Monday, February 25, 2013

GUEST POST - RUTH MANCINI

Surviving Singlehood
Guest Post by Ruth Mancini

  
I read an article in a magazine this morning by a British journalist who, feeling sad and regretful that at 42 she had not yet found “the one”, was concerned that her chances of having children were also slipping away. I know this is a common fear among women in their thirties and early forties, though I remember feeling like that too in my late twenties!  And yet, I made a new friend on Twitter last week who, many years ago, turned down a marriage proposal to take her dream job as a holiday rep. She says she has never looked back.

Many years ago I did something similar. I had a fantastic job in publishing, with plenty of overseas travel. My long-term partner wasn’t keen on me travelling abroad and soon after I started taking overseas trips we ended the relationship by mutual agreement. He very quickly jumped into another relationship with one of our mutual friends. I, meanwhile, had no-one to fill the void he had left. It was hard - really hard. My dilemma: I wanted and needed the freedom to break out on my own and discover what it was that would make me truly happy in life. And yet, being alone made me extremely insecure. In many ways it was like leaving home for the first time and I could see how my partner had become a substitute for my family. I’d met him when I was young, just 21. He’d been there throughout my early twenties, he was older than me and he really was my “other half” in many senses, both emotional and practical. I realised that the fact that I had needed the relationship so badly was precisely the reason why I couldn’t be in one for a while.

Ironically, I left my job in publishing after a few years. I loved the travel but for various reasons the job wasn’t fulfilling for me. Gathering all the notebooks that I’d scribbled in on aeroplanes over the years, I took the plunge and moved to the Welsh seaside to the home of a family friend where I sat at my computer looking out at the sea in the distance and wrote the first draft of my novel Swimming Upstream. Swimming Upstream is fictional and is not an account of what actually happened to me, but I can’t deny that, like most authors, I have drawn on my own experiences in bringing the central character, Lizzie, to life. Lizzie, like me, recognised that that time of reflection and aloneness was crucial for the rebuilding of the self.

I spent seven years alone. Of course I had the odd relationship here and there. I went out, met new people. But, mostly, I focused on my career. It wasn’t easy. I had always felt stronger, more loveable, more attractive when part of a couple. But deep down I knew that that feeling of being loved was something I had to cultivate within myself. And I did. I was pleased when I met the man who is now my husband to find that he, too, had spent several years alone before meeting me. I knew that, unlike my previous partner, he was not emotionally reliant on another person for his happiness, which meant that we were both free to travel, to be ourselves, to explore our own inner and outer worlds without fear of abandonment. Like me, he had cooked his own cake - I was just the icing!


Author Bio:

Ruth Mancini was born in South London and educated at Cambridge College of Arts and Technology (now Anglia Ruskin University) and London Guildhall University where she gained a bachelors degree in French and Spanish and a post-graduate diploma in Law.  For several years she worked in the publishing industry before leaving her job and her home to travel, and also to write the first draft of Swimming Upstream.  Unfortunately, unlike Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) she did not find love, peace or inspiration and when her word processor stopped working and lost most of her manuscript she decided to move to Swansea and retrain as a lawyer.  After many years of spending her nights in police stations and her days in magistrates and county courts all over South Wales and the South of England, Ruth bought a new computer and started all over again… 

Ruth now lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two children.   




Book Blurb: 

“I once read that the end of a relationship is like being involved in a road traffic accident. Which is quite fitting really, given what happened.” 



Lizzie has begun to achieve all the things she thought she had ever wanted… but realises instead that she is far from happy.  Then she steps out into the path of an oncoming car, and her life begins to unravel, setting off a life-changing chain of events.  Lizzie leaves her boyfriend and her home and moves to London to pursue her career.  There, she attempts to overcome the legacy of her past and find her true direction in life.  Little does she realise that her life is about to take another shocking twist… and that the consequences will be enormous. 

Swimming Upstream is a life-affirming and often humorous story about a young woman’s pursuit of happiness.  Set in the early 1990s in Cambridge and London, it is also a story of friendship, love and divided loyalties – and the moral choices that Lizzie must ultimately face, when the chips are down.


Buy Swimming Upstream:

Amazon UK

Amazon


Where You Can Find Ruth Mancini:

Twitter 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

CUPID ON DECK BY NANCY SCROFANO (BLURB & COVER ART)

In keeping with this week's Valentine's theme here at Books by Banister, I wanted to tell you all about a delightful novelette that was just released by Chick Lit author and blogger, Nancy Scrofano. It's called "Cupid On Deck," and yes, it's a story that's set on the most romantic night of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed this e-book (see my 5-star review on Amazon), and I'm sure all of you romance lovers will, too! Read on for more details . . . Don't you love this cover art?


Book blurb: Louise “Lou” Riley agrees to tag along with her friends on a Valentine’s Day cruise around Seattle’s Lake Union. Donning their best 1920s attire, they board the old-fashioned paddle wheeler steamboat for an evening that’s expected to be the bee’s knees. Lou plans to shed her third wheel status onboard when she joins Nate, who she’s been sweet on for months. But when a mishap sends the dashing (and single!) Landon Harper to her aid, Lou discovers that Cupid may have other plans for her love life, and she and Landon share an unforgettable few hours together. Then, a surprise announcement sends everyone into a frenzy. Will Lou and Landon live happily ever after? Or maybe Lou and Nate are meant to be… Find out where the cherub’s arrow lands in Cupid On Deck, a roaring good time aboard a love boat reminiscent of the jazz age.

Purchase Cupid On Deck:
  
Amazon


Connect With Nancy Scrofano:

Author Website

Chick Lit Bee Blog

Twitter
 

Friday, February 15, 2013

LOVE IS IN THE AIR - V-DAY Q&A WITH PILAR ALVAREZ (IN NEED OF THERAPY)


In conjunction with the amazing 99 cents Valentine's e-book sale that I, and 8 other Chick Lit authors, are participating in, we wanted to treat our wonderful readers, blog followers, and friends to some fun, romance-themed Q&As with the heroines of our novels. Miami-based psychologist, Pilar Alvarez, the lovely, Latina protagonist of In Need of Therapy, is on the hot seat here. Read on to find out some never-before-revealed tidbits about her love life . . . 


1) Are you currently in a relationship? If so, tell us a little bit about your S.O. And if not . . . what are you looking for in a romantic partner?

Much to my mother's dismay, I am not currently in a relationship. In fact, I recently broke up with the man she'd decided was the future father of my children. SIGH She's always accusing me of being too picky when it comes to men, but I don't think I ask for much. I just want a guy who's honest (This eliminates Victor, the cheater!), intelligent, funny, hard-working, family-oriented, and a good listener. It would, also, be nice if he liked strong, independent women because I'm not changing for anybody!


2) How old were you when you had your first kiss -- and can you share what you remember about it?

Oh, gosh, let's see. I was in sixth grade when I got my first kiss, so I guess I was 12. Oddly enough, it happened during a fire drill. We were filing out of the school in a not-so-orderly fashion when this kid named Jeff gave me a shove from behind (Jeff had a lot of anger issues; his parents were going through a divorce at the time.) I fell out of line, down on to the blacktop, and the adorable Luke McCabe stopped to help me. I'd been crushing on him for months, but wasn't sure if he even knew I was alive. He was so sweet. He knelt down and asked if I was hurt. I shook my head 'no,' then he leaned in close and said, "I've been wanting to tell you . . . I think you're the prettiest girl in this school," then he kissed me right on the lips! It was all over so fast that I thought I might have imagined it, but no, Luke helped me to my feet and held my hand all the way through the rest of the drill. He was my boyfriend from that day forward for two years. I've had a thing for dark-haired men who wear glasses ever since because of Luke. You never forget your first love!   


3) Describe your ideal romantic evening.

My ideal romantic evening would have to involve some delicious Cuban food, great conversation, and dancing. I love to dance, especially Salsa! Dancing is a great way to connect with someone and have fun, plus it's just sexy (two bodies moving as one, feeling the rhythm of the music, etc.)


4) What's the best romantic gift you ever received - and the best one you ever gave?

I loved the poem my boyfriend, Tommy, wrote for me in high school. It was really beautiful, and I was touched  that he put so much thought, effort, and feeling into it. A gift that comes from the heart means so much more than something that comes from a store (Victor never understood this. He always thought that the more he spent on a gift, the more I should like it.)
 
Food means love to me. So, a few years back, I spent hours in the kitchen, cooking a really elaborate meal that included all of my boyfriend's favorites for his birthday. And I served the dishes to him while wearing something out of the Victoria's Secret catalog. He seemed to like that!  
     

5) What's your favorite romantic comedy, book, or movie, and why? What about love song, and why?

I adore RomComs! My favorite would be My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I just watched that movie again recently and I could so relate to what poor Toula goes through with her family. There's really not much difference between a Greek family and a Cuban one; both are full of people who are loud, opinionated, big on drama, and always in your business! I can only hope that I will one day find a guy as wonderful as Ian Miller (Toula's love) who will be able to put up with all of the Alvarez craziness!

I've never really been into ballads, so my idea of a love song is something a little quirky, like Adele's "Crazy For You." Love her soulful voice and the emotion in the lyrics. 
 



6) What food gets you "in the mood?"

Sharing food with someone, no matter what it is, can be a very sensual experience. Being Cuban, I get turned on by foods with a lot of flavor. There is nothing more delicious and satisfying than a good lechoncita (shredded roast pork that's super juicy and succulent) smothered in a tart, citrusy mojo sauce. It's, also, a food that's easy to feed to someone else, and if one is so inclined, many creative uses for mojo sauce can be found.


7) Can you tell us about your worst date ever?

SHUDDER My worst date just happened recently. It was a set-up by my never-helpful mamá. The guy was a fitness and nutrition-obsessed jerk, which made eating a meal with him an absolute misery. I'm still suffering from PTDDD (Post-Traumatic Disastrous Date Disorder), so I really don't want to relive the experience again. But you can read all the gory details in In Need of Therapy.
 

8) How far will you go on a first date? And how many dates do you need to go on before you knock boots?

I always tell my patients not to rush into intimacy and I apply that same credo to myself. There's no need to jump into bed with someone you've just met. Sex will be much more satisfying, both emotionally and physically, when you actually know the person. Having said that, I am a passionate woman and if I'm feeling chemistry with a guy on the first date, I'm up for ending the evening with a kiss.
 

9) Have you ever had a secret romance? And if you have, will you share about it here?

Secret romance? You mean, like with a married man or a patient? Someone who is totally off-limits, someone whose love would be forbidden to me on so many levels that it would be wrong for me to contemplate the possibility for even a second? Uh, nope, absolutely not. I would never get involved in that kind of relationship. Not me. No way. I'm not that kind of girl. <whistles innocently>
 

10) Describe your dream wedding. If you're already married, was the wedding you had the one you always dreamed of?   

My dream wedding would be a casual affair that took place on the beach at sunset (a total fantasy because my mother would never allow me to get married outside of a Catholic church and she would insist on all the bells and whistles for the ceremony.) I'd wear a lacy, strapless, cream-colored dress, probably cocktail length, and walk barefoot down the aisle, on my father's arm, carrying the family bible that my grandmother,  Rosalinda, my mother, and my older sister, Ana, all carried when they were brides. The ceremony would be followed by a fabulous party with all my family and friends, lots of great Cuban food and plenty of alcohol to keep everyone friendly, a band that could play everything from standards to Latin dance music, and a delicious tres leches wedding cake with fresh mango on top made by my Aunt Solana, who owns a bakery. Of course, I'm open to suggestions from my future groom if his tastes differ from mine. I'm all about compromise!


To check out the heroine Q&As of the other Chick Lit authors who are involved in this amazing Valentine's promo, please click on the links below:

Samantha Stroh Bailey
Francine LaSala 
Cat Lavoie 
Samantha March
Libby Mercer
Meredith Schorr
Nancy Scrofano
Lucie Simone   


If you'd like to read more about Pilar, be sure to pick up a copy of In Need of Therapy while the e-book's on sale for just $0.99! This special Valentine's Weekend promo will last through Sunday (2/17.)



Book blurb:   

Lending a sympathetic ear and dispensing sage words of advice is all part of the job for psychologist Pilar Alvarez, and she’s everything a good therapist should be:  warm, compassionate, supportive.  She listens, she cares, and she has all the answers, but how’s the woman everyone turns to in their hour of need supposed to cope when her own life starts to fall apart? 

While working hard to make a success of her recently-opened practice in trendy South Beach, Pilar must also find time to cater to the demands of her boisterous Cuban family, which includes younger sister Izzy, an unemployed, navel-pierced wild child who can't stay out of trouble, and their mother, a beauty queen turned drama queen who’s equally obsessed with her fading looks and getting Pilar married before it’s “too late.”  Although she’d like to oblige her mother and make a permanent love connection, Pilar’s romantic prospects look grim.  Her cheating ex, who swears that he’s reformed, is stalking her.  A hunky, but strictly off-limits, patient with bad-boy appeal and intimacy issues is making passes.  And the sexy shrink in the suite across the hall has a gold band on his left ring finger.

When a series of personal and professional disasters lead Pilar into the arms of one of her unsuitable suitors, she's left shaken, confused, and full of self-doubt.  With time running out, she must make sense of her feelings and learn to trust herself again so that she can save her business, her family, and most importantly, her heart.




 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

99 CENT E-BOOK SALE FOR VALENTINE'S WEEKEND! YOU'RE GONNA LOVE THIS!


Love is in the air . . . and it can be on your Kindle, too! 

Do you want to fall in love with a good book this Valentine's Day weekend? How about 9? Then don't miss this special promotion. For four days only (February 14th - February 17th), 9 popular Chick Lit authors will be lowering the prices on their favorite rom-coms to 99 cents on Amazon.com! At that price (A bottle of wine costs more!), why not sample them all? Some delicious literary treats await you, and unlike chocolates these goodies are calorie-free! 

And guys: If your sweetie is a book-lover, you'll make her Valentine's Day by gifting her with one (or more) of our fun, romantic stories! 

Click on book titles to be taken straight to Amazon! 


Finding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey - Daytime talk show producer Jamie Ross is beyond fed up with her toxic bad boy turned metrosexual boyfriend. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, she goes on a hilarious, at-times disastrous, and totally life-changing hunt to track down the ”one who got away.” But are some loves best left behind? 


In Need of Therapy by Tracie BanisterHandling the problems of hysterical hypochondriacs, lovelorn neurotics, and compulsive man whores is all in a day’s work for super-shrink Pilar Alvarez. But can she deal with her crazy Cuban family, a trio of unsuitable suitors, and a threat to her practice without ending up on the couch herself?  


Rita Hayworth’s Shoes by Francine LaSalaJilted bride Amy's down on everything until she convinces herself to purchase a cute, ridiculously expensive pair of second-hand shoes. Once she does, life starts looking up, and she falls into an unexpected new romance with the last man she'd ever expect to love. But can a pair of shoes really be magic? And is her new prince really just a frog? 


Breaking the Rules by Cat LavoieWhen Roxy Rule shares a passionate kiss with her lifelong best friend, she must come to terms with her feelings for him while dealing with two sisters in full crisis mode, a boss who makes her want to stab herself with a letter opener and a fiancé who can’t wait to walk down the aisle. Can she keep it together–or will she break under the pressure? 


The Green Ticket by Samantha March College junior Alex Abrams scores her dream job at the ripe age of twenty, but her good fortune quickly turns disastrous when she realizes her job is filled with lies, betrayal, and cover-ups. Keeping up with classes, her girlfriends and a budding romance, Alex feels the pressure – but will she overcome the challenges? 


Unmasking Maya by Libby Mercer
Disgraced New York fashionista, Maya Kirkwood, is fashioning herself a new life as an artist in San Francisco when she's hired to do an installation of her work by dorky, yet dashing dotcom executive, Derek. The sparks soon start to fly, but this could mean disaster for Maya - a woman with an explosive past and far too many secrets.


A State of Jane by Meredith Schorr - Jane Frank is newly single after nine years and looking for a second chance at love. But when she dives head first into the NYC dating scene and finds it infested with flakes who are interested today and gone tomorrow, it may be time for Jane to turn the tables! 



True Love Way by Nancy Scrofano - When her high school sweetheart, Josh, suddenly returns after twelve years in Paris, Marlo Spencer travels to her hometown to try to rekindle their relationship. But when dreams of a blissful reunion are shattered as old secrets and betrayals are revealed, can she forgive and forget, or will true love find a different path to her heart? 


Picture Perfect by Lucie Simone - Lauren Tate’s perfectly planned life quickly unravels at the seams when a smear campaign threatens her career as a top TV executive, but she learns just how cutthroat showbiz can truly be when the hottest scandal in Tinsel Town turns deadly and the Hollywood hunk who’s stolen her heart goes missing. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

VALENTINE'S WEEK CELEBRATION - MY FAVE MOVIE KISSES


I adore a good romantic movie, be it a period flick, light-hearted comedy, or epic drama, as long as there's a compelling love story and the two leads have great chemistry, I'll be riveted to the screen. There have been so many memorable film kisses over the years that it's almost impossible for me to narrow my list down to just 10, but I'm going to name the ones that really resonated with me, the ones that make me say, "Wow!" every time I watch them.  Be sure to click on the title links below to be taken to the video clip of each kiss.


Ada & Inman/Cold Mountain - Ah, the classic man bids his sweetheart goodbye before going off to war scene. What I love most about this variation of it is that the characters are so shy and tentative about expressing themselves at first, but then Inman just throws caution to the wind and goes for it. He brings Ada to her knees with the power of his lips, people! And let's give kudos to the ever-smoochable Jude Law for generating some palpable heat with Nicole Kidman here (I've always found her to be rather icy in love scenes, so this was a major accomplishment for Jude.) 



Emma & Knightley/Emma - One of my fave Austen adaptations! I loved everything about the playful chemistry between Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam in this film. There was such a great build-up to the characters realizing that they were in love with each other, but then Emma misunderstood and thought Knightley wanted Harriet (As if!)  and he misunderstood and thought she didn't have romantic feelings for him. Thankfully, it all works out in the end, and they have this divine moment when they both realize their love is returned and they're absolutely perfect for each other. They're both so happy that it makes me tear up and smile at the same time. Love them!




Princess Leia & Han/The Empire Strikes Back - "You like me because I'm a scoundrel." Yes, Han, yes I do. :) I honestly don't know how Princess Leia waited until the middle of the second movie in the Star Wars trilogy to mack on the hot mercenary who was always saving her royal butt. I mean, look at him. Harrison Ford in his prime was a total babe (See also the Indiana Jones movies.) It behooves me to point out that there is another great kiss scene between Han and Leia towards the end of Empire when he's about to be encased in carbonite by Darth Vader (boo hiss.) She admits she loves him, and he says, "I know." So perfect, and so very Han.



Scarlett & Rhett/Gone with the Wind - I could have very easily chosen the iconic smooch the two of them shared on the road to Tara, after they've escaped the burning of Atlanta. Rhett does deliver a very nice speech before he plants one on her in that scene, but Scarlett was angry with Rhett then (as she had every right to be) and she didn't kiss him back. So, that's no fun in my opinion. The kiss that better exemplifies their relationship is the one he lays on her when he's trying to get her to agree to his marriage proposal. It's pretty clear that Scarlett enjoys this one. She claims she's going to faint if Rhett keeps on kissing her so passionately, and I confess to getting a bit light-headed myself every time I see it!



Fanny & Edmund/Mansfield Park - I always thought that this movie was really underrated. The relationship between bookish Fanny and her tenderhearted cousin Edmund was so well-developed and heart-wrenching. Fanny adores Edmund from the moment she meets him, but he thinks of her as a little sister and lets his head get turned by the manipulative Mary Crawford. When Fanny leaves Mansfield (and Edmund), he realizes how much she really means to him, which eventually leads to their rapprochement in this wonderful scene at the end of the movie.

Bonus kiss: There is a delicious almost-smooch  between Fanny and Edmund earlier in the film when he comforts her after a distressing incident occurs late at night and they're both in a state of undress. Of course, Edmund, being the honorable man that he is, apologizes and runs away because he's afraid to face his own feelings at that point. This just makes their final smooch all the more satisfying!



Margaret & Thornton/North and South - Okay, I'm cheating a little bit here because North and South was a TV-movie, not one that played on the silver screen, but the amazing train station smooch that takes place at the end of N&S is probably my all-time favorite kiss. I've watched it a ridiculous number of times and I swoon with every viewing. So, I had to include it on this list. Poor Thornton yearns desperately for Margaret for most of the film, but she turns down his proposal of marriage (He does make a really bad impression on her the first few times they interact, so she's justified in her antipathy for him.) It takes him performing several selfless acts before she finally sees that he's a good guy and realizes that she returns his feelings. She goes to Milton to find him, he goes to Helstone to see her childhood home, and their paths cross at the train station in between the two places. Their meeting of hearts and minds is so lovely that it makes me reach for the tissues every time I see it.
  


Allie & Noah/The Notebook - Well, duh, no best onscreen kisses list would be complete without Allie and Noah's infamous makeout-in-the-rain scene. Talk about a climactic moment! This movie tortures its viewers for over an hour, throwing every imaginable obstacle in this couple's path (class differences, interfering parents, war, a nice guy fiancé) before the two of them finally consummate their long-denied love. PHEW I think we all needed a cigarette after this one.



Elizabeth & Captain Jack/Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest - My deep, dark secret is out. I was a Sparrowbeth 'shipper. I always thought that Keira and Johnny had way more chemistry in the POTC movies than Keira and Orlando ever did, and I rooted for Elizabeth and Captain Jack to admit they were in love, so they could run off together and make lots of dreadlocked pirate babies. This kiss was as close as I got to seeing that fan fic fantasy come to life, but it was a doozy. And I cackled with glee every time Keira Knightley said in an interview that Johnny Depp was the best of all the actors she ever kissed onscreen. Of course, he was!



Lucy & George/A Room with a View - So romantic! While picnicking with her chaperone and a group of fellow Brits, Lucy wanders into a picturesque field of barley (It was a field of violets in the book, but they weren't in season when the film was shot.) and disturbs George who's in the midst of a reverie. Without saying a word, he strides towards her, grabs her, and kisses her passionately. What woman would not want to be Lucy in this scene? The scandalous liplock is seen by Charlotte Bartlett (Yes, that is a pre-Downton Maggie Smith) and Eleanor Lavish (Yes, that is a pre-Bond Judi Dench.), and it becomes a plot point later in the film when Eleanor, a romance novelist, writes about the kiss in one of her steamy stories, which mortifies Lucy. 



Mary-Jane & Peter/Spider-Man - As far as I know, this is the only upside-down kiss in cinematic history, which makes it memorable for that reason alone. Another thing that makes this kiss a standout is the sensual way Mary-Jane rolls Spider-Man's mask down far enough so that his lips are bared and she can kiss him (a thank you for saving her from a band of street thugs with nefarious intentions), but she doesn't attempt to pull the mask off. So, his identity remains secret. Who knew hooking up, albeit briefly, with a superhero could be so hot?


So, those are my top choices for Fave Movie Kisses. Do you agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments section below. I want to know what some of your favorite film kisses are!