Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Romantic Suspense Heroes

I got the idea for this blog topic from the February Intrigue Authors Newsletter.  All the authors said what they were looking for in the hero of a romantic suspense novel.

This was my answer:

For me, he’s got to be tough on the outside but tender at his core.  A take-charge kind of guy who has his own inner strength and a strong sense of right and wrong–which might not dovetail with the conventional wisdom.  I mean, he might bend the law, if he thinks the ends justify the means.  And in a fight, he probably won’t stick to Marquess of Queensberry rules.

He’s got good instincts about people, a good sense of humor, a strong streak of personal loyalty.  He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he confronts problems head-on, which is good because danger has a way of catching up with him, sooner rather than later.

He’s a complicated guy, with something in his background that makes him wary of relationships.  A woman who’s going to win his love must get past the protective wall he’s built around his emotions.

But he enjoys sex, and he’s an excellent lover, sensitive to his partner’s needs.  And if he has something extra–say the ability to change into a wolf, like Cole Marshall, the hero of my Decorah Security novel, DARK MOON, that’s a definite plus.

And one more thing.  He looks a lot like my husband.  Only younger, thinner and taller.  If I describe him as anything besides dark-haired and dark-eyed, with a five o’clock shadow, I’m lying.

These are the kind of alpha males I write about.

What do you want in the hero of a romantic suspense novel?  Comment for a chance to win two of my favorite Harlequin Intrigues--autographed.  If you want a chance to win, please include an e-mail address in your comment.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Special Valentine Treat by Nancy Baggett

I wanted to give you a special Valentine treat, and I knew the perfect place to get one.  From my friend Nancy Baggett, the author of many wonderful baking books including THE ALL AMERICAN DESSERT BOOK.

Here’s a recipe of hers that looks perfect for Valentine’s Day.
Molten Lava Chocolate-Raspberry Mini-Cakes

Use any ramekins or small, shallow baking dishes that hold about 3/4-cup each for these mini-cakes. Just be sure that the dishes are shallow, as the cakes are tricky to remove from the traditional, 4-inch deep custard cups.

Tip: Though the look is less dramatic, it’s possible to bake and serve the cakes in classic crème brûlée dishes for an easier, fuss-free presentation. In this case, just drizzle some melted raspberry jam back and forth over each cake, then add a little dollop of whipped cream to the center.

12 ounces bittersweet (60 to 70 percent cacao) or semisweet chocolate, broken up or coarsely chopped
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam, plus 2 tablespoons, melted, for garnish
5 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon raspberry extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Lightly sweetened whipped cream or powdered sugar for garnish, optional

Generously butter six or seven 3/4-cup soufflé dishes, ramekins, or shallow custard cups. In a microwave-safe medium bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Microwave on high power for 1 minute, then stop and stir. Continue microwaving on medium power, stopping and stirring at 30-second intervals, until the chocolate and butter are barely melted, stirring occasionally; let the residual heat finish the job. (Alternatively, in a heavy medium saucepan, warm the chocolate and butter over lowest heat, stirring frequently, until partially melted; be very careful not to burn. Immediately remove from the heat.) Stir in 3 tablespoons jam until it melts and the chocolate mixture cools to warm.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until blended. Add the granulated sugar, extract, and salt, whisking until evenly incorporated. Whisk in the chocolate mixture. Sift the flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder over the batter and whisk until smoothly incorporated. If the batter seems very stiff and dry, stir in up to 2 tablespoons warm water. Divide the batter among the prepared dishes; they should be fairly full. The unbaked cakes will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Place the dishes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes (a little longer if the batter has been refrigerated), or until the tops are browner at the edges and rise above the dish rims. The center tops should be soft to the touch and look underdone, and the consistency pudding-like when a toothpick is inserted in the center. Run a paring knife around the dishes and under the bottoms of the cakes until completely loosened. Let cool on a wire rack for 6 to 7 minutes to cool slightly and firm up.To plate, center a dessert plate directly over a cake top. Using oven mitts and holding the two tightly against each other, invert the cake onto the plate. Repeat with the remaining cakes. Garnish the plates with drizzled melted raspberry jam, as shown, if desired. (I pipe it using a pastry bag or through a sturdy plastic baggie with a tiny hole snipped in one corner.) Serve immediately, garnished with lightly sweetened whipped cream (or with sifted powdered sugar over top) if desired.

Alternative do-ahead unmolding option: The warm cakes can be unmolded and placed all together on an ovenproof platter, covered, and set aside for a few hours. Reheat in a 325 degree F oven just until warmed through but not hot before serving. Transfer to individual dessert plates using a wide spatula.

The cakes will keep, airtight and refrigerated, for up to a week. Reheat, as directed above, before serving.

Makes 6 or 7 mini-cakes.

And here are links to two more of her fabulous recipes, a couple of very tempting variations on the brownie theme:

      Better-for-You Brownies

      Lowney's 1907 Heirloom Brownies

What's your favorite Valentine treat?  


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

DECORAH SECURITY, A New Paranormal Romantic Suspense Series

I’ve always thought that one of the best ways to connect with my readers is through related stories.  I’ve done that with my long-running 43 Light Street series for Harlequin Intrigue and my Moon books for Berkley.  And I wanted to use a similar format with the Decorah Security series, which I launched in December with three titles.

The usual thriller or detective series has one main protagonist who comes back book after book.  Romantic thrillers are a little different because it’s not just about the peril.  The focus is on the developing relationship between the hero and heroine as well as on the action plot.  It’s also the story of a man and a woman falling in love against a background of suspense and danger, and it isn’t until after they’ve dispatched the bad guys that the reader is sure they’re going to work out their complex relationship.

That’s a challenge for the writer.  But also fun.  You’re always weaving the two plots together so that if you pulled out either one, the story would fall apart.  And with the Decorah Security series, there’s another element as well.  All of the agents have paranormal powers–or they’re dealing with a paranormal case.

Bringing the first three Decorah Security stories to publication was a year-long project for me.  And though DARK MOON is the third book in the series, it’s the one I wrote first because I thought of it as a transition between my Berkley Moon books and the new series.


DARK MOON features the main Decorah Security players, Frank Decorah and the in-house staff who have secondary roles in all the stories.  We also meet a guy who’s going to be the hero of a future Decorah novel, even though he’s playing the part of a bad guy in this story.

The spotlight is on agents Cole Marshall and Emma Richards, who are sent on a desperate mission to rescue Karen Hopewell, a young woman kidnapped by a business rival of her father.  But Bruno Del Conte is no ordinary businessman.  He lives on a cruise ship that’s been converted into a sexual playground for the rich and kinky.

Going under cover, Cole and Emma must play the role of lovers while they search for Karen.  On the ship, they’re threatened by a mutiny in progress and also by Del Conte’s security chief who digs into their backgrounds to find out who they really are and why they’re on board.  At the same time, they struggle with the intensity of the personal relationship neither of them thought they wanted.

And, oh yeah, just to complicate matters, Cole’s a werewolf who fears Emma will discover his secret in the worst possible manner.

I finished DARK MOON, let it sit, and went through my three or four edits.  But I was nervous about the story.  After more than 130 books with major publishers, this was my first indie project, and I didn’t want anyone to say, “It’s not up to her usual standards.”  It helped me to send it to a beta reader who came back and said she loved it.  But I wasn’t ready to loose the book on the world quite yet.  I hired a professional editor, who made some suggestions and line edited.  And of course, my faithful proofreader, my husband, made sure nobody would see my dyslexic spelling and typing errors.

Meanwhile, I was working on CHAINED.  Originally it was a stand-alone novella until I realized it fit perfectly into the Decorah Security universe.


It’s the story of Isabella Flores, a woman on the run from thugs who want to kill her.  When she hides out at a ranch her father owns, she hooks up with Matt Houseman, the ghost of the Decorah agent she loved and lost.  Both are surprised that their relationship turns sensual.  And when the bad guys find Isabella, Matt helps save her life.  But is he really a phantom?  And can Isabella turn the tables and bring him back to life?

Continuing with the series in reverse order, I edited CHAINED, then wrote AMBUSHED.  


Since it’s a short story, I made it the introduction to the series.  Decorah operative Jordan Stone is guarding Elizabeth Bannerman, the only witness against an alleged terrorist.  When Jordan and Elizabeth are ambushed, they hide from armed men out to assassinate her.  And when it looks like they may not survive, they both acknowledge the sexual attraction that’s been simmering between them.  Jordan is determined to save Elizabeth’s life, but can he cope with his strong feelings for her?

But now it’s launch time for Decorah Security, and I’m excited to see how this new venture works out.  How do you like series; and if you do, what kind?

If you comment on my post, you may win a small stuffed wolf and one of my favorite Harlequin Intrigues.