More Postcards from Scotland

Lismore Lighthouse
 Since I'm still in Scotland this week, I thought I'd share more pics I took. Last Tuesday, we took the ferry out to the Isles of Mull and Iona. Along the way, we passed Lismore Lighthouse and Duart Castle.
Duart Castle

The Nunnery
 Once on Iona, we visited the Nunnery ruin and Iona Abbey.
Cloister at Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey

 Wednesday we visited McCaig's Tower which sits on the hill above Oban. It was quite a climb up all those steps, but the view and the beautiful garden was worth it.

the interior of McCaig's Tower
View of Oban Bay from McCaig's Tower

McCaig's Tower interior

McCaig's Tower entrance
 After this, we went down to the beach and took a walk. It was warm enough for some of the kids to be playing in the water.
A beach near Oban
 The next day, we took a hike at Buachaille Etive Mor, a beautiful part of Glencoe. It was raining when we started the hike, but about halfway through the rain stopped and I was able to get some good pics.
Buachaille Etive Mor


Sunset in the Scottish countryside
On Saturday, we left Oban and drove all day to get to Ullapool which is much further north. Along the way we passed Castle Stalker. It's difficult for me to pass by without stopping for a few photos.

Castle Stalker
Rainbow over Loch Broom at Ullapool

The rain and sunshine combined, producing this beautiful rainbow. It's a bit cooler here in Ullapool than it was in Oban.
The heather overlooking Ullapool
 On Sunday we hiked through the beautiful heather on the hill above Ullapool. It was a wonderful amazing walk that I enjoyed a huge amount. I think we walked about six miles. The views were fantastic.

In the above photo, you can see the Summer Isles in the distance in Loch Broom.


My Wild Highlander: Lady Angelique Drummagan, a half-Scottish, half-French countess, has suffered much pain and betrayal in her past. She wants nothing to do with the sensual Scottish warrior that the king has ordered her to marry because the rogue could never be a faithful husband, but she has little choice in the matter. Dangerous, greedy enemies threaten her from all sides and she's in dire need of his protection.

Sir Lachlan MacGrath, known as Seducer of the Highlands, possesses a charming wickedness and canny wit which has earned him much popularity. After the king decrees that he wed the fiery hellion, Lachlan discovers there is one woman who can resist him--Angelique. Can he break through her icy façade and melt her heart, or will the dark secrets lurking in her past not only cost them their future together, but their very lives?

Playing for Real - Sooner is Better

Playing for Real - book #5 in my Paolo's Playhouse series continues the story of Paolo and Julianne, the characters who met in Plaything, book #4. Playing for Real takes the loving Dom and the tightly-in-control sub from their first meeting at the Playhouse to finding a way to weave bondage and submission into their lives and falling in love along the way.

Playing for Real was scheduled to release March 18, 2014, but because of an opening in the schedule, the release date has been moved up to February 4, 2014. I know, still a ways away, but sooner is better, right?

AND...I've seen the cover the Samhain art department has designed and it is gorgeous! I can't wait to share!

And while you're waiting for Playing for Real, I'll have two more releases. Voluptuous, a Curve Appeal novella from Ellora's Cave will be released Sept 6th - and is available for pre-order now.

Also, look for Her Royal Masquerade, my first royal category romance, in October.

So you have a couple releases to look forward while you're waiting for Paolo and Julianne to find their happy ending.


England’s Stapleford Park manor

Cheers! As Jenna Ives mentioned in her blog post two weeks ago, she and I just returned from a wonderful ten day vacation in England, fulfilling both ends of the spectrum of our favorite things. I agreed to go to a Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park in London with her (65,000 people dancing in the park, amazing energy) and she let me drag her to some fabulous old castles and ruins in the countryside. Since I write historical romance, my part of the trip was for research purposes. Yes, research. (Okay, and to have a little fun, too…)

Next month I’ll give you a tour of the most fascinating places we visited, but today I really want to share Stapleford Park with you, the magical place Jenna and I used as a home base for our forays into the countryside. Stapleford Park was like stepping back in time, literally.

Stapleford Park, Leicestershire
hotel lobby
The manor was originally built in 1066 on the orders of William the Conqueror. It passed through a succession of owners, but in 1402, the house was acquired from the Earl of Lancaster by Robert Sherard, a descendant of William the Conqueror, and for the next 484 years Stapleford remained in the possession of his family!

The Old Wing of the house was restored in 1633 and if you look at the right-hand corner of the picture above, you can see the inscription ‘Anno Domini 1633.’  There are still bedrooms in use in this part of the house!

The manor was renovated again (in the Edwardian style) in 1894 by John Gretton (I stayed in Lady Gretton’s bedroom, below). The house was eventually bought by an American in 1982 and opened as a country house hotel in 1988. It still has a private owner.


Two of my best memories of this amazing place are the archery lesson I got from Brian of the Kirby Muxloe Archery Club  near Nottingham (Robin Hood, anyone?)  I did eventually hit a bull's eye (after many, many attempts, as you can see…)


Then there was my memorable falconry demonstration… (That's a Harris hawk named Roland sitting on my hand...)

My brain is already buzzing with stories that could be set in this magical place! For more information on the manor, visit:

How about you? Was there one vacation in particular that gave you memories that will last a lifetime? Please share!

Leigh Court




Another Pregnant Pause

I realize that many of you are probably overwhelmed by the constant media attention the newest royal prince has been getting; however, this is not about him as much as it's about Kate Middleton's middle, or her Mummy Tummy, as this article, So Proud to Show Off Her Mummy Tummy: Mothers Hail Kate's Decision Not to Hide Her Post-baby Bump, refers to it.

I noticed it immediately when I saw the pictures of her with Prince William as they presented the newest heir to the British throne and was pleasantly surprised. Wow! Someone who isn't ashamed to show her real post-baby body. I thought they'd been outlawed, given the coverage of the celebrity mothers who show up in bikinis hours after giving birth. 

Then I found the article above and it reminded me of a blog post I did in March of 2012, A Pregnant Pause, the text of which I've pasted below. I thought it might be appropriate to post it again, given the timeliness of the topic. I love seeing people setting healthy examples, and this is one of the healthiest in a long time in terms of women accepting their post-baby bodies. Hope you enjoy!

 A Pregnant Pause

The good old days…

I don’t miss them much, really. However, once in a great while a trend comes along that just makes me long for the days when it didn’t exist. Do you ever have those moments? Instances when you think that if you were hanging from a cliff and a genie popped up and gave you one wish, you’d actually use it to wish away some ridiculous energy-sucking zeitgeist instead of saving yourself?

For example, have you noticed the trend on so-called “news” sites to post articles and pictures of celebrity post-baby bodies? Beyoncé is the latest celeb to show off her newly trim physique just weeks after giving birth, and the corresponding slideshow offers up at least six other celebrity moms who returned to the land of hot from the land of pre-birth not. In league with these posts are those applauding the “sexy mommas,” famous women who—gasp!—look great even when pregnant.

Am I the only person who finds this kind of insulting? I realize that perhaps this is an attempt to prove that women can be pregnant (translation: fat) and still be beautiful or to celebrate motherhood. The thought is appreciated, but the how of the matter is just not hitting the mark.

Quite honestly, I think all pregnant women are beautiful. My daughter literally glowed when she was pregnant with her kids. She didn’t need a Christian Dior gown and make-up to celebrate her baby bump—her mommy-to-be grin did the job just fine. Pregnancy is a very individual journey that doesn’t look or feel the same for every woman, and although it’s nice to see it’s not a forbidden subject anymore, it’s hard to reconcile how the media has chosen to portray it.

I’m not sure what it says about society that we even bombard our pregnant women, not just our teens, with unrealistic body images and health messages. No, it is not healthy to gain too much weight during pregnancy; however, the amount of weight can vary according to body type and size. A good doctor can guide you through a healthy pregnancy and into a fit post-birth lifestyle. Not every woman loses her baby weight immediately after giving birth, and it is important to remember that celebrities can afford the best doctors, the best nutrition, the best stylists, and the best trainers money can buy.

I guess I’m just sensitive because I once had a friend whose family insisted she not gain too much weight during her pregnancy, as none of them ever had. She shouldn’t have listened, but she did and her health suffered to the point she started passing out. Finally, concerned friends convinced her to take care of herself, and both mother and baby did well throughout the rest of the pregnancy.

I’m also thinking about this subject because I’ve been contemplating having a pregnant heroine in one of my stories. I’ve seen it done and done well, and I think that it’s an element that I’d really like to explore. In our writing, we strive for realistic characters that readers can connect with in some way, and so I think it would be a fun and rewarding challenge to give maternity a nod in one of my next capers.

Have you read a book with a pregnant heroine? Did you like it? Please share your experiences!

Postcard from Scotland

Rest and Be Thankful
Hi, everyone, today I'm blogging from Scotland. You might consider these electronic postcards. :) We took these photos yesterday and today. These first two are at Rest and Be Thankful, which tells you how people in the past, when they had to walk, felt after climbing this mountain. It is a beautiful mountain pass in Argyll, between Glasgow and Inveraray.
Rest and Be Thankful

This is me on Butterbridge
 My husband noticed this beautiful old bridge and we stopped for some pics. This bridge was built in the 1700s by Redcoats or soldiers. They built the road from Dumbarton to Inveraray, including the part that crosses Rest and Be Thankful, after the 1745 rebellion. Before that, this was an old drove road, where cattle were driven to market every autumn. The name Butterbridge refers to the cattle which were brought here for grazing in summer up into the 1700s and the butter and cheese made from their milk.
Butter Bridge
 As you can see ferns, wildflowers and all sorts of plants are growing between the stones of the bridge.
Inveraray Click on photo to enlarge
 We stopped in Inveraray for an hour to walk around, shop and sight-see. It was a nice warm day with unusually warm temperatures for Scotland, even in July. In fact, they've had three or four weeks of warm temperatures and almost no rain. I think Scotland and NC switched weather this summer.
The Bell Tower, Inveraray

Loch Fyne

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe
 After leaving Inveraray, we headed on toward Oban where we're staying for six days. I can't pass Kilchurn without taking a photo!
 Yesterday evening around eight or nine pm we took a walk along the one track road here. Here's a mama sheep and two lambs. At the moment, it doesn't get dark until around eleven. We also took another walk this evening in the other direction and saw a wee Roe deer.
Loch Nell
 We're staying in a cottage (one of the Clan Cottages) by this beautiful small loch. My husband loves to fish here.
Our "home" away from home
 I love these thatched roof cottages. They're charming but still contain all the modern conveniences.
 Today we took a walk around Oban to shop and eat. I love this town.
The Lorne, Oban

Dunollie Castle
 Today we also visited Dunollie Castle and House. The house, built in 1745, contains a museum with tons of fascinating artifacts from the MacDougal clan. We also saw a traditional galley (boat) and talked to the man who has sailed it for five years. I learned a lot. Dunollie Castle is a ruin but we were allowed to climb up inside it and look out that top window. It has amazing views of Oban bay.
Dunollie House, built 1745
Hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our trip so far. I certainly have been enjoying everything! :)
Gwyneth Carswell, an English lady banished by her father to the harsh Scottish Highlands, wants nothing more than to take her young son away from the violence of two fighting clans--her own distant kin, the MacIrwins, and their enemies, the MacGraths. She risks everything to rescue the fierce MacGrath warrior from the battlefield where he’s left for dead by her clan. She only knows she is inexplicably drawn to him and he wants peace as she does. When her clan learns of her betrayal, they seek vengeance. Dare she trust the enemy more than her own family?

Laird Alasdair MacGrath is driven to end two-hundred years of feuding with the MacIrwins. But by taking in and protecting Lady Gwyneth and her son, he provokes more attacks from his mortal enemy. As the danger and conflict surrounding them escalate, Alasdair and Gwyneth discover an explosive passion neither of them expected. With the arrival of a powerful man from her past, a horrible decision confronts her--give up her son or the man she loves.

8 Months Already??

From time to time, I share pics of my grandson because, really, that's what grandmas do :) He's been growing like crazy and since the last time I shared pics, the little guy can sit up on his own and is now getting around quite well, thank you, using the commando crawl.

Of course, he loves to read.

In fact, he's been known to devour his books.

The other day he was at our house and discovered his reflection in the front of the sound system hubby has plugged into the TV. The little guy had to kiss the baby.

And here's a little smile for all our Fierce Romance readers. Hey from the little guy who will be eight months old tomorrow.

Voluptuous - coming Sept 6th - pre-order now
Her Royal Masquerade - coming fall 2013
Playing for Real - coming Feb 4

Summertime, summertime. Sweet, sweet summertime.

This year, summertime has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

Last year, if you recall, I didn't have much of a summer. I had just finished chemotherapy in June, sped through 5 weeks of, ahem, rest & recovery (yeah, right... :), then had major surgery in July. Due to a heatwave that hit during my stay in the hospital and hung around for a while, I pretty much spent the rest of the summer recuperating in the confines of my air-conditioned house. Then Fall hit, and Winter followed close on its heels. And Spring this year? Gah, it seemed to drag on and on. But wow, as of the last few weeks, summer has returned with a vengeance! And you know what, I'm loving every last minute of it.

In my last post, I talked about the book that I finished the beginning of June. My editor accepted it within 2 days, YAY! But honestly, I haven't written anything of substance since then. I've been too busy enjoying my summer, since I didn't really have one last year. The thing of it is, we haven't done a whole hell of a lot. You've heard me talk about our RV before (we've since upgraded our little home-away-from-home) and we've been spending a ton of time out there. So, my week goes something like this: RV, home & pool, RV, home & pool. Sigh. It's rough work, but I'm struggling through :P

Yep, Robin and I were seriously roughing it!

A writer friend (Robin Skylar) and I enjoyed a couple days working (and I say that so very seriously :P  ) out at the RV. Oh, and last week I went to a reading and signing by the fabulous Julie Ann Walker, where I won an ARC of her upcoming release in November, Born Wild. Other than that... Yeah, you get the idea. I'm taking it easy and relaxing. In the scheme of things, I think I deserve it!

With the awesome Julie Ann Walker.
Yes, I'm one of those people. This is my cat, Roxy, enjoying the outdoors a couple weeks ago at the RV.
 Hope y'all aren't sweltering too much! Enjoy it!