Category: Guest Authors

Author Lee McKenzie

Lee McKenzie…writing fifty shades of pink

First – the winner of last week’s giveaway – Helena Korin! Helena’s copy of Jenny Andersen’s eBook, Stalking Bell, is on the way to her inbox.

Now on to this week’s guest author.

I’m so  excited to have my friend, multi-published Harlequin author Lee McKenzie as my guest!

The Parent Trap - front cover
This week’s giveaway!

I know it’s a much-used phrase, in fact the name of one of the Harlequin imprints she publishes under, but I’d truly have to describe Lee’s books as “heartwarming”. They always make me feel good, like there are still possibilities in life for a happily ever after.

And to celebrate having Lee here today, I’m giving away an eBook copy of her Harlequin romance The Parent Trap to one lucky reader who comments on her blog this week! (This contest closes Sunday June 6 at midnight.)

Let’s see what Lee’s been working on lately.

JH:  Hi Lee. What is your latest published book?

LM:  To Catch a Wife, (Harlequin Heartwarming, May 2016).
is my most recent book and as you can see, it was released just this month.

The story is set in the fictional small town of Riverton, Wisconsin, and it’s the first book in The Finnegan Sisters trilogy. To Catch a Wife is available online right now—in both print and eBook formats—and in June it the mass market edition will be available in select Walmart stores throughout the US. The second book in the series, His Best Friend’s Wife, will be out in December 2016. The working title of the third book is Cowboy, Come Home (release date TBA).

Here’s the back cover blurb for To Catch a Wife:To Catch a Wife - Lee McKenzie - front cover

He’ll prove he’s back for good

Detective Jack Evans will keep proposing as many times as it takes. He never expected to come home to Riverton, Wisconsin, let alone to find himself lost in a night of passion with reporter Emily Finnegan—and he gets an even bigger surprise when he finds out she’s pregnant. Now he’s determined to marry the beautiful brunette. It took a world-shaking surprise to make him realize what was missing in his life. But Emily has been hurt before and isn’t convinced his desire to marry her is about love. He’ll do whatever it takes to prove his heart is hers…for as long as they both shall live.

JH:  You’ve described Riverton as a “fictional small town”, but is it totally made up, or based on a real place?

LM:  Riverton, Wisconsin, is a fictional small town loosely based on the town of Wabasha, Minnesota, on the bank of the Mississippi. I don’t know anyone who lives in Wabasha, but I have been there twice and fell in love with its wide Main Street lined with old, two-story brick buildings. I decided to fictionalize the town because I don’t know enough about Wabasha to make it realistic. The best part of making up my town is getting to make stuff up! If you would like a closer look, please check out my April post on the Harlequin Heartwarming Authors Blog, aptly (I think!) titled “Making Stuff Up.”

JH:  What attracted you to the small-town romance genre?

LM:  I love to incorporate a sense of community in my books and, for me, a small-town setting makes that a lot more fun. Anyone who has ever lived in a real small town knows there are always a few quirky people who make life interesting.

In To Catch a Wife, readers will meet Mable Potter, a retired high school English teacher who taught several generations of Rivertonians and now lives alone with her scallywag of a dog, Banjo. The title of this book is a play on To Catch a Thief, and Mable and her dog just might be involved.

PetHamsters actually play a big part in my stories. The heroine of this story, Emily Finnegan, has a hamster named Tadpole.

I held a Name This Furry Friend contest and the name Tadpole was the hands-down favourite among my panel of judges. I had fun coming up with an explanation for the name, and the winner is acknowledged in the book.

JH:  I love your tag line,Lee McKenzie…writing fifty shades of pink. How did you come up with it?

LM:  Believe it or not, my husband came up with this one. I overhead him explaining to someone that I’m a romance author, and that person asked, “You mean like Fifty Shades of Grey?” My husband replied, “No, more like fifty shades of pink.” And my tag line was born. I think it perfectly reflects what I write…wholesome, tender romance with a focus on family, friendships and community.

JH:  What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

LM:  My favourite pastimes are, in no particular order, cooking, gardening, reading, DIY projects, and scouring thrift stores and second-hand shops for bargains and vintage finds.

I’m excited to share one of my latest vintage finds—a child-sized antique chair that was refinished Vintage Chairwith Annie Sloane chalk paint. Even the vinyl seat has been painted, and in a beautiful colour called Duck Egg Blue. This is not one of my DIY projects. The chair had already been refinished when I discovered it, and it now has a home beside my fireplace where it awaits the arrival of my first grandchild early this summer.

Then there’s other side of thrifting. I often encounter another person’s attempt at DIY that I find…what’s the word?…confounding. For example, this coffee table was made into a bench and upholstered with faux fur designed to look like feathers. Needless to say, this one stayed in the thrift store, but I couldn’t resist snapping a photo.
A Feathered Bench
And no, you’re not seeing double. The price tag is $69.95!

JH:  What is your favourite TV show and why?

LM:  The Big Bang Theory is my all-time favourite sitcom. The writing is brilliant and the character development truly inspired. The show’s creators have taken a popular stereotype—the science geek—and crafted four believable and compelling archetypes. Genius! I’m so impressed, I’ve actually developed a writing workshop based on these characters.

JH:  Okay. The final question – Coffee or tea?

LM:  I love coffee—the darker and stronger the better—and every morning begins with a café con leche (equal parts espresso and scalded milk). I sometimes have a cup of green tea or herbal tea in the afternoon. Otherwise, it’s water, water, water.

Lee here. I want to thank Judith for inviting me to be a guest on her blog, and all of you for joining me here today. If you would like to keep in touch and find out more about my upcoming books, please feel free to drop by my website [] and sign up for my newsletter, Life in the Slow Lane. For now, I will leave you with an excerpt from To Catch a Wife. Happy reading!


EMILY FINNEGAN SETTLED onto the middle stool at the big kitchen island, sliding comfortably into her place as the middle sister. No matter what was wrong with the world—floods, famines, personal freak-outs—here in the heart of the Finnegan family farmhouse, everything felt right.
Her younger sister, CJ—Cassie Jo as their father affectionately called her—sat on the stool to Emily’s right. CJ was dressed for the stables in dark jeans and a faded denim work shirt, her long blond hair pulled back in a high ponytail.
Across the gleaming white Formica countertop, Annie, eldest of the three sisters, stood with carafe in hand. “Coffee?” She angled the pot over Emily’s mug. If the kitchen was the heart of the home, then Annie was the life force that kept it beating.
“Sure. Oh, wait. No.” Emily hastily withdrew her cup. “Only if it’s decaf.”
CJ clapped a hand to Emily’s forehead.
Emily ducked away from it. “What are you doing?”
“Checking to see if you’re running a fever. Since when do you drink decaf?”
A good question for which Emily didn’t have a good answer. Yet. “I haven’t been sleeping well, so I thought I’d cut back on caffeine, see if that makes a difference.” Only partly true, but at least it wasn’t a lie.
“It’s ten-thirty in the morning,” CJ said.
Emily shrugged.
“Not a problem,” Annie said. “I’ll make a fresh pot of decaf. It’ll be ready in a few minutes.” She looked amazing in a slouchy yellow pullover and crisp white slacks. Given everything she would have accomplished since getting up before sunrise—gathering eggs from the chicken coop, making breakfast, vacuuming, laundry—Emily had no idea how Annie kept herself looking fresh as a summer daisy.
While her older sister turned to the coffeemaker, Emily tried to ignore her younger sister’s scrutiny. Ever since CJ had been little, she’d had a talent for sniffing secrets and wheedling information out of the secret keeper.
“You’re being weird,” CJ said.
“I’m always weird.”
“Weirder than usual.”
“Don’t bug your sister.” Annie, ever the mom, filled CJ’s mug, then her own.
The coffee smelled like a little piece of heaven to Emily. How would she make it through nine whole months without coffee? Although, if the secret thing that had been keeping her up at night turned out to be true, it was now closer to seven months.


Don’t forget to leave a comment for Lee, to be eligible for The Parent Trap, giveaway. And come back next Monday to see who is the winner – and when Stephanie Bergett will be my guest.

Thanks for joining us.

Judy sig

Jenny Andersen’s Western Heroes

Today we are kicking off the Small-town Romance Guest Author series with Jenny Andersen. I recently read Jenny’s Calendar Girl, Book I of her Western Heroes series and loved it. A crazy cast of characters, great desert setting, a nice dose of mystery and, of course, the romance. What more could you want?

But, before I forget –

Each week of the series I’ll be picking a name from the comments for our weekly giveaway. This week, a free eBook copy of Stalking Bel, one of Jenny’s Western Heroes books. Check out the short excerpt at the end of this post, then leave Jenny a comment to enter.

Winner will be announced next Monday when Lee McKenzie will be my guest on the Small-town Authors series.


So Jenny, What can you tell us about your latest book in the Western Heroes series?

Well, this one’s a no-brainer, Judy.  My mind is always so full of the latest book!  It’s a reissue, but indexsince it involved a fair amount of rewriting and rethinking, it’s still on my mind, competing with the new book I’m supposed to be writing.  ☺  Also, I stepped back to write my usual short story prequel to the book.  [The short stories are a perk I send to the people on my mailing list.]  In the case of Reckless Promise, the setting is a dude ranch in Montana.  Its name is The Montana Blue, which is kind of a strange name for a ranch, so I had to explain it.  [Since I’m a gemologist when I’m not writing, the answer is…sapphires.]

Sapphires! I’m already intrigued. But what attracted you to the small-town romance genre?

Does anyone need to explain the attraction of the romance genre?  I didn’t think so.  As for the small town part, it’s a direct result of my very schizophrenic upbringing.  I spent half of each year in a large city, being as urban and sophisticated as a small child can be.  The other months were pure liberation, spent on a farm in an area that can only be considered hillbilly.  Horses, dogs, cats, chickens, other kids…a creek to play in, wild persimmons in the woods…  I loved it!  And the nearest town had a population of about 400.  So of course I wanted to write about rural places and small towns.  Of course there were also chores, yellow jacket nests to step on, and rattlesnakes, but hey, conflict is necessary, right?

51gev5xLmOL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Right! How would you describe your writing process? 

Chaos.  That’s the short answer.  I yearn to be one of the truly dedicated and disciplined who sit down at the keyboard at—what, 9:02 and 30 seconds?—every day.  And turn out at least 10 pages of deathless prose in that time.  The wretched truth is that while I do write [almost] every day, it happens whenever that day allows it to happen.  And as for deathless prose…no.  Fortunately, I like to revise.  And I’m really lucky when I can write scenes that follow each other in order, a la the incomparable Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  Some writers are plotters [Suzanne Brockmann], some are fly-into-the-mist pantsers [SEP].  Corrina Lawson described my natural writing style as patchwork quilt.  And it’s fine, but stitching the disparate pieces together to make a coherent story is a lotta work.

What sets your town apart? 

This series is made up of stand-alone books with different settings but cross-over characters.

Are you self-publishing? 

I’m a hybrid.  I like the idea of a foot in each camp since the publishing industry is so crazy.

Can we look for more books in the series? 

You bet.  Glitter and Gold is coming up next.  A successful and ultra-urban jewelry designer inherits a Victorian house in a small town.  She also inherits three crazy old miners, a drydocked Navy Seal, and a lost gold mine.  Along with someone who’s ready to kill to get it.

Sounds like another winner. Now for the serious question – Coffee or tea?  Wine, whiskey, or beer? 

Sigh.  I’m a wine girl at heart, but my doctor interfered, so it’s pretty much coffee or water.

Thanks for starting us off Jenny.

51roSSFZcOL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Keep reading for an except from Stalking Bel, Book II in the Western Heroes series.

She was gone.
She had run, but it wouldn’t do her any good.  He’d find her.
Too bad she hadn’t died when he’d torched her house.  Watching it burn had felt good.  No.  Not just good.  Stupendous.  Like being God.  Everything flaming, roaring, melting, just the way he’d planned for her.  Except she hadn’t died.
Maybe it was better this way.  Now he could make sure she’d really suffer.  And suffer and suffer some more, until she begged to die.  He had destroyed her house and all her belongings, made her homeless.  Next, he’d destroy her career, her precious writing, see to it she lost her fame, her success, everything she’d gotten so unfairly.  Then…he’d end her life.
He imagined her trapped, shrieking in agony, flames laying waste to her just like they’d done to her house.  She’d die.  Eventually.
The stalker lifted a glass with one trembling hand and let the rich scent of red wine blend with his anger.  The burning had been good, an inferno leaping toward the sky, turning her life to ashes.  But not enough.  Not nearly enough.  Now, he had plans to remedy that.
* * *
She’d never seen a real palm tree before.  Palm trees didn’t grow well in Manhattan.  Elegant restaurants, chic stores, sophisticated people…yes.  Palm trees, no.
And smart people took taxis.  Bel Baxter, aka Belinda Beverly, elegant, sophisticated writer of best-selling historical romances, gritted her teeth and jerked the steering wheel to turn into the driveway of a borrowed hacienda in a decidedly not elegant,  not sophisticated seaside town in California.
The snappy little BMW that had been waiting for her at the airport whipped past the gate post and embedded its nose in a bush.
“It’s your own fault,” she told the car after she stopped screaming.  “No one drives in Manhattan.  I’m out of practice.”
New York.  She brushed a straggling curl out of her face, smearing a lone tear away, and told herself to suck it up.  California lay a continent away from the fruitcake trying to kill her.  California equaled safety.
This driving thing, though.  Not so safe.  She kept a car in the city and had a valid driver’s license, but only drove once a year when she went to the Hamptons.  She’d gotten just a tad rusty.
The driver she thought she’d hired had rushed off to his wife’s bedside to hold her hand while she had a baby.  Even after years on the NYT list, Bel didn’t have enough diva genes to object to that.  Anyway, she’d been sure the dealership could supply another driver.  But no.  “It’s like riding a bicycle, it’ll come back to you in no time,” the manager said on the phone.
After she backed out of the rosebush, she parked next to the wide, shady veranda, climbed out onto the gravel driveway, and inspected her new home.  White stucco walls and red tile roof, broad-leafed tropical plants…she might as well have landed on an alien planet.  No high rises, no doormen, no bustling crowds.  The whole neighborhood, the whole town, looked like something out of a surfer-dude movie.  And until her stalker was caught, she lived here.
All because of one nutcase.

Be sure to leave a comment to qualify for this week’s giveaway and check back next Monday to meet Lee McKenzie and see the winner of this week’s contest.

Until next time,

Judy sig

8 Weeks – 8 Guest Bloggers – 8 eBook Giveaways.

I’m happy to announce the beginning of a series of blog posts hosting eight authors from all over North America who write Small Town Romance. And, to add a little spice to the pot,

I’ll be giving away an eBook copy of one of their books each week.

Yes, I’m highlighting in red today because this is exciting! The small town setting is, to me, the perfect crucible in which to mix family and friends, through good times and bad, for better and for worse. And of course, the worse it gets the better we like it!

Relationships are brought under the microscope in a tight knit community, shining a light on things that I think we might prefer to keep hidden. It’s always intriguing because it’s the people and their journey that keeps us reading.

From spicy to sweet, that small town experience is something all these writers have in common and pass along in their books.

Jenny Andersen will be kicking things off with one of her desert westerns, next Monday, May  23.

If you like quirky characters, you’ll love Jenny. As she says on her website:

small towns

Should be fun. See you next Monday.

Judy sig

The Guardian – by Jacquie Biggar

Author Jacquie Biggar

coverThis post falls under the category of “now for something completely different.” I always enjoy Jacquie’s small town romances, (I’m hoping to interview her in my Guest Author series, starting soon) so I’m definitely going to give The Guardian a try.

Great cover – intriguing excerpt.