Friday, March 31, 2017

The Softer Side of Romantic Suspense

I enjoy reading romances of all sub genres.  Those of you who've read a number of my interviews know that, before I started writing, I'd read very few romance novels at all, but my shelves are now lined with them, and I enjoy reading as many books as I can get my hands on.  Often times I receive books as gifts and I refuse not to finish a book that I've begun, even if the writing makes my head spin.  I tend to wind up with more historical romance than anything else--perhaps because so many authors enjoy writing in this genre, perhaps because the covers just pull you right in.  But I like to mix things up when I read, so when I've finished a historic romance novel I'll look for something different to read the next time around, namely paranormal, contemporary or suspense.  Funny thing about romantic suspense.  Though I am the author of seven romantic suspense novels, I tend to grit my teeth when I read these stories, as I'll often get a feeling right off the bat that the villain is going to be one hell of an evil seed.  Someone is trapped, being held captive and I'm biting my nails, swallowing the same bile that is described as being choked back in the victim's throat, a victim I know doesn't have long to live.  The "romance" might be only a few pages away.  But by that time, I'm so terrified it's a bit hard for me to get into a romantic mood at all...and even the sexiest of heroes would probably have a difficult time getting me there.

When I started writing, I considered where my own books might be classified.  I love writing suspenseful stories, but not exactly the kind I was finding that many other authors did.  Fights, kidnapping and the occasional murder fueled my creative fire but villains with very obscene thoughts and totally depraved fetishes never had.  Was I breaking the unsaid rules?  Or had I discovered that suspense has a softer side?

In articles and at workshops and conferences, we as writers are constantly told that we must find our voice, learn what makes us similar to other writers but also what makes us stand out, why we're different from the rest of the pack.  This can be a difficult thing to do with only a few stories under your belt, but when I'd gotten several down on paper I began to see several patterns in my own brand, one being that I love reforming former villains in subsequent stories.  Many ingredients are needed to make such a recipe possible but one thing that is key is that the villain cannot be such a degenerate that a reader could never see him as anything more than the scum of the earth.  Rather, in order to reform and even become the hero in a future story I personally feel that villains must be some version of a troubled soul, plagued by demons yet to be uncovered, demons that will humanize his character when brought to light and make the reader sympathetic towards his circumstances.  The result may be a slightly softer villain than some.  His story also makes for a softer version of romantic suspense.

Villains-to-reform are hardly the only potential element that might differentiate such a story from the grittier version of romantic suspense so many of us are used to.  Each writer brings her own unique flare to the table in this respect but I tend to appreciate more and strive to write stories in which the suspense makes the heart race, but rarely produces a queasy stomach.  A villain who likes to cut up his victims with an x-acto knife makes my skin break out in goosebumps but a cleverly plotted scheme orchestrated by a villain who keeps up a steady chase, perhaps abducts the heroine in a critical moment in which only the hero can save her is right up my alley.  Such danger fuels the romance between the hero and heroine as their fear for the other's life comes with it, and in the turn, the deepest secrets of their hearts are brought to light.

I have the greatest respect for authors who can write the scariest of the scary--your writing takes talent, guts and tremendous creativity to pull off!  But to those of you who dislike the sight of blood as much as I do, (or the description of it!) suspense has a softer side, too.  It just might take you on your most exciting adventure yet!  

















Saturday, February 11, 2017

Romance in the Theater

Hi everyone! Today I’m sharing a bit about the first two releases in my new romantic suspense series, The Rabourn Theater Series. I’ve loved romance all my life but I fell in love with music and theater the first time that I visited Broadway to see the Phantom of the Opera. Knowing little about the story prior to seeing the play, I had a strong feeling that I’d like it and I asked my college boyfriend if he could get us tickets. What an amazing night! I fell head-over-heels in love with the romantic story of Christine Daae and her Angel of Music, the man who inspires Christine’s voice from the shadows while harboring a love so strong he’d kill for it—and does! For months, I was singing songs from the play aloud, secretly dreaming of having a career as an opera singer if only to experience the intense drama and passion that the characters in the story do. Of course, nothing like that was in the cards but the play stuck with me, inspiring me, years later, to write a series about five couples, all of whom share a strong connection to and passion for a theater. Throw in five sexy alpha-heroes, including two villains-to-reform and we’re set for an adventure my 20-year-old self could never have even dreamed about!
 
Villains-to-reform? What’s that all about? In short, I LOVE reforming villains! I find it extremely gratifying to watch a character everyone thought was a lost cause learn from his mistakes and get his happily ever after. I greatly enjoy working with these characters (male, generally) who are innately complex and who often start out as bad-boys which gives them a tendency towards dialogue you can’t help but blush when you read. In several of my stories, villains start out as such, only to become the hero a few books down the road…it all depends on the character, and the story.
 
A little about me. I was born and raised in New Jersey, where I live to this day. There are a lot of people living in the area where I reside and I love being part of a very active community – coming back from a vacation, NJ always feels like home. I’m a big antique collector and on weekends, when I’m not writing I love hitting up the local (and sometimes not so local!) antique stores in search of pretty, Victorian treasures. I’ve worked in a variety of jobs, where I’ve met a number of interesting people, several of whom have found their way into my stories. I am obsessed with 80’s music but I try to stick with classical while I’m reading and writing. I find it less distracting, and also, greatly inspiring!

Happy Reading and Beautiful Fantasies!

Jessica Lauryn

A PASSIONATE PLAY:

On the heels of a major performance, theater actress Alicia Coleman is attacked in an alleyway. She is struck over the head with a pistol and the blow causes her to lose her memory. Injured and afraid, Alicia struggles to remember the details of her life. The only person who appears to know who she is, is the man she fears may also be her attacker.
In the midst of several failed attempts to escape, Alicia comes to know the man whose home she awoke in and realizes that the two of them share a complicated past. Though Nick refuses to tell her much beyond her first name, a series of dreams, in which she and he are sharing a lot more than the second story of a secluded mansion, cause Alicia to suspect the most outrageous of possibilities—that the man holding her prisoner may actually be her lover. Surrounding threats, including that of a midnight intruder, cause Alicia to realize that proving her theory true (or not) may be her only chance of keeping her attacker from coming after her a second time.

AN AMOROUS DANCE:

When Hannah Rabourn, daughter of Rabourn Theater’s late owner, is attacked, a surge of flashes prompts her to consider that her father may have been murdered. Hannah’s antagonistic stage director insists her subconscious is merely seeking closure. But as she and Evan become close once again, Hannah’s suspicions about the past deepen, and she wonders whether the man she’s falling in love with for the second time knows more than he’s letting on.
Evan Masters’s dreams were shattered when theater-owner Baron Rabourn destroyed his budding acting career. Having forged an alliance with Rabourn’s former partner, Evan assumed a mission to transform Rabourn Theater into what it always should have been. Fellow conspirators believe Rabourn’s daughter is the key to power, and Evan is the means by which to achieve their ends.
But Evan’s feelings for Hannah are stronger than he believed. And when he realizes Hannah’s life is in danger, he must decide between his passion and his heart.

EXCERPT FROM A PASSIONATE PLAY:

“I mentioned to you that we’re in Mohegan Lake,” Nick said some time later, “in Westchester County, New York. Does the name of the town, the county, or the state sound at all familiar to you?”
“Not really.” Alicia racked her brain. “Should they?”
Nick shrugged. “Only if you think they should. So, you really don’t remember anything about your life, your friends, or your career before waking up in this house?”
“My career?” Alicia dropped her empty glass onto the table. Having felt a sensation comparable to an electric shock when he’d said the word career, she asked, “What is it that I do, exactly? Am I a lawyer? Do I perform surgeries alongside of a team of brain surgeons?”
“Something like that,” Nick answered with a secretive smile.
Furious that he refused to tell her whatever he knew about her life, Alicia said, “You must be holding out on me because you’re familiar with my work and the knowledge of my success makes you feel completely emasculated.”
“I never said—”
“Understandable. Considering that you appear to spend the majority of your time hiding out in the woods, collecting the latest additions from Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn.”
Failing to offer anything in the way of a response, Nick grunted.
“I may not remember what I do for a living but there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m capable of doing a lot of interesting things.”
“Are you now?” Her companion gave her a thoughtful glance. Coming to his feet, he extended his hand and said, “How about sharing a dance with me?”
Alicia’s face became as hot as the candle flames. Looking from Nick’s open palm to the empty room around them, she swallowed and said, “There’s no music.”
“Well, I think we can do something about that.” Nick wandered across the floor to the area behind the curio cabinet. There was a stereo there that Alicia hadn’t noticed before. He pressed a button, causing the room to fill with soft, romantic music.
Nick extended his hand once more as he came toward her. His smile was cool but also insistent and it contained a hint of danger. Dark brown eyes looked into hers, willing her to trust, to comply with her very mysterious and yet compelling desires.
Allowing herself to operate on pure instinct, Alicia slipped her hand into Nick’s. His warmth surrounded her and she felt a hint of anticipation as he urged her gently forward. Nick led her into the middle of the floor. Placing one large hand against her waist, he brought her beside his powerful, broad frame.
They began to move and Alicia swayed in unison with her partner as though they had danced together a thousand times before. In her mind, she was in the arms of a stranger, but her body reacted as though he was anything but, as though he were someone whom she knew intimately. Nick’s eyes, his scent, the very feel of him seemed familiar to her, and as his hand slid from her hip to the small of her back she realized that she ought to be telling him he was getting too close. Except she didn’t want him to back away—it felt good, being close to him like this.
As her partner drew her closer still, Alicia felt chills, yet at the same time she began to let go of the tension she was holding. She was encased in a blanket of heat, and as that blanket spun her around and brought her back against its softness she was taken into a realm of comfort and dreams. Dancing with her captor felt right to her and in a strange way, safe. Nick had gone out of his way to make her happy tonight and she got the feeling that wasn’t something he did every day. Letting her eyes fall closed, she inched beside him and when he didn’t resist she rested her head against the cushion of his shoulder.
Nick’s arms enveloped her, and Alicia became aware that he didn’t only smell of pinewood but of something darker, something she couldn’t quite define. She sensed a degree of rebelliousness in this man and for some strange reason the idea of that intrigued her. Strength seemed to emanate from every part of him and she wondered what it would be like to taste that strength. Filled with the strongest desire to do just that, she settled her hand against the back of his neck and tilted his head so that she could just about feel what she wanted to so desperately.
“Kiss me,” she insisted, lifting her chin.
Nick stilled but didn’t comply. She opened her eyes to find his lips were looming above hers.
“Alicia, I….”
The music stopped playing as if on cue. Nick held her, not quite letting go but not doing what she’d asked him to, either. After a long moment, he released her. He cleared his throat and shifted his eyes, making sure that she was steady on her feet before backing away. He paced the length of the room.
“I’m glad you’re feeling better.” Stopping in front of the table, Nick said, “I’ll get this cleaned up. You ought to get back to bed. You’ve had a hell of a day, and even though you slept a good bit of it you still need your rest. I’ll be up to check on you in a few hours. Good night, Alicia.”
Turning to hide a face that was surely as red as it felt, Alicia walked to the door. She offered a cool smile along with a wave before slipping soundlessly from the room.
Alone in the foyer, Alicia placed one hand over her trembling mouth. She released it a moment later, body braced against the wall as she said to herself quietly, “Good night, Nickolas.”

Purchase your copy of A Passionate Play here:


Purchase An Amorous Dance, which is available exclusively at Siren BookStrand for a limited time, here:
http://www.bookstrand.com/book/an-amorous-dance

Dangerous Magic, from Jessica’s debut series, The Pinnacles of Power, is 99 cents at Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VF1FLYS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Romantic Suspense Author Jessica Lauryn has been writing since before she could hold a pen! A true romantic at heart, she is most intrigued by dark heroes, who have many demons to conquer…but little trouble enticing female companions into their beds! She feels that the best romances are those where the hero is seducing the heroine from the first point of contact, and she believes that EVERYONE deserves their happily ever after!
Jessica is a proud member of Romance Writers of America and her local chapter, New Jersey Romance Writers. When she’s not writing, she enjoys shopping for the prettiest of antiques and taking long walks in nature where she can daydream about anything romantic. Though she resides in New Jersey, her heart belongs to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

Here are a few links to find Jessica and her writings on the web:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Release Day - An Amorous Dance [The Rabourn Theater Series]

It’s release day for An Amorous Dance!  I had a blast writing this second-chance romance and I hope you love Hannah and Evan’s story as much as I do!  Hannah has been labelled my feistiest heroine to date – she’s a powerful theater owner with a take no prisoner’s attitude who is silently suffering over the tragic loss of her father, a mystery which we learn early on in the story may not yet be solved.  Writing this story, I’ve come to find heroines with demons to be just as intriguing as heroes who battle them, maybe more so.  Conflict is what stories thrive on!  Inner-conflict, and more importantly, overcoming it is what makes the characters we love face what they need to, to achieve their happily ever after.

As I’ll be mentioning later today at the Facebook Release Party for An Amorous Dance, it wasn’t only a love of theater, but a desire to explore the conflicts of a powerful, yet emotionally conflicted woman that drove me to write an Amorous Dance.  My favorite example of this sort of troubled heroine is Polly Harrington, Pollyanna’s aunt in the story Pollyanna.  Though Polly is a wealthy woman, one who’s opinion is highly respected and whose power and decision making essentially effect and control an entire town, she is deeply troubled on the inside.  The 1960 movie does not give us a clear indication of what exactly plagues Polly but we see that the negative front she displays is not the person she truly wishes to be when she crosses paths were her old love, Edmond Chilton.  It’s what makes a character vulnerable that shows us who they are at the core.  This is true of all characters but of heroines who are broken at the core, like Polly Harrington Hannah Rabourn, the phenomenon is even more fascinating.



Here’s a quick snip from An Amorous Dance, to give you a taste of what’s to come.  I hope you’ll all join me at the release party tonight for some fun games and GIVEAWAYS!  If you need an invite, please comment below or contact me at: http://www.jessicalauryn.com/getintouchwithjessica.php  I hope to see you there!



Unable to stay still, Hannah maneuvered her way around the surrounding obstacles so that she could pace. She’d been trying to convince herself that these flashes of memory didn’t mean what they appeared to, but the truth was that she’d always had her suspicions about the way her father died. The doctors she’d spoken with had confirmed her father had a heart attack, but she’d always found it hard to believe that a man in his fifties—a man in excellent physical condition with no history of heart disease—would die suddenly, for what appeared to be no reason at all. Having felt this way from the get-go, she’d conducted a bit of research, from which she’d discovered that her father had had an argument with Bruce Lancaster prior to the start of her birthday dinner. The stress of whatever the they’d discussed might have taken a toll on him, and for years Hannah had believed that a heated discussion with the theater’s former owner had directly contributed to her father’s death. But if the images she’d been seeing were real, maybe her father’s death had had nothing to do with physiology at all.
Maybe he had been murdered.
“Hannah?” Evan called out as he opened the door. Failing to flick the light switch, he made his way around, almost tripping over the settee in the corner before asking, “Hannah, are you in here?”
Hannah covered her tearstained mouth. She had no desire to reveal herself, but she realized before she could hide that Evan had already seen her. After hastily wiping her face in hopes that he wouldn’t realize she’d been crying, she snapped, “What the hell are you doing in here?”
“Me? What the bloody hell do you think I’m doing in here?” Evan demanded, squinting at the gigantic mushrooms behind his back, as if they were going to agree with how ridiculous her question was. 
“You shouldn’t have followed me. I wasn’t thrilled to see that my cousin decided to stay in a show her former stalker is a part of, but…I’m a big girl. I can handle anything that’s thrown my way, Evan Masters, I promise you.”
“Hannah, you’re shaking,” Evan said, catching her arm and pulling her back to him before she could walk away.
As Hannah looked downward, she realized Evan had no intention of releasing her. His grip was strong, but his palm felt like melted butter against her skin. She attempted to laugh at him, but instead fresh tears formed in her eyes. Evan took her into his arms before she could stop him, bringing her against his body with a force that demonstrated he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Unable to fight him, or whatever it was he was doing, Hannah allowed herself to be drawn against his warmth. His lightly bearded cheek sent tingles up her spine as it brushed against her own.
Evan held her, cupping the back of her head as he urged her toward the settee he’d all but killed himself staggering over a moment before. As he whispered a couple of soft, indiscernible things into her ear, the familiarity of his masculine scent soothed her raw nerves. In her mind, she held an unpleasant picture of him about to kiss her cousin’s shoulders, but the present moment played right over it, and Hannah let go of her anxiety, allowing herself to simply feel, to let her lover from another lifetime make everything right.

Evan brought his fingers beneath her chin and lifted her head so she was looking into his eyes. His smile giving way to a smirk, he said, “I saw you, Hannah. I saw the way you were looking at me when I was holding your cousin. The heat in your eyes wasn’t there out of concern for Alicia, or even because you were angry about my going ahead with the play. You emitted that scream because you wanted to be playing Blair on that stage. More so, because you wanted to be the woman that I was holding in my arms.”
Her eyes widening as her body grew cold with fury, Hannah said, “Clearly the sky-high opinion you’ve always had of yourself has only gotten higher. You make it sound as though you actually think I could still want you after all this time, knowing that I’m fully aware of what a bastard you really are.”
“You may hate me on the surface, Hannah, but I daresay your body responds quite differently. You shiver when I touch you and your skin warms on contact because it wants more, just as you wanted more the night I carried you off to the dressing room and gave you the passion that both of us so desperately craved.”
“So apparently, you aren’t just egotistical, you’re also certifiably insane. You know, you’re offered an extensive benefits package as part of the position that you cling to with the very balls of your existence. You ought to ask HR for a referral—clearly the shrink who ought to be treating Sebastian Nathanson has some extra time on her hands.”
Evan secured her in a grip that prevented her from running. Easing her back against the wall, he said with fire in his eyes, “Is this crazy, Hannah?”
















   

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Musings with Jessica Lauryn

Upon waking up Tuesday morning, I noticed an email in my inbox.  Surprised, and ecstatic, to see that it was an email from Siren BookStrand with attachments of the cover of my January release, An Amorous Dance, I, of course, dropped what I was working on to check them out.  What a treat!  I fell instantly in love with the cover, which was everything I was hoping it would be and more.  A spotlight appears on the characters, who are performing on stage, a spotlight which shows off an array of vibrant colors that play off of the heroine, Hannah’s, red hair.  Hannah is almost exactly as I envisioned her, though perhaps even more like herself than in the image I provided my publisher, and the hero, Evan, is…not exactly as I envisioned him.  Evan’s hair and eye color are close enough to those of the hero in my mind, as are his height and his build.  But this new version of Evan seems to take on a persona all his own, one which—as I admired my new cover ad nauseum—I found myself falling in love with as though I was seeing him for the first time.  It was as though Evan had been given a new face, one equally handsome to the one I had imagined for him, one from which a whole new series of fantasies spurred.


I once asked a friend of mine how she envisions the hero when she reads a romance novel.  I asked her, “Do you picture someone you know, or an actor (as I often do), or do you try to envision him based upon the description the author provides?”  She answered me, “I don’t know.  I guess I picture the guy I see on the cover.”  I’ll admit I’ve done this myself, often times unintentionally, because it’s easy to imagine that the images we see on the cover are the “real” hero and heroine.  As readers, we’re encouraged to see them as such.  There is nothing wrong with doing this, and in fact, it’s the only visual image that we’re actually given for a book, with the possible exception of a back cover image, or insert.  But as a woman who finds herself on both the author side, and reader side of the spectrum, and one who has imagined the hero one way and then seen him in an entirely different light upon receiving her cover, alternatively, as a reader who has seen the hero depicted one way on a book cover and envisioned him a whole different way in my mind, I see covers as providing a different way of looking at a hero, different, rather than, perhaps, the “only” way.

As a reader, I often find myself envisioning actors I know, “playing” the various parts in a story.  I do this when I write as well.  My reason for following this pattern of behavior is that I know the sound of the actors voices as well as what they look like, and having a start-off point, complete with the sounds of voices allows me to get into a story faster.  As a romance novelist as well as a romance reader, I am looking to fall in love.  I want to be swept off my feet by the hero and in order for this to happen I must envision a man I can swoon over.  A hero who fits the bill is 100% unique to each individual reader.  That said, I suspect I’m not the only reader who takes liberties when I read a story, envisions a hero tailored to my particular desires versus always taking the hero on the cover verbatim, as though the requirement to do so is a hard and fast rule.



But sometimes in life we’re given a surprise.  And in the world of fiction, ‘surprise’ is just another day in the park!  Try as I might, there are those times where the image on the front cover takes precedence in my mind.  The author has described her hero so vividly, and the image on the cover has been depicted so beautifully, that the image provided comes to life before me and a whole new line of fantasies takes shape.  After spending months creating the character of Evan Masters, imagining that he’d look and sound something like actor Callum Blue, a new fantasy was then born when I received my cover, and saw the image of a swoon-worthy hero who quickly took precedence in my imagination.  I’ve learned to take inspiration from wherever it comes, but also to appreciate the pleasant surprises in life, of which there are many.  I look much forward to rereading An Amorous Dance with my new Evan Masters at the forefront of my mind!           





An Amorous Dance Releases January 2017!  














Monday, November 7, 2016

Monday Musings with Jessica Lauryn and a Review of Price of Vengeance by Kurt D. Springs

As I was reading Price of Vengeance by Kurt D. Springs (a fabulous novel, which I’ll be reviewing in just a moment!) and watching the Star Wars Marathon on TBS last weekend, I decided it might be fun to give a nod to the villainous heroes who, like Anakin Skywalker, do not reform, but in fact go on the become the villain in a subsequent story.  Of course, I write and read primarily in the romance genre, as do the vast majority of my writer and reader friends, and I’ve been told, by some, that they found parts of Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith to be rather corny, particularly with regards to the romance.  But whether you loved the movie or otherwise, Anakin serves as a perfect example of a hero who is plagued by demons, demons that shape the person that he later becomes.  Though Anakin does of course become the villain he in the end, no one can dispute that he is a complicated character who starts off as good and innocent, and, though the battle he fights is extremely misguided he is fighting for the people he loves.  Anakin’s inner demons provide for plenty of conflict in the next three movies, and of course, a very interesting character you can’t help but watch, all the while hoping that he will see the light and get back to being the hero he was meant to be.

Some of my local writer friends may remember that I taught a workshop a couple of years back, titled, Reforming the Former Villain: Does he have what it takes to be a Hero?  I greatly enjoyed creating this workshop, which focuses on villains in past stories, who reform to become the hero in a later book in a series.  I love reading and writing about these complex alpha heroes who may, incidentally, reform during the course of one story, or several.  In romance, we always see a happy ending and so, as a writer, I strive to create as many happy endings as I can for as many couples as possible.  The more demons the hero has to overcome first, the better, I say, because it is highly satisfying to see a hero, and heroine, come out on top, when they’ve had tremendous obstacles to overcome.  Oftentimes, conflicts of the mind can be an even greater challenge to overcome than physical and circumstantial challenges can.  Though unlike in the idealistic world of romance, in science fiction, a hero may not always get his happily ever after.  It’s a matter of preference to readers what they like to read best but I do find villainous heroes to be very fascinating characters across the board.



My review of Price of Vengeance by Kurt D. Springs - 5 Stars! 

  



An interesting, well written story!  Though I don’t generally read science fiction, I was instantly pulled in by the author’s voice and vivid descriptions, which are consistent throughout the book.  Orphaned after witnessing the death of his parents, hero Liam is adopted by the High Councilor Marcus and his wife, who raise him along with their biological son, Randolph. Year later, Liam and Randolph become members of the colony's military. The chitin, who killed Liam's parents, are attacking once again, and Liam realizes that the insects are being driven by an alien intelligence.  To defeat them, he must learn how to use his powers.  


Price of Vengeance is full of adventure and suspense. It’s set in a futuristic time in which the human race has been genetically modified and to have super powers.  The book is true to its title.  Liam has been greatly affected by his parents’ death and his inner battle for revenge, and his overcoming that battle, shapes him to become the hero he does.

Springs strikes an excellent balance between world creation and character development. He paints a vivid picture, while simultaneously developing and executing a strong plot.  This book was hard to put down!

Kurt D. Springs is an author to keep an eye on!  I can’t wait to read Promise of Mercy!



Happy reading and beautiful fantasies!


~Jessica Lauryn




I had a fabulous time with my fellow New Jersey Romance Writers this Saturday at the Jersey Girl Brewery!  Thank you to everyone who came out and made it a great day!