing cave.  You wouldn’t believe the trouble Dingo is giving me.

Margaux:  (Snickers and dashes for the door, pulling Logan behind her) Gotta go. We have…uh…an appointment.  (Logan grins as door closes)

Dianna:  What was that about? (turns to readers)  Since you’re here, let’s chat a bit. I’ve got some goodies to give away, and we’ll choose two winners.  If your name is drawn, and you’re willing to wait until March 30th for STOLEN VENGEANCE, you’ll receive the e-book as soon as it’s available.  If you’d rather have your prize now, you’ll get a Slye Temp e-book box set (first 3 novels). Either way, you’ll also receive a set of signed Slye Temp Keeper Kase® Cards via snail mail.  (Amazon or Barnes & Noble account required to receive e-book gifts).

To enter the drawing, tell me whether you’d like STOLEN VENGEANCE or the Slye Temp Box Set (see the comment above) and help me out by answering a question.

When I get even a short  break from the writing cave, I love to ride motorcycles with my husband.  We’ve ridden back and forth across the country more than once, and I’m always looking for little out-of-the way places to stop on our trips. On my next motorcycle ride, where would you tell me to go, and why?    


Slye Temp Book 6 coming March 30, 2015 

He's the last man she'll trust and the only one who can save her.

Slye Temp agent Dingo Paddock walked away from rare items recovery specialist Valene Eklund seven years ago to protect her from a deadly organization, but the woman can’t stay out of trouble.  Valene hasn’t forgiven Dingo for breaking her heart when he disappeared without a word. The last thing she’ll allow is for him to interfere with her new client whose contract will dig her out of financial ruin. She’s lucked into a deal that only comes along once, but Dingo believes the price is too high – her life - and now the organization he destroyed to keep her safe has returned to exact vengeance on Dingo.  Getting their hands on the one woman Dingo would walk through fire for? Priceless. 

If Dingo and Valene can't overcome their past and learn to trust again, an assassin will kill a key global figure on US soil, igniting the fuse to an international conflict. They can't save the world until they figure out how to save each other first. 
PREORDER Now - Kindle or iTunes

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST February 26th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Congratulations to "Mary P.", the winner in Angi's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

HELLO JRS READERS!! Thanks for hanging out with me as I celebrate the release of book 3 of my West Texas Watchmen series. THE RANGER is hitting shelves this week and I wanted to share part of one of my favorite scenes with you. It’s between the hero and the heroine’s four-year old son. Just leave a comment to be eligible for a $10.00 gift card.

Mitch tickled Toby who squirmed on the beige-carpeted floor. “You ready to eat, kid?”

“Scrambled eggs?”

“Sure, I can do that.”

“I’ll get mom.”

He took off, but Mitch’s arm got him around the middle. His little feet kept running like a cartoon and his giggle filled the room. Another trick they did when Toby visited the café and he was running when he should be walking.

He’d been warned to hang in the background, to let the situation with King happen without interference or rushing in to save the day.

Maybe he was ready to let those close to him know he could save the day. It just seemed like he smiled a lot more in Marfa—at least when people couldn’t see him.
He had the eggs scrambled in the bowl and the pan hot when Brandie wandered into the kitchen.


“Nice shirt.” He noticed his T-shirt and the blush that crept up the fair redhead’s neck and cheeks. She crossed her arms and did a one-eighty from the room.

Mitch had also noticed her pert nipples and her long curls messed up like she’d had a restless sleep, too. He cooked Toby’s eggs, gave him chocolate milk and buttered toast, then sat at the table with him.


“Yup, that’s me.”

“Are you gonna live here now? `Cause if you did, we could get bunk beds and share my room.” Toby was all eyes and seriousness, milk-stained lip and all.

Mitch didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t a possibility. Then again, what was stopping him? He remembered the way his T-shirt had looked on Brandie earlier. Sharing a room with someone wasn’t such an unpleasant idea.

“Eat up, kid. We’ll talk about those bunks later.”

He was scooping the last bite of eggs in his mouth when Brandie emerged. Her plate had grown cold before she returned completely dressed and ready for another day at the café.
She put the eggs between two pieces of bread and wrapped it in a napkin. “I laid out your clothes, buddy. Go brush your teeth and get dressed.”

“Does Mitch have to brush his teeth?”

“Sure I do, kid. But mine’s at the garage.”

“You need one here then, `cause you gotta brush before you leave the house.” Toby pushed in his chair and scampered from the room.

Excerpt and Covers provided by Harlequin Enterprises.
~ ~ ~
Whew. THE RANGER wraps up my West Texas series, but a second trip to the area has given me ideas for more stories in that locale. Just before Christmas, my husband and I laid in the back of our truck and watched a gazillion points of light along with several shooting stars. Perfection.

Mitch is blown away when he realizes he likes the role of dad. DO YOU enjoy reading stories where strong heroes are brought to their knees by the words of a child?
~ ~ ~
ANGI MORGAN writes “Intrigues where honor and danger collide with love.” She combines actual Texas settings with characters who are in realistic and dangerous situations. Angi's work has been a finalist in the Bookseller’s Best Award, Romantic Times Best First Series, Carolyn Readers Choice, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and the Daphne du Maurier.
Website   Facebook   FB Fan Page  
Twitter @AngiMorganAuthr        Book Trailers on YouTube
Monthly Giveaway on Rafflecopter check out A Picture A Day for the link
~ ~ ~
Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST February 24th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Embracing Midlife and Writing Romance

Congratulations to "Sue P.", the winner in Sharon's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

Day Two!!

Happy Sunday Everyone!

Returning to the theme of courage, I wanted to share a snippet of  one of Jenna’s courageous moments and why I admire her for it. She is being pushed into a corner by a manipulative ex-boyfriend who wants to resurrect their flawed relationship: 

 “We can’t just instantaneously pick up where we left off.” Jenna heard her voice incrementally rising. “I’m still the same old me, Matt. I haven’t changed. I came to Manhattan for a reason.” She dug her nails into the pillow on her lap. “I’m not going to leave because you want me to.”

“I could use a friend now, Jenna. I’ve never been alone before. And you and I have always loved each other and been there for one another. I hoped you’d feel the same.”

“Of course I love you, Matt. I always will. But we both know we wouldn’t work out in the long run. You don’t want me. You just don’t want to be alone.”

Jenna flexes her muscles here and I love her for it.  They are deeply entangled by decades old emotional bonds.  During their conversation, Jenna stands her ground, realizing that those bonds are life draining, wrapping around her heart  like creeping vines.  Prior to this, she struggles with letting go of her past with Matt, closing her heart to an opportunity to love again.  She is fully open to the gift of new beginnings in this moment.  Jenna is the strong, feisty heroine I adore here and I’m proud of her for shutting the door on her ex and leaving their exhausting past behind. 

Here’s how to enter the  $20.00 Amazon Gift Card Courage Giveaway!
Post your answer to the question:  Who or what is your source of courage and why?  by the deadline of  12:00 pm  EST on  2/22/15.  I will announce the winner on the Just Romantic Suspense Blog at 8:00 pm EST.  


Thirty-two year old Jenna Havilland doesn’t have time for romantic relationships. Driven and career focused, she is the personal assistant to eccentric contemporary artist, Pedro Rodriguez. When Jenna inadvertently becomes the target of a dangerous international art crime ring, she reluctantly captures the romantic interest of notorious playboy and fine art management firm executive, Alex Quinlan. They are both forced into the crosshairs of this deadly storm, and Alex is determined to protect her.

Still dealing with emotional baggage from her break up three years ago, Jenna is skittish when it comes to love. She can’t deny the off the charts chemistry between her and Alex, but she questions whether she can trust the gorgeous, heartbreaking playboy with her heart and her life as they dodge danger and try to stay alive. Can they find love knowing there is no one to trust?

Native New Yorker and romance author Sharon Callender is a card carrying member of the hopeless romantic club.  She starting reading romance novels way too young and has been addicted ever since.  Sharon enjoys crafting characters that are unraveled by love. Their predictable lives are thrown into beautiful, passionate chaos when love unexpectedly arrives.

Sharon has a MFA in Creative Writing and loves writing romance with a delicious blend of spicy and sweet, a sprinkling of suspense and adventure, and of course, a happy ending.  When she’s not writing Sharon can be found daydreaming, knitting, or watching one of the home shopping channels.