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Cover Spotlight The Devil Takes a Bride by Julia London

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Ever wonder what goes into making a sensual historical romance cover? Our Harlequin HQN cover designer shows you in this behind-the-scenes look at The Devil Takes a Bride by Julia London…

By Sean Kapitain, Designer

The photographer shot multiple versions of the pose. For each shot he had the models change the pose in subtle ways, altering their facial expressions, the tilt of their heads or the placement of a hand.

TheDevilTakesABride_Step_1

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Saturday Excerpt: Christmas at Carriage Hill by Carla Neggers

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Celebrate the holidays with a magical Swift River Valley novella from New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers. Download Christmas at Carriage Hill, a holiday story featuring a charming country inn, sexy military hero and reunion romance, today for just 99¢ at ebook stores and start right here with an excerpt!

About Christmas at Carriage Hill:

When fashion designer Alexandra Rankin Hunt is asked to create the dresses for Olivia Frost’s Christmas wedding in tiny Knights Bridge, Massachusetts, she jumps at the chance. She’s certain she’ll never get to design one for herself—not with her history of falling for the wrong men. Ian Mabry, the sexy fighter pilot whose bravery reminded her of her beloved great-grandfather, was the worst yet.

To Alexandra’s surprise, Ian is also at Carriage Hill, Olivia’s picturesque country inn. And if anyone can charm his way into a wedding, it’s him. Ian wants more than an invitation—he’s determined to find a way back into Alexandra’s life.

Excerpt:

Alexandra Rankin Hunt hoped—fervently—that a Christmas wedding in the small New England village of Knights Bridge would be the perfect diversion and would put her latest mistake behind her. It had been three months, three weeks and—she glanced at her bedside clock—two hours since she’d met, and then fallen in and out of love with said mistake.

Out of love was still a work in progress, but she was determined to return to England after Christmas a new woman.

She sat on the edge of her bed and picked up a copy of her favorite photograph of her great-grandfather. She’d never met Philip Rankin. He was killed early in World War II during the Battle of Britain. The photograph was the only one she knew of with him in his Royal Air Force uniform. He was smiling his rakish smile. It was just a few weeks before his combat death, but she couldn’t detect a hint of fear or overconfidence in him. By then, he’d fallen in love with Grace Webster, a young American woman facing eviction from the only home she’d ever known in order to make way for a massive reservoir. Until a few months ago, only Philip and Grace had known of their love affair late in the summer of 1938. Grace had created a secret hideaway as her family prepared to leave their doomed small town for Knights Bridge, another small town in western Massachusetts. Injured and on the run, Philip had taken refuge in her hideaway. He’d just “stolen” jewels in Boston—from his brother-in-law, a difficult man who’d tried to claim them after his sister, Philip’s wife, had died. Philip had been determined to get the jewels back to his daughter.

And he did, Alexandra thought with a smile—it had just taken decades.

Philip had returned to England and gone to war, never to return. Grace had stayed in America. She was in her nineties now, a retired schoolteacher who had never married.

Sun streamed through the windows of Alexandra’s flat above her dress shop on one of the prettiest streets in one of the most charming villages in the Cotswolds, an area in the countryside east of London known for its scenic beauty. She’d moved there in August, abandoning London for a different life. A new life. A life she’d hoped would bring her romantic love and happiness—or at least stop bringing her the wrong man.

It hadn’t worked out that way, but it wasn’t the fault of the village she’d chosen.

“It’s my own fault,” she said under her breath.

She had wanted instant results, but she now knew she couldn’t snap her fingers and change the things about herself that continued to land her romantic life in scalding water. It wasn’t just that the wrong sort of man was drawn to her. She was drawn to the wrong sort of man.

An RAF wing commander? What had she been thinking?

The only fighter pilot she needed in her life was her great-grandfather, a World War II hero she had never known.

She realized she was hungry and put on her coat, a lovely, simple gray cashmere with no buttons, just an easy tie. She’d designed and made it herself, but dresses were her specialty. Although she was getting a name for herself, she’d been flattered when Olivia Frost had asked her to design the dresses for her Christmas Eve wedding to wealthy Dylan McCaffrey—Alexandra’s second cousin. Or some sort of cousin. Earlier that year, he had discovered that his father, Duncan McCaffrey, was Grace and Philip’s son, placed in the loving hands of a couple who’d adopted him as an infant. Grace hadn’t seen him again for more than seventy years, until shortly before his death two years before. He’d been a businessman and adventurer, marrying late, and now his only son—Grace’s grandson—was marrying a woman from Knights Bridge.

Alexandra had already packed Olivia’s wedding dress for the flight to Boston. She loved designing and sewing wedding dresses. That wouldn’t change even if she never would have one of her own.

RAF officer Ian Mabry, a thorough rake of a man, was her last mistake.

She went down the narrow stairs to her shop—it was more a design studio, really—and locked up as she headed out. Her street was off the village’s main thoroughfare but nonetheless lined with shops and restaurants, the buildings constructed of the honey-colored limestone that signified a traditional Cotswolds village. Despite the sunshine, the air was brisk, although not as cold as it would be in New England. She’d packed warm layers for her trip.

Because Ian was not in town and his family had no idea of the havoc he’d wreaked on her life, Alexandra decided on lunch at the corner pub the Mabrys owned. She slipped into a cozy wooden booth under the pub’s low, beamed ceilings and ordered soup—a lovely-sounding leek and potato—and tea. A few shopkeepers wandered in, but it was early yet. She loved the pub’s relaxed, unhurried atmosphere. She supposed she shouldn’t berate herself for having succumbed to Ian’s charms when he’d waited on her on one of her first nights in town. She’d been tired from moving and had been second-guessing the wisdom of leaving London. All her friends who’d helped with the move had gone home, with promises to visit soon and often. She’d felt alone but in a good way. It was positive, healthy.

And she’d thought Ian was a local man who managed his family’s thriving pub.

Wrong. So wrong.

Now, of course, she noticed the framed photograph behind the bar of Ian in his fighter pilot uniform. His smile was without fear and decidedly, at least in her estimation, cocky.

From August through early November, she’d thought him the most exciting, charming, endearing and thoroughly desirable man she’d ever met. A manly man. Sexy. Self-confident. Not without flaws, but she’d missed the danger signs. The ambition. The single-mindedness. The need to put himself and his work first, ahead of everything else.

He’d said he’d seen the same in her. “You don’t want a quiet Cotswolds life, Alex. You want London. You want the applause.”

She’d told him in no uncertain terms what she didn’t want was him to tell her what she wanted.

Everything had unraveled quickly after that delightful little conversation.

Her soup arrived, steaming and delicious, with warm wholemeal bread and local butter. She was enjoying herself despite the assault of bad memories when she became aware of someone sliding into the booth across from her.

She looked up and saw it was Ian.

“Hello, Alex,” he said.

“You’re not here,” she said, determinedly slathering butter on her bread. “I’m making you up. I’m sure people are staring at me because I’m talking to myself.”

“I hear you’re flying to Boston tomorrow.”

She sighed. She hadn’t conjured him up. He was there, all muscle, ego, good looks and that over-the-top masculinity she had found irresistible from the moment she’d laid eyes on him—a surefire warning she had foolishly not heeded. She noted his military-cropped tawny hair. His clear gray-blue eyes. His cleft chin. His smile.

His hands.

Dear heaven, Ian Mabry’s hands…

She set her bread back on its plate. “Yes, I am flying to Boston. I don’t need you to fly me there, if that’s what you’re wondering.” She immediately regretted her snippy tone, not because he didn’t deserve it, but because she didn’t want him to think she was anything but neutral where he was concerned. “I’m attending a wedding outside Boston.”

“Olivia Frost and Dylan McCaffrey’s wedding.”

“Mmm.”

He’d met them when they were in England in October. “How did Olivia’s dress come out?” Ian asked mildly.

Alexandra raised her gaze to him. Wing Commander Ian Mabry asking about one of her dress designs? Seriously?

“You were working on it when I was in town last,” he added.

Heat flooded her cheeks. She could try to blame the fire, the soup, the tea, but he would know better. His slight grin—that sexy, wry grin—told her she would never get away with it. She’d had the pattern pieces for Olivia’s dress on her bed when Ian had…

“Yes, I was.”

She left it at that. She needed to be the up-and-coming London designer who had relocated to the beautiful, upscale Cotswolds and had full command of her life. She did not need to be another of Ian Mabry’s conquests. She refused to let him think she was still pining for him, because she wasn’t. Not a bit.

“Did you ever find that—what was it that went astray?” he asked. “A bit of the sleeve, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was, and I did find it, thank you.”

“We did mess up the place.”

The place being her bed. Alexandra grabbed her bread. “I’m in a bit of a hurry, Ian. I leave for London in thirty minutes.”

“How are you getting to London?”

She hadn’t bought her own car yet. Of course he would know that. She waved a hand. “I’m taking the train.”

“Alone?”

“Yes, of course.” The snippiness again, and again she regretted it. “I’m staying with friends tonight.” Actually, she was staying with her grandmother—Philip Rankin’s daughter, a proud woman who would be relieved that Alexandra had come to her senses regarding her RAF pilot. “I have a lot of friends,” she added crisply.

“You’re still getting to know people here,” he said. “You’ve been busy with your work, but it takes time to make new friends. It will happen.”

Alexandra realized she wanted to throw something at him. She truly did. If he hadn’t rattled her by reminding her of scattering pattern pieces on her floor while simultaneously disrobing her, she might have gone ahead and pitched a chunk of bread at him. With his reflexes, he’d have ducked, and she’d have felt like a fool. Good that she’d let the impulse wash over her.

“How long will you be away?” he asked her.

Long enough to get over you, I hope. “A week, unless I change my mind,” she said coolly.

“And stay longer or come home sooner?”

“Either. How long are you at home?”

“Awhile,” he said, rising.

“Then you’ll be gone before I return?”

He sauntered off without answering—pretending not to have heard her—and dipped behind the bar, then disappeared into the kitchen. Alexandra finished her lunch. She would fly to Boston tomorrow and spend a couple of nights there before heading to Knights Bridge. This would be her first Christmas away from England, but it would be wonderful—and a positive, healthy way to get herself out of her post-Ian funk.

He returned with more bread. “You didn’t have to go to the trouble,” she said.

He grinned. “You’re never more trouble than I can handle, Alex.”

He was gone again before she could respond. He went back behind the bar, greeting another patron with that sexy voice and amiable manner.

Everyone liked Ian Mabry.

A week away wouldn’t be nearly enough to get over him, but it would be a solid start. In the meantime, extra butter on her bread would help. She lifted a warm hunk of bread and glanced up, her eyes accidentally connecting with Ian’s.
Another grin, a sexy wink.

He wouldn’t believe she hadn’t been sneaking a look at him. Never. He was that sure of himself. That sure she was still under his spell.

Alexandra sighed and picked up her knife.

Lots of extra butter might help.

* * *

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Christmas Joy Giveaway

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Christmas is right around the corner, and we want to make one reader’s holiday a little brighter with this collection of seven amazing romances and a tote bag!

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Prize pack includes:

To enter to win today’s giveaway, leave a comment below answering this question: What brings you joy over the holiday season?

Giveaway closes December 23, at 11:59pm ET. One winner will be selected from all eligible comments and announced here on Dec. 24. Open to residents of the US and Canada, excluding Quebec. For full official rules, click here. Good luck!

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Karen Rock on Growing Up Harlequin

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Karen Rock’s interest in reading did not come naturally, but thanks to a little help from her grandmother, this award-winning author now lives to share tales inspired by everyday heroes and true-life love stories.

By Karen Rock, author of A League of Her Own (Harlequin Heartwarming)

I have a confession to make. Until I turned twelve, I hated reading. I wanted to spend every minute outdoors until, grumbling, I trekked home for supper. When a friend invited me for my first sleepover, I was thrilled. Lynnette’s family owned a small farm. I envisioned us slipping down haystacks, playing with barn cats and feeding the cows. Instead of galloping to the pasture when we leaped off the bus, however, she veered into her room and grabbed a book. “I’m at a really good part,” she said, pointing to a shelf of novels, “so let’s read for a while.”

Resigned, I grabbed one and forced myself to read the first page. The next one was easier and before I knew it an hour slipped by, followed by another. Before bedtime (aka dawn), I’d devoured my first book—a Harlequin Presents novel. I left that weekend with five more. A good start, but I knew they wouldn’t last out the week. How to replenish the stack? Definitely not from the shark-eyed librarian who cleared her throat noisily whenever I drifted past the rack of Harlequin books. Luckily, help came from the most unexpected place—my grandmother. During a visit, I discovered she read Harlequin Presents novels. She loaded me up with a bag full of her favorites. Jackpot! From then on, we gushed over our favorite characters, the breathtaking love stories and the exotic locations. These became some of the most beautiful memories I have of my lovely grandmother. I’ll treasure them always.

My years of reading about love allowed me to recognize the real thing when I found it. I’m happily married to my own hero of twenty years, Greg. We have a wonderful daughter, Danielle, and our amazing pets: Lizzie, Little Bit and Angel. Life hasn’t always been easy. Setbacks tested us, but love got us through. If there was a theme for my contemporary romances, that would be it. I’m drawn to layered, complex characters, realistic obstacles and the ability of love to overcome all. We don’t need to be perfect to find someone who is perfect for us. I’m inspired by everyday heroes and true-life love stories. My characters have tackled issues such as cancer, autism, survivor’s guilt and substance abuse. I hope to inspire my readers. To help them know that they are not alone. Love can, and will, find them no matter their circumstances.

Writing my September 2014 release, Someone Like You, took me on an emotional journey. It explores the role of forgiveness in helping us to find lasting love. My novel’s hero, Niall Walsh, a wounded war veteran, struggles with survivor’s guilt. He doesn’t believe he deserves the life he’s been spared, let alone love. Making matters worse, the soldier who died saving him was the brother of his former best friend, Kayleigh. Niall and Kayleigh must learn to accept and forgive themselves, and each other, in order to discover the happiness they deserve.

My December 2014 release, A League of Her Own, touches me deeply. Like many, I’m moved by those who heroically struggle with addiction and the loved ones who support their battle. In this novel, I delved into both sides of the issue. Garrett Wolf is a recovering alcoholic who wants to turn his life around with a second shot at a major-league baseball career. Heather Gadway, the child of an addict, is the new interim manager of his minor-league baseball team. To open their hearts to each other, she must learn to trust Garrett, just as he needs to believe in himself. It’s a beautiful story about the power of love to get us through the times that test and challenge us.

I feel incredibly fortunate to write for Harlequin Heartwarming, a wholesome line that allows me to create these deeply romantic, meaningful contemporary stories.

(This article first appeared in Simply Books magazine)

 

About A League of Her Own:

1214-9780373367030-bigwHe was attractive, talented…and way off-limits. 

Heather Gadway may have been a world-class college pitcher and a top university coach, but she’s a rank amateur when it comes to managing the Falcons, her father’s struggling minor-league team. And when it comes to managing her aggravating attraction to Garrett Wolf, their talented new pitcher. It’s going to be difficult enough to make it as the first female manager in the league and prove to her overly critical father she’s worthy. No distractions. No missteps. And certainly no romances with players. Everything stands between them—including their troubled pasts—even as Heather’s world falls apart and Garrett’s the one who’s there to catch her…

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Christmas Countdown Gift Card Giveaway!

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The holiday season is all about giving, and we want to thank our wonderful readers with this special giveaway! Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below for your chance to win a $200 Visa gift card, the perfect prize to treat yourself and others this holiday season.

Good luck and happy holidays!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Naughty in Nashville

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by Zoey Williams, author of Addicted (COSMOPOLITAN Red-Hot Reads)

One thing you must know about me as a writer is that I love a good twist. And I am absolutely fascinated by celebrity culture.

Talia Truman is a hard-partying, serial dating, life of the party type of woman who always says what’s on her mind. Problem is, her behavior—which is exactly not like what she was as the tween star of a children’s show that ended a few years ago—has gotten her in trouble with the press… and the producers of her next film. If she doesn’t clean up her act fast—or at least make it seem like she’s trying to clean up her act—she’ll lose out on the movie role she’s been dreaming of her entire career.

So the answer’s simple: Talia’s manager convinces her to check into sex addition rehab purely for show. But then the management team behind a clean-cut country music star poised to break out onto the music scene in a big way has a very similar idea. Check hard-bodied (but baby-faced) Matt Skyler into the same rehab for the same publicity stunt, but for the exact opposite reason. His people must make Southern gentleman and soulful singer Matt Skyler look like a bad boy.

What inspired me when writing Addicted was how I kept seeing, in the media, these girls who hit stardom in their early teens—Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez—be demonized by the press when they hit their early twenties and started to (GASP)… date. Party. Stay out late. You know, like any other woman in her twenties. Add in the enormous stress of trying to keep up appearances for the press Talia Truman’s life is a giant pressure cooker that gets a heck of a lot more complicated when a sexy cowboy like Matt shows up.

Nashville is without a doubt the only city I could ever see myself living in outside of NYC. It’s wonderful. There’s so much to do, the food’s amazing (I’m an Edley’s girl ‘til I die—that potato salad is what dreams are made of), and it’s so peaceful and green. I knew I had to write a book set there. Plus it was fun seeing a Hollywood girl like Talia get down and dirty with Matt when he takes her to a gun range of all places for a first date.

Be sure to check out my next COSMOPOLITAN Red-Hot Read from Harlequin, Exposed—a story set in the Big Apple with even bigger celebrity scandals—out in March 2015!

About Addicted:

1114-9781460339619-bigwTalia Truman is a manager’s worst nightmare. A former child star, Talia traded in her braids and became a smart-mouthed party girl with a penchant for bad boys and even badder decisions. (Usually involving alcohol.) With a massive movie deal on the line, however, Talia needs to keep herself—and her purple thong panties—out of trouble. But sex-addiction rehab? Definitely not her idea…

Unfortunately, being stuck in rehab with emerging country music star Matt Skyler—aka The Most Delicious Man Talia Can’t Have—is testing Talia’s newfound chastity. All she wants to do is fall off the wagon and onto Matt. But Matt isn’t exactly the bad boy she thought he was. In fact, Talia is starting to suspect that this cowboy might secretly be a total gentleman. And worse still, she likes that.

Now, under the blinding glare of the paparazzi, this not-so-bad boy and trying-to-be-good girl must choose between their reputations…and who they really are.

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Q&A with The Yuletide Rescue author Margaret Daley

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We chatted with author Margaret Daley about everything from relationships, the importance of giving back to what’s on her bucket list. Read on to see what she had to say!

Your next book, The Yuletide Rescue, is the first book in a new miniseries, Alaskan Search and Rescue. What was your inspiration for this newest endeavor?

I love Alaska and I admire the people who are part of Search and Rescue teams, especially the K-9 handler and dog teams. My second book in the miniseries, out in February, is called To Save Her Child and revolves around a Search and Rescue dog and his human handler.

You’ve written over 90 books! How do you continue to keep your ideas fresh?

When people ask me where my ideas come from, I really don’t have an easy answer for them. They are just there often after I have slept on it. I think the Lord inspires me.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received, professionally or personally? Continue reading »

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Saturday Excerpt: Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

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If you’re one of the thousands of readers who fell in love with Echo and Noah in Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits, you’re probably dying to know what happens to them next. Luckily for us, Katie has written a new book about these much-loved characters! In Breaking the Rules, on sale now in ebook, Echo and Noah hit the road for a summer trip before college orientation, jobs and real life…but every road has some bumps along the way.

About Breaking the Rules:

A summer road trip changes everything in this unforgettable new tale from acclaimed author Katie McGarry

For new high school graduate Echo Emerson, a summer road trip out West with her boyfriend means getting away and forgetting what makes her so…different. It means seeing cool sights while selling her art at galleries along the way. And most of all, it means almost three months alone with Noah Hutchins, the hot, smart, soul-battered guy who’s never judged her. Echo and Noah share everything—except the one thing Echo’s just not ready for.

But when the source of Echo’s constant nightmares comes back into her life, she has to make some tough decisions about what she really wants—even as foster kid Noah’s search for his last remaining relatives forces them both to confront some serious truths about life, love and themselves.

Now, with one week left before college orientation, jobs and real life, Echo must decide if Noah is more than the bad-boy fling everyone warned her he’d be. And the last leg of an amazing road trip will turn…seriously epic.

Excerpt:

Noah

Echo shifts, and the cold rush of air against my skin causes my eyes to flash open. The Colorado State Park Ranger for the Great Sand Dunes wasn’t kidding when he said temperatures drop overnight. I stretch the muscles in my back then turn onto my side in order to touch Echo again. My palm melts into the curve of her waist.

She’s curled in with her back to me, and she’s tugged the blanket tight to her neck. Her tank top no longer provides protection against the elements. Last night was hot, in more ways than I can count, and the cover wasn’t required for any of our activities—neither for the sleeping nor the kissing. Without a doubt, this has been the best damned summer of my life.

Outside the tent, birds chirp, and off in the distance an engine sputters to life. Gravel cracks as a car leaves the campground. Echo releases a contented sigh. She’s gorgeous in her sleep. Her red curls flow over her shoulder, and a few strands cover her face.

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MMA: Equal Opportunity Sport, Equal Opportunity Romance

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by Michele Mannon, author of Out for the Count (Carina Press)

You’ve come to love them. Hot-bodied fighters working the Octagon cage. Dark, troubled brooders who speak better with their fists and bring nothing but trouble into the lives of the women who love them. Hey, I love these mega Alpha heroes, and love writing about them. Check out the two troubled warriors in Knock Out and Tap Out in the Worth the Fight Series.

Well, it’s time for the boys to move on over. There’s a new fighter in town. She’s gorgeous. She’s sweet. She’s smart. She’s got moves that will bring the fiercest fighter to his knees. Meet Huntley Rey Wittaker, the heroine in my new release Out For The Count. Southern belle. Kick ass MMA fighter. A fresh face in MMA romance.

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A week ago, Huntley had registered for her first professional MMA fight, in Vegas next January. Female fighters from around the world were signing up for what was being billed as New Year’s Belles Brawl. Dumb name—clearly some lame male organizer was trying to be cute. But there’d be nothing cute about the bouts, which would be as brutally skillful as any male MMA fight. A purse for each weight class was being given out, two-hundred fifty thousand dollars. Nothing to complain about there.

Nope. Her goal had been to bartend, soak it all in, improve her skill set before she set her mind on the cage. Not participate. Not genuinely fight. Not yet, anyway.

She marched up to the bout coordinator, a guy who’d been trying to get her to spar with him since she took the job a few months back. “You sure?” he commented. Jeez, one more person doubting her ability. Nodding, she scooped up a mouth guard and some tape to wrap her fists, and without glancing at the two men who’d accompanied her into the Hall, headed around the Octagon cage to the warm-up area.

She was tired of being underestimated.

Time to set the record straight.

***

So what does it mean to be a woman exceling in a predominantly male-oriented sport? Here are my top five female athletes:

1. Ronda Rousey – Bantamweight championship fighter and Maxim Magazine’s cover model – Ronda is the epitome of a strong female athlete. Blonde and ambitious with an armbar that’s lead to the submission of many an opponent, Ronda is not only ranked as one of the top female athletes in the world, she’s proving herself in the Octagon cage against women and men. Check out this recent video clip of her training for an upcoming New Year’s fight.

2. Alex MorganSoccer superstar and Olympic gold medalist – She’s tough, talented, intelligent and a woman with a clear vision of what it means to succeed. “Everyone has talent, but it’s what you do with it that makes you great.” Plus, she’s an author. Writing middle school stories about…you guessed it, soccer players!

3. Lindsey VonnSkier - Lindsey is an Olympic double medalist and three time World Cup champion who has dominated every aspect of alpine skiing. She’s a genuine pioneer in her sport. What I love most about her is her grit determination to succeed. Despite injuries and knee operations, Lindsey is battling toward making a comeback this winter. This feisty 30 year old will be exciting to watch.

4. Danica PatrickRace Car Driver – You know the old stereotype about “women drivers”. Well, ha! Danica puts it to rest. The only woman to ever win an Indy Car series, Danica has redefined the face of race car driver, with both her talent and good looks.

5. Mo’ Ne Davis – The thirteen year old baseball player and the first girl to ever pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series, Mo’ Ne is a role model for future generations of women athletes. What I find most interesting about Mo’ Ne is that she doesn’t seem all that surprised by the attention she’d earned, even after being named as one of Time Magazine’s “Top 25 Most Influential Teens”. But perhaps her reticence is a sign that times are changing. That to younger female athletes, without a doubt, the world is their oyster. For more about Mo’ Ne, check out this video clip: Why Mo’ Ne Davis Matters To Girls.

***

Order your copy from Carina Press or from major online retailers, including:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google | iBooks

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A Wonderland of Lights: RaeAnne Thayne on the Inspiration for The Christmas Ranch

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by RaeAnne Thayne, author of The Christmas Ranch (Harlequin Special Edition)

My family has many cherished traditions during the holidays. One of our favorites is to pack hot chocolate and popcorn into the car and drive twenty miles to a small town just over the border in Idaho, where a local farming family transforms their property each year into a magnificently magical holiday wonderland of lights, animated figures and Christmas music.

Their long U-shaped driveway is surrounded by Christmas scenes they have painstakingly painted on plywood. An old hay conveyer belt has been transformed with puppies chasing one another, while a mechanized wheel rotates elves and Santa himself bounces up and down in the farmhouse’s chimney. In the background is a beautifully painted Nativity, complete with a giant star strung between two poles above a pasture.

They offer this free for the community, their gift to their neighbors during the holiday season, and I have many cherished memories of the wide-eyed, breathless excitement on my children’s faces when we first crest the hill on this narrow farm road and the night sky suddenly turns bright from the glow of thousands upon thousands of Christmas lights.

This was the inspiration for THE CHRISTMAS RANCH, the latest Cowboys of Cold Creek holiday tale from Harlequin Special Edition. The book is the first of an all-new Cowboys of Cold Creek trilogy focused on the Nichols family, three sisters who have little reason to celebrate Christmas but manage to create a little holiday magic for themselves and their community anyway.

For many years, the Nichols family has opened their Christmas-themed ranch to add to their neighbors’ holiday enjoyment, like the Idaho family who brightens our holidays each year. When tragedy threatens the tradition, it’s up to the middle daughter Hope—who has always considered herself the family screwup—to step in and save The Christmas Ranch and all it stands for. Along the way, she is joined by Rafe Santiago, who has his own reasons for wanting to help the Nichols sisters.

What is your favorite holiday tradition to do with your family outside your home?

About The Christmas Ranch:

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Hope Nichols has never felt as if she belonged anywhere, except her hometown of Pine Gulch. So, when she hears that her family’s property, Christmas Ranch, is set to be shut down forever, a determined Hope heads home. She refuses to let the Grinch steal her holiday—this will be the most memorable ranch Christmas ever! And, thanks to hunky former navy SEAL Rafe Santiago and his adorable nephew, she might just pull off that miracle.

Rafe is undeniably drawn to Hope and her passion for rebuilding her family home. But he knows more about Hope’s tragic past than even she herself could imagine. And though she doesn’t know it, she owes him her life. And all he wants in return is for her to spend it with him…

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