Monday, November 12, 2007

Feature Review: "Untouched," By Anna Campbell

Every once in a while, an author bursts onto the romance fiction scene and takes it by storm. That’s not so easy to do, when you consider the high level of talent of the average romance writer. Plus, there's fierce competition to get books published in the $1.3 billion a year industry.

When Anna Campbell debuted last year with her exceptional and provocative historical, “Claiming the Courtesan” (2007 RBTB Book of the Year and Year's Best Debut) readers and the industry took note. Now, Campbell proves she’s got chops – and staying power -- with her stirring, suspenseful, and magnificently erotic new novel, “Untouched.”

The heroine of “Untouched,” lovely Grace Paget, is a poor widow, not the cheap dockside prostitute she’s mistaken for when rough men kidnap and take her to a secluded country estate. Once there, she learns she’s expected to see to the sexual needs of the handsome lord of the manor, or she’ll be killed.

Matthew, Lord Sheene, is “lord of the manor” in name only. His greedy uncle has imprisoned him, bribing officials to declare Matthew insane. Matthew’s uncle wants to keep Matthew locked away so he, the uncle, can enjoy the money and power that come with Matthew’s title of “lord.”

But Matthew’s honor and discipline are great – he’s a mature man who’s had 11 years of imprisonment to develop them. And Matthew understands his uncle is trying to tempt him into doing something he’ll hate himself for. So Matthew will not dishonor Grace, despite the fact that he’s wildly attracted to her, and has never slept with a woman.

Grace knows she must seduce Matthew, or she’ll be killed. Yet her honor is strong, too; she’s certain Matthew’s uncle is trying to break Matthew’s spirit, and wants no part of it.

Faced with no good or easy choices, Matthew and Grace may learn a difficult, but sweet lesson: Giving in to strong emotions and desires, may win them more freedom than they’ve dared to dream possible.

“Untouched” is an incredibly sensual and arousing novel. Campbell builds exquisite romantic and sexual tension between Matthew and Grace from their first, most unusual meeting. From that point on, their every interaction is charged with yearning -- for sexual completion, yes -- but also for what neither believes they can have: a lifetime of everyday, loving experiences that are full of hope for the future.

The dark touches that are part of Campbell’s unique and compelling style of storytelling add a richness to her novels that’s exciting and refreshing. Yet “Untouched” is not bleak; the love story always drives us with optimism and passion toward a rewarding happily ever after.

Please, don’t miss “Untouched,” or Campbell’s debut, “Claiming the Courtesan.” Then you’ll be able to say you were reading Campbell when she was on her way to becoming a star of historical romance fiction. But first, you’ll have to –

Buy the book.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

It Had To Happen Eventually

Yeah. You knew we'd get to talkin' Gabaldon one of these days.

Never read her. Got no problem with her. Just haven't had the time in the midst of promoting traditional Happily Ever After romance and erotic romance to dig into what I know would probably become yet another addictive series.

A girl's gotta protect herself, don't she?

Anywayz, Diana Gabaldon's got a new hardcover out this month, "Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade." Then, in November, you can buy another hardcover that sports two previously released Lord John novels, "Lord John and the Private Matter," which, frankly, makes me want to suggest all kinds of silly ailments his lordship might be suffering from and might not want to discuss in polite company -- thus keeping the matter private.

Well, I must say I'm intrigued by this Lord John Grey, and am a) wondering whether he's any relation to Earl Grey whose tea I so enjoy, and, 2. whether these novels are romantic enough to interest me. There are hints in the press materials of love affairs that could destroy. But you know how I likes me a HEA.

So, before I expire from curiosity: Tell us why Diana Gabaldon is great! What's up with Lord John? Are you a Gabaldon fan? Does she even write romance (anymore, cause I know some fans feel she's writing in a far different direction)?

Monday, August 06, 2007


Read the comments to find out why.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I Could Quit Anytime I Want

So I was on the phone yesterday with Evan "The Greatest Guy Ever" Silverman, V.P. Online at The guy who hired me. The guy I report to.

Anywayz, Evan's talking about the terrible tragedy of the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis two days ago. (Thank you, btw, all who've written and called to check on my family. We feel very fortunate to all be safe, and horribly sad for the families who lost loved ones).

So, Evan makes reference to a CNN report about the collapse, and I say, "no, I didn't see it. I don't watch the news."

[Imagine extended, uncomfortable silence].
See, it's not that I don't follow the news. I just can't watch it; it gives me agita to view other peoples' pain. It's part of the reason I started reading romance.

When I feel reality pushing too hard, I generally pick up a romance. Love that little moment when the book's so good, you just sorta sink into the embrace of the good feelings that are gonna follow. And I like knowing it's gonna turn out happy, no matter whether the road there is rocky.

Some people speak anecdotally of women who've become addicted to romance. I've often compared reading it to that lovely little warmth of a nice I.V. drip starting to do its thing, but that's just me. I've met a couple women who said they gave up reading it cause they never could find in real life men what they found in the storybook heroes.

So, I've got two different kinds of questions. First: Do you think you're addicted or could become addicted to romance? I mean, for real? Second: What's the last thing you said to your boss you wished you could have taken back immediately? Finally: Have you got a weekend book escape planned?
Books I loved above are some of the historicals I've used to practice soothing avoidant behavior in the last week.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hot Lunch

Hi! Bad Mom here with a dilemma faced by gazillions of other bad moms all across cyberspace. You may know us, or even be part of our crew.

Bad Moms. We're the ones gawped at near the jungle gym as we spray DEET-laden bug repellent on the grubby paws of our darlings. We gladly engage strangers to sit with our kids so we can go on dates with our spouses. We simply don't get invited to play dates anymore and wonder if it has something to do with the fact that we give sex advice to moms complaining about their husbands, rather than commiserate about how the guys don't understand how daunting a task it is to choose the pre-school that will assure our babies entre to the Ivies.

(Amazing as it seems, we're more than welcome in that force of cyber-nature known as the Momosphere).

Anywayz, today this bad mommy's got a dilemma: I'm sick of making lunches for my kids.

Today it's Fluffernutters. Yesterday, pepperoni and cheese. The day before? Lunchables. Day before that? Fluffernutters. See the pattern?

Now, if you're not familiar with Fluffernutters, they're a sandwich of white bread, peanut butter, and marshmallow fluff, the ultimate being the product created and manufactured by a Lynn, MA family for years and years, Fluff. And Fluffernutters are best served with potato chips as an accompaniment.

Now, Fluffernutters make my gorge rise, but kids -- and lots of adults -- seem to ador
e them. But they're evil, too. Last year, a MA legislator attempted to have them removed from lunch menus in schools.

But what's a bad mommy to do? What the heck can I pack my kids for lunch?

And while we're talking about sweet stuff to eat,
Congratulazione Bella Portia Da Costa on your 4 1/2 Star review in Romantic Times for "Suite Seventeen!"

Now, La Da Costa knows her way around a yummy love scene that does not make one's gorge rise. And she definitely knows her sammiches. So, to continue our theme, let's talk our favorite sammich du jour. What's an RBtheBlog sammich? Check here. Then thank Bella Vivi Anna for creating our very first tasty treat.
Encore! Fluff photo: Mark Wilson/Boston Globe Staff

Monday, July 30, 2007

One Woman's Blogher World: Hot And Wet Digital Goodness

Back from the blogher '07 conference in Shy Town, and lemmee tell youz, it was a thing of beauty. Chicks. Brainy chicks everywhere who blog, are thinkin about blogging, or want to learn more about blogging.

A heady experience it was, and one of my favorite presentations was held by 4 women -- 2 African, one Indian, and one from Bahrain -- who spoke about the use of reactionary blogging (blogging that's done to remark upon specific socio-political issues) in their lives and countries.

Amazing that the social expression we take for granted -- Internet Weblogs -- is often blocked by other governments, sometimes because of the very business agreements that bring the tech to their countries.

Blogging about social injustice can be dangerous in some parts of the world, although it seems being a woman offers some small protection, as the women running the workshop knew of cases where male bloggers were arrested, but not women bloggers. But the women often have to go underground, or blog about carefully selected topics in fits and starts; they choose their battles carefully to avoid trouble befalling themselves or families if their governments become too "annoyed" by their persistence in letting the world know that all is not as it seems.

Women with blogs -- as women throughout history have managed to do against great opposition -- can move not just mountains, but continents, as it were. And to be among hundreds of women who use their blogs to promote social equity is empowering in itself. It made me happy to know that women who a) have more energy to do it, and 2. are way better at it than I, are out there changing the world.

So this was blogher '07, a consortium of women making differences in the lives of many in ways big and small. The conference had everything: informative workshops, stimulating environment in which to learn and interact, and great food and digs -- all of it organized in that way women are soooooo very adept at.

So kudos to blogher and it's co-founders -- women so impressive their bios make my brain fry with envy, yet whom you can't even make yourself trip accidentally when you meet them, cause they're just good people -- Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort, and Jory Des Jardins! You rock, Bellas, and so does blogher.

But, if I may give one teeeny tiny suggestion, ladies. Well, it's just that there was one thing in which I found the conference sorely lacking:

Hot guys in wet swimsuits.

OK, so some women might find that statement outrageous -- if they never hung with us here at RBtheBlog or had the rare privilege that is meeting me and hearing the particular way I embrace feminism -- especially given the fact that blogher conferences started because women in Silicon Valley realized the workshops at the tech conferences they attended were run by mostly men. And if women did run them, it was always the same few.

Gender inequity aside, I was dying for even a whiff of testosterone after Day 1. So I thought maybe next year, blogher might want to invite as one of its spotlighted sponsors, AussieBum.

Now, some might find that suggestion -- as well as the broadband videos I got sidet
racked watching while searching for appropriate g-eye candy -- de classe. Perhaps I could be considered the same for suggesting it. Gulp! Someone might even suggest I'd be setting back feminism, or something, especially if I share that my favorite video (of this totally hawt skull-trimmed boy) is titled (WARNING: CHEESY TITLE THAT OBJECTIFIES MEN FOLLOWS),"Men are Just Sexual Objects to Abuse."

Anywayz, having some AussieBum boys -- you know what I mean -- at next years' blogher conference wouldn't be anathema to the goals, because it wouldn't be like they'd be speakers or anything. For Gawd's sake, it's better if they don't speak at all.

Oh, dear. Now I think I've gone and encouraged the silencing of men's voices. Don't get me wrong --some of my best friends are men. I'm only suggesting we don't encourage the pretty young ones to speak, just to avoid possible disappointment.

So, Bellas, I encourage you to visit blogher every day, to add it to your blog roll,
and to support your favorite blogs within. Don't forget to add your blogs there, too! I think there's a dearth of romance fiction-related blogs the blogher staff might like to see filled. :)

So, a little Free-for-All today: Ask and I shall answer your questions about blogher '07; tell me what you're reading; Ask me what I've been reading, cause, believe u me, a
fter discussing so much serious stuff for a couple days, I glommed a little romance when I got home.

Congratulazione, mshellion! You've won a Krispy Kreme/Dunkies' six-pack of hot, moist n' sweet romance. Send me your snail mail at
Encore due!
Ciao, Kyong, and the Microsoft pr women who were kind enough to let me hang with em -- and asked so many great questions about why romance fiction is awesome. Your package of promised romances will be on the way soon, and I hope you'll check in with us to tell us how you liked 'em. Keeping Microsoft workers in "Happily Ever Afters." Just my little way of thanking Bill and Melinda Gates for their generous philanthropy worldwide.
Encore tre! Ooo, I likes this last one. Very dirty. And his briefs say, "Property of USA." Luvs us some Made in America, don't we, Bellas?

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Contest!!! Details within!

Amidst all the past few days blab about Rhage from JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood and Krispy Kremes and whether there's something a little bent about the fact that I crush on pretty boys and middle-aged sports columnists -- though I swear, it's just their tight little proses I lust for -- I thought I'd let you know that the next two days I'll be in the Windy with a couple other folks for Blogher Conference 2007.

What's you ask? Well, Bellas, lemmee tell ye, cause as thoughtful women who dig hangin online, it's a place you'll wanna check out. It's a kind of clearinghouse of blogs written by women about every topic imaginable. Anonymous bloggers who speak out against inequities and abuses in their countries, Mommy bloggers, nice girl bloggers, rage-against-the -machine bloggers, branded name it, the creative women who tack up the posts every day list themselves there.

But is more than just an aggregate. It's a growing and positive force to be reckoned with, a body that supports women through empowering women bloggers. And part of the empowerment comes from education and networking opportunities, like this weekend's conference.

Aside from looking forward to meeting lots of women bloggers of all kinds -- and hoping to learn as much as I can, especially from the hip young'ns -- I'm planning on attending the following workshops (you can check out the description as well as the full conference deets at

Speed Dating for Bloghers
The Life Stages of Online Communities
Does the Blogosphere Need Intolerance Intervention
The Art of Writing Reviews
The State of the Momosphere
Sex and Relationships: Blogging Behind Closed Doors

Now, about them Krispie Kremes. I've gotta say, since we moved to the Midwest, one of the things I've lamented is the dearth -- make that complete lack -- of Dunkin Donuts.

Because, Bellas, I'm a Dunkies girl.

First, you've gotta love a company that values alliteration as much as it does the
bastardization of spelling as we know it. Now, Krispy Kreme does a pretty good job of that -- perhaps even better if we take into consideration the use of the klassy K. God, now that makes me feel proud to be an Amerkin.

But there are two real reasons I love Dunkies. First, KKs are so sweet they make my t
eeth ache. And second: Dunkie's coffee. It's liquid perfection in a post-consumer recycled paper cup. See? It even inspires agonizingly horrible descriptive phraseology. Can your vaunted Krispy Kremes do that, I ask you? Hmmm?

Well, maybe they can. So: give me your most horrifically purple descriptive phrase about why you love Krispies or Dunkies best. Or, why you love your favorite sweet. One Lucky Commenting Bella (LCB) wins a six-pack of steamy romance novels!
Encore! Dunkies pic credit: Elinor Carucci.
Encore due! Si, Hugh's a man, not a boy. But he's still pretty. Prego. You're welcome, my Bellas.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Man O' My Dreams

So I was having this dream last night, about one of my heroes, "Sports Illustrated" columnist Rick Reilly.

No, not that kind of dream, cheeky wenches, although if you take Reilly's parting comment to me in the dream about his succinct writing style -- "you know I like to give it hard and fast" -- I guess even Dr. Freud would suggest my admiration for Reilly is more than professional.

Anywayz, Reilly says to me in this dream, "what's it with you and the historicals? I mean, sure, men in tight breeches are hot and all -- who doesn't like a sweet baseball uni -- but, really, don't you get tripped up by all the 'inside stuff?'"

"The stuff inside the breeches?"

"Nah, not the male-members-growing-impossibly-larger-than-the-farce-that-is-Barry Bonds'
home run record thing. I mean the inside stuff, like "house parties" and "mantua makers" and "quadrilles" and crap.

"I mean, I can recite the past hundred years' World Series losers backwards alphabetically from memory, but I can never figure out the difference between my "small clothes" and my "short pants."

"Well, Ricky," I told my dream guy, "I know exactly who can help clear this whole thing up for you: the Bellas. So I'll ask em tomorrow morning:

Help my dream boy Rick Reilly, won't you, Bellas? What are some of the terms, proper names, references, etc., you come across all the time in historical novels that you had to figure out along the way? You know, "Almack's," "Prinny," "bailey," "pelisse..." And what do they mean?

Encore! Super Dee-Dooper News! Bella Eve Kenin/Eve Silver's manga-inspired novel, "Driven" this week received a Publisher's Weekly "Starred Review!" Congratulazione, Eve!

Friday, July 20, 2007

There Go I, But For The Grace Of God

As any parent will tell you, there is no greater fear than the paralyzing terror that comes when one imagines a scenario in which one’s child dies.

Yesterday, Rachd -- a woman who’s joined us here in friendship almost from this blog’s inception -- experienced the horrific reality of that nightmare when her 5-year-old daughter, Hannah, died in a swimming accident.

Rachd has always been wholly about her children Hannah and Lily. We’ve enjoyed the ever-changing photos of her little girls in her avatar. We’ve offered support when they were teething or cranky. And we looked forward to the times Rach was able to put them to bed and hop online to laugh with us about romance novels and our lives.

For me, Rachd has been a kind of example of a woman who cares so deeply for her children that she simply can’t keep the blessing to herself. Yet she is a complete woman, who takes care of family and the students she teaches, and still makes time to come here, making us feel better with her presence than we felt before she arrived.

On this day, in this place where we become as close as sisters, where we’ve questioned if there was “something wrong with us” because we feel like “real life” friends – yet know it’s our reality -- let’s offer to Rachael the support she and her family deserve. And let’s do it in the way we’re so good at – the way that shows Rachael’s daughter, Hanna, we respect her life and her passing.
Rachd and her husband, Brien, made the decision to give life from their daughter’s death by donating Hannah’s organs. Please consider signing an organ donor card, and talking to your family about your decision.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

God Dag, Lars! -- or -- Stockholm Syndrome, Schmockholm Syndrome

So, like, to celebrate surviving RWA, I've tossed back a couple great books since I've been back in Minnie.

Two of them involve heroines who are held captive by heroes who need the chicks for information or services only the babes can provide.

I'm tellin my girl -- our girl, really -- Bella amyskf about them this afternoon and here's how the exchange goes:

Me: Yeah, this book is so great. The hero needs this info from the heroine, so he kidnaps her and locks her up.
Ames: [screeching, nay, squeeing at the top of her lungs] OMG! I can't stand it!

Now, she means she can't stand it as in "that's so frikkin hawt and it'll be romantic in the end when he ends up her captive in oh, so many ways."

She does not, however mean, "I can't stand it when romance writers force our Second Wave selves to endure the systematic literary rape of gender power dynamics in a way that'll make bunny-slipper-wearing, category-devouring Midwestern housewives out of even the the smarty-pansiest of us before you can say 'Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem Love Swedish Fish on Bicycles.'"

As for me, I like the conflict of the heroine who falls in love with her captor and knows it should feel wrong, but feels oh, so right. And I like giving other women who dig it permission to love it, too, damn the Romance Police torpedoes and full-frikkin-fantasy ahead.

Now, this morning I was reading a Harlequin Presents in which the hero was grasping the heroine's shoulders in a way that hurt her, in anger, digging in his fingers till she was sure he'd leave bruises. He's also sort of held her captive, gave her the "you're pregnant with my child and I own you" bastard alpha speech. The bruising thing didn't turn me on.

But I started to think that for some woman reader who's comfort level doesn't allow her to read erotica or erotic romance that deals in bondage or spanking, etc., hell, the "finger digging" could be her ball gag and mask, no?

See what I'm sayin? It can't be ok to explore pain or discomfort fantasy in sophisticated erotica/erom, and not in more accessible romance. And, frankly, my dear, I don't care whether the heroine said, "yes, I give you my considered permission as a woman who knows her worth and value." Maybe that'll be her arc, learning she likes a little pain when she trusts the guy.

Dunno. But for what it's worth, I'm wonderin': Do you dig a romance in which the heroine is captured, kidnapped, held against her will by the hero? How about one when it's the heroine holding the hero? What are some of your favorites?

See, Bellas? You ask for a fresh blog, you're gonna get one.

Encore! Well, you know Stellan Skarsgard (above left), whom I had a big crush on when he was much younger. Not so much when he's all barnacled up in "Pirates." And Peter Skarsgaard (above right). Don't know if he's really Swedish -- though I've seen him in pix w/ Maggie Gyllenhaal. So that makes him Swedish, no? And I loved him in a kinda wild/freaky movie called, I think, "Center of the Universe." And finally, below and to the left of Peter is a former Mr. Sweden. I don't know anything about the contest, but for as hot as Scandanavian guys are, there were few to be found on a cursory Swedish Hot Guy Webrowse.

Encore due!
t a little more Dallas: As I was leaving the RITA ceremony Sat night, a woman approached me, telling me my gown was the same as on the front of her latest H'Quin Next novel, "Prime Time." Well, the woman is Hank Phillipi Ryan, not just an acclaimed author, but a flippin icon in investigative journalism in Boston (WHDH-TV 7/NBC).

So, here's she's like, asking to take my photo, and I'm, like, OMG! When I tell my MIL this, she's gonna die! Of course, it's bette
r to have HPR after you to take a gander at your couture than have her on you for a story, cause she's considered one of the best and most tenacious journalists around.

She was kind enough to send me the photos, and I thought I'd show you the cover of her latest novel (she's got a new one in the Fall). No. I do not believe for a second I look anything from the back like the woman on the cover. That's all's I'm saying. But this was a very cool moment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Party's Over -- Or -- What Happens In Dallas Doesn't Stay In Dallas

BELLAS! I'm dropping in tonight (07.18) at 5.00 CT/6.00ET/11.00 GMT+1 PDNSST (Portia Da Costa Not-So-Standard Time)

Buongiooooooorno, Bellas! Finally dragged my sorry self back to the here/now after 24 hrs spent recouping from RWA national.

And what a week it was. For me, jam packed with social calls, professional meetings, duties, and, of course, those two full days of on-cam author interviews for

So let me give you a little tour of some stuff that took place since I last saw you here at RBtheBlog.

First, above left, meet RITA. She's a good ol gal, and if you look just to her left beneath the glass of this table at Sabrina Jeffries' post RITA shindig, you'll see the well-pedicured tootsie of the trophy's new owner. Any guesses? Well, she was beautifully attired throughout the entire convention, and writes in a couple sub-genres.

Bella Anna Campbell was at the party, and she and I toasted the Bellas, whom she said she loves, and talked about the cyber-tempest over "Claiming the Courtesan" Totally classy dame that she is, Anna said she just felt naive, that she didn't understand what went on among romance blogs. She also forced Belgian chocolate on us all. And who wants to be rude and decline, no?

As a kinda connected aside, fellow Minnesotan Kathleen Eagle and I had a little breakfast Sunday and K intro'd me to author Eileen Dreyer ("The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes"), who also writes as Kathleen Korbel. What an impressive chick, and not just because she's won a zillion RITAs. She's clear- and level-headed, and she and I had a discussion that included Celtic music, the evil British empire, Irishmen, and, yeah, "Claiming the Courtesan." Guess what? We had a slight difference of opinion on the subject and had -- brace yourself -- a pleasant, intense, but respectful discussion, finally agreeing to disagree as two women who support feminism, women's issues and romance.

Next, above right, please meet Lifetime Television Senior Producer Evan Blackford. Oh, but I love working with him, because he's such a nice guy -- funny and professional, and terribly kind, whether giving a critique or dealing with the needs of authors nervous about their interviews. Just can't say how happy I was that he was on the scene of this first shoot w/in the realm of romance.

To your left you'll see Evan with Dayna (sound guy in Hawaiian shirt) and Jeff (camera guy). Gosh, I love crew, and I'd forgotten that. Dayna's done two news tours in Iraq thus far, plus he's worked w/lots of national productions like 20/20. Jeff's a very nice and funny kid who was really info laughing with us at all the doofy mistakes I made and helping me do stuff better.

And look, oh, look, Bellas! The lady central in this photo so pretty in pink is Bella mandacoll! It was so cool to meet her after all this time having her pop in, as well as enjoy her and her friends at Such a treat. :)

And file this under "Michelle, Who's Always Got Her Head In The Sand." Who knew Julia Quinn's "On the Way to the Wedding" was voted worst book of 2006 somewhere in cyberspace? Not I, said the romance columnist. But Julia -- who's kinda like the Susan Lucci of romance writers, having been nominated 7 times for RITAs including this year -- told me this Sat after our interview and I was shocked, I tell you, shocked. I mean, even if it were the worst book she ever wrote, I'd wager it'd still be among the upper 10% of best romances written in '06 for many reasons.

But, apparently the RITA judges thought OTWTTW was quite nifty, and awarded it and JulieQ a RITA. Ah, the sweet smell of, "you know, I kinda thought there was something wacky about my book being judged the worst book of the year" success.
Encore! The tempting tootsie -- and the RITA -- belongs to Lori Handeland!
Encore due! Oh! Toni Blake just sent me this photo of us from the post-RITA reception. Her decolletage -- and the fact she got her gorgeous gown for a steal -- made me green w/envy. Ooo, you could have heard a pin drop during her on-cam while we were talking about s-e-x and erotica. hee hee.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thanks For The Good Karma, Bellas

So I thought I was pretty proud when I found out Romance: B(u)y the Book and this blog were gonna be moving to You know, professional milestone, honor to rep romance in front of Lifetime online audience and all.

But yesterday something really cool happened, a small moment that really lifted my spirit, and refreshed me on my mission, if you will, of simply writing about how great romance is, and letting romance readers know they more than count, they deserve respect for their choices in reading, in life, in love and stuff.

Lisa Kleypas gave the keynote address at yesterday's luncheon here at RWA national, and man, did she shine. She spoke of her career path, sure, and she described the "armadillo" theory of staying tough and determined and tenacious no matter what life or goofballs throw your way.

But mostly, she spoke about how we, readers and writers and industry folks who love romance can be proud that we choose to spend our time acknowledging our needs for simply escaping into good feelings and empowering stories. We understand that we can do it all, but sometimes we'd rather just have a sexy competent guy and a grand adventure instead -- maybe just for an afternoon.

Anywayz. There are hundreds of people at this event, authors and folks Lisa's met throughout 20 years publishing romance novels.

And she most graciously invited me to sit at her table. Yeah. I couldn't believe it either. But you know, I felt like maybe it was Lisa's way of saying "thanks" for helping gather romance readers who believe that romance matters, and that the way we talk about it -- and most importantly, how we respect each other when we do that -- is important.

During her speech, Lisa said something that really made me verklempt, but gave me a little "hey, this makes up for the online nastiness you've had to thicken your skin over lately" moment. She said something like, "sophisticated condescension" isn't powerful and doesn't have staying power. And it doesn't help the end goal of garnering respect for what we love: romance fiction.

So, no kiddin, I thought about you Bellas while I was sitting there and was thinkin not only, "gosh, I wish they could be here, too," but also, "I'm here because of the Bellas."

I don't always tell you about the cool things that happen to me because they'd seem like "name-dropping" or trying to seem much cooler than I am. But I just had to share this very proud moment with you.

What's one of the proudest moments you've had lately -- professionally, in parenting, within your family...?
Encore! Don't forget to check out and also to tell Jude I say 'hey!"

What I Won't Sacrifice For My Bellas

Well, this time you can't say I didn't bring you pictures. In fact, I did my best to bring you RBTB/RBtheBlog faves, plus a few of our very own Bellas!

First up, Bella Suzanne Brockmann, her husband, Ed Gaffney, and their great friend, team member, all-about-good-guy friend, actor Eric Ruben.

Aaaand, our wise and gracious Bella Marilyn, aka Playground Monitor, plus -- hold on to your beach hat MaryKate -- Ms. Nalini Singh!

Next up, Bellas Caroline Linden, Eve Silver, and Ann Christopher hang with me at the end of a long day. We were supposed to hook up for dinner, but when I showed up late, they ate the desserts they saved for me. Nice girls, no?

Practicing our best Miss America poses are Jo-Anne Power (author of 17 novels including her latest, "Missing Member"), moi, and Bella Rocki St.Claire, who informed me she went with the "poufy ball gown" for Saturday night's RITA Awards since she's nom
inated in 2 categories.

Bella Jessica Inclan and I pose with her favorite fan and my good friend, Bella lizees.

And who else but Sherrilyn Kenyon shows up for the Annual RWA Literacy for Life signing wearing a 3 foot tall black swan chapeau? But she works it, baybee.

If you travel to one mass book signing, this annual one is the way to go. The lines are incredibly short because there are so many authors everyone is somewhere else while you're waiting for your faves to sign your books. Does that make sense? Trust me. You'd love the madhouse zoo that is the annual RWA Literacy signing.

Bella Carly Phillips and I took a sec to say hey. Carly's emceeing the RITA awards Sat nite. I envied her tan.

Bella Kate Pearce
and I are with Kayla Perrin, a Canadian author I met a while back when I was a guest on "The Gill Deacon Show." Kate says hi, and is really glad so many of you have bought her novels since she started hanging with us.

Bellas Pamela Claire and Emma Holly were having fun talking about hawt stuff until I interrupted them to make them pose. I told them to look like they actually enjoy my company.

And Bella Sabrina Jeffries looks like she can still tolerate me in this photo, even after she'd just introduced me to her gorgeous, brown-eyed, romance hero brother to whom I said -- and I kid you not -- "so, if I were single and asked you for a date, would you go out with me?"

I don't know what came over me. He said yes to the date (well what was a charming guy like Sabrina's bro gonna say, "no, cause you're a skanky middle-aged broad?") but declined stripping to the waist so I might photograph him for this blog. I didn't realize 44-year-old men still blushed.

It's lunch today at noon for Lisa Kleypas' keynote address, tea at 2 with Dorchester marketing chick, lovely Brooke Borneman, and on to moderating the big Avon/HarperCollins romance author signing at the Plano Center, a fund raiser for the Plano Public Library. Attendees (limited amt of tix are still available by calling 972.769.4250) get to meet/greet 12 Avon authors, and Victoria Alexander, Dixie Cash, Lorraine Heath, Eloisa James, Teresa Medeiros, Julia Quinn, and Lisa Scottoline gather with me for a little chat about romance, and love, life...hmmm, maybe we'll talk a little about sex if I can come up with a question to ask about it that doesn't make me blush. You know I'm kinda shy like that.
Encore! Who else is blogging from the RWA National Conference? Don't forget to check out Tell Jude Michelle sent'chya.