A Day Out In Atlanta!

Downtown Atlanta at Night

Oh, Atlanta. City of humidity and grits. Of peaches and thunderstorms. How I do love thee.

Last week I told you all about the RWA Nationals Conference, so this week I’m sharing a bit of what we did when we weren’t at workshops or the bar. If you missed that post, click here to catch up!

Frankly my dear...

Frankly my dear…

You might say our day out was mostly about Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind. Honestly, I had no idea how much Atlanta loves this woman and the book/movie. I remember watching the movie a long time ago, but not much else. Seeing the props and costumes made me want to see it again, so I got it on Netflix and sat down for all four hours of it. I’m pretty sure when I watched it the first time (probably 20 years ago), I stopped at the intermission because I didn’t remember any of Atlanta with Rhett and Scarlett being married! I thought it ended with Scarlett vowing to never be hungry again. Oops.

Kate ~ GWTW MuseumScarlett ~ Green DressTara

We visited a cool little museum called The Road To Tara. There were so many great items packed into this little train depot. It was as good as, if not better, than Margaret Mitchell’s House!

After the little museum, we got hungry and ate at this shack of a place called Dean’s BBQ. It was recommended to us by the museum lady and damn! This was one good BBQ place. Don’t let the looks fool you. If you’re ever in Jonesboro, head out past the gravel place and look for Dean’s on your left. You’ll be glad you did.

Dean's BBQ Shack

After BBQ, we went to Stately Oaks Plantation. If you ask me, Tara looks an awful lot like this plantation home. The closest Margaret Mitchell got to the place was the fireplace, though. Her great grandfather helped build it. We couldn’t take any pictures inside the house, but the grounds provided loads of photo ops.

Stately Oaks Plantation HouseStately Oaks ~ Fireplace

We also went to Margaret Mitchell’s House in Atlanta. It was cool to see the original door from Tara, as well as the portrait of Scarlett in the blue gown that hangs in her and Rhett’s home in the movie. I think what surprised me most was how tiny Mitchell’s home was! The kitchen is about the size of my guest bathroom. Which isn’t big at all. No photos were allowed inside the apartment, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Margaret Mitchell HouseMargaret Mitchell House ~ Scarlett Blue Portrait

The original doorway to Tara ~ Margaret Mitchell's House.

The original doorway to Tara ~ Margaret Mitchell’s House.

Having our fill of all things Margaret Mitchell, we ventured out to a creepy old cemetery ~ Oakland Cemetery to be exact. This place is fabulous. Some of the graves date back several hundred years. I could’ve stayed there all day, but it was way too hot and humid for this Southern California girl. I wilted within twenty minutes. Yeah, I’m a total wimp. I own that. 🙂

Oakland CemeteryOakland Cemetery ~ Grave StructureOakland Cemetery ~ Raised Bed

You can see more of the pictures I took in Atlanta on my Pinterest board here. As always, feel free to repin or swipe any you enjoy.

In all, I loved Atlanta. The people there are so freaking nice. And the food! Oh my. Diet wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary the entire week. I had a food bucket list and checked everything off: grits, peaches, fried green tomatoes, greens, BBQ, and chicken and waffles. My breakfast at The Flying Biscuit was so good, I took Barbara, Patricia, and Kate back there for more! The grits were luscious. Mmmm, and the biscuits and gravy? To die for. I think I need to head back to Atlanta just for some more Southern hospitality!

Where’s someplace you’ve been that you want to return for either the food or the people? Have you ever been to Atlanta? What did I miss (I need to know for my next visit!)?

I adore traveling ~ where do I NEED to go next?

***Next week I’ll have the top five (or ten) dragon names for the final voting! If you haven’t picked your favorite name, do it now! The winning name will be announced when the website goes live mid-August. Thanks again for playing along.

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Six: The Plan

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

What an amazing week I had in Atlanta for RWA Nationals! There will be pictures and stories for you on Friday. We’ll also start the voting to name our lady teacup dragon.

But first… Hannah and Ethan are back! We left them in the director’s office, with Maxim wondering if Ethan had come there to kill him. To catch up on all the installments, you can click on the Our Summer Adventure page above, or click here for week five. Remember, this story is what you make of it, so leave a comment telling us where you think the story will go next.

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Six: The Plan

The thought that Ethan had come there to murder her father never occurred to Hannah. As she stood stick straight, her back to the window, her gaze fixed on Ethan, she waited for his response. Ready to act.

“Kill you?” Ethan’s full lips pulled up at the corners in a friendly smile, “Not today.” Then he pushed away from the desk, his gaze going to her. “Ms. James, I’d like to go to my hotel now, if you wouldn’t mind driving me.” It wasn’t a question, but a command.

“You won’t be staying offsite, we’ve prepared a room for you here.” Maxim said before Hannah had a chance to refuse.

The smile widened, creating a little divot in Ethan’s right cheek. The impulse to kiss the dimple rocked her. The man was dangerous, assassin or no. She needed to keep her distance from him.

“That would be best for you, but I’ll stay at the hotel. I’m sure you understand my need for autonomy.”

The director regarded Ethan for several moments before he swore under his breath. “Very well. Hannah will take you wherever you like.”

“Sir, perhaps you should have someone else take Mr. Carmichael. As you said, I’m well-known to the governor. I shouldn’t be seen with this man.” Her pitiful argument fell on stone ears.

“You’ll stay with Mr. Carmichael as long as necessary.” Her father looked at her then, a silent order in the blue depths. She couldn’t deny him. Wouldn’t go against his authority.

“Excellent. Now that that’s settled, Ms. James,” Ethan held his arm out to the side, indicating she should pass in front of him. She kept her focus straight ahead, ignoring the warm scent of him. “Max, it’s been a pleasure. When will I meet with the governor?”

Her father ignored the informal address, which Hannah knew was difficult for the director. “Tomorrow night. You’ll attend a function he has planned. Hannah will be your date.”

Hannah spun around, “You can’t be serious. Roarke knows me. If he sees me with Ethan, he’ll suspect something.”

“Which is precisely why you’re going. It will unbalance him.”

A thrum of dread coursed through her. She wasn’t ready to see him again. Not after what he did to her. After what she stopped him from doing to her. Ethan moved closer and she wanted to lean into his strength, to feel his arms around her and know in her marrow she’d be safe. What had gotten into her? She didn’t need a man to protect her. Didn’t want one, in fact.

“Hannah, I won’t jeopardize your safety. Surely there is someone else.” Ethan’s breath fluttered across her cheek with each word. He was too close and yet not close enough.

She stepped away from him, from her traitorous thoughts. “No. There is no one else. Father is right, it must be me.”

Maxim watched her with those eyes that gave nothing away, but that she’d learned years ago to decipher. He was using her as bait. Again. “Tomorrow night, then.” He dipped his head in the odd way he had of dismissal. Before she turned, she caught the smallest movement of his lips. A frown, perhaps? Did Maxim Drake have some humanity after all?

She almost laughed at the thought. Of course he didn’t. Any man who could offer his daughter to someone like Roarke . . .  she stopped herself. That was the past. Since returning from the governor, Maxim had been making an effort. It was a start.

They passed the two guards on their way out. Each stared ahead, but saw everything that happened around them. The briefest of nods passed between them. A silent acknowledgement between comrades.

“Hannah?” Ethan’s silken voice wrapped around her, “Are you well?” He took her elbow as they walked down the long corridor to the elevator.

“Fine, thanks.” She moved her arm out of his grip and jabbed at the button.

“You don’t seem fine. If tomorrow night is too difficult for you, we can get someone else. Rori, perhaps.”

The idea of Rori going anywhere near the monster ate at Hannah. He’d love her. She was perfect for him, which meant Rori might be better bait than herself. Except, she couldn’t do that to the girl. “You don’t know what you’re offering, Ethan. Keep your sister far from the governor, if you want her to stay alive.”

They were silent the rest of the way through the complex. When they reached the car, Ethan slid into the front passenger seat. His proximity unnerved her. “What are you doing?”

“What if I want you to stay alive? I know what the governor is doing, Hannah and I’ve a good suspicion why you didn’t turn up in any of the files on Maxim. I’m not really here to work out a truce, as I suspect you know. How can I protect you while accomplishing my task?”

“I’m fairly adept at protecting myself.”

A wicked smile crooked up his lips. “Yes, you are. But this is different. Let me take Rori tomorrow night. You can tell us about Roarke, things only you could know. I can’t risk sending you back there.”

Hannah’s stomach spasmed out of fear or desire, she wasn’t sure. “You don’t know what you’re asking, Ethan. He’ll want Rori and what Roarke wants, he gets. If you knew the horror of that man,” she pushed aside the images that swirled in her mind, “you wouldn’t be offering up your sister so casually.” The bitterness in her tone cut through her words to her anger at her father.

“Rori knows the risks. That’s why she’s here, Hannah.” His warm hand cupped her cheek and she stiffened lest she melt into it. His thumb stroked along her jaw. “We’ll talk at the hotel and you can decide after you’ve heard our plan.”

“What plan?” Perhaps he really was there to kill Roarke. Possibly her father as well.

“Not now. We have an audience.” His glance flicked to the doorway where one of Maxim’s guards stood watching them. Ethan settled back against the seat, leaving her skin cold where his hand had been.

She wasn’t sure what she wanted more, for him to tell her the plan, or to kiss her.

Now it’s your turn. Is Ethan there to kill Roarke? Maxim? Will Rori stand in for Hannah at the governor’s party? What happens next?

Dragon Names! RWA Prep! Movies! It’s all here today…

Hey Everyone!

I’m wicked excited today. Why? Because the website is going to be up and running soon! That means all of you fabulous readers will have to re-subscribe to the blog (boo!), BUT you’re going to love the new place and I’ve got so many fun things to share with you once the site is fully operational. (Did any of you just hear that dude from Star Wars? Good to know I’m not alone in my geekery). 🙂

Laird has been working her sweet tail off to get the new website to look exactly how I want it. Think dragons and diamonds! Sparkles, castles, pink, yeah, it’s going to totally rock. I can’t wait for you all to see it.

Want a little teaser? This is the business card I had made up for Nationals…

2013 Tameri Etherton BIZ2

Awesome, amiright?

teacup-dragon[color]BUT FIRST! We need a name for our little teacup dragon. This will be the LAST week you can submit a name. Voting is going to start next Friday, so make sure you get your name in before then!

So far we have:

Blingaling         Annabelinda          Teodora           Mhegor             Twinkle            Isabela
Iremat              Jezebel                Tipsy            Earlie Grey       Darjeeling            Penelope
Blingling           Teavana               Pekoe
Larkspur          Zatima          Bob (short for Roberta)

What do you think she should be named? Add it to the list!

As most of you know, I’ll be in Atlanta next week for the RWA National Conference. Romance Writers of America puts on the best conference I’ve ever attended and I’m over the moon about going this year. Last year was my first time and, well, let’s just say I was woefully unprepared. This year? I’m on it.

If any of you feel overwhelmed like I did last year, here are some great links that will help ease your mind.

Angela Quarles has a bunch of posts about Nationals, and she has tips about the Marriott hotel, too. Check out this post for newbies and then make sure you read her other posts.

Are you pitching? Here are some great links for making the most of your pitch session. There are two from Angela, and another two from Laura Drake. Read them all. Trust me on this, it’ll ease your nerves!
Angela’s are here and here.
Laura’s posts are at Writers in the Storm here and here.

And lastly… packing. Ugh. That’s the bane of my travel existence. I always pack WAY too much. Well, Erin Knightley is here to save the day! And my back. You won’t believe how much she fits into one carryon, but since there’s a video to prove it, maybe you will. I’m in awe of Erin. Check out her blog here ~ make sure you watch the video. You too will be amazed!

The last bit of the blog today is about movies. Specifically, what’s your ‘Go To’ movie when you’re feeling down, or just want to escape for a bit?

Last weekend I went to see Much Ado About Nothing with my husband. I was psyched. Shakespeare, Joss Whedon, and my sweet Nathan? YES please!

But, well, I was underwhelmed.

So I went on Facebook and asked for recommendations of what I could watch that would erase the bad memories of the movie. As much as I wanted to love the movie, I didn’t, which put me into a funk. Hence, the question on FB.

The day before, I’d watched a super sweet movie called ‘The Magic of Belle Isle‘. My friend Kristy K James wrote a post about it and it intrigued me. Since it was available on Netflix streaming, I decided to give it a gander.

Well, I was smitten. More than smitten. I’m going to buy this movie to have on hand for those times I need a pick-me-up. Read Kristy’s blog here and let me know if you watch the movie if you love it as much as I did. Or, if you saw Much Ado, did you love it? Hate it? Were confused by it? I’d love to know either way.

I’ve given you loads to think about today! But don’t forget ~ I need dragon names and movie suggestions. I’ll be writing a future blog post about movies and need your help. Also, make sure you’re keeping up with the Summer Adventure story! Other than all that, I hope you have an amazing weekend. What will you be doing?

Our Summer Adventure: Week Four ~ The Company

Thank you to everyone who commented last week and for those of you who sent me private emails or messages on Facebook, thank you as well! Be sure to leave your suggestions in the comments so everyone can get in on the fun. I had a few suggestions to have Rori kill Hannah, but I think we need to see a bit more of Hannah in the story. We don’t know yet if Hannah is good or bad, or if even Rori is good like she’s making us believe she is. I’ll be interested to find out what you make of our two badass ladies.

If you need to catch up, you can find all the previous installments here. Happy reading!

Our Summer Adventure: Week Four ~ The Company

Hannah’s fist stopped mid-punch. Ethan crushed her against the car, his lips burning against hers, igniting a feeling deep within. A feeling she’d not had for far too long, not since . . . well, that was ancient history and better forgotten.

She flexed her hand, releasing the tension before she pushed against Ethan’s chest. The solid mass of muscle didn’t move with the pressure. If she wanted to, she could be free from his grasp in three simple moves. Yet she hesitated.

Ethan’s kiss softened. A subtle invitation to which her traitorous body responded, opening to him. A small moan escaped her, or it could’ve been him. She wasn’t sure. Nor did she care. For several long moments she was lost to all sensation except his touch.

Ethan pulled away, taking her senses with him. A smiled played at the corners of his lips, taunting her. She thought of all the places she’d like to feel the sensually hardness of those lips on her body.

She forced the wicked thoughts from her mind and pressed against his chest to free herself from his embrace. He’d drugged her. That was the only reason she could think of for her reaction. “What the hell did you do to me?”

“You’re asking the wrong question.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She pushed harder against his chest and turned away from him. A pink rash bloomed on her forearm, then dissipated. “What the…?” Another rash, on the inside of her palm, blossomed and then disappeared. “Seriously, what did you do to me?”

“I freed you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He traced a finger down her arm to her fingertips. A thin line of shimmering sparkles followed in the wake of his touch. “Faerie glamour. Humans don’t have this.”

“You did that. It’s not from me.”

“We’ll see.” He ran his fingers along her jaw, his thumb pulling at her bottom lip. “We should go. They’re waiting for us.”

She hated the way he made her feel. All soft and mushy inside like some god damned spastic cupcake with marshmallow fluff. She was a warrior. Trained to ignore emotions. “You’re right. You get the princess and I’ll take the prisoner.”

She went around the other side of the car only to find an open door and no passengers. The bastard had used her to allow them time to flee. Anger simmered in her belly, “Where are they?”

“Who?” Ethan’s look and tone were perfect innocence.

“You intentionally distracted me so they could escape.”

“Guilty. But it was a lovely distraction. One I wouldn’t mind repeating.”

Hannah stomped around the car, her anger reaching a fast boil. “You have thirty seconds to explain why you’d do something so asinine. If I don’t like your answer, you’ll be attending the meeting on your knees, if you’re lucky.”

“Think about it Hannah. If we took Lilliana and Rori in there, what do you think their chances would be? I know you’re loyal to The Company, but I know things about them you don’t. Rori would’ve been tortured, if she was lucky, and Lilliana? The High Princess of the Seelie Court? Think woman!”

Hannah held firm, her anger lessening with each word, her face a mask of indifference. He was right. Damn him, but he was right. If the director had access to Lilliana and Rori, he wouldn’t hesitate to extract everything they knew. With or without their permission.

“Why did you bring her here? If you knew she would be a liability, why risk it?”

Ethan hesitated a moment before answering. When he did, his voice held a note of sadness that tugged at her. “The governor is not who everyone thinks he is. He’s a manipulative, egotistical braggart with a dark side to him that can destroy not only the fae world, but will endanger the human world as well. The Queen sent Lilliana to speak with him, to plead the fae’s case in the hope he’ll have some compassion left inside his corrupt soul. I doubt it will work, but it isn’t my job to question my Queen.”

There was more to it, she was certain, but Ethan didn’t fully trust her yet. She glanced at her watch, “We’re late. Your lame reason will have to suffice for now.” His smile lit the flame she’d felt earlier with his kiss. A surge of desire swept over her before she could tamp it out. Damn him.

She led him through hallways and past several security stations, each time stopping to verify her identity and that of her guest. When they reached the final station, she paused, gathering her wits and strength. Ethan gave her a sideways look, concern etched on his face. She ignored him.

Together they entered the director’s office and made their way to a huge walnut desk. Sitting behind the desk was a man who appeared to be in his early fifties, dark hair greying at the temples, a chic goatee covering his chin. His hands steepled in front of his face, his deep blue eyes regarded them as they entered the room

“Hello Daddy.” Hannah said before greeting her father with a kiss to each cheek.

What’s going to happen to Ethan now that he’s in the clutches of The Company’s director? Do you think the governor used Ethan to lure Lilliana to the States? What about Hannah? Was Ethan’s kiss enough to make her challenge her father? Shear your ideas!

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Three: The Unseen

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

Last week Hannah kicked some assassin booty and left us wondering who the unseen passenger was. If you missed any of the previous weeks, you can catch up by clicking here. All of Our Summer Adventure excerpts will be on their own page from now on! Keep the ideas coming, I’m loving they way you all think!

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Three: The Unseen

Ethan leaned his head against the soft leather while Hannah drove in silence, waiting for his answer. He thought of a dozen lies he could tell, but he suspected she would see through them all. Telling her the truth was dangerous. Trust was not something he gave freely and there was the motorcyclist to consider.

A slight scent of cloves mingled with Hannah’s honeysuckle essence. What the hell was Rori doing there? She was supposed to be in Ireland dealing with that mess. His sister sat slumped in the passenger seat, her red hair brushing against the window. The last time he saw her, she’d had black hair and was dressed as a teenage boy. Being able to alter her appearance and fit into any social group was what made her invaluable to the Queen.

The bundle beside him shifted and the garment bag slid to the floor. Lilliana slipped from the seatbelt and stood behind Hannah, her slight frame barely rising above Hannah’s shoulder. She was a mass of shifting glamour, unseen to the human eye.

A ghosting of irritation crossed Hannah’s face, leaving in its wake tight lips and pinched brows. “Aren’t you going to answer me?” She flicked a glance to the broken mirror. Ethan studied her features, noted the rise of her heartbeat, the catch of her breath when she saw Lilliana. “What in the world? Are you an alien or something? What is that?”

Rori moaned and shifted in her seat. She pulled at her bindings and swung around to glare at him. “You let her restrain me? I was trying to warn you. Freaking idiot.” It was then she caught sight of Lilliana. “Your Highness. Forgive me, but I have an urgent message for you from your mother.”

“Your Highness?” Hannah’s eyes widened, her mouth opened as if to say more, then snapped shut. Several emotions played across her face. The one Ethan sensed the most was apprehension.

Rori turned on Hannah. “Don’t play innocent, James. You knew exactly who you were transporting. What you don’t know is that The Company is using you.”

Hannah glared at Rori. “No one uses me. Least of all The Company. I thought I was picking up one passenger. Him. I didn’t know he was smuggling someone or something into the country.”

Ethan listened in silence as the women argued. If Hannah knew about Lilliana, she was a good actress. He sensed no deception from her.

Lilliana let her glamour fade, revealing herself. Dark brown curls cascaded down her back. A simple dress covered her ivory skin. To humans she looked like a child, but she was close to a century old. She placed a hand on each of their shoulders. “No one knew of my arrival here, Rori. We must keep my presence secret until the meeting with the governor. If The Company knows I’m here, everything will be put into jeopardy.” Her lilting voice filled the car. “Hannah James, I can’t command you to obey my wishes, but I will ask you as a Princess of the Seelie Court to please do me this favor and not speak of me to anyone.”

Ethan sat up, his curiosity piqued. Hannah thrummed the steering wheel with her fingertips, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. Finally she said, “Look, I’m just a human who works for The Company. I don’t get involved in your affairs or particularly care who’s in power this week or the next. I do what I’m told and keep my mouth shut. I’ll keep your secret for now, but if you do anything to harm those I care about, I’ll kill you. Unless you want the world to know you’re here, I suggest you make yourself invisible. We’re pulling into The Company’s parking structure.”

Lilliana’s smile lit up her small face. “Hannah James, you are anything but human.”

As Lilliana faded to nothingness, Hannah met Ethan’s look in the mirror. “What the hell does that mean?”

Rori glanced back at Ethan and laughed. “A Changeling? What are the odds?”

What were the odds indeed. The Company had to know of Hannah’s fae lineage, but had never told her. They pulled into the underground parking lot and his stomach tightened. If Hannah was lying and knew of his mission she could endanger everything.

Hannah pulled into a space in the corner, far from other cars. Before the engine stopped, he was out of the car, motioning to Rori and Lilliana to stay where they were. He reached Hannah’s door just as she was opening it to exit. Without warning he grabbed her wrist and heaved her out of the car, slamming her door with his foot.

She pushed against his chest, her free hand fisted for a punch. Before she could attack, Ethan crushed his mouth to hers.

Now we know who the mysterious passenger and assassin are! What’s going on with The Company? What’s the message Rori needs to tell Lilliana? Do you think Hannah knows she’s faerie, but is lying? Would she really kill Lilliana if need be? What happens next week? Share your thoughts!

Do Romance Novels set Unrealistic Expectations? By Melissa Cutler

I’m super excited to have my friend Melissa Cutler on the blog today! I first met Melissa about a year ago at the San Diego RWA meeting. I was new to the chapter and Melissa was one of the first people to greet me and make sure I felt welcome. I’ve been smitten with her ever since.

When I asked her to do a guest post for the blog, I had no idea what she’d write about, but since I have loved every book she’s written, I knew it would be fabulous ~ and it is! She’s talking about love, conflict, and, well why don’t you read what she wrote…

Do Romance Novels set Unrealistic Expectations? By Melissa Cutler

After my mom read my debut release, The Trouble with Cowboys, she called me. One of her comments was:

“who would’ve guessed you knew so much about resolving conflicts?”

I’d never considered that angle before, and it got me thinking about writers and how conflict resolution is a huge part of storytelling. We create characters who are often so at odds with each other that the reader wonders if resolving their differences is even possible, then make them do exactly that by the end of the book.

The trick is making the resolution feel realistic. If a historical heroine has decided she can’t marry the hero because it will leave her younger siblings at the mercy of their evil step-mother, you can’t just insert a random grizzly bear into the story to take out the step-mother while she takes her morning constitutional stroll through the gardens. That’s an extreme example, of course, but my point is that making conflict resolution in a story too easy or fast or unnatural isn’t satisfying to readers.

The irony is that while an author’s job is to make conflict resolution believable and realistic, often times in real life, conflicts don’t get resolved. Last week, one of my editors commented on Twitter:

“I have a feeling most dating complications are misunderstandings, so why can’t they be more like novels and talked through?”

I agree with him to a certain extent about real world complications stemming from a lack of communication, but I would add lack of effort to the list of causes. I see that all the time with people I know—one or both parties don’t fight for the relationship, for whatever reason, so it fizzles (or flames) out.

This would never happen in a romance novel, would it?

In romance, both the hero and heroine, or at least one of them at first, has to care enough to fight. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a book, right? The characters must overcome their conflicts. They must endeavor to talk things through. To make it work in the name of love, come hell or high water. One of the reasons I love reading and writing romance is the pleasure I get from experiencing people fighting passionately for who they want in their lives, what they believe in, and what they want their future to look like. By “fighting”, I mean doing whatever it takes—talking, changing their beliefs or habits, overcoming external obstacles, and evolving into better people.

Does fiction—particularly romance fiction with its happy endings—give us unrealistic expectations in our real life relationships?

No way, at least not for this optimist. In great books, the conflict resolution isn’t easy or pain free; it’s messy and hard won and full of lessons on how to handle relationships in our real lives. Experiencing how fictional characters resolve their conflicts empowers us and encourages us to fight for what and who we want, to evolve into better, more authentic versions of ourselves, and give our all in the name of love. Books remind us to talk to each other and resolve our differences because relationships are worth it—we’re worth it.

Rather than setting up unrealistic expectations, the relationships in romance novels inspire us to overcome our insecurities, be bold in the pursuit of love and happiness, and to not settle for anything less than our best, authentic selves and the best, authentic selves of the people in our lives. Does everyone in the world subscribe to this way of thinking? Not even close. But here’s my advice:

don’t waste your precious time with people who are less than authentic, who don’t try to communicate, or who aren’t bold. Life’s too short to settle.

My thanks to Tameri for having me on her blog today and thanks to you for indulging in my rambling meditation. I wish you an unending well of love, passion, and happiness—both in your real life and in the books you read. You deserve nothing less.

Melissa Cutler Author PhotoBio: Melissa Cutler knows she has the best job in the world, dividing her time between her dual passions for writing sexy contemporary romances for Kensington Books and edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense for Harlequin. She was struck at an early age by an unrelenting travel bug and is probably planning her next vacation as you read this. When she’s not globetrotting, she’s enjoying Southern California’s flip-flop wearing weather and wrangling two rambunctious kids.

Tempted into Danger coverHer current release, Tempted into Danger, is in stores now.

Amazonhttp://amzn.to/VPTGez

iTunes:  http://bit.ly/10zY4k9

B&N: http://bit.ly/16edknt

Kobo: http://bit.ly/YGpvDg

~~OOoooOO~~

Thank YOU Melissa for stopping by the blog! I love, absolutely love your advice. Don’t settle. Ever. Being a fan of happily-ever-afters I share your enthusiasm for people fighting for what they believe in and love.

What do you readers think? Do romance novels set unrealistic expectations? Do you prefer happy-ever-afters or are you more into gritty endings?

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Two: The Passenger

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

You all had some fabulous ideas last week! I sort of took bits from all of you and incorporated them into this week’s story. Some of them will come out later in the story… they were too good not to use! Click here if you missed Week One: The Arrival. Here we go ~

Week Two: The Passenger

Hannah slammed the car into low, wincing at the grind the engine made. It sputtered, but kept running. At least that was a good sign.

The motorcyclist slowed to keep pace with her, but had to swerve around a mini-van. Hannah punched the gas and slipped the car into drive, feeling the rev of the engine beneath her feet. With barely a glance she sliced against two lanes of traffic. Horns blared, but she ignored them. Just one more lane and she could exit the freeway. Another quick look at the cyclist and she breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn’t expected evasive maneuvers on her part.

A jag of pain shot down her right arm. Another honk and she was hurtling off the freeway, the motorcyclist too far ahead to follow.

“You’re hurt.” Ethan’s words came close beside her. His thick brogue made something soft curl in her belly. “Hold still.”

“Mr. Carmichael, please. I need you to stay in your seat, safely belted in.” She yanked the car into a hard right, suppressing a grin when Ethan braced against the seat. Another right followed by a left and she eased into the flow of traffic.

He placed a hand on her shoulder, steadying her. A thrumming warmth spread over and down her arm, culminating in a sharp prick. She sucked in her breath to keep from swearing. It wouldn’t do to get written up. Again.

“That’s better.” Ethan held a jagged piece of mirror, it’s tip a watery shade of crimson. “Do you have a first aid kit? I could stitch this while you drive.”

“I’m sure you could, but really I’d prefer it if you’d sit back and buckle up. I’m sure our friend is looking for us.” She eyed him in the broken mirror. Tiny frown lines pinched his forehead. Dark brows framed his hazel eyes. “Can you think of any reason why someone would want you dead?”

“Several, actually.”

She didn’t doubt it. She had read the dossier, knew that Ethan Carmichael was brought in on special assignment for The Company. Something to do with the governor, but Hannah wasn’t cleared for that knowledge.

Ethan settled against the seat, once more buckling his belt. He placed a hand possessively atop the garment bag. For the second time that morning, Hannah felt a strange burning deep in her sternum. Not a pleasant feeling.

A moment before she saw the motorcyclist she heard him. Ethan glanced out the window at the same time Hannah jerked the car to the left into a narrow side street. She gunned the engine and raced toward a dead end.

“Miss James? You’re running out of road.”

“Hold onto something, and whatever you do, don’t get out of this car.” Hannah looked pointedly at the garment bag beside him. “Understood?”

His features set into a grim line, but he nodded. “What are you going to do?”

“End this.” The rev of engine behind them alerted her to the motorcyclist’s proximity. “Get down, Mr. Carmichael.”

Ethan bent low over the bundle on the seat. The cyclist raised his gun and Hannah counted to three before she slammed on the brakes. A whimper came from the back seat and Hannah cast a quick glance over her shoulder making sure Ethan was secure before she yanked on the steering wheel.

The car spun around and clipped the front wheel of the motorcycle, sending bike and rider sliding. Hannah was halfway out the door before the car stopped its spin. She caught the cyclist mid-crouch, landing a kick to his ribs. A decidedly feminine grunt came from behind the dark helmet, followed by several swear words in as many languages.

The leather-clad biker sprang up, fists a haze of motion. Hannah was ready for the attack. A quick block, several jabs, and a knee to the groin followed by a roundhouse kick brought the biker down.

In an instant Ethan was there, kneeling on the biker’s back, limp hands held in his own. “Well done, Miss James.” There was a hint of humor behind his accent.

“I thought I told you to stay in the car.”

Ethan’s look made her knees feel as creamy as honey on toast. “I rarely do as told.”

He pushed the helmet off their mysterious biker, revealing a shock of red hair. Hannah knelt in front of the woman, studying her features. “I don’t recognize her, do you?”

After securing her ankles with the same plastic binders he used on her wrists, Ethan lifted the biker over his shoulder. “When she comes to, we’ll get our answers.” Without waiting for a reply, he took the biker to the car and placed her in the front seat.

Suspicious thoughts tickled Hannah’s mind. Traitorous, even. She grabbed the helmet and strode to the motorcycle, looking for anything that might give her an idea of who the woman was. She tugged the keys from the ignition, two keys and a fob with an elaborate design, Celitc maybe. She pocketed the keys and picked a small piece of paper out from beneath the seat. There was gibberish scrawled over the paper. Letters and numbers that made no sense to her. She added the paper to her pocket before joining Ethan at the car.

Despite the large dent in the front bumper, the engine started up on the first try.

Ethan leaned back against the seat, looking relaxed in his grey suit. Once again she wondered what the dossier had failed to mention about her passenger. Her glance went to the bag at his side.

“This might be a good time for you to tell me who you really are, and about our other passenger.”

Now it’s your turn! We had some great ideas of who you thought the passenger was last week (a space alien, a child with special powers), are there any other ideas for who he/she/it is? What about the assassin? Who sent her and why? Is Hannah good or bad? What about Ethan? Is he a rogue operative or someone caught in a bad situation? Let’s have more fun next week!