Take Down (Billionaire’s Club New Orleans #3) by Mallery Malone-review, interview and giveaway

Take Down (Billionaire’s Club: New Orleans #3) by Mallery Malone-review, interview and giveaway

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Take Down
Billionaire’s Club: New Orleans #3
by Mallery Malone
Genre: adult, contemporary, erotic, romance
Release Date:September 2, 2014

Take Down

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / Amazon.uk/ Barnes and Noble / KOBO /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date September 2, 2014

Powerful. Dominant, Unforgettable. He commands submission at all costs.

Cage fighter, Gabriel Devereaux, a man of barely leashed power, is known as the Bayou Beast.

There is one woman he will do anything , pay any amount to possess.

Karina Armistead, has come a long way from the innocent girl Gabriel used to know. An internationally known singer, she can have anything she wants. But everything tells her that getting involved with the Bayou Beast may leave her wrecked beyond repair.

Little does Karina Armistead know, but Gabriel has decided that she will be his.

He will destroy anything or anyone who stands in his way.


REVIEW:  TAKE DOWN is the third instalment in Mallery Malone’s adult, contemporary, Billionaire’s Club : New Orleans erotic romance series focusing on three friends from New Orleans. Billionaires and MMA fighters-Sebastian, Raphael and Gabriel-collectively own DJD Holdings and these are their stories.

TAKE DOWN is a second chance storyline that focuses on the rebuilding of a relationship between former friends and lovers Gabriel Devereux and the woman he loves Karina Armistead. Ten years has past since they last saw one another but in the ensuing time each has made a name for themselves. Karina is the darling of pop music and Gabriel is a world champion cage fighter who spends a good deal of his energy in illegal fights. When a chance presents itself, Gabriel is the first in line to offer up his hand to Karina knowing that the truth about what happened years before could very well destroy any chance of a permanent reconciliation.

The relationship between Gabriel and Karina is one of sensuality and pure love. Karina never knew the reason Gabriel walked away ten years earlier and hearing the truth has all but destroyed her heart. Gabriel suffered at the hands of someone else, and Karina blames herself for the destruction of their relationship.

The secondary characters include the previous storyline fighters Raphael and Sebastian as well as their lovers and friends. We will be introduced to Karina’s body guards who are very protective of their charge; and Karina’s brother, and father whose relationship with Karina is born out of rage, anger and hatred.

TAKE DOWN is a very quick read where two people are given a second chance at love. This is a story of lost love, broken hearts and revenge. Mallery Malone pulls the reader into a passionate storyline where hatred all but destroys the heart; and controversy seems to follow our leading couple wherever they go. Take Down is an intense look at one man’s revenge in the hopes of destroying the only man Katrina has ever loved.

My only complaint is the book blurb which describes Gabriel as a man who commands submission at all costs. That particular comment does not seem to apply to this storyline. There is no BDSM, no demands to submit from anyone in his life. Gabriel is a man possessed by the need to reclaim the woman he lost years before not a man who demands submission in order to love or be loved.

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley.

Review by Sandy


TRC: Hi Mallery and welcome to The Reading Cafe. Congratulations on the release of your latest novel-TAKE DOWN (Billionaire’s Club: New Orleans #3)

We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?

Follow Mallery: Website / Goodreads/ Twitter / Facebook

Mallery: I’m a lifelong reader of everything. Stories were always my best friends. I started writing for fun in elementary school, for extra credit in high school and to keep myself sane as a young adult! I’ve been a published author since 2000, but started writing under Mallery Malone in 2008.I live north of Atlanta, GA with my husband, our guitar collection, two attack poodles and a cannibal fish.

TRC: Who or what influenced your career in writing?

Mallery: I can’t point to one particular thing that influenced my writing. I think we writers are an amalgam of what we’ve experienced and what we’ve read. While I started reading romances with Johanna Lindey books, the first books I bought myself were fantasy and science fiction. So I’ve been influenced by Madeline L’Engle, Ursula K LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler, Roger Zelazny. My greatest influence in my writing was an elementary school English teacher named Mrs. Flinchum. I’d turned in a short story for extra credit and she encouraged me to keep at it–even had me speak to one of her classes about creative writing. I’m forever grateful to my teachers!

TRC: When not writing, what do you do to relax?

Mallery: I relax by spending way too much time playing Candy Crush and Farm Heroes! Seriously though, I love to read, shop for jewelry and watch anime.

Take DownTRC: TAKE DOWN is the third installment in your Billionaire’s Club: New Orleans series focusing on three friends who grew up on the mean streets of New Orleans to one day own and operate a billionaire dollar business. Would you please tell us something about the series and the premise of the book?

Mallery: My fantastic editor, Monique Patterson, came up with the Billionaire’s Club series concepts. Billionaire MMA fighters in New Orleans? I was so on board! Wile that was the outward common theme for the stories, I wanted their to be an emotional connection too, and that was that they’d all come through Hard Knocks, Armand Duparte’s gym, at the same time, and bonded around their love and respect for the man who had basically saved each of them. Each one went on to achieve success in their respective disciplines, but each one also had “the one who got away” the woman who knew them before the fame and fortune, the one person who knew all their faults and failures and loved them anyway.

TRC: Who were the inspirations behind Sebastian, Gabriel and Raphael? Which model or actor best represent your ideal image for each character?

Mallery: Believe it or not, I didn’t have any particular models in mind for these guys! Hhm, maybe I need to go do a Google image search for hot cage fighters!

Billionaire's Club

Click HERE for our review of KNOCK OUT (book 1)
Click HERE for our review of POWER PLAY (book 2)

TRC: What was the deciding factor behind the setting of New Orleans?

Mallery: I enjoy visiting New Orleans. The culture, the history, the food–it appeals to me on every level. Using the city as a backdrop for a contemporary series really appealed to me, and gave me an excuse to visit and eat my way through the city!

TRC: What do you believe is the appeal of the MMA/fighter storyline to romance readers?

Mallery: Readers love alpha heroes. Outside of military or paranormal themes, you can’t get any more alpha than men who get all sweaty and bloody duking it out in the octagon. There’s something primal about fighters that appeals to women on that base, instinctual level, the one that looks for the male who will provide, defend and pass on good genes. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they’re hot, smart, and soft-hearted for the right woman!

TRC: TAKE DOWN is the final installment in this particular series. What do you have planned for 2015? New series? Spin Off?

Mallery: I would be really interested in doing a full length story that spins off this series,perhaps a female MMA fighter. It would also be interesting to delve into Armand’s story and why he felt the need to rescue these Lost Boys. I’m working on several proposal right now both contemporary and paranormal. Hopefully one of those will find a home!

TRC: What challenges or difficulties (research, logistics, background) did you encounter writing this particular series?

Mallery: My husband and I watch MMA fights (he’s a huge Joe Rogan fan, but don’t tell him I told you that) and I have a neighbor who fights locally. So I had resources I could pump for information. In the end, with the stories being novella length romances, I knew I couldn’t provide the necessary detail for the sport that I wanted to include and still make the relationships realistic. So I chose to focus on the romances instead.

TRC: When writing a storyline, do the characters direct the writing or do you direct the characters?

Mallery: My characters are always in the driver’s seat, damn them! I think they’re going one way, then one of them will say something or have a stray thought, and down the rabbit hole we go! With Sebastian, I knew he’d had a tough childhood, but I didn’t know he was the spitting image of his abusive father until he told me in the story. I knew Raphael was a playboy, the Crescent City Casanova, but the why–because his parents loved each other so much they neglected him–surprised me. I knew Gabriel was dark because of the people who did him wrong, but Karina’s relationship with her father and what her father did to them both was a shocker to me. I love it when my characters exceed my concept of them, especially when it works.

TRC: The mark of a good writer is to pull the reader into the storyline so that they experience the emotions along with the characters. What do you believe a writer must do to make this happen? Where do you believe writers fail in this endeavor?

Mallery: For me, I think you have to feel it in order to show it. I have to feel what these characters feel. I think when you empathize with the characters you can convey that to readers, you can make it real. If you don’t get a visceral reaction from reading a passage of your story, you can’t expect the readers to. If you can be happy while writing a gut-wrenching scene, I don’t think that scene will resonate the way you want it to.

TRC: What three things would you like to accomplish in the next five years?

Mallery: Retire from my day job, support myself solely with my fiction writing, and hire a maid service to clean my house!

TRC: What is something that few, if any people, know about you?

Mallery: That I played the viola in high school. I still have it and always say I’m going to break it out one day.

TRC: On what are you currently working?

Mallery: My alter ego is working on a three book full length sexy contemporary series. Hopefully we can get those done so Mallery can get back to writing!


Favorite TV Show: Sleepy Hollow

Last Movie You Saw: Guardians of the Galaxy

Favorite Musical Group: Metallica, 30 Seconds to Mars

Dark or Milk Chocolate: Yes please!

Secret Celebrity Crush: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Last Vacation Destination; San Antonio for RWA. Strictly vacation was
Chichen Itza during the December 21, 2012 solstice.

Do you have any pets? Two standard poodles who think they’re lap dogs and would take over the world if they had thumbs!

Pet Peeve: People who stop in the middle of a busy walkway, oblivious to others around them.

TRC: Thank you Mallery for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulation on the success of the Billionaire’s Club: New Orleans series. We wish you all the best in your writing career.

Mallery: Thank you!

Giveaway pink

Mallery is graciously offering to gift (via Amazon) the Billionaire’s Club: New Orleans Series Vol 1-3 ebook trilogy (or $10 GC equivalent) to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.

1. If you have not previously registered at The Reading Cafe, please register by using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.

2. If you are using a social log-in, please post your email address with your comment.

3. LIKE us on FACEBOOK and then click GET NOTIFICATION under ‘liked’ for an additional entry.

4. LIKE us on Twitter for an additional entry.

5. FOLLOW us on Goodreads

6. LIKE Mallery Malone on Facebook

7. Giveaway is open to international (see above)

8. Giveaway runs from September 14-19, 2014


Hold On ! by Peter Darley-Review, Interview & Giveaway with the Author

HOLD ON! by Peter Darley-Review, Interview and Giveaway with the Author

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Hold On !
by Peter Darley
Release Date: July 7, 2014
Genre: mystery, suspense, action,romance

Hold On

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / Amazon.uk/

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date July 7, 2014

Two lovers! A deadly conspiracy! A race to freedom!

When Carringby Industries, a government-contracted arms manufacturer, is raided by what appear to be terrorists, the CEO’s secretary, Belinda Reese, is rescued by Brandon Drake, a dashing young AWOL soldier. Using an experimental test aircraft, he flees with her to his remote, isolated cabin in the mountains of Aspen.

While assisting in the design of military weaponry, Brandon discovered a plot within his own government to attack its own facilities, under the guidance of immoral politician, Senator Garrison Treadwell. Belinda’s body was not found among the dead at Carringby Industries, and Treadwell suspects that Drake was responsible for rescuing her. In an effort to entrap him, Treadwell arranges for an all points bulletin to be placed on Belinda

Deeply in love, Brandon and Belinda attempt to escape from America, only to endure one harrowing experience after another as they try to evade and expose Treadwell’s corrupt faction.

But on the run, with danger around every corner, Brandon makes a discovery so devastating that it shatters the very foundations of his reality.


REVIEW: HOLD ON is the first instalment in Peter Darley’s action, suspense series focusing on former solider Brandon Drake and secretary Belinda Reese.

The premise of the storyline finds Belinda and Brandon on the run. Brandon has been targeted for destruction by the very people with whom he has worked; and Belinda has been charged as an accomplice in what appears to be a home grown terrorist cell. What ensues is a cross -country trek for two people running for their lives as a government conspiracy threatens to take everyone down.

HOLD ON is first and foremost a story of suspense. The writing style is simple as the reader is pulled into a roller coaster of what ifs and whys: there are so many sub plots and organizations involved in the search and destroy mission that at times I wasn’t sure if they were all working towards a common goal-take down Brandon Drake-at all costs. There is mystery, action, murder, abduction, threats, torture and romance. And speaking of romance, the relationship between Belinda and Brandon is quick to build-from a high flying rescue to lovers, it is only a matter of hours to a few days where we find our leading couple discovering a little more about one another while being pursued by the government’s best (and worst).

There are numerous secondary characters that play an integral part in the hunt for Brandon Drake-from former platoon buddies to CIA operatives to Special Forces, everyone and every department is dirty in one way or another. No one will come away clean and unscathed. As the mystery builds so too does the amount of background information and history behind Brandon Drake and the secrets, of which, the military is willing to kill.

Overall HOLD ON is an interesting and imaginative storyline but one that was slow to build. Most of the action takes place in the second half of the story where the writing is more descriptive, spirited and passionate in nature than the earlier text. As this is the first book in the series, HOLD ON ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.

Copy supplied by the author.

Reviewed by Sandy


TRC: Hi Peter and welcome to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the release of HOLD ON!.

peter-darley1Peter: “Hi Sandy, and thank you for having me on the blog. ☺

TRC: We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?

Follow Peter: Blog / Twitter / Facebook /

Peter: “My background is in showbusiness. I was an actor for many years, and I’ve appeared in several UK television productions. I also worked frequently as a model, presenter, and I appeared in a number of TV commercials. When the recession hit, work dried up, so I diversified into variety entertainment, and became an agent for a number of acts for awhile.

The need for a more stable career pushed me into law school in 2004. I graduated with honors in 2007, but I had decided by then that the law was definitely not a career I could ever be happy with. That’s when I started writing, and spent the next few years developing my style, writing my first novel, and then I endured a harrowing two year journey towards publication.”

TRC: HOLD ON! is your July 2014 release – an action, suspense storyline focusing on soldier Brandon Drake and Belinda Reese. Would you please tell us something about the premise?

Hold OnPeter: “Certainly. From the outset, Hold On! was a book made up of nail-biting cliffhangers. I recognized the power and compelling, page-turning nature of the cliffhanger when I saw the TV shows Prison Break and 24. Nevertheless, statistics show that 80% of novel readers are ladies. As such, I incorporated the action and suspense into a burgeoning romance between my two lead characters, which, I feel, brought a powerful and emotional component to the narrative.

I introduced my leading lady, Belinda, as an ‘everywoman’ whom millions of people would be able to relate to. In the first few pages of chapter one, she is a corporate secretary whose life is stuck in a rut. She works to survive, but she’s bored and uninspired. Her eyes are always on the clock wanting the day to come to an end so that she can go home. (How many people can relate to that?) I took this concept from the undeniable fact that ‘winning the lottery’ has so much social appeal. This was important in order that my readers would empathize with Belinda, thereby causing what comes next to have a powerful impact. I hoped that it would help the readers to put themselves in Belinda’s place.

On page 6 – all hell breaks loose! After what appears to be a terrorist attack, Belinda fears for her life and attempts to escape, only to find herself trapped by smoke and flame. By now it isn’t just Belinda who’s going through this. It’s the reader too.
But, just when all hope seems to be lost, she is rescued by a mysterious stranger wearing a smoke-proof helmet, and fire-resistant armor. This is our hero, Brandon Drake, who flees with her to his secret cabin in the mountains of Aspen.

This concept is a compelling classic that I have always passionately adored. My all-time favourite movie scene is the helicopter emergency scene in Superman – The Movie with Christopher Reeve, where he opens his shirt for the first time and takes off to rescue Lois Lane. It brings me to tears with awe every time I see it. In Hold On! it’s ‘The Princess in the Tower’ brought into a modern, culturally-relevant setting, but as you go through the pages, you will find that I’ve given it a number of new and unique twists.

After dealing with their own issues of trust, Brandon and Belinda learn more about one another, and fall in love. Brandon finally explains to her who he is, what the attack was all about, and how he went AWOL from a government weapons-testing operation in order to thwart the conspiracy responsible. They finally leave the cabin in an attempt to escape from America – only to be met with one cliffhanger after another, devastating revelations, and a relentless fight for their mutual survival.”

TRC: Who or what was the inspiration behind the leading characters of HOLD ON!?

Peter: “I think that Brandon is an amalgamation of a number of fictional and real-life characters that I have admired or encountered. There’s certainly a lot of me in him (lol.) I’ve always been an incurable rebel with a resentment for authority (rightly or wrongly) – hence why I’ve always insisted on being self-employed. I don’t think many of us have been able to avoid the experience of driving our cars, perfectly within the speed limit, then spotting a police car and our hearts coming into our throats – even though we weren’t doing anything wrong. It’s certainly not a pleasant feeling, and it immediately creates a moment of resentment beyond our own conscious control. For me, Hold On! arises from my personal obsession with freedom, and this is the part of the human psyche that I wanted to tap into.

However, I was also aware that the most compelling characters are ones that are flawed and/or tormented in some way. Brandon has a side to him that even he can’t come to terms with. I can’t say too much about it because spoilers abound; suffice to say that I adopted what I considered would be one of the most horrifying discoveries any human being could (hypothetically) make about themselves.”

TRC: Are any of the storyline plot points taken from reality?

Peter: “I think that depends on one’s perspective. Corruption in government is always on the six o’ clock news. But the idea of the ‘powers that be’ initiating hoax terrorist attacks against their own nation was based on some of the more popular 9/11 conspiracy theories. Given the high numbers of demonstrable refutations, and the overwhelming lack of evidence for such claims, I have to say that I cannot bring myself to believe a word of them. Fiction, for me, therefore, was the perfect media for the concept. Additionally, I have never found another concept which offers up so many opportunities for cliffhangers. Aside from a handful of emotional and philosophical points raised in the book, Hold On! is, first and foremost, a literary roller-coaster ride, which exists to satisfy the prerequisite of all fiction – entertainment.”

TRC: If you could virtually cast the leading characters of HOLD ON!, which actors or models would best represent your ideal image?

Peter: “Great question! From my earliest reviews of Hold On! the most frequent comment I received was that it would make a terrific TV series. This even found its way onto the cover as its tag line: “The TV Thriller Series You Can Only Read.”

Brandon Drake has never been anyone other than Australian actor, Chris Hemsworth (Thor.) His was the face I had in mind from the moment Brandon first removed his helmet. He’s absolutely perfect for the role.

In the beginning, I had no specific image for Belinda in mind. Generally speaking, however, she had dark hair and was very attractive.
And then I came to the end of watching the TV series, Spartacus: War of the Damned. Actress Jenna Lind (also Australian by coincidence) played a Roman slave named Kore. In a shocking addition to the otherwise-historically-accurate ending, Kore was crucified with the defeated slave warriors. When I saw this, I was mortified, and thought: “I’m not having that! There’s a beautiful lady in need of rescue, and I’ve got just the man for the job.”
Jenna Lind looked as much like Belinda as anyone could. Since then, she has been my leading lady. ☺”

TRC: What challenges or difficulties (research, logistics, background) did you encounter writing this particular series?

Peter: “The most difficult aspect to writing Hold On! is that I wanted it to be authentic ‘American’. You can’t write a fugitive-type story like this and set it in England. There is simply nowhere to run. It would have come to an end by chapter two. This led to a potentially-fatal problem – so many words are spelled differently in America, and many common expressions in England are unknown in the US. For example, would an American know that a flash drive (that little computer information storing device) is called a ‘pen’ drive in England? It’s almost like a different language on occasion. These are issues that one cannot research, because to research them, you first have to know that there’s an issue with a particular word or expression to begin with. You either know it, or you don’t. For this, I have my dear American author friends, Anne B. Cole, Rafeeq McGiveron, and my editor, Garrett Marco, to thank for getting me out of trouble with these issues.”

TRC: What do you have planned for the next instalment in the series? Release date? Premise?

Peter: “The sequel to Hold On! entitled Go! – Hold On! Season 2, has been signed, and is due for release sometime early next year. I can’t say too much about the premise at this stage because it would be virtually impossible to avoid spoiling the ending of Hold On! I’ve had the video trailer for Go! in my hard drive for months, but we can’t release it yet. It’s very frustrating. The ending of Hold On! is revealed in the very first text caption of the Go! trailer.

However, Go! has been received, from my friends who have read it, with such high acclaim that it stunned me. I didn’t think that I could pull it off a second time, but my reviews so far have been that Go! is actually superior to Hold On!

I am extremely confident that Go! will provide my readers with even more nail-biting suspense, and a chance to share the journey of a fallen hero as he struggles to restore himself to his former greatness, along with an exploration of the meaning of ‘family.’ And, of course, it ends leaving you with a gnawing desire to find out – what happens next? ☺”

TRC: Did you face any difficulties getting your series to publication?

Peter: “Boy, did I! I implore all authors reading this NOT to let it dissuade you. What happened to me was extraordinary, and was not representative of the norm. (This story is also featured on my website.)

When you are an unknown writer with no author platform whatsoever, you will seriously have your work cut out for you. Hold On! has a history steeped in as many cliffhangers as there are in the story. After receiving an initial 60 rejections from publishers and literary agents, I engaged the assistance of my dear friend, former New York Times bestselling literary agent, Mark Malatesta. Whilst my original query letter contained some desirable factors, it lacked a few technical details, which Mark helped me to correct.

Soon afterwards, Hold On! attracted the interest of a literary agent in Florida, who told me that it would take her five to six months to get to it. However, she was very understanding, and encouraged me to try to find a publisher in the meantime. If I was successful, she asked only that I let her know. A few weeks later, a publisher in Michigan literally pleaded with me for Hold On!. Having a ‘bird in the hand’, I let them have it.
Almost a year later, the publisher folded – a week before Hold On! was due to go to press. I immediately contacted the literary agent in Florida again, only to discover that she had now retired.

A week later it was tentatively picked up by Writer’s Coffee Shop in Australia (the publishers who first published Fifty Shades of Grey.) We worked together on the project for four months, during which time some key plot lines were removed from the manuscript. And then suddenly – silence. There had been no contention between me and Writer’s Coffee Shop. No disagreements. No arguments. Nothing! They simply ignored all of my emails, and with no explanation.

Last October (2013), after picking up a total of 130 rejections, and three failed acceptances, Hold On! was snapped up by Soul Mate Publishing. It had finally ended its two year journey from Central England, to Florida, to Michigan, to Australia, to ultimately land in New York.”

TRC: When writing a storyline, do the characters direct the writing or do you direct the characters?

Peter: “Another terrific question. I can only speak for myself, but I always begin with a basic premise. Beyond that, I really don’t know where the story is going. As I begin to write, one idea after another comes to me, and the book literally writes itself. So the answer is – the characters (or story) direct the writing.

Having said that, I know more about what’s going to happen in the third instalment than I did when I started the first and second. This time, I even know how it ends (if my publisher permits me to do what I want to do with it.)”

The mark of a good writer is to pull the reader into the storyline so that they experience the emotions along with the characters. What do you believe a writer must do to make this happen? Where do you believe writer’s fail in this endeavor?

“I will say this: you cannot convey emotion unless you’ve felt it yourself. I have a slight advantage over many writers in this respect by virtue of my former career as an actor. We studied emotions and character development to the extent that we were assigned with the exhausting task of dredging up all manner of harrowing episodes from our pasts, until the class was literally filled with sobbing wrecks.

The secret is to look inside yourself, draw upon your life experiences, and try to recall, as clearly as you can, what you were actually feeling at any given point in your life, and then transcribe those feelings into words. Often you may find you are writing a scene which neither you, nor anybody else, could possibly identify with. Nevertheless, there will always be a common denominator.

Here’s an extreme example – let’s say, hypothetically, you have a character who’s just discovered that the world is going to end in seven day’s time. Nobody you know could possibly identify with horror such as that. But what feelings would that cause in you? I would imagine a sense of panic. Urgency. Desperation. Absolute terror. When have you felt such emotions in the past? What went through your mind during those occasions? What were the physical manifestations that it put you through? (A pounding heart. An inability to think straight. Shivering and shaking uncontrollably, etc.)

Once you have those descriptions, you write them down and give them to your character.

Be mindful also of what genre you are writing in. If you are writing a genre romance, you can probably afford to labor emotions more than you could in a thriller, because emotion is the primary raison d’être of the romance genre. However, thrillers today are required to be fast-paced, and while emotion is an important component of thriller characters, you cannot afford to labor the emotional aspect to the point that it slows the pace. Just inform the reader of the character’s emotional state with a reasonable degree of description, put them in the picture, and move on. Don’t be repetitive and waste time on that which is unnecessary.”

TRC: Writer’s Block is a very real phenomenon. How do you handle the pressures and anxiety of writer’s block?

Peter: “I can’t say that I’ve experienced this yet. As I mentioned earlier, I won’t have a clue what’s going to happen next, so I start writing just so that I can find out (lol.) It’s the weirdest feeling in the world. I’m on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happens next – and yet I’m the one who’s made the whole thing up! I’m the only one who can come up with the answer, but at the beginning, I simply don’t know. My books literally write themselves. Even when I have a clear plan for a chapter, some of the coolest, hitherto-unknown ideas come to me while I’m actually writing it.

I have found that rushing through a manuscript will not yield the best results. Giving myself time for those golden ideas just ‘pop in there’ produces the most hair-raising storylines. Let the process breathe. I can’t sit down and rationally plan a storyline. That usually leads to some fairly boring and sterile ideas because I’m using the intellectual/academic side of my brain rather than the creative. It’s the ideas that involuntarily pop into my head that get the finest reactions.

And one more thing: don’t try to write when you are under the spell of depression. Draw on the experience afterwards if you need to (if depression is relevant to your story), when you have a clearer head. But during an attack of depression, everything about you will be drained, and all you will see on the screen before you is an empty page. Be kind to yourself, and allow yourself the right to be human.”

TRC: Many authors bounce ideas and information with other authors or friends and family. With whom do you bounce ideas?

Peter: “Honestly, I swear on my life – absolutely nobody. I work alone. It’s my gig. Once a first draft has been completed, I will then pass it around to my friends, and I take on board what they say with regards to statements or matters of demonstrable error – such as American spelling, geography, or politics. I have had publishers ask me to remove certain plot lines and add in new ones, but these were people who were never destined to play any part in me getting published. Another publisher would tell me to restore what the previous publisher told me to remove, but to change the ending. And so it went on . . . (This actually spawned the ‘deleted scenes’ page on my website. I love my original plotlines, and the deleted scenes page was my way of keeping them alive.)

Publishers can’t ALL be right. They can, however, ALL be wrong. YOU are the ultimate authority on YOUR creation. That’s my opinion, and I have yet to be shown any evidence to the contrary. If I was to ever encounter a unanimous objection to a storyline, then I would listen. But a singular, subjective viewpoint carries even less weight than mine, since I’m the one who created the concept in the first place. It’s a delicate balance between deciphering constructive criticism, from someone who wants you to write their book rather than yours.”

TRC: What three things would you like to accomplish in the next five years?

Peter: “My ultimate aim is to hear the four words that would completely change my life:

“Previously, on Hold On!”

I think that covers all bases – and I’ve already made a little headway in trying to make it come to pass.

Oh, and I would love it if my deleted scenes created a cult following. Vindication is the greatest feeling in the world. ☺”

I can’t think of a third agenda relevant to this. Once you have the highest possible achievement in your sights, no lower ambition is noteworthy, really.

TRC: What is something that few, if any people, know about you?

Peter: “I’ve always been very open, extremely outspoken, and pragmatic, but I don’t broadcast the fact that I’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, simply because it’s rarely relevant. It’s not a big issue for me, really. I can assimilate myself among people very successfully. I very much doubt that you would ever know, and I say that based on my wealth of social experience.”

TRC: On what are you currently working?

Peter: “Run! – Hold On! Season 3.”

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

Peter: “I hope that anybody who reads Hold On! enjoys it, and that it captures their imagination. I would also like to convey my very best wishes to everybody reading this, and I hope that all of my brother and sister writers achieve the success that they all surely deserve.”


Favorite Food – Chinese crispy shredded chicken with fries.

Favorite Dessert – Chocolate cake.

Favorite TV Show – The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982.) Factual statistic: its largest audience was actually adult females.

Last Movie You Saw – Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Only I could get away with admitting that.☺)

Favorite Musical Group - Abba

Dark or Milk Chocolate - Both

Secret Celebrity Crush – Um . . . don’t have one. (Gawd, I must be getting older. ☹)

Last Vacation Destination – Isle of Wight.

Do you have any pets? - Two cats, Poppy and Snooky. A few months ago, a little black and white cat, barely more than a kitten, came to my door. He’d been abandoned and dumped out in the street. He was still wearing his ID collar, but his previous owners had ripped off his ID tag. He was hungry, scared, and alone. I’ll never know where he originally came from, but he’d been out on the streets for some time, because he’d stopped grooming himself. He came to me in the same way that Brandon’s bear cub came to him at the back of the cabin in Hold On! For that reason, I gave this little cat the same name as the bear cub – Snooky. You’ll all be happy to know that he’s very happy, extremely playful, and well-cared-for now. He follows me everywhere I go. ☺

Pet Peeve – Traffic jams.

TRC: Thank you Peter for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you all the best.

Peter: “Thank you, Sandy. It’s been an honor.”


Peter is graciously offering an ecopy of his novel HOLD ON ! to one lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.

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7. Giveaway runs from September 13-17, 2014


Night Magic (The Magic Series #4) by Susan Squires-Review, Guest Post and Giveaway

Night Magic (The Magic Series #4) by Susan Squires – Review, Guest Post and Giveaway

Night Magic Banner

Night Magic
The Magic Series #4
by Susan Squires
Genre: adult, contemporary, paranormal, romance
Release Date: September 8, 2014

Night Magic

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / Amazon.uk/ Barnes and Noble / iTunes / Smashwords

Add NIGHT MAGIC to your Goodreads shelf.

ABOUT THE BOOK: September 8, 2014

DESTINY ISN’T CALLING. Kemble Tremaine is thirty-seven. He knows he’ll never get magic like the rest of his family. The Merlin gene has passed him by. No true love, no magic power to help the family in their fight against the descendants of Morgan Le Fay. Since it doesn’t matter who he marries, he asks his sister’s best friend, Jane. At least he’ll be rescuing her from a horrible home life.

CINDERELLA MISSES THE BALL. Jane Butler has loved Kemble since she was twelve years old. She’s well aware he’s not marrying her for love, but she hopes she can make him comfortable.

HAPPINESS IS RELATIVE. Comfort isn’t on the menu for the Tremaines. Kemble’s sister has been having visions of tragedy. The family finds one of Merlin’s precious artifacts, meant to increase the power of those with magic. Morgan and her Clan want it too. They can’t be far behind. Can Kemble and Jane find destiny in the face of danger and even death?


REVIEW: NIGHT MAGIC is the fourth full length instalment in Susan Squires contemporary, adult The Magic Series (formerly known as the Children of Merlin) paranormal romance storylines focusing on the Tremaine family who believe they are the descendants of Merlin. Each descendant will come into their magic when they meet their soul mate-their other half. This is eldest brother, thirty seven year old Kemble Tremaine, and family friend Jane Butler’s storyline. Believing the gift of magic has passed him by, Kemble proposes to Jane hoping to stave of the stigma of being alone and without his inherited powers. Kemble watches as each sibling comes into his or her own magical power but the gene appears to be recessive in the eldest son’s DNA.

The storyline continues the Tremaine family struggle as their search for Merlin’s missing and powerful artifacts. But Morgan LeFay and her Clan of rival magical misfits are always one step ahead of the Tremaine family and NIGHT MAGIC finds the family not only fighting the Clan but fighting for their lives. When a golden chalice is located, right under their proverbial noses, the Tremaine family make preparations to retrieve the ancient talisman only to discover that someone already knows about their plans.

The relationship between Kemble and Jane is one of friends to lovers. Jane has loved Kemble since she was twelve years old but Kemble has always seen Jane as his younger sister’s friend and a member of the family. The pull towards one another is heightened with each sexual encounter and if Kemble believes magic has passed him by, Jane’s own hidden power calls to the power buried deep within the man that she loves. The sex scenes are sensual, seductive and passionate.

The secondary characters include all of the previous storyline couples as well as the entire Tremaine family. Morgan LeFay and her Clan are the epitome of evil-with no heart and no soul. We get a glimpse into a future storyline that looks to be another heartbreaking and emotional premise.

The world building continues as each family member comes into their own power and the battle with the Clan brings danger and darkness with every encounter.

Susan Squires CHILDREN OF MERLIN is a wonderful, compelling and imaginative series with romance, love, magic and drama. NIGHT MAGIC will pull you in and break your heart when one of their own fights to survive.

Check out the new covers !

The Magic Series

Reading Order
1. Do You Believe in Magic (April 2012)
2. He’s A Magic Man (September 2012)
3. Your Magic Touch (prequel novella) March 2013
4. Waiting For Magic (October 2013)
5. Night Magic (September 2014)

Copy supplied by the author.

Reviewed by Sandy

Guest Post

As readers of the Reading Café blog probably know, I’m in the middle of the six book Magic Series about the big and boisterous Tremaine family who are descended from Merlin of Camelot. The live in at the beach in a contemporary L.A. Merlin’s magic, dispersed through the ages, lurks in their DNA. Now, when each sibling meets another with the Merlin gene, the magic creates immediate attraction, true love, and a unique magic power emerges. Of course, they aren’t the only ones with magic. Members of the Clan are descended from Morgan Le Fay, and they have very different ideas about what to do with magic powers. Night Magic, the fifth title in the series if you count the novella, Your Magic Touch, is the latest in the series, newly available at the usual digital sources, and at Amazon in print form.

I’ve grown to love the Tremaine family over the course of writing these books. Father, mother, six siblings and one adopted brother, various friends, new husbands and wives as the characters find their destined lovers—they’ve come to be a whole, unique world for me. The series takes place sequentially, and therefore all the family and some other key characters have been in every book, from the start of the series. I feel like I’ve watched the youngest ones grow up, and I’ve suffered with each character’s problems and trials right along with them, some of them continuing over multiple books. These people aren’t perfect. They struggle with their relationships just like real families. The parents don’t always do the right thing. The brothers don’t always agree. But there is an underlying love and loyalty there that my heroes and heroines can depend on. In some ways, the family is a character of its own.

This is the first series I’ve done where the whole story arc had to be planned out before I ever sat down at the computer. It’s also why I recommend, for the very first time, reading the books in order, beginning with Do You Believe in Magic?

I can already see a time when the series will be finished, even though I have two books left to write. I don’t know how I’ll let the family go. So I was rather relieved when a new character showed up in my mind about a month ago. And he wants his own book. So the series might be seven books long.

I’m not complaining.

.99¢ ebook for a limited time: DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC (The Magic Series #1) by Susan Squires at Amazon.

YOUR MAGIC TOUCH  (novella) is currently FREE at All Romance ebooks for one week.



Kemble strode around the car without a word, got behind the wheel and slammed the door. His lips were a thin, determined line. Then he seemed to see her for the first time. “Jane, that…that cheek looks really painful.” His face contorted with an angry look. “I should have been over here first thing this morning.” He was angry with himself, of course.
“I could have gone to the doctor if I needed to, you know,” she said.
He snorted. “You never want anything for yourself, Jane. I’ll take care of that too.”
What did he mean by that? The motor purred to life and Kemble put his arm over the back of her seat to turn and look out the rear window as he backed out. His fingers brushed her shoulder. She closed her eyes as the sensation shot up her spine. Did he have to be so careless?
As they turned onto Palos Verdes West she glanced over to him. He was fairly vibrating with…nervous tension? Determination? She couldn’t quite figure it out. He surprised her by sliding into the little shopping center behind the Admiral Risty, an old-school, red-booth dinner place with a wide-water view of the Pacific. “Aren’t you going to be late for dinner at home?”
“Yes, I am.” He nodded his head convulsively. The man was sweating.
“You want to loosen the tie or something?” He really looked like he was about to choke.
“No.” He took a big breath and let it out slowly. Then he turned to her. “I have something I want to ask you, Jane. And I don’t want you to say anything until I’m done explaining.”
“Uh. Okay.” Jane was getting a very bad feeling about this. It was going to be something about what he wanted to do with her mother. She just knew it. And she wouldn’t be able to accept his largesse, so he’d try to bully her into it.
He looked out over the parked cars. “I’m never going to get magic. I talked to Senior and he agrees. We think the gene is recessive in me. I’ve known it for a while.”
She started to protest, but he held up a hand. It was shaking a little. That stopped her far more effectively than anything he could have said. He wasn’t the kind of guy to tremble.
“So.” He acted as though that settled everything. “So he agrees that I ought to get on with my life. Settle down. And if I’m not waiting for the bolt of lightning, well, then I can marry whomever I want. So I’m asking you.”
Jane felt like she’d been struck deaf, dumb and blind by that lightning bolt. Kemble was… asking her to… marry him? After all these years, he’d realized he loved her…
“Now don’t say no,” he rushed on. “Just because we’re not in love doesn’t mean this can’t work out. You need a refuge Jane, and if we marry, I can give that to you.”
Jane carefully shut her mouth, though that didn’t mean she could breathe.
Kemble looked down at his hands, still on the steering wheel. “The family already loves you. And I’ll make sure your mother is taken care of. Enough money cures everything, Jane, and if it’s one thing I have, it’s money.” His eyes were so earnest it might break her heart.
He’d given up. So he might as well marry her. Something heavy sat on her chest.
He got an anxious look. “So…uh…what do you think?”
She hardly trusted herself to speak.
“Oh. Wait.” He lifted his hips to get his hand into the pocket of his slacks, and drew out a small square velveteen box. It said the name of the department store at the top of the hill on the bottom. He fumbled with it until he got it right side up and popped it open. A diamond ring gleamed in the rosy light of the setting sun. The setting was simple, just a band with three medium diamonds set in it. They glinted in the afternoon light.
“I didn’t think you’d want one of those big diamonds that are always catching on everything. These… these are nice stones though.” He cleared his throat.
It was actually just the kind of ring she would want the man she loved to give her. But not like this. She took a breath. “Kemble, you don’t want to marry me.” It took all the courage she had to speak those words.
“But I do,” he protested. “You’re perfect. You’re smart. You’re a calming influence on the family, especially the younger ones.” His voice softened. “And marrying me will give you a place, Jane. Let me take care of you.”
She couldn’t marry Kemble when he didn’t love her. That would be too selfish.
He put the box with the ring on the dashboard and took both her hands in his larger ones. After the shock that went straight to her groin and the points of her breasts, what she noticed was that the warmth, the slight moisture born of his anxiety, enveloped her with his inherent goodness. She felt…maybe not loved, but at least treasured. “I need you, Jane,” he said. “And I think you need me too. Sometimes life just provides solutions we aren’t expecting.”
The words were simple, spoken from his heart. He needed her. It was the one ploy that might get her to agree to this. She couldn’t bear how unhappy he’d been lately. Maybe this solution freed him from the razor-sharp pain of wondering if magic would ever happen for him, thinking he’d never be good enough. She wanted to believe that, because suddenly, she wanted to throw all sense and caution off the cliffs at the Breakers and accept him. Married to Kemble Tremaine, just as she’d dreamed since she was fourteen. A real member of the Tremaine family, with a right to make tira misu for their dinner or cut fresh flowers for the table.
There was another problem. “What if you find your destined love after we’re married?”
“Never going to happen.” He shrugged as though it didn’t matter to him. But in his blue eyes she saw that it did. He wasn’t over mourning his loss yet.
But maybe someday he could be. Maybe time would heal his regret. Maybe they could have something together, if not true love, then companionship, respect. That was more than she was like to have any other way. “You have to promise me something, Kemble Tremaine.”
He didn’t mean that, of course. He couldn’t give her the one thing she really wanted. And God, he was so close to her, he was overwhelming any sense she had at all.
“Promise that if you ever do find the one really meant for you, you’ll tell me. I’ll set you free the next moment with no regrets.” Well, none she wouldn’t have anyway, whether she married him or not. She’d always regret he didn’t love her.
His brows drew together sharply. He really hadn’t thought this out, had he?
Finally he nodded. “Okay.” He cleared his throat. “Does that mean you will do me the honor of being my wife?”
God help her. She nodded.




About The author

Follow: Goodreads / Website/ Facebook/ Blog

Susan SquiresSince beginning her career in 2000 with Danegeld, which won a Golden Heart for best unpublished manuscript from Romance Writers of America, Susan has published seventeen novels and three novellas in collections with Dorchester Publishing and St. Martin’s Press, as well as self-publishing three books and a novella in The Children of Merlin Series. She’s been a finalist in the Rita contest for Best Romance Novel and garnered several Reviewer’s Choice awards from Romantic Times BookReviews. Publisher’s Weekly named Body Electric one of the ten most influential mass-market books of 2003 and One with the Shadows a Best Book of Year. Her work has appeared on the New York Times and USA Today Best Sellers lists. She’s known for breaking the rules of romance writing, and whatever her subject, historical period, or theme, her work always contains some element of the paranormal.


Susan is graciously offering a paper copy (ebook- International) of any 1 book -winner’s choice- from The Magic Series to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.

The Magic Series

1. If you have not previously registered at The Reading Cafe, please register by using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.

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6. Giveaway: Paper copy (USA/Canada only) : ebook copy (International)

7. Giveaway runs from September 12-17, 2014


Interview with Cover Model-Nathan D. Weller

Interview with Cover Model-Nathan D. Weller

Nathan Weller 3TRC: Hi Nathan and welcome to The Reading Café. We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?

Follow Nathan on : Facebook

Nathan: I grew up in a small tourist beach town along Lake Michigan.

TRC: What were your dreams and aspirations growing up?

Nathan: I played hockey for fun but I was better at baseball. My first aspirations were to get college paid for with a scholarship then professional baseball player. I did end up playing professional baseball but it didn’t last long. My arm went and I had to get tommy john surgery. After that I never fully came back 100%.

TRC: Will you please tell us about how you got started in the modeling business? How were you ‘discovered’?

Nathan: K Keeton Designs discovered me. Kelsey messaged me on Facebook asking to take some pictures. I was bartending at the time and remember showing up to the photo shoot that morning on a couple hours sleep. She snapped a few pictures and posted them. Ever since then the authors have loved me and welcomed me with open arms.

TRC: What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your modeling career?

Nathan Weller 4

Nathan: A constant challenge is staying in shape. I’m still fairly new to modeling. I didn’t really see the opportunity at first. When I decided to start taking it seriously I started working out again. Injuries can also be a challenge. It’s hard to get in shape when you’re battling an injury. Food has been a challenge for me as well when it comes to staying in shape. I tend not to have portion control or will power to resist all the delicious foods. You put a large pizza in front of me I will eat it.

TRC: Have you ever had a photo shoot that went completely wrong?

Nathan: Haha, well some authors can be picky as to what they want on a cover. I’ve had to redo shoots before. When you pour your heart and soul into a book you tend to have a certain vision of how you want your cover as well.Sometimes outfits don’t align (hair color, nails, etc.) to the author’s vision. Other than that if something goes wrong it’s usually caught on camera. The outtakes of a shoot are my favorite part.

Nathan Weller 2TRC: Nudity in modeling or acting can be controversial. Some pictures can cross the line between sexuality and pornography. You have posed nude for several photographers. What would you tell young models just entering the business about nude modeling?

Nathan: I’ve never technically done nude modeling. Sure I’ve taken my clothes off under hotel bed sheets but the photos are more seductive and don’t focus on the nudity. You also have to be careful of who you work with as well. Make sure the photographer is reputable, especially for you young ladies out there. If you’re not comfortable with something don’t do it.

TRC: The modeling industry exposes you to many people and sometimes it can be very stressful. At times do you feel alone, surround by so many people? What do you do when the stress becomes overwhelming?

Nathan: The stress that I deal with is the imperfection of my body. I’m constantly comparing myself to other fitness models and see areas I can improve. Sometimes I wish I could just drop this modeling stuff and be a fat kid lol.

TRC: Is modeling your full –time career or do you have a ‘day job’?

Nathan Weller 5

Nathan: Modeling is not my full time career but I wouldn’t mind making it. I would love to spend more time in the gym and posing with beautiful woman. Right now I’m in between jobs. I try to live a simple life. Go to the gym, take care of my animals. I have 30 acres north of town with a few goats.

Nathan Weller 1TRC: At times, there has been a ‘stigma’ surrounding the male model and the romance-cover industry. But the popularity of the paranormal romance storyline has skyrocketed in the last few years with the many vampire, werewolf and fantasy storylines. What is your opinion about the recent popularity and the very busy industry of the ‘romance cover model’?

Nathan:  The popularity of the romance industry is very exciting for me. Regardless of the general theme behind the book it’s just great to see the industry grow, not only the industry but the personal friends success along the way. I’ve had the opportunity to watch careers blossom.

That being said, sex sells and covers are very important. As an author you need something that is unique and flashy, but yet portrays your story. Covers that will make a reader pick up a book and open it.

TRC: Do you know the number of novel covers on which your image has appeared?

Nathan: I’ve done about 20 covers now. Half of those books are out now, others are still in print.

Nathan Weller Cover8TRC: Do you remember the first ‘romance cover’ on which you appeared?

Nathan: When You’re Ready by J.L. Berg was my first cover. I think that’s when I realized that this was kind of a big deal. I was on the cover of a bestselling author.

TRC: Do you have a favorite cover?

Nathan: It’s hard to pic a favorite cover. They are all unique and special in their own way to me.

TRC: Would you please tell us what you do to relax?

Nathan: Throw on some pj’s, pop in a movie, grab some snacks, and light one up.

TRC: On what on your currently working?

Nathan: I’ve debated writing a book of my own, although I don’t know that I could. As of now I’m just jotting down a few ideas. Being around the book industry has been very inspiring. A romance book that comes from the raw male perspective seems like something readers would be interested in.

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

Nathan: Thank you for everyone at The Reading Café to give me this opportunity!


Favorite Food
French toast

Favorite Dessert
Chocolate chip cookie dough

Favorite Movie
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Favorite TV Show
The Walking Dead

Last Movie that you Saw
Pain and Gain

Dark or Milk Chocolate

Last Book that you Read
The 12th Planet by Zecharia Sitchin

TRC: Thank you Nathan for taking the time to answer out questions. Congratulations on all of your success.


Broken by Traci L. Slatton-Review and Guest Post

Broken by Traci L. Slatton-Review and Guest Post


Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / Amazon.uk/

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date September 5, 2014

Power is pornographic

Can love sustain light when the forces of evil close in?

Paris, 1939-1942. A fallen angel is trapped in the web of German Occupation. The deadly noose of Nazi control grows ever tighter, ensnaring her and two of her lovers, a bullfighter and a musician working in the fledgling Resistance. Can she save them and the Jewish widow and her child that she has come to love, or will betrayal take them all?


REVIEW: BROKEN is an historical, fictionalized, paranormal storyline that focuses on a fallen angel known as Alia. In the weeks and months leading up to the Nazi occupation of Paris, France during WW II, Alia and her Bohemian friends party like no one is watching. Alia is a watcher-a fallen angel who can see what humans cannot-and a being who absorbs the essence and energy from the people around her.

The storyline is awash in a considerable amount of historical fact and fiction. Beginning in 1939 Alia and her friends take full advantage of the Paris night life and everything it has to offer-plenty of alcohol, plenty of sex and a lifestyle acquainted with the rich, the famous and the infamous. But all too soon, the once fabled Fuhrer and his Nazi party take control of Paris while Alia and her friends must take refuge before their true identities and heritage are revealed.

Traci L. Slatton has written a storyline that is extensively detailed in both WWII and Holocaust history as well as religious overtones and Christian beliefs. Not only does a fallen angel find herself at the mercy of the Nazi party but she discovers that she is fallible to the party demands.

The numerous secondary characters are Bohemian and aristocratic in nature-almost Bourgeoisie. Their artistic lifestyle sets the backdrop for a group of people (the famous and unknown) who believe they are excluded from the incoming hell only to realize, sometimes too late, that no one is safe from the storm. While Europe prepares for war, Alia and her friends wax philosophical the finer points of religion, politics and the Nazi Party. With the introduction of some real-life famous characters and artistes of the twentieth century the storyline spun in a decidedly different direction.

One concern is the paranormal aspect of the storyline and the lack of any real connection to the actual premise. The supernatural element is secondary and does not add anything to the overall plot-it does not play a significant or important role in the overall presentation. Alia is a fallen angel whose human façade enjoys the pleasures of the flesh but an Angel who knows that her time on earth is limited.

Traci L Slatton is an amazing writer whose storylines are infinitely detailed with both fact and fiction; fantasy and reality. Her style of writing is intense; the historical research impressive; and the overall premise is a flight into the fantastic and uncoventional.

Copy supplied by the author.

Reviewed by Sandy


Guest Post beige

Writing Historical Romances, Accuracy and History
By Traci L. Slatton, author of BROKEN

War, famine, storms, invention, exodus, heroism, sadism, love, and cycles of despair and enlightenment: it sounds like the kind of novel anyone would be thrilled to pick up and read. In fact, it’s human history. We as a species have struggled with nature and with ourselves—our best and our worst impulses—since we stood upright and picked up a piece of charcoal to draw ourselves, a spear, and a beast on a cave wall.

Text books can render history into dry recitations of dates, personages, and events, but when you ponder what was happening and how it must have actually felt to the people of the time, people like me and you, everything changes. History becomes the most breath-taking, intimate portrait of how we have lived and loved and suffered and vanquished and survived and thrived. It’s a natural resource for storytellers.

Clearly, this topic excites me. I was enthusiastic when Sandy suggested it.

A good story is told with conflict and obstacle, which, as I’ve just pointed out, define history. I try to write stories that are cohesive and focused, so I like to choose a specific era in a specific place. For my first novel Immortal, I chose Renaissance Florence, which was still a broad swathe of time—almost two hundred years. There was so much rich material that had to be left out that for Broken, my latest novel, I selected Paris under Nazi occupation, and I narrowed it even further to three years, 1939-1942, the year before the Nazis marched into Paris and the first two years of occupation.

Winnowing down the horrific German occupation of the City of Lights this way provided an opportunity for me to deeply relate my characters to very specific events. Alia, an angel who fell from heaven, experiences the oppression of the time personally and with great intensity. She and her beloved friends suffer through food shortages, lack, loss, and sacrifices in minute detail.

In one scene, Alia walks with Pablo Picasso, the celebrated modernist painter who stayed in Paris during occupation, and she carries a bag of food containing a few leaves of lettuce, some rutabagas, and three veal sausages. In her mind, as she converses with Picasso, she performs mental food math: these groceries must stretch to feed five people, perhaps for more than one day.

Her calculations were historically accurate. Food was scarce for Parisians, who had to pay for the privilege of German occupation with both money and resources like foodstuffs. Researching Paris under Nazi Occupation, I learned that the French ate about 800 calories per day. Over and over again in documents from the time, I read the same descriptions of Parisians as “skinny.”

I enjoy writing historical novels and I enjoy the research that is required because I look for ways to personalize an era for my characters. Before occupation, rutabagas weren’t prized as food; Parisians acquired a taste for them during occupation. The Nazis took almost everything so Parisians made do with what was left. They became very resourceful about finding protein, and bred white rabbits throughout the city, for both their food and their meat. In fact, they were so resourceful that warnings had to be put up against eating cats and diseased pigeons from the parks.

Sometimes I depart from historical fact to make a story truthful, to make it work. Truthfulness and accuracy in fiction are different matters, and truth is the foremost value. However, I do this with care. For example, in Broken, Sartre and Camus are shown at the same party. There are conflicting reports about when these great philosophers met, but it’s widely agreed that they met after the war. For purposes of the novel’s themes and its structure, I placed them together in Alia’s apartment, drinking wine, reading their work, and arguing about the prejudices of the time. Sartre wants the other guests to pay attention to him; Camus wants to hear music. They serve both as characters with all the inherent flaws and foibles of any person and as eloquent voices of their time.

History is a story bonanza for a novelist. It provides a dazzling array of drama as well as opportunities to craft a story with precision. Ultimately, any good story is an argument for a specific value, and writing historical novels gives me a chance to ask myself, What do I care about? What do I value? Answering those questions while metabolizing history is my job as a novelist—and, I hope, gives the reader something that absorbs and enriches her.


About The Author beige

Traci L SlattonTraci L. Slatton, author of FALLEN and COLD LIGHT, is a graduate of Yale and Columbia. She lives in Manhattan, and her love for Renaissance Italy inspired her historical novel IMMORTAL and her contemporary vampire art history mystery THE BOTTICELLI AFFAIR. FALLEN is the first in a romantic trilogy set during the end times; COLD LIGHT and FAR SHORE further the dystopian tale. DANCING IN THE TABERNACLE is her first book of poetry. She also wrote a sculpture book, THE ART OF LIFE, with her husband. THE LOVE OF MY (OTHER) LIFE is a bittersweet rom-com that addresses the question: What worlds would you move to be with your soulmate?

Follow: Website/ Goodreads / Facebook


Married in the Nick of Nine by Alretha Thomas – Review, Interview & Giveaway

Married in the Nick of Nine by Alretha Thomas – Review, Interview & Giveaway


Married in the Nick of Nine Banner


Married in the Nick of NineAmazon / Barnes & Noble

Cassandra Whitmore is facing yet another Valentine’s Day alone. Her love life is as dry as the Sharpie pen she uses to mark an even more dreadful day on her calendar—her upcoming 30th birthday. Driven by the maddening ticking of her biological clock, Cassandra is determined to meet, fall in love with, and marry “The One” within nine months. When Cassandra accompanies her cousin to a night club, her Type-A quest to meet a man is quickly rewarded by a stranger’s velvety, baritone voice asking if he might occupy the seat next to her. He’s Nicolas Harte, whose good looks leave Cassandra speechless, but not for long. After mustering enough courage to strike up a conversation, she learns Nicolas is everything she wants in a man—smart, successful, and available. There’s only one catch: He’s “GU” (geographically undesirable). Nonetheless, Cassandra falls in love with Nicolas and makes the uncharacteristic decision to move from Los Angeles to New York to be with him. But Cassandra gets a rude awakening when she discovers there’s something rotten in the Big Apple.



Cassandra Whitmore is a successful woman with everything she could want, except for a husband. She has a great job, which she enjoys, and a loving family. She’s a member of a dating service and the book begins with her meeting one of her matches for dinner. He’s an attorney, successful in his own right, but to call him a mama’s boy is a huge understatement. When the date ends, not quickly enough, she ends up meeting her cousin at the club, even though that’s not really her scene. But, she is certainly glad she did. When she meets Nick, she is immediately smitten with him, and he with her. However, when she finds out that he’s from New York, her hopes dwindle. Nick is determined though to see her again, even though he’s only going to be in town a couple more days.

Things heat up pretty fast between the two, and after he leaves town, they embark on a long distance relationship. He tries to find a job in Los Angeles, but when things don’t pan out, they decide that she’ll move to New York. But, once she gets there, she can’t figure out why his family is less than welcoming. And what of the hang up phone calls and a mysterious car that always seems to be around wherever she goes? Let’s just say that things aren’t quite as they seem.

Married in the Nick of Nine is a nicely written story about two people who fall in love, only to realize that love doesn’t quite conquer all. All relationships require honesty on both sides, and when Cass finds out what Nick has been hiding (and boy, is it a doozy!!), things really get rolling. Cass is a wonderful character whose strength is truly tested and her faith plays a big part as she tries to navigate what’s happened. And when you find out what Nick has been hiding, you will want to kick his butt, but not for long. He has a big heart and truly does want to share it with Cass, but there’s a lot of work to do. Married in the Nick of Nine is ultimately a story of faith in one’s self and redemption that will have you in tears toward the end. And, it will leave you with a smile in your heart.

Reviewed by Vickie

Copy provided by Author


Interview beige

Alretha ThomasThe Reading Café welcomes Alretha Thomas.  Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions today. We are always looking forward to reading about the author behind the book.  Please tell us about yourself

Alretha:  I’d like to first thank you for giving me the opportunity to be featured in an interview on The Reading Café. It’s great to be here and many thanks to the readers! I was born in Oakland, California but raised in San Francisco until my mother passed away when I was fourteen. She was only thirty-six. After her death, my siblings and I moved to Compton, California to live with my maternal grandparents. It was a very difficult time in my life. However, due to my faith in God, I was able to overcome my obstacles. I went on to graduate second in my high school, and I received a scholarship to attend U.S.C. where I majored in journalism. Upon graduating I decided I wanted to write stories rather than report them and as a result I began writing plays for my church. They were so well received; my plays were produced outside the church. In 1999 I wrote my first novel and the rest as they say is history.

TRC:  When and how did you first become interested in writing?

Alretha: My fifth grade teacher assigned a short story assignment. I was really excited about the project and ironically I had written a love story about a bag boy at a supermarket and a young girl who was a customer. The next day my teacher congratulated us for all our hard work and then she went onto say there was one story that stood out. That story was mine. I almost fell out of my chair. While she read my work I took in the faces of my classmates. They were hanging onto her every word and at that moment I knew storytelling was want I wanted to do for a living.

TRC:  Married in the Nick of Nine is your new release. Can you please give us a brief description of this book? Also, is this a standalone or the start of a series?

Alretha:  Married in the Nick of Nine is about Cassandra Whitmore, an upwardly mobile young woman who wants to meet, fall in love with, and marry “The One” within nine months. She meets Nick Harte and he’s more than she could hope for, but there’s one caveat—he lives in New York and she lives in Los Angeles. After a great deal of contemplation and handwringing, Cassandra decides to relocate. But to her chagrin she soon learns there may be something rotten in The Big Apple. Married in the Nick of Nine borders on romantic suspense because there are a lot of unexpected twists and turns and jaw-dropping moments. Married in the Nick of Nine is the first book in a four-book series, but it can be categorized as standalone. The subsequent books can also stand alone, but each subsequent book gives an overview of its predecessor, so it’s best to read the books in order.

TRC:  You are also a playwright, how hard was it to change from writing plays in comparison to writing a novel?

Alretha:  Writing a novel is more challenging because it’s longer and more in-depth. For the record, I love the challenge. Writing a novel for me is definitely a labor of love. When crafting a novel, you’re creating an entire world. God did it in seven days, but I’m a mere mortal! LOL! I can complete the first draft of a play in a few weeks, but it can take up to three months to complete the first draft of a novel. The average full length play is approximately 20k words, whereas the average full length novel can run as long as 80k words.

Okay, I must include this disclaimer regarding the first book in the Cass & Nick series, Married in the Nick of Nine. I completed the first draft of this full length novel in four days! I had gotten laid off my corporate job in 2011 and that same week I was somehow compelled to query the novel. One caveat—it wasn’t complete—a definite no-no in the literary world. Never query an incomplete manuscript. I only had thirty-two pages. I queried one agent and, of course, the agent asked for the entire manuscript. This had never happened before. Usually I had to query over 300 agents to get a few responses. Crazy! So I got busy. I stayed up for four days and four nights writing. I was like Bradley Cooper in the movie Limitless, but instead of the fictional drug NZT, I was riding on faith and prayer. I submitted the novel, but needless to say the agent passed! I got great feedback, but no cigar. I eventually got the novel in tiptop shape and it’s since been published.

TRC:   What are the challenges or difficulties that you found in your writing career?

Alretha:  The most difficult time was when I first made my foray into the publishing world in 1999. I had just written my debut novel, Daughter Denied, about a precocious seven-year-old girl who grows up to be successful in spite of being raised in a dysfunctional home. It was loosely based on my childhood. I had a very difficult time trying to find literary representation or a publisher. I was told the market was too competitive for a first-time author and then there were people who just weren’t interested. That year I received over a hundred rejection letters. I have since grown a tough skin, but it was painful to open letter after letter of ‘thank yous but no thank yous.’ I ended up self-publishing that book in 2008, inspired by Barack Obama’s decision to run for president. In 2011 I wrote Dancing Her Dreams Away, hoping it would be easier, but once again, doors were slammed in my face. It wasn’t until 2012 that things started to look up. That’s when I received an email from my present agent, Stacey Donaghy, wherein she told me she had read Married in the Nick of Nine in one sitting and it had brought her to tears. A year later she brokered my four-book deal with Soul Mate Publishing. It has been a long journey filled with tears, ups, downs, and heartache. But just like a mother who screams and writhes in pain during child birth, now that I’ve gone through the most difficult time, I relish and celebrate where I am today and the fruits of my labor.

TRC:  You write women’s fiction and contemporary romance. Do you have a preference as to which genre you enjoy writing the most? Have you ever thought about writing another genre?

Alretha:  I love writing women’s fiction and contemporary romance because I’m the poster child for women’s issues. As a child I was abused and battered. In college, I suffered from anorexia and bulimia. In my early twenties I struggled with alcohol and drug abuse. I have experienced the pain of unrequited love, more times than I care to admit. I’ve battled infertility. I’ve dealt with disillusionment and unrealized dreams. I’ve had so much drama in my life; I’ll never run out of material. Lol! I don’t regret my life experiences, because they allow me to write with depth and feeling. Moreover, knowing that I survived my past with God’s grace, and that I’m a survivor, not a victim, enables me to give other women hope. I’ve never thought about writing another genre because I have so many stories to tell within my genre of choice.

TRC:  What are you currently working on?

Alretha:  I am currently in the throes of promoting Married in the Nick of Nine and my third indie novel Four Ladies Only. I have three other novels in the Cass & Nick series that are complete and being edited, so I’ve put writing on the back burner for now. Once the third book in the series hits, I’ll probably begin writing the sequel to my indie novel, Four Ladies Only.” In the interim, I blog to keep my writing skills fresh.

TRC:   What is your writing process? Do you have a favorite place or time you like to write?

Alretha:  Once I get a story idea, I come up with the title. It seems as if I have to have a title to start my process. Once that’s in place, I do a skeleton outline of the story and what the protagonist is after. Then I do extensive character development. After that, I create a detailed outline that includes plot points and twists. I always know my ending. Then I begin writing. I stop and edit along the way. By the time I have the first completed draft; it’s in pretty good shape. Then I continue reading and editing. I put the manuscript away for three to five days and come back to it with fresh eyes. When I finally have a decent draft I let my beta readers spend some time with the manuscript. I meet with them, listen to them, and make changes if I deem their suggestions are right for the story. It usually takes me an average of six months to complete an eighty-thousand-word novel. I can write anytime and anywhere, but usually you can find me at the desktop computer in our den. My husband calls it my second home!

TRC:  Is there a book or author that gave you the inspiration to write?

Alretha:  Growing up, I loved to read. It was not only fun, but it allowed me to escape my dysfunctional childhood. While other kids in the projects were running after the ice cream truck, I was running after the Bookmobile! Growing up, Alice Walker, Tony Morrison, Lorraine Hansberry, Maya Angelou, and Zora Neal Hurston, wowed me, but it wasn’t until later in life that I began to develop my own voice, and I have to say the work of Terry McMillan and the late Bebe Moore Campbell influenced me greatly.

TRC:  Would you like to add anything else?

I want to thank each and every person who takes the time to read this interview and who purchases a copy of Married in the Nick of Nine and my other books. Your support of me in greatly appreciated!


FAVORITE FOOD: Chicken, mash potatoes with gravy and corn. Trail Mix from Whole Foods #6819.

FAVORITE DESSERT: Haagen dazs ice cream.


FAVORITE LITERARY CHARACTER (not your own): Kimberla Roby Lawson’s Reverend Curtis Black.


LAST MOVIE YOU SAW: Dawn of the Planet Apes.

DOG OR CAT: I don’t have either, but if I were to get a pet, it would be a dog. I’m allergic to cats.

Thank you, Alretha for answering our questions. The Reading Café wishes you the best of luck with Married in the Nick of Nine


Giveaway beige

Alretha is offering an e-copy (Amazon) of MARRIED IN THE NICK OF NINE to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.

1. If you have not previously registered at The Reading Cafe, please register by using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.

2. If you are using a social log-in, please post your email address with your comment.

3. LIKE us on FACEBOOK and then click GET NOTIFICATION under ‘liked’ for an additional entry.

4. LIKE us on Twitter


6. Giveaway is open Internationally (Amazon Kindle only)

7. Giveaway runs from September 6-10, 2014




Skygods (Hydraulic #2) by Sarah Latchaw-Review,Interview and Giveaway

SKYGODS (Hydraulic #2) by Sarah Latchaw-review, interview and giveaway

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Hydraulic #2
by Sarah Latchow
Genre: adult, contemporary, fiction
Release Date: August 26, 2014


Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / Amazon.uk/ Barnes and Noble / KOBO / The Book Depository

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date: August 26, 2014

Kaye Trilby and her ex-husband, world-famous author Samuel Cabral, vowed to fight for their rekindled love in rain or shine. They didn’t realize they’d be caught in a deluge so quickly.

A near-fatal skydiving accident shows Kaye how her reckless behavior affects the ones she loves. But while she knows Samuel is afraid to lose her again, she isn’t ready to give up the thrill of the wild backcountry.

Something darker is slipping into Samuel’s mind, though. The specters of his past are re-emerging. His polish is deteriorating, just as all of Hollywood braces for his blockbuster book-to-movie adaptation. When he appears on Kaye’s doorstep late one night in a rumpled tuxedo, erratic and agitated, it seems that romance with her ex might be her biggest leap yet. A string of failed relationships has pushed Samuel to the brink, the fall-out leaving him in a dark place—a place where Kaye is powerless to help him. She is reluctantly drawn back into Samuel’s glittering and backbiting world of celebrity, all the while clinging to the steadfast peaks of home.

Can Kaye risk her heart with Samuel a second time? Will they ever find their blue skies?


REVIEW: SKYGODS is the second instalment in Sarah Latchaw’s adult, contemporary Hydraulic series focusing on PR business owner and extreme sport enthusiast Kaye Trilby and best selling author Samuel Cabral. Told from first person POV (Kaye) as well as through memories, Sam’s memoirs and excerpts from Sam’s latest book, SKYGODS takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through one man’s harrowing mind and the people that control his life. This is the second instalment and therefore the series must be read in order for cohesion and understanding.

The focus of the storyline is the reconnection between Kaye and Samuel, and the maelstrom that is Sam’s life. Seven years earlier, Samuel pushed away the only woman that he loved, leaving a shocked and hurt Kaye wondering where everything went wrong. Following his sister’s wedding, Sam and Kaye will begin to repair their broken relationship-one day at a time-but there is more to Sam’s story than meets the eye.

SKYGODS follows one man’s descent into hell to which he will return time and again. Family secrets, hidden shame and a history of mind-numbing pain all contribute to Samuel’s passion for writing and his inability to remain in control. We watch as the truth is slowly revealed-the truth about one family’s history that has affected the current and future generation. And how one woman takes it upon herself to uncover the facts and how it has affected the man that she loves.

The secondary characters include Sam and Kaye’s families, group of friends, as well as the publishing and literary pundits who circle around Samuel like a vulture to the dead. There are moments of humor as Kaye’s best friends try to put on a brave face as Kaye endeavors to keep strong in the face of adversity. And there is also the requisite evil-the people waiting in the wings to destroy what is left of Samuel’s self esteem.

Like Hydraulic Level Five (book one) as applied to extreme sports, there is a definition that may be attributed to the title SKYGODS: A skydiver of such talent, skill, reputation and ego that his mere presence on a drop zone elicits a quiet hush of reverent respect, fear and/or mocking. Generally a huge asshole who thinks very highly of himself. Sometimes this self-respect is deserved, but more often than not, the SkyGod takes one decent accomplishment and plays it out for a decade or more. (UrbanDictionary.com). As it pertains to Samuel’s life, there are people who surround Samuel that do more damage than good-they are dependent upon Samuel’s success-and in this, there is both reverence, fear and a self centered attitude that Samuel’s life and success feeds directly into their own sense of self. He is admired, respected and commands respect but his life is a free fall and there is nothing stopping his descent.

If you think I am being selective in my wording, you are correct. Without giving away the truth -the revelation behind Samuel’s destructive actions and the demise of his relationship with his wife-I am struggling to play around a whirlpool of information that is presented to the reader with every turn of the page. As I am struggling for words, so too was Samuel-a man whose life depended on the written word but also depended on a darker secret that controlled every aspect of his life.

SKYGODS is an emotionally dramatic, intense and startling look at one man’s struggle to be normal but failing miserably. Sarah Latchow has done some homework as it pertains the Samuel’s ‘secret’ and how it affects everyone in his life. Not only do we get up close and personal with one man’s spiral out of control but so too, do we see the fall out from his descent into the abyss.

Copy supplied by the author.

Reviewed by Sandy

Series Spotlight

Hydraulic Level Five
Hydraulic #1
by Sarah Latchaw
Genre: adult, contemporary, fiction
Release Date: September 3, 2014

Click HERE for our review of HYDRAULIC LEVEL FIVE (Book 1)

Hydraulic Level FiveAmazon.com / Amazon.ca / Amazon.uk/ Barnes and Noble / The Book Depository

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date September 3, 2013

How does a woman get over her one great love? With whitewater rafting, bluegrass, and a touch of revenge…

Kaye is an extreme sports addict with a kind heart and an axe to grind with her childhood sweetheart and ex-husband, renowned writer Samuel Caulfield Cabral. While Samuel enjoys a celebrity life in New York, Kaye remains in their hometown of Lyons, Colorado, running her PR agency and chatting daily with Samuel’s family, the beloved Cabrals—first-generation Mexican-Americans who have embraced Kaye as their own.

But when Samuel returns home for his sister’s wedding with a new love interest, stunning editor Caroline Ortega, the gloves are stripped off. Kaye is determined to unearth the reasons behind the death of their marriage and why two people who lived to love each other were driven apart, all leading to startling revelations about Samuel, about life…and about herself.


TRC: Hi Sarah and welcome to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the release of Skygods.

Sarah: Thank you! I’ve been greatly looking forward to this one hitting the shelves.

TRC: We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?

Sarah-LatchawSarah: Born and raised in rural Iowa. I didn’t grow up in a cornfield, but I have driven a tractor, ha. Seriously though, Iowa has wonderfully kind people and is a gorgeous state. My heart always aches a bit when we’re out of the city and in the country because it is very familiar to me, but still manages to take my breath away with its wide skies and fields. When you love something or someone, it’s that way.

TRC: Who or what influenced your career in writing?

Sarah: I’ve always read, and I read most anything with a good plot. Jane Eyre might be my favorite female protagonist—I enjoy stories with real women who triumph in adversity. Stories that have a strong sense of place also move me, when the setting is almost a character. Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon are good examples.

TRC: When not writing, what do you do to relax?

Sarah: Read! We live close to a lake, so I’ll take the kiddos and we’ll watch the Canada geese if it’s warm enough. I also catch Indie artists if they’re in town at a great little venue in Des Moines called Vaudeville Mews. Downtown Des Moines also has a huge farmers’ market, one of the best in the country. We go on Saturdays to relax and get outside, and eat these wonderful El Salvadoran things called Pupusas—corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and pickled cabbage. A-Mazing.

SkygodsTRC: SKYGODS is the second instalment and latest release in your adult, contemporary Hydraulic series. Would you please tell us something about the premise of the book and the series?

Sarah: The narrator, Kaye Trilby, divorced her childhood sweetheart—Samuel—seven years ago. Flash forward seven years, and Samuel has come back into her life. He is now a world-famous author and about to become Hollywood’s next golden boy when his book-to-movie adaptations become blockbusters, ala Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. The books unravel the mystery of why their relationship failed in the first place, and gives them hope for a second chance at love with each other.

Kaye is an extreme sports junkie, so each book uses an outdoor adventure sport as a metaphor for Kaye’s relationship with Samuel. Hydraulic Level Five used whitewater rafting. Skygods is skydiving, and the third book, Fourteeners, features mountain climbing. The books explore what it means to love, what makes a marriage, and tackles social issues such a Hollywood politics and mental illness stigmas. It balances tension with humor, fear with determination.

TRC: How many books do you have planned for the series?

Sarah: Fourteeners is the third and final book—I’m currently writing it.

TRC: Are any of the characters or the premise based in reality or a combination of reality and fiction?

Sarah: Kaye could be every woman—she carries the realistic wishes and insecurities and passions we wear beneath the surface. Like any writer, I draw bits and pieces of my life and weave them into a fictional story to lend it authenticity. That’s how a writer connects with a reader—we can’t be afraid to wear our hearts on our sleeves when we write, to let the reader in and explore the vulnerabilities of our characters, and us, to an extent.

TRC: What challenges or difficulties (research, logistics, background, medical) did you encounter writing this particular story and series?

Sarah: The realities of mental illness required a lot of research and reading. And even then, books weren’t enough to explain what it is to live and love with mental illness. I interviewed many people who struggled with mental illness or had a loved one who struggled, and their stories touched me in ways I could never have imagined.

TRC: Have you considered a novella or spin off for any of the secondary characters?

Sarah: Several people have suggested I should actually write Samuel’s “book-within-a book” novels, *Water Sirens* or his memoir. Those might be fun as short stories. We’ll see. As for spin-offs, I’m not planning anything, but never say never.

TRC: What are your thoughts on writing a series and ending an instalment with a major cliff hanger?

Sarah: I’m not a fan of blatant cliff-hangers. I like to leave readers in a comfortable, hopeful place, even if it isn’t the end of a story. I’ve been told by some they felt *Hydraulic Level Five* was too much of a cliff-hanger, but truthfully I didn’t intend it to be. But now no one needs to worry about Book One’s “cliffie” now that Book Two—*Skygods*—is here!

Hydraulic Level FiveTRC: When writing a storyline, do the characters direct the writing or do you direct the characters?

Sarah: A bit of both. I know where I want to take the story, because I write my final scene first. And I know which major events need to take place to get us to that ending. But characters have their own personalities, and trying to force them into a predetermined plot line doesn’t always work. Divergences are sometimes a necessity.

TRC: The mark of a good writer is to pull the reader into the storyline so that they experience the emotions along with the characters. What do you believe a writer must do to make this happen? Where do you believe writer’s fail in this endeavor?

Sarah: First, writers need to respect their characters and give them emotional depth—take the time to explore each character’s motivations, their strengths and weaknesses, what makes them tick. If characters aren’t fleshed out, writers are basically playing with Barbie dolls and readers feel no connection to a story.

Second, writers need to be careful not to let a plotline drive their characters too much. When you force a character into an unnatural conclusion to their story, no matter how much a writer “wants this ending,” that is disrespectful to a character and readers are left feeling betrayed. I’ve seen some of that lately in popular book series—characters sacrificed for the sake of a plot.

Writers also have to be willing to dig down deep into their own fears and failures and triumphs, and open themselves up to their readers. Like I said above, we need to wear our hearts on our sleeves when we write, even if it’s nuanced and subtle. That allows readers to connect emotionally with a story, and through it, with us. When this doesn’t happen, we might get a nice entertaining sort of book, but ultimately not memorable.

TRC: Writer’s Block is a very real phenomenon. How do you handle the pressures and anxiety of writer’s block?

Sarah: I take a shower, listen to music, go for a walk. I read the newspaper and look for real life stories that can inspire a scene. I make sure I write every day, even if it’s only a sentence. If I find I’m stuck on a scene, I’ll skip ahead to a scene I’ve wanted to write, then backtrack.

TRC: Many authors bounce ideas and information with other authors or friends and family. With whom do you bounce ideas?

Sarah: My sister. She lives in the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, and some of her is in Kaye—the outdoor sports, the love for bluegrass and folk music, the organic farming.

TRC: What three things would you like to accomplish in the next five years?

1.Write a series set in Iowa.
2.Crack the Amazon Top 500.
3.Teach my kids to tie their shoes.

TRC: What is something that few, if any people, know about you?

Sarah: My freshman year of college, I cut a Friday and Monday class to drive to Galveston, Texas to visit my long-distance boyfriend and go to the beach. It was a 36 hour drive round-trip. I taught my two girlfriends to drive my manual transmission Escort so we could take shifts on the road. We brought a big muscular guy-friend with us for protection, but he ended up having mono and passed out in the back seat. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told my folks about this. If not, they know now. Sorry Mom and Dad.

TRC: On what are you currently working?

Sarah: The last book in the *Hydraulic* Series, *Fourteeners*. I’m about a third of the way in.

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

Sarah: Be sure to find me on Facebook or Twitter–I love to chat with readers! Facebook | Twitter


Favorite Food
Miami Heat sushi roll from Miyabi 9. I don’t know if it can be considered
sushi, actually, because it has cream cheese and is fried.

Favorite Dessert
Strawberry Rhubarb Frozen Custard

Favorite TV Show
Right now, Outlander

Last Movie You Saw

Favorite Musical Group
Hey Marseilles

Dark or Milk Chocolate
Milk Chocolate

Secret Celebrity Crush
Colin Firth, like, forever. We’re going on twenty years now.

Last Vacation Destination
New Orleans

Pet Peeve
Drivers who tail my car, especially in heavy traffic or bad weather. I have little kids, come on!

TRC: Thank you Sarah for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations on all of your success. We wish you all the best.*

Sarah:  Thank you!

About the Author

Sarah-LatchawSarah Latchaw was raised in eastern Iowa and appreciates beauty in mud-splattered gravel roads and fields. She also loves to explore far-away places, thanks to countless family minivan trips across the States. This passion for finding stories led to college adventures in many different countries, and each place’s story rests in the back of her mind and in her photo albums.

Sarah received her BA from Wartburg College in public relations and media, and entered the workforce, ready to climb the ladder. However, when researching MBA applications evoked feelings of dread, with the loving support of her husband, she pursued a career in creative writing and was awarded her MA from Iowa State University.

These days, Sarah wakes every morning thrilled to cuddle her small children, show them the world, then capture that world and shape it into stories on paper. She is not thrilled when she wakes to her cats smothering her face. She and her family reside in Des Moines, Iowa—one of the best places to live and work.


Find Her On: Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads 


There are TWO ways to WIN

Sarah and her publicist are offering an ecopy of either HYDRAULIC LEVEL FIVE (book one) or SKYGODS (book two) to TWO (2) lucky commenters at The Reading Cafe.

1. If you have not previously registered at The Reading Cafe, please register by using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.

2. If you are using a social log-in, please post your email address with your comment.

3. LIKE us on FACEBOOK and then click GET NOTIFICATION under ‘liked’ for an additional entry.

4. LIKE us on Twitter for an additional entry.

5. Follow us on Goodreads

6. LIKE Sarah on Facebook

7. Giveaway is INTERNATIONAL

8. Giveaway runs from September 5-10, 2014

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NOTE: The Reading Cafe is NOT responsible for the rafflecopter giveaway. If you have any questions, please contact the author.

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My Highland Spy (Highland Spies #1) by Victoria Roberts-Review, Interview and Giveaway

My Highland Spy (Highland Spies #1) by Victoria Roberts-Review, Interview and Giveaway

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My Highland Spy
Highland Spies #1
by Victoria Roberts
Genre: adult, historical, Highland, romance
Release Date: September 2, 2014

My Highland Spy (Sept  14

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / Amazon.uk/ Barnes and Noble / KOBO / The Book Depository

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date September 2, 2014

This Highland Laird won’t bow to the Crown

Laird Ruairi Sutherland refuses to send his only son away to be educated by the English. And he most definitely will not appear in Edinburgh to pay homage to a liege who has no respect for Scotland. So he does what any laird would do—he lies to the king. The last thing Ruairi expects is a beautiful English governess to appear on his doorstep.

But this lady spy might make him…

Lady Ravenna Walsingham is a seasoned spy who is sent to the savage Highlands to uncover a nefarious plot against the Crown. Playing the part of an English governess—a job easier said than done—she infiltrates the home of Laird Sutherland, a suspected conspirator.

If she doesn’t betray him first

Ravenna soon discovers that the only real threat Sutherland poses is to her heart. But will the proud Highland laird ever forgive her when he discovers the woman he loves in an English spy?


REVIEW: MY HIGHLAND SPY is the first instalment in Victoria Roberts new Highland Spies adult, historical romance series set in the Highlands of Scotland. This is Laird Ruairi Sutherland and Lady Ravenna Walsingham’s storyline. Lady Ravenna is a spy for the British Crown and Laird Ruairi is her next assignment.

The focus of the storyline is Ravenna’s attempts to gather information for the King. With Scotland and England in a continuous battle for supremacy, Ravenna must infiltrate the Laird’s estate and report back with any information that may be pertinent to the King. What Ravenna didn’t expect to find is the man who would steal her heart and a young boy with whom she would fall in love. Ruairi is a widower with a young son, and Ravenna is sent to the estate under the guise of a governess to teach the young lad the King’s English.

The relationship between Ruairi and Ravenna is one of immediate attraction but Ravenna is under the impression that Ruairi is newly widowed. Taking Ruairi’s son under her wing, Ravenna begins to develop feelings for the young boy, as well as for the man on whom she is supposed to spy. When the truth about Ravenna’s identity and her assignment are revealed, Ruairi pushes Ravenna away-from his life and his son’s.

The secondary characters include Ruairi ‘s best friend Fagan, as well as a quick glimpse at Ravenna’s sisters-one who may be a possible love match for Ruairi’s friend. There is the requisite evil in the form of Ruairi’s former in-laws, and in the end, everyone will get what they justly deserve.

Victoria Roberts is an amazing writer of Highland historical romance. From her ‘Bad Boys of the Highlands’ series to her latest ‘Highland Spies’, you will become immersed in a land of kilted men and women of desire. All of Victoria’s women are quite capable of handling a Highland Warrior and in this, her heroines are strong-willed, supportive and worthy of a man in a kilt.

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley.

Reviewed by Sandy


TRC: Hi Victoria and welcome back to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the success of your Bad Boys of the Highlands series.

Victoria RobertsVictoria: Thank you so much for having me here today, Sandy. It’s great to be back at The Reading Café. *waves*

TRC: We would like to start with some background information for anyone who doesn’t know Victoria Roberts. Would you please tell us something about yourself?

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Victoria: I’m an award-winning author of Scottish historical romances about kilted heroes and warriors from the past. I was named by RT Book Reviews in 2012 as “one of the most promising debut authors across the genres” and was a 2013 RT Reviewers’ Choice award winner for my second novel in the Bad Boys of the Highlands series, X Marks the Scot. I’ve been married to the same man for 21 years—no kidding—and we haven’t killed each other yet. He’s still baffled over the fact that I write about Scottish men when he’s 100% German. I also have a beautiful daughter who is 13 going on 23 and a son who’s 9.

TRC: When last we spoke you had just released the first book in your Bad Boys of the Highland Series-TEMPTATION IN A KILT and September 2013 saw the release of the third book TO WED A WICKED HIGHLANDER. Did you ever think that your ‘bad boys’ would become so popular with the readers?

Bad Boys of the Highlands

Victoria: I was surprised by the amount of love shown to the Bad Boys. I think all authors pray that readers will love the characters we’ve created, and I’m so elated for that. One reader even named her baby after one of my heroines, Sybella, calling her “Ella” like in the book. *blushes* Now that is truly flattering.

TRC: Do you plan on any more instalments in this particular series? If so who and when?

Victoria: Now that is the question. The Bad Boys will always hold a special place in my heart. And yes, I still find myself tinkering with ideas. I’d like to write Colin’s story (Sybella’s brother in To Wed a Wicked Highlander.) I also receive e-mails from readers begging for James Montgomery’s story (Rosalia’s BFF.) Let’s just say there’s a strong possibility that I’ll be returning to the series after dabbling with English spies in the Highlands.

My Highland Spy (Sept  14TRC: September 2014 you will be releasing MY HIGHLAND SPY-the first book in your new Highland Spies series. Would you please tell us something about the premise?

Victoria: Lady Ravenna Walsingham is a spy for King James and the Crown, the same as her father had been under Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Ravenna certainly lives in a man’s world, but that’s why she’s so proficient at doing what she does—a mere woman is the last thing anyone would expect. Under the guidance of her uncle, Ravenna is sent to the Scottish Highlands masquerading as a governess. She’s determined to fulfill her duty and obligations to the realm—only if a certain brawny Highland laird doesn’t continue to muddle her thoughts.

Laird Ruairi Sutherland is tired of the English. When he lies to the king and refuses to send his son to the Lowlands, a bonny enchantress shows up on his doorstep to educate his son. He intends to keep Ravenna at a distance, but the thought is easier said than done.

I think “kilts and spies” sums it up quite nicely.

TRC: If you could virtually cast the leading characters-Ravenna and Ruairi-which actors or models would best represent your ideal image?

Victoria: I always have so much trouble visualizing my heroes and heroines as real actors, especially since I don’t base my characters on anybody’s looks in particular. Mmm…that’s a tough one. Andy Whitfield would’ve made the perfect Ruairi though. Ravenna? I’d struggle with that answer for days.

Sandy: I do miss Andy…*sniff*

TRC: How many books do you have planned for the HIGHLAND SPIES series?

Victoria: There will be four books in the series. The Walsingham sisters will each have their own story.

TRC: Will the new series and characters overlap with the storylines in the Bad Boys of the Highlands Series?

Victoria: The new series will not have overlapping characters from the Bad Boys series. Although we are in the same timeframe of King James as he grows weary of the Highland lairds, that’s about it in the way of similarities.

TRC: What challenges or difficulties (research, logistics, background) did you encounter writing this particular book and series?

Victoria: Lord Francis Walsingham was an actual spy for the Crown, but Ravenna is a fictional character. I needed to find a delicate balance to make this woman tough and believable enough to be able to be a spy in the times. For instance, she travels as a single woman to the Highlands, but her uncle’s body guard and his wife accompany her.

TRC: What do you believe is the attraction and appeal of the Highlander to romance readers?

Victoria: I think it’s the same attraction and appeal for anyone who reads regency, westerns, etc. Readers, including me, want to escape. We want to go somewhere different, to be taken away to another time and place. Who can resist that Scottish brogue, those sexy kilts, and those verra large…broadswords? Not me! Oh, yes. And let’s not forget about the castles and beautiful Scottish landscape.

TRC: When writing a storyline, do the characters direct the writing or do you direct the characters?

Victoria: Both. I start by directing the characters, molding their behavior so to speak. But when they’re ready, they let me know it. They always take off and have a mind of their own. Most of the time I let them go, but sometimes I have to rein them in. For example, Declan (X Marks the Scot) I had to rein in often.

TRC: The mark of a good writer is to pull the reader into the storyline so that they experience the emotions along with the characters. What do you believe a writer must do to make this happen? Where do you believe writer’s fail in this endeavor?

Victoria: In order to make readers feel the emotions the characters are experiencing in a book, I believe writers need to draw from personal experience. If an author takes readers just through the motions, readers will notice, and they’ll be pulled out of the story. From my experience, readers want you to take them there. They want to experience the torment, love, agony and heartbreak. I believe a writer needs to understand their characters. I’m inside my character’s heads all the time. I’ve cried, been royally ticked off, and laughed, etc. while writing a chapter. That’s the kind of emotions you want to stir in readers when they read your story.

TRC: What three things would you like to accomplish in the next five years?

Victoria: Well, I’d really like to make “the” list. NYT or USA Today bestselling author sounds delightful. I’m also hoping to have something self-published in the next few years to accompany my traditional titles. And lastly? I need to travel to Scotland. The bagpipes are calling. I need to answer.

TRC: What is something that few, if any people, know about you?

Victoria: I’m a die-hard KISS fan. I even have a custom Ace Frehley Les Paul guitar. Don’t laugh. Men have been kilt, killed, for less.

TRC: On what are you currently working?

Victoria: I’m working on a Valentine’s Day Scottish historical anthology with bestselling authors: Willa Blair, Eliza Knight, Vonda Sinclair and Terry Spear. Kissing the Highlander will be available February 2015.

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

Victoria: I’d like to thank you and your readers for spending time with me today. Those were some great questions, and I hope I gave you some great answers. Enjoy Ruairi and Ravenna!

TRC: Thank you Victoria for taking the time to answers our questions. Congratulations on all of your success and the with the new release MY HIGHLAND SPY.



What’s your favorite spy movie? Sourcebooks will give away one copy of My Highland Spy to a lucky commenter (US and Canada only, please.)

Victoria and her publisher are graciously offering a paper copy of MY HIGHLAND SPY to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.

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