Saturday, March 16, 2019
I have a book coming out on March 19th on Amazon, and it's the start of a new series about fixers. But these guys aren't just bodyguards and they're definitely not "fixers" in the traditional sense. They "intercede" on your behalf, hence the part of intercession in the series name. So while in the next book, my fixer is hired as a bodyguard, in the first book, No Quick Fix, Brann is hired to be a nanny. Or a "manny" as it were.
I love the nanny/manny trope. The idea of the person taking care of the mother or father's children being the person they should be with has many incarnations. There are of course many wonderful romance manny books but also a whole slew of TV shows from The Nanny, to Who's The Boss, both of which have the caregiver of the kids eventually marrying the person whose kids they were there to take care of. But it makes perfect sense.
For a single-parent who is either divorced or widowed, the most important people in their life are their children. Watching another person nurture the focus of your world, learn to love them, protect them, and laugh with them... how does love not follow pretty darn fast? That's the part I love reading, and now, writing. Because I thought, what could up the ante on the idea of the manny? And it hit me that a trained military man having to take care of kids, though not new, would be so much fun to mess with. Imagine the chaos that children would bring to the world of a man who's skilled in making instant life and death decisions? Because yes, he can jump out of airplanes, swim through shark-infested water to help storm a beach or even render someone unconscious with a paperclip, but can he make a nutritious dinner with all the main food groups represented? Help with homework? Create a decent looking ponytail, deal with a field trip, clean up after a kid with the stomach flu or manage after school activities piled up on each other? That right there is fun to imagine. And of course, it was important to show the story from both sides. Because while the manny is bending over backwards to figure out what the kids need, the kids are looking to him to provide safety and stability and of course understanding. He has to be both confidant and disciplinarian. It's a hard road to walk because you're not the parent, but you're expected to act like one at times. And of course, laugh. That's just as important as all the other things, at least to kids. It also helps keep the adults sane.
If I did my job, when you read the first book in my new series, you'll get an idea of what Torus Intercession usually does and see what fun Brann is faced with in the small mountain town of Ursa, Montana. I hope you all enjoy it.
Here's the blurb:
A retired SEAL is about to face his toughest assignment yet. As a nanny...
Fixer. Bodyguard. Advocate. Brann Calder is expected to play all these roles and more as a member of Torus Intercession, a security firm guaranteed to right what's wrong. In the military, catastrophe was his specialty. Five months out of the service Brann is still finding his way, so a new assignment might be just what he needs. Unless it includes two things to make a seasoned, battle-trained veteran nervous: life in a small town, and playing caretaker to two little girls.
Emery Dodd is drowning in the responsibility of single fatherhood. He's picked up the pieces after losing his wife and is ready to move on now, hopeful that his engagement to a local patriarch's daughter will not only enrich his community but will grant his daughters some stability too.
The only thing standing in Emery's way is that he can't seem to keep his eyes--and hands--off the former soldier he's hired to watch his girls until the wedding.
Emery's future is riding on his upcoming nutptials, but being with Brann makes him and his family feel whole again. Too bad there's no way for them to be together.
Or is there?
Friday, November 30, 2018
Cheers, fellow bookworms, and welcome to our Book of the Month picks and Giveaway for the month of November. We had a lot to be thankful for this month, reading-wise, so have a look-see at the books we loved, and then check out the Rafflecopter widget at the end for entry details on how you can win a couple of eBooks from the list!
Jovan – Earthly Pleasures by Sera Trevor - Earthly Pleasures is a fun, quick fantasy that reads more like a historical romance. As a second son, and allergic to being told what to do, Prince Paurick has dedicated his life to his own earthly pleasures and amusement, spending his days immersed in the superficial and his nights at Divano’s, the most debauched gentleman’s club in the city. When tasked with coupling with the “ugly, brazen” acolyte, Brother Laurel, in a fertility rite to help stop a famine, Paurick is horrified but agrees to do his duty. He is even generous enough to forgive Brother Laurel for his ugliness, since it’s not his fault, and vows to make their coupling as enjoyable as possible since it’s probably the only pleasure the “poor sod” will ever receive. To his utter shock, devout and earnestly faithful Laurel is equally horrified at the thought of giving his body to the hedonistic, wastrel prince. Despite the dubious consensual nature and inauspicious beginning of their relationship, as these things often go, the MCs soon come to care deeply for each other and spend three months in relative bliss. When reality intrudes, and Laurel is reminded of his vows to the church, he and Paurick will learn how much their time together affected who they are and what they want.
Before You Break by K.C. Wells and Parker Williams – I enjoyed the fact that the book was not filled with scenes that presented BDSM as a form of therapy or a way to avoid dealing with your inner demons. The BDSM relationship between Wayne and Ellis is all about taking care of Ellis, and is only possible through the bonds of trust and friendship they have cemented over the years, and his awareness to the fact that he has been relying on Wayne as a source of strength, protection and support throughout their friendship. The way their initial contract plays out, particularly with its focus on breaking down all the mental barriers Ellis has erected to survive in order to heal is done very well, as it makes this the primary focus of their contract and realistically and slowly builds the potential for a romantic relationship between the MCs later on.
Jules – Rend by Roan Parrish – As I sit down to write this review, I’m finding myself at a loss for words. My feelings on the book are clear: It was unbelievably gorgeous, and tender, and gut-wrenching, and I absolutely loved it. But, I’m honestly unsure how to properly convey the beauty to you guys. I don’t know how to quantify or describe in words how much I loved Rhys, or how to explain how full my heart was (and still is) when I finished reading it. Rend is not an easy book to read. In fact, it was a big old gut-punch at times, and some might find the overall tone to be sad, but I honestly didn’t. Even though it deals with tough subjects, and Matty is definitely sad more than he’s happy, I actually found the overall tone to be hopeful rather than sad. And that hope, the beauty that absolutely radiates from this book, is hugely down to Rhys.
What It Takes by Jude Sierra – I considered myself a pretty big Jude Sierra fan already, but she just cemented her spot on my auto-buy author list with this one. Milo and Andrew’s story completely stole my heart. One thing I love about Sierra’s books is how authentic they feel. She does such a great job of putting the reader right where they need to be to connect with both the place and the characters. The character development here is incredible, as always. And in this case, the place is a little town called Santuit, Massachusetts, just outside of Cape Cod. Milo’s family moves to The Cape when Milo is eight, and he is immediately befriended by Andrew, who is his same age. The narrative takes us from that first meeting, all the way into young adulthood—and further, with the epilogue—on an incredibly emotional journey.
Sammy – The Story of Us by Barbara Elsborg – I cannot begin to catalogue all the reasons this novel should be on your read list. This is a new adult novel and, as such, there is on-page sex, although that is really a sidebar to the incredible plot twists that continually unfold in this angsty drama. It is most definitely a romance, but one with all kinds of delayed gratification. It is also gut-wrenching, for what happens to these two young men is truly staggering. More than once I had to put this book down just to breathe and assure myself that there would be a happy ending for these guys. Because I have to tell you, that idea often seems so far away that it takes all your strength to push through. But, oh my, the payoff in the end is magnificent and worth every tissue you will undoubtedly use.
Maryann – Late Fees by Marshall Thornton – Besides this being a puzzling and intriguing mystery, Thornton brings real issues into the mix: HIV/AIDs, AZT and alternatives to taking the medication, greed, viatical settlements, and support groups which have Noah giving more deep thought to his own plight with HIV. Noah never complains or makes his HIV an issue, he’s told very few people about it, and is noble in his decision to protect the people around him. He thinks about the future and doesn’t want anyone to suffer or have to face what he did with his ex, Jeffers. He’s even gone so far as to deny himself a relationship. For Noah, at this point, there is no HEA, but he does take a step in the right direction in his fight with HIV.
There are very few characters that I let get under my skin, but Marshall Thornton makes Noah seem so real in dealing with his personal issues that it just shreds my heart. I highly recommend this exceptional series. I’m not sure what’s planned for Noah Valentine’s future, but I for one hope that there’s more to come.
Ky – Loving a Warrior by Melanie Hansen – Loving a Warrior isn’t as emotional or as hard to read [as Point of Contact]. It didn’t make me cry, and I’m thankful for that, but it captured my attention all the same. This time we get a friends-to-lovers theme in a setting where it’s forbidden for them to make the transition. I’m not sure if it was against official rules, but it definitely went against their personal ones. No, there’s no denial or internal struggle with sexuality. Both characters are at peace with who they are. The problem is the time and place where they meet, and I think that the need to keep things quiet came mainly from their desire to focus on training. I liked the progression of them getting close to each other, of them realising that the other one felt the same, of them taking the first tentative steps to something more.
Lisa – Criminal Past by Gregory Ashe – Ashe’s writing is masterful, intense, provocative, and this series is one of the best laid, most meticulously plotted mystery/police procedurals out there. Not only has the past hovered like a death shroud over Hazard and Somers’ present, but that specter has now reared its head to haunt them in terrifying, dreadful, malicious and persistent ways. A focused Emery Hazard is a rather spectacular and fierce thing, but that singular fixation has also caused its share of problems for him. His first love, Jeff Langham, had kept secrets that Emery is only now beginning to uncover, and their connection to political malfeasance, dirty law enforcement, sexual assault, and a multi-layered trafficking ring that includes a white supremacist group is full of twists, turns, and revelations that by turns kept me riveted and left me reeling.
Oz by Lily Morton – Every moment Oz and Silas spend together on-page drives this story towards its inevitable conclusion. There is almost a sense of awe and wonder as their relationship morphs, grows and also, at times, feeds into Oz’s insecurities. Why would a man such as Silas ever be interested in a commoner like Ozzy Gallagher? Oh, but Oz is anything but common, and Silas is a man worth fighting for and holding on to. There is no doubt by story’s end that they belonged together and that the tone and nature of their relationship defines the series’ title, Finding Home. There is also no doubt by story’s end that my heart was nothing but a shmoopy little puddle of joy. This book is every bit as hope-filled and touching as that title suggests and as we have a hint of the setup for the next couple in the series, there is sure to be more embraceable and swoon-worthy moments ahead. It’s also certain this is a book I’ll read over and over again.
And that does it for this month! We’ll be back next time with our Best of 2018 picks, so until then, happy reading!
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Wednesday, November 28, 2018
When Mary invited me to blog, her main question was why did I write this book. I think writers get asked that a lot, and it’s often pretty hard to explain why this book, or why this character. At least, it usually is for me, because I don’t normally set out to write a specific type of story or character. I just write, and what happens, happens. It’s a very organic thing.
In this case, though, I actually did put some forethought into what I was going to work on, and what it might be about before I started. That was mostly because what I had been writing wasn’t sparking for me. I was just puttering and nothing seemed very exciting. I was in a rut.
It’s not that I was getting bored with writing contemporary books. Exactly. But an infusion of new ideas and challenges always makes writing more fun, I think. So I thought, what kind of paranormal or maybe more accurate at the time, not-contemporary book would I want to write?
I knew right away I didn’t want to do werewolves or vampires. I wasn’t going to compete with others who have done it before and probably better than I could. Plus, too many encounters with lake leeches between my toes as a kid have pretty much put me off bloodsuckers for life. And I’m basically a cat person at heart (current furbaby notwithstanding, of course!), so that lets out the wolfy types.
But since I like the idea of magic and of shifters, why not a magical creature that can take a human form? The best of both worlds. And a lizard is perfect, since it totally avoids that whole conflict between my inner cat lady and my very real attachment to the guy on the right here, that delving into the world of wolves would lead to.
So, having decided to imagine a world with dragons who can look like humans if they want, I was left with where to set the story. And let’s face it. I have some experience writing about the contemporary world so it only makes sense that I sort of stick with what I know, at least a bit.
And this is what I know. Despite the fact that the landscape I grew up in carries some pretty hefty scars from the workings of us mundane people, who seem to have so little foresight, it still holds surprising beauty and magic. So I wanted to show that, too. I wanted to show that however small and scarce, there are still pockets of magic in the everyday world around us, and with a little effort, even people who don’t think they have magic can still see it if they try, and even create their own, new and wonderful magic as well.
And so, there. Sunny and Emile. And here, a teensy wee excerpt of their magic for you Mary readers, because I know we all like us a bit of what you just don’t quite catch at the corner of your eye.
“I love days like this,” Sunny murmured. He had an arm up, fingers weaving gracefully through the invisible strands of energy like he was playing the sounds of nature just for Emile.
“Alive like this. Like if you reached out you could touch the sunshine. Cup it and hold it and form it into dreams that you can make come true. You know?” He moved his head a bit, and Emile just felt Sunny will him to look up.
Green and gold light, coloured by the willow’s leaves, hit the side of Sunny’s face. As he’d noticed before, Sunny’s eyes turned a molten amber when the light slanted sideways through them. If Emile weren’t sure he was human through and through, he might believe Sunny actually did know about the magic, maybe even knew how to manipulate it.
If you’re interested in reading more, here’s the blurb:
When Sunny retires to the northern Ontario wilderness to mourn his parents’ deaths, he’s hoping the change of scenery will afford him some peace and quiet.
His hopes are soon spectacularly dashed.
In self-imposed exile, dragon Emile runs across the Fold between his dimension and Sunny’s—and right into Sunny’s arms. Centuries out of touch with human culture, bright, beautiful Emile incinerates any hope Sunny had for an ordinary existence. With dryads and water sprites coming to life all around them, Sunny can’t deny the magic Emile brings to his life—or his heart. But that same magic leads the unrelenting dragon who would keep Emile captive right to them. To save his love, Sunny will have to reach deep and find some magic of his own.
Connect with Jaime here: https://jaimesamms.com/
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
|Spark & Ember storefront|
I waited in the dark for something not quite human—and all too human—to begin.
—Zadie Smith, from “Windows on the Will,” published c. March 2016 (via paris-inthespringtime)
I love the French Quarter in New Orleans. I love it without question, there are no caveats I need to put in there, nothing. I love walking through the streets during the day, stopping in the antique stores on Royal Street, going to the Farmer's Market, and eating. So many amazing places to eat there and new ones pop up every day.
There are also amazing art galleries there and I have actually never come home from a trip to New Orleans without a new piece of artwork either from a store or from one of the amazing artists selling their wares along the wrought iron fence of Jackson Square.
I love the Hotel Monteleone, (may favorite place to stay), of course the beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, and the ghost tours and the cemetery tours and most of all just the thought that lurking in the shadows, or standing just around the corner from me at any given time, could be a vampire.
I blame it on Anne Rice.
Before her there were, of course, vampire stories about New Orleans, but let's face it, you think of Lestat first even though The Originals had a nice run on the CW. I actually love shifters more than vampires, but when you're in the Quarter, vampires are truly what is on your mind.
I came home from my last trip to New Orleans with vampires being the only thing I could think of. Jason, my main character, discovers the magical, brutal, and pulse-pounding world and falls deeper and faster than he could have ever thought possible. It's all because of the prince. Because even though Jason is extremely rational, he still becomes quickly enthralled with Varic. I wanted my vampyr prince to be innately dangerous but not threatening. Because even though he has human characteristics, he is still other and so cannot always exist inside acceptable human behaviors and to write him that way wold have diminished his otherness. The lethal and the sexy have to go hand in hand. Hopefully that all comes across.
I hope you all enjoy taking the trip to the Vieux Carré with me and my vampyrs.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Cheers, everyone, and welcome to a new and not-so-scary October edition of our Book of the Month picks. We’ve got some great recommendations for you this time around and, as always, there’s a chance to win an eCopy of TWO books from the list. Just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget to enter.
Jules – Pisces Hooks Taurus by Anyta Sunday – “We are all fools in love.” – Jane Austen
Warning: Extreme gushing ahead! Ha! I’m not kidding, though, you guys. I think I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading this book. Anyta Sunday nailed it with Pisces Hooks Taurus, the fourth book in her Signs of Love series. It is romantic, sexy, funny, so, so clever, and abundantly charming. Sunday hooked me (heh, heh) at the opening Jane Austen quote, and held me until the final sentence. It feels like it’s been a while since two characters have stolen my heart so quickly and so completely. I truly adored this story.
The Bones Beneath My Skin by TJ Klune – As with all other TJ Klune books, the characters in Bones are unforgettable. Nathaniel Cartwright is a journalist from D.C. who has recently lost his job and his family but inherited his family’s cabin in Oregon, where he was planning to clear his head for a few months. However, that was before he got to the cabin and unexpectedly found that two people, a man and a little girl, were already there. Alex Weir is a gruff, lonely ex-soldier who has tasked himself with being the protector of Artemis Darth Vader, the most unique and unbelievable girl Nate has ever met. Alex sees Nate as a threat, and treats him as such, even though Art keeps insisting that Nate isn’t going to hurt them or betray them. I was immediately taken in by Artemis and charmed by her and Alex’s relationship, even though when we first meet them they are squatting in Nate’s cabin and constantly pointing a gun at him. But, Nate finds himself unable to turn Alex and Artemis in, even though he absolutely feels compelled to do so, and before he knows what’s happened, he’s wrapped up with them as they all run for their lives.
Lindsey – A Springful of Winters by Dawn Sister – This is a sweet romance. Stephan (aka Mr. Spring) isn’t portrayed as a white knight coming in to save Kit. Kit is all good. He is self-reliant and just thinks and communicates a little differently than what society has deemed “normal”. Mr. Spring is someone who sees the breathtaking exquisiteness in Kit’s differences. Who wants to learn and explore the intricacies of Kit’s mind and is willing to take the time to learn who Kit is and what makes him tick.
Kit and Stephan’s slow and tender journey into a romantic relationship had me beaming, and I had a giddy feeling for them when I read the final words; a joyful feeling in my heart is still there while I sit down to write this review. But something else happened. It had me contemplating…me. Specifically, my actions and expectations towards others. I didn’t expect that. Many times, when books make me introspective, they aren’t as lighthearted and sometimes twist me up and spit me out with my thoughts in chaos. That was not the case here; there was a clear message delivered, and one that made me think, but it was a gentle nudge and a pat on the shoulder with a message to do better and be more understanding.
Adder and Willow by Sam Burns – If you haven’t read the first five books in this series, stop and do not continue. Go to the beginning, with Blackbird and the Reeds. This series is a trilogy of trilogies; in the end it will total nine books. While Adder and Willow is the sixth book in the series, it is the third book in the second trilogy, and it absolutely cannot be read as a stand-alone.
For those of you that have been keeping up with this series thus far, I personally felt this was a great installment. While I know that for some Fletcher isn’t their favorite character out of the main three whose perspectives we get, he is mine. I have been waiting for his turn to take center stage again; this story is essential in that it really begins to solidify Fletcher, Connor, and a few of the secondary characters’ roles in the upcoming battle we know is barreling in their direction. As with the prior installments, it answers several questions but also brings up more.
Sammy – Nightfall by John Inman – John Inman combines his skill at writing romance with his equal ability to write intense thrillers in Nightfall. From the very start of this book, you want these two guys to succeed. Watching them dance around their mutual attraction and fear of losing the other, should their feelings not be reciprocated, was both lovely and frustrating. So often I wanted to shout at them to just spit it out already, admit you like each other so we can all sigh and be happy for you. There was just enough buildup, just enough sexual tension, that made the final confessions near perfect. This is a beautiful love story, but life was not done dealing these guys curveballs. As the story unfolds and it becomes apparent that hell is going to be unleashed, you are forced to switch gears and go from happily seeing these guys falling for each other to hoping to god they survive.
Nightfall dares to ask the question, what kind of person will you be when the world is not watching and the chains of civilized behavior cease to exist?
Hex and Candy by Ashlyn Kane – I’m just going to say it, I adored this clever little romance by Ashlyn Kane. Hex and Candy is clever, humorous, captivating and an absolute feel good novel. I must say that I loved both main characters equally. Cole was that typical guy who saw little special about himself and doubted he would ever find someone to love. Not only did he barely come into his powers, later than most, but they weren’t all that strong and he often feels like he is a disappointment to most of his friends and family, particularly his grandmother, whom he loves and most wants to impress.
Carrie – Threepeat by K.C. Wells and Parker Williams – Wells and Parker do a slow burn on Tim’s story, and it was needed. Tim is eighteen and a dichotomy of hard and soft, a natural product of his nature and his upbringing. If the three men had miraculously jumped into bed together, or Sam and Aaron had made Tim their sub within days or even weeks of meeting him, I would have called BS on the whole book. Instead, the authors let it build. All three men have demons to fight, and the authors let them do that in each character’s own time. Wells and Parker let you know that there are three MEN here, not two and a boy, before they bring them together in any kind of sexual situation. It is clear that it is Tim’s choice to be their boy, and I appreciated the way the storyline was handled.
The Captain’s Ghostly Gamble by Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead – Ah, there’s angst…a little. There’s romance in spades. The lighthearted banter between the two ghostly men draws you in, and when the two spirits finally realize what we, the reader, knew all along—that they belong together—your heart will heave a happy sigh. This story paces really well for a novella, and has a definite buildup, climax, and conclusion. It’s totally engaging, with colorful characters—there’s a ghost cat for heaven’s sake—and it’s a pleasure to read. Curzon and Harkstead have a definite knack for scene setting and that comes through clearly. I definitely recommend this story for anyone wanting a ghostly short story that is sweet, funny, endearing and romantic. I have loved this series and recommend not just this novella but all the books.
Jovan – Devil Take Me by Various Authors - Devil Take Me is a wonderful anthology, featuring very well-written novellas that, while all based on the premise of doing a demon/devil a favor to get what you want, illustrates the range and creativity of the authors and delivers on its promise as “one hell of a good time.”
Maryann – Every Other Weekend by TA Moore – Besides being a suspenseful and multi-layered mystery, TA Moore brought out some tender and harsh emotions in this story. Every Other Weekend exposes issues that families try to cover up for the sake of appearances, loyalty and the family name. I really liked Kelly’s character, his heart was in the right place, and even Clayton wore his heart on his sleeve when it came to Maxie. But, most of all, Clayton and Kelly come to an understanding and are willing to put it all on the line for the sake of love. I liked the secondary characters in the story as well. They brought humor, positivity and love to the telling.
This is an absolute page-turner for me, and I’m becoming a big fan of TA Moore’s work.
In the Pines by Laura Lascarso – Laura Lascarso has created a well-written, intriguing, suspenseful, dark YA murder mystery, and it’s just a tad gory too. It touches on loss, suicide, and depression, and how Charlie and his mother try to recover from their personal tragedy. I really liked the relationship Charlie has with his mother, no matter the ups and downs. He’s an amazing character, a good sleuth, and is the glue that holds this story together. Dare was also an interesting character; I almost thought he was guilty along with several of the secondary characters, who all have something to hide. I was totally entertained by this page-turner mystery, and now I’m looking forward to seeing what the author has in-store for Charlie in the next installment of this series.
Lisa – A Hymn in the Silence by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood – One of the singular highlights of York and Altwood’s collaboration on this series is their ability to draw every scene, whether it be terrifying or sedate or romantic, in such a way that one can’t help but be drawn into the story visually or emotionally, or both, simultaneously. Their work is clever, intricate, and detailed, though never in a way that reads as anything but fast paced and purely entertaining. And if one happens to learn something along the way, well, we are all the more enriched for the experience. Not to be outdone, however, is their gift for characterization and the seemingly effortless ability to draw their readers into the lives of the people who populate this series. James and William are flawed and each come from families that are the direct cause of the challenges they work to overcome, and I appreciate that the authors avoided the handy love-conquers-all fix to the personal issues they face. James and William still each battle their own proverbial demons but rather than weakening them, it only serves to illustrate their strength and courage and will to survive, especially in the face of William’s addiction to laudanum and the additional temptation of alcohol to further help him cope.
The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree by Selina Kray – Kray metes out clues and details in perfect portions throughout this novel to keep readers on the hook and guessing who is responsible for a gruesome and particularly horrific murder, all while displaying the desperate measures taken by some women who found themselves in the midst of unplanned, and often unwanted, pregnancies and on the doorstep of the Daughters of Eden. Some might even say at the Daughters’ mercy as it becomes clearer that the cult of personality practices to deceive. The action and suspense were, at times, so all-consuming that it was difficult not to speed read to get through it, but every single morsel doled out was something to be savored nonetheless, and it all built to a climactic moment that then led to everything I’d been waiting for when it comes to the mystery of Hieronymus Bash himself.
And that does it for this time around. Until next month, happy reading!
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