Category Archives: Romance

Writing Great Love Scenes

Writing Love Scenes

I’ll be on a romance writing panel with fellow authors Ellen Butler and Kelly Eadon at the Virginia Writers Club annual symposium. While romance doesn’t get much respect in the writing field, it’s the most popular genre fiction. Why? I think it’s because it’s loaded with emotion. But many might argue it’s sex, even though not all romances have, or even allude to, sex.

However, while many romance readers like intimate scenes, sometimes kinky ones even, they don’t want them just for sex sake. If that was the case, they’d read erotica or watch porn. Good love scenes in romance aren’t just there for the titillation; they serve a purpose to the plot and character development. Love scenes shouldn’t be written as a play-by-play of a technical manual: Touch here, insert there.

After studying my favorite romance authors, I’ve learned that what makes a great love scene isn’t so much the mechanics, as much as it is the emotions and sensuality. Some of the best love scenes in books don’t mention body parts hardly at all, and yet, they’re sexy and sensual.

Today, when I write love scenes, I start with the frame of mind of the characters. Are they making up? Are they feeling sad and lonely? Are they playful? Are they needing connection? In Worth the Risk (free novella with my newsletter subscription or membership in my street team), Max and Madeleine have several love scenes. The first is about discovery and finally giving in to the attraction. The second reveals deeper feelings, and yet, a fear of sharing them. The reunion scene is all about connecting, filling the void at the loss they felt when they separated. So not only are their bodies touching, caressing etc, but their minds are at work as well. We can feel the longing and the desire, which increases the sensuality of the mechanics. At least that’s now I see it.

With the release of Fifty Shades of Gray, we’ve seen the popularity of highly explicit romances rise. Having read a few of these, I find my concept of a good love scene holds true. Yes these books show more and provide more diversity of positions and courser language, but ultimately, what makes them sexy and romantic is what’s going on in the characters’ heads and hearts, not just between their bodies.

What do you think? What aspects do you like best about a great love scene?

Drawn to Her Excerpt Plus Win a Kindle

Drawn to Her Release

The release of Drawn to Her is quickly approaching… April 12! I’m in a flurry of activity preparing for a big launch that includes:

faviconAn all-day Facebook Party with many of my author friends and lots of chances to win great stuff, including a Kindle!

faviconFree e-books with every pre- and day-of-release order of Drawn to Her .

faviconSweetHartes can also win a new Kindle Fire, Amazon giftcards, books and other cool stuff. If you’re not a SweetHart, you can learn about this FREE  exclusive group here, and then join the SweetHarte group at Facebook. You’ll find details about contests, some cool free stuff and much more.

Advanced reviews are positive 4 and 5 Stars:

Wow. What a roller coaster ride of emotions! This book will hook you and take you for a ride. I was frustrated, angry, upset, sad, elated at various points within the story and I LOVED it! ~ Kelly’s Book Blog

This book was absolutely brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed it.~ PLeslie at Goodreads

Overall, I found this North vs. South clash of cultures/wills quite entertaining. The writing style flowed, and I was so fully engaged I couldn’t put it down. ~ A Klue from Goodreads

Drawn to Her was definitely a fun read that left me in a good mood when I was done. ~ Lauren from Goodreads

Wondering what Drawn to Her is all about? Why not check out this opening chapter excerpt:

Drawn to Her Chapter One

“Rummy again.” Lexie McKenna laid her cards on the table over Oliver Carmichael’s hospital bed.

“You wouldn’t be trying to take advantage of a dying man, would you?” He grinned at her, despite the fact he was indeed dying. At least he is dying on his terms. Lexie admired his courage to abandon his life of riches in New York to live out the rest of his days in his quiet, childhood home, in Charlotte Tavern, Virginia. He was comfortable, or as comfortable as could be expected when dying of lung cancer.

“Oh, please, you’re richer than God.” She gathered the cards and prepared to shuffle them. “I couldn’t win enough dough to dent your stockpile of money.”

He laughed. “You got that right.”

“Since you can’t take it with you, I might as well pad my pockets with your loot.” She dealt them each seven cards, glad he was in good spirits today. Being his personal nurse hadn’t always been card games and banter. Oliver was the definition of cantankerous with his brusque demeanor, quick temper, and low tolerance of others. His illness hadn’t improved his attitude. Lexie understood it was difficult for a larger-than-life man such as Oliver to accept his mortality and the limitations imposed by his illness, but that didn’t mean she was going to put up with his surly behavior. Over the six weeks she’d been his private nurse, they’d come to an understanding; whatever he dished out, she gave back. As a result, Oliver’s behavior had improved, and they’d become friends.

“Double or nothing?” Oliver picked up the cards she dealt him.

“It’s your money, Warbucks.”

“What the hell?” A man stepped into the room.

Startled by the intrusion, Lexie turned to the man behind the deep, harsh voice. “Great day!” She drawled the southern expression of surprise and dismay, under her breath as a scowling, very tall, broad-shouldered man approached. In Lexie’s world, nearly everyone was taller than her, but this man was humongous, not just in size but in presence as well. He swallowed up space with each step until the room shrunk to the size of a closet. His narrowed gray eyes moved from her to Oliver. His dark foreboding stare reminded her of Oliver when he was in one of his moods.

Finally, someone has come to visit. Except that a glance toward Oliver told her neither man seemed particularly happy.

“What are you doing here?” Oliver’s scowl matched the man’s although his voice, raspy from cancer, didn’t match the dark intensity of his features.

“I’m here to see you, and I’m not leaving until we talk.” The newcomer stood at the end of the bed in a casual stance, belying the expectant look in his face. Lexie couldn’t deny there was something compelling about him. He was handsome for sure, with short, jet black hair, and dark, steely gray eyes made more attractive by the long lashes rimming them. He exuded a power that suggested he always got what he wanted without much effort, and an energy that said “keep your distance.” Typical New York businessman.

“I’m sick.” Oliver slunk down in his covers, letting his eyes drop to half-mast.

Lexie frowned. Oliver wasn’t one to take orders or be intimidated by others, and yet, instead of telling this man to take a flying leap, he hid under his blankets.

The change in Oliver’s demeanor concerned her. “Who are you?”

“Who are you?”

Lexie’s hackles rose. Who did Tall, Dark, and Brooding think he was coming into her home, well, Oliver’s home, making demands like he owned the place?

“Harrumph.” Oliver straightened in his bed. “Lexie McKenna, this is my grandson, Drake Carmichael. Drake, this is Lexie, my nurse.”

Lexie’s annoyance was lessened slightly knowing someone in Oliver’s family had finally come to visit. She’d made so many calls and sent several letters, all of which had been ignored. She stood and extended her hand. “How wonderful that you’ve finally—”

“Nurse? What the hell kind of nurse jokes about dying and taking your money?” Drake stepped close to her, towering his imposing body over hers, causing a shiver that had nothing to do with fear or intimidation. She should have been wary. Instead, she was intrigued. “Your bedside manner is lacking.”

“Now wait a minute.” Lexie ignored the crackle of electricity zapping within the narrowing gap between them. She wasn’t going to let some stranger, no matter how big, mean, and gorgeous, intimidate and insult her. Unfortunately, at five-three, she only came to his chest. Not a good vantage point to make a statement.

“Hold that thought.” She grabbed the step stool next to Oliver’s bed and gained the extra foot she needed to look Drake in the eyes. “You have some nerve.” She poked him in the chest with her index finger, ignoring the jolt of heat zapping her each time she felt the hard, firm muscle underneath his starched white shirt. “Where have you been all this time your grandfather has been sick? You never once called or sent a note.” She glared at him, pleased at the surprise in his steel gray eyes.

His surprise quickly changed to disconcertedness as his dark stormy eyes sized her up from head to toe and back again. He glared at her with such intensity, she worried she’d whither into nothing. But she wasn’t a delicate flower. She gathered her resolve and turned her stare on him, openly assessing him back. At first, his eyes remained hard and cold but, upon closer inspection, there was something smoldering and compelling hidden behind them. As quickly as it was there, it was gone, and his gray eyes turned flat and unreadable.

“Ahem.”

Lexie ignored Oliver’s attempt to get her attention because she couldn’t turn away from Drake no matter how forbidding his eyes. She wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of flinching first. At least that was what she told herself as she continued to hold his gaze. It wasn’t easy with her heart hammering and her knees turning to jelly.

“I hate to interrupt this moment, but I’d hate for someone to get hurt,” Oliver’s voice cut through the standoff.

Drake’s gaze held Lexie’s. “I’d never hurt a woman.”

“It’s not Lexie I’m worried about.”

Drake looked at Oliver, breaking the impasse.

Lexie’s lips curved in satisfaction. That’s right, buster. You don’t scare me. You might make me swoon, but you don’t scare me. With the battle of wills over for the moment, she turned on the charm southern women were famous for.

“Let’s try this again. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Carmichael.” She held out her hand.

He looked at it as if she had cooties. Finally, he grasped her hand, his long fingers wrapping fully around her hand in a firm, although not crushing grip, as she might have expected.

“Ms. McKenna.” His voice was rough, laced with annoyance. Even so, he held her hand, his gaze boring into hers as if searching for something. Her heart skipped a beat at the heat of his gaze. It was oddly thrilling, yet terrifying.

“Why don’t you sit here?” She disentangled her hand from his before she turned to mush, motioning to a chair near Oliver’s bed. “And, you.” She fixed Oliver’s covers and moved the over-table out of the way. “Be nice.” Casting Drake one last glance, she left the room.

~ End Excerpt~

You can pre-order Drawn to Her and have it on your device on release day, April 12, 2016! And don’t forget to keep your receipt and check in her for details on getting some free goodies!

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How a Sassy Southern Gal and Aloof New York Man Made it to Publication (almost)

Drawn to Her: Southern Heat book 1...coming in April

It’s taken some time to get Southern Comfort, now renamed Drawn to Her, ready for publication. But all of a sudden, things have picked up. The cover is nearly finished. I just received an ARC to proof. My publisher has posted the blurb for Drawn to Her online. The release date is set for April 12. Now it’s time to get the word out!

What started out as a little story idea I jotted down nearly ten years ago, is about to enter the world!

Just for fun, I thought I’d share the history of Drawn to Her:

  1. The idea: I can’t actually remember how the idea for this story came about, but it’s probably because it was so long ago. The original story had a scene in which Drake Carmichael (the male lead) has a phone line installed into his grandfather’s home so he can access the Internet (way back when you needed to attach the computer to the phone line to get online). Eventually it was changed to DSL and in this final release, he uses his phone as a hot-spot. But as you can see, this story started long ago. So long ago, I was a little worried it end up being a historical romance.
  2. The completed work: When I sent the three chapters to the first publisher, the book was a very rough draft. In fact, it wasn’t even done. I finished it in about 3 weeks, hoping she’s ask for the full manuscript. My effort paid off, when she asked for the full manuscript about 4 weeks after that.
  3. The rejection: The editor of the first publishing company was very positive, which is probably why I let it sit for two years while I waited for a response. In that two years, I published at least three, maybe even four, of the Valentine stories.
  4. The agent: Two months before I received a rejection from the first publisher, I submitted it to an agent. I figured an agent would have an easier time getting a response from a publisher. Plus, if it didn’t sell to the current publisher, the agent could get it out to other publishers.
  5. The fix: After the rejection, my agent sent back ideas for making the book better. New scenes were added. Old scenes were fleshed out, cleaned-up and improved.
  6. The sale: During the summer, while on a family reunion in the Outer Banks, I got the call. Penner Publishing wanted to buy this book, as well as two others in a series. Whoop!
  7. The fix number 2: Although I thought the book was in pretty good shape, first round edits came back in November with several suggestions to improve it. So after a few more tweaks, it went back to the publisher.
  8. Approaching the release: I received mock up of the cover last week, and was very excited about it (you’ll need to stay tuned for the reveal). I also got the release date (April 13). This week I received a copy of the book that had a few more edits and questions, which I dealt with and sent back the next day. Today, I received the mobi ARC to proof. This is exciting because it’s the completed book, with formatting, drop caps and all the stuff that makes it look like a book, instead of a Word doc. I’ll review the ARC this weekend and send back.
  9. Gearing up for release: What many people may not know is how much work goes into the marketing a book, particularly the release. There are reviews to get, tours to arrange, and buzz to build. The next few weeks will be busy, but I’m excited. Finally, my sassy southern belle and cool, aloof New Yorker will make it into the world.

Rediscovering Linda Howard

I’m a picky reader. While I read a lot, I don’t venture too far away from my favorite authors. My preference is romantic suspense and mysteries with a little romance strewn in. My go-to authors are Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, JD Robb (yes, I know that’s Nora), Janet Evanovich, Heather Graham and my newest is Michael Murphy’s Jake and Laura Mysteries (ala The Thin Man). But several years ago I read Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard and really loved it. I must have read a few other Linda Howard books at the time, but eventually, I stopped.

I picked up my running this summer and now I run long enough that even the music on my iPod isn’t enough to keep me from getting bored. I decided maybe listening to audio books would distract me. The first book I listened to was Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg’s The Heist, which I really enjoyed and will continue the series.

The problem with digital audio books is that they’re expensive. Audible is fairly affordable, but $15 for an audio book adds up if you buy a lot (granted, I spend a lot on print or ebooks, so maybe it’s a matter of changing my mindset).

My next stop was Overture, which allows you borrow digital books from your library. The only problem with this option is there aren’t a whole lot of audio choices (that I’d listen too…remember…I’m picky), and the ones that are there, have a waiting a list (I’m number 16 for a Sandra Brown novel). However, Linda Howard’s Prey was available and since I remembered Mr. Perfect, I decided to rent it.

I really enjoyed Prey, a story about two wilderness hunting guides who get stalked by a bear and a bad guy. So, when it came time for my next Audible rental, I chose Open Season, another Linda Howard novel.

You know how some books just stay with you? Mr. Perfect did and I think Open Season will too. Even though I make a living with words, it’s difficult for me to pinpoint what it is about this book that has me feeling sad that I’m about to finish it (I’m writing about it and I haven’t heard the ending yet!). The female protagonist, Daisy, is refreshing. She’s not innocent, though she is a little naive. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and she has really fascinating, and sometime funny, thought process. What could have been a cliched story about a tiny town, frumpy librarian, turns out to be really delightful. The male protagonist is strong and tough from Chicago via New York, but he’s not the typical brooding guy wanting to keep the world at a distance because of the horrors experienced as a former SWAT guy and a failed marriage. He’s brusk, but not mean and he gets as much of a kick out of Daisy as I do. Add in that the story is set in the south, which, when done well, becomes a part of the story as well.

The story is frumpy, 34-year old librarian Daisy determines she wants to get married and have kids, which means a makeover and visiting bars. Jack is the police chief, who notices Daisy before the makeover, but mostly because of her personality. After the makeover, many people notice Daisy. Jack doesn’t like that very much and although he’s not interested in settling down, he is interested in her.

Initially, Daisy is annoyed with him because he’s getting in the way of her plans to find a husband. But once he kisses her (her head dialogue during that kiss is great), she decides she likes his kisses and spends more time with him. When Jack learns someone is trying to track her down because she witnessed a murder, he goes into protection mode, which puts them together even more.

It all sounds pretty typical as I explain it here. And part of my enjoyment may be that the reader of the audio book is pretty good. Her southern accent is just what I might expect in small town Alabama. More likely it’s the humor, Daisy’s delightful personality and the fact that it’s romantic suspense without being dark and broody. The love scenes include Daisy’s effervescent outlook of the world and the humor that makes up her life (like when Jack refuses to wear the purple condom from the “Party Pack” of 72 condoms). A change of mood in reading is nice sometimes!

My only beef with Linda’s writing, which I experienced more so in Prey than Open Season, is a few too long narratives. She also revisits some of the narratives, which had me saying, “You already told me about that.” It would have been stuff I skipped if I was reading the book, but since I was listening to the audio version, I had to endure it.

All in all, I’m enjoying Linda’s stories. They’re not quite as humorous or quirky as Janet Evanovich or Jennifer Cruisie, but I still laugh out loud, which must be a sight when I’m running.

Summer Lovin’ and Fun

sweethartesI’ve had a crazy, busy summer, and have ambitious goals for the fall and winter! To finish the summer, I thought I’d have a little fun by having a giveaway for my Sweet Hartes. Not a Sweet Harte? No worries. You can join in the fun for free. I answer your questions, give sneak peaks to upcoming books, have giveaways and more. Visit the Sweet Hartes at Facebook to join now! Then be sure to stop by to see what sorts of fun and goodies will be going on in August.

More news….

I announced on Facebook, that I just received a 3-book deal on my Southern Heat romance series. The first book, Southern Comfort, was the book that sat at Harlequin for nearly 2 years (1 yr, 11 mos, 3 weeks…but who’s counting)! Luckily, during the wait I got an agent, beefed up the book and sold it to Penner Publishing! Southern Comfort will be released in January, at which point book two, Southern Persuasion will be due. The third book, Southern Conflict (I may ask to change that title), is due in July.

I’m very excited to have received this deal. Unfortunately, it puts off more Valentine books for a time. My goal is still to have To Love, Honor and Betray: Valentine Book 5 published in September as well as a Christmas Valentine short story in December. I have several other book ideas for the Valentines, but with the three book deal at Penner, I need to get the other two books written. Plus I have a new idea for a cozy that I’m eager to write (probably for NaNoWriMo).

Here is a picture of fall/winter writing schedule:

Jenna Harte Fall 2015 Writing Schedule

It’s a little ambitious, but I can write fast when I clear my schedule and I know what I want to write. I know you might be questioning this as it has taken forever for Valentine 5 to get finished. That has been partly busy schedule and partly plot issues. But starting in August, I’m making a big push to get it done and to my editor before the end of the month.

So that’s it for now… I’m off to write and when it’s time for a break, I hope I’ll see you in the Sweet Hartes group.