Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Romancing the Tropics, an anthology



Be swept away to enchanting tropical locales in these thirteen love stories filled with sweet romance.

Romancing the Tropics

A Collection of Sweet Romance Stories

with stories by 

Lia Davis, Melody Johnson, Vickey Wollan, Leah Miles, Gloria Ferguson, Sara J. Walker, Laura E. Salas, Kelle Z. Riley, Maggie FitzRoy, V.L. Czerny, L.J. Green, M.J. Gates, Merrie Angel

Be swept away to enchanting tropical locales in these thirteen love stories filled with sweet romance. Travel from 1904 to the present as couples find their happily ever after in romantic locales like Miami, the Caribbean, and a romantic Island Kingdom.

Escape for an hour—or a day—to worlds where love, action, adventure, humor, and warmth combine in classic tales of enemies becoming lovers, marriages of convenience turning into more, and second chances proving it’s never too late for love.

Here’s what inside:

Spellbound in the Caribbean by Lia Davis. Freelance artist and witch, Kiera is sent to a remote tropical island by her coven to investigate a supernatural murder and discovers the power of love.

Spelled for Survivor by Melody Johnson. With a fifty-thousand-dollar grand prize on the line, the final two contestants of a reality survival TV show must battle their hearts as well as the elements when they discover that the magic between them might be more valuable than anything money could buy.

The Widow’s Dilemma in Cuba by L.J. Green. 1904. A widow ventures to the tropical paradise of Cuba for a vacation with her niece. Reunited with a former friend of her husband’s, her heart gets involved. Will she get a second chance at love?

The Florida Keys by V.L Czerny. 1908. On an adventure to tropical Florida, blindly confident Elsie oversteps thresholds—exposing answers to the unsolved riddles of her heart.

Secret Island by Maggie FitzRoy. 1924. A spunky gal reporter falls for a mysterious bootlegger while chasing a story on a dangerous island.

The Past and the Present Collide in Paradise by Sara Walker. 1979. A couple gets their second chance at happiness in the ash of a volcano on the Isle of Barbados.

The Poet and The Predictor by Merrie Angel. 1996. Related to royalty, poet Jessica Spencer decides to break society’s rules, save the world, and find adventure on the island of Bonaire with a mysterious indigenous scientist, Roman.

The Cowboy and the Island Girl by Gloria Ferguson. Will a modern-day cowboy’s offer to buy an Aruban girl’s tour business end with a love merger instead?

Ocean Tides and Love Vibes by Laura E. Salas. He goes to work on a yacht hoping to escape his failures, only to find himself living in close quarters with the love of his life, the one whose heart he foolishly broke ten years ago.

A Donkey Named Cleo by M.J. Gates. A woman starts a second career as a veterinarian in the Virgin Islands where a donkey helps her find herself and love.

Baubles in Bermuda by Vickey Wollan. An adventurous treasure hunter in Bermuda finds more than a handful of jewels.

Love in the Conch Republic, by Leah Miles. In the Conch Republic, a long-lost son returns for his legacy and ends up with the gift of love.

The Prince Takes a Bride By Kelle Z Riley. A modern-day marriage of convenience on a romantic Island Kingdom leads to love.

Proceeds benefit the First Coast Romance Writers, an independent non-profit organization, which helps writers hone their craft and expand their knowledge of the publishing industry.

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Spelled for Survivor 

By: Melody Johnson 

Coating her fingers in maple syrup and allowing a swarm of fire ants to engulf her left hand didn’t even make the top ten stupid stunts that Stevie Dynamite had performed on camera. She’d posed with a lion for the cover of Gem Magazine, swapped spit with 130 contestants on The Kiss is Right, and been bungee pushed—she certainly hadn’t jumped that time—off the Bloukrans Bridge for The Rock Life Foundation. Ah, the good ol’ days before her accident, when standing even two feet off the ground didn’t make her panic. At least that one had been for charity. This latest gig, competing on Castaway Casanova, wouldn’t benefit anyone except her father’s ego. 

If the excruciating venom of a few dozen fire ants didn’t absolve her imagined sins from the Great Panty Debate, nothing would.  

Everything you do spells disaster.  

Stevie buried the thought before it took root again, but after twenty-five years, even a blatant lie could begin to sound true.  

Her co-star and fellow final castaway, Parker Peters, openly gaped off camera, alternately at her standing on the beach before him, the ants biting her outstretched hand, and their director, Richie Lin, vehemently pointing at him to get on camera. Parker hadn’t been warned about the fire ants because he wouldn’t have agreed to it, and his raw reactions to Stevie’s “mishaps” had become fan favorite moments of the show. Her misery and his sarcasm were memes on every social channel. The fiercer their on-screen rivalry, the more viral their popularity. Ratings skyrocketed. Viewership soared. And the money poured in.  

Supposedly. Stevie hadn’t seen a dime of it, but her father, Billy Dynamite, the Grammy-winning front man for Tar, was placated. For now. At least someone in the Dynamite family would profit from her efforts.  

And her efforts had been nothing short of herculean, if she said so herself. 

They were shooting Castaway Casanova on Blue Island, and like most tropical Pacific islands, its beaches were paradise incarnate—all sunny skies and smooth sand, foamy surf and crashing waves, salty breezes and coconut-bearing palm trees. Until the sun burns and bug bites and gritty everything had ruined the fantasy. Sand wedged into food and water, rubbed between every crevice, stung every scrape, and after four long weeks of filming, there were countless scrapes to sting. Her lips had split on episode three. Her knuckles had cracked on episode seven. And now, shooting episode nine, her chapped left hand was fire ant food. 

Stevie gritted her teeth against the pain. This time tomorrow, Castaway Casanova would finally be a wrap, and she could put the entire sand-scraped, bug-bitten, sun-stinging experience in her rearview. 

Parker cleared his throat. Are you okay? He mouthed, still off camera. 

Well, maybe not the entire experience. 

Stevie sucked in her bottom lip, their pre-arranged code that she was acting. Even if the ants weren’t. 

Parker shook his head, unconvinced. 

If he hesitates much longer, we’ll miss the shot. 

Clearly, the crew shared Stevie’s concerns, because one of the grips pushed Parker into motion. He stumbled forward and fell to his knees in the sand before Stevie, on camera. Still openly gaping. 

Richie Lin grinned, all teeth.     

Parker stood and lifted his hands, looking beautifully baffled. If only the sizzle of his gorgeous green eyes could heat more than just her blood, she might not have had to eat all those uncooked crabs three episodes ago. 

“Are they what I think they are?” he asked, horrified. 

“If you think they’re fire ants, then yes!” Stevie fought to keep her face composed, so that the tears had a good canvas to flow down. 

Parker blinked several times. Not the most loquacious response, but at least he managed not to look off camera. They were supposed to be marooned on Blue Island alone, after all, and she did not want to suffer a second take just because Parker got caught raising his eyebrows at a sound tech. Again.  

Richie circled a finger at her to keep it going. 

Stevie delivered her lines in her best I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing voice. “The night air was cool for once, so I opened the tent flap to let in the breeze! I didn’t think it would let in anything else!”  

“Buck up, Buttercup,” Parker muttered, still appalled but sharp enough to recover and deliver the zing everyone expected. “And maybe think next time.” 

Richie did a little jig, waited another moment to capture Stevie’s signature squeal of disappointment—instead of the howl of agony building in her throat—and shouted, “Cut!” 

Someone whooped. 

Someone else clapped. 

Stevie gulped in a deep, trembling breath. A calm-seeking breath. The kind of breath she might take while turning herself into a pretzel during goat yoga. Because if she started freaking out, she might not be able to stop. “Who has the hose?” 

Parker tore his black tank top over his head—ah, those leading-man muscles—and began batting the ants from her arm. Which, of course, only incited the majority of the ants to bite harder, but the sentiment was touching. 

“Some help here!” he snapped over the whooping and clapping. 

“Coming!” Stevie’s underpaid agent/assistant/publicist/best friend, Claire Ann, elbowed through the crew, hose in hand. Stevie held out her arm, and Claire Ann blasted the ants with nearly enough spray pressure to remove a layer of skin along with the insects. 

Richie clapped Parker on the shoulder. “Another clutch one-liner. You’re gold, man. Solid gold.” 

Parker’s grip on his shirt tightened to a white knuckled fist. “Thanks.” 

“And you, Stevie girl.” He kissed his fingertips. “Pure dynamite.” 

Once the ants were cleared, Dr. Kimber stepped up beside Claire Ann. She examined Stevie’s arm, applied a topical anesthetic, wrapped the entire mess in some loose gauze, and warned her that the welts would probably worsen to pus-filled blisters before getting better. 

Richie leaned in. “You think they might blister by tomorrow’s season finale?” he asked, clearly hopeful. 

Dr. Kimber pushed a pair of turquoise glasses up her nose. “It’s possible,” she confirmed and handed Stevie a sleeve of Benadryl tablets “to get her through the worst of it.” 

Parker’s cheeks turned an interesting shade of purple under his stubble.  

Sure enough, as soon as the crew left to meet them on the summit of Mt. Ojos de Mar for tomorrow’s grand prize challenge, and they were alone for real, Parker lit into her. “What the hell, Stevie! Fire ants? Really? And I thought swimming with sharks was crossing the line.” 

“I was safely caged the entire time.” Stevie tried not to shiver at the memory.  

“You had nightmares for days after that shoot!”  

She still did. Which was exactly the point, according to her father. Penance wasn’t supposed to be easy. “I survived.” 

“I nearly didn’t just watching you,” Parker grumbled, stuffing a water bottle into the side pocket of his pack.  

Surviving kinda sucks, Stevie thought, fingering the keloid scar on her right forearm. She’d physically survived her accident and mentally survived the online humiliation afterward. Funny that after all she’d survived, the atonement was the thing killing her. 

Parker heaved his duffle onto one shoulder. “You ready for this hike?” 

“Yep.” She hauled on her own pack, clipped her mini go-cam onto its strap, and grinned through the pain of her still stinging, and now welt-swollen, left hand. “Let’s move out.” 

Parker eyed the trail before them warily. “Ladies first.” 

Despite the hardships they’d endured on this shoot, Parker managed to trip her heartbeat even without his lopsided, aw-shucks smile. Unlike Stevie, who worked so hard to achieve her alter-ego on camera, Parker drew people to him simply by being himself. His glowing, dewy muscles, unkempt sandy hair, and calm, even-tempered personality combined with his biting wit was magnetic. Even now, with those thick brows furrowed in wary contemplation of the path ahead of them, he was delicious. Just standing and breathing—merely existing!—and Stevie found herself fantasizing about the flexed neck muscle between his ear and collarbone as he turned his head sideways to frown back at her. Oh, the many ways she could put those pouting, salt-chapped lips to good use 

His effortless charisma would have been infuriating, except that along with their director, producers, the network, and most of America, Stevie was just as charmed

The thirteen authors participating in this anthology are members of First Coast Romance Writers (FCRW), and proceeds from this anthology benefit their organization. FCRW is a non-profit that welcomes both published and unpublished authors, as well as any individuals involved in writing and publishing. The chapter is dedicated to promoting excellence in romantic fiction through monthly meetings and workshops in a comfortable forum. They strive to help writers establish careers by providing innovative programs, networking opportunities and pertinent information on effective marketing techniques. Romancing the Tropics is the fourth installment in the group’s anthology series. Learn more about FCRW online at 

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