Adding a bit of Gothic flair…

by Caitlin Crews, author of His For Revenge

When I was a girl I adored Daphne Du Maurier books—really, any book with a bit of Gothic flair.

One of the finest nights of my life was spent in an English country house hotel when I was seventeen, listening to the rain pour down outside while imaging all kinds of Gothic goings on in the atmospheric old place.

I’ve always loved scary movies for exactly this reason—I get to be terrified and then the lights go on, and all is well.  (Except for the odd bad dream.)

So when Zara Elliott appeared in my head, forced down the aisle in her absentee sister’s wedding gown (which doesn’t fit her) to enter into a marriage of convenience with surly, brooding, all-about-revenge-on-Zara’s-father Chase Whitaker, who then whisks her off to his dark and uninviting mansion off in the countryside—I couldn’t resist.

HIS FOR REVENGE, the exciting conclusion to my Vows of Convenience duet that started with October’s HIS FOR A PRICE, isn’t a Gothic.  But Zara, like me, has an intense appreciation of the form—and is even doing a Master’s degree on the subject.  That’s only one of the reasons she’s more than a match for Chase, who might have been prepared to handle the selfish Elliott sister who didn’t bother to turn up at the church that day.  But no way is he ready to handle Zara…

hisforrevengeThe marriage game…

Walking down the aisle toward striking but cold CEO Chase Whitaker was never meant to be Zara Elliott’s fate.  But to safeguard the family business, she’ll have to play along…

Chase is only interested in one thing—his own dark game of revenge against Zara’s father.  The one thing he hadn’t counted on?  Zara’s charm and natural beauty unsettling his rock-hard defenses.

But their wedding night proves to be a game changer, and they both realize they’re in over their heads.  Losing is never an option for Chase… but winning suddenly takes on a very different meaning!

I hope you enjoy the second book in the Vows of Convenience duet!  And Gothic romances, for that matter.  I know I do.

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Presents Loves…The Festive Season!

by Laura McCallen, Assistant Editor/Editorial Assistant

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love this time of year! There may not be snow in the air (which, as a Canadian, I find highly irregular!) but that festive feeling has taken over. The office is dressed in red, green and gold, the cards and presents are flowing freely, the Christmas jumpers are on and we’re all getting ready for the company holiday lunch later on.

But before your intrepid Presents team disappears into a whirl of turkey, Christmas pudding and mulled wine we wanted to take a moment and reflect on what a great year 2014 has been!

It’s been an adventure from start to finish with award nominations, incredible reviews, dazzling conferences, and a So You Think You Can Write 2014 Presents winner! We’ve also had the joy of welcoming three wonderful new writers to the Presents family – Andie Brock, Louise Fuller and the SYTYCW winner Amanda Cinelli – look out for their stunning debuts in 2015!

We’ve loved Every Single Second of 2014 from the wonderful books by our fabulous authors to the new additions to our team – Editorial Assistant extraordinaire Isabelle (Izzy) Gormezano and the return of the lovely Carly Byrne. The Presents team has so very much to toast to as we see in the New Year.

But most of all we’re going to be toasting to you, our dear readers, for your dedication to these books and authors that we all love so much. We have a lot of treats for you in store in 2015 but our lips are sealed for now – so stay tuned!

In the meantime though, we’re getting ready to bask in the light of the Christmas tree and leave cookies out for Old Saint Nick. And what will the Presents be getting up to during this most wonderful time of year? Read on to find out…

“I’m going to be having a very family-filled holiday with parents, parents-in-law, and (most special of all) my brand new nephew. Seeing him dressed as an elf will be the highlight of the holiday season!” – Joanne Grant (Senior Editor)

“I will be hosting Christmas at my house for the FIRST TIME! Which also means roasting a turkey for the first time…with a toddler underfoot. I’ll just have to keep the Prosecco flowing to make sure no one notices the burnt bits!” – Carly Byrne (Editor)

This year December 25th is my second Christmas! With my sister and my niece and nephew in New Zealand, we had our ‘Christmas Part One’ in November. Christmas Part Two is shaping up to be even better! For me it’s all about pigs in blankets, Brussel sprouts with bacon and garlic, making bread sauce with my mother, debating the number of cloves to wedge into the onion, bucks fizz, gin and tonic, and the annual debate: Match of the Day vs Top Gear. Not a debate I take part in!! – Pippa Roscoe (Associate Editor)

“As it’s my first proper Christmas in London I’m determined to make it the ‘Most British Christmas Ever’. I’ve planned it all out: Carols at St. Paul’s, a candlelit midnight Christmas Eve service at Westminster Abbey and a Charles Dickens tour of London on Christmas day. I can’t wait!” – Laura McCallen (Assistant Editor/Editorial Assistant)

I will be nestling myself by a fire in a Georgian country estate in the green and maybe even snowy hills of Herefordshire. With fifteen adults, seven children and two dogs I think it’s going to be organised chaos. So far, the only things that have been bought are champagne and cheese- which is all you really need!” – Isabelle Gormezano Marks (Editorial Assistant)

Now we want to know – what are you up to for the festive season and where will you be roasting chestnuts and decking the halls this year?! And to our authors – will you be taking after your heroes and heroines and jetting off to exotic locales for glitzy and glamorous affairs?!

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“The thread may stretch or tangle but it will never break”: Victoria Parker on Kismet and To Claim His Heir by Christmas

by Victoria Parker, author of To Claim His Heir by Christmas

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but it will never break.

This Chinese Proverb, one I found many years ago in the Far East, has tugged at my romantic heartstrings ever since. Though in truth, I have always been charmed and somewhat fascinated by the idea of kismet. That in one moment lives can collide and change forever. That magic weaves its spell and fate lures us to our destiny. A plethora of books have been written about it, Hollywood has made blockbuster movies around it and ancient fairytales have been passed from generation to generation. So it’s safe to say many are bewitched by the notion that we could’ve met our ‘One and Only’ through a turn of serendipitous events. Consequently, it was with great excitement that I concocted my latest Arunthian tale based around that very concept.

I had been biding my time for the right story, knowing the characters and circumstance had to be perfect and the moment Prince Thane Guerrero and Princess Luciana Verbault popped into my head, I knew this was it. I could set the stage five years in the past and (hopefully) weave an unforgettable love-story. Then the questions started rolling through my imagination. What if?

What if my kismet couple were enemies? A modern day Romeo and Juliet, their fated meeting on neutral ground where Thane & Luciana had no clue as to who the other truly was. After a torrid affair it would be Luciana who would discover the truth and flee with a gaping hole in her heart. And how much more devastating and painful would it be to feel that invisible red thread pulling and tugging every single day for the last five years? And when they meet again, how difficult would it be to stand physically side by side while a vast gulf yawned between them – one made by centuries of war and secrets and lies? And then… Oh, can you imagine if that forbidden love had left an everlasting consequence? Two houses, two enemies, with a secret heir between them. One four-year-old gorgeous little boy who could incite a war just from his very existence.

So there we have it. Five years ago Luciana fled carrying her secret, one she could never disclose. But it would be happenstance that brought their worlds colliding back together once more.

In the present day Thane has given up hope of ever finding the woman who stole his soul, only to stumble upon her in the Alps, in the midst of a proposal of marriage by another man. Over Thane’s dead body! Hence, our dark and dangerous Prince decides to take matters into his own hands by snatching her from beneath his rival’s nose – regardless of the unpalatable discovery of her true identity. And the battle commences!

If you haven’t guessed by now, Thane Guerrero takes no prisoners. He’s a true hot-blooded, brooding alpha male. A man who needs control is every aspect of his life, with the commanding strength of will to move mountains and this time he’ll do whatever it takes to win Luciana back.

But here comes the kicker. Beneath my rose-tinted romantic views of serendipity there lies the thought-provoking idea that our futures are controlled, not ours to choose or make. That kismet only exists if we believe ourselves to be powerless. A scary notion for many to be sure. One such person is our Princess of Arunthia who doesn’t wish to be controlled. By fate, by her father, by no man. She has been powerless her entire life. Sees nothing more than a gilded cage. Wants nothing more than to be the commander of her own tomorrow. Kismet and her fated mate be damned.

Making destiny our own…

This is the realisation Luciana has to come to. Something I’ve come to truly believe in. That fate offers us opportunity but we are the masters of our own destiny. That in the end happiness is Luciana’s to create. All she has to do is find the courage to snatch back the reins of her life and plot a course toward her happy-ever-after. And it was such a joy to watch her find the way.

So tell me, are you a believer? Is there a time in your life when you’ve felt like fate was in play? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve thought, ‘It’s a small world.’ The last occasion was bumping into a dear friend halfway across the globe, having only just thought of her that morning, wondering how she was. Surreal yet spooky J And I’ve been incredibly lucky to meet good friends in unexpected places. Fate offering a helping hand and leading me to the door of those who would make great impact, a wonderful difference to my life. If you have any such stories, or would just like to say Hi, I’d love to hear from you.

Victoria :)

About To Claim His Heir by Christmas:

1214-9781460343562-bigwFrom heaven to hell… 

Five years ago, Princess Luciana of Arunthia experienced heaven in the arms of a man whose every touch felt like paradise. But when Thane’s true identity as the prince of Galancia was revealed, Luciana had no choice but to flee. Her lover was her kingdom’s greatest enemy, and she was expecting his baby!

…and back again? 

Now, as Christmas approaches, the prince has just one thing on his mind—winning Luciana back. And if Thane can convince her to trust him with her secret, he could get the greatest Christmas gift of all—a beautiful queen and an heir!

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Calling Amanda Cinelli, Winner of So You Think You Can Write 2014!

Editor Carly Byrne and author Sharon Kendrick call the winner of So You Think You Can Write 2014. Congratulations Amanda Cinelli, winner of the Ultimate Author’s Publishing Prize…which includes a two book contract with Harlequin Presents!

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Real Life Heroines

by Jennifer Hayward, author of The Magnate’s Manifesto

1214-9781460343555-bigwAs authors we put ourselves in the shoes of our heroes and heroines to bring you believable, complex, three dimensional characters you’ll fall in love with. Sometimes we have the background from our own lives to accurately paint those characters and sometimes we have to reach out and find a real-life heroine to help us get into her head.

Bailey, my heroine from The Magnate’s Manifesto, came to me while I was watching a television show about a stripper who had made such a lucrative living dancing in Las Vegas she had accumulated a portfolio of real estate. I was fascinated for two reasons: I’d never known there was that much money in the business and I’d always wondered what the path was to a woman getting up on that stage every night and baring her body and perhaps a bit of her soul to the men who come to see her.

A woman with that amount of inner self-possession, with that amount of courage, had to be the woman who would tame my male chauvinist pig hero, Jared Stone and change his views on women forever. But how was I going to write Bailey with authenticity if I’d never been on a stage myself? I had to find a dancer who would talk to me.

There are some wonderful diaries of strippers out there on the Internet, but many are anonymous. I also wanted my dancer to have danced in Las Vegas which is unique from working anywhere else. My research finally turned up Rebecca Avalon, a former Las Vegas dancer who now runs the Strip and Grow Rich stripper school.

I tracked her down and Rebecca agreed to talk to me. She was absolutely wonderful, endlessly fascinating as she took me into the head of a dancer.  I was struck by the start up costs to even get on a stage in Vegas (you have to rent a stage – your stage fee), where you make your money (it is not on a pole, in fact, Avalon steered clear of the pole and potential injuries, the money is in lap dances) and her financial advice for dancers.

As she explained to Anna Merlan in the Dallas Observer where I found her, she has a colour coded system to help her students identify different types of customers: “Type-A businessman are reds; party guys, blues; bargain-hunters, green. The yellows are faithful, quiet regulars. In order to sell the maximum number of lap dances per hour, she focuses first on the reds and blues, who make decisions quickly.”

I loved how Avalon described acting as a sort of ‘shrink’ for her customers at times, many of whom said they couldn’t talk to their wives. This complexity of relationships made its way into my book as Jared and Bailey talk about why their own relationships have never been successful as they work out their issues together.

After I talked to Avalon, I knew Bailey was the perfect foil for Jared, the only woman in fact, who could break through the false illusions he held about women by shattering every single one of them.

I feel privileged as an author to get a glimpse into people’s very fascinating lives and I’m always pleasantly surprised at how open they are to telling their stories. I’m so grateful Rebecca did.

I’ll leave you now with the opening of Jared and Bailey’s story, where Jared has, quite possibly, the worst day of his life when his manifesto on women, meant only for his closest wingmen gets leaked on the internet. Bailey happens to be the only woman who can save him. Hope you enjoy!

*****

The day that Jared Stone’s manifesto sparked an incident of international female outrage happened to be, unfortunately for Stone, a slow news day. By five a.m. on Thursday, when the sexy Silicon Valley billionaire was reputed to be running the trails of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, as he did every morning in his connected-free beginning to the day, his manifesto was dinner conversation in Moscow. In London, as chicly-dressed female office workers escaped brick and steel buildings to chase down lunch, his outrageous state-of-the-union on 21st Century women was on the tip of every tongue, spoken in hushed, disbelieving tones on elevator trips down to ground level.

And in America, where the outrage was about to hit hardest, women who had spent their entire careers seeking out the C-suite only to find themselves blocked by a glass ceiling that seemed impossible to penetrate stared in disbelief at their smartphones. Maybe it was a joke, some said. Someone must have hacked into Stone’s email, said others. Doesn’t surprise me at all, interjected a final contingent, many of whom had dated Stone in an elusive quest to pin down the world’s most sought after bachelor. He’s a cold, son-of-a-bitch. I’m only surprised his true stripes didn’t appear sooner.

*****

About The Magnate’s Manifesto:

BILLIONAIRE PLAYBOY IGNITES INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT WITH HIS MANIFESTO ON WOMEN 

Jared Stone: Visionary, rebel, the tech world’s golden boy…and now the most hated man on the planet!

Bailey St. James: Survivor, powerful female executive, the only woman who refuses to bow down to Jared Stone…and the only woman who can save him?

When Jared’s manifesto makes him public enemy #1 the only way out is to make Bailey an offer she can’t refuse—a very public promotion to VP! Now, with a major deal on the line and tensions rising, can it be long before Jared and Bailey move from spreadsheets to bed sheets?

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