Sharing My Favorite Scene from “Turning It On”

CARINA_0615_9781426899959_TurningItOnThere’s an undeniable emotional impact that make certain scenes memorable, and as a reader, it’s fun to know what the author was thinking and feeling as she wrote it.
Turning It On has a couple of scenes that really stand out for me, but one comes late in the book, when Hannah my shy, wallflower heroine has started to come into her own as a sexy, confident woman. One night she confesses to Vlad, the male stripper hero, that she’s never watched an exotic dancer. Vlad decides to remedy the situation, pronto.

To write the scene, I watched “Magic Mike” a time or two, listened to the song Vlad would strip to, The Black Crowes’ Hard to Handle,  and thought about what Hannah, who’s never seen a stripper in a crowded room, let alone one on one, might think and feel.

So pour a cold glass of your favorite beverage for a steamy tropical night, picture a deserted beach front bar, and enjoy…

photo by peasap, creative commons

When Hannah arrived at The Smiling Shark just before midnight, Vlad was waiting on the love seat, his arm resting along the back; a glass of wine was on the table. For a long moment, their gazes locked and Hannah drank in the sight of him.
“Is this what I’m doing to thank you?” she asked.
“Nyet,” he said. “That, I’m still deciding. This is because seeing you only this afternoon with your boys was not enough. Not after how we left things last time.”
“I didn’t like how we left things either. Especially since you might go home after talent night.”
He lifted his hand, inviting her to sit beside him. She settled into the circle of his arm, the brush of his fingertips against her bare shoulder making her skin tingle. Across the room, the bartender smiled.
“Getting eliminated wouldn’t be the worst thing,” Vlad said softly. “Except for leaving you.”
“What about the money?”
“Maybe I’ve changed my mind about how important it is to win.”
Did that mean he had changed his mind about trying to start a new life? Though she was disappointed, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. He hadn’t had a clear picture of what that new life might be, and it was hard to walk away from what one knew. Without an education, it would be hard for him to earn the sort of money he earned from stripping. She wouldn’t demean him by suggesting that he ought to “better” himself. Instead, she smiled and took his hand. “This show has changed my mind about a lot of things, too.”
Her smile felt strained. “Once we’re back in New York, things between us will sort themselves out. Being here has made me see that so much of what I always believed wasn’t necessarily true. I mean, in twenty-four hours, I’ll be tap-dancing on live TV!”
“Feel ready for it?”
“I think so. You saw me rehearse. What do you think?”
“I think you move very well.”
“For a big girl, you mean.”
“Not at all. But you’re still not confident enough to look your audience in the eye.”
“Can you blame me?”
“You have no reason to doubt yourself, and showing confidence matters. In skating, the judges wanted to see we were not afraid to look right at them. It is even more important for me now. Ever seen a stripper afraid to make eye contact?”
“I’ve never seen a stripper at all.”
He blinked in surprise. “Really? Not even a fake cop dropping in on a bachelorette party?”
“My friends aren’t like that. We don’t get enjoyment out of degrading people.”
Vlad raised his brow. “Degrading them?”
She winced. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Sometimes, it does feel like I’m a piece of meat, and nothing else.” His voice was resigned.
“Vlad, I’m sorry.”
His touch reassured her that he didn’t take her comment personally. “No harm done. Still, the fact you have never seen an exotic dancer troubles me. I think we should remedy that right now.”
It took a moment to grasp his meaning. “You’re going to strip for me, here? Now?”
“If you’re only going to see one, might as well be the best.” He turned to the bartender. “Miguel, you don’t mind, right?”
The bartended laughed. “Oh, no, senor, I don’t mind at all.”
“First we need some music.” Vlad took her hand and led her across the room to the jukebox, where he perused the selections.
She was conscious of his strong hand still clasping hers. “What do you usually strip to? Disco?”
“Depends on the character I’m playing. I just did a routine to Lady Gaga’s ‘Applause,’ where I played a movie star. I’ve done construction workers, cops, the usual. You won’t get the full effect though, because I’m not wearing tear-off pants.”
This sounded intriguing. “There is such a thing? Where do you get them, Stripper Supply?”
He laughed. “It’s just normal pants cut up and held together with fasteners. Can’t be too tight though, or I’ll break out of them too early.”
Hannah shook her head. “The things you learn.”
“This song’s good.” He fed money into the slot and punched a number, then gestured at a nearby chair. “You sit here. And take out some money. I don’t do this for free, you know.”
His teasing wink made her laugh. “I didn’t bring any.”
He grabbed a cocktail napkin and folded it in half. “We’ll pretend.”
She took the napkin and settled back, imagining she was a customer at the club where he danced. As she sipped her wine, he braced his hands on the arms of the chair and whispered in her ear. “A private dance, just for you.”
A rush of heat spread through Hannah’s cheeks and her heart thrummed wildly as she gazed up into his chiseled features and warm, gold-flecked eyes. Deep within, the muscles below her belly tightened and quivered. Her mouth felt dry, despite the wine. This was unquestionably erotic, yet at the same time…safe. An experience enjoyed by millions of women, though never her. Until now. The sexiest man she had ever met was about to perform, and she didn’t have to share this moment with anyone else.
The opening beat of The Black Crowes’s “Hard to Handle” burst from the jukebox, Vlad pushed off from the chair in a powerful, fluid motion. Standing with his legs spread, he rocked his hips to the music, smoothing his hands over his denim-clad thighs. Hannah’s grip tightened on her glass and in her lap, her fingers twitching as she imagined touching his smooth, warm skin and watched the movement of his toned muscles. His dance was infused with sensuality and masculine grace. She swallowed and pressed her thighs together, aware of the dampness between her legs.
As Chris Robinson growled out the second verse, Vlad undid the buttons on his shirt, slid it off and flung it. Hannah caught it, and the alluring scent of him wafted from the soft fabric. The garment was still warm from his body. She clutched the shirt as he moved closer to plant his feet on either side of hers. He rocked in time to the music, and thrust his hips in a raw, suggestive motion.
Mesmerized, she couldn’t look away. Her lips moved. “Oh my.”
His laugh broke the spell, reminding her it wasn’t some sexy stranger dancing for her pleasure but a man she trusted and cared about.
Even so, she couldn’t tear her gaze away from his lower body, the ripple of his tight abs, and the sensuous motion of his hips as he unbuttoned his tight jeans.
“Eyes, Hannah,” he said. “The lesson’s all about the eyes. Look up here.”
“But it’s so hard!”
“Sweetheart, you have no idea.”
Actually, she had a very good idea, judging from the bulge between his legs. She forced her gaze upward, over his smooth, tan torso, broad shoulders, to his stubbled cheeks and beautiful eyes.
He was close enough for her to see the light sheen of sweat on his bare skin. Without thinking, she reached to touch him, but he moved out of reach. “Not allowed.”
She snapped her hand back, disappointed. “No?”
“Only way to touch me is with money.”
“But you keep moving!”
He winked. “Then catch me. Come on, Hannah. Don’t be shy.”
What the hell? When he approached again, she hooked a finger into the waistband of his jeans and reeled him in. She stuffed in the folded napkin, aware of his closeness, and all she wanted to do was press her mouth against him and taste the salt of his skin. She gazed up into his eyes, feeling bold, powerful and yes, thoroughly sexy.
The music played on, but Vlad stopped dancing and coaxed her up from her chair. They stared into each other’s eyes and her knees felt weak. She raised a trembling hand to stroke his feverish skin as his chest rose and fell with each breath.
In his low, sensuous voice, her name sounded like a seduction, and instinctively, she knew that no matter how many other women he had wrapped in a spell of desire, this moment was as precious to him as it was to her. Vlad threaded his fingers through her hair to cup the back of her head, and then brought his lips down on hers.
Post originally published July 8, on Plain Talk Book Marketing
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Book editor Hannah Levinson couldn’t be happier. This “Nice Jewish Girl” is ready to marry the man she’s longed after for half her life. When her fiancé suggests they audition for Last Fling, a steamy new reality show for engaged couples, she lets herself be swayed. Maybe she’ll learn a thing or two.
Vlad Shustov’s fall from a once-bright career as a competitive figure skater was swift. Now trapped by a shameful past and an uncertain future, “Vlad the Bad” strips for cash. Joining the cast of Last Fling could earn him a fortune—or at least enough to finally leave stripping. But to win the show’s prize, he must seduce an engaged woman, something he can’t even bear the thought of.
Hannah’s not like any woman Vlad’s met before. Betrayed by the man she thought she loved and relegated to the ugly-duckling role she’d worked so hard to shed, can she trust there’s more to Vlad than meets the eye? With sleazy TV tactics shattering the last shreds of the contestants’ confidence, they’ll have to believe true happiness is not only possible…it may be looking right at them.

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Celebrating Romance- A Story for Everyone


When the call went out for RWA Chicago North members to participate in Read a Romance Month, I immediately wanted to join in.
What could be more fun, or easier, than reading a book (or two…or three) in my favorite genre, and writing a blog post about why I love romance?
Yet as I read the daily blogs posted on ,reality set it. What could I add to the eloquent comments by authors such as Lauren Dane, Susan Mallery and Madeline Hunter?
That was when it hit me. The fact that our genre has such diverse writers is something to celebrate. Romance truly offers a story for everyone.
Love Alpha heroes, kick-ass heroines, action and suspense? We’ve got that. Or, if you’re like me, and get all gooey over handsome, gentle beta heroes, we have those too. (Just ask, I’m happy to recommend a few titles!) Big cities, small towns. Contemporary and historical settings. Sweet kisses, hot sex…set the pages on fire sex. Characters that are young, and not so young. Straight or LGBTQ. Shapeshifters, vampires, and ghosts.
Oh my.
Digital publishing has brought a host of new authors and stories to readers. It’s a great time to be a romance author and a romance fan. And as summer winds down, August is a great time to read a romance.
So charge up the e-reader. Head to the bookstore or library. Grab an old friend off your keeper shelf, or find a new favorite in that towering pile by your nightstand. Tuck it in your purse, briefcase or backpack and as you’re waiting for a haircut, or the subway, take it out and read a page or two. Get lost for a little while. Enjoy the ride, and know that the final destination will be a happy one.

Recommendations? So many books, so little space. But since we’re asked to include at least two, I’m happy to offer a newer digital author, and an old favorite, both with sweet, sexy heroes.
Fans of clean romance (no premarital sex) and figure skating, should try Jennifer Comeaux, either her “Edge” series (that’s skater-speak) or her new release “Crossing the Ice,” now available on Amazon. Sergei from “Edge” is indeed sigh-worthy and her new hero, Josh, sounds equally delightful.
An old favorite? Judith Ivory’s “The Proposition” is a classic, a reverse Pygmalion story starring a spinster linguist and a Cockney ratcatcher. Mick Tremore is one of the best heroes I’ve ever read, and when he buys Winnie a dress to wear to the ball…just lovely.
Author Q&A:
Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.
Daring things I want my kids to know about? Hmmm. Let me get back to you on that…
Seriously, I think the most inspiring thing I’ve ever done is to marry a fantastic guy and be a mom to two great boys. Tom’s unflagging support, kind heart and steadfast love are at the center of every hero I write. My two sons have unique talents and personalities, but both are kind, intelligent and make me very proud.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.

I’ve always loved to read and when I discovered romance novels in middle school, it wasn’t long before I wanted to write my own. In ninth grade, I wrote a high school romance in which the smart girl lands the quarterback. It got an A and I was hooked. In college, I took creative writing classes and wrote angsty stories about sorority girls struggling to find themselves. My friends loved them, but my professors were less impressed. My post-college life in Chicago offered little time for writing, but provided plenty of inspiration, which I was able to put on the page after I married and moved to the suburbs. Though a decade passed between writing my first novel and my second, I never lost the desire, and I’m really glad I kept at it. This spring, I got The Call, in the form of a three-book deal to Carina Press. My debut novel “Falling Hard,” comes out in Feb. 2015.
Tell us about the book that changed your life, and why?

There are a few…Kathleen Woodiwiss’ “The Wolf and the Dove,” features one of my first favorite heroes who after being a brute (it was the Middle Ages, after all), comes to value the heroine as more than just a pretty face. Bettye Green’s “Summer of My German Soldier” a tender, heart-wrenching Romeo and Juliet story with a decidedly unhappy ending, cemented my love for the HEA. And Judith Ivory’s “The Proposition,” mentioned above, inspired me to return to romance writing and to strive to create heroes as captivating as that one.

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Love in the Spotlight

“Fame means millions of people having the wrong idea about who you are.”– Erica Jong.fame sign

The moment I saw that quote, I knew I wanted to use it. It’s a central idea that’s explored in all of my books. My characters are often famous, and in a few cases, infamous. In both situations, their public image is often at odds with who they really are.
In Falling Hard (a Feb. 2015 release from Carina Press), my characters experience both sides of fame. Carrie is a U.S. champion pairs figure skater until she’s publicly disgraced in a cheating scandal engineered by her skating partner. Though she had no idea what her partner was up to, she’s found guilty by the press and public. In the aftermath, Carrie discovers that she can’t even leave her house, and places she once felt safe, like her training rink and her hometown church, no longer are.  For Anton, an up and coming figure skater living in Russia, rising fame opens doors that might be closed to him otherwise and even gets him out of a few sticky situations.  His experience with fame is positive. Hers is negative. When they become partners, does he lift her up…or does she drag him down?
What is it about being famous?
Never having been famous, the idea has always fascinated me. Celebrity dirt mags like InTouch, Us Weekly and People are guilty pleasures when I’m waiting in the check-out line or to get my hair cut. Show me a link to a story about who some star is dating or not dating, chances are good,  I’ll click on it. I’m sure there’s some deep seated psychological wish-fulfillment reason in there, but I think what’s more interesting to me isn’t the glamour, but the day to day reality of everyone knowing your business.
Especially when what they think they know isn’t true.
Falling Hard explores the lives of those who are famous. The second book in my series, Last Fling, is set on a reality shows and explores the lives of characters who want to be famous. The third book in the series– title TBD– will feature a character who was once famous and hopes to be again.
Are happy endings possible for those who live and love in the public eye? The romance writer in me says yes.
What do you think?

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