Friday, June 29, 2018

Review - - Between You and Me

Between You & Me
By Susan Wiggs
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Caleb Stolz always had a thirst for knowledge and a longing for a larger world than his Amish community in Middle Grove, Pennsylvania. When he was old enough, he left, but when his older brother John, his protector from their abusive father when they were children, and John’s wife are robbed and murdered, Caleb returns to Middle Grove to care for his young niece, Hannah, and her younger brother, Jonah. Caleb stays because the devout John wanted his children brought up in the Plain style, but Caleb himself has never accepted baptism and remains inside the community but separate from it. When eleven-year-old Jonah is mangled by a piece of farm equipment, Caleb defies community rules and has the boy life-flighted to a Philadelphia hospital.

Reese Powell, a fourth-year medical student, is working in the emergency room when the helicopter carrying Jonah and Caleb arrives. Reese is the only child of two renowned physicians, an infertility specialist and a neonatologist, who expect their daughter to specialize in pediatric surgery and join their practice. Reese is beginning to wonder if she really wants what her parents want for her, or if the medical career she really desires is one quite different from her parents’ plan. Jonah and his out-of-place uncle stir her compassion, and she befriends them. She is drawn to the bright courageous Jonah and his laconic, handsome uncle. As Reese spends time with them and the friendship deepens, her conflict between the kind of medicine to which she is most drawn and her need to please her parents intensifies.

To her parents’ dismay, Reese chooses a residency in rural medicine near Middle Grove, and her friendship with Caleb, already touched with romantic overtones, grows into love. But when Hannah’s secret is exposed and Caleb’s burden of responsibility becomes greater, the cultural differences between the two seem insurmountable. Can Caleb turn his back on love and settle again into a community where the shunned Hannah and Jonah, adjusting to life with the prosthesis his grandfather and others declare the devil’s work, are becoming increasingly unhappy?

Susan Wiggs has created another compelling, emotionally rich story centered on themes of family and community. The clash between two cultures is at the heart of this one, and Wiggs does a superb job of treating both cultures fairly. She shows “all that was good about Amish ways—family and community, working the land and living close to God.” But she also shows the narrowness and rigid judgment of a community that would deny a young boy the means to save his life and to improve the quality of it after amputation, a community that would turn a teenage girl into a living ghost because she transgressed their laws. She shows contemporary urban culture with its knowledge and sophistication and its medical marvels, but she also shows its dangers and the restrictions and judgments that can be imposed by family and society.

Wiggs’s characters are engaging and multidimensional. The differences between Reese and Caleb are great, but so are their similarities. At heart, they are the same kind of person, and they both understand the pressure of family expectations. Jonah will steal reader’s hearts with his confusion, his bravery, his loyalty, and his vulnerability. Hannah, frightened and hurting yet with a certain strength, is also endearing. All these characters are so real, the reader will want to give them a hug.

If you like women’s fiction that takes a less traveled path and offers memorable characters and a powerful story that touches upon large issues such as guilt and shame, abuse and forgiveness, responsibility and choice, I think you will enjoy Between You and Me as much as I did.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Review - - One for the Rogue

One for the Rogue
By Manda Collins
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

In the fourth novel in her Studies in Scandal series, Manda Collins gives her readers the story of Gemma Hastings, a geologist and the only remaining single bluestocking among the four young women to whom Lady Celeste Beauchamp bequeathed her estate, and Lord Cameron Lisle, another younger son of the Duke of Pemberton and the fossil-hunting brother of Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle (Wallflower Most Wanted, Studies in Scandal #3).

Gemma has determined that she will fulfill her own ambition and the expectations of her aunt, Miss Dahlia Hastings, and her benefactor, Lady Celeste, and win respect as a geologist despite her gender. Remaining unwed seems a necessary part of her plan. So too does unraveling the incomplete letter Lady Celeste left her concerning the Beauchamp fossil collection. Plagued by insomnia, Gemma is on her way to the workroom late one night to try once again to puzzle out the meaning of the letter when she notices an unexplained light bobbing about on Beauchamp property. The intrepid Gemma, armed only with a lantern, decides to investigate on her own and interrupts Lord Cameron trailing a suspicious figure.

Lord Cameron is attending a gathering of geologists and collectors at nearby Pearson Close where he meets Sir Everard Healy, a pompous bore with an inflated idea of his own importance. Cameron instinctively distrusts Sir Everard, and his distrust prompts him to follow the collector to the Beauchamp estate. Cameron is dismayed to be discovered by Gemma. Not only does her shout of recognition frighten off his prey before he learns anything, but his relationship with Gemma began in animosity because Gemma believes it was his prejudice against women that led to his rejecting an article she submitted to his journal. Although things have become calmer since his brother married her sister, feelings are still far from cordial.

Despite his unease, Cameron finds himself making more frequent visits to Beauchamp House, and his admiration for Gemma’s intelligence grows even though he still considers her far from the softly feminine woman he prefers. Gemma also begins to revise her opinion of Cameron. His good looks are harder for her to ignore, and she cares about his opinion of her. When Sir Everard lays claim to an interesting skull that Gemma discovered embedded in the cliffs on Beauchamp property, Cameron defends her rights. When they find the body of Sir Everard on the site, they become co-conspirators as they work at solving the murder and finding the missing skull. The friendship that develops soon includes an attraction they can no longer ignore. When they are caught indiscreetly kissing, a betrothal they agree will be temporary seems the best solution to protect Gemma’s reputation. But their hearts may prove wiser than their heads if they can only survive the threat of the murderer who is still at large.

Manda Collins completes her bluestocking tales with a strong showing. Gemma’s struggles to be recognized and respected as a scientist are engaging and credible as they play out against the strictures imposed on women. Even as she wins Cameron’s respect as a geologist, Gemma finds her choices limited by the social realities of a woman’s life in the nineteenth century. The stages of Cameron’s acceptance of Gemma as a fellow scientist and friend were far more convincing than the sudden epiphany that sometimes sparks such a change of heart. I liked these characters, and I wanted to see them achieve their HEA.

Collins offers her usual splendid balance between mystery and romance. Although this book can be read as a standalone, fans of the series will take greater pleasure in the appearances of the other three heiresses and their husbands, with Sophia and Ben playing the largest role. Lady Serena has become more interesting with each book in the series, and I hope she will get at least a novella so that she too wins an HEA.

If you like smart historical romance with a moderate degree of sizzle and an ideal blend of mystery, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, June 25, 2018

TLC Tour Review - - The Last Rodeo

The Last Rodeo
By Delores Fossen
Wrangler's Creek - Book 9
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

There's a reason the people of Wrangler's Creek call rancher and businessman Lucian Granger "Lucifer." Nobody would ever accuse this hard-nosed workaholic of having softer emotions, not even his family. Throughout this series, Lucian has been at the helm of his family's business, estranged from one of his younger brothers, and engaged in a land feud with his cousins. The only person who isn't ready to toss him off a cliff is his assistant of several years, Karlee O'Malley. But now, when the father who abandoned both the Granger family and the family business, returns with nefarious plans, when Lucian needs her more than ever before, Karlee resigns and announces a plan to start her own business.

Karlee O'Malley has been in love with Lucian Granger since she was a teen. Pretty much everybody in Wrangler's Creek knows how she feels...except Lucian. Since being dumped by the woman he planned to marry several years ago, Lucian's love life has been a revolving door and Karlee has had a front row seat. It's time to cut the cord but, hopefully, keep the friendship. Things take a turn when Lucian's absent father, who still owns the majority shares of the family business, returns. In a bid to save the ranch and family business from his father, Karlee and Lucian pretend to be an engaged couple on the verge of settling down. Karlee is determined to keep her emotions out of the role she's now playing while Lucian's emotions have been on lockdown for years. But one kiss is all it takes for Lucian's eyes to be opened. And the more time they spend together as a "couple" following that kiss, the more both of them start wondering if they should ditch the pretend engagement and start planning a real future together.

I wasn't expecting to like Lucian - he's not been portrayed in a positive light at all in the previous books of this series -  but I was intrigued by him. As I suspected, there was much more to his story. Once the events of his past began to be revealed, it shed light on the reasons for his actions, both of the past and the present, and I found myself warming to him and cheering for him to win his battle...and his love. I was in Karlee's corner from the start. I appreciated her strength, her compassion, and her willingness to fight for what she wanted. Neither she nor Lucian realize it at the beginning, but she's his perfect match in every way. I enjoyed watching both of them bring out the best in the other on a journey to love that is not without its challenges. 

As with most Delores Fossen books, there's a fair amount of humor sprinkled throughout as well as deep emotion and conflict. I don't think you have to read the entire Wrangler's Creek series to fully appreciate Lucian and Karlee's story but I would suggest at least reading Lucian's brothers' stories in the previous two books, Texas-Sized Trouble:Cowboy Dreaming and Lone Star Blues (though I've enjoyed all the books in the series). The Granger family dynamics are complex and, as all members of Lucian's immediate family have key roles in The Last Rodeo, you'll have a deeper understanding and appreciation for this final book with the broader base of knowledge provided in the earlier stories.

Friday, June 22, 2018

TLC Tour Review - - The Summer List

The Summer List
By Amy Mason Doan
Publisher: Harlequin / Graydon House
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Thirty-five-year-old Laura Christie is living in San Francisco, working as a graphic artist, and spending time with her only friends—her dog Jett (named for Joan Jett) and her eccentric boss Sam when she receives a mermaid-festooned invitation to spend a long week-end in late June in her hometown, Coeur-de-Lune, California. Laura left the small, lakeside town seventeen years ago and has never returned, but she has not forgotten Casey Shepherd, her best friend from high school and the ways Casey and her mother Alexandra changed Laura’s life. Still, some things are not easily forgiven. Laura plans to ignore the invitation that purports to come from Casey, but nineteen days later, she finds herself in Coeur-de-Lune.

Laura and Casey soon discover that Alex, an artist with a penchant for well-meaning interference, has sent each of them a note forged in the other’s handwriting, proposing a scavenger hunt like those that filled many an evening of their high school years. Clearly Alex’s purpose is to heal the breach between the former best friends, but it is less certain whether Laura and Casey will cooperate.

The two girls met the summer before their freshman year when Casey and her mom settled into The Shipwreck, a house that once served as a bunkhouse for the legendary Collier boys. Despite their many differences, the two girls become almost instant best friends. Laura, adopted as an infant by Ingrid and Bill Christie, an older couple who married late, is close to her father, who is a more understanding, more indulgent parent than her strict, ultra-religious mother with whom Laura has a relationship fraught with tensions. The friendship of the confident, red-haired Casey gives Laura a secure place in the high school social scene and frees her from the mean-girl bullying that made her dread school. Casey and Alex make Laura part of their family, and Laura envies Casey her easy, open relationship with her young mother, whom Casey describes as a “best friend.” The summer after graduation, life seems perfect. The girls have plans to share an apartment while Casey attends UCLA (where Laura’s boyfriend J.B. will be a grad student) and Laura attends California Institute of the Arts. Then Laura’s father dies, and when she seeks comfort in her grief, she overhears a scene that seems to her the ultimate betrayal. She leaves Coeur-de-Lune and everyone she loves, barely taking time to tell Casey that their plans will never be realized.

The scavenger hunt that Alex has organized, with some help from J. B., is designed to reawaken the memories that made Laura and Casey’s friendship special. It takes them to the lake where they spent hours swimming and kayaking, the skating rink where Laura first met J. B., and the restaurant where Casey first revealed her sexual orientation to Laura. The memories slowly erase the awkwardness between the two women, but before friendship can be fully restored, a tangle of secrets rooted in the past, a past stretching beyond the lifetimes of Casey and Laura, must be revealed.

The Summer List is Doan’s debut novel, and it is a winner. She reveals the past in segments, moving seamlessly between the visits the women pay to memory-laden sites and the scenes from their shared past (June 1995-August 1998) that created those memories. Also interwoven are bits of narrative from an unidentified girl telling her story. Because the primary point of view is Laura’s, all her unanswered questions and pieces of information that elude a meaningful pattern are also the reader’s questions and puzzles. The mystery unravels slowly, but eventually all the pieces fit. In fact, some readers may find the tying together of all the loose threads a bit too convenient.

The novel is essentially the story of mothers and daughters and of female friendships. It is in these relationships that the reader is most heavily invested, these characters who claim the larger part of the reader’s sympathies. However, Laura’s relationship with J. B. is also a significant thread and adds enough romance to the story to keep readers who demand romantic elements happy.

If you enjoy women’s fiction with believable characters, layered conflicts, poignant moments, and a touch of romance, I highly recommend this book. It is a stellar debut for Doan, and I am eager to see what is next from this talented writer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tour Review - - Herons Landing

Herons Landing
By JoAnn Ross
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: May 22, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

It has been two years since Seth Harper received the devastating news that his wife Zoe, a surgical nurse serving in Afghanistan, had been killed when her hospital was bombed. Seth is still mired in his grief. He and Zoe had been sweethearts since middle school, and they were planning to start their family when Zoe returned. Seth had already prepared the nursery, eager to begin the next stage of their lives. Since Zoe’s death, he has continued to work at his profession as a restorer of historic houses, but emotionally his life ended when he learned of Zoe’s death.

Brianna Mannion has been in love with Seth Harper as long as she can remember, but he saw her as her brothers’ little sister. Her hope that he would see her as something more ended early when Zoe Robinson moved to Honeymoon Harbor, Washington, and Seth fell for her immediately. Brianna wanted to hate Zoe, but the newcomer was too nice to hate. The two ended up best friends, and Brianna was maid-of-honor when Zoe married Seth. The friendship endured even as Brianna left town to pursue her career as a rising star in the hospitality industry and Zoe left the country. But after Zoe was killed, Brianna and Seth drifted apart.

When Brianna resigns from her position at a high-end Las Vegas hotel just as the haunted Victorian that had been her dream house growing up in Honeymoon Harbor is offered for sale, going home and turning Herons Landing, her old dream house, into a bed-and-breakfast seems like the perfect plan. Of course, Seth’s expertise in restoring historic homes and the fact that he had worked on renovating Herons Landing for the previous owners makes Harper Construction the logical company for Brianna to hire. As the two work together, their friendship is renewed, and gradually stronger feelings awaken. Seth begins to think about the future, but can he resolve his guilt at moving on and claim his second chance at love with Brianna?

Ross introduced her new Honeymoon Harbor series in April with a prequel novella, Home to Honeymoon Harbor, but Herons Landing is the first novel and true beginning of the series. Seth is an immediately sympathetic character, a man who lost a big part of his past and his future with Zoe’s death. Brianna is equally likable, and her intuitive understanding of Seth persuades readers early on that she is just what he needs. A secondary plot involving Seth’s estranged parents adds interest to the story, and Ross’s descriptions of her fictional seaport town in the Pacific Northwest will have readers longing to visit. Some readers may find that the book suffers from first-book-in-a-series-itis with a heavy load of information about the town’s history and the introduction of too many characters to count, but readers addicted to small-town series may see this as necessary world-building.

This book promises that the new series will offer the same kind of heartwarming appeal that made Ross’s Shelter Bay series beloved by fans of small-town romance. If you are one of those fans or if second-chance or friends-to-lovers are among your favorite tropes in contemporary romance, you should add Herons Landing to your TBR list. Book two in the series, Snowfall on Lighthouse Lane, releases on October 30. I’m signing up for a return visit. And that title and the release date suggest a Christmas book, which makes it even better.


One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on this post will receive a copy of Herons Landing. (US / Canada only)

Review Tour Stops:

Monday, May 21st: Books a la Mode – excerpt
Tuesday, May 22nd: A Holland Reads
Wednesday, May 23rd: Becky on Books – excerpt
Thursday, May 24th: Into the Hall of Books
Monday, May 28th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Tuesday, May 29th: Bookmark Lit
Wednesday, May 30th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, May 31st:
Monday, June 4thMoonlight Rendezvous
Tuesday, June 5thRunning Through the Storms
Wednesday, June 6thDiary of a Stay at  Home Mom
Thursday, June 7thWhy Girls are Weird
Monday, June 11thFrom the TBR Pile
Tuesday, June 12thBook Date
Wednesday, June 13thWhat is That Book About – excerpt
Monday, June 18thPalmer’s Page Turners
Tuesday, June 19thThe Romance Dish
Wednesday, June 20thJathan & Heather
Monday, June 25thBooks & Bindings
Wednesday, June 27thRomancing the Book
Thursday, June 28thWritten Love Reviews
Monday, July 2ndDeborah Blanchard

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review - - Resurrection

Resurrection:a ROCK SOLID romance
By Karina Bliss
Publisher: Karina Bliss
Release Date: June 17, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Once there was Stormy Hagen, a, breast-implanted, collagen-injected platinum blonde beauty, one-time girlfriend of rock legend Zander Freedman and paparazzi-fare after her breakup with Zander and her resulting self-destructive spiral. Stormy has disappeared, and in her stead is Lily Stuart, a pretty woman with understated looks whose hair is now a golden brown and whose breasts are all her. Lily is happy working as nanny for the children of a British family while completing an online degree in early childhood education. Her happy life is threatened when a sex tape made by Travis Calvert, the original Rage guitarist and certified creep with whom Stormy hooked up in her self-destruction, is stolen and posted online. To protect her new identity and to shield her employers from intruding paparazzi, Lily turns to her best friend Dimity Graham for help. Dimity offers Lily sanctuary at the secluded home currently being rented by Dimity’s boyfriend Seth Curran and his bandmate Moss McFadden.

Moss is a reserved loner who uses a surly exterior to protect himself from allowing anyone too close. He is still reeling from the repercussions after the Zander Freedman scandal and Zander’s ultimate decision not to return to his career, meaning the end of the new Rage. Wary of investing again as much as he invested in Rage, Moss maintains a distance even from the affable Seth and from the third member of their band, Jared Walker. Moss is also feeling the pressure of his position as lead singer for T-Minus 6, the new band. Still, he remembers the essential sweetness of Stormy and his feelings for her, and when it becomes clear that she will not remain unless she is paying her way, he offers her a job as his driver.

The job is not manufactured. Moss has lost his driver’s license, and having to depend on Dimity, who has enormous responsibilities as the manager of T-Minus 6 plus her continued work for Zander and his wife, writer Elizabeth Winston, leaves both Dimity and Moss short-tempered. Lily is relieved to find that the job is no sinecure. Unlike Seth and Jared who are happily domestic when not working on their music, Moss is living the bad-boy rock star life to the hilt, hitting the bars, hooking up with groupies, and staying out into the wee hours while sleeping in the next day. The schedule is a challenge for Lily, a morning person and one who knows from experience the shallowness of the bar scene.

Moss finds himself just as attracted to Lily as he was to Stormy, and on her part, Lily fights acknowledging her attraction to him, even when he invades her X-rated dreams. The two discover the common experience of a childhood physically and emotionally poverty-stricken, and Lily finds out there is much more to Moss’s night life than a rock star run wild. But the more they are drawn together, the more they are convinced that they can never work as a couple. When Moss is confronted with the greatest challenge of his life just as T-Minus 6 begins to achieve the success they have dreamed of, Lily is there to help him, and their lives become more entangled. However, Moss can’t believe he will ever be good enough to be the man Lily needs, and Lily fears that the repercussions of the sex tape, which have not disappeared as new scandals emerge, will taint Moss’s career and his life. Can these two wounded souls move past all the obstacles and prove to themselves and to those who care about them both that they can save one another?

The fourth story in Karina Bliss’s Rock Solid series is another winner. The title alludes to both the emergence of a new rock band from Rage and to the transformed lives of the protagonists. Bliss takes on standard stereotypes, the grasping, promiscuous groupie and the self-indulgent rock star, and turns them into multidimensional characters who win readers’ interest and affection. Lily and Moss are imperfect people who have made mistakes, but they earn the reader’s sympathy because the author shows their motivations and has them hold themselves accountable for their errors. I found Lily appealing from her appearances in early books, and I was invested in her story immediately in this one. It took longer for Moss to win me over because he is a darker character, but I trusted Bliss who had already proved with Rise that she could make me care about a character I initially disliked. I soon fell for Moss heart and head.

As a fan of the series, I was delighted to see more of Dimity and Seth (Fall) and Kayla and Jared—along with five-year-old Maddie and Rocco, almost two (Play). Even Zander and Elizabeth (Rise) are part of the story via modern technology. Series fans will also enjoy the triumph of T-Minus 6. Resurrection can be read as a standalone, but it will certainly be a more nuanced read for those who have read the earlier books.

I have found few of the rock-star books that have emerged in recent years that earned the status of keeper for me. Karina Bliss’s skills at creating characters who linger in my mind and her gift for lucid prose that sometimes becomes lyrical make this series a rare exception. I loved this book! I loved the series! In fact, I plan to make a reread, beginning with What the Librarian Did, part of my summer reading. I give Resurrection my highest recommendation.

Do you enjoy rock star romances?

Have you read any of Karina Bliss's books? Do you have a favorite?

We have an ebook copy of Resurrection for one randomly chosen person who posts a comment on this review. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Review - - Ocean Light

Ocean Light
By Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Reviewed by Nancy Northcott

In Ocean Light, Nalini Singh returns to her Psy-Changeling world with a close look at the intriguing but seldom featured Black Sea changelings. Oceanic changelings are vanishing, taken from the sea far from their homes and marked so that no teleporter can get a lock to locate them. The kidnappings were mentioned in earlier books but become the focus in this one.  This story is a special treat for those who’ve wanted to know more about the BlackSea group.

The heroine, Kaia Luna, is a chef and healer at one of BlackSea’s installations. Currently among the missing is one of her closest friends, a male who told her the Human Alliance, the third leg of the Psy/Changeling Trinity, was behind the vanishings. Kaia is thus less than thrilled when the Human Alliance’s security chief becomes a patient at her cousin’s clinic.

The security chief, Bowen Knight, is the hero.  Like many members of the Alliance, he has a chip in his brain to prevent Psy intrusion.  The chips are all now degrading, dooming those who have them implanted.  Bowen suffered a gunshot wound that should have been fatal, and his last request to his sister was that she use his brain, meaning that experiments on it might lead to stopping the degradation of the chips and saving others.

Bowen didn’t die, but he’s at BlackSea to undergo an experimental protocol designed to stabilize the chips. It’s not expected to succeed, but the data it yields should contribute to a solution down the road. Bo has approximately two weeks left before he suffers catastrophic brain damage.

From the first, Kaia and Bowen are drawn together. She resists because of her suspicions about the Human Alliance and his prominent role in it, and he is all too aware that his time is running out. She also knows he’ll have to live on land, and nothing good has ever happened to her there.  The idea of going onto land distresses her so much that she has to be medicated to handle it.

Despite the grim prospects hanging over Kaia and Bowen, Ocean Light is full of humor. When Bowen awakens, something he never expected to happen, this is his reaction:

He’d said something to Lily before he died. He’d told his sister to use his brain.

Maybe he wouldn’t have said that if he’d realized he’d still be conscious while his brain was being chopped up.

“I am not chopping up your brain.”

Bo frowned … Could a brain frown? And why was his brain talking back to him in such a coolly affronted tone of voice? Had it gone insane while being a disembodied brain in a jar that someone was experimenting on?

Further down: He’d really thought he could trust Lily to make certain he was actually dead when his brain was put into a jar.

He’s not a disembodied brain in a jar, of course, but the exchange is humorous and kind of sweet.

A running exchange between Kaia and Bowen involves his trying to find out what her changeling form is and her refusing to tell him. It then becomes fun for the reader to try to guess, too.

The worldbuilding, as usual, is excellent, and having Kaia view her clanmates’ forms through a chef’s eyes, focused on what they like to eat, is a nice touch. At one point, Kaia shows Bowen a passing family of bioluminescent Medusozoa, who are changelings and don’t like to be called jellyfish even though they resemble them. BlackSea also includes walruses, whales, an ancient turtle, and a great white shark, among others.

Finding a path forward isn’t easy for Kaia and Bowen, and not everyone wants the experimental protocol to succeed.  Working against their various obstacles brings them closer and leads them to their own happy ending.

My only quibble with this book is that a major event had a lot of buildup and then was over in a couple of pages.  Otherwise, I loved everything about it.

Readers, do you enjoy paranormal romance?

Are you reading Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series?

What draws you to - or pushes you away from - reading paranormal romances?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment will receive a copy of Ocean Light

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Today's Special - - Kat Martin

Kat Martin joins us today to chat about writing dialogue and share an excerpt from her newest book, Beyond Control. (read PJ's review)

Writing Dialogue

One of the questions I’m commonly asked is how do you write dialogue?  No question, dialogue between characters can be tricky.  Each character has a unique voice that is distinct from others in the book.
Since I’ve never been particularly good at description, letting the characters tell the story is my favorite way to craft a novel.
Of course there has to be narration, ways to move the story forward and set the scene.  A lot of writers simply have a different way of telling a tale, maybe through a single character’s actions and observations or just a majority of narrative.  But if you want to move the book forward through dialog, here are a few helpful tricks. 
First, enter the scene late and leave early.  Readers don’t want to hear “How are you?”  “I am fine.”
Second, once the characters start talking, let them talk--you can always delete or alter the conversation later.  But the fun is in hearing what the characters have to say. 
Third, something I’m careful about, try not to overwork unfinished sentences.  “What do you mean you didn’t--“  Or “I don’t think you should--“
What?  Readers can’t read minds.  Yes, this is how people talk in real life, but your job is to make it sound like real conversation while it’s actually more fleshed out, easier to understand.
Fourth, be sure to use conjunctions to make the character’s speech sound more real.  Unless you have a character who says things like “I cannot do that,” use “can’t” or “won’t,” or “don’t” or whatever.
So now that you know some of tricks, you just have to listen to your characters and get them talking in your head--which I think is at least partly determined by how you describe them. 
Once I sat in front of the post office with the car windows rolled up and tried to hear the voice of every person walking out.  It was amazing--no two voices sounded the same!  A strange story but true.
So listen to the voices in your head.  That’s my best advice.  And just keep writing.  It gets easier as you go along.  

Beyond Control

Iron River Ranch
Iron Springs, Texas

Victoria Bradford drove the old blue Chevy Malibu along the two lane road.  Up ahead, a sign hung above a narrow dirt track running off to the west, IRON RIVER RANCH.
“Are we there yet, Mama?”  Ivy, her four year old daughter, had asked at a dozen times since they’d left the Walmart parking lot in Iron Springs.  The ten mile drive didn’t take long, but to a four year old who’d been in the car for days, they couldn’t reach their destination soon enough. 
“We’re very close, sweetheart.  This is the turn, right here.”  Tory checked the gas gauge as the wheels left the pavement and started rumbling over the bumpy dirt road.  Less than an eighth of a tank.  She hoped the ranch wasn’t much farther.
More than that, she prayed the job hadn’t already been filled. 
She sighed as the aging Malibu rolled along.  She was basically in bumfrick Egypt, ten miles north of Nowhere Springs, almost out of gas, with twenty three dollars and thirty three cents in her wallet. 
Last night, without enough money for a motel room and afraid to use her credit cards for fear Damon would somehow track her, they’d slept in the car in the Walmart parking lot.  As soon as the McDonald’s opened, she had pulled into the drive-thru and bought Sausage McMuffins, then driven out to the ranch to somehow convince the owner to hire a woman with a daughter and no actual ranching experience.
She thought of the ad in the paper she had spotted last night on the counter in the Iron Springs CafĂ©.  If she somehow managed to get the job, it would be perfect.  Besides a steady paycheck and the ranch being way off the grid, the position included the use of a double-wide trailer. 
After being on the road for the past three weeks, living out of motel rooms and suitcases, the trailer sounded like a palace.
“Look, Mama, there it is!”  Ivy pointed toward the cluster of buildings up ahead, a couple of barns, several fenced training arenas, and a two-story home with dormer windows and a covered porch running the length out in front.  A double-wide sat fifty yards away.
Vast stretches of open green pastureland surrounded the complex where horses and cattle grazed, and there were ponds and woodlands in the distance, and dense copses of trees.
The Chevy bumped over the last patch of road, pulled up in front of the house, and Tory quickly turned off the engine.  No use wasting what little gas she had left. 
“Mama, there’s a man over there by the barn.”
Her gaze swung in that direction.  There was, indeed, a man.  The noisy buzz of a saw covered the sound of their arrival, giving her time to assess him. 
Shirtless, he was working with his back to them, broad, tanned, and muscled above a narrow waist that disappeared into a pair of faded jeans.  The jeans hugged a round behind and long, powerful legs. 
  He was tall, she saw when he straightened away from his work and walked into the barn, with medium brown hair cut short.  She got her first look at his face when he walked back out, handsome, with a solid jaw and masculine features, at least three days’ growth of whiskers. 
The front of him was just as impressive as the back, a broad chest with solid pecs, muscular biceps, and six pack abs.
Unease filtered through her.  This was a strong, powerful male.  She knew first hand what a man like that could do to a woman. 
Tory forced down the notion.  Not all men were like Damon.  Before she’d met him, she had been married to a good and decent man, the father of her child.  Jamie Bradford, her high school sweetheart, was one of the gentlest people she’d ever known.  Her father was a good man, before he’d fallen in love with his secretary and divorced her mother, leaving the two of them alone.
Tory took a courage-building breath.  “Stay here, sweetheart.”  Cracking open the car door, she slid out from behind the wheel.  “Don’t worry, sweetie.  Everything’s going to be okay.”
She hoped.
Ivy sank down in her booster seat, trying to make herself invisible.  Tory had survived the fights, arguments, and finally the brutal beating Damon had given her that had put her in the hospital.  Though he had never hurt Ivy, the little girl had seen the results of his mistreatment, leaving her with an unnatural fear of men.   
Tory glanced at the big, thick-chested male striding toward her, shrugging into a blue denim shirt.  Ivy would be terrified of him.  If there was any other way, she would climb back in the car and just drive away. 
There wasn’t.  Tory started walking, meeting the man half way.  She glanced around but didn’t see a soul besides the big man in front of her.  Her uneasiness returned but she forced it away. 
“May I help you?” he asked, and she thought that at least he was polite. 
“My name is Tory Ford.  I’m looking for Joshua Cain.  Is that you?”  He had blue eyes and a cleft in his chin.  From a purely physical standpoint, the man was flat out hot.   
“I’m Josh Cain.  What can I do for you?”
“I saw your ad in the Iron Springs Gazette.  You’re looking for a stable hand.  I’m here to apply for the job.”
He just shook his head.  “I’m afraid it’s a man’s job, Ms. Ford.  Mucking out stalls and cleaning tack, feeding the livestock.  It isn’t something you’d want to do.”
“Work isn’t supposed to be fun, Mr. Cain.  That’s why they call it work.  I can muck out stalls, clean tack, and feed stock as well as anyone else.”
“Sorry.  I’m looking for a man.  I appreciate you’re coming out, but--“
“There are laws, Mr. Cain.  Equal rights for women.  Have you never heard of that?  Lawsuits against discrimination?”
His jaw hardened.  His eyebrows came down in a frown.  “Are you kidding me?  You’re going to sue me because I won’t hire you to shovel horseshit out of the barn?”
She could feel the heat creeping into her cheeks.  With her fair skin, and fiery red hair, there was no way to hide her embarrassment. 
She looked him straight in the face.  “I need this job, Mr. Cain.  I need the house that comes with it.”  She forced herself to smile.  “Why don’t we compromise?  You give me three days to prove I’m up to the job.  If I’m not, I won’t give you anymore trouble.  Three days.  If you don’t think I can handle the work, I’ll leave.  I won’t argue, I’ll just go.”
A muscle jerked in his cheek.  He didn’t like being pressured.  He looked at her hard, then those condemning blue eyes traveled over her shoulder to something behind her. 
“Who is that?”
She didn’t have to turn to know Ivy had climbed out of the car.  Like Tory, she was small for her age, but her hair was blond instead of red, and her eyes were blue instead of green.
“That’s my daughter.  She’s only four.”  Desperate now, she could feel her heart throbbing softly inside her ribs.  “We need a place, Mr. Cain.  I’ll work hard.  I’ll do whatever you need done.  Just give me a chance.”
He swore the f-word under his breath, not loud enough for Ivy to hear.  Damon wouldn’t have cared.  She clung to the hope that represented.
“What do you plan to do with your daughter while you’re working?  You can’t leave her in the house alone.”
Tory glanced wildly around.  She had known this would be a problem.  Before, she’d had money enough to hire a sitter or there was day care for employees’ kids.
 She looked at the fenced yard off to the side in front of the trailer.  The grass was sparse and in need of a trim.  Maybe he’d had a dog or something, but it was clean and empty now.  The weather was still good and there was a little gazebo with a table and benches in the middle.  She’d be able to keep an eye on Ivy while she was working. 
“She could play in the yard.  She likes to color and she already reads kids’ books.  She wouldn’t be any trouble.  If this works out, I’ll have money to pay for a sitter.”
Cain looked at Ivy, paced away then back.  “Dammit.”
“It’s just three days.  If I do a good job, you won’t have to search for someone else.”
He ran a hand over his short brown hair, paced away, then walked back.  “Did you sleep in your car last night?”
She refused to answer.  She didn’t want charity from Cain for anyone else.
“Fine,” he said.  “You’ve got three days.  But I’m not cutting you any slack.  You do a man’s job for a man’s pay.  If you can’t hack it, you’re out of here.”
And from the look on his face, he was clearly hoping she would fail.  Hell, maybe she would.
She managed to fake a smile.  “Okay, it’s a deal.”  She stuck out her hand to seal the bargain, for a moment didn’t think he was going to shake.  Then he sighed and took hold of her hand, not too hard, just firm enough to let her know he was in charge.
“You start tomorrow morning.  Six A.M. sharp.  There’s enough food in the trailer to last a few days.  I’ll bring you a quart of milk.  After that, board’s on you.  If you’re still here, you’ll need to make a trip into town for groceries.”
Relief filtered through her, so strong it made her head swim.  She had a place to stay where no one would look for her.  She had a job, which meant food and whatever necessities they needed.  If he kept her on, she’d find a sitter to watch Ivy.  She’d have time to figure things out, make a new plan. 
She took a step back, set an arm around her little girl’s shoulders and drew her forward.  “This is my daughter, Ivy.  Ivy, this is Mr. Cain.”
“Hello, Ivy,” he said.  He had an unusual voice, deep and resonate, but at the same time soft and oddly compelling. 
Ivy shrunk back. 
“Say hello, honey,” Tory said.
“I don’t want to stay.  I want to go.”  Clinging to Tory’s waist, she burrowed into her.
“She’s shy,” Tory said. 
“The trailer’s unlocked,” Cain said.  “It’s clean and ready to go.”
“Thank you.” 
He turned and started striding back to the barn.  She probably should be at least a little afraid of him.  Oddly, she wasn’t.
Then again, she hadn’t been afraid of Damon, either.

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Beyond Control
By Kat Martin
Publisher: Zebra
Release Date: May 29, 2018

Victoria Bradford and her four-year-old daughter are on the run from Tory's abusive ex-fiancé. Seventy miles north of Dallas, the Iron River Ranch is pretty much nowhere, exactly what Josh Cain wanted when he came back from Afghanistan. Big skies, quiet nights, no trouble.

When Tory shows up with her adorable little girl, Josh realizes he is in for trouble of the most personal kind. But Josh has seen trouble before, and he doesn't scare easy. Not when "accidents" start happening around the ranch. Not when Tory's best friend is abducted. Not even when he realizes their troubles are only the tip of the iceberg.