Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sneak Peek - - Virtue Falls

PJ here.  Christina Dodd has been on my auto-buy author list for more than fifteen years.  I've followed her from historical romance to contemporary romantic suspense to paranormal and now, with the upcoming release of Virtue Falls, to suspense thrillers. Many of her books sit on my keeper shelves but I believe this new book may be her best writing yet. With Virtue Falls, Dodd has created an edge-of-your-seat thriller that kept me reading until the wee hours of the morning and still has me thinking of the story's characters more than three weeks after finishing the book. This one has my highest recommendation. 

As award-winning author, Hank Phillipi Ryan says, "This dark and powerful psychological thriller will surprise you, haunt you, and captivate you.” 

Today, I'm pleased to welcome Christina Dodd as she brings us a sneak peek excerpt from her September 9th release, Virtue Falls.

            Torture your hero early and often; it develops his character, like roasting nuts brings out the flavor.

            This is one of my favorite writing tips; I often post it on Facebook because it gets people's attention, makes them laugh, makes them think. Everyone loves a tortured hero, a man who truly has had troubles in his past and yet, somehow, manages to rise above them to behave … like a hero.

            The hero in my new suspense, VIRTUE FALLS, has had recent trouble — a heart-breaking divorce, the loss of his beloved job, and the knowledge that his own loss of control caused an irreparable tragedy. He has secrets, too, old, dark secrets that haunt him. His recent troubles and those old secrets have broken him, and only one thing can save him — a call to action, delivered at just the right moment… 


            Garik Jacobsen walked into his Las Vegas apartment, his home now for eight months. He flipped on the TV, flung his suit jacket on the chair, and placed the Styrofoam containers which held his dinner on the kitchen counter. As he headed for the bedroom, his stomach rumbled.
            Ever since the FBI had taken his badge, he hadn’t been eating regularly.
            But tonight, for the first time, he knew exactly what to do, and his appetite had come back with a vengeance.
            Yay for him.
            The bedroom was stark: blinds at the window, a bed, a nightstand, a reading lamp. He pulled open the drawer and looked down at the pistol he wasn’t supposed to own. He picked it up, weighed it in his hand, checked to see that it was properly loaded. It was. And the safety was on. Putting the pistol back, he shut the drawer.
            He kicked his dress shoes in the direction of the closet. They banged, one by one, into the cheap wooden sliding door.
            He worked as a security guard at Nordstrom; the tie had been loosened as soon as he left the store. The jacket had come off as soon as he got to the court-ordered therapist’s office. Now it was time for t-shirt and jeans, and he donned them with the reverence of a man who wore them all too seldom.
            Opening the drawer again, he picked up the pistol. He shoved it into his waistband, and headed back to the kitchen. There, he kicked a discarded pizza box aside. He flipped open the tops of his Styrofoam containers and admired the contents.
            Yeah. Steak: thick, charbroiled, rare. Potatoes au gratin with enough cheese to give a cardiologist a heart attack. Green beans cooked with bacon.
            He might skip the green beans. He liked them, but what was the point of eating something good for him now?
            In the other container, tiramisu. In the paper cup, espresso.
            He heated the skillet on the stove, melted a stick of butter until it was smoking, and slapped the steak in to crisp it up. He put the beans and potatoes on a plate and into the microwave. He got out a fork and his good steak knife — it was actually a stiletto, but he wasn’t allowed to own one of those either, so he called it a steak knife — and put it on the coffee table.
            On the TV, a rerun of CSI. Like he needed to watch that noble shit about duty and honor. He changed the channel, found The Punisher, one of the best, most violent, stupidest movies of all time, and left it.
            He flipped the steak, watched it sizzle another minute, then pulled the plate out of the microwave and lovingly laid the steak beside the steaming potatoes. Going to the couch, he sat down, put the plate on the table, and pulled the pistol from his waistband. He placed it beside the plate, within easy reach.
            The movie had ended. Local news blared, the anchor team making much of insignificant details in the Las Vegas area while ignoring the big shit that was important. He used the remote to mute them, picking up his knife and fork, and with exquisite care, he carved the steak.
            Perfect. The blood ran red onto the white plate, embracing the pile of potatoes.
            Elizabeth would have turned her head away. Blood made her squeamish. Once after he’d been shot, she had rushed to the ER to see him, taken one look and had fainted so fast she’d needed medical attention for a concussion.
            So during the whole time of their marriage, Garik had eaten his steak medium. When she had told him she wanted a divorce, he’d pointed out his steakly sacrifice, but she had said, in that supremely reasonable tone which bugged the shit out of him, that if not for him and his carnivorous habits, she would be a vegetarian. And anyway, eating to please each other didn’t make for a happy marriage.
            Apparently not.
            Now he lifted a bite of tender, rare steak to his lips, chewed and swallowed, and smiled.
            Piercing one of the green beans with his fork, he lifted it in a salute. “To you, Elizabeth,” he said, and ate it, too.
            His pleasure in the moment slipped … damn, but he missed that woman. He hadn’t understood her. The stuff she cared about! Stuff like rocks and quakes and volcanoes. Stuff that bored him silly, and when he tried to get her interested in what was important, like crime and passion and violence, she’d pointed out that people change, come and go, but the earth was forever. She had always been so calm, so logical … so remote.
            Except in bed. My God, he’d never met a woman like that, who hid a fiery passion beneath a cool, inquiring, scientific mind. He wished … well, he wished a lot of things, most of them to do with Elizabeth, and all of them impossible now.
            He shrugged. Water over the dam, or under the bridge, or whatever it was. It had taken him more than a year to get himself to this point of Zen acceptance. He wasn’t going to screw it up now thinking about what might have been.
            Instead, he once again submerged himself in the meal, in the cheesy, salty potatoes, in the steak, in the beans and the bacon.
            He’d love a glass of wine, but he had decided he didn’t want anyone to say alcohol had influenced his decision.
            As a last dinner went, this one was pretty fine. Any man on death row would be glad for this, and when he had finished — he ate every bite, even the green beans — he leaned back against the couch and sipped his espresso, laced with cinnamon and whipped cream.
            All he needed now was a woman. But since Elizabeth had left him, he hadn’t been much good at sex. He figured that was a big part of his problem. No sex, no pressure valve, and Garik the perfect-record FBI agent gets fed up with the bullshit regulations and loses his temper. And gets in big trouble.
            So no, he wasn’t going to go looking for sex for dessert. Going out in a blaze of impotence would be too humiliating.
            Instead, he reached for the pistol.
            It wasn’t his service pistol. The FBI had taken that away from him. Garik had bought this piece at a pawn shop, and the Colt felt good in his hand. Solid. Cold. Uncaring. Unthinking…
            He felt at rest with his decision.
            Margaret would be angry, grieved and hurt, and he regretted that. He knew Elizabeth would mourn him, too. But Margaret wasn’t really related to him, for all that she’d cared for him so diligently, and Elizabeth was no longer his wife. He’d gone over the logic a hundred times, and he couldn’t live with the knowledge he had started down the road in his father’s footsteps. That he was a killer. Inadvertently, but a killer.
            He unmuted the TV and turned up the sound. It wouldn’t muffle the shot, but it might make it sound like he was watching another version of The Shooter.
            Lifting the gun, he placed the barrel in his mouth.
            He lowered it, and grimaced. For all the many times he’d handled a gun, he’d never tasted one. Metal and gun oil had ruined the savory, lingering flavors of his meal. Tough shit, huh.
            He lifted the pistol again. That flavor wasn’t the worst part of this.
            The worst part was getting distracted by those phony newscasters.
            The guy with the carefully applied blond streaks in his hair and dutiful concern announced, “An eight-point-one earthquake struck off the west coast of Washington state, shaking an area extending from Alaska to San Francisco and wreaking havoc in Seattle where it knocked bricks off of buildings and killed sixteen people in a bank collapse.” Photos and videos took over the screen. “A massive tsunami struck the coast, tearing into the beaches.” The video switched to helicopter shots of the incoming waves battering the low-lying beaches. “The town of Forks was hard hit, and there we begin our coverage—“
            Garik put down the pistol. He sat forward. “What about Virtue Falls?” he asked aloud.
            The picture switched to a wide-eyed female, standing in front of a collapsed building illuminated by flood lights. “As you can see, in this small rural community made famous by the Twilight books and movies, the earthquake damage has been substantial—“
            “How much truth are you telling, and how much is news hype?” Standing, Garik headed for his jacket, pulled his cell phone and called Virtue Falls resort.
            No connection.
            He called the Virtue Falls sheriff’s office.
            No connection.
            The news babbled on, abandoning the earthquake in Washington state and moving to the story of a local woman who had inherited a guitar once played by Bob Dylan. Because, you know, that was important.
            Garik hit the internet to get the earthquake details.
            The news was right about one thing. Helicopter footage showed a huge tsunami striking the coast, rushing up rivers and swamping low-lying areas.
            He’d been married to Elizabeth. He knew the theory about Virtue Falls Canyon. He knew Elizabeth was working down there on her father’s project.
            Had she been in the canyon when the earthquake hit?
            Surely not. It had struck late in the day.
            But he knew her. When she was obsessed with her rocks, time passed and she never noticed…
            What about Margaret? The resort hung precariously over the Pacific. Margaret had paid for refitting of the resort, but could it withstand the assault of the ocean?
            He called the airlines.
            They weren’t flying into Seattle right now. They weren’t flying into Portland, either. Damage at the airport.
            Going into the bedroom, he pulled out his duffel bag; he had always kept it packed for unexpected trips for the FBI, and old habits died hard.
            He put on socks and running shoes.
            He’d take his truck, a white Ford F250, powerful as hell. After all, Nevada had a top speed limit of seventy-five miles per hour, and he still held an FBI ID.
            He had claimed he lost it in the fight.
            His supervisor had claimed he believed him.
            So even figuring he’d get pulled over at least four times, when he flashed that ID, the cops would mostly let him go.
            On a good day, he could make it back home to Virtue Falls in twenty hours.
            He hoped to hell this was a good day.
            Grabbing his keys and his knife, he walked out the door, leaving his pistol behind.

Excerpt from Virtue Falls
By Christina Dodd
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: September 9, 2014

Garik is one tortured hero!  So tell us, readers, what do you think of tortured heroes? Love 'em or hate 'em?

Christina will be giving away autographed copies of Revenge at Bella Terra to three randomly chosen people who leave a comment on today's post. (U.S. addresses only)

Do you enjoy audio books? Click below to listen to the first chapter of Virtue Falls.

New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd builds worlds filled with suspense, romance and adventure and creates the most distinctive characters in fiction today. Her fifty novels — suspense, paranormals, and historicals — have been translated into twenty-five languages, featured by Doubleday Book Club, recorded on Books on Tape for the Blind, won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart and RITA Awards and been called the year’s best by Library Journal. Dodd herself has been a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle — her mother was totally impressed. VIRTUE FALLS, the first full-length book in her new, much-praised suspense series, will be published September 9 in hardcover and e-book. With more than fifteen million of her books in print, her legions of fans always know that when they pick up a Christina Dodd book, they’ve found, “an absolute thrill ride of a book!”

Enter Christina’s worlds and join her FREE mailing list for news, exclusive excerpts, and book sales.


  1. Love tortured heroes. Definitely.

  2. Love a tortured hero. Takes a special heroine to get him, but yuummy when they get together. So excited for the new series. Thanks for the chance to win.

    1. Trish, hope you enjoy the new series. I loved Virtue Falls! The story grabbed me from the start and absolutely refused to let go!

  3. Replies
    1. Garik is a terrific tortured hero. I enjoyed traveling his journey with him.

  4. I adore tortured heroes. I love the idea of redemption from the brink of dispair.

    1. I think that's something we can all relate to. Thanks for stopping by, Josie!

  5. Tortured Heroes are definitely fascinating and memorable.

    1. Definitely memorable! I guarantee you won't forget Garik anytime soon. Or any of the other characters in Virtue Falls!

  6. A tortured hero is always an intriguing character.

  7. I generally like a tortured hero, but I sometimes feel that an author will take the tortured hero concept too far and in doing so, it makes it difficult for me to believe that the hero will even be able to open up enough to consider a relationship.

    1. It's a fine line an author has to walk. I found Garik's journey very believable.

  8. Tortured heroes? We probably should we leave them but we almost always end up loving them instead...human nature, I guess.

  9. Replies
    1. Heather, it's one of my favorite books of 2014. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  10. like to read about them if they're written well

    1. It all comes down to that, doesn't it? This one is written extremely well!

  11. A gorgeous tortured hero?!! What more could we ask for! Can't wait to read this - I wish I had it right now!

  12. If they don't have issues, it doesn't make for a good read. Otherwise it's kind of bland!

  13. For some reason, Blogger isn't letting Christina comment on today's post. Bad Blogger! Here's what she's been trying to post:

    Thank you to PJ for inviting me to The Romance Dish! It's always great to visit. Anyone who has read me knows I love tortured heroes, and Garik hides a dark past filled with guilt and anguish. Seeing him slowly reveal himself was a journey in itself.

  14. I can hardly wait for next week when Virtue Falls comes out. I love your contempary series so much please write

    1. Right there with you. This one is so worth the wait!

  15. Love a sexy tortured hero. If Virtue Falls wasn't already on my wish list, it would be after reading that excerpt. Thanks!

  16. Unfortunate, or fortunately, I love myself a tortured hero. It makes a story more interesting and the process and end result when they are 'fixed' is great!

  17. I've enjoyed her books in the past and this sounds like another good one!! Yes, bring on the tortured hero lol.

  18. FROM CHRISTINA DODD (who, apparently, is still at odds with Blogger):

    Christina Dodd here … I definitely agree about heroes who are TOO tortured. I find what makes me believe in their eventual redemption is if they had a good relationship somewhere in their childhood or early years. I think part of coming back from the brink is knowing how good life can be *if* you take a chance. It's all about that chance-taking, and knowing you can be hurt worse than you ever imagined. I'm going to do a slight spoiler here — the reason Garik finally opens up is to help Elizabeth. I loved that about him, that it took her pain to help him reveal himself.


    Christina Dodd here… I so agree that the tortured hero has to have real issues. I know I've read a few books where, when it comes time for the hero to reveal his anguish, he had an embarrassing hangnail in the third grade. Or something. It's frustrating.

  20. My Kindle eagerly awaits the release of VIRTUE FALLS. I will probably have a book hangover the next day, but it will be worth every second. I may have to eat steak, potatoes au gratin and green beans with bacon to celebrate. :)

    1. p.s. I think tortured heroes are great for a book, if done well. I usually end up rooting for them to get their HEA, but sometimes they are just too tortured to take the HEA and want to remain tortured. That makes we want to scream and throw something. I can't wait to read more about Garik's journey.

  21. Do you enjoy audio books? You can listen to the first chapter of Virtue Falls free at Christina's website.

  22. I thought the excerpt was very interesting and I can't wait to read the rest.