Harlequin Books
Missy the Horse

by Lindsay MacKenna

My dream of one day owning a horse ranch materialized at age thirty.  When my husband David and I moved to Lisbon, Ohio, we bought a two-story house and barn on twenty acres of land with a creek running through it.  Here, I could finally realize my dream of having an Arabian horse farm. 

I got busy showing and I used Missy in my riding classes.  It was fun to compete but being in the ring allowed me to see some of the riding ‘games’ first-hand. You’d think everyone had integrity when it came to riding.  Wrong.  Some professional trainers who were really assertive would cut you off in front of a judge so your horse lost its gait or changed leads….either of these situations could get you knocked out of a competition.  And then there were amateurs who were super competitive and would do anything to make sure they looked good in front of the judge, the rest of the riders be damned.  I learned a lot in the ring.  That’s where I came up with the inspiration for my villain, Curt Downing, another endurance rider in THE LAST COWBOY. 

In my own experience, I decided remaining honest and riding with integrity in the ring was far more important than winning.  And here I’d gone into these classes thinking that the best horse would win, haha.  Oh, was I ever so wrong!

 

Photo Caption: This is a photo of Missy and me warming up for the English riding class.  I would be putting on my derby hat and my dark brown riding coat and gloves for the actual class when it was called.

Horses and Romance

by Lindsay MacKenna

Writing The Last Cowboy, I wanted to introduce my readers to a little known realm called endurance riding.  Because my husband and I bred, raised and showed Arabian horses for ten years, endurance riding was very familiar to us.  Did you know Arabian horses are the most chosen breed for this grueling and demanding type of contest?  Endurance contests can be 25, 50 or 100 miles long for the horse and rider.  The Tevis Cup ride is the most famous and challenging contest in the USA, and almost always, an Arabian or part-Arabian horse wins it.  Arabian blood is usually found in the top ten endurance contests.   

On our Arabian breeding farm, we utilized Crabbett/English bloodstock.  This type of Arabian was calm, had good bone and a great disposition.  Here I am on Missy (Miss Faeburr).  She was three-quarter Arabian and one quarter Morgan, and an incredible athlete.  My very first horse, when I was twelve years old, was a sorrel (red) mustang stallion that I called Pretty Boy. 

I wanted to share my knowledge of remarkable Mustangs with my readers based upon my own, personal experience.  I created Thor, the Mustang stallion in The Last Cowboy, to show his incredible speed, endurance and competitiveness that are all hallmarks of a champion endurance horse.

Photo Caption: Lindsay McKenna on her personal part-Arabian mare, Missy, in Ohio.

Strings and all

by Sarah Mayberry

The thing about people is that none of us are perfect. Apart from a very small sub-set that appear regularly in underwear catalogues, most of us have bodies that are real and flawed and wonderful in their own way, and we have personalities and make-ups that are just as unique and challenging. To my mind,  loving someone and choosing to build a life with that someone is about accepting all the lumps and bumps and crazy and sad and angry that all of us have inside us. Because, like I said at the get-go, none of us is perfect, right? 

My November Harlequin Superromance book, All They Need, is about two people who learn to love each other exactly as they are. Mel, my heroine, had a difficult first marriage with a husband who spent six years trying to change her. She’s afraid of trusting someone else—and herself—in an intimate situation again. It takes her a while to understand that Flynn loves her as she is—and that her happiness is more important to him than his own. Flynn gets his great take on love from his parents, who are dealing with the devastating reality of his father’s diagnosis with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Watching his parents take the myriad body blows dealt by this disease sets the benchmark for Flynn—he wants a love that will be as strong, as accepting, as generous as the love his parents share. Not a bad goal to aspire to—certainly not for Mel!

 

Lies, Lies, Lies

By Wendy Chen

Are they really all that bad? Well, okay, ones like “I’m not married” can certainly be bad. Very bad. But what about the little white lie? We all tell them, and there’s an undoubted upside. When an acquaintance asks, “How are you?” and really you’re having a crappy day, what good would it be to tell them, when spilling your guts would just make them uncomfortable and look at you like you have two heads? You just say “I’m fine,” don’t you, and go on your merry way?

What about when a little white lie gets a little bigger, or a little grayer? That’s not always so bad either, or at least that’s what Cassandra Hanley would say. Chances are, your lie won’t ever come back to you right? So what if your dud of a blind date thinks you’re more adventurous than you really are? Or if the guy you reluctantly agreed to have drinks with thinks you’re on some crazy liquid diet that physically prevents you from having dinner with him?

But what happens when Cassandra’s little gray lie (or maybe it was just a medium sized white one), leads to another? And maybe she wants to see this guy again, and to do so means lying some more? Just little lies, mind you, like where her office is, and ummm… what she does for a living. It’ll drive her crazy, keeping up with all those lies, even when she thinks she’s showing him the real Cassandra in all the ways it counts. One day he’ll find out, and she’ll have to take the chance that he’ll love her anyway.

What was the funniest (or biggest) lie you ever told a date to either impress or get away from them? Did it come back to you?

 

Crime-fighting biologist

by Toni Anderson

When people think crime-fighters, they rarely think biologists. And yet biologists have become as important as cops in keeping the bad guys off the streets. 

In 1935, Arthur Koehler, was the first person to ever use what is now termed ‘forensic botany’ to help get a conviction during the Lindbergh trial. That was just the beginning of the biologists’ battle against violent crime. In the 1980s there was a spectacular breakthrough. Molecular biology was in its infancy, and Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, University of Leicester, was studying the structure of human genes. Using seal meat gathered by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (now based in St Andrews in what was the Gatty Marine Laboratory) he tried to isolate the human myoglobin gene. He tested DNA from several people and discovered ‘a complicated mess’. However, he immediately understood the significance of his discovery—DNA fragments specific to individuals.

DNA fingerprinting evolved into DNA profiling which could be put into a database and used by the police to identify criminals from fluids/hair/skin they left behind. The first time DNA profiling was used in a murder trial it was, fittingly, in Leicester. Two young women had been raped and murdered. The police had a man who’d confessed to the second murder. They wanted to know if he’d also committed the first. Trouble was, DNA profiling proved he didn’t commit either crime. Police sampled 5000 men from the local community and caught the real killer—a man who would have killed again. Nowadays, biologists fight crime on all levels from neuroscience, behaviour, entomology to virology and, of course, forensic biology.

I have a great love for the unfolding secrets of biology and the people who study it. And although my heroes/heroines don’t solve crime with their biology degrees they are still at the forefront of the fight against crime, because you never know where the next breakthrough might occur.

Staying true to yourself

by Alex Beecroft

I was asked to do a couple of paragraphs on the subject of making sacrifices in order to be true to yourself.  I can quite see how relevant this is to By Honor Betrayed, where Conrad has to decide whether to sacrifice his career for his love.  But being the sort of person who has always found being true to myself pretty damn painless, I decided to buck the instructions and say what I actually think.  Which is that I don’t believe there are any sacrifices required to be true to yourself.  Being false to yourself could never give you anything worth having.

It’s true that, if what you really want is to spend your lunchtimes reading, you may have to give up the hope of being popular and having lots of friends.  But is that a sacrifice?  You wouldn’t have enjoyed pretending to be interested in the things the popular kids liked.  You would have hated the sense of being crushed by other people’s expectations.  You would have chafed at feeling insincere all the time.  It’s not a sacrifice to choose what you really want over something that would make you miserable.

Life is full of choices, and you can’t have everything.  If you always choose the things that will make you happiest, because those are the things you genuinely want, the things you leave behind will be the things that were second best.  And it’s really not worth regretting that you chose the best option over the second best.

Back from the dead

by Tessa Radley

Each one of us fears losing a loved one. But what happens when one loses a loved one who comes back from the dead…

Imagine how you would feel if you the man you love more than anything on earth…the husband you’ve spent four years searching for…the past year grieving for…walks into the room.

Disbelief? Shock? Joy?

And a numbness. A feeling that this might not be real…a dream you might waken from any instant. Would your voice work? What would you say at such a moment?

This was the situation Clea ended up facing in Reclaiming His Pregnant Widow when her husband Brand walks into the opening night of her latest exhibition. What would you feel? Do? I’m so glad I wasn’t in Clea’s shoes!

Thoughts on the Treasures of Working in Digital Publishing

By Lindsey Magee, Production Coordinator of Digital & Internet

 

The digital team last summer (Victoria, Emma, Lindsey, and Brendan) reading some of the Treasury books!

If there is one piece of advice I could give people considering joining the digital aspect of publishing, it would be this: prepare to buckle your seatbelt, because you are in for a wild and glorious ride.

Back when I was a wee and innocent thing I was brought on to the Harlequin team to help out on a little project known as Treasury, where we digitized (give or take) 3,000 backlist books. And let me tell you, you have not lived until you have typed up the back covers of thousands of 90s-tastic romance novels. If only words could express the gems we rediscovered. So many marriages of convenience, so many cases of amnesia…

Since that time, I have become fully enmeshed in the digital world. It is fast, it is furious, it is constantly evolving, and we must constantly evolve with it. But it is a challenge I happily face every day, if only for the chance to dive into the archives yet again and dig up such beauties as Operation: Gigolo and Single, Sexy…Sold!

Editor’s picks

I asked Editorial Assistant Kate Studer about some of her top books for November. Here are her picks!

BRING ME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS by Robyn Carr, MIRA, November 2011

Welcome back to Virgin River, the perfect place to spend the holidays—and mend a broken heart. There’s something so reminiscent and wonderful about the way Robyn mixes old characters with new to create a close-knit community that might as well be the town you grew up in. That’s what you get in Bring Me Home for Christmas, a story that captures that feeling we’re all looking for around holiday season—a feeling of belonging, of going home. This heart-warming tale of love lost and found again will definitely put you in the holiday mood and the romance is more than steamy enough to keep you toasty all winter long!

IN CLOSE by Brenda Novak, MIRA, November 2011

Whenever I dive into a mystery novel, I always find myself trying to piece together the clues and predict what the big twist will be. My standard for a good romantic suspense novel is one that manages to keep me guessing until the very end—and that’s exactly what readers will find in Brenda Novak’s heart-pounding In Close. Novak’s flair for writing action-packed mystery mixed with sizzling hot romance absolutely shines in this third installment in her Bulletproof Trilogy (preceded by June’s Inside and August’s In Seconds) and if you’re anything like me, it will keep you compulsively turning the pages until that final, completely unexpected reveal.

 

Navajo Traditions

By Aimée Thurlo

Welcome to a world filled with wonder and the magic of falling in love - the Navajo Nation. It has a heartbeat all its own and is filled with tradition. One of the Diné’s - the Navajo People’s—most important traditions is the Kinaaldá, which marks a girl’s passage into womanhood. Among the many tasks and rituals she’ll have to complete is a full night of prayers. During those long hours she must sit perfectly still, back straight, legs outstretched before her. Eventually, as dawn breaks she’ll rise and race toward the east (where all things begin), symbolizing the journey from childhood to adulthood. The ritual celebrates the traditions of the past and gives the young woman a greater understanding of her place in the tribe.

One of my favorite traditions revolves around weaving. The Navajos are known for crafting exceptionally beautiful rugs, but there are rules for their successful completion. Since a piece of the artist’s heart and soul goes into the work,  every Navajo rug must include a small “opening” that leads to the edge. Sometimes this is a strand of yarn that’s woven with a contrasting color and winds its way to the rug’s border. Without this, the weaver’s thoughts might become trapped inside the blanket. This practice is a tribute to Spider Woman, who taught the tribe how to weave.

According to legend, Spider Woman also required that the skill of weaving be taught to other Navajos. This struck me as particularly beautiful because I can so easily liken it to writing. To me, a book is never complete until it’s in the hands of the readers.

Winter Hawk’s Legend is our 30th Harlequin Intrigue and like the Diné rug it has a piece of our heart and soul.