Get TEMPTING for FREE thru 3/19/20


The pleasure of a good book has seen me through the toughest of times – and these certainly qualify. Which is why I’m offering TEMPTING as a FREE ebook on Kindle through Thursday, March 19 (offer ends midnight). Download the book and discover why RT BOOKReviews selected it as “Best Unusual Historical.” If you enjoy Christine and Simon’s unique love story, please take two ticks to pay it forward – leave a short review.

Tempting by Hope Tarr

Be well,


Naughty vs Nice: Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades B&N CoverFor those who’ve read the E.L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy, and admit it, you so have, at least book #1,you know that the erotic romance between fictional characters Christian Grey and Ana Steele definitely weighs in on the naughty side–fifty shades of naughty. Readers seem to fall into one of two camps: those who love the books and those who love bashing them. Regardless, the cultural conversation continues.

So now that you’ve read the book(s), how to keep the love–or hate–fest going?

FIFTY WRITERS ON FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (BenBella Books) is the brainchild of agent and publisher Lori Perkins, a savvy compilation of fifty “insider” essays examining various aspects of the Fifty Shades juggernaut. Contributors hail from erotic fiction, BDSM, fan fiction, pop culture and, of course, romance; the essays range from tongue-in-cheek humor to no holds barred detestation to steamy homage.

My essay, “Because Love Hurts,” examines Christian and Ana’s relationship through the dual lens of romance fiction and Freudian psychology, prominent aspects of my background and ongoing world view. Other contributors include M.J. Rose, Sylvia Day, Heather Graham, and publisher, producer, and radio talk show host, Judith Regan.

The plot twist at the end of Judith’s essay is–well, as this is a PG-rated blog, you’ll just have to read it for yourself but read it you must!  ((winking wildly))

FIFTY WRITERS ON FIFTY SHADES is available as both a print and e-book at brick-and-mortar bookstores as well as from  AmazonB&N  • IndieBound.


Nekkid Truth, Part III: Getting the…Biz-ness

With hair and makeup out of the way, we sally forth to our third and final essential ingredient of a winning publicity photo.

The retouch.

“But I want to look like myself,” you say.

Coiffed, buffed--and retouched. Photo by
Coiffed, buffed--and retouched. Photo by

And good for you. You should. In a recent Vanity Fair interview, 51-year-old film star and legendary beauty, Michelle Pfeiffer was asked to comment on the preponderance of plastic surgery among celebrities. To paraphrase the presumably unaltered Pfeiffer, as we grow older we should still be recognizable to our friends.

Candid shots are great for family and friends, the people who already know and yes, love us. But when a photo is intended for wider, public distribution, we want to put our best…face forward.

Arguably those smile lines and crow’s feet are badges of honor. And our faces are mobile, ever changing landscapes. A photographic portrait, however, is a static freeze frame capture of a set of sub-seconds. With unlimited time to look, viewers invariably hone in on the flaws.

In publishing we say, “the writing is in the rewriting.” Similarly, the “art” of photo editing/refinishing is every bit as essential to a great final product as capturing the winning shot.

A good photographer knows how to steer clear of overly plasticized perfection while conveying a polished yet natural look. 

In the before/after photos shown here, notice how photographer, Biz Urban manages to “disappear” not only the puffy dark circles beneath my eyes and the small scar on my left cheek but also a good part of the last decade!

Before: A perfectly nice photo for family and friends but for promo not so much.
After: note how the puffy circles disappear from beneath my eyes. Ditto for the scar and freckle on my cheek.









Voila, publicity photos that look like me–currently–with the photo retouching equivalent of a few light (and pain free) nips and tucks.

For more information on Biz Urban, including samples of her work, visit her website.

Photographer Biz Urban.
Photographer Biz Urban.


Bringing Back Sexy…A Romance Novel for Obama

My fellow Harlequin author, Geri Krotow’s World War II set category romance novel, A Rendezvous to Remember, may be sitting on the presidential night stand “as we speak.”

The recipient of said signed book is Michelle, not Barack, though he definitely gave it a thumbing through. “This looks sexy,” he said.

The President thumbing through yes, a romance novel.
The President thumbing through yes, a romance novel. Photo:Kristi Stephens

Not only is the First Lady making The White House a waddle-free zone for the first time in fah-ev-ah–or at least since Jackie Kennedy’s day–but apparently she’s making the Free World safe for yes, popular fiction.

For the juicy rest of the story, including more photos, read Wax Creative founder, Emily Cotler’s report for The Huff Po.


Kicky Come-Backs and Rousing Retorts

A few weeks back I attended my weekly French group, where I usually look forward to practicing my flagging French language skills with my fellow Francophones and Francophiles, my parlance (hopefully) smoothed out by a nice glass of wine.

A common way to commence a conversation with someone new is to ask, “Qu’est-ce que tu fais?” What do you do?

Only on this particular meet-up, what is normally the beginning of a pleasant exchange became anything but.

I was chatting with an attractive German-born woman who was patiently deciphering my halting French when a man sporting a smarmy smile and a jacket the searing shade of blue associated with hard boiled eggs at Easter, strolled up to us. “You are the two prettiest women here,” he announced in French, adjusting his coat cuffs.

My conversation mate and I bonded over a mutual rolling of eyes. “You are a charmer, I see,” she said in flawless French.

“Ah, oui,” he replied, apparently not cottoning on to the subtext sarcasm. “C’est mon metier.” It’s my profession.

A professional charmer, really?

The German wisely faded into the backdrop and Blue Blazer zoned in on me like a homing pidgeon. “Qu’est-ce tu fais?” he finally got around to asking after rolling out a long laundry list of his own sterling attributes–the book on German philosophy he’d recently read, his impressive (to him) knowledge of the Art World, his generally high-minded thoughts.

I replied in French that I’m a writer, meaning to leave it at that. I’m enormously proud of the books I write, of the genre I represent, but generally speaking I don’t like talking shop on my nights off.

A salvo of Spanish Inquisition style questions winnowed my replies from the general to the specific: “books” to “novels” to “commercial fiction novels” to “historical and contemporary commercial fiction novels” to finally, “historical and contemporary romance fiction novels.” And that’s when the fun started.

Our exchange went something like this:

BB: “You write that stuff just for money, huh?”

Hope: “Well, I write what I love, what many readers enjoy reading, and yes, I do get paid.”

BB: “Ever try writing a real book?”

Hope: “I do write real books, books that are well-researched, well-crafted, and well-received. You might want to reference my previous remark about getting paid.”

BB: “I wrote a short story once. It’s really literary. What’s your email address? I’ll send it to you. I think reading it might really help you.”

Hope: Stunned silence, on the outside at least. My Inner Voice was far from silent. Uh-huh. Horrendous fashion sense and a narcissist. Now that’s hot–not!

Holding onto my temper–and stemware short of snapping the glass–I asked him if he’d ever read a romance novel. After considerable hemming and hawwing, he claimed to have read part of a romance novel Back in The Day, likely when he was a pimply-faced sixteen year-old trolling for “the good parts.” But apparently he felt so sullied by its silliness that he threw it away. In the garbage. 

“I can’t read that stuff,” he said, with an emphatic shake of head.

I told him he had no right to make denigrating comments about a genre of fiction, or indeed about any topic, on which he was obviously completely uninformed.

“Oh, c’mon,” he said, flicking a stubby-fingered hand inches from my face. “I know that stuff. I know what that stuff is all about.”

There it was, that word again. Stuff. For a would-be writer, he really ought to look into expanding his vocabulary.

And then he ratcheted it up one level further and added another word. Garbage.

And something in me snapped and thankfully it wasn’t the wine glass I was clenching. I drew back my shoulders and hoisted my chin exactly as my fictional heroines have done countless times when family or personal honor or both were at stake.

“You, sir, are stunningly ignorant and boorishly rude, and until you read an actual book–a whole one–I don’t have the time or patience to educate you.”

The packed bar floor parted like the Red Sea. Mr. Blue Blazer and I stared each other down like two bulls, locking eyes if not horns. And finally, flush-faced and stammering, he dropped his gaze and turned away. First.

And you know, ladies and gents, it felt really, really good.

Energy Vampires, they don’t just come out at night. You can encounter them at anytime, anywhere. They set out to suck our energy and drain us of our belief in ourselves. At their worst, they can cause us to question our talent, our very sense of worth. Ordinarily I give energy vampires like Blue Blazer a broad berth. But there are times, and IMHO this was one of them, when you have to stand up straight and tall and not let the bullies get away with it, no matter how sharp their fangs or…blinding their attire.

Wouldn’t you know it, the very next day I was flipping through the November issue of “The Romance Writers Report,” the monthly membership magazine of Romance Writers of America when I came across an article on just this very topic. In “Snappy Comebacks,” fantasy romance author Eilis Flynn poses the question: what do you say when someone takes a dig at what you write?”

Quoted in the article is my fellow Harlequin Blaze author, Julie Leto, who knows a thing or two about vampires, fictional and real. “The key to the snappy comeback,” says Julie, “is to not censor yourself. Actually say what you’re thinking.”

Wise words from a wise woman. And I for one am taking that advice to heart–and on the road.

“Stunningly ignorant” and “boorishly rude.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Who knew serving up raw honesty, sushi-quality raw honesty, could feel so downright good?

Savor the Simplicity,


Super Dooper Tuesday, Election Wrap Up

Okay, after I pulled what my buddy Liz Maverick is affectionately referring to as the Big Red Lever I more or less cruised through Election Tuesday waiting for the evening’s festivities to start. For me, said festivities meant a short subway trek out to Brooklyn where Megan Frampton of Risky Regencies fame and her husband, Scott, graciously agreed to host an Election Night party.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, Leanna Hieber, and Hope give their various "Price is Right" model imitations.
Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, Leanna Hieber, and Hope give their various "Price is Right" model imitations. Can I be Janice--please?

Now I like to keep this blog not only bipartisan but apolitical, unless of course you want to debate the latest trends–in shoes. Peep toe booty: fashion forward brilliance or cruel joke played upon those of us who actually have to uh…walk outside in actual snow?

In this case I can’t dish on the fancy footwear because this being a roll-up your sleeves and plunk down on pillows on the floor kind of affair, most of us took our shoes off. So, I’ll do what I do (second) best, dish on yes, the food!

The Freedom Fries were a tad soggy by the night’s end, but the apple pie more than held its own. Fortunately we were all backing the same ticket, so no Humble Pie or crow need be served, and we could have our cheese sans the…whine. The Swirl cheesecake was Obama-licious and the McCain Fried Chicken was well, one tough old bird.

And yes, we partied like it was 1999 and then some!

Scott and Megan Frampton, our Fearless Hosts.
Scott and Megan Frampton, our Fearless Hosts.

By the time mes amies Leanna Hieber, Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, Liz Maverick, and Elizabeth’s visiting British friend, Simon, made it back into the city, it was well after three in the morning and yes, in my neighborhood, there was actual dancing in the streets, accompanied by “steel drum” playing on the newspaper stands. Tired but replete, we said our good nights and went our separate ways, joyous in the knowledge that the American Dream isn’t a myth, not hardly.


Halloween Wrap Up

This year was my very first Halloween in the Big Apple, and I’m happy to report, it did not disappoint. I kicked off the day with a trip to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx with my good writer buddy and Halloween enthusiast, Leanna Hieber. It was a gorgeous fall day, crisp but not cold. The colors were phenomenal, positively jewel-toned. Many of the monuments, notably the celebrated Woolworth tomb, include stained glass windows a la Tiffany, which were breathtaking to behold. Creepy though it may sound to some yes, we had a picnic. And yes, it was fun. I could say more but to save my typing fingers, check out Leanna’s Blog for the truly awesome photos.

Liz Maverick and Hope (as Goth Snow White).
Liz Maverick as Geisha Goldilocks and Hope as Goth Snow White.
Marianne, Hope, Leanna, and Stacey as fairytale femmes a la Goth.
From left to right, Marianne, Hope, Leanna, Stacey and Liz as fairytale femmes a la Goth.

Then it was back to Manhattan for a quick transformation (note: not transfusion). First stop: the Halloween Parade with my fellow Goth fairytale femmes: Leanna, Stacey Agdern, and the Rebels of Romance, Liz Maverick and Marianne Mancusi. Re Leanna as Dead Little Miss Muffett, check out those choppers!

The parade, though slow moving, was well worth the wait. The piece de resistance for me: the skeleton puppets, hulking dudes operated by multiple human hands (at least I think they were human). We rounded out the evening with a post-parade party in Murray Hill hosted by our good friends at Pacific TV. Morgan and her hubby put us through our paces playing trivia games long past the Witching Hour. Note to Self: less book reading, more TV watching and PEOPLE Magazine perusing.

Hope and Liz strut their stuff.
Hope and Liz strut their stuff.

On Saturday night, I joined friends at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where rock legend Patti Smith celebrated All Saints Day with an evening of poetry reading and of course, music.  Afterward, it was dinner at Les Halles on Park Avenue South. For me, the steak au poivre with frittes and yes, Bearnaise sauce, thank you very much! Finally, home for a soothing cup of peppermint tea, a quick glance at the second half of SNL and then, yes, bed.

Even a party ghoul needs her beauty sleep.

"Those trivia questions were raising."
"Hey, those trivia questions were raising."

To paraphrase the remarkable Patti Smith: to all our saints, to the unsaintly saints, both living and dead.


Girls Just Wanna Have Fun?

“I want to meet Mr. Big, get married, and live in New York.”

I am freezing my butt at the outside bar of the Bryant Park Grill, sipping shiraz, eating french fries, and fielding questions from two twenty-something German chicks who’ve come to New York for the first time, ostensibly on vacation. For tonight at least, they are on a fact-finding mission more so than a holiday. They want to know where to find Mr. Big and a good deal on American jeans–in that order.

The Dynamic Duo from Deutschland
The Dynamic Duo from Deutschland

The more animated of the two, or at least the one with the better English, is leading the charge. Even though she has barely touched her sweet-looking drink, she is more than slightly drunk. She waves her stick thin arms in the air a lot and slides her Size 0 butt around the stool a lot, and steals my fries when she thinks I’m not looking. So far, though, she’s more amusing than obnoxious, certifiably happy to meet me and anyone else who lives in New York. Even if it’s partly vodka-induced, that kind of unbridled, unjaded, over-the-top enthusiasm is well, kind of refreshing.

She smiles frequently and broadly, and I can’t help noticing her teeth could really do with a bonding. Still, she is lovely in that haphazard, waifish, just-breezed-out-of-my-bunk-at-the-youth-hostel sort of way, a look you pretty much stop being able to pull off the day you turn thirty-five. With her straight brown hair, full mouth, and pencil thin body, she also bears a striking resemblance to the 80’s supermodel, Paulina Porizkova. I’d tell her so only she probably wouldn’t know who Paulina is. You see, she was born in 1981.

“No, really, I want to know,” she persists, plumping her full lips into a pout which if I were a guy I’d probably find really hot. “Where do the Mr. Big’s go?” She tosses her bangs out of her eyes for the umpteenth time and slants her big round eyes at her friend, whom until now she seems to have forgotten. “We want to go there.”

Yes, well, good luck with that. Not that I say anything so remotely bitchy, of course. Instead I smile back and shake my head and admit it’s a worthy goal–and one hell of a good question.

Just what my friends and I need, another nubile twenty-something model look alike swimming in our dating pond which even though it’s Manhattan sometimes feels more like a puddle. Supposing I do know where Mr. Big hangs out? Does she really expect me to give it up out of what, the goodness of my heart?

The German educational system is reputed to be among the world’s best, but I’m thinking the curriculum must not include any Darwin.

To segue from science to literature–that’s litter-ah-chur–I’m reading or rather re-reading Candace Bushnell’s SEX AND THE CITY. It’s interesting how living in Manhattan has altered my perspective on the book as well as the HBO series. Before moving here, references to The Bowery Bar (B Bar and Grill now), Bicycle Boys, and yes, Modelizers seemed about as relevant to me as Ancient Egypt. I mean good to know, fascinating even, but really what does any of it have to do with my day-to-day? Now nine months into my Single Girl in Manhattan Life, I find myself sighing and shaking my head. And groaning occasionally. Okay, a lot.

The Paulina girl interrupts my momentary musing, her eyelids listing toward closed though her drink is more than three-quarters full. “You are Carrie Bradshaw, yes, but you have brown hair.”

I don’t smoke, either, but well, when you’re being compared, even remotely, to Sarah Jessica Parker, is it really any time to quibble?

Candace Bushnell, whom I met last month when she stopped by the Barnes and Noble in Union Square, is frequently likened to literary icon, Edith Wharton. The only Wharton books I’ve read are ETHAN FROME and THE BUCCANEERS and well, it’s been a while. (As for THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, so far I’ve made due with the Daniel Day Lewis film). For sure both authors offer an insider’s sometimes scathing perspective on Manhattan culture, though Bushnell’s take is a lot closer to the Age of Un-Innocence. And even though SEX AND THE CITY was first published in 1996, dating some of the references, it’s amazing how much of what she wrote in the 90’s still holds true. If you have any doubts, see my 9-22 blog on “Keeping It Real.” Believe me, modelizing is alive and well.

Fortunately, so are dreams. Yes, “girls” of all ages still want to have fun. But along with the fun, we want the fairytale. Sure, Prince Charming is now Mr. Big, the castle is now an Upper West Side high rise, and the glass slippers are Manolo slingbacks with some sort of really amazing detailing on the vamp, but otherwise the story, the fairytale, plays out pretty much the same.

And I for one am holding onto it with both white-knuckled hands. Even Bushnell’s Mr. Big got it right in the end, at least in the television and film adaptations of the book.

“Sometimes you just want to be with the one who makes you laugh.”

Happily Ever After–and Happy Halloween,


PS In celebration of the day-long Witching Hour, I’ll be pulling out my Inner Princess along with my ghoul-friends Liz Maverick, Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, Leanna Hieber et al as the Goth versions of popular fairytale princesses. I’m going as Goth Snow White and in addition to that Poison Apple, my costume’s corset is well, murder.

Food for Thought: Recalling all Facsimile Foods

Okay, the Tasti D Lite that used to be mere steps from my building is now The Lite Choice and, heads up, I’m less than pleased. The Lite Choice–talk about a misnomer. I didn’t get a choice, a say,  and certainly not a vote.

But then I’m pretty fed up with what as of now I’m calling “facsimile foods,” low calorie, low-carb, low-fat faux foods that ape the look and yes, texture of the Real Deal and yet still manage to taste like…nothing. Bio-engineered sesame seeds perched atop my crackers–where will the madness end?

Okay, I get that The Lite Choice is supposed to be not only low-fat but also organic and yes, kosher. The question for Yours Truly isn’t what they left in–but what they took out. Hint: show me the cream!

Our grandparents ate real food and though some of that fare would be dubbed a heart attack-on-a-plate by today’s standards, let me point out that Back in the Day people actually moved their bodies, climbing real stairs rather than stair masters, hefting real bales of hay rather than bench pressing Nautilus machines. And yes, when mealtime rolled around, they sat down and enjoyed their very real food. Sans apology and most importantly, sans guilt.

I’ll withhold any additional direct comments on my Lite Choice vanilla cone lest I be sued–though in that event I’d remind you that real turnips don’t bleed. Suffice it to say that Mr. Softee, my former Plan B alternative, has just moved up to the top slot otherwise known as Plan A.

Mr. Softee? From a product branding standpoint, are we sure we’re sending the right um…message?

Food for thought: eat something real and savor it.


Laughing Out Loud (LOL)

Last night my buddy Elizabeth Kerri Mahon of Scandalous Women blog fame and I turned out for the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s reception for uber actor, Benicio Del Toro.  The event was held at The Apartment on the 24th floor of the swank Hudson Hotel.  The hors d’oeuvres were fab, the white wine perfectly chilled, and the crowd styling.  But where oh where was the guest of honor?
From left to write, Hope, Stacey, Liz, Leanna, Elizabeth and Marianne celebrate Hope's birthday in style.
From left to um...write, Hope, Stacey, Liz, Leanna, Elizabeth and Marianne celebrate Hope's birthday in style.

Fortunately Elizabeth is a great date.  We noshed and chatted each up for a full two hours.  All the while I kept vigilant Famous Person watch on the room’s only entrance.

At least I thought I was vigilant.  Coming up on 10:00 PM and still no Benicio, it was pretty clear he must be sequestered in some VIP suite.  Or maybe he’d decided to take his entourage out for a night on the town?  Oh well, c’est la vie.  Give me an unlimited supply of mini crab cakes and yes, a second glass of wine, and well, after a while, I’m just happy to be there.

Elizabeth and I were deep into our current topic of conversation when the young woman standing next to us interrupted to ask, “Did you see Benicio? ” Her tone implied they were best buds, possibly even related.

“He was here!”  My eyes darted like a pinball machine gone beserk.  So much for playing it cool.

“Oh, yes.”  She nodded with lazy-lidded self-assurance, her smile so satisfied it was positively post-coital.  “Earlier, for a half hour.  He’s gone now.”

So I ask you, how does a person, say me, manage to stand in the same (modest-size) room with Benicio Del Toro for a full thirty minutes and manage to miss him entirely ?!?

But then Mercury is in Retrograde.  It’s the only explanation, or at least the only one I’m willing to entertain.  (The alternate one being that I am a complete idiot)!  You see, Mercury isn’t just in any ole Retrograde but  retrograde in my Sun Sign of Libra.   Allow me to take this opportunity to express my advance thanks for your support.  Seriously.  Last week my laptop hard drive crashed.  The other day I ordered, or tried to order, replacement bags for my vaccuum cleaner.  First online, then via the 800 number.  It didn’t go well.  Suffice it to say I’m looking into weaving them by hand.

Watcha gonna do?  Mercury goes into Retrograde just three times a year though when you’re in it, it certainly feels longer.  October 14th, the end of this quarter’s phase, isn’t that far away though personally I’m holding off on signing any contracts and purchasing electronics like say, that laptop I now need until October 20th.  I believe in giving Mercury Retrograde a broad berth.

In the meantime, I’m practicing self-therapy in the form of LOL–laughing out loud.  How many of us include “LOL” in our emails, not to mention all those smiley face emoticons, and yet rarely practice either?  Maybe we can’t literally laugh our problems away but for sure a good chuckle can go a long way in cushioning the blow.

I was walking along Central Park the other day when one of the carriage drivers called out to an apparently insufficiently cheery passerby, “What’s up wich you, boss?  Did you suck lemons for breakfast or what?  Give that puss a rest and smile, why dontcha?”

Hope mugs for the camera with Mr. Wall Street, a very ghoulish guy.
Hope mugs for the camera with Mr. Wall Street, a very ghoulish guy.
Good advice when you think of it.  To whit, see the picture of me mugging for the camera with Mr. Wall Street.  Last Friday my friend Dee and I were strolling the West Village, killing time before a dinner reservation came due, when we ran into this ghoulishly funny fellow stationed outside a local restaurant.  As for the group shot of my birthday bash at the Brandy Library last Thursday, well, I’m really not priming to punch someone out, promise!

Few things in life are free.  Fortunately laughter is still one of them.  So go ahead live it up, kick back, and have a laugh on me.