Tag Archives: romance novels

New Release Feature: The Impaler’s Wife by author Autumn Bardot

•..•The Impaler’s Wife by Autumn Bardot•..•

Marriage to a man tortured by his past comes with a price…

I am pleased to announce a great book release by Autumn, a talented author I met during my journey! Her new historical fiction novel with a romance angle, The Impaler’s Wife, officially released last week!

Yay! That’s awesome! :) Congrats on your new release!

When a new book comes out, it’s always an exciting time for an author!

Autumn is giving us a look at her gothic romance, The Impaler’s Wife, today.

What an intriguing cover!

This is the blurb for The Impaler’s Wife:

A young woman is swept into a life of intrigue, revenge, passion, and betrayal when she falls for the world’s most notorious prince.

The year is 1464 and young King Matthias controls Hungary, his family, and the fate of the world’s most notorious political prisoner, Prince Vlad Dracula.

Ilona Szilágy, the king’s cousin, is young and ambitious. Dracula is determined to marry into the Hunyadi family. It is love at first sight, but the king has other plans. The Impaler Prince, however, never takes no for an answer.

This begins Ilona’s journey into the treacherous world of court intrigues, family betrayals, and her husband’s dark desires. Eager to become Vlad’s trusted confidante, Ilona soon discovers that marriage to a man tortured by his past comes with a price.

Woven throughout is a peek into the life and times of one of the world’s most enigmatic and maligned rulers…the man before the legend.

With Bardot’s decadent period detail and a cast of gritty, evocative characters, The Impaler’s Wife offers a fierce yet sensuous glimpse into the violent 15th century.

Here is an excerpt to entice you with!

Prince Vlad rests his hand on the small of my back. “Come, Lady Ilona, look at the faces of anarchy and villainy, and see how much they resemble your friends and family.”

“I will not.” I back away from the entrance where moans rise from the bowels of the labyrinth like a demon’s song.

“The choice is yours, of course.” His tone is low and gentle, but in the lamplight his stare is wolf-like.

I shift from foot to foot, look away, only to glance back. Does he hear my heart knocking against my breast? Can he smell my fear as it beads wet on my neck? Do I want to rise to this challenge? Or am I a fool for allowing him to bait me?

My fingers tighten around the lamp’s clay handle. “I will humor you, my lord, but only because Father taught me courage and graciousness.”

“Mihály taught you well.” He holds out his hand. “My lady.”

The lamp divides the darkness like a saber, each foot forward lighting our descent into hell. Ghostly groans from below seep through the rock. I sink into Vlad’s fur-lined coat as though their suffering will soak into my soul.

Vlad pauses before descending the narrow rock steps leading into the labyrinth’s deepest level. “Are you certain?” His eyes glint with challenge. “A weak constitution is nothing to be ashamed of.”

I lift my chin and glare with pretended insult. “I am the daughter of Michael Szilágyi and Margit Báthory. Iron courage flows in my blood.” I push back my cuff and show him the blue-forked veins in my wrist. “I am as brave as Hadak Ura, our ancient pagan warlord.”

“I believe you, my lady. I will not doubt again.”

The clanking chains and eerie moans get louder with each step down, the noises merging into a demonic choir like that of Ördög’s requiem to the Underworld. My legs shake, my neck wet with icy prickles, and my skin tightens around my chest.

I lift the lamp into hell.

The circle of light shines upon a pockmarked man stretching his arm between the bars, his fingers curled like claws. “Bless me, good sister.”

In the cell next to him, a naked wretch spits onto the ground. “Menj a fenébe!”

“I am innocent!” A third prisoner grabs the bars and presses his wild-bearded face against the iron. “Tell His Highness there is a Turkish spy in his court. He is in danger! You must warn him!”

My head swivels toward Prince Vlad.

“There are always spies,” Vlad whispers.

I walk with measured pace and let the lantern reveal each doomed prisoner. Most stare, empty-eyed; the whips, chains, skin shredders, bone crushers, and strappado take away all hope and spirit. Others shout obscenities. One man kneels, hands in prayer, and mutters the Hail Mary.

The weight of their misery crashes down, squeezes my heart, and crushes my breath. This place must be worse than hell’s torments because these wretches yet live, have all their faculties! No one deserves this! It is inhumane! Sadistic and depraved!

My breath comes in shreds and clumps. I cover my nose with Prince Vlad’s cape, the stench of rotting flesh enfolding me in its putrid embrace. My pace quickens. It is time to end this test of my courage.

“You!” A milky-eyed wretch points to Prince Vlad and begins chanting in a foreign tongue.

Prince Vlad guides me away from the cells. “You have thrice over proven your courage tonight.”

“What language was that man speaking?”

“He recites from the Corpus Hermeticum.” Dracula takes the lantern and illuminates the stairwell. “It’s a pagan book of alchemy, astronomy, and metaphysics.”

“It sounded like he cursed us.”

“Pay no attention to a madman’s rants. That particular book is nothing but Egyptian and Greek nonsense.”

I tread upwards, evil’s chill clinging to my limbs. At the top, I try to purge the dungeon’s misery, malice, and madness with a long exhalation. Yet the horror sticks like nettles in my soul.

“This way.” I move past the dark tunnel and enter the lighted one, relieved to put space and distance between the prisoners and me.

The tunnel ends at a large grotto where Prince Vlad pauses to light the ring of torches affixed to the walls. I wait on a stone bench near the baptismal fount, sighing with relief as the golden glow of the church-like arches infuse peace into my troubled soul.

Prince Vlad sits beside me. “We go from hell to heaven.”

I tuck a stray lock behind my ear. “This was Father’s favorite grotto. God’s Buried Cathedral, he called it. His second favorite has a Titan-sized head emerging from the ground—like a god got stuck in molten rock. I was only in that grotto once. It reminded me of an insect trapped in tree sap that ages to amber—the insect forever entombed—never aging, almost alive in its resin grave.”

“Do you find that horrific or beautiful?” His eyes search mine.

“Both, I suppose.” My shoulders move into my sigh. “Caves are dreary places.”

“I rather enjoy them. Tunnels have saved my life several times.” Dracula stands. “I think we are both ready for fresh air.” He offers his hand, its warmth a familiar comfort.

Together we walk through the tunnel lit by small lanterns that flicker like fireflies all the way to the exit.

Prince Vlad gives the stubborn iron-crossed door a hard yank and it groans open. Outside, a sapphire dawn drapes over Buda.

“On no.” My hands fly to my face. “It’s so late it’s early.” Were we in the tunnels that long? If my aunts discover I never returned to my room…I spin about, my voice edged with panic. “I have to go back. Now.”

Vlad’s brows crease with concern. He tugs a handkerchief from his robe and touches it to my lips as though dabbing at a smudge. “There’s something I must do first.” He lays the linen over my lips and sets his mouth on mine.

Even through the thin fabric, his lips sear my own. I part my lips, feel the linen moisten with the breath of our lust. I collapse into him, my body sizzling with desire. I am about to rip away the fabric and taste his lips when he breaks the kiss.

Vlad Dracula steps back, the handkerchief between thumb and forefinger. “If you marry Luigi della Scala, you will still be chaste.” He drags the handkerchief across his mouth. “I will always have this.”

Chaste? Prince Vlad just violated my heart and corrupted my flesh!

Back in my chambers, I touch my lips that still burn with the memory of our kiss—my first kiss—and groan. Vlad Dracula used my virtue, conceit, and fears to study the labyrinth’s secrets. He took advantage of my desire for romantic adventure to learn the escape route.

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/3ygVlv

Publisher: Flores Publishing

Nice! Great tension. Gotta love this sneak peek. ♥♥♥

Let’s check out an intriguing book trailer!

Awesome!

Thank you for telling us about your new book! It sounds fabulous! 🙂

Readers, don’t forget to pick up a copy of this riveting read! Or add it to your Goodreads bookshelf!

Author Bio

Autumn Bardot writes erotica and historical fiction about sassy women and daring passions.

Her erotica includes Legends of Lust (Cleis Press), and Confessions of a Sheba Queen (Cleis, Jan 2020).  Autumn has a BA in English literature and a MaEd in curriculum and instruction. She’s been teaching writing and literary analysis for fourteen years. Autumn lives in Southern California with her hubby, rescue pooch, and ever-increasing family.  Her favorite things include salty French fries, coffee, swimming, and a great book.

Author Links

Website:  http://www.autumnbardot.com/

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

Club Autumn

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/AutumnBardot

Amazon author page:  https://www.amazon.com/Autumn-Bardot/e/B07DMC7ZB6/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17725628.Autumn_Bardot

Newsletter Sign-up here (right side of page)

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/autumnbardot/

 

Thanks again, Autumn! We hope to see you back on ILRB sometime. 

Happy reading, everyone!🙂

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Book News, Book Release, Books, Fiction, Gothic, Historical, Historical Romance, Readers, Romance, Writing

Book Review: The Homecoming (Bayou Shifters Book 1) by Tammy Tate

This week’s I Love Romance Blog review selection is The Homecoming by Tammy Tate. Once I started this one, I just kept reading – great beginning to the series!

The book jumps right into the story and I definitely appreciate that. Sometimes you just want the meat and potatoes. Sydney is goin’ on a trip. More specifically, she’s going to stay with her aunt and her pack of wolf shifters at their home on the outskirts of New Orleans. After Sydney’s mother died, her human father knew that he couldn’t help her transition, so she reluctantly agrees to go.

Her dreams have been wreaking havoc, though. It’s the same dream over and over and it always leaves her wanting.

Kyle and his best friend Beau are living the life – working, fishing, and running. But, one of them isn’t sleeping that well either.

In a story full of action, adventure, love, romance, sex, shifters, and yes, vampires – you will definitely be hooked, too.

For all this and so much more that you’ll have to discover when you read it – I give The Homecoming By Tammy Tate 5 HEARTS!

Book Info:

Sydney is half human, half wolf and has fallen in love with Kyle, a full-fledged shifter who for the last six months has been appearing in her dreams. During the next full moon, she will make her first shift from human to wolf. The transformation won’t be easy. It could leave her disfigured. Or, worse. Dead.

Kyle is in Bayou Fontaine. For the sake of the pack, the council has already chosen him a mate. Sydney and Kyle face incredible odds to be together and soon become pawns in a deadly game of survival.

The clock is ticking…

Universal Reader link: https://books2read.com/u/3LGNXM

Here are some teasers!

And the book trailer…

AUTHOR: Tammy Tate

TITLE: The Homecoming (book one of the Bayou Shifters Series)

GENRE: Paranormal Romance – Werewolves, Shifters and Vampires

RELEASE DATE: January 14, 2017

PUBLISHER: Amazon Digital Services LLC

ISBN/ASIN: B01N4OJD6J

OUR RATING: ♥♥♥♥♥

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Ethan

 

Get your copy for only 99 cents here.

Up next week: Choosing the Cowboy by Liz Isaacson

Thanks for reading our weekly book review on ILRB!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogging, book reviews, Books, Event, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, rating, Readers, Reviews, Romance, score, Writing

Exclusive Interview with author Kaitlynzq, plus a look at romance audiobook, LEGEND OF SONG DE LIGHT!

Hi, readers! I am pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. We’re doing something a little different. This is our eighth official author interview on this romance blog! I know in the past, we did character interviews then switched over to the author’s take on it, but this approach is a bit unusual.

We have a real treat for you, readers. Today we get to speak one-on-one with a talented author. Please join me in welcoming Kaitlynzq to ILRB! 🙂

Marie Lavender:  Hi, Kaitlynzq. Please have a seat.

Author Kaitlynzq:  Hello, Marie.

Marie:  Hey, it’s such a pleasure to have you here!

I’m going to throw in a few standard questions first.

Obviously, we know your occupation as an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do?

I know I’m overloading you with questions, but we’re really interested in finding out more about you…

Kaitlynzq:  I’m an author with a focus on adult literary fiction, poetry, and romance. ​To write for me is a need, almost like breathing. Writing is how I feel in rhythm with me, as me.

Marie:  I know what you mean! 😉

Tell us…what is your greatest dream?

Kaitlynzq:  I have many dreams; some centered on my writing, and others on love. These are delicate areas to talk about, and not always easy to discern what to share. For my writing, I have many aspirations for my current books, and for the stories that are evolving within me to write.

Marie:  All right. I know dreams can change.

So, let’s try something else now, okay?

What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?

Kaitlynzq:  I have always dreamed of being a writer as long as I can remember. Even as a young girl when I explored other artistic mediums, like being a fashion designer, or dance choreographer, creating time to write fictional stories was always part of how I would design my life’s plan.

Marie:  Me too!

What is your deepest desire, Kaitlynzq?

Kaitlynzq:  As a continuation to your previous questions, one of my deepest desires is to get to spend my life writing, and get to create the stories that are in my imagination.

Marie:  That’s understandable.

Tell me something…what is your greatest fear?

Kaitlynzq:  One of my greatest fears is that my doubts, and internal criticism are true.

Marie:  I think we all fear that on some level…

So, I want to try something different next.

Readers, let’s shift somewhat and get the author’s perspective on one of her characters.  🙂

We’ve heard rumors about the hero of your story, Kessington. Quite an interesting character. Can you tell us a little about him?

Kaitlynzq:  One of the characters within ​Legend of Song de Light audio book that I hold in a special way within my heart is Kessington.

He’s a tender gentleman that feels deeply, and has a natural open heart within all the degrees of emotions.

His birthday is September 18th, and his full name is part of the discovery within ​Legend of Song de Light.

Marie:  Okay.

What are your character’s greatest strengths?

Kaitlynzq:  He is a man with a wonderful curiosity, and an openness to the world.

And, his exquisite way of painting the felt experiences of living moments into a song.

Marie:  Nice!

And what are his greatest weaknesses?

Kaitlynzq:  I find it very hard to find any weaknesses within him.

Marie:  I see.

Let’s try something fun, shall we?

What are some important elements we can find within Kessington’s world?

Kaitlynzq:  He creates model vintage train sets that bring his amazing imagination to visual display that he then streams into soundscape artistry of what his heart hears in his experiences.

Part of his sound world that plays a significant link in his life is a saxophone, and the instrument’s subtleties are shared throughout ​Legend of Song de Light audio book.

His favorite color palette is antique silver and seafoam green, and he has a special fondness for the KEWORA Symphony.

Marie:  Awesome… 🙂

How about another question?

What’s a positive quality that your character is unaware that he or she has?

Kaitlynzq:  He emanates so beautifully a masculine tenderness.

Marie:  Cool! Those characters are usually difficult to come across.

Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?

Kaitlynzq:  I realize that each reader will have their own experience with Kessington’s story.

Recently, I’ve started creating videos that share more about the characters in ​Legend of Song de Light. This particular video for Kessington shares about a very special sound within a soundwave.

I’m looking forward to creating more of these videos.

Marie:  Lovely!

Now that we have a real taste of Kessington, we have a few questions for you as well as the author, about the writing process of your book.

What first gave you the idea for Legend of Song de Light?

Kaitlynzq:  The idea for ​Legend of Song de Light was a continual prompt from my heart. Something told me to begin, and the story revealed itself the more I wrote. One emotion filled layer after another. And, this story continues to reveal more for me now, each time I listen to the audio book, or read the audio play.

Marie:  Great!

Interesting how the muse works, huh? 😉

Let’s try something else.

What is your writing style like? Are you a pantster or a plotter?

Kaitlynzq:  I’m definitely a plotter. I have my notes, notebooks, online documents, and spreadsheets. All trying to stay up with my imagination.

Marie:  I know, right?

I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Legend of Song de Light or publishing it? What would you do differently the next time?

Kaitlynzq:  I think that there are benefits with all of the possibilities in how an author chooses to publish their work. For me, I’ve decided to self-publish all of my books, and created my book boutique to make them available for everyone online.

One challenge for me are my nerves as I proceed into something new, whether that’s within a new element of writing, or all that is involved with self-publishing. So many feelings occur, such as, scared, excited, ‘what if’ doubts, et cetera, and often, all of these feelings at one time. I’m still working on this challenge; however, somehow I know these particular choices I’ve made are right for me.

Marie:  Indie publishing can be quite a challenge…

Well, it was a such a pleasure having you here on the I Love Romance Blog! And how apropos is that, considering what a great story Legend of Song de Light appears to be. Congratulations on your book… ♥

Here is the blurb:

The stories within Legendof Song de Light

connect, unfold, interweave many character’s stories

needs, feelings, desires, dreams

their threads as two crescent moons

connected under the firelights

that layer the chords, and form the lyrics

all of you entered my world as dawn’s awakening sky of soft palette

my garnet heart melted in iridescence to bloom in sun’s rays glow in night’s depth as the stars echo the rhythm of my heart my insides sigh and expand in delight harmonious blend as our lives

circle the melody

Information for the audio book:​  Recorded in Kaitlynzq’s voice with a blend of music like a heart’s wave into downloadable MP3 files.

An audio book which is interwoven in the LovecontuSong de Light Lovecontu series that includes…

Ancient Script of Lovecontu audio poem

Legend of Song de Light audio book

Legend of Song de Light audio play

Lovecontu Song de Light Lovecontu audio set

Hashtag for ​series of interconnected stories: #lovecontusongdelightlovecontu

Vocal Synopsis:​  

Kaitlynzq is also offering us a teaser from the audiobook!

“…I awoke to a sonic dream of rhapsody ensemble, hummingbird wings, and chimes that were the arrangement…”

 

“…Again and again I muted the caution sign, and proceeded with Kamille, but my mind got even more insistent as I thought of telling her…”

 

“…Those chrysanthemums burst a duet of color that are silk to the touch, and bring visions of a certain lady, but I haven’t returned to the garden since that day in May…”

 

“…Dearest Euzy,

Your drum of cashmere footsteps,

harp of silk strings touch,

and velvet flute voice,

Are an ensemble for my heart.

Forever yours,

Edwin…”

 

“…As my imagination worked its magic, I vibrated to a guitar string’s luxurious touch…”

 

“…Dendranthema x grandiflora has layers of petals that caress every fiber of the flower’s center, as my dear Rquhwy’s touch vibrates in my veins to the core of my breath…”

 

“…The room that is partitioned with a fireplace’s heat wave, and holds teardrop flower petals in the corners, flows freely into my heart with each pebble of sand in an hourglass. Wisjvye’s heartbeat radiates…”

 

“…Danseur pulls ballerina into him, their eyes speaking the volumes in their hearts as he lifts her above to hold a cherimey for an eight count. He draws her into him again, and upon her signal, tosses her high in the air for a leatur to land softly in his arms. Danseur reimey, as ballerina performs an intricate ​olor fu de ar, a bea uh li, triple tizpin, turns back to Danseur, and magnifi-gras-se-susay.Danseur catches her right on cue. Joined hand to hand, they geeté,geeté, adream petite into the final trusetluh-es-aglolift, and return encircled with their eyes speaking the volumes in their hearts…”

 

…The developmental process of this collection included the use of a paint brush to add to the photos the undercurrent of feeling within them, and when the four piece panorama is placed side-by-side, a gentle stream is seen that carries this private story…

Intriguing! I’m curious to find out more… 😀

Title:​ Legend​ of Song de Light

Author Name:​​ Kaitlynzq

Genre: Adult​ Literary Fiction, Romance

Purchase Links:

Available to purchase on my Website that is supported by two URL addresses:

https://kaitlynzq.com/

https://kaitlynzq.boutique/

 

Direct Links on my Website to the story:

https://kaitlynzq.com/legend-of-song-de-light-audio-book

https://kaitlynzq.boutique/legend-of-song-de-light-audio-book/

We’ll be sure to get a copy of this adult literary romance! ♥♥♥

About Kaitlynzq

I currently live in Elk Grove, California. My fictional stories are written from the inside view of a character’s interior heart-

that

beautiful, vulnerable, intimate space

feelings, desires, needs, dreams

 

a blend of

 

delicate feather ripples of heart waves

needs, feelings, dreams, desires

quiet, gentle heart strings

tender, continuous

soft, vulnerable air mist

circles, weaves to caress

a sonic sea of heart’s breath

Woven into audio books that are recorded in my voice with a medley of music as a heart’s wave into downloadable MP3 files; audio plays adapted from the audio books, and layered into PDF files like a heart’s song; audio poems that are multiple poems designed to connect to form a story as a heart’s breath; and audio sets that are sets of these interconnected stories with elements from each story that interweave in one another as heart’s wave, heart’s song, heart’s breath.

Works:

And, if you want to know how to connect with the fascinating Kaitlynzq, here are some author links…

 

Here are her video and blog post about this interview…

https://kaitlynzq.com/blog/interviewed-by-marie-with-i-love-romance-blog

 

Once again, I’d like to thank Kaitlynzq, the brilliant author of this romantic audiobook, for stopping by!  It was a pleasure to have you here! Readers, check out her work! ♥

3 Comments

Filed under audiobook, Authors, Blogging, Book News, Books, Event, Guest Writer, Interview, Literary Fiction, Poetry, Readers, reflections, Romance, Stories, Writing

Recommended Read: Break My Chains by Nicolina Martin

I know Kevin usually does a review per week, but I couldn’t help jumping in here to talk about the book I just finished last night! ♥ Nicolina Martin’s Break My Chains is so spicy, a little dark, and has enough suspense to keep you going. I just couldn’t put this one down…

I literally stumbled across this novel on Amazon. When I read the sample, it just drew me in and I had to buy it!! ❤

With elements of dark romance, some erotica, and enough suspense to keep the storyline moving, you can’t go wrong with this read. Mia and Martin are such fascinating characters, each tough in their own right. It makes them quite a match, and just adds to the steamy tension. Loved this book…and I don’t hand out five stars easily!
I simply devoured this book! 😀
Book Info:
When nothing is what it seems, who can you trust?

Martin Garrett has sworn to die rather than go back to prison. He’ll stop at nothing to reach freedom, but even he can’t win over the forces of nature. When he gets caught in a violent snowstorm, he has no choice but to seek shelter. He can’t know that the young woman opening the door will change his life forever.

Fleeing her troubled past in Arizona, leaving her loved ones behind, Mia Cassidy has found solace in an isolated cabin in the deep woods of Colorado. She’s hesitant to let the tall, hulking, and oddly attractive stranger into her home, but the storm is lethal. She has no way of knowing this chance encounter will rip her from her cocoon and make her question everything she thought she knew.

Trapped together, their unexpected meeting soon turns into a battle of wills and a fight against the irresistible pull between them. When the fragile trust they’ve built is betrayed, everything comes crashing down. Mia must unravel the secrets and find the truth before it’s too late to save either of them.

Publisher’s Note: This steamy contemporary love story is not your typical wine and chocolates romance. It has a dark edge but if you’re up for the ride there is a guaranteed HEA. It contains elements of mystery, suspense, action, adventure, danger, betrayal, and power exchange.

Universal Reader link: https://books2read.com/u/3LGnwD

Here’s a peek at the book…

Martin Garrett, convicted five years ago almost to the day for committing a heinous series of murders between 2011 and 2013, escaped this morning from Penitentiary Florence High. The details of his escape have not been revealed. Garrett is considered extremely dangerous and caution is recommended. If anyone sees this man…

The whistling from the water kettle drowns out the rest. I’m leaning my elbows on the kitchen counter, staring out the frosted window. A thick layer of snow has covered everything during the night. It’s so white from where I’m standing; I can’t even make out the shapes of the outside world. It’s like someone wrapped a large sheet around my house. I’m not entirely taken by surprise. It’s my second winter here and it gets really cold, and really wintery in Colorado. The difference between Arizona and where I live now couldn’t be greater. Sighing, I move away from the window and take the kettle off the stove. The whistling fades and comes to a stop. They forecasted snow. I don’t think I listened well enough. Pouring the boiling water in the cup, I watch it turn black as the instant coffee dissolves. I stare vacantly at the mug, my thoughts sprawling in every different direction. I need to locate the shovel and find my truck under those masses. I have cans but not a lot of fresh food, so I really need to go into town if I still want bread, milk, eggs, cheese and… I look around me. Fruit. Grimacing, I grab the cup and head off into the living room, which also doubles as office, dining area and hallway. That’d be ‘quadruples as’, I think as I sink down on the chair and set the cup on the table.

As I flip open the lid to my old MacBook it chimes pleasantly, and I realize I forgot to shut it down last night. Again. I yawn, stretch and glance at the clock on the wall. Twenty past nine. The morning passes too quickly and I need to get some work done. I’m helping a local store with some images for marketing, a newspaper ad, some flyers and whatnot. I’ve strayed far, far away from the exhibition at the Etherton Gallery I had when I was twenty-one. When I was young and ‘promising’.

Three years ago.

What happened then was a nightmare I am still trying to wake up from. Pushing the thoughts away, I click on the folder for Farman’s Fishing Lodge. I trekked the woods day in and day out, walking along the river, catching the fine rainbow-colored mist as the water slammed against the rocks in its path downstream. The pictures turned out fantastic. Local flora and fauna, fishermen standing in their yellow pants, the color reflected in the calm surface, sun glittering in tiny ripples. For a few days I was really happy with my choice to move here. The fresh air, the smell of approaching snow, the sometimes near-silence out there.

The tranquility only lasts moments before I return to myself, but I cherish them.

I start sorting the images: by motifs, by colors, by how the sky and the ground harmonize with each other. Choosing a few I intend to show Mr. Waltman, I copy them and begin to toy around with effects.

As I lose myself in work, I don’t register how many hours pass until I notice the corners of the room are darker and that my stomach aches. I study the processed images on the screen. Several of them are everything he asked for, and I hope my client will see it as well. I need the money. Desperately. I stand, straighten my back, and stretch my arms until my hands almost touch the low ceiling, then I close my laptop and head for the kitchen to see if I can find anything that appeals to me.

Armed with canned soup I heated in the microwave, and a bottle of beer, I sink down on the couch and turn the TV back on. I doubt anything interesting has happened in my little corner of the world.

Terrorist attacks in Europe. A gas line leaking in Russia. Price of oil increasing. Some prisoner on the run.

I eat and keep flipping through the channels until I give up and resort to watching a cop show that doesn’t crave my attention. Everything is very dramatic, with shaky camera movements, flashing blue and red lights, men screaming when they’re pushed to the ground, women screaming when their men are pushed to the ground. I study the handiwork of the cameraman. It looks sloppy and haphazard, but he’s really clever in how he switches between objects and with the angles he chooses. I like being surprised by a random TV show.

Dropping the spoon on the table next to the bowl, I lean against the backrest, and stare at the ceiling. It’s made of pine boards, yellowed with age, giving the cabin a dark and moody feel. Then and there I decide to paint it when I get the money from this gig. A soft white should go well with the dark hardwood floor and the cute floral patterns on my couch and armchair. I rub my face and glance out the window. It’s not dark yet and I need to get some of the snow off my porch and make a path to my truck. There’s at least thirty feet to plow to get to the truck, then I have to keep shoveling until I get to where my yard meets the road. I doubt they’ll plow it today, though. Shit. Probably not tomorrow either.

I down the rest of the soup but leave the beer, then I rise. Jack, who’s been sleeping on his rug in the corner, immediately starts panting. He lifts a thick, furry eyebrow and watches me carefully under a heavy, barely open eyelid. Am I going where he thinks I’m going? When I lift a foot to put it in my boot he realizes that yes, I am indeed. Giving off a robust bark, he jumps up with ease, despite his huge body, and trots toward me, his tail wagging eagerly. He puts his snout against the back of my knee and pushes, looking at me pleadingly. I rub him behind an ear as I push my foot into the other boot and tie it.

“Did you think I’d forget you, silly dog?” Grabbing my jacket, I pat my thigh. “Come on!”

Jack doesn’t need to be told twice and lays his paws on the door, reaching up level with my face. He was such a cute little puppy when I took him in, having been abandoned when his former owner died, but Bernese Mountain dogs don’t stay small. He’s my company, my only friend, and my protection. Our long walks every day have healed me somewhat over the year I’ve had him.

As I pull down the handle, he pushes at the door, but is met by resistance. I frown and help him, slowly opening the slit until it is wide enough for us to squeeze through.

With a loud groan I take in the massive cover of snow. It’s gotta be a foot deep. Or more. It’s beautiful. Pure and untouched. But it needs to go.

“Get out there, boy,” I tell Jack and he jumps straight out, giving out a squeal of surprise when the cold white layer hits his belly. I laugh, push the door closed and go in search of the shovel.

After forty minutes there’s a narrow path to the truck, and a visible front window and driver’s door. I’ve had to shove Jack off me over and over, him thinking it’s a game. Panting, and drenched in sweat, I lean on the shovel and study my handiwork, then I lift my gaze to the prematurely darkening sky. The clouds are a heavy dark blue. Menacing. More snow is on the way. Much more. Fuck. I clutch at my burning chest. I’m exhausted, in need of a shower, a good book in front of the fireplace, and then sleep. I pray my hard work won’t be undone come morning.

I call for Jack who is happily jumping around at the edge of the forest and go inside. Pulling the door shut throws us into semi-darkness. Before I head for the bathroom I start a fire. Crumpling pages of old newspapers into little balls, I push them between perfectly dry logs and light them up. Soon orange flames lick the wood, charring it, creating beautiful gleaming serpentines around the edges. I put the cast iron mesh in front of the fireplace, and head for my well-deserved shower.

When I get back out Jack is restless and whining. He paces the room, and starts circling me as soon as he spots me. I have a towel wrapped around my body and dab my hair with another.

“What is it, sweetie?” I crouch in front of him, rub the thick fur on his neck and look around, but nothing seems out of the ordinary. The room has that good, dry warmth that only comes from a lit fireplace. Despite that, a shiver runs through me, and I quickly put on a pair of sweatpants and a flannel shirt. I postpone my own pleasure a little longer and go to give Jack some fresh food. It seems to calm him and soon he guzzles down the canned meat with his usual sloppiness, tail wagging. I give him a pat and, finally, I can sit down again with the intent to do absolutely nothing for the rest of the night. I turn the TV back on and flip through the channels, but then I just mute it and look at the fire instead, drinking my lukewarm beer.

I nearly fly through the roof when Jack suddenly howls, barks, then howls again. He runs to the front door, then back, then in circles. I stand, the hair rising on the back of my neck.

“Jack, boy, what is it?”

He looks at me and whines, crouching, his tail between his legs. Then he jumps up again and runs toward the door, barking.

“Enough!” I go to him and grab the loose skin at his neck, crouching before him as I glance at the silent door. “Shh!”

He’s quiet, but on high alert. I’m quiet too, also on high alert. Holding my breath, I listen intently but hear nothing. I rise and that’s when a loud rap on the door pierces the silence, quickly followed by two more.

Three heavy, ominous knocks.

My heart instantly jumps up in my throat and nearly suffocates me with its wild pounding. No one comes here. Not normally, and most certainly not when the snow is so thick you can’t come unless you are in a tracked vehicle, and they only do that if there’s a medical emergency. If you’re snowed in, you’re snowed in.

Who is out there? I swallow nervously and take a step toward the door when three new loud knocks make me jump. I shake my head at my own suspiciousness. Whoever it is, it must be someone who needs help. Covering the remaining distance, I then press down on the handle and try to push the door open, but it’s jammed again. I manage a couple of inches, then a hand grips the edge and suddenly the door flies wide open.

I stare at the vision before me. It’s a man: tall, wide, covered in snow from top to toe, and with clothes that are way too thin. Even in the faint light I see how blue his lips are. I open my mouth to ask, I don’t know, maybe what he wants, but then I change my mind. Whoever he is, he is clearly in some kind of emergency. Looking out at the wintery night, then back at the yeti before me, I shake my head in disbelief.

“Good God. Come inside!”

He doesn’t need to be told twice and takes a step forward, past the threshold. Towering over me, his hulking appearance dominates the room. I swallow hard and reach past him to close the door. The wind fights me and snowflakes whip in my face. I hadn’t realized it had started snowing again, and blowing. Behind me Jack is letting out a high-pitched noise.

The door slams closed and I turn back to the man. The top of my head reaches to his shoulder. He is gigantic. He has a big, dirty-blond beard, covered in snow. The snow in his eyelashes has started to melt. I have to crane my neck to meet his eyes. He’s frowning, looking down at me with an unreadable expression as he rakes a hand through his hair and shudders.

“Thanks.”

His voice is hoarse, a deep baritone that challenges the sudden silence in the house. I still don’t move, cornered in the narrow space between him and the door. A girl alone letting in a stranger is not a clever move, but what choice did I have? Let him freeze to death?

AUTHOR: Nicolina Martin

TITLE: Break My Chains

GENRE: New Adult Romantic Suspense, Some Erotica, Dark Romance

RELEASE DATE: February 6, 2019

PUBLISHER: Blushing Books Publications

ISBN/ASIN: B07NGQT8LB

OUR RATING: ♥♥♥♥♥

REVIEWED BY: Marie Lavender

Anyway, just wanted to give you my thoughts on this fantastic read! Grab a copy of this new release! 😉

1 Comment

Filed under Blogging, Book Release, book reviews, Books, Contemporary, dark romance, Erotica, Event, New Adult, new release, rating, Readers, Reviews, Romance, Romantic Suspense, steamy, Thriller/Suspense, Writing

Exclusive Interview with author Kimberly Stuart, plus a look at contemporary romance, SUGAR!

Hi, readers! I am pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. We’re doing something a little different. This is our seventh official author interview on this romance blog! I know in the past, we did character interviews then switched over to the author’s take on it, but this approach is a bit unusual.

We have a real treat for you, readers. Today we get to speak one-on-one with a talented author of romance novels. Please join me in welcoming Kimberly Stuart to ILRB! 🙂

Marie Lavender:  Hello, Kimberly. Please have a seat.

Author Kimberly Stuart:  Hi, Marie!

Marie:  Hey, it’s such a pleasure to have you here!

I’m going to throw in some standard questions first.

Obviously, we know your occupation as an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do?

I know I’m overloading you with questions, but we’re really interested in finding out more about you…

Kimberly:  I am a mom and a writer, most days in that order. I feel very grateful to have both of those jobs and to get the chance to pursue both at once. For the writing gig, I write women’s contemporary fiction, always with sassy humor and a chemistry-driven romance. I like to say that if you like Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movies, you would like my novels.

Marie:  (Chuckles.) Of course I do! 😉

So, tell us…what is your family like?

Kimberly:  My husband, Marc, is my intrepid and patient co-conspirator. We have been married twenty years. We are parents to two teenagers, one ten-year-old, and the caretakers of a mini Schnauzer who thinks he’s a German shepherd. Our home is a lot of things, but quiet is not one of them.

Marie:  Nice!

Let’s try something else, okay?

If it doesn’t bother you at all, can you let us know what your childhood home looked like?

Kimberly:  I grew up in a brick house at the end of quiet street. My brother, sister, and I had the run of the neighborhood, and we also spent lots of time exploring in a field behind our house. My favorite spot, though, was a white porch swing out front where I could tuck into my pile of library books on summer days. I am a fierce supporter and defender of libraries to this day because libraries let me inhabit all sorts of worlds far beyond that field and that porch swing.

Marie:  Great!

Do you have any hobbies, Kimberly? What do you enjoy doing?

Kimberly:  I still love to read, even though lazy mornings on the porch don’t happen often around here these days. I also love to cook (and eat!), take long bike rides, and I love to force my family to watch 80’s movies. There is simply nothing better than an evening with The Goonies.

Marie:  Sounds like a plan!

So…what is your greatest dream?

Kimberly:  My greatest dream is that my kids would grow up to love God and love others with a ferocious, adventurous, stubborn love. I also dream of a summer spent in Greece and of waking up one day with a phenomenal set of abdominal muscles, but I’m guessing that’s not the root of your question. 🙂

Marie:  (Laughs.) Well, that would be fun! Why not? 😉

Let’s try another question.

What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?

Kimberly:  I would like to be the person who can throw open her doors at a moment’s notice and throw lovely, warm, welcoming soirees. What’s stopping me is my need to vacuum.

Marie:  Right? It’s a toss-up between cleaning and writing…writing or blogging usually wins for me.

Not to pry too much, but who was your first love?

Kimberly:  Safe answer: My dad. He’s still my first and most stalwart hero.

Unsafe answer: A boy who was beautiful and kind and lovely, and who broke my heart. He shall remain unnamed because I assume he has access to the internet. 😉

Marie:  (Chuckles.)

All right, let’s try something else now.

What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?

Kimberly:  My childhood dream was to become a famous singer. I torched all my sing-alongs to my favorite records in my basement, so I didn’t see why that wouldn’t work out just grand. Turns out, I ended up in a just-as-unlikely career, writing stories for my supper. I do still sing regularly at my church. And in our kitchen.

Marie:  So, who is your role model, Kimberly?

Kimberly:  My grandma. She is strong and gentle, feisty and compassionate. She is 96 years old and who I want to be when I grow up.

Marie:  Lovely!

Is there someone you pretend to like but really dislike?

Kimberly:  I’m a very poor pretender. The signals are usually pretty spot on, for better or for worse.

Marie:  Me too! I would be terrible at acting.

Let’s try another question.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, what five essentials would you need with you? They don’t have to be practical.

Kimberly:  My husband and four really long books. My husband would be a master survivalist, and we’d be eating grilled fish over a fire within an hour. But he does have one failing: He does not write novels. So I’d have to bring a stash.

(Laughs.) There you go!  😀

Readers, let’s shift somewhat and get the author’s perspective on one of her characters.  🙂

We’ve heard rumors about the heroine of your story, Charlie Garrett. Quite an interesting character. Can you tell us a little about her?

Kimberly:  Charlie is an ambitious, talented pastry chef in a very male-dominated restaurant world. She works insane hours and is unflinchingly focused on her goal of being head pastry chef in a prestigious restaurant.

Marie:  Wow!

What are your character’s greatest strengths?

Kimberly:  She is smart, hard-working, and she’s a born leader.

Marie:  Nice!

And what are her greatest weaknesses?

Kimberly:  She stinks at work-life balance, and she’s too rigid.

Marie:  Okay…

Let’s try something fun, shall we?

What are some of her favorite foods?

Kimberly:  That would be a long list. Charlie loves simple food made well and shared with friends. No white tablecloths, no fancy menu. She gets enough of that at work. Slow roasted pork on corn tortillas, guacamole with big chunks of avocado, and a double layer chocolate cake would be heaven any day of the week.

Marie:  Sounds like the perfect menu! 😉

How about another question?

What’s a positive quality that your character is unaware that he or she has?

Kimberly:  Her tender heart. It’s been ignored a bit since the insanity of culinary school and beyond, but it’s in there. It will just take the right guy to mine it.

Marie:  All right.

Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?

Kimberly:  Mostly like. She’ll make them frustrated at times, but in the end, I think they will be her biggest cheerleaders.

Marie:  Great!

Now that we have a real taste of Charlie, we have a few questions for you as well as the author, about the writing process of your book.

What first gave you the idea for Sugar?

Kimberly:  I am an avid home chef and baker, so I was super curious about Charlie’s life in a high-end commercial kitchen. I spend a lot of months, years even, with my main characters, so it’s important to me that they are interesting enough to hang with them for that long. Turns out, Charlie was a good pick.

Marie:  Nice!

Interesting how the muse works, huh? 😉

Let’s try something else.

What is your writing style like? Are you a pantster or a plotter?

Kimberly:  I started as a pantser, particularly in the years of toddlers, napping, and preschool. There just weren’t a lot of extra moments to plot, and my writing was squeezed out of any time I could find. As I’ve written more, however, I have leaned more heavily into the pre-writing plotting. I like to have a general, skeletal map. I feel like it focuses my writing time and that it enables me to trust the process more fully. Another perk is that I stare less at a blinking cursor, which is always a plus!

Marie:  I know, right?

I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Sugar or publishing it? What would you do differently the next time?

Kimberly:  Oh, boy, yes, there were challenges! Obstacles abounded. It took forever to find a home for Sugar, and that was after I had five published novels under my belt! I thought I’d cleared that hurdle! Not so much. After about eighteen months of my agent shopping it around, I stripped it down to the two main characters and nothing more and started again on page one. It was a great exercise in both humility and tenacity. I learned a lot about why I write and what I want readers to gain from spending time with my stories. I also learned that the hardest-won battles are the sweetest. Sugar found the perfect home, it was picked up by all Target stores nationwide, it has continued to find an audience months after its release, and there is interest from film and TV producers in developing it for one of those media. Its road to publication was messy and circuitous, but I learned so much and I wouldn’t change it if I could.

Marie:  Impressive!

Well, it was a such a pleasure having you here on the I Love Romance Blog! And how apropos is that, considering what a great story Sugar appears to be… ♥

Here is the blurb:

After realizing her coworkers at L’Ombre, a high-profile restaurant in NYC, will never appreciate or respect her, Charlie Garrett allows her ex-boyfriend, Avery Michaels, to convince her to work for him as executive pastry chef at his new Seattle hotspot, Thrill. She’ll have her own kitchen, her own staff—everything she ever wanted professionally.

When she arrives at Thrill, however, she realizes that Avery wanted more than a pastry chef for his restaurant—he wanted a costar for the reality show they’re filming about the restaurant and its staff. Charlie is uncomfortable with the idea at first, but she soon realizes that this is her chance to show the world what women in the kitchen are capable of. She sets some ground rules with the film crew, signs a non-disclosure agreement, and promptly meets the man of her dreams, Kai, off-camera.

The show, and her demanding work schedule as head of the pastry kitchen, makes it nearly impossible for Charlie and Kai to spend time together. Drama on and off the set soon take a toll on Charlie’s well-being, forcing her to choose if life in front of the camera is worth sacrificing life behind the scenes.

Sugar is a contemporary romance, set in the high-pressure commercial kitchens of New York and Seattle. A funny and clever story of how a female chef learns to thrive in the ruthless world of premier restaurants.

Kimberly is also offering us a teaser from the book!

With another shift almost completed, I wondered for the millionth time if the restaurant business attracted a disproportionate number of insane people. I glanced at the oversized clock on the wall and saw the hands reaching for one in the morning—dawn would be creeping into Manhattan in a matter of hours.

Folding a damp towel into a precise square, I took a look around my pastry station. After the scrub job I’d just done, I needed a post intimacy cigarette. I narrowed my eyes and inspected the corners and crevices of the pastry station, looking for any remaining streaks or stains, and then ran my set of scouring toothbrushes under scalding hot water. Satisfied, I turned off the faucet with my elbow and stacked the toothbrushes in rainbow order on a drying rack. Five more minutes and I would be on my way home. The sweat prickling the back of my neck was just starting to cool, and I could practically feel the hot shower that beckoned me from my apartment three subway stops away.

The waitstaff had finished serving the second seating, tidied up, and clocked out. Hours ago, Executive Chef Alain Janvier had abandoned the kitchen of L’Ombre, one of New York’s most prestigious restaurants. Embracing the perks that came with being the boss, he slid home in the comfort of his vintage Corvette. Even many of the line cooks had finished prepping their stations for the following day and had begged off, figuring any loose ends would keep until the next shift. I remained, tottering on exhausted legs and looking like every “before” picture of every TV makeover show, but remaining behind nonetheless. I wouldn’t leave until the job was done. Done and gleaming.

But in one moment, my fantasies of the new body scrub that smelled like pomegranate and jasmine; the promise of a few hours’ sleep in a clean T-shirt that had never seen the inside of a commercial kitchen; the room-darkening shades of my tenth-floor apartment in Soho—all that disappeared. My boss, the talented but unstable pastry chef Felix Bouchard, began yelling his head off. He was on the hunt for blood, and I was unlucky enough to be the first person he saw as he rounded the corner from the storage room.

“Who took my baby?” He spoke with the intoxicating sensitivity of a French serial killer.

Felix Bouchard had graduated with high honors from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. Before coming to L’Ombre, Felix had worked as pastry chef for a slew of Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe. He had served his famous apple butter crêpes with marsala-laced vanilla sauce to the former president of Yugoslavia. He had been honored twice with a James Beard Award and had been nominated for it many times. Felix was unmarried, had no family to speak of, and hadn’t been to a movie theater in seventeen years. But Felix was not a man without love. In fact, Felix’s love for one particular object was unparalleled.

“Who took my baby?” he said again.

I peered through the metal shelving separating the pastry prep area from the rest of the kitchen. The dishwashers were barely visible in the fog of steam rising from the industrial sinks. Humidity was fierce, and the few of us who remained looked as if we’d survived a tropical Armageddon.

“She is gone,” Felix said. His comb-over had dislodged from under his toque. No amount of Aqua Net could defend against the air of the kitchen.

I snapped shut a container of spindly vanilla beans, marked the container with my trademark yellow painter’s tape, and cleared my throat. “What are you missing, Chef?”

Felix narrowed his eyes at me. In my early days at L’Ombre, before I’d earned the right to boss around a few underlings myself, I’d once saved Felix’s ample arse during a Valentine’s Day disaster by running down the block to Sal’s Grocery to buy a box of sea salt. This was the first in a long line of logistical rescues I had performed on his behalf throughout the many years that followed. His present sneer suggested he had no memory of these events, or of the indentured servitude I offered him every single day.

“Charlie, I am missing my knife. My best knife. My favorite knife. The one gifted to me from the great Jacque Pépin, may God bless his soul!” Felix bowed his head on those last words.

“Did Pépin croak?” Only I heard the muffled voice of Carlo, my favorite and most irreverent of the line cooks as he emerged from the fog over by the dishwashers.

“Chef Bouchard,” I said, “we don’t have your knife. Right, guys?” I turned to the guys on the line. Rudy looked like he wanted his mom. He shook his head of red hair with vigor.

“Not a chance, dude,” Rudy said. “I’m way too scared of you.”

Felix was almost distracted by the compliment. “Thank you. But where is the other line cook? The new one. Blond. Pale. Pimples.”

I turned as Danny came whistling down the hall. He stopped by my side when he saw everyone staring at him.

“Chef Bouchard has lost his knife.”

“I do not lose my knives!” Felix erupted, jowls flushed and quivering. “Someone has stolen my baby. She is six inches long. Nothing is her equal for slicing stone fruits and scoring pâte sucrée!” He started to panic, rummaging around people’s stations, provoking complaints and exhausted tempers.

Danny cussed quietly. He looked shaken. Then he spoke, his voice low and struggling to compete with the noise from Felix’s scavenger hunt. “Chef Janvier asked me to run to the walk-in for butter at the end of the second seating. The carton was sealed . . . and I wanted to get right back to Chef. . . I was in a hurry, so I—”

The kitchen had grown quiet. Felix stepped so close to Danny, he could have hugged him, though that would have violated his personal code of avoiding tender human interaction.

“Why are you whispering?” Felix spoke sotto voce, eyes trained on Danny’s.

Danny pulled a knife from the pocket of his apron and handed it over. “I’m so sorry. I was going to—”

Felix moved too fast for anyone to stop him. His cut was clean and shallow, across the inner, fleshy part of Danny’s forearm.

“Do not touch the baby,” he said, already wiping the knife clean.

A tide of protest enveloped Felix as he ambled back to his corner. The staff was so vocal in their disapproval, no one heard Danny drop to the floor.

****

I scooped the butterfly bandage wrappers into a neat pile and dropped them into the rubbish bin under my counter. Standing over the pastry sink, I scrubbed up again, washing off the smell of the Band-Aids, an objectionable odor that reminded me of the murky depths of public swimming pools. I watched as Danny, still looking pale and squeamish, inspected my handiwork. “The wound is shallow,” I said. I snapped a paper towel off the roll above the sink. “It should heal fine. You don’t need stitches, but I’d still keep it covered, especially when you’re working.”

Danny looked up, his lower lip quivering. “I cannot believe him. What kind of a freak slices open someone’s arm because he wants his toy back?”

I sat on a stool opposite Danny. “The man spends fifteen hours a day crimping and whisking and performing odd rituals, all in the name of pastry perfection. I know it’s no excuse, but conflict management isn’t exactly high on Felix’s list.”

Danny shook his head. “No one in culinary school tells you that the restaurant business can be so . . . so violent!” The poor kid had started at L’Ombre just a few months ago, but already he had developed some sort of heat rash on his neck. Stress, I guessed. I had been out of school for almost a decade, but I might as well have been the kid’s elderly grandmother. Grandmothers had seen it all, and so had I. Right then, I was more impressed with the blister forming underneath one heel of my new chef’s clogs than I was with Danny’s rose-colored view of the world.

Danny inhaled shakily, eyes still on the bandages on his arm. “Psycho. I’m telling Chef Janvier tomorrow.” His eyes sparked with defiance. “I know they’re friends, but he has to see reason. People shouldn’t be able to stab other people at work and get away with it.”

I pondered that statement, my gaze scanning the exposed ceiling pipes above us. “Hypothetically, all of what you say is correct. But unless you can make forty-five covers of sixteen different desserts by tomorrow night, I’m guessing the best you’ll get is a pat on the back and a free pack of cigarettes.”

“You coming, Nurse Garrett?” Carlo called from the back door. “I want to get home before I have to be back in this place.”

“Be right there,” I called back.

Danny frowned as I pulled on my coat. His eyes were somber. “Chef, have you ever been stabbed at work?”

I restrained myself. My first instinct was to laugh at Danny’s question. “No, I have not.” I began buttoning my emerald green wool coat, a recent and indulgent purchase made in an effort to survive the last dregs of this interminable New York winter. “But I have a lovely collection of burns up and down my arms. And once I saw a chef have a nervous breakdown during rush and strip down to a pair of nasty, raggedy red underwear while he sang ‘The Macarena’ to a pot of squid.”

Danny’s eyebrows had lodged up north of his fringe of bangs.

I tugged my bag from my locker and pulled on my mittens. “And, one time during a practicum in culinary school, my favorite pastry prof got so frustrated with a slow student’s pace that he took a ball of kitchen twine and started running circles around her. He had her arms totally pinned before he was discovered by the headmaster and fired on the spot.” I shook my head. “Too bad, because that man made the most exquisite phyllo I’d ever tasted.” When I looked down again, Danny was slumped over my counter, his forehead planted on the stainless steel. I lifted his head with careful hands and slipped a tissue underneath before letting it rest again on my clean countertop. “Go home and get some sleep. Things will look much better tomorrow.”

“It already is tomorrow,” he said, his voice muffled by his arms.

I sighed and felt the arches of my feet object as I walked to the back door where Carlo was waiting. Danny was barely of drinking age and he still had neck acne, but he would learn, just as we all had..

****

Carlo and I forged through the cold edge of early morning, and I was grateful for my warm coat. He was headed to the BM5 bus to Brooklyn, and I was catching the 6 train to my apartment in Soho.

“Poor kid,” I said after walking a block in silence. Carlo grunted. “Hazing. Just part of the game, mamí.”

I nodded from within the cocoon of my woolen scarf. “We have weird jobs.”

Carlo’s laugh sounded more like a bark. He punched me on the shoulder before turning into the wind and walking toward his bus stop. “That is an understatement. Hasta lueguito, amiga.”

“Say hi to Lupe for me,” I called, but I was pretty sure my words were lost in the gust of wind that lifted them away.

****

A scant few hours later, my alarm clock sounded, and I awoke under protest. As I extracted one hand from under my down comforter and reached for the snooze button, I remembered again how much I hated that clock and its Chihuahua-like chime. I shivered and then plunged my hand back under the covers. My eyes felt glued shut, and I was certain I had bags under them. “I’m too young to have bags,” I groaned and turned onto my side. The Chihuahua stared at me with its sleek front piece and cool blue numbers.

“You can’t possibly understand.”

It was time to get up. The day needed a jump start. Wasn’t an active lifestyle supposed to keep a girl alert and stave off senility?

And, I thought as I slipped out from under the covers and slid my feet into my waiting slippers, a date wouldn’t hurt. Half my queen-sized bed remained pristine and untouched after my night’s sleep. I pulled my side taut, tucking the sheets exactly six inches from the headboard and covering that with my favorite Supima cotton blanket, then the down comforter, which had cost me dearly but had retained its shape and gave me four seasons of perfect temperatures. I tugged one of the throw pillows toward the center of the bed and felt the familiar thrill of perfect symmetry. I padded over to my dresser for my first costume change of the day.

I opened the top drawer and scanned through the drawer separators left to right before selecting one item from each section: sports bra, tank, running capris, and socks. My mother’s voice intruded my thoughts as I dressed and laced my shoes.

“You need to worry less about perfection and more about your future. Let’s talk about your eggs, honey,” she’d said on the phone recently. “I’m concerned about your eggs.”

“My eggs? I prefer organic, large, free-range, thanks. And I have at least a week until they expire.”

She’d scoffed. “The eggs in your ovaries, sweetheart. You’re thirty-two, and that is a dangerous age in terms of fertility.”

“Mom,” I tried again, “things are different in New York. I know Amber Murphy just had her fourth—”

“Eight pounds, two ounces. Beautiful baby girl. White-blond hair, just like James.”

“Fantastic, but I don’t live in Minnesota. I live in Manhattan.”

“Well, la-di-da and congratulations,” she said, still completely unimpressed a decade after her daughter had defected from the Midwest to an unknowable and sprawling city with high rent and a rat problem. “I’m just trying to warn you, Charlie, that’s all. I heard a report on Dr. Oz, and I think your eggs are getting crusty.”

I straddled my treadmill and pulled my hair into a pony while waiting for the machine to power up. “Crusty eggs,” I said aloud and then louder, to the Chihuahua, “I have crusty eggs!”

I started running at a faster pace than normal, irritated with the world. I should not have started the day with a pity party. After years of toil and self-denial, my career was finally gaining momentum. Executive Chef Alain had started talking me up to the other cooks. When Chef Andersen from Aqua had visited a week ago, Alain had introduced me as “the formidable and brilliant Charlie Garrett.” Over coffee the previous week, he’d assured me again that Felix was on the cusp of retirement, and that his long-ago promise to me that I would take over as head pastry chef at L’Ombre was just around the bend. Of course, after last night’s debacle with the knife, I might have fallen a notch, but, in general, work was good.

Most days, I could reconcile the fact that I was ticking along in my thirties, nary a man or family in sight, but enjoying the passion and thrill of a job I loved. Of course, there had been sacrifices, I acknowledged as I took a grade 8 hill for a two-minute interval. I gripped the heart rate monitor, noted an excellent anaerobic number, and kept running. One had to sacrifice things like romance and dating and marriage proposals if one was going to go anywhere in the restaurant world.

“It’s totally been worth it,” I panted to the heart monitor, which rewarded me with an increase in beats per minute.

With each stride, I glimpsed the top half of my face in the mirror by the front door as I bobbed up and down. I was going to need a serious Estée Lauder intervention before heading back to the restaurant at noon. Circles under the eyes, sallow complexion, eyebrows in need of disciplinary action—and that was only the top half of my face. I ran faster, watching the numbers on the display pad arch upward and feeling a lovely layer of smugness descend over my foul mood.

“Can a woman with elderly girl parts do this?” I puffed, feeling sweat run between my shoulder blades and down my back. My abs contracted and I felt another swell of victory. Women with supple, baby-making eggs had shitty abs. And they had to work twice as hard for legs that looked good in a miniskirt, right? Of course I was right. I had my abs and my legs, and one day soon I would wear something other than chef’s whites in public and then show off those legs and abs. Maybe I’d put my crusty eggs to work after all.

“Gross,” I said aloud.

I slowed to a jog for a three-minute cooldown and walked on jelly legs to the rug in front of my couch and sat down on my yoga mat. I tucked my feet under the linen fabric of the couch and started crunching. There! See! I exclaimed as I exhaled with each crunch. The couch was one tailored and Scotch-guarded example of what a little sacrifice can garner a girl. While my job at L’Ombre was not about to afford me a house in the Hamptons, I did fairly well. Well enough to be able to buy a linen couch and six accent pillows with real down inserts. I noted all this as I completed my forty-fifth crunch. And, I also had a complementary, but not matchy-matchy, set of armchairs in a midnight blue chevron, thank you very much. Not to mention a spot in a neighborhood that was still up-and-coming. I had shed the woes of my closet-sized studio three years prior, and my linen couch and I were doing very well with the adjustment to spacious clean lines and exposed brick.

One hundred. I lay back on the yoga mat, listening to my heavy breathing. My hands rested on my midsection, and I was pleased to feel how flat things remained after taste-testing fourteen variations of our new éclair a few days prior. I rolled onto my stomach and pushed up into plank, then started in on my push-up regimen. I watched the timer on my iPhone count down as I started my first set of twenty in thirty seconds. I couldn’t imagine this was doing me any favors in the bust department as I glimpsed my schoolgirl offerings flattened by my sports bra. I was deliberating over the relative advantages of having Michelle Obama arms over breasts that would need something more than a training bra when my phone rang. I startled, dropping to the floor and fumbling for the phone. I picked up when I saw the ID.

“Hey,” I said, turning on speakerphone and going back to plank position. “I’m doing push-ups.”

“Dang,” Manda said. “I was hoping you were having sex.”

“I don’t do that anymore. Plus, I would never answer the phone under such conditions, not even for you.” Fifteen, set two, sixteen, set two . . .

“You’re panting. Stop panting and talk to your best friend.”

“No,” I said. “Twenty-four push-ups to go.”

“How about stopping early just this once?” She was quiet while I ignored that ridiculous suggestion. “Okay, then. Well, I won’t keep you, but I thought I’d call before the day ran off its tracks, as it most certainly will. . .” I could hear commotion in the background and then heard Manda again. “Wait—hold on—Zara, no! Rubber cement is toxic. No! . . . Dane, honey, keep your diaper on until Mommy can help you. Clean hands are happy hands. Come on, ruffians, let’s have breakfast.”

I made a face when I considered exactly what was on Dane’s little hands. If the past was any indication, they were things that might eventually start to sprout or mold. I stared at the phone, momentarily worried that such virile germs could pass through a telecommunication system like little, super smart terrorists.

“Wait.” I let myself drop to the mat and glanced at the clock. “Why are you calling me so early? Isn’t it like 5:30 a.m. in Seattle?”

Manda sighed. “Oh, to be young and frivolous with time once again.”

“We’re the same age.”

“But you are single and childless. And frivolous with time. Nevertheless, you have to make time for a very special phone call today.” Her voice had taken on the sing-song quality all humans adopted when getting ready to set up their lonely single friends with other lonely single friends.

“Who is it? Bald? Divorced? Yoga instructor?”

“None of the above, thank you very much.” I heard one of Manda’s three progeny scream bloody murder in the background. “Oops. I have to go. Might be blood. I’ll call you later. He said he’d call you after work tonight. Don’t forget one word! Remember every part of the conversation.”

I used the edge of the couch to do some tricep raises. “Who’s going to call?”

I could hear the smile in Manda’s voice. “Avery Malachowski.”

“Whaaat? Why? How? Where did you see him?”

“He’ll tell you all that.”

I was losing her, I could tell. The duration of an average phone conversation prior to Zara’s birth five years before was two hours, twenty-one minutes. Since the onset of lactation, the average call was down to four minutes, thirty-four seconds. “Bye! Everyone say ‘Bye, Auntie Char!’”

She clicked off in the middle of the kids’ warbling, and I held the phone, still breathing hard from my workout.

I hadn’t thought about Avery Malachowski in nine years, though I’d thought plenty about him in the months leading up to those years. He and I had lost touch after finishing culinary school together—he disappearing into the shiny, happy restaurant scene of southern California and me diving into the shark tank of New York City. We’d toyed with the idea of continuing our relationship, one of us piggybacking on the other’s opportunity and looking for a job on the coast we didn’t want. But we’d parted ways, not too sadly, as I recalled, as we were both fiercely ambitious and primed to conquer the culinary world.

I took a ferocious pull on my water bottle. Avery Malachowski, I thought as the water level dipped. The last I’d heard of Avery, he was working as a sous chef on a cruise ship. I wrinkled my nose, remembering all the news reports of cruise passengers being pummeled with stomach viruses. I untied my laces and walked barefoot into the kitchen to grind some fresh coffee beans. I put the fine grind into the waiting glass carafe, and, as I watched the coffee brew, it occurred to me that Avery might be in town. Maybe he was fishing for a date or a drink when his ship docked or whatever it was that cruise ships did. Did cruise ships even dock in Manhattan? That kind of behavior sounded distinctly New Jerseyish.

My phone vibrated to announce a text. Manda had taken a screen shot of her Facebook exchange with Avery and had typed above, “See! He’s dying to see you! Yearning! I think the word is yearning!”

The Facebook conversation merely showed Avery’s request for my number, nothing about a marriage proposal or running away together. Manda was not getting enough sleep if she seriously thought a few words on social media meant promises of undying love.

I did a double take as I looked at the clock. I cursed as I sprinted to the shower, leaving my French press to over-steep and my dirty socks on the kitchen floor, two transgressions that would bother me throughout my hasty shower.

By the time I had my hair swept into a work chignon and my workbag slung across my winter coat, I had only a second to scoop up my phone and tuck it into my pocket, where it would sit, neglected, until after midnight.

Whoa! I’m curious to find out what happens next… 😀

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/bo789R

Target:  https://www.target.com/p/sugar-hardcover-kimberly-stuart/-/A-51497805

IndieBound:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781510714137

We’ll be sure to get a copy of this contemporary romance! ♥♥♥

About Kimberly Stuart

Kimberly Stuart grew up in Iowa, where she learned to be snobbish about corn on the cob and good storytelling. She is the author of eight novels, many of them set in the Midwest, including her most recent, Heart Land (Howard/Simon & Schuster, 2018). Her books have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Huff Post, and Chicago Sun-Times. Stuart has a passion to write chemistry-driven, smart romance that requires a reader neither to leave her brain at the door nor to visit a confessional after turning the last page. She is a frequent public speaker, a current Iowan but one-time Nebraskan, and is passionate about helping others live and write great stories. She makes her home in Des Moines, where she lives with her brave husband and three wily children.

Books:

And, if you want to know how to connect with the fascinating Kimberly Stuart, here are some author links…

 

Once again, I want to thank Kimberly Stuart, the brilliant author of this contemporary romance, for stopping by!  It was a pleasure to have you here! Readers, check out her work! ♥

1 Comment

Filed under Authors, Blogging, Book News, Books, characters, Contemporary, Event, Fiction, Guest Writer, Interview, Readers, Romance, Women's Fiction, Writers, Writing

Book Review: Jake’s Redemption by Jamie Schulz

This week’s I Love Romance Blog review selection is Jake’s Redemption By Jamie Schulz. By now, if you’ve seen my past reviews, you know that I love a book with role reversal – this is that on steroids.

In a post-war, dystopian Pacific Northwest, women have found that, in fear or anger, they are physically stronger than men. With a (un)healthy dose of medication that makes men panicky and fearful, women rule their world.

It’s never made clear if this type of society has taken over the whole country, or just this small patch of land East of the Cascade Mountains. Here, we find Jake and his best friend Bret who are set upon by a group of bandits. Jake is taken prisoner and Bret makes his escape into the woods. Sold into slavery, Jake endures unimaginable torture, rape, and abuse.

Side note: Though the book’s Amazon listing does mention “unsettling and violent subject matter”, it should definitely include a trigger warning for sexual assault victims. I’m just sayin’.

While owned by a true sadist named Darla (I pictured a grown up version of the girl from Finding Nemo the whole time), Jake is loaned out for his skills in construction and ranch handling. With his temporary owner, Michelle, Jake finds a slave plantation owned by a woman who isn’t mentally disturbed (Michelle’s home is never called a slave plantation, btw, but if it walks like a duck…)

The romance formed between Jake and Michelle really is touching. He has a lot of baggage from his time with Darla (being shaken in that little fish bag of hers…if it were filled with chains, whips, and rape), and she has the burden of being a slave owner.

The conflict moving the book along is Jake’s impending return to Darla the Devil. Should he run and surely be killed? But, in the end Jake is saved from having to decide by being purchased by another woman (and friend of Michelle’s) named Angel. For the first bit that we see Angel, I wasn’t sure if she was another sadistic sex fiend, but after bouts of depression and an attempted suicide, Angel turns out to be one of my favorite characters.

When I finished reading this book, knowing that it was a prequel, I was eager to see how things continue in this story. I will certainly be anticipating the release of the first official book in the series.

As a closing, I’m just going to throw this out there. As a gay man living in the Pacific Northwest just outside Tacoma, WA, I had to wonder – what happened to the gays?! Outside of Washington’s few big cities, this state is really no friend to the LGBTQ community.

So, in this story, where we are of no use as “breeders”, were we just killed off? Or are we still chained up and raped for our swimmers? I am intrigued and troubled to see how or if the author touches on this subject.

For its romance and train wreck society that kept me reading – I give Jake’s Redemption By Jamie Schultz 3 STARS!

Book Info:

An imprisoned cowboy. An empowered woman. When true love is forbidden, opening their hearts could destroy them both…

Chained and enslaved, Jake Nichols is convinced he’ll die alone. In this new order where men are stripped of all power, he endures brutal torture at the hands of his female captor. But when he’s hired out to build a ranch home for an outspoken beauty, his dreams of escape transform into visions of passion.

Monica Avery struggles to fill her heart in a loveless society. With marriage outlawed and romantic partners reduced to pawns, she’s given up hope of finding her soul mate. But watching the rugged rancher hard at work on her shelter awakens deeply buried desires.

As the project comes together, Monica discovers a kindred spirit in the tenderhearted Jake. But despite their growing attraction, he still belongs to a cruel woman who’d rather see him dead than free.

Can Monica save Jake, or will their love lead to a tragic tomorrow?

Jake’s Redemption is a full-length book in the Angel Eyes cowboy dystopian romance series. If you like scorching-hot chemistry, clever post-apocalyptic worlds, and star-crossed love stories, then you’ll adore Jamie Schulz’s captivating tale.

Buy Jake’s Redemption today to see if love can brighten a dark world!

This prequel has an HFN ending and opens the door for the next book in the Angel Eyes Series.

This story would appeal to those who found the adult scenarios in books like A Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games intriguing. Or who enjoy the writing of other romance authors like Maisey Yates, Pam Godwin, Karen Robards, and Nora Roberts, or who simply love cowboys.

Please note: Intended for mature audiences. This story contains some unsettling and violent subject matter that sensitive readers may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

Universal Reader link: https://books2read.com/u/3LGnKX

Here’s a peek at the book…

AUTHOR: Jamie Schulz

TITLE: Jake’s Redemption

GENRE: Dystopian Romance, Romantic Fantasy

RELEASE DATE: February 1, 2019

PUBLISHER: Amazon Digital Services LLC

ISBN/ASIN: B07K5L411H

OUR RATING: ♥♥♥

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Ethan

Get your copy on Kindle Unlimited here.

Up next in the first week of April: The Homecoming by Tammy Tate

Thanks for reading our weekly book review on ILRB!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogging, book reviews, Books, Dystopian, Event, Fantasy, new release, rating, Readers, Romance, score, western

Exclusive Interview with author Scarlett Holloway, plus a look at MC romantic suspense, POLICY OF TRUTH!

Hi, readers! I am pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. We’re doing something a little different. This is our sixth official author interview on this romance blog! I know in the past, we did character interviews then switched over to the author’s take on it, but this approach is a bit unusual.

We have a real treat for you, readers. Today we get to speak one-on-one with a talented author of romance novels. Please join me in welcoming Scarlett Holloway to ILRB! 🙂

Marie Lavender:  Hello, Scarlett. Please have a seat.

Author Scarlett Holloway:  Hi, Marie!

Marie:  Hey, it’s such a pleasure to have you here!

I’m going to throw in some standard questions first.

Obviously, we know your occupation as an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do?

I know I’m overloading you with questions, but we’re really interested in finding out more about you…

Scarlett:  I am a superhero by day. No, really. I swear. At least that is what my clients tell me. I am a massage therapist that specializes in aromatherapy and Eastern Chinese Medicine. I also focus on prenatal massages. I love it and honestly wouldn’t change my career for anything. And I like to pretend that I am an author at night. LOL.

Marie:  (Chuckles.) So, tell us…what is your family like?

Scarlett:  Crazy. LOL.  Am I allowed to say that? 😛 Honestly, I have an amazing family. My husband is my Superman. He’s a stay at home Dad that helps me with my massage business and pushes me to write, while maintaining the home life, and let me tell you, he can cook some mean bacon!

Marie:  Nice!

Let’s try something else, okay?

If it doesn’t bother you at all, can you let us know what your childhood home looked like?

Scarlett:  Which one? I moved around A LOT. My father was in the military, so we didn’t stay in one place for very long. When we did stop for a bit, I lived with my grandmother. It was a quaint house with a HUGE backyard that my twin and I played in with my cousins.

Marie:  Okay.

Do you have any hobbies, Scarlett? What do you enjoy doing?

Scarlett:  Sad to say, I really don’t. I mean, I make my own bath salts, scrubs, et cetera. That is kind of a hobby, even if it directly relates to work. I race my car when I get in the mood to compete. Otherwise, I’m pretty boring. I write, massage, watch Maury & Jerry and movies. LOL.

Marie:  Doesn’t sound all that boring to me!

So…what is your greatest dream?

Scarlett:  I want to be a NYTBS author and I would love to see one of my works on the silver screen. That, to me, is the biggest dream/goal that I could ever achieve.

Marie:  I’m with you there! ♥ Having a film based on one of my books would be awesome. I think that’s pretty normal for a writer, though. We imagine these scenes in our heads, and would like to see them come to life. 😉

Let’s try another question.

What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?

Scarlett:  I am happy with who I am. I’m a mom, a healer, an author, a friend, wife…I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Marie:  Great!

Not to pry too much, but who was your first love?

Scarlett:  It’d be a toss-up between Shaun Cassidy or Donny Osmond. I grew up in the 70’s and I had so many posters and records of them, it was crazy.

Marie:  All right.

Let’s try something else now.

What’s the most terrible thing that ever happened to you?

Scarlett:  I had a massive heart attack at 42 years young and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I was in emergency surgery a week later and woke up in the middle of it. I was a paramedic for 20 years, so seeing my heart on the monitor freaked me out at first, but when I woke back up, it was interesting in a medical sense.

Marie:  Yikes! 😥 I’m so sorry you went through all of that. But I am glad you survived it.

Let’s move on to something a bit lighter now, shall we?

[Scarlett nods.]

What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?

Scarlett:  I have not yet achieved it. Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to write for Harlequin Romance. My grandmother’s nose was ALWAYS stuck in one of their books and it made me want to be a part of that world. Then she gave me her old books, which I literally swallowed whole, and solidified that dream even more. I don’t write in the right genre to be a part of the HQR world, but one day, you never know.

Marie: True! 😀

(Sighs.) Like you, I just love romance… ♥

So, who is your role model, Scarlett?

Scarlett:  Hmm…good question, really. It would have to be someone like Lynda Carter, Elizabeth Taylor, and Lucille Ball. Very classy women who struggled in life until they became great and remained so humble and sweet.

Marie:  Is there someone you pretend to like but really dislike?

Scarlett:  I think there is a person in everyone’s life that we end up feeling that way about. Sometimes it is just better to keep our mouths shut and smile for the better of it all.

Marie:  Good point…

Let’s try another question.

What is your deepest desire?

Scarlett:  There are a lot of things that I’d love to have, but being an author, desire has an almost evil connotation. People will do almost anything for what they desire and it can cause damage, so I tend to try and stay away from that.

Marie:  Understandable.

Tell me something, Scarlett. What is your greatest fear?

Scarlett:  Failure. It’s not an option. I cannot handle the thought of failure; it will put me into a deep depression and even near an anxiety level.

Marie:  I think we all fear that on some level.

So, I want to try something different next… 

If you were trapped on a deserted island, what five essentials would you need with you? They don’t have to be practical.

Scarlett:  Music would be one. I cannot live without that. Coffee, it’s a must have for me to survive. My laptop with a solar battery because I’ll get bored and need to write. A tent and bedding. I CANNOT stand getting wet or cold. A stuffie to talk to and have keep me company.

(Laughs.) I would need to write too!  😀

Readers, let’s shift somewhat and get the author’s perspective on one of her characters.  🙂

We’ve heard rumors about the heroine of your story, Tamra ‘Durty’ Simons. Quite an interesting character. Can you tell us a little about her?

Scarlett:  Durty is from a very prominent family in Shadow Falls, California. Her grandfather founded the town with another gentleman, so she is held at a higher expectation with her father. She fails to meet that, and is all but disowned from the family. She ends up in a relationship that is abusive and murderous. Lace, the president of an all-female motorcycle club, saves her and sets her back on her feet.

Marie:  Wow! 😥 What a rough journey…

What are your character’s greatest strengths?

Scarlett: She is very organized and can be diplomatic, when she wants to be. She tends to be careful with things she does, unless she is pushed too far.

Marie:  All right.

And what are her greatest weaknesses?

Scarlett:  She won’t let go of past mistakes. She has a temper and it can bite her in the butt.

Marie:  Okay…

Let’s try something fun, shall we?

What are some of her favorite foods?

Scarlett:  She likes meat and potatoes. She might be upper classed, but has down home tastes.

Marie:  Can’t blame her there! 😉

How about another question?

What’s a positive quality that your character is unaware that he or she has?

Scarlett:  Quick thinking. Even if it is right or wrong, she is quick to think on her feet.

Marie:  Cool!

Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?

Scarlett:  They will love her, and it’s because of the things she must overcome and endure to do it.

Marie:  Great!

Now that we have a real taste of Durty, we have a few questions for you as well as the author, about the writing process of your book.

What first gave you the idea for Policy of Truth?

Scarlett:  I wanted a book that showcased beautiful, real and strong women. There aren’t enough books out there that give this quality to REAL women. Every character is someone I know, so it will showcase them in a positive manner.

Marie:  Nice!

Interesting how the muse works, huh? 😉

Let’s try something else.

What is your writing style like? Are you a pantster or a plotter?

Scarlett:  I have a very raw writing style. I write like we talk, if that makes sense. I HAVE to plot. I cannot sit at a computer with no idea what I am doing. I give props to pantsers.

Marie:  I know, right?

I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Policy of Truth or publishing it? What would you do differently the next time?

Scarlett:  I walked away from Policy for over a year. I couldn’t feel it, didn’t want to touch it. IF someone does not feel a book, step away from it, write something else, but remain productive. When it is time, walk back to it. You don’t want to force a story because the readers will be able to tell. You won’t regret it, trust me.

Marie:  True enough!

Well, it was a such a pleasure having you here on the I Love Romance Blog! And how apropos is that, considering what a great story Policy of Truth appears to be. Congratulations on your latest release… ♥

Here is the blurb:

Five years ago, Tamra “Durty” Simon’s life was falling apart, and she had a one-way ticket to six-feet under. And if it hadn’t been for the Death’s Angels Motorcycle Club swooping in, dusting her off, and transforming her into the badass biker she is today, she’d be taking a dirt nap. Now, she has everything she ever wanted–or so she thought.

Brett “Sting” Jackson is on a mission, and nothing is going to stop him–not even the sexy, enticing female biker who makes him hard with a single look. Too bad he’s lying and keeping secrets from her. But the alternative could get her killed, and that’s not a risk he’s willing to take.

It took Sting crashing into her life to make Durty realize there’s something else in this world she wants to ride as hard as her bike–too bad fate has other plans for them. When a rival club makes a move against the Angels, all hell breaks loose. Lives will be lost, secrets will be revealed, and lies will be exposed. Because in the motorcycle world, lies may get you hurt, but the truth can get you killed.

Scarlett is also offering us a teaser from the book!

“Choke-a-hoe.”

“You into strangling prostitutes now, Viper?” Lace glanced sidelong at the female sitting next to her, the corner of her lip curling enough to mimic a slight smile.

“No,  smartass. I’m about to create a new Navajo Tribe if this bitch doesn’t get here soon,” Viper said.

Lace turned to look at Viper, her black brow cocked as she gazed out from under her pink and purple bangs. The two had known each other for several years,  so it was easy to see the irritation growing in her friend. That’d be a new one for the history books. Lace chuckled inwardly. Chokahoe. Good Lord. “She’ll be here. No strangling today, Boston.”

“Boston?” Viper crinkled up her nose in confusion.

“Yeah, the Boston Stran—nevermind.”

Viper blew a strand of copper hair out of her two-toned eyes, sticking out her tongue as she turned her head to bat her lashes at Lace.

“It’s too fucking hot to be sitting in this damn Jeep, waiting for what?” Flames sucked down more of her slushie, the slurp reverberating through the space.

Movement caught Lace’s attention from outside the vehicle, forcing her to look up. “There she is.” She pointed with the uplift of her chin as she fumbled with the door handle.

The girl making her way toward them wasn’t what Lace expected. She’d done her research into Tamra Simons of Simons Realty, and her picture did no justice. Tamra was five foot five inches—five foot eight in her heels.

Medium length, wispy auburn hair with dark red highlights, hid the round face from view, as did the aviators covering her eyes. She wasn’t too skinny, but healthy and had an infectious glow about her. A pale pink suit skirt showed off short, shapely legs, and a white silken blouse with a light cotton blazer completed the ensemble.

“Tamra?” Lace leaned her jean clad hip against the hood of the Jeep, crossing her arms over her chest.

“That’d be me, Ms. Beck.” Tamra stuck out her hand.

“Lace, please.” She shook the realtor’s hand and motioned toward the building. “I’m ready if you are.”

Viper swung open the passenger door, almost falling as she rolled out of the cab. “Oh my god. It’s about damn time. We were about to roast in there.”

Flames followed, hopping out of the back, smoothing down the front of her shorts. “You ought to know by now, chica, wear shorts when you know we’re going somewhere with Lace.”

Lace glanced over her shoulder at the two, rolling her eyes. “Suck it up, ladies. We have a building to look at.”

Following Tamra to the warehouse, Lace studied her silently. There was something off about her.

“This location is about ten thousand square feet.” Tamra glanced at the trio, and then unlocked one of the splintered wooden doors, swinging it open as it groaned loudly in protest, and motioned them inside. “It’ll work out perfectly for a quaint little bistro.”

Lace chuckled as she stepped past the realtor, cringing as her boots crunched on broken glass when she passed through the doorway, the sound echoing through the empty building. She waved a hand in front of her face as a foul, dank smell assaulted her nose. “This won’t be a quaint bistro.”

Viper snickered as she hip bumped Lace, placing a Blow-Pop into her mouth. “This is a fucking dump. We really had to drive over thirty minutes and wait an hour in the blistering heat, when there were plenty of abandoned shit holes closer to town? I mean, seriously?”

Leave it to Viper not to beat around the bush.

The inside of the building looked like it was ransacked by a group of ferocious rioters that belonged to the spray paint club of the year—or like it was gang banged by a box of crayons. Tables were broken—some looking as if someone was pile-drived into the middle of them; mirrors shattered, the tattered pieces strewn about the warped floorboards, which appeared to have taken on the Biblical flood. The bar looked like it’d been lit on fire, charred and split apart in several places. The trailer park paneled walls were scrawled on with various obscenities and the roof needed help as well.

Lace thought it was perfect.

Flames groaned.

Clicking her tongue ring against her teeth, Lace settled her hands on her hips as a slow smirk formed on her lips. She had no clue what Flames was groaning about, this place was abso-fucking-lutely perfect, and no, it wasn’t quaint—at all.

“Shit.” Flames nudged Viper. “She’s doing that clicking thing. We’re fucked.”

Viper snorted and tossed her hair over her shoulder, raising a single brow to Lace. “Yup. I can see the wheels turning. We’re screwed worse than an altar boy at confession.”

Lace came close to bursting out in laughter when Tamra’s jaw dropped. Sighing, she frowned, turning toward Tamra. “You answer a question truthfully, and I’ll buy this place.”

“Ex-excuse me?” Tamra said. Clearly, she wasn’t used to dealing with clients like Lace. “We haven’t even discussed a price. Or what you want to do with the place. I thought you wanted a bistro.”

Lace waved her hand dismissively. “Something like tha—”

“Money isn’t shit when it’s something Lace wants,” Viper said. “So, answer the question already. Oh, shit! I think I just saw a fucking roach wielding a machete.”

“Deal?” Lace stared expectantly at the realtor.

Tamra nodded, rolling her bottom lip between her teeth.

She hadn’t taken off her sunglasses but even without eye contact, Lace could read the woman’s face. “So, how long has he been hitting you?”

Wow! I’m curious to find out what happens next… 😀

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/bOZJzK

We’ll be sure to get a copy of this MC romantic suspense! ♥♥♥

About Scarlett Holloway

Growing up on the Central Coast, Scarlett Holloway always dreamed of seeing her name on the cover of a book and on the New York Times Best Seller List. What better way than to bring part of her past onto the pages of a novel, as well as writing about issues that women face on a daily basis? When she is not in her bunny hole writing, she is a massage therapist, trying to help people through therapeutic healing. Scarlett is hopelessly devoted to her husband, who she lovingly calls her plot bunny, and is active in her teenage son’s life.

Books:

Coming Soon:

Available Now:

And, if you want to know how to connect with the fascinating Scarlett Holloway, here are some author links…

 

Once again, I want to thank Scarlett Holloway, the brilliant author of this MC romance, for stopping by!  It was a pleasure to have you here! Readers, check out her work! ♥

1 Comment

Filed under Action & Adventure, Authors, Blogging, Book News, Book Release, Books, characters, Contemporary, Event, Fiction, Guest Writer, Interview, MC and biker romance, new release, Readers, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Writers, Writing

Book Review: Undercover Siren by Ellen Mint

This week’s I Love Romance Blog review selection is Undercover Siren By Ellen Mint. This book has a little of everything that I know you’ll love. Definitely add this one to your reading list. 🙂

This is another one of those stories that I love. The reversal of roles between Kristen and Colton is fun to experience as you read through. Don’t get me wrong, though – Colton is more than able to hold up on his own.

All I’m saying is, if you’re skeptical, read the first chapter…get to the part about the pen – and you’ll be hooked just like I was.

As I said, this book has a little bit for everyone, clandestine spies and intrigue, hot cops, sci-fi and fantasy, romance and hot sex, and lastly – a bat-shit crazy person in the background motivating the plot. What more would we need?

I’d have to put on my copy editor “hat” to find anything I’d suggest about the text, but the story, places, and characters are all fully realized and engaging – I give Undercover Siren By Ellen Mint 5 HEARTS!

Book Info:

He was only supposed to be a job. Why can’t she walk away?

Colton Davies, an ex-Marine turned cop, stumbles across a damsel in distress while working the beat and rushes to her aid. Unbeknownst to him, Kristen Trevelyan isn’t an old classmate who accidentally locked her keys in the car, but a spy working for a classified agency. She’s tasked with getting close to the police officer, but she never anticipated how close they’d become.

Action, adventure, dangerous gun battles, sizzling romance scenes, tender words of affection, and more await you in Undercover Siren.

Universal Reader link: https://books2read.com/u/bPZy1A

Here’s a peek at the book…

Colton snapped off the radio and tumbled back into his seat. From God-awful love songs to burnt corpses, oh and dragging her into a rainstorm. He was a real pro at dating, as she could no doubt tell. Glaring out the windshield, watching the bounce of rain pinging off the rusted hood, Colton kept whipping himself for things beyond his control. He was so far gone, it wasn’t until her hand shifted higher up his arm that he realized Kristen was touching him.

Twisting his head towards her, he found those dazzling eyes burning directly into his. She stared at him as if…as if she couldn’t see anyone else. As if she’d never seen anyone else. Soft pink lips glistened with fresh rain, parting like she yearned for a drink. Colton dove towards her, his mouth puckering up just before it plunged against hers. Warmth erupted down his spine, the woman melting from his kiss. He let go of the arguing in his brain to fall into this moment. Fingers lifted off his arm to thread through his hair, gently guiding him deeper into her trap.

He was greedy to fall into it, their first kiss turning hotter than he’d ever have expected. Kristen tipped her head, her tongue darting up and down his scar before she tugged his bottom lip deep into hers. The nibble was little more than a whisper, but it broke down a wall inside Colton and a moan escaped from his throat.

Sliding back as if to catch her breath, those dazzling eyes darted up to his. The bliss of touching her dilated his pupils so much he had to blink a moment. As she focused into view, her cheeks bright from a flush and cleavage beaded in droplets, there was no denying how badly he wanted to take this further.

How in God’s name did he do that?

“You’re so…” he mumbled, his tongue clogging in his mouth as the words all stuck together, “pradortty.”

“Pradortty?” her eyebrow lifted in surprise, but a smile stretched across her lips. The ones that tasted of hunger and the thrill of the run.

“I, uh…” Colton absently wiped the back of his neck.

“Is that some kind of word only you people in Sky City use?”

“Ye…yes,” he sputtered out. “It means, it means a very beautiful woman.”

The blush burned brighter on her cheeks and she turned to stare at the dashboard. “Oh. Well, you’re handorablesome.”

Colton chuckled at her catching him, but with a grateful nod said, “Thank you.”

Her sparkling eyes darted around the truck, seeming to take in the state of it before landing upon the clutch. “This is a stick? You can drive a stick?”

“Sure,” he shrugged, “I’m from the country. Who couldn’t back in Winterset?”

“Right, right, just…surprised to see one here in the city,” she smiled. “Isn’t it hell on stop and go traffic?”

“Not if you’re good,” Colton said without a thought before wincing. “Did you never learn?” It seemed odd to the man who cut his teeth on tractors, but not everyone was a farmer. There had to be townies in a town after all.

“A little,” Kristen admitted, “but I’m happy with my automatic. When I don’t lock myself out anyway.”

“Until a helpful policeman comes along,” Colton said as if he had nothing to do with it. She smiled sweetly at him, but silence threaded through the cab. Only the bounce of rain thudding into the metal over their heads filled the air. All the unsaid words grew thicker than the humidity, both people staring at each other not knowing what to do next.

He could take her back into the bar. To talk more. Or have another drink. It was getting kinda late. Maybe he should offer to take her home. Or that they wait out the rain here. She could snuggle up next to him and…

“Colton?” Kristen whispered, her eyes darting up to him, “do you want to get coffee?”

“Uh…sure,” he spat out, his brain trying to rack up what place would be open this late aside from a fast food joint.

Her ravenous smile nearly knocked him over, when she shrugged. “I’d say we could go back to my place but I’m all out of filters, and grounds, and a coffee God.” Slowly, her fingers cupped against his knee and worried their way up the wet jeans clinging to his thigh. He blinked at her, his brain-jarring apart as it tried to piece together what she was asking. Or telling him. Saying that she wanted.

Sweet God.

AUTHOR: Ellen Mint

TITLE: Undercover Siren (book one of the Inquisition Series)

GENRE: Romantic Suspense, Sci-Fi, Police Procedural

RELEASE DATE: February 10, 2018

PUBLISHER: Amazon Digital Services LLC

ISBN/ASIN: B079QZPN5V

OUR RATING: ♥♥♥♥♥

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Ethan

Read for free with Kindle Unlimited and don’t forget to check out Marie’s feature of the author’s New Release in 2018 here. Ellen also writes sci-fi and fantasy under the pen name S.E. Zbasnik.

Up Next Week: Jake’s Redemption by Jamie Schultz

Thanks for reading our weekly book review on ILRB!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogging, book reviews, Books, Contemporary, Event, Fantasy, rating, Readers, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Science Fiction, score, Thriller/Suspense, Writing

Book Review: The Key of F by Jennifer Haskin

This week’s I Love Romance Blog review selection is The Key of F By Jennifer Haskin. With paranormal and sci-fi elements, this full-length novel is a great read.

Fale, who is as down-to-Earth as she is incredible, begins a journey to find out exactly who she is. When she starts having visions of the future and trying to do something about it, will she change it for the better or worse?

Really, I cannot say enough good things about this book – the storyline is well thought through, the dialogue is believable and relatable, and the interactions between the main characters keep you reading.

This book is extremely well-written and thought out and I look forward to reading the next one in the series – I give The Key of F By Jennifer Haskin 5 HEARTS!

Only $.99 on Kindle.

Recommended Read

Book Info:

Fale, Takanori warrior-in-training, begins having visions on her eighteenth birthday. When she realizes the visions are coming true, she intervenes and changes one to save the life of her crush. Soon after, thugs climb out of the woodwork chasing them with the intent to kill. Their only clue lies in the key Fale wears, given to her by her father on his deathbed. Could the key have something to do with her destiny? Can they live long enough to find the answers?

Universal Reader link: https://books2read.com/u/bW9G0D

Here’s a peek at the book…

AUTHOR: Jennifer Haskin

TITLE: The Key of F (book one of the Freedom Fight Trilogy)

GENRE: paranormal romance, urban fantasy, some YA elements

RELEASE DATE: May 8, 2018

PUBLISHER: Rogue Phoenix Press

ISBN/ASIN: B079P7DMQ4

OUR RATING: ♥♥♥♥♥

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Ethan

Up Next Week: Undercover Siren by Ellen Mint

Thanks for reading our weekly book review on ILRB!

2 Comments

Filed under Blogging, book reviews, Books, Contemporary, Dark Fantasy, Event, Fantasy, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, rating, Readers, Reviews, Science Fiction, score, Writing, Young Adult

Heroes & Heroines Special Feature: Character Erica Timberly from LYRICAL EMBRACE by Amber Daulton

Hi, readers! I am beyond pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. Recently, I asked authors to come to the blog with a little background into their characters. Exactly what is it about them that keeps a writer up at night, composing those romance novels we love? I wanted to dig deep into each of these characters. Today is the next post in this series.

So, without further ado, let’s turn the mic over to author Amber Daulton, who has some things to say about her character.

Hi, Amber! Describe one of your main characters and why he or she impacts the story.

 

I love small town romance books, especially ones with an edge and a little bit of danger weaved in. When plotting this story, I first pictured a young woman running away from the big city to escape her abusive boyfriend. I mostly write contemporary and romantic suspense, so this idea worked. I think a lot of readers can sympathize with such a situation, especially those who have experienced neglect.

Erica Timberly is a compelling character because she’s a normal, everyday woman. She could be any one of us, just passing us by on the sidewalk. Countless women, and men too, are involved in toxic relationships with people claiming to love and care for them. They often feel trapped or believe they don’t deserve anything better in their lives. I wrote this story because abuse is a fact of life for so many people, and I hope, if they read it, they will find some hope and encouragement.

For Erica, her mother died when she was a teenager, so she had to live with her father and his new family. She still harbored resentment toward him for ruining her parents’ marriage, so she never felt as though she belonged in his household, surrounded by his new wife and kids.

After she left home for college and found a job, she met a man and fell in love with him. Little did she know, he was all show and no substance, and she soon found herself stuck in a bad relationship. Despite the hitting and name-calling, Erica still possessed an inner fire, but it was growing weaker day by day. Believing her boyfriend would eventually snap and kill her, she broke free before it was too late. It took courage to just pack up her car and hit the road, not knowing where she was going and with no one to turn to. Desperate for a fresh start, she wound up stranded in the little town of Willow Springs, Vermont. Luckily for her, the townsfolk welcomed her with open arms, and she finally found a man worthy of her.

Everyone deserves a happy ending and a chance to heal, whether that means breaking a dangerous cycle of wrong choices, reuniting with loved ones, or moving on from past hurts. You may have a bumpy road ahead, but all you can do is try.

Too right, Amber! I was once in a nightmare relationship, so I know the hell of trying to climb out of it. 😥
Well, let’s learn more about the novella, shall we, readers?
Here is the blurb for Lyrical Embrace, book four of the Deerbourne Inn Series.

Out-of-work violinist Erica Timberly decides enough is enough. She leaves her abusive boyfriend and flees the big city, but then her car breaks down in the middle of the night. Though wary of men, she accepts help from Dylan Haynes, a stranger driving by on the road, and soon recognizes him as the sexy former drummer of her favorite indie rock band. Maybe, just maybe, her run of bad luck is finally turning around.

Music teacher Dylan Haynes knows Erica is in trouble, and her black eye is only the first clue. The stubborn yet vulnerable woman needs a friend, but he’s determined to give her everything she deserves.

Will Erica listen to the music in her heart and trust Dylan, or will her past always threaten her future?

And Amber is giving us a peek at her novel!

Dylan deepened the kiss and lightly tugged on her bottom lip. Tears streaked his flushed cheeks as he smiled at her. “I’m so grateful I found you, baby. I heard you screaming. When I saw that bastard press a gun to your head, my heart nearly exploded. I thought I might lose you. I promise you, Erica, I will never control you as Phil did. You will always have the ability to choose. I just want to make you happy.”

She gripped his hand and brushed her lips across his calloused knuckles. “I know. You do make me happy. You took a bullet for me.” A sob constricted her throat, but she pushed it down.

A blast of noise rent the air. Fireworks filled the sky, visible in the alley from the narrow stretch of space between the buildings.

Erica loved the bright colors and designs, but hardly cared about watching the spectacle. She dropped her gaze back to Dylan.

A grin spread across his face. “It’s been one wild Fourth of July. Why don’t we do something more low-key next year? How about no guns and crazy exes? Just us, the creek, and a bottle of wine. Clothing optional.”

She laughed softly, amazed he could make light of the situation. “That sounds perfect. Absolutely perfect.”

Purchase Links:
Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/m2xRlj
The Deerbourne Inn Series:  https://amzn.to/2NEtkdS

 

Wow! I definitely want to know what else happens in this book! ♥♥♥

How fun to learn about your romantic suspense, Amber! I know I can’t wait to read it! 🙂

Pick up your copy of Lyrical Embrace today! Or add it to your Goodreads bookshelf, readers!

Thank you for stopping by with your fascinating guest post, Amber! Lovely to have you here! ♥
 
Guest Bio

Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press and Books to Go Now, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.

Amber lives in North Carolina with her husband and four demanding cats. Feel free to visit her at her website.

Author Links

Website/Blog:  http://www.amberdaultonauthor.blogspot.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/amber.daulton.author

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/AmberDaulton1

Amazon Author Page:  http://amzn.to/14JoZff

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6624921.Amber_Daulton

Google+:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AmberDaulton

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/amberdaultonauthor/

Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/amberdaulton5/

BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/profile/amber-daulton

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/amberdaulton

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/pub/amber-daulton/87/538/368

Book Gorilla:  https://www.bookgorilla.com/author/B00ALQITWY/amber-daulton/kcc

Publisher:  https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/2362_amber-daulton

 

Thanks again, Amber, for giving us a peek into the world of your character. Intriguing! 😀

Have a great weekend, everyone!

2 Comments

Filed under Authors, Blogging, Books, characters, Contemporary, Event, Fiction, Guest Writer, Message, music, Readers, rockstar, Romance, Romantic Suspense, small town, Writers, Writing