Blog Tour: Bad to the Bone by Nicki Bennett

Welcome Nicki Bennett who's here today to talk about her latest Dreamspun Desires novel, Bad To The Bone! Find out more about this second chance romance and read an excerpt below. Also, see our 4 ❤ review of it HERE!

Isn’t the cover for Bad to the Bone gorgeous? It would sure make me want to find out who this delicious man is, if I hadn’t written the book! For those of you who may not be familiar with the steps it takes to create a book cover, let me walk you through how this cover came about.

Shortly after I signed my contract with Dreamspinner Press, I got an email from the Art Department asking me for input on cover design. Because Dreamspun Desires is a category romance line, it has specific cover elements that are standard for all releases: the slanted framing borders; the fonts used for the title, author name, and tag line; the muted Dreamspinner spiral in the background. The central image has to be simple, usually limited to a single character, and something that will grab the reader’s attention and convey the essence of the story and/or tropes it embodies. The email asked me to provide a brief story synopsis, setting, descriptions of the main characters, and what I would consider my ideal cover.

I knew the cover I wanted: Ricky Lee on the Harley motorcycle he rides back into town—and back into Alex’s life. Within a week, cover artist Bree Archer sent me a number of potential images to choose from. Some were of Native American models who resembled the description I’d given of Ricky Lee, and others were of models straddling or standing next to motorcycles, but none of them were exactly right.

Dreamspinner’s artists are great about looking for more examples if you don’t find anything you like the first time around. When we were working on the cover for my first Dreamspun Desire, The Cattle Baron’s Bogus Boyfriend, one of the models they provided for Link was the same cowboy who’d appeared on the cover of one of my favorite books by a favorite author, who also happens to be a good friend! That’s a drawback of having to rely on stock photos—there are only so many to choose from, especially when it’s a subject in a specific genre or with some unique characteristic. For that cover, I actually went hunting through several stock photo sites myself until I found a cowboy who was closer to my image of Link and that I hadn’t seen on romance covers before.

I knew the chances of finding a stock photo with the specific combination of elements I was looking for in this case were slim to none. One of the photos in the second batch Bree sent me had potential, though. It showed an olive-skinned man with dark hair and crossed arms, sitting on a motorcycle and staring boldly into the camera. His attitude was exactly what I wanted Ricky Lee to portray, but his hair was too short and his clothes weren’t just right. I emailed Bree back and identified the photo I’d selected, asking if she could color the jeans and T-shirt he wore black. I also referenced one of the photos of a Native model and asked if it would be possible to give the model on the bike longer hair like his.

Bree came back with a fantastic draft. She’d cropped the photo so it emphasized the model but still showed the front of the bike, colored his T-shirt black, and Photoshopped in the longer hair I’d asked for. She’d also replaced the original background with a rural landscape appropriate for the story. It was 99 percent of what I wanted; now we were in the tweaking stage. I asked her, since Ricky Lee is half Comanche and wouldn’t have much facial hair, if she could thin out the model’s eyebrows and remove the bit of scruff on his chin. Bree did just that, and the result is the beautiful cover you see in this post.

It isn’t always possible for an author to get the cover of their dreams, but Dreamspinner’s artists do a fantastic job of trying to make that happen. I couldn’t be happier with the cover for Bad to the Bone—thank you, Bree!—and I hope you enjoy the story as much as I love the cover.

A second chance at first love—if he has the courage to take it.

Alex can’t think of himself as anything but a failure. In high school, he was on the fast track to a career in pro football when he forged an unlikely friendship with a half-Comanche boy from the wrong part of town, Ricky Lee Jennings. Their shared love of books could have grown into more—but a homophobic teammate attacked Ricky Lee, and Alex wouldn’t risk his scholarship to defend him. Ricky Lee was kicked out of school, and Alex never heard from him again.

Now Alex’s glory days are nothing but a memory. An injury ended his football aspirations, his marriage fell apart, and his dreams of making a difference as an environmental lobbyist are as dead as his fantasies of sports stardom.

But all that could change in one magical night, when Ricky Lee shows up at their high-school reunion.


A deep rumbling noise sounded from outside, loud enough to rattle the store windows in their frames. Alex turned his head in time to see a huge black motorcycle with two riders cruise down the street, followed a moment later by a Freeland police department patrol car, its lights flashing.
The bike pulled to the curb, idling until the officer—at the distance they stopped down the street, Alex couldn’t tell who it was except that it wasn’t Sam—approached. He gestured for them to dismount, and the rumble stopped as the driver complied. The officer spoke for a few moments, then gestured again, apparently for the riders to remove their helmets. The driver had a tail of black hair that reached between his shoulders, and when the officer began to pat him down, Alex could see that the back of his jacket was embroidered with a design that read Oregon Rainbow Riders. He wasn’t sure why the officer needed to perform a pat-down—there was no way the rider was concealing anything under the leather pants that fit him like a second skin. Alex allowed himself a moment to admire the driver’s firm backside before turning his attention to the second rider. He or she—again, it was hard to tell from the distance—wore a denim jacket and jeans and sported a head of dreadlocks in ombre shades of blue.
When the officer finished patting them both down, he spoke to the driver again. By this time Alanna had come around the counter to the window to see what captured Alex’s attention. The driver leaned forward into the officer’s space. Whatever he was saying, it was forceful enough to cause the patrolman to take a step back and drop his hand to the gun on his belt. Before the situation could escalate any further, the officer shook his head, and the rider and his passenger climbed back onto the bike. The engine roared as the motorcycle disappeared down the street.
“Well, that was the most excitement we’ve seen all week,” Alanna commented as the patrol car turned off its lights and pulled away from the curb.
“Probably someone took a wrong turn off the interstate,” Alex said. “I can’t imagine anyone looking like that having business in Freeland.”
“Saw something you liked?” Alanna teased. “Which one?”
Alex flipped her the bird and returned to the back room to finish cleaning up. He’d almost forgotten about the strangers until the door jangled again and Alanna yelled, “Alex! Sam’s here!”
He hadn’t expected to see Sam that afternoon—they usually met for breakfast at the diner near the police station when Sam had a morning shift—but he greeted her with a warm smile. “What brings you around?” he asked. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, though it’s about to get a lot more interesting,” she replied. “Ricky Lee Jennings is back in town.”

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Author Bio:

Growing up in Chicago, Nicki Bennett spent every Saturday at the central library, losing herself in the world of books. A voracious reader, she eventually found it difficult to find enough of the kind of stories she liked to read and decided to start writing them herself.

You can find Nicki on her Facebook page:

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