Wednesday, May 21, 2014

**GIVEAWAY** Interview/Review(s) With author Dani Collins

Today I’d like to introduce to the blog an author I review frequently who writes for Harlequin Presents and who really knows her way around a romance! Her very first Presents novel, Proof of Their Sin rated my TOP PICK and my nomination for the 2013 RT First Series Romance. And Guess what she WON!!! Woot Woot!! Congratulations Dani!

Dani has also graciously offered one lucky entrant US ONLY an autographed print copy of An Heir To Bind Them. Details below.
Dani the floor is yours!

  • ISBN-13: 9780373132218
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 1/21/2014
  • Series: Harlequin Presents Series , #3215
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 192



A beautiful thief…?
Raoul Zesiger has everything a man could want—including Sirena Abbott, the perfect PA who keeps his life in order. Or so it seems, until their professional relationship gives way to one hot, impassioned night…and then he has her arrested for embezzlement!

Read an Excerpt:

Look at me, Raoul Zesiger willed Sirena Abbott.
He had to lean back in his chair to see her past the three men between them. He should have been looking at the judge, but he couldn't take his eyes off Sirena.
She sat very still, face forward, her profile somber. Her absurdly long gypsy lashes had stayed downswept as his lawyer had risen to speak. She didn't even flick a glance in his direction when her own lawyer stood to plead that jail time was counterproductive, since she needed to work to pay back the stolen funds.
Raoul's lawyers had warned him this wouldn't result in incarceration, but Raoul had pressed hard for it. He would see this treacherously innocent-looking woman, with her mouth pouted in grave tension and her thick brunette locks pulled into a deceptively respectful knot, go to jail for betraying him. For stealing.
His stepfather had been a thief. He had never expected to be taken advantage of again, especially by his reliable PA, a woman he'd come to trust to be there, always. But she had dipped her fingers into his personal account.

Then she had tried to manipulate him into going easy by being easy.
He didn't want the flash of memory to strike. His ears were waiting for the judge to state that this would progress to a sentence, but his body prickled with heat as he recalled the feel of those plump lips softening under his. Her breasts, a lush handful, had smelled of summer. Her nipples were sun-warmed berries against his tongue, succulent and sweet. The heart-shaped backside he'd watched too often as it retreated from his office had been both taut and smooth as he had lifted her skirt and peeled lace down. Thighs like powdered sugar, an enticing musky perfume between that pulled him to hard attention as he remembered how tight-almost virginal-she'd been. But so hot and welcoming.
Because she'd known her criminal act was about to come to light.
His gut clenched in a mixture of fury and unparalleled carnal hunger. For two years he'd managed to keep his desire contained, but now that he'd had her, all he could think about was having her again. He hated her for having such power over him. He could swear under oath that he'd never hurt a woman, but he wanted to crush Sirena Abbott. Eradicate her. Destroy her.
The clap of a gavel snapped him back to the courtroom. It was empty save for the five of them behind two tables, both facing the judge. His lawyer gave Raoul a resigned tilt of his head and Raoul realized with sick disgust that the decision had gone in Sirena's favor.
At the other table, partly obscured by her lawyer, Sirena's spine softened in relief. Her wide eyes lifted to the heavens, shining with gratitude. Her lawyer thanked the judge and set a hand under Sirena's elbow to help her rise, leaning in to say something to her.
Raoul felt a clench of possessiveness as he watched the solicitous middle-aged lawyer hover over her. He told himself it was anger, nothing else. He loathed being a victim again. She shouldn't get away with a repayment plan of six hundred pounds a month. That wasn't reparation. That was a joke.
Why wouldn't she look at him? It was the least she could do: look him in the eye and acknowledge they both knew she was getting away with a crime. But she murmured something to her lawyer and left the man packing his briefcase as she circled to the aisle. Her sexy curves were downplayed by her sleek jacket and pencil skirt, but she was still alluring as hell. Her step slowed as she came to the gate into the gallery.
Look at me, Raoul silently commanded again, holding his breath as she hesitated, sensing she was about to swing her gaze to his.
Her lips drained of color and her hand trembled as she reached out, trying to find the gate. She stared straight ahead, eyes blinking and blinking-
"She's fainting!" He shoved past his two lawyers and toppled chairs to reach her even as her own lawyer turned and reacted. They caught her together.
Raoul hated the man anew for touching her as they both eased her to the floor. She was dead weight. He had to catch her head as it lolled. She hadn't been this insubstantial the last time he'd held her. She hadn't been fragile.
Raoul barked for first aid.
Someone appeared with oxygen in blessedly short time. He let himself be pushed back a half step, but he couldn't take his eyes off the way Sirena's cheeks had gone hollow, her skin gray. Everything in him, breath, blood, thought, ground to a halt as he waited for a new verdict: that she would be okay.
It was his father all over again. The lack of response, the wild panic rising in him as he fought against helplessness and brutal reality. Was she breathing? She couldn't be dead. Open your eyes, Sirena.
Distantly he heard the attendant asking after preexisting conditions and Raoul racked his brain. She wasn't diabetic, had never taken medication that he'd seen. He reached for the phone he'd turned off while court was in session, intent on accessing her personnel file, when he heard her lawyer answer in a low murmur. "She's pregnant."
The words burst like shattered glass in his ears.
Sirena became aware of something pressed to her face. Clammy sweat coated her skin and a swirl of her ever-present nausea turned mercilessly inside her.
She lifted a heavy hand to dislodge whatever was smothering her and a voice said, "You fainted, Sirena. Take it easy for a minute."
Opening her eyes, she saw John, the highly recommended lawyer who'd been perfunctory until she'd almost vomited in his wastebasket. She'd told him the father's identity was irrelevant, but Raoul was glaring from beyond John's shoulder with all the relevance of an unforgiving sun on a lost soul in the desert-and he appeared about as sympathetic.
She had tried hard not to look at Raoul, former boss, brief lover, unsuspecting father. He was too…everything. Tall, dark, unabashedly urbane and sophisticated. Severe. Judgmental.
But of their own accord, her hungry eyes took in his appearance-her first opportunity to do so in weeks. She cataloged his razor-sharp charcoal suit, the solid black tie. His jaw was freshly shaved for his morning appointment, his dark hair recently cut into the sternly simple style of a successful businessman.
And there were his eyes, the gray irises stormy and full of condemnation as they snared hers in an unbreakable stare.
John asked, "Is there any pain? We've called an ambulance."
Sirena flashed a terrified glance back at Raoul. It was a mistake. She realized immediately that he'd read it for what it was: an admission of guilt. A betrayal of truth.
Clenching her perfidious eyes closed, she willed him not to pick up on what had been revealed, but he was the most acutely intelligent person she'd ever met. He missed nothing.
If he knew she was carrying his baby, there'd be another fight. Considering what this current contest had taken out of her, she wasn't ready for another. She wouldn't, couldn't, let him think he had a right to custody of her child.
"Sirena," Raoul said in that dark chocolate voice of his.
Her skin rippled in a pleasurable shiver of recognition. Two years of hearing every intonation in that voice left her with the knowledge that her name on his lips right now was an implacable warning.
"Look at me," he commanded.
Sirena reached blindly for John's hand, clenching her icy fingers on his warm, dry ones. Beneath the oxygen mask, her voice was hollow and whisper thin.
"Tell him to leave me alone or I'll take out a restraining order."
• *
The first volley of the second war was waiting when she got home from the hospital. More tests had been scheduled, but for the moment her doctor was putting her faint down to stress and low blood sugar resulting from her unrelenting nausea.
Sirena thought nothing could be more stressful than facing prison while dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, but Raoul knew no bounds when it came to psychological torture. She read the email John had forwarded:
My client has every reason to believe your client carries his baby. He insists on full involvement in the care through pregnancy and will take sole custody at birth.
Her blood congealed, even though this was no surprise. Raoul was possessive. She'd learnedthat. This reaction was fully expected, but having anyone try to take this baby from her was unthinkable.
Blinking the sting of desperation from her eyes, she typed, It's not his, saying aloud, "And tell him to go to hell."
She didn't let herself dwell on the fact that Raoul wanted his baby. It would make her weaken toward a man she needed to believe was a monster-even though she'd spent two years falling into deep infatuation with not just a dynamic tycoon, but a man who was a caring son and protective older stepbrother. In some ways he was her mirror image, she'd often thought fancifully. They'd both lost a parent and both wanted the best for their younger siblings. She had come to believe him to be an admirable person with a dry wit and standards that put her learned habits of perfectionism to shame.
No, she reminded herself as she prepared a slice of toast she would force herself to eat. He was a cruel, angry, small person who felt nothing. For her, at least. He'd proven it when he'd made passionate love to her one day, then had her arrested the next.
A black hole of despair threatened to open beneath her feet, but she was safe now. That part was over. She'd made a horrible mistake and the judge had accepted her remorse, even if Raoul hadn't. She had no idea how she would come up with six hundred pounds a month, but that was a minor worry against convincing Raoul the baby wasn't his.
There was no way she could live with having another loved one wrenched from her life. The fear of her baby growing up without its mother, the way she had, had given her the strength to fight tooth and nail against Raoul's determination to put her in jail. Somehow she would rally the strength to oust him from her life for good.
Which left her feeling incredibly bereft, but she ignored it.
Taking tea, toast and a tablet for nausea to the sofa, she scanned her laptop to see if any transcription jobs had come in. The legal bills were appalling and being fired three months ago had decimated her very modest savings.
If only she could take back that one awful moment when she had thought, Raoul will understand. She rubbed her brow where it crinkled in lament. Borrowing from him had seemed the most simple and obvious thing to do when her sister had been in tears, saying, I guess I'm not meant to be a teacher. Their father was expecting payment from a big customer any day. Ali had struggled so hard to get her marks up and be accepted into the specialized program. The tuition was due, but the cash was not in hand.
I can cover it, Sirena had assured her, confident the balance would move out and come back into Raoul's account on the same statement. He probably wouldn't even notice, let alone care. He paid her to worry about little details like that.
Then her father's customer had gone insolvent.
Not overnight, of course. It started with a delay of a few more days. A week. Sirena had begun chasing it herself, right up to the monthly cutoff date, not wanting to mention her self-approved loan to her boss until she had the funds to repay it.
The money hadn't appeared and the opportunity to explain hadn't arisen, not before other events.
And since she didn't want to involve her father when his livelihood was nose-diving, she had shouldered the fallout herself, keeping her motives from Raoul and not revealing to her family what she'd done or that she was facing jail time for it.
This had been the most crushingly lonely and frightening time of her life.
A muted beep announced an incoming email. From Raoul. Her heart leaped in misplaced anticipation. It was one word.
He wasn't buying that the baby wasn't his.
Gritting her teeth against an ache that crushed her chest, she added Raoul to her email block list and sent a missive to John.
Tell him that contacting me directly is out of line. If the baby was his, I would sue for support. I would have asked for leniency when he was trying to put me in jail. This baby is not his and he must LEAVE ME ALONE.
Hitting send was like poking herself in the throat. She drew a pained breath, fighting the sense of loss. But life hit you with sudden changes and you had to roll with them. She had learned that when her mother had died, and again when her stepmother had whisked her father and half sister to Australia with brutal speed as soon as Sirena graduated and enrolled in business school.
People left, was what she'd learned. They disappeared from your life whether you wanted them to or not. Sometimes they even fired you and tried to lock you away in prison so they'd never have to see you again.
Making a disgusted noise at herself for indulging in what amounted to emotional self-harm, she turned her thoughts to the little being who wouldn't leave her. With a gentle hand on her unsettled abdomen, she focused on the one person she'd do everything in her power to keep in her life forever. She didn't intend to smother the poor thing, just be his or her mother. She couldn't countenance anyone taking that role from her. And Raoul would try. He was that angry and ruthless.
She shivered as she recalled seeing that side of him for the first time, after making bail. The only thing that had gotten her through the humiliating process of being arrested, fingerprinted and charged was the certainty that Raoul didn't know what was happening to her. Some accountant had done this. A bank official. They didn't understand that Raoul might be gruff on the outside, but she was his best PA ever. His right hand. They'd become intimate. He would be furious that she was being treated this way.
She had believed with all her heart that as soon as she told him what had happened, he'd make it right.
He hadn't. He'd made her wait in the rain at the gate of his mansion outside London, eventually striding out with hard-hearted purpose, his severe expression chilly with distaste as he surveyed her.
"I've been trying to reach you," Sirena had said through the rungs of the security gate, frightened by how unreachable he seemed. "I was arrested today."
"I know," Raoul replied without a shred of concern. "I filed the complaint."
Her shock and stunned anguish must have been obvious, but his mouth had barely twitched in reaction. Cruel dislike had been the only emotion in his scathing expression. Sirena's stepmother had been small and critical, but she hadn't outright hated Sirena. In that second, she realized Raoul reviled her, and that was more painful than anything.
Guilt and remorse had made her want to shrivel up and die, but she couldn't-wouldn't-believe she'd ruined her career and her budding relationship with the man of her dreams over one tiny misstep.
"But…" Everything she wanted to say backed up in her throat. They'd developed friendship, reliance and respect over two years of working together and just yesterday they'd taken that relationship to a new level. He'd been tender and teasing and…
God, she had believed he'd been loving.

Dani has offered one print autographed copy
of An Heir To Bind Them for a giveaway US ONLY
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter
Thanks Dani!
Good Luck!

Hi Dani, Welcome to The Reading Frenzy
I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me!

Tell my readers about your latest Harlequin Presents release, A Debt Paid In Passion.
Well, I knew I wanted to do a revenge theme and I had a vision of the heroine fainting in the courtroom in the opening scene and the hero finding out she was pregnant.
My original intention was to base their conflict on a misunderstanding, that he was mistakenly accusing her of stealing from him. Then my editor said, “What if she really took the money?” It really upped the stakes, gave him more motive for revenge and just gave me many fabulous opportunities for those intense emotions that Presents readers love.

Why do you think Harlequin Presents is a good fit for you?
Presents is my first love. They’re the romances I read in high school so alpha males pretty much imprinted on me when I was at my most impressionable. I do love everything that sets them apart from other lines: the glitz and travel and escape.
I have written other things. I have a Medieval Fantasy Romance, The Healer. It’s super long and thickly plotted (not quite Game of Thrones, but lots more intrigue than the average Presents). I also have a romantic comedy, Hustled To The Altar, with a lot of twists and turns.
As fun as those were, I really enjoy digging into the emotional journey that is Presents.

Why is a Happy Ever After ending important to you?
Happily Ever After represents hope and that will get you through anything. You have to believe everything will work out, otherwise you despair and then nothing can work out. But reading romance reinforces the pattern of strife, digging deep within oneself, and a renewal of sorts—not necessarily the original goal, but one that is actually a better one for the character’s soul. That’s a message we all need. I get impatient with people who say romance ‘isn’t real.’ The emotions are very real. The message is one that is necessary to human survival.
Having said that, I have reached the age where I know the ‘Ever After’ part is always on shaky ground. If you are happy right now, and that should be defined as: life, limb and loved ones are not in peril, then you are in a really great place. Stuff will happen in life and you can survive it so long as you’re willing to do the work and believe there is a bright spot ahead.

Dani, I love author’s “how the writing bug bit me” stories. Can you share yours with us please?
After reading my first hundred or so Presents, I knew I wanted that as a job when I grew up, but I didn’t know how you applied. There was an English assignment in Grade Nine to write a short story and I remember losing myself in the process, feeling like I wanted the teacher to love it (she didn’t), but that was one of the first times I was aware of a wish to tell a good story.
I hand wrote a couple of other pieces that were my first attempt at a Presents in Grade Eleven. Later, when I was twenty, I realized that writers need tools, like a typewriter, so I rented one and gave it my first real shot.

Dani, I loved reading your bio especially the part where you question your own parent’s sanity and warn your own daughter not to try this. Do you think these youthful adventures contribute to your being a better author?
I think all of an author’s life experiences contribute to his or her voice and stories. I’ve never thought of myself as particularly adventurous, though. I have a friend who went to India at eighteen and stayed for ten years so my little bit of travel seems tame by comparison. But I did realize early that you can’t wait for permission to do something. Your heartfelt wishes don’t come to you. If you want to visit India, buy a plane ticket and go. If you want to write a book, sit down and write one. I think that attitude of finding a way to Just Do It is the reason I am an author at all.

And as a side note, your answer would be if your daughter proposed the same journey?
Oh sweet Lord, my poor kids. I am insanely overprotective. They both make jokes about it, that I still want to watch them sleep even though my daughter is at university and my son is sixteen. Last summer, my daughter wanted to drive to the next town for the day with her girlfriend. I was highly resistant. She said, “Mom, what were you doing at eighteen?” Um, traveling Europe alone, but that’s not the point.
I know I have to trust that I’ve given my kids the tools they need to survive, but it’s hard to let go. Everything about parenting is super, super hard.

Dani when you start a novel, what’s the hardest part before you put it to bed?
Letting go of it at all. There is always room for improvement. Or are you asking which parts I struggle with, like character or conflict? Each one is different. I did receive some excellent perspective the other day from one of my editors. She said, “You weren’t owning the characters in the early draft.” That book had been a struggle and she nailed exactly why it was so hard for me. Once I was actually under the skins of my characters, the story came together.

Do your characters surprise you, or do you keep them on a tight leash?
I’ve learned that I’m far better as a character-driven writer so I really do have to let them play things out in their own way. I’m not one to do a lot of worksheets and preplanning, but I often write a synopsis and I do a ton of daydreaming where certain scenes will play over and over in my head.
So yes, I can be surprised by characters and their actions, but often it’s more like rehearsing different ways that a scene could go and choosing the one where the emotional impact is the greatest. It’s kind of like when have a disagreement with someone and later think, Oh I should have said… If I can make it so my character delivers that kind of zinger and surprises the other character and the reader, then I’m super happy.

Dani your next novel for Presents comes out in late May. How many novels do you write in a year?
My timeline has been growing shorter. Years ago, I was lucky to finish a book in a year. My kids had bottle drives and soccer and I was working fulltime. The usual working mom commitments that make it impossible to sit down and write. Once I began working with the London editors (it took a few years before I sold) I began writing faster. Part of it was the validation. They were showing interest so it made sense to the entire family that I devote more time to my writing.
In 2013, I think I finished three full Presents and revised one I’d had on the back burner. I also revised an erotic romance that Harlequin Digital will release in August and wrote a second to go with it.
I try to give myself two months to finish fifty thousand words which is a strict diet of a thousand words a day and allows a couple of weeks of revisions after the initial draft is complete. At least, that was while I was working fulltime. By May I’ll be home fulltime, but my hope is that the extra time will simply allow me to live life. I haven’t had that luxury for the last two years as I devoted every spare second to launching my career.
However, I’m already committed to four books with Presents this year and as I learned last year, it’s not unusual for editors to email with an opportunity for something like the 21st Century Gentlemen’s Club, also coming out in August. I’ve had the chance to send a novella to Tule for their Montana Born series and a short for Harlequin, opportunities I can’t say ‘no’ to, so the full tally for 2014’s completed works is already higher than I expected.

Dani, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Good luck with this and all your novels.
Thank you so much for having me. I’d love to giveaway a copy of my June book, An Heir To Bind Them, to a commenter, but readers can also join my newsletter to be entered for a copy. I’m also in the process of organizing the fabulous Dani’s Masked Desire Contest to promote my August books. I’ll be giving away some beautiful masquerade masks and autographed books. Details will be on my website in May and in my next newsletter.

Connect with Dani- Website- Facebook - Twitter- Goodreads 

When Canadian Dani Collins found romance novels in high school she immediately wondered how one trained for such an awesome job. She began writing, trying various genres, but always came back to her first love, Harlequin Presents. Often distracted by family and 'real' jobs, she continued writing, inspired by the romance message that if you hang in there you'll reach a happy ending. In May of 2012, Harlequin offered to buy her manuscript in a two book deal. She is living happily ever after.

My Review(s) courtesy RT Reviews of 
Proof of Their Sin - 2013 RT First Series Romance Winner!
A Debt Paid in Passion
An Heir To Bind Them

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I love that her characters sit in the driver's seat when she is writing. Thanks for sharing and I love enjoyed the sneak peak you gave us

    1. Hi Kim. you're welcome. I hope you get a chance to read her :)

  2. Thanks Kim and I love that you have caffeine in your web name. #fellowaddict I mean #fellowAficionado :)

  3. Upping the stakes for the story - she actually took the money!!
    Nothing like having your heroine be unreasonable, unpredictable, and risking so much! Great advice for another would-be writer like me, Dani. Cheers.

    1. Hi Cella, I checked out your blogs very nice :)
      thanks for stopping by

  4. Hi Celia,
    I'd love to take credit for it, but ... my editor ;o) Still, I think we often think that upping the stakes only applies to suspense stories. Definitely can do it in something that's more emotion based.

    1. Hi Dani, thanks for chatting w/ me and my commenters here too.
      I can't wait to read the next Presents title by you! Love your storytelling

    2. Thanks for the nomination Debbie! I have my award right here on my desk and I LOVE it. Were you at RT in New Orleans? If you tell me you handed me the award, I'll die--but I was already dying of nerves as it was, lol.

    3. I wish I was at RT it is on my bucket list. You're welcome and it was totally deserved!!