Saturday, July 26, 2008

Weekend Wind-down - Kissing

This weekend at the Pink Heart Society our Natasha is here talking about kissing ....

The 6th July (Ally's birthday) was National Kissing Day in the UK. I missed it! (Kissing Day, not Ally's birthday. Ally's birthday I remembered.) I'd be more concerned about being unaware it was Kissing Day if the idea hadn't been dreamt up by Denplan, a health insurance outfit. Rather takes the romance out of it, doesn't it?

BUT as a consequence of National Kissing Day there's been a fair bit of discussion on kissing since. That's kissing games, kissing techniques, kissing anecdotes, best kissing experiences and countless surveys.

One survey revealed 95% of young women believe they aren't getting enough when it comes to kissing. But the good news, for me anyway, is that British men, with 42% of the vote, were dubbed the best kissers of Europe. The Italians came in second with 15%, closely followed by the French with 13%.

The Germans topped the list of the worst kissers with 38% of the vote. But whilst British men did top the best kissers list they also came second in the worst kissing one with 18% of the vote. The Greeks were third with 14% and the French in fourth place with 8%.

I'll need to put in some serious research before I can offer an informed opinion on the above. Obviously.

When it comes to kissing etiquette, 35% of women voted bad breath as the worst thing you can bring to the experience. Slobbering all over your partner was a sin for 31% of women and nearly a fifth (18%) are put off kissing someone who smokes. (I suspect they are the 18% who haven't seen Francesco da Mosto.)

When it comes to which celebrity we'd like to kiss, Johnny Depp won (28%), closely followed by Brad Pitt (27%). Angelina Jolie has the lips we'd most like to have.

When it comes to the most iconic screen kiss, 33% opted for Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. There's a fair bit of sizzle in that movie but .. most iconic screen kiss???? Not so sure.

Denplan commissioned their own survey. I mean National Kissing Day was their creation, after all.

In first place they have Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in 'Ghost'.

Second, the animated kiss between the cocker spaniel Lady and the mongrel Tramp in 'Lady and the Tramp'. Remember? Serenaded by a waiter singing the love song "Belle Notte", the dogs start eating from opposite ends of a strand of spaghetti. When they meet in the middle, they have a little kiss and Tramp offers Lady the last meatball on the plate.

Third, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in 'Dirty Dancing'. Agreed. That kiss was hot.

Fourth, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in 'Titanic'. It may be just me but I don't find Leonardo remotely attractive.

Fifth, Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'.

Sixth, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in 'Gone With The Wind'.

Seventh, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr 'From Here to Eternity'. Assuming you don't have my addiction to black and white movies, here's Sergeant Warden and the adulterous Karen Holmes on a sandy Hawaiian beach.

Which, I think, goes to show that location is as much a part of the kiss as anything else. Not a bad backdrop, is it? But my practical nature always wonders how condusive all that sand really is!

Eighth, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in 'Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back'. There's something special about a 'first kiss'. I agree this one works - unlike Harry Potter's. Apparently, Daniel Radcliffe and Katie Leung took 30 takes to get their kiss right in 'The Order of the Phoenix'. Didn't work for me.

Ninth, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in 'Romeo and Juliet'. So, yes, clearly I'm alone on the Leonardo thing.

Tenth, George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in 'Breakfast at Tiffanys'. Why is kissing in the rain so romantic?

Amazingly, not ONE of those screen kisses would make my top ten. My winning kiss goes to Richard Armitage and Daniella Denby-Ashe in 'North and South'. It's the hands, I think. The way he cradles her face. And the fact it's a 'first kiss' which has been a long time coming.

And then there's Colin Firth and Renee Zellweger in 'Bridget Jones'. I liked that kiss. How about Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in 'The Lake House'? Come to think of it their chemistry was fantastic in 'Speed' as well. Then there's Drew Barrymore and Michael Vartan in 'Never Been Kissed'. And I rather like the kiss half way up the stairs between Paul Rudd and Alicia Silverstone in 'Clueless'. Oh and Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in 'The Notebook'. That's a great rainy day kiss.

So, what would make your top ten?

Much love

Natasha's latest Harlequin Romance Wanted: White Wedding is available in the UK here and in NA here!

Romantic Times Magazine says: 'Natasha Oakley's Wanted: White Wedding (4.5) has its share of deeply touching moments, but what makes it stand out are the humor and the wonderful characters.'

You can find out more about it on her website and you can hear her moan about her sheikhs and other assorted disasters by visiting her blog.

Her contribution to the Niroli series, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride', is available here and won the Romantic Times Magazine Best Presents of 2007 and is nominated for a RITA®.

'Crowned: An Ordinary Girl' has finalled in the National Readers' Choice Awards.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Film Night - P.S. I Love You

This Friday Presents Extra author Heidi Rice treats us to the must-see chick flick of the year....P.S. I Love You!

Before I launch into my blog on the funny, pleasantly cheesy, heart-meltingly romantic (and surprisingly poignant) PS I Love You starring Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank I have to admit I was in a quandary about whether to do this film. Because I knew if I blogged on it, I’d have to give away the huge twist at the start. But then I thought, what the heck, you all are romance lovers, you’ve probably read Cecilia Ahern’s fabulous debut novel and already know all about the so-called twist — which probably wasn’t even supposed to be a twist. But I have to fess up here and admit that not only had I not read the book I knew exactly nothing about the movie when I strong-armed my 15 year old son into seeing it one Saturday afternoon this January.

So imagine me sitting in the cinema and watching the cute funny opening sequence. Hard-working married couple Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler are bickering about money in their New York apartment. She wants to move somewhere swankier before they think about starting a family (but honestly it looked pretty darn swanky to me, I had two kids in a flat half that size!). They both somehow get down to their underwear (Gerard managing to look delectable despite a dodgy boxers, socks and braces ensemble). They tease, they flirt, they bicker some more and then make up with an uber-sexy kiss. By this time I’m hoovering up my popcorn and looking forward to a sexy rom-com with these two bright, beautiful people happily sparring off each other for the rest of the movie. And I’m even ready to forgive Gerard his extremely iffy Irish accent. (Ever get the feeling Hollywood executives can’t tell the difference between Scottish accents and Irish ones? Sean Connery in The Untouchables anyone? I rest my case).

Then it cuts to the next scene in a neighbourhood bar and Hilary’s holding back tears in a sleek black outfit and Gerard’s nowhere in sight. I’m looking, wondering where the heck is he and then I finally have the big ‘Duh’ moment and realize to my horror Gerard is in the studded box on the bar surrounded by candles. Wait a cotton picking minute here. He’s died and been cremated and we’re only ten minutes into the movie? Well, I’ll tell you, once I’d picked my jaw (and the remains of my popcorn) off the floor I was pretty darn peed off. The movie posters had Gerard all over them. This was supposed to be a chick-flick, a bit of escapist fluff, not a movie about dying and grief with Gerard’s buff chest nowhere in sight for 90 percent of the movie (and I’m not counting whatever was in that box).

But then the movie — and Cecilia Ahern’s lovely story — worked it’s magic on me. As most of you will already know, Hilary’s character Holly receives a series of letters and gifts and tickets to Ireland and the like throughout the movie (and over the next year of her life) meticulously planned by Gerard’s character Gerry before he died to guide Holly through her grief.

Before long I had fallen in love with the movie and discovered you actually can have a rom-com about grief. Because that, in a nutshell, is what this is. It’s about all those things grief puts you through, but it’s also about the things you learn along the way. It’s about remembering the good times and dealing with the bad, about coping with your anger and your sadness and your frustration — and most of all it’s about how you move on and build a new life when you’ve lost the person you thought would always be there for you. The person you planned to share a lifetime with.

You get all that, plus the added benefit of an excellent cast. Not just the gorgeous Gerard to ogle (I do love a good flashback); and Hilary being light but not too fluffy; but also Lisa Kudrow as one of Holly’s friends doing her Phoebe schtick with the ditz-ometer on a lower setting; the fabulous Kathy Bates as Holly’s mum (someone give this woman a proper starring role again, please); and handsome new face Jeffrey Dean Morgan (a Male on Monday prospect if ever I saw one).

And when Holly takes the trip Gerry has arranged to the Emerald Isle, there’s also lots of romantic ‘Oirish’ locations to indulge in — you know, the sort Hollywood movies and the Irish Tourist Board love. Cue rolling green hills, dry stone walls, quirky locals and dark, handsome, blue-eyed boyos singing love songs in craic-filled pubs. I swear, I thought Maureen O'Hara was about to pop up in a supporting role (and was a bit disappointed when she didn't).

There were a few things that didn’t quite work. As much as I liked Harry Connick Jr’s geeky turn as Holly’s new boyfriend, I felt he needed a movie of his own to tell his story — and ended up being used too often as rather clumsy light relief.

But that’s a minor quibble. All in all, this hits all the chick-flick buttons and then some. It’s both funny and sad, cute and sexy (just wait for Holly and Gerry’s first meeting) and on occasion almost unbearably moving (I cleaned out my sinuses but good at one point).

So the Pink Heart Fuzzy Rating is a resounding 8 out of 10. Not at all bad frankly for a movie in which the hero pops his clogs straight after the opening credits.

Heidi’s latest Mills and Boon Modern Heat/Harlequin Presents The Tycoon’s Very Personal Assistant is on the shelves now in the UK and due out in the US in September.

Cataromance said about it:

‘Sexy, flirty, feel-good and emotional, Heidi Rice has written another wonderful contemporary romance that is bound to delight her growing legion of fans. Fast-paced, moving and totally compelling, let Heidi Rice sweep you off to a world of passion, glamour and sizzling seduction with her latest Modern Heat, The Tycoon’s Very Personal Assistant!'

Her second book The Mile High Club has finaled in this year’s RITAs.

You can read all about her books, the reviews or her search for the perfect posh frock for the RITAs on her
website and her blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday Talk Time with Sandra Marton

Today we have one of The Pink Heart Society's favorite contributors, Sandra Marton! She's here to tell us about how her latest story sparked.


By Sandra Marton

What happens when you’re asked to write the lead novella for a Harlequin anthology and you’re told the overall title will be HOT CITY NIGHTS? And, adds the editor of the collection, the book is part of what’s been called Harlequin’s Hot Summer Read program?

Well, if you’re that author—me—you’re delighted! You’re flattered. And you know darned well you’re not about to sit down and write a sweet romance.

I set my story in New York. Though I live in the country and I’m a country girl at heart, I grew up in New York City and still love it. And I know it, inside and out. I don’t mean it’s streets or shops or high rise buildings, which sometimes change in the blink of an eye. I mean I know the city’s fast pace, its edgy attitude, the kind of hard-driving, successful, sexy people who call New York their home. The women—young, bright, beautiful—want careers. The men—young, gorgeous, determined to conquer the world—want everything. It’s a volatile combination and when the sun sets over the fantastic New York skyline, watch out!

I had my setting. Now, I needed the right lovers for that setting. Not just any man and woman; I wanted to create a couple who’d want nothing to do with Forever—and everything to do with trying to keep their eager hands off each other.

What would happen if I took a super-successful, super-sexy man and a beautiful, determined-to-have-a-career woman and dropped them into an emotionally-charged situation? What if they’d met before, however briefly, and struck enough sparks to start a fire? Say, for instance, if an Alpha hero named Lincoln Aldridge and a gorgeous, independent-minded heroine named Ana Maria Marques shared a steamy kiss one sultry night in Brazil and neither ever forgot it.

How would that work out?

I liked the idea, especially when I imagined a slyly-smiling Fate (or me, your choice) bringing Linc and Ana together again in a way neither could possibly anticipate.

And it’s all Ana’s father’s fault.

He knows nothing about that stolen kiss. He trusts Linc implicitly; he believes in Ana’s demure innocence.

What if Ana’s dad arranges for Ana to go to New York as a management trainee in the company Linc owns?

Linc has no idea she’s coming. As far as he’s concerned, the only thing Ana could possibly be is a hot distraction. Except, right about then, he suddenly realizes he does have a job for her.

She can be the live-in nanny for the infant niece who’s suddenly entered his life.

Ana hasn’t come all this distance to be a nanny. Or to live in Linc’s Fifth Avenue penthouse. Linc’s no happier with the idea than she is but he’s desperate. Well, so is she. Either she takes the job or she returns to her sheltered life in Brazil.

So Ana takes the job. And the sparks are still there. Sparks? By now, those sparks are a full fledged conflagration!

Ana and Linc do their best to resist.

They almost succeed.

Until the night a dragon-lady from Social Services catches them in some very explicit, X-rated action.

Welcome to SUMMER IN THE CITY, the lead novella in HOT CITY NIGHTS. Turn up the AC, pour yourself a tall, cold drink and curl up with three brand-new, sexy stories by me, Sarah Mayberry and Emilie Rose.

And watch out, because the temperature is going to rise at least another hundred degrees!

By the way, if you’re going to be in San Francisco for the big Romance Writers of American conference the end of this month, I’d love it if you’d stop by at the huge Literacy Signing Wednesday evening, July 30, and say ‘hi.’

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Writer's Wednesday - The Dreadline

This Writer's Wednesday Romance author Jessica Hart extolls on the pain of the as she prepares to celebrate a couple of pretty terrific milestones!

2008 is a big year for me. Not only do I turn 50 in September, but by a happy coincidence my 50th book, Last-Minute Proposal, is released in October – and yes, there will be a party!

It’s hard to believe that I have muddled my way to over fifty deadlines now. Every time I think I won’t be able to do it. I start off full of enthusiasm for the new story. I love my characters. I’ve found the perfect situation for them. I’ve set the time aside to write the definitive romance, and the deadline lies far ahead in the future. This one, I secretly believe, will be the one that will garner plaudits and awards, the one that will magically hit the spot and break all sales records.

And yet, somehow as I start to write the first draft, that sense of control starts to evaporate. This is largely due to my complete and utter inability to say ‘no’ to other distractions. Suddenly those three months I set aside so sensibly are cluttered with holidays, weekends away, guests, dinners, workshops to be prepared, manuscripts to be read, blogs to be written, films not to be missed, friends to be met , and emotional crises (usually mine) to be resolved. None of which would really be a problem if only I could bring myself to write before dark. But no, the day is frittered away until six o’clock, at which point I am so wound up about not getting any work done that the only thing to be done is go out for a drink …

By the time I get to Chapter 7, that distant deadline is rearing its ugly head and the dread realisation hits that everything I’ve written so far is absolute rubbish. The book is a disaster, I can’t write, my career is over. The fact that this is a pattern is no help at all. I have to go back to the beginning and completely rewrite the entire book in frenzy to meet the deadline – and inexplicably, I usually manage it.

You’d think I’d have evolved a more professional approach after 50 books, but sadly not. I was much more confident writing my first book when I didn’t have a clue what I was doing than I am right now, floundering in the middle of my fifty-second. Of course, it was a lot easier when I started writing in the early 90’s. There were no deadlines; I just posted off a manuscript when I’d finished it and waited for the thump on the doormat when it was returned to be revised. Also, my writing was much fresher then, and it was easy to be confident when I’d never heard of emotional tension or hooks, and simply wrote the kind of story I wanted to read. Since then, I’ve become much more interested in how romance works, but there’s a danger in over- analysing what you do instinctively. For me, writing is like riding a bicycle: if I think about it too much, I fall off! And I do seem to be falling off a lot recently …

So here I am, hyper-ventilating as usual, as the latest deadline looms. In this case it’s 24th July, the date I jump (or possibly fall) onto a plane to San Francisco for my first RWA conference. I’m giving a workshop there with Barbara Hannay and Barbara McMahon, and am simultaneously excited and absolutely terrified. There’s SO much to be done on so many fronts before then, but by the time you read this, on 23rd July, I should be beyond panic, and the only deadline that will matter will be catching that plane!

Jessica's latest release is out this month - NEWLYWEDS OF CONVENIENCE. She'll be at RWA Nationals in San Francisco, giving a workshop with the "Barbs" called "Emotion, Emotion, Emotion - Writing Romance with Global Appeal".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Temptation Tuesday :: Winter

As mid-winter hits Melbourne with a vengeance, PHS editor Ally Blake gives you the low down on why winter is so tempting…

I was a winter baby. My poor mother had me in a small country town hospital in the dead of winter. I can’t even imagine how rough that must have been. Well, so rough I was too weeks late. I knew better! But ever since I poked my little nose out of the bunny rug and saw the weak winter light I’ve had a soft spot for the season.

In fact, one of the first ever newspaper interviews I did I was asked what makes my home town of Melbourne a romantic city. My answer? Winter.

The season

Unlike many parts of Australia, in Melbourne we experience all four seasons. Spring is simply sublime, it‘s stinking hot in summer, autumn the leaves are just amazing. I believe the city never looks better than it does in Melbourne, with its grey gothic architecture, glistening river, and craggy leafless trees.

There’s something about walking the city streets in winter that makes a person want to breathe deep. Is it the beautiful scent of pine on the air? Is it a clean slate? Death and rebirth around the corner. A time for new beginnings. The moment when you hit the shortest day of the year, knowing that as the days get longer spring and summer are just around the corner…

The fashion

Is unbeatable. I could watch the Devil Wears Prada every day for the rest of time, the story is great, the acting fun, but it’s the clothes that makes it so watchable. Winter clothes, all. All that black. Those hats, and knee high boots, and jackets of every which kind, and the rich smooth thick draping fabrics. Tights, scarves, hats, gloves. The chance to wear red lipstick and dark eyes during the day.

Winter fashion is elegant, it’s colorful, you don’t have the worries body issue that come accompanied with tank tops and short shorts come summer ;).

The movies

Think Dr Zhivago.

The food

Roast anything. Hot chocolate. Toasted marshmallows.

The snuggling

Shoulder to shoulder to stave off the winter wind at the footy.

Out for dinner in the city he sees you shiver and takes off his jacket to lay it over your shoulders.

In a cabin at the snow, snuggled under the same blanket in front of an open fire while outside the world is blanketed is white. The first footprints of the morning belong to the both of you.

I'd say eighty percent of the books I've written have been set in winter. You summer lovers can keep your bikinis, and flies and sunburn, and sweat ;). For my money there is truly no more romantic time of year.

Ally's latest book, THE MAGNATE'S INDECENT PROPOSAL is out now in Australia and New Zealand as a Sexy Sensation.

You can grab an early bird copy online now from either or for those of you in the UK from! And across the pond in North America this will be Ally's very first Harlequin Presents release in September.

Check out an excerpt from the book here...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Male on Monday: Milo Ventimiglia

This week, Fiona Harper takes a look at an up and coming actor who not only is quite yummy now, but has serious potential to get even hotter as he gets older. Watch this space. And especially this chest… (Cos I know you all love a bare chest!)

I first spotted Milo Ventimiglia in Gilmore Girls as Rory’s love interest. I must admit, although he was an intriguing bad boy character, I didn’t pay him much attention as he was supposed to be seventeen. Anyway, I was too busy going gooey over Scott Patterson who played Luke Danes. Oh, what the heck, I’ll throw in a photo of him as well – just for the hell of it. This is Male on Monday, after all. The post where less is definitely not enough…

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Milo. Much as I mourned the disappearance of Gilmore Girls, I have found a new show to obsess over – Heroes. Love it. Love it. Love it. And up popped sweet little Milo as Peter Petrelli, one of the show’s central characters.

And, my, isn’t he growing up nicely? He’s one of those baby-faced actors who just doesn’t look his 31 years, and I have a feeling that he’s one of those guys who is just going to grow into his looks and get better as he ages and gets more rugged. Anyone agree?

Although Milo had a long relationship with his Gilmore Girls co-star, Alexis Bledel, Apparently, he’s now dating his Heroes co-star Hayden Panettiere, which has raised a few eyebrows, as she’s only 18. Latest gossip (unconfirmed) says he’s been shopping for rings…

Here are a few more Milo fact to go with the yummy pics:

Born: 8th July 1977, Anaheim, California.

Height: 5’9”

Eyes: Brown (and they are fabulous melting chocolate brown, too…)

He is of Sicilian Italian descent on his father's side and a combination of Irish, English, Scottish, French, Cherokee and Blackfoot descent on his mother's.

He has a '67 Chevelle Super Sport named "Evelyn", which he says he drives like a granny because he's terrified of denting it.

Quote: “I'm tough on the outside and soft on the inside...I'm really a shy guy.”

Are we ready to melt yet?

Look out for Fiona's latest release, Saying Yes To The Millionaire - the Summer Bride in the Bride For All Seasons series. To learn more about all the blushing brides in the series, visit our Bride For All Seasons blog!

When cautious Fern Chambers is challenged by a friend to say yes to every question, she never expects to spend four days with dreamy Josh Adams in a charity treasure hunt!

Saying Yes To The Millionaire is available now in stores in Australia and New Zealand and avilable online at eHarlequin and Mills&Boon.