Interview with Brenda Novak – and giveaway!

Brenda NovakThis summer I picked up INSIDE, the first novel I’d read by romantic suspense author Brenda Novak, and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished. I read through the night and lost my heart to its hero, a man who spent his entire adulthood in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and is still paying for crimes he did commit while locked away.

I leapt on the opportunity to review her entire Bulletproof series, and I’m thrilled to say that Brenda’s here today answering my questions and giving away IN CLOSE, the last in the series (which you can easily read on its own if you haven’t read the other two).

Thanks for being here, Brenda!

1. You say on your website, “I learned how to write by reading what others have written. The best advice for any would-be author: read, read, read….” Being a bestselling author, mother of five, and organizer of a major annual fundraiser for a cure to diabetes, do you still get time to read? If so, what recently published novels have you learned from?

Inside by Brenda NovakI do still read. I think I’d go crazy if I didn’t. I’m writing so much that I have to be putting something back in the well to draw from.

I just finished CHILL FACTOR by Sandra Brown. Fabulous example of plotting and character development. Really enjoyed it. I’ve also recently read ROOM by Emma Donaghue, whose clever use of POV (it’s told completely from the point-of-view of a little boy) really makes that story shine. I’m currently reading Ted Dekkar’s latest futuristic. I’m not very far into it, but I’m enjoying it.

2. My freshman year of college, I regularly volunteered in Cook County Jail in Chicago, and ever since then I’ve been interested in artistic portrayals of prison life. I devoured the first novel in your Bulletproof series, INSIDE, which features a hero who has been released from prison and a heroine who’s an assistant deputy warden. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it? Continue reading “Interview with Brenda Novak – and giveaway!”

Review: The Heart of a Killer by Jaci Burton

Action- and passion-packed suspense that kept me awake all night long

The Heart of a KillerIn one horrific night, sweet sixteen-year-old Anna Pallino is attacked in the alley behind the ice cream shop she works at. Her boyfriend Dante Renaldi and his three foster brothers save her life by killing her attacker, but not before the would-be killer carves a heart in her chest.

Dante leaves that night and doesn’t return until years later, for his foster parents’ anniversary party. But on his first night back, someone he loves is brutally beaten to death in the same alley and has a heart carved into his chest.

Anna, now a detective who’s nursed anger for Dante since he abandoned her when she needed him most, points the finger of suspicion at Dante.

Jaci Burton’s terrifying story hooked me from the first sentence. With a hero and heroine who smolder even as teenagers, Heart of a Killer is jam-packed with sexual tension and emotional upheaval.

Continue reading “Review: The Heart of a Killer by Jaci Burton”

Review: In Close by Brenda Novak

Hot, intense passion and suspense combine to create one of the best romantic suspense novels of the year

In Close coverFifteen years ago, Claire O’Toole’s mother disappeared. Last year, Claire’s husband David was shot dead in a freak hunting accident. And today, as Claire begins to investigate the disappearance that’s haunted her since she was a teenager, she starts to suspect there may be a connection between the two.

Isaac Morgan has loved Claire forever. They had a brief affair in their early 20s, but Isaac let his own insecurities sabotage their relationship. He spurned Claire’s love, then had to watch her marry someone else. Now that she’s on her own, and in danger, he won’t let her face the danger alone.

Brenda Novak’s Bulletproof trilogy has rocked my world. The first, Inside, features one of the most unusual heroes I’ve ever read about: a former prison gang member. The second, In Seconds, continues with the gang trying to get to their former member by attempting to murder his sister.

In Close, the last in the trilogy, shifts gears and kept me guessing to the very end. Instead of focusing on gang members seeking revenge on one of their own, In Close features a small-town murderer, a trail gone cold, and a daughter who’s never forgotten. It barely mentions the storyline that runs through the first two novels, so can easily be read on its own (when, as I said in my review of In Seconds, the second book can’t be).

Continue reading “Review: In Close by Brenda Novak”

What makes a bad boy too bad?

In real life, I’m not attracted to bad boys. I’m a habitual rule-follower; I’m allergic to getting in trouble. If I were a romance novel heroine, I’d be destined to end up with a bad boy.

Bad boys make me nervous. They’re unreliable—if you can’t trust them to follow society’s rules, how can you trust them to follow the unspoken rules of a committed relationship?

But in romance, I can suspend my own standards and believe that bad boys can be good boys when it comes to the woman they love. That said, I have very strict standards they have to stick to.

1. No talking down to the heroine. Ever.

Ever.

This chaps my ass like a slap. My sympathy will never lie with a man who demeans a woman—whether it’s with words or a fist. He can misspeak, and get upset, and be occasionally rude, and say things he regrets. But no talking to the heroine like she’s beneath him or an idiot.

2. No cheating on the heroine. Or anyone else.

Zero tolerance. This is a crime against trust, and if a hero breaks a heroine’s trust this way, then he’s broken mine, too.

Inside by Brenda Novak3. No committing a felony—unless there are mitigating circumstances.

The exception probably wouldn’t have been there until a few weeks ago, when I read Brenda Novak’s gut-twisting romantic suspense Inside. The hero, Virgil Skinner, spent years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But while inside, he did commit crimes—horrible crimes—though I could understand why. And I wouldn’t have believed his character if he’d been able to survive prison without committing them.

But I can’t think of many other heroes who’ve done something heinous and still gained my sympathy.

Looking at my rules, I wonder if my definition of a bad boy is wrong. Maybe I’m getting bad boys mixed up with jerks. What do you think?

What’s your definition of a “bad boy”? Do you like bad-boy heroes? What are your standards for bad boys in romance?