Cruise with Mona…And Babies

My name is Julia. I was seven months old when my grandparents took us on a cruise. My cousin Olivia and I were the only two babies on the ship.

Cruise muster drills are mandatory safety briefings that all passengers must attend before the ship is allowed to sail. Before sailing, Daddy outfitted me with a life jacket to make sure I would be safe in case of emergency.

On the very first night, Olivia ruined her parents’ dinner by whining, crying, and displaying a high fever—a possible risk when traveling with small children. She paid a visit to the local clinic and was treated with antibiotics.

Here is Olivia crawling through the connecting balconies to come and visit me.

Thankfully, she recovered in no time, enjoyed the rest of the cruise and even managed to celebrate her first birthday on the ship.

Nothing beats a day spent at the beach, on a gorgeous Caribbean Island.

This was our parents’ first cruise too and they were determined to enjoy it. They took several tours, discovering the water fall, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Luckily we had adoring grandparents. While our parents went ashore, Nonno and Nonna spent the day with us, ambled around the ship, each pushing a stroller, or sat at a table around the pool each feeding a baby, or lounged on a deck with a sweetheart in their arms, sucking on a bottle. The passengers would stop by, cooing over us.

We explored the ship with Nonno and Nonna and admired the masterpieces sculpted by the cooks and their helpers.

Around four o’clock, the parents collected their little bundles and got ready for dinner. Before the cruise, Nonna had sent us appropriate sailing outfits and adorable dresses.

Our Mommies took us to the casino where we tried our hands at blackjack and crab, and won big time– I mean won big applause.

On formal night, we put on the pretty dresses Nonna had offered us. We were as pretty as can be.

In the dining room the family was assigned a table for eight in a corner at the end of the huge dining room, as far as possible from the other tables. Two high chairs waited for us with colorful balloons flying above. Several waiters hovered around our table, ready to pick up the forks or spoons, napkins or plastic glasses falling down. Forget about the crumbles carpeting the floor around our high chairs.

Do you know many kids who have the chance to celebrate their first birthday on a cruise? The night we celebrated Olivia’s birthday, the whole crew of waiters and all the passengers sang Happy Birthday, dear Olivia.

Unfortunately everything must come to an end. Our first cruise was so much fun and way too short. Of course, we don’t remember anything but our grandparents swear it was the best cruise of their lives.

WE’RE ALL TOGETHER, (Love Plans Series, book 15)

#Preorder Release Day November 7 —– A generous computer expert, Greg Haynes navigates life without worries or responsibilities. After experiencing pain and betrayal, Heidi Benton focuses on her law studies with one purpose in life, to graduate and get her revenge. The threat of a hurricane hitting the island forces everyone to evacuate and turns Greg and Heidi’s lives upside down, displacing their priorities for the sake of two orphaned children.

Settings for my Books

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?

Visit Sweden with Mona

We spent a week in Sweden in the nineties and more recently, a Baltic Cruise allowed us to pay a new visit to Stockholm with a bus tour of the city, followed by a boat ride in the Baltic Sea.

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, encompasses 14 islands and more than 50 bridges on an extensive Baltic Sea archipelago. Ferries and sightseeing boats shuttle passengers between the islands.

Stockholm has a mix of opulent, traditional architecture in the form of royal palaces and state buildings, as well as the sleek minimalism the country is famous for today.

The City Hall Tower is 106 meters tall, with a beautiful panoramic view of central Stockholm

Stockholm City Hall became famous for its grand ceremonial halls and unique art pieces, but especially for being the venue of the Nobel Prize banquet which is held each year in the Blue Hall on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

 Parliament House (Riksdag) was constructed between 1897 and 1905. n 1889, a competition had been held to select a design for the new Parliament building, that Johansson won. Upon opening, it replaced the Old Riksdag Building. The two buildings of the complex were originally constructed to house the Riksdag in one, and the Sveriges Riksbank (Swedish National Bank) in the second, of a semicircular shape.
In this picture taken from the boat, we can see the Storkyrkan Church, the oldest church in Stockholm that lies in the center of Stockholm in Gamla stan, between Stockholm Palace (on the right) and Stortorget, the old main square of Stockholm (on the left). 

The cobblestone streets and ochre-colored buildings of Gamla Stan (the old town) are home to the 13th-century Storkyrkan Cathedral, the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum, which focuses on the Nobel Prize.

Stortorget is the main square in Stockholm’s old town, and the oldest square in the city. It was mentioned as early as 1420.

Stortorget (“Grand Square”) in Gamla Stan was created gradually, with buildings and blocks surrounding the square, still sloping west, occasionally added
haphazardly. The old square is an
artistic and shopping hub, renowned for its annual Christmas market, traditional handicrafts and culinary delights.
In this picture taken from a bus, we can locate a plaque on the royal palace with the name of King Carl XI.

Riddarholmen Church is located on the island of Riddarholmen, close to the Royal Palace. Initially, the church was the former medieval Greyfriars Monastery in Stockholm. Now it serves as the final resting place of most Swedish monarchs.

The historic Riddarholmen Church dates back to the 13th century. Since 1807, it has been used as a funeral and memorial church, with several chapels dedicated to the various kings of Sweden.

An interesting contrast between old architecture and modern one in Stockholm.

What is special about Stockholm, Sweden?

The city is built on 14 islands, connected by 57 bridges. It has 96 beaches, and the people of Stockholm own around 200,000 boats. This earned the Swedish capital the nickname ‘Beauty on the Water’. Although the weather is relatively cold and the place quite expensive, if you have a chance, don’t hesitate to visit Sweden.

And don’t forget to download my latest published contemporary novels.

New Release — WE’RE ALL HEROES

They’re all heroes who pay a big price for freedom—The Ukrainian mom who spies for her country; her three small kids who struggle to survive; the wounded major who gets them out of a war-zone; Lauren, the flight attendant who brings them to the U.S.A. ; her parents who receive them in their home; and her ex-fiancé, Dr. Jake, who operates on the injured. And let’s not forget the two German shepherd puppies that dive in a pool to save a two-year old. Will the many crises they face head-on strengthen or destroy Lauren and Jake’s relationship?

We’re All Heroes is book 12 of the Love Plans Series.

New Release — WE’RE ALL WINNERS

Handsome doctors are lying, cheating, self-centered bastards, particularly Vince Cooper, the charming resident, Casey Benton had the misfortune to fall in love with in medical school. Fate protected her by sending him to the other side of the country for a fellowship. Three years later, he’s standing in her parents’ living room, and she curses her bad luck.

Vince Cooper blesses his good luck when his dog finds a lost toddler in the park and allows him to reconnect with the woman he could never forget. After Casey reveals she adopted her son–a patient’s baby—attraction sizzles between them and romance blooms. But Casey doesn’t trust him completely, and Vince has a feeling she’s hiding something. When the truth explodes and nasty secrets pop out, will there be room for love and a happy future together?

We’re All Winners is book 14 of the Love Plans Series.

Changing Direction

During difficult times, we remain frozen in one place and moving seems almost impossible. We focus on what we can’t do rather than do something different, and yet changing directions may bring up new opportunities and open new doors.

A needed change, a ‘turning point’ in a novel, a ‘momentum shift’ in tennis games, a career shift or life change in real life. No one can predict if they will be good or bad, but rather than being stuck in a hole that can get deeper over time, why not try something else that can make us move forward?

I made several career shifts in my life. After graduating with a pharmacy degree, I trained in a local pharmacy and was bored out of my mind, filling prescriptions all day long. My first shift came as I enrolled in a master degree program in analytical chemistry, graduated and worked, and enjoyed life in the lab until the task took its toll on my back.

One day, I woke up with an excruciating pain in my back and left leg. Unable to walk, I crawled into my car and rushed to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. The x-rays and CT-scan showed a slipped disc in my vertebral column. Painkillers did not help. After a three-month bed rest, I had to wear a special brace around my lower back. The company granted me a six-month sick leave. “No more standing on your feet in a lab. Change career,” my doctor ordered.

As soon as I could walk without pain, I applied for the PhD program in Analytical Chemistry and threw myself wholeheartedly in the student life again. Dressed in blue jeans and t-shirt, I multitasked, driving the children to after-school activities and waiting for them with a book in my hand. Four arduous years, numerous exams, and several published papers finally led to graduation.

While still on campus, I received a phone call from a recruiter who wanted to interview graduating PhD students for a managerial position in the analytical laboratory of an environmental company. I was hired by the CEO to start a lab, buy the needed instruments, and hire the right staff.

From day one, I decided to never let anyone derail me from my goal: to make this laboratory productive and successful. While supervising the lab operations, I wrote many proposals and won several contracts. I convinced the CEO to build six new labs and interviewed many chemists and technicians, and carefully explained the pressure of laboratory life. To their credit, my chemists rarely complained about the long hours spent to analyze samples of hazardous water and soil waste materials. They did an excellent job, and the good reputation of our lab soon spread around. We received contracts from different government agencies, and applied for several state certifications.

International contracts took me to Minsk, Belarus; Kiev and Uman in Ukraine; to Almati and Stepnogorsk in Kazakhstan; to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sergei Possad in Russia. Each new project presented more challenges due to clash of cultures, different languages, and work habits.

Soon I realized that I was at the end of my rope. Working an average of ten hours a day for so many years, I reached as high as I could go in my career in analytical chemistry. It was time to take an early retirement and fulfill another dream: I wanted to write and publish romance novels.

I gathered the staff for a last meeting and informed them of my decision. During the farewell speech, I could not hold my tears and many of my chemists cried too. They had become my second family.

Turning the page, I concentrated on my new goal. To write novels and compete in the publishing industry, I bought grammar and writing books, and once again I started at the bottom of the ladder. I sent an email to Debbie Macomber, my favorite romance author, who advised me to join the Romance Writers of America (RWA). At the monthly meetings of the RWA local chapter, I met published authors and beginners. We formed critique groups and helped each other, until I gathered the courage to submit excerpts of my writing to various publishers. After receiving my share of rejection letters for five years, one finally offered me a contract.

Through my first novel To Love a Hero released in 2008, I practically relived my fantastic trips to Belarus. Many of the adventures I experienced in Minsk are related in my book. Several more books followed, set in the fascinating places I visited during my business or vacation travels. In 2011, I tried my hand at self-publishing and was stunned by the amazing number of ebooks I sold on Amazon, and the enthusiastic reviews of my fans. But my biggest reward came from bedridden readers who said my novels brought joy to their lives and took them on an armchair trip around the world.

After publishing numerous books and contributing to several anthologies, I earned the top honor for a published author: the enviable status of “USA Today Bestselling Author,” and “New York Times Bestselling Author.”

My legacy to my children and grandchildren is the following: Set your goals high and work hard to follow your dream. Don’t be afraid to change direction. You can make a difference.

We’re All HeroesReleased Today

They’re all heroes who pay a big price for freedom—The Ukrainian mom who spies for her country; her three small kids who struggle to survive; the wounded major who gets them out of a war-zone; Lauren, the flight attendant who brings them to the U.S.A. ; her parents who receive them in their home; and her ex-fiancé, Dr. Jake, who operates on the injured. And let’s not forget the two German shepherd puppies that dive in a pool to save a two-year old. Will the many crises they face head-on strengthen or destroy Lauren and Jake’s relationship?

We’re All Heroes is book 12 of the Love Plans Series.

Messy PlansNew Release

Dr. Matt Lopez is perfectly happy with his medical career until the new nurse practitioner turns his life upside down with her lovely smile and crazy ideas. 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 Matt and Cathy reconcile their personal feelings and work obligations?

Messy Plans is book 11 of the Love Plans Series.