Author of Rescuing Harmony Ranch – A feel-good romance from Hallmark Publishing
Have you ever wondered how to write a kiss that will send your readers into a heady swoon? Or thought about what goes into that moment that makes a reader finish the sentence on a sigh as they press the pages of the book or Kindle to their chest?
As a romance author, I often get questions about how to describe kissing in writing. It’s about more than just the mechanics of “pucker up and smooch.” The writer builds the tension and chemistry between the characters, then brings the readers along on the wild ride to that one magical moment where everything changes. And make no mistake: everything must change after that kiss.
In Rescuing Harmony Ranch, my newest book with Hallmark Publishing, marketing exec, Jocelyn Stone comes home to Harmony Ranch to help her grandmother, who has been in a car accident. Mack Talbot, her first love, is now the blacksmith and caretaker of the ranch, and the two of them must work together to save her grandmother’s legacy. Jocelyn and Mack are complete opposites and still find themselves competing over everything. But that fire of attraction is still there, and I had the best time forging these two characters’ hearts back together and making sparks fly. (Did you catch all that cute blacksmith humor? Don’t worry—there’s more where that came from in the book.)
Here are my best tips, along with a few examples from Rescuing Harmony Ranch, on how to write a first kiss. Most of these apply to the second, third, or tenth kiss, too!
- Build Tension Between the Characters First
A lot of emotion goes into a first kiss—vulnerability, want, need, fear, desire, terror, or maybe all of the above. A good writer lets the reader experience all the highs and lows and the yearning for that first connection.
A great way to build tension is to create a moment where the characters almost kiss. Maybe they pull back…or maybe they’re interrupted.
Here’s an example showing Mack and Joss in an ‘almost’ moment.
“You look exactly the same.” He lifted a strand of her hair and then released it. “Except your hair is shorter. And fancier. No ponytail.”
The brief touch of his fingers in her hair had her wanting to close her eyes and lean into him, to savor the feel of him again. After all these years, she hadn’t expected the feelings to still be so strong.
His eyes darkened, narrowed as his gaze dropped to her lips. She caught her breath as her body froze. Was he going to kiss her? Did she want to kiss him?
No. She’d been back less than a day and hadn’t seen this man, the one who shattered her heart, in years. She should be backing away, thinking this through and putting a stop to it before someone, like her, got hurt again. But instead, she drew just the smallest bit nearer.
A loud rap sounded on the door, as if her good sense had been locked out and was knocking to be let back in.
She sucked in a quick breath as she took a step back.
“Hellooo?” a voice called through the screen.
- Set the Scene
The setting can be as much a part of the kiss as the actual meeting of their lips. Where are they? On a crowded bus? Standing in the kitchen? At the top of a Ferris wheel? Trapped in the vault during a bank robbery? At a funeral? Are they in the perfect place to have their first kiss? Or even better, in the worst place to have their first kiss?
- Appeal to All the Senses
Think through each of the senses—sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste—and let readers know what the character is experiencing. Do they hear a neighbor’s dog barking, or rainfall on the windows? Do they smell perfume, or the scent of smoke from the campfire? What do they taste? The cinnamon scent of gum? The lingering taste of chocolate from the piece of cake they just shared?
This is a tiny moment where Jocelyn is peering around the ranch and it shows what she sees but also brings in smell, touch, and the emotion in her memories…
The massive white barn stood sentinel over the ranch, the home to several horses and cows, and the center of so many memories of learning to ride, of helping her grandfather bucket-feed a calf…and of kissing Mack in the rafters above the stalls. She could almost smell the earthy scent of dust and feel the scratchy hay that always found a way into her clothes.
- Show What Their Bodies Are Going Through
Are their bodies tense or loose? Are they sitting or standing? (Or hanging upside down like in that swoony scene in Spiderman?)
Think about what they’re doing with their hands: one might be gripping the counter behind them, or cupping the cheek of the other. Where are they looking right before the kiss? One of them might be gazing into the other’s eyes, staring at the floor shyly, or sneaking glances at the other one’s lips.
What are their mouths doing? Nibbling a lower lip? Parted in anticipation? Swallowing at the dryness of the Sahara desert that has become their mouth?
And what is happening inside their bodies? Can they hardly breathe, or is their breath coming in rapid pants? Does their chest hurt from the way their heart is hammering so hard against it? Are their cheeks tingling or their palms sweating? These are all things you can consider when you’re thinking about how to describe a kiss.
- Convey Emotion
What are your characters thinking and feeling? Have they been wanting this forever…or are they hesitant, because they know this will change everything? They don’t need to have an entire inner monologue running through their heads, but readers want to know what is going through their minds. It can be as simple as thinking, “yes, please, I’ll die if he doesn’t kiss me” or “I shouldn’t be doing this.”
And all the emotion doesn’t have to be in their heads. I love dialogue in a kissing scene, like a hesitant “Are you sure?” or “Is this okay?” right before a kiss. Or even a funny line afterward, like “Do you smell something burning?”
Show what they are thinking before the kiss, during the kiss, and after the kiss. How will this kiss change everything?
Jocelyn and Mack are in the kitchen making apple pies when they share this moment…
Jocelyn peered up at Mack, her question changing to a message as she tried to express that emotion of caring, of acceptance, of love. They’d broken each other’s hearts—not intentionally, but it had hurt all the same. This one moment felt like a chance to heal some of that pain…to start anew.
Mack must have felt her message because he slid his arms around her back and pulled her into a hug. His touch was tender, and he smelled like cinnamon and sugar and apple pie, and everything she’d been missing the last ten years they’d been apart.
His arms wrapped tighter around her, and she melted into him, sighing as her body recognized his and settled into the familiar yet still new and exciting feel of being held in his arms again.
You can have so much fun with writing a kissing scene. Put yourself in the heads of the characters and imagine how that first kiss would go. Not all first kisses are fiery and passionate. Sometimes your characters bump noses, or the dog jumps in between them just as they lean in. The writer can make a kissing scene silly and awkward and still wildly romantic, as long as they stay true to how their characters would react and show what they are feeling.
I hope this has given you some good ideas on how to write about a kiss. Good luck and have fun!
And to see what happens with the rest of Mack and Jocelyn’s story, be sure to check out Rescuing Harmony Ranch from Hallmark Publishing. Matchmaking grannies, a meddlesome mutt, and yes, super swoony kisses guaranteed.
It can be hard to figure out your wedding aesthetic. After all, so many elements go into a dream wedding…from the guests, to the venue, to the wedding décor (not to mention the cake.) For all those who wonder, “What’s my wedding style?”, this multiple-choice quiz from Hallmark Publishing is for you!
First, describe yourself in one word
How many people do you plan on inviting?
A: just close friends and family
B: 50-100 guests
C: 100-150 guests
D: 150+ guests
In terms of venue, where do you envision having your ideal wedding?
A: someplace familiar, sentimental, and close to home
B: in a forest...like a woodland fairytale
C: someplace traditional, like a church or a hotel ballroom
D: someplace grand, like a castle
Which flowers do you want to carry and fill the venue with?
A: sunflowers, baby’s breath, daisies
B: peony roses, white lilacs, ranunculus
C: roses, lilies of the valley, gardenias
D: orchids, stephanotis, calla lilies
What table decorations do you choose to go with the lovely flowers you’ve chosen?
A: lanterns and glass terrariums
B: bell jars with wooden bases and tea lights
C: tall column vases and glass pillar candle holders
D: metallic candelabras and tall flower pedestals
Which wedding cake appeals the most to you?
A: carrot cake, frosted with caramel buttercream, decorated with wildflowers
B: partially naked lemon cake with raspberry filling, topped with assorted berries
C: chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream, white frosted flowers and a wedding cake topper
D: pink champagne cake decorated with gold leaf and cascading fondant flowers
What dreamy wedding dress do you choose?
A: a simple floral lace sheath dress
B: an empire waist dress with layers of lace and tulle
C: a timeless silk A-line gown
D: a princess-style ball gown with a long train
When you think about your wedding guests, what dress code do you envision?
A: dressy casual
B: creative black tie
C: semi-formal cocktail
D: white tie
If you picked mostly A’s:
You Should Have A Rustic Wedding!
Rustic weddings incorporate beautiful countryside and outdoor influences, featuring natural textures and elements like wood, wildflowers, burlap, and any other organic materials that strike your fancy. The vibe of rustic weddings should be natural, relaxed, and casual, perfect for those who want a unique and intimate wedding. Common venues include farmhouses, barns, and gardens. If you are interested in exploring more of the beautiful rustic wedding aesthetic, read A Country Wedding by Leigh Duncan or Sunrise Cabin by Stacey Donovan for inspiration.
If you picked mostly B’s:
You Should Have A Bohemian Wedding!
Bohemian weddings are all about romanticism, artistry, and unconventional styling and flair. They have a romantic feel that’s coupled with bright pops of color and unique details. As such, the venues may be inside or outside, whether it’s in a forest, a beautiful beach, or even an industrial space like a warehouse. The vibe of Bohemian weddings should be free-spirited, whimsical, and eclectic; perfect for those who want a creative and playful wedding. For more inspiration on Bohemian weddings, check out Beach Wedding Weekend by Rachel Magee or A Cottage Wedding by Leigh Duncan.
If you picked mostly C’s:
You Should Have A Classic Wedding!
Classic weddings are timeless, built on traditions that never go out of style. Common staples to a classic wedding include lush greenery, delicate white florals, and minimal décor. Classic weddings can work for almost all types of venues, but the most common are hotel ballrooms, banquet halls, and large churches. The vibe of a classic wedding should be formal and sophisticated, perfect for those who want an elegant and chic wedding. For more inspiration on classic weddings, read about Jenny and Nick’s wedding in A Simple Wedding by Leigh Duncan.
If you picked mostly D’s:
You Should Have A Glam Wedding!
Glam weddings are all about the wow factor; they’re dramatic, show-stopping, and, well, glamorous. Some key features to a glam wedding are sparkly metallics, extravagant decorations, and formal attire. Venues are very important to consider: places with glitz and grandeur such as country clubs, historic estates, or castles are all promising options. The vibe of a Glam wedding should be opulent and grand. If you’re interested in exploring more of the glam wedding aesthetic, check out Kay’s plans in A Simple Wedding by Leigh Duncan or Regina’s plans in A Cottage Wedding by Leigh Duncan.
We hope you enjoyed our wedding style quiz…and whether you’re planning a wedding now, or just daydreaming, we’re sending good wishes your way. Thanks for stopping by!
by Olivia Matthews
Does the idea of leading a book club discussion fill you with fear? If so, you’re not alone. Reading your group’s book selection is only part of the journey. Lots of people draw a blank when it comes to the other part: coming up with effective book club discussion questions.
Hallmark has asked me to share with you some tips on this subject. You see, Marvey, the fish-out-of-water protagonist of my new cozy mystery series from Hallmark Publishing, Peach Coast Library Mysteries, is a librarian in addition to being an amateur sleuth. One of her first goals is to start a book club for the Peach Coast Library. I’ve done some research on this topic…and here's how I think Marvey would lead a book club discussion!
General Book Club Questions
These basic questions are meant to spark a fun and active discussion about your club’s book selection. Good book club questions act as prompts to get the exchange flowing. They’re open-ended and encourage people to share their opinion of the book. These should be suitable for most fiction novels, and you can adapt them or add to them as you like!
1. What was your favorite part of the book?
2. Who was your favorite character?
3. Who was your least favorite character?
4. With which character could you most relate?
5. How did the characters’ motivations explain their actions?
6. Which scene made the strongest impression on you?
7. What’s one of your favorite lines from the book?
8. How did the setting add to or take away from the story?
9. What surprised you most in the story?
10. Did you learn anything from the story?
11. If you could ask the author anything about the story, what would you ask?
12. Would you recommend this book? Why or why not?
Guiding the Book Discussion
You’ve read the book. You’ve identified twelve stimulating questions to ask. Now you’re ready for your book club discussion. Right?
Not so fast, my friends. It’s also a good idea to set a few fundamental guidelines to ensure everyone feels comfortable participating in the discussion. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
1. Be kind and courteous. Healthy debates are natural, but it’s important to be kind…and of course, hate speech or bullying have no place in a good book club. It should be a safe space in which mutual respect is the rule.
2. Agree to disagree. Everyone brings their own experiences into the pages of a book. In fact, different opinions can lead to a more interesting discussion.
3. Give everyone a chance to contribute. Some clubs have one or two members who do most of the talking. Chatty people should be careful not to dominate the discussion.
4. Respect members’ privacy.
What’s shared in the group should stay in the group.
Of course, half the fun of a book club meeting is catching up with friends, but don’t forget the mission of a book club is to discuss books. Hopefully, this will give you a starting point for a fun and lively meeting. Until next time, happy reading!
By Eunice Shin
Recently, the talented Olivia Matthews shared with us helpful tips on “How to Lead a Book Club” (If you haven’t checked it out, make sure to!) One thing we’ve heard from some book clubs is that they need a break from serious and heavy stories. So if you’re looking for feel-good light reads, here’s a list of five uplifting book club books from Hallmark Publishing for you. For two of these, we even have discussion guides!
By the way, every Hallmark novel comes with a free original recipe inspired by the story. So if you’re hosting book club, and you feel so inspired, you can serve your guests something delicious that ties into the discussion!
1. Sweet Tea by Piper Huguley
Piper Huguley’s debut novel with Hallmark Publishing releases in June 2021 and is as heartwarming and charming as the small Southern town it’s set in. Even as Althea and Jack start off on the wrong foot with each other, you’ll fall in love with their chemistry. She’s a lawyer who thinks he’s trying to steal and profit off of her grandmother’s recipes. He’s a filmmaker pursuing his passion for authentic Southern food who, based on what Althea’s grandmother told him, thinks she’s a ruthless lawyer who has forgotten her roots. Although they clash, they also bring out the best in each other…and fall in love. With themes of homecoming, history, and identity, this book will warm your heart and give you a lot to discuss. Check out the Sweet Tea book club discussion guide for more discussion questions! Download it here >
2. South Beach Love by Caridad Piñeiro
This book from a New York Times bestselling author releases in May 2021 and you don’t want to read it on an empty stomach so replenish the book club snack budget accordingly. Take a trip to beautiful Little Havana in Miami where love is brewing between Tony and Sara. These two chefs are catering for quinceañeras, or fifteenth birthday parties, of two girls who are rivals. Only one of the quinceañeras will be chosen to be featured in the local paper. This delectable romance is filled with friendly competition, glorious Cuban cuisine, and feel-good family moments. For more questions, see the South Beach Love book club discussion guide. Download it Here >
3. Once Upon a Royal Summer by Teri Wilson
With summer fast approaching, get ready for sun, fun, and…royalty! Lacey, a theme-park princess, is tasked with escorting a gruff single-dad and his lovable daughter around the theme park…only to find out later that Henry and Rose are actually the Crown Prince and Princess of Bella-Moritz! Soon, Lacey learns firsthand that real royal life isn’t all fairytales and fancy balls. When she and Henry start to fall in love, they are met with some opposition, but if there’s anything that fairytales have taught them, it’s that true love always finds a way. Teri Wilson delivers a fresh and delightful royal rom-com that is the epitome of a fun book club book, guaranteed to leave readers with smiles on their faces. As a bonus, Prince Henry is one of the dreamiest fictional princes you’ll ever meet.
4. An Amish Flower Farm by Mindy Steele
From Mindy Steele comes Hallmark Publishing’s first Amish romance and it hits all the right notes: wholesome and inspiring, making it the perfect women’s book club book. Belinda, who grows flowers, and Adam, a beekeeper, are neighbors who strike a deal that’s beneficial for both of them: if she helps tend his hives, he’ll sell her flowers in town. Both thought that romance wasn’t in the books for them: Belinda grew up being teased because of the birthmark on her cheek, which stunted her self-confidence and made her very shy, while Adam keeps his heart closed off after his last courtship ended badly. Filled with themes of self-love, personal growth, and community, you’ll fall in love with Belinda and Adam and their blossoming love for each other. Whether this is your first time picking up an Amish romance or your fiftieth, An Amish Flower Farm will spark good moods and good discussions.
5. A Simple Wedding by Leigh Duncan
This book is as sweet as the confections it describes…and that’s saying something given that the hero is a baker. Jenny has been dreaming of a Heart’s Landing wedding ever since she was a little girl so when she has a chance to plan one, it should be a dream come true…only she’s a pretend bride secretly planning her A-lister cousin’s wedding and not her own. It’s hard enough to keep up the ruse when her cousin keeps changing all the details, but when Jenny falls for Nick the baker, she has to decide what her heart really wants. A Simple Wedding is filled with supportive, endearing townspeople, beautiful scenery, humor, and heart. Lucky for you and your fellow book club members, A Simple Wedding is also the first in series, which means you can revisit Heart’s Landing again and again.
We hope you enjoyed reading about these five uplifting books and consider these book club suggestions. Book clubs are a wonderful way to bond and stay connected to both old and new friends, so whether you’re in one already or planning on joining one, we’re wishing nothing but love and laughter your way. Thanks for stopping by!