Tina Donahue reflects on where her stories begin and gives readers a special look at Toni Starr, the heroine of her new erotic romance Sensual Stranger.

For those of you new to my work, I write contemporary, erotic and paranormal romance with a liberal dose of sensuality and emotional depth. What I like to call heat with heart. For me, a romance novel without tenderness is akin to sex without passion. Hardly satisfying. No, when I read—when I write—I want the story to stir me. I’m not satisfied until it causes me to sigh with expectation or brings me to laughter and tears.

And it all begins with a novel’s characters.

When I conceived the plot for Sensual Stranger, my erotic contemporary romance, I wanted to give Toni a background that would convey the loneliness of her life before she meets Zach, and the impossible choices she had to make years before while still a teenager. For most kids, it’s a time filled with school, dating and driving their parent’s crazy. Not Toni…and not by her own choice. I won’t go into the particulars of what brought her into a nomadic existence as a motorcycle performance artist, aka a daredevil. I’d rather not ruin the plot for those of you who have yet to read the story.

I will say that by giving her an unusual occupation, one that requires a great deal of courage, my choice fit in perfectly with her will to survive. It also brought her to the dilemma she faced when first meeting Zach in Indulgence, the small Arizona town where the story takes place. Alone and flat broke, Toni’s just about out of luck as she was at fifteen, but she can’t give up now anymore than she could have eleven years before.

Although Toni doesn’t perform any of her stunts in Sensual Stranger, she does tell Zach about the life, travelling from town to town, event to event. He understands that what the public perceives as exciting, perhaps even a bit sexy, is also a life of uncertainty with few lasting ties. Luckily for Toni, she did have Belle and Lucky Starr, an older couple from the circuit, that she adopted as her family.

While researching daredevil performers for Sensual Stranger, I came upon so much fascinating information that I wanted to use. There were acts called T-bone, roll-over and suicide twist. Then there are the motordromes where daredevils risk their lives and defy gravity.

I was able to incorporate what I consider a reasonable amount of the research into my plot by having Toni speak about it or when Zach uses the Internet to probe into her past, in particular the parts she won’t reveal.

I’m happy with the flavor the research lent the story. More importantly, I’m proud of the grit it lent to Toni’s character, which added to the richness, the depth of her and Zach’s love.

Both their pasts have everything to do with the future facing them, one they can embrace or flee. And the spark of desire between them, from page one until the end, is truly a marriage of heat with heart.

- Tina Donahue

You can pick up Tina Donahue's latest erotic romance, Sensual Stranger, in stores now!

Tags: Erotica
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