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! Play Now >
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!
By Cassidy Carter
Almost everyone is familiar with the age-old American wedding tradition—“Something old, something new. Something borrowed, something blue.” But not all wedding traditions and customs are so well-known!
In my latest novel from Hallmark Publishing, Wedding in the Pines, Slater’s the best man at a beautiful, nature-themed wedding at a rustic resort. He’s trying not to get on the wrong side of any wedding superstition, but everything still seems to be going wrong. And he’s totally surprised by the arrival of Hope—the first woman he ever loved.
These lesser-known wedding superstitions may surprise you—or maybe you’ll be familiar with them. Take a look!
1. Wedding Dress Color Superstitions
White wedding gowns have been traditional in America and Europe ever since Queen Victoria got married in one. But did you know that an old Victorian superstition assigns a lyrical meaning to every wedding dress color?
Married in white, you will have chosen all right.
Married in grey, you will go far away.
Married in black, you will wish yourself back.
Married in red, you’ll wish yourself dead.
Married in blue, you will always be true.
Married in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl.
Married in green, ashamed to be seen.
Married in yellow, ashamed of the fellow.
Married in brown, you’ll live out of town.
Married in pink, your spirits will sink.
If all of these rhymes were all true, I wonder how many brides would wear brown in hopes of living in a romantic locale like Paris or Hawaii?
2. Rain on Your Wedding Day
Sure, rain can spoil the reception. But did you know that it’s not always considered unlucky? Some believe that a wet wedding day is a sign of good luck and that it means your marriage will last. If you’ve ever tried to untie a wet knot, you know how hard it is. And don’t you want the day that you “tie the knot” to form the strongest cinch possible? With this superstition, it seems that a storm might make for a weatherproof union.
A moonlit wedding reception is as lovely as it is romantic—and it may be lucky, too. One superstition that comes from ancient Greece says that if your wedding festivities were held under a full moon, your marriage was sure to be full of happiness, harmony, and longevity.
But avoid the new moon! The Greeks believed that this moon phase was a draw for the spookier side of matrimonial magic, and so the marriage was in danger from curses and spells.
4. June Brides
Summer is a beautiful time to plan a wedding—but did you know that, just like wedding dress colors, there’s a Victorian rhyme that predicts how the month of ceremony will affect the future of your marriage? I think any Hallmark fan would be glad to know that (according to superstition), a Christmas wedding would bring a happily-ever-after!
Marry when the year is new,
Always loving, kind, and true.
When February birds do mate
You may wed, nor dread your fate.
If you wed when March winds blow,
Joy and sorrow, both you'll know.
Marry in April when you can,
Joy for maiden and for man.
Marry in the month of May,
You will surely rue the day.
Marry when June roses blow,
Over land and sea you'll go.
They who in July do wed
Must labor always for their bread.
Whoever wed in August be,
Many a change are sure to see.
Marry in September's shine,
Your living will be rich and fine.
If in October you do marry,
Love will come, but riches tarry.
If you wed in bleak November
Only joy will come, remember.
When December's snows fall fast,
Marry, and true love will last.
5. Breaking Up Is…Good to Do?
Many cultures have a tradition of the bride and groom breaking something once the vows are recited, like a glass or a plate. The reasons range from symbolizing cultural history, to remembrance of past events, to predictions of how many years the union will last—the more pieces the items shatters into, the longer the bride and groom will remain in wedded bliss.
If you’re planning a wedding, I wish you luck and happiness, no matter what the superstitions say! And if you love weddings, I’d love to invite you to the gorgeous ceremony in the woods in my novel A Wedding in the Pines. Come for the vows, the cake, the dancing—but mostly, RSVP to find out if Hope and Slater can rekindle the sparks of something old into something beautiful and new.