February Romantic Moments

In commenting on Maria’s February post, I used up my ace in the hole from Love, Actually (the scene where Colin Firth tracks down his love, crowd on his heels, and asks in her language (which he’s still learning) her to marry him. Sigh. In trying to come up with another favorite, I’ve realized something. Like Joanna, I’m not that big a fan of the grand, sweeping gesture or extravagant action. No lighting up the Empire State Building, please. Case in point, remember the scene in the movie Say Anything where John Cusack the underachiever, with his weird long coat, holds up the boom box, blasting Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes to the valedictorian girl he’s crazy about, played by Ione Skye? I’ve seen women moan and reference this as one of the most wildly romantic moments ever. I’ve always thought it felt more stalker-skeevy or at least go-away-you’re-incredibly-annoying-ish.

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Glitter Girl – Part 4

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Hopefully for you, the hustle and bustle of this time of year is almost done. I’m mostly done and am looking forward to spending the next couple days with my family.

My present to you is the 4th installment of our Holiday round-robin, Glitter Girl. If you’ve missed parts 1-3, click the links at the bottom of the post to catch up. For the rest of you, grab a cup of coffee and some Christmas cookies and enjoy!

Best wishes for a healthy and happy Christmas and New Year!

Maria

Glitter Girl – Part 4

Tessa glared at her former self on the computer monitor. The photographer had captured her tear-streaked face just as the verdict had been read. The worst possible moment of her life had been recorded on film and could be Googled for all the world to see. Freaking great.
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Glitter Girl Part Two

Dear Readers,

Wow! A year has come and gone and the Violet Femmes are stronger than ever. We’re quickly approaching our 10,000 views mark, so THANK YOU for your checking in with us weekly.

Some other statistics about the Violet Femmes:

Jaye’s blog When Disaster Strikes in November drew quite a bit of attention. Living through Super Storm Sandy (and still feeling the after affects), it’s no wonder our readers connected with Jaye’s heartfelt essay.

Readers enjoyed February’s Castle of Dreams, our first round robin story, so much so we decided to write another this month!

The Violet Femmes go global: Aside from our loyal followers in the United States, we’ve had viewers from Canada, England, Australia, France, Denmark, the Philippines, to name a few countries. Bien Venue!
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Ooh La La! … Loving like the French

File:Jean-Honoré Fragonard - La lettre d'amour.jpg

I recently read an article that suggested American women would be much happier in relationships if they learned to love like French women. The reason for this, according to the author, is that French women enter into relationships, and love, without expectation.

We American women, apparently, are so goal-oriented in everything we do, that a businesslike approach has flowed over into our relationships. When we meet, and date, a new guy, we cut right to the chase, laying it all out on the table:  our expectations, our wants, our desires, our relationship failures, basically our life plan. Heck, all that’s left to share is our tax returns! By the time the first date is over, our potential partner knows everything we expect to gain from the relationship. Love, in the U.S., is hard work!File:Maud-Muller-Brown.jpeg

French women, apparently, are much more circumspect. They are less inclined to wonder if their date is going to be a good husband/lover/provider/father. They go with the flow, entering into relationships wholeheartedly, leaping in feet first, reveling in the experience, the mystery, the possibility, the excitement of it all. I liken this to the way I approached relationships when I was younger, and the way I see my teenager entering relationships. There was no fear that the relationship would end badly, that I would be hurt, that this person was anything but the guy I would spend the rest of my life with. Young love is nothing if not optimistic.

On the other hand, American women don’t like to be hurt, so we avoid it any way we can. That means making measured choices in love as well as in our work. French women may cry, rant, and scream, before they shrug and say “C’est la vie!” For the French, the possibility of heartbreak is all a part of the journey. You can’t experience such tragic lows if you haven’t allowed yourself to reach tremendous highs.

While I don’t necessarily agree one hundred per cent with the description of how American women approach love, I do see an element of truth in it. So it makes me think…how will my heroine approach love? Will she throw herself into it whole-heartedly, throwing caution to the wind, or will she carefully consider whether the hero measures up to her expectations of a life partner? Is she from a family of optimists, or an optimist in a family of pessimists? How does this approach to love inform the storyline? Will the hero love her in spite of her approach to love, or because of it?

As a reader, to which do you relate — the cautious heroine, or the devil-may-care heroine? Would you rather read about a heroine who allows the hero to break through her protective walls, or the heroine whose love scales the highest peaks, with no fear that she will come crashing down to earth?

Hugs,

Jaye

My So-Called Life (in Books)

Our winner from last week’s contest is Joe! Congratulations, Joe. Tina will be in touch regarding your prize.


I’ve been looking forward to writing this post. Fair warning, gentle reader: it will probably be long winded.

How could it not be?! We’re talking about the books we love, for crying out loud. Like many of you, I’m happiest with a book (er, e-book) in my hands. And I still geek out over books all the time. (Just ask Jenna Blue, who patiently listened to me gush about “Cut & Run”, a m/m romance series I recently fell in love with.) So I had a really, really hard time whittling down my list to one—or even two.

First off, I have to give props to my girl Nancy Drew for kicking it all off for me. These weren’t the first books I read, but they were the most important of my early childhood. I worshipped Nancy. Smart, beautiful, brave…was there anything she couldn’t do? To boot, she had a super cute boyfriend, Ned. I lived for those interactions between Nancy and Ned. And there were never enough! I hadn’t even hit puberty yet, but I was dying to find out what Nancy and Ned did “off the page.”

Hmmmm… Maybe that was a sign.

Now onto the good stuff. My love of romance didn’t start with Austen or Heyer. Instead, it started with Lindsey, Krentz, Garwood, Coulter, and Deveraux. Amanda Quick was a HUGE influence on me, too. Her stories are simple and quirky, packed with witty dialogue and unusual settings. Typically, I have a hard time connecting with heroines in romance novels—except for the Quick heroines. They’re smart and interesting, and aren’t pushovers by any means. In fact, I can’t remember any Quick heroes, but several heroines come instantly to mind. Above all, I thought her books were fun—and that’s what I strive for in my stories, too.

I have two life-changing, desert island books, one historical and one contemporary. Both center on my favorite story thread: revenge.

The Historical: “Lions and Lace” by Meagan McKinney

Published in 1992, here is the blurb: “After his family is snubbed by the elite Knickerbocker families of New York, self-made millionaire Trevor Sheridan – known as the Predator of Wall Street – vows to take revenge on them all. But he saves his most bitter venom for the family of Alana Van Alen, a flaxen-haired beauty who had once been friends with his sister. When this notorious Irishman causes her family to fall into poverty, Alana is forced to accept his offer of marriage, but Trevor is only using her to gain acceptance into society. In spite of her hatred for him, Alana is irresistibly drawn to Trevor’s handsome, brooding face and muscular body. Soon she falls in love with him, but will he return her passion or try to destroy her?”

McKinney’s writing is detailed and rich. There is so much research here into late nineteenth century New York, both of the Knickerbocker world as well as the views of immigrants, particularly Irish, that the reader is immersed into world of Trevor and Alana. The story is loaded with conflict right from the start, when the heroine’s uncle ties her to the bannister of the Sheridan mansion and abandons her to the mercy of our hero. Here’s one of my favorite passages:

Left alone with her husband, Alana heard the ensuing silence like the boom of a cannon. Trevor turned to her, and the room seemed to echo with his rage. She was aghast at the emotion in his eyes. Part of her quailed at the fury she found there, but another part of her, the part that had paced in her room all night and longed for a husband who loved her, rejoiced. He was jealous, wildly jealous. If their relationship held any promise, it was in that streak of possessiveness that had flared when he caught her in Eagan’s embrace.

There was a long foreboding pause while he stared at her. He seemed to be contemplating his next move and going through all the possibilities before making his decision. But he was Trevor Byrne Sheridan, and once his decision was made, he acted. “Go to my room, Alana,” he said quietly.

Her eyes locked with his. She knew what he was thinking. His jealousy gave her new hope, but the time for what he intended now was wrong. He was only accepting Eagan’s challenge. He didn’t want to make love to her because he cared for her but because of the man he was. She could see it in his eyes. He’d never let a dare go unanswered.

“No,” she said just as quietly, just as firmly.

He nodded. Not a good sign. “You’re my wife, Alana, my legal wife, wed in the Catholic Church. I’ve rights. Go into my room, or I’ll get a policeman off the avenue to drag you in there.”

“If you do this, there’ll be no annulment.”

“Then there’ll be no annulment.”

These two fight. A lot. They’re both strong willed, and neither one of them is what the other believes, each hiding behind a façade for a different reason. I can’t say enough how much I love the story. Even flipping through to find my favorite passages proved impossible because so many scenes gave me the shivers. If you love historicals, I beg you to try this one. You can borrow my copy, but you damn well better give it back.

The Contemporary: “Paradise” by Judith McNaught

Published in 1992 (an excellent year for books, it seems), the blurb: “Ruthless corporate raider Matthew Farrell was poised to move in on the legendary department store empire owned by Chicago’s renowned Bancroft family. In the glare of the media spotlight, it was a stunning takeover that overshadowed the electric chemistry between Matt, once a scruffy kid from steel town Indiana, and cool, sophisticated Meredith Bancroft. Their brief, ill-fated marriage sparked with thrilling sensuality — he was the outsider who dared to rock her country club world — and ended with a bitter betrayal. Now, locked in a battle that should be all business, dangerous temptations and bittersweet memories are stirring their hearts. Will they risk everything on a passion too bold to be denied?”

There is so much here that shouldn’t work for me. It’s long. There’s headhopping. It starts with huge (almost unbelievable) misunderstandings. And yes, it has the “wait, you mean we aren’t really divorced?!” trope at play. But with her talented writing, McNaught made me believe it and fall in love with these two characters. You root for them, even as they’re biting each other’s heads off.

Angry at his deliberate and rude reminder that his wealth was now far greater than hers, Meredith looked at him with well-bred disdain. “Money was all you ever thought about, all that mattered to you. I never wanted to marry you, and I don’t want your money! I’d rather starve than have anyone know we were ever married!”

The maître d’ chose that untimely moment to appear at their table to inquire if their meal had been satisfactory or if they wanted anything else.

“Yes,” Matt said bluntly. “I’ll have a double shot of scotch on the rocks, and my wife,” he emphasized, taking petty, malicious satisfaction out of doing exactly what she’d just said she never wanted to do, “will have another martini.”

Meredith, who never, ever engaged in a public scene, glowered at her old friend and said, “I’ll give you a thousand dollars to poison his drink!”

A former steelworker who works his way up to tycoon, Matt is one of my all-time favorite heroes. He’s ruthless, angry, and has a giant chip on his shoulder, but he rides to Meredith’s rescue when the going gets tough. I swear, the press conference scene gets me every time. LOVE him. After Christian Grey, we might all be a bit tired of the self-made gazillionaire, but trust me, Matt Farrell was there first.

Thanks for letting all of us share our most memorable romance books. It’s been interesting to see what everyone chose. And keep the comments coming! We want to hear YOUR life-changing romance books. Or tell me if you’ve read either of these stories (so we can geek out together). Anyone who leaves a comment in July will be registered to win a trio of books.

Joanna

Castle of Dreams Part Three

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the third installment in the Violet Femmes Round Robin. Our site traffic has been wonderfully busy, and we hope you are enjoying our spunky heroine, Amelia, and her Italian cioccolato eye candy, Rafaele.

 Each of the Violet Femmes has their own unique writing style, which is why this project is so fun to do!  It sure makes critiquing manuscripts so much more interesting. (BTW: Thanks Maria for leaving me at the tail end of such a steamy scene!)

 My goal was to up the conflict a notch. Somehow, a diamond necklace wove its way into the plot, twisting the genre toward a romantic suspense. Be forewarned, Joanna’s writers pen is lethal so you never know where this story might go.

 I hope you like it.

 Happy reading,

 Michele

 ***

Amelia’s hands fell to her sides as she faced the source of their interruption. A gloriously spitting mad Madonna—or rather Prima Donna—who seemed to be everything that Amelia was not, stood glaring from the doorway.

She was tall, with long legs immaculately dressed in crisp, white linen pants. Not a wrinkle or crease in sight, as the material shifted from the incessant stomping of a high heel shoe. A fuchsia colored silk shirt, unbuttoned at her collarbone, adorned her thin body. Rich, dark hair cut in a sophisticated bob framed her perfectly symmetrically features. Amelia despised her on sight.

And when Amelia caught sight of the object around her lovely neck shimmering from the chandelier light, she hated her even more.

So this was Rafaele’s fiancé, and in all likelihood, partner in crime? The dossier hadn’t done her justice. Beautiful and arrogant, yes, but she also possessed an overabundance of confidence Amelia could never pull off. It was Tuesday afternoon, for crying out loud. No sane woman wore a diamond necklace—a stolen diamond necklace—around her neck as if it were a simple, everyday adornment. Especially not a 747 c. Ming diamond worth millions.

What Amelia had neglected to tell Rafaele was that aside from her B.S. and Master’s degrees, she already had a PhD. in Criminal Justice. Her first assignment, two years ago, had been to investigate the sexy man standing so close to her, every nerve in her body stood at attention. Rafaele.

Clearly, her passion for him hadn’t faded over distance and time. Her lips felt hot and swollen from his kisses. Her body burned from the memory of his touch. Yet her mind was cold. A kind of frigidness a rational woman felt after her emotional hormones had run their course, and all that remained was that nagging feeling of being dupped.

A year in his arms, and she’d been convinced of his innocence. Convinced she’d had it all wrong. Convinced she’d never love someone as much as him. What had started as a strictly business had turned personal, very personal, within a few months. Getting intimate with an accused criminal hadn’t exactly been on her investigative job application.

Turns out, she wasn’t suited for undercover work after all—either type. Her rascal of an Italian stallion had had the necklace all along. Proof lay around Prima Donna’ s beautiful neck.

She had risked everything by letting him go.

You broke my heart, cara. I’ve been lost here without you. She glanced over at hunky, cioccolato eye candy. He didn’t seem so broken hearted or lost at the moment. His eyes caught hers, and he . . . shrugged.

I’m driving a fiat the size of a jewelry box because of you!  The bruise on her leg still throbbed. Resisting the urge to give him a swift kick with her wedged sandal, she ignored him and the realization that she still loved this handsome thief, despite what he was and in spite of the consequences.

A year had passed. She’d hung up her investigative badge for fancy wallpaper, with a hope of starting at new career as an interior designer. Clicked the end button on her cell phone more times than she could count. Sugar beets! She’d even returned his airline ticket—the hardest decision of the year. That is, aside from letting him go.

Amelia took a step toward Prima Donna. She wasn’t going home empty handed, or empty-bedded.

A Memoir of a Week

Dear Reader,

A week ago, one of my favorite authors, Eloisa James, hosted a book signing for her new memoir, Paris in Love. A lovely, heartfelt, and honest snapshot of moments shared by her and her family . . . and by extension, we the reader. As I vicariously walked in her boots down Parisian rues and avenues (i.e., listened to her wonderful readings, and in turn, continued with her memoir until the wee hours of the morning), I was struck by the fact that this wasn’t a book about life in France, but much more.

It’s a book about capturing small gold nuggets of shared memories for a larger treasure chest. A family’s photo album of words. A reflection on life and love after cancer. An optimistic wake up call to slow down. Breathe. Enjoy the day.

I can understand this urge to hesitate and savor even the smallest moments. Ironically, her book came at a tough time in my life and gave me perspective while mourning the loss of a dear soul to cancer.

So, this blog is inspired by Eloisa James. And dedicated to dearest Allie, who is looking down on these small moments from far above.

I would love for you to share a glimpse of your day. I hope it was a wonderful one.

XXOO, Michele

***

Outside my kitchen window, a round-bellied robin scampers about across the lawn. A fat feast for the stray cat lurking about as she waits for her morning meal, if Madame Rockin’ Robin isn’t careful. An early Spring means an overabundance of insects. I imagine Madame Robin feasting on gnats and mosquitoes in excess, so now her tiny wings can’t manage her great weight. I wonder how many insects the little gal consumed . . . until my eyes fall on the empty cat bowl on the outside patio.

***

A broken ankle isn’t exactly a catalyst for losing weight. Which is why today, I headed off to meet with a dietician, hoping to rediscover a newer, slender self by following a diet my aunt Pam swears by. One of the profile questions asked: Do you think of (unhealthy) food as a reward? I was tempted to confess how I partook in my version of “The Last Supper” en route to the dietician and ate a “farewell, junk food” hotdog. I checked yes next to that question.

***

Part of the life of a writer is social networking. The idea is establishing a following, and pray they will become pre-established fans of your book. Today I checked Facebook (a personal and author page), tweeted, worked on blog, added photos to Pin It, worried over how my tumblr page is outdated, checked personal and author e:mails, and realized my personal blog and webpage need serious revisions. No writing was done on my book.

***

Picturesque fields a faint tawny color, like fawns with their first coats, flank both sides of the country road that is my commute. Symmetrical rows divide the earth and carry the eye along their pathway. Spring corn will be planted and as the husks take root, remind me of time passing.

***

A fifth grade boy proudly wore a T-shirt with the statement: Jingle Bells, all girls smell. Which sums up his spirited personality perfectly—girls are silly, yucky, and to be merely tolerated. He prefers digging up bones from his backyard, boiling off the rot and dirt, and transporting the lot of them to class via his book bag. “What animal do you think it is?” he questions the class. “A muskrat,” one girl guesses. Of course, the size of the beast’s skull rules out this possibility, though her unusual reply garnishes a slightly raised eyebrow. “I think something is living inside,” another girl offers, shaking the bone. Sure enough, something inside rattled. All thoughts of smelly girls vanished, replaced by common curiosity over a yucky, unknown-animal infested cow head.

***

These days, so many treetops resemble flattened grass beds, stretching out horizontal branches with a kaleidoscope of green leaves. An October ice storm has clipped off their tops, given them an exotic appearance as if they’ve been transplanted from some subterranean tundra to decorate New Jersey lawns. I’m thankful to find branches softly dancing in the springtime breeze once again, no matter the direction.

***

My fellow femmes plus Jenna Blue and I are exchanging e:mails about our GNO (Girls Night Out for those of you who—like me—didn’t at first understand the acronym). Each month, I learn a little more about my friends via this plan making process; who is a theater, garden, and baking buff. How everyone’s life is full of children, husbands, and carpools. How they manage to juggle family, career, writing, and life in general, and still find time for a monthly catch-up.  Super-Moms with rich, flavorful lives, which I’d say equates to rich, flavorful story-telling.

***

What I love most about my place are the windows. Facing southeast, an early light casts pale yellow rays, golden latticework across my hardwood floors. On warm days like today, windows are opened wide and I feel closer to nature. And, closer to my neighbors. Neighbors whom I’m being reacquainted with as they plant posies, golf, and socialize outdoors. Familiar voices, that filter in like a song and catch me up on the goings-on.

***

Madame Robin has found her wings. I have a clear view of her, perched on a surviving limb in the tree in front of my window and bunkered down beneath the deep green leaves. The stray cat, however, is lounging on my carpet, full and content.

***

As the school year ends, I look for signs of student learning. My own NJASK, of sorts. Clearly, the lessons on persuasive writing were well learned—every day I’m greeted with another “suggestion”. Today, an incredibly intelligent student—ironically, for reasons unknown, gifted students are often placed in my class—came to me with a sheet full of coding. “You know how you showed us eighth grade algebra?” he asked. For a moment, I thought I’d been busted, for any math that is not part of 5th grade curriculum, I call 8th grade math—with great effect on their self-esteem. The # signs and abbreviated words on his paper were as foreign as French. “Do you think I can have a copy of our writer’s checklist?” little Einstein continues, “I YouTubed how to write an app, and thought the checklist would make a perfect one.” Without hesitation, I printed a fresh copy and handed it over, thinking how I’d better up the ante to 12th grade or higher.

***

Five pounds lighter. I’m ecstatically filled with a sense of accomplishment. This feeling carried me through the Wegman’s cheese department, down the bread aisle, and past the pastry display without a single hesitation. The smell of fresh bread sang out to me but my tune has changed, hopefully, for more than a week.

***

As I proof my anecdotes from the week, I keep thinking about a diary I faithfully kept as a preteen. My entries were formatted like a letter, beginning with Dear PJGR—the first initial of the Beatles, beginning with my favorite Paul. It was a white, faux-leather (a.k.a. plastic with grooves in it) with a lock. Privacy was essential, as documented in these pages were the names of every crush—and there were numerous—, girl drama, reactions to parental wrong-doings, and basically everything a young girl might confided to a best friend. You see, my best friend had moved, and it wasn’t the same recounting all my secrets over the telephone. One monumental evening, as my family sat down to dinner, my younger sister started quoting my diary. “Dear PJGR, you’ll never believe who looked at me in math class.” To my horror, my younger brother chimed in. That was the death of PJGR.  Years later, these entries are precious glimpses of myself, family, and the turbulent teen years. Small moments of time captured and recorded for better or for worse.  This week, I’m reminded of this diary, and how important it is to appreciate each day, as life passes on by.

***

This week, I hope you will do the same. Hesitate a moment. Catch a glimpse of a little detail of your life. Record it as a keepsake, and as  a reminder of how time is precious.

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