Today the lovely Karen Stivali has stopped by to answer a few questions and spotlight her new release Leave The Lights On.

As an author of romance, you likely have an opinion on this. What is your idea of the perfect hero?

I don’t think there’s one specific type of perfect hero. For me, it’s easier to answer that in terms of what my “perfect hero” is not. I’m not a big fan of the chest-thumping alpha-male. Super-cocky men who think they’re God’s gift to the world aren’t usually my type.  Arrogant, domineering men don’t tend to do it for me. A lot of people misunderstand what I mean when I say that. It doesn’t mean I like weak men. Quite the opposite. My favorite heroes are never weak, but they have always had something to overcome—a hardship, a loss—and that struggle has made them stronger and has also taught them that they’re vulnerable. That’s what I love to get to with my male characters. What makes them vulnerable. If a guy can acknowledge that he has vulnerability and still manage to come off as totally sexy, then I’m hooked. Oh, yeah, and he has to be able to give good banter, go toe to toe with the heroine (and anyone else who tangles with him), and show the woman of his dreams that she’s the most important, wonderful person in his world. Those are the things I look for in a perfect hero.

How about the ideal heroine?

My ideal heroine usually has some sort of deep-seated insecurity. She knows who she is. She’s confident in her abilities. But something has made her unsure of herself in relationships—family issues, bad past relationships—something that makes her uncertain she’s ever going to find love. Until she meets her hero. The hero doesn’t change her or complete her, but the right guy will make any woman realize and accept her own worth.

How do your hero and heroine in Leave the Lights On compare to your answers to question one and two? 

They totally fit my answers to one and two. Parker and Sophie are both overcoming tragic pasts of totally different types. They both have a lot of healing to do, some emotional and some physical, as a result of their past experiences. Their relationship is exactly what they both need and it comes along at just the right time for both of them. Together they realize that they each deserve a happily ever after ending and that they’ve found it in each other.

What are your favorite tropes?

My favorite tropes are friends-to-lovers and second chances (being reunited with an old crush). Leave The Lights On happens to contain both of these tropes. Parker and Sophie were childhood friends who had crushed on each other off-and-on over the years but never knew the other felt that way. They have their own relationships and go off and lead totally separate lives, but fate brings them back together, as neighbors again, at a time when they’re both in need of starting over. Their friendship is immediately rekindled and so are their old feelings…only this time they don’t keep them secret anymore.

What aspect of Leave the Lights On are you most proud of?

The aspect I’m most proud of is actually kind of a secret. I can’t talk about it without giving away a secret that’s disclosed in the book. I’ll just say that I’m always proud when I can paint realistic and believable characters who’ve faced real hardships. And I think I accomplished that in Leave The Lights On. Both of these characters tug at my heart strings but I absolutely adored writing Parker. For me, he’s the ideal blend of strength and vulnerability and he’s had so much tragedy in his life. I loved being able give him the happiness he deserves with Sophie.

Do your reading and writing interests differ? For example, I adore reading historical romance but don’t write it.

They do. Although I don’t write alpha-heroes there are some books that contain them that I absolutely adore. Those types of heroes need to really win me over, and in books where I like them, they do. In my own writing I need to be in love with the hero before I write him. It’s not about him winning me over, he already has me won over and I’m just telling his story.

The same goes for larger than life characters. I’ve enjoyed lots of books about super rich or super famous (or infamous) characters but for my own writing I tend to gravitate toward writing ordinary people. I like to explore what’s extraordinary about regular people. Everyday people fascinate me just as much as famous ones. I really enjoy figuring out what makes people tick, what drives them, what drives them crazy. One thing that’s a must-have in all books that I read or write is really detailed character description. I want to feel like I know the characters as well as I know my closest friends. If a book doesn’t give me that, I won’t enjoy it. And if my characters don’t feel like that, I won’t (can’t) write their story.

As a reader I’ll also read some (not many,  but some) books that don’t have happily ever after endings, but I could never write one. I know real life doesn’t often come with a happy ending and things don’t often work out the way people hope but that’s why in writing, when  I control the ending, I want my characters to have that happily ever after. There’s enough sadness in real life. When I’m in the driver’s seat, love will always prevail.

Great answers! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Here’s more about Leave The Lights On:

leave-lights-on-cover

When love throws you a curve, swing for the fences.

Parker Wood’s dreams of becoming a professional baseball player are shattered when he’s injured in a devastating car crash. After two years in hospitals and physical rehab facilities, he’s ready to move back to his childhood home and take over the family landscaping company. The house and business are his, now that his father has passed.

Sophie Vaughn has suffered through a hellishly public divorce from a husband who couldn’t manage to stay faithful for two months of marriage. Determined not to let her personal drama impact her successful wedding and party planning business, she buys her parents’ old house, hoping the comfort of familiar surroundings will help her heal.

When Parker and Sophie discover they’re neighbors once again, it’s as if time has stood still. Their friendship is quickly rekindled, along with the decade-long crush neither of them ever admitted having. Then the heat between them exposes a long-held secret that threatens to tear them apart…unless they can detach from their painful pasts and move forward—together.

Warning: Contains sultry summer nights, steamy pool-side encounters, and you’ll never look at a jar of peanut butter the same way again.

Buy at:

In my new contemporary romance, Leave The Lights On, Parker and Sophie’s first kiss is over a decade in the making. Although they’ve secretly crushed on each other since grade school, one thing or another has always kept them apart, until now. Neighbors again for the first time in years they’re both single, both healing from traumatic events and both experiencing a resurgence of all the feelings they never had a chance to express when they were younger. So, in honor of those heart stopping moments when the object of your affection finally makes the move, here’s a sneak peek at Parker and Sophie’s long-awaited first kiss.

Excerpt from Leave The Lights On:

I’m kissing Parker. Sophie repeated the words to herself but couldn’t quite believe they were true. His hand left her face, and she instantly missed his touch until she realized he was just moving it lower. A strong arm curled around her waist, drawing her closer. Broad chest pressing against hers. Hips rocking into her. Tongue. Oh, God, velvety soft tongue circling hers. Words ceased to exist as she rode the mind-numbing swirls into a blissful oblivion.His lips closed, brushing hers once more. “It’s still raining.”

“I hadn’t noticed.” She was breathless enough that the words came out as a whisper.

She caught the quick grin that passed over his face before his mouth returned to hers. Holy shit. She’d always imagined he’d kiss well but nothing like this had ever even entered her fantasies. Gentle yet hungry, subtle but commanding. She moved in toward him, somewhat dizzily aware of the fact that he was hard. Her heart beat so fast she was sure he could feel it through their drenched clothes.

“We’d better get to the car.” His voice startled her, and she realized her eyes were still closed.

Shaking her head, she felt the heavy, water-soaked tips of hair hitting her cheek. “Okay.” She’d have agreed to pretty much anything he suggested at that point. All she really wanted was another moment with his mouth on hers.

“Come on.” Parker held out his hand, and she slipped her fingers into his.

He’s holding my hand. Her fourteen-year-old self did a happy twirl in her head. Her twenty-four-year-old self felt more excited than she had in… When was the last time she felt this? Heat flooded her face. Breathless, she ran with him through the rainy streets until they finally reached the car.

Parker opened her door, and she climbed in, tossing her purse into the backseat. Watching in the rear-view mirror, she saw him open the hatch and stow the bags. God he looks good soaking wet.

The door slammed shut, and Parker trotted to the front of the car, swinging into the seat next to her. His shirt clung to the muscles of his chest, his hair dripped. This must be what he looks like in the shower. She felt her cheeks tingle, realizing she was picturing him naked.

“You okay?” he asked, raking his hair off his face, beads of rain still clinging to his long dark lashes.

Nodding, she tried to focus on getting the keys in the ignition. “You?”

“I’m great.”

She turned to find him looking at her with a smile she’d never seen before. His eyes were dark and expectant, twinkling at her like two mischievous sapphires. Tumbling over its own beats, her heart danced a jig.

The rain continued, battering the car in solid sheets as she made her way home. By the time they pulled into her driveway it was nearly three thirty. “Sorry we got back so late. Are you going to make it to your appointment?”

“It’s right in town. I’ll be fine.” He got out of the car and opened the hatch.

“I’ve got it, you go. I don’t want to make you late.”

Grabbing the tote bags, he laughed. “Will you please just get in the house?”

Sophie fiddled with the keys until she found the right one. She held the door, sneaking a look at Parker’s clingy shirt from behind as he moved past her. The defined muscles of his back looked just as tempting as his chest. Not to mention his ass. Get a hold of yourself, will you?

“Good thing these bags are waterproof, or all those samples would have turned into soup.” He set the bags on the kitchen counter.

“What? Oh, yeah.” Free samples were the last thing on her mind. She wished he didn’t have to go.

“Thanks for taking me to the show. It was great.”

Great didn’t begin to cover it. “Anytime.” Say something else. Her brain refused to function.

“I better get going or I really will be late.”

“Oh, okay. Sure.” Think, dammit.

Parker headed back to the door.

“Do you want to borrow an umbrella?” Brilliant. Very seductive. How can he possibly resist a come-on like that?

“You can only get so wet, and I think I’m there.”

You and me both. She held her breath, hoping she hadn’t said that out loud.

Parker reached for the handle of the screen door then paused. “I’ll be done with PT by six—do you want to grab dinner later?”

There was nothing she’d rather do but she shook her head. “I can’t. I’ve got to meet with one of my clients tonight. Her fiancé lives out of state, and this is the only time they’re both available before the wedding.”

“Okay.” Parker’s eyes shifted away from hers.

“But I’m free tomorrow night.”

The smile that curved across his lips sent a tugging sensation from her heart straight to her thighs. “Tomorrow’s great. It’s a date. How’s six o’clock?”

“Perfect.” A date. She had to keep from bouncing on her toes.

He leaned in and gave her a soft kiss that left her feeling completely devoid of oxygen. “See you then.”

Nodding, she watched as he stepped back out into the downpour and jogged back to his car. I have a date with Parker. What the hell do you wear on a first date with the guy you’ve been pining after for over a decade?

Author Info for Karen Stivali:

Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies and fictional British men. She is a multiple award winning author of contemporary and erotic romances for Ellora’s Cave, Turquoise Morning Press and Samhain Publishing.