While romance fans around the world flocked to theaters to see “Fifty Shades of Grey,” there’s another movie at the top of my 2015 “must-see” list. True, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” might seem a surprising choice for a romance writer, but it promises something that no other summer popcorn flick can: Hunky Armie Hammer portraying KGB agent Ilya Kuryakin.
Armie Hammer? Russian accent? If that sounds as good to you as it does to me, check out Red Hot Russians, my debut contemporary romance series published by Carina Press.
I’ve been an avid reader most of my life, and have been pursuing my goal of becoming a published romance author since 2009. So far, 2015 has been an amazing year, with the release of my debut series. Book #1, “Pairing Off” came out in February, Book #2, “Turning It On,” releases June 29, and I’m currently at work on Book #3 “Getting It Back,” scheduled for release in March, 2016.
Each book features a delectable Russian hero, and while romance readers are well acquainted with the enigmatic, brooding, and dangerous variety, my Red Hot Russians are a little different. They’re both sexy and sweet. Handsome too, naturally. Since the series idea grew from my love for figure skating, each has a connection to the sport. Pairing Off’s Anton is a top pair skater, while Getting It Back’s Misha is an Olympic medalist in men’s singles.
In Turning It On, Vlad Shustov’s career as an ice dancer fell short of the gold medal podium. He now puts his smooth moves to work as “Vlad the Bad,” the top attraction at The Male Room, one of Miami’s hottest male strip clubs. But Vlad longs to be something more; specifically an author. When he’s cast in a steamy reality TV show, he knows that winning the $250,000 jackpot means he can finally leave stripping and devote himself to finishing “The Flesh Zone,” the monster-apocalypse novel he hopes will take him to the top of the best-seller list. Too bad, he doesn’t like what he’ll have to do to win the money.
On set in Puerto Rico, Vlad befriends fellow contestant Hannah Levinson, and neither can deny their surprising attraction. Hannah, who has been designated as the show’s ugly duckling, is determined to keep her fame-hungry fiancé from the clutches of a scheming dental hygienist. Vlad, who’s been cast as the show’s villain, offers to coach Hannah so she’ll look and feel more confident on camera. Unlikely allies, Vlad and Hannah discover that neither are what the cameras show them to be. Can true love blossom in the unreal world of reality TV?
Turning It On was a fun book to write and research, as I learned about life behind the scenes of reality TV. Do you have a favorite reality show, and have you ever wondered just how “real” it is?
Read on for a preview of “Turning It On,” (Red Hot Russians #2), available now, from Carina Press.
Hannah sighed and shook her head. “I’m not usually such an emotional mess. It’s just this show. This whole situation! Back there…” she flung her arm wide, in the direction of the mainland. “I’m successful. Accomplished. I have a great job. I live in New York City. Here, all anyone cares about is how hot I am. Or more to the point, how hot I’m not!”
Vlad nodded sympathetically. “It’s TV. Unfortunately, sex sells better than other good qualities.”
“Exactly! I can’t compete. I’m not like those other women, and I don’t even want to be. But I have no choice. Not unless I want to lose my fiancé to a scheming bimbo and have the entire nation talking about what a pathetic loser I am. It’s humiliating.”
“You can always learn to be sexy.” Vlad looked her over. “You’ve got the right equipment. All you need is to learn to use it. I am around sexy women all the time. I could coach you. You know…sexy lessons.”
“Sexy lessons?” She had to laugh at that. “I’ve never thought of sexy as a learned skill.”
“It is, though. All about how you carry yourself.” He adjusted his posture and the set of his broad shoulders conveyed a confidence that was undeniably hot.
“And who better to teach me than a guy named Vlad the Bad who takes off his clothes for a living?”
“As Uncle Ivan used to say, it pays to work with best coach you can find.”
She laughed again, but didn’t entirely dismiss the idea. Putting a little strut in her stuff held surprising appeal. Yet what was the catch? A guy who willingly signed on for a trashy show like Last Fling must want something. “And in return?”
He thought a moment and Hannah tensed, afraid of what he might ask. Then he gave a decisive nod. “I want you to read my book. Not just query, synopsis, “sorry not right for us,” but the whole thing. You don’t have to buy, but I want honest, professional critique of how to make it better.”
Honest and professional? Yikes. What would she say if the book was god-awful, which it likely was? He’d pinned so much hope to it, she couldn’t bear to be the one to discourage him. On the other hand, at least she would be gentle and constructive. And if it was good, this was a chance to help him achieve his dream. She imagined taking the book to her boss. Sales and Marketing would drool over this hot Russian male stripper–turned-literary sensation. As would everyone else. And if it kept Jack from Robynne’s clutches, it was worth the risk.
Vlad narrowed his eyes. “So do we have a deal?”
A bit more certain, Hannah laughed and stuck out her hand. “Deal.”
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Originally published May, 2015 on Coffee Time Romance