Hearts and Flowers, Love and Kisses

Hearts and Flowers, Love and Kisses To You

Happy Valentine’s Day

May Cupid’s Mark BE True.

          Think pink and red and hearts and flowers, cupids and arrows, lace and bows.  Valentine’s Day is about joy and sweetness and declarations of love and affection for someone special.  The someone special might be a miss or a mister, a husband or wife, a sweetheart, a precious child or a dear friend.  It is a day to open your heart and say to that someone what you feel  in the most heartfelt,  romantic or even the silliest way you choose. It is a day to feel the fullness of love and the richness of friendships and to give a token of your caring with a sentiment spoken, a card, or perhaps a gift that might be as simple as a single red rose or as lavish as a band of diamonds.

Simple or lavish, it is the sentiment that matters more than the gift.  Present it with a twinkle in your eye, love in your heart, open arms and deep sincerity.  Some of my favorite things to give and get on Valentine’s Day are:

  • One perfect chocolate. (Yes, I love chocolates by the box but having gotten wiser and wider over the years I have learned to savor one decadent piece and call it enough.)
  • Sweethearts candies. (Be Mine. Pick Me. Luv U.  Nothing bespeaks Valentine fun more than these little heart-shaped candies.)
  • Perfume. (A scent gift is a never fail choice for him or her.)
  • Candles. (It is good if there are matches and a romantic dinner to go with these.)
  • Book. (Poetry, a journal, or my pick, a romance novel.)

Be someone’s Valentine. Make Someone yours.  Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.  You have made mine sweeter by visiting my page.

Be sure to pick up a free copy of Dark Prelude: (Amazon) (Apple iBookstore)  My gift to you.


Love Letters And Romance

When was the last one written, I wonder.  Where is it now?  Tied up in ribbon, tucked in a drawer or keepsake box, lost in an attic trunk.  Once cherished, love letters, their lasting endearments, may be no more.

There are things to be thankful for about communicating with technology, but much is lost.  No sweetheart can tie up an email file with blue ribbon or twine and hold it next to her heart, or his.  No string of texts, however sweet, can grow yellow with age, or be read again and again over the decades then be refolded and slipped into a tattered, postmarked envelope for safekeeping.

A heart cannot throb with the same thrill at the arrival of an electronic message as it might with the arrival of a letter on familiar stationary in a hand a lover knows as well the face of the loved one.  No lock of hair, or scrap of lace, poem or photograph could ever be more meaningful than as a love token in a letter.  No perfume ever smelled as sweet as that which scents a sweetheart’s missive.

It is a sad loss if love letters disappear even if life must go on and things must change as they always have.  Change now happens with a rapidity that leaves us no time to mourn what has passed.  Some things lost leave a greater void than others, like that of a fine art piece vanished from the enjoyment and enrichment of humanity.

A college sweetheart wrote a letter a day to me one year, sometimes two.  And I returned the sentiments matching each with one of my own.  Sitting at our small desks in shared rooms far from each other we poured out our hearts, named our dreams, and planned life and love.  I can still recall the daily joy of receiving that love note.  Some days I could not wait to return to my room and stopped at a bench under a tree to read words I could have recited without looking. At the end of that year we married.  I sometimes think we were more in love in our letters than together.  The marriage did not last and when it ended, I burned the letters in a ceremonious goodbye.

My mother, more recently, burned the bundles of letters my father wrote to her from overseas when he was away fighting in a war from which he did not return.  She is in her nineties.  She kept them in a trunk in the attic.  I asked why, after so many years, she did not preserve them for her children.  She said they were for her alone and she wanted to keep them in her heart.

I understand.  Love letters touch something in the recipient that no other exchange can mimic.  To know one is thought of with fondness and affection over miles and time, that the one who holds your heart has paused and taken time to choose just the right words, just the right sheet of stationary, just the right token to slip between the folded pages, and has made sure not to miss the postman, is enough to weaken any knee and make a lasting mark on any heart.

Greeting cards are sweet but they are not as straight from the heart as words penned especially for another.  Love letters are romance.  Love letters are valentines that do not need a special day or sweet rhyming lines.  They are deeper, truer.  They are love captured, preserved in ink and paper, worthy of being tied in satin ribbon and kept through the ages.  They may be, may become, only a practice of the past but if we are wise, the writing of love letters will not become a lost art.

With love,

Andrea Parnell


Postscript:  TOPIC  is in the Air!  SEE: http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/10/opinion/bauerlein-love-letters/

“Did Facebook kill love letters?”


Dark Splendor, Gothic Historical Romance excerpt

Thank you for viewing an excerpt of Dark Splendor. I hope you enjoy this bit of adventure.

Get the Dark Splendor ebook at these retailers:

Dark Splendor

There is a serpent in thy smile, my dear,

And bitter poison within thy tear.

—Shelley, The Cenci

Chapter One

 March 1751

Silvia Bradstreet stirred only slightly when the wooden door of her cabin creaked as it slowly opened.

She slept the heavy sleep born of exhaustion, and neither the pitching of the ship nor the shouts of deckhands, though loud enough to rattle the masts of the Eastwind, roused her. A hazy light split the darkness of the tiny compartment and disappeared beneath the shadows of two men who quietly entered.

Roman Toller roughly caught his brother by the arm and halted him in mid-step. A lump like a burning chunk of coal lodged in his throat as his eyes roamed over the figure of a young woman sleeping soundly in the bunk.

Her dark hair spilled over the contrasting whiteness of the pillow like tassels of black silk he had seen displayed in stalls in an Eastern market. Beneath the blanket her slender form rose softly with each slow breath. She lay curled like a kitten spent from its play.

“Bloody hell, Morgan,” he muttered. “What is this?”

“God’s pity, man, if you have to ask.” Morgan Toller’s lips curved into a teasing grin. “It’s a woman, plain and simple.”

“That I can see,” he growled. “But why is the wench sleeping in this cabin?” Roman’s lids half-closed and his nostrils flared as his eyes, cold as blue ice, met his brother’s.

Morgan stared at the pleasing curves of the lithe form beneath the blanket. His chest swelled with the fullness of a deep breath he exhaled softly. “The captain said we’d find a surprise below.”

“Aye. That he did,” Roman agreed. The beginnings of a smile quivered on the corners of his lips. “And I’ll admit I thought he meant a bottle of vintage wine.”

“We must be certain to thank Wilhelm for improving the stock on his ships,” Morgan said, looking wryly at Roman. “This trip may prove to be less bleak than I expected,” he added, followed by an easy chuckle.

“The old scoundrel is up to something, I’ll wager. Summoning us to the colonies with no explanation of the urgency.” Roman’s brows raised sardonically. “And this.”

“Let’s consider that he is seeing to our comfort,” Morgan chided lightly. “And this is a flower in the desert. Or on the ocean, as it seems.” He rubbed his hands together and his mouth curved into a half-grin. “The only problem as I see it is there is one woman and two of us.”

“I begin to see your point.” Roman landed a hard but playful blow to Morgan’s jaw. “Pull out a coin. We’ll toss for the first night with her.”

Morgan scowled and rubbed his jaw. “Find another outlet for your bad temper, man,” he railed. Still he reached into his pocket and withdrew a coin. “Call it,” he said jauntily, tossing the goldpiece into the air.

“Heads!” Roman snatched the spinning coin before it landed in Morgan’s waiting hand. “Heads. And you sleep alone,” he jeered, slapping the coin to his forearm and uncovering it for Morgan to see.

“Alone,” Morgan scoffed derisively, opening a silver flask of brandy and raising it to his lips. “Well, I’ll be off to my solitary cabin and misery.” He took a second swig from the flask and ceremoniously replaced the cap. A tight-lipped smile rested uncomfortably on his crestfallen face. “And you with a preference for redheads,” he remarked dryly.

“Aye. But with every moment I begin to like raven-haired beauties.” Roman’s chin jutted out stubbornly as he flashed a triumphant grin.

Morgan smiled. “I’ll leave you to your pleasure, Roman,” he chortled, and there was a taunting gleam in his eyes. “We’ll talk at dinner. If you have the strength.”

The fading ring of the Tollers’ voices, though certainly strong enough to break a normal sleep, were hollow echoes to Silvia, lost in the musing deepness of her dreams. The unwelcome sounds intruded as murky shadows in her slumbering thoughts. Stretched out beneath the verdant leafy awning of a tree, she watched milky white clouds float like fleecy ewes crossing an indigo field, while songbirds chirped a melodious note that lulled her even deeper in sleep.

Roman closed the door quietly behind Morgan and secured it with the bolt.

Silvia stirred faintly at the rasp of the lock catching. A dark intruder entered her dreams, a menacing shadow floating in a peaceful sky. She sighed aloud and curled up tighter.

Pausing when she turned her face toward him, Roman stood quietly, hardly daring to breathe, but her eyes remained shut. The innocence in her face surprised him and for a moment a pang of conscience bit at him. He whispered a curse. What reason did he have for remorse? Wilhelm Schlange solidly calculated every move he made. If the man had placed this woman at his disposal, why should he question that she did not look the part?

His eyes dwelt on the smoothness of her skin, fair and creamy white and with the soft luster of fine satin. Her rosy lips were parted a bit, as if set for a kiss, and the pouty fullness showed to a tempting advantage.

He exhaled slowly, letting the air whistle soundlessly through his teeth. She was beautiful. Her black lashes curled softly and were longer than any he had ever seen.

“A flower at sea,” he whispered, and lowered his frame to the chair near the bed. With growing urgency he removed his boots and stockings and rose to drape his coat and cloak over the back of the chair.

He caught his breath, feeling the thrill of arousal as he anticipated the touch of her tantalizing curves. Recklessly stripping away his silk shirt, he stood beside the bed wearing only his breeches. Feeling a surge of warmth in his flesh as passion flared within him, Roman carefully raised the blanket and silently eased into bed.

She wore only a simple chemise adorned on the bodice by tiny lavender bows. He groaned, and his fingers gently touched the streaming ribbons pressed like violets in the snow against the paleness of her breasts. Her body was warm to his touch and the delicate smoothness of her skin brought a lusting flame to his eyes.

Deep in sleep, Silvia responded with a sigh to the gentle stroking. While lost in her dreams, butterflies fluttered delicate wings about her face and neck. The caress of his lips at her throat and the nimble movements of his fingers in her hair were soft kisses of sunshine. She turned to him, her parted lips trembling beneath the rustle of his warm breath.

As she became aware of a shadowy image through closed eyes, her heavy lids reluctantly flickered open to reveal a face pressed close to her own. Just for a moment, as another lilting sigh sounded in her throat, did she know a trace of alarm. But sleep held her prisoner and his eyes were the blue of the sky in her dreams.

“Wake up, little flower,” he murmured, rolling closer so that the hardness of his chest pressed sensuously against the softness of her breast.

His voice was soothing, rich and deep and sweet to her ears. The face was dreamlike, fetchingly handsome, the nose straight and nostrils flared in passion, the cheekbones high, and the chin squared and strong. His flaxen hair was long and tied at the back of his neck with black cord. He had a provocative twist to his mouth and perhaps it was the small vestige of arrogance she detected there which disturbed her.

A subtle movement wrapped his arm about her shoulders and lifted her to him. With a gentleness that transcended his passion, he softly kissed her eyelids and watched them quiver fully open. Rimmed with the lushness of dark lashes, her eyes were golden like honey before they darkened with a pall of fear.

Her scream rent the stillness of the cabin. Perplexed, Roman cursed and silenced her by clamping his hand across her mouth. He frowned and shook his head as if to assure her his intentions were pleasurable and not painful. Possibly he should have awakened the girl before getting in bed. He had not counted on her shocked reaction.

“Quiet now?” he asked softly.

She shook her head in agreement beneath the pressure of his hands. Her pupils widened and her eyes became almost catlike, glowing yellow and angry.

Thinking her calmed, Roman withdrew his hand, but before he could affect one of the devastating smiles he used so well, she screamed again. He moved his hand as swiftly as a striking snake to cover her mouth, but this time she caught the side of it in her teeth. With all her might, she bit down.

“Bloody hell, woman,” he shouted, rolling roughly across her and jerking his hand away to examine it for signs of broken skin.

“Get off!” Silvia groaned as his weight crushed the breath from her lungs. She squirmed beneath him but his body held her tight. Frantically she pummeled his face and chest with the strongest punches she could inflict. All the same, her rampaging blows were useless in dislodging him. With a gasp, she swung her arm beside the bed and caught the top of her boot, flinging it furiously at his head. The wooden heel struck him in the temple, stunning him enough for her to shove him aside and jump from the bed.

“Swine!” she screamed, racing the few feet to the door. She would have fled the cabin in her chemise, but in such a panicky state, the workings of the bolt proved too much for her.

Dazed, Roman struggled to his feet, rubbing the swell of a knot on his brow.

“Keep your hands away!” she shouted, snatching up her other boot and holding it menacingly in front of her.

“Easy now.” Roman raised a hand defensively in front of him. “You’ve damn near taken my head off already,” he stammered incredulously.

The woman was a demon and he had suffered enough of her fury. A drop of blood trickled from the wound above his eye and ran a crooked path to his cheek. But as he wiped at it with his hand a quick smile ruffled his mouth and a look of consummate disbelief paled his blue eyes.

“Get out of my cabin,” she ordered, her eyes igniting in a wildfire of golden lights. Cautiously backing around the room to allow him passage through the door, she steadied her trembling legs against the wall. “Out,” she sobbed.

Roman backed toward the door, wanting no part of the other boot.

“You’re no flower, but a spiny thistle.” His tone cracked sharply. He had assumed he would be welcome in her bed, so his exasperation was painfully vexing. Roman found himself in the hall barefoot and shirtless and dared not knock for the return of his garments.

His pride gave him no protection from the cold and he faced the option of exposing himself to Morgan’s ridiculing gibes or chancing that Captain Langham’s cabin would be empty.

He stepped two paces away and paused to make a sidelong glance at the door. Irritably he made a small mocking bow toward the portal. As his head dipped in pretentious deferment, the hinges creaked rudely open and his garments flew like rubbish through the air to land in a grudging heap at his feet.

“And a good evening to you,” he called out in his mellow voice. His own ire had succumbed to humor, and with a conciliatory shrug to his broad shoulders, he gathered up his garb and stepped lightly to the captain’s quarters, where he clothed himself. A bottle of wine sat at liberty on the table, and when Langham came below a short time later, Roman had partaken of a good portion of it.

Shivering with a chill of fear, Silvia pushed the chair against the door. As soon as she was calmed and could dress, she would seek Captain Langham’s protection. Surely he would take measures to ensure her safety on the voyage.

Dark Prelude, a prequel to Dark Splendor, is available free at Amazon and other ebook retailers.

15 Things I Learned About Life From Reading Romance Novels

Nearly 75 million Americans read at least one romance novel last year.  General book sales in the U.S. dropped nearly 2 percent (in 2009) but sales of romance novels rose almost 8 percent, equaling 14 percent of all fiction sold and $1.4 billion in revenue. Harlequin Enterprises alone earned $485 million.  In 2010 romance fiction was the number two category in eBook sales.

That’s serious business. Sure the heroines have gotten bolder, more butt-kicking babe than damsel in distress and the heroes haven’t, though sometimes they are dead guys with fangs. The stories, at core, are still about relationships and love and making it all work against the impossible odds of a complicated life.

That said, there has to be something more readers are getting out of  romance novels than just another happy ending.  Some life lessons, perhaps.  Recently I came across a greeting card a friend sent me early in my writing career that helps explain just what those lessons are and why romance is a growing genre in fiction sales.

All I Need To Know About Life I Learned From Reading Steamy Novels

  1. There’s never enough dirty parts.
  2. Good guys finish last.
  3. Really good guys take forever to finish.
  4. Always have the ring appraised before you say yes.
  5. Everyone has an evil twin.
  6. The more expensive the suit, the sleazier the guy.
  7. Sex is trouble.
  8. No sex is more trouble.
  9. The bitch is always more interesting.
  10. Women are catty; men are dogs.
  11. Everyone is jealous of someone.
  12. If creamy white thighs and heaving bosoms don’t raise your temperature, you’re dead.
  13. The biggest thing in a man’s trousers should be his wallet.


I’m adding two more:

     14.  But not the only thing in his trousers.

     15.  Happy endings can lead to a sequel.


Please comment with your additions to the list if you wish.


Romantic Heroes And Their Loves

Writing a romance you get to fall in love with a new guy for a while.  When the book is finished and in the hands of readers, you say goodbye to your hero and move on to the next man in your life.  Breaking up is sad and difficult but in your writer’s heart you know he’ll be back and no matter how many fans and new sweethearts he has, you will always be his first love.

The heroes in my novels have been flaxen-haired, ebony-haired, had blue eyes and brown and shades of each, though I admit a weakness for the black-haired, blue-eyed heart-throb. They are generally tall and muscular, sometimes lean and fit. They have amazing prowess and are generally the sort of men who have to peel women off them.

A little dark and dangerous in spirit, but good deep down and an ever ready champion of those in need. Those are the loves of my life. Bad boys, good hearts.

Roman Toller in Dark Splendor is blonde and bold and forgets he is supposed to be a gentleman way too much.  Ryne Sullivan in Whispers at Midnight looks nothing like my predecessor love, Roman, but is equally negligent of his gentlemanly skills. Dark-haired Tabor Stanton in Delilah’s Flame has good reason to forget how to treat a lady, and he does.

Blame Lilah Damon. She deliberately forgets she is a lady of society. As Delilah she is bawdy and bad and adventurous and bent on revenge and really good at making men pay for their wrongs. Tabor doesn’t like the price and sets another.

Lilah is a redhead. I always thought it would be fun to have red hair. And it is! I’ve tried it twice as heroines in my books. Those girls have pluck!

Amanda Fairfax in Whispers at Midnight matches wits with Ryne and loses her heart just where she wants it to be found. Beauty, fierce determination that neither ghosts nor villains could break. Amanda gets her man and more.

Silvia Bradstreet, my first heroine for romantic readers, has all a damsel in distress must. She is lovely, vulnerable, curious to a fault, drawn to Roman, a man she cannot trust, and trapped on an island where there is no escape. Did I mention she has the wardrobe of a princess?

Slipping into the skin of a heroine is as heady as gazing into the blue, amber, green or gray eyes of a hero. It is love.

Fall in love again, in a past century. Roman, Ryne and Tabor will make the heart beat faster. Silvia, Amanda and Lilah will renew what you love about being a woman, or what you are looking for in one.

Watch out for villains. They are sure to show up in another post.  Like the heroes and heroines from my heart, the bad guys never behave as I expect.  Listen for the knock.


Dark PreludeMore observations about Romance covers with the arrival of the cover for the soon to be released Dark Prelude, a prequel to Dark Splendor.

Sometimes there is no clench, no romantically entwined couple at all on the cover. Sometimes elements from the story perfectly capture the mood, tone and setting of the book or story.  Add just the right title and just the right shades of color and the impact is magic.

I am taken with the cover for Dark Prelude and am reminded by its effect on me just how much covers matter.  Covers likely lead to the first click or the first reach that has a reader looking for more. In a glance there is a sense of what the story is about and a hint of the adventures between the pages.

Dark Prelude is a novella which gives a glimpse into the lives of Silvia Bradstreet and Roman Toller in the weeks before they meet.  If Dark Splendor were a movie they would be the scenes on the cutting room floor later added to the director’s cut version of the film or shown as extras on the DVD release. In the case of Dark Prelude, they are the editor’s cuts because of length constraints.

The early chapters might have taken Dark Splendor in a slightly different direction. In Dark Prelude, Roman and Silvia meet a few hours earlier and certainly with a bang. The Dark Prelude cover perfectly captures significant elements of the story I wanted to convey. The quill and ink seal someone’s fate, the sailing ship is a way to escape, intrigue hangs heavy as the fog.

Thanks again to my publisher at TroveBooks.com and Frauke Spanuth at Croco Designs for so amazingly capturing my abstract ideas for the Dark Prelude cover.