Review: Ember by Bettie Sharpe

Ember Book Cover Ember
Bettie Sharpe

Everyone loves Prince Charming. They have to - he's cursed. Every man must respect him. Every woman must desire him. One look, and all is lost.

Ember would rather carve out a piece of her soul than be enslaved by passions not her own. She turns to the dark arts to save her heart and becomes the one woman in the kingdom able to resist the Prince's Charm.

Poor girl. If Ember had spent less time studying magic and more time studying human nature, she might have guessed that a man who gets everything and everyone he wants will come to want the one woman he cannot have.

Review:

This is one of those rare times you’ll see me posting a review of an adult novel, and one of the even rarer times when that adult novel is erotica. It’s not a genre that I’m usually into – the sex has a tendency to overtake actual characterization and plotting – but in this case I was willing to make an exception. Why? Because Ember is a retelling of Cinderella.

Dos Equis Gif: "I don't always read erotica, but when I do, it's fairy tale erotica."

If frequent, graphic sex scenes make you uncomfortable, then Ember won’t be your cup of tea, fairy tale retelling not withstanding. If you’re ok with mature hanky panky, though, it’s definitely worth a read.

Ember differs from other Cinderella stories in that the Cinderella character – Ember, obviously – is a witch, and her stepsisters are prostitutes. Most importantly to the plot, her prince is cursed as a result of a name day “gift” from a fairy:

“May he be charming. May every eye find perfection in his face and form. May every man respect him and every woman desire him. May all who meet him love him and long to please him.”

This curse might sound more like a blessing, but think about the implications. People have no choice but to adore Prince Adrien. His presence is compelling, and the mere image of his face stamped on a coin is enough to send women into a frenzy of lust. He can have anything – and anyone – he wants, and none can deny him.

“With magic and wisdom to aid him, he could have been the greatest king in the history of our little kingdom. Instead, he was a selfish, dangerous man with a voice none could refuse.”

Ember’s mother always warned her to stay far away from the cursed prince, but one day she catches a glimpse of him during a procession and becomes infatuated. The pull of his curse is unusually strong for Ember, affecting her even more than it affects Adrien’s other subjects, and her obsession becomes so severe that she resorts to dark magic – namely, sacrificing one of her fingers – to weaken the prince’s hold over her.

Though the spell can’t completely counteract the prince’s curse, it does ease it enough to allow Ember to go about her life with a modicum of peace….at least until the prince tracks her down, determined to find the one woman who resisted his charms rather than succumbing to them.

I love that Bettie Sharpe takes the quintessential components of Cinderella and turns them on their head. Ember is no innocent young maiden with a sweet voice and humble spirit; she’s a witch, a fact she likes to flaunt. Many in her village fear her, and for good reason. She can control fire, kills neighbor’s pets for revenge, and performs bloody spells and sacrifices. She isn’t shy about getting down and dirty with the local men in a stable or a random doorway, and there are some very sexy scenes that are going to leave you fanning yourself and dabbing sweat from your cleavage.

I also like that Ember’s relationship with her stepmother and stepsisters defies convention. Instead of becoming enemies, the four women establish a rapport…and a business. Ember does serve them and become the cinder-covered girl of fairy tale legend, but it’s her choice to do so as it allows her to better fly below Adrien’s radar.

Something else I appreciate about Ember is that I don’t necessarily have to like all of the characters to be invested in their story. Ember is so blunt and no-nonsense that it’s tough to get close to her, and there are times she can be spiteful and almost cold. Likewise, Prince Adrien is a self-seeking man-whore; much of his time in the story is spent lounging around naked and erect. Still, they’re both so interesting and multi-faceted – and the sex scenes are so hot – that I couldn’t put the book down until I got to the end. Which, by the way, makes sense for the book and is the perfect compromise between a fairy tale ending and one that’s realistic.

If Ember sounds like something you might be interested in, I encourage you to take a trip to Bettie Sharpe’s website, where she’s posted the story for free. (Note: You may need to scroll down to reach the content – on my computer, I see several rows of weird “Warning” text at the top of the page before the actual story begins.) If you do read this book, let me know what you think in the comments section. I’m curious to see whether it will appeal to other fairy tale fans, especially ones like me who don’t normally read erotica.

 

Blog Tour, Review and Giveaway: Henge by Realm Lovejoy

Blog Tour Banner for Henge by Realm Lovejoy

About Henge

Book cover for Henge by Realm Lovejoy

Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.

Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven—the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

Along with the other fire, water, and wind users in Arthur’s Round, Morgan is rigorously trained and tested. The handsome Merlin, a brilliant water user, takes a particular interest in her. Is his friendship to be trusted, or is Merlin simply trying to win the position of Maven for himself? Among the many rivals Morgan faces is the current Maven, Mordred, who seems determined to see her fail.

But Morgan has a secret—years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic? Only time—and Morgan’s powerful fire—will tell.

Review

Four-star rating
A free copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been drawn to stories of King Arthur and his court. The spark was ignited by the Disney movie The Sword and the Stone and was further fueled by Gerald Morris’ The Squire’s Tales series, T. A. Barron’s The Lost Years of Merlin series, and other great retellings. Ever since then, trigger words such as “Merlin,” “Camelot, “Excalibur,” and “Round Table” have been known to set my heart racing with excitement. It comes as no surprise, then, that I ended up loving Henge as much as I did.

Unlike many other stories of Camelot, Henge is set in the 21st century. A bustling modern-day city surrounds the castle, knights serve as gun-toting body guards to the royal family, and magic use is regarded as dangerous, something to be strictly regulated and monitored. Young men and women gifted with magical abilities are required to obtain a license, and the best and brightest are allowed to enroll in the Round, an elite boarding school for those interested in serving Prince Arthur when he comes of age and inherits the kingdom.

Morgan le Fay, the book’s protagonist, is one of the magic users accepted into the Round. While there, she and her peers will hone their skills in magic, history, etiquette, and more. At the end of their time in the Round, they will be evaluated and assigned roles in Arthur’s court. The top candidate will be given the position of Maven, the king’s principal advisor and protector.

Though all of the students aspire to be Maven, Morgan is especially motivated to win the role. The influence that comes with the job would give her the opportunity to counteract the strict and discriminatory laws imposed on the magical community, laws that were responsible for the death of Morgan’s mother. Someone, though, seems determined to keep Morgan from winning Maven. Mysterious attacks and sabotage attempts put Morgan’s Round standing – and her life – in jeopardy. This, combined with Morgan’s suspicion that her fellow students are keeping dangerous secrets, keeps Morgan on her toes and leads her to wonder who – if anyone – she can trust in Camelot.

As much as I liked the plot of Henge, including the mystery, I’m not sure I was sold on Lovejoy’s adaptation of a medieval world to the 21st century. The quintessential parts of Arthurian legend that I love – armor-clad knights, sword fights and jousts, chivalry and courtly romance – are abandoned, no more than relics of the past. It was hard for me to get used to the idea that my beloved knights were armed with guns, not swords, and that the Pendragons’ castle was equipped with a helipad – say what?

Still, the cast of characters more than made up for all of this. Every time a familiar character was introduced in the book, I felt a little thrill go through me. There was crafty, handsome Lancelot, now in the role of Camelot’s chief of security; beautiful, sweet Guinevere; polite, immensely powerful Merlin; and a host of other familiar faces, including Vivian, Gawain, Percival, Tristan, Isolde…the list goes on and on.

Because there’s a wealth of Arthurian literature out there, and no one standard version of the myth, there are a number of characters whose roles and relationships change drastically depending on what version of the story they’re in. That being said, I couldn’t wait to see which direction Lovejoy would take with Henge. Would Lancelot and Guinevere show any signs of developing a love affair passionate enough to destroy a kingdom? Would Vivian go on to become the Lady of the Lake? Would Morgan be destined to become a villainess, as some stories portray her?

Waiting for answers to these questions was half the fun of Henge. Morgan, in particular, fascinated me. Her intentions for wanting to be Maven are good – she wants to make a difference and change the laws to prevent injustices like the one perpetrated against her dead mother. As the book progresses, though, there are hints that Morgan has a fierce temper, and flashbacks to her painful, isolated childhood suggest that she could potentially go down a darker path than the one she’s currently on. I love that Lovejoy kept me guessing, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of this series takes Morgan and the other citizens of Camelot by the time this saga is over!

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About Realm Lovejoy

Realm Lovejoy Author PhotoRealm Lovejoy is an American writer and an artist. She grew up in both Washington State and the Japanese Alps of Nagano, Japan. Currently, she lives in Seattle and works as an artist in the video game industry. CLAN is her first book. You can find out more about her and her book at realmlovejoy.com.

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Giveaway

  • 1 signed copy of Henge + swag (US only)
  • 1 Amazon Giftcard ($20) (INTL)
  • 2 paperbacks of Henge (US only)
  • 4 ebook copies of of Henge (INTL)

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A Sleeping Beauty Story for Every Reader

One of the great things about fairy tales is that with the variety of retellings out there, there’s guaranteed to be something to appeal to every reader’s tastes. Take the story of Sleeping Beauty, for example. Whether you’re interested in Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, or Fantasy, I can recommend a retelling for you.

If you like Science Fiction, you might enjoy: A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Book cover for A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

When Rose Fitzroy wakes up after 62 years asleep in a stasis tube, she discovers that a virulent disease has completely transformed the world she once knew. With all of her loved ones dead, Rose finds herself alone and adrift in a new century where the technology, people, language, and even the food are unfamiliar to her.

Rose puts just as much energy into trying to forget her past as she does into her attempting to adapt to her new life. The questions of why she was sent into stasis, and why it took so many years for someone to wake her up, are ones she’s desperate to avoid. Eventually, though, Rose is forced to confront the truth of her past in order to move on and give herself a future.

A Long, Long Sleep is a fantastic retelling, and its unique concept is very well-executed. This is a story about waking up, both literally and figuratively. It’s about the implications of refusing to see what’s right in front of you, about facing your problems instead of squeezing your eyes shut and waiting for those problems to pass you by. The themes in the book, and the fact that it is has some of the best final lines of any book I’ve read, make it well worth a read.

If you like Historical Fiction, you should check out: Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Book cover for Briar Rose by Jane YolenBecca grew up listening to her grandmother tell the story of Briar Rose, a princess in a thorn-encircled castle where a magical mist causes the inhabitants to fall into a deep sleep. This beloved tale takes on a whole new meaning when, on her death bed, Becca’s grandmother confesses that she was Briar Rose and implores Becca to find the castle from her fairy tale.

Armed with little more than a few old newspaper clippings and photographs, Becca sets off on a quest to uncover the truth about her grandmother’s past. This mission leads her to Poland, where various clues eventually reveal an incredible story of imprisonment and escape from a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

I didn’t love everything about this book – I wasn’t wild about Becca, and there were some moments when I was bored – but I still recommend it for its originality and the imaginative way Yolen weaves elements of the Sleeping Beauty story into a tale of the Holocaust. There’s no actual magic, but all of the elements of the Briar Rose tale are there nonetheless, in very unexpected and moving ways.

If you’re fond of Fantasy, you’ll probably appreciate: Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

Book cover for Spindle's End by Robin McKinleyI credit Robin McKinley’s books – and Spindle’s End in particular – for my love affair with fairy tales. McKinley’s retelling of Sleeping Beauty is more traditional than the other two on this list – there’s an evil fairy, a golden-haired princess, an enchanted spindle, and plenty of magic – but it’s still a unique spin on the well-known story.

There’s a wonderful feminist spirit to Spindle’s End, and Rosie, the princess, is one of those delightfully strong, independent, convention-defying heroines. Gifted with blond tresses, long eyelashes, pearly white teeth, and a variety of other endowments, Rosie is also a tomboy, can communicate with animals, and prefers to spend her time caring for sick critters and playing around in the mud.

The magic in this book is temperamental and unpredictable, and McKinley does a fantastic job of building the world in which it exists. As usual, she pays careful attention to all of her settings and characters, painstakingly examining their relationships with magic and each other. I love how rich, detailed, and thoughtful this book is, and I highly recommend it.

There you have it – three very different takes on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Have you read any of the books on this list? Can you recommend any other versions of this story that I might enjoy?

Blog Tour, Giveaway and Interview with Alethea Kontis

Book tour banner for Dearest by Alethea Kontis

I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am to participate in the Dearest blog tour, hosted by Prism Book Tours. I had the pleasure of meeting Alethea Kontis, author of this book and the rest of the novels in the Woodcutter Sisters series, at BookCon last year, and I can honestly say that she’s just as sweet as she is talented. She’s known as Princess Alethea to her fans, and it’s easy to see why; in addition to the glittering face paint and sparkling tiara that she often wears, there’s a genuine kindness and generosity to Alethea that bring to mind the graceful, charming princesses found in fairy tales.

Alethea was kind enough to do an interview with me, talking about the fairy tales that inspired Dearest, describing the challenges of putting her own spin on a familiar story, and sharing her advice on how to retain a spirit of optimism in a crazy world. When you’re done reading the interview, make sure to check out the rest of the stops on the Dearest tour and enter the giveaway at the end of this post for a chance to win signed copies of the first three books in the Woodcutter Sisters series!

About Dearest

Book cover for Dearest by Alethea KontisReaders met the Woodcutter sisters (named after the days of the week) in Enchanted and Hero. In this delightful third book, Alethea Kontis weaves together some fine-feathered fairy tales to focus on Friday Woodcutter, the kind and loving seamstress. When Friday stumbles upon seven sleeping brothers in her sister Sunday’s palace, she takes one look at Tristan and knows he’s her future. But the brothers are cursed to be swans by day. Can Friday’s unique magic somehow break the spell?

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Interview with Alethea Kontis

Headshot for Alethea Kontis

Photo courtesy of Lumos Studio

Thanks so much for joining us today, Alethea! Tell us about yourself. What would you like readers to know about you?

I am the three things I always put in my bios: Princess. Fairy Godmother. Geek. I am a nerd who likes to dress in costume, and I find magic everywhere that I go. It’s a beautiful life–my goal is to put even more wonderful things out into the universe.

Summarize Dearest in one sentence.

A generous seamstress with a heart as big as the moon finds destiny and adventure in a cursed flock of swans hiding at the top of her sister’s palace.

Dearest is based in part on “The Wild Swans” by Hans Christian Andersen and “The Goose Girl” by the Brothers Grimm. How are both of these tales referenced in Dearest?

I reread “The Wild Swans” again before I started writing Dearest — it’s amazing how much detail that story goes into. Elisa has 11 brothers who are cursed into swans by a wicked sorceress stepmother who quickly turns the king’s heart against his children. She also tries to curse Elisa, but her heart is so pure that the sorceress is forced to make Elisa physically ugly to serve her purpose. Elisa encounters an old woman in the forest who tells her exactly how to break the curse–she must weave eleven shirts from the nettles that grow in the graveyard, and she must not speak a word while she’s doing this–if she did, her brothers would die. In the meantime, she’s discovered by another king and taken to be his wife. But the archbishop sees her lurking in graveyards, condemns her as a witch, and condemned her to burn at the stake. As she is being marched to her execution, she throws 10.5 shirts over her brothers (for that’s all she’s had time to make) and they turn back into her brothers, though the youngest still has a wing instead of an arm.

Elisa was introduced in Enchanted as a mousy orphan girl named Rampion (another word for “Rapunzel”). The cook thinks Rampion is mute, but it’s because of the curse. Rampion cannot figure out how to weave shirts out of nettles…she’s tried before and failed miserably. Who better than Friday, the seamstress-sister of the Woodcutter clan, to help her out? I loved how everything just fell into place, once I started retelling “The Wild Swans” in Arilland. As for the shirts and the brothers becoming human again…well, you’ll just have to read Dearest to find out how that turns out in my version.

“The Goose Girl”…goodness, I could go on about that one forever. Suffice it to say that I stole Conrad straight from “The Goose Girl” (Conrad makes his first appearance in Hero), and he’s one of my very favorite characters in this series. There’s also an element of wind magic in “The Goose Girl” that I wove into Dearest, which makes all sorts of sense when one is working with swans.

You’ve said that “The Goose Girl” is your favorite fairy tale. What draws you to this story in particular? (Note: If you’re not familiar with the story of “The Goose Girl,” Alethea provides an entertaining summary in this Fairy Tale Rant. She also does a rant of “The Wild Swans” that I recommend as well!)

I love that the princess in this story is not just a princess, she’s also the daughter of a sorceress. I love that Falada (the talking horse) doesn’t die after the evil maid has her head cut off, and she speaks to the princess every morning as she goes to tend the geese. I love that the princess keeps her word, despite the fact that she could probably out the evil maid in a second. I love that Conrad is a clever boy who can see magic and has no qualms about walking right up to the king and telling him something is fishy. I love that when the equally-clever king finds out about the maid switching places with the princess, he asks the maid at dinner how she would deal with a similar betrayal and she unwittingly decides her own (pretty nasty) fate.

I have loved many fairy tales over the years, and I am appreciating more of them now that I am older and using them as essentially the history of my book series…but “The Goose Girl” will always be my favorite.

What is the most challenging aspect of blending well-known fairy tales with a story of your own? How do you choose which elements of the original tale to include and which to omit?

I suppose the most challenging part is knowing that I can’t remember all of every single one of the Grimm and Andersen and Lang fairy tales (which is one of the reasons I started Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Rants on YouTube). But when I think of how the Woodcutter family might have shaped the fairy tales we know and love today–it’s kind of like telling Fairy Tale Origin Stories, but with my own characters, in my own world. I use as much of the “base note” fairy tale as I can (in Dearest‘s case, “The Wild Swans”) and the things I’m forced to leave out (like Falada) I can always use later, in some other way. There are so many common elements across so many fairy stories…it’s fascinating how they all just sort of come together.

Some of today’s most beloved fairy tales have been around for centuries. What is it that has allowed them to stand the test of time?

Oh my, that’s a question for someone much older and wiser than me. Jack Zipes and J. R. R. Tolkien and even Andrew Lang himself have all attempted to answer this question. Commercially, fairy tale ventures have always been successful because of their familiarity. But what fairy stories have really stood the test of time in the 21st century? Most kids today only know Disney, not the written tales, and nursery rhymes are sung less and less at children’s bedsides. Even more complicating are the Disney “retellings” like Cinderella and Maleficent, which use the Disney fairy tale as the origin story, and not Grimm or Perrault at all. I worry for the fate of a planet that knows no true Grimm fairy tales–I hope my series encourages readers to seek them out.

Have other authors’ fairy tale retellings influenced your own writing in any way?

Book cover for Beauty by Robin McKinleyRobin McKinley’s Beauty and Deerskin are two of the most amazing retellings of all time. Those books let me know that it was possible to retell a fairy tale in a spectacular and engaging way. Similarly, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones played with fairy tale tropes in such a way that I knew I wanted to do the same.

Friday, the protagonist in Dearest, maintains a spirit of grace, kindness, and optimism in the face of all kinds of obstacles, including floods and curses. What do you think the secret is to maintaining this kind of positivity and grace in the real world?

I became an optimist as a teenager because of two things: my best friend Casey, and Voltaire. Casey was (and still is) a tiny blonde with a sunny disposition that even the darkest night can not dispel. She was a friend to everyone and the epitome of happiness–in all of my stories, she was First Princess. I was far more jaded back then, a shadow to her light. And then we read Candide in Mr. Stafford’s AP European History class, and I had a whole new perspective on optimism. Instead of siding with Voltaire, I sided with Casey. If my life is what I make it, then I choose to be a being of light. It is difficult these days, especially when optimists are a dying breed, but I hold out hope for a brighter future. (Which is pretty much what we do anyway, by definition.)

In Enchanted, the first book in the Woodcutter Sisters series, Prince Rumbold is turned into a frog, and in Dearest, Tristan and his brothers are cursed to spend their days as swans. If you had to pass your days in the form of an animal, which animal would you prefer to be and why?

In college, my major was Chemistry, with a concentration in Marine Science…possibly because one of my favorite books as a kid was Deep Wizardry, in the So You Want to Be a Wizard series by Diane Duane. In that book, the children get transformed into sea creatures and have to take part in a very important ritual to save the ocean. So…the chance to be anything with fins that gets to swim around in this magical world right here on our planet that we still know so little about? Count me in.

Book cover for AlphaOops! by Alethea KontisIn addition to the Woodcutter Sisters series and your other novels, you’ve also written picture books, short stories, essays, and poems. Which form do you find the easiest to write? The hardest?

Writing is rarely easy. Every single book or short story or poem or essay requires a significant amount of Butt in Chair. Once I force myself to sit down and do my homework, however, I remember just how much I love school.

You were a student of well-known authors Andre Norton and Orson Scott Card. What’s the most important lesson you learned from them?

They taught me that authors are just people too. This may seem like such a silly lesson to learn, but the pedestal we often place authors on is incredibly high. These amazing people taught me that the only difference between us was simply an unprecedented amount of that aforementioned Butt in Chair. Miss Andre invited me to come back and work in her library. Scott looked at me and said, “Just write the book.” Such simple things…but moments that prodded me to start this amazing journey.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’ve come to the decision that the New York publishing machine takes too much time to turn, so I’m conquering the world of self-publishing. It’s time for me to take all these ideas–and all those years of working behind the scenes in the publishing industry (almost 20 years!)–and put them to work.

In the next six months, I will be publishing Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome (another illustrated collaboration with artist Janet K. Lee), Trixter (a Woodcutter novella), and a trilogy of short contemporary romance novels set in a small beach town in central Florida. I’m very excited about all of them!

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Alethea! It’s been great getting to know you better!

About Alethea Kontis

Alethea KontisNew York Times bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a fairy godmother, and a geek. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, and ranting about fairy tales on YouTube.

Her published works include: The Wonderland Alphabet(with Janet K. Lee), Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome (with Janet K. Lee), the AlphaOops series (with Bob Kolar), the Woodcutter Sisters fairy tale series, andThe Dark-Hunter Companion (with Sherrilyn Kenyon). Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in a myriad of anthologies and magazines.

Her YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2012 and the Garden State Teen Book Award i 2015. Enchanted was nominated for the Audie Award in 2013, and was selected for World Book Night in 2014. Both Enchanted and its sequel, Hero, were nominated for the Andre Norton Award.

Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea currently lives and writes in Florida, on the Space Coast. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie. You can find Princess Alethea online at: www.aletheakontis.com.

Want to meet Alethea in person? Check out her Road Tour HERE!

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Enter here for an opportunity to win autographed copies of EnchantedHero, and Dearest!

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Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Guest Post: Shifter’s Heart by Desiree Williams

Blog tour banner for Shifter's Heart by Desiree Williams

I’m happy to participate in the blog tour for Shifter’s Heart, the second book in the Heart Song trilogy by Desiree Williams! Shifter’s Heart was released last week, and I can’t recommend it enough – it’s an exciting romance with great humor, likable characters, and a love story that’s equally steamy and sweet. In a nod to this wonderful romance, I’ve asked Desiree if she’d be willing to do a guest post on love and relationships, and she’s kindly obliged.

After reading her advice, don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post – you could win a great prize pack with jewelry and gift cards!

Desiree’s Tips for a Good Relationship

Photo of Heart Song author Desiree WilliamsHello, everybody! Before we get started, I want to personally thank Angela for allowing me to guest post on her blog today. It really is an honor.

Go pull up a chair and hang out, as we chat about two tips for a good relationship.

I insert a laugh right here because most guys shudder when they hear the term—relationship. Either they’re commitment-phobes, jaded to what love could be like, or they don’t want anyone to read past their tough-guy facade to know that, deep down, they’re a big softy. But in reality everyone wants a relationship at some point in time. Life was meant to be shared with someone we love.

I’ve worked with a lot of teens and young adults, and have seen their ups and downs with relationships. As a writer, my imagination wanders to what the relationships could be like for my characters. When I set out to create each story, I want the characters to have something that goes deeper than the physical. An unbreakable connection.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all the tingly feelings and stolen kisses are great. They make us smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But if that’s all the relationship is based on, then there isn’t any depth. It won’t be long lasting.

Tip #1: Be emotionally invested.

A good relationship is solid when the two individuals are emotionally connected, in a way that they know the other individual. They know their likes, dislikes, what they crave, what they aspire to become/achieve—they know because they’ve invested the time to listen. That’s not a razz on the guys, girls are just as guilty for not being invested listeners.

Challenge #1: Order a meal for your significate other the next time you go out to eat, without asking them what they want first. And please don’t go through the fast food land. Choose something nice! =) If you can successfully order their meal by knowing ahead of time their likes and dislikes, then that’s a good sign you are—or are on the path to becoming—emotionally invested.

Tip #2: Be YOURSELF

There is too much pressure to be “perfect.” I’ll tell you right now, being perfect is overrated. Save the time, energy, heartache, and just be yourself. How can someone truly get to know you, when you aren’t even being you? Be unique, be YOU, because you are the one and only you.

Challenge #2: When you’re getting all fancied-up for your dinner to complete Challenge #1, ask yourself: am I dressing to impress myself, or am I dressing to impress everyone else? If it’s the latter, please stop. You are precious and worthy and don’t need the validation of someone else to give you self-worth. (And insert sappy virtual hug here. =))

So, do you dare to take up my challenges? Hmm? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

Special thanks again to Angela for allowing me to stop by. I had so much fun. Blessings!

You can find out more about Desiree and her books at www.desireewilliamsbooks.blogspot.com.

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About Shifter’s Heart

Book cover for Shifter's Heart by Desiree WilliamsAs the flames of Varkadon spread, war rips through the Shifter Territory…

With the Aldonnian kingdom celebrating the news of her brother’s soul bonding, Laelynn seizes every opportunity to drive herself to the brink of exhaustion. If her body is worn, then her brain would be too tired to dream. Laelynn knew the men who’d captured her were gone from this world, but that didn’t stop the haunting images from plaguing her mind. Not even the pesky thorn-in-her-side Shifter Prince could keep the dreams at bay. Though Dustan’s commentary through their mental bond had kept a lingering smile on her lips, despite the battles that rage within her.

Yet when Dustan distances himself Laelynn questions the connection between them. Those fears rise when her own talents begin to morph and growth into the unexpected. Torn between love and faith, Laelynn strives to find the purpose behind the evolving gifts. What she discovers is far more than she ever imagined.

As tragedy befalls the Shifter Territory and brother battles against brother, Laelynn knows what must be done. Face her demons and triumph, or she’ll never claim the song of her heart.

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Giveaway

Desiree is giving away a lovely Origami Owl bracelet, a $10 Amazon gift card, and a $10 iTunes gift card! For a chance to win, enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter form below. The winner will be announced on Desiree’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter account the morning of February 7.

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