Paris – My Tips For Planning Your Visit to the City of Love

0b9b24fa-78ec-42a7-b4e9-a8485ce34bccParis accurately conjures up images of couples in love, strolling hand in hand along the Seine, sipping café au lait at a bistro on the Champs-Élysées  and devouring gastronomical delights by candlelight after a full day of filling your soul with art, history and the unique bohemian air that permeates the city. White sheets and tangled limbs chase the morning’s frost away only to step out onto chilly balconies, warming liquid in hand to see clusters of Parisians unhurriedly enjoying gossip and smoke breaks in time with the slow tempo of the age-old buildings that surround them.

The only people that rush in Paris, are the sightseers off to one more art gallery, museum or an item on their bucket-list. I imagine that those Parisians who are not yet immune to the throngs of tourists scurrying about the most visited city in the world, must be amused by us. I can’t imagine wanting to see Paris to it’s fullest and not feeling the urgency to add more to the itinerary as you go along. There is so much and all of it is magnificent.

Valentine’s Day naturally makes me think of love and as a recent self-professed travel addict and bucket-lister, my thoughts roam to Paris. Paris, with it’s dramatic and macabre history of rolling heads, power-hungry and petulant rulers, pestilence and drama is hardly the type of city that would logically be considered to be the City of Love and epitome of romance. Yet, it’s the very fact that despite all it has been through, Paris and its people live, laugh and love through it all – as strong and persistently as the beautiful buildings that form its landscape.

My Valentine’s blog is dedicated to the city of Paris, my love, my husband, that took me there and the beautiful children of mine that shared it with us.

Here is my directory of where to stay, eat and the top sites I recommend that you visit. I like to know exactly what I’m getting, how and when so my inner control freak rebukes at the thought of travel agencies. Instead I spend inordinate amounts of time painstakingly researching and cross-referencing reviews on where to go, stay, eat, shop and how to travel.

Note – I do not get paid to refer or advertise any establishment that I’m recommending. My recommendations are my personal opinions based on my travels and are colored by my experiences as a South African expat living temporarily in the Middle East. I’m a mom of tween and teen girls who are as different as chalk and cheese. I travel with them and hubby. I do not prescribe to budget holidays nor the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I like hotels / restaurants / sights with top reviews that offer good value for money. I do not eat McDonald’s on holiday and I won’t stay in fancy hotels where I need to shush the kids every 2 minutes. I do not limit my children simply because they’re children. My kids go to art galleries, museums as well as amusement parks and candy stores. If you’re like me, I may save you some time in planning your trip to Paris…

 

Where to Stay: 

Hotel Ekta (http://www.hotelekta.com/en/) met ALL my requirements and thoroughly deserves their top rated 25th spot on Tripadvisor and 9.2 rating on Booking.com. Despite being a 3 star hotel, it has a 5 star rating and location. I found it the equivalent of quite a few 5 star hotels that we’ve stayed at and at a fraction of their prices. The design of the hotel is contemporary, modern. It is a step away from Avenue des Champs-Élysées, has it’s own breakfast-serving restaurant, a terrace garden and offers suites with terraces. We stayed in the Terrace Suite which had a shared bathroom with amenities, a kitchenette, a separate adults room which led to a furnished terrace and a lounge with ample space for our many suitcases, a safe and a sleeper couch that turned into a bunk bed. Even though the children were with us, waking up in Paris with a view of grand old buildings and the overcast Spring sky is unarguably romantic.

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Rooms range from 115 Euro to 305 Euro per night.If you decide to stay here, you don’t have to have their breakfast as there are many nearby restaurants – including a Starbucks. I highly recommend that you ask the hotel to book a table for you at the famous patisserie, Laduree, for breakfast one morning.

Hint: If a website doesn’t yield the results you’re looking for, call the hotel and negotiate. Have a look at booking websites as well as hotel websites because one of these sites may have a discounted rate.

What to see

A few days ago, my husband pointed out a few places we hadn’t yet been to in Paris despite having visited twice this past two years. I replied that it would take weeks to see all that Paris had to offer and that would be seasonal, so a return is inevitable. I won’t thus be listing every place we’ve visited but am rather going to focus on the ‘hot spots’. If you’re a museum and art lover, I strongly suggest that you buy the Museum Pass. You can purchase it in advance on the official websites (http://booking.parisinfo.com/il4-offer_i147-paris-passlib-paris-pass.aspx – the official tourist website for Paris – or the museum pass website – http://en.parismuseumpass.com/) or during your stay in Paris at a tourist office or through the hotel’s concierge if they offer that. It also allows you access to other attractions and discounts. As well as being cheaper, it allows for fast-tracking at certain attractions. We used it to gain magnificent views of the artists’ quarter, Montmartre and the  Champs-Élysées from the terrace of the Arc de Triomphe.

Tour Eiffel

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The Eiffel Tower (http://www.toureiffel.paris/) is one of those bucket list attractions that you absolutely have to visit. The first time I was at the Eiffel Tower, my younger daughter refused to go up as she was petrified of heights and so we picnicked on the grass at its based and explored the little market across from it, along the Seine. My eldest daughter had been to the top on a school tour and although she described the view as astoundingly beautiful, the many notices coming from the intercom system about being weary of pick pockets put a damper on the experience. Coming from South Africa, where crime is rife, I was not in the mood for that. I found a great compromise that made my visit to the Eiffel Tower more memorable than an elevator ride and a few pics of a view. I booked a table at 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant. It has its own entrance so again, I skipped queues, and its own elevator. We booked an early evening sitting and paid extra to ensure a Trocadero view. It was worth every cent. We sat by a window directly in front of the Trocadero and could see the bridge across the Seine, the boats cruising up and down as well as the market across the road. When the sky darkened, we were treated to a spectacular view of Paris lit with a multitude of golden lights. The dinner itself was gourmet and beautifully presented. Even my younger daughter’s meal was made with special care and ended off with an Eiffel Tower shaped dessert. The only let down was the service. I think our waiter was allergic to children. We did not let him spoil the experience for us though. Very little can in such an atmosphere where every few minutes a bottle cork is popped and restaurant patrons are cheering for another happily engaged couple. It was incredibly romantic.

The chill in the air and late hour after dinner ensured a nearly empty viewing platform and we managed to walk around and take photos to our heart’s content completely undisturbed.

This dinner is admittedly expensive at 87 to 120 euro per adult and 26 euro per child. Lunch is cheaper at approximately 42 euro per adult and 19 Euro per child. I wanted to see Paris by night. It was worth every euro.

Hint: Print or save your confirmation as it appears on the screen after you pay as I did not get mine in email straight away and had to contact the restaurant to forward it to me. The ‘early bird gets the early worm’, so email or Facebook message the restaurant requesting a good table with a view if you’ve booked one as soon as you’ve received your confirmation. There were other tables in the same category that did not have a seat right by the window.

The Louvre

No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to The Louvre (http://www.louvre.fr/). I’ve heard about how massive it is, how much time it takes to take it all in and not knowing where to look for certain pieces. I’d also, on a previous visit, spotted the long queues to get in. With tightened security in light of terrorist attacks, the queues can be even longer. My research offered a solution in the form of a private guided tour of the Louvre. There are many and they vary in price. Again, I wanted a top rated guide at a good price. I found that Paris Muse (http://parismuse.com/) deserved their excellent reviews.

The tour guide met us at the Arc du Carrousel at 10 am. By then the lines of people waiting to enter the Louvre were inordinately long. We sailed past them, behind our guide and entered the building seamlessly. That was the first reason I was glad I booked the tour. The second came when she whipped out a treasure hunt map and a list of questions and began engaging the children. She wove stories that my husband and I were drawn into as well and when the children went off with her to hunt for clues, it gave us time to have a leisurely look at what we wanted to. The third reason for using a private tour guide such as this is that there are bits of information that is not stated on plaques next to exhibitions. This guide offered a treasure trove of interesting facts that we would not have noticed on our own. Lastly, we managed to get prime spots to take pics with highly photographed exhibitions such as the Sphinx and Mona Lisa as our tour guide knew how to move around and through the crowds.

Why did I book a private tour guide and not one of the many group tours available? As a family paying per person, even with child rates, it is often cheaper to book a private guide. Additionally, a private tour guide matches the tour to your pace, stopping longer at exhibitions that you’re interested in and whisking past those that don’t engage you.

Paris Muse’s prices are middle of the range at 320 Euro for the 2 hour family Louvre tour including a prize for the children, entrance fees and the tour guide’s services. (http://parismuse.com/tours/paris-muse-clues-louvre-family-tour/)

However, if you’re on a tight budget then it is perfectly fine to visit the Louvre on your own. All museums are free for children under 18 and all EU citizens under 26. Proof of age may be required in the form of official identification such as a passport copy or ID card.

Notre Dame

I know many who love the building and fondly think of the fabled hunchback. Compared to the older, more beautiful churches in places such as Istanbul, the UK and other parts of Europe, however, it is disappointing. It is beautiful but it is not as beautiful as it is made out to be. However, if the likelihood of you visiting other churches in Europe is slim, then do go have a look. In this case, it will blow you away. dscf1897-1

Hint: Book a tour to see the towers. Paris Muse offers family, private and group tours to Notre Dame. The queue had a waiting time of over an hour and we opted to forgo it. Also, in the square in front of the cathedral there are steps leading down to an archaeological museum. It is tiny but worth the quick 15 to 20 minute visit if you want insight into how Paris has changed over the centuries. They have a few interactive digital games that engage the children as you move through it. 

Moulin Rouge

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The movie! The song! The legend! The many pictures of the iconic windmill! It is a must in Paris. However, I would suggest that you arrange for a babysitter through your hotel. The show is for 6 years and upwards and they even serve kiddies’ meals. The meal will be enjoyed in beautiful surroundings, with excellent singing, choreography and fantastic acts – from stunts to trapeze. The catch… the ladies go topless in the first song and don’t put their tops back on. We did try to look past the nudity because we were in Europe and the Europeans tend to be blasé about this sort of thing. However, my husband did feel a tad uncomfortable with his daughters at the table and my teen did go a lovely shade of red at times.

I honestly recommend it though. The most unbelievable act was when the floor parted and up rose a gigantic aquariam filled with anacondos. A beautiful snake handler swam amongst them without flinching. What made it even more amazing was that our table literally touched the tank. http://www.moulinrouge.fr/?lang=en

Hint: We didn’t buy the most expensive tickets. We bought mid-range tickets a few months in advance and I emailed the establishment to ask for a good table. They obliged. 

Seine River – Cruise or Walk?

If you really must cruise along the river or you have a free ticket in one of your passes, then do hop aboard. Personally, I found it to be like a bus tour on water. A lot of inaudible talking over the speaker system and sitting around staring at scenery without actually getting a proper look at the sights.

Otherwise, walking is a much better way to see the Seine. Paris is made for walking and there are ample benches and good walkways all along the river, offering close up views of beautiful buildings, fascinating houseboats and the Parisians’ daily lives. On the street level, there are many bridges to cross, including the famous Bridge of Lovers with its locks as testament to lasting love, as well as book stalls, museums and eateries.

It is a much more educational way to see the Seine for the children and an infinitely more romantic route for lovers.

Hint: the Seine is easily reached from tourist hot spots such as the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. We had no difficulty obtaining directions. Wear comfortable walking shoes as the cobble stones don’t take kindly to heels. 

Arc de Triomphe

Arc De Triomphe (Arch of Triumph) is found along the Champs-Élysées. This spectacular piece of architecture commemorates the French soldiers who fought during the Napoleonic wars. An eternal flame burns at the base of the arch. The detail and architecture of this monument alone is worth the visit. Inside the building, spiral wrought iron stairs, straight out of a gothic novel, wind up towards a historic level where bathrooms, tourist shops and the history of the arch may be found. Thereafter, comes the highlight of the attraction – the unbelievably spectacular views of Paris including the famous Bohemian suburb of Montmartre where Moulin Rouge is situated and the Eiffel Tower. The view of the Champs-Élysées itself is grand.  http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com/

Disneyland Paris

Magic everywhere! A much smaller Disneyland than the one in the US, it does have a number of rides and being in France, there is an odd mix of American Disney with a hint of France. It makes for a fascinating experience. I love Disney so I don’t mind the queues, waiting for parades and the themed food. I thrive on it as do my children. Hubby, not so much. I won’t go into detail about Disneyland Paris here as I think it deserves a blog post of its own. I will recommend the following though:

  • While a day trip from Paris is easily accomplished via train directly from Paris, I recommend that you stay at a Disneyland Paris during peak times as it gets packed. It is not unheard of to wait in queues for 2 hours. My daughter did  a day trip from Paris with her school and managed to do 3 rides for the entire day while my younger daughter and I who were staying at a Disney hotel managed to do double that during the extra magic hours exclusive to hotel guests before it opened to the public – and on the same day!
  • There are a number of excellent nearby hotels – from 5 star to unrated. However, if you do the math and calculate the cost of the park entry plus the accommodation, it makes more economical sense to stay in a cheaper Disneyland Paris hotel if on a budget. I’ve stayed in two hotels there – the first was with my daughter at the Wild West themed, Hotel Cheyenne. It was a 2 star hotel but breakfast was adequate, it was clean and one fast past per day and extra magic hours were included. The second time we stayed at the top, 5 star Disneyland Hotel at a 50% discounted rate when they had a special on accommodation. While I don’t think this hotel is as posh as it is made out to be and the breakfast is not that much better, the hotel is situated at the very gates of the park and there are extra fast passes included in the stay. Many recommend the mid-range, 3  star Sequoia. I may try that out next time.
  • Buy the meal plans – they work out much cheaper. I recommend the half-board plus plan. Also book your tables way in advance. Excellent restaurants are Bistro Chez Remy, Walt’s, Auderge de Cendrillon and Blue Lagoon. 
  • Don’t book the tours. I did a Paris bus tour. It was horrible. If you want to claim to have seen a city from the seat of a bus, then this is a good option for you.
  • 617155be-bbe9-4359-b90f-4a53293dd616If you need a break from Disneyland, consult the ladies at the tourist office outside the train station and they’ll advise on villages you can take a train or bus to. We opted to go to nearby Lagne, which had a tiny medieval village (2 small streets), good restaurants, a bakery with the best meringues I’ve ever had and award-winning croissants as well a good beauty salon. There were many locals that did not speak a word of English but that added to the fun. 

http://www.disneylandparis.com/en

Where to Eat

This all depends on your budget. You can dine in Michelin star splendor for a steep price, see where your feet find you and stop off at a bistro or pop into the ample global dining franchises that have even infiltrated France. There are very few places to go wrong as far as food is concerned, particularly if you stick to French food.

I recommend…

Macaroons and breakfast from Laduree on the Champs-Élysées – a Parisian institution (the best macaroons I’ve ever had). If you don’t want to eat here, then do pop in to gawk at the impressive array of pastries and sweets. I bought one of the most beautiful dessert cookbooks I’ve ever beheld here. Even if you don’t like macaroons – just buy one, preferably vanilla and try not to moan when it hits your tongue.

Crepes – most places sell crepes although my daughter swears that the artists’ quarter has the best creperies

Roasted chestnuts from a traditional roastery – I found some in the market next to Eiffel Tower when I was there last.

French hot chocolate – thick, liquid heaven and served with ample amounts of cream.

If you’re craving fast food – the entrance to a small mall (and paid fancy toilets with a toilet menu and posh colored loo paper – I kid you not) is under the bridge at the road next to the Louvre’s pyramid structures. The mall is called Carrousel du Louvre. 

Hint: The best food I’ve eaten in France is in a village that’s a 30 minute public bus trip away from Disneyland. It was also the cheapest as Paris and Disneyland inevitably charge ‘tourist prices’. So, if you’re a foodie, consider renting a car / taking a bus or train to explore the nearby villages. Regarding Laduree – if you want to avoid the busy period, go for the first breakfast sitting. Afterwards, it becomes considerably busier until late afternoon. 

Getting there and getting around:

Getting around town: 

While taxis are plentiful and you can easily hail one or arrange one through the hotel you’re staying at, I recommend that you buy a Paris Visite travel card and use that for public transport. Paris metro is one of the most user and tourist friendly metros I’ve used and if you don’t know which line to use, you can always ask your hotel’s staff beforehand.

For more information:

 http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_21879/visiting-paris/

http://booking.parisinfo.com/il4-offers_p7-transport.aspx

I absolutely do not recommend that you use the tuk-tuk style vehicles. They’re an absolute rip off. We had a nasty incident of triple checking prices and then being ripped off anyway and dropped off in the wrong place. When we informed the hotel, they weren’t surprised and urged us not to use them.

Hint: A European’s view of distance is different to a South African’s as they walk and take public transport whereas we drive. So, when in Europe, when someone tells me a place is a short 30 minute walk away, I take public transport if I’m in a hurry or the kids are tired because it is most likely 45 minutes to an hour away. If they tell me it’s 10 or 20 minutes then I’ve found that it is generally okay to make the kids walk quickly if rushed. 

Transfers: 

After combing the Tripadvisor forums and online blogs, I discovered that Prestige Transfer (http://prestige-transfer.com/) was the most recommended transfer company. Sure, you can get a taxi from the airport or take the metro. If travelling with kids though, I recommend using this transfer – they’re affordable, reliable and provide excellent service. I do not recommend travelling with the metro. It was not fun at all to lug huge suitcases around with us up and down stairs, cobbled streets, hills and past throngs of people. We did it once and not again. If you’re transferring from Charles De Gualle airport or Paris to Disneyland Paris, then this transfer company is also a good option. If the French countryside bores your children, then the in-car tv playing Disney movies will keep them occupied.

Flights:

From Europe or the UK, it’s fairly easy to get to Paris via train but as I only know of people that have done this and haven’t done so myself, I won’t elaborate on this here. Flight options depends on where you’re coming from. I recommend that you do a search on https://www.skyscanner.net/ or Google to see which airline flies direct or with as few flights as possible to Paris. This is a sanity saver when travelling with kids. I then book my flights directly through the airline’s website as I’ve found that to be cheaper every time – not to mention more secure. From Kuwait, I fly to Europe with Turkish Airlines and preferably transit in Sabiha Gocken as it is the quieter airport. I’ve found this to be not only a cheaper option but also excellent value for money. Why pay three times for something very similar with a European airline or Emirates Airlines?

Paris Is Always A Good Idea… 

I did not always love Paris. In fact, the first time I visited it, I hated it. I fell in love with Paris on my second visit when accompanied by all the loves of my life – my husband and both of my children. There is something about the city, when visiting with those who hold your heart, that taints the entire city in the light red hue of romance and if it is magic, then consider me be-spelled by Paris.

This framed Audrey Hepburn quote my husband photographed in Hotel Ekta says it all…

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I Would Not Be Married To The Love of My Life If Not For Madiba! #RIPNelsonMandela

If it wasn’t for Nelson Mandela, I would not have written a book, I would not be married to my gorgeous husband and I would not have the privilege to call two beautiful girls my daughters. No, this isn’t me being melodramatic. I’ll tell you why.

Here’s what my life was like during Apartheid…

I was born Colored – a term given to those born of a mixed cultural and racial heritage in South Africa. I lived in a poor Colored community where curb appeal was non-existent and safety was something parents gave their kids by being overprotective. Even today, I cannot ride a bicycle because it was not safe to do that in the area I spent my childhood. I felt the impact of Apartheid within my own family unit too. My eldest brother and my mother both have fair skin and look Caucasian. I recall times when my father, my brother and I  (who were darker-skinned) were told that we could not accompany my mother and eldest brother into a cinema or a particular beach because ‘we did not look white’. I remember a poor school, poorer friends and riots on my doorstep with armed tanks stationed throughout the suburb. I remember my father and brothers making petrol bombs in our backyard to be ready to protect us against the rioting crowds trying to steal our livelihood, break into our home and harm us. Back then I was frightened. Today I know that those crowds were spurred on by poverty and the distress created by extreme oppression.

Then came change…

I remember watching the television with my family crowding the living room, hope permeating the air as Nelson Mandela took his first steps of freedom. And, I recall the many debates that commenced thereafter, including the infamous one between Mandela and De Klerk. I remember crossing the road to a friend’s house one day and waving excitedly as Mandela passed through the street, the sleek, black car a contrast to the bleak street. I remember the day he took his vows to become president.

Mandela and flag

After that, my life changed irrevocably. Because of Nelson Mandela and Freedom Fighters like him (including my own uncles), these moments in my life have occurred:

– My parents were able to buy a beautiful home in an area previously dedicated to ‘whites only’. I went from stone-littered curbs and arid playgrounds with broken playground equipment to living in an area with beautiful parks.

– I had the opportunity to finish Senior High at a school that non-whites could not go to during Apartheid. I then began receiving a good education. In South Africa the color of your skin dictated the standard of education you received. If you were white you received the best, Indians and Coloreds received a poor education and black South Africans received a sorry excuse for an education. It was at this school that I now had the challenge and opportunity of ‘catching up’ to my peers and where I had the wonderful opportunity to be introduced to English as it should be read and learnt.

– A new world awaited me. I could explore malls, beaches, cinemas, theaters and many other places because Apartheid was abolished. Admittedly, some of them were disappointing. When I was very young, my friends and I used to fantasize about ‘King’s Beach’ and what it was like for the ‘white people’ who went there. When my bare toes finally buried themselves in the white sands of that beach, I found that there were no butlers on call. Ha ha. 🙂

– Two years after Apartheid was abolished, I had the opportunity to attend a university that was previously meant for ‘whites only’ and went on to enter the Masters in Psychology program. Here I also majored in English and was introduced to more wonderful literary worlds. More importantly, a whole new world of diverse thought opened up to me. This was my true foundation years.

– My hope for romance turned to belief when I met my very own ‘Prince Charming’, the man I was to marry at university. He was white and the reality is that if it wasn’t for people like Nelson Mandela, our relationship and even our marriage would not have been legally possible in South Africa. Bi-racial marriages and relationships were seen as ungodly by the Apartheid regime and punishable by imprisonment. Thank goodness we met and fell in love during the early democratic years of South Africa. Oh, it was tough, though. There were many people – including our friends and family – who turned against us and put up many obstacles in place in order to prevent us from being together. But, in time, and through further efforts to re-conciliate our nation as a result of clever social re-engineering by the SA leadership, people gradually came to see things such as our relationship as less of a novelty or abomination and more as an actuality. Being shunned turned into being embraced.

– If I had not been able to marry my husband, we would not have had the two beautiful daughters we’ve been blessed with. That is what I am most grateful for. I’m sure that I do not need to elaborate on this.

Since then, there have been many other opportunities afforded to me through the efforts of great Freedom Fighters. Many of these are things that you (and now I) take for granted – such as standing in a queue with everyone else, going to any public place you wish to, having the same rights as everyone around you and having those around you be of every color in the rainbow. Gotta love the ‘Rainbow Nation’. All of these moments led up to me sitting in my dining room to write my first novel. Does it still sound like a line? Yes? Well think of it this way… if sanctions against South Africa still existed, I perhaps would not have had internet, I would not have read a Nora Roberts or HP Mallory book and have been inspired, I would not have had the level of education I’ve had, I would not have had the corporate job I had that led me to meeting the woman who convinced me to buy a kindle, I would not have known of indie publishing, I would not…. *you get the picture*

Do you see it now? If not for Madiba, I would not be the woman, wife, mom and writer I am today.

And even in death, he keeps giving and setting an example… Today I was reminded of how forgiving he is when the news channels rehashed the fact that he became friends with his jailers upon his release. I just had an interaction on Facebook where a person commented that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist that killed innocent people and that racism is wrong except when directed at Muslims. She even went as far as to call me a murderer along with Madiba! Now, being a South African who understands the value of freedom (because we fought recently for every bit of it), my heart rate immediately increased and I became incensed. I then deleted the retort I was about to post and gave, what I hope is, a very mature response. I did not think that Nelson Mandela would have commented in an aggressive manner. As he was so forgiving, so could I, on a much, much smaller scale, be forgiving of ignorance too. I’m darned if I don’t vow, as of today, to ensure that I live peaceably, with empathy and dignity. Furthermore, my husband and I discussed how the little things that bug us about our new country of residence are inconsequential and how, with the courage that we learnt as South Africans, we will make the best of this and we will ensure that the journey Madiba mapped for us, is taken boldly and humanely.

Viva Madiba! Rest In Peace Tata!

A Free Book to Celebrate My 13th Wedding Anniversary!

At this time, 13 years ago, I’d been married for an hour. Fast-forward to today and I still find myself starting to watch the clock in the afternoon for when my husband will be home, I still can’t fall asleep without his arms wrapped around me and I still have the best fun with him. Oh, I’ve found true love… the kind that dances with your heart, strengthens your spirit and lightens any burden you may come across. I was and am irrevocably in love with my husband.

But, it wasn’t all sunshine and honeydew… oh, we had quite a few obstacles from external sources that we had to overcome. But, that’s my own love story and perhaps I’ll share it in future, perhaps not.

What I will share with you today is the contemporary romance novel, Home for Love. It was an Amazon US and UK paid and free top 100 bestseller for contemporary romance. I’m making it free for today and tomorrow because I can’t wave a wand of red roses and color the world with romance today… a free book is my alternative. I’m also giving away a $5 Amazon Gift Card for those who share the link and post it in comments on my Facebook Page, Aneesa Price – Sugary, Spicy Reads (https://www.facebook.com/AneesaPriceSugarandSpice). Go and have a look, please share and enter the share contest. I’ll randomly chose a winner on the 22nd November. 

Home for Love

Home for Love

Home for Love Amazon links: 

http://www.amazon.com/Home-Love-Adult-Contemporary-Romance-ebook/dp/B00BPWNA5E

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Home-Love-Adult-Contemporary-Romance-ebook/dp/B00BPWNA5E

Home for Love blurb: 

Seven years ago sexy Bree fled Devil’s Peak, Alaska, disillusioned with her high school romance and with a baby in her belly. Now, she’s back and seeing devilishly handsome Todd again challenges her carefully constructed plans for amicable co-parenting.
Todd’s delight at Bree’s return swiftly turns to disgust when he discovers her secret and he vows to keep her at arm’s length. Upon discovering the context behind her secreting their child, he decides to give their daughter the love and stable family home he never knew. Despite her attraction to Todd, Bree has no interest in rekindling their relationship and is focused on settling into the town.
But the town and its match-making busy-bodies are not willing to allow the lovers to remain apart and test their resolve in a series of planned misadventures.
Bree is home for good but will she be home for love?

 

I’m off now to go and spend time with hubby. The fates have blessed us with an unexpected public vacation day here in Kuwait. So, he and the kids are at home. The romantic in me is taking that as a sign to get off my laptop and go snuggle while the desert rain falls softly again the window and he and I feel safe and comfy, snuggled up in a mood possible only in gloomy weather. Ha.

Yours in Romance and Reading,

Aneesa xxx

$20 Amazon GC & Ebook Giveaway! Supernatural Seduction Blog Tour.

The second Coffin Girls book, Supernatural Seduction is getting some blogger love with Book Monster Promotions. To thank readers for popping by, there’s a $20 Amazon GC and ebooks up for grabs.

Supernatural Seduction - CG2 - Final Cover

Supernatural Seduction (Book 2 of the Coffin Girls Series)

This is an adult paranormal romance and contains scenes of explicit sex, violence and strong language.

Witch-vampire, Sophie, has the power to feel and influence others’ emotions. With the establishment of the Coffin Girls as warriors for the Goddess that kick supernatural ass, the effects of her empath abilities threaten to harm her. Sylvain, the mischievous and seductive fae prince and Coffin Girls ally, offers her the assistance of the fae to hone her powers. Sophie is drawn to Sylvain, which unnerves her as her hope for love has only ever led to devastation. The two of them must face the demons of their past, unknown enemies and new evil to find true happiness at last.

“Once again Aneesa Price succeeds in transporting us to this magical world full of romance, action, & excitement! I am a true Aneesa Price addict…constantly needing more, more, more!” ~ Jeni’s Bookshelf & Reviews

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Supernatural-Seduction-Coffin-Series-ebook/dp/B00E1LF496

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Supernatural-Seduction-Coffin-Series-ebook/dp/B00E1LF496

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/supernatural-seduction-aneesa-price/1116227626

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/338802

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18218817-supernatural-seduction

Supernatural Seduction Tour Sidebar Banner

On the Blog Tour – Thus far, aside from spotlights, there’s a character interview I had a lot of fun creating and a few interviews where I’m my candid self. Go check it out and leave a comment to let me know what you think. 🙂

Here are the blog tour links: 

10/28 Book Monster Reviews (Spotlight)
10/29 Romance Junkies (Interview)
10/30 Literal Hotties Naughty Book Reviews (Spotlight)
10/30 Victoria’s Gossip (Guest Post)
11/1 Kristina’s Books & More (Interview)
11/3 Mythical Books (Guest Post)
11/4 Just Paranormal Romance (Guest Post – Character Interview)
11/4 Penny For Them… (Spotlight/Review)
11/4 Wicked Readings by Tawania (Spotlight/Review)
11/5 Miscellaneous Thoughts of a Bookaholic (Review)
11/5 Vampires, Werewolves & Fairies Oh My! (Guest Post)
11/7 Eclipse Reviews (Series Spotlight)
11/7 Inner Goddess (Guest Post)
11/7 Salacious Reads (Series Spotlight)
11/8 Coffee Talk (Interview)
11/8 Offbeat Vegabound (Spotlight/Review)
11/9 A TiffyFit’s Reading Corner (Series Spotlight)
11/9 Mad Hatter Reads (Interview)
11/10 Dalene’s Book Reviews ( Spotlight/Review)
11/10 Nicky Peacock Author (Interview)

Good luck! 

Yours in Romance and Reading, 

Aneesa xxx

Massive Multi-Author Giveaway! Thank You Readers!

***Thanksgiving for Readers Giveaway***

Sugary, Spicy Reads and Jeni’s Bookshelf are hosting a multi-author giveaway. With the help of some friends, we’ve spent the past week collecting donations. The giveaway needed to be massive because there is simply no better way to say thank you to our wonderfully supportive readers than with a huge, smacking, swoon-worthy giveaway. Yes – we want to give you more books because we know it’s what you love!

We have OVER 80 EBOOKS (across a variety of genres), SIGNED PAPERBACKS & SWAG!

Open to readers world-wide.

thanksgiving for readers 2

It starts today! So, get in on the action and go to the rafflecopter link below to stand a chance to win 1 of 10 prize packs.

Thank you to the many authors who have contributed to this giveaway. Please see the image in the blog for a list of their names (and you’ll also see why you HAVE to enter! 🙂 )

From the authors to all who have read books we’ve written. Our heartfelt thanks to you – with each word you read, you feed our souls and fuel our need to write. 

The Link to the Giveaway on Rafflecopter is below as WordPress does not allow for the rafflecopter widget due to javascript restrictions.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/82352b11/

Thanksgiving for Readers giveaway

Prize Pack #1GRAND PRIZE *Open Internationally* Autographed Paperback (winner’s choice) by Aneesa Price, Swag by Jeni’s Bookshelf, Ecopies of: Something Great by M. Clarke, The Unraveling of Avery Snow by Christy Sloat, Finding Kia by Airicka Phoenix, Winner’s choice of ebook by Ann Denton, Guardian by Gillian Joy, Harvest Moon by K.B. Miller, OUAZA 2 by Jennifer Malone Wright, Today Only by D. Love, No Brainer by AJ Lape, & Winner’s Choice by Sable Hunter. (PAPERBACK & 10 EBOOKS)

Prize Pack #2 ~ Paperback of The Descendant by Kelley Grealis *US ONLY* , ecopies of: Winner’s Choice by Aneesa Price, Ruby Blue by Julie Cassar, From Gods by Mary Ting, Ebook by Jaz Primo, Reader’s Choice by Rhonda Plumhoff, Love Remains by Zrinka Jelic, The Unraveling of Avery Snow by Christy Sloat, & Forged by Greed by Angela Orlowski-Peart. (PAPERBACK & 8 EBOOKS)

 Prize Pack #3 ~ ecopies of: Big Bad Wolf Series (4 e-book set) by Heather Killough-Walden, of Finding Promise by Aneesa Price, The many lives of Avery Snow by Christy Sloat, Grade A Stupid and No Brainer by AJ Lape, Love, Carry My Bags by C.R. Everett, The Struggle of Me from Wanda Hartzenberg, & How to Date a Werewolf by Rose Pressey. (10 EBOOKS)

 Prize Pack #4 ~ ecopies of: Elegantly Undead (Coffin Girls #1) by Aneesa Price, Games of Fire by Airicka Phoenix, Ebook by Stacey Rourke, An Ill Wind Cometh by Brian Bigelow, Peer Inside My Soul by De Ann Townes, Therian by Roxanne Kade, Vampire Cop by Sheri Kurtz, &
With Proud Humility by Jess Mountfield. (8 EBOOKS)

Prize Pack #5 ~ ecopies of: Supernatural Seduction (Coffin Girls #2) by Aneesa Price, Winner’s choice of ebook by Ann Denton, Blind Seduction by T. Hammond, Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer (Nightmares Trilogy) by Demelza Carlton, A King Among Prince by De Ann Townes, The Super Spies and The Cat Lady Killer by Lisa Orchard, & Past Unleashed by Tiffeny Moore, & Sherdan’s Prophecy by Jess Mountfield. (8 EBOOKS)

Prize Pack #6 ~ ecopies of: Ghosts & Lovers by Aneesa Price, Compulsion by K.B. Miller, Oceans Gift by Demelza Carlton, Predator’s Serenade by Rosanna Leo, The Black Eagle Inn (The Three Nations Trilogy) by Christoph Fischer, Therian by Roxanne Kade, Me and My Ghoulfriends  by Rose Pressey, & Forged by Magic by Angela Orlowski-Peart. (8 EBOOKS)

Prize Pack #7 ~ ecopies of: Home For Love by Aneesa Price, Forever by Gillian Joy, Wicked Souls by Sabrina Samples, The Breach Between (Spiral Dance, #2)  by Duncan McGonall, Grade A Stupid by AJ Lape, Readers Choice from Clean Teen Publishing, & Forged by Legacy by Angela Orlowski-Peart. (8 EBOOKS)

  Prize Pack #8 ~ ecopies of: Finding Promise by Aneesa Price, Savior by Jennifer Malone Wright, Pulse by HJ Daly, Blind Seduction by T. Hammond, The Elite by Coey Cain, Life in the Funny Lane by Paul Dunne, Readers Choice from Clean Teen Publishing,  & Hope’s Decree by Angela McPherson (Untold Press). (8 EBOOKS)

  Prize Pack #9 ~ ecopies of Elegantly Undead (Coffin Girls #1) by Aneesa Price, Betraying Innocence by Airicka Phoenix, Awaken (Sword of Isis) by HJ Daly, Ebook by Jaz Primo, Ebook by JD Nelson,  Readers Choice from Clean Teen Publishing, Broken Aro by Jen Wylie (Untold Press), & Displaced (The Achlivan Cycle) by J.F. Jenkings. (8 EBOOKS)
Prize Pack #10 ~ ecopies of Supernatural Seduction (Coffin Girls #2) by Aneesa Price, Halo City (novella) by Mary Ting, Winner’s Choice of ebook by Rhonda Plumhoff, Twisted by Uvi Poznansky, Ebook by Morgan Kearnes, The Struggle of Me from Wanda Hartzenberg, Happily Ever Afterlife (Untold Press anthology) from Untold Press, & For Such a Time as This by Jess Mountfield. (8 EBOOKS)
The giveaway ends on the 25th November! So, you have many chances to tweet and earn more entries.

Good Luck!

Yours in Romance and Reading, Aneesa Price xxx

My Muse was Steamy, Muddy and Wet

Re-blogged from Victoria’s Gossip (http://victoriasgossip.com/blog/?p=2678)

Head on over to Victoria’s Gossip to stand a chance to win a $20 Amazon GC and ebooks! 

http://victoriasgossip.com/blog/?p=2678

My Muse was Steamy, Muddy and Wet by Aneesa Price

In June this year, I found myself stuck. I could not move forward with my current novel. I tried everything, from going for walks on the beach, to exercise and taking time out to read. Nothing worked. I knew I had a story to tell. In fact, I could feel its need to surface but something was blocking it from even sticking a finger out of the black hole life’s events had buried it in.

Dramatic much? Well, sure. I know I was being hugely melodramatic. I have a good excuse, though. My husband had left a month earlier for Kuwait and the kids and I were anxiously waiting for our visas so we could join him. Our family was relocating to the Middle East and had packed up, sold up, rented out and a myriad of other things. These tasks are stressful on their own, add them all together and you get a guarantee for brain-whipping migraines. The funny thing about stressing is that the more you stress, the more you stress about stressing, so the problem just compounds. I eventually gave up and focused on the kids as they were going through the change too and had the disadvantage of not fully understanding the reasons for it.

One day I took them to a day spa. While they giggled in the lemongrass-scented bubbles of the hydro-bath, I went off to enjoy a steamy moment in the rasul. A rasul is a Moroccan steam room on an über-luxurious scale. This rasul was lined in white marble and black stone with glints of sparkle in it. In the middle of the square room was a plunge pool to cool off in if the steam became unbearably hot and to the side, on the built-in seating area, rested a wooden bowl of Dead Sea mud. The treatment consists of applying the mud to your body, steaming and then finishing off the session with warm rain cleansing your skin as it falls from the star-studded ceiling. (And yes, the ceiling really does look like the night’s sky in a rasul.) It is an act of blissful self-indulgence.

After a few moments of mentally going through lists of things to do and emotional frustrations, I found my mind wandering. At that moment I began to relax and a new scene began forming in my mind. Thank goodness! And, the scene that kick-started the return to and completion of Supernatural Seduction was born.

rasul nice pic

An excerpt from Supernatural Seduction – Sophie and Sylvain have an interesting encounter in the rasul:

The therapist steered her away from the hot tub though towards a room signed “Rasul.” Following instructions, she hung her robe, stepped out of the slippers, and entered the room through a frosted glass door. The therapist had since left, and Sophie was alone in what must be the most decadent steam room, she’d ever seen.

Steam clung to the atmosphere of the room, making it comfortably hot. Music streamed in through hidden speakers. In the middle of the room was a small, square plunge pool, decorated in mosaic tiles and above them. The ceiling mimicked the night’s sky where thousands of tiny lights twinkled in a multitude of colors.

“What do you think?” Sylvain asked from behind her. He’d stepped into the room and was wearing only the baggy shorts that surfers wore. Her gaze raked over his chest noting the long, lean torso, and rippling muscles as he moved towards her. Her eyes moved up towards his broad shoulders and strong neck. The enticing vein throbbing with his blood made her fangs hurt and they dropped. Then she made another mistake and looked at his face. The man was too good looking for his own good. For a moment, she wondered why on earth she was there with him, half-naked, and across the Atlantic.

“What is this?” she inquired.

“A rasul,” he replied. “Although not Moroccan, this is the nicest one I’ve been too, and whenever I visit this hollow, I try to find time to come here. It is relaxing, although I don’t think I’ll be doing much relaxing after seeing you like this.”

Sophie ignored the scorching touch of his eyes as they swept over her body and thanked the Goddess that she’d had the forethought to shave and have a pedicure done recently. “Well it certainly is an original way to end a date.” Sophie tried to detract from the predatory gleam in his eyes as he took her hand and led them to the built-in marble seats.

“Who said anything about ending?” Sylvain stated before he dropped his head and took her lips with his. The room was hot, but her insides were hotter. He tasted of cumin, mint, and the sexy thing that hot dreams were made of. She heard herself moan and he used that opportunity to slip his tongue into her mouth. Tongues battled, pulling, and sucking while their lips locked together as though they wanted to breathe each other in. Dieu! This was heavenly.

Sylvain continued his oral assault while his hands brought her forward until they were kissing, chest to chest, her hardened nipples against his sculpted muscles. Darn, but if the vibrations that rippled through his six-pack didn’t turn her on even more. Involuntarily, she moved in and swung her arms around his neck, lacing her fingers in his hair, and pulled him down to her. She wanted to feel every inch of him, especially the hardness growing against her belly. Sophie moved to straddle him, bringing them even closer. Sylvain hissed as she began to move, grinding her pelvis against his. Then everything went frantic. Pushed by the unexpected force of their passion, she forgot everything, but his hands gliding down her back and cupping her buttocks to bring her further against him. The tranquil music permeating the room was forgotten and replaced by her moans of pleasure. Putting everything into the kiss, she drowned in it.

“I want you more right now than anything I can remember,” Sylvain broke away from their kiss. “But, I did promise you retribution for your earlier teasing and I’ve been looking forward to claiming it.” 

Supernatural Seduction - CG2 - Final Cover

 

“Once again Aneesa Price succeeds in transporting us to this magical world full of romance, action, & excitement! I am a true Aneesa Price addict…constantly needing more, more, more!” ~ Jeni’s Bookshelf & Reviews

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Supernatural-Seduction-Coffin-Series-ebook/dp/B00E1LF496

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Supernatural-Seduction-Coffin-Series-ebook/dp/B00E1LF496

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/supernatural-seduction-aneesa-price/1116227626

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/338802

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18218817-supernatural-seduction

Vive Les Femmes! The True Legend of The Coffin Girls.

The Coffin Girls really did exist! The fille à la cassette  were 18th century, French immigrés sent to the shores of Louisiana from France. These virtuous brides arrived under the strict supervision of the Ursuline nuns with nothing but little wooden boxes containing their belongings or trousseau.  In this blog, I speak of the legend that inspired my paranormal romance series.

The Legend

 museum pic of CG casket

In response to a request  for wives from Louisiana’s French settlers, the French authorities, with the aid of the Ursuline nuns, hand-picked marriageable young women from convents and orphanages. Approximately 500 young women were ‘dispatched’ to Louisiana, including New Orleans. The superstitious locals dubbed them as Casket or Coffin Girls and spread tales of vampire arrivals. It was said that the coffin-shaped boxes of trousseau were found to be empty when opened. The Ursuline sisters stored the caskets on the third floor of the convent and sealed the windows and doors, which led to the belief that this was done to prevent sunlight from killing or maiming the vampires hidden therein.  Other allegations were that the girls themselves were vampires due to their pale complexions and sickly appearance.

lg-embarkment-of-the-casket-girls-1250

Logic could explain much of that – the grueling journey across the Atlantic, that they would not have been able to afford the 18th century version of Louis Vuitton suitcases and that the third floor windows were sealed by standard issue hurricane shutters of the time.  The motives for the rumors were perhaps due to jealousy because these young women were admired for their French origins and virtue, or it could possibly have been due to discontent regarding the administration of the French, colonial rule?

Ursuline_Convent_New_Orleans_1733

My Novel Inspiration

When I began researching vampire legends, I knew I wanted to write a paranormal series centered on strong women. I wanted to create heroines that were the equals of their male counterparts, that were powerful and confident – survivors rather than victims. The casket-carrying girls provided me with inspiration for my own tales and I employed artistic license to ponder what their lives could have been like.

In Supernatural Seduction, Sophie provided an opportunity for my speculations:

“When she had been introduced to her fiancé, Pierre, his kind brown eyes had welcomed her, although his manner had been all business. He was one of many gentlemen of French descent who had visited the Ursuline convent to peruse the available wives. The act was humiliating. Some gentlemen openly leered at them and Sophie felt that the only thing stopping them from ‘testing the goods’ was the presence of the nuns. Others were like Pierre – all business and a few, too few, were shy.” (From Supernatural Seduction, Book 2 of the Coffin Girls Series)

“The nuns had subjected them all to ‘checks’ of their virtue, a demeaning physical examination that Sophie would rather forget. Sophie had therefore braved crossing the Atlantic and squared her shoulders against any angst she might feel. Being a secret empath and with the buckets of trepidation being felt from the other girls all around her, forced ignorance was survival tactic.” (From Supernatural Seduction, Book 2 of the Coffin Girls Series)

In Coffin Girls, book one, Anais, the witch-vampire leader of the Coffin Girls, describes her relationship with her husband:

“I met my husband when I was brought to Papillion Plantation. It had another name and another life within it then. It was the time of slavery, racism and prosperity for the plantation owner – before the wars of North versus South. Disease was rife in New Orleans – not just the fever but the disease of arrogance. My husband suffered from that. And I’ve come to realize that it was the root of his insanity.” At Conall’s lifted brow, she explained, “To me, racism and slavery isn’t normal and neither is rape and torture. He was guilty of all of that.” (From Coffin Girls, Elegantly Undead, Book 1 of the Coffin Girls Series)

Coffin Girls is always priced at 99 cents on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Supernatural Seduction is priced at 99 cents until the end of the release event tomorrow and is also available on all ebook websites and in print. You’re welcome to join the Facebook release event for fun games hosted by Release Day Diva, swag and ebook prizes (18 years and older only).

Event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/583662281684227

Coffin Girls

Coffin Girls New Final Cover

A sexy, female vampire with secrets.

A sinfully-handsome witch prince on a mission.

A formidable Vampire Council with something to hide.

A vampire descendent from the original Coffin Girls, Anais runs a successful event and wedding planning business from her majestic New Orleans plantation house. To the Vampire Council, she is seen as an exemplary hostess and household head of a misfit bunch of vampires.
When Yves, her maker and head of the Vampire Council requests her assistance in hosting the mysterious, yet dashing Prince of Witches, Conall, she has no option but to accept. But Anais is the keeper of secrets; secrets that can kill. Protective of her family’s undiscovered uniqueness, Anais is guarded, yet intrigued by the enigmatic witch prince.
Conall and Anais are drawn together when confronted with fatal encounters and an unimaginable destiny… if she’s willing to accept it and fight.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Coffin-Girls-Elegantly-Undead-ebook/dp/B008N0GWVA

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Coffin-Girls-Elegantly-Undead-ebook/dp/B008N0GWVA

Barnes & Noble:

 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/coffin-girls-elegantly-undead-aneesa-price/1112407366

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/205913

Supernatural Seduction

 Supernatural Seduction - CG2 - Final Cover

Witch-vampire, Sophie, has the power to feel and influence others’ emotions. With the establishment of the Coffin Girls as warriors for the Goddess that kick supernatural ass, the effects of her empath abilities threaten to harm her. Sylvain, the mischievous and seductive fae prince and Coffin Girls ally, offers her the assistance of the fae to hone her powers. Sophie is drawn to Sylvain, which unnerves her as her hope for love has only ever led to devastation. The two of them must face the demons of their past, unknown enemies and new evil to find true happiness at last.

“Once again Aneesa Price succeeds in transporting us to this magical world full of romance, action, & excitement! I am a true Aneesa Price addict…constantly needing more, more, more!” ~ Jeni’s Bookshelf & Reviews

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Supernatural-Seduction-Coffin-Series-ebook/dp/B00E1LF496

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Supernatural-Seduction-Coffin-Series-ebook/dp/B00E1LF496

Barnes & Noble: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.barnesandnoble.com%2Fw%2Fsupernatural-seduction-aneesa-price%2F1116227626%3Fean%3D2940045151405&h=2AQGmssU7

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/338802

 

Related articles:

The Mystery in Our Midst by Jim Serra, http://kplcblogs.typepad.com/kplcgm/2007/09/they-walk-among.html

Casket (Casquette) Girls from Geni.com, http://www.geni.com/projects/Casket-Casquette-Girls/436

Casquette girl from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casquette_girl

Casket Girls of New Orleans: Founding Matriarchs or Vampire Smugglers? by Liz Genest, http://www.gonola.com/2011/08/09/casket-girls-of-new-orleans-founding-matriarchs-or-vampire-smugglers.html

An Interview with NY Times Bestseller Heather Killough-Walden

Every indie writer dreams of being on the NY Times Bestseller list and one indie writer did just that and then landed a publishing contract with one of the publishing houses. What I found intriguing is that despite her success, Heather Killough-Walden chooses to be an indie writer.

In this blog, I share a brief interview with her and my review of her NY Times Bestselling Big Bad Wolf compilation.

The Book Compilation ‘That Made It’ 

BBW

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005HMGY0G

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wolf-Romance-Compilation-Bundle-ebook/dp/B005HMGY0G

Blurb

Enjoy Heather Killough-Walden’s critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling Big Bad Wolf series, now combined in one tome of sexual tension, romantic suspense and dark paranormal bliss….

“I was strictly a vampire girl until I came across this pack of big bad Alphas — Killough-Walden has converted me! Sexy, daring, and action-packed from start to finish. Warning: if you have a faint heart, do not read this.” – Dianna Hardy, paranormal romance author of The Witching Pen.

“Heather Killough-Walden happens to write books so brilliant, I’m a fan! (I was the minute I started reading Hell Bent.) There aren’t many I’d give my crown to, but this lady is totally worthy of my adoration!” – Poppet Author, paranormal romance author of Dusan.

“Hold on tight as these big bad wolves take you on a paranormal romance ride you won’t soon forget!” – Christine M. Butler, paranormal romance author of Moonlit Dreams

1. The Heat, Book One:

Lily St. Claire is a simple Southern girl who has no idea what she is in for when she decides to move back to her home town in Louisiana after a decade of being away. But between the two very different alpha werewolves who instantly begin fighting to claim her as their mate and the serial killer who has her in his sites, she’s about to find out.

2. The Strip, Book Two: (warning, contains graphic violence)

Green-eyed Malcolm Cole is a cursed werewolf, an alpha in the most powerful sense who has given up hope for any kind of happiness or peace in his life.

Until he catches wind of Claire.

Claire St.James, Charlie among friends, is an amazing young woman with an incredibly special gift. Cole recognizes this at once and swears on the spot to claim Charlie as his mate.

Of course, he isn’t the only one with such plans. Charlie is too precious to let go without a fight, and one of the most powerful alphas in the world has already staked a claim, whether Charlie – or Cole – like it or not.

3. The Spell, Book Three:

Dannai, aka the Healer, has begun dreaming of werewolves. She’d always been able to hide the fact that she was a dormant, using her magic to shield her promising scent from the alphas she’s been forced to work with. But now that they’ve invaded her dreams, her world has been turned upside down. For, though every dormant dreams of her intended mate – Dannai is dreaming of two wolves, not one. And neither one of them is good news. One is a notorious killer. The other is Lucas Caige.

Lucas Caige is a man with a haunting past. A warlock took his brother from him fifty years ago and he’s spent his life outrunning that dark magic. But fate has a way of throwing sand in your gears, and just when Caige thought he could forever leave behind the magic that brought pain to his life, his path crosses that of the Healer. Dannai unwittingly casts her spell over him the moment he lays eyes on her. She’s stunning, she’s kind, and everything about her wreaks havoc on his senses. She’s also magic incarnate.

But if Dannai thinks that’s going to stop him from doing everything in his power to make her his mate, the little witch has another thing coming.

4. The Hunt, Book Four:

Byron Caige has been a prisoner for the last fifty years of his supernaturally long life. Just when he gives up hope of ever knowing freedom again, he is unwittingly rescued by the very same woman who only wants to see him dead. Katherine Dare – Kat – is smart, fast, strong and beautiful – but unfortunately she’s a Hunter, and she’s convinced that Byron murdered her father twenty years ago.

She’s also Byron’s dormant.

As war breaks out amongst the otherworldly of Earth and threatens the existence of entire races, Kat is faced with a terrible decision. Should she give up her cause and believe Caige when he professes his innocence? Or should she fight him and possibly avenge her father’s taken life – even while she forfeits her own?

Also catch a tantalizing sneak peak at Heather’s upcoming paranormal series, The Lost Angels, 2011.

My Review

This is undoubtedly the best werewolf series I’ve ever read and I’ve read many! Although the compilation is around 4000 pages, it got me so hooked into it that I read it in 2 days after work. Yes, I hardly slept.
The compilation consists of all four books in the series – The Heat, The Strip, The Spell and The Hunt. Each story tells of a unique woman with magickal or shifter capabilities and their romance with handsome and dangerous, previously ‘hard to get’ shifters. Yes, that is a fairly standard plot. But the beauty of the compilation is not in the plot but in the telling of the tale and the world Killough-Walden created around them. It contains many elements that I look for in a paranormal read – magick, intriguing secondary and peripheral characters and the right combination of fantasy and realism so that a reader is allowed to truly escape into the book while being able to relate to the characters’ vulnerabilities.
The compilation is not so much a revelation in that it has a new angle to werewolves. I personally found that it stuck to a lot of the tried and tested literary myths concerning these shifters. Reading this was a helluva ride and I won’t forget it. In fact I haven’t forgotten it although I read this compilation months ago.
On a different note, I appreciate what this compilation represents. I admit that when I picked it up I was curious as to what standard of writing obtained Killough-Walden the NY Bestseller status with this series. I was prepared to enjoy it but I wasn’t prepared to be sucked into it so thoroughly. It is undoubtedly a must-read for any werewolf fans. I don’t think you can truly say that you’re a fan of paranormal romance without at least sampling this series. After having read this, I believe that Killough-Walden has earned the accolades that she’s achieved. And as an indie writer, I take umbrage in that and just like this compilation ‘kicks proverbial’, it reinforces the belief in me that indie writers are on their way to making a significant difference in the literary world.
Review of Big Bad Wolf by Aneesa Price
Author of The Coffin Girls Series and Reviewer at http://www.sugaryspicyreads.com

heather killough walden

An Interview With Heather Killough-Walden

Aneesa: I’m in awe of you as a writer, as I’m sure are many. What put you on the writer’s path?

Heather: It’s a gift (and as Monk would say, “and a curse”) that I was born with. So, I guess… I really had no choice in the matter. I’m a writer. The liquid in my veins is composed of white blood cells, red blood cells, and words.

Aneesa: What did it feel like when you found out that you were a NY Times bestseller?

Heather: It was anti-climactic. Looking back on it now, I recognize that my mistake was signing on with a print publisher who ran me ragged and was just basically… not a good match. I was so emotionally wrought by the time the NYT listing came about, I could not even summon a “yay.” I’d made it on my own, with a kindle book I published myself, and I couldn’t even congratulate myself. My health was failing due to massive amounts of stress, and at this point my editors had made me hate my job. I realize now, in the hindsight I am afforded, that if I’d been on my own at the time rather than under a “Bix Six”‘s thumb, I would have been ecstatic. I probably would have turned cartwheels.

Aneesa: I know you published work through a traditional publisher, what do you love about indie publishing? What are your pet peeves?

Heather: I love most things about indie publishing – the freedom to write what I want, title what I want, edit what I want, price how I want, cover image how I want, and release when I want. It’s a lot of work. We do everything that a print publisher is supposed to do (but doesn’t do because they no longer do marketing for you – you even have to do that on your own now, so what’s the point?), but it’s worth it to have this autonomy. Especially when you’re smarter at selling books than the print publisher is. My pet peeves about indie publishing are only related to the eBook aspect of it. I abhor the mentality that an eBook is not a book and that it only becomes literature when it is printed on a dead tree. Come on, people. Time to wake up, shave your beard, and realize you’ve been asleep since the dark ages.

Aneesa: I absolutely LOVE your ‘King Series’ and I read BBW obsessively until I finished it. BBW still remains the best shifter series I’ve read. As much as I love the ‘Kings’, are their plans for further BBW shifter tales?

Heather: No. No. No. And again – No.

Aneesa: When you’re not writing and promoting your work, what do you like to do?

Heather: When I’m not writing or promoting my work…. When I’m not writing or promoting my work…. Um, hmm. Sorry. I seem to be malfunctioning or something. I don’t seem to be able to comprehend the scenario. Not writing…. Not promoting…. Herm. Nope. I’m trying to imagine it, but it’s not working. Error.

Author Biography

Heather Killough-Walden is a California native currently living in Texas with her husband and child. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling e-book author of the Big Bad Wolf series and the October Trilogy. Heather’s educational background includes religious studies, archaeology, and law. She has traveled all over the world but hopes to one day live in a town with a world-class hockey team. (Let’s go, Pens!) Visit Heather’s Web site at http://www.killough-walden.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter. Also, be sure to keep in touch with her and other fans through her Facebook page and Twitter (killoughwalden)!

For the Love of Romance, Leave Us to Our Fabulous Sex Lives!

couple kissing in shower

Have you read a good romance lately? Did you recommend it to a friend or colleague only to have them say, “I don’t read such things” or “I read crime novels or autobiographies”? Of course, they say it with an immense sense of superiority as though they’re more present in the ‘real world’ and that there is something wrong with someone for enjoying a good ‘happy ever after’. It makes me want to regress to being a teenager, roll my eyes and reply, “whatever”. But I don’t. Until recently, I’ve smiled and nodded and changed the subject. On Facebook, I generally ignore the comments or provide a diplomatic response.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot, I’m neither referring to individuals who genuinely don’t have an interest in romance (much as some people prefer tea to coffee) nor those who prefer other genres and will only pick up a romance occasionally and if a friend coerces them to. I’m also not referring to people who don’t believe in romance. I respect that we all have pasts and can understand that some experiences don’t lend themselves to creating much belief in love. I am referring to the ‘heart haters’ – those individuals who believe that they have the right to judge the romance reader and writer.

The suppositions made by them are that romance readers are sadly disillusioned or are overcompensating for a lack of sex, love and / or dating in their lives. I even came across an article that refuted a statement that women who read romance novels “can become dangerously unbalanced”. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/01/claim-romantic-novels-unbalance-readers) In the same article, a crime writer is cited as stating, “”My plea to romance writers: please stop writing. You are destroying marriages, the fabric of society, and the entire cosmos”. Really? Judge much? Okay here, I think regression is appropriate and an eye roll is absolutely deserving and maybe a good shaking or two. The irony is that the statement made by this crime-writer is soaked with the very melodrama us romance writers and readers are often attributed with. (And I think he is just jealous because romance novels sell more than any other genre.)

Thankfully, there are enough people out there who have the kutzpah, the tenacity, to challenge the fabricators of such dribble. I found another interesting article on the demographics of romance readers (http://www.lifescript.com/life/timeout/chill/romance_novels_who_reads_them_who_buys_them.aspx) and quite a few more on how romance can spice up one’s sex life, most notably, Teach Me Tonight (http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-lives-of-romance-readers.html).

So here are the judgmental assumptions made about romance readers, facts I’ve found and of course, my take on things:

Assumption – Romance readers are sad and alone.

Fact – The majority of romance readers are married or in a committed relationship.

My take – I know many romance writers, being one myself, and even more romance readers. Most of them are not only in relationships but also in happy, supportive relationships. Who knows… maybe the hope and positive outcomes inherent within romance novels creates a mind-set more open to love and overcoming the challenges relationships present. Now I have what I refer to as a ‘gatvol’ stage. The direct translation of that Afrikaans word is ‘ass-full’ (LOL) and means, “I’ve had enough’. I’ve reached that stage where I no longer can ignore the disdain from others when mentioning romance and so I’ve begun asking them about their own relationships. I’ve found that those who don’t read romance novels have mostly been hurt in the past, are divorced or generally don’t believe in love. Essentially, a romance is about the belief that the human spirit can and will overcome the difficulties life presents it with and that this is only strengthened by love. I personally find it sad that others have lost that hope.

Myth – Romance readers are old and unattractive.

Fact – The age of romance readers ranges between 25 and 54. Romance readers are not predisposed to look a certain way.

My take – Most of my readers fall within that age range although there are a few older and younger too. As to whether or not we are an attractive bunch? Well, I beg to differ. We are all shapes, sizes, colors, and features. Given that most of us are married or in committed relationships, someone obviously found us attractive enough to ‘put a ring on it’.

Myth – Reading romances creates unrealistic expectations of sex

Fact – “Most of the study participants (75.5%) reported that reading romance novels has had an impact on their sex lives. This occurred in several ways, including making participants more likely to engage in sexual activity and by making them more likely to try new sexual activities.” (http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-lives-of-romance-readers.html)

My take – Many readers I know have reported an especially hot experience between the sheets after reading a romance novel. As a writer, I know that many of my colleagues and I feel particularly frisky after writing a sex scene and our partners certainly do not complain when we expend that energy in the bedroom. We also *clears throat* do extensive research for our novels. Does that sound like we have unfulfilled sexual relationships? Moreover, the fact that we don’t complain obviously means that our expectations were met. I’ve even heard of many women who use what they’ve read in romance novels in the bedroom. If it is legal and consensual then surely that’s okay? What puzzles me is why on earth folk want to know what goes on in the bedroom of romance readers? Are they projecting? In other words, are the ‘heart haters’ actually the ones who are unhappy with their sex lives? Are they threatened? I know what I think… I’ll let you make up your own mind about that.

The fact that I found most interesting was that romance readers use the novels as a means of relaxation and escapism from life’s daily stress. The last time I checked, that is one the primary reasons why most people read. I know that I treat myself after every deadline to a long bath and a good romance novel. In fact, that is precisely why I read and write romance – I want to enable others to escape into the worlds I create and have a moment of bliss, shed a tear or two in commiseration and to feel happy that all turned out okay at the end. So my plea to all heart haters is to give it a try and if you insist on ridiculing us, then leave us to our fabulous sex lives! Now I’m off to think dirty thoughts, write them and then…

Body chocolate.