Interview with actor/model Drew Leighty

Interview with actor/model Drew Leighty

TRC: Hi Drew and welcome to The Reading Cafe.

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

Please Follow Drew : Facebook / Twitter / Instagram /

Drew Leighty 1Drew:  Well I have always been an athlete. I played just about every sport growing up, and narrowed that down to baseball, water polo, basketball, and football in high school, and on the side I would go surfing and snowboarding with friends. In college I played baseball before I had an injury to my collar bone, snapping it in half, that took me off the field for good. In the ER I met a woman who gave me her card and asked me to contact her to model for her company. Some may say the rest was history, had I made some impact on history. Sadly I didn’t haha. I began modeling for Ford, then moved to Pinkerton, and worked with a theatrical manager. I then moved to a new commercial agency, RC Talent, owned by my friend who was previously an agent for Pinkerton. Soon after I had my son and I took a hiatus from the entertainment industry to work full-time and finish my bachelor’s degree. About two years ago I did another shoot with Scott Hoover and started being featured as a book cover model. Then a year ago I did a couple trailers for Jennifer Armentrout’s Titan Series and realized I had given up what I loved to do, acting. Since I have resigned with my old commercial agent as well as my theatrical manager, I’ve been featured on more book covers, worked on commercial like Ross and American Crew, and soon will hopefully be on some SOAP Operas or prime time TV shows.

TRC: What were your dreams and aspirations growing up?

Drew:  My dream growing up was always to be a professional baseball player. However, the snapping of my collar bone really ended that dream. Fortunately, before I had declared Communications as my major at the time I had taken a public speaking class and did absolutely terrible. My counselor had suggested I take a theatre arts class to help me with my public speaking, so I did, and I fell in love with it. I realized how natural a transition was from being in the spotlight on the baseball field to being in the spotlight on stage. I took that passion, transferred it to my work in the entertainment industry and ran with it.

TRC: When not modeling, what are your other interests?

Drew:  I love studying. I read a lot of books on working a stage, script reading, character development, etc. to enhance my skills as an actor and give me an idea of what is to be expected from all aspects of production.

TRC: Would you please tell us something about the Showtime™ television series SUBMISSION and your role?

Drew Leighty 5Drew:  Well I joined SUBMISSION originally as a regular, but didn’t receive much information about my role. They sent me some contracts but as you might imagine once I got the call saying I got the role, I was off the walls excited, I mean it was my first major role. So the contracts I was sent, I signed and returned without even reading, they asked me if I knew any “adult” (we had different ideas of what adult meant) actors and I was like, “you kidding I know tons!” and they asked me to get a girl who was a good actress that could play a love interest. I reached out but all my friends were working at the time so I had to let that go.

Then I get an email, and they cut my days from 3-4 weeks to one day, and I was distraught. I mean I had passed up job opportunities to commit to this show so it was very unfortunate. Still in the back of my head I was like, if I perform well then maybe they’ll want to keep me as a regular. This is about a week or so before the first day of filming. At that point I still hadn’t received a script, they said they had done a bunch of rewrites and were still working out kinks. The day before I’m supposed to be working was the day I finally got the script. I get it, I get my character name, and I begin reading. Right off the bat I realized I’m not much of a character in this story at all, I mean I’m five or six pages in and haven’t even heard my character mentioned. BOOM, I see my character’s name highlighted half way down the page. I skip ahead and look down to read my first line, it’s three words. Basically a throw away sentence, so I skip ahead some more, nothing. Skip some more, still nothing. I skip, skip, and skip and there’s nothing, no more lines. So I start back at the page where my line was and realize my character is the main character from a book from the 50’s or 60’s. He’s kinky for today’s day and age but can you imagine the scrutiny he would have faced if he’s as kinky as he was for today but lived back then?

Transfer Drew Lieght yCoverSo I did what I learned, I began building my character. I read on, and all of a sudden I’m hitting a very real and organic sex scene, it took me a few read throughs to confirm that this was my character getting down and dirty. At this point my jaw was on the floor and heart was thumping, I thought for sure they would have asked me was I okay with a sex scene. I grabbed my contracts and there it was in the first paragraph, simulated sex scene, so they had told me. Soon after I get an email, it’s from a high friend and basketball teammate who I haven’t seen or spoken to since high school, now he’s a camera man. His email says “Hey man are you working LA tomorrow on SUBMISSION?” I come to find out he’s the head camera man on the show, so not only am I doing my first simulated sex scene, I’m also doing it in front of a guy who I haven’t spoken to since high school.

I get to set and find out the girl who’s working the scene with me is a well-known adult star (if you’re like me and don’t know this yet, adult star means porn star), so that made things even more intimidating for me. However, fortunately enough for me the crew, the director, the actors, were all so professional I felt completely comfortable for a first timer. In the end I wouldn’t take it back because that was the most difficult role I’ve had but it made me learn a lot about my abilities as an actor and myself.

Drew Leighty M. Clarke series

TRC: What first sparked your interest in modeling? acting? Is there a defining moment where you knew that modeling /acting was something you were interested in pursuing?

Drew:  Well modeling just kind of came with the territory. I wanted to act but the agency I originally worked for, Ford, saw me as a youthful model. I had no experience besides college courses in theatre arts for acting, so they wanted to develop me for the industry. After a few moves from agency to agency, and a few jobs I had a little experience under my belt but not enough so I had to go to expensive schools to study with teachers that would help give me a more professional look on my resume. I’ve always known that I wanted to be in the spotlight, whether for baseball or acting. It’s something that comes natural to me and it’s something I enjoy doing, like I love doing it. Working and studying for it I love as well, which is a love and passion I have never found in any other subject at school.

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

Drew:  Yes my first photoshoot, I paid for. I paid over $900 for the shoot so off the bat I should have known something was wrong, but I was young and naive, and new to the industry. I got my images, all of my headshots, and ZED cards back and they all looked like trash. I found out soon after that the entire shoot I had paid for was a scam, luckily the person who informed me was willing to help me and looked after me from there.

TRC: Many photo shoots and film sets take the model to exotic locations. What has been your favorite location to shoot? Least favorite location (and why)?

Drew Leighty 6Drew:  Well my favorite was probably the Bahamas obviously for the tropical beaches, sun, room service, etc. Plus we were there for four days so that was also nice to have a day to relax by the pool and beach. My least favorite was probably the Mojave desert at night in the Winter. It was cold, I was in pants that had holes and rips, and at night it began snowing.

TRC: Nudity in modeling or acting can be controversial. Some pictures can cross the line between sexuality to pornography. What would you tell young models/actors /body builders just entering the business about nude modeling and photography?

Drew:  I would tell them do whatever you are comfortable with. For us it’s an art, the poses we take create a picture that we consider to be art, to us it’s not controversial or pornography. However, like artists we must be proud of our craft, if you are uncomfortable during a shoot it will show, and it will not look like art and you will probably not be proud of it. So stick within your comfort limits and do not do anything that you find uncomfortable.

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

Drew Leighty Cover 2 Very Twisted ThingsDrew:  No I never really feel alone, I have my family, I have my agents who take great care of me and always include me in everything even things outside of the industry like workouts, or dinner or whatever. However, when I do stress it’s usually due to not booking a job in a while and I usually take a second to myself, to reevaluate what I’m doing. Find what’s stressing me out, usually it’s money, and take a look at what I can do to break down that stress.

TRC: At times, there has been a ‘stigma’ surrounding the male model and the romance-cover industry but the popularity of the romance story line has skyrocketed in the last few years especially with the erotic and sensual cover images. What is your opinion about the recent popularity and the very busy industry of the ‘romance cover model’?

Drew:  I’m very thankful for it. I’m thankful for all the authors who write these novels, and use me on their covers. I’m thankful for the readers and fans who read these novels and enjoy the covers. And I’m thankful for the erotic and sensual reality that is portrayed. I think inside we all have a piece of us that can relate to these stigmas and that’s what makes it so exciting and enjoyable. It shows us that the natural being that is within us isn’t something to be held in or to be shy about, it’s something exciting and lovable that can bring you a new sense of euphoria that we haven’t been able to experience yet.

TRC: Do you remember the first ‘romance cover’ on which you appeared?

Drew Leighty Cover The Return 1Drew:  Yes “The Return,” by Jennifer Armentrout.

TRC: Do you have a favorite cover-romance image or otherwise? (e.g. magazines, ads etc)

Drew:  I like them all. I don’t think I could pick a favorite because all of them show a different side of me. Some tender, some strong, some athletic, some passionate. To me they show me my experiences that I have faced and triumphed. They show me my growth as a human and my development in my craft. To me they show my life.

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

Drew:  I go on dog walks with my family. We go to the beach. I read or chill and watch Netflix. I do whatever my mind asks me to do in that moment.

TRC: Do you listen to music when you work out? If so, what songs are currently on your playlist?

Drew:  I listen to pandora. My current play station is J. Cole Radio. I enjoy his beats and the messages he sends through his lyrics.

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

Drew:  I would like to get on a SOAP to start my acting career, so let’s start a #getDrewonaSOAP movement. I would also like to help an Animal Rescue non-profit along with a Climate Change non-profit. Sooner rather than later I would also like to help fund and receive funding for a project I have been working on for the past 6 years “NEVER HIKE ALONE,” a Friday the 13th Fan Film, that I have been lucky enough to be a part of. A story lead by a very creative writer/director who I have known for about 7 years.

TRC: What is something that few, if anybody, knows about you?

Drew Leighty 8Drew:  I eat wrappers to cupcakes.

TRC: On what on your currently working?

Drew:  I am currently working on “NEVER HIKE ALONE.” Along with finding work on a SOAP or TV show.

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

Drew:  I would also like to help non-profits for the ocean and marine life, education, and veterans.

LIGHTNING ROUND

Favorite Food
BBQ Bacon Cheeseburgers (add onion rings and french fries- inside burger)

Favorite Dessert
Rocky Road Ice Cream

Favorite Movie
Troy

Favorite TV Show
Sons of Anarchy

Last Movie that you Saw
Blackmass

Secret Celebrity Crush
1.) Jennifer Anniston 2.) Amber Heard 3.) Carrie Underwood

Dark or Milk Chocolate
Milk Chocolate

Last Book that you Read
“The Power”

Pet Peeve
Chewing with your mouth open or bad breath. Or bad breath while chewing with your mouth open.

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

Drew:  Thank you again so much and I hope this was alright!

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HIghland Yearning (The Mackay Saga #2) by Dawn Ireland-Review, Interview & Giveaway

HIGHLAND YEARNING (The Mackay Saga #2) by Dawn Ireland-Review, Interview and Giveaway

 

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HIGHLAND YEARNING
The Mackay Saga
by Dawn Ireland
Release Date: July 20, 2016
Genre: adult, time-travel, Highlander romance

Highland Yearning

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

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date July 20, 2016

Caden Mackay would never bed a Sutherland, let alone marry one. Bloody hell, what had possessed his twin brother to propose to one of the she-devils? And what is Caden to do with the Sutherland beauty who appears, as if by magic, in his library? The defiant intruder is the enemy, but she is unlike any woman he’s ever known, and her tantalizing curves and wide green eyes could tempt a monk. He must devise a way to stop the wedding. But can he stop the desire that makes him long to make Ariel Sutherland his own?

Ariel’s life had never gone the way she’d hoped, but ending up in eighteenth century Scotland was a stretch, even for her. If not for her dog, Scruffy, she might have thought she’d walked into a romantic daydream. Especially since the object of her desire appears to be entirely too virile. But can she find her way back to her time, before her too-handsome Highlander makes her believe that love can conquer in any century?

•••••••••••

REVIEW: HIGHLAND YEARNING is the second installment in Dawn Ireland’s historical, Highlander The Mackay Saga paranormal, romance, time travel series. This is Laird Caden Mackay, and Ariel Sutherland’s story line. HIGHLAND YEARNING can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty.

Told from dual third person perspectives (Caden and Ariel) HIGHLAND YEARNING follows Ariel Sutherland as she is hurled back in time, into the eighteenth century, and into a clan war between the Sutherland’s and the Mackay’s. In present day a stranger in a kilt offers Ariel a gift of the missing Mackay Ring of Belief, a ring she has been contracted to find by one of the current day Sutherland’s. Thought to have been lost for over two hundred years, one touch finds our heroine traveling through time into an age and people with whom she is very familiar. What ensues is the desperate search for the ring so Ariel is able to return to her time, and the building relationship between Ariel Sutherland and Caden Mackay- a relationship not approved by Caden himself.

Caden is a man determined to stop his brother Gavin’s upcoming marriage to Lady Kathleen Sutherland. The Sutherland and Mackay clans are at war, and Gavin’s marriage is not what it seems. While our couple search for the missing ring, Ariel begins to investigate the people of the Sutherland clan only to discover that someone has set out to destroy our story line heroine who is a woman use to her independence and ability to get things done.

The relationship between Ariel and Caden begins slowly. Caden is a man determined to find out why a ‘Mackay’ from the ‘colonies’ has been found on his estate, and Ariel is hoping to discover a way back home. As the relationship begins to build Caden realizes that he too has fallen for their presumed enemy, and Ariel knows that to keep the families from going to war, she is going to have to move on without the man that she loves. The $ex scenes are intimate and intense without the over the top graphic sexual content.

There is a large ensemble cast of characters from both the Mackay and Sutherland clans whose various roles are as vast as the Highland countryside. We are introduced to Caden’s father Donel Mackay who doesn’t seem surprised by Ariel’s appearance; and Caden’s brother Gavin who is so in love with Lady Kathleen Sutherland he is unable to see the bigger picture.

The world building looks at the struggle to survive in a world without ‘modern amenities’ including medicine and competent doctors. The similarities with the Outlander series cannot be denied but HIGHLAND YEARNING is an entertaining and colorful story of time travel, Scottish brogue and Highland romance. The premise is a fast paced with a little bit of mystery and suspense; the characters are energetic and animated; the romance is fated by time and magic. The epilogue fast forwards the story line several years where we catch a glimpse into the future and the possibility of another Highlander finding love. HIGHLAND YEARNING is a wondrous and enchanting story about family, love and acceptance.

Copy gifted for review

Reviewed by Sandy

Interview beige

TRC: Hi Dawn. Welcome to The Reading Café.

Congratulations on the release of HIGHLAND YEARNING.

Dawn: Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here!

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

Dawn: I never know what to say to this. Okay, here goes: I’m a lover of whimsy and Disney, I have way too many interests, I get tickled over wonderful romantic movies like Ever After, While You Were Sleeping and Pretty Woman, I live in Upstate New York in a Victorian home that is decorated with-you guessed it-antiques☺. Come on, I write historical romance. What did you expect?

TRC: Who or what influenced your career in writing?

Dawn: Pat Ryan was my mentor. She won a RITA for her book, Silken Threads, and she was a wonderful teacher and guide. If you’re a new author out there, I can’t stress enough the importance of taking classes, talking to other authors, joining writing organizations and honing your craft.

TRC: What challenges or difficulties have you encountered writing and publishing your stories?

Dawn: My biggest stumbling block is time. I’ll come up with a story idea and life intrudes. I’ve had to become more organized. Now, I even write down blog, interview and publishing dates on a calendar. (shudder) Of course, my German husband is thrilled. He’s been hoping, for years, that I’d catch the organization bug.

Highland YearningTRC: Would you please tell us something about HIGHLAND YEARNING?

Dawn: There were moments when I smiled as I wrote Highland Yearning. Time travel stories are great because you have plenty of opportunity for amusement and confusion. There’s always conflict when your hero and heroine don’t really understand one another.

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

Dawn: It will depend on what characters inspire me. Gavin, Ian, and Gordon all have aspects of their personality that make me want to write about them. Sterling Mackay has tangled with the Ring of Belief’s witch, Elspeth. I don’t believe he came away unscathed, so I’d like to explore that path and delve deeper into his ‘second sight.’ And some of the Mackay woman have stories to tell. It’s really going to depend on the books my readers want me to write. So, if you have a favorite secondary character, make sure to let me know.

TRC: Will Gavin’s story line be told next? And if so, do you have a possible date of release?

Dawn: Yes. Gavin’s story is next in my Mackay Series. Poor Gavin. He’d been blinded by love, but the future holds even more challenges for him. He’s decided a woman will never again influence his choices. Especially not a Sutherland. I’m hoping to have his story out in the first half of 2017.

TRC: How do you keep the plot(s) unpredictable without sacrificing content and believability?

Dawn: The twists and turns come from the characters. Some of my biggest surprises have come from my villain’s motivations. I’ll be writing and all of a sudden I’ll understand ‘why’ my bad guy is making my hero squirm. If realizations surprise me, they will usually surprise the reader.

TRC: Have you ever had the opportunity to visit the Highlands of Scotland, and if so, how much of an influence or impact did the visit have on your
stories?

Dawn: I never made it as far as the Highlands. I flew out of the airport in Glasgow and only managed to see Robert Burns’ cottage. There’s a story behind that trip, but I think I’ll save that for another day. (Gordon Maclean, where ever you are, it’s a wonderful memory☺ ) I would really like to visit Dunrobin, as my stories are based in that part of Scotland, but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible in the near future.

TRC: Do you believe the cover image plays a deciding factor for many readers in the process of selecting a book or new series to read?

Dawn: Without a doubt. The cover is the first thing that makes you stop as you’re looking over a sea of images on Amazon. Then, you need a blurb about the story that hints at the conflict. But all your effort is wasted if you don’t write a book that keeps readers turning pages.

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

Dawn: The characters always direct me. I start out knowing my main characters and the major turning points, including the end. But along the way, I meet characters who interact with my hero and heroine and show me who my lovers really are and what they want.

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?

Dawn: Most writers would say you have to use all the senses. I agree, but I don’t think that goes far enough. As a writer, you must be totally in the scene. If you try to write because you know what is supposed to happen, instead of experiencing it, you will fail. You need to write what your characters are feeling. (Okay, can you tell that I’ve done some acting?) If you don’t feel the emotions when you read your work, neither will your readers.

TRC: Do you listen to music while writing? If so, does the style of music influence the story line direction? Characters?

Dawn: If I listen to music, its groups like Celtic Women or Michael Feinstein. Although, Yanni has a song I really love, One Man’s Dream. When that comes on I simply sit and listen. I wonder if he’d ever let me use a little of that as a background for a book trailer?

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

Dawn: Most of the time I run story lines by my editor. She tries to keep me from being too far out there. For instance, in Highland Yearning I wrote the epilogue from Scruffy’s point of view. My editor suggested that, as I hadn’t done the dogs POV anywhere else in the book, I should keep the story in my hero or heroine’s head. She was right. The ending was much stronger when I re-wrote it. That said, I still did an interview with Scruffy and put it on my blog.

TRC: What do you believe is the biggest misconception people have about authors?

Dawn: That it’s easy to write a book. I thought, that as an avid reader, I wouldn’t have any trouble writing a novel, but you need a different skill set when you actually create a story.

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

Dawn: I love to sing karaoke.

TRC: On what are you currently working?

Dawn: I’ve promised the readers of my Georgian historicals I’d write Morgan’s story next. I’m half-way through ‘Morgan’s Folly’ and I’m hoping to have it done by the end of this year, or the start of 2017. Then I’m turning my attention to Gavin’s story.

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

Dawn: I really do enjoy hearing from readers! I’m always inspired when a reader asks a question about one of my books, or looks at one of my characters in a new way. So, don’t be shy☺

LIGHTNING ROUND

Favorite Food – stuffed peppers

Favorite Dessert – Bacardi Rum Cake, no, wait, Monkey Bread (May I have several choices?)

Favorite TV Show – Firefly, which was canceled☹ Now I watch ‘Once Upon a Time’ (of course)

Last Movie You Saw – Star Wars ‘The Force Awakens’

Dark or Milk Chocolate – dark

Secret Celebrity Crush – Hugh Jackman (sigh)

Last Vacation Destination – Port Jefferson, Long Island

Do you have any pets? – Two cats (Greystoke and Carmella) Highland Yearning is dedicated to Sir Smudge, the tuxedo kitty we lost last year, and to all the pets that bring us such joy.

Last book you read – Kim Harrison / The Good, the Bad and the Undead (I’m listening to the whole series on audio.)

TRC: Thank you Dawn for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations on the release of Highland Yearning.

About The Author beige

Follow: Goodreads / website / Facebook/ Twitter

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“Once Upon a Time” are four of Dawn’s favorite words. Her love of story became a love of romance when she read Georgette Heyer’s, Devil’s Cub. It inspired her to write stories with strong characters that discover love is never easy, but always worthwhile.

Dawn’s written several award-winning novels set in Georgian England – an era filled with rules and intrigue. Her characters often defy “Society” as they pursue love, run away, pursue, run away – well, you get the idea.

Then again, she might write romance in order to do the research. What other profession encourages you to sit in the audience at Harlequin’s Male Model search, and take notes, or just sigh?

Dawn lives in a Victorian home in Upstate New York with her husband and very independent cats. When she’s not writing, she’s singing, gardening, learning to play the harp or wood carving. If you’d like to learn more about Dawn and her novels, go to her website at www.dawn-ireland.com

Giveaway beige

Dawn Ireland is offering an ecopy of any ONE (1) book written by Dawn 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.

NOTE: If you are having difficulty commenting after logging onto the site, please refresh the page (at the top of your computer).

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

3. Please follow Dawn Ireland on FACEBOOK.

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

5. LIKE us on Twitter for an additional entry.

6. Please FOLLOW us on GOODREADS for an additional entry.

7. Please follow The Reading Cafe on Tumblr

8. Giveaway open internationally

10. Giveaway runs from August 14-18, 2016

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Dare to Stay by Jen McLaughlin – Review, Interview & Giveaway

Dare to Stay by Jen McLaughlin – Review, Interview & Giveaway

 

Dare To STay Banner

Dare to StayAmazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / BAM / The Book Depository

Description:
Bruised and bloodied on Boston’s mean streets, Chris O’Brien is reeling from the loss of his childhood best friend. But after barely escaping a hit placed on his head, Chris is desperate to live. A safe haven comes to mind – the home of the perfect girl from his childhood, Molly Lachlan. Before he has fully considered what it would mean to involve her in his mess, he finds himself on her doorstep.

When Molly agrees to let Chris inside her home, she realizes she’s also letting him into her life. Danger and desperation are coming off him like steam, and yet she can’t bring herself to turn him away. His bad boy charm always had a hold on her, but now there’s a soulfulness and sorrow in him that she’s never seen before. And despite the heart-stopping risk of helping him, she hopes against all reason that he’ll stay…

 

Review:

Dare to Stay by Jen McLaughlin is the 2nd book in her The Sons of Steel Row series. Dare to Stay picks up after the first book, Dare to Run leaves off.  I was surprised to find out the McLaughlin used Chris O’Brien as this books hero, as he was the bad guy in the previous book.  Once I found out he was the hero, I was prepared to dislike him, since I felt what he did was unforgivable.  Of course, authors do have a way to win you over.  :)

Molly Lachlan is our heroine, and I liked her from the start.  Molly lives alone, and keeps mostly to herself, though her friends at work keep trying to get her to go out.  Since her father’s murder at the hands of a gang, Molly tries to keep her distance.   Then one night she sees Chris lying in an alley way having been shot and bleeding profusely.  Molly knows Chris from her teenage days, and privately had a crush on him.  She does not know that Chris is a member of the Sons of Steel Row  gang. She helps Chris and brings him to her place to heal him, and learns quickly about his dangerous and violent lifestyle.

Chris, while he lies there thinking he will die, regrets his actions in betraying his best friend, Lucas.  He plans to help Lucas’s brother to make up for all the bad things he knows were so wrong.  Chris wants to leave Molly’s house, so not to put her in danger, but he knows he cannot leave until he becomes stronger. 

What follows is a sweet romance of two people living completely different lives. Chris’s father was abusive; he is a gang member, and knows nothing of killing rival gang members.   Molly was sweet, smart, a kindergarten teacher and lived a comfortable life.  Molly finds herself falling for Chris, despite his determination not to stay.  Dare to Stay is also an exciting story, with Chris pulled into fights with the rival gang often, and in a short time, Molly will also get pulled into the danger.  We get to see Scott, as he will play a big part of this story, working with Chris and eventually helping him.  So many times throughout the story, Molly has doubts if her relationship with Chris is worth all the worry; especially with Chris always in the middle of all that danger, and his willingness to give his life up to save Scott, in penance for betraying Lucas.  Despite her begging him to step away, Chris refuses to leave the gang and Scott.  He knows he has fallen in love with her, but does not believe he is worthy of her.  Will they ever be able to stay together?  With the war ongoing with the rival gang, will Chris even survive?

Jen McLaughlin has written another wonderful story of two opposites, one being an anti-hero, whose chances at love and happiness were unlikely.  I surprised myself by liking Chris by the time I was half way through, and I loved Molly, the perfect heroine. Dare to Stay was an exciting, emotional, sexy and violent story. I loved every moment of it. 

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

 

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Hi Jen.  Thank you for taking the time today, to answer some questions for our members at The Reading Café.  We are always looking forward to reading about the author behind the book.

Jen:  Thank you so much for having me here!

TRC:  Would you please tell us something about yourself?

Jen:  I’m pretty boring! I write books, and sit on the sidelines at basketball practice and cheerleading practice in my “spare” time, haha. But right now, I’m on a road trip with my family, driving through the desert of California as I type!

TRC:  Did you always have an interest in writing?  When and how did you first start writing?

Jen:  Yes, always! Even when I was in grad school, I competed (and got chosen to go to) for the Young Writer’s Association in elementary school. I got to talk to an author back then, and I knew immediately that this was my dream job. And I’m lucky enough to be able to do it for a living!!!

I always wanted to write, but after I had my youngest daughter, I finally did it. I had a dream about a guy on a cliff, and I decided I needed to write that guy’s story. So…I did. It was published in 2012, and I haven’t stopped since!

TRC:  Dare To Stay was released on Tuesday, which is the 2nd book in you’re the Sons of Steel Row series.  For our members who have not read this series, can you tell us the premise of the The Sons of Steel Row?

Jen:  So all of the heroes are actually antiheros, and they are members of a gang that run guns illegally. The heroes are very gritty, and the hero in the second book is actually even harder to like at first than the first one…for reasons I can’t divulge in case someone reading this hasn’t read the first book yet! I’ve enjoyed writing this book a lot because it goes to dark places that I haven’t gotten to go previously, but it’s still a romance book with that glimmer of hope that all is well in the world.

TRC:  How did you come up with the idea of this series and how many books are you planning for the The Sons of Steel Row series?

Jen:  My agent, myself, and my editor (at the time of signing the contract) actually kind of brainstormed together, and once we had a general idea of where we wanted to go, I started the outline and it all rolled downhill from there!

I’d love to write six (or more!) books in the series, but as of now, there are only three completed ones! :)

TRC:  Can you please give us a brief description of Dare to Stay?

Jen:  Chris is on the run (can’t tell you why, because spoilers!) and Molly, a kindergarten teacher who has nothing to do with his way of life, finds him. They have a bit of history, but not of the romantic sort. She helps him, and gets dragged into his world because of it. We learn lots of secrets along the way, as they literally fight for their lives.

TRC:  You write Contemporary & Sexy Romances.  Have you thought about writing in other genres?

Jen:  YES. I am working on a Young Adult synopsis right now, and I also have a historical romance I’m dying to polish up and submit so it can hit the shelves.

TRC:  You also write under the pen name of Diane Alberts. Can you please tell us the difference between Jen McLaughlin and Diane Alberts books?

Jen:  Diane writes in the third person POV and Jen writes first. That’s about it! Same voice and style otherwise!

TRC:  Can you please tell us what you are working on now, and what you have upcoming in 2017?

Jen:  A Young Adult proposal, edits on a Diane book, and edits on a Jen book!

TRC:  What is your writing process?  Do you like to outline your story before you start? Do you have a specific place you like to write?  Is there a special time of day that works best for you?

Jen:  I used to be a panster, but now I HAVE to outline. If I don’t I feel lost throughout the book. It breaks my heart, but I’m a total outliner now. * sighs dramatically *

And daytime, right on my couch. I don’t like writing at night. My brain protests!

TRC:  What books, authors or people in your life have influenced your writing? 

Jen:  As a kid, I grew up reading Johanna Lindsay, Jude Devereaux, Julie Garwood, and Christina Dodd. They’re my heroes. I still LOVE their books. 

TRC:  When you are not writing, what other interests or hobbies do you have?

Jen:  I like to knit, but don’t get a lot of time to do so in between writing, editing, and taking my four kids to their various activities!!

TRC:  Would you like to add anything else?

Jen:  Thank you SO much for having me here today!!

 

LIGHTNING ROUND

Favorite Food: Homemade ravioli

Favorite Dessert: Warm apple pie!

Favorite TV Show The Walking Dead
  TRC:  We are also a big fan of this show.

Favorite Movie or TV Celebrity: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH. I love love love love love him!

Favorite Fictional Character (not your own):  Daemon from Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux series.

 Milk or Dark Chocolate:  Dark all the way, baby!

Dog or Cat:  CATS. I have five (and one dog).

TRC:  Thank you Jen, for taking the time to answer our questions.  We wish you the best of luck with Dare to Stay

Jen:  Thank you so much!!!! :)

 

theauthor

Jen McLaughlin


Diane Alberts is a USA TODAY bestselling Contemporary Romance author with Entangled Publishing. Under the name Jen McLaughlin, she also writes New York Times, USA TODAY, and Wall Street Journal bestselling books with Penguin Random House. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. Diane is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.nk you so much!!!!
:)

 

 

giveaway

Jen’s publisher is offering a paper copy of DARE TO STAY 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.

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6. Please LIKE us on TSU.

7. Please LIKE  Jen McLaughlin on FACEBOOK.

8. Giveaway is open to USA only

9. Giveaway runs from August 3 to August 7, 2016

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Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh – Review, Q&A, Excerpt & Giveaway

Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh – Review, Q&A, Excerpt & Giveaway

 

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Allegiance of HonorAmazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / BAM / The Book Depository

Description:
The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.

But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.

To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

 

 

Review:

Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh is the 15th book in her fantastic Psy/Changeling series.  I have said many times that this series has become my all time favorite, along with J.D. Robb’s In Death.  Nalini Singh is a master at world-building; storyline continuation that flows in each book seamlessly; with great characters, exciting story and her couples are always great, not to mention a steamy romance. Her other series, Guild Hunter is a great series too. Saying that, It is no wonder that Nalini Singh has become my favorite author, where I wait impatiently for her next book.

Nalini Singh has given us a gift in Allegiance of Honor, which more or less ends this fabulous arc.  She gives us an ensemble book that is a keeper, as we get to spend time with all of our favorites from the previous books; which also opens the door for the next arc. 

In all of the Psy/Changeling books, there is always a leading couple that we come to love and furthers the ongoing story line.  In the last book we saw the end of Silence, and in this book there is no one couple, as we learn about some existing problems revolving around PsyNet; about the Consortium which threatens to destroy the new peace with Trinity and another group of changelings desperately trying to save their people.  We get it all in Allegiance of Honor, which was masterfully written, with some closures, as well as new problems, giving us a peek at the future.   Nalini continues to wow us with her unbelievable world-building, which no one can match.

It is hard to write a review about this book, as Nalini was doing what she does best, continuing this world building and giving us happiness with each and every couple. We got to enjoy the pupcubs, and our new little darling, Naya, who will be something to reckon with when she grows up.   

Those new to the series I suggest you not start with this book, it will be so worth the wait to start from the beginning and get the full effect of Psy/Changeling. Allegiance of Honor would be somewhat confusing for a newbie, as I feel it is for those who have read this entire series, which started with Lucas & Sascha, as the complex Psy/Changeling world building began; the wonderful couples we met along the way that we never want to let go; from the Leopards to the Wolves to the Arrows that worked together to bring down Silence.  We get to see more of the Black Sea changelings, which I suspect will play a big role in the next arc.

I will not say too much more, other than to say how much I loved loved this series. These characters are best I have ever read; Lucas, Sascha, Hawke, Sienna, Judd, Brenna, Mercy, Riley, Dorian, Clay, Faith, Walker, Kaleb, Sahara, Vasic, Ivy, Aden, Zaira, Nikita, just to name a few.  Despite the end of this arc, it is not the end of Psy/Changeling;  we will be getting to see some of our favorites along the way with the new changelings.

Thank you, Nalini Singh for this fantastic series, your wonderful characters, unbelievable world building and your steamy beautiful romances.  It was a fascinating, captivating roller coaster of a ride. I will follow you to the next arc (and your Guild Hunter series), and I know it will be wonderful.  For those of you who have not read this series, once again, you are missing the adventure of your life, which is not to be missed.  Start with Slave to Sensation and fall in love with Nalini Singh.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

 

Q&A

Nalini Singh on the future of the Psy-Changeling series

Is Allegiance of Honor the end of the Psy-Changeling series?

No, it’s not. :) I ADORE this world and the characters and I have so many Psy-Changeling stories yet to tell. (I’ve often joked that I’ll be writing this series until I’m ninety-eight!)

**TRC *Happy Dance………..*

Where do you see the Psy-Changeling world going from here?  Who is the next book about?

(Slightly spoilery answer to follow if you’re just starting the series).

Allegiance of Honor sets up a lot of possibilities for the future. There are many avenues I could take. However, for me, this arc is all about what happens not just to the Psy, but to the world, now that Silence has fallen and all the rules have changed.

We’ve had the immediate aftermath books, both of which focused on the Psy race (Shield of Winter & Shards of Hope), but what about the wider long-term future? Because Silence existed for a reason. The Psy still have these incredible abilities that have the potential to drive them murderously insane, and the world is still a fractured triumvirate. And there are players about whom we know very little, like the falcons and BlackSea.

As for who’s book is next, I’m not ready to announce it yet because I want to be certain this character is ready – but I think you’ll be pleased. 😉 

 

excerpt

 

 

Lucas had had to chase Naya around the aerie at bedtime last night—her walk might still be a little shaky, but she was a rocket when it came to crawling. Dressed only in a diaper, she’d laughed uproariously and said a loud, firm “No” each time Lucas caught her and put her in her crib.

After which she’d clamber out—she’d figured out how to escape a month earlier—and the game would begin again. Of course, since Lucas was a cat, he’d been having just as much fun as their daughter. Sascha, meanwhile, had sat in the living room with a cup of hot chocolate and just indulged in the sight of her mate playing with their cub.

She’d had to pretend to be stern when Naya ran over and pleaded her case with loud sounds and wild gesticulations of her hands. “No, Naya,” she’d said, biting her tongue in an effort not to laugh. “It’s time for bed. Go with Papa.”


At which point, Naya had growled at her, eyes sparkling with mischief.

And Sascha had cracked, laughing so hard she’d had to put down her hot chocolate before she spilled it. Lucas had shaken his head as Naya plopped down on her diaper-covered butt and joined in, clapping her hands at having made her mommy laugh. “No discipline.” Lucas had mock-growled at her before picking up their misbehaving baby. “And you”—a growly nuzzle that made Naya laugh harder and pat his stubbled cheek—“time for bed.”

He’d finally got her to sleep—by walking around with her pressed up against his bare chest.


Today, their cub was playing in the living area just outside the kitchen nook. Sascha had locked the aerie door to ensure Naya wouldn’t undo the latch and go out onto the balcony, and Lucas had childproofed the entire main area of the aerie, so Naya was free to roam as she liked. A lot of the time she practiced her walking skills. And no matter how often she fell down, she started back up again after a little break.

Stubborn, determined baby.

Peeking out from the kitchen, Sascha found her concentrating on stacking the colored alphabet blocks Faith and Vaughn had given her as a gift. Beside her sat a more than slightly ragged wolf plush toy, aka “The Toy That Shall Not Be Named.” Hawke had given that to Naya when she was a newborn, and it remained her favorite snuggle toy, much to her father’s despair.

Though Lucas did enjoy it when Naya went leopard on the toy, growling and “fighting” with the wolf. Then he’d smile and say, “That’s my girl.”


 

theauthor
Nalini SinghI was born in Fiji and raised in New Zealand. I also spent three years living and working in Japan, during which time I took the chance to travel around Asia. I’m back in New Zealand now, but I’m always plotting new trips. If you’d like to see some of my travel snapshots, have a look at the Travel Diary page (updated frequently).

So far, I’ve worked as a lawyer, a librarian, a candy factory general hand, a bank temp and an English teacher and not necessarily in that order. Some might call that inconsistency but I call it grist for the writer’s mill.

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember and all of my stories always held a thread of romance (even when I was writing about a prince who could shoot lasers out of his eyes). I love creating unique characters, love giving them happy endings and I even love the voices in my head. There’s no other job I would rather be doing. In September 2002, when I got the call that Silhouette Desire wanted to buy my first book, Desert Warrior, it was a dream come true. I hope to continue living the dream until I keel over of old age on my keyboard.

 

giveaway

Nalini’s publisher is offering a paper copy of the first two (2) book in the Psy/Changeling series; SLAVE TO SENSATION & VISIONS OF HEAT 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.

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4. Please FOLLOW us on Twitter for an additional entry.

5. Please FOLLOW us on GOODREADS for an additional entry.

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7. Giveaway is open to USA only

8. Giveaway runs from June 14 to 19, 2016

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For The Win ( Perfect Play #1) by Sara Rider-Review,Guest Post & Giveaway

For the Win (Perfect Play #1) by Sara Rider-Review,Guest Post & Giveaway

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FOR THE WIN
The Perfect Play #1
by Sara Rider
Genre: adult, contemporary, sports, romance
Release Date: June 6, 2016

For the Win

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO /

About the book: Release Date June 6, 2016

Lainey Lukas has sacrificed everything—sleep, family, carbs, a life—to earn her spot as the top player and captain of the Seattle Falcons women’s soccer team. She’s determined to lead her team to a national championship and finally earn the sport the respect it deserves—and nothing will throw her off her game. When Lainey’s hero Gabe Havelak, star of the Seattle Surge, crashes her team’s first press conference—making the Falcons look like a joke to the local media and humiliating Lainey in the process—she’s hell-bent on revenge.

Charming, confident Gabe is practically a god to Seattle soccer fans, but he doesn’t mind a little friendly competition from tough-as-nails Lainey, with her top-notch athletic skills, her mile-long legs, and her girl-next-door freckles. But when he learns the Falcons are booting the Surge from their coveted practice space to the notoriously cursed Cricket Field, those warm feelings give way to crippling superstition. With his contract up for renewal and his thirty-fourth birthday just weeks away, Gabe will risk anything to protect his position with the Surge.

The rivals agree to settle their differences in a Battle of the Sexes competition—a test of skills, fitness, and willpower. At first the situation seems win-win: Gabe gets the chance to earn back the Surge’s practice space, and Lainey’s team will finally get some much-deserved media attention. But as the friction between them becomes hot enough to spark and smolder, Lainey and Gabe are entering new territory—and with both of their careers on the line, love might just be the toughest opponent of all.

•••••••••

REVIEW: As the blurb states, Lainey has sacrificed a lot for her love of soccer. She was on the team that won the World Cup, but a devastating injury left her battling her way back and into top form. When she and her new team hold their first press conference, things don’t go quite as planned. She hates talking to the press and that is exacerbated when Gabe crashes the press conference. He’s a media darling and has the smooth charm that immediately wins anyone and everyone over, except for Lainey. Even though she’s a huge fan of his, she’s determined to bring him and his team down a notch…..or three.

When the owner of both teams (yes, the same man owns both teams) does not like what he saw on the news, he calls them both in. However, when Lainey arrives, she had no idea Gabe had been called in as well. Her heart sinks but she’s not going to take the tongue lashing lightly. As Gabe tries to soothe things over, she stands up for herself and her team, much to everyone’s surprise. The resulting plan that is a battle of the sexes, which both are determined to win. What follows is something neither ever expected. With careers on the line, will they be able fight their growing attraction to each other and do what’s best for their respective teams? Will their feelings for each other be enough for them to conquer old superstitions and forge a path that is beneficial for them all? Well, of course they will. This is a romance, after all. But, oh, what a read it is!

For the Win is a nicely written story by Sara Rider. Lainey is as strong and determined as she is stubborn. The way she leads her team and conducts herself makes her a worthy young woman. The way she guards her heart, or tries to, not only makes her believable, it makes her vulnerable. But, not in a bad way. Then, there’s Gabe. He has to work very hard to overcome his woman-chasing reputation in order to get Lainey to give him a chance. He’s very protective of everyone around him, but his interaction with his family, as well as Lainey, will make you swoon. When I first started this book, I was like….meh… But, a funny thing happened on my way to the end of the book. I absolutely fell in love with these characters. The way Rider lets you see their thoughts (told from dual POVs) was intriguing. I found myself not being able to turn the pages fast enough. No, it’s not a pulse pounding thriller, but it IS a wonderfully written romance about a boy and a girl who decide to throw caution to the wind, give in to their desires and see what can be. The secondary characters were well written as well. This book was funny, sexy and left you feeling like you actually knew the main characters. This was the first I’ve read by Sara Rider, but it will NOT be the last. If you’re looking for a fast, smart and sexy read, you cannot go wrong with this one! Well done, Sara Rider! Very well done!

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley

Reviewed by Vickie M

Guest Post beige

Developing the Heroine

You can follow Sara at : Website / Goodreads/ Twitter/

Hello and thank you for having me on your blog today!

Soccer is one of the few sports in North America where the top female are arguably much more successful than their male counterparts – the US Women’s National Team have won the World Cup and Olympics multiple times – yet receive a fraction of the prestige, income and media attention. The financial rewards and glory are substantial for male soccer players, but some of the best female soccer players in the country can’t afford to play pro soccer without taking on second jobs or making huge financial sacrifices. This is a dynamic that has always captivated me and what inspired the character of Lainey Lukas in my novel For The Win.

Lainey is a character who pushes herself to the extreme in order to achieve her dreams simply because she loves the game more than anything else in the world. She is stubborn, fiercely independent and driven to a fault, to the point where even her own teammates sometimes find it difficult to relate to her. As a writer, her character fascinated me, but it also challenged me to find a way to make her sympathetic. The easy road would have been to soften her edges, but it was important to me to make her as honest and authentic as possible.

Rather than portray Lainey’s single-minded drive simply as a flaw, I wanted it to be the very thing that makes Gabe Havelak, the hero, fall in love with her. As a successful athlete himself, Gabe deeply respects her work ethic and determination but finds her curious at the same time. In many ways, they are opposite sides of the same coin – Lainey is adamant that hard work is the only variable she can control whereas Gabe believes that luck has played a huge role in his success. Matching Lainey with someone as laid-back and charming as Gabe was a way for me as writer to peel back her layers and find out what really makes her tick.

The fun part of writing a character like Lainey is that her journey isn’t just about falling love. Her struggle to connect with her new teammates on the Seattle Falcons is a huge part of the book, and allowed for the lighter moments in the story. Having to build a brand new team in a new league from the ground up means Lainey can’t just rely on herself anymore. She has to find a way to work with a group of women who have been her opponents and competitors in the past. Ultimately, developing a bond with her teammates is what gives Lainey the confidence to open herself up to love.

That’s the story of how Lainey Lukas came to be. I hope you enjoy reading about her as much as I enjoyed writing her!

~~Sara~~

 

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Sara’s publisher is offering an ecopy of FOR THE WIN to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.

IMPORTANT: The  ebook download will NOT work with a Kindle e-reader

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.

NOTE: If you are having difficulty commenting after logging onto the site, please refresh the page (at the top of your computer).

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

3. Please follow Sara Rider on Twitter.

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

5. LIKE us on Twitter for an additional entry.

6. Please FOLLOW us on GOODREADS for an additional entry.

7. Please follow The Reading Cafe on Tumblr

8. Giveaway is open to USA only. The download will NOT work with Kindle e-reader.

9. Giveaway runs from June 4 to June 8, 2016

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Sour Grapes (Blue Plate #2) by Rachel Goodman- Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

SOUR GRAPES (Blue Plate #2) by Rachel Goodman-Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

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SOUR GRAPES
Blue Plate #2
by Rachel Goodman
Release Date: May 23, 2016
Genre: adult, contemporary, romance

Sour Grapes

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date May 23, 2016

Margaret Stokes is bitter. And not in the robust fine wine or tangy dark chocolate kind of way. She just got dumped, is fed up with her job as a glorified party-planner for the rich, and can’t possibly listen to one more veiled insult from her impossible-to-please mother. So she retreats to the comfort of her grandmother’s ramshackle bed and breakfast, where the wide open vineyards are filled with surprises, from the shockingly delicious wine to the aggravating yet oh-so-tempting man who makes it.

Ryan Camden’s easy approach to life encourages Margaret to loosen up and have a little fun, despite her better judgment. She resists the urge to micromanage every detail, embracing the welcome distractions of her surroundings and letting their relationship unfold at a natural rhythm. But when a health scare forces Grammy J to give up the B&B, Margaret begins to wonder if Ryan really is the man he promises—and whether the problems she tried so hard to escape ever really went away.

•••••••••

REVIEW: SOUR GRAPES is the second installment in Rachel Goodman’s contemporary, adult SOUR GRAPES romance series. This is Texas winery owner/vintner Ryan Camden, and party planner Margaret Stokes’s story line. SOUR GRAPES can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Some of the characters from book one FROM SCRATCH cross over including Margaret’s ex-boyfriend Nick Preston whose actions, months earlier, set Margaret off on her adventure. SOUR GRAPES picks up following the events of book one.

Told from first person point of view (Margaret) SOUR GRAPES focuses on acerbic snob Margaret Stokes-a woman who finds herself on the run from family, so-called friends, and a thriving party planning business. Margaret is struggling with who she is, and what it is she wants from life. Months earlier Margaret was dumped by her boyfriend Nick for another woman-his ex Lillie-and things have gone down hill ever since. Without thinking, Margaret embarks on a journey where landing at her Grandmother’s struggling B&B finds our heroine battling with the local bad boy, and owner of the profitable local winery- Ryan Camden. What ensues is a building relationship between Margaret and Ryan, and the reevaluation of one woman’s life.

Wow, Margaret Stokes is a piece of work. I don’t know if I have ever met a heroine of whom I disliked to the extent that I considered DNFing. Not only is Margaret a snob, a condescending, caustic, judgmental b*tch but her so-called friends up the anti by ten fold. But I must say that Margaret comes by her attitude naturally once we meet her highbrow mother-a woman literally torn from Satan’s womb. In the early stages of the story line Margaret’s ability to put people down is nothing short of rude, destructive, patronizing and egotistic but her building relationship with Ryan, and the local townsfolk, find our heroine softening around the edges as love begins to enfold her heart. It is Ryan’s proclamation of love and plans for their future that sets Margaret off on another temperamental tirade of irrational accusations and name calling that finds our couple walking in opposite directions.

SOUR GRAPES is a well written, entertaining and engaging storyline once you ‘see’ beyond the heroine’s attitude and behavior. Ryan is a man who has fallen for the mercurial Margaret and finds himself falling in love when neither one expected anything beyond the present. The premise is passionate; the characters are animated and dynamic; the romance is intimate and seductive.

Click HERE for Sandy’s review of FROM SCRATCH book 1 by Rachel Goodman

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley

Reviewed by Sandy

Guest Post

Researching the Premise of SOUR GRAPES

Thank you so much for having me back at The Reading Café!

Prior to and during the writing of SOUR GRAPES, I made several visits to Fredericksburg, a quaint town in the heart of Texas Hill Country that President Lyndon Johnson once referred to as “a special corner of God’s real estate.” In Fredericksburg, Main Street is lined with antique stores, art galleries, bed and breakfasts, and bakeries, and the surrounding area is filled with rolling hills, grassy pastures, and row after row of vineyards.

Fredericksburg was settled in the mid-1800’s by German immigrants whose culture can still be felt in and around town today, from the 19th-century vernacular buildings of stone and fachwerk—a traditional German building technique consisting of heavy timber framing and diagonal bracing, with an infill of limestone—to the German flags placed outside the Auslander Beirgarten and Der Lindenbaum restaurant.

And while Texas may not be the destination most people think of for spectacular wine, I’d say those people are missing out. Over the last decade, Texas Hill Country wineries have evolved significantly, relying on grape varietals that grow well in Spain and the Mediterranean and not trying to model their wines after those found in California or the Pacific Northwest. Wineries in and around Fredericksburg are proud of being big, bold, and hospitable like Texas itself.

Take Becker Vineyards for example, whose wines are award-winning and produced of only Texas-grown fruit. Established in 1992, it’s one of the oldest Hill Country wineries and the third largest in Texas. The property is filled with vineyards, lavender fields, a tasting room, and the winery. Becker Vineyards is the real-life embodiment of Camden Cellars, Ryan’s winery that plays a major role in SOUR GRAPES.

Perdernales Cellars—with wines that are robust, nuanced, and delicious—was the inspiration for nearly every wine mentioned in SOUR GRAPES—Reckless Love, Wild Abandon, and No Holds Barred. Set off the main drag of Wine Road 290, Perdernales Cellars is known for its Spanish and Rhone-style wines and its commitment to Texas fruit—about half their grapes are grown on the property while others are grown in different areas of the state. Just a taste of their Texas Tempranillo Reserve is worth the visit to Fredericksburg.

But it’s not just the Tempranillo that makes a trip to Fredericksburg well worth it. It’s the people, the relaxed vibe, and the hidden treasures that make it worth the trip south. But, if your summer travel plans are set and made, you can grab a little slice of Southern Texas charm in SOUR GRAPES to hold you over until next year.

~~Rachel~~

About the author

Follow: Goodreads / Website / Facebook / Twitter

Rachel GoodmanRachel is a mojito lover, cheese enthusiast, wanderluster, book junkie, romance writer, and an enginerd. She is a Colorado native displaced in Texas and an engineer and university professor. When she’s not creating optimization models or traveling the world, eating her way through city after city, she is usually tucked in the corner of a coffee shop, dreaming up stories and typing away on the computer. She lives in suburbia Dallas with her husband and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Oliver Pancake and Rigby Peanut. FROM SCRATCH is her first novel.

giveaway

Rachel and her publisher are offering an ebook copy of SOUR GRAPES to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.

NOTE: The ebook copy will not work with Kindle ebook readers.

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

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8. Giveaway open to international

9. Giveaway runs from May 22 to 26, 2016

 

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Rebel Warrior (Medieval Warriors #3) by Regan Walker-Review and Guest Post

Rebel Warrior (Medieval Warriors #3) by Regan Walker-Review and Guest Post

Rebel Warrior

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca /Amazon.uk

About the book: Release Date May 17, 2016

When your destiny lies far from where you began …

Scotland 1072

The Norman Conqueror robbed Steinar of Talisand of his noble father and his lands, forcing him to flee to Scotland while still recovering from a devastating wound. At the royal court, Steinar becomes scribe to the unlettered King of Scots while secretly regaining his skill with a sword.

The first time Steinar glimpses the flame-haired maiden, Catrìona of the Vale of Leven, he is drawn to her spirited beauty. She does not fit among the ladies who serve the devout queen. Not pious, not obedient and not given to stitchery, the firebrand flies a falcon! Though Catrìona captures Steinar’s attention, he is only a scribe and she is promised to another.

Catrìona has come to Malcolm’s court wounded in spirit from the vicious attack on her home by Northmen who slayed her parents and her people. But that is not all she will suffer. The man she thought to wed will soon betray her.

When all is lost, what hope is there for love? Can a broken heart be mended? Can a damaged soul be healed?

Review:

Rebel Warrior begins with Catriona’s home being attacked and her beloved parents being murdered as she and Angus, her trusted guard, make their way home from a day of flying her falcon. Those whom the attackers didn’t kill, they took as prisoners. Thankfully, her brother was away as well and was spared. They were taken in by their uncle until the time came for Catriona and her cousin, Fia, to become ladies of the Queen’s court. Catriona was not very enthusiastic when it came to her duties at court, but soon fell into a routine and discovered that Queen Margaret is more than she first thought.

Steinar had become a valuable member of the King of Scots’ inner circle. He relished his duties, but practiced daily trying to regain his warrior’s body and strength from a wound that could have very well killed him. Once he sees Catriona, he is immediately drawn to her and is determined to get to know her. He soon discovers that she is betrothed to another, but can’t help his feelings for her.

Catriona can’t help but notice Steinar and is drawn to him as well. She steadfastly stays the course her father had laid out before her though. However, once she was betrayed by the one she was to marry, she immerses herself into a project helping Queen Margaret.

However, when King Malcolm decides to meet war head on, he and his men head out, leaving Queen Margaret and her court worried and anxious. It just so happens that Catriona is not the only one smitten with one of their King’s guards, so they do the only thing they know to do. Pray. What transpires will leaving you turning the pages and holding your breath at the same time.

Regan Walker has once again written a story like no other. Rebel Warrior is, without a doubt, one of the most well written stories I’ve ever read, by any author. The storytelling, as well as the world building, is phenomenal. I know I repeat myself when I review one of her books, but the weaving of actual historical events in with the story she tells is awe inspiring. As Walker starts to weave her tale, you will swear you can hear the clamor, whether in the dining hall, or in the courtyard. Catriona is a wonderfully strong and determined young woman. Even after witnessing the destruction of her own home, she stays true to the path that her beloved father had set in motion. Steiner is wonderful in his own right. Strong, intelligent and deeply loyal, he is the perfect match for Catriona. However, it is Catriona’s beautiful friendship that develops with Queen Margaret, that is truly life changing. Margaret not only gives Catriona a sense of purpose, but helps restore her faith. A faith that she had been struggling with ever since she was forced from her home. The secondary characters are well written as well, and I hope to read more about them in the next installment. Rebel Warrior is truly one of the most heartfelt and inspirational things I’ve read in years. The romance that develops between the two main characters is very touching, but it is Catriona’s renewed faith that will have you cheering and shedding a few tears. If you’ve not ready anything by Regan Walker, I will tell you once again…..it is truly your loss. Very well done Regan Walker! Very, very, very well done.

Series Reading Order and Vickie’s Previous Reviews
The Red Wolf’s Prize
Rogue Knight
Rebel Warrior

Copy supplied by the author

Reviewed by Vickie M

Guest post

Reflecting Characters’ Faith Without Making the Romance Inspirational
by Regan Walker

It seems to me that historical romance authors who strive to accurately portray the era in which they set their stories should consider the element of faith, both in the culture of the time and their characters’ lives. I write mainline Georgian, Regency and Medieval novels and, in each case, I have found the historical setting often requires me to add this aspect to my characters. Not to do so would be to give the reader an inaccurate picture of the times in which my characters live.

For example, in my newest novel, Rebel Warrior, the hero and heroine meet in the court of King Malcolm Canmore in 11th century Scotland. The heroine, who has just suffered a devastating loss, becomes a lady in waiting to the devout Queen Margaret. I could hardly present Margaret any other way since she was a real historic figure about whom we know much. And her ladies in waiting would be expected to join her in prayer and good deeds, yet how would a heroine who doubted God’s love serve such a queen? To include this element does not mean the story is not full of action, sexual tension and romance, or that there isn’t a love scene, which there is.

Queen Margaret feeds the orphans

In my Regency romances, you might encounter the heroine going to church with her friends, especially on Christmas, as in The Holly and the Thistle or The Twelfth Night Wager. It was just something they did in the Regency era as a matter of course. The Church of England was very important to their lives.

Jane Austen wrote about the world of the Anglican clergy, which she knew well, her father being the Reverend George Austen. Often, she featured clerics as characters, sometimes favorably (Edmund in Mansfield Park) and sometimes unfavorably (Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice).

Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park

In the medieval era, one daughter or son in a family might be expected to serve the church, which made it terribly inconvenient should that character fall in love.

In Georgian England, it was the Protestant Church of England vs. the Catholics and sometimes a story must reflect it. In my novel To Tame the Wind, which begins in France with a Catholic heroine and ends with her being married to a Protestant Englishman by the Anglican Bishop of London, I could hardly fail to deal with the difficulties their love produced, especially when England was making it near impossible for Catholics to own land, retain a title or even marry. And if you were Irish, as my hero in The Shamrock & The Rose, you had even more issues!

To reflect the characters’ faith is not to make the novels inspirational, that is to say, novels with a decided Christian message. Rather, it is merely presenting the culture in which my characters live and love. And I think the stories are richer for it.

About the author

Regan WalkerRegan Walker is a #1 bestselling, multi-published author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romance. She has been a featured author on USA TODAY’s HEA blog three times and twice nominated for the prestigious RONE award (her novel, The Red Wolf’s Prize is a finalist for 2015). Regan Walker writes historically authentic novels with real history and real historic figures. She wants her readers to experience history, adventure and love.

Her work as a lawyer in private practice and then serving at high levels of government have given her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown”. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.”

Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, who she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.

Twitter: @RegansReview (https://twitter.com/RegansReview)
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Friday Night Brides by Samantha Chase-Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

Friday Night Brides by Samantha Chase-Review, Guest Post and Giveaway

Friday Night Brides Banner

FRIDAY NIGHT BRIDES
by Samantha Chase
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Genre: adult,contemporary, romance

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00033]

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO /

About the book: Release Date May 3, 3016

Four women.
Twenty years.
Five hundred bridal fashion shows.

They’ve been friends since they were five, and modeling for Enchanted Bridal has been as much of a part of their lives as their friendship has. And this season has them seeing more than new wedding trends.

Hailey’s family owns Enchanted Bridal and she knows there’s a possibility that someday it will be hers. She’s not sure that’s the path she wants to take, but she does know that she’s been hopelessly crushing on the perfect man and bridal show model Logan Baxter III. While failing to gain Logan’s attention, she can’t seem to get rid of the less-than-perfect man – and model – Jackson Carr. He’s big and bold and tattooed – pretty much everything Hailey despises. And yet…there’s something about him that has Hailey questioning her definition of perfect.

Becca’s got a knack for dating the wrong kind of guys. When her current boyfriend publicly dumps and humiliates her, she’s devastated. Wanting to run and hide, she’s mortified that the stranger who had witnessed the entire scene is now part of the Enchanted Bridal family. But when Max Abrams offers her comfort and tells her that he thinks she’s beautiful, she has to wonder if maybe getting dumped by Mr. Wrong has finally led her to her very own Mr. Right.

Angie’s loud and feisty and completely fearless. That is until she gets dumped by the one guy she really had feeling for. It opens her up to insecurities she didn’t know she had and she’s not sure what to do about it. But when Sean Patterson comes back into her life in a big way, she’s not sure she’s ready to forgive and forget quite so easily. His persistence and her stubbornness make for an exciting chase, however, but at the end of the season, it’s ultimately up to her if she’s ready to quit running.

Ella’s been planning her perfect wedding to Dylan Graham since she was twelve. Together for thirteen years, Ella’s beginning to wonder if that number really is bad luck. She can’t focus on all that’s right in her life because all she can think about is what she may be missing. Their parents have taken over their wedding, her friends all seem to be in crisis and Dylan’s just not listening to her fears. Not one to ever make waves, she suddenly finds that that’s exactly what she’s doing and turning everyone’s life upside down in the process. The life that she once considered boring is now the one she longs for, but it may be too late.

Four friends.
Four crossroads.
Four possibilities for happily ever after.

••••••••••

REVIEW: FRIDAY NIGHT BRIDES by Samantha Chase is a contemporary, adult romance story focusing on four life-long friends –Hailey, Becca, Angie and Ella. For close to twenty years our foursome have ‘modeled’ bridal wear –flower girls to brides- for Enchanted Bridal, a bridal shop owned by Hailey’s mother Judith. FRIDAY NIGHT BRIDES looks at the struggles and romantic heartbreaks of four friends who believe the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’. There is a prequel novella-THE WEDDING SEASON-that introduces Angie’s friend Sean. You do not have to read the novella to enjoy FRIDAY NIGHT BRIDES.

Told from several third person points of view FRIDAY NIGHT BRIDES follows the friendships, relationships, personal discoveries, and the good and bad times of four friends who have had one another’s backs for as long as they can remember. Of the four, Ella is the only one in a committed relationship, bound for the altar, but a relationship that begins to crumble when Ella wants what the other girls have.

FRIDAY NIGHT BRIDES focuses on each of the four heroines through the ups and downs of relationship nightmares, falling in love, and moving on. There are moments of humor and fun; heartbreak and sorrow; love and passion but in the end Hailey, Becca, and Angie find love where they’d least expect it, while Ella takes back what it is she thought she lost.

Samantha Chase writes a sweet, romantic and entertaining tale of friendship and love. The premise is lighthearted and enchanting; the characters are an eclectic mix of passionate and fun; the romances are emotional and real. FRIDAY NIGHT BRIDES is a fantastic read for every romance fan and romantic at heart.

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley.

Reviewed by Sandy

Click HERE for more information and to read an excerpt from FRIDAY NIGHT BRIDES by Samantha Chase

Guest Post

Romance covers-How much say does an author have? Do you believe a cover can make or break the success of a book?

Okay, so…funny story. When I first wrote “The Christmas Cottage”, I had no idea how to create a cover and had no idea where to find someone who did. Working with CreateSpace, they have free templates for you to use to create your cover. So I used it. I thought I did a good job, I was happy with it, but some of those early reviewers were unimpressed.

Like seriously unimpressed.

But it didn’t hinder sales on that book, oddly enough. That was the second book I had published and it’s the book that really launched my writing career. But after that book, I found a cover artist and let her design everything from that point on. However, I picked the pictures that I wanted and she worked with the fonts and the layout and really made something out of my two cents.

Working with a publisher was a completely different story. I don’t pick the pictures, I don’t pick the layout. The first five books we did together, they had those covers ready to go before I even had an idea of what we were doing. But when they presented them to me, I did get to say ‘This couple doesn’t work’ or ‘The heroine in the book is a brunette and you’ve got a blond’ and they made the changes. They’ve been very good like that. I believe you need to establish early on – and in your contract – that you have a final say in the covers.

Have I ever rejected a cover? Absolutely! Do I feel good about it? No! Someone is putting in a lot of time and effort to put them together and I always feel bad when I don’t like them, but at the end of the day, it’s my name on the cover and it needs to be something that I like or that I’m proud of.

Can a cover make or break the success of a book? I believe it can certainly hurt your chances of success. For example – when I was self-publishing and put out the first three books in my Montgomery series, I knew the layout that I wanted. Book one – “Wait for Me” – the cover was beautiful. I mean I seriously loved it and so did readers. That book did extremely well! I believe it hit #4 on B&N’s top 100 and was in the top 100 in the Kindle Store. Book two – “Trust in Me” – didn’t do as well. And to be honest…I didn’t particularly like the cover. It was still totally my ideas but I was on a time crunch and I didn’t put as much thought in to it and the sales figures showed. Book three – “Stay With Me” – did great in sales and the cover was pretty and appealing. So from a cover vs. sales standpoint, you could say that the cover of book two was partially to blame.

Back to my traditionally published books, we changed the style of the covers with the release of “I’ll Be There”. We went in a completely different direction. I was so caught up in the new look, that I didn’t pay as much attention to the couple on the cover. I got a lot of negative feedback from readers who thought they were very “blah” and they weren’t people who inspired them to want to pick up the book. I get it. But the sales were okay on that book. Not great but it had some good weeks. So we’ve really been working on that and the cover of my upcoming “Always Me Girl” has done extremely well in pre-order figures. Why? That cover is stunning. There is no other way to describe it. I love it. I want to wallpaper my office in it!

From personal experience, I’m more prone to purchasing a book that looks appealing from the cover – that’s what will initially grab my attention. Whereas a poorly designed or unappealing cover won’t even make me look at the back cover blurb.

Bottom line. Covers help. Make it appealing. Make it the best you can. And do what you can to have a say in it. It’s your name on the cover and you need to be happy with it.

~~Samantha Chase~~

about the author

Follow: Goodreads / Twitter / Website / Facebook

Samantha ChaseNew York Times and USA Today Bestseller/contemporary romance writer Samantha Chase released her debut novel, Jordan’s Return, in November 2011. Although she waited until she was in her 40’s to publish for the first time, writing has been a lifelong passion. Her motivation to take that step was her students: teaching creative writing to elementary age students all the way up through high school and encouraging those students to follow their writing dreams gave Samantha the confidence to take that step as well.

When she’s not working on a new story, she spends her time reading contemporary romances, playing way too many games of Scrabble or Solitaire on Facebook and spending time with her husband of 25 years and their two sons in North Carolina.

giveaway

Samantha and her publicist are offering an ecopy of FRIDAY NIGHT BRIDES to THREE (3) 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.

NOTE: If you are having difficulty commenting after logging onto the site, please refresh the page (at the top of your computer).

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

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

5. LIKE The Reading Cafe on Twitter for an additional entry.

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7. Giveaway is international

8. Giveaway runs from May 11-16, 2016

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