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

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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.

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

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8. Giveaway open internationally

10. Giveaway runs from August 14-18, 2016

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I Dream of Dragons (Boston Dragons #1) by Ashlyn Chase-Interview and Giveaway

I DREAM OF DRAGONS (Boston Dragons #1) by Ashlyn Chase-Interview and Giveaway

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ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date April 5, 2016

THE HEAT IS ON
When Rory Arish and his two fiery dragon siblings are run out of their ancestral Irish home, it seems their luck has run out-until they arrive in Boston and find a paranormal-friendly apartment building. Finally, Rory has a place to call home. There’s only one problem: Rory’s new lair has simultaneously been rented to an infuriating woman who is as stubborn as she is beautiful and will not leave ‘her’ apartment matter how steamed he may be…

AND SPARKS FLY
Amber McNally is a down-on-her-luck flight attendant. She needs this apartment, and not even a fire-breathing dragon with his Irish charm and scorching good looks is going to scare her away. Holing up in their respective corners, a battle of wills ensues. Who will be the first to blink…or give in to their off-the-charts chemistry and decide to make this unorthodox living arrangement a little more permanent?

I Dream of Dragons

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / ibooks/ Google / BAM

Interview

TRC: Hi Ashlyn. Welcome to The Reading Cafe.

Congratulations on the release of I DREAM OF DRAGONS.

A. C. Thank you! I’m really excited about this series.

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

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Ashlyn ChaseA. C. I was a nurse for twenty years, and I needed a creative outlet. I began by taking a course in screenplay writing at U Mass. I learned a lot about storytelling, but breaking into Hollywood, especially from the East Coast, is ridiculously hard — so I thought I would try the big city closer to home, New York… The seat of book publishing.

I monitored my reading tastes and found I liked reading hot romance. I joined RWA, plus a critique group, and learned much from them. I was even able to adapt some of my romantic comedy screenplays to novels. I love what I do, and I don’t think I’ll ever run out of ideas for new stories.

TRC: Who or what influenced your career in writing?

A. C. I would have to say that my first critique with Jess Andersen, and my second critique with Sylvie Kurtz helped tremendously. Both of these fine ladies shared their knowledge and experience with me and did it honestly yet tactfully.

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

A. C. Well, first of all, just finding a publisher when I started my writing career was very difficult. And getting an agent was even harder. I was advised to try epublishing. Back then the Kindle didn’t exist and almost no one knew what an ebook was. But I forged on, honing my craft with the help of my epublishers. It took a few years to find my voice and my niche. But once I did, the ball really got rolling.

I was thrilled to bits to get “the call”. A major publisher wanted my series, Strange Neighbors. After that I was able to get an agent who helped me understand my contract. That in itself can be difficult if you don’t speak legalese. I now have a different agent, and I really appreciate her guidance.

I Dream of DragonsTRC: Would you please tell us something about I DREAM OF DRAGONS?

A. C. This is a spin-off of the book How to Date a Dragon. Actually all of my mass market books can be considered spinoffs of the original Strange Neighbors series. However, they can be read individually or out of order. If you are like me, however, you want the series in order. I Dream of Dragons is book 1 in the new series Boston Dragons. I love this world I’ve created… Or perhaps I should say that my characters created it, because they often tell me what to do.

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

A. C. This is a trilogy, but it leads right into the next series, which was just contracted recently. That series will be four books long, and called the Phoenix brothers. So if you start with book 1 in the first series, Strange Neighbors, then go on to the spin-off series, Flirting with Fangs, we have two trilogies completed. The Boston Dragons series is also a trilogy, coming out now. That’s six books, with I Dream of Dragons coming in at Lucky number seven. Next will be My Wild Irish Dragon, coming out in Sept.

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

A. C. My characters actually do that. They are all different. Who they are, what they do, and their various backgrounds, determine how they’ll react. I try to get them into unique situations and then sit back and see what happens.

TRC: There is a fine line between romance, erotic, and erotica in many of today’s popular contemporary fiction. What do you believe accounts for the differences between the sub-genres in today’s romantic stories?

A. C. I’m so glad you asked that. I use to write erotic romance. There is a difference between erotica and erotic romance. Erotica does not have to be romantic and it does not have to have a happy ending. All it needs to do is titillate the reader. Erotic romance follows the edicts of any other romance. I love love, and I can’t imagine writing a story without it.

My Wild Irish Dragon

TRC:  Which genre do you find most difficult to write and why?

A. C. Comedy can be difficult if you’re not in a funny mood. When real life intrudes, I might have to go back and put the humor in later. That happened just recently. A death in the family, plus a painful injury have really taken a toll on my comedic voice. ‘Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.’ I’ll feel like a nut again, believe me.

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?

A. C. Yes! Usually, the very first thing a reader sees is the cover. If the title and artwork don’t make them pick up the book, it’s game over. I’m fortunate to have Sourcebooks creating absolutely gorgeous covers for me.

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

A.C. I start out with the plot, but my characters often decide to veer off in another direction. They are usually right, so I follow along wherever they take me. That’s why I plot in pencil.

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?

A.C. The characters must be likable and relatable. They can start off a little bitchy, if they’re going through something problematic. Chances are, the readers will identify with that person’s emotions if they’d react similarly in the same situation. But the protagonists usually let the reader in on some of their back story, which explains why they act like they do. We then sympathize with them, and root for them to succeed.

If you didn’t pick up on my talking about my characters as if they’re real, I’d be surprised. I think that’s one of the tools that comes with being a writer.

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

A. C. No. I could probably listen to an instrumental piece, but anything with words will take me out of my characters heads, and I need to be able to listen to them.

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

A. C. My critique partner, Lexie Eddings a.k.a. Mia Marlowe, often makes excellent suggestions. Also I can run things by my agent Nicole Resciniti, if I get stuck or feel unsure of my direction.

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

A. C. That we’re all rolling in money. LOL. If only that were true.

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

A. C. I never learned to type. I have to look at the keys. And by looking down all the time, I put stress on my neck. I have degenerative joint disorder, which is a fancy way of saying arthritis. If the pain gets bad enough, I lie down and dictate what I’m writing into a microphone connected to a talk to text software program. In fact, I’m doing that right now!

TRC: On what are you currently working?

A. C. I’m writing book 3 in the Boston Dragons series. It doesn’t have an official title yet, but in my head I’m calling it stop Dragon My Heart Around. It’s the bridge book between the Boston Dragons series and the Phoenix Brothers series.

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

A. C. Yes. I’m also a trained hypnotherapist (please buy my books,) and an interior designer (please buy my books,) as well as being an RN (please buy my books.) That’s probably why I write about characters who reinvent themselves.

TRC: 😉

LIGHTNING ROUND

Favorite Food — brownies.

Favorite Dessert — anything chocolate.

Favorite TV Show — right now it’s probably Castle. Of all time, it would be Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Last Movie You Saw — Deadpool.

Dark or Milk Chocolate — I know dark is good for me, but if I’m eating chocolate I’m not that concerned with being healthy.

Secret Celebrity Crush — Josh Hartnett

Last Vacation Destination — a Caribbean cruise

Do you have any pets? — Yes. A great cat, named Lightning. He’s twenty years old and we’ve had him since he was estimated to be between one and two by the animal shelter veterinarian.

Last book you read — I have 3 books going at once on my various devices, but I think the last one I finished was The Vampire’ s Mail Order Bride by Sally painter.

 

TRC: Thank you Ashlyn for taking the time to answer our questions, Congratulations on the release of I DREAM OF DRAGONS.

A. C. Of course. Thank you for the opportunity to reach more readers.

giveaway

Ashlyn’s publisher is offering a paper copy of I DREAM OF DRAGONS 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 Ashlyn Chase 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.

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8. Giveaway open to USA and Canada

10. Giveaway runs from April 7-11, 2016

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The Gaiad (The LOGOS Series 1) by William Burcher-Review and Interview

THE GAIAD (The LOGOS Series #1) by William Burcher-Review and Interview

The Gaiad

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

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date January 19, 2016

In a society increasingly buried under the weight of its own insularity, an ancient and shadowy group selfishly guards a secret with the power to change everything. Tonight, on a stage in front of thousands, one of their members commits a horrible, shocking act. In the audience is Detective Fleur Romano. Bitter and world-weary, she vows to uncover the reasons behind the horror she just witnessed. In the process, she’ll discover that she’s led her lonely life ignorant a fundamental truth, a truth first discovered by a man who walked the earth millennia ago, a man mysteriously familiar

In this powerful debut, William Burcher is willing to explore unique and fantastic themes with realism and grit. The GAIAD boldly poses big questions. What do we lose, as we separate ourselves from the earth and each other? What would the future hold, if suddenly something changed with that most fundamental of relationships—the one we have with our own planet?

••••••••••••

REVIEW: THE GAIAD is the first installment in William Burcher’s science fiction series THE LOGOS.

Told from several third person points of view, flashing (in three parts) between the past, the present and the future, THE GAIAD is a story line based in Greek mythology founding on the belief in Gaia-the personification of Earth-and the separation of Earth and sky.

The story line follows our heroine Detective Fleur Romano as she is ‘blessed’ with the ability to hear Gaia’s song-a song that few have ever been able to hear, and fewer that have known of its existence. From a ‘society’ that acknowledges Earth’s past, and its connections to space, time, and thousands of years of history, Fleur finds herself at the center of an organization that is at war with itself when one of its own wants to reveal their existence to the world.

From the past, we are witness to the anthropological development of mankind as he desecrates the planet -the mother-upon which we live and survive; from the present we watch as mankind continues to search for the truth; and the future, where one small child may be the answer to life’s question.

The perception that humankind has potentially caused Gaia too much pain and suffering-wherein the ’mother’ must separate herself from the children that wrought heartache and misery- reaches beneath the story line content into something more philosophical and spiritual.

THE GAIAD looks at society; at the sociological implications of mankind’s struggle to survive; of man’s dark and dangerous predilection to seize power and control; of a belief system that wants a return to the ‘mother’ who continues to sing a song no one can hear.

Copy supplied by the author.

Reviewed by Sandy

Interview red:black

TRC: Hi William and welcome to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the release of THE GAIAD.

William: Thank you!

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

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WilliamBurcherWilliam: My background’s kind of unique, I think. And it influences my writing. A year and a half ago I was working outside of Denver as a police officer. Believe it or not, I got into law enforcement with writing in mind. I wanted to see things that most people don’t normally see—life and humanity in its most raw. I saw it as an education, really. I subscribe to the belief that a writer needs a certain level of unique experience in order to write well and truly. Being a cop served me well here.

TRC: Who or what influenced your career in writing?

William: Many things, many people. Eastern philosophy. Seeing people at their worst (and also, frequently, at their best) everyday “on the job.” Being exposed intimately to death. And also growing up in Colorado—where natural beauty is so abundant, and all you have to do (if you feel that you need a little adjustment to your perspective) is step outside on a clear night and LOOK UP. The natural world is my ultimate influence. My ultimate muse.

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

William: The GAIAD is my first full length novel. Though I’ve always been a writer, sitting down and working on the same project for nearly a year is a different experience. I got to some places within that were uncomfortable, at times, to deal with and also to write from. There were times when I didn’t want to go any further, or continue down a certain path with the story because it was difficult, emotionally. But I knew that if I was encountering that kind of internal resistance, it was probably the path that I should, in fact, be on.

The GaiadTRC: Would you please tell us something about the premise of THE GAIAD?

William: The Earth is not what we think it is. Millennia ago this was discovered by an earlier race of people, a people more in-touch with the “stuff of life” than we are today. A group was formed out of that first discovery, and that group has protected it as a secret ever since. The main character, Fleur Romano, discovers both the secret and its history and knows that it has the power to change so much. The message and premise of the story is ultimately a positive one.

TRC: From where did you develop the concept of THE GAIAD?

William: This is kind of a good story, actually. So, after I left police work, I felt that I needed some time to decompress, to think, to emote, to digest. I sold my house and bought an RV and outfitted it with this wicked solar power system. I was able to spend weeks in beautiful, pristine places, mostly in the Western US. There’s a special place in my heart for Southern Utah, the country around Moab. There’s literally no other place like it in the rest of the World; though images of Mars provided by Curiosity and the other rover missions remind me of it. I was staying in this area called the San Rafael Swell, west of Moab a bit. One afternoon I climbed this pretty substantial slope leading up to the base of a cliff—part of a system of canyons known as the “Little Grand Canyon.” The sun was low in the sky, the light was gorgeous and golden, and in the middle of nowhere, literally, away from all trails or landmarks or anything, I came upon a stack of rocks. A “cairn” had been placed there some time ago. It could have been there for a year, or a few thousand. It got me thinking. What did it mean? What was it really communicating? These thoughts kind of came like a cascade and at the end of it I had the basic storyline of The GAIAD.

TRC: Are any of the characters or scenarios based in reality e.g. through your work in law enforcement?

William: Yeah, definitely. Many of my characters are comprised of elements of real people that I’ve known. My main character, Fleur, is based on a good friend of mine who’s still working as a Crimes Against Children detective. She’s this kind of super-human figure in real life. She trains and coaches CrossFit in her off-time, raises two kids, changes the oil in her car, makes a mean butterscotch cupcake and is, incidentally, a really good cop.

Although the book isn’t dominated by violence, and is certainly not about violence for the sake of itself only; there are some graphic scenes there. These, unfortunately, were flavored by real experiences of mine. I probably don’t need to go into that any further.

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

William: Three. Unless there’s more there to be explored. I promise, though, that I will NOT take my cues here from George R.R. Martin, or Dan Simmons, or other writers of endless, incessant, frustratingly-long series!

TRC: What message would you like your readers to come away with after reading THE GAIAD?

William: That life is a gift. And inherently good. And that we’re connected to so much more than we normally think. I mention this frequently, but the thought is a powerful one, and the sentiment it expresses is ultimately what The GAIAD is about: Our bodies are literally formed from the dust of stars, heavier elements born in the cores of collapsing, dying stars. We’re connected on a fundamental level to everything in creation. That fact puts things into perspective for me.

TRC: Do you believe your story line follows a philosophical, sociological or spiritual line of thinking, or a combination of all three –or something else?

William: Absolutely. I feel that in many ways we (especially my generation, in the United States) have lost our sense of wonder about the world around us. In The GAIAD I try and speak of this, and provide, maybe, a solution to that.

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

William: I think that life is inherently unpredictable. Events occur, which at the time, seem completely without foreshadowing, without meaning or cause. I think that if a writer is being true to his or her life experience, to their objective perceptions about “the way things are,” this isn’t really a problem. If I were writing a story about a dinosaur named “Bill” who stalked apatosauruses 65 million years ago, there would be no foreshadowing, no warning before the comet fell from the sky at 50,000 miles an hour, hitting the coast off the Yucatan and changing Bill’s life and the entire world forever.

TRC: Who or what influenced your interest in science fiction? Do you have a favorite Sci-Fi author?

William: SciFi is the genre of big ideas, though it can forget this itself, sometimes. It’s the genre of the BIGGEST ideas, ideas that can touch on the sublime. This has always been extraordinarily attractive to me. Many of my favorites are the greats of times past, Arthur C Clarke being chief among them. His mind was amazing. It pleases me that folks today can still appreciate the broadness, the expansiveness of his ideas. I need to start watching “Childhood’s End.” The book is a favorite.

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?

William: Yes, of course. I find myself doing it all the time, browsing book titles. Though a solid review or a recommendation from someone I respect can immediately trump all other factors, positive or negative.

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

William: Science fiction, by its nature, is driven more by the premise, or the world, or the problem being solved. But, good SciFi obviously honors its characters too. One cannot tell a good story without the perceptions, the emotions of the people experiencing the story “firsthand.” I think that there’s a balance to be struck here. In The GAIAD, the Earth itself becomes a character with angst and longing, both explored further in the subsequent books.

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

William: I have a core group of good friends that I discuss my ideas with. Some of these people you wouldn’t expect, really, to be capable of valuable insight. I have a friend, a cop I used to work with, a SWAT guy actually, who’s always up for a serious, literary discussion.

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?

William: This question is certainly related to the previous, and is, of course, very applicable to science fiction. I recently finished reading a very popular, classic SciFi book in which the premise of the story dominated, but the actions of many of the characters seemed not quite right to me, not quite realistic. Their emotional experiences, also, seemed contrived and unimportant. Even in a genre where the story might be about a greater reality than that of the characters’, this reality is seen and experienced by them. It’s like the old aphorism, “if a tree falls in the woods and no is there to see it…” The characters have to be present, there, living it, to see the tree fall.

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

William: No. I specifically don’t for this reason—that it does influence my writing. For this same reason, I avoid other books and film when I’m really focusing on a story, especially in the early, formative stages.

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

William: That we’re somewhat strange, incompetent dreamers without practical abilities. Or that we drink heavily. Or here in Colorado, liberally partake in other recently legalized substances.

TRC: On what are you currently working?

William: The sequel to The GAIAD. Stay tuned!

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

William: Writers, I think, have a pretty important responsibility—to lead the minds of their readers to better places, “fields both green and golden.” I take this responsibility seriously, and my greatest hope is that I’ve succeeded, if in a small way. Thank your for allowing me the opportunity to speak a little about The GAIAD. It was great fun.

TRC: Thank you William for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations on the release of THE GAIAD.

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Everything I Left Unsaid by M. O’Keefe-Review and Interview

EVERYTHING I LEFT UNSAID (Everything I Left Unsaid #1) by M. O’Keefe-Review and Interview

Everything I Left Unsaid

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / The Book Depository / BAM

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date October 13, 2015

I didn’t think answering someone else’s cellphone would change my life. But the stranger with the low, deep voice on the other end of the line tempted me, awakened my body, set me on fire. He was looking for someone else. Instead he found me.

And I found a hot, secret world where I felt alive for the first time.

His name was Dylan, and, strangely, he made me feel safe. Desired. Compelled. Every dark thing he asked me to do, I did. Without question. I longed to meet him, but we were both keeping secrets. And mine were dangerous. If I took the first step, if I got closer to Dylan—emotionally, physically—then I wouldn’t be hiding anymore. I would be exposed, with nothing left to surrender but the truth. And my truth could hurt us both.

••••••••••••

REVIEW: EVERYTHING I LEFT UNSAID is the first installment in Molly O’Keefe’s contemporary adult Everything I Left Unsaid erotic, romantic suspense duology focusing on Annie McKay and Dylan Daniels.

Told from first person point of view (Annie) and third person perspective (Dylan) EVERYTHING I LEFT UNSAID follows Annie aka Layla on the run from her abusive husband, arriving in Carolina from the Flatlands of Oklahoma. Layla is hiding and working in a run down, trailer park to escape her life and the man who has all but destroyed everything she has ever loved. Enter the mysterious Dylan Daniels, a former NASCAR driver, and the man who will be the focus in all of Annie’s fantasies and dreams. When Annie answers a lost cell phone, she will inadvertently becomes part of Dylan’s life, but Dylan wants to remain anonymous, and Annie becomes a distraction that he isn’t willing to give up.

A good portion and the foundation of the storyline follows Annie and Dylan’s phone Sex and text messages. Not having yet met face to face with Annie, Dylan and Annie’s relationship is sexually aggressive and suggestive with Dylan instructing Annie in the ways of pleasuring herself and talking dirty on the phone. Annie is an innocent; inexperienced; and naïve. Dylan is an enigma with a dark past, and an even darker present. What little we know, leaves us wanting more. Most of the $ex scenes are limited to phone $ex; their physical intimacy has an expiry date when Annie decides she doesn’t want or need Dylan’s help.

EVERYTHING I LEFT UNSAID has a large ensemble cast of characters from the Flowered Manor Trailer Park and Camp Ground: Joan the stripper who hides her true identity from those around; elderly Ben whose past is mired in dark and dangerous secrets; Kevin the trailer park manager who hires Annie for maintenance and clean up; and Tiffany, a young mother in an abusive relationship.

The world building focuses on the lives of the people at the Flowered Manor Trailer Park and Camp Ground; Annie’s need to keep ahead of her past; and Dylan’s hermit existence upon the mountain he works and owns.

EVERYTHING I LEFT UNSAID ends on a cliffhanger that leaves many unanswered questions about the how and why. Dylan’s life is revealed a little at a time, but our leading hero has secrets that he doesn’t want anyone to know. EVERYTHING I LEFT UNSAID is a story of mystery and suspense; flawed, impassioned characters with heartbreaking stories and tragic lives but saying that the storyline barely scratches the surface of the truth. EVERYTHING I LEFT UNSAID leaves you wanting more-right now !

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley

Reviewed by Sandy

Everything I Left Unsaid teaser

Interview

TRC: Hi Molly and welcome to The Reading Café.

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

Molly O'KeefeMolly: Well, I’m a romance novelist by day and an ass-kicking vigilante at night? Actually, I’m a mom and romance novelist by day and exhausted at night. No time for ass-kicking vigilantism. I’ve written 30 books for Harlequin and Bantam over the last fifteen years.

I have two great kids and a lovely husband. We live in Toronto, Canada.

TRC: Who or what influenced your career in writing?

Molly: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. And a romance novelist since I was about fifteen years old. I’ve been incredibly lucky over the years to meet mentors, teachers and friends exactly when I needed them. And all along I’ve had hundreds of amazing books to inspire me.

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

Molly: Well, this business is both a challenge and a difficulty and an opportunity – often all at the same time. I find the largest challenge I have is in my own head. Staying motivated, not comparing my career to other author’s careers. Keeping my head down and getting the work done and constantly and consistently finding joy in the process and work.

Everything I Left UnsaidTRC: Would you please tell us something about premise of EVERYTHING I LEFT UNSAID-the first book in the series of the same name?

Molly: Well, it’s a dulogy – the first book ENDS ON A WICKED CLIFFHANGER – so be warned!

It’s about a woman on the run from her abusive ex-husband. She ends up in a trailer park in the middle of nowhere and finds a ringing cell phone that had been left behind by the previous tenant. She answers the phone and begins a dangerous and sexual relationship with the man on the other end.

The characters don’t actually meet for a huge portion of the book – so it’s all done through phone calls and texts.

TRC: Are any of the characters based in reality or a mixture of real and fiction?

Molly: Well, the hero is HEAVILY inspired by the delicious actor Tom Hardy!

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

Molly: Well there’s Everything I Left Unsaid, The Truth About Him and then at least two more. Possibly more.

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

Molly: It’s a matter of very carefully leaving hints so that when a big twist happens the reader is totally surprised and can still believe it.

TRC: There is a fine line between romance, erotic, and erotica in many of today’s popular contemporary fiction. What do you believe accounts for the differences between the sub-genres in today’s romantic stories?

Molly: That’s such a great question! When I started writing Everything I Left Unsaid I thought it was going to be just like my other books but with this really sexy premise. But then as I started to write it – everything was just…sharper. More dramatic. The language – the POV’s….so that’s one difference.

As for the erotica – I think the more crucial the sexual relationship is to the storyline and the characters development and arc – the more erotic the romance. And then it’s a matter of making those scenes as charged and unpredictable as possible.

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?

Molly: Absolutely. Lots of readers – myself included – pick up books on the amazing covers alone. I’ve found so many great books because of it. I’ve been burned too, but it’s a gamble I love taking!!

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?

Molly: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things – for me it’s a matter of making the characters as human as I can – which means real and relatable flaws. Slick, perfect characters are a total turn-off for me.

After I come up with my characters and make them as three dimensional as possible – then it’s a matter of showing the characters to the reader.

I think as writers write faster and faster – we’re getting told so much about the story and the characters. We need to get back to that immersive showing rather than the slick telling.

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

Molly: I’ve had a crucial group of writer friends since the very beginning of my career. I would be LOST without them.

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

Website: http://www.molly-okeefe.com/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/mokeefeauthor/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MollyOKeefeBooks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1657059327869189/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MollyOKwrites

LIGHTNING ROUND

Favorite Food –The steak and a beautiful salad

Favorite Dessert chocolate cake

Favorite TV Showoh, so hard. Currently obsessed with Scandal and The Walking Dead but all time favorite is West Wing.

Last Movie You Saw in the theater- Yikes it’s been ages. But we just watched the 3rd Harry Potter movie. Huge hit at my house.

Dark or Milk Chocolate –Dark

Secret Celebrity Crush Not- so secret – Tom Hardy

Last Vacation Destination –ha – we JUST got back from three weeks in a campervan in the UK. Though – it was so intense I’m not sure it counts as a “vacation”

Do you have any pets?- A dog named Daisy and a lizard named Pip.

Last book you read- oh I am LOVING A Madness So Discreet. Dark and scary and mysterious. LOVE IT!

Pet Peeve- hmmm… I can’t think of one specific thing which probably means I have seven million. But I really hate it when people don’t help. No matter how big or small I think we can all help out.

TRC: Thank you Molly for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations on the new release. We wish you all the best.

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Wicked for You (Wicked Lovers #10 ) by Shayla Black-Review, Interview and Giveaway

WICKED FOR YOU (Wicked Lovers #10) by Shayla Black-Review, Interview  and Giveaway

Pure Wicked (Wicked Lovers 9.5) by Shayla Black
Wicked-for-You-Banner

Wicked for You
Wicked Lovers 10
by Shayla Black
Genre: adult, contemporary, BDSM, erotic, romantic suspense
Release Date: October 6, 2015

Wicked for You

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / The Book Depository / BAM

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date October 6, 2015

Ever since he rescued her from a dangerous kidnapper, Mystery Mullins has wanted Axel Dillon. When he returned her to her Hollywood father and tabloid life, she was grateful…and a little in love. Mystery wasn’t ready to let Axel go, even after the soldier gently turned her away because, at nineteen, she was too young.

Now, six years later, Mystery is grown, with a flourishing career and a full life—but she’s still stuck on Axel. Disguised, she propositions him in a bar, and the night they spend together is beyond her wildest dreams. Mystery steels herself to walk away—except the sheets are barely cold when her past comes back to haunt her.

Once he realizes Mystery isn’t the stranger he thought, Axel is incensed and intrigued. But when it’s clear she’s in danger, he doesn’t hesitate to become her protector—and her lover—again. And as the two uncover a secret someone is willing to kill for, Axel is determined to claim Mystery’s heart before a murderer silences her for good.

••••••••••••

REVIEW: WICKED FOR YOU is the tenth full length installment in Shayla Black’s contemporary, adult WICKED LOVERS erotic romantic suspense series. Wicked Lovers focuses on a group of former marines, special ops, former police and military men, the women they love and their connection to Dominion BDSM club. This is former army medic and retrieval specialist Axel Dillon, and writer Mystery Mullins‘s storyline. WICKED FOR YOU can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from previous storylines is imparted where necessary.

Told from dual third person perspectives WICKED FOR YOU is a two-part story that flashes between the present and the past. Six years earlier Mystery Mullins was kidnapped and held prisoner in a deserted warehouse in the Mojave Desert. Mystery’s father and world famous director Marshal Mullins hired Axel Dillon as part of a search and rescue team whose primary focus is on retrieving precious cargo.

On the run for days in the desert with Axel, Mystery finds herself strangely attracted to her gorgeous rescuer who will feature prominently in Mystery’s future fantasies. Axel wants nothing to do with a then nineteen year old Mystery and walks out of her life without a backward glance once she has been handed over to her father. Fast forward six years and Mystery is determined to seduce Axel into a one-night stand- an affair where she is determined to keep her identity a secret fearing another rejection from the man who yet calls to her heart.

Mystery has been living in the UK for six years but a return to America finds our heroine searching for the truth about her mother’s death, and the man who walked away breaking her heart. Mystery’s return to the USA finds our heroine targeted once again, and Axel and Heath Powell (Mystery’s personal bodyguard) become her number one and number two protectors while Mystery continues to search for the truth.

The relationship between Mystery and Axel is a story of second chances-so to speak-as both Axel and Mystery have never forgotten about the few days they spent together following the search and rescue. Axel is a Dominant both in and out of the bedroom, and is an active member at the BDSM Club Dominion. Mystery is aware of Axel’s need to dominate, and with it comes her natural submission to the man with whom she has fallen in love. The $ex scenes are erotic, intimate and a little bit kinky. Axel, like many of the men in the series has issues with disobedience and spanking is his preferred method of discipline.

The Wicked Lovers series of novels are ensemble storylines wherein a number of the previous storybook characters play secondary and supporting roles; most of WICKED FOR YOU focuses on Axel, Mystery, Heath and Mystery’s Aunt Gail Leedy. Sean, Thorpe (Dominion Club owner and head Dom) and Callie (Theirs to Cherish #8) have cameo appearances for cohesion and history as well as Javier and Xander (Ours to Love #7) and Joaquin Munoz (His To Take #9).

WICKED FOR YOU is a suspense filled story focusing on uncovering the truth behind Mystery’s mother’s death, and the possible connection to Mystery’s abduction and her mother’s past. WICKED FOR YOU is a fast paced and animated storyline. The characterization is presented through description narratives and indirectly through the thoughts and action of the leading couple. A several chapter-long flashback reveals Mystery and Axel’s introduction to one another and what precipitated Mystery’s heartbreak and sorrow creating the building blocks upon which the present day storyline will focus. The conflict revolves around lies, secrets and deep-seated family dysfunction; the requisite evil is a two-fold twist to the storyline.

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley.

Reviewed by Sandy

__________

Pure WickedPURE WICKED: 1001 Dark Nights
(Wicked Lovers 9.5)
by Shayla Black

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date September 8, 2015

During his decade as an international pop star, Jesse McCall has lived every day in the fast lane. A committed hedonist reveling in amazing highs, globetrotting, and nameless encounters, he refuses to think about his loneliness or empty future. Then tragedy strikes.

Shocked and grieving, he sheds his identity and walks away, searching for peace. Instead, he finds Bristol Reese, a no-nonsense beauty scraping to keep her family’s business afloat while struggling with her own demons. He’s intent on seducing her, but other than a pleasure-filled night, she’s not interested in a player, especially after her boyfriend recently proposed to her sister. In order to claim Bristol, Jesse has to prove he’s not the kind of man he’s always been. But when she learns his identity and his past comes back to haunt him, how will he convince her that he’s a changed man who wants nothing more than to make her his forever?

•••••••••••••

REVIEW:   PURE WICKED is installment 9.5 in Shayla Black’s contemporary adult WICKED LOVERS erotic romance series. This is rock star Jesse McCall, and bakery/café owner Bristol Reese’s storyline. PURE WICKED is also the latest entry into the multi-authored 1001 Dark Nights novella series and can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty.

Told from third person point of view PURE WICKED follows Jesse McCall in hiding. With the recent overdose of a fan, and the suicide of his backup singer Ryan, Jesse has gone into hiding to keep the paparazzi at bay. Jesse’s character as a bad boy rock star has garnered our storyline hero a less than golden reputation with the media, and with the death of his friend and a female fan, Jesse is the number one target of rumor and innuendo surrounding the circumstances of their deaths. Following the advice of his publicist Candia, Jesse (with a toned down appearance) takes off for places unknown landing in Texarkana Texas, where he will meet and fall in love with bakery owner Bristol Reese.

The relationship between Jesse and Bristol is very quick to build; an insta love romance that finds our hero wanting to play house within a few hours of arriving in Texarkana. Jesse will meet Bristol at her sister’s engagement party where Jesse will come to Bristol’s aid pretending to be her new beau. The $ex scenes are seductive and steamy; Jesse and Bristol are in bed together within an hour of meeting one another.

PURE WICKED is a story about a boy and a girl who fall in love. Jesse believes he has found the other half of his soul; the woman who will save him from the demons within. The premise is enjoyable but not too realistic; the characters are colorful although slightly one dimensional-we know very little about their background except for the immediate past; the romance and sex are energetic and immediate. If you are looking for some fluff without all of the heavy romantic angst and foreplay, than PURE WICKED is the perfect read.

Reviewed by Sandy

Interview

TRC: Hi Shayla and welcome to The Reading Café.

Shayla BlackShayla: Hi! Thanks so much for having me here.

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

Follow Shayla: Website / Goodreads / Facebook/ Twitter

Shayla: Let’s make this easy. Here is my bio!

Shayla Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than forty novels. For over fifteen years, she’s written contemporary, erotic, paranormal, and historical romances via traditional, independent, foreign, and audio publishers. Her books have sold well over a million copies and been published in a dozen languages.

Raised an only child, Shayla occupied herself with lots of daydreaming, much to the chagrin of her teachers. In college, she found her love for reading and realized that she could have a career publishing the stories spinning in her imagination. Though she graduated with a degree in Marketing/Advertising and embarked on a stint in corporate America to pay the bills, her heart has always been with her characters. She’s thrilled that she’s been living her dream as a full-time author for the past seven years.

Shayla currently lives in North Texas with her wonderfully supportive husband, her teenage daughter, and a very spoiled cat. In her “free” time, she enjoys reality TV, reading, and listening to an eclectic blend of music.

TRC: Who or what has most influenced your career in writing?

Shayla: I wouldn’t credit any one person or source. I’m influenced by so many things from my own experiences to the music I hear. I’ll also give my husband a bunch of credit for opening my eyes in so many ways. I also have to say that Lexi Blake and my countless conversations with her about books, storytelling, other genres, and life in general have actually changed the way I approach some things. I’m absolutely happy where my stories are coming from and where they’re heading at this point.

Wicked for YouTRC: Would you please tell us a little bit about WICKED FOR YOU, the newest installment in your Wicked Lovers series?

Shayla: Ever since he rescued her from a dangerous kidnapper, Mystery Mullins has wanted Axel Dillon. When he returned her to her Hollywood father and tabloid life, she was grateful…and a little in love. Mystery wasn’t ready to let Axel go, even after the soldier gently turned her away because, at nineteen, she was too young.

Now, six years later, Mystery is grown, with a flourishing career and a full life—but she’s still stuck on Axel. Disguised, she propositions him in a bar, and the night they spend together is beyond her wildest dreams. Mystery steels herself to walk away—except the sheets are barely cold when her past comes back to haunt her.

Once he realizes Mystery isn’t the stranger he thought, Axel is incensed and intrigued. But when it’s clear she’s in danger, he doesn’t hesitate to become her protector—and her lover—again. And as the two uncover a secret someone is willing to kill for, Axel is determined to claim Mystery’s heart before a murderer silences her for good.

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

Shayla: I’m currently contracted through book 12. We’ll see where I go after that… I’ve got ideas.

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

Shayla: I simply write things I’d like to read and tell the story from my heart. That may sound trite, but something about every one of these books interests and moves me deeply or I wouldn’t write them. Other than that, I constantly strive to do my best and give readers a satisfying experience.

TRC: There is a fine line between romance, erotic romance, and erotica in many of today’s popular contemporary fiction. What do you believe accounts for the differences between the sub-genres in today’s romantic stories?

Shayla: To me, erotica is about one person’s journey to self-actualization through a sexual journey. It may or may not end in a happily ever after. It may or may not also be monogamous. A romance will always be about commitment and end in a happily ever after. So will an erotic romance; it simply contains additional and more explicit sexual content. I think we have these various approaches because we have so many different readers. Some see themselves as wanting to figure out their life, psyche, and future. Some just want the experience of falling in love, which doesn’t always require sex. Others need that sweet slide into forever with one (or more) mate but they like extra spice in the bedroom.

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?

Shayla: For some, I’m sure it does. I know for others, not so much. I’m not a visual person so while a pretty cover will snag my attention, if the blurb doesn’t grab me or the writing isn’t craftworthy, I’ll probably pass. That could also be because I know authors don’t always have control over how their books are packaged. They have far more control over content, so that’s where I focus.

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

Shayla: Both, in a weird way. During the writing process, I feel as if I become my point-of-view character. They might be driving the bus, but we’re sharing the steering wheel, so I definitely have a hand in navigating.

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

Shayla: Absolutely. I’m HUGE into music. I’m always looking for something that moves me—to tears, to anger, to happiness. Whatever I want to portray in a scene, I’m always in search of corresponding music. I’m currently listening to Fall Out Boy and Ocean Lab, two VERY different bands.

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

Shayla: I’m extroverted, so I don’t really think well in the silence of my own head when it comes to ideas. I’ll sometimes run things past my husband, Lexi Blake, Jenna Jacob, my lovely assistant Rachel, or my good friend Liz Berry. My circle is pretty small but mighty.

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

Shayla: That we are all creative dreamers who spend the majority of our time lost in storyland, led by our muse who takes our hands and shows us the way. We hold down many other roles in life—wife, mother, employee, friend, daughter, sister—and if I waited for my muse to help me out, I’d still be trying to finish my first book. Sometimes, you have to dig deep and find your way to The End through pure grit.

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

Shayla: Oddly, many people are against plots in which they say “insta-love” happens between the hero and heroine. But I adore those plots because I knew in the first thirty seconds of meeting my husband that I was going to marry him. I was seventeen. He was dating someone else. None of that mattered. I just knew. Granted, I didn’t know him as an individual in those thirty seconds but I had a sixth sense. We started dating shortly after that. We just celebrated 24 years of marriage.

TRC:  Congratulations

TRC: On what are you currently working?

Shayla: Wicked Lovers 11, which will be out next July. I have a title…but it’s not ready to share. I also just finished up edits on book three of my new with series with Lexi Blake, The Perfect Gentlemen. So after book 2 (Seduction in Session) in January, look for Big Easy Temptation in May.

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

Shayla: After nearly twenty years as an author, I love what I do everyday and am so grateful to readers who find a whole new world in the written word and will take journeys with me.

LIGHTNING ROUND

Favorite Food
Depends on my mood

Favorite Dessert
Depends on my mood

Favorite TV Show
Depends on my mood

Last Movie You Saw
In theaters, Man from UNCLE (loved it!). At home, Austenland (also loved it!)

Dark or Milk Chocolate
Depends on my mood. LOL! Are you sensing a theme?

Secret Celebrity Crush
Gerard Butler, John Cena, Armie Hammer

Last Vacation Destination
I’m answering this interview on my way to visit some other writer friends (shout out to Lorelei James, Larissa Ione, and Julie Kenner) in Palm Coast, Florida.

Do you have any pets?
One very spoiled orange tabby cat, Missy Meow.

Last book you read
Jay Crownover’s BETTER WHEN HE’S BAD.

Pet Peeve
I have two. Passive-aggressive people and too many rules.

TRC: Thank you Shayla for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations on the new release. We wish you all the best.

Shayla: Thanks so much for having me here!

Giveaway-Black and Deep Blue

The Reading Cafe and Shayla’s publisher are offering a paper copy of WICKED FOR YOU 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. Please LIKE and Follow Shayla Black on Facebook

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

5. FOLLOW us on Twitter for an additional entry.

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

7. Giveaway is open to USA only.

8. Giveaway runs from October 6-10, 2015

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Tracker’s End (Wind Dragons MC #3) by Chantal Fernando-Review and Interview

TRACKER’S END (Wind Dragons MC #3) by Chantal Fernando-Review and Interview

Tracker's End

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / The Book Depository / BAM

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 11, 2015

Tracker is everything I’ve ever wanted.

I see him. I’ve watched time change him.

I’ve been patient, but he still hasn’t noticed me. Not the way I want him to. The more time I spend with the MC, the more I understand.

When you want something, you have to take it. You have to fight for it.

And Tracker is more than worth fighting for…

•••••••••••

REVIEW: TRACKER’S END is the third installment in Chantal Fernando’s adult, contemporary Wind Dragons erotic, romance MC series focusing on the men and women of the Wind Dragons MC. This is Tracker and Lana’s storyline. Lana is Anna’s (Arrow’s Hell) best friend, and Tracker is the MC ‘tracker’-if someone needs to be found, Tracker is the man to get the job done. Tracker’s End can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty but I recommend reading the series in order for backstory and cohesion.

Told from first person point of view (Lana) with a few chapters from Tracker’s POV, the storyline follows the building relationship between two people of opposite personality and responsibilities. Lana is hired as a nanny to look after Faye and Dex’s (Wind Dragons president) six year old daughter Clover, and Tracker is a biker whose history with women, and one woman in particular, rattles Lana’s proverbial nerves. Tracker has been attracted to Lana since the first day they met, one year earlier, but Lana isn’t about to jump into a relationship with a man whose sexual escapades could be the subject of many an erotic romance novel-in fact, Lana is an erotic romance novelist who keeps her true passion a secret from everyone but her mom. While Tracker slowly seduces the woman of his fantasies, Lana will become the target of jealousy and revenge.

The sexual attraction between Lana and Tracker is immediate, intense and not without some moments of jealousy and possessiveness. Lana’s sexual history is minimal compared to Tracker, and most of the other MC members, but Lana quickly succumbs to the needs of the man with whom she is falling in love. $ex scenes are erotic and intense.

Throughout the storyline we are witness to Tracker’s promises of fidelity; how his past is now his past, and Lana is the woman that calls to his heart. But a perceived betrayal by Lana finds Tracker quickly taking advantage of his current circumstance, and in this I had some issues with the double standard as it pertained to Lana and Tracker’s relationship. Tracker is an arrogant, alpha male who continues to focus on his own personal needs and wants, never considering how his actions will affect the woman that he loves.

Most of the previous storyline characters play secondary and supporting roles including Faye and Dex (Dragon’s Lair); Arrow and Anna (Arrow’s Hell); and several of the other MC members. We are introduced to Lana’s mother-a single parent and nurse who is totally accepting of her daughter’s choices in life. Allie returns as the resident Club whore but her prior relationship with Tracker will not only affect Lana but the Wind Dragon MC as well-not everyone will survive to see another story. Anna’s brother Rake will come face to face with his past-a past that wants nothing to do with revisiting heartbreak and broken promises.

TRACKER’S END takes another intimate look at the world of the MC; the lovers, the fighters, the rules and regulations; the breakdown of power and the penalty for disobedience and going rogue. There are moments of romance and love; betrayal and heartbreak; jealousy and revenge. The series will captivate your imagination; you will fall in love with the bikers and their old ladies; the romance is a promise for the future. No matter how tough the biker claims to be, in the end, it is the woman with whom he falls in love, that has to be the toughest of them all.

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley.

Reviewed by Sandy

Series Spotlight Black and Gold

_________________

DRAGON’S LAIR
(Wind Dragons MC #1)
by Chantal Fernando
Release Date: May 19, 2014
Genre: adult, contemporary, erotic, romance, motorcycle club

Dragon's Lair

Click HERE for Sandy’s review of DRAGON’S LAIR

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / The Book Depository

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date May 19, 2014

When I found my boyfriend cheating on me, I did something stupid.

Or should I say, someone?

Because of that mistake, I’m now stuck in a world I don’t belong in.

I’m a law student. They’re criminals. He’s the vice president of a motorcycle club. I’m a good girl with a strict upbringing. He’s my ex-boyfriend’s brother.

And I’m screwed.

________

ARROW’S HELL
(Wind Dragons MC #2)
by Chantal Fernando
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Genre: adult, contemporary, erotic,romance, motorcycle club

Arrow's Hell

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / The Book Depository

Click  HERE for Sandy’s review of ARROW’S HELL

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date June 16, 2015

Being the younger sister of a Wind Dragons MC member isn’t as great as you’d think it would be.

I can’t escape the details of my brother’s exploits.

No one tells me anything.

Men who know who I am tend to stay away from me.

And worst of all:

The members of the MC are off-limits.

When Arrow catches my eye, I make it my mission to make him happy again.

When I fall head over heels in love with him, I just hope he will be there to catch me.

And that my brother doesn’t kill him.

interview

TRC: Hi Chantal and welcome to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the success of your WIND DRAGONS MC series.

Chantel FernandoChantal: Thank you so much and thanks for having me!

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

Follow Chantal: Website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Goodreads

Chantal: I’m 28 and live in a small town in Western Australia.

TRC: Who or what influenced your career in writing?

Chantal: I stopped reading in high school, and got back into it when I picked up my sister’s copy of Twilight. I fell back in love with reading and writing and haven’t looked back since.

Tracker's EndTRC: Would you please tell us something about your 2015 releases of TRACKER’S END and ARROW’S HELL, and the Wind Dragons series?

Chantal: All these books focus on the love stories between a member of the MC and their leading lady. I think Arrow and Anna have one of the hardest paths to each other, but Tracker and Lana also have their own problems to overcome before they get their happily ever afters.

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

Chantal: Three so far… and maybe more 😉

TRC: If you could virtually cast the leading characters (so far), which actors or models would best represent your ideal image?

Chantal: I generally stay away from this, as I prefer readers to create their own image in their head, but Brock O’Hurn is definitely my Tracker.

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

Chantal: I don’t like to write about cheating, even though it’s unrealistic for every member be 100% faithful to their women.

TRC: Do you have any further plans to continue your RESISTING LOVE series?

Chantal: No, I don’t. A few people have asked about the Morning Alliance books, which I may revisit, but I have a heap of books planned before that 🙂

Wind Dragon MCTRC: How do you keep the plot unpredictable without sacrificing content and believability?

Chantal: I start with a good, well thought out outline. I think that people in general are unpredictable, and my characters are the same, they take over the story, directing where it goes. I think it makes the characters more believable, because sometimes the direction the novel takes surprises even me.

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

Chantal: I think a pretty cover helps! But if the book is good, word of mouth will still make sure the book is picked up.

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

Chantal: The characters definitely direct my writing lol.

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

Chantal: I do listen to music while I write, unless I’m having trouble concentrating, then I need silence. With me, I don’t think music influences my storyline, I think I’m attracted to music that I can connect to a particular scene I’m writing, or the novel as a whole

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

Chantal: I’d like to travel the world and meet as many of my readers as I can.

Keep writing books that my readers enjoy.

Have more of my books available in store.

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

Chantal: I’m super shy and terrible at public speaking!

TRC: On what are you currently working?

Chantal: I will be announcing this very soon! 😉

LIGHTNING ROUND

Favorite Food- Chicken parmigana

Favorite Dessert- Choc brownies and vanilla ice-cream

Favorite TV Show- Outlander

Last Movie You Saw- Inside Out

Dark or Milk Chocolate- Milk chocolate

Secret Celebrity Crush- Jason Momoa but that’s not really a secret.
Bruce Venture!

Last Vacation Destination- Scotland, England and Ireland.

Do you have any pets?- 3 dogs that I adore.

Last book you read- Jamie Begley- Lucky’s Choice

Pet Peeve- People who are late!

TRC: Thank you Chantal for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations on the release of TRACKER’S END and ARROW’S HELL.

Chantal: Thank you so much!

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The Duke’s Disaster / Tremaine’s True Love (True Gentlemen .5 & 1) by Grace Burrowes-Review, Interview and Book Tour

The Duke’s Disaster / Tremaine’s True Love (True Gentlemen .5 & 1) by Grace Burrowes-Reviews, Interview and Book Tour

Tremaine's True Love

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / The Book Depository / BAM / indiebound / ibooks

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 4, 2015

Tremaine St. Michael is firmly in trade and seeks only to negotiate the sale of some fancy sheep with the Earl of Haddonfield. The earl’s sister, Lady Nita, is pragmatic, hard-working, and selfless, though Tremaine senses she’s also tired of her charitable obligations and envious of her siblings’ marital bliss. Tremaine, having been raised among shepherds, can spot another lonely soul, no matter how easily she fools her own family. Neither Tremaine nor Nita is looking for love, but love comes looking for them.

••••••••••••

5 out of 5 for this reader folks!

Two more outstanding novels by one of my fave historical romance authors Grace Burrowes. This review is on her first two books of her True Gentlemen series. If you remember (and fell in love with as I did) Nicholas and Ethan (with mentions of other yummy characters) from the Lonely Lords series then you will appreciate this spin off series as it revolves around their sisters finding their true loves.

REVIEW:

We have met Tremaine before in the Lonely Lord series and I loved meeting him once again. Tremaine is a trader by occupation and he is quite successful at it. Coming to see Nicholas to discover if a herd of sheep is a lucrative trade, he also meets Nicholas’s serious sister Nita. Nita is not a lady of her time. She has already classified herself as a spinster and routinely serves the common people (and those cast away by society’s standards) by providing comfort, aide and medical assistance. Tremaine happens to see this quality as a positive attribute seeing as his own life started out not so fortunate. Soon these two find common ground and bluntly allow excess relations to ensure that they “fit” when marriage is discussed. Tremaine believes that Nita will make a fine Duchess, and once her hands are full of Duchess responsibilities, she will be too busy to expose herself to all the dangerous elements that place her life in peril. However, Nita would not be Nita if she gave up what she believes in and what she is good at.

Another well matched couple. Both are very realistic people despite the advantages they both share in life. They deal with common people daily, share a love for what is right and have no time for anything fake. It was heart breaking when they realized that the other refused to give up their lifestyles to marry the other. I also loved that we got more of Nicholas and Leah who just so happened to be one of my fave couples.

Both books were a wonderful start to what I know will be a great spin off series. Grace always writes with a maturity that you do not find in many historical romances novels and this happens to be something I love to expect when I sit down with one her her stories. Her characters always have great depth, and she is wonderful at setting up and making us look forward to her next one.

HAPPY READING!

Copy supplied by Netgalley

Reviewed by Rachel T.

____________________

The Duke's DisasterThe Duke’s Disaster
True Gentlemen .5
by Grace Burrowes
Genre: historical, romance
Release Date: April 7, 2015

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

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Noah Winters, Earl of Anselm, spent months sorting and courting the year’s crop of debutantes in search of an ideal bride. When the sweet, biddable young thing he selected accepts another’s proposal, Noah decides to court her companion instead.

Thea Collins, though, is anything but biddable. She has learned the hard way that men are not to be trusted, especially the handsome ones. When she reluctantly accepts, Noah rushes Thea to the altar before she can reveal her deepest secret. Can she finally move on from her past, or will it come back to haunt her?

••••••••••••

Oh Thea .. my kind of heroine. Mature, set in her beliefs without being insanely stubborn, fair, kind, realistic and protective. She has been working beneath her status of birth due to circumstance and her idiot of a brother’s lifestyle. When she is approached by Noah and agrees to be his Duchess (reluctantly and as a means to an end of certain aspects of her life), she doesn’t realize her heart is about to be pried open and laid out. Noah rushes the nuptials and soon a massive secret is revealed which places mistrust in their path. Both agree to carry on and soon develop a friendship and love of sorts. Trust however goes both ways, and when more secrets surface, these two need to dig deep to discover if their marriage will be one in name only.

I absolutely loved this couple. They bantered back and forth and were truthfully so amazingly playful with the other. For their time, their secrets are rather large, so I found I was rooting for them to find their way through the mess they had made together. They were perfectly matched and it was the little gestures they shared that really endeared this relationship.

Reviewed by Rachel T

 

Interview

TRC: Hi Grace and welcome to The Reading Café.

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

Grace BurrowesFollow Grace: Goodreads/Website/Facebook/Twitter

Grace: I am the sixth out of seven children, which means I was born into a household full of chatter, with words all around me, used at many levels. Excellent luck for a writer! I didn’t t start writing until my Beloved Offspring left for college about ten years ago, and I haven’t stopped yet.

TRC: Who or what influenced your career in writing?

Grace: I am in debt to so many keeper authors. I’ve been reading romance for more than forty years, sometimes at the rate of a book a day. Judith Ivory, historical Judith McNaught, Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase, Julie Anne Long, Madeline Hunter, Eloisa James… We have an embarrassment of talent in the historical romance genre, and those books got me through many tough years.

TRC: Your bio states you have a law degree and a Masters in ‘Conflict Transformation.’ What is Conflict Transformation and have you ever had the opportunity to apply your knowledge to any of your storylines?

Grace: Conflict transformation is a way to talk about turning swords into plowshares, and using differences to build stronger relationships. This is an element of every romance novel, because much of what propels a character along his or her arc is resolving conflicts-between the present and the past, between conflicting demands of honor, between love and fear-and healing the wounds conflict can leave in its wake.

Tremaine's True LoveTRC: Would you please tell us something about your August 2015 release Tremaine’s True Love and your new True Gentlemen Series?

Grace: I met Tremaine St. Michael in an earlier book (Gabriel: Lord of Regrets), and he caught my eye. He’s not long on charm, he’s all business all the time, and he was blathering about marriage being a pragmatic merger of self-interest and expedience… and while he was spouting that tripe, he was searching high and low, tirelessly, for his deceased brother’s child. He had no other family, save an aging Scottish grandfather… Tremaine was a fellow in need of a happily ever after, though he’d be the last to admit it. He’s met his match in Lady Nita Haddonfield, who brings a LOT of family into the equation, no self-interest or expedience, and rather more charm than Tremaine can withstand. The bigger they talk…

The next two stories, Daniel’s True Desire, and Will’s True Wish, are also about gentlemen who think that romance is not for them, and love is for the naïve or the foolishly brave. Nita’s sisters, Lady Kirsten and Lady Susannah, get Daniel and Will, respectively, sorted out.

TRC: What challenges or difficulties (research, logistics, historical accuracy) did you encounter writing this particular story?

Grace: Tremaine’s mercantile success is based on raising sheep. How complicated can that be? Well… which breeds were grown in what regions of the United Kingdom 200 years ago? Were they comparable to their modern counterparts? How were they raised? When was lambing season? When were they shorn? I had some experience with sheep, and that helped, but I went down a long and wooly research trail learning more.

Lady Nita, by contrast, is medical practitioner educated at her mother’s knee, and through extensive reading and observation. The Regency period is when men began to push women out of the medical field entirely (except for the exhausting and dangerous business of nursing), even with regard to childbirth. We can see now, though, that the women of the day (in England) were often offering the more helpful and sanitary interventions.

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

The Duke's DisasterGrace: Every author’s approach is different, but for me, the story is driven by the characters. Their defining traumas, their aspirations, their personalities are the fuel for the actions taken.

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?

Grace: What a writer must do to pull the reader in… the list is ENDLESS, from word choices that are precise without being obscure, to descriptions that are accurate but not boring, to symbols both unobtrusive and compelling… It comes down to, the writer must make the reader care about the characters. In real life, we care when we see that somebody we have something in common with is suffering undeservedly. If that person is bearing up nobly, or with good humor, or as best they can, we care even more. The character’s wound is the sharp end of his or her hook into the reader’s heart.

In unpublished manuscripts and contest entries, I often see two characters whose gazes meet across a crowded room/deserted street/candlelit ballroom and boom, they must HAVE each other. Hormones perfume the air, and without even googling each other, the mating dance begins. Fail, fail, fail. A romantic attraction will at some point develop a physical aspect, but it starts with the sure conviction that these two people can see each other’s woundedness, and each other’s highest potential, no matter how diligently each character might be hiding or ignoring their own wounds.

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

MatthewsGrace:
I’d like to earn an MFA in creative writing from a Scottish university,
I’d like to publish a writing craft book, I’d like to publish a whole
bunch more lovely romances.

TRC: On what are you currently working?

Grace: I’m finishing up Matthew-The Jaded Gentlemen Book 2 (September 2015), and trying to wrestle into submission a quartet of reluctant earls who each has fallen in love with a cousin of the Windham family… and I do mean wrestle.

LIGHTNING ROUND

Favorite Food: Cheese!

Favorite Dessert: Fresh berries

Favorite TV Show: I don’t own a TV.

Last Movie You Saw: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Dark or Milk Chocolate: DARK

Secret Celebrity Crush: Huh?

Last Vacation Destination: A holiday cottage five miles from Aberfeldy,
Perthshire, Scotland

Do you have any pets? Cats, dogs, horses.

Last book you read: Sir Walter Scott, His Life and Works

Pet Peeve: Cyber-meanness

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

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Stealing Mercury (Arena Dogs #1) by Charlee Allden-Review and Interview with the Author

STEALING MERCURY (Arena Dogs #1) by Charlee Allden-Review and Interview with the author

Stealing Mercury

Amazon.com / Amazon.ca / B&N / KOBO / The Book Depository

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date March 27, 2015

Born a slave, Mercury is an Arena Dog, genetically engineered to fight and die in the Arena for the entertainment of others. Trained as a gladiator from boyhood in a violent world, where men must form alliances and share what little bounty they have to survive, his only goal has been to keep his men alive. But two are dead and the rest are condemned to be hunted down and killed for sport. Worse, their demise will leave a woman Mercury has sworn to protect, alone and vulnerable. And then there is Samantha—a courageous human he has no right to claim. But she is his. He feels it deep in his soul and with an ache in his body he can’t deny.

Samantha Devlin is an indie-freight pilot who has lost everything: her ship, her crew, and her father. When an old friend hires her as an emergency replacement to pilot a cargo carrier for the Roma Company, she’s shocked to learn her cargo is three, living, breathing, and dangerously sexy Arena Dogs. When Samantha learns she’s taking the men to their deaths, she must decide if she is willing to risking everything for a man whose customs require that he share her with one of his men and demands he return to Roma to protect another woman. Mercury, their leader, and Lo, his emotionally broken arena-brother, challenge all her notions of honor, loyalty, and love. Her heart tells her Mercury is worth any cost, but her head sees nothing ahead but disaster.

•••••••••••

REVIEW: STEALING MERCURY is the first installment in Charlee Allden’s adult Arena Dogs romantic fantasy, science fiction series focusing a group of genetically engineered slaves and gladiators. This is Arena Dog Mercury, and space ship pilot Samantha Devlin’s storyline.

NOTE: STEALING MERCURY contains M/F/M sexual situations and may not be suitable for all readers.

Told from third person point of view STEALING MERCURY follows the rescue attempt and escape of three fighting Dogs of the RomaRex Arena-Mercury, Diablo (Lo) and Carnage (Carn)-three ‘brothers in arms’ and pack mates whose tortuous lives have been nothing but abuse, fighting and destruction. Due to a lack of females, their lifestyle requires the males of their species to share one female, and in this Samantha has caught the eye of Mercury and his pack mate Lo.

Arena Dogs are genetically engineered hybrids with animal and non-human alien DNA whose sole purpose is to fight for the entertainment of intergalactic patrons. The Dogs are bred to be hunted, tortured, destroyed and abused, and in this our heroine Samantha Devlin-who is not quite human herself- will make every attempt to free the captives now imprisoned in the cargo hold of the space ship she is currently piloting. What ensues is a crash landing on an uninhabited planet where the Roma Company will hunt the escaped slaves along with their female accomplice.

The relationship between Mercury and Samantha is one of immediate attraction although Mercury is considered an animal and a threat by the whip-master and his handler. Samantha sees something different-she sees a man whose pain and suffering pulls at her soul, and in this she is determined to free the men from bondage. Not only does Mercury desire Samantha as his own, Lo’s need for a mate finds Samantha falling in love with both men. The $ex scenes are intimate, passionate, erotic and provocative. Mercury is the alpha male; Lo has sworn his protection and love.

Meanwhile, Mercury’s brother Carn is desperate to find his mate who has been imprisoned by the Roma Company, and Mercury has promised to return to the planet to rescue Carn’s mate. All does not go according to plan when the Roma Company recaptures the escapees with the sole intent to kill at the RomaRex Arena in the Earth Alliance Beta Sector.

We are introduced to Mercury’s brothers and pack mates: Diablo (Lo) and Carnage (Carn) ; the requisite evil comes in the form of whip master Drake, and handler Resler who have been entrusted to ship the Arena Dogs to another planet for ‘disposal’.

The world building follows the enslavement, abuse and history of the Arena Dogs from conception to training to Arena gladiators. Think of the storyline as ‘Spartacus’ meets Star Trek meets Science Fiction wherein the ‘Dominus’ is determined to control his slaves both in and out of the arena. There are some scenes of graphic violence due to the nature of the storyline premise. The Dogs struggle against discrimination and stereotyping, slavery and abuse resulting from a preconceived notion that the genetically engineered hybrids are animals or less.

STEALING MERCURY is a fascinating introduction to Charlee Allden’s ARENA DOGS sci-fi fantasy series. There are moments of heartbreak and sorrow; betrayal and revenge; romance and love. The characters are colorful, engaging, imaginative and inspiring. The premise is dramatic, powerful and intense.

Copy supplied by the author.

Reviewed by Sandy

Interview

TRC: Hi Charlee and welcome to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the release
 of STEALING MERCURY.

Charlee: Thank you and thanks for inviting me to visit today!

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

Follow: Website/Goodreads/v/Blog/ Facebook/ Twitter

Charlee AlldenCharlee: I wish I could say something unexpected, like being an alien princess in hiding, but I’m pretty ordinary. I’m am average Florida girl, living too far away from the nearest body of water. But I’m close to family and I have a fantastic group of writing friends that I love like sisters. For them, I tolerate the humidity and the heat of Florida summers and dream of my own private swimming pool.

TRC: Many authors develop their love of writing at an early age. What or who
 was the catalyst that started you on the road to publication?

Charlee: My wonderful grandmother was a bit of a poet. She wrote and recited funny rhyming poems about family and simple, everyday things. I followed in her footsteps writing poetry as a young adult. It wasn’t until much later I got the itch and courage to write something as long as a book.

TRC: If you had a choice, which career, other than writing, would you like to
 attempt?

Charlee: That’s a hard question to answer. I’ve actually done a lot of different jobs and nothing makes me as happy as writing. But if I were to dream a bit, I’d have to go for something like personal assistant to some wealthy, eccentric person who liked to travel to cool places.

Stealing MercuryTRC: STEALING MERCURY is the first installment in your new romantic
fantasy/science fiction ARENA DOGS series. Would you please tell us
 something about the series and storyline premise?

Charlee: ARENA DOGS is set at the outer reaches of Earth-colonized space. It’s a place of infinite variety: from war torn planets to wealthy resort planets where culture, greed, and barbarism come together in the form of the arena games. Rich patrons come to watch the gladiators fight to the death. Like the gladiators of old, the Arena Dogs are slaves, unlike their predecessors they are genetically engineered and trained from childhood. They have their own unique customs and are fiercely loyal to each other. In Stealing Mercury, a freighter pilot is hired to transport three of them to a hunt planet where they will be killed. She quickly has to decide whether to help them. Adventure ensues.

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

Charlee: Book 2 and Book 3 (a novella) are definite, but I hope to be writing many more in the series. The world is vast and rich enough to support a lot of storytelling, adventure, and sexy romance.

TRC: What or who was the inspiration behind the series premise?

Charlee: Stealing Mercury started out as a novella that was never supposed to be published. Another manuscript was driving me nuts and I took a break to write something different. The Arena Dogs came together in my head as I mixed all the elements I love into a big tangle that I could unravel on the pages.

TRC: If you could virtually cast the leading roles in STEALING MERCURY which 
models or actors would match your ideal image for Mercury, Lo, Carnage and
 Samantha?

Charlee: I’m much happier letting readers do the casting!

TRC: Is there a message in the novel that you would like your readers to
 understand or grasp?

Charlee: Thank you for this question! I don’t set out trying to send a message with my books, but they always explore things that are important to me and there are many things on the pages that I hope provoke some thought. The most important (to me) aspect of Stealing Mercury is that the characters must move past the negative and limiting messages that have taken root in their view of themselves and the right and wrong of things. If they are to be happy, they have to learn to accept themselves and others as they are. They must learn to see their own weaknesses as strengths.

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

Charlee: I discovered in this book that putting your hero in a cage for the first third of your story does present some challenges to building a romance. I vowed never to do that again… I won’t tell you how the third story starts.

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

Charlee: Hmm… I try to make sure that everything the characters (including the villains) do is well motivated and comes from some very real emotion. I believe that, if the reader believes the emotion is real, they can accept its consequences. Samantha, my heroine, is very impulsive and that sometimes makes her do things that could be called stupid or crazy—like stepping in-between two bigger men who are fighting. I try to make sure the reader knows what is motivating her to do that.

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

Charlee: As the author, I decide who the characters are and where the story will go. However, if I do a good job of developing the characters, I sometimes have to accept that they would never do something I planned the way I planned it. That just means I have to find another way.

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

Charlee: Often I do listen to music. More with some stories than others. Some stories call for a sound track that sets a mood. Others for reasons I don’t understand, don’t need music as much. Even for those stories, the right music can help get me in the right from of mind for a particular scene. I’ve learned never to try to write an action scene while listening to something mellow!

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?

Charlee: Oh, wow. This is a tough question with a complicated answer. I teach a 90 minute workshop that only scratches the surface of that question! The only things I can say without droning on and on are that writers must 1) engage their own heart in the writing process and 2) learn their craft. Even writers blessed with natural talent can make their writing stronger and richer by studying writing craft.

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

Charlee: I see we’ve gotten to the tough part of the interview! I do have concrete, measurable goals in my career and personal life. I’m all about the goals, but it’s getting harder to look so far into the future. The Kindle is less than 10 years old but it has changed so much about the book world! When I do look five years out, I visualize myself freer to focus on the things I enjoy most: writing what I want to write, connecting with readers, and spending time with the people I love. I have always been a rules follower and trod the expected path. This year I shed some of the limitations of that habit by venturing into indie publishing. In five years I want to have left the rest of those limitations in the dust.

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

Charlee:  I was a slow reader as a child. I failed a reading comprehension placement test in fourth grade because I couldn’t finish the test in the time allowed. I was put in a “special” program to help me catch up and spent most of my time in that program playing backgammon.

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

Charlee: That authors have to have some special talent and that since they do, the rest is probably easy. Writing is always hard work, often fun, rewarding work, but work all the same.

TRC: Who is the first person you think about when you need someone to talk with 
and why?

Charlee: My mother because she knows me better than anyone. I’ve never doubted her love and acceptance. I’m really blessed to have that.

TRC: On what are you currently working?

Charlee: Arena Dogs book 2 and 3 are my focus at the moment!

TRC: Would you like to add anything else?

Charlee: If readers would like to offer up casting suggestions for Stealing Mercury, I’d be happy to credit them and post to my Stealing Mercury Pinterest page: https://www.pinterest.com/charleeallden/stealing-mercury/ The page already has some of the images that inspired the settings in this book.

LIGHTNING ROUND

Favorite Food – Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Favorite Dessert – You want me to name just one?

Favorite TV Show – Again, just one?

Last Movie You Saw – Jupiter Ascending

Dark or Milk Chocolate – Milk with nuts

Secret Celebrity Crush – Stephen Amell and Ricky Whittle

Last Vacation Destination – Amelia Island in Florida

Do you have any pets? A cat—Tiger.

Last book you read – Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon.

Pet Peeve – Planting palm trees in Florida – long story.

TRC: Thank you Charlee for taking the time to answer our questions.
Congratulations on the new release. We wish you much success.

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