The somewhat suggestive paperbacks with evocative titles tempt from bookstore shelves and supermarket checkout counters.
They may elicit derisive snickers in some literary corners, but they have a huge following in others.
Those in the latter group know Deb Stover's name. She's fashioned a successful career writing romance, time-travel and paranormal novels. "The Sixth Sense with sex," is how the best-selling author describes her latest project.
Stover, of Palmer Lake, has 17 book titles to her credit. Twelve are novels and five are novellas in anthologies. However, she's clearly most proud of her accomplishment as a mother to her three children: birth daughter, Barbi, 25; adopted daughter Bonnie, 21, a Native American with Down syndrome; and 18-year-old adopted son Ben.
"I can't imagine doing anything else," she says of being an author and parent. "I've always wanted to write. And I can't imagine not having my kids. They're supposed to be my kids."
When Stover and her late husband Dave decided to adopt, they were very specific: "We were waiting for a child with Down syndrome," she says, "and we were waiting for a newborn."
Because neither of the Stovers was Native American, under the Indian Child Welfare Act, they had to wait 11 days after Bonnie's birth before they could take custody of the premature baby.
"A native American family had been ready to adopt her until they realized her disability. We had to have tribal consent and parental consent," Stover explains. "Under the act, a mother cannot terminate parental rights until the child is 11 days of age."
In contrast to Bonnie's birth, there were no hurdles or delays for adopting Ben. In fact, Stover arrived in the delivery room barely 30 minutes before he was born, at the invitation of the birth mother.
Stolen Wishes, published in 1999, is a book dedicated to Bonnie. Stover describes it as a "Robin Hood story with no paranormal elements set on an Indian reservation." It won the 1999 Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Innovative Historical from Romantic Times magazine, and was voted Best Overall Historical by readers of Affaire de Coeur.
Bonnie is a warm, smiling young woman whose curiosity intensifies her child-like demeanor. Even though he is three years younger, Ben is called Bonnie's big brother. Ben is part Hawaiian, part African American and part Anglo. He was born with a cocaine addiction. Today he is a tall, handsome young man considering college choices. Barbi is newly married.
And Stover is now an only parent.
Insert a plot twist ...
Dave Stover died of colon cancer in May 2005. He was 50. His diagnosis came six years earlier, about a quarter-century into their marriage.
"I'm recovering," Stover says.
Although she still writes, Stover says it has been a slow process since Dave's death. She had a book under contract when he was diagnosed as terminal.
"We had to come up with a new deadline," she says. "I had never missed a deadline. Ever. But that one got blown out of the water."
She then worked on a fantasy piece for an anthology. It was the jump-start she needed.
"After I wrote that novella," she says, "I told my editor to give me a new deadline [for the book]."
But that work, The Gift, hit another snag this fall when Stover developed a pelvic fracture from osteoporosis. That has confined her to a wheelchair and crutches, which will continue for a few more months.
"It has been difficult to write," she says, "because I can't sit for long periods of time."
The book is now about 75 percent done, Stover says, and after final editing, she hopes it will be available by late 2008.
It was 15 years earlier, and three years after the Wichita, Kan., native first moved to Colorado, when Stover sold her first book, Shades of Rose. She met her first editor at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.
"That's where I pitched my first book," she says. "Authors will tell you they have a gift book, one you were born to write. That was my gift book. It was a story my father had given me."
It was also the first of four titles the publisher bought.
Her experience at the PPWC came years after she first sent a manuscript to a publisher.
"My oldest daughter was six months old. I had left my career, my parents, my home and was living in Lancaster, Calif., where my late husband was working at Edwards Air Force Base," she recalls. "So, I decided to write about what I loved to read: historical romance. My first manuscript was a 200,000-word Civil War tome that should be burned. It would make Scarlett O'Hara roll over in her grave."
... then add details
Before the romance, time travel and paranormal themes, Stover wrote for newspapers. The departure is striking.
"With journalism, you're always writing fast-forward," she says. "With a novel you need some detail. ... You just have to bury yourself in the story."
Detail, often sensuous and always descriptive, is a huge part of the romance genre. Stover apparently gets it right. In 1994, she received the Pikes Peak Romance Writers' Volunteer of the Year Award, and she was the group's Author of the Year in 1997 and 1999.
Besides being a writer, Stover is also a bit of an activist. She was part of former Gov. Roy Romer's Developmental Disabilities Planning Council in the 1990s; has advocated for writers, and for kids with disabilities; and is part of a local grassroots effort to elect Sen. Barack Obama as the next president. She has found allies for that cause around Palmer Lake, which she refers to as "the Democratic stronghold in northern El Paso County."
For Stover, Obama personifies something she views as critical on many levels: "Hope."
This aligns closely with her advice to aspiring writers and anyone considering adoption, especially adopting a child with disabilities.
"Finish what you start and don't give up," she says. "It does get easier."