Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best Reads of 2014


Wow! Is the year really almost over? Well, it's been a fantastic year filled with great reads and not so great reads. Today we will be sharing our Top 10 Favorite Reads of 2014.

  1. A Little Too Hot by Lisa Desrochers (Review | Buy)
  2. Temporarily Yours by Diane Alberts (Review | Buy)
  3. Need You Tonight by Roni Loren (Review | Buy)
  4. Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren (Review | Buy)
  5. The Last Good Knight Parts 1-5 by Tiffany Reisz (Review | Buy)
  6. Rush by Nyrae Dawn (Review | Buy)
  7. All Lined Up by Cora Carmack (Review | Buy)
  8. His Reverie/Her Destiny by Monica Murphy (Buy HR | Buy HD)
  9. Revenant by Larissa Ione (Buy)
  10. Absolute Surrender by Jenn LeBlanc (Buy)


  1. The Saint by Tiffany Reisz (Review | Buy)
  2. Staking His Claim by Tessa Bailey (Buy)
  3. Forever Starts Tonight by Roni Loren (Buy)
  4. Wallbanger by Alice Clayton (Buy)
  5. Hard To Hold On To by Laura Kaye (Buy)
  6. Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey (Buy)
  7. Fanning the Flames by Victoria Dahl (Review | Buy)
  8. Burn for Me by Lauren Blakely (Buy)
  9. Marked anthology by Lauren Dane, Kit Rocha, and Vivian Arend (Review | Buy)
  10. The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan (Buy)
Honorable Mention:
The Charlotte Chronicles by Jen Frederick (Buy)  ... Mainly because I loved getting the next part of the story every week in my email.

  1. Intrusion by Charlotte Stein (Review | Buy)
  2. Make It Right by Megan Erickson (Review | Buy)
  3. White Collared (4 part serial) by Shelly Bell (Review | Buy)
  4. Hard Time by Cara McKenna (Review | Buy)
  5. The Billionaire Submissive by Joely Sue Burkhart (Review | Buy)
  6. Having Her by Jackie Ashenden (Review | Buy)
  7. On The Way Home by Skye Warren (Review | Buy)
  8. The Saint by Tiffany Reisz (Review | Buy)
  9. The Delicious Torment by Alison Tyler (Review | Buy)
  10. Breach of Contract by J.R. Gray (Review | Buy)




This is an impossible task, but here’s what I picked. My first step was looking through my jar of books read this year to pull out my favorites and the narrowing it down partially by those published before this year. Still left way too many choices, but in no particular order here are my top 10.

10. Edge of the Enforcer by Cherise Sinclair (Buy)

9. Precarious by Bella Jewel (Review | Buy)

8. Heart Ties by Em Petrova (Review | Buy)

7. Dom with the Kink Monsters by Sorcha Black (Review | Buy)

6. Absolute Surrender by Jenn LeBlanc (Review | Buy)

5. Hard as You Can by Laura Kaye (Buy)

4. Seize Me from Darkness by Cari Silverwood (Review | Buy)

3. No More Masquerade by Angel Payne and Victoria Blue (Review | Buy)

2. Going All In by Alannah Lynne (Review | Buy)

1. Trial by Fire by Tricia Andersen (Review | Buy)

As I said, this was extremely hard to choose! So here’s a few honorable mentions that almost made the list—
Not Your Damn Submissive by Amy Valenti (Review | Buy)
Iron Rods by Brenna Zinn (Buy)
Empathy by Ker Dukey (Buy)
Silken Kisses by Laci Paige (Buy)
Breaking the Cycle (Review | Buy) and Breaking the Silence (Review | Buy) by Tricia Andersen





So dear reader friends, what's on YOUR list for 2014? Did any of our books make it on YOUR list?



Thursday, December 25, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Nothing Between Us by Roni Loren + #Giveaway


I think my favorite holiday memories are usually tied to the ones that were the most simple. Holidays in my family could be pretty complicated because my parents were divorced and both remarried, creating multiple families. So Christmas became a marathon of visiting four to five houses over two days so that I could see and be seen by all the different arms of the family. Parts of that were fun (Lots of people! Lots of food! Lots of presents!), but it also was exhausting.

So I think my favorite Christmases were the ones where I went out of town with my mom and stepdad and stepbrother. We would often go some place cold, which was kind of magical when you grow up in balmy New Orleans, and something about being out of town during the holidays felt like such an adventure. My favorite of the trips was probably to Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, MO. I remember the road trip took forever (my parents always drove, planes were for sissies) and I was ready to murder my dear stepbrother by the time we got there. But once we arrived it was like Christmas wonderland. Mountains and snow and horse back riding. Crackling fires in big stone fireplaces and holiday decorations everywhere. I felt like I’d entered some Christmas movie.

So though I enjoy seeing all my family during the holidays, I do hold a special spot in my heart for holiday trips and try to take one every few years. Because there’s something about being somewhere else with the people you love that can make you feel truly home for the holidays. : )

So, how about you? Anyone else like to take trips during the holidays or do you prefer to stay close to home?


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on The Earl I Adore by Erin Knightley + #Giveaway


There’s a reason they call Christmas the most wonderful time of the year. Everything about it makes me smile: the music, the decorations, the shopping, the gifts, and, of course, the whole reason for the season. It’s a time when people come together and celebrate each other, give thanks, show kindness, and concentrate on giving. There is magic in the air as it draws closer and closer to the big day, Christmas itself. But for me? It was Christmas Eve that has always been the most magical.

The day is always rife with anticipation, with little children dancing with excitement for what Santa will bring and adults surreptitiously rattling presents beneath the tree, anxious to know what loved ones have chosen for them while hoping those same loved ones will be delighted with the gifts that have been chosen for them.

The smell of pine flavors the air as the fireplace glows and the clank of utensils upon pots and pans heralds the coming feasts. In my family, there is a tradition that is longstanding and eagerly anticipated: As evening transitions to night, my mom brings out a stack of identically wrapped boxes and begins distributing to children and grandchildren alike. Inside are our special Christmas jammies, specially selected so we can look good for Santa’s visit. Once everyone has changed, we all gather around my father, who is the designated ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas reader. The copy he reads from is so old, it is literally falling apart, but is so dear to my family I sincerely hope it lasts another fifty years or so.
With grandchildren on his lap and the rest of us sitting all around him, he starts into the famous tale, his hushed yet resonate voice giving justice to the reverent tone of the book. We all wait anxiously for the very last page, when we will all join in to shout with him, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Oh, how I love that book. So many wonderful Christmas Eves have been spent waiting for its appearance, when once again we will all be transported to Christmases past, when it was just Mom and Dad and my sister and brother and me, and we three kids were the ones squirming with excitement for the next morning. It’s such a joy to watch my niece and nephew experience that thrill now, and just when they are reaching the age when the magic begins to fade, a new nephew is about to make his debut, and the tradition will carry on.

Here’s to wonderful Christmas Eve traditions, and family, and joy, and magic! Tell me, what are your favorite Christmas Eve or Christmas day traditions? Is there a TV show you watch, or a movie you look forward to, or, like my family, a book that gets read? Do share!

And as my present to all of you, everyone can download my novella, RUINED BY A RAKE, for free! Simply go here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/301562 and use the coupon code BB43F.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Hiding From Love by Selena Laurence + #Giveaway


The Year Santa Came Early

I’m honestly not a big Christmas person. I like it fine, but even as a small child, Christmas was never my thing. That was Easter. I had stuffed animals, not dolls, and that whole giant bunny bringing you candy thing really did it for me. But, this is a post about Christmas, so I’ll stick with Santa (and Rudolph, who was my real favorite – see previous remarks about giant bunnies!).

When I met and married Mr. L, he already had two kids (and an ex-wife, but we won’t get into that). Our first Christmas as a new family meant that we had to figure out how to have a real Christmas with the kids (then four and seven) when their mother got them for Christmas Day. Luckily, Mr. L’s family is Scandinavian, and they always opened their presents on Christmas Eve, so we decided that would be our family tradition. We’d get Christmas Eve, opening the presents at night after dinner, and then the kids would go to their mother’s house to do presents with her on Christmas morning.

“But Santa doesn’t come ‘till we’re in bed,” the seven-year-old said. Ohhkay. Divorced parents Christmas take two.

“We’re going to talk to Santa,” we told the kids. “We’ll work something out.” They looked at us full of doubt, but let it go.

Skip to Christmas Eve: We had both kids, grandma and grandpa, and Mr. L and me. We’d had dinner, and everyone was settled in, opening presents from each other. While the very distracting joy of gift opening was occurring, Mr. L announced he was going to go make coffee. A few minutes later, there was stomping on the front porch, and a voice boomed out, “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” Both kids stopped cold, their eyes growing to monumental proportions.

“Did you hear that?” the seven-year-old gasped.

All the adults in the room looked perplexed. “Hear what?” we asked innocently.

“It was Santa!” the four-year-old screamed.

“Really?” The adults asked.

“Maybe you’d better go see,” I suggested to my new stepdaughter. By this time Mr. L had wandered back in, cup of coffee in hand, a look of “what’s goin’ on?” on his face.

So, the kids rushed outside to the front porch, where they discovered a bag full of gifts and a note from Santa. They bought it completely, and the shrieking and hysteria that followed was the stuff family lore is made of.

Sadly, by the next year seven-year-old had forced the truth about Santa, and taken four-year-old along on her ride down reality lane, but for that one last, perfect Christmas, Santa showed a couple of kids who had gone through divorce and remarriage that he cared about them no matter whose house they were at, and that Dad and Stepmom loved them enough to get Santa himself to visit early.


If you could only celebrate one holiday what would it be?

Monday, December 22, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Invitation to Passion by Bronwen Evans + #Giveaway


Happy Holidays! Waving from a warm summer’s day in New Zealand – Bronwen Evans

I have so many wonderful holiday memories it’s hard to just pick one. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, and wherever I am in the world, I try to find family or close friends to share it with.

I can remember being in Canada one December, and making toffee in the snow outside, by boiling maple syrup and dribbling it hot and runny into freshly fallen snow. Then we would crack off a piece of hard toffee and eat it.

One favorite memory was hiking in the Lake District of England in fallen snow with a bunch of girlfriends from NZ, and then sitting drinking wine in the hot tub afterwards.

I love how one Christmas we surprised my mother by hiding the fact my little sister was fly home from England to be with us. It was the first time we’d all been together as a family in about eight years as all three of mum’s girls had been living in England for varying amounts of time. The look on my mother’s face when Lisa walked in was priceless.

But my favorite memory of all would be the first Christmas that I can still clearly remember. I must have been about seven years old and I’d asked Father Christmas for a budgie. My friend had one, and I loved the color and the beautiful sounds they made in their cage. On Christmas morning I awoke to strange noises coming from the living room in a box under the tree. I threw back the covers and rushed toward the noise, certain I’d find a lovely cage with my budgie in it. However, as soon as I entered the room I realized there was no bird’s cage, only a box with something wriggling in it.

I approached the box with caution until this little black and white head popped up and let out a little yelp. It was a puppy that I named Sam. At first I was really disappointed, but once I let him out of his box and he ran around with me I was hooked.

Sam was my first dog, and I’ve had a love affair with them ever since. This will be Brandy, my 8 month old Cavoodle’s first Christmas, and I’m sure she will be as spoiled as Sam was.


I’m giving away 5 copies of, Invitation To Passion, my latest Regency historical romance, in book or eBook format AND one of the 5 lucky winners will also win a $20 Amazon, iBook’s or Nook Gift Card. Simply answer the question below to be in to win. Open Internationally (gift cards will be from the American sites).

Can you remember the first amazing present you received as a child?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

December Joyathon 2014-Spotlight on Twisted by Cari Quinn + #Giveaway


Q: You get to go on tour with your favorite musical artist. Who are they and why?

###

Series: Lost In Oblivion #2
Genre: New Adult
Length: 402 pages
Publisher: Rainbow Rage Publishing (December 2, 2014)

He’s always saved her. Now she’s going to return the favor…

Gray Duffy never thought he’d end up as the co-lead guitarist of one of the biggest rock bands. The experience should’ve been even better because he was getting to share every minute of it with his best friend, Jazz. Since the day she’d showed up as his family’s new foster kid, he’d protected her. Loved her. And not just platonically either. After all these years of wanting her in his bed, he still didn’t have a clue what it felt like to have her mouth on his.

Except that one time. The time he’d shared her with Nick. The best worst night of his life.

Now she’s right by his side, and they’re living their dream. They’re making music together and spending every waking moment trapped in tight quarters. With success at their fingertips, the time is right for him to finally make his move toward the woman he needs.

He just never figured he would lose control. Or that she would find out.

They’ve loved each other through everything. But what if this time love just isn’t enough?


Get A Copy: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo
Other Books in Series:


Meet Cari:
USA Today bestselling author Cari Quinn wrote her first story—a bible parable—in 2nd grade, much to the delight of the nuns at her Catholic school. Once she saw the warm reception that first tale garnered, she was hooked. Now she gets to pen sexy romances for a living and routinely counts her lucky stars. When she’s not scribbling furiously, she can usually be found watching men’s college basketball, playing her music way too loud or causing trouble. Sometimes simultaneously.

Connect with Cari: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter




***GIVEAWAY***
Cari is giving away the following:
1. US only - Signed copy of Seduced, the introductory book in the Lost in Oblivion series, a guitar ornament, and swag
2. International – ebook pack of The Opening Act, first 3 ebooks in the Lost in Oblivion series

HOW TO ENTER:
  • You get to go on tour with your favorite musical artist. Who are they and why?
  • Fill out the rafflecopter form below. You must leave a comment. All other entries are optional.
  • Please make sure you understand our giveaway policy before entering.
  • Giveaway ends December 27th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Saturday, December 20, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Christmas Brides featuring Valerie Bowman + #Giveaway


Hi there, RR Readers! I’m so excited to be here today to share one of my favorite holiday memories. I thought a lot about it and one simple memory stands out among the rest.

Christmas at my mom’s house is a very big affair. I have six sisters (I’m number seven) and a ton of nieces and nephews and in-laws. We are also huge animal lovers, so there are often dogs, cats, and even a hedgehog or two involved in the festivities.

Not being morning people, my family has always had our big celebration on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning. We begin doing a “Santa Check” early in the evening, tracking Santa’s progress around the globe. Conveniently, Santa gets to our house right around the time dinner’s finished and before the little ones get cranky. The adults announce that Santa is on his way and all of the kids scramble upstairs to hide and pretend they are asleep.

The atmosphere in the upstairs back bedroom is full of giggles as all the kids wait, wait, wait for Santa to finish handing over the presents downstairs. If you listen carefully, you can hear Santa in his booming voice (which sounds a bit like my uncle) asking how each one of the children behaved over the year and if they deserve their gift. The answer is invariably yes, and soon, Santa is off again to deliver the rest of his bounty to the neighbors.

The all-clear is given and the kids come rushing down the stairs squealing with delight to see what they received.

One particular year, I remember that Santa brought my mom’s hedgehog, Barbie, a round plastic ball to play in. My mom put the hedgehog in the ball, the hedgehog took off rolling round and round on the carpet, and we all went back to our frenetic opening of presents.

Late that night, one of my sisters and I were the only two left in the darkened family room after everyone had either gone to sleep or off to midnight mass. We were watching It’s A Wonderful life. Full of Christmas dinner and treats, we were drifting off to sleep, she on the couch, and me in a chair with a footstool.

Along about the time George Bailey was trying to jump off a bridge in Bedford Falls, my sister and I heard a small rattling noise and looked up. There, by the light of the TV, was the hedgehog in the ball, rolling past the screen. We screamed and jumped up! In all of the excitement of the night, everyone had totally forgotten about the hedgie enjoying her new toy.

My sister and I must have laughed at ourselves for ten minutes straight. We eventually retrieved our little hog friend and put her back in her house with her mulch and food and water and all was right with the world on a snowy, quiet Christmas Eve.

But that’s one holiday memory I’ll never forget.

Tell me, do you give your pets holiday gifts?

Friday, December 19, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap featuring Kimberly Kincaid + #Giveaway


We are admittedly huge on Christmas in my house. Always have been. So I’m not exaggerating when I say I have thousands of great holiday memories that could contend as my favorites. Getting all dressed up and going down to Ford’s Theater as a little girl to see A Christmas Carol, all the marathon baking sessions in my mom’s kitchen, being blessed enough to spend each holiday with the people I love and cherish…all of these are near and dear. But my best holiday memory came as a total surprise—both to me and everyone I know.

In 2001, I was busily preparing not just for Christmas, but for the arrival of my first baby. I had a little over three weeks to go, and I’d gotten the all-clear from my doctor to take a two-hour car trip to my mother-in-law’s. On the 22nd, my doctor said, “You’re nowhere near to having this baby. As long as you’re feeling well, go and enjoy your last quiet Christmas for a while.”

Yep. You know where I’m headed, right?

At 5:30 AM Christmas morning, I shot upright in bed. Tapped Mr. K in that wake-up-wake-up-WAKE-UP kind of way. I said, “Um. My water just broke.” He said, “That’s not even funny. Go back to bed.” (oh my God, we all still give him a hard time for that! But he really thought I was kidding) Five minutes later, we both realized it was so not a drill, because my doctor sleepily said, “I’ll meet you at the hospital. Looks like you’re going to have a Christmas baby.”

While the rest of the day wasn’t as eventful as the slam-bang start (that epidural was the best present I ever got!), Reader Girl was born less than eleven hours later. The nurses put a little red and green beanie on her (usually the babies get either pink or blue) and called her the Christmas Angel, and I know I’m biased, but I’ve got to agree. She is sweet and funny and kind, and by far the very best holiday memory a girl could ever ask for. Now every year, we wake up on Christmas morning with “Happy birthday!” on our lips, and we get to celebrate the best of both worlds, all on the same day.

On the day of my favorite Christmas memory, I was awakened very early. Are you an early bird on Christmas morning, or do you like to sleep in before going to see what Santa left under your tree?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Season for Desire by Theresa Romain + #Giveaway


Jamie and Kati, thanks for inviting me to join you for the Joyathon! Readers, I hope you’re having a wonderful December, no matter which of the winter holidays (or whether) you celebrate.

When Jamie and Kati asked me to think about a favorite holiday memory, at first I thought of some of the heartwarming ones. Like the Christmas eleven years ago, just a few days before Mr. R and I got married. It was a whirlwind of stress but also full of joy. Or our first Christmas with Little Miss R, when she was a pudgy little baby who tried to stuff ornaments into her mouth.

Those were both favorites of mine. But for sheer make-a-fool-of-yourself-and-be-loved-anyway goodness, I’d have to go for Christmas 1990.

At that point in my life, I was an introverted kid with big glasses and a big mouth. (Yes, you can be both shy and loud.) And I had a big family, too. My dad’s side of the family gathered in full in Louisiana: aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins by the dozen. The kids had pulled names for a gift exchange at Thanksgiving, and each brought a gift for Christmas. After the sweet potatoes and roasted pork and turkey and dirty rice—Louisianans know how to eat—but before the presents, some people gave little performances. My storyteller aunt always had something really cool planned, and she and my other aunts often sang. Little kids sang. My big kid cousins sang together.

This was the one and only year I decided to sing too. And what did I choose? “Skateboarding Santa,” the finest holiday choir piece of 1990, complete with hand motions and a dance breakdown. Here’s what that song looks and sounds like when performed by a very cute elementary choral group. I don’t know these kids; I just found them on YouTube. But we’ll use them as an example because no video of me exists.



I wasn’t that young or cute. I didn’t sound that good. I didn’t have a piano or choir backing me. My song couldn’t have been Grammy-worthy, lets just say that.

Even so, everyone clapped for me. My grandparents, both very fine musicians, told me I’d done a nice job. My cousins smiled. We all ate desserts and opened gifts. And…it was fine.

I settled on this memory because, in hindsight, it’s so not me. I don’t like to perform. I don’t like to have groups looking at me. And I DEFINITELY don’t like to sing in public. This was all true of me as a kid, and it’s still true now. But for those few minutes at the Christmas gathering in 1990, I impulsively set all that aside.

And it was fine. Whether or not I was good, my family clapped, because whether it was good didn’t matter. Getting up in front of the group mattered, and sharing pie together afterward mattered, and exchanging gifts mattered. Being together was what mattered.

That’s something I need to remind myself of when I get caught up too much in wanting everything to be perfect, or wanting to create that ideal holiday memory. They kind of create themselves, don’t they? As long as we’re with the people we love—our family by birth, by marriage, or by choice—we’ll wind up with a holiday to remember.

Readers, now it’s your turn: tell me about a song-related memory of yours. I can’t be the only one who ever randomly performed for family, right?? Or if a memory doesn’t jump out at you, just share your favorite song for the holidays! To one entrant, I’m offering a print copy of my recent Christmas historical romance, SEASON FOR DESIRE, open internationally.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Lethal Consequences by Elisabeth Naughton + #Giveaway


When I was growing up, my parents would never put the tree up until a week or so before Christmas. On the night we decorated, my mom would make lots of different appetizers and my brothers and I would hang ornaments while my parents watched. After (because this was back in the olden days before DVD players and even VCRs…we weren’t rich enough to afford one of those!), we’d gather around the TV and watch whatever holiday special was airing that night. My very favorite holiday show was the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. And I was always happy when we put the tree up on the night it was aired. The Grinch reminds me of tree trimming, laughter, and spending time with my family. I especially love watching it with my own kids now that I’m older.

What’s your favorite holiday special or movie from when you were a kid?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on How To Plan A Wedding for A Royal Spy by Vanessa Kelly + #Giveaway


I come from a big, boisterous family so I have many happy holiday memories. Of course, there were a few stinkers along the way, since boisterous families can also get into arguments over politics, family dynamics, or how good/bad the local sports teams are performing. Then there are the meals that went tragically wrong, like the time my mother made a goose for Christmas. It started out looking plump enough for a family of ten, but then shrunk down to a tragic mini-bird while roasting.

But one of my fondest holiday memories doesn’t involve family or Christmas. It happened one New Year’s Eve when I went to New York City to visit friends from my undergraduate days. I stayed with my old roommate in his tiny and fairly shabby apartment in a not great part of town. In a moment of weakness, my roomie decided to throw a New Year’s Eve party, even though he’s not normally someone into the party scene.

As for me, New Year’s was usually at the bottom of my holiday list—I rarely had a date for the big night or a good party to attend. Frankly, it was one holiday I was often happy to forget.

My roomie passed the word among his friends and co-workers, fully expecting that very few people would show. After all, it was the biggest party night of the year. Why trek to a crappy part of town and squeeze into a tiny apartment with morose people with nothing better to do? Still, we stocked up on snacks and alcohol, figuring we’d have leftovers to send home with the few, loyal friends who showed.

But here’s something else you need to know. My old roommate worked in professional theater, as did most of our friends. Which meant that anyone who did show up would be pretty interesting. And that was certainly the case with the early guests. After a drink or two and a few off-hand comments, we began joking about which actor/actress or famous movie character each of us resembled (I was tagged as Rene Russo).

Well, before you could say Auld Lang Syne, our little joke developed into a game, growing with each guest who arrived. And the guests did arrive, in substantial numbers. Each time someone walked through the door, we made a group decision about which actor or character that guest most resembled—with, of course, the expectation that the new arrival would adopt that persona for the rest of the night.

Crazy, right? Yep, and people LOVED it. The next thing you knew we had a party with Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Indiana Jones, and other iconic actors and characters. It was amazing, hilarious, and so much fun. People threw themselves into their roles and the party went on until the wee hours of the morning. In fact, no one wanted to break character or leave—it was celebrity extravaganza.

But all good things must come to an end and we finally rolled the last guest out the door very close to dawn. My old roomie and I were exhausted, but it was worth the hangover and the cleanup. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a more entertaining party, and it was a truly wonderful way to ring in the New Year.

Are there any holidays you don’t like to celebrate?

Monday, December 15, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on All I Want For Christmas Is Blue by Shana Galen + #Giveaway


Snow on Christmas Eve

For many of you, snow on Christmas Eve isn’t anything unusual. In Houston, it’s pretty rare. That’s why the snowfall of Christmas Eve 2004 is particularly memorable to me.

My birthday is December 25, but my family tradition has always been to celebrate it Christmas Eve. That year was particularly special to me because I’d just met my future husband. We’d started dating a few months before, and I’d asked him to go to dinner with my family for my birthday. We’d all shared a lovely dinner at a small Italian restaurant in downtown Houston. We’d had a window seat, and were enjoying wine and dessert when the first flakes began to fall. My family is originally from Michigan, so we knew right away what we were seeing. My husband is a native Houstonian and didn’t believe us at first.

But when we stepped out into the night and the big flakes fell softly onto our shoulders and outstretched hands, there was no denying we’d been given an early Christmas gift. The streets had quickly been covered with a light dusting of snow, and we walked along them, marveling at the blanket of whiteness. Chances were the snow would be gone by morning, and we wanted to enjoy every moment of the unusual wintry weather.

I don’t know what gifts I received that year (I’m still trying to forget the hideous scarf my mom had knitted me) or what food we ate for Christmas dinner, but I’ll never forget holding hands with the man I was falling in love with and strolling the dark, snow-swept streets together.

I love blue and silver during the holidays. What are your favorite Christmas colors?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on The Duke of Dark Desires by Miranda Neville + #Giveaway


My earliest holiday memories are of early mornings. Very early mornings. So early that some of them could be called late nights.

I’m not sure how far back these go – maybe to age four or five. My brother, sister and I (my two eldest sisters having grown too august to participate in this silliness) would be put to bed on December 24th trembling with excitement and desperate longing for Christmas Day to be here at last. I’ve never been an early riser but the minute my little brother (or elder sister) nudged me I’d be wide awake. Never mind that it was pitch dark and cold and about 3 am.

We knew we’d be in big trouble if we woke our parents before dawn, but we were allowed to open our stockings. (I suspect this was a compromise negotiated by the big sisters at some point before they became old and cynical.) I can’t remember when I realized that Father Christmas (as Brits call Santa Claus) was actually Mum and Dad. I wondered why he used the same wrapping paper as them (my mother was a mad recycler and the same paper—rather crumpled—appeared year after year) until it eventually occurred to me that it was No Coincidence. We didn’t have very fancy stockings—mostly practical things, a small toy or two, and a clementine in the toe of the sock. The fruit, and perhaps a chocolate bar, came in very useful when there were several hours until breakfast.

One year my brother and I got so out of control with excitement that we started running around the passageway whooping and my father came out to speak to us. I don’t remember what he said (probably nothing too threatening) but we were chastened enough to return to bed, for about ten minutes.

Then one year my brother came to my room. “It’s Christmas,” he said. “Get up.”
“Go away,” I said, rolled over and went back to sleep.
I had turned into my eldest sisters.


How excited are you about the holidays? Are you still a four-year-old at heart?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Unwrapping Her Perfect Match by Kat Latham + #Giveaway


In October 2002, I started falling in love with a good friend of mine. We met while living in Prague and teaching English at the same school. I had no money to fly back to my family in San Diego for Christmas, so I was thrilled when my friend-turned-boyfriend asked me to go to England and spend Christmas with his family instead.

We’d been going out for only ten days when I bought my flight to meet his family. Talk about getting serious quickly!

During that trip, I met his dad (I’d met his mum when she visited Prague a few weeks before Christmas), two of his brothers, his sister-in-law and baby niece, and lots of his friends. I ate my weight in British Christmas foods I’d never heard of before (hot Christmas pudding with rum butter—ohmygod amazing!). We even went to his friend’s wedding together, my first British wedding and first experience of the long, cheeky wedding speeches British men make!

But my favorite memory is arriving at his parents’ house for the first time. Our flight had been delayed, and we’d arrived really late. His parents picked us up from the airport and drove us an hour back to their house in rural Norfolk. His brother Simon had arrived from Japan earlier that day and waited at home for us to arrive.

When we pulled up to the house, everything was dark—no street lights, no lights outside the house—except for the brightly lit living room, where Simon stood wearing nothing but his socks and underpants. Talk about a memorable introduction to my future brother-in-law!

Have you ever spent the holidays at someone else’s house? If so, what differences did you notice? Did they have different traditions? I hope you’ll enter my giveaway. You could win my Christmas novella UNWRAPPING HER PERFECT MATCH, which features a hot English rugby player whose French daughter comes to visit him for the first time. Except he can’t speak French and she can’t speak English. Good thing the nurse he just met is fluent in both languages!

Friday, December 12, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren + #Giveaway


Christina: This is pretty silly, but I remember the year I got a Cabbage Patch doll (a real one, thank you very much. My parent’s faked me out the year before), and a bright yellow Sony Sport Walkman, with Madonna’s Like A Virgin on cassette. Yes, cassette. The Walkman and Madonna were both from my Aunt and my mother was not amused.

Lauren: The best was the year we woke up and the Christmas tree was all wonky and the presents flattened because my dad and uncle had too much eggnog and fell into the tree while building my sisters new bike.

What's one of your favorite holiday memories?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Bound By His Desire by Nicole Flockton + #Giveaway


From the moment I was born I’ve always spent Christmas with my family and extended family. My earliest memories are waking up really early, opening presents and then going to my Grandma’s and waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

My dad was all about getting there early to help out. Me, all I remember is that it seemed hours and hours before my cousins started to arrive. Breakfast at my Grandma’s was always loud and crowded and fun. It’s not Christmas without it.

Fast forward many years and I’m now living in Houston away from my family. Even after five years of being away, Christmas without the rushing out the door to breakfast is weird.

But now we have the chance make so many new Christmas memories. This year we’re actually going to be at Disney World. I mean who doesn’t want to spend Christmas Day at the happiest place on Earth?

Being from Australia, spending a Christmas in Colorado and having a white Christmas was a lot of fun.

Last year was unique too. We spent it driving to New Orleans. I don’t think I’ve ever spend a Christmas in the car!

One thing I’m learning. And it’s taking time. That every day it’s an opportunity to make brand new exciting memories. So while I may miss the family Christmas I grew up with. I’m giving my kids fabulous Christmas Memories that I hope will bring them lots of joy and smiles when they think about them when they’re older.

If you could travel anywhere for New Years Eve – where would you go?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Hollywood on Tap by Avery Flynn + #Giveaway


My grandma had the world’s loudest grandfather clock in her living room. I swear every tick and every tock reverberated through my bones as I pretended to sleep on the pullout couch with its thin, lumpy mattress and creaking springs. It really was the perfect torment for a little kid trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve so Santa could drop off presents and fill the stockings.

You might think that sweating bullets on that pullout couch in my grandma’s living room because I was worried that I was going to stop Christmas from coming would be one of my least favorite holiday memories, but it’s not. It’s one of my absolute favorite because every time I hear the distinctive bong-bong of a big old grandfather clock it takes me right back to that moment. The anticipation. The giddiness. The hope that this year Santa wouldn’t stuff the toe of my sock with underwear. That last one, by the way, always happened every year without fail. Santa, in the form of my family, has a peculiar sense of humor.

Getting up in the morning to scope out the goodies under the tree before making enough noise to wake the dead—or at least a few grown ups—so we could finally open presents was great, but it was the night before that always sticks out. It was that sparkly feeling that lightens your whole body, letting you know that something awesome and magical and unexplainable was about to happen. You don’t get that feeling every day, but when you do it’s hard to forget.

The grandfather clock is gone now and I haven’t spent a Christmas Eve on my grandma’s pullout couch in decades, but I still think of those nights when I’m sneaking around stuffing underwear into the toe of my kids’ stockings. You see, Santa still has a sense of onery humor in my family.

You’re snowed in for the holidays, what three things do you need to survive?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Scandalous Summer Nights by Anne Barton + #Giveaway


Every year at Christmastime, my family makes Italian cookies. We call them wand, and they’re basically fried dough sprinkled with sugar. Melt-in-your-mouth, forget-about-your-diet delicious.
My favorite holiday memory is about those cookies…
It’s December, nineteen seventy-something. Picture a loud, crowded kitchen with harvest gold appliances. Football’s blaring from the TV in the next room. My cousins and I are chasing each other through a maze of adult legs, laughing as we slide over a linoleum floor slick with flour.
My mom (to Aunt M.): Did you bring the pot? (She’s talking about a heavy, iron, charred pot resembling a small cauldron. It once belonged to my grandmother, and no one would dream of cooking wand in anything else.)
Aunt M. (mildly offended, but laughing): Of course I brought the pot. I drove two hours to pick it up from D’s. Did you get the oil?
Mom: Of course. The last bottle Marchone’s had.
Aunt M.: Where’s G? It’s her turn to roll the dough this year. She better not try to get out of it.
Mom (dipping a sifter into the flour bin): She’ll be here. How many cups? I can never remember if it’s 3 or 4.
Aunt M.: (sipping her wine) We’d better check.
Mom reaches into a cabinet and produces a tin box covered in a quaint blue and gold Dutch pattern. She opens the dented, hinged lid and flips through index cards—eggplant parm, meatballs, Easter bread. The wand recipe is tucked in there, written on ragged-edged, brittle paper and encased in a plastic baggie in a futile attempt to keep the grease and wine stains from multiplying. Mom takes out the paper and reverently lays it on the sunny Formica counter. She and Aunt M. lean in to read it, smiling.
It’s not really about checking the recipe—nobody uses measuring cups anyway. Instead, my mom and aunt gaze at my grandmother’s graceful handwriting and the notes that have been lovingly added to the bottom and back of the paper throughout the years. “1970 – triple batch yielded 1 ½ bags!” “1973 – M. finally helped. About time.” “1975 – First batch in the new house.”
All of this—the ancient pot, the Italian oil, the sisterly banter, reminiscing—was (and still is) part of our cookie-making tradition.
My mom, sister, aunts, cousins, and I still gather on a chilly day each December to sip wine and playfully critique one another’s dough rolling technique. We let our kids sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on the warm cookies, glistening with oil. We show them the notes on the recipe, explaining that some were written long before they were born. We add their names to the old recipe, and tell them that one day their children will make wand in the big black pot, too.

Food and family are such an important part of the holidays, aren’t they? Here’s an easy question for you: what’s your favorite holiday cookie? :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Lush by Beth Yarnall + #Giveaway


When I was in the first grade we lived in Salinas, California. Our water heater broke and flooded the garage. All of our Christmas ornaments were ruined. My parents didn’t have any money to buy new ones. At the time my dad worked for Shilling (McCormick & Shilling spices). He brought home a while bunch of spice jar lids. There were red ones, blue ones, green ones, and yellow ones. All seventies colors of course. We put hooks through them and strung popcorn to decorate our tree. My sister and I made some ornaments out of paper, including a red and green paper chain. I have very good memories of my mom, sister, and I making the ornaments. It wasn’t a pretty tree, but we had fun decorating it.


Have you ever made holiday decorations and if so, what kind?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Her Christmas Earl by Anna Campbell + #Giveaway


Hi Jamie! Hi Kati! Thanks for inviting me back to participate in another Joyathon. Visiting your blog at Christmastime has become a fixture in my calendar.

Actually it’s quite hard to pick a FAVORITE Christmas memory, but this one is definitely up in the top 10. My mum absolutely loved Christmas. She started planning for it months ahead and she got more of a kick out of presents she and Dad put together for everyone than I think the recipients did. And my parents were extremely good present pickers, so that meant she got a huge kick!

Mum often ‘disguised’ presents to trick curious little fingers that might prod at the pile under the tree (always an Australian silky oak cut from the bush behind our farm. It kinda looked like a pine tree!). Her cunning was infinite when it came to making sure that what people got on Christmas morning was a surprise. If you’d asked for a Barbie doll, odds are it would be disguised in a box big enough to hold a pony. Mind you, if you asked for a pony, the answer was usually no which was a disappointment to my horse-mad self.

If you’d asked for something light like an LP (this was well before the days of CDs), Mum would pack it in a big box and weight it down with something so it didn’t feel like a vinyl record. I can remember one year my brother got a big Tonka truck the same size he was at that stage. That appeared in the box that had contained our new washing machine. Mum must have saved almost a year’s worth of newspapers so that often things were wrapped in layer after layer to hide their true identity. A rule of thumb was that the bigger the parcel, the smaller in size was the gift inside.

Mum’s ingenuity was a major part of the morning’s entertainment and she’d be so disappointed if you fathomed her tricks before you reached the bottom of the parcel. Sometimes even if you fathomed the mystery, you kept your mouth shut to keep her happy!

Something that was always a thrill for my brother and I was copping all the saved 50 cent pieces from the year – always disguised as something else like a box of chocolates, although the weight tended to give this one’s identity away. The Aussie 50 cent coin is a dodecagon (I had to look that up – it means 12 sided) which seems an awful lot of trouble for not a lot of result, but nobody asked me. It’s also the largest of our coins. My friends at Wikipedia tell me it was introduced in 1969 which would make sense – I can remember the merest sight of one sent everybody in my primary school class into flights of ecstasy. It’s also the coin that cops all the commemorative stuff – I’m sure every jewelbox in Australia has at least one 50 cent coin saved to mark the Captain Cook bicentenary in 1970. When I recently cleaned out the house, I found a stack of them, including a couple pierced and strung onto chains. Yes, the 50 cent was that seriously cool back then. Her Her We didn’t get out much in Australia in the 1960s!

So the 50 cent pieces under the Christmas tree gave my brother and me some serious spending money for the rest of the holidays. Thanks, Mum!



What was the best Christmas gift you ever received?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on The King by Tiffany Reisz + #Giveaway


One of my favorite holiday memories comes from the very first Christmas my fiancé and I were together. My family always gets together at a cousin's house on Christmas night. We eat and play Trivial Pursuit. Andrew played the game with us and was so funny and sarcastic, he fit right in with our family immediately. At the end of the night, everyone in the family--aunts and uncles and cousins--had told me I had to keep him. It's always nerve-wracking bringing someone new home to meet your family but it was awesome seeing Andrew accepted as one of the family right away. And soon he'll be part of the family because we're getting married next year. Merry Christmas, Everyone!

What’s your dream Christmas vacation? I'd love a cabin in the snowy woods with my fiancĂ© and kittehs. Maybe someday!

Friday, December 5, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Absolute Surrender by Jenn LeBlanc + #Giveaway


Hello everyone!! Welcome to the joyathon! I've been hanging out with Kati + Jamie for several years now, because I think they're super awesome. This year they wanted me to tell you about my favorite holiday memory. That's a hard one!

I think one of my favorites was when my Lolly and Berry were both super little and we were living in the mother-in-law apartment at my mom's house. I didn't have much money, but I saved everything to try to give them a fun Christmas morning.

On Christmas Eve we drove past the City and County building in Denver which is always super fancy, covered in lights. Then we went home and watched a movie. When it was bedtime we all cuddled in my little bed and I had a friend come by and shake big sleigh bells outside the windows to the basement and stomp around like reindeer. It was pretty awesome for a Christmas Eve. I still have that leather strap with the bells on it.

The Christmases we had as a little tiny family of three were some oft the most memorable ever, because it was all about just being together.

Merry Christmas to you!

What is the best gift you've ever been given, and what's the best gift you've ever given to someone else?

{Heather #Review} Historical Romance: Master of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

Genre: Historical
Series: School of Gallantry #5
Format: review copy provided by author
Length: 221 pages
Publisher: Delilah Marvelle Productions, LLC (November 25, 2014)

WARNING: This historical romance is cotton candy with a razor on top. Themes include male virginity, inappropriate behavior and language you really shouldn't use at home. If you are easily offended by dirty humor and graphic sex, this book is not for you.

After Miss Leona Olivia Webster had allowed herself to fall in love with a dashing childhood friend who had left her scorned and pregnant, she is done chasing her happily-ever-after. Shunned by society, she dedicates herself to raising her young son and putting money in their pockets. She doesn't expect to be drawn to her latest master, a brooding man of hulking presence who carves random messages into walls with his Persian blade as a means of starting a flirtation.

Malcolm Gregory Thayer, the earl of Brayton, may have dedicated himself to a life of religious virtue after leaving the monastery due to dark tendencies, but after meeting Leona, he begins to yearn for the life that had never been his. When he meets a retired French courtesan who invites him to embrace what he has long feared, he seizes the opportunity to become the man he always wanted to be. His new mission is clear. He intends to finally serve the one thing he never had: his heart.


Get Your Own Copy: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo
Other Book in Series:

REVIEW:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on What A Devilish Duke Desires by Vicky Dreiling + #Giveaway


Every year when my kids were little, I would make all sorts of cutout sugar cookies. I collected cookie cutouts for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day when I was a homeroom mom.
While the school events were fun, my favorite cutouts were Christmas ones. We had snowmen, reindeer, Santas, bells, and snowflakes. I would put icing on them and then the kids would decorate them with cinnamon candies, and nonpareils.
As my toddlers advanced to grade school, they were able to use colored icing tubes to decorate their cookies. The results were often a bit messy, but we all associated the scent of fresh baked cookies with Christmas. By the time they were teens, I figured my son and daughter wouldn’t be interested in making cookies anymore, but I was wrong. We had cookie making parties with their friends and even invited their grandmother to participate. We had prizes for the ugliest cookies and funniest cookies, too. I will always have fond memories of our tradition.

What are some of your favorite Christmas or holiday traditions?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on You're So Fine by Kieran Kramer + #Giveaway


One of my favorite Christmas memories came on a Christmas that I knew was going to be very hard for me and my three kids. It was the year my husband was deployed to Afghanistan--Christmas 2008. I packed up the car, complete with Santa gifts that I hid from the children, and we drove up to North Carolina to stay with my husband's family. I could have stayed here in my hometown with my parents, but the kids and I wanted to be with their daddy's people.

So off we went, singing carols in the car.

But it was sad without my husband being there in his mother and father's house. We did our best to be cheerful. And he has such a wonderful, warm family, it was easy to smile. But when I woke up Christmas morning, all I could think about was my husband and his tiny shoebox-sized artificial tree that I'd sent to him in Kabul. I wondered how he was feeling. I missed him terribly, but I had to put on a cheerful attitude for the children. So we opened presents, and it was very nice and noisy.

Finally, the presents were done, and we all stood up to stretch and then grab something to eat. But my sister-in-law said, "Wait. It's not time for breakfast yet. We have one more thing to do."

My kids and I didn't know what was going on, so we just sat there and waited to see what was happening. But then my sister-in-law brought in a big sack full of presents--just for us! From my husband!

The boys opened cool wooden toys from a Kabul marketplace, including a small guitar. We got a chess set with stunning carved marble pieces. I unfolded a beautiful shawl. My daughter got special earrings and a jewelry box, and I did, too. It was a treasure trove of love from my husband. We had no idea he'd be able to send us anything. He'd done it a good month before to make sure it got to us in time, and he swore his side of the family to secrecy.

We cared less about the actual items than we did the fact that he'd gone to so much trouble. We got to Skype him later that day, and boy, did it make him happy to know how special our morning had been. And the thing was, he was the guy who deserved special treatment, not us. But that's how my husband works. He always thinks of everyone else first.

He was our Kabul Santa, and we will never forget how love brought our little family together that Christmas morning, even though an ocean and a continent separated us.

It's my favorite Christmas memory.

Did you ever have to spend Christmas away from someone you love dearly? How did you handle it? I'm talking about someone who's geographically separated from you. But perhaps it was someone who passed away...that's very hard to do, too. If you'd like to tell us any of your experiences, we'd love to hear them. I have a feeling that in every story we share, we're going to see that love's power bonds us across space and time.

Happy holidays to all, and thank you, Kati and Jamie, for the opportunity to hang out with you two special ladies and your awesome readers!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Owning Violet by Monica Murphy + #Giveaway


I have so many favorite memories but there is one in particular that still sticks with me all of these years later. I was seven. I woke up waaay before anyone else did in the house and I snuck into the living room. The tree was lit (a sure sign Santa had been there). There were unwrapped toys for me under the tree (another sign Santa had been there) and my stocking that hung by the fireplace was stuffed FULL and I couldn't wait to dig in. But I didn't touch anything. I just stood there and stared for a while, overwhelmed at the magic of it all. Then I ran into my parents' room and woke them up. I'm sure they were thrilled. *winks*

That's what I tried my hardest to create for my children through the years. They're too old now for Santa (such a shame!) but I still try to capture that magic as best as I can. There's nothing better than magic during the holiday season.

What's your favorite Christmas beverage? Mine is the gingerbread latte from Starbucks...hmmm. I am giving away a paperback copy of OWNING VIOLET and one of my Karen Erickson books, GAME FOR TONIGHT to one randomly chosen reader.

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