Mia Drake is a down-on-her-luck artist in need of employment. So when her aunt suggests she take a job painting a local tavern, she jumps at the chance to make some money—and maybe get cozy with—the bar's hunky owner, Rick Rose. But the last thing Rick wants is any more temptations. Only when Mia begins painting an ultrasensual mural across the ceiling of the tavern does Rick realize that he may not know art—but he knows what he likes…

Read a preview of "Brushstrokes"

A Note from Toni

Around ten years ago, I attended a writer's conference in Lexington, Kentucky, and while there, my old friend Michelle and I ate dinner at an adorable little restaurant/bar downtown that had an enormous mural of Michelangelo-like angels painted across the ceiling. I was quite taken with it and couldn't stop looking at it, even going back for lunch the next day so I could see it again. As I studied it, I got the impression that the male and female angels looked impassioned, so I said to Michelle, “I didn't know there was romance among angels.”

She said, “Romance Among Angels. That would be a great title.”
I said, “You're right, but what's the story?”

She said she felt confident that if I thought about it, it would come to me. At the time, I was writing literary fiction instead of romance, and though no story ideas for the angels arrived, I kept the conversation in mind, always on the lookout for a tale that would fit the title, and which might also incorporate the ceiling. It was years later, after I'd sold a few romance novels, that the concept finally grew into a story in my mind - a sexy romance, of course. Unfortunately, by the time I'd written the story, the title didn't exactly fit, but the "romance among angels" concept is within the pages, and I finally got the angels on the ceiling into a book!

Another inspiring factor for this one was a little book of birthday quotes my best friend gave me when I turned thirty. The book made me envision a woman whose story would begin with her lounging in a bathtub on her thirtieth birthday, lamenting that she didn't have much to celebrate by that point in her life. I originally intended to open each chapter with a fitting quote, which didn't happen, but the notion provided the beginning of Brushstrokes.

Awards & Honors

  • Finalist for the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence

Trivia & Extras

  • The novella “Brushstrokes” is Toni's contribution to the Taking Care of Business Anthology.
  • Look who's reading Taking Care of Business! It's Jamie Denton aka Mike the Plumber of Desperate Housewives fame. Toni's friend and co-author LuAnn McLane won an evening with him via a charity auction.

Reviews for Brushstrokes

“A trio of hot novellas sure to charm the pants off romance and erotica readers. As far as heroines go, Mia (in Brushstrokes) is top-notch, pulling at all the right heartstrings.” ~ Lauren Spielberg, Romantic Times

“Ms. Blake doesn't disappoint in yet another outstanding story, making it a delight to go along on (this) steamy and sexy journey of discovery. Mia and Rick are explosive together, making Brushstrokes an impressive and sexy tale. Ms. Blake has well-crafted characters and a fast-paced plot that will reel you in from the first page.” ~ Aggie Tsirikas, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

“Toni Blake creates unforgettable characters with a highly entertaining plot. All three stories in TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS were fast-paced and very enjoyable. Once I picked this up, I couldn’t put it down. Don’t miss one of the summer’s best anthologies!” ~ Patti Fischer, Romance Reviews Today

“(Brushstrokes) is a very sensual and titillating tale. A sexy story (with a hero) too tempting to resist. Taking Care of Business is a fantastic contemporary keeper.” ~ Tracey West, The Road to Romance

“Hot and sexy. This is a hit with a great combination of work and pleasure.” ~ Lori Sears, The Romance Readers Connection, 4 HEARTS

“Three deliciously erotic novellas ... These luscious tales should garner new fans for their talented authors.” ~