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.
By Eunice Shin
Who’s ready for sun, sand, and summer romance? If that’s you, then you’re going to love this list of best beach reads of 2022 from Hallmark! These summer romance books are perfect for those who are craving some fun in the sun. Whether you love reading on the beach or if you want the beach vibes without sand getting everywhere, Check out these feel-good summer reads!
- The Beach Escape by Rachel Magee
This book is just what its title suggests: a trip to the Florida Emerald Coast that you don’t want to miss! If Molly and Grant’s journey to their Happily-Ever-After doesn’t steal your heart, then the rescue turtles definitely will. Neither of them plan on staying in the cozy beach town for long but, as the sea turtles teach them, sometimes the best moments in life can’t be planned for. Refreshing and oh-so heartwarming, this book is guaranteed to leave readers dreaming of their very own beach escape.
- Beach Wedding Weekend by Rachel Magee
This summer wedding story is Rachel Magee’s debut novel with Hallmark Publishing, and it’s packed with so much fun. Our heroine Paige, in an attempt to win back the heart of her ex, pretends to be in a relationship with her best friend’s brother Aidan. It’s all supposed to be fake…so why do their pretend dates start feeling more and more real? With its strong themes of friendship, family, and love when you least expect it, there will be no pretending needed when it comes to falling in love with this book.
- South Beach Love by Caridad Piñeiro
From a New York Times bestselling author, this book is as warm and as colorful as its Miami setting. Sara and Tony are two very different chefs cooking for rival fifteenth birthday parties, or quinceañeras, but only one of the parties will be covered in the local paper and they both need the exposure. Between the irresistible chemistry between the two characters and the mouthwatering Cuban cuisine, you won’t want to set this book down. Plus, as a bonus, you can relive all your favorite moments by watching the movie adaptation on the Hallmark Channel, starring Taylor Cole and William Levy!
- Love at the Shore by Teri Wilson
This book has all the feel-good vibes that you’d associate with Hallmark—and it’s perfect to take along on any vacation. Meet Jenna and Lucas; they’re next-door neighbors for the summer and their differences immediately cause them to clash. However, opposites attract and with the end of summer on the horizon, they must decide if their relationship is just a summer fling or the start of something more. Teri Wilson never fails to deliver a delightful rom-com with a little laughter and a lot of heart and this book is no exception.
- Sand Dollar Cove by Nancy Naigle
If you’re a fan of Hallmark, then Nancy Naigle’s name will be very familiar to you! This book follows Elli who has to work with Brody to help rebuild Sand Dollar Cove after a hurricane. Brody likes his fun single surfer life but something about Elli makes him want to catch feelings instead of waves. With the charming small town by the beach, the tight-knit and resilient community, and love as vast as the ocean, you’ll definitely want to add this book to your beach bag. Now a Hallmark Channel original movie!
- One Summer by David Baldacci
For those who want to read something a little more serious, this New York Times bestseller is just right for you! After a terrible loss, Jack takes his grieving children to his deceased wife’s childhood beach home for the summer. While there, they not only learn how to be a family again but also open their hearts to love and new possibilities. This book is a page-turner and a true testament of David Baldacci’s storytelling range. Now a Hallmark Channel original movie!
- Groundswell by Katie Lee
This is definitely a book you’ll want to add to your TBR list. Come visit this sleepy coastal town in Mexico with miles of unspoiled beaches and join in on Emma’s journey to slowing down and healing after a stressful and fast-paced life. With themes of self-discovery, healing, and unexpected love, this book is the perfect beach read to take with you on your next trip. Soon to be a Hallmark Channel original movie!
We hope you enjoyed reading about these seven incredible beach reads and that they inspire your summer reading lists. Whether you travel to scenic beaches in your imagination or in person, we wish you good health, positive vibes, and wonderful experiences this summer! Thanks for stopping by!
By Eunice Shin
Are you dreaming about a fun-filled, relaxing summer? Even if your schedule is packed most days, there is always room for me-time and small adventures. That’s where our Summer Bucket List for 2022 comes in handy. Filled with summer activities for adults, these fun bucket list ideas will inspire you if you’re looking for things to do on a hot day…and even when the summer sun is long gone.
- Learn how to do a fun craft or DIY
If you’ve always wanted to make your own tie-dye wardrobe, create your own jewelry, or any other craft activity, maybe this is the summer you learn! You can check if there are community programs available or find tutorials online. And remember, even if the final product doesn’t turn out how you envisioned it, the most important thing is to have fun with it.
- Read a feel-good book
Even if you can’t physically go to a new place, a book is an excellent (and budget-friendly) way of traveling. And if you’re looking for a guaranteed feel-good read, you can get one for free when you sign up for the Hallmark Publishing newsletter.
- Go camping!
Camping is an excellent way for both kids and adults to appreciate the great outdoors while having fun with friends and family. And if traveling to a campground isn’t your idea of a good time, you can pitch a tent in your backyard. Don’t forget the s’mores!
- Write a letter to someone you love and mail it!
Nothing compares to the feeling of checking the mail and unexpectedly getting a letter or a card from someone you love. And remember, you don’t need a special reason like birthdays or holidays to let someone know you love them and think of them.
- Try a new recipe
Want to give your tastebuds a fun adventure as well? Summer is a great time to try some new recipes whether it’s something you’ve seen on social media or in your family’s recipe box. And for extra inspiration, check out Hallmark Publishing’s recipes.
- Do a random act of kindness
There are lots of opportunities to be kind in your everyday life whether it’s by giving a stranger a genuine compliment, tipping more than usual, or helping someone cross the street. A little bit of kindness goes a long way and the smiles it brings to people’s faces is priceless.
- Have a picnic at the park
For a chill, fun activity, grab an old blanket or tablecloth, pack your favorite simple meal (maybe even something you make from #5), and go to your favorite local park for a picnic! Something about fresh air and a new setting makes food taste even more delicious.
- Watch the sunset/sunrise
Sometimes when you’re so consumed by the bustle of the day-to-day, it’s hard to stop and appreciate the simple things. If you have a little bit of time to relax this summer, maybe you can stay up to see the sun rise or stay out to see the sun set. Regardless, take a moment to soak in the Vitamin D and the pretty view.
- Learn a new skill
We all have skills we wish we knew or learned sooner so why not take this summer as the chance to start? Don’t know how to swim? Want to learn a new language? It’s never too late to learn something new and the possibilities are endless.
- Catch up with an old friend
One of the great things about social media is that it makes finding friends you’ve lost contact with much easier. If you haven’t had a chance to check in on a friend and see how they’ve been doing lately, this summer might be a good opportunity to reach out. Maybe you can even meet them in person if they’re still in the area.
- Go to your local library
The library is a great place to find book recommendations (and also air conditioning for those scorching hot days). You can explore books by a new-to-you author or books in a new genre that you’re curious about but don’t want to commit to buying. Plus you can check out the different summer programs your local library is hosting!
- Spend a day volunteering for a cause you believe in
Volunteering can be so rewarding, especially if it’s for a cause you’re passionate about. For example, if you want to help animals, then check out local shelters. Or if you’re all about raising literacy in the community, I bet your local library will have something for you. There are so many ways to volunteer and give back so do your research and have fun!
- Take a selfie in the sun
Whether you’re on a walk, running errands, or enjoying any of the activities listed in this list, take a moment to put on your brightest smile and snap a selfie. Pictures are an excellent way of preserving memories and something tells me that this summer will be full of fun memories for you.
Hopefully our summer bucket list inspires you and your plans! Whether you do one of these activities or all of them, we hope that you have a wonderful and refreshing summer. Thanks for reading!
By Eunice Shin
Do you love cowboy romance movies? Is your go-to pick for movie nights a good Western romance movie? If that’s you, then you’re in for a ride! Saddle up and check out this list of Hallmark’s best country romance movies.
1. A Country Wedding, starring Jesse Metcalfe and Autumn Reeser
Bradley Suttons is an award-winning country music star who returns to his small town to plan his wedding. When he reconnects with his childhood best friend Sarah, who runs a ranch for rescue horses, he starts to question whether the country wedding he is planning features the right bride. You might also enjoy the companion novel!
2. J.L. Family Ranch, starring Jon Voight, James Caan, Melanie Griffith, and Teri Polo
This movie follows veteran rancher and former sheriff John Landsburg as he and his family are forced to save the family ranch from an old enemy with a grudge that spans decades. With robust Western vibes and the strong theme of family, you’ll quickly see why this movie is a fan-favorite (and even has a sequel).
3. A Summer Romance, starring Erin Krakow and Ryan Paevey
She’s a cowgirl trying to save her family’s ranch; he’s a city slicker trying to turn her family’s legacy into a luxury resort. They shouldn’t get along…but something about working on the ranch together brings the best out of them. With tropes like opposites-attract, a fish-out-of-water hero, and true Western hospitality, this movie definitely lives up to its title.
4. Country at Heart, starring Jessy Schram and Niall Matter
What happens when a struggling country singer and a songwriter team up to write a song? Both Shayna and Grady need a song for the annual music festival and, as they work together, they find that they make good music partners. But when the music stops, could they have a chance at being partners in love? (By the way, if you’d like a holiday twist on country music and romance, you’d love the book A Down Home Christmas by Liz Talley!)
5. Under the Autumn Moon, starring Lindy Booth and Wes Brown
She only came to the ranch for business…but the owner is a charming cowboy who makes her want to stay forever. As he teaches her about authentic ranch life and shows her around the charming town, she must choose between what her work wants and what her heart wants. Full of small-town rustic vibes and undeniable chemistry, you’ll want to dance in the moonlight with a cowboy of your very own after you watch this.
6. A Feeling of Home, starring Jonna Walsh and Nathan Parsons
If you love Texan ranch vibes and second-chance romance, then this is the movie for you! Abby, the host of a successful New England-themed web series, needs to convince her sponsors that she’s a bona fide New Englander. There’s only one problem: she’s not. When she goes back home to help at her father’s ranch, she’s in danger of falling in love with Texas…and her ex all over again. (P.S. If these themes sound right up your alley, check out the book Rescuing Harmony Ranch by Jennie Marts.)
7. Taking the Reins, starring Nikki DeLoach and Scott Porter
If you love horses and second-chance romance, then you’ll love this heartwarming movie. After staying away for so long, Samantha goes back to her family’s horse ranch to write an article—and, in the process, discovers what ended her marriage and why she stopped riding her beloved horses. As she works on her article, she has the chance to rewrite her future…but only if she learns from her past.
8. Roadhouse Romance, starring Lauren Alaina and Tyler Hynes
Country music fan and military lieutenant Callie Jackson comes back home to help with her grandfather’s restaurant that is famous for their BBQ sauce and for discovering country music talent. When she meets Luke, a TV director looking for his next project, the sparks spell out a recipe for new love. If you love country music, good BBQ, and heartwarming storylines, this is the movie for you.
We hope you enjoyed reading about these heartwarming country romance movies from Hallmark Channel. And if you’re looking for more Hallmark cowboy romance, please check out the bestselling novel Country Hearts by Cindi Madsen, and the new book release Cowboy Ever After by Jennie Marts! As we tip our cowboy hats at you all, we hope you stay happy and healthy when we meet again. Thanks for stopping by!
by Jennie Marts
Author of Cowboy Ever After, A Feel-Good Romance from Hallmark Publishing
Like me, the heroine of Cowboy Ever After, Kaylee Collins, is an author of Western romance novels. We both love Cheetos, dogs, and ice cream, and both have curly hair that often wings out of control. We both need to get a little more exercise, and at times, we both wish we were a little…or a lot…braver. But that might be where the similarities end. Kaylee is a timid introvert, whereas I have yet to meet a stranger I couldn’t carry on a five-minute conversation with. I grew up on a farm and love horseback riding, but Kaylee’s terrified of horses and has never been on a ranch.
But all of that changes when Kaylee’s editor sends her to her family’s ranch in Montana to experience it firsthand and add some authenticity to her writing. Kaylee isn’t prepared to meet Luke Montgomery, the exact replica of Duke Ramsay, the handsome cowboy hero in her books.
I often get asked why I love cowboys and writing country romance books, and I think the answer comes down to three things: Cowboys, Community, and Cute Animal Antics.
This one seems obvious, right? It’s so fun to write about hunky heroes who wear square-toed cowboy boots and have the broad shoulders and muscled arms of someone who works hard. Cowboys ride horses and swing hay bales and tip their cowboy hats and say swoony things like, “I got you, darlin’.” At least, in my books they do. My cowboys love God, their mamas, and the land. They have manners and respect women and care for animals. My cowboys are tough on the outside, but soft on the inside when it comes to the women they love. They are just my favorite kind of heroes.
Being from a small town, I just love to showcase the simple life that revolves around community, friendship, and taking care of one another. People in small towns get a bad rep for being nosy and in each other’s business—and that can be true—but it’s not always a bad thing to know that someone needs a helping hand.
A few years ago, I called my dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day and I asked what he’d done that day. He said he’d stopped into the butcher shop on his way home from church and had noticed the butcher looked stressed. Because they live in a small town, my dad knew that his dad was in the hospital, so he asked if there was anything he could do to help him out. The butcher jokingly said he could use a hand grinding and packaging hamburger, and my dad’s response was, “Give me fifteen minutes to go home and get out of my church clothes and I’ll be back to help.” And that’s how he ended up spending several hours of his Father’s Day packaging meat.
In Cowboy Ever After, Kaylee pitches in to help Luke serve food at their church at a weekly event called “Dine for A Dime,” where anyone in the community can come for a free meal. I’m proud to say this is an event that my dad and stepmom came up with for our church. They set a can out every week for folks to put in what they want for the meal, and every week there seems to be just enough to cover the expense of the ingredients. This is the kind of community and fellowship I love and strive to show in my stories.
Cute Animal Antics
Country life wouldn’t be complete without a farmyard full of critters, and I just love working animals into my books. In Cowboy Ever After, Kaylee’s faithful companion is a pudgy corgi named Gladys who loves Cheez Doodles and goes along with Kaylee to the ranch. I think corgis are just the cutest dogs, and I’m also pretty partial to golden retrievers, especially since we have one named Cooper (which is why I had to give Luke a golden retriever who immediately befriends Gladys!).
This story has horses, cows, and a terrifying goose who sends Kaylee flying into Luke’s arms—too bad there’s a carrot cake between them. Oh well, a little frosting never hurt anyone!
So, there you have it: the three main reasons I love writing cowboy books. I hope those cute cowboys, the sense of community, and all the adorable animal antics make you love to read them, too!
Find out what happens with Luke and Kaylee…and the carrot cake…in Cowboy Ever After, Jennie’s funny and heartfelt Hallmark romance, available in eBook, paperback, and audiobook. It’s a good mood in book form—order it today!
By Eunice Shin and Katie Reinhard
Summer is the best time for beach reads, iced drinks, and…songs of the summer. Whether you need a soundtrack for an epic summer vacation, or you need the perfect summer playlist for a beach or pool party, we’ve got you covered! We created this playlist as a soundtrack to The Beach Escape by Rachel Magee and filled it with all of our favorite summer jams so that you can feel like the main character of your own summer adventure. Soak in the summer vibes, take some time to relax and unwind, and enjoy!
• Put Your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae
• Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles
• Cruel Summer by Taylor Swift
• Sunshine by OneRepublic
• Summer Feelings (feat. Charlie Puth) by Lennon Stella
• Golden by Harry Styles
• Summertime Magic by Childish Gambino
• Butter by BTS
• Watermelon Sugar by Harry Styles
• Butterflies by Kacey Musgraves
• Dancing in the Moonlight (feat. NEIMY) by Jubel
• August by Taylor Swift
• Dance the Night Away by TWICE
• Head on Fire by Griff, Sigrid
• Chilling in the Summertime by Jonas Brothers
• Solar Power by Lorde
• Summer Girl by Haim
We had a lot of fun putting this list together, so we hope you enjoy listening to these summer tunes. May they serve as wonderful background music for the best summer ever! And if you want to read what inspired us, check out Rachel Magee’s The Beach Escape. Thanks for reading and stay happy and healthy this summer!
By Rachel Magee, author of The Beach Escape from Hallmark Publishing
I have to admit, I’m a beach-girl at heart. I’m happiest with my toes in the sand and staring out at the spot where the ocean touches the sky. It’s one of the reasons I set so many of my stories at the beach. But Florida’s Emerald Coast, the backdrop for Beach Wedding Weekend and The Beach Escape, has a special place in my heart for a few reasons.
The Unparalleled Beautiful Beaches
The Emerald Coast stretches along the panhandle of Florida from the Pensacola area to the Port St. Joe region. It’s sometimes lovingly called 30a because of the highway that runs along the shore, and is known for being home to some of the best beaches Florida has to offer. (Which is saying a lot, because Florida has some pretty amazing beaches!)
The Emerald Green Water and Sugar White Sand
This breathtaking region of Florida gets its name from the color of the water which, you guessed it, is a crystal-clear emerald green. But I can’t talk about the beauty of these beaches without talking about the sand. Locals call it “Florida snow,” and for good reason: it’s sugar white and powder soft. If you’re not a sand person, these beaches might change your mind. The combination of the white sand against the emerald water is stunning.
That scene in The Beach Escape when Molly steps on her balcony and takes it in for the first time was absolutely based on real-life experience. The view has taken my breath away multiple times!
The Small Town Charm
But the dazzling beaches aren’t the only thing that have people flocking to the Emerald Coast year after year. The charming towns that line the coast have just as much draw. They’re the kind of towns where you ride bikes more than you ride in cars (made possible by the amount of bike paths that run along the main roads and wind through the towns).
Lazy afternoons can be spent browsing local owned shops, and evenings are meant for being spent with family and friends out on the patio or dining at one of the local owned restaurants. It’s everything you think of when you pull up mental pictures of a beach town; relaxed, friendly, and flip flops are always welcome.
So what is it about the Emerald Coast that holds a special place in my heart? I guess it’s all of the above! It’s the beauty of the beaches and the charm of the towns. It’s the relaxed friendly vibe and the sandy days and warm summer nights spent laughing with friends and family. In short, it’s the kind of place that will whisk you away. To me, that’s the recipe for a perfect vacation destination.
By Katie Reinhard and Eunice Shin
These murder mystery novels are perfect for those craving strong protagonists, small-town eccentricities, and touches of humor and romance. Whether you’re new to mysteries, or looking for a particularly cozy whodunnit for the fall, these books are sure to pique the amateur sleuth in you!
Murder Out of Character by Olivia Matthews (A Peach Coast Library Mystery)
The second in Matthews’ Peach Coast Library Mystery Series picks up where the first – Murder by Page One – left off! Still reeling from a local murder, librarian and amateur sleuth Marvey finds a handwritten list of locals’ names after an event at the library…and quickly realizes it’s a hit list when the first two people on the list turn up dead. Despite warnings from local deputies and threats from the killer, she can’t help but try to piece the clues together - especially since the fourth name on the list is her handsome friend, Spence…and time is running out. With our book-loving librarian heroine Marvey, a quirky supporting cast, and a sweet side helping of romance, this cozy small-town mystery brings readers right into the action, inviting them to piece the clues together with Marvey. You can also get the eBook digitally through your library with hoopla!
Frozen Detective by Amanda Flower (A Piper & Porter Mystery)
Amanda Flower is a USA Today bestselling author and Agatha Award-winner, so it’s no surprise that Frozen Detective packs a cold punch! Join seasoned P.I. Darby Piper in book 2 of the Piper and Porter Mystery Series as she works to solve a murder on the ski slopes in a Knives-Out style mystery. When a wealthy doctor invites his associates to spend a week at a giant, luxurious ski villa, his wife hires Darby – along with her new detective partner, Tate Porter – to go undercover as a romantic couple and investigate anonymous threats against her husband. But before long, Darby and Tate turn their attention to investigating a murder instead when the doctor is found dead. With the murder weapon being a bow and arrow and every guest at the villa a suspect, readers are in for surprises at every page turn!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke (The Hannah Swensen Series)
Calling all baking fans! This cozy murder mystery has a cookie-baking, sharp-tongued heroine – Hannah Swensen – with a particular penchant for solving crimes in her eccentric Minnesota town. She runs the much-loved cookie and bake shop, The Cookie Jar, and after she discovers the body of a delivery man and local football hero one morning, she throws herself into the investigation with her Sheriff brother-in-law, Bill. It’s full of wit, local charm, and plenty of intrigue! Plus, you can see the book in movie form starring Alison Sweeney on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries - Murder She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder Mystery!
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (A Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery)
A cozy mystery set in a small town full of food, family, and community – what could be better?! On the heels of a bad breakup, Lila finds herself back home trying to both save her Tita Rosie’s restaurant and dodge matchmaking efforts by her scheming aunts. But she unexpectedly finds herself playing the role of amateur sleuth to prove her innocence when her ex-boyfriend – a food critic – drops dead after they had an argument. With loving relatives who love to meddle, twists at every turn, and a culinary tour of Filipino food, Arsenic and Adobo is sure to satiate your cozy whodunnit appetite! And if you like this one, you might like book 2 in Tia Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series from Manansala, Homicide and Halo-Halo.
Real Murders by Charlaine Harris (An Aurora Teagarden Mystery)
If it’s librarian amateur sleuths you want more of, then the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries are for you! In this small-town mystery, true crime enthusiast and librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden finds herself at the center of a murderous yarn herself when she discovers the body of a fellow Real Murders Society member. To make matters scarier, it was eerily staged like the crime scene that the Society was set to discuss that exact night. With time running out and the killer on the loose, Roe bands together with Arthur, a dapper police detective, and Robin, the town's new mystery novelist, to piece the clues together before it's too late. And if you finish and find you want to stay in this cozy town a bit longer, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has a movie series based off of the book series starring Candace Cameron Bure!
Still Life and Death by Tracy Gardner (A Shepherd Sisters Mystery)
This third and final installment in the Shepherd Sisters Mystery series is perfect for fans of Krista Davis and Joanne Fluke! Savanna Shepherd and her sisters - Sydney and Skylar -- are back again, and this time find themselves working to prove their Uncle Max's innocence when he discovers the body of their friend, Libby, at her floral shop. With the help of friends, Savanna's close-knit ties with the community, and of course the strength of family, the Shepherd sisters work to unravel the mystery, before the murderer catches them first. If you haven’t read Books 1 and 2 in the series yet – Out of the Picture and Behind the Frame – be sure to check them out as well!
A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle (A Fixer-Upper Mystery)
Now a New York Times bestselling series, the Fixer-Upper Mysteries follow contractor and home renovation extraordinaire, Shannon Hammer, as she finds herself chief suspect in the murder of a local real estate agent. With a strong female protagonist, an adorable small town of Lighthouse Cove, a hunky new detective, and an eccentric group of friends and townsfolk, this first installment in Carlisle’s series is a must for all mystery fans. And you can watch the series of The Fixer Upper mystery movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries!
We hope you enjoyed reading more about these 7 cozy murder mysteries, and that you’ll check out Murder Out of Character by Olivia Matthews and Frozen Detective by Amanda Flower from Hallmark Publishing in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. Thanks for stopping by!
By Olivia Matthews
Author of the small-town cozy Peach Coast Library Mystery Series, Olivia Matthews, talks all things murder-mystery for fans!
How do you plot a mystery? I ask myself that every time I start a new mystery manuscript. That’s what a blank page does to a lot of authors, and not just mystery writers! If you’re interested, I’d like to invite you into my writer’s cave so you can see a little of my plotting process. One caveat: you’re welcome to bring a snack, but please don’t leave behind any crumbs. Are you ready to join me?
How to Write a Cozy Mystery
Cozy mysteries don’t have graphic violence, profanity, or sex; that’s what makes them “cozy.” But what are the elements of a mystery story, especially a cozy? I’m glad you asked. I’m going to review my mystery story components, but remember, not all mysteries are the same – I can’t stress that enough! I’m sharing a few of my elements only as examples, but your unique vision for your story is what will bring your cozy mystery to life.
The Amateur Sleuth
One of the best things about cozy mysteries is the amateur sleuth. They allow you to imagine yourself as the character, working to solve the mystery. They don’t have any law enforcement training; all they have are their wits, courage, and a few good friends. Armed with those things, they throw caution to the wind and jump into action to prove the innocence of someone they care deeply about, all to bring justice to the villain who harmed someone dear to them. One or more of those factors often serves as the motivation behind the amateur sleuth’s investigation.
Murder Out of Character is the second book in my cozy Peach Coast Library Series, which centers around a fictitious Southern small town public library. In the story—don’t worry, I won’t spill any spoilers—our librarian amateur sleuth, Marvey, has to uncover a serial killer. Her motivation is Spence, her best friend (and love interest), who is on the hit list. Yikes! Time to assemble the amateur sleuth team…
The Sleuthing Team
As I mentioned, one of the components amateur sleuths use to solve a mystery is their sleuthing team. Team members are connected in some way; perhaps they belong to the same club, like a book club or sports club. And they all have a superpower that they bring to the investigation…maybe they have mad observation skills!
In Murder Out of Character, Marvey asks her fellow Peach Coast librarians and friends to help her identify the villain. Her team includes:
- Viv, the circulation manager: she’s a student of human nature who employs body language to help patrons select books they might enjoy. She uses these same observations to profile suspects.
- Floyd, the reference librarian: he knows a little bit about a lot of things, and he’s up on all the town gossip.
- Adrian, the assistant librarian: he’s hooked on true crime novels and uses what he’s learned from them to help advance the investigation.
- Spence, the editor/publisher of the town’s newspaper: he’s a member of a well-regarded family, and his near-celebrity status convinces even reticent Peach Coast residents to confide in him and Marvey.
- Jo, the owner of the town’s independent bookstore: she’s another of Marvey’s best friends, and joins her on some of her riskier adventures.
Usually cozy mysteries introduce readers to the story’s setting and characters before committing the murder; again, that’s why they’re called “cozies.” Murders rarely occur at the beginning of the story, but having said that, someone does have to die. Your story’s going to need at least one victim, but your victim has to be more than a body. You can’t reveal a corpse in the middle of a room—or park or street—and then walk away! Before you deliver the body, you need to consider why someone would want to kill your victim; why now? And why that way?
As I mentioned, there are several victims in Murder Out of Character. On the surface, each seems like a nice person, but underneath, they’re flawed, as we all are. Those flaws help Marvey and her team identify potential suspects.
There’s always more than one suspect, and they all must have good motives, otherwise your readers will figure out the villain too quickly. Now, some readers are spectacular at guessing villains before the ending; I’ll admit, this always depresses me! But you can’t trick everyone every time. What you can do 100 percent of the time is craft a fun adventure. So mix up your suspects and their motives, throw in a few twists to shake things up, and place a few red herrings or decoys to throw your readers off the scent!
How to End a Murder Mystery Story
We’ve reviewed some of the elements we put into a cozy mystery: amateur sleuths, sleuthing teams, victims, and suspects. Now how do we get out of it and wrap things up?
One thing to remember is cozy mysteries are good versus bad stories. There aren’t any moral ambiguities in the outcome. The good team prevails, the bad team is brought to justice, and the amateur sleuth is always right.
During the story’s journey, the sleuth may lose faith in their ability to solve the murder. Maybe some of the people around them also have doubts. After all, the sleuth is an amateur and they aren’t trained to investigate homicides. But even though their belief in themselves wavers, they won’t give up; their motivation is strong. Remember: they need to prove the innocence of someone they care deeply about, protect a loved one, or bring justice to the villain who harmed someone dear to them.
Think of the ending of a cozy mystery story as a version of “…and they all lived happily ever after”—that is, at least until the next murder investigation!
Until next time, happy sleuthing, my friends!
By Olivia Matthews
There’s a serial killer in Peach Coast, Georgia…
That’s the plot of Murder Out of Character, book 2 of my Peach Coast Library Mystery Series. The idea of a serial killer is disturbing enough, but in a small, close-knit community of fewer than 1,000 people, there’s a very real possibility the murderer isn’t an ambiguous, faceless stranger—and their targets could be people they know!
That’s what our intrepid amateur sleuth librarian Marvella “Marvey” Harris soon discovers after finding a discarded sheet of paper with a list of names after a library event.
A Mysterious List
Two women and two men are identified on the hit list, meaning someone plans to murder four Peach Coast residents. Much to Marvey’s distress, one of the people on the list is Spencer Holt, her love interest in this mystery that has a touch of romance. The danger to Spence provides a twist on the damsel-in-distress trope by putting a gentleman in distress and having our female protagonist come to his rescue. Marvey’s on a mission to protect Spence and stop the killer as soon as possible, but the bodies are piling up fast…
Damsels (and Gentlemen) in Distress
When the investigation starts, the only thing the people on the list seem to have in common is that they’re lifelong Peach Coast residents. Let’s meet them:
· Hank Figg, beloved head coach of the high school boys’ basketball team
· Nelle Kenton, Chief Financial Officer of a local bank and a passionate library supporter
· Brittany Wilson, owner of Coastal Cycles bike shop and rental and an amateur athlete
· Spencer Holt, editor and publisher of the daily newspaper and a well-respected member of the town
A Team Effort
With the help of her amateur sleuth team, Marvey learns as much about the serial killer’s targets as possible—and uncovers interesting events in every one of their pasts. Could this information lead Marvey and her team to the answers behind the hit list, and ultimately, to the serial killer? Well, you’ll have to read Murder Out of Character: A Peach Coast Library Mystery Book 2 to find out!