Sunday, March 30, 2014

Welcome! Can you believe it's June 1 already? My family and I are preparing for our summer vacation and believe it or not I'm taking work. I have four books with reverted rights that I intend to have up for readers by January 1, 2013. But...more excitingly...I'm prepping some of my workshops to go up as ebooks. They'll be a little cheaper than actually attending the classes, but they also will be classes I will no longer be offering as workshops. They are sort of retiring. :). Plus, having them in book form on your ereader I think will be an easy way to find them. If your office is anything like mine, you'll consider that a blessing.

June 5 THE TYCOON'S SECRET DAUGHTER releases. I'm excited for this book, not just because I love it (though I do :D) but also because it's part of a two-book series that explores what happens when a family has some big secrets. After Max Montgomery goes to work for his rich, ruthless father, he discovers that the baby Brandon Montgomery talked his wife Gwen into adopting is actually Brandon's illigitimate son. So Chance Montgomery, the adopted son, really is a Montgomery. Max really does have a brother.

That doesn't bother him so much as the fact that Brandon asks him to keep the secret from his mother...and his brother.

Family secrets can do a lot of damage and Max suffers mightily for his father's sin. So does Chace.

Chapter 1

Exiting the elevator in the lobby of Mercy General Hospital, Max Montgomery glanced up and did a double take. The woman leaving the coffee shop looked exactly like his ex-wife.

Petite as Kate had been, wearing blue jeans and a little flowered top that was her style, with thick, shoulder-length sable-color hair that swung when she moved, she had to be Kate.

     He shook his head, telling himself that was nuts. His wife had left Pine Valley, Pennsylvania almost eight years ago and he hadn’t seen her since. She’d divorced him through lawyers. Hadn’t answered the letters he’d sent to her parents’ home. Hadn’t even returned to visit as far as he knew. Not even at holidays. That couldn’t be her.

He made his way to the wide glass exit doors and they automatically parted, but curiosity turned him around before he could step out.

The woman now stood in front of the elevator he’d exited, her back to him.

     Sensation vibrated through him, the radar he’d always had with her. He’d always known when she was within twenty feet. Always known when she was about to walk into the room. Always known.

     It had to be her. The radar never failed.

     He took a few cautious steps toward her, but stopped. Even if it was her, why would she want to see him? What would he say? Sorry I screwed up our marriage, but I’m sober now.

     Actually, that wasn’t such a bad idea. Of all the people on his twelve-step list, people he needed to make amends with, he’d contacted everyone but her. The person who most deserved his apology.

     If it wasn’t her, he’d simply apologize for the mistake.

     Either way, he’d be apologizing. No big deal.

     He sucked in a breath, crossed the small space between them and tapped on her shoulder.

     She turned.

His heart stopped then sped up again. It was her.

His mind flew to the day he’d met her at a pool party at a friend’s house. She’d worn a green bikini that matched her eyes. But though her looks had been what caught his attention, it was her personality that hooked his heart. Sweet. Fearless. Funny. In one short conversation, she’d made him forget every other woman he knew. And now she was here. In front of him.

His heart stumbled. His knees weakened.

But when she realized who’d tapped her, the happily surprised expression on her face crumbled and was replaced by something Max could only describe as a look of horror.


A lump of emotion lodged in his throat. More of their life together flashed through his brain. The way they’d talked till dawn the day of the pool party. The first time they’d kissed. The first time they’d made love. Their wedding day.

He’d thrown it all away for the contents of a bottle.

He cleared his throat. “Kate.”

She motioned with her coffee. “I…Um…I need to get this up to mom.”

This time when his heart up-ended it was with fear for her. “Your mom is here? As a patient?”

“No. No. She’s fine.” She glanced around nervously. “Daddy had a stroke.”

Was that any better? “Oh, my God. I’m sorry.”

“He’s okay.” She looked to the right again. “The stroke was reasonably mild. Prognosis is good.” She tried to smile. “I’ve really gotta go.”

It was the worst moment of his life. Eight years ago, she would have turned to him in this kind of tragedy. Today, she couldn’t stand to be around him. In some respects, he didn’t blame her. But he’d changed. He’d been in Alcoholics Anonymous for seven years. He was sober. And he did realize what he’d lost. But more than that, apologizing, admitting his faults, was part of his twelve-step program.

When the elevator pinged, he caught her arm to prevent her from turning. Electricity crackled through him.

Their gazes caught. His heart swelled with misery. God, how he’d loved her.

She swallowed. “I’ve really gotta…”

“Go. I know. But I need a minute.”

Hospital employees walked out of the elevators behind them. The gathering crowd waiting for the elevator loaded inside.

She glanced around nervously. 

     Pain skittered through him. She couldn’t even stand to be seen with him. He thought back to the times he’d embarrassed her and the pain became a familiar ache. He’d disappointed so many people.

     But that was seven years ago.

And today was today.

     He pulled her a few feet away from the elevators. “I have to tell you that I’m sorry.”

     Her face scrunched with confusion. “Have to?”

     “Yes. It’s part of the program.”

     Her eyes lit with recognition. “Oh, twelve steps.”


     She looked at him differently now, closely. “You’re sober.”

     He finally let himself smile. He’d wanted to be able to tell her that for seven long years. “Yes.”

     Her voice softened. “I’m so glad.”

     His chest loosened a bit. Breathing became easier. “I am too.”

     An awkward silence stretched between them. He understood. There really wasn’t anything for them to say. He’d ruined their marriage. She’d left him to save herself.

She showed him the two cups of coffee again. “I should get this to my mom before it gets cold.”

     Pain radiated out from his heart to his entire body. He’d had this woman. She’d loved him and he’d loved her. She’d been everything to him and he’d driven her away.

Don’t dwell on the past. Focus on the future.

He stepped back. “Yeah. Sure. I’m sorry.”

The bell for the second elevator pinged. The doors swooshed open. Kate turned to get inside, but a little girl raced out.

“Mom! Grandma sent me to find you. She thinks you’re making that coffee.”


His knees that had been weakened began to shake. The little girl’s hair might have been the same sable color as Kate’s, but those blue eyes … they were Montgomery eyes.

Pain morphed into shock. Could this be his child? His daughter?

“And who is this?”

Kate’s gaze flicked to his. Her hand fell protectively to the little girl’s shoulder. “This is Trisha.”

His body went stock still. “Short for Patricia?” His beloved grandmother’s name? Why name the little girl after his grandmother if she wasn’t his?

She smiled weakly. Her eyes filled with tears. She whispered, “Yes.”

Damn it.

He had a child. A daughter. And Kate had kept her from him?

He looked at the little girl again. Pain, wonder, curiosity simultaneously burst inside him. Everything in him wanted to touch her. To examine her. To see the beautiful child he’d made.

But anger warred with longing and both of them were wrapped in confusion. Was this why she’d left him? Because she was pregnant? Because she didn’t want him to know his child?

Fury rose, hot and eager for release, but thank God his common sense had not deserted him. With this beautiful little girl standing so sweetly innocent in front of him, he couldn’t out-and-out ask Kate if this was his daughter.

Kate wanted to grab her baby girl and run away. Not because she feared Max. When he was sober, he was a great guy. And right now he was sober. But drunk? He had never hurt her, but he’d ranted and raved, smashed dishes, broken windows. The night she’d made the choice to leave rather than tell him she was pregnant he’d smashed their television and thrown a vase through their front window. She’d known she couldn’t bring a child into that world.

But she’d also realized it wouldn’t be good enough to merely leave him. He had money. He had power. After she had their baby, he’d get visitation, and she wouldn’t be able to control what happened. If he drank around their little girl, or drove her baby girl around drunk, he could kill her.  And there would be nothing she could do to stop it, if only because every judge in the county owed his election to the Montgomerys.

That frightening night, standing amid the evidence that his bad behavior was escalating, she’d made the only choice she could make. She’d disappeared.

     She swallowed, motioned to the elevator. “We’ve gotta go.”

     He hesitated. His gaze slid to their daughter, then returned to her. “Okay.”

     She saw the anger in his eyes, and quickly herded their daughter into the elevator. The doors swished closed. Her eyes drifted shut and she expelled a low breath as guilt trembled through her. She had no idea how long he’d been sober. Her parents didn’t travel in his social circle and she lived too far away to hear a rumor.

     What if he’d stopped drinking the day after she left? What if she’d kept Trisha away from him for nothing?

     “Who was that?”

     She opened her eyes to glance down at her daughter. This was neither the time nor the place to tell Trisha that she’d just seen her father, but she knew the time and place were coming soon.

     The elevator doors opened. “Let’s go. Gramma’s waiting for her coffee.”

     Trisha giggled. “I know. She thinks you’re making it.”

     Kate smiled at her sweet, innocent daughter whose world was about to be turned upside down, and headed to her dad’s room. His ‘incident’ had been a few days before. He was awake now, at therapy a good percentage of the day and so eager to get home he was gruff.

     “Hey, Daddy,” she leaned in a bussed a kiss on his cheek. “If I’d known you were awake I’d have brought you coffee too.”

     Her mom stepped from behind the privacy curtain surrounding the bed. Only as tall as Kate, dressed in jeans and a sleeveless top, with her brown hair cut in a neat short style, Bev Hunter said, “He doesn’t get coffee until the doctor says so.”

     Her dad rolled his eyes for Kate, but smiled at his wife. His words were slow and shaky when he said, “Yes, warden.”

     Kate hands were every bit as shaky when she gave one of the two coffees to her mom. “Here.”

     “Thanks.” She popped the lid, took a sip. “You were gone so long I worried that you’d gotten lost.”

     “Not lost.”

     “Mommy was talking to a guy.”

     Bev’s eyebrows waggled. “Reeee-lly?”

     “He wasn’t somebody I wanted to see.” She nudged her head in Trisha’s direction. “But this isn’t the time to talk about it.”

     Her mom frowned, then her eyes widened in recognition. “You didn’t?”

     “I didn’t do anything. He just suddenly appeared out of nowhere. But July is the month Montgomery Development does their annual physicals.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I should have remembered that.”

     Her mom groaned. “So he was here, and he saw Trisha.”

     Kate grabbed a paper cup from her dad’s tray table and handed it to Trisha. “Would you throw this away in the bathroom trash can and then wash your hands?”

     Trisha nodded eagerly like the well behaved almost-seven-year-old that she was. When she was gone, Kate said, “I have about thirty seconds. So just let me say Max found me. Trisha came out of the elevator when we were talking. He took one look at her and knew.”

     Her mom pressed her hand to her chest. “I knew you shouldn’t have come home!”

     “I wasn’t about to desert the two of you when Daddy was so sick.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “Mom, Max is sober.”

Bev took a second to process that then snorted in disgust. “And you’re feeling guilty?” She snorted again. “The man had become violent and was getting worse by the day. You had no choice but to protect your child.”

“But I could have checked on him--”

“You have no idea when he got sober. For all you know, he just went to his first AA meeting last week. This isn’t the time to be second guessing.”

Kate heaved out a sigh. “Okay, but I know Max was angry. If I don’t make the first move to initiate some sort of visitation for him with Trisha, he’ll probably come to the house tonight. Or I’ll be hit with some kind of legal papers tomorrow. Or maybe both.”

     Walking out of the bathroom, sweet, trusting, Trish smiled. Kate’s heart sank. If he came to the house, they’d have their talk in front of Trisha. And she didn’t want Trisha to hear her dad was a drunk. Especially when she was too young to understand.

“You know what? I think I better deal with this now.” She faced her mom. “Will you guys be okay for an hour or so without me?”

     Her eyes filled with worry, Bev said, “Sure.”

     Kate sucked in a breath and turned to her daughter. “You behave for Grandma.”

Trisha nodded and Kate left her dad’s hospital room. She got into her car and drove to downtown Pine Valley. The small city was old, and working to revive itself after the loss of the steel mills in the 1990’s. Buildings from the 1940’s were being renovated. Trees had been planted along the sidewalk on Main Street. Even a few new restaurants had popped up.

She left her car in a non-descript parking garage and headed out. A couple of blocks and two turns took her off the beaten path to the place in the city where the newer, more modern structures stood. She stopped in front of the yellow brick building housing Montgomery Real Estate and Development. Only four stories, it nonetheless had an air of wealth and power. Quiet. Dignified. Understated.

She hesitated. Though Max had been reasonably calm at the hospital, she knew he was angry with her. He had to be. If the tables were turned, she’d be furious with him. So his anger was justified. And she had to admit that.

Maybe it would be better to give him a day or two to get past that? To get his bearings.

Blowing her breath out on a long sigh, she told herself no. If she didn’t meet with him on her terms, they’d meet on his. He’d either come to the house and they’d fight in front of Trisha, or they’d meet in a room filled with lawyers. And she’d really lose because he could afford much better lawyers than she could. If at all possible she had to settle this without lawyers.

She walked through the glass double doors into paradise. Glancing around the remodeled lobby, she took in vaulted ceilings that soared to the roof. Sunshine poured in through huge skylights and fed the potted trees that sat on each side of the two white sofas in the reception area. A polished yellow wood reception desk sat in the center of everything.

The Montgomerys had been wealthy when she’d been married to Max, and she knew their business had grown. But actually seeing the results of that growth was a staggering reminder of their different stations in life.

Fear shivered through her. She’d kept wealthy Max Montomgery’s daughter away from him for seven years – nearly eight if she counted the pregnancy. Though she’d almost called him a hundred times over the years to tell him about Trisha, to give him a chance to be part of her life, every time she’d picked up the phone, she’d remember that night. The smashed television. The shattered glasses from the bar shelf. The broken front window. And she’d been afraid. Not just for herself, but for their daughter. He’d made her afraid. Why should she be the one cowering now, when he’d given her no choice but to leave?

She straightened her shoulders. She would not cower. She would not back down. He’d made this bed. And she would remind him of that. Maybe even ask him if he’d like those details coming out in court if he argued with her over custody or visitation.

Dark brown travertine tile led to the reception desk. The pretty twenty-something redhead manning the station greeted her with a smile. “Can I help you?”

“Yes. I’d like to see Mr. Montgomery.”

She glanced down at a small computer screen. “Do you have an appointment?”

“No. But if you’ll tell him Kate Hunter Montgomery is here. I’m sure he’ll see me.”

The young woman glanced over at Kate with raised eyebrows. Kate stood perfectly still under her scrutiny, knowing exactly what the receptionist saw. A small woman with big green eyes and hair just a little bit too thick to tame. Not exactly the woman everyone would expect to be married to a mogul – a ridiculously handsome one at that. With his black hair, blue eyes and tall, lean body, Max had always been a magnet for women. Beautiful women. And he’d chosen her.

It sometimes still puzzled her. Other times it made her realize that having your wishes come true might be the worst thing that could happen.

The receptionist pressed two buttons on her phone then turned away.

Kate heard only muffled words. Her name. Her description.

Then a wait.

She’d probably called Max’s secretary, who had taken the information to Max.

Ten seconds. Twenty seconds. Thirty seconds.

Her face grew warm, her hands clammy. Surely he wasn’t so angry that he’d refuse to see her?

Memories of being married to a wealthy man came flooding back. His job was important. His place in the community was even more important. Fundraisers. Ribbon cuttings. Balls. Parties.

Always worried she’d say or do the wrong thing.

Never feeling good enough.

Righteous indignation surged in her blood. She was the star project manager at her job in Tennessee. She raised a daughter on her own. If she went to a fundraiser, she contributed. If she went to a ribbon cutting it was for a building she’d helped build.

Good enough?

Hell, yeah. She was good enough. And if Max thought he and his money were going to push her around, he was sadly mistaken.

The receptionist faced her. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Montgomery. You may go up.”

“Actually, it’s Ms. Hunter now.”

The receptionist nodded in acknowledgement. “Take the third elevator in the back of that hall.” She pointed to the left. “By the time you get there, a security guard will be there to punch in the code.”

She walked to the last elevator with her head high. The security guard said, “Good morning, Ms. Hunter.” Proof the receptionist was very good at her job. Punching a few numbers into a keypad, he opened the elevator, motioned her inside and stepped back as the doors closed.

The ride to the fourth floor took seconds. The door swooshed open. More potted trees accented a low, ultra-modern green sofa and chair. A green print rug sat on the yellow hardwood floor.

Sitting at the desk in front of a wall of windows, Max looked up.

Catching him off guard, Kate didn’t see the angry father of her child or the rich mogul. She saw Max. Real Max. Max with his thick, unruly black hair. Max with his easy smile and pretty blue eyes.

The day they’d met he’d stolen her breath and her heart.

Which was another reason why she’d moved across the country rather than simply move out when she’d gotten pregnant. No matter how bad their life, she’d always loved him and he’d always been able to charm her.

She swallowed. Her bravado from the reception area began to fade. But she forced it back to life. She wasn’t here to argue for herself, but for Trisha. To protect Trisha.

He rose from his tall-back, yellow-brown leather chair. “Kate. I have to say I’m kind of surprised.”

“Yeah. Well, I’m not the wimpy girl you married.” There. Best to get that out in the open before they went any further. “We have something to discuss. We’re going to discuss it.”

“Big talk from a woman who ran away.”

“From a drunk,” she said, not mincing words because she knew she’d done the right thing and she wasn’t going to let his good looks and charm suck her in again. Too much was at stake.

“And hitting below the belt, I see.”

“Saying the truth isn’t hitting below the belt. Unless you can’t handle the truth.”

His breath poured out in a long hiss as he motioned toward the green sofa and chair. “I know who and what I am.”

She headed for the chair, not wanting to risk that he’d sit beside her on the couch. “Then this conversation should go very easily. We have a daughter. You’re sober now. And I’m willing to let you spend time with Trisha as long as I’m with you.”

Max lowered himself to the sofa. “With me? I don’t get to see my child alone?”

Her chin lifted again. “No. Not until I trust you.”

Max stared at her. Just as he’d changed over the past eight years, she had too. Gone was his sweet Kate, replaced by somebody he didn’t know. Maybe even somebody he didn’t want to know. Maybe even somebody who deserved the burst of fury he longed to release.

He rubbed his hands down his face. No matter how much he wanted to yell and rail, he couldn’t give into it. Not only had he been at fault for her leaving, but just as drinking didn’t solve anything, neither did losing his temper. Another lesson he’d learned while she was gone.

His voice was perfectly controlled as he said, “I don’t think you’re in a position to dictate terms.”

“I think I am.”

“And I have two lawyers who say you aren’t.”

Her eyes widened with incredulity. “You’ve already called your lawyers?”

“A smart businessman knows when he needs advice.”

“So you think you’re going to ride roughshod over me with lawyers?”

“I think I’m going to do what I have to do.”

She shook her head. “Do you want me to leave tomorrow? Do you want me to hide so far away and so deeply that you’ll never, ever see your daughter?”

Control be damned. “Are you threatening me?”

“I’m protecting my daughter. We play by my rules or no rules at all. I won’t put Trisha at risk.”

“Risk? You have no reason to fear for her. I never hurt you!”

“No you just smashed TV’s and broke windows. You were escalating, Max, and you scared me.”

Guilt pummeled him enough that he scrubbed his hand over his mouth to give himself a few seconds to collect himself. Finally, he said, “You could have talked to me.”

Her face scrunched in disbelief. “Really? Talk to a guy so drunk he could barely stand? And how was that supposed to work?”

“I might have come home drunk, but I was sober every morning.”

“And hung over.”

He sighed. “No matter how I felt, I would have listened to you.”

“That’s not how I remember it. I remember living with a man who was either stone cold drunk or hung over. Three years of silence or lies and broken promises. Three years of living with a man who barely noticed I was there. I won’t sit back and watch our little girl staring out the window waiting for you the way I used to. Or laying in bed worried that you’d wrecked your car because you were too drunk to drive and too stubborn to admit it. Or spending the day alone, waiting for you to wake up because you’d been out all night.”

Fury rattled through him. “I’m sober now.”

“I see that. And I honestly hope it lasts. But even you can’t tell me with absolute certainty that it will. And since you can’t, I stand between you and Trisha. I protect her. She will not go through what I went through.”

Her voice wobbled, and the anger that had been pulsing through his brain, feeding his replies, stopped dead in its tracks. She wasn’t just mad at him. She was still hurting.

She rose and paced to his desk. “Do you know what it’s like to live with someone who tells you they love you then doesn’t have ten minutes in a day for you?”

Max went stock still. This was usually what happened when he apologized. The person he’d wronged had a grievance. It had been so long since he’d had one of these sessions that he’d forgotten. But when Kate turned, her green eyes wary, her voice soft, filled with repressed pain, remorse flooded him. She had a right to be angry.

“I’ll tell you what it’s like. It’s painful, but most of all it’s bone-shatteringly lonely.”

Guilt tightened his stomach. He’d always known he’d hurt her, but he’d never been sober enough to hear the pain in her voice, see it shimmer in her eyes.

And she wanted to save Trisha from that. So did he. But the way he’d protect her would be to stay sober. “I won’t hurt her.”

“You know, you always told me the same thing. That you wouldn’t hurt me. But you did. Every day.” Her voice softened to a faint whisper. “Every damned day.”

He squeezed his eyes shut. “I’m sorry. Really sorry.”


Righteous indignation rose up in him. He’d apologized at least four times. He hated his past as much as she hated his past. But this time she wasn’t innocent.

“Did you ever stop to think that maybe I’d have gotten sober sooner if I’d known I was having a child? Did you ever stop to think that if you’d stayed, I might have turned around an entire year sooner?”

“No.” She caught his gaze. “You loved me, Max. I always knew it. But I wasn’t a good enough reason for you to get sober. I wasn’t taking a chance with our child.”

“You could have at least told me you were pregnant before you left.”

“And have you show up drunk at the hospital while I was struggling through labor? Or drunk on Christmas Day to ruin Trisha’s first holiday? Or maybe have you stagger into her dance recital so she could be embarrassed in front of her friends?” She shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

The picture she painted shamed him. Things he’d done drunk now embarrassed him as much as they had his friends and family. And he suddenly understood. Making amends with Kate wouldn’t be as simple as saying he was sorry. He was going to have to prove himself to her.

He blew his breath out on a sigh, accepted it, because accepting who he was, who he had been, was part of his recovery. “So maybe it would be good for you to be around when I see her.”

Her reply was soft, solemn. “Maybe it would.”

“Can I come over tonight and meet her?”

“I was thinking tomorrow afternoon might be a better idea. I take my mom to the hospital everyday but lately Trisha’s been bored. So I thought I’d start bringing her home in the afternoon.”

“And I can come over?”

“Yes. Until my dad is released from the hospital, we’ll have some privacy.”

With that she turned and headed for the elevator. Prickling with guilt, he leaned back on the sofa. But when the elevator doors swished closed behind her, he thought about how different things might have been if she’d told him about her pregnancy, and his anger returned. She hadn’t given him a chance to try to sober up. She hadn’t even given him a chance to be a dad.

Still, could he blame her?

A tiny voice deep down inside him said yes. He could blame her. He might see her perspective, but he’d also had a right to know his child.

He rose from the sofa and headed for his desk again. That’s exactly what his father had told him the night he’d confronted him about being his adopted brother Chance’s biological father. About bringing his bastard son into their home with a sham. A lie. An adoption used to cover an affair.

I had a right to know my child.

He ran his hand across his forehead as nerves and more anger surged through him. He hadn’t thought about that part of his life in years. His brother had run away the night Max had confronted their dad. Which was part of why Max drank. At AA, he’d learned to put those troubles behind him, but now, suddenly, here he was again, wondering. Missing his brother with a great ache that gnawed at his belly. Because Kate was home and Kate was part of that time in his life.

He looked at the bottle of whiskey on the glass shelf above the bar behind the sofa, then shook his head and fell to his desk chair. Losing Chance might have been the event that pushed him over the edge with his alcoholism, but he wasn’t that guy anymore. He hadn’t been for seven long years. He only hoped seeing Kate, fighting with Kate, meeting a daughter he didn’t know he had, didn’t tempt that guy out of hiding.

He grabbed his cell phone from his desk and hit the speed dial number for his sponsor.

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 2014 Susan Meier Ezine Special Edition

Hey, Everybody!

I shifted my newsletter over to Mailchimp and though the newsletters are fantastic, I missed my ezine, so I thought I'd send one out. Below are Coming Attractions, along with an excerpt from HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE and, for the writers among us, a writing lesson! This is lesson one from HOW TO WRITE A CATEGORY ROMANCE. It's a workshop I haven't given often so the lesson should be new to a lot of you.

It's been a busy year for me. I signed a contract with Harlequin and one with Entangled last year, so for the next few years I'll have 4 books a year to write. Which I love. I get to continue writing the deeply emotional stories for Harlequin that I've been writing, but I now also get to write small town, funny books that are also incredibly sexy.

Ebooks also publish faster. I finished drafting HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE around November 15 and it has a release date of Monday, March 10th. Four months from start to finish. Amazing. And breath-stealing! LOL

The book is the first of a shoot-off of the Entangled Bliss line. You'll see the difference in the cover.

Cute, isn't it?

Anyway, this is a three-book series about three brothers, the Donovans, who return to their small town to help their mom get away from their abusive father. All three books are deeply emotional, but they're also funny. I think you're going to like them.

And this fall, I have another Christmas book coming out from Harlequin. I had titled it THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS, but my editor tells me the title might not stick. It's a great story about a totally broke heroine who agrees to go to several Christmas parties with a friend of a friend, so people will stop worrying about him after the death of his son. I had so much fun writing it because it takes place in NYC. There is no more beautiful setting than Christmas in New York City.

The second book in the Donovan Brothers series will also be out this fall!

So get ready for some more fun from me this year!

Oh, I almost forgot! HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE is ON SALE for $.99 for the first two weeks. So get a copy now while it's under a buck! LOL

Here's a link!

Oh! Drat! I almost forgot this too...At the end of my blog tour for HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE, I'm giving away a beach basket that doesn't just contain sunscreen and sunglasses...there's KINDLE in there too. So look for details about the blog tour on my facebook page...

Happy Reading...

susan meier


Every Monday morning I post a blog for writers! So be sure to watch for that.

But I'm also sporadically posting blogs for readers. It's much easier for me to think of something to say to other writers than to spill my guts about real life...but I'm getting there. :)

And if you like blogs by writers, check out There are ten or twenty writers who post every day about the trials and tribulations of being a mom, wife, daughter and a writer! Lots of wonderful insights at this site.

March 13, I'm blogging at Fresh Fiction.

I'm also at Harlequin Junkies and imperfect

And let's not forget the March 10 release of HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE! $.99 for two weeks only...quite a bargain! :)


Chapter One

“Golden Years Inc. just called the partners.”
            “And?” Ellie McDermott’s grip on her smartphone tightened as she got out of her little red car and stood on the sidewalk.
            “They loved your ad campaign for Tidy Whitiez adult diapers.” The voice of her boss, Nicole Levine, vibrated with excitement. “You’re their choice to head up the campaign.”
            She closed her eyes, savoring the sweetness of the win. Who would have ever guessed she could get so excited over adult diapers? And who would have guessed that when the account she wanted was finally hers, she wouldn't be able to take it?
            “There’s a six-figure bonus attached.”
            Her eyes popped open. “Six figures?”
            “Not high six figures, but close to mid.”
            “Can I tell them you’ll do it?”
            Her head spun. She’d gotten a call in the middle of the night from Red Garmin, the chief of police for Harmony Hills, Pennsylvania. Her dad had been found sitting naked in the park and hadn't recognized the officers who’d come to offer assistance. For two-plus hours, she’d driven through the early May fog on the mountain to get to her hometown, where she’d spent another eight hours intermittently talking to doctors and sitting beside the bed of a man who sometimes knew who she was, sometimes didn't. As tempting as taking this campaign sounded, every decision she made from now until the day her father died revolved around assuring he would be properly cared for. And right now she didn't have enough information about his condition to even know what “properly cared for” entailed.
“I wish I could say yes.”
            “Just use your mouth to form the word. Geez, I thought you’d be jumping for joy right now. You’re leading the campaign. Getting a bonus. At least a little ‘yippee’ is in order.”
            “Nicole, I’m home.”
            “Of course you’re home. It’s Saturday. You have no life. You’re always home on Saturday night.”
            “No, I mean I’m back in Harmony Hills. My dad—” She paused as her throat closed, and grief, confusion, and guilt overwhelmed her. She had to swallow hard and take a deep breath before she could say, “My dad has Alzheimer’s.”
            “I’m so sorry.” Nicole’s voice softened.
“Apparently he’s had it for a while and it’s progressing rapidly. They found him in the park last night, naked, thinking he was at home watching TV.”
“Your dad watches TV naked?”
“He does live alone.” A fact that haunted her. If she’d been in Harmony Hills, she would have found him, not a bunch of kids. If she’d been here, maybe he wouldn't even have left the house at all. If she’d been here, she might have noticed as soon as he started getting sick and gotten him treatment so that his disease wouldn't be as far along as it was now.
She swallowed again. “He’s going to need to go into a personal care facility.”
            “And a six-figure bonus would go a long way toward making that happen.”
            “After taxes, even six figures would last only a few years. And my dad’s sixty-seven. He could live another ten, maybe even twenty years. I need a real, permanent solution.”
            She looked up at the stately yellow Victorian house and the McDermott Funeral Home sign. “The only way I can get enough money every month is to run the family business.”
            “The funeral home? Can you even run a funeral home?”
            She sighed. “I remember some things.”
            “Don’t you need a license?”
            “I don’t know. I’ll have to check.”
            “Wouldn't it be easier to just sell Tidy Whitiez?”
            “In the short-term. But at ten thousand dollars a month, three hundred thousand dollars would only be thirty months. Not even three years. I need a solid, dependable income.”
            A motorcycle roared into the funeral home’s side driveway. The engine hummed to a stop. The driver took off his shiny black helmet.
Ellie’s breathing stopped. “Oh, no.”
            “It’s Finn Donovan.”
“The guy who stole valedictorian from you?”
“The same guy who took your virginity and then asked somebody else to the graduation party?”
            “Yes, again.”
            “Oh my God! Skype me in!”
            Wearing jeans and a sleeveless white T-shirt that showed off bulging biceps and a skull-and-crossbones Semper Fi tattoo, Finn got off the sleek bike and strolled up the sidewalk toward her. Taller than he had been in high school and broader in the shoulders, with a lazy gait that spoke of the insolent way he looked at life, he set every nerve ending in her body on fire.
            He reached her, smiled. “Ellie.”
            How could the slight lift of a man’s lips make her breathless?
The fire nibbling her nerve endings spiked. Her chest pinched and her gut tightened as another regret filled her. If she’d stayed in Harmony Hills, she probably wouldn't swoon every time she saw this blue-eyed, blond-haired dingbat. 
            “At least put me on speaker!”
            “Actually, Nic, I’ll call you later.”


That's the opening for HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE. It's a fun, funny, sexy story that I think you will love. :) (I might be prejudiced though! LOL)




Lesson 1 What is a Category Romance?

A category romance is the story of a hero and heroine that focuses on how they resolve their external and internal conflicts and commit for life at the end of the book.

In this day and age, even RWA found it necessary to send a reminder to the judges for the RITA that lots of books on the market today (and books submitted for the RITA) are not romances in the truest sense of the word.

Why? Because, with self-publishing, there is no gatekeeper. 

Frankly, in some respects that’s good. Lots of great books are being published that might not otherwise have made it.

In others it’s bad -- FOR YOU.

Why you?

Because even if you want to self-publish, though you don’t have to please an editor, you still have to please readers. And with the abundance of books out there saying they are “romances” you can get confused about what’s really required in a category romance.

Why should you care? I mean, why not toss all the spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks? Because there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Readers have shown time and time again that they want certain things in their books, especially category romances. So you still have to please somebody – except instead of an editor, it’s now readers.

If you want to write for any of Harlequin’s category romance lines or any of the category romance lines that are springing up at many of the e-publishers, then you already know this. J

What you might not know are the actual “things” needed in a category romance and/or how to get them into your story.

So let’s start at the beginning…What is a category romance?

As we’ve already said, a category romance is the story of a hero and heroine that focuses on how they resolve their external and internal conflicts and commit for life at the end of the book.

What is the difference between a category romance and a single title?

Actually, there are 2.

First, a single title isn't "just" the story of a hero and heroine falling in love. There must also be a story line that takes it beyond a mere romance.

Single title romantic suspense, thrillers and mysteries involve the bigger, broader story element of the suspense, mystery or thriller. Those things aren't merely a BACKDROP for the romance (as they are in CATEGORY suspense, mystery or thriller). Though interwoven with the romance, the suspense, mystery or thriller aspect of the story holds a big place in the novel on its own and usually takes up 50% of the story.

But a book doesn't have to be a suspense, thriller or mystery to be a single title. A contemporary romance can also be single title. All the author has to do is add another dimension to her story. Something that takes it beyond a category romance. The hero could be a returning-to-town bad boy looking to make up for his past. He could have several people to apologize to and not all the situations could be resolved easily! A heroine could be dealing with mother problems or daughter problems or best friend problems.

In a category romance, however, our readers are only interested in the romance. Even if there are mother problems, people the hero has to make up to for his bad boy past, or a crime that has to be solved, we want everything ON THE PAGE to relate to the romance!

What do I mean?

Well, think about this…

I remember reading Sydney Sheldon's BLOOD LINE before I started reading romance and writing romance. I found myself skipping all the scenes that didn't relate back to the hero and heroine and their budding romance and reading only the scenes with the hero and heroine! A friend said, “Susan, you're not a mainstream reader. You're a romance reader.” I went to the bookstore, bought a few (hundred) romances and never looked back.

The same is true for you as a writer. If you're getting rejections on your beloved category romance that say, "There wasn't enough focus on the romance" ... this can be easily corrected by going back into your story and getting every scene into the POV of either the hero and heroine. And making sure that everything relates back to them and their romance somehow.

Which takes us to our second difference between category romance and single title...


Everything in a category romance must be seen through the eyes of the hero and/or heroine and must ultimately relate back to them.

In my workshop, Journey Steps, I use the example of a hero having an argument with his son. The boy storms out of the room and to his bedroom, slamming the door. In a category romance, the scene stops there and picks up the next morning when the hero discovers his son is gone. In a single title, the author could follow the boy to his room while he packs and go with him out the window and into the cold, dark night.

In a single title, authors use various character points of view and tell the stories of those secondary characters. In a category, our focus is the romance, so all our readers want to know is HOW DOES THIS IMPACT THE ROMANCE! We show them how through the reactions of the hero and heroine.

The exceptions to this are the few times a villain's POV is heard in category romantic suspense or thriller, and the few times a secondary character gets a 'quick' POV for a reason. Usually there's a story element or thread that the hero and heroine can't be privy to, but it's essential for the "fun" or "drama" of the story for readers.

In THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS, I gave the little boy a 3 or 4-paragraph POV so that he and the cat [yes, the cat] could plot their matchmaking, so readers would know what was going on...since the kid wasn't about to tell either the hero or heroine that he was setting them up to fall in love!

So that's the "quick and dirty" difference between a category romance and a single title. Focus and bigger, broader story.
For some people, writing a single title seems easier, because they can rely on that bigger, broader story to give them fodder for their scenes. In a category romance, we rely on the external conflict to do the same thing.

Except sometimes the external conflict doesn't seem to be enough! We still sit at our computers wondering, “Now what!”

That’s because external conflicts also need a vehicle.

A vehicle is the “thing” that forces the action in your story and keeps the action going. 

In my summer 2010 release, MAID FOR THE SINGLE DAD, the story type is a nanny story. (Even though she’s the maid, the heroine also cares for the hero’s kids.) The vehicle…what forces the action of the story…is taking care of the hero’s two kids. The kids force the hero and heroine to work together, to interact, as they feed them, dress them, play with them, and that’s how they fall in love…by interacting.

I didn't need to think of a vehicle. The story type provided it. You have to have kids to have a nanny story! LOL

In HER BABY’S FIRST CHRISTMAS, driving across the country is the vehicle. Being in the same car [and ultimately the same house] is what forces them to interact.

In THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHTER the hero getting to know the daughter his ex-wife had hidden from him was the vehicle.

In ONE MAN AND A BABY the hero training the heroine for the job as manager of her dad’s horse farm is the vehicle.

In SECOND CHANCE BABY the heroine working as the hero’s secretary is the vehicle.

In KISSES ON HER CHRISTMAS LIST the hero investigating the heroine’s store to possibly buy it for his family’s holding company is the vehicle.

I once read a book where the heroine and hero had been in a plane wreck. They survived…weren't even hurt. But they had to walk fifty miles back to town together, on foot, off a mountain with dense foliage, where a rescue team wasn't available. (I can’t remember the country they were in but it was in Central America somewhere.) That walk was the vehicle.

I once read a book where the hero had the get the heroine out of a foreign country and the time they spent together getting out of the country caused them to fall in love.

A hero and heroine searching for something, stuck in a cabin in a storm, working together, living together, doing ANYTHING together gives them a reason to be TOGETHER and being together is the vehicle that forces them to get to know each other and fall in love.

It’s as easy to keep a category romance moving with a vehicle as it is to keep a single title moving with a bigger, broader story.

So that’s lesson 1: What is a category romance?

A category romance is the story of a hero and heroine that focuses on how they resolve their external and internal conflicts and commit for life at the end of the book.

You keep your story focused on the hero and heroine and the story of how they fall in love.

You provide a vehicle so that you have fodder for scenes, ways to get them together and keep them together.

And you also have a conflict, something that keeps them from wanting to fall in love. 


I hope you enjoy HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE...'s $.99 only for 2 weeks

Until next issue...

Happy reading...

susan meier