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When people ask me about the most interesting thing I have ever done, I can’t help smiling as I answer without hesitation, “Traveling.”  Every time I discover a new country, a new city or village, beach or mountain, or an ancient civilization, I imagine a lovely American young woman, my heroine, surveying the scenery as a tall, dark and handsome man, living in the area, approaches and exchanges a few words with her. If I feel they have the potential to share a good chemistry, I visualize a few more scenes, grant them life and start my novel in the setting that inspired me.

To Love A Hero   and   Heal my Heart   are set in Belarus where I traveled in the nineties as Project Manager to refurbish laboratories under a contract from the Department of Defense. Both books highlight the hospitality and warmth of the gorgeous and gallant Belarusian officers who sing and toast and make a woman feel like a goddess.

We left for our first trip to Belarus at the end of October. We included: a government person and his interpreter, me, my lab manager and computer specialist.

My two books relate my first impression: cold weather, gray skies and cigarette smell everywhere. The curious looks of the local people made me feel as if I was wearing the wrong clothes. Of course I didn’t have a chapka (that fur hat that is a must over there). I remedied the problem on my first visit to the bazaar where I bought myself the cutesy real mink chapka. I still have it. I literally froze in my drafty hotel room and continuously requested and begged for a hot cup of tea. I was often offered vodka instead.

Many of my special stories are related in my books. In To Love A Hero, I even included my fall on the broken escalator of the airport. I was rescued by my lab manager while my heroine fell in the arm of a hero to die for, the handsome Major General Sergei who made her pulse race and stole her heart.

Traveling is not only about visiting monuments and palaces in foreign countries or snapping photos in front of famous landmarks. Traveling opened new horizons, exposed me to different cultures, and introduced me to new languages. Every time I traveled I felt indelibly marked by what I saw, what I heard, even what I smelled. I discovered that the right setting triggers my imagination, sets my muse into action and creates characters for me.

My readers love to take an armchair trip with me to France, [Mother’s Day Babies in Paris, The Missing Statue in the Loire Valley]; to Greece [Her Greek Tycoon set in Mykonos Island]; to Sicily [Husband for a Week]; to Belarus, or enjoy a Mediterranean cruise in Spain and Italy [Honeymoon Cruise].

The whole series of Modern Princes deals with the Princes of Rensy Island. Rensy Island is a fictitious British island in the Channels, so similar to Guernsey.

A setting is not just a place or a time in history. It has its own architecture and colors, the particular noises associated with the area, the scent of the fields, the beach, and the streets.

In my novels, I let the setting mirror the characters’ feelings and use a romantic setting for a special kiss. The top of the Eiffel Tower, with Paris lights sparkling at night, provided an exceptional background for a first kiss in Wright Name, Wrong Man and also in A Bride For Prince Paul.

In Last Chance Plans, I included a trip to Argentina and an unforgettable tango dance that led to a fabulous love scene.

Love on the Slopes and Sunshine Over Snow are set in ski resorts in New Hampshire. In Time For Christmas takes place in airports during a blizzard and We’re All Together in St. John during a hurricane so similar to the hurricanes Wilma and Irma that I personally experienced in Fort Lauderdale. But many other books have stories starting or ending in Florida or St. John Island [Sailing Away Plans  and the whole Love Plans Series] or in small towns in Kentucky, Ohio or Georgia.

I included a war zone in some books—Valentine Babies with the war in Iraq and We’re All Heroes, with a rescue trip to the border of Poland and Ukraine.

Several of my medical romances are set in hospitals and their ORs but the wink of the hero in medical scrub and mask sends delicious tingles to the heroine at the wrong moment and creates the beginning of a romantic scene in a very unromantic place. Babies in the Bargain, Christmas Babies,  On Christmas Eve,   A Complete Family,   We’re All Winners, …

#New Release We’re No Saints

The ghosts from the past destroyed her peace of mind. Can the charming lawyer help her while keeping his own secrets?

Tropetastic: Second-Chance Romance by Rachelle Ayala #mgtab @AyalaRachelle @mimisgang1

Have you ever broken up with someone and regretted it later? Or wished your ex could see how much you’ve changed and matured, and give you another shot at love? If so, you’re probably a fan of second-chance romance stories. On the other hand, you might be someone who believes the past should stay in the past. Once a relationship ends, you move forward never looking back. But even so, you might still enjoy a romance novel where long-lost lovers meet again years later and rediscover that spark. 

Whether you love or hate the idea of rekindled romance, the second-chance trope speaks to our conflicting feelings about love and redemption. We want to believe people can change and true love conquers all. But we also know lasting relationships take work. The past can’t be erased overnight.

So what it is that makes a second-chance romance both believable and swoonworthy?

Do-Overs and New Beginnings

Okay, picture this: you broke up with someone a while back, and life moved on. But out of nowhere, fate decides to throw you back together. Yep, that’s the essence of second-chance romances. It’s like someone hit the rewind button on your love life, and you get a do-over, a chance to make things right or maybe even explore what could’ve been.

But it’s not that easy, you say. There were valid reasons for the initial breakup, and both of you have moved on—or maybe not. But it’s complicated.

There’s no doubt that bumping into a former lover brings back a rollercoaster of emotions and unresolved feelings. There could be excitement, fear, regret, sparks of attraction and desire, and depending on the nature of the breakup, a lot of unresolved pain, grief, and resentment.

Definitely a dynamite situation, especially if the passion is still there buried underneath the rubble of broken dreams.

A Transformed Hope

So what makes a second-chance romance actually work? How can getting back with an ex be believable after all that baggage? Well, the characters need some major personal transformations–and I’m not just talking a cute makeover montage.

After the shock of reconnecting wears off, the protagonists need some serious soul-searching. They’ve gotta confront their past mistakes head-on and process those missing years they didn’t share. It’s like getting to know a stranger…who you also have intimate history with. There’s that nostalgia and intense emotional connection battling with all the change and new obstacles. Second-chance lovers can’t just pick up where they left off years ago. They must deal with the ghosts of the past while discovering each other as new people.

Second-chance romances are also transforming and inspiring. They speak to our hope that true love can redeem all wrongs. They also encourage us to be open and honest, to communicate better, to become more authentic, and to be genuinely forgiving. Trust can be rebuilt along with transparent communication. People can change for the better, and regrets can turn into true renewal. Life isn’t always a straight path, and who doesn’t wish to rewrite parts of our life stories?

Second-chance romances satisfy our craving for redemption along with the hope of forgiveness. They tug at our hearts and feel so good when the last bit of doubt is purged, trust is restored, and the lovers have a chance for the happiness they’d lost so long ago.

I’ve written several second chance romances: Taming Romeo, Playing Without Rules, Going Haywire, Summer Love Puppy, Taking Me Back, Not My Dog Walker, and my latest one:

Where Love Echoes – The last time Ava saw Cruz, he left her standing at a bus stop with a broken heart. Twenty years later, she is hired by Cruz’s ex-wife to orchestrate a lavish destination wedding at a secluded Caribbean resort, Unexpected Paradise.

Travel with Mona

Visit Prague

When my daughter was at university she took a year off and spent it in Paris. Before flying, she booked a train-pass for $200 that allowed her to hop on a train and travel anywhere in Europe. One of the places where she went with a friend was Prague. Do I need to mention that during that year, half of my hair turned gray! When she returned home safe and sound, she had a lot of stories to tell us. Two of them practically gave me a heart attack.

The first one was that she saved a lot of money by not staying in a hotel in Prague. “So where did you stay?” I asked a bit worried. “There were people at the train station showing us cards with pictures of their apartments and a room we could rent for $10 per night.” Try to imagine my gasp of terror. “You stayed with people you didn’t know???” “They were very nice and had two adorable little girls. Besides, we were two. So I only paid $5.”

The other story was even worse. She and her friend were eating dinner at a café. They lost track of time and suddenly realized the place was closing. They were walking toward the train station when they noticed a car following them. The girls panicked and started running in the deserted dark street. The car followed them slowly. Finally they found a lit pizzeria, and banged on the closed doors. For their good luck, the owner spoke a little bit of English. The girls explained that they were afraid and wanted to call the police. The two men in the car came behind them to the store. It turned out that they were secret police and thought that the two girls were gypsies trying to attract men!!! No need to write here my reaction and my response.

My husband and I visited Prague twice, in more classy ways, staying in hotels. We loved Prague. So let me tell you about this beautiful city.

Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, is bisected by the Vltava River. Nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires,” it’s known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colorful baroque buildings and Gothic churches. My favorite sites were the medieval Astronomical Clock, which gives an animated hourly show, and the pedestrian Charles Bridge which is lined with statues of Catholic saints. 

Charles Bridge is a medieval stone arch bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the early 15th century. 

The first statue to be erected on the Charles Bridge is made of bronze. This is the statue of St. John of Nepomuk, the patron saint of Bohemia. According to legend John of Nepomuk refused to reveal the confessions of the wife of King Wenceslas IV, and was thrown off the side of the bridge to his death.

Charles Bridge is an icon of Prague and the Czech Republic. For many centuries until 1870, it was the only way for people to cross the Vltava. It is also one of the few Medieval bridges still standing and in use today.

The Prague astronomical clock or Prague Orloj is a medieval astronomical clock attached to the Old Town Hall in Prague. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest clock still in operation. It shows the relative positions of the Sun, Moon, Earth, and Zodiac constellations. It also tells the time, provides the date, and, best of all, provides entertainment for the tourists on the hour, every hour.

Old Town Square in Prague.

I bought a gorgeous crystal vase and a wooden old-fashioned clock hanging on my kitchen wall.

New Release– On Pre-Order MESSY PLANS, Love Plans Series, book 11

Fully dedicated to his patients, Dr. Matt Lopez, Chief of the ER at St. Lucia Hospital spends his free time on his boat and dates nurses from the hospital—but not from his own unit. Rule number one in his ER: never mix work with pleasure, thereby avoiding a conflict of interest. When the lovely Cathy Cooper joins the ER staff, every doctor, including Matt, is ready to break the rules. The new nurse practitioner is too gorgeous for her own good and too independent for Matt’s peace of mind.

Cathy Cooper goes an extra mile for her patients, especially for the children of the public school where she subs. When Cathy takes Tommy, a young patient under her wing, gets involved in his home situation, and discovers the truth, trouble follows.

Life will never be the same for Cathy, her boss, or Tommy as they try to repair the mistakes of their pasts. Can they reconcile their personal feelings and work obligations?

Messy Plans is book 11 of the Love Plans Series.

Searching for Happiness

We are all searching for happiness. But how do we achieve it? What are its greatest determinants?

The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the most comprehensive study ever conducted, as it followed its participants for their entire adult lives. The study was started in Boston in 1938 and has already covered three generations: grandparents, parents, and children, who are now considered “baby boomers.” It analyzed more than 2000 people throughout 85 years of longitudinal study. By following this large population for more than eight decades, the study uncovered the factors most correlated with well-being and happiness. Here, I have summarized some of the authors’ main concepts.

The study’s happiest participants had two major factors in common throughout its 85 years: taking care of their health and building loving relationships with others. It seems obvious that being in good health is essential to living well. However researchers determined that good relationships were the most significant predictor of health and happiness during aging. The happiest people valued and fostered relationships.

Professional success on its own does not guarantee happiness, even though it may be gratifying. Levels of education and cultural awareness, which tend to be higher among those with higher salaries, were also important factors for adopting healthy habits and for better access to healthcare.

Loneliness is increasingly common and creates challenges when dealing with stressful situations. It is essential to have someone with whom we can vent. Therefore, one should foster, strengthen, and broaden relationships. Maintaining social connections requires constant practice. Friendships and relationships need regular commitment to keep them from fizzling out. A simple telephone call can help. Participating in activities that bring joy and encourage camaraderie, such as sports, hobbies, and volunteer work, may broaden the relationship network.

Social media almost always shows the positive side of people’s lives and suggests that everyone lives worry-free. However, the truth is that no one’s life is free of difficulties and challenges. Social skills contribute to resilience.

It is never too late for a turnaround and change life through new relationships and experiences. The study showed that good things happened and good news appeared when least expected it.

IRRESISITIBLE Accidental Heroes

They never intended to become heroes…
But actions speak louder than words.

Find true love with these accidental heroes, in the pages of EIGHT BRAND NEW, full-length steamy stories, from New York Times and USA Today Bestselling, Award-Winning Authors.